Saturday, December 30, 2017

Oh, Overtired Shenanigans, How I Love Thee! /// Humble Beginnings, Part 6

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the final post of 2017! I don't know about you, but I think a Humble Beginnings post is the perfect send-off for the year. After all, we need to end December with a bang, right?

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I'm glad you agree. Now, before we get to the meat of this post, there's something I'd like to mention. Your time to submit questions for the Q&A is very limited, with Sunday being the last day. As soon as January 1st hits, no more questions will be accepted! So please, if you wish to partake in this fun post, use #KnowJoe in any comment on any post and ask away! I'm hope to (almost) any question you may have. With that out of the way, commence the cringe!

Warren didn't feel like reading the rest of the story, so he just scanned what remained. Detrius' Son was born and named Revier. When He grew up, the rebels, the people who lost hope of the Son, captured Him and in turn handed Him to Lurkum. The evil being killed Him, but a few days later He disappeared. He reappeared before the people of Adiryulle, giving them a book of all prophecies before going back to His Father. However, Lurkum thought it was the humans' fault for the disappearance and waged war. That was how the six thousand year battle began.

Ouch. Starting off a new chapter with a long summary like this is never a good sign. Brace yourselves!

"We have our suspicions. We have reason to believe Lurkum called [the raiders] from a place named simply, 'The Lost World,'" Samuel stated.
"Where is that?" Warren demanded.
"We're not sure," Smits said. "That's why it's lost."

Well, someone's got a little sass today! You know, I think this "Lost World" should really be called "The Lost Ark." That way, you could say that they're raiders of "The Lost Ark." Pretty clever, right?

David looked at the teenager nearing adulthood. "So you're the guy who claims to be immune to fire?" 
"Yep, that's me. The way I became immune was that I ate a fire blossom. It caused my nerves to not react under heat. My skin now doesn't burn when I touch something hot."
"Mark's face was burning when he saw a certain hot someone," Warren piped up.

So there are a few things wrong with this section. First off, saying that a teen is "nearing adulthood" feels a little redundant. Or is that just me?

Secondly . . . why did Justin eat a fire blossom?! What possessed him to think that was a smart idea? "Oh hey, this plant bursts into flames if you put weight on it. I think I should eat it!" Was it, like, a stupid dare between a bunch of his guy friends? I just . . . I dunno.

Thirdly, his explanation of his powers is really dumb. It's not scientific or logical in any way, shape, or form. If his nerves don't react under heat, that just means he won't feel it when he gets burned. It does not make him immune to fire; it just means he'll have a miserable life when he keeps jumping into fire and burning himself to death without realizing it.

And I just had to include Warren's follow-up, because that's totally something I would say to rib a buddy. Therein lies the problem, though. These adults are not supposed to act like twelve- or thirteen-year-old me. *wonders why in the world I chose adult main characters for a teen book*

Smits thought for a moment. "The marked man." He turned to the three guests. "Apparently, [Tarquin] came to our world and met Leviathan. He received a mark that allowed Leviathan to talk to him."
"Why would he listen to a talking dragon and take this mark?" David asked.

David would be good at my job.

Smits had snuck to the barracks with Samuel and peeked inside. "They're sleeping," he confirmed. 
"Excellent." Samuel glanced at them. "They look like true warriors."

In their sleep? I wonder what people think I look like in my sleep. A writer? A superhero? A ninja? You never know!

"Sirs!" a voice hissed. It was Nathan. He stepped out, holding something behind his back. "I had dropped my comb under their bed," he said, nodding to the new arrivals' three-story bunk bed. "I was feeling around for it when I discovered a secret compartment. And I pulled out this." Nathan produced a stone tablet.
Samuel took it gently, Smits peering over his shoulder. It was covered in messy Toreth. Only the title was legible. It read, "The Chosen Ones' Description."

Dude, why are you combing your hair in the night? You'll probably mess it up in your sleep anyway. Also, how and why do they have a three-story bunk bed? That's super tall! I think I meant it had three layers, not three stories. There's a big difference! Also also, how convenient that a tablet describing the Chosen Ones is right under the bed of the three main characters.

And for your info, I skipped a lot of this chapter because it was a random hodgepodge of exposition and a boring tour and a bomb and puzzling about the Portal Guardians. It was largely uninteresting, so let's hope this next chapter is better.

Mark felt himself being shaken. He looked up. "Justin! I thought you were Michelle for a moment."

I know it's the morning, but why would he think this? He met the girl once, and it'd be highly inappropriate if she went into the men's barracks.

Mark sat and looked around at the wooden room with white walls. "How many people eat here?" he asked Justin.
"About one quarter of our army in the castle. That would be approximately one thousand two hundred fifty. Some eat inside, while others dine in the great outdoors."

You have an army of only five thousand? Is it just me, or does that seem kinda small?

"Xander!" Nathan called.
A brainy-looking man with glasses and coarse light brown hair jerked up from behind a desk, knocking his head on an overhanging lamp. "Yeah?" he asked, rubbing his head.
"Fetch three suits of chainmail for the trainees, please."
"On the double," Xander said, wheeling around and nearly tripping over his feet. He ran off, slightly embarrassed.

*slaps forehead* And the clichés continue. The nerdy guy also has to be the clumsy one.

At the end of the day, sweat poured from their bodies, and their muscles ached. After a hot shower and supper, they went to bed. 
A week passed. They learned the art swordplay skillfully. Mark quickly learned from his mistakes. Warren slowly but steadily mastered it. When David got the hang of it, he was great.

This is literally the only stuff I wrote with them training, because I didn't feel like having more. I thought it would be too complicated to write, and thus, this is the sorry excuse I have for sword training. Not to mention I forgot the word "of" in the second sentence of the second paragraph.

"Yeah, over here," Xander said. He led Smits to the weapons. Nathan was watching the three fiddling with some. Mark was pretending to shoot foes with a bow, Warren was examining a war hammer, and David was fingering throwing knives.

I think I expertly hinted at this beforehand. Remember how David randomly could throw a tack really precisely? And how Mark randomly knew how to fire a slingshot? And how Warren is, uh, clearly the strongest one of the bunch? Yeah, all that is going to come into play now.

Mark leaned close to Smits. "Uh, why does Michelle have to train me?" he asked quietly.
Smits whispered back, "She's one of our best archers. It is a privilege to have her as your trainer. Why do you ask?"

Now, either Smits is being clueless, or he's being sly. Because Warren mentioned Michelle's name at the dinner last night and got a reaction out of Mark (in case you're confused, I didn't include that portion). So honestly, I have no idea why Smits even asked that question.

Smits wheeled around, startling Xander, who was standing behind him. "I didn't do anything!" Xander cried. 
"It's okay, Xan," Smits reassured. "What were you doing standing around?"
"I was wondering if those two had something going on between them."
"Don't think so." Smits actually doubted his statement.

Yep, Smits is entirely clueless. Or he zoned out during supper.

Reuben shook his head. "Well, the forge's blacksmiths must be losing their touch. I'll have to post a complaint. You know how bad these are? They're liked the terraxs' pickaxes."
"Really?" 
"Yep. If this sort of incident happened on a Kalansif power rock mine, I'd send these pickaxes back to the forge with a note that would read, 'To the smithy who made these: you's 'bout as smart as the rock that broke 'em.'"
Warren laughed. Reuben gave a look. "Well, it be true."
Now Warren was on the ground laughing. Reuben joined in, his chortles catching the attention of passing knights.

Uh, ha ha, so funny. You guys can stop laughing now. No, seriously, stop. Stop. Just stop! I was only mildly amused; I'm not rolling around my room laughing until I cry and my stomach hurts. (These guys are clearly overtired. What's say we give them an early bedtime?)

Reuben's jaw went slack. "Well, bless me beard!" he whooped. "Now that's something! That rock was as solid as me mum's bread without yeast. Lost a few teeth that day. 
"So now you's goin' to make some rock powder with that there hammer."
Warren gave a German World War II salute and set to work.

Well, Reuben is quite the character . . . *notices what Warren just did, and my eyes bulge* DUDE! What the actual BRICK are you DOING?! You're an American soldier; you shouldn't be doing any Hitler salutes. Wow . . . I'm disappointed in you and in myself. I was clearly not right in the head when I wrote that.

 Xander tried to walk as inconspicuously as possible, Nathan following his lead. "What are we--" he began.
Xander whipped around and gave an exaggerated "SHHHHH."
"Sorry," Nathan whispered. "What are we doing?"
Xander thought, then hissed, "That's classified." He continued on his way.
Nathan shrugged and followed.

What a classic--albeit cliché--comedy duo. They're bound to get involved in some shenanigans, that's for sure.

[Mark] tried again. But then a wind blew through, pushing the arrow to the right of the target. "When the wind blows in a certain direction, fire in the opposite one," Michelle said softly.
Mark nodded and pointed the bow to the left, not noticing the wind had stopped. "Uh, Mark," began Michelle.
It was too late. The arrow was already rushing into open air. All of a sudden, a tall black man clad in regal armor appeared on the dirt path, the projectile coming close to hitting him. A group of archers behind him halted, shocked at the scenario that could've occurred.

So I guess Mark was never good at shooting guns in the army, then. Maybe he wasn't even good with his slingshot to begin with. And that path seems awfully close to the archery range. Someone didn't set this up well.

The black man took of his helm that covered his head. His face was set in a fierce expression. Mark shivered as the man's icy pale blue eyes penetrated him.

He took of his helm, not off his helm? Fair enough. Is he, by chance, related to Heimdall?

"Um . . . uh . . . sss . . . sorry sir," Mark said, his knees practically knocking. He gulped. "I . . . I didn't mean to--"
The man started laughing, Michelle doing the same. The knights smiled, some in relief.
Mark was confused. "Could you, maybe, like, fill me in on what's so hilarious?"

I'd like to know that too, buddy. I think everybody has a severe case of hyperness today.

The man howled louder, which set the fuses of the other men. Their face muscles twitched as they made a futile attempt to hold back the laughter, but that didn't last long. Their merriment might've been heard a mile away.
As they wiped away tears after they had laughed a full minute, Mark, still in the dark, said, "Congratulations. You have just completed ten minutes of aerobic exercise."
That set the laughing bomb again. The leader was doubled over, while the others were rolling on the ground. Michelle leaned against a rock, giggling.

Get your act together, guys! You're supposed to be professional. Oh, and Michelle's back to giggling again. Is she going to start daintily picking flowers now?

"What's wrong? Do you need to see a physician?" Mark cried frantically. "Did you get enough sleep?"

Ah-ha! Mark sees the real problem here. I now declare Mark the sanest person of this chapter so far.

"I . . . I'm," the man gasped. He clutched his stomach. "I'm fine . . . mostly."
He straightened, gave a wide smile, and extended his hand. "Hi, Mark is it?"
"Yeah," confirmed Mark.
"I'm Harvey, high general," he said, still grinning. "Man, you should've seen the look on your face. It was so funny."

Lemme get this straight: the man in charge of an entire army of 5,000 lost it . . . because of a funny face? This story officially doesn't make sense.

Michelle and Harvey applauded. "Good job, kid. You got real potential." The general winked at Mark, whose mouth lifted broadly. Mark glanced at Michelle, who was smiling, and a glimmer of an emotion called love flashed over his face.

*jaw drops* What the heck is this? Are we reading an adventure story or a sappy romance? What does it look like for "a glimmer of an emotion called love" to flash over someone's face? Huh? Someone explain that to me, please. Better yet, send me a video of what this looks like, because I'm utterly confused.

"Ah-ha!" a voice called from over to the side. The trio turned to see Xander doing a little dance in a bush near the targets, causing an archer to nearly misfire. "I knew it, I just knew it!"
"Knew what, Xander?" Harvey questioned.
"Yeah, and what are you doing hiding in shrubs? You know better than that, mate," Brook scolded.
 Xander stopped, his face slightly flushed. Beside him, Nathan slowly got up, raising his hands in surrender and proclaiming, "I'm innocent."
He caught sight of Mark and Michelle and his brain finally made the connection. "Woah, partner. I don't mess myself into this business. Whatever you're doing, you're doing by yourself. The ship's sinking, and if you're smart, you'll abandon it." Nathan walked away, leaving his friend behind.

I remember this being my favorite--or one of my favorite--comical scenes from this story. But what does Nathan mean by messing himself into that business? Can you mess yourself into anything?

*bursts out laughing* You know, I wrote this scene before I knew anything about shipping characters, so with that knowledge, his comment is ten times funnier. Talk about being a pessimist. I believe in Marchelle! *laughs again*

"So what were you hoping to accomplish over there, concealing yourself like a . . . a . . . uh, any suggestions?" Harvey called.
"A chicken." 
"A coward."
"A girl. No offense, Michelle."
"None taken."

Aren't they a creative, wordy bunch?

Xander spluttered unintelligibly before managing to say, "I gotta go." he ran in the same direction that Nathan had gone.
There was a moment of silence broken by Harvey scratching his hair in confusion. "That was odd," he said. He looked up, clapped his hands, and vociferated, "Alright, back to your training."

Harvey must scratched his hair really loudly. And in case you haven't been able to tell already, I was constantly referring to the thesaurus when writing this story. I thought it'd be boring to keep using speaker tags like "said" or "shouted" or whatever, so I used words like "vociferated." Which I've never heard used in my entire life.

"Try to focus on the body with your mind and eyes," instructed Lance.
"Like they do with the Force in Star Wars?" David asked.
Perplexion contorted Lance's face. "Huh?"
"Sorry. Bad joke," David informed.

Even though Blogger is telling me "perplexion" isn't a word, it actually is. Then again, it also thinks Xander isn't a real name. *pats David on the back* More like a bad pop culture reference.

"How is the progress on translating the tablet?" [Smits] inquired.
The guard, named Ian, shook his head. "Not the best, sir." 
Smits glanced at Harvey, who stood at his side. "And what does that mean?"
"Well, sir, the translators figured out that you're supposed to look at the tablet by means of a reflective surface. While they were copying the message onto a paper, the new guy knocked over and broke the tablet. Now they have to fix it, and that's taking awhile," Ian explained.

I'm all for hands-on training for newbies, but if this project is so important, why would they let the new guy in on this? Shouldn't it just be the experts doing the work right now? It makes the most sense to me.

Harvey and Smits walked away, knowing very well that God would provide.
What they did not know was that there was a traitor walking amidst them. 
A traitor that knew much.
Including the tablet's translation.

Cue the menacing music!

That wraps up this Humble Beginnings post. Cringey as always, am I right? But I hope it was a good wrap-up for the year. I also hope you all have an amazing rest of 2017! We will see each other again soon . . . as in, January 1st soon!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

The Prince of Peace

*bursts into the room, panting* Sorry I'm late, everyone! I've been busy with Christmas stuff, work, and writing . . . so I think I can be excused for posting a day late? Maybe? Whatever the case, before we go on, I just wanna say this'll be a shorter post because of . . . well, the three reasons I just mentioned. I hope that's okay! I've seen your comments on other posts and will respond to them sometime after Christmas.

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So as we all know, the big day is almost upon us. And around this time of year, we can all get super busy and stressed about everything. God must've known this ahead of time, as Isaiah 9:6 says that one of Jesus's names is Prince of Peace. That sounds nice, doesn't it? Peace is a good thing! But do we really know the definition of peace?

"Well, Josiah," you might say, "according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, peace is a state of tranquility or quiet. Not much else to it."

And you'd probably be right, except for one fact: Jesus didn't speak English (surprise, surprise!). He spoke Hebrew, and the Hebrew word for peace is shalom. You may have heard of it before. It's a small word that packs a lot of punch.

The simplest definition of shalom means "wholeness." This kind of wholeness is perfect; it lacks nothing and is completely filled. So shalom covers a lot of territory. It refers to health, prosperity, harmony, rest, and so much more! Jews use shalom as both a greeting and farewell to others, but it bears so much more than our simple hellos and goodbyes.

I don't know about you guys, but thinking of Jesus as the Prince of Shalom is mind-blowing to me. I think that the Message Bible did well to call Him the Prince of Wholeness, because that description is closer to the original meaning. Now that I know the Hebrew version of peace, John 14: 27 (NLT) takes on such a different meaning for me: "I am leaving you with a gift--peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don't be troubled or afraid."

Are you experiencing God's shalom peace this year, or have you been wrapped up (pun intended) with the frantic pace? I encourage you to take some time to be alone for a while and reflect on shalom. Jesus is offering the best peace you could ever get. All we have to do is claim it.

And while Prince of Peace tends to be a term thrown around only at Christmas, this shalom is meant to be with you year-round. We are to constantly be in a state of joy, contentment, health, and prosperity. We need to recognize that no matter what, we have the right to be filled with shalom. It's just one of the many things Jesus gives us through His death.

Okay, so this post is super short, but I think that's fine. It'll give you more time to do some of that reflecting. As for me, Digital Pulse isn't writing itself, unfortunately. I think I also need to take my words to heart and spend time focusing on Jesus's shalom peace.

I wish you all a very merry Christmas! May your homes and families be filled with shalom from here on out. I'll see you all later!

Monday, December 18, 2017

A Christmas Song! /// Music Monday #13

All right, everyone, I've got breaking news for you: it's exactly one week until Christmas. One week! As in, seven days! (Man, this year is going by just way too fast.) So how could I not choose a Christmas carol today? Except this one's been remixed!


"Carol of the Bells"
Remixed by The Living Tombstone


(I'm just including the link to the video because he says in the description to not reupload his video to other websites, so I decided to play it safe.)

If you know me really well, then you'll also know that "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" is my absolute favorite carol of all time. Nothing can beat that song, in my mind. But this remix of "Carol of the Bells" is pretty high up on the list.

I think one of my favorite things about the song is how fast it is. Most of carols tend to be a little slower, but this one crams a lot of words in and then picks up the pace. I couldn't sing this song without lyrics available for me to read. (Well, I couldn't sing well with or without lyrics, but that's a totally unrelated sidenote.)

The beat is also very catchy. I feel like electronic music is a bit of a tricky genre, because it either stands out or ends up sounding like everything else. Though I suppose that could be said for any genre . . . Sorry! Getting distracted. I would classify this remix as an earworm. If you've never heard of the term before, it sounds rather nasty. While it is a nickname for the corn earworm, the casual definition means a catchy song that gets stuck in your head. Whenever I listen to this song, I often can't get it out of my mind for the rest of the day, which is something I don't mind.

And lastly, it's a pretty sick lyric video. After having been in a media class, I appreciate aspects in filmmaking more. I feel like even a fairly simplistic lyric video would take me ages to make and would probably end up looking "meh" in the end, so props to TLT!

Actually, if you enjoyed the song, you can download it for free. He's left a link in the description, which I only just discovered the other day. (Betcha can't guess what song was added to my music library.) It's cool when creators do that. It makes me wanna go support them by buying some of their other work.

So I'm going to end the post here. I know it's short (which isn't uncommon for this series), but I need to return to writing Digital Pulse. I'll try to respond to your comments ASAP. And don't forget, you don't have much longer to ask me questions for my upcoming Q&A post. Please, ask me whatever you want! Well, not whatever you want, but you know what I mean. Just use #KnowJoe to let me know which questions are for the interview. I only have twelve questions thus far, which means I need more. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity (most likely not, but we'll pretend); don't miss out!

Tell me, what's your favorite Christmas carol? Or are you a Grinch who doesn't like Christmas music at all? What's your take on this remix? Is it stuck in your head yet?

Friday, December 15, 2017

A Flaw Most Fatal

For thousands of years, mankind has been plagued by imperfections. They all end in heartache, unless one makes an effort to change his course. There's a flaw in particular I feel I need to talk about, and it can be summed up in four simple words:

Taking everything for granted.

It is synonymous with "ungrateful" and "unappreciative." Like the vicious predator it is, it lies in wait, and pounces at the opportune moment. We think we're above it, that we've escaped its deadly clutches. It's happy when we think that, for it is merely biding its time. And when it strikes, you can expect a fatality.

It seems to have a favorite target, and that's people. We live our lives under the optimistic illusion that our family and friends will stick around forever. It's not our reality. The fatal flaw lulls us into a slumber of security before unleashing the nightmare. And beating in the heart of that terror is a sad truth: family and friends don't . . . last . . . forever.

I'm not even just talking about death. Life happens. People move. Relationships get rocky. There's a host of reasons as to why others in our world ebb and flow like the tide. But what TobyMac sings in "Gone" is something that occurs all too often: "They say you never know what you got 'til it's gone."

Why people? Life is all about relationships. Humanity is hardwired to crave them. We could lose our job, home, money, or possessions, yet if we have people, we have hope and something to live for. Without others, everything else seems petty. Our vision morphs into a bleak gray, and our foe laughs at our despair.

I've been hit by the fatal flaw not once, not twice, but three times this year. It first attacked January 4th. I've probably mentioned this before, but I used to visit a site called the LEGO Message Boards. It was a place where LEGO lovers from all over the world could hang out, write stories, roleplay, et cetera. I considered it my digital home. Because I had next to no friends in "real life" (I really don't care for that term), the vast majority of my friendships were on the MBs. I have many fond memories of the people I knew there and the fun times we shared.


Things had already started spiraling in the summer of 2016. As I entered the workforce and then college in the fall, I was spending less time on the MBs. I had fallen prey to the assumption that the site would be awaiting my return next summer, and I wasted precious time on frivolous things.

The fateful day came knocking, and the floor was ripped out from under me. Never had the thought crossed my mind that my home-away-from-home would be taken away from me. I had until March 30th to make up for lost time, although the last month was without the ability to post. Time was not in my favor.

I now imagine it like I'm a sentry on a watchtower. I was pretty faithful for a long time--since fall of 2012. But then my eyes wandered, and when I finally looked back, a swarm of enemies was closing in. I had little time to prepare. Even now, the memory of it still stings.

Although I know you guys don't think so, there are some who might say that those weren't "real" friendships, because they were online. They sure as heck felt real to me. While interactions take place digitally, there are real people involved, and I think we need to see those times still have value. Yes, the relationships aren't the same as face-to-face ones, but it doesn't mean they don't matter or are unimportant.

Miniature rant aside, I was still reeling from the first blow when the second landed. I knew this one was coming, but that knowledge didn't lessen the impact. It was at the end of college, and I suspected that I would never--or rarely ever--see any of my classmates again. I have run into a few of them and emailed a couple others, but almost no lasting friendships have come out of my college year. Not yet, anyway.

To me, that's kinda disappointing. I had hoped the relationships developed would be longer lasting. We accomplished so much as a team. We spent so many hours together. The ending to it all feels anticlimactic, in some regards. Maybe my expectations were just too high, and I didn't see the reality of the whole situation. Regardless, what's done is done, and I can only hope I'll gain at least a few friends from that year.

Bearing the scar of the MBs and the lack of friendships from college, I began my new normal life. And before I knew it, the fatal flaw tricked me into thinking everything was okay. I had managed to connect with several of my MBs friends. There was nothing to worry about. It was as if I began to see myself as untouchable and forgot the lessons I'd learned. The sentry was distracted again, leaving himself open to another brutal assault from the enemy.

The third time was a double whammy. Part one happened on December 5th, when I discovered that LEGO was shutting down its galleries. I had wondered when it was going to happen, because it started feeling like a plant left unattended. But that meant I was possibly going to lose all contact with two of my closest friends. I was frustrated with myself for having wasted my time again.

Part two went straight for the heart. The sentry, while focused on his foes, received a dagger in the back. I've chatted with two of my best friends, whom I've "adopted" as sisters, on Google Hangouts since the MBs were closed. Last month, one of them seemed to have disappeared off the face of the Earth. I eventually started worrying, so I messaged her last Friday.

The next day, I got a response, one I had to read more than once. She was going off the internet  . . . completely. No more Google Hangouts. No more social media. Just  . . . gone. She claimed it wasn't personal, but how could I not feel like I was at fault? How could I be exempt from any guilt, questioning what I had or hadn't done?

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The salt in the wound? She seemed colder . . . withdrawn . . . impersonal. Like our friendship hadn't mattered that much. I have no idea if that was her intention, but that was my perception. I was given virtually no details as to why she was disappearing.

It shook me up bad. Real bad. I was in a daze of heartache, a putrid blend of deep sorrow and concern with a side of frustration and guilt. How could she leave me at the drop of a hat, seemingly without a second thought or sounding like she cared? I wondered if I was the problem. I hadn't fully appreciated her friendship; I took it for granted.

In this moment, I recognized the terrible imperfection of man. And I began to despise it with a venomous loathing. I'm sick of the fatal flaw, the lunatic cycle, the wretched game!

I.

Want.

Out!

Can I be real here? Even more real than I have been already? I know that God promises to never leave me, that He's got plans to prosper me, that He will turn all things good in the end. But with my jaded, mortal eyesight, I can't see the endgame from where I'm standing right now. I just want to see Him . . . feel Him . . . hear Him. Those feelings aren't everything, though, and I have to trust, in spite of them.

There are those who would accuse me of turning to the internet to vent about my "Year of the Fatal Flaw" and get attention and pity. But as much as this is a raw, brutally honest rant (and trust me, it's been cathartic for me), it's not just about me. It's about all of us. It's a warning and a reminder.

I implore you, stop undervaluing the important people in your life. The idea that you'll always have them on this side of heaven is cute, but it's like a mirage in the desert: it never lasts, no matter how much you want it to.

2017 has certainly taught me a lot about one of our most vile flaws. A lesson, however, is no good if you don't take something away and put it into practice. You'll soon forget it and will have to learn it again, and again, and again. As Mr. Nezzer's grandma says in An Easter Carol, "A lesson learned is soon returned. A lesson lived is wisdom gived." (Bad grammar, yes, but that doesn't make it a moot point.)

I have determined I need to change my subconscious attitude. I'm done with being unappreciative of and ungrateful for my family and friends. Look what it's brought me! Nothing but regret and pain. I would never wish upon anyone what I've dealt with this past year.

No, in order to change, I have to make a conscious step in the right direction. I want to show my loved ones that I care about them, that I'm thankful for them, that they mean the world to me. One of the best ways to do that is to discover which of the five love languages--quality time, physical touch, gifts, words, and acts of service--is theirs, then use it on them. Online relationships might need a bit of creativity, but it's not impossible.

In a perfect world, doing this would be easy and have amazing results, where no one leaves and I would never be hurt again. But the world isn't perfect. Doing this will be hard at times. Results won't always be the best. People will still leave. I will have no choice but to tangle with the crushing hurt.

Despite all this, I cling with war-torn, bloodied hands to a steadfast belief.

Wounds can be healed.

Blows can be softened.

Souls can be mended.

Because I have an eternal Friend in my corner, who gives me the strength to keep fighting and the hope to get back on my feet.

Because Jesus is mightier than the fatal flaw.

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"I have told you these things so that you will be whole and at peace. In this world, you will be plagued with times of trouble, but you need not fear; I have triumphed over this corrupt world order." (John 16:33, The Voice)

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Justice League /// A Movie Review

So . . . Justice League came out last month. That was a thing. Question is, was it a good thing?

Well, that's why I'm here today: to give my opinion on the movie so you can decide whether you want to watch it or not. I saw it in theaters with a few friends of mine, and with my help, you can decide if you should too. Disclaimer: this review may not be a very organized or neat and tidy. I'm going to be talking about things as they come to mind.

Second disclaimer: in reviewing this movie, I'm going to spoiling a LOT of stuff. Possibly the entire plot. Read at your own . . . risk?

Third disclaimer: this is not a review of the movie's content. I'm not trying to tell you whether it's appropriate or not. You can check a site liked Plugged In for that.

Fourth disclaimer: I'm a more of a Marvel than a DC fanboy. Comparisons WILL be made.

Fifth disclaimer: this post contains a lot of disclaimers. Let's stop right now and get to the review.

source (Not gonna lie, this is a sick movie poster.)

Before I begin examining Justice League, I'm going to first talk a little bit about my relationship with DC movies. My first superhero movie ever was Batman Begins, and I loved it so much. Actually, the whole Dark Knight trilogy is amazing. In my mind, it's going to be tough for anyone to beat Christian Bale's Batman.

I also watched some of the older Batman and Superman movies, which weren't spectacular, to say the least. However, Danny Elfman's score for the 1989 Batman is still a classic in my mind, and John Williams's theme for Superman is very iconic.

Not long after The Dark Knight Rises (whose soundtrack got me hooked on movie music in the first place) was released, Man of Steel came along, which I also loved. A lot of people didn't like the ending, because Superman isn't supposed to kill. The fact that he did, and that he hated his decision, made him a much more interesting and human character.

This is where DC and I experienced some bumps in the road. Because they made Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. And I actually didn't hate the film; I just didn't . . . love it. (It's going to take them a while to live down the whole "our moms share the same name, we're great friends now" logic.) It also felt like the first time DC was trying to outdo Marvel, because they released their move the same year that Captain America: Civil War came out.

Suicide Squad didn't even interest me in the slightest. It was a cheap attempt at a movie similar to Guardians of the Galaxy, only it didn't work for DC. I've seen a few videos on YouTube mocking the movie's logic, which makes me even less eager to see it.

Then they created Wonder Woman, which was actually a lot better than I thought it was going to be! At times, yes, it did feel like Captain America: The First Avenger, but it was still pretty good! DC decided to make the first superhero movie with a female lead role, and it worked.

So when I sat in the theater to watch Justice League, I had a mixture of emotions. DC had a lot of ups and downs with their movies, so what would this one be? I decided not to expect much of it, and . . . well, I'll sum up at the end.

Plot/Story-Related Stuff

Superman is dead, even though he technically doesn't have to be. (Couldn't either have Batman or Wonder Woman used the kryptonite spear to kill Doomsday? I mean, Batman was being of almost no help in that fight. I know, I know, Superman dies in the comics when he fights Doomsday, but still!)

Ahem. Back to the movie in question. The world, in its typical fashion, now mourns the loss of Superman, even though in Dawn of Justice it hated him with a passion and loved him in Man of Steel . . . kinda? Batman and Wonder Woman are doing all they can to protect people.

Then one night, a Parademon shows up. (You know, those flying creatures from the desert apocalypse nightmare sequence in Dawn of Justice? You don't remember? How utterly surprising.) When Batman tries to take it down, it explodes. Wanting a woman's opinion on this phenomenon, he talks to Diana about it.

She tells him of Steppenwolf, a servant of Darkseid who nearly conquered Earth thousands of years ago using the three Mother Boxes. Only when gods and heroes united did the planet have a standing chance. Once the fiend was defeated, the Mother Boxes were divided. (Hey, Lord of the Rings called. They want their idea back.)

Now, with the death of Superman, the boxes are waking up, and Steppenwolf's out for blood this time. He conquers the Amazons and steals their box with ease, but not before they give a signal for Diana. Batman and Wonder Woman must hunt down the people in Lex's files (Aquaman, Cyborg, and the Flash) to take down Steppenwolf once and for all. But without Superman, do they have any real chance of succeeding?

Guys, I can already see a fatal flaw in this movie. I watched this movie two weeks ago . . . and I had to refer to Wikipedia to remember the plot. Seriously! I'm usually pretty good at recalling what a movie was about. In fact, I could sooner tell you the plot of The LEGO Ninjago Movie, which I saw around the end of September. That definitely doesn't put Justice League in my highest regard.

source (How is it that this is more epic than anything I saw in Justice League?)

Then the film gives us three new characters we hadn't seen yet, with almost no time to get to know them. This is where Marvel excelled, because they have slowly introduced new characters to us before mashing them with others. And even when they do throw some into the thick of things--like meeting Black Panther in Civil War--it's always executed really well.

Most of the plot seemed to consist of strung-together battle scenes, and the in-between stuff wasn't spectacular. I will say, though, that this movie is pretty funny. My favorite scene is when the superheroes resurrect Superman, who wakes up in a foul mood. At one point, Superman's taking on Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and Cyborg. Flash decides to run in and help. As he's in the speed force charging at Superman, the Man of Steel looks at him. The expressions on Flash's and Superman's faces were just hilarious.

And then there were minor plot points that didn't make sense. There's a scene where Wonder Woman is taking on terrorists, and the leader says his bomb will blow up four city blocks. Our heroine's solution? At the last second, throw it into the air. How does that solve anything?! If it can destroy four blocks, it can still cause damage from the sky! It didn't even look like it went that high.

There was also a random family we saw in a few brief scenes, and they had no bearing on the plot, aside from Flash having to save them later. It felt totally pointless and out of place. Plus, they had an unfinished joke. There's one part when the little girl sees a whole bunch of Parademons, and she grabs a can of bug spray. In my mind, I was like, "Is this actually going to be the Parademons' weakness?" But nope, they never delivered on that punchline.

Something else they didn't deliver on? The Flash's cryptic message in Dawn of Justice. The fact that it didn't get any payoff in this movie bugged me. I wanted to know what he meant, but apparently the filmmakers didn't have that same thought.

However, I will say that I really liked the two credit scenes (you know, like Marvel does). I won't spoil them, just because I don't want to spoil everything about the movie. But suffice it to say that if they're setting up two more movies, I'd be interested in watching them.

I'm not going to keep ranting about the so-called plot. I think you guys got a good idea about what I thought. Let's talk about . . .

Characters

Let's start off with Superman, because he's the one the movie opens with. (The beginning scene feels like a rip-off of Homecoming, since it starts with cell phone footage.) When it started, I was like, "Man, Henry Cavill's face looks off." The reason was because he had to grow a mustache for Mission Impossible 6, and when Zach Synder left the project, Joss Whedon had to do some reshoots. And for some reason, they didn't a good makeup artist, because Superman's face is horrifying. Not to mention that he is EXTREMELY overpowered when they resurrect him, because he takes down Steppenwolf like nobody's business.

You know how Batman was all brutal killer in the previous DCEU installment, even though he's not supposed to be like that? Superman's death has changed him, which I liked. He just seemed far too dark in Dawn of Justice. Christian Bale is still a better Dark Knight than Ben Affleck, though.

Wonder Woman was just as good as she was in Wonder Woman. As for the other three, they were pretty decent. Okay, actually, Flash was one of the best parts about the movie. Maybe that's because I know his backstory since I've seen the TV show. I just wish all three had been given more time to be developed, because they were kinda flat.

What about Steppenwolf? One word: awful. (Aside from the fact that he sometimes sounded like Liam Neeson. I find it funny because the real actor, Ciaran Hinds, got advice from Neeson for the role.) One of my friends summed it up well by saying that he had no reason to be afraid of Steppenwolf. He was just there for the sake of having a villain. And on top of that, his CGI was terrible. How is it even possible that three hundred million dollars were put into this movie? It's literally one of the most expensive movies ever made . . . so where did that money go? Are you going to be scared of this guy?


Or this guy?


I won't even bother with anyone else, because they weren't in there long to be important or interesting . . . except for the Amazons. Because something happened to their outfits on the way from Wonder Woman to Justice League.


Yep, they got skimpier. Wanna know what the sad part is? The first costumes were designed by a woman, and the second costumes by a man. Ugh. I have no others words but ugh.

Music

Before I conclude this review, I wanted to touch one of the most key elements, in my mind, of a movie: the soundtrack. Just as the movie had some turmoil with directors, it had issues with composers. Originally, Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL were set to compose the score. After things happened with the creation of the music in Dawn of Justice, Zimmer declared he was retiring from the superhero business. That left Junkie XL, and I was looking forward to hearing what he'd come up with.

But nope, he got replaced by Danny Elfman. I was disappointed, but I hoped Elfman would nail the score. When I saw the film, however, only twice that I can think of did I actually perk up and listen to the music. Now, in most movies, I notice some really good tunes, and it makes me wanna go listen to the soundtrack. The only times I paid attention to Justice League's score was when Wonder Woman's electric guitar theme appeared once, and when Batman's 1989 theme briefly showed up. Other than that . . . nothing.

I'm obviously not going to completely write off the soundtrack because of that. I'll still listen to it by itself. I just have my doubts as to whether it will be good.

The Verdict

I wanted to like this movie. Really, I did. I hoped it would take some cues from Wonder Woman and be just as good, if not better. And I enjoyed it . . . but I also saw it was caught between being great and terrible, an issue that's plagued DC for a little while now.

Justice League aspires to be awesome, but it ends up flopping like a dying fish, becoming a "summer flick," if you will. You know, those movies you watch for just a bit of entertainment with no expectations for anything great. It's riddled with problems, from no plot to (mostly) bland characters to an OP Superman to Amazon costume design to an unmemorable score. So there's not much going for it.

Here's what I think DC should do with their extended universe. Restarting now would be too soon, so if you can't go back, forge a new path forward. They need to stop focusing on imitating or getting the jump on Marvel, because it's never worked. They need to concentrate on doing their own thing, however they feel like doing it. If they would do that, I honestly think their films would start looking up. But until then, prepare for more mediocrity.

That's the end of it! How'd I do on my first movie review? Was it as messy as I predicted? Have you seen Justice League, and if so, what did you think? Don't forget to ask me your questions for January's special post. Just use #KnowJoe for any and all queries you have for the upcoming interview.

Monday, December 04, 2017

One of the Best Themes Ever /// Music Monday #12

Yes, it is once again Music Monday, and the track I have for you is an epic one. So hold on to your hats--if you're wearing one, that is--because your mind is about to be blown . . . again! Because you've probably heard this song before. And if your mind is going to be blown, you may want to hold on to your head instead. Ah, forget this noise!


Cringey intro aside, the song for today is . . .

"The Avengers" from The Avengers
Composed by Alan Silvestri


In case you haven't been on the internet lately, the trailer for Infinity War dropped on November 29th, hitting #1 on YouTube's trending page . . .  and it's currently sitting at #5, which is unheard of, as far as I'm concerned. I'm pretty this trailer is the most viewed one to date, with over 82 million views.

Just because I can, I'm going to add the trailer here, because if you haven't seen it, you need to. Like, RIGHT now. And if you have watched it already, watch it again. I saw it five times the day it was released.


Man, I've never been prouder to be a Marvel fanboy. You may have noticed that Infinity War is going to be released on May 4th of next year. That's precisely six years since The Avengers came out. To me, it feels like just yesterday (not quite, but close enough) that I couldn't stop raving about how good the first movie was.

But you know what's even cooler? Iron Man, the film that launched the Marvel Cinematic Universe as we know it, was released on May 2nd, 2008. Which means that Infinity War is coming out two days more than ten years since the beginning of the MCU. Isn't that crazy? How does a decade of films seem so short?

One of the things the trailer does best is reuse Silvestri's theme for Earth's Mightiest Heroes. I remember listening the soundtrack way back when and thinking it was kinda lackluster. If I listened to it now, my opinion would most likely be different. But the Avengers' theme has got to be one of the best, most memorable themes--right up there with classics like the Star Wars or Indiana Jones themes.

Contrary to popular opinion, I've found Marvel to have consistently made great scores. A lot of people would disagree and say they aren't memorable, to which I reply, "You wouldn't know a good song if it walked up to ya and slapped ya square in the face! You're probably one of those folks who thinks that mainstream pop is swell, yeah? Well, it ISN'T. It SUCKS. So don't ya dare insult my Marvel music ever again, because your taste is more than just severely lacking--IT'S NONEXISTENT!"

. . .  I may have just offended a lot of people right there, so let's keep moving.

The Avengers' theme is used brilliantly in the trailer, at all the right moments. I know Silvestri is going be utilizing it in Infinity War (and maybe if someone dies, we'll get a sad version of it!). What I hope he also does is create continuity by reusing other themes from the MCU, such as the themes for Ant-Man, Doctor Strange, Thor, Cap, Iron Man, Spider-Man, Guardians of the Galaxy, et cetera. I'm also really anticipating hearing Thanos's theme. The closest thing we got was one track from the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack, and it had some nice deep brass in it. Maybe his new theme will have some of that too.

Anyway, I've been rambling. This post has been all over the map, and I've been talking more about Infinity War than I have the song. But that's okay! I'm still getting my mind wrapped around the epicness. Just enjoy the music and look forward to the new movie even more.

What's your opinion on the Avengers' theme, or even Marvel music in general? Have you seen the Infinity War trailer yet? Are you hyped? Do you think Silvestri will succeed at creating a great score for the movie? Or are you just not interested in Marvel/superhero movies at all? Share your excitement, or lack thereof, in the comments!

Friday, December 01, 2017

A Surprise at the End! /// Monthly HapPENings: November

How is it that we are now in the last month of 2017? I feel like it should still be summertime or something. But nope, we now have 31 days left in the year. What a thought . . .

Anyway, I don't have an official picture for this post. What else is new, am I right? I did look into making a watermark, but I don't where to make one. I would've used PicMonkey, except for the fact that it now requires a paid membership to utilize the site. If you know where I can make one, please refer me to that site!

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You may recall I mentioned that I got laid off in October. Well, halfway through November, I got hired! I now work at a store that sells calendars, toys, and games. I'm enjoying the new job. One of the things I don't care for as much is working by myself, because at my previous two workplaces, I always had at least one coworker to talk to. The plus side of working alone is that I got to work on outlining Digital Pulse during my shift last Wednesday. (More on this later.)

Also, today is actually kind of a special day . . . it's my birthday! To celebrate the occasion, three of my friends and I hung out on Sunday. We ate good food, watched Justice League, did some shopping, and laughed a lot. All in all, it was a really fun celebration.

Aside from those two things and two sibling birthdays (one for Tracey and one for Kaitlyn), nothing super spectacular happened during November, which is fine. Not every month has to be filled with extraordinary events. (And that's not to say what I mentioned was extraordinary . . . you know what I mean! Right?)

Bookish HapPENings

Remember how I said last time that if I didn't finish a book by the time December rolled around, you could all mock me as much as you want?

Well, go ahead. I haven't completed a book.

I will say that I did have a legitimate excuse this time. I was focusing on getting Digital Pulse written, and therefore put reading away for the time being. I hope--like, really, really hope--that this month I can actually burn through at least a few novels.

HapPENings on the Screen


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SPOILER ALERT! So my sisters and I are reaching the halfway point in the third season, and things are looking bad for the heroes. But I've got one gripe right now: Henry does not play a good Peter Pan! Like, at all! He tries so hard to come off as a legit threat, but all I can do is laugh at the ridiculous way he talks and acts. I thought, and still think, that Peter Pan is the most powerful villain in the show thus far, and probably my favorite. I just can't stand Henry's version of him

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I desperately want to talk about this show, but there's far too many spoilers! Lemme talk about it vague terms: IT'S EPIC AND AMAZING GO WATCH IT WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR YOU HAVE NOT LIVED UNTIL YOU SEE THIS SHOW!

*gasps for breath* No, seriously, quit procrastinating and watch The Flash. I have not regretted starting this show and getting each season on DVD. It's simply phenomenal. And while all three seasons have dealt with timey-wimey stuff, this one takes it to a "whole 'nutha level," as a friend of mine would say.

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As I mentioned, I watched this movie in theaters with a few of my buddies. Normally, I don't see a whole lot of movies in theaters. I wait until they come out on DVD. For my birthday celebration, I was debating between Thor: Ragnarok and Justice League. I knew the former would be fantastic; I had my doubts about the latter. However, one of my friends had already seen Ragnarok twice, so I took him into consideration and chose Justice League, hoping it would be just as good--if not better--than Wonder Woman.

Yeah . . . about that? My thoughts on this movie are too much to be summed up here, so next week's post is going to be my full review of it.

Gaming HapPENings

Yep, I added another heading to this post! I asked about this last time around, and I got no response, so I was like, "What the hey?" I'll just be talking about a few of my favorite/most-played games in the month.

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Ever wanted to play a shooter but found that they're always too messy? Well, sorry to disappoint ya, but this one's no different . . . except it's messy with ink!

Shooter games are no new concept to North America, but apparently in Japan, they're a little more rare. That's why Nintendo decided to turn the genre on its head by creating Splatoon, a game where you play as a human who transforms into a Squidling (or a Squidling who transforms into a human, depending on how you look at it). You and your three teammates use ink to cover as much ground as possible and prevent the opposing team from advancing.

So not only does this appeal to Japanese audiences because they lack shooter games, but it also appeals to North Americans because it's a twist on a genre we're familiar with. It's a good business strategy, one that they repeated, in a sense, with Breath of the Wild.

I'm not stellar at this game, but I'm getting better. I actually don't prefer guns, but rather the roller, an up-close-and-personal weapon perfect for inking a lot of turf at once. Whenever my team wins, almost all of the time I've got the roller equipped.

The game isn't perfect. There are campers (who pop up in pretty much every shooter game you can find). Sometimes the teams are unbalanced, the system having put all of the high level players on one team. And getting cornered around your spawn point is only frustrating, though I have no qualms with getting close to my opponents' base myself.

Funny story, and then I'll move on from this game: the other day, I had rolled close to the enemy turf. I was wearing my shirt that makes me invisible when I'm submerged in my team's ink. So I hid myself, and soon enough, three players left the spawn point to join the battle. As soon as they passed, I quickly got up and gave chase, my roller ready to mow them down.

As they crested an incline, I caught up to them and splatted one person. The second guy noticed and started to turn, shooting as he did. It was a good effort, but a wasted one. I splatted him as well. The third person hadn't even noticed me, and thus, I rolled over him swiftly. Three kills in one go is no easy feat, so my youngest two sisters and I got a good laugh out of this.

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I've playing through the HD version of Twilight Princess, and . . . well, again, I'll save my full thoughts for a review in the future. I want to finish the storyline, because I feel like only then can I give my thoughts properly.

Anyways, what I wanted to talk about Lakebed Temple. Because I absolutely hated this temple. I normally love temples in Zelda games. You've got to really use your head to solve the puzzles sometimes, one of my favorite aspects of the series. Now, many people complain about the water temples, or just water levels in general. I loved the water temples in games like Spirit Tracks and A Link Between Worlds. While it didn't have a full-on water temple, Skyward Sword's underwater sections were pretty good. Even Ocarina of Time's water temple was all right, though to be honest, I never finished it because I couldn't figure it out and I was borrowing a friend's copy.

Lakebed Temple, on the other hand, is a completely different story. First off, the controls for underwater movement are extremely janky. When Link swims up, you can't change the camera angle, which is sometimes necessary. One area of the temple is an underwater maze that took forever for me to get out of.

Secondly, the whole temple was just not my favorite. The concept of getting the water flowing was cool, but I found the whole setting was just sort of . . . bland. And it was absolutely massive, which usually isn't a problem. But when it's a temple I don't like, I just wanna get out of there ASAP.

As I did more and more stuff in the water, I began hoping the boss battle would not take place while submerged in that life-giving liquid. I should've known better. The worst part was Morpheel's first phase. Essentially, he's got an eye floating from tentacle to another. I have to use my clawshot to pull the eyeball out, but in order for me to attack him with my sword, I have to put on my metal boots. No big deal, right? The problem came when I had to escape his counterattack. He puts a tentacle down, and I gotta take off the boots to swim away. But if I so much as to dared to even touch the tentacle, I became his meal--one that he regurgitates, anyway. It was just . . . frustrating.

This temple's one saving grace wasn't even an intentional one. There was a specific room that gave me, Chloe, and Kaitlyn some merriment, and I showed it in the above picture. It's hard to tell in the photo, but the water looked very . . . yellow. And as immature as it may have been, we began calling it the pee room. We were all laughing so hard and acting goofy, it was hilarious. Even during the mini-boss battle with the Deku Toad, we were making the best comments and getting a kick out of the whole thing.

Aside from that moment of joy, the rest of the temple was garbage, and I hope I never have to play it again. (Okay, that may be a bit extreme, but I've got strong feelings about Lakebed Temple.) I shall also move on from video games, because I didn't think I would talk this much about only two games.

Writerly HapPENings

So after I did my Beautiful Books post, my inspiration for Digital Pulse has gone through the roof. I hadn't written anything in November prior to this post, but I certainly did afterward. I wrote about 3,600 words, whereas in the months leading up to November I had only written approximately 600. Tragic, I know, but things are looking up!

I mentioned that I outlined my story events while at work the other day. When I had gone to work, I had no idea how I was going to get from where I was to the ending that I had in mind. When I left, pretty much everything was planned out. I'm going to have to do this more often in the future, because it really helps.

My goal was to finish the story by the end of this week, but that's not going to happen. I'm going to have to shift the deadline over to the end of next week. Wish me luck!

Before I go, I have one surprise for you all. During the month of December, on any of my posts, feel free to ask whatever questions you want me to answer--within reason, of course. If there's something you've always wanted to know about me, now's your chance. Come January, I'll pick my favorites (or do them all, depending on how many I get) and answer them in what is sure to be an insightful and humorous post. There is no limit to how many questions you can ask. Just make sure you specify so I don't answer when I respond to you. Use #KnowJoe when you're asking a question for the special post.

And there you have it! That was my November. What was yours like? For all you NaNo participators out there, feel free to give my a glimpse of your journey through the month. Or if you have talked about it on your own blog, let me know so I can check it out!

Friday, November 24, 2017

A Tale of Violence, Villain Backstories, and CAPS LOCK /// Humble Beginnings, Part 5

You were probably all wondering when another Humble Beginnings post would show up. I decided to do a Beautiful Books post instead last Friday, so today you finally get another dose of humor, cringe, and sarcasm. What more could you ask for?

Oh yeah, and I hope you guys brought your barf bags with ya, because we've got some disgusting violence coming up. (And you'll probably just wanna keep it with you, because it only occurs more often from here on out.)

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Just in case you guys forgot, we last ended off with Mark, David, and Warren having to read a book about why this big ol' war is happening. We pick up here with the beginning of the story.

Once, a long time ago, good filled the land of Erador.

Wow. How cliché can we get here? I should've just added something about a dark and stormy night, a hole in the ground, and a galaxy far, far away while I was at it! At least then this might've been a more interesting opening sentence. (I don't remember if I've said this before, but Erador sounds too much like a blend between Erabor and Endor.)

Detrius spoke through [King] Eli and banished the proud [High General] Lurkum and his army to Darava, a continent consumed in lava and molten rock. It and the continent Zracs were the only continents no one lived on.

Lava . . . and . . . molten rock. Lava and molten rock. Lava. And. Molten. Rock.

THAT'S PRETTY MUCH THE EXACT SAME THING! What in the world was I thinking? I obviously didn't use the dictionary in this case. And for those of you who skipped history class, don't worry! The author of this story has decidedly to slip in a really important fact about two of the continents. (Again, I forget if I have said this in the past, but Detrius brings to mind the word "detriment," which probably shouldn't happen.)

 Later, one day, a band of raiders came and destroyed villages on continents, making room for the evil warriors to invade and take over them. When the raiders reached Ghrumet, the desert continent and the last one more Adiryulle, they ran full force into opposition. Part of Eli's army attacked them continuely, the prince leading the charge. But during one raid, the prince was captured. King Eli sent Generals Lucas and Bart, along with an elite group of knights, to rid the land of the raiders. The two decided to ambush them in a canyon in Ghrumet.

Okay, before we move on, I feel we really need to cover all the stuff wrong with this paragraph. First off, this feels disjointed from the first part of the story. Maybe it connects later, but right now it feels like I was jamming two puzzle pieces together that don't even match.

Secondly, for those who slept during the geography lessons in school.

Third, why the BLAZING BLUE BLAZES are the good guys waiting until the bad guys are one continent away before they make their move? It's like they're saying, "Oh, gosh golly gee, those ne'er-do-wells are right next door. We probably could've taken care of this problem, but we'll wait until the last minute just to raise the stakes."

Fourth point: "continually" is spelled wrong.

Fifth, if this is so important, why is the unnamed prince leading the charge and not the named King Eli? Hmm? Explain that to me, younger self.

Sixth and final complaint: Eli wants his generals to decimate the raiders, but there's no mention of saving his son. I guess his own child doesn't really matter too much in the grand scheme of things, huh?

Lucas stood near the entrance of a cave hidden by boulders.

Wait, we just switched from omniscient to third-person? Whoever authored this story within a story (story-caption!) has some deep insights, apparently.

The group rode their reptror down the slope leading into the canyon. Suddenly, arrows flew from the bows of unseen archers atop the canyon walls. Most hit their targets. Raiders and reptrors alike fell dead.

Hey, why the switch in the plural version of "reptror"? Back in part 3, I called them reptrors, but for some reason, adding the s sounds weird.

After several of their own were cut down, the raiders shook themselves free from their shock and met the charge.

So have these guys never been attacked before, and when they do, they go into "I'll just stop here like an idiot and let myself get killed" mode? How did they even get this far in their conquest?!

Archers fell from the walls and were sometimes shot by a raider's crossbow before they hit the ground. Soon, though, it was the raiders who fell from the great height. Bart was so close to one when it made contact with the canyon floor that he heard the crack of its spine snapping.

Pleasant little detail, that.

Bart turned around and saw a reptror pulling a prison carriage. Inside was . . .  the prince! Then he herd an evil voice whisper to him. It gave him an idea that would lead to the prince's demise. And for some reason, Bart wasn't appalled by the nasty idea.

No! *jumps up from where I'm sitting* No, no, ABSOLUTELY NO! There is no way that someone turns evil within in the space of ONE BRICKING PARAGRAPH. If that were the case, wouldn't this whole world be evil by now? And why the heck are the raiders parading the prince through the battlefield? That seems like a really stupid thing to do.

Bart grabbed the whip as it bit into his hand and ripped it in half.

Forgive me if I'm mistaken, but I feel as though ripping apart a whip isn't an everyday feat. Either Bart has got some real strength, or this whip is pathetically weak. And just so you guys know, I've skimmed over some battle sequences where a raider had its arm lopped off and a sword up its gut and the whip-wielding carriage driver had a dagger plunged into its wrist and said sword through its heart. This is just getting better and better.

The prince, whose name was Joshua, stumbled out.

Well, thank you for finally sharing this character's name, when it could've been done the first time he was mentioned.

"Head over to General Lucas. He's in that general direction," Bart gestured.

Um, how long has Joshua been captured? He could very well be dehydrated and underfed. I know he was at the front of the army earlier, but shouldn't Bart be escorting him right now? Speaking of Bart, he should be aware that "gestured" is not a word used like "said." I think he skipped out on English school.

Bart watched Joshua go when he felt a funny sensation on his hand. He looked and saw that the whip injury was gone. The sabre wound was also gone. 
"This is one of my many powers," the evil voice said. Bart recognized it as Lurkum. "Serve me, and get the power and riches you deserve."
Bart immediately decided to serve Lurkum. With that, he realized no matter how much Eli rewarded him, Lurkum could always give him more. Now, he didn't care about Adiryulle anymore. He would be more concerned about Darava, his new home, where the real power lay. 
A sinister grin seeped across Bart's face.

 *covers my face with my hands* Ugh . . . words escape me, just like any trace of good escaped Bart just now. This is not a good villain backstory! It sucks so bad!

The raider gasped as a spear head was thrust deep into the bottom of its chin. When the spear was removed, the raider collapsed. Lucas dropped the weapon, thinking, "Killed by its own spear. Ironic."

Aaand we're back to the violence, people! Just in case you were getting bored.

The chieftain swung its double-sided battle-axe. Lucas avoided the stroke and knocked the hilt of his sword into its temple. As the raider stood dazed, Lucas reached over and broke its wrist. The creature snarled and punched him hard, causing him to fall. The chieftain placed the battle-axe in its other hand and made a wide swipe at Lucas. He rolled between its legs, quickly got up, and kicked the chief's back. It fell, letting go of its axe. He ran to it and began to strangle it with his meaty hands. The raider struggled, but it was in vain. The general held it tight, until it was limp. To make sure it was dead, Lucas twisted its neck, hearing it snap. Then he pinned the chieftain down with its battle-axe.

This was legitimately one paragraph when it could've been two. Not to mention that Lucas went to extreme measures to make sure it was dead. He would've only needed to use of the three methods, not all of them. (Are you starting to believe me when I said I was a weird kid back then?)

Because it seemed like it was redundant, I decided to exclude Lucas's conversion to the dark side. Allow me to sum up. Essentially, Lurkum tells Lucas that he serves Detrius and Eli on the outside, but not the inside. He goes on to say that Eli doesn't really appreciate, and Detrius doesn't care about, Lucas. But he claims he will do both, so Lucas pledges his heart on the spot. Now, as a test of loyalty, Lurkum wants Lucas to kill the next person he sees. What a riveting scene and genuine backstory. I feel like I better understand that Lucas is a WEAK-KNEED JERKFACE.

Deep breaths, Josiah . . . deep breaths. Spoiler alert: we're coming up to what could be considered the most graphic part of this story!

Joshua neared him and called, "General Lucas! How may I help?"
"You can stand right over there, for starters," directed Lucas.
Joshua frowned. "Okay. Why?" 
"Funny thing is, I just asked the very same question. And the answer is: You're a worthless traitor!" Lucas coolly exposed the hidden crossbow and shot.

So says the worthless traitor.

The arrow struck a vein in the lower part of his sword arm. Joshua looked at the blood oozing out of the wound. He heard the click of the crossbow firing and felt the arrow digging into his right eye. He cried out and attempted to stagger away.

Are you telling me that no one, absolutely no one, is seeing or hearing this right now? Lucas and Joshua suddenly have the canyon all to themselves? And crossbows fire quarrels, not arrows. The devil is in the details.

He was suddenly shoved brusquely onto his back. "Going somewhere?" Bart asked rhetorically.

Well, thanks for specifying it was a rhetorical question! Y'know, I feel like I was using words like "brusquely" and "rhetorically" more of as a way to show off my vocabulary than anything else.

Lucas fired once more, arrow puncturing one of Joshua's lungs. Joshua gasped for air.
Lucas leaned close and said, "In case you're wondering, I'm doing this because I follow Lurkum."
The prince shook his head. "Then  . . . you follow . . . the grave. Don't you know . . . the name Lurkum . . . means, 'the shadowed consumer'?"

Not gonna lie, that isn't a half-bad meaning for Lurkum's name. And I forgot the word "the" before "arrow."

"So what?" Lucas retorted. He reached into his pouch and took out a bottle of a yellowish-gray liquid. "This," he stated, "is a poison called zyel. Perhaps you've heard of it?"
Joshua squirmed, but Bart held him down. "I see you have," Lucas said. "This poison eats all the bones inside of you. A lovely way to die." He opened the bottle and put a drop in Joshua's eye.

If you're really squeamish, you may want to skip this next portion.

At first, all the poison did was make everything hazy. He tried to refocus, but found he could not. Then came a hurricane of pain. Unbearable pain with the nightmarish effects of the poison. A banshee scream escape Joshua's lips. 
The poison swept through his body. As it passed bones, they began to dissolve. Joshua looked like a balloon starting to deflate. His mouth stayed open in a silent scream as his jaw disappeared. Other bones went, leaving him a mushy, shapeless human. The two generals literally saw his heart beat.
"Let's see how strong Joshua's heart is," Bart said, then jumped to where he had seen the pulse. This action caused the heart to explode, and Joshua finally died.

If this was the first thing someone read from any story of mine, they'd probably question my upbringing or something. How did I write this? I thought it was cool at the time, but now it's just weird . . . and kinda disturbing. I'd hate to see this in a movie. Also, how does whosever POV this is know what a balloon looks like?

Lucas saw that the remaining raiders were fleeing the way they came into the desert, leaving their reptrors behind. He then noticed a raider not far away and went to it. He held out the poison bottle, saying, "Hold this."
The raider obeyed, confused. Lucas whipped out his sword and beheaded the creature. He set the raider's body and head by the prince and laid the crossbow beside it.

This crime scene feels a little too convenient, if you know what I mean. And I'll ask this again: how in the world were the two generals not spotted by any of the other soldiers they were with? Those are some impossible odds, I tell ya. My younger self would probably respond with, "Never tell me the odds!" I'd also like to point that the good guys have not finished their job. The raiders are running away when they're supposed to be completely decimated.

While he was doing this, Bart had gotten an idea to kill the last of the raiders. He walked up to a reptror, gave a war cry, and slapped its rear end. The animal snorted and charged. He did this to a few more, and that started a reptror stampede. Their destination: the raiders.
The raiders looked back and saw the reptrors closing in. The band had obviously lost it, because of veering away, they tried to outrun the reptror. No luck in that department. The steeds caught up and trampled the raiders, leaving a gory mess.

Well, that settles the "raiders are still alive" issue. And inconsistent pluralization is inconsistent.

Because this post is getting long, I'll skip some other parts I could talk about, but I'll sum up again. Basically, the knights fall for the fake crime scene, even though both generals are standing there instead of being on the frontlines. They go back to Adiryulle, where everyone mourns Joshua's death. Eli holds a meeting about the battle, Lurkum compels Lucas to talk, and the two generals tell of how they killed Joshua and tricked everyone, to which Eli responds with weeping.

Lucas turned to face the others. "See, the king is over-emotional." He neared Eli and pulled out his sword. "He is no longer fit for the throne."
Guards rushed at him. He was about to bring the blade down when there was a flash of light. Lucas stumbled back and was surrounded by the guards. A voice said, "Lucas and Bart, you have remained outwardly loyal. However, your hearts truly belong to Lurkum. You are now banished to Darava." A large wind picked them up and rushed away.

These guards need to be replaced. They should've been closing in on Bart and Lucas when they were admitting to all the horrible things they did, not when the king is about to be executed. Thankfully, they are saved by literal deus ex machine and a large wind. *bursts out laughing* I'm sorry, but I've just got this hilarious image of a wind whisking them away in a cartoonish fashion. It's so ridiculous. I also feel like "large" is a weird descriptive word for wind.

Just then, a pop was heard, and Lucas grunted. He started to change, as did Bart. Their bodies morphed and stretched. When the process was finished, Lucas said, "Friend, you look like a big ox."
"You appear to be a large dragon," Bart replied.

Calling someone a big ox sounds like a strange insult.

As they were walking, Lurkum announced, "First of all, you need new names. Any ideas?"
Bart thought. "I'd like to have the name Behemoth." 
"I shall be Leviathan," Lucas said.

Yep, these two dumbbells are based on the creatures in Job. If I were to do this again today, I'd make them have a more logical backstory and just be cooler in general.

"Marvelous choices. The names suit. Well, Behemoth and Leviathan, welcome to Darava, the home of evil. Now, when we are inside my private chambers, I will tell of my plan to kill Detrius' Son, and with Him, the humans' hope."
Insert evil laughter.

We have finally reached the end of this chapter (which is number nine, for any of you who are interested), and this is where I'll finish the post. I knew today's was going to be longer, because I remembered a good deal from the chapter. It was just so cringey. *shivers* Thanks again for taking the time to read it, though!

Do tell me, have you ever written anything that just completely shocks you today? Any poorly-executed backstories, villain or otherwise? Content that makes you wince and wonder what you were thinking? If you have, I dare you to talk about it in a comment! I, for one, would be really interested in hearing what you have to say.