Welcome to Raven Falls

Hello, and welcome to Raven Falls!

Raven Falls, for those unfamiliar with the name, is a fictional town of my own invention. It was the setting of my most recent novel, tentatively titled “Breaking Shadows”. It is a place of fear, and darkness. A place of rain, and mud, and filth. A place where no man in his right mind would chose to settle, if he had the choice. It’s a place of shadows, and a place of grief. A place of history, of painful memories for all its inhabitants. But most importantly, buried deep beneath its surface, it’s a place of hope.

Raven Falls is situated at the base of 3 wooded hills, with the forth side opening up to a very long, flat stretch of land. Nestled within upstate New York, it was once a small-town hub of simplicity. It was the kind of pleasant little town that resembled the great Thornton Wilder’s Grover’s Corners, from his incredible play “Our Town”. Their main industry was split between agriculture and lumber, back in the day. It was innocent enough, a town with its own share of stories and troubles, but no better or worse than any other town. It was one of those towns everyone longs for inside, where you know all your neighbors and they know you. Where everyone sticks up for everybody else. It was quaint, and beautiful. Above all, it was safe.

Like many towns with long histories, the founding of this one is a bit of a mystery. Centuries of change have jumbled the truth until myth and reality collide, creating a story all their own. Just as with Rome, where no one ever knew the full truth of how the great city (and, later, empire) was founded, but anyone could have told you the myth of Romulus and Remus, so goes the story of how Raven Falls got its name. It’s one of these mythical tales, passed down through the ages in the form of a lullaby. Not a soothing lullaby, but one that carries a darker meaning. Much like Rock a Bye Baby or Ring Around the Rosie, the distressing lyrics are covered up in a happy, bouncy tune, such that later in life a teen might realize its meaning and vow never to hum it to a child again.

As the story goes, the first mayor of this town kept a secret from his family and friends. A dark secret, perhaps of some great cover up. This secret planted itself within his chest, growing, ripping him apart. He eventually went entirely insane, and one day ran through town flailing his arms at “ravens” only he could see. He vanished into the woods, and when he didn’t return the townspeople became nervous. A search team was sent out for him, and after 3 days of combing the forest, they found him. His body, greatly mutilated by some “beast of the night,” was found in a crystal clear pool of water, fed by a small waterfall on a steep cliff face. In the cold, gray stone beside the fountain, written in bright red blood, were the words “Raven Falls”. Some of this may be true, or the whole thing could have come from some deranged mind. No one really knows. But still, the children sing the song.

The town had always been a wonderful place, despite the ever-ominous clouds that shrouded it. It was a small town, filled with happy, healthy people. That is… until the prison came. The giant prison, the largest in the country, was stationed just beyond the first large hill. With the prison came the guards, the policemen, the weapons. And slowly, as the government’s power climbed to its current dictatorship, ruling with a cold iron fist, the town began to change. There were very few rich to begin with, and as the years dragged on they vanished all together. The town was bathed in poverty, its residents forced to scrounge for anything at all to live on.  It became the one of darkest, most dreaded places in the country, second only to the prison itself. The buildings crumbled, and the town fell into perpetual darkness.

Any passer by would believe it to be nothing but the ruins of some old town, its appearance that of an uninhabitable ghost town, besides the guards and policemen constantly walking the streets. But to its own residents, it is a steely cage, an iron claw that holds them captive. They walk in dread and hunger, for in these times no one is fully innocent. Everyone has had to steal to eat at some point, and it only grows worse from there. Beyond that, rebels are everywhere. Because of this town’s proximity to the jail, it’s a broken hub for rebellion. Everyone knows that if you even look at a guard in a way he doesn’t like, you could be beaten, imprisoned, or even killed for crimes you may or may not have committed. It’s not uncommon to stumble across a human corpse, left by guards or taken by hunger.

The only bright light left in this town can be found in the hill opposite the prison, hidden from all eyes but a precious few. For here, at the hill’s base, disguised by trees and vegetation, is a half-finished tunnel to its center. Years before, so far back that not a soul remembers, the townspeople tried to dig this tunnel to create easier access to the towns beyond. But when funds ran low and winter hit, the attempt was forgotten. It was later discovered by Mr. and Mrs. Resnik, who cleaned it up and used it as a back-up weapon store and safe house. When the Resnik’s base was taken out in the ambush that killed Ben and Jesse’s parents, they took shelter within its darkened walls. It has become the new home base for their growing rebel movement, and at any given time holds at least a dozen passionate rebels.

All in all, the town of Raven Falls is a dark place, a place to be avoided at all costs. But it is also a place of hope, the last real hope the country has for freedom.

“Poor John Charlie made a grave mistake,

Kept it to himself in fear that made him shake,

In that solitary, lonely place the secret his soul takes,

And day by day it eats away, until a fool of him it makes.


The crooked, crazy man took flight and ran away,

Seeing ghosts of birds, at them his arms insanely swayed,

And in the dark of night with nowhere at all to stay,

Some creeping predator set in, and shelter trees betrayed.


They found him in the fountain clear,

And clear it was some beast was here,

As punishment to his mistake, his fate to die a tear,

They stood in horror at the sight of bloody words so near.


And there, beside his watery grave,

Poor soul, this town a name he gave,

To warn thee of a deathly cave,

For here, in Raven Falls, fools alone be brave.”


Fireside Chats: Meet Benjamin

Alright, alright my fellows. You may want to hold onto your hats, take a seat, be sure your seat belts are securely fastened, and please leave the seat back trays in the full upright position! Today is a very special day! Why is that, you may ask? Well my friends, and all you fan girls out there that will be screaming in just a moment, today you get to sit in on a very special interview. Yes, that’s right! After a number of requests and some friends that offered up a couple of burning questions in a special league of scribes, I am bringing my dear boy Benjamin Resnik in for his 5 minutes of fame. Now please, please, hold your applause and various other sounds of excitement! For the sake of my underprivileged readers, I must supply the character bio provided to my fellow scribes. So, without further ado, meet Ben!

Ben is around seventeen or eighteen. He lives in the post-apocalyptic town of Raven Falls, in a dark time where the government has taken over. (Much like the setting of the Seam in the Hunger Games, but I wrote it first!!!) He’s a very quiet person, the kind of quiet the exudes strength and leadership. He is a very kind-hearted and gentle man, but only a few people have the pleasure of knowing the real Ben. To most, he is just the young, strong, wise leader of a rebel gang. His parents began the rebellion before he was born, and created a miniature army. They were the first rebel gang to ever strike the military as a real threat. He and his little sister, Jessica (aka Jesse. She’s been disguised as a boy for 8 years, which was Ben’s idea.), are two of only five people who escaped a military ambush 8 years ago. Of those five, only four are living. The rest are dead or presumed dead. Ben’s parents were among those presumed dead after they forced him to take his sister and run. Since then, it has been he and Jesse’s shared mission to one day turn their parents dream of a truly free America into a reality, starting with Raven Falls. They have rebuilt their rebel army, which is powerful in mind if not numbers. He is very highly skilled in hand to hand combat, and can give nearly anyone a run for their money with a hand gun, but his real talent is devising military strategy.
He has a secret past that haunts him, one that not even Jesse knows the truth of. This is what causes him to keep people at an arm’s length, keeps him from ever really feeling free to have fun and let his guard down with anyone but Jesse.

Come on in Ben, take a seat. There you go. Comfortable? Good. Thank you for coming in today, I really appreciate your time! I know you’ve been busy lately, what with a rebellion to run and all.

“Well, it’s not like I had much of a choice. Author’s can be rather… insistent.”

Very true my friend, very true. Now, as I said, many of these questions came from friends in the league or your fans directly. For the sake of some hopeless romantics out there, however, I have added one or two of my own. I must warn you, knowing your past the way I do, some of these questions will not be easy for you to answer. Knowing this, are you still willing to go through with this interview?

“I suppose. They’ll just find out in conversations with you or in our story anyways, I might as well have the chance to put it into my own words.”

Alright then, let’s begin. This first question was posed by Kaleb Kramer. We know that you have skill in all aspects of combat. Who is it that trained you?

“Well, primarily my father. He was, of course, the leader of this rebellion before I was, and spent much of his spare time training Jesse and I. But, as he was the leader, he didn’t have much spare time, so I guess you could say the other men and experience have taught me almost as much as he did.”

I’m sure you wish you could have spent more time training with him now though, eh? Following this stream of thought, perhaps now would be the time to answer one of Nathanael’s questions. We know your parents were, supposedly, killed in the ambush eight years ago that wiped out nearly the entire rebel force. Did your father, and do you currently, want the military to recognize you as a threat? Or was it an accident?

“Ah, the answer to this one is a bit more… complicated. At the time of the ambush, no. We were attempting to fly under the radar until we had the strength and organization to have a level of success. Until we were ready, we carefully planned our raids on their weapon stockpiles to appear as a number of smaller operations to avoid unwanted attention.”

That sounds like a pretty good plan. So, what happened?

“You know the story as well as I do.”

Ben, this is for the reader’s benefit. If you need a moment, I understand.

“No, I’m fine. It was worth a shot. See, the largest prison in the country is located at our town’s edge. For that reason, Raven Falls has a long history of Rebel action. As a precaution, the guard and number of undercover officers in the area is much larger than anywhere else. It’s pretty overkill, in my opinion. As a result, it’s hard to safely expand our forces, and harder to keep it a secret. Shortly after I was born, a man by the name of Zechariah Leone enlisted. He, his wife, their daughter, and an orphan boy they had as help moved into an old barn on the property my parents occupied. Our old base was hidden in the forest there. The Leone’s became my parent’s most trusted friends, and their daughter Sasha…”

You alright there, Ben?

“Haven’t been in a long time. Their daughter was a very good friend to me. My best friend. More than a friend. But it was never meant to be. After seven years of friendship, the Leones turned out to be under covers. Even that innocent orphan kid was in on it. When we were nearing the numbers it took to be considered a danger to the government’s hold on Raven Falls, they made a call, and we were ambushed.”

I’m sorry Ben. I know this is hard for you. Perhaps now would be a good time to ask another of Nathanael’s questions. How do you remain kind and gentle after seeing all you’ve seen, and while leading a rebellion?

“There are many ways I could answer this, all of them true. I don’t want to be like the people we fight, those who disregard the pain of others. I’m fighting for freedom from the cruel, hard-hearted people who rule this country. It would be ludicrous for that to be my goal, if I was just like them. Beyond that, I have my parents’ influence. They never liked the violence of what we had to do, and if there was any other way they would have taken it. But overall, I have Jesse to protect. I don’t want her only family to be some ruthless monster.”

That’s a lovely way of putting it Ben. Keeping on with this strand of questions, Kaleb wants to know how the responsibility of being the leader of a rebel army affect you?

“Well, it can be stressful of course. But I’m not exactly alone. Jesse, small as she is, is a great help to me. The men respect her… or as they believe, him. On top of that, I have my team leaders. Really, they only say I’m in charge because I have the most experience and skill with strategy. I’m not going to say it hasn’t affected me at all, but I’ve always felt great responsibility regardless. Haha, and as for loss of sleep, I’ve hardly slept since the ambush anyways.”

Jesse is a bit of a firework, eh? She sure puts those rookies in their place right quick anyways. Now, a question from Stephen. What is it that keeps you from breaking under the strain of adversity and leadership being thrust on you at such a young age?

“As I stated before, I haven’t been alone. Between my men’s help, Jesse, and my early preparations under dad, it wasn’t an enormous weight.”

Let’s take another from Nathanael. Are you the commanding type, or would you prefer not to be in charge?

“Personally, I wish I didn’t lead this life. I would prefer not to be in charge of this, but rather be able to take care of Jesse the way every young girl should be taken care of. I hate that my responsibilities, and hers, keep us in such a dangerous position. But this is our path, one that was chosen for us. And I wouldn’t entrust this mission to anyone else.”

Interesting. I love listening to you talk about her. I feel like that’s when we really get to see you, Ben. Anyways, moving on. Yet another question from Nathanael: How do you consider your group of men? For example, would you call them extended family, just men under your command, or something else?

My dad always strove to create an atmosphere of brotherhood in the ranks. We are all close, especially with our teammates. I still use my dad’s old trick to keep everyone connected. I have 5 teams, with 5 leaders. One is mine, one Jesse’s, and the other 3 are under dear friends of mine. After each group of rookies graduates from training, we change up our teams. This lets everyone spend time with everyone else, and allows the men to find which leadership technique works best for them. This keeps the teams fresh, lets the entire force meld together, and helps everyone to meet their full potential. To answer the question directly, my men are my friends and my family. We hold each other’s lives in our hands, and I don’t think anyone would feel safe or right handing their lives over to an uncaring stranger. Because of events in my past, I know I don’t get as close to them as I could. But they are my brethren, and I would give my life for any of them without a thought.”

That was almost poetic for a moment there, Ben! I thought that was someone else’s job.

“Don’t bring him into this. I will walk out of here.”

Easy there, Ben! I was just messing with you. Perhaps that’s still a bit too sore a subject though, eh? I’ll take that glare as a yes. On to the next question, a follow-up to the last. How do you deal with the deaths of your men?

“Well, it’s never easy. You see these men every day. They’re your friends, your brothers, your saviors at times. The pain of expecting their face to meet you when you call a meeting, only to remember they wont be attending never goes away. It’s especially hard for myself… and it’s the one time I truly hate being the leader. Our policy is that if someone is lost outside of camp or a safe hold, their body is not to be retrieved. It diverts too many men to unnecessary and dangerous positions, where they will be doing nothing to promote the cause. This is a policy we followed even for my parents. Because I am the leader, I must enforce this rule, which involves not only dealing with my own sorrow, but also the wrath of those closest to that person. Grief is a dangerous thing.”

That’s the truth. Especially in an abandoned tunnel full of well-trained men armed to the teeth with weapons. Here, I think it’s about time for a lighter question. Nathanael wants to know what you think about music. That boy is full of questions!

“Haha he sure seems to be anyways. Music has always been important in my family. My mother was a singer, way back when music was still allowed. Now that it has been outlawed, it’s also a sign of disrespect for the government. Which means I’m all for it. I strongly believe that music has the power to change the mood, and raise morale. Which is probably why the government got rid of it. There’s something about music, any kind of music, that stirs up the hope in a person’s heart. It resonates with us in a way nothing else can. Jesse and I love singing, and whenever she’s distressed about something, I still hum our mother’s lullaby to her. Sometimes I think it has a more soothing effect on me than her.”

It must have been haunting when your mother sang it. Perhaps your fans will hear you someday?

“Someday maybe. If they start stalking me. But not voluntarily.”

I see. Well, it was worth a shot anyways. Now, back to Kaleb for another question. What do you hope to do when America is free again?

“My only hope is that it will happen before I pass on, and that I may have the privilege of watching my sister live in a world where people are respected, maybe even watching her fall in love. It’s my dream that one day, I can play with her children in the streets, without fear. It’s my dream that someday, the war will be over, and in the peace that follows I wont have to worry about her falling for a traitor like I did. I can just rejoice with her, and sing mother’s lullaby to her grandchildren.”

What about you? Do you ever plan or hope to marry?

“I did once. But that’s another painful story I don’t wish to relive. No, that happiness bestowed on my sister would be more than enough for me.”

Ben, look what you’ve done. You’ve brought a tear to my eye! It pains me that your heart will never be the same again. Even if it was me who wrote it that way. To break off of this line of questions, let’s take one from Mirriam! Do you have any one thing – a token, a person, a memory – that comforts you or reminds you of something?

“As I’ve said all along, Jesse is what I have to hold onto. She’s the most amazing creature alive, and I’m blessed to have her. I only wish I could do more to protect her. There’s nothing more comforting than knowing she’s waiting back at home for me. She’s a perfect blend of our parents, and I see so much of them in her that it’s like they never left me. Besides that, there is one memory… but since the ambush, it’s become more of a nightmare than a comfort.”

I wont pain you by going there, Ben. At least, not tonight. But I do have a question from David which stems from your last answer a bit. And it may not be pleasant. But first, I must thank him for submitting this question. After all, it is my trademark question. It was bound to be asked… but now I can blame it on someone else! Benjamin, what is your deepest fear?

“It would definitely involve something horrible happening to Jesse, something that I couldn’t protect her from. Something like what happened with Sasha perhaps. Or, if we were to be captured, and I was rendered unable to free her. There are other things that haunt my nightmares, but this is one of the few that keeps me up at night.”

He’s such a wonderful big brother, is he not my friends? Don’t you just want to walk up and give him a giant hug? Well, little tip. Don’t actually try to do that. Especially if he’s lost in thought. Unless of course, you enjoy being held at gunpoint. Alright Ben, just two or three more and I’ll leave you in peace. This is another from Kaleb: what is it that keeps you going day in and day out?

“The need to protect Jesse, and give her the life she deserves. The obligation to give that freedom to all of these innocent people. If there’s one thing more painful than what I’ve lived through, it’s the hungry, desperate, frightened faces of the women and children our government has left behind. If there’s one thing more powerful than that, it’s seeing that look on my own sister’s face. If I had no one to care about, I would have given up long ago. The life I’ve lived, the things I’ve done, make me no better than anyone. If anything, I deserve the world we’re forced to live in. But Jesse, she deserves so much more. And if there’s any way for me to give it to her, by George I will. That’s what keeps me going.”

Oh Ben, you’ve got me tearing up all over again! Your love for your sister is just amazing to me. Now, this is the last question submitted by the scribes, coming from Emily. What would it take to get you to let your guard down?

“It’s not an easy thing to do, I’ll tell you that much. It would take something the size of our parents coming back again, Charlie found living, Jesse found dead, and the like. I’m not easily rattled, not after the things I’ve seen and done. But, I am human. I get surprised every now and then.”

No one is perfect, that we all know. Now, I just have one more question. This one was not officially submitted, but I can feel it burning in every reader’s heart. I sense that if I don’t ask, I will get something thrown at me. Possibly even something sharp.

“Now you’re scaring me.”

Oh, we can’t have that! Very well. Last question. Will you ever tell us more about Sasha?

“I honestly cannot answer you even that. Perhaps.”

Thank you very much for your time, Mr. Resnik! On behalf of all my readers, we love you and wish the best of luck to you and yours. Perhaps we’ll even hear from you again soon?

“My pleasure.”

Can we get a round of applause for this brave soul? If you enjoyed this, please stay tuned! I am hoping to make these character interviews a regular thing. Next week, we will be looking at the town of Raven Falls!

Thanks for reading.


Epic Anthology

It’s finally here! Yes, that’s right my friends! The Ohio Virtual Academy Creative Writing Anthology, titled “Behind a Writer’s Eyes” is now available to the public! One of the pieces featured is my first full-on fantasy piece, a short story that I rather enjoyed by the name of “Ashes, Ashes”. It is strictly online, unfortunately, but you can reach the most amazing collection of short stories and poems ever done at this link: http://tinyurl.com/BehindaWritersEyes Check it out, check it out! You know you want to.

In other news, later this week I will be posting an interview between myself and one of my own characters, Benjamin Resnik. Those of you who have read my most recent novel, I can hear your fangirl screams from here. Stay tuned! I may also interview the antagonist of that story… however his cover must remain in tact, and therefore his full name shall not be mentioned. Stay tuned!



Kung Fu Fighting

Last Friday, my statewide eschool got together for our annual Spring Dance. It was my first year in attendance, and I will never forget it. Undoubtedly one of the best days of my life. Period. Everybody was kung fu fighting, the kicks were fast as lightening, there were Chirpies and ninjas and country guys and gals, nerds and geeks and laughing. Lots of laughing. There were amazing teachers, pineapples, and mountain dew. But above all, there were friends. Too many friends to count.

See, when most people hear “eschooler” they picture an overly sheltered, nerdy, shy, pale, freckled face kid that can’t handle life outside their home and has no social life. But at my eschool, I have made more friends in a semester and a half than I’ve ever had. And I don’t mean “friends”… those people that offer meaningless platitudes and are occasionally good for a laugh. No, I’ve made real, good, strong friendships that I know will last for the rest of my life. The people I’ve met are amazing. And until Friday, I had never actually seen them in person. It’s really amazing, being able to step out from behind the computer for the first time, and know everyone so well that no awkward moments are had. We see each other, start jumping up and down like giddy five year olds, and deliver numerous tackle hugs.

There were dozens of highlights, and every moment is blazed within my mind forever… including my first encounters with my insane friends, my friend MJ shouting “NINJAS ASSEMBLE!” when Kung Fu Fighting came on and everyone from the newspaper sprinting for the dance floor, jamming on our air guitars and singing our lungs out when “Don’t Stop Believing” came on, laughing when a certain teacher discovered a certain someone’s crush and pretended like he was going off to tell that crush about it, jumping up and down with my friends when, shortly after winning cutest couple, our two favorite people had their long-awaited first kiss, acting like total geeks only to find out someone had a video camera rolling, and so much more.

But beyond all of this happiness, I felt I had to post about my school, because I am so very proud of the people in it. Even the teachers were amazed at the chivalrous behavior that prevailed at the dance, and I must admit I was a bit taken aback. Because instead of letting a single person stand alone awkwardly, not knowing anyone, everyone made it a point to seek out the lonely and make friends with them. Not a single person there was left off the dance floor, and everyone was so incredibly friendly. No drama cropped up, it was just a bunch of kids having fun. It was the kind of fun you might expect of a group of 3-5 closely knit friends to have… multiplied by 60. No one judged their neighbors, no mocking took place besides friendly banter, and instead of making fun of the geeks… we joined them.

Probably the proudest moment for me was when I saw a group of about 10 friends all dancing and laughing with one of the heavily disabled girls that came. This girl had been standing by the dance floor since she arrived, captivated by the music and people. As the evening wore on, she inched closer and closer, awkwardly waving her arms and dancing to the music in her own way. She had been alone, besides the teachers that stayed protectively at her side, when myself and these girls decided to join her. The giant smile on her face touched my heart, and I couldn’t help but feel proud. After all, how often is it that some of the best dancers on the floor (NOT including me) would leave the floor to dance with a girl like this, for no reason other than to make her night special? It was amazing to see.

I guess I have to wrap up now, as I still have a speech to write tonight, but I’m sure I’ll have more stories to come. Keep a wary eye on this horizon… the link to OHVA’s Creative Writing Club year end anthology will be posted in the next few days. I’ve had the honor of reading many of the pieces to be published, as well as submitting my own short story. I guarantee, this is something you will not want to miss! And as a last treat tonight… I shall leave you with the geekiest video ever.



Sleepwalker, Awaken!

What a busy couple weeks! Two articles for the Cardinal Chirp, a short story for the OHVA Creative Writing Club year-end Anthology, numerous tests, studying for finals, desperately trying to gather everything I need to finish my application for Post Secondary next semester, a couple dislocated ribs, a Student Council meeting, and final preparations for my Spring Dance this coming weekend have had me spinning like a top!

If truth be told, I should really be scrounging around for a pen and paper right now because I have geometry class in 8 minutes. But, I have a bit of a story to tell, and shall attempt to before my time is up.

Two nights ago, about 3:30am, my little brother stumbled into my room, slamming the door hard enough to wake me up. He then stood there, staring at me in the dark for nearly 2 minutes as I asked him “What are you doing? Why are you in here?” repeatedly. When my words had finally worked their way into his skull, he gave me a stuttering response that was about as far from what I expected as possible.

“I.. I just… I’m sorry I never brought you… I just need to… I.. I need to bring you the clay!” were his jumbled words. He then turned on his heel, walked off, and went back to bed. He was asleep the whole time! I shut my door and went back to bed, unsure how to respond to this strange (and rather funny) encounter. But the next morning, it had me thinking.

In everyday life, it is so easy to live like a sleepwalker. We ignore our surroundings, take for granted the little things. The everyday conversations, the special little moments, the breeze in the trees. We just go about our business, dulling our senses to these “ordinary miracles”. And as a Christian, I find myself sleepwalking in Christ. No moving forward, not soaking in new information, just… there. Lights are on, but nobody’s home.

When opportunities to share my faith come along, how common is it that I ignore them? I stumble around in this world of darkness, with unseeing eyes and unhearing ears. Where is the sense of that? It’s about as jumbled as my brother’s response! We have an awesome God, and if we love him as much as our hobbies or to-do list, why aren’t we speaking just as freely about Him? Why aren’t we sharing our passion with the world?

Now, my time is just about up. But let me leave you with a question, and a song.

How about you? Are you sleepwalking?



Alas, I hath neglected my blog once more!

Unfortunately, this will have to be rather quick. I really don’t have time to post today, but I felt the need to. Because I don’t have the time to write a full post for you today, I’m doing something new. This last year, I have had the privilege of giving speeches in multiple classes. One of them, given in American Literature class, was voice-only on the topic of suffering. I was able to post it to YouTube just today, and thought I would share that with you. (Let it be noted that I did have a cold when I gave this speech, and therefore do not sound quite up-to-par.)

Thanks for listening!