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The Power of Stories

“There’s power in stories.” – Varric Tethras

I’m a bit of an oddball.  Always have been.  But I’m not ashamed of that fact.  It makes life more interesting for me.  I like to imagine it makes me enigmatic as well, but that’s probably just me indulging my not inconsiderable ego.

The point, however, is this: I’ve got some unusual ways of looking at the world.

For instance, if you asked everyone on the planet about the meaning of life, what do you suppose the answers would be?  They would be far-ranging, but I think we could expect a dozen or so common themes around which the majority of people’s answers would cluster.  We’d hear about love and service to others, adventure, experience, survival, proving your worth and living simply.  We would most certainly run into people who believe life was about serving God, just as we would discover that many people believe life has no purpose at all.

But me?  I think everyone is wrong.  And I think everyone is right.  Because I believe the meaning of life is all of these things.  It just depends on what story is being told.

The purpose of this website is the same as that of life.  Story.  In the end, everything comes back to story.  Everything about human existence concerns and hinges on narrative.  Each individual life is a story, every day is a story, every activity, every event.  That’s what history is – stories that last.  Even religion is made of stories, the ones that inspire or motivate us to be better.  Stories are all around us, in everything we do.  Life, after all, is just one vast saga.  We’re all characters, and we each have a part to play.  It’s all about stories with us, and, in the words of expert storyteller Varric Tethras, there’s power in stories.

That’s why storytellers do what we do.

The careers of all storytellers – authors, filmmakers, playwrights, video game developers, even songwriters – are built on the assumption that stories are powerful.  That stories change people.  They challenge us to grow and explore, to look at the world in new ways.  They cause us to re-evaluate the world and our place in it.  Research is beginning to suggest what storytellers have known for eons: that stories affect how we think, how we perceive life and the world around us, and, by extension, the way we act.  But we don’t really need new research to tell us that, do we?  The evidence is around us in daily life, and it is apparent in even the most cursory glance through the past.  Stories have proven throughout human history to be far more than just art or entertainment.  They are often radical agents of change.  To demonstrate this, I could cite a number of stories from any one of the major religions in the world, but that seems a bit too obvious.  How about The Illiad?  Homer’s epic influenced generations of Greek tradition which ultimately, in turn, affected every aspect of western civilization.  It also kept in place a Greek warrior ethos that radically reshaped the world through the actions of Alexander the Great.  (Funnily enough, Alexander was not Greek, but the Macedonians of his time adored Greek culture and emulated it in almost every way.)  Alexander was raised on The Illiad.  He was greatly inspired by the ethos it espoused, and he believed himself to be a continuation of its epic.  A new Achilles for a later age.

Where would the world be now if not for The Illiad’s influence on one of the great shapers of history?  Somewhere very different, that is certain.  This is just one example out of thousands, tens of thousands, of examples that could be used.  Stories are powerful; the world in which we live has been shaped by story as much as man.

So, have I gotten my point across?  Are stories powerful, or am I just a ranting lunatic?  (The latter is very probable.)  If you agree that stories have almost unlimited influence in our lives, then I invite you to subscribe for more posts.  I’m going to try to get some discussion flowing in the future, that way you don’t have to read only one person’s highly biased opinion.  After all, the internal and external conversations brought about by stories are what unleash their change-creating potential!

The Watty Awards 2018

I know it’s been a long time since my last post, but there’s a good reason for that. I was at the National Training Center in the Mojave Desert for a month-long field exercise. That counts as a good excuse, right?

Anyway, I returned from exile to some exciting news: My latest short-story, The Omens of a Crow, won the 2018 Watty Award The Heroes!

For those of you who aren’t familiar, the Wattys is an annual contest hosted by the reading/writing website Wattpad, who selects the best stories on the site from the pool of tales posted for the entire year. This year, 60 stories were selected to receive Watty Awards from a pool of approximately 164,000. Omens was one of them! As I mentioned before, it received an award titled The Heroes.

Here’s how Wattpad describes the award:

The Heroes

This award celebrates the stories that introduced us to characters we related to, who made us feel for them, who showed us a new way of looking at the world.

A great character stays with the reader long after the story’s done – these stories did just that. They stand out in our mind, these characters you’ve invented. They’re flesh and blood and prose. Perhaps they’re demi-gods like Percy and anti-heroes like Achilles. They have the spirit of Katniss Everdeen, Bilbo Baggins, and the Pevensies as they take on adventure, and they instill fearlessness in us like Harry, Hermione, and Ron as they charge into the unknown. Their words mean something to us. They are our enemies, our friends, and our fantasies. They are our Heroes. They are flawed and complicated, but we can’t help but love them. We celebrate your imagination and the amazing characters that you have given us!

I consider it quite an honor to have a story of mine compared to such titans as Percy Jackson, The Iliad, The Hunger Games, The Hobbit, The Chronicles of Narnia, and Harry Potter. Makes a man like me a little woozy. (Don’t catch me if I faint. Just let me sleep. I think I’ve earned the rest).

That’s the news. Color me surprised and flattered. If you’ve yet to read The Omens of a Crow, check it out on Amazon, Smashwords, or Wattpad! And, as ever, be sure to leave a review! (Disclaimer: Omens contains mature content and is intended for an adult audience.)

RWBY Volume 5

RWBY Volume 5 is over, which is the que for me to either cry with joy because we have another season to enjoy in its entirety or weep because I have to wait another who-knows-how-many months for RWBY to start up again.

If you’ve read my Volume 4 analysis, you already know how I feel about RWBY. Put briefly, I love it. RWBY and RoosterTeeth (the small entertainment studio who produces it) are awesome. The following post consists of all the pros and cons I felt made an impact on the Volume 5’s overall quality.

OBLIGATORY SPOILER WARNING – Don’t continue reading if you’ve not watched RWBY Volumes 1-5. Unless you’re one of those weirdos who enjoy knowing what’s going to happen. In that case, keep sucking the joy out of good stories, ya freak. It’s a free country.


Plot Pro – Converging Storylines

Boy, am I ever happy to have all the storylines coming back together. One of my biggest complaints with Volume 4 was that RT tried to change RWBY into a show with multiple, world-spanning plotlines. I have no problem with this if ample time is allowed for something of such magnitude. That is not the case for a show like RWBY, where we have roughly three to four hours per volume released in 15-to-30-minute segments. If RT ever decides to expand its volumes to 6 hours with 30-to-60-minute episodes, maybe RWBY could swing such a change. As it is, I’m glad RT has pulled all the disparate storylines back together. It’s going to work much better in the long run.


Character Arc Pro – Yang

I cannot get enough of Yang. Her character arcs each volume have been among the few done consistently well. This volume was no different. Still struggling with PTSD and deep-seated abandonment issues, Yang comes through – again – as both a role-model and a stellar character. While I do have a lot of issues with the ending of the volume, RT managed to bring Yang’s arc to a poignant and powerful conclusion in her verbal standoff with Raven. What symbolism! What revelation! What good storytelling! I think it was overlooked by a large number of RWBY viewers, but the contrast of Raven and Yang in the final scene was fantastic. Yang is told throughout the preceding seasons that she is like her mother. She’s the indomitable firecracker; everyone sees Raven in her that way. But at the conclusion of Volume 5, we see that Raven – who Yang has always longed for and felt a certain connection to because of the aforementioned similarities – is not like Yang at all. Raven is a pale imitation, a broken, hypocritical mockery of Yang. Raven is the false face of courage and strength, a façade of bravery covering a selfish heart. Yang is a counter to that. The genuine symbol of facing your fears, of true courage. What a neat contrast.

Yang 1.gif

Visual Pro/Con – The Fights

Guys – ugh, I don’t know how to say this – the fights are just…kind of…lame now. Action is not why I watch RWBY, which you know from my Volume 4 analysis. Great action is a bonus for me, not an essential part of a solid story, but RWBY has capitalized off of some incredible action in the past. That is not so true anymore. The fights have been lackluster since 1) the death of Monty Oum, 2) the departure of Shane Newville from Rooster Teeth, and 3) the switch from Poser to Maya. Now, I’ve designated this as a con and pro because while the fight scenes are still a far cry from Monty’s Poser masterpieces, they have improved immensely from Volume 4’s nonsensical battles devoid of any kind of established physics. That’s my huge pro for the fights this season. Thank you, thank you RT for introducing physics back into your fight scenes. No more Nora flying in spirally circles for unknown reasons, thank God, and for that I’m grateful. Yang’s fight with the bandits is a nice little action piece and a good example of the return to cause-and-effect, physics-driven combat. Raven vs Cinder had some questionable stuff, but at least there I can chalk up some of the physic-breaking to magical powers. Also, Sun’s gunchucks finally made a reappearance. YEAH! I love those things.

Pyrrha vs CRDL 2.gif

Beacon Trilogy combat…

Now to the con of the issue. Yes, the fights improved from last season by reintroducing physical rules, but they’re still a far cry from most of the Poser combat. Pyrrha vs CRDL, anyone? Holy beatdown that was awesome. Pyrrha vs Penny? Pyrrha vs Cinder? (Guys, I miss Pyrrha. It’s a clinical condition at this point.) How about RWBY & JNPR vs the Nevermore and Death Stalker? Or RWBY vs Torchwick and Co.? There are too many remarkable fights to list them all here! What happened? (Maya happened. It looks great for aesthetic, but it has hampered the combat.) I guess I should just label this #ImissMonty.

Volume 5 combat

Versus Post-Beacon combat

Plot Twist Pro – The Spring Maiden

Here’s the thing: I saw it coming. I totally called that Raven would be the Spring Maiden, but I’m pretty sure I’m one of a very few people who did, because the RWBY fandom’s collective mind exploded onto the comment section when Raven removed her mask to reveal magical-flaring-maiden eyes. This was a well-executed plot twist on Rooster Teeth’s part. Not only did it succeed in taking the vast majority of the audience by surprise, but it did so without coming out of left field. Go back and watch through Volume 5 again; you’ll kick yourself for not seeing the signs. The fact that Raven wore her mask during the confrontation with Cinder and Co. at the bandit camp is what made me suspicious. We never saw Vernal’s eyes light up as both Amber and Cinder’s had when using maiden powers. Raven telling Vernal not to use her powers against Weiss clinched it for me: Vernal could not be the Spring Maiden, and Cinder was about to get a nasty surprise.

RT did an incredible job of pulling off this plot twist with just the right amount of hints and foreshadowing. Very well done.


Plot Con – Pacing Problems

This was a great season in my opinion. Much better in every conceivable way to Volume 4, which suffered from a general aimlessness. That being said, Volume 5 suffered from its own share of pacing problems. Now remember, I’m the guy that won’t ditch RWBY because I’m not getting enough eye-popping action, but the amount of sheer exposition is this season is a bit overwhelming. Then, after extended periods of talking, talking, filling the audience in with monologues, and yet more talking, we get to an action scene.

Things are happening! WHOOHOO! Let’s get this party star–,

Wait. What? The result amounts to a tense verbal exchange and a brief flash of combat to let the audience know that, indeed, things are happening – they’re just happening off camera. Then, we cut to more expository dialogue between other characters. *Sigh.* I do like character and plot development, so… Wait. What? Are you kidding me? We cut away from a scene where stuff is actually happening to get dialogue that doesn’t amount to much more than verbal chest-thumping? *Yanks out fistfuls of hair in frustration.*

I could go on, but I might intrude on the next con’s territory. So let’s go ahead and jump into that, since it’s connected to the pacing problems.


Storytelling Con – Delivering Expectations

RT had a serious problem delivering on anticipation this volume. Plot revelation after plot revelation, potential fight after potential fight – RT continued to set up exciting scenes that they then never delivered. People were getting angry. Very angry. I wasn’t in the camp of those pitching fits and threatening to stop watching RWBY altogether. I thought many such viewers were being far too venomous with their criticism for a show and company that literally stakes its reputation on fan input and interaction. However, I will admit that these rioters had a point. RT failed to deliver on a lot of drama, action, and tension that they themselves hyped. In essence, this season got into a bad habit of making promises that they not only didn’t keep, but kind of yanked away at the last moment. Most of the disappointment viewers felt about the volume’s climax (the last few episodes) had to do with RT not delivering on expectations they’d built up throughout the season.


Visual Pro & Con – Animation

That this is both a pro and con should surprise no one who knows me, because I regularly both rail about and begrudgingly praise RWBY’s animation since Volume 4’s release. Does the Maya animation introduced post-Beacon look fantastic? Absolutely. Would I have RT switch back to Poser animation for the remainder of the series? In a heartbeat.

Geez, guys. Poser is the canon RWBY look, and always will be. That’s why the new stuff will always be at least partially a con for me. It doesn’t feel 100% like RWBY anymore and hasn’t since we left Poser at the end of Volume 3. Some of the characters feel different as well with the Maya visuals, and that disparity in appearance is always going to bug me. The Poser look was unique. It helped RWBY stand apart from other shows. Now it looks much akin to other anime, and I personally feel that to be a loss. RWBY shouldn’t try to be like anything else. It’s RWBY! An anime, video game, westernized storytelling mashup, and that individuality is a huge part of what makes it special. Monty picked Poser for his creation, there was a reason for that, and part of the spirit of the show departed not only with Monty, but with the switch in visual style as well.

*Deep breath.* Rant over.

HOWEVER, the visual quality this season is fantastic. I’ll be the first to admit that RT Animation is getting better and better at putting out a gorgeous show. No one can accuse RWBY of looking cheap anymore. It’s now unquestionably professional-level.

Maya vs Poser.png

Maya animation vs Poser. I prefer the classic Poser style, but this comparison shows the stunning visual detail Maya provides over its predecessor.

Character Development Pro – New Interactions Between Old Favorites

Everybody loves Yang. Everybody loves Weiss. But they are characters we rarely associate with each other, despite being teammates in a tight-knit family. This season we got to see some long-overdue interaction between the two of them, and the manliest of tears were shed as a result. (Not by me, of course. Other people who might have felt emotional at Yang/Weiss’s very touching reunion and bonding scenes.) I just had something in my eye. That’s all.

Yang and Weiss reunite.gif

It was nice to see Weiss and Yang grow as characters together, sharing intimate moments that have so far been kept to more well-established friendships like Ruby/Weiss and Blake/Yang. We know they are teammates and friends, and we know they have a tight bond. We’ve just never gotten personal scenes to witness it in previous seasons. How refreshing to see into Team RWBY through a much implied but largely unexplored relationship. Just thinking about Weiss leaping into Yang’s arms and telling her how she missed her…

I may need to go to the hospital to remove all the debris in my eyes.


Awesomeness Pro – Return of the Gunchucks

Why have we not seen the gunchucks since the BlackSun vs. Torchwick fight in Volume 1? I mean, the gunchucks are freakin glorious. Why wouldn’t Sun break those bad boys out a bit more often? How can swinging a glorified quarterstaff be as effective as shotgun nun chucks? Use the most lethal weapon in the arsenal a bit more often, buddy. Maximum combat effectiveness, maximum badassery, and maximum aesthetic style all in one sweet weapon package. Blake won’t be able to resist Sun’s manly charms for much longer if he keeps whippin’ out the big guns.

Gunchucks Volume 5.gif

Character Pro – Sun

And speaking of the monkey god himself, Sun is just awesome, right? He is steadily growing to be one of the best characters on the show, and there’s no question at this point (in my mind) that he’s one of the best role models RWBY has to offer. What an optimistic, caring, selfless guy. So he’s a bit awkward sometimes and makes cringeworthy jokes. So what? Everybody’s got their faults, and what few Sun has are really less faults and more endearing quirks.

Sun Wukong.gif

I have heard some excellent counterarguments in the past, mainly along the lines that Sun is a flat character, that he has no motives or goals of his own. There could be some truth to that; it’s a good observation. I, personally, feel that Miles and Kerry have made it pretty clear that Sun’s motivation in life is service. He literally just wants to help people (which can be seen in most if not all of his actions), and he especially wants to help those he cares about. That’s a pretty awesome purpose for your life, and it makes me respect and appreciate him much more than when I thought he was going to be that overused devil-may-care love interest. (That was my initial impression when he appeared in Volume 1. I’ve since learned better.) Bottom line: Sun’s a great character and I can’t wait to see more from him in future volumes.


Storytelling Con – Mishandled Emotional Moments

Sorry, guys. It’s time to switch back to some cons after that happy spree of pros, and the first is the flood of emotional flops. The dramatic moments came fast and furious this Volume – how could they not? Team RWBY gets back together! Yang finally finds her mom! Blake’s longtime friend tries to kill her parents! Abandonment issues! Dastardly betrayals! Revenge fantasies! The list goes on and on. This should be a gut-check of a season based off of the content it covers, but most of the scenes that could have elicited powerful responses just fell flat. Don’t get me wrong, there were some beautifully handled moments – Weiss and Yang’s reunion, Ruby and Yang’s reunion, Qrow’s realization that all his Mistral friends are dead – but the majority of the emotional content didn’t provoke a good payoff.

Ilia’s struggle to rediscover a conscience and Blake’s determination not to give up on a friend? That should have evoked redemption feels of the highest caliber. It didn’t. It kinda felt like attempted murder that conveniently halted once it became clear the jig was up.

Raven tries to kill her own brother? Meh.

Yang’s faceoff with Raven at the volume’s conclusion? While I loved the character comparisons, symbolism, and themes, the climactic moment itself was pretty bland considering it was a discovery that Raven is basically a version of Yang who’s been consumed by fear.

These are but a few examples. A lot of emotional moments were completely overlooked or strangely mismanaged, and it’s hard to put a finger on why.

By the way, do you notice anything about the well-handled moments in comparison to the poorly handled ones? They’re short and poignant. They’re moments that seem to speak for themselves. Very little is said, and very little needs to be said. (RT excels at these snapshot moments.) It’s only when the scenes and topics are dragged on and pontificated upon that they tend to lose emotional punch. My advice for Miles and Kerry would be to focus on what they do well, (Brief, poignant moments) and use huge emotional aces only when it is absolutely crucial to RWBY’s overarching series plot. (Ex: Volume 3’s conclusion.) I wish I had more constructive criticism to give here, but I don’t. I can only say that emotion should have been welling out of me at some of the heavy scenes, and it just…didn’t. I can’t even say why. All I know is that those moments didn’t do what they were designed to do: inflict the audience with major feels.


Character-building Con – Weak Backstory for a Strong Character

Hazel’s a cool character. No doubts there. It’s nice to see a gray villain after the string of pure evil villains we’ve had thus far. (I love the villains in RWBY, but Hazel is a refreshing change of pace). Hazel could have been fighting with the good guys in a close alternate reality. So props to RT for his creation. However…

Wow. Epic fail on the backstory for what had previously been a super intriguing character. What could this guy’s motivation be? He’s obviously got a moral code, yet he’s helping Salem and Tyrian and Cinder and all these seriously evil people with seriously disturbing goals. It’s got to be something wild…

Nope. He’s just okay helping burn the entire world so he can get revenge on Ozpin for something that is difficult to pin on the headmaster in any logical way. Great.

Haxel Reinhardt

It seems super lame, that’s all, and a completely illogical motivation for trying to bring about the end of the freakin world for Remnant’s version of Lucifer. Gretchen Reinhardt was a person with a purpose, who made a conscious decision to join a very dangerous profession in order to help people, knowing full well that it might cost her life. And, yes, it did. How does that have anything to do with Ozpin? Yes, he is in charge of training future huntresses. Training to do something extremely dangerous strikes me as something that carries a large degree of risk in and of itself. Could he have been negligent in some way? Possibly. It’s not discussed. Based on what we know at this point, Hazel’s reasoning is weak all around.

A better idea would be to say she died fighting against Salem. After all, it’s already been established that some people think Oz recruits a bit underhandedly for his fight against his nemesis. There are characters (and fans) who are still bitter about how Oz “maneuvered” Pyrrha into what they view as an inescapable decision or even blackmail. If she had died in the fight against Salem, Hazel could have reasonably rationalized blaming an unscrupulous, power-hungry immortal using anything (or anyone) necessary to overcome his rival, including emotional manipulation.


Tone Pro – Music

RWBY’s music has always been fantastic in the past, and that has not changed with Volume 5. In fact, “The Triumph” may be my favorite intro song yet. (This is saying a lot. “This Will Be the Day,” “Time to Say Goodbye,” and “When It Falls,” are all just incredible.) Jeff Williams continues to nail this show’s themes and atmosphere with his music.


Personal Responsibility Con – Does Justice Mean Nothing?

I have a problem with the Ilia storyline this volume, especially with the way it resolves (with Blake forgiving and trusting Ilia completely). Let me be clear, I have no problem with forgiveness. It’s one of the best, most wholesome actions in the world. I’ll go into more detail on the value of forgiveness after I finish with this rant on justice.

Does no one else have a problem with Blake’s blanket forgiveness, acceptance, and trust of Ilia? No? Just me? Like, what the hell? I don’t care if she was a good friend in the past. She tried to MURDER her parents and destroy everything she loved. Then – oh, this is good – when the nefarious plot fails, Ilia switches sides at the last plausible moment. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? She was willing to kill her family not a half-hour before!

I’m not saying Ilia’s conversion is not genuine. (Though I would counsel Blake to be more cautious. Why would she have Ilia of all people disarm the bombs at Haven? If Ilia had been shamming to escape punishment, that would have been the perfect opportunity to just…you know…leave the bombs active and ensure Adam’s success). I think that Ilia has seen the errors of her ways and realized Blake is right. But I also have a strong sense of justice. There are consequences for our actions, and there should be consequences. Do I think Blake should forgive Ilia? Absolutely. That’s a wonderful message and the best thing Blake could do. However, that forgiveness should be on a personal level. Personal. Not in a societal or consequential sense.

Revenge and retribution are detrimental and evil sentiments. I think it’s fantastic that Blake wanted to help Ilia. I think is wonderful that she doesn’t wish to “get back at” Ilia for trying to kill her family. Vengeful glee at Ilia’s downfall or incarceration would not have made me proud of Blake. Her mercy, understanding, and forgiveness did. But that is a personal sentiment, something she should absolutely embrace on a person to person basis.

Ilia’s crimes are bigger than that. They are beyond the personal. She tried to do downright evil things that affect human (or faunus) society as a whole. Attempted murder (not of just any individual, but the leader of Menagerie, which makes it political assassination), blackmail, coercion, treason, and terrorism. Many RWBY fans seem to be skimming over a rather damning list. This is not the petty crime of a misguided teenager; this is serious international terrorism. Such actions should have appropriately serious consequences. Taking Ilia’s unique circumstances into account can certainly have bearing on the result, and that is where mercy, empathy, and compassion can play a role, but for society’s sake and the sake of justice, there need to be consequences for her very real and dangerous crimes. Blake should forgive Ilia and be there for her, yes, but she should also allow her to bear the consequences that her decisions have produced.

Forgiveness is good and essential, but so is justice. I think we often forget that.


Feel Good/Moral Pro – Forgiveness

Now, all that rant being said, I loved the theme of forgiveness in Blake’s storyline this volume. What a beautiful and essential message, especially in today’s vicious social and political climate. It wasn’t preachy. It wasn’t forced down the audience’s throats. It was a subtle, gentle reminder that personal responsibility, forgiveness, understanding, and love are ultimately how people change the world for the better. Blake never gave up on Ilia. What a great story arc with multiple applications for our own world. I cannot stress enough that RT did a fantastic job of presenting this concept for our consideration without pushing an agenda. Blake’s speech has a beautiful simplicity to it that highlights the wisdom at its heart.

If only we were all so wise beyond our years. I certainly wish I was.


Character Growth Pro – Blake/Adam Dynamic

Blake has come a long way since the end of Volume 3. From a scared, angry, and conflicted young woman running from her past, she’s become a wise, confident, and purpose-driven leader who has decided to confront her mistakes and learn from their lessons. Adam had such power over her in Volume 3. Terrible power. Because she had allowed her past mistakes to paralyze her. At the end of Volume 5, we see a very different dynamic between the two. Blake is now the one in control of their relationship because Adam cannot move beyond their history. He is still stuck in the hatred, spite, and hurt of Blake’s leaving him. She, on the other hand, confronted who she’s been, learned from it, and grew as a person. My explanations do not do it justice, but I like the intertwined character arcs and the opposing paths they explore: One of a person who uses the past as a crutch, and the other who uses it as a catapult. Good stuff.



This is neither pro or con, just an observation I want to discuss. Everyone, with the exception of me, seems to think that Cinder is dead. I have a hard time believing that plausible. Yes, I know she got beat up by Raven, encased in ice, then thrown down a massive hole, but hear me out. In the single confirmed instance we’ve seen a Maiden die (Amber), we see that her power transfers immediately upon death. We see the power come out of her body and fly into Cinder onscreen. Now, consider: Cinder would be thinking about one of four people when she died – a) Raven, who just defeated her and threw her from a cliff, b) Ruby, who is her obsession, c) Emerald, her protégé, or d) Salem, her mistress. Any other candidates, known or otherwise, would be improbable based on what we know of Cinder thus far. With the exception of Salem (who I believe to be incapable of directly receiving the Maiden powers because of age or…otherness), we would have seen any of these candidates receive the Fall powers. They were all there where we could see them during Cinder’s fall (heh heh). We do not witness anyone suddenly receiving powers, thus, the logical conclusion is that Cinder is alive. Possibly much more mangled, but alive. With the accumulated damage from Ruby’s silver eyes and that plunge, we might see only a scarred sack of flesh in a dress next volume, but Cinder will be around in the future to further frustrate our heroines and heroes.

RWBY Volume 5 Poster.png

RWBY Volume 5 Conclusion

Despite a lackluster ending, Volume 5 was an entertaining addition to RWBY, and a step up from the dip the series took in Volume 4. Has it yet returned to the quality of The Beacon Trilogy? Not in my opinion, but the transition from essentially a boarding school setting to a world stage is a huge and difficult undertaking. I’m sure it will continue to entertain, excite, and challenge us in the future.

Ultimately, RWBY is about people – people who live in a fantastical world and deal with fantastical problems – but people who struggle just as we do to find our way. It’s specifically about a group of people who care about each other, want to help others, and be the best people they can be. And that’s why I love RWBY. I identify with that, and the most important part of a good story is identification with the characters and themes. Whether its dealing with past mistakes, feelings of impotence, parental expectations, the burdens of leadership, or any number of other things, I think everyone can find part of their personal struggles in the RWBY cast, and that marks RWBY as a stellar tale to experience.


That’s about all I have. I hope you enjoyed my take on RWBY Vol.5!

What are your thoughts? I can talk RWBY all day, so let me know your opinions, dissenting or otherwise!

Also – RWBY fans, I’m sure this applies to you – if you love Science Fiction or Fantasy, be sure to try out my books. Ironheart: The Primal Deception, The Arrival, and Goddess are all available on amazon! Thanks for reading!

Back to your regularly scheduled programing after these messages…

I promise I’m not dead, just busy. I’ll have some new content up soon!

1) An Analysis of RWBY Volume 5. (Yes, I’m aware it’s been months since the final episode aired. I’m going to pretend like it was always the plan to put this out for the DVD release, not the season finale.)

2) Review of Oathbringer, the third installment in Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive. (Also aware that it was released half a year ago.)

I’m continuing to work (very slowly, but it’s happening) through Ironheart’s sequel.

#FridayswithBQB – Interview #5 – Find Your Inner Steampunk with Dakota Kemp

Bookshelf Q. Battler recently asked me to participate in an author interview for his regular column, “Fridays with BQB.” Take a look, and check out BQB’s other hilarious content while you’re there!

Bookshelf Battle


Author Website

Amazon Author Page

North Dakota? South Dakota? He’s just Dakota. Dakota Kemp first flew under my radar when he asked a question of my resident alien brainiac, the one and only Alien Jones. After participating in that tomfoolery, I knew he’d fit in as a friend to my fine blog. He grew up in Oklahoma, which, as you may have heard from the musical of the same name, is the place where “the wind comes sweeping down the plains.” Odd, I never really thought of Oklahoma as a windy place. Seems like there’d be a lot of dirt, and hot weather, and rattlesnakes and tumbleweeds, perhaps a vulture circling around in the air, waiting for you to drop from heat exhaustion so your carcass can be his next meal.

But I digress. Note to self: don’t insult your subject’s home state. Anyway, Dakota’s an officer in the U.S…

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The Witcher: Soon to be a Netflix Original

The Witcher! Geralt the Riv! Ahhhhhhh!

Okay. Sorry. I’ve calmed down now.

So here is the deal: Netflix is producing a television show based on Andrzej Sapkowski’s Polish dark fantasy series. I know, I know – old news. But I’ve been out of the loop (aka in training camps) for about eight months now, so it’s new for me since I missed the initial announcements.

The Witcher Assassin of Kings

Promo poster from CD Projekt Red’s The Witcher II: Assassin of Kings.

For those of you who don’t already know, I am a huge fan of The Witcher novels, as well as the critically acclaimed video game adaptations that helped the enormously popular fantasy series gain major traction here in the U.S. The Witcher novels are fantastic in their own right – I’ve read all the books several times and I love them – but they were famous mostly only in Poland because they never received translations into other languages. CD Projekt Red (a Polish video game company) changed all that when it bought the rights to produce a RPG franchise based on Sapkowski’s novels. That could have been the end of it. After all, many ambitious projects have flopped horribly upon release. But CDPR was different. They had great respect and love for the books behind the project. That passion and dedication to stay true to the source material produced one of the most critically acclaimed franchises in gaming history. (The Witcher III alone won over 250 Game of the Year awards). The world, characters, cultures, and politics felt so real, deep, and complex for a video game. RPG gamers around the world were mindblown. The Witcher universe exploded in popularity among English-speakers, and the book industry capitalized on this, rushing to put out translations for the books so that fans could get more Witcher – so they could get the original Witcher.

What fantastic novels. What incredible games. What real characters and what powerful themes. In my personal opinion, from Sapkowski’s first short story about Geralt to the last game, the Witcher universe has been handled very well.

Which leads to my extreme excitement for a television series.

Despite the author’s recent departure from the Netflix project, I have high hopes that this could be one of the best television shows ever. It just has so much potential behind it. (Sapkowski is notoriously hard to work with when it comes to his books, so I’m not terribly concerned that he is not participating in the television production. The fact that he has not completely denounced the project is decent proof to me that the adaptation is being handled with care.) Many of the people who were involved in the book-to-game adaptation process are also at the helm of the Netflix production. They clearly care deeply about the source material, as shown by their dedication to bringing the essence of the books into the games, and I can only hope that they will continue to show the same fervor.

The Last Wish - amazon

The Last Wish – The first of The Witcher tales by Andrzej Sapkowski, The Last Wish is a collection of short stories about Geralt of Rivia, and a must-read for fantasy readers. (Caution: Don’t give these to your kids. The Witcher novels are quite dark and can be very graphic.

Of course, I’ve been let down by people I’ve trusted before. (Peter Jackson, what happened between The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies? Seriously? Talk about losing sight of the intrinsic soul of a story. I’ve never seen such a 180 degree turnaround. LOTR was a masterpiece adaptation; The Hobbit movies were traditional Hollywood letdowns.) BUT I’m choosing to believe we’re going to get a great translation for The Witcher. It’s all right there on a silver platter in the books.

Netflix, don’t mess this up for us. Geralt is important to many, many people. He is such a unique character. DO NOT turn him into just another macho, monster-slaying, wench-laying, tough guy. Does he have those characteristics sometimes? Absolutely. But he is so much more than that. Such a nuanced, wonderfully-written, complex character. Just like all characters in The Witcher. I can’t wait to see them all brought to the screen.

Anyone else out there Witcher fans? I, for one, am ecstatic Netflix is trying to capitalize on HBO’s success with Game of Thrones. Do you think their adaptation will be loyal to the source material? Or will it be another Hollywood book mutilation? Let me know!

Tribute to Ursula K. Le Guin

News for all my fellow science fiction and fantasy fans: it has come to my attention that one of the great sci fi and fantasy writers – indeed one of the founders of modern fantasy – passed away in January. Ursula K. Le Guin’s death was as markedly quiet as her work, though her writings somehow managed to combine that quiet success with insight, lyricism, and a world’s worth of endlessly compelling themes.

Unfortunately, I’ve not read many of Le Guin’s contributions, but the few I have experienced had special influences on my journey both as a reader and a writer. In particular, A Wizard of Earthsea, that classic of fantasy literature on par both in style and prose with The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings, touched me deeply. It was perhaps the first book where I realized what profound meaning, symbolism, and import could be infused into the pages of a written work. I don’t think I’ve ever fully recovered from the powerful conclusion of that tiny volume, which managed to hit me as hard as any thick tome.  What a powerful tale she wove with Ged, one that mirrored in many ways my own, as I’m sure it has for many a reader over the years. That struggle of growing up, at once both unsure and utterly confident, climbing to the top of the world only to fall upon reaching the zenith. Pride has knocked the wind out of me on many occasions, just as it does Ged. But confronting our faults and continuing on is one of the true themes of Earthsea, and I found myself bettered by the experience. Truly great stories remind us of powerful lessons we already know, and the reminder is often beautifully given. A Wizard of Earthsea gave me a great many such touching reminders, and for that I will always be grateful to Mrs. Le Guin. If you’ve never read Ged’s tale, I encourage you to pick it up. It is a lyrical, poignant journey delivered in sparse but haunting words (and it’s the original book to introduce the “Hogwarts concept” of a wizard school made famous by J.K. Rowling in Harry Potter). Other groundbreaking works by Le Guin include The Left Hand of Darkness, The Dispossessed, The Lathe of Heaven, and The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas.

Thanks for all the wonderful stories you brought to the world, Mrs. Le Guin. Your ability to touch us both emotionally and intellectually will be missed.

Have any of you been moved by Ursula K. Le Guin’s stories? Which are your favorites? Are there any that affected you as Ged’s did me?

Are We Ready?

“Somebody has to start. Somebody has to step forward and do what is right, because it is right.” – Dalinar Kholin, The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

We all fail sometimes. Right? Or is it just me who never seems to live up to who I should be?

I messed up yesterday. I crossed a line that I shouldn’t have. I did something that was wrong – and that I knew was wrong – all because I wanted something.

How disgustingly selfish.

It wasn’t some horrifying crime. Not according to the arbitrary scale we use to weigh severity of wrongness. I didn’t murder or rape anybody. I didn’t even steal something.

I lied.

I didn’t technically even say anything untrue. I simply didn’t divulge all the information I possessed. A little white lie. That’s all it was.

And that’s what pisses me off.

Because if I can’t be trusted with the little things, why should I ever be trusted with big things?

I don’t know if this is common or not, but I have always felt like I was put here on earth – in this time, in this place – to do great and terrible things. Not terrible as we would use the word, but as Tolkien would. Worldshaking things. Things that make people feel Atlas give a mighty heave beneath them. I am here to move mountains, and I will someday.

“When I think of destiny, I don’t think of a predetermined fate you can’t escape, but rather some sort of final goal. Something you work towards your entire life.” – Pyrrha Nikos, RWBY

Pyrrha NikosBut sometimes I wonder. Why has it not begun yet? Why has the ability to shake the world not entered my grasp? I’m ready. I feel ready. I put in the work, I strive daily to be the best man I can be, and I want it. I want it so bad it makes me clench up inside. I want to change things for people, to make this place better in drastic ways. I know I’m destined for it. Why am I still denied the pebble I need to start an avalanche?

And I think I know the answer now: I don’t deserve it.

With great power comes great responsibility. It’s ridiculously cliche, but that doesn’t make it untrue. The power to change things is terrifying and should be entrusted only with overwhelming caution. That’s something we (as humans) have clearly forgotten.

But God hasn’t, and I’m grateful. Perhaps He doesn’t just want me to change things. He wants me to change things for the good.

At the end of the day, I don’t think either He or I can be sure that’s what will happen if I am afforded that destiny right now.

I can’t be trusted with it yet. I’m too broken and selfish to handle it well. That sucks, but it’s also fortunate. There are few things more terrifying than a man receiving power he’s not ready for. I knew the lie was wrong and I did it anyway. It was just an insignificant, tiny, infantile evil. But…

If we can’t be trusted with the small things, we can’t be trusted with the big things.

It’s that simple and that difficult.

So let’s try to be better. Every day. Not because we might get a payoff in the future, but because it is right. We’re human, and we’re going to mess up. But if we keep reaching for the vision, keep struggling to become that glittering ideal we always wished we could be, maybe someday we’ll look in a mirror and realize that’s who we’ve become.

Am I the only one who often let’s themselves down? Do you have a vision of who you’d like to be? Why can’t we ever seem to get there? Share your words of wisdom below.


Commissioning as a Second Lieutenant

Graduation - Family

My parents and youngest sister (Emilie) came to see the commissioning ceremony at Ft. Benning, GA. It was wonderful to see them after months spent training!

Formal - Emilie 3

Emilie and I at the Officer’s Formal, just a few days prior to graduation. She was gracious enough to be my date for the evening.

Formal - Emilie 2

In a venue filled with many a gorgeous woman, there was not a single date more beautiful than mine!

October 31st, OCS graduation finally arrived. It’s been a long, arduous journey, but I am now a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army! I feel quite a sense of relief to be finished with the initial training and moving on to the actual business of being an officer. I made some good friends along the way at Boot Camp and Officer Candidate School. Without both their support and the support of those of you cheering me on from home, I would no doubt never have made it to commissioning. Thank you to everyone who sent letters of encouragement and prayer!

Graduation - Kenah, Laans

Myself and some of the aforementioned friends who’ve been by my side since the beginning. Both James Kenah (center) and Jonathan Laansma (right) will be fine officers. The Army is lucky to have them!

Graduation - Stage, Award 2 (2)

Receiving the Distinguished Academic Graduate Award at the Commissioning Ceremony was a great honor. I’m grateful to have merely graduated, let alone chosen for such a distinction.

Now that training is over (for the time being) and I have some measure of free time, I can get back to working on my writing projects. I appreciate all of my readership who have patiently waited while I did everything except finish the sequels you’ve requested for so long.

Training…and Its Eventual Conclusion

Hello Everyone!

Wow. I know it’s been a long time (approximately four and a half months) since my last post, and here I am just now getting back in touch. The bad news here is that I’ve still got 4 – 5 weeks of Officer Candidate School remaining, so I can’t dive back into writing Ironheart‘s sequel just yet, but available free time is finally on the horizon. The good news is that I managed to graduate from Boot Camp in early August, and I’m well on my way to finishing OCS as well.

Phase Up

Classing up into Intermediate Phase at Officer Candidate School in Fort Benning, GA. Boy, was I ever happy to put on that blue ascot!

Squad STX 2

Squad STX training out in Fort Benning’s swamps and forests.

So there’s a brief update on what’s been going on. Thank you to everyone who’s been keeping up with me and sending mail throughout my training stages. Your letters have been a joy to read! I promise to get back on my current writing projects soon. You’ve all been so patient waiting for books that were forced to take a back seat when a chance for service took priority. I’ll keep pushing forward here, and, with a little luck, I’ll be back to writing about Primals, heroes, and villains soon!