Monday, November 05, 2018

One Last Spooky Song /// Music Monday #36

Spooktober may be over . . . but we can have another Halloween-themed song, right? After all, I only got to choose two last month, so we might as well do one more.


Today, we'll be listening to . . .

"1,000 Doors"
Composed by The Living Tombstone


This is for a game called Spooky's Jump Scare Mansion, formerly known as Spooky's House of Jump Scares (it was changed for copyright reasons, if I remember correctly). It's a seemingly cute game where you, the player, decide to explore the abandoned mansion on the hill to see if all the legends about it are true. You're greeted by a little ghost named Spooky, who challenges you to make it through all 1,000 doors of the mansion.

Initially, the only jumpscares you get are adorable little slime blobs, cupcakes, coffee mugs . . . even the spiders are cute! But that unsettling atmosphere is always in the background, putting you on edge to the point that even the quaint cardboard cut-outs popping from the wall surprises you. Then you meet the specimens, some of which are showcased in the music video. It's a downward spiral from there, where danger and creepy-crawlies are lurking around every corner. Even some of the cutsie jumpscares become disturbing.

Will you find out what happened to Spooky so long ago and what her plan is? Will you emerge victorious, or will you become a slave to the mansion's dark host? Well, you'd have to play the game to find out. Or you could watch a YouTube gamer play it. It works either way.

As for the song itself, I love how it encapsulates both the cheery façade and the underlying horror. The Living Tombstone's music is always so good, and he nailed it once again with this song. Plus, the combination of BSlick's and Crusher-P's voices is amazing. BSlick sounds exactly like I would imagine the dude exploring the mansion would, and Crusher-P crushes (see what I did there?) her lines, though short they may be, as Spooky. Also, the way the song cleverly hints at the game's lore while not giving it all away is fantastic. An all-around wonderful job!

Hope you all enjoyed the song! Have you played the game before? If so, were you jumpscared at any point? And if you haven't heard, I'm participating in NaNo this month, so there probably won't be a blog post this Friday. Sorry about that!

Friday, November 02, 2018

Monthly HapPENings: October

Well, 2018 seems to be drawing its last breaths . . .


I don't think anything out of the ordinary happened this last month. The biggest difference was me starting my new job on the 1st. My job now is being a direct support worker for people with disabilities. I supervise and work alongside them at a facility that gives them jobs so they can experience more of a . . . normal life, for lack of a better term. While it definitely has its challenges, and it can sometimes be mentally exhausting, I still love it. I'm gonna miss a lot of these people when I leave one day, which'll probably be a year or two down the road at this point.

Aside from that, nothing too exciting occurred. It was just me adjusting to the full-time life and savoring those sweet, work-free weekends. Oh, yeah! I almost forgot: I went to a friend's house over one of the weekends. I quite enjoyed it; we had fun watching a movie, playing games, and just plain chatting and hanging out. And thanks to both of us having full-time jobs, it made planning "super easy, barely an inconvenience." (Kudos to you if you got the reference and aren't any of my sisters.)

Bookish HapPENings

So I may still be reading the same book since I finished The Iron Trial in September. Whoopsie-doopsie. Here's to hoping I can finish my current stack before the year's end!

HapPENings on the Screen

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This was my third or fourth time seeing this movie, and it's been a while. I'd forgotten just how amazing it was. Though it wasn't confusing like it was the first time, I was still in awe of the masterful storytelling on display. Everything, from the increasing stakes to the puzzling--and intriguing--plot to the incredible score, was so on-point. You'd have to be crazy to never watch this film.

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I went into Ant-Man and the Wasp with virtually no expectations, aside from "I hope this is as funny as the first," which it totally was. As the article I linked above as the source mentioned, it's a nice breather from the heavy-hitting movies we've gotten lately and the ones we'll be seeing next year. I've always appreciated Scott's family-oriented nature, and that shines quite nicely in here. Plus, the music still had that awesome style from the first movie, so that was a bonus. An excellent piece of cinema overall!

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When I was at my friend's place, we watched Mad Max: Fury Road on his big projector screen. Man, was it a blast, somehow going with my expectations and subverting them at the same time. On the surface, it's an action-packed, two-hour-long car chase through the dystopian desert. But I honestly believe that when you peel back the layers, you find some pretty interesting and thought-provoking stuff. I wouldn't be doing it justice by trying to unravel it so briefly here, so maybe for another post? Oh, and the soundtrack was amazing in the context of the movie! (I'd only listened to it by itself before, and it's still epic that way too.)


S6's plot thickens, as the villain, Nadakhan, cleverly catches the heroes alone and imprisons them in his special sword. I still hold firm to the belief that each season is better that the last, and you can tell that the writers are acknowledging their audience's changing age. I also love the fact that one seemingly small thing--Jay not using his third and final wish from Nadakhan--is going to have a big impact in the season's finale.


Finally! My sisters and I are four episodes away from completing our rewatch of S1. Even though I know how it all goes down, the turn of events is still suspenseful and chilling as the heroes get closer to the Reverse-Flash. And I already know that the last episode is gonna make me cry. That's probably a sign of a good show, right?

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I decided to give Avatar: The Last Airbender a chance, and I'm actually quite enjoying it! I was appreciating how the plot and characters were being set up in the first episode, and the progression from there has been pretty good. It's a very entertaining show, and it's fun to throw in my own comments now and again when I'm watching with Chloe and Kaitlyn. I'm curious to see how the story unfolds throughout the rest of the season.

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I was interested in this show because it's written by the same guys who did the Ninjago show and The LEGO Ninjago Movie, and a good friend of mine recommended it to me. I've only watched one episode so far, and I'd already say it's quite entertaining. The main characters have been set up well, the plot is interesting thus far, and the villain was someone I didn't guess, but perhaps should've. I'm looking forward to watching more!

Gaming HapPENings

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I missed playing Breath of the Wild. Like, a LOT. It's just such a good game, and a very unique Zelda title. I hadn't played in what felt like a long time, and returning to it seemed like coming home. I've done some fun stuff, like crazy shield surfing that would've killed if I didn't have Daruk's protection. Or finding two stables that I've somehow managed to miss until now. Or exploring Gerudo Town for the secret club that has special clothing that reminds me of a Fortnite skin. Or waiting forever for a Stalnox to awaken in the night. It's just been a blast, and I need to play some more soon.

Writerly HapPENings

I've written about 1,200 words this month, most of which was for Mechanical Death, my creepy flash fiction I shared with you guys last week. And I realized that I was supposed to go over my writing goals last Monthly HapPENings post, but I forgot. Now I'll just wait to assess the whole year in December's summary.

On the subject of writing, if you don't follow me on Twitter, you won't have heard my big announcement: I'M PARTICIPATING IN NANO THIS YEAR WITH THE PORTAL CHRONICLES! It's my first time, which is why I'm so hyped. While I have no doubt it'll be fun, it will also eat up a lot of my spare time. So I'm not sure what my blogging's gonna look like in November. You'll definitely get both Music Monday posts, but I'm not sure what else. It will depend on how I feel and how the writing goes.

Anyway, I'm finally done. Thanks for listening to me blabber! What'd you guys do/read/watch/play/write last month? Are you participating in NaNo? If so, what's your project about?

Friday, October 26, 2018

Spooky Story Challenge 2018 + Voting Results

Halloween is almost upon us, which means it's time for a creepy tale! Every year on her blog, Jenelle Schmidt holds this challenge of sorts, where we write spooky stories--as the name of the challenge suggests--following whatever parameters she sets. This year, it's a flash fiction that must be a thousand words or less. (If you know me, you'll also know I had to cut a bit thanks to my excessive word vomiting.) I was able to sit down and write it in one shot, which I absolutely loved.

Now remember, if this is something you're interested in, you only have until the end of the month to link up to Jenelle's blog. I'm sure we'd all love to read whatever chilling story you have cooking in your brain, so feel free to join in the fun. I'll be sharing mine with you guys, but first, it's time to reveal the results of the polls.

To quickly bring you up to speed, last week I held polls to determine the genre, POV, and protagonist gender for my "choose your own adventure" series I'm starting in the beginning of 2019, which still doesn't have a name. And the winning results are . . .

Fantasy, first-person, male!

Thanks to everyone who voted on here and on Twitter. I'm really hoping that this venture goes well, so I appreciate all the support you've already given me. It's gonna be fun!

And now, it's time for the spooks! I may have borrowed Deborah O'Carroll's idea for the title card, so . . . thanks, Deb!


“We shouldn’t be here.”

Callum blew over a bookshelf, and dust spiraled into the air. “So you’ve said, but no one’s been here for ages. It’s not like they’re going to stop us.”

Brody stamped his foot on the grungy carpet. “Trespassing is illegal, you know.”

“Dude, have you no sense of adventure?” Callum shook his head and pocketed a ring set with a large diamond.

“Great, now we’ll be thieves as well.”

“Shut up.” Brushing past his friend, Callum headed deeper into the house—well, perhaps mansion was a better term to use. Every day, he saw its clock tower poking above the trees, and every day, it beckoned him. How could he resist forever? The only thing he regretted was dragging Brody with him.

Floorboards growled their displeasure ever so often. Critters scrambled away from his marching feet, and more dust sprang to life. The furniture and décor appeared to be a blend of the Victorian and Gothic styles. And there was clockwork.

Lots and lots of clockwork.

Clicking, clacking, clunking.

Brody raced to join him. “Where are you headed?”

“Where do you think? The central tower.”

“You must be crazy, heading to the most obvious location in a haunted house. Have you never watched any horror movies or played any spooky games? You’re literally one of those idiot main characters right now.”

Callum raised an eyebrow. “What do you think we’re gonna find? Specters? Wendigoes? Headless horsemen?”

“I think we should let the dead rest.”

“No one said anything about anyone being dead. Have you not noticed the footprints that are less dusty than the rest of the floor? Others have been here before.”

“Yeah, but where are they now?” Brody folded his arms in an almost-triumphant fashion.

Electing to ignore his friend’s overcautious nature, Callum stepped into a large circular room. In the center stood the base of the clock tower, a stone door giving entry to the stairwell. He walked toward it, ignoring the rest of the room. Brody piped up, “Callum, look.”

Callum halted in his tracks and turned to where Brody was pointing. A single portrait hung on the wall, ivy ensnaring its edges. A man, decked out in an old-fashioned conductor’s uniform, stood stiffly in front of a steam locomotive from the late 1800s. A woman and three children gathered around him.

“It’s creepy,” Brody whispered.

Callum rolled his eyes, then stared at the picture again. The more he looked at it, the more something unnerving clenched his spine. He shrugged it off. “Just a family photo. Nothing to see here.” He walked to the stairwell door, albeit a little quicker, and threw it open. “C’mon.”

Brody joined him in the ascension, leaving the door wide open. The stairs were surprisingly sturdy after years of no usage. They swirled higher and higher, hugging the wall the entire time. Callum led the way, Brody right at his heels.

Midway up, they heard a faint thud. Both of them paused mid-step, and Callum glanced down in an attempt to see the door. He couldn’t, but what he did notice was the complete lack of dust in this section of the mansion. Perhaps Brody was right to say we shouldn’t have come. There’s no way he’d admit that, though. He cleared his throat. “Must’ve been the clock’s gears. Let’s keep moving.”

Brody gulped and nodded.

Minutes later, they reached the top. All around them, the clockwork ticked and tocked, a mechanical masterpiece that stood the test of time. Besides that, there was nothing of note, save a large bell that hung from the ceiling. A single rope dangled tantalizingly, connected to the bell.

“Okay, we’ve seen it,” Brody said. “Now let’s head home before our parents get worried.”

“Not yet. There’s one last thing to do.” Callum strode to the rope.

“Oh, don’t you dare.” Brody held out his hand. “If there’s one I’ve learned from the horror genre, it’s that you don’t—”

Callum yanked the rope.

“—do that.” Brody took a step back.

The bell rang out, a crisp peal that echoed all around. And that was it. Everything was silent after.

Callum laughed. “So much for that.” Then it hit him.

Everything was silent.

That’s when the dull noise struck. It reverberated in the back of his skull, making his teeth ache. The floor shook beneath his feet, and a whistle howled.

“What did you do, Callum?!” Brody yelled.

The sound was getting louder. Callum clenched the sides of his head. “I didn’t—”

The far wall exploded in a blast of machinery and stone debris. A midnight-black locomotive barreled straight at them. The wheels ground into the wooden floor, throwing shards everywhere. Its engine roared like a burning devil.

Callum stood frozen. The cacophony glued him in place, unable to break his gaze from that wretched invention of demise seconds away from crushing every bone in his body.

Brody tackled him just in time. The train whipped past them, brakes screeching. Faster than any normal locomotive, it stopped right before breaking through the other wall.

The duo lay there, panting in fright. “What the actual frick?” Callum gasped.

A coach door slid open, revealing the conductor from the portrait. Except he wasn’t the same. His eyes glowed like smoldering embers; his skin was smooth metal, matching the color of the engine. His teeth were like that of a gear, and smoke swirled up and down his body.

“You . . . you’re connected to the train,” Brody said.

“Tickets, please,” the conductor hissed, the sound pinching Callum’s eardrums.

“We don’t have any,” he replied shakily.

“In that case . . .” The man whipped out two clock hands with chains attached to the pointed ends. He snapped them forward, and the chains looped around Callum’s and Brody’s wrists. He grinned. “Welcome aboard the Hellrider.”

“No!” Callum cried.

The conductor yanked the clock hands back, and Callum was thrown into the train.

Plunged into a world of mechanical death.

Well, what're your thoughts? Are you thoroughly spooked? I'd actually love to make this a full novel sometime--as if I needed more ideas. Any suggestions/constructive criticism for if I were to do so?

Monday, October 22, 2018

Spooky Nostalgia /// Music Monday #35

It's time for another spooky song, seeing as Halloween is next week. Are you ready for it?


Today's music is . . .

"Halloween Party 2017 - Main Theme" from Club Penguin Rewritten
Composed by ???


Okay, this is more nostalgic than it is genuinely creepy. (In fact, it's not really all that creepy.) It was originally from Club Penguin, used in every Halloween party that I can remember. After Disney decided to shut down the original flash game, which I think was a poor decision, a team of people recreated the game, now calling it Club Penguin Rewritten.

I imagine that at least a few of you reading this have played CP, but if you haven't, it was a free-to-play MMO where you created your own penguin to play games, participate in fun parties, and hang out with others. Before we had more computers in our house than just the family one, my sisters and I would go to the library and rent computers for an hour to play CP together. We'd often come up with these fun little stories, complete with changing our penguins' clothes to look the part. It was always a fun time.

I'm actually quite sad that Disney decided to move to the pay-to-play camp with Club Penguin Island, their project that replaced CP. You have to really have a great game to convince people to pay for memberships, and CPI just wasn't that game. That's probably why they're shutting it down too, a disappointing end to an amazing franchise.

But anyway, you didn't come to hear me rant about CP. But if you've never played the game, this music probably won't be terribly interesting to you. That's not at all saying it's bad outside of the context of the game, but having that experience with the music in the actual game . . . I dunno. It adds to the experience of it, I suppose.

Either way, I hope you enjoyed this little song! Did you ever play Club Penguin? Have you tried the recreated version? What'd you think of the music?

Friday, October 19, 2018

The Perfection of Imperfection

Last year, when a few of my buddies and I went to watch Justice League to celebrate my birthday, we had an interesting discussion on the way there. We were talking about CW's The Flash, and one of my friends interjected, "I'm tired of Barry making the same mistake over and over again. Why doesn't he learn?"

I argued, "Well, that's what we tend to do. We're often repeating our mistakes, even though we know the consequences."

His response shocked me: "But I don't want him to be like that. I want to be inspired by him to do better."

"But then he's not relatable," I said. "If he's not making mistakes, how're we supposed to identify with him?"

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I don't remember how the rest of the conversation panned out, but some writers (myself included) create a character who never messes up. Actually, based on what little I've planned about the new Portal Chronicles over the last few years, David is an example of this. He has no flaws; he's a "perfect" Christian. The others look up to him, but I realize now that readers look up to characters who are imperfect, yet do their best to do the right thing in spite of their brokenness.

See, the whole issue is a bit of a paradox. An imperfect character is the perfect one to use in a story, while a perfect character is the opposite. We as authors need to always be careful of this.

Let me give you an example. Suppose I have two characters, Ryan and Drake. Ryan is the embodiment of an unrealistic human. He never messes up. No temptation is a challenge for him; never does he stray in any regard. Drake, on the other hand, knows he's screws up. He makes bad choices. He succumbs to temptation; he tries his best to do right, but sometimes he does the wrong thing to get there.

Both set out on a journey to save their world from an evil power that has completely taken over. This villain ensures that the men encounter foes, lusts, and other traps along the way. Ryan breezes through. He recognizes those who pretend to be on his side and doesn't befriend them. When he is offered bountiful wealth, power, or satisfaction, he always turns them down. He bests the villain and saves the world.

Drake is in more of a pickle. He's vowed to always do what's right, but that doesn't mean he never wavers. He trusts the wrong people and ends up in deep trouble that costs him in some form or another. He considers taking the proffered power, as it might mean he can betray the villain when said antagonist doesn't expect it. But it might also hurt his integrity, or he might never want to lose that power. He turns down wealth and satisfaction, but it can be difficult sometime. Finally, after crawling through his deepest darkness and fighting off his worst demons, he manages to break the evil that has captured the land.

Tell me: at the end of the day, what're readers going to be appreciate more? Frankly, I don't think they would even bother finishing Ryan's story, that's how uninteresting it is. But we want to see the hero struggle and mess up, because we can never make the correct choices in life. Sometimes we give in to our temptations. So when the protagonist is imperfect and still strives to do good, we are inspired and look up to them.

Now, there can sometimes be a fine line between imperfection and immoral, so we need to make sure we establish that division. Of course, you can always go for a redemption story, but then you need to make sure that the character's change is believable. Captain Brixton in Maelstrom, a pirate story of mine, is an example of this. He becomes obsessed with a very precious diamond, to the point that he values it more than his crew, who are like family to him. It takes a monstrosity threatening the empire and the death of a crewmember to shake him from his ill state. Does that mean he's perfect right away? No, it's something he has to work on, and he's going to be challenged along the way. And that's what makes him interesting.

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You also have to be aware that not everyone is a fan of the imperfect character, even when that's the best type of protagonist. This is evident in Anne Elisabeth Stengl's Heartless. Because it's an allegory of Jesus establishing a relationship with us, Princess Una represents us. And let me tell you, she makes plenty of mistakes. This book actually got a lot of hate because of her. Just look up reviews and see how many people rail on her, not realizing that she is the ambassador for their imperfect nature. Mrs. Stengl wrote her that way for a reason, and they don't seem to understand that. But just because you might have a few haters for choosing that route does not mean you shouldn't.

To conclude, I'll bring it back to the example of Barry. He's often told not to mess with time, and he still does, even when seeing the disastrous consequences. Maybe it's the heat of a moment, or maybe his emotions are rampaging. Or perhaps he's like us and sometimes forgets just how bad things went down last time he made the same decision. At the end of the day, he tries to make things right, protect his loved ones, and save Central City from any threat that rises up. That is why he is such an amazing protagonist.

Never forget the power of the imperfect character.

This was a bit out of the blue, wasn't it? I figured I should do more writing tips on here, even if they might be kind of obvious. What'd you think of this post? Was it new for you, a good reminder, or something you'd never use? Let's discuss in the comments!

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Choose Your Own Adventure Series Polls

'Ello! This isn't really a full post, but rather just a quick way for me to give you a place to vote. If you've randomly stumbled upon this post and wonder what on earth I'm talking about, check out the end of last week's post.

The quick explanation is that in the beginning of 2019, I'm doing a story in the form of a post series, comparable to the "choose your own adventure" books. Each chapter ends with a choice that you vote on, and the most popular one wins. The plot evolves with the decisions you make and could either turn very good or very bad.

I need to start planning this bad boy out, so here are a few questions I want answered:

1. What genre should the story be?
A. Fantasy
B. Sci-fi
C. Dystopian
D. Pirate
E. Western

2. What POV should the story have?
A. First-person
B. Third-person

3. What gender should the protagonist be?
A. Male
B. Female

4. Do you have any witty ideas for what the post series should be called? (optional)

And that's all I need to know! But there's one last thing you should be aware of: you have a week to vote. All votes must be put in by Thursday the 25th, at 11:59pm. Any votes cast afterward will not be considered.

If you know of anyone who might be interested in this project, please share this post with them. I want to involve as many people as possible so we get the greatest experience out of it. I'll also be doing my best to raise awareness about this series over the next couple months. Later today, I'll be rolling out the polls on Twitter, but you can't vote in both. You must choose either the Blogger polls or the Twitter ones.

That's it from me! Thanks for your time and for your vote.

Friday, October 12, 2018

What the Future Holds

Hey! How y'all doing today? I just wanted to sit down and chat a bit with you guys. Please, grab a seat. I've got some chocolate milk or Mountain Dew, if you're interested. Don't worry, I'll wait until you're comfy.

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Now, you might be wondering what I'm talking about today. Do recall in my last Humble Beginnings post that I said I wanted to discuss what I'm doing with the Portal Chronicles after such a terrible start to the trilogy. I also would like to share a little about the post series that's going to fill the void that Humble Beginnings left. So let's begin.

I'm actually planning on rewriting the first book in the Portal Chronicles, and I'm 99% certain that I'll start on that project this week. I know, I was working on novelizing Darkened Slumber, but finishing the HB posts left a strong desire in me to start working on the PC. This story was what got me writing in the first place, and it still holds a very special place in my heart. And lemme tell you, a LOT is changing.

I think the first thing I want to mention is what actually got me to seriously think about rewriting the PC. (I never came up with a name for the first book, so I'll probably just refer to it as the Portal Chronicles, or PC.) I was in the shower one morning--showers offer some of the best story ideas--when I got an image in my head. It was of a man, but not just an ordinary man. No, this man had pistons in his legs that enabled him to jump from branch to branch as he ascended these tall trees in a forest. And something, somewhere, told me that this enhanced man was a part of the new PC.

I don't know how long it took, but I eventually came to this game-changing conclusion: Leviathan and Behemoth, the men who had transformed into a dragon and a bull, respectively, were no more. Instead, they became Jarek and Cronus, twin brothers who have been implanted with machinery and steel. Why? I'm not going to spoil that, but trust me when they are now much cooler villains than they ever were before. Jarek is also taking the role that Tarquin held, seeing as he will be stationed on Earth like the leader of the Portal Guardians was.

That brings me to another huge change. This is not your ordinary fantasy world. Erador (which is not being called Erador anymore, but I haven't come up with a new name) is a mix of classic fantasy elements and technology that is different from some of ours, not necessarily superior. At least, I'm fairly certain it isn't superior, but that's not really the point. What matters is that it makes my story world so much more unique than it was before. Yes, this isn't a new, innovative thing. Others have combined fantasy and sci-fi before. But I don't think it's done all that often, and everyone always has their own spin on something that's already been done.

A few things that are a part of this world's technology are the machinery parts inside the twins, some kind of boat that runs on a track above treetops, and SkyRings, flying discs used in tournaments and battles, as well as for fun. Remember that excerpt I posted in September of 2017? Yeah, that takes place in this new version of Erador that I'm creating. But don't worry, there's plenty of stuff in the fantasy vein, including relics. These artifacts hold various types of power, and there are a few very special--and very dangerous--ones. It's been fun creating this storyworld, and I hope that's conveyed in the novel itself.

One difference (which is probably very obvious) is the age and occupation of the characters. Rather than being adult soldiers, two from America and one from Canada, they'll all be high school students in an Ontario town I made up, called Lakeshore, that's located on the edge of Lake Superior. This'll make it easier to write more relatable characters. I honestly have no idea why I was having adult protagonists in a YA novel. It was really silly of me.

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To continue with the theme of obvious changes, I am most certainly not going to be dumping all of the different races into the first story. The characters aren't even going to be leaving the first continent in book one! Rather, I'll introduce both the species of creatures and their homelands a lot slower, book by book. This world is a lot more vast and complicated than it was originally, so I want to make sure everything gets the attention it deserves.

Wanna know how deeply I've planned this? Tracey and I sat down at least a few years ago and came up with population numbers for the various races. I've also been working on the Toreth language and come up with a few phrases, the names for the months, and so forth. (Seriously, I'm getting so pumped about this story just talking about it! I have GOT to start it this week.)

The biggest revision to the plot is the complete and utter removal of the Chosen One element. They will not be called to save the world by any prophecy, especially the dumb one I came up with way back when. They will decide for themselves if they will join the war. While this might require a little more effort to come up with a believable reason for them to do so, I've already nailed Mark's, and I don't think it'll be hard to make ones for Warren and David.

I'm not sure what else to really say without spoiling stuff, but I'll definitely share more with you guys in the future, if you're interested. My enthusiasm for this project is growing by the minute. Does this mean I'm no longer pumped about Darkened Slumber? Nope, not at all. But I feel like part of the reason I wanted to focus on that story was because publishers will sooner pick up a solo novel by an author rather than a series. And while Darkened Slumber is the start of a seven-book series, it can work as a stand-alone.

I think, at the end of the day, I need to write what I'm truly enthusiastic about. I can cross the publishing bridge when I get there. For now, I want to work on my first real brainchild, because I absolutely love it and want to see it develop into something amazing. I mean, who doesn't want their first published work to be their very first novel?

Let's switch gears and turn our attention to the new blog post series. It's something I've never seen anyone do, and it's a far bigger project than anything else I've done for The Steadfast Pen--yes, that includes my ten blogoversary videos. What I want to do is . . .

A "choose your own adventure" story, with you guys making the decisions!

I'm not going to be calling it "choose your own adventure," because I want something snappy that rolls off the tongue better. I haven't come up with a name yet, but if you have any suggestions, let me know. I also haven't decided some of the other details, such as the genre; I might be holding polls for that stuff on my Twitter profile as well as on here.

Here's how it's going to work: over the next few months, I'm going to plot out the story. I'll be sharing a chapter in one post, and it will always end with a decision that must be made. You will vote on what choice should be taken without knowing what all the consequences will be. The most popular decision wins and shall be used. It's kinda like those video games, such as Detroit: Become Human, that evolve with how you play and what you do.

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And in case you're wondering, I am not going to "cheat" in any way. For example, let's suppose the main character must choose to kill one of two characters, because one is the villain. I'm not going to switch who the villain is depending on who dies. If you make the right choice, I will stick with my plan. (Does that make sense?)

This is another project I'm super excited about, but I'm sure you understand why I'm not starting this until the new year. Plotting a story like this, and all the branching paths, is going to take a bit of time. That's why I'm going to be having those polls soon, so keep your eyes peeled for them. I need to know some of those details in order to actually start planning.

That concludes our little chat! I'd say the future looks bright. What do you think of my changes to the Portal Chronicles? What're your thoughts on the new post series? Thanks for stopping by, and have a great day.

Monday, October 08, 2018

Commence the Spooky Tunes /// Music Monday #34

OooooOOOOoooooOoooOOOoooooo . . . I'm a ghooooost . . . Boooo . . . Get ready for spooookiness!


Seeing as it's Spooktober (what some people are calling October), I think it's fitting for us to have a song that matches. Which is why today's pick is . . .

"Day of the Departed" from LEGO Ninjago
Composed by The Fold


Back in 2016, LEGO released a TV special for Ninjago. On the Day of the Departed, a holiday where people honor their fallen loved ones by raising floating lanterns, villains from the Ninja's past possess mannequins made of them for the museum and go hunt the heroes down. It was cool to get what was essentially two episodes put into one, even if the plot wasn't always the strongest. (I may not remember correctly, seeing as I've only watched it once.)

The Fold wrote three songs for the special, and this is my favorite of them. There's something about the musical style and the vocals that I just absolutely love. Some highlights from the song are the opening with the haunting blend of their voices; the instrumental bridge with the chilling violin; and the last rendition of the chorus.

While they did make an official music video for the song that's pretty great, I prefer the audio version. The music video has a long intro and cuts off the last time they sing the main chorus, which is why I don't prefer it.

I, uh . . . don't have much else to say. If you haven't heard The Fold before, check them out. They've got a bunch of great Ninjago songs and a few Christian albums that I haven't listened to yet. I'll be doing a few more spooky songs for the rest of the month and a little bit of November. I hope you'll like them!

What'd you think of the song? Based on my brief description of what the Day of the Departed is, would you rather celebrate that, Halloween, or both? (I'd take the candy and cool costumes for Halloween and have it happen before honoring the dead.)

Friday, October 05, 2018

Monthly HapPENings: September

Now we're three-quarters of the way through the year. Time doesn't like waiting around for us, does it?


So what did my life look like last month? (That's a lot of L words.) It was a lot of the same, with simply working and whatnot, but there were two major things that happened. First, I got a new job! I am now leaving the retail business and working at a facility that supports mentally challenged people as they do various jobs there. My first was October 1st, so you won't really hear much about that until the end of the month.

What's even cooler about it is that not only is it full-time, giving consistency and structure to my life, but it also offers some meaningful work. That is a powerful combination, so I'm very thankful to God that He gave me this amazing opportunity to bless these wonderful people and to hopefully learn from them.

The second thing that happened was that my parents celebrated their 28th anniversary! Normally, my sisters and I hunt down a new recipe and pretend to be running a restaurant, giving them a special dinner. This year, due to various factors, we just made a simple supper, and I gave them a card and a gift. But I think they still appreciated it.

Bookish HapPENings


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I actually finished a book again. Woo-hoo! I've actually "read" this book before, and I use quotation marks because that was back in my spoileritis days. That is, I had a nasty habit of flipping through a book and speed-reading everything before I'd actually sit down to read it properly. I never got to the second part with this book, which is why I finally got around to it! While initially I compared it to Harry Potter, I changed my mind as the book played out. It differentiated itself from the HP series, and I absolutely loved it by the end, despite a few imperfections. I feel this is another book to add to the "review at some point" list, because it's not a very well-liked one. Take a look at the Goodreads reviews (gosh, I hate those more every time I venture onto that site). At the end of the day, it's certainly worth a try, and I'm curious to see how the series pans out.

HapPENings on the Screen


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Speaking of Harry Potter, I got around to watching his second film with my sisters. I think it was already much better than the first movie. Not only did I find it funnier and more charming, but I also thought the plot was much stronger than its predecessor's. The characters were also more interesting, I felt. A good film overall, and one I'd be willing to watch again. The third installment is apparently where things start getting dark, so that should be interesting.


I finally got around to watching another episode of S4 with my sisters, and I think this particular season is getting better. (It's been a little while since I saw the episode, so bear with me if I don't remember all the details.) I still think that Hook is the best character in the show, and I still have a problem with the costume designers giving a number of the female characters low-cut outfits. It doesn't have to be part and parcel with fantasy, you know. Oh yeah, and I think the Frozen characters are becoming better at their roles than they first were.


Something I really appreciate about Ninjago is how the writers are aware of their audience getting older, something you can tell as the seasons go on. S6 is a great example of this, especially with how things are being set up. That includes the villain removing the go-to mentor characters, leaving the heroes to think entirely for themselves. It's a nice touch.


My two youngest sisters and I are getting very close to finishing S3 with our parents, and we're not far from the end in our rewatch of S1. As I often say, this show is just so perfect. I absolutely love it and the fact that each season is better than the last. I eagerly anticipate owning S4 and seeing what it's like.

Gaming HapPENings

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Man . . . this game is a lot of things to me. First, it's weirdly nostalgic, because it brings to mind memories of playing Kirby Super Star Ultra, for some reason. Second, it's very hard. I've died more times than I can count, but when you manage to beat that tricky boss or get past the difficult section, the payoff is so worth it. Lastly, it's just an all-around really great game with some epic tunes. What's there not to love? I also appreciate how much love the character that is Shovel Knight has been getting, with him appearing in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate as an assist trophy or in games like Rivals of Aether and Brawlhalla as a playable fighter. I think he's probably one of my all-time favorite game characters now.

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And this game! It's got to be one of the best games I've picked up this year, and I've only clocked in about four hours. I already raved about it recently in a Music Monday post, but honestly, it deserves all the love it can get. If you want to play a game that combines an intriguing fantasy world, a suspenseful plot, unique characters, a mystery, court trials, and incredible music, look no further than this one! I literally grin when I play it, that's how much fun it is. You'll definitely be getting a review once I'm finished.

Writerly HapPENings

Welp, I only wrote 241 words this month. I started rewriting Darkened Slumber--due to my perfectionist editor brain not liking how the first draft of the novel was going--and then I got caught up with other things. Now, because I finished my Humble Beginnings series, I feel a strong urge to start rewriting that. Got love writer problems, am I right? If you have any suggestions on what I should do, feel free to share. I'm considering having two ongoing projects, but I haven't fully decided, as I'm more focused on adjusting to my new job.

So that was my September! I wanna hear all about yours. Are you excited that autumn is now here? Any summer regrets? Please, spill your entire experience of last month onto a comment!

Friday, September 28, 2018

And Thus Dies a Beloved Series /// Humble Beginnings, Part 14

Yes, this day is both one of hilarity and despair. On July 14th of last year, we embarked on a journey of sarcasm and laughter, where I commentated on my oldest novel I've written. That post--the fifth one on my blog--is still at fourth place for most views. All good things must come to an end, though, and that's the case for the Humble Beginnings series. Prepare yourself for one last leg of our travel, and try not to cry too much.

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As if in response to the knight's statement, a series of cracks sounded. Chaos broke loose when the crew began shouting questions on what to do and the rookies started to get frightened.
"Calm yourselves NOW," the quartermaster hollered above the racket and instantly silence blanketed the people.

Oh my gosh, this crew is just the worst. First, they all abandon their posts, even if it is to pray, and when they're being run aground, they act like a bunch of headless chickens. Unbelievable. The quartermaster really shouldn't have to tell 'em to shut up.

Suddenly, a massive collage of icy spikes nailed the Thunder Cannon's bow. The fighters were jostled to the deck. Then, all was still. Isaac picked himself up and declared, "We've landed on Zracs, so we need to disembark and make our way to the wraithclaws' castle."

Ooh, that's a very cool opening sentence for the paragraph. I'll have to remember that. Also, is it just me, or is it very abrupt to be all, "Well, we're here, let's be on our way, we don't need to check if anyone's hurt or if the ship's a total wreck, nosiree"?

The gangplank was lowered and the miniature army stepped off the warship. Isaac gazed at it and queried, "Quartermaster Goliath, do you think we'll be able to sail this thing when our mission is complete?"
"It'll take a miracle, sir," answered Goliath. "We would have to push the boat off the shore and then fix it before it sank."
"Hmm," Isaac murmured, tapping his chin. "Sounds difficult." 

Clearly I didn't know anything about how sailors would beach their boats to clean or fix them. And while Isaac is interested in the ship's welfare, he should also be asking his men how they are. It might endear us to him a little more. On top of all that, why is the quartermaster only getting a name now? I feel like it should've happened in the last chapter.

They started the trek across the snowy landscape, their boots crunching. Wind nipped them, although it didn't have much affect, thanks to their cozy get-up.

The wind should nip at them, and it wouldn't have much effect. You're welcome.

The surrounding are was beutiful, complete with rolling hills and little caves here and there. Fir trees that had dazzling blue pines stood at various places like watchful sentinels. Creeping scarlet lichen stretched out on the ground and the side of rocks that seemed to resemble sculptures. An iced pond made itself visible occasionally. Snowflakes swirled gently, dancing to an unheard tune. "It's like an orchestra," Mark thought, "with Detrius as the conductor."

There's a few things I'll note here. Like how I forgot the a in beautiful. Or how my description of landscapes still sucked, but has a few details I want to remember for later. And can I just mention how we've had one whole page with no proper POV? We've seriously been a floating camera until we randomly attached to Mark. Unbelievable.

Michelle wandered to Marks side and smiled at him. He did the same to her, thinking she looked cute in her outfit.
"Isn't this place wonderful?" she questioned.
"Yeah. It could be warmer, but it's nice," Mark said. "Kind of . . . romantic, in a way."

Not gonna lie, I've sometimes thought girls in snow gear are cute, so I still agree with younger me's sentiment. But Mark could really work on his subtlety.

"No wonder the wraithclaws like it here. They're romance fanatics, if you know what I mean," added Michelle.
He nodded. "Sure thing." His hand was abruptly held, and he looked to see that Michelle had acted. Now he beamed and gripped her tighter.

*raises hand* I still don't know what you mean. What cause someone to fall under the classification of romance fanatic, and what does it all entail? Please elaborate for our sakes, because I surely can't be the only one who doesn't get it.

Half an hour later, the group reached a vast stretch of terrain that was non descript and had knee-deep snow. "The Barren Lands," Isaac said. "The worst place in the world to be in the middle of a storm. Those who have gone before us learned that the hard way."
"Obviously," Goliath interrupted, "a few made it, since our relationship with the wraithclaw has been dented."
"Fortunately, we have come with better preparations," Isaac continued. "Sewn inside our clothes are bits of dried and crushed fire blossams. So now, instead of creating flames, they provide an efficient heat to keep us toasty warm."
"Will they be hot enough to preserve us in a blizzard?" David wanted to know.
Goliath gave a grimace. "That is something only Detrius will be able to truly do."

Wow! Right off the bat, we're hit with a boatload of exposition. Then the plural for the tribe changes from wraithclaws to wraithclaw, blossoms is spelled incorrectly, and the fire blossoms are once again used as a deus ex machina, albeit a not-completely effective one.

The situation turned bleaker when the rushing stream of air became a torrent. Visibility was low, bad enough that one couldn't see very far ahead. Shouting had to be used in order for others to hear.

Virtually this entire paragraph is a prime example of my bad writing back in the day.

Michelle staggered to Mark, shivering harshly. "So . . . cold," she could barely manage to say.
Mark whirled in time to watch her eyes roll upward. She fell on her back in the growing snowdrifts. "Michelle!" he yelled, ripping his mitten off and almost numbing his hand in an instant. He felt for her pulse and was relieved to find it. He put the mitten back on and, unsure what else to do, lifted Michelle up gingerly.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but Michelle shouldn't really be passing out right now. Aren't you in more danger if you begin to feel warm again and then go unconscious? I don't think Mark would've really needed to almost freeze his hand in order to see if she's alive.

David and Taylor had heard his voice and went to its source. Taylor, upon catching sight of Mark, called, "What love won't do for a friend, eh, Mark?"
"'Course," said David, "you're used to carrying a woman while this chilly precipitation falls. I mean, you live in Canada."
Mark laughed. "You Americans think that Canada is a big, frozen, artic wasteland, and that's not true. Do you also assume we live in igloos and dress like Eskimoes?"

Lemme get this straight: Michelle is (supposedly) in danger, and David and Taylor are cracking jokes about it? Not seeing if she's okay? Is it a requirement for all characters to be unlikable at some point in this story? And jokes about Canadian weather really aren't that funny most of the time, for your information. They're just so overused.

"We need to stay together," commanded Isaac loudly. "Hey, where's Goliath?"
"Right here, sir. And I just found a cave for us to stay in until this weather passes."
"Perfect. Lead us on, quartermaster."

Oh, how convenient. A nice cave to die in, because they actually have no idea how long the storm is going to stick around. It could be days, and with their food supplies still on the ship, they'd die from the cold and/or starvation.

General Thorskov and his squad of wraithclaws were not having a successful hint.
"This weather is driving away the snow sparrows and flethry serpents," one said.
"Not to mention the boars and the elks," another complained.
Thorskov scratched his back. "I should'a known that a blasted storm would meddle with our huntin' plans."
"None o' us saw this coming," a soldier stated/

Okay, but you guys have lived here for who-knows how long. Shouldn't you understand the weather patterns a little better?

The sound of padding feet carried to the team. "Humans," the lieutenant cried excitedly as he raced into the cave's far room. "They're 'eaded here."
"How many, Quh?" Thorskov demanded.
"Dozens, all armed," Quh said. "And sire, I saw one young man holdin' a sweet looking girl in 'is arms."
The general's already soft heart somehow was able to soften more. "Get the goats and carts; we're going to take them to the emperor's palace. We never get guests anymore, so he'll be pleased, no doubt."
Some of the wraithclaw hunters/foot soldiers left with the lieutenant, while the others awaited the humans. "If they're friendly, they'll be blessed with hospitality. If not . . ." Thorskov let his thought hang.

But . . . but what about those who aren't the Chosen Ones hardening the wraithclaws' hearts toward humans? This seems like a contradiction! Wouldn't they be more likely to take them to the emperor as prisoners? Don't tell me it's just because Mark was carrying Michelle.

A curtain of fur abruptly emerged from a tunnel in the cave, and David hit it solidly as he was walking.
"Sorry lad, didn't see ya there," a voice apologized. 
David gaped up at the mountain of white fuzz that towered over him. It was humanoid and brawny, complete with wide hands and feet and sausage digits. It had iron gray talons that were three inches long, and its large, round, only black eyes probed David.
"I'm guessing you're either a wraithclaw or a yeti. Probably not the latter," David speculated.
The wraithclaw laughed. "Well met, sir! I'm General Thorskov." 

This is a pretty uncreative design for the wraithclaws. They might as well be your standard yetis. And I'm not sure if it would've been a better introduction to them if they only appeared now, instead of having their own little scene.

"General," Isaac greeted, "so nice to see you again. How's your wife these days?"
"'ello, cap'n," Thorskov said warmly. "My bride's fine, just fine. How's your ship?"
"The Thunder Cannon was accidently grounded on the shore. It took some damage in a fight with one of the drucoes' serpents."
"WHAT?! The weasles are playin' on our territory? Not on my watch, they're not."
David cleared his throat. "What exactly are they?"

Forget that! I want to know how the blazes Isaac and Thorskov know each other and happened to meet on this very important journey.

"Vicous half-man, half-squid things with terrible breath to boot," Thorskov replied. "Worse yet, they ate emotions, 'cept the bad ones. And love is on the top of the list. They don't even marry. Their brains must be a scrambled mess." He frowned disapprovingly.

Stop dumping info on other races and give us stuff that's actually important for this point in the story!

"Interesting," said David. "And how, might I ask, do you two know each other?"

Personally, I would've asked this question before the whole druco thing, but whatever. At least it's being asked.

"First, my men need to give you some comforts." Thorskov whirled around and boomed, "Alright, ya blokes, these people deserve the wool blankets. Bring 'em all out."
More wraithclaws like Thorskov came bearing the blankets and passing them to everybody. All of the creatures were apparently about seven feet tall, giving them a presence of fierceness, yet protection. They seemed friendly, exhibiting heartfelt concern for Isaac, his crew of knights, and the Chosen Ones.

Well, at least Thorskov's got his priorities straight, but I still feel like there's an inconsistency here. Are the wraithclaws antagonistic against the humans, or are they not? Is it just this squad that's friendly? I need more context, people!

After personally making sure everyone was comfortable, Thorskov sat next to David. "The way Isaac and I met was during the first trip to Zracs. He and his men 'ad just landed when large flethry serpents attacked them. Me and my huntin' group happened to be walking by when we 'eard the commotion. We found 'em with ease and helped end the skirmish, but not before a few of the fellows were bitten in vital areas. They died just a couple o' minutes than we could've given aid.
"Isaac closed his eyes in grief for just several seconds, and no one but I noticed the boar that was stealthily comin' at the cap'n. They can be quite sneaky creatures, those boars. Anywho, I grabbed a decently sized rock and chucked it at the things 'ead. Well, that boar crumpled to the ground as fast as lightnin'. That's when Isaac opened his eyeballs and thanked me so much, I thought he was going to yap my ears off. I 'eld up a hand and told him, 'One of the hunter's worst enemies is shut eyes, because in doing so, he could miss either an opportunity or a threat.'
"After that, I gave him some supplies, and they decided to leave. And in the voyages afterwords, we became good friends. That is 'ow we met. Now, if I am allowed, could you tell me your story of how you and that young man met?"

OH MAH BRICKING GOSH, WE MAY AS WELL WRITE A WHOLE OTHER STORY JUST TO HEAR ABOUT HOW THESE TWO GREAT FRIENDS MET.

*takes a deep breath* It's chock-full of conveniences: Thorskov's group happened to be in the area, Isaac happened to close his eyes, the boat happened to somehow be stealthy so that only ONE SOLITARY PERSON NOTICED. It's just poor writing all-around, and that goes for the wraithclaws' inconsistent accents as well. At least this kinda explains why this one particular squad is fond of humans. Sort of. Perhaps not really, if you think about it too much.

"Sure thing," David said and launched into his adventure. Thorskov was deeply interested, occasionally interrupting with questions, gasps, and exclamations. It seemed at some points the wraithclaw general couldn't stop shaking his head in wonder.

I mean, his adventure was decently interesting, but it was hilariously bad more than anything else.

At the end, Thorskov declared, "You, good sir, have done things most haven't, are smart and don't use it as an excuse to get uppity, and stick to your beliefs. I admire you, even if we've only just encountered each other. And if there's anything I can do to assist you in findin' Warren, just let me know, sir."

Aww, isn't that nice of Mr. Yeti-Knockoff? But seriously, Thorskov might be one of the only decent characters in this story, and that's saying something.

David looked at Thorskov and saw that he was completely concerned and sincere about his promise.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is where this project died. I got busy with school, and it fell to the wayside. Now, I actually have more that I wanna say, but I don't have enough time now. Keep your eyes peeled for a post soon that details what I'm going to do with the novel and what new series will take the place of Humble Beginnings.

So what'd you think, not just of this post, but of the series as a whole? Did I have enough sarcasm for your tastes? Are you going to miss these? Any fond memories from them? Let's take a moment to pay respects to the series. RIP Humble Beginnings; press F to pay respects.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Music Monday #33 . . . But on a Wednesday!

Erm . . . this is awkward. I may or may not have totally forgotten to do one of these earlier this week. Better late than never, am I right?


I've got another great song in store for you guys today. (When do I not?)

"Main Theme" from Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
Composed by Tomohito Nishiura


I recently started playing this game, having never before tried one in either of the titular characters' series, and MY. BRICKING. GOSH. It's an absolute joy to play. I've read that it's a bad intro to both the Professor Layton and the Ace Attorney series, and that it's not a very spectacular game. But I'm totally digging it so far.

The plot involves creepy witches (who look like monsters that have those shiver-inducing layered voices), being trapped within the fantasy world of a book, said book chronicling the past, present, and future of this place called Labyrinthia, puzzle-solving, trials . . . Just so much awesome stuff! I'll definitely need to do a full review when I'm finished.

So I think it's fair to say that this music definitely captures the spirit of the game. There's some quiet, intricate moments, but it's more of a grand adventure where danger is imminent and evil is aloof. I believe this song is also played by a live orchestra rather than electronically made like the rest of the soundtrack (which is also amazing, by the way!).

I've listened to this song so often in the past few weeks. Level-5 and Capcom totally nailed the musical style, which fits the game's narrative wonderfully. It's also just a really epic and catchy track, which is always a plus. Go do yourself a favor and listen to more music from this game. Or go play the game. Or do both.

What'd you think of the game's main theme? Have you played this particular title, or any of the Professor Layton and/or Ace Attorney games, for that matter? Did you notice that I was late? Terribly sorry about that.

Friday, September 21, 2018

The Lone Ranger (2013) /// A Movie Review

You probably know by now that I'm a fan of the underdogs in media, such as The LEGO Ninjago Movie and The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. They aren't critically acclaimed or have experienced a falling out, but I love them wholeheartedly. I consider it my duty to share my enthusiasm for them so that others might come to appreciate them as well.

That's where the 2013 film The Lone Ranger comes in.

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Now, I've got three historical periods that I love in books, movies, and games: the feudal era of Japan, the Golden Age of Piracy, and the Wild West. When I saw the trailers for The Lone Ranger (which I'll probably be abbreviating to TLR for simplicity's sake), I was pumped. I hadn't really seen any movies about gunslingers facing off with train chases and epic shootouts. Western movies generally seem to be a thing of the past, so I anticipated a more modern film.

Then I heard that it bombed in the box office and was hated by many, many people. (I also heard some joke about it, but I can't recall it at the moment. Something about it being free on Black Friday and it not even being worth that? I don't quite remember.) I still wanted to watch it, but now I was a bit apprehensive. Was it as bad as people said? The only way to find out was by seeing it for myself.

Warning: potential spoilers ahead!

Plot

John Reid is a lawyer who's coming home. He's joining his brother, Dan, in a group of Texas Rangers, upholding the law on the untamed front. It's not his forte; he prefers to fight in a courtroom, not in the wild desert. But when a search for the infamous Butch Cavendish goes south, John is the only one who comes out alive.

Presumed dead, he must don a mask and become the Lone Ranger, a warrior for justice who operates outside of the Rangers' jurisdiction. With the help of Tonto and the spirit horse, Silver, he goes after Butch and his gang. But there's more going on here than meets the eye, and soon the duo uncover a plot bigger than both of them. They're the only ones who can stop it, but will they when both the law and the outlaws are against them?

Pros

Oh, where to begin? I'm predicting it now: I'm going to be all over the place in praising this film, so please bear with me. Let's start with the plot itself. Is it necessarily new and original? No, not really. But that doesn't mean using the tried-and-true is a bad thing. Sometimes we can get all up in arms because a movie or book doesn't do something we haven't seen yet. Falling back on what's worked before, while still adding your own elements to that, is okay. In fact, media like that can become a comfort movie/book.

What I'm trying to say is that it's fine for the movie to not try something extremely bold or daring. The plot still worked well for the movie, which means it's A-Okay with me. Speaking of the plot, I've heard it said that the runtime felt a little padded. I disagree. I never felt that any one scene was unimportant or too long. They each did what they were supposed to do, so again, no complaints from me. And to be honest, the story-within-a-story got me off-guard, so good for them.

What about the characters? Considering that Armie Hammer hadn't played in many movies beforehand, and this was supposed to be his big break, I think he excelled in his role. He captured the essence of the Lone Ranger perfectly: a man who follows the law without being in it, who refuses the mindset of "shoot to kill." Indeed, neither he nor Tonto directly kill foes, even when given the opportunity. You have to understand, this is coming from a guy who didn't grow up on the radio series and doesn't suffer from what I'd like to call the negative nostalgia syndrome. (In short, that's when fans of something old are always complaining about the new version and talking about how the old one was the best.) So I think Hammer nailed his character and brought some fresh life to him.

The casting of Tonto, however, was quite controversial. People wanted someone who fit that role in the racial sense. Meanwhile, I'm of the opinion that if the actor is good, the race doesn't make that much of a difference to me. I don't know why people don't get that. Take Black Panther, for example. Was it a great movie? Sure, but I wouldn't say it's Marvel's best film. But you see everyone praising it for having such a huge black cast, and I have to wonder how successful the movie would've been had the cast been white. It probably would have made less. That's not me saying I can't have other ethnicities play in movies, but my first question always is, "Can they act well?" not "What race are they?"

A rabbit trail, to be sure, so let's get back to Johnny Depp playing Tonto. I thought it was a perfectly acceptable decision. He's aced every role I've seen him play, and Tonto was no exception. Plus, he's got the best facial expressions, and you can't argue with that unless you're blind, in which case you can't see his face . . . Ahem. Anyway. With his tan and face paint, it didn't matter that he wasn't the proper ethnicity for the part. He still succeeded.

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Other actors and actresses also did well. William Fichtner got the vibe of the cannibalistic Butch right; while I wouldn't say he was as creepy as, say, Heath Ledger's Joker, being a consumer of human flesh makes you pretty darn spooky in my books. Tom Wilkinson was the perfect greedy tycoon. I'm not going to mention everyone else, but I never felt like anyone's acting was sub-par.

Plot and characters are arguably the most vital elements, but you still need a great score. Hans Zimmer delivered, as he always does. Do yourself a favor and listen to TLR soundtrack. Not only does Zimmer keep his signature epic style, but he also gives it a delightful Western flavor. I'd have to say that the ten-minute track, "Finale," takes the cake, as he gives the "William Tell Overture" his treatment. I've read that he apparently used a sledgehammer and an old train engine near his house to create the forward momentum feeling for some of the songs. Basically, Zimmer is always a win.

Everything else, from CGI to the scenery to the cinematography, was wonderful. I never felt pulled out of my immersion by any of the elements in the film. And while I can't recall any really unique camera shots, that doesn't mean the camerawork was bad. I was hooked from the first second to the last.

Cons

How about the fact that it failed so miserably? That's definitely a negative. My cousin explained to me that Disney tends to put a lot of money into marketing select movies they hope will make it big, which are usually the ones that rake in the least amount of cash. TLR was one such film. He also told me that Westerns just aren't popular anymore, and so it was a bad time for it to release.

Hammer also said in an interview (which I read in this article) that critics had been attacking the movie for quite some time, as if determined to see it fail. And seeing as how the masses can have (not always) a general tendency to view critics as the be-all, end-all when it comes to cinematic opinions, the film crashed and burned. Which is completely unfair to me. Critics, who have never made a piece of art in their life, should not determine how well a movie/show/book/game does. Just saying.

As for actual content concerns, there is some swearing, but nothing out of the ordinary for your typical PG-13 film or TV-PG show. John and Tonto visit a brothel to get some information; nothing inappropriate is shown. The only thing we really see is a man try to force a woman to stay seated on his lap; some of the girls' outfits reveal cleavage; and Red, who runs the place, occasionally hikes up her dress on her fake leg so she can use the built-in gun. Rebecca Reid had a previous relationship with John before marrying Dan, but she clearly likes John more, so it's a bit strange until Dan dies and removes any further weirdness. Butch pees into a bucket, and we see him (and the stream) from behind.

Some violence occurs, like two outlaws having their heads crushed (it sounds worse than it looked), and a lot of people being mowed down by machine guns. Comeuppance is served in most spectacular fashions. I don't recall every single death, but there wasn't anything too bad. The worst was--obviously--Butch himself with his cannibalistic tendencies. He licks a knife with blood on it and has taken body parts from others. We see one example of this, when he takes out Dan's heart and bites into it. However, due to the fact that we're watching via a reflection in John's eyes, it's not as uncomfortable as it could've been.

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There's also a general Native American spiritual aspect that comes into play, with John being a supposed spirit walker who can't die in battle, and Silver being a spirit horse. Some more sensitive people might not like this, but I took as just part of the storyworld. Some people might also argue that soldiers are portrayed as being evil, but I never got that sense. It was more of just one corrupt captain trying to save his hide and his men showing loyalty to him. This isn't a fully detailed review, and you can look one up at PluggedIn if you want. I thought it was fairly good all-around, and I certainly had no issues story- or character-wise.

Conclusion

If I were to describe The Lone Ranger in one sentence, I'd say this: it's a Western take on a Pirates of the Caribbean film with characters who have stronger moral backbones. It's got the crazy action, goofy humor, and occasionally over-the-top violence of the Pirates films, while giving our heroes solid morals. John despises guns, but he still wishes to uphold the law. So when he wears the mask of the Lone Ranger, he shoots to wound or disarm. And yes, while some of his actions do result in the death of villains, I never felt that he was doing it for fun or with vengeance in mind. He was simply trying to do the right thing.

This is where I think a lot of old fans--with a lot of negative nostalgia syndrome--have issues. In the old shows, one of the Lone Ranger's codes was to never kill. His bullets were made of silver to keep in the forefront of his mind how valuable life is, and how taking it is not something to be done lightly. So when they watched the 2013 film, they think that the creators have taken that aspect away from him.

I don't see it that way. Life is complex, and not everything can be boiled down to black and white. Should our heroes always be perfect? Are they not allowed to make mistakes? Have we never wished that the justice system was improved? Sometimes we want to take matters into our own hands, which is what John does when he becomes a vigilante. But like Batman, he doesn't want to kill. At the end of the day, he simply wants his loved ones to be protected and the innocent kept safe.

So yes, much of this movie can seem like a fun, summer blockbuster on the surface. But examine it closer, and I think you'll begin to appreciate how Gore Verbinski approached the character that is John Reid and his transformation into the masked man. I hope you'll give The Lone Ranger a chance, because it has a lot to offer you: two and a half hours of enjoyment and laughs with a side of thought-provoking questions if you're willing to do some contemplation.

Well, do you agree or disagree? Have you seen the movie, and if not, why? Have I improved in my movie-reviewing skills since I did Justice League back in December? Do share any and all thoughts!