The Promise begins where season 3 of Avatar the Last Airbender left off. For those who don’t know, the shows creators wanted to make another season of Avatar, but Nickelodeon decided against making a final fourth season.

“The Promise” is the result of Nickelodeon’s failure to give fans closure to the iconic show that is loved by children and adults alike.

The artwork mirrors the show closely, it’s not a perfect copy but it does the job well enough that your mind transports easily enough to the world of the Four Nations.

The writing matches the tone of the TV series, although I would say there were a few times when one of the characters would say something that wouldn’t have felt in place with the TV versions of themselves.

All in all, “The Promise” does a very good job of keeping the spirit of Avatar alive. The humor is spot on and Gene Yang does his best to step out of the way and letting us hear the character’s voices; I can only imagine how hard he had to work to accomplish this.

“The Promise” continues in the line of touching upon hard subjects (like colonialism and different cultures clashing) that the original creators were so well known for doing in the TV Series. Familiar themes are still there, Aang still battles with his adherence to the Air Monk’s philosophy and his responsibilities as Avatar; and even though the Fire Nation has been defeated, conflict still looms.

I feel The Promise is not quite as accessible to the original demographic of the TV show, but as this graphic novel came out four years after the last season of Avatar, it should pose no problems for any original fans.

My only other criticism is the expense; it’s $40.00 retail, although you can find it online for about $24-$28 but even used copies will run for at least $15. Nevertheless, any Avatar fan owes it to themselves to buy this.

After attending the world’s best Christian speculative fiction conference (no, that is not an exaggeration) and reading the wonderful experiences my Realm Makers family had, I was left with an interesting dilemma: I had no idea what to write. Everything had been so perfectly touched upon by so many talented writers, I didn’t know what I could possibly add.

Except for one thing…

Hence the title name.

The “real life” as us spec fic writers call it, is a constant source of deterrence, a wall that always throws itself up to block us from goals. With me working a job that demands fifty to sixty hours of my time per week, “real life” makes it difficult to do anything other than catch up on housework or sleep (lots and lots of sleep).

As many of my RM family found out this past week, my job has been the primary reason I’ve written scarce more than ten pages over the past six months.

But that is not the entire problem…or perhaps I should say “STOP”.

Robert Liparulo’s bookending (no that was not an intentional pun, I promise) presentations of RM were exactly what I and, judging from all the online activity, others needed. Our needs were different, but through two simple words, we were all touched and inspired.

Robert Liparulo pointed out that every writer struggles with crippling bouts of self-doubt, even the best of the best go through it. The real question is, are you going to let that doubt crush you, or will you “GO” to accomplish the things God has set upon your heart to do?

I’ll admit, as opposed to the last two Realm Makers conferences, I wasn’t going with starry-eyed dreams of delivering the perfect pitch and landing the book contract I so greatly desire. Ever since partnering with Ben Wolf as my official editor (not that I have an unofficial one) over a year ago, I have realized how far I still have to go as a writer.

With my new job consuming vast globs of my time and energy, it has been extremely hard to keep pushing myself as a writer; and so I went to this year’s RM to reconnect, make new friends, and get inspired.

Boy, did God ever pave the way.

Over the course of four very brief days, I felt a strong urge propelling itself out into the forefront of my mind, an urge that didn’t involve me publishing a book anytime soon. It was an urge that finally saw fruition very late (or should I say very early) Saturday night.

Most of the attendees had already gone to bed when I had a fateful conversation with Suzanne Quhn at 3am in the morning (at least I think it was 3am). Some may have noticed I was tweeting rather regularly at the conference, trying to help out anyone who was unable to attend any of the classes I was in. Apparently my tweets had also caught the attention of SuzyQ, who was so mad at the prospect of not meeting me.

God had other plans, and we met and talked, where SuzyQ told me I had a real talent for social networking. I had no idea, I just liked getting back into the swing of having internet all the time. Our brief conversation had a huge impact upon me, as this monstrosity of a build-up is getting to (I guess all those theology papers I wrote still have an impact on me).

While I will be consistently working on my WIP, God has set a bigger goal upon my heart. God has always given me the desire to help others, and while “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus,” (Phil 3:14) I have to bring the rest of you with me.

I am currently in the process of purchasing materials and trademarks to launch an all-aspects review site/video channel. I’ve always liked talking about media and I want to take it seriously. I want to connect and branch out to reach people who have never heard of what we are doing. I want this project to be a tool to help promote all the wonderful people I have met over the past three Realm Makers.

It is a way of thanks to all of you, every single person I have met has enriched my life immensely, and I want to be that same blessing to you.

There will be trials on the road ahead, but I will not grow discouraged, for I have good reasons not give up. As I told Becky Minor and Ben Wolf, I have to do this, I need this pressure, I want to do something that helps my fellow writers and brings glory to God.

While you may not see a book with my name on it at next year’s conference, it doesn’t mean that I will forever be an unpublished author…God has given me that dream as well; I just have something heavier laid upon my heart. I want to encourage you all to keep pursuing your dreams of being a professional author; don’t give up, sleep when you are dead, and keep that fire burning brightly.

But most importantly, fight the good fight, finish the race, and keep the faith. (2 Tim 4:7)

See you at Realm Makers 2016

I probably shouldn’t be writing this, any perspective I have is no doubt built upon “unearned authority”; but I can’t help it, because the heart of the issues lying in the ashes of Ferguson remain unaddressed.

Many issues have reared their ugly heads in Ferguson. The issues dominating the airwaves and the public psyche did not begin with the death of Michael Brown; they began long ago, in a more primal form. It is this beginning, this genesis, which has sadly been forgotten while we rail and shout at TV screens.

The real issue is often overlooked and rarely spoken of. It is as the saying goes, for every finger you point there are three more pointing back at you. There may be many symptoms of America’s racial dilemmas but there is only one core from which they spread out…the human condition.

The human condition includes the propensity to be fallible, to be blinded by passion or hate, to side unquestioningly with those who share our commonalities. But who has been speaking about the human condition? Who has pointed out its inherent faults? But truth remains silent while hatred and sadness pour out of Ferguson and onto our TV screens.

What we have heard is who to blame; and everyone else is to blame, but not ourselves. We couldn’t possibly bear any blame, all of our excuses are lined up in a pretty and neat row.

We live too far away, why should we care? We’re not racist, but all the people we disagree with are. We don’t judge people by the color of their skin but everyone else is judging us by our skin. People are judging us based upon our socio-economic status. People don’t understand what it is like to be us. People are judging us on our ancestral history. It’s an institutional problem, a law-enforcement problem, a race problem, an economic problem. The media doesn’t tell the true story, the media has an agenda.

All the answers are in our hands, aren’t they? As long as we’re not to blame, it’s all okay, we didn’t do anything wrong. It’s not us, it’s them.

But it is us. Racism isn’t something that died with Civil Rights or with electing the nation’s first African-American to the White House. Racism doesn’t discriminate, it’s tendrils of darkness threaten even the most honest and loving of persons. The history of plundering and ignorance is not something confined to the past, nor does it reign exclusively in a particular segment of society.

Everyone likes the part of the truth that makes us feel better, that justifies our position; we don’t like the part that implicates us, which is why members of all sides fling vitriolic words designed only to cut and divide. It can’t be us. We proclaim the truth, we seek true justice but those who oppose us are blind; the only feeling the other side harbors is the utmost hope for our continual degradation.

So now the paradigm has shifted, we no longer seek excuses for our ideas and beliefs, we now excuse our speech and actions. We believe that by pointing to America’s bloody past, we can justify our present and future bloodshed. We proclaim “property damage and looting”, that violence in general, has been an important “tool” in our respective “social progress”.

Merriman-Webster defines progress as “the process of improving or developing something over a period of time” or “gradual betterment; especially the progressive development of humankind”. Could

anyone consider the ashen skeletons of buildings, the rampant terror and fear on the streets, the torrential downpour of schismatic dialogues and hateful speech, to be anything but the opposite of ‘social progress’?

America the violent…America, the land purged by blood. It may have been who we were, it may be our heritage, but it doesn’t mean we presently have to stoop to our history’s lowest common denominator. We could be better; but alas, we’d rather speak of how ingrained racism is in the American identity, of how impossible it is for it to ever die out. We could love, forgive, and express understanding but we would rather our “side” be justified; we’d rather be right than righteous.

Some say we need only to obey or fear the law when the law upholds justice and order, but the heavens will shake when the law fails, for we declare ourselves righteous enough to cover the sins of our destruction of the physical and the spiritual. We are justified in our anger and rage, because the end justifies the means.

We declare this is the America generations past and present have shaped and molded, they have created this monster…as have we. Then, we are arrogant enough to turn around and say that we do not have the will or fortitude to change our ways, we do not have the right to hope. And so the cycle continues, new hope will find no home here; we have become pariahs to our own creeds.

Perhaps we do have no hope, perhaps things will never change within our lifetime, this lifetime marred by injustice and hate. But as time continues to pass, will things naturally get better on their own? Our forefathers of freedom, of every color, had more reason than us to believe in the absence of hope but we arrogantly think our time is worse than theirs.

We do not acknowledge our ability to have our present civil discourses of shouts and defamation are completely dependent upon their sacrifice.

Hope is indeed earned, it was earned by women and men who fought for a better future. They fought against bigotry, hatred, and violence; but they didn’t win by force of arms, a physical victory will always become temporal. They won by changing hearts and minds. Many did not see the fruit their labors had produced, but they had hope and it was enough for them.

Violence, hate, slander…all of these will continue, there won’t be a day where division will stop trying to rend the common bonds of humanity. For as many who fought for the rights of humanity, there were as many to oppose it. Does that mean we give up, that we allow anger and hatred to win? We might treat hope as the stuff of fairytales, but they never did.

What right do we have to let the dreams of those before us die? Is their hope, not enough for us anymore? They bled, suffered, and died for a dream of a better people in a better world. They fought for the future, but we can’t see beyond the haze of our anger and self-righteousness.

They deserve better. The future deserves better.

We could discuss what needs to be done, we know the truth, but sometimes we don’t want to face it. We don’t want to be wrong. We don’t want to be a part of the problem. Do you want to be able to deflect the blame, or do you really want to fix the hurt, heal the scars, and fight in common brotherhood? Do you really want to fight the evils of the human condition?

You know the answer, I pray that we all desire to find it. Now is time to be better.

With the utmost love, respect, and hope,

An American

Hello internet! I am going to be doing reviews on youtube now. I will still be doing reviews here on the blog, but I am trying to use both forms of media. Please rate, subscribe, and give me your thoughts. Everything is appreciated, and here is the hyperlink: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nyYhMZQtChQ&feature=youtu.be

It was Roy’s turn to shine, just when I said last week about it was nice seeing Felicity get some character development; and that all we needed now was for Roy to get some. Now while it wasn’t about Roy’s past before the show, it was about what happened to him when he was going through his Mirakuru induced madness.

He thinks he killed Sara.

Obviously he is tormented by this, who wouldn’t be? But he doesn’t know for certain that he killed Sara so he enlists the help of Felicity to make sure he doesn’t have an Mirakuru lingering in his system. Roy is relieved, Felicity is freaked out; so she runs a test and determines from the angle and force of the arrows that it would be similar to Roy throwing arrows in his Mirakuru rage.

Felicity does the smart thing, and tells Roy, tormenting him more. Roy then does the even smarter thing and tells Laurel that he killed Sara, when in fact all the evidence is circumstantial; so he would incur the almost-murderous wrath of Laurel to tell a “fact” when is in reality a maybe.

He feels guilty, but still it seems a stretch anyone would take the fateful step to admit to a murder they didn’t know for a fact they committed. It seemed very odd, as did how Felicity and Diggle treated the “revelation”. I felt that whole part of the episode it was very out of character except for Laurel and Oliver and it made the episode a bit odd.

The parallels between Oliver and Ted were quite interesting, obviously the writers planned it that way; however the poor acting on Ted’s part brought down the scenes. Another drag was Laurel mentioning that the Arrow was once her boyfriend, like that couldn’t compromise Oliver’s identity at all. Also Oliver critiques Ted for killing one person when he has killed how many people, exactly?

There were other problems but the ones that bothered me the most was the character inconsistencies, and I was gravely disappointed in Diggle who has often been the voice of moral clarity.

But Oliver was the only one who still believed in Roy, other than Roy himself. Roy tells Ted’s failed protégé that he is not the same, he will not end up the same. Oliver reassures Roy he won’t abandon him…he won’t lose faith, and he will help Roy face his fears and give him clarity; but sometimes clarity brings just as much darkness as before.

The themes of the episode were very strong, despite the flaws. The stumble should remain just that, and Arrow should return to form…but to be perfectly honest, the “I’m Cupid, stupid” didn’t garner much hope for next week.

What’s new to talk about concerning The Flash? They’re still playing up Barry’s attraction to Iris (and Iris’ total obliviousness to it). The humor is still there, the inconsistencies are still there…plus they ripped off a scene from Captain America: The First Avenger (hint: it had to do with Barry not being able to get drunk). Oh and let’s not forget the conveniences!

Of course Iris happens to stumble across Barry so her desire to write about “the Streak” will only continue to grow and add tension (and give ulcers for Joe and Barry) to the series, but at least we were given well explained reasoning for why Iris is doing what she is doing; she trying to give Barry hope.

She can’t understand why Barry has this sudden change of heart, why he won’t believe in “the Streak” when he had been saying for over a decade that a super-fast man killed his mother; but her brain, for the tension’s sake, can’t put two and two together and figure out that Barry might actually know something about “the Streak” (let alone the possibility of Barry being “the Streak”).

I liked the addition of Sgt. Bette and I was sad to see her die. I wasn’t the least bit surprised, but it would have been nice for her to have been a addition to the team. Her powers weren’t explained as well as they should have been, because if you think about her logically, she never would have been able to put on the gloves without blowing them up.

Inconsistencies aside, Sgt. Bette added to the development of Barry, giving us a better view of his moral values. She also showed how much of a manipulator Dr. Wells is; his story has by far become the most intriguing part of the show.

Unfortunately, The Flash returned to form as an exciting average show. The emotional scenes didn’t get any of the feels going, and I didn’t care one bit about the veiled threats and foreshadowing between Dr. Wells and the general. Also the writers should stick to not talking about existential forces, first claiming “the universe” somehow made Barry into what he is and then making a Jesus comparison when Caitlyn brings up that he walked on water. One or the other, guys.

And please, enough with this beating around the bush, one of the characters just needs to come out and tell Barry that Central City (or the world, for that matter) needs a symbol of hope. Maybe they haven’t because the writers feel that would come across as a rip-off of Arrow or the Dark Knight Trilogy; but hey, you already ripped-off one comic-book movie, so could it really hurt to take the big selling point of those two franchises and begin making it your own instead of just implying what everyone watching already knows?

The Flash has two choices, settle on being a very fun, very average show; or roll the dice and decide to become something truly special?

The beginning of Gotham’s most recent episode was weird, two men with masks fight to the death in an abandoned office; one wins, the other is dead…but why? Weird seemed to be a major part of the motif, hence the scenes with Nigma and Oswald’s mother; although Oswald was himself pretty weird with the brooch, and then Mooney licks Oswald’s blood off the brooch pin.

Yeah, it was all pretty weird.

Fortunately it didn’t detract too much from the rest of the episode, but there is only so much weirdness one can pack into a single episode and not drag down the entire enjoyableness of said episode. Alfred also came across as a bit of a psycho with his whole, “I didn’t let Bruce kill you” speech to Tommy Elliot. I know you want to increase Bruce’s self-confidence, but that seems a little far.

There were a handful of coincidence scenes that brought down the episode as well and Barbara, while Jim shouldn’t have hung up on here, is not believable; I don’t know if it is the actor or the writing or a combination of both, but still don’t care if Barbara feels hurt by Jim, I doubt the sincerity of how much she cares for Jim. I still don’t care about her character, in fact, she’s starting to feel like a drag on the series. She may be Jim’s romantic interest, but let’s start seeing less of her (unless Fox or whoever gets their act together) and more of Gotham’s other leading ladies.

Speaking of leading ladies, they do bring back Selena Kyle, I don’t know why but I’m sure the show will tell us next week. Captain Essen got to shine some as she finally backs Gordon, and the side story of Gordon being angry at his fellow cops was the selling point of the episode, capped off with an awesome, humor-laced speech from Harvey to get his fellow cops to get behind Gordon…at least just a little bit.

I had fears that Bruce’s scenes with the school bullies would be fodder for the young Bruce Haters, but they connect the dots smoothly with Bruce’s side story, albeit with psycho Alfred. Liza’s story arc was also very interesting, for whatever reason a part of me has always liked her, even if she did kill someone to get Mooney’s job. She is developing feelings Falcone, whether that be romantic or otherwise is not spelled out, but something is happening to her emotionally and it will no doubt make itself known by the end of the season. If not, Fox just wasted a good opportunity.

Mr. Sionis was a good villain, calm, collected, and creepy; but the final fight with Gordon was pretty lame, especially with the tension they had built up throughout the episode. Oswald interrogating his replacement revealed that Oswald is still a sociopath at heart and still wants to ruin Mooney more than anything else.

The humor was there and even though Harvey has Gordon’s back, their final conversation of the episode foreshadowed future conflict. The episode did a real good job of laying down building blocks for future episodes, but I found the current one to be quite flat. I still had a good time and enjoyed it, but for reasons stated throughout, there were too many problems for me to get lost in the story and enjoy it.

Maybe I’m becoming more harsh or maybe the show isn’t as good as first thought, but I was just disappointed that last week’s epic episode was followed by such a meh, sort of one. I hope next week does better.