Authentic Print Now Available

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This is one of three prints by Shawn Skvarna that will be available this year at the Baltimore Comic Con on September 7th and 8th, but you can purchase a copy now in our Society6 store.

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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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Support Our Comic Monkeys!

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Shawn has updated the Counter Monkey Comics kickstarter page with a look at one of the many great things you can expect from them at the Baltimore Comic Con launch this year. This is a beautiful print that I’ve had as my desktop background on both my PC and my iPhone for a few weeks now. For those who may not be in the know, Counter Monkey Comics is the comic brand that my partner in crime Shawn Skvarna is launching with his childhood friend, and another talented artist, Jesse Arnold. The comic that Shawn and I are doing, Failsafe, will launch under this brand, as will whatever other crazy things we happen to come up with after that. Please take a few moments and check out their Kickstarter page and the goal bundles. There’s a lot of cool stuff there and the campaign only has 5 days left. One of the bundles they’re offering is the Authentic Bundle. In that bundle you’ll get all 5 of our books in paperback and autographed by both myself and Shawn, who did all the cover artwork. I’ll even go one step further, even though it’s not listed on the page, and I’ll personalize the autograph as well for those who choose that bundle. So please, take a few moments and check it out. Any support you could give would be awesome.

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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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Independance Day Sale: All Kindle Editions of Books $0.99!

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From Tuesday 7/02/13 until Monday 7/08/13 all of the Kindle editions of our novels will be just $0.99! Now is the time to pick up any that you might have missed!Just click on the covers or links below to purchase!

1. Down With The Thickness: Viewing The World From a Fat Guy’s Perspective

Genre: Non-Fiction Autobiography

Description: Regardless of body type, there are experiences that we all, as human beings, share and sometimes the key to overcoming the more difficult of those experiences is to look at things from a fresh point of view, with humor, or even to realize that there are other people out there that have been there and survived. I’ve dealt with depression, suicide, and being a morbidly obese guy living in a world about two or three sizes smaller than me. The following book is my perspective and opinions on things like life, relationships, and religion. I don’t profess to have all the answers, I just hope that someone somewhere out there might read this and be touched in some way.

Preview: Sample Chapter

Purchase: Click here for Paperback, Click here for Kindle.

2. You Only Die Twice (An Authentic Clay Colt Adventure#1)

Genre: Urban Sci-Fi/Detective

Description: Clay Colt and his partner Evelyn Wood are private investigators that sometimes have to do less-than-legal things to make ends meet. All that changes the day they see Clay’s dead Kharta’an friend tearing apart downtown Buenos Aries on the news. That dead friend was the son of the Executor of the Kharta’an Empire, the greatest warriors in the galaxy, and to the Kharta’an desecration of the dead is considered an act of war. Someone is using technology to reanimate the dead and Clay, as the the Kharta’an’s chosen agent, has just 48 hours to uncover the truth and find those responsible in order to prevent an intergalactic war where Earth will be ground zero.

Preview: Sample Chapter

Purchase: Click here for Paperback; Click here for Kindle

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3. The Chosen: Rebirthing Part 1 (The Chronicles of Enoch #1)

Genre: Contemporary Fantasy

Description: There has been a war raging between Heaven and Hell for the fate of all creation, and the forces of Heaven are losing ground. The Enemy has discovered something that may tip the balance of the war in their favor, and now it’s up to Jude, the absentee leader of the warrior-priesthood known as the Chosen, and his new trainee Paul, to rally the disjointed forces of Heaven on Earth and find the source of this new threat. If they fail, it will mean that the forces of Hell will be free to run rampant across the Earth, ultimately leading to Armageddon and the end of all things. In the war between Heaven and Hell heroes are not made… they’re Chosen.

Preview: Sample Chapters

Purchase: Click here for a Kindle; Click here for Paperback

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4. The Chosen: Rebirthing Part 2 (The Chronicles of Enoch #2)

Genre: Contemporary Fantasy

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.

Purchase: Click here for Kindle; Click here for Paperback

justsuperfont4. Just Super

Genre: Contemporary Fantasy

Description: There is something very different and very special about Keith Green- he has “super powers.” Keith Green also has only six months to live because those powers are slowly killing him. This is the story that reporter Sam Daylin is hired to chronicle, as Keith spends the last six months of his life trying to use his powers to help people and change the world as the its first “superhero”. However, the more that  his illness begins to affect him, the more erratic Keith begins to act. The world’s first superhero could become the world’s greatest threat, and Sam Daylin may be the only person who is in a position to stop him.

Preview: Sample: Chapter 1, Sample: Chapter 5

Purchase: Click here for Kindle;  Click here for a paperback.

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The Chosen Rebirthing- A Dream Realized & A Promise Fulfilled

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I was going back through my old files and notes the other day and I found notes for Chosen that dates back as far as 2004. I started on the first draft of The Chosen in late 2003 while Mark Ruelius and I were working on what we thought would be our first novel, Reaper (very original, I know). It was supposed to be  a sprawling sci-fi epic that would span multiple novels. We’d spent over a year just on background info, fleshing out the characters, coming up with the various worlds and aliens, and at that point we were about 30,000 words into a rough draft. I had just been through an ordeal with a church I had worked for followed very closely by the church I grew up in splitting, so I was in a pretty unhappy place as far as religion was concerned. I was frustrated, and as I usually do when I’m frustrated, I started writing. I didn’t have a plan or an outline. I just wrote. I kept on writing for three days, not once stopping to actually think about what I was writing or where it was going. All I knew was it was therapeutic for me and I was having fun, so I didn’t really care. At the end of those three days I had something resembling a very rough draft for a story.

I didn’t think Mark would like it. We’d had plenty of conversations about religion. At the time I was a minister so, given how closely we were working together, discussing the topic was inevitable. Mark was not a fan of religion in general due to what he’d described as “bad experiences” growing up. Given that the topic of Chosen was religion, I figured he’d scoff at me and tell me to get back to work on our real project. Imagine my surprise when the next day I got a message from him saying that not only did he love the concept, he thought we should abandon the book we’d spent well over a year working on and focus on writing Chosen instead.

For those first few years Chosen, like the previous project, was planned out and written entirely by way of e-mail and instant messaging. Mark and I had met in an online forum, originally, and through consequent conversations over instant message we’d discovered that we both wanted to be writers. We’d known each other online for a few years before we started writing together, and at the time neither of us has had regular access to a phone where we could talk privately. Yes kids, back in the day not all of us had cell phones with unlimited minutes, a web browser, and a freaking GPS system. After a while it become sort of a challenge to see if we could write a whole novel without having actually met in person or spoken on the phone. We thought it’d make a fun anecdote once the book was finished. It wasn’t until I broke my ankle in 2007 and had to spend two weeks in the hospital that Mark and I finally talked to each other on the phone. Once that dam had been broken we spoke every day for hours, not counting the random texts throughout the day. We’d grown very close, and helped each other through quite a few rough times. We weren’t just business and creative partners anymore; we’d become best friends, and in the last few years of Mark’s all-too-short life, like brothers.

mark3(Mark Ruelius, 2008)

The entire time, through life throwing us curve ball after curve ball, through medical problems, family problems, unemployment, & depression we worked on The Chosen and we kept each other going. “Carry on”, which you’ve seen mentioned in just about all of my novels, became our mantra, taken from the Kansas song Carry On My Wayward Son.  It was a daily reminder to each other that we weren’t alone, that we had each other for support, and that we would get through all the crap that was going on and we’d realize our dream of becoming published authors. The Chosen had become more than just a fun side-project, it became a symbol of hope for us both that our lives could, and would, get better.

Mark didn’t get to see that dream realized. Mark had been battling diabetes since the year we “met.” On January 7th, 2010, he lost that battle.

I was devastated. We had just been discussing us meeting in person for the first time, and coming up with a game plan to make that happen. Instead that trip to see him was under the worst possible circumstances. I took a week off from work and my cousin and I drove up to PA from Memphis, TN to attend his memorial service. It was there that I finally got to meet all the people that I’d heard so much about for over a decade. I got to meet his very sweet older sister, Emily, whom Mark adored. I got to meet Mark’s childhood best friend, Josh, who is just as great a person as Mark always described him. I got to meet “the guys”, the group of friends that Mark regularly geeked out with over comics, nerdy TV series, and movies. One of those guys was Shawn Skvarna, the talented artist who has done the covers for all of my books, and with whom I’m creating a comic, Failsafe. Shawn and I have since become close friends ourselves, in much the same way that Mark and I had all those years ago.

the guys(“The Guys”. From the left: Jeremy, Shawn, Mark, Matt, & Kevin)

Given the nature of our partnership, being as long distance as it was, Mark and I had actually talked about what we’d do if something ever happened to the other before the book was done. We’d promised each other that the surviving writer would finish the book and get it published, whatever it takes. Thankfully, when Mark passed the book itself was pretty much done. Mark had been in the process of doing his editing pass over the final few chapters that I’d worked on, and then we were going to get a friend to edit. It took me about a year after his death before I could even look at the manuscript. When I finally was able to face looking at the project again, my cousin, Cathy Holder, volunteered to edit it for me, with Shawn pitching in by agreeing to design the cover. The Chosen is a long book. Very long. Over 700 pages long, so when it came time to publish it was decided it’d be best to split the book into two parts so that the paperback versions wouldn’t be the size of a Buick and cost about as much. Cathy edited the first half and I published it last October. Now, after a few life issues caused a delay, the second, final part of that story that we started over ten years ago is finally available.

I can’t overstate how important this is to me. I’ve published three other books, not counting the first part of Chosen, but this has been the most important, because this is not just another book for you to read, but it’s a symbol of a dream accomplished and me keeping a promise I made to one of the most important people in my life. It may not become a best seller and skyrocket us to fame and fortune like we’d always hoped/dreamed, but it is a testament to the life we’ve lived and the tenacity we had to keep carrying on, no matter what was thrown at us. It’s a product of something that Mark and I did together. It’s the only completed work that Mark, who really was a brilliant writer, was able to do. It has been a cornerstone for almost my entire adult life.

When my own time comes and I look back on what I hope is a long career as a writer The Chosen: Rebirthing may not be the best book I’ve worked on/will work on, but it will always be the most special, the most important  to me. I sincerely hope that you’ll read it and that you’ll share it with those that may be important to you. I hope that you come to see, as I did, just how talented and special a man Mark was. Most of all, I really hope you enjoy this product of our creative efforts.

chosenebook

To purchase the Kindle version of The Chosen Rebirthing Part 1 please click here. For a paperback copy please click here.

chosenpt2

To purchase a Kindle version of The Chosen Rebirthing Part 2 please click here. For a paperback copy please click here.

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