Category Archives: Rant Alert

Just me ranting about whatever…

Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books That Every Geek Should Read: Updated for 2015!

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I often find myself in need of a good book to read, but sometimes it’s hard to know where to look. Sometimes really great books and series fall through the cracks and you never hear about them; so I thought that I’d make a handy little guide for fellow geeks who are jonesing for something well written and entertaining. There are tons out there, and this list is hardly all-inclusive. These are just some of my very favorites from recent years outside of the obvious like Lord of the Rings, Hitchhiker’s Guide, Wheel of Time, Discworld, or Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire. The following are 10 series or stand alone books that I think every geek should read. The order of the list is not meant to be a ranking, as I love every single one of them for different reasons. Click the link in each of the titles to be taken to where you can find out more info and pick them up.

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1. The Dresden Files Series by Jim Butcher

What’s it about?

Harry Dresden is Chicago’s only professional wizard. It’s true. You can even find him in the yellow pages. This is, by far, my absolute favorite series ever. Whenever a new story comes out it’s like a personal holiday for me, and I don’t stop reading until I’m done. There are 16 books in the series so far, if you include the collection of shorts, Side Jobs. The 17th, Peace Talks, should be out sometime next year. It’s an urban fantasy series that features wizards slinging magic, one of the best takes on vampires I’ve ever seen, and just about every kind of boogidy-boo from any religion or myth you can think of. Harry is a witty, sarcastic badass, and a hell of a lot of fun. The series starts a bit slowly and it takes the first three books to set the foundation of the larger world that the series is built on; but even those first three books are tons of fun, and once you get started you won’t want to stop. As a bonus, the audio books are read by James Marsters (yep, Spike from Buffy/Angel) and he rocks it. Worth checking out.

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 2. The Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne

What’s it about?

The Iron Druid Chronicles is another urban fantasy series that follows Atticus, the world’s only remaining Druid. He’s over 2000 years old and he still looks like he’s in his early 20’s and he manages to piss off vampires, witches, and just about every pantheon of gods there are and kick off Ragnarok in the process. Atticus is another fun character to follow, but it’s his dog, Oberon, who through magic can talk to Atticus, that steals the show. There are currently 7 books published with the 8th hopefully next year. Really fun, quick reads, especially if you need something to tie you over until you can get your next Dresden fix. This series has become a favorite of my wife and her friends after I introduced them to it through the marvelous audio versions read brilliantly by Luke Daniels.

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3. Sandman Slim Series by Richard Kadrey

What’s it about?

Stark is a naturally talented magician who is betrayed by his jealous friend and sent to Hell. While in Hell he becomes the top gladiator in the arena and one of the chief lieutenant demon’s personal assassin. After killing his master and escaping Hell, Stark sets out to avenge the death of the love of his life and take vengeance on those who betrayed him… and that’s just the first book. The series is a gritty fantasy noir tale that’s much darker than the previous two on the list, but just as much fun to read. Kadrey gives us a really fun anti-hero in Stark, and paints a really creative take on Heaven, Hell, God, and the universe. There are currently 6 books in the series with the seventh set to come out at the end of July.

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4. The Joe Pitt Casebooks by Charlie Huston

What’s it about?

Sticking with the gritty noir theme we have the Joe Pitt casebooks by Charlie Huston. Joe Pitt is a rogue vampyre (yes, that’s how it’s spelled) who works jobs for the various vampyre clans of New York just to get by. These books are supernatural noir thrillers and are closer to horror than any of the previous series. As dark as they are, they’re still an excellent and fairly original take on the tired vampire genre and well worth a read. Comic fans may recognize Huston by his work for Marvel Comics, most notably Vol. 5 of Moon Knight. The audiobooks, narrated by Scott Brick, are also excellent.

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5. The Gentleman Bastard Series by Scott Lynch

What’s it about?

The Gentleman Bastards are a gang of elite con artists that pray on the nobility and break the “secret peace” that all of the gangs have with law enforcement of the kingdom of Camorr. The series is High Fantasy for people who are tired of the typical political boredom of the genre. Scott Lynch is a talented writer who injects a ton of humor into his stories, and the books themselves feature characters you love and settings that vary from a fantasy medieval Venice to the high seas. There are currently three books in the series, with more planned. I cannot recommend these enough.

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6. The Myth Adventures Series by Robert Asprin

What’s it about?

The Myth series was my introduction into fantasy as a child and I still love these books. Before Mr. Asprin died a few years ago the series had numbered in the 20’s (he wrote the last few along with another author), but the series itself started in the 1970’s. The books follow magician Skeeve and his friends on their various adventures through the dimensions. It’s a fun fantasy series very similar to Pratchett’s Discworld novels in tone. They’re also quick “popcorn” reads, so perfect if you want an entertaining story that isn’t too long.

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7. The Icarus Hunt by Timothy Zahn

What’s it about?

Zahn is probably best known for his work in Star Wars. The Icarus Hunt is a stand alone sci-fi thriller that follows down-on-his-luck pilot Jordan McKell and his alien partner as they’re hired by a wealthy billionaire to fly the mysterious ship Icarus and it’s cargo to Earth. Jordan and his crew quickly find themselves in over their heads  when they find out that the most powerful aliens in the galaxy are after them and their ship. Nothing, and no one, is what it seems in this book and it has an ending that truly surprised me with it’s twist. Great, great read.

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8. The Dune Chronicles by Frank Herbert

What’s it about?

Dune is probably an obvious no-brainer to a lot of you, but I’m still surprised by just how many people haven’t read the original novels and only know Dune by it’s really weird movie starring Sting. Dune is to sci-fi what Lord of the Rings is to fantasy. It’s a must read. Period. It was also a largely influential book for me personally, and it’s one of the things that really encouraged me to want to be a writer myself. There are tons of Dune books that have been written by Frank Herbert’s son and Kevin J. Anderson. They range from “decent” to outright horrible. The ones that I feel everyone should read are the original 5 by the master himself.

redshirts9. Redshirts by John Scalzi

What’s it about?

As any Star Trek fan knows, it was a running joke that on the Original Series that if a crew member was wearing a red shirt and was not a part of the main crew when the away team beamed down to the planet, they weren’t coming back. Red shirts were the cannon fodder for all the various monsters, out of control robots, and menacing alien threats that the crew encountered every week. This brilliant novel by John Scalzi doesn’t just put the focus on those poor bastards, but asks the question- what happens when they start to put two and two together and realize what’s going on? I don’t want to spoil any of the fun of the concept by giving too much away. Let’s just say that if you’re a fan of Star Trek, Galaxy Quest, or just sci-fi with a comical twist, this book is definitely for you. The audiobook is particularly fun, especially since it’s read by none other than Wil Wheaton.

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10. The Grimnoir Chronicles by Larry Correia

What’s it about?

The Grimnoir novels are set in an alternate-history 1930’s where magic is real and commonplace and turns everyday people (and a lot of famous figures from history) into superhumans. The Amazon quote calls it a cross of Twilight and The Maltese Falcon, and that makes me want to gut punch the guy who wrote it. It’s nothing like Twilight. No. Thing. A better comparison would be a cross between Heroes (the first season before it sucked) and The Maltese Falcon. The idea behind the Grimnoir novels is one of the most original, fun, and exciting ideas I’ve ever seen. I LOVED these books and the entire concept. It’s one of those things where I both love Correia for writing them, and hate him because he came up with the idea before I could. The series is three novels long (with an additional three short stories, two of which are audiobook-only and can be found on Audible) and the author himself just confirmed on Twitter that a new trilogy set in the 1950’s is in the works. Now is your chance to get caught up on the series. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

J.R. Broadwater is the author of the non-fiction book Down with the Thickness: Viewing the World From a Fat Guy’s Perspective, the sci-fi detective novel You Only Die Twice, the fantasy novels The Chosen: Rebirthing Part 1 & 2, and the superhero tale Just Super, all available now in digital and paperback formats. Sample chapters and more information about these books can be found here. Kindle editions are all available for $0.99.

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*Updated* Rant Alert: The Narrow Road- A “Struggling With Faith” Follow Up

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Hello everyone and happy holidays. It’s been a while since I’ve updated the site. I’ve been taking a bit of a break and focusing on some personal stuff here lately. With the new year I’ll be starting fresh and hitting the keyboard hard and I hope to be updating something here on a fairly regular basis again. I decided to break my silence today because I received a message earlier letting me know that someone had left a comment in an article I wrote back in July: Struggling With Faith and Belief. The commenter’s name is Rebecca, and she said that she had stumbled across the article this morning. I’ll go ahead and post her entire comment:

It’s Christmas Day. I found this page after a discussion with my agnostic husband. I was raised in the church. God seemed to “bless” me with an exceptionally analytical mind. I’ve been careening down this path towards unbelief for a few years now, asking those hard questions, trying to let go of the faith safety blanket. He gave us a thinking brain for a reason. I hold onto a thread of belief. This has taken me down dark roads. And many terrible things have happened over the last few years that add to the questions. Thank you for your honesty. My deeply spiritual mother has been the only “Believer” I’ve been able to be honest with about the depths of this struggle. I don’t know where I’d be without her. But even then, I need my own footing for when she’s gone. I hope you’ve found answers.

Rebecca’s comment really hit me where I’ve lived in the past few weeks, as I’ve had this very subject on my mind a lot lately. I’ve found that there are a LOT of people struggling with their faith. Most are afraid to talk about it with friends and loved ones because it’s not an easy subject to discuss. Most believers tend to go on the offensive whenever the subject is brought up, and most people who are struggling with these types of issues really don’t feel like getting into a heated debate where they’re bullied into toeing the line by well-intentioned people doing “God’s work”. It’s hard enough trying to figure this stuff out without feeling like you’re being interrogated or a lawyer fighting a court case. It’s a deeply personal thing. It’s a very difficult thing, especially if your spiritual beliefs have been a cornerstone of your life for a large period of time, as mine have been. My beliefs were more than just my religion, they’ve been my entire life the last fifteen years as I’ve went to school to study theology, psychology, social sciences, etc. in order to be a more effective minister, and as I’ve served in ministry both as a volunteer and full time as a licensed professional.

I’ve struggled with things off and on for a few years now, but it wasn’t until the last year when I started seriously questioning things and examining what I believe and why. I’ve come to terms with some things, as I mentioned in my previous article.  I’ve both seen and experienced far too much to question whether or not there is a higher power/God. I know that there is. Where I still find myself struggling is in the day to day things. The finer things. The technicalities. I’m not sure what I really “identify” myself as anymore. I find that the more I think about what Christians as a whole believe, why they believe, and how they live their lives and express those beliefs (and more to the point, how that affects those around them) I’m not so sure the label “Christian” fits so much anymore, or more to the point, I’m not so sure I like what it’s come to stand for to people. I find I have difficulty in judging my own life and the lives of those around me based solely on the Bible- a collection of books that were found, translated thousands of times in throusands of different ways, and that we can’t prove that is the “infallible Word of God” no matter how much many people may believe that it is. The entire Old Testament is completely suspect, given the historical inaccuracies, contradictions, and the fact that many of the earlier “origin” stories (such as the flood account, for instance) were lifted from other, older cultures.

The New Testament has more going for it in that we at least have a good portion of letters that we can pretty much confirm were actually written by apostles of the first church, namely Paul and Peter, but we also have four Gospels, the only accounts of Christ’s ministry while He was on the Earth, that weren’t written by those who were actually there, but were written close to a century after His death and named after apostles to lend credibility. Two of the four Gospels (Matthew and Luke) actually lift a good portion of their text word for word from a single unidentified source, Q, and the rest from the influence of the book of Mark, among others. John doesn’t even bother to do that. I guess he didn’t have the same cheat sheet they did.  That’s not to mention all the other apocryphal books that have also been found, often written by the same authors as those in the Bible, that didn’t make the cut for various political/spiritual/whatever reasons.

Anyway, it just doesn’t seem to be a very firm foundation to base an entire belief structure on- especially when said belief structure is used to determine how one should live their life and judge others by how they live theirs (even though the very texts themselves say specifically not to judge others, but then they kinda do, and so on. No wonder no one can freaking agree on anything). Personally, I just got tired of being down on myself and feeling guilty for being a normal human being. I got tired of being worried all the time about what everyone else would think of me and how I live my life and feeling like I had to put on this mask and be “perfect” for fear of losing my job. I got tired of seeing people passing down judgements on others, shunning them, shaming them, simply because they’re acting like the people God made them to be (God forbid! Don’t you know you must be like us?! One of us…one of us…). Its exhausting and disheartening and after well over a decade of it I’d just had enough of watching groups of people who profess to exemplify the love of God turning and feeding on each other like piranha.

That’s not to say that all Christians are that way, or even the majority. There are many who really do try to live good lives, that try to help others and be an example. They do very good works for those less fortunate than themselves. They try to live with integrity and compassion. That’s awesome. I also know quite a few non-believers who do the same just because they want to be decent human beings and don’t need God or a book to tell them to do it.

So that’s where I’m at right now. I’m still struggling to find the truth for myself. It’s an ongoing process and it’ll continue to be for the rest of my life, no doubt. I’m always open to a guiding hand or a word from On High, but until then I’m going to focus on living the kind of life that I think would make God proud- doing the best I can for my family and loved ones, treating others with respect and compassion, and always keeping an open mind while seeking the truth, not just jumping on the bandwagon and believing what’s easiest, the most popular, or the most comfortable. As before, I’m writing this not to goad anyone or to start a flame war/debate in the comment section. I’m writing it so that others like Rebecca can know that they aren’t alone and that there’s nothing wrong with using the brain God gave you to figure things out for yourself. It’s okay to doubt. It’s okay to ask questions. If it’s the truth and you are honestly seeking it, then you’ll find it (hey, that’s even Biblical!). Anyone who vehemently tells you any different is just afraid to do the same for themselves for fear of popping their spiritual safety bubble.

Have a safe and happy holiday everyone.

Update: I wanted to clarify something. In my little rant above I didn’t mean to imply that I don’t believe in any of it or that the baby should be thrown out with the bathwater, so to speak. We have evidence that shows Jesus was a real person. We can historically back up events of His life, death, and the early church. We have a pretty good idea about what He taught, and it was all good stuff. The point I was making is the same one I’ve been making for a while-where I’ve really been struggling with my faith is not with God/Jesus, but with the church and the accuracy/authority of the Bible itself and where I belong. I believe that Jesus is who He said He was. I believe that the events depicted in the New Testament, specifically the Gospels, are probably a solid place to start. What I do not believe is that they are word for word accurate, infallible, and should be used like ammunition against other people. I do not think that they give people the moral authority to lord over other people. I absolutely do not believe that Jesus would want His followers to do so in His name, especially to the point of harming others. It goes against the very thing that Jesus exemplified in the Gospels that those same people love to quote to validate themselves. “The Bible says…” is not a valid excuse for hate or intolerance, and if you can’t think for yourself outside of what a book says and check with the inner conscience God gave you to tell whether something is right or wrong then I believe you shouldn’t open your mouth in the first place. I believe that a relationship with God is so much more than what’s on a piece of paper and where you plant your butt once or twice a week. I believe that my beliefs are just that- my beliefs, and that every single one of you reading this right now should examine things for yourself and make up your own mind, worry about your own relationship with God, and mind your own business as opposed to being more concerned with how other people are living theirs. That’s what I believe.

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Rant Alert: Struggling With Faith- Peace

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I’ve made no secret that I’ve been struggling with my faith for the past year or so. I’ve written a few articles on the subject in the past few months, and those articles have spawned quite a few comments and discussions both here and on Facebook, which is good. The whole point of my writing about where I was at and how I was struggling wasn’t to test other people’s faith or to cause anyone to doubt or stumble, but to offer a sense of comfort to others who may be going through similar experiences. All too often spiritual leaders such as pastors, priests, etc. feel the need to internalize a lot of the problems they experience, doubts that they have, or other struggles because they have a responsibility to the people that look to them for guidance and as an example. It’s a tremendous responsibility and it can put a lot of pressure on us. We’re human, just like everyone else. We struggle, just like everyone else. We have doubts, questions, moments of weakness, moments of anger, and moments when we’re just completely burned out- just like everyone else. For a long time I felt like I had to hide those things and put on a happy face because it would look bad professionally and could have a negative impact on others if I didn’t. Then I realized while that may still be true, it’s stupid.

People need to realize that no one is perfect. No one has all the answers. We’re all just trying to do the best we can with what we have to work with. I felt that it would be more beneficial to be honest about my struggles than it would be to pretend everything was peachy. I thought that maybe it might give other people who are struggling a sense of comfort to know that they aren’t alone, that they aren’t “wrong” for feeling like they do, and that it’s okay.

Well, it is. It’s normal. God doesn’t hate you for doubting or asking questions. He doesn’t hate you because you might get angry with Him and feel like life is unfair. He doesn’t hate you if you don’t drink the kool-aid and believe everything you’re told by people who claim to be Christian just because they have the word “church” on the sign in front of their building. It’s okay.

I’ve been completely burned out spiritually, emotionally, and physically. I’ve been lashing out and cutting myself off from everything. I’ve been doubting pretty much everything. Basically, I’ve just been struggling with deep depression and when you’re in that place it’s hard to not feel like your life has been a total waste and therefore you as a productive human being have been a total waste. My whole life for the past 16 years has been directly tied up in my faith. It’s who I was. It’s how I identified myself and found a sense of self-worth. When everything came crashing down for the third time in the last decade or so, I just imploded. It was a slow process, like watching an explosion disintegrate everything in it’s path in slow motion, but it eventually was complete and I was left feeling empty.

You know the old saying that doctors make the worst patients? Well, that works for pastors as well. Whenever someone would try to comfort me or offer me advice it just would make me more upset. It fed into that frustration I was feeling. This was something that was incredibly personal and that I had to work out for myself. It was between me and God and our personal relationship. Again, I’m not saying everything is peachy. I still have doubts and questions. That hasn’t changed. I can say, however, that I finally feel like I’ve reached a place of peace, spiritually. Me and God are cool again, and for me that’s more important than any of the other stuff. Let’s face it, we’re never going to have all the answers. There are questions that we just won’t know the answer to until we pass on from this life. At that point we’ll either move on to whatever comes next and we’ll find out how right or wrong we were about things, or we’ll just cease to exist all together and it won’t really matter anyway. Either way, we still have a life to live in the meantime.

J.R. Broadwater is the author of the non-fiction book Down with the Thickness: Viewing the World From a Fat Guy’s Perspective, the sci-fi detective novel You Only Die Twice, the fantasy novel The Chosen: Rebirthing Part 1 & 2, and the superhero tale Just Super, all available now in digital and paperback formats. Sample chapters and more information about these books can be found here. Kindle editions are all available for $0.99.

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Rant Alert: Superman/Batman Movie

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So SDCC is over for another year and there was a lot of great stuff announced that has me really excited: Amazing Spider-Man 2 is looking great, Black Canary will be in season two of Arrow, all of Marvel’s movie stuff- Cap 2, Guardians of the Galaxy, Age of Ultron. It was a great weekend. By far, however, for me the biggest announcement was that Man of Steel 2 will actually be Superman/Batman (I’m betting they’ll title it World’s Finest before it’s over).

Yep, that happened. Now I’m going to tell you why I think it’s a brilliant move on their part. It’s not quite how Marvel did it. Marvel built their world up by giving the major players all their own solo movies and then bringing them together for Avengers, and I still think that’s the best way to do it. However, in this case I think doing a Superman/Batman movie first is the right way to go.

First, we don’t need another Batman origin movie. Everyone knows that story. Everyone is familiar with who Batman is. No matter what interpretation of the character you look at, be it the comics, the Bruce Timm animated series (or any of the other 3-4 since), or the Burton or Nolan films that is the one consistent thing- Bruce was a rich kid who watched his parents get gunned down in front of him and he dedicates his life and fortune to making sure that doesn’t happen to anyone else. By introducing Batman in a Superman film it allows them to do a few things that we haven’t really seen before in a Batman movie- Batman as the criminals see him, the urban legend. If the movie, at least the first half, is from Clark’s perspective then we get to be introduced to this version of Batman in the same way that Clark is, and I think that’s a pretty cool way to do it.

Second, if a Justice League movie is going to work, it’s going to have to be built on a foundation and that foundation is Superman and Batman (and Wonder Woman). If you can’t get a Supes/Bats film to work, then Justice League isn’t going to happen. If it does work, then they could do a “Trinity” movie as a follow up to introduce Wonder Woman, and from there do a Justice League. I don’t know if that’s how they’re planning it, I’m just throwing it out there.

Third, it allows them to establish/address a few things that need to be addressed. This version of Batman needs to be the worlds greatest detective. He needs to be the guy that has a plan for everything, and then a back up plan if that plan doesn’t work, and then a backup for the backup. That’s who the Justice League Batman is and it’s the reason why he works as a “normal” man surrounded by a bunch of gods. He’s the smartest guy in the room. He’s the tactician. He’s the guy that found out a way to neutralize not just Superman, but every single member of the Justice League “just in case”. It’s the reason why the Nolan/Bale version of Batman just wouldn’t work. I love those films and I loved Bale as Batman, but that version of the character just wasn’t “that guy”.  Also, they’ve already said they’re going to address *spoilers, but if you haven’t seen the movie by now and you’re reading this you probably already know because it’s been harped on so much all over the internet for a month* Superman killing Zod. Who better than to throw that in Superman’s face than Batman? Superman comes down on him about how he operates, how he uses fear and intimidation, and Batman responds with “But I don’t kill.” That needs to happen.

The version of Batman that they really should be looking to for inspiration is the Bruce Timm version of the character from Batman: The Animated Series, Batman Beyond, Justice League, and Justice League Unlimited. For me, that is the very best interpretation of the character from any medium, comics included. That is Batman, and he works solo and as a part of the Justice League. In fact, if I could get everyone involved for this movie and the future ones to just sit down in a room I’d force them to watch Batman/Superman: World’s Finest and the entire Justice League/JLU series and then simply say: “Do that.” Seriously, Timm, Dini, McDuffy, etc. already did all the heavy lifting. They’ve already adapted the comics into a damn near perfect interpretation of the characters that works for all ages. JLU in  particular struck the perfect balance between light/dark, kid-friendly and mature storytelling. If DC really wants to have a franchise that can stand toe to toe with what Marvel has been doing they need to use what Timm  and company did on those animated series as their guiding star. Of course this is jut my opinion. Feel free to share what you think in the comments below.

J.R. Broadwater is the author of the non-fiction book Down with the Thickness: Viewing the World From a Fat Guy’s Perspective, the sci-fi detective novel You Only Die Twice, the fantasy novel The Chosen: Rebirthing Part 1 & 2, and the superhero tale Just Super, all available now in digital and paperback formats. Sample chapters and more information about these books can be found here. Kindle editions are all available for $0.99.

 

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All Kindle Editions $0.99!

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We’ve decided to keep our sale prices as the permanent prices for the Kindle Editions for all our books, so from now on all Kindle e-books will be $0.99. We’re hoping this helps encourage people to pick them up and spread the word. The paperback prices will remain the same simply because of the cost of production- they’re already about as cheap as I can make them. If you’d like to visit our book page where you can find descriptions and samples of all our novels click here or on the picture of the book covers just above.

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Rant Alert: Struggling With Faith and Belief

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The last six months have been very interesting for me, in a slightly scary and life-changing sort of way. I’ve been asking myself a lot of questions that, over the course of the last 16 years, I’ve not really allowed myself to seriously entertain. They’ve been questions about my faith and what I truly believe.

I’ve been a professed Christian since I was sixteen years old, participated in ministry of some form from that very first moment, spent over three years of college with a focus on theology, and have been a licensed pastor for the past seven years. I am, by nature, a very analytical person, so these questions of faith and belief are not new questions that I’ve never thought of before. However, when you’ve spent a great deal of time in the church, it doesn’t matter what denomination, the collective belief of those around you and the information you’re indoctrinated with tends to drown out a lot of these questions with faith-based responses. It doesn’t wipe the questions away, it just makes it a bit easier to write them off or push them into the background. I know because I found myself doing the very same thing when these questions were asked of me:

Q: “If God wants everyone to believe in Him, then why doesn’t He just do ___?”
A: “Well, He wants us to have free will and for us to freely choose Him so He doesn’t want to have to convince us by doing ___.”
or “Because God already gave us evidence of Him, now He wants us to have faith.”
or “Because He’s God, and there’s some things we just don’t understand. We just have to trust Him and know that He’s in control and everything works out according to His will.”
or any number of other canned responses. The question doesn’t really matter, as some combination of the above tends to do a fun little “these aren’t the droids you’re looking for” faith-based jedi mind trick where you shrug and walk away not thinking too much about it because He’s God and you want to be a good Christian and not doubt Him. It’s about having faith, right?

This isn’t the first crisis of faith I’ve ever struggled with. I’ve had a lot of rough times in the last decade or so, and whenever things get rough it’s natural to question. It’s natural to look up and ask “Why? Why is this happening? Why aren’t you fixing it?” But there was always certain lines I wouldn’t allow myself to cross in my head because it was too scary. It was scary because no matter how bad things were getting my faith acted as a security blanket. I always had some hope that things were going to be okay, that God was there and He wouldn’t let things get too bad to the point where I couldn’t handle it. If I started picking away at that foundation I was afraid I just wouldn’t be able to handle what I found- either that I’d been wrong about everything, or that God would be disappointed in me because my faith was weak and I doubted Him. It was easier to just ignore the doubts and convince myself that I wasn’t ignoring the doubts, I just had faith. I wasn’t ignoring the fact that God wasn’t answering, I had faith. Then when something good would happen I’d praise God and give glory to Him and proclaim my prayers answered and hallelujah!

Not this time.

This time I crossed that line I’d never let myself cross. I started asking all those hard questions and wouldn’t allow myself to faith mind-trick them away. I started asking God these questions directly, waiting for a response. Any kind of response. I started going back and thinking about all the stuff I learned during my time studying theology and since, asking those questions I had then and not allowing myself to cop out with flimsy excuses. I started to pull a Descartes and tear down everything I believed, and I’m in the process of rebuilding those beliefs. Only this time I don’t want to “faith away” answers to questions, especially the difficult ones, because there’s just a lot of things that don’t add up for me. Here’s a few examples:

Q: If God wants the world to believe in Him, that He still exists, why doesn’t He continue to move in outright power that no one could deny? He expects us to just blindly believe in the testimony of people who lived thousands of years ago based on fragmented documents we happened to find?

Q: By that same token, why allow His missionaries to be martyred? Wouldn’t protecting those people in a supernatural way go further to show that God is real and he loves and protects His followers? Wouldn’t that be a much stronger witness for God?
Q: Why doesn’t God actively work to dispel all the in-fighting between groups that all claim to believe in him? Specifically extremist Islam, Judaism and Christianity? If we’re using the Bible as a basis of belief, God was pretty adament about people believing in Him, only Him, and went to great lengths to show who He supported. So why not move in a more outright and powerful way even among His own people? Why allow all the fighting, death, and misery- all in His name? Free will, blah blah blah. Well, God wasn’t concerned with free will when He hardened Pharaoh’s heart & unleashed the plagues on Egypt because Pharaoh wouldn’t let the Isrealites go, all according to the Bible. Jesus didn’t have a problem performing miracles to back up His claims. The early church did that kind of thing too. Why not so outright anymore when, because of technology, almost the entire world would be able to see?

Q: Many denominations and believers accept the entire Bible as TRUTH, some even to the point of saying that every single word is God-breathed and inspired and to question it is a sin. But what about the inconsistencies? (Did David kill Goliath or did his servant? Both accounts are in different books of the Old Testament- 1st Kings and Chronicles- for example.) What about the historical inaccuracies, especially when looking at the Old Testament. For example- the story of Jericho. The Israelites march around the wall of Jericho and when they shout the wall falls, right? Well, archeology doesn’t match up with that account. In fact there’s more proof that the fall of Jericho had to do with a class uprising, and that Israelites were already in Jericho as lower-class citizens and were a part of that uprising. That’s just one small example. In fact, how the Bible came to be the Bible we now know is a huge area of concern for me and always has been. We place all our faith into a book that was patched together by various fragments of books that we’ve found, and then it was voted on by multiple councils, all with different agendas- yet we’re supposed to just take it on faith that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God and we’re not to question it at all?

To use the popular phrase: seems legit.

I want to be clear, I don’t blame God or Christianity or the church for my problems and doubts. I’m not on a crusade to prove that God isn’t real and the church is crap, but I don’t want to continue to blindly believe things just because that’s what the majority believes or because it’s how I’ve been taught. I don’t want to be willfully ignorant.  I don’t want to be afraid of what people will think of me because I’m asking these questions. I think it’s especially important in times like the ones we’re currently living through, where entire groups of people are being hurt, physically, emotionally, and mentally, because of who they are- often in the name of religion. I don’t care what the Bible says, if Jesus was who He said He was, I don’t see Him ever condoning the way that a lot of professed believers have been treating homosexuals, for example. It’s detestable and not at all the example that Jesus set in the Bible that they profess to believe in with all their heart. We’re supposed to act out of love, not hate; and there’s nothing loving about the attitude and actions I’ve been seeing from the self-professed men and women of God.

Anyway, that’s where I’m at, and I wrote this because I know there are a lot of other people out there struggling with the same thing. You may have questions you’ve always been scared to seriously ask. You may have doubts that you’re afraid to examine. I’m here to tell you that I’ve been doing those things and I’m still alive. I haven’t been struck down by lightning. I haven’t had God show up and tell me how displeased He is with me. It’s okay. I honestly believe God gave us our brain and our ability to reason because He wants us to use it, not just blindly follow like sheep.

If God is who He says He is, then He’ll understand.

J.R. Broadwater is the author of the non-fiction book Down with the Thickness: Viewing the World From a Fat Guy’s Perspective, the sci-fi detective novel You Only Die Twice, the fantasy novel The Chosen: Rebirthing Part 1 & 2, and the superhero tale Just Super, all available now in digital and paperback formats. Sample chapters and more information about these books can be found here. Kindle editions on sale for a limited time for $0.99 as a part of the Independence Day Sale! Be sure to take advantage!

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Rant Alert: Marvel Heroes- One Month Later

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Well, it’s been a month since Marvel Heroes launched and I thought I’d give an update on the game and how I think it’s doing. I’ve beta tested for several fairly big MMO’s in the past (DC Universe Online & Champions Online to name two) and I have to say that Gazillion has been surprisingly awesome with the fans, more so than any other game company I’ve seen.. Not only are they very interactive on the forums, with the constant patches that have been rolling out and changes that have been made they are obviously listening to the feedback fans have been giving and been trying to improve things as best as they can. The game still isn’t perfect, but it’s a blast to play and it seems it’ll only keep getting better as we go.

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They’re having their first sale on heroes in honor of the holiday today, and the sale runs through July 8th. In honor of Canada Day and Independence Day both Captain America and Wolverine are half-off with the price of 600Gs ($6), and the three most expensive heroes (Spider-Man, Iron Man, and Deadpool) have been reduced by $5. All other heroes have received a slight decrease in price as well, as has many of the costumes.  The pricing on heroes and costumes has been one of the biggest points of contention among fans and the rumor is that the prices seen during this sale, with the exception of Captain America and Wolverine, will end up being the new permanent prices on the 8th after the sale has ended.

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In response to fan complaints the drop rates on heroes and costumes have been upped and many of the characters have been significantly buffed- especially Iron Man and Spidey. I play tested Spider-Man during beta and wasn’t too impressed by him. I unlocked him in-game the other night after the latest patch buffed a majority of his powers and I have to say he’s been a blast to play with. His moves are fast and his animations really sell the feeling that you’re Spider-Man.

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I’ve been trying out Captain America the past few days as well, and with the sale price at 600gs he’s a steal. They’ve really nailed the feel of his fighting style, and with defensive abilities like Quick Block Cap is one of the better tanks in the game at the moment. Ms. Marvel (now Captain Marvel in the comics) has been a lot of fun as well and is a good hybrid melee/ranged character, though her melee powers are the most effective. By far my favorite character has been Deadpool. I’ve lost count of how many times his random comments have made me laugh out loud. Nolan North is Deadpool, and I never get tired of playing with him. His play-style is a ton of fun (do yourself a favor and focus on all the gun abilities).

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The biggest surprise for me is that the starter heroes that everyone gets 3 for free (one you choose at the beginning, the second is a reward after the prologue, and the third is a reward drop after defeating Dr. Doom) are actually some of the best characters in the game at present. While they might not be the most well-known, they’re all extremely powerful in their own right, and many players who have most or all of the characters available unlocked still find themselves playing as one of the freebies. Thing is hand-down the best tank in the game; Hawkeye does amazing single-target DPS and is a “boss killer” in endgame; Black Widow has become the sleeper favorite for many players, as her melee build combined with grenades/micro drones makes her an unstoppable force in endgame; Storm and Scarlet Witch have extremely powerful AOEs, and Daredevil, when skilled right, is a great melee character.

If you haven’t checked out Marvel Heroes now is a great time to give it a try. It’s completely free to download & play, and with the sale currently going on if you do decide to pick up a few heroes and costumes you’ll get the most bang for your buck.

J.R. Broadwater is the author of the non-fiction book Down with the Thickness: Viewing the World From a Fat Guy’s Perspective, the sci-fi detective novel You Only Die Twice, the fantasy novel The Chosen: Rebirthing Part 1 & 2, and the superhero tale Just Super, all available now in digital and paperback formats. Sample chapters and more information about these books can be found here. Kindle editions on sale for a limited time for $0.99 as a part of the Independence Day Sale! Be sure to take advantage!

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We Need Your Support!

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The first Counter Monkey Kickstarter didn’t make goal so our own Shawn Skvarna and Jessie Arnold are taking another shot with a more modest goal. Please check out the link and consider showing them a little Kickstarter love. The bundles they’ve included as pledge rewards are pretty cool. Also, just wanted to remind all you fine folks that our Independence Day Sale is still going strong. Kindle editions of all our books are just $0.99, so be sure to take advantage! You can get a full list of the books we have available, descriptions, links to samples, and links to where you can purchase them here. We’d also appreciate it if you’d help spread the word about both events, as we could really use your support. Word of mouth is pretty much everything when it comes to independent publishing, and we really appreciate anything you can do/have done! Happy 4th of July!

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Tomorrow…

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The Chosen betrayed…

There is a traitor in the ranks, and unless Jude, leader of the Chosen, can find and stop them, they could tear the already-fractured forces of Heaven apart from the inside. Meanwhile, Paul has accepted Jude’s training but he quickly comes to question whether he’ll survive it. His concern is only magnified by Mary’s prophetic dreams, which are growing more intense and seem to focus on Paul, but could they hold the key to stopping the cultists? Armageddon is at hand, and if Jude and Paul don’t learn to work together and stop the cultist rituals from taking place it could mean the end for us all. In the war between Heaven and Hell heroes are not made…they’re Chosen.

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No Moving On This Week

Hey guys. There won’t be a chapter of Moving On this Saturday. I’ve got another project that I’m trying to finish up that I’ll hopefully have available next week. It’s a big deal for me. I’ll have more info when I’m sure of the time frame.

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