My name is Russell Newquist. I am a software engineer, a martial artist, an author, an editor, a businessman and a blogger. I have a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy and a Master of Science degree in Computer Science, but I'm technically a high school dropout. I also think that everything in this paragraph is pretty close to meaningless. I work for a really great small company in Huntsville, Alabama building really cool software. I'm the owner and head instructor of Madison Martial Arts Academy, which I opened in 2013 less to make money and more because I just really enjoy a good martial arts workout with friends. I'm the editor in chief of Silver Empire and also one of the published authors there. And, of course, there is this blog - and all of its predecessors. There's no particular reason you should trust anything I say any more than any other source. So read it, read other stuff, and think for your damn self - if our society hasn't yet over-educated you to the point that you've forgotten how.
There are no men like me. There is only me.
The first draft of Post Traumatic Stress is complete! There’s already a sample chapter available here.
I am looking for up to ten beta readers to help with the completion of the novel. There are really only two jobs of a beta reader:
That’s it. If part of the book confuses you or bores you, let me know. I’ll have a draft ready for beta readers sometime in late November or early December. After that, I’ll be expecting feedback pretty quickly. If you’re interested in that and would like to get early access to the book, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
FBI Director Jams Comey informed Congress today that the Bureau is reopening its investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private e-mail server.
FBI Director James Comey told his bureau he broke with custom in alerting lawmakers that the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server was being reopened because of its political sensitivity.
In an internal memo obtained by Fox News, the beleaguered director noted that the FBI typically would not communicate with the public when reopening a case, according to a Department of Justice source. But Comey said he had to in this case because Clinton is seeking the White House in an election on Nov. 8.
“Of course we don’t ordinarily tell Congress about ongoing investigations, but here I feel an obligation to do so given that I testified repeatedly in recent months that our investigation was completed,” Comey wrote. I also think it would be misleading to the American people were we not to supplement the record
Comey and his Bureau, of course, have spent the last year going through political hell as they investigated Clinton. He’s catching flak from both sides of the aisle. There is absolutely no reason that he wants to go through this again. Imagine being the poor agent who had to sit down in Comey’s office (just yesterday, according to reports) and convince him to reopen the case. A little empathy informs us the conversation probably went something like this:
Comey: Son, you’d better have something damn good, because there’s no way I’m reopening that case for anything less.
Agent: Well, sir… we have this.
Reopening this investigation ten days before the election is going to be seen as political by every side. And Comey knows Hillary personally. He’ll know perfectly well that her reputation for viciousness and holding a grudge is well earned. If Hillary wins on November 8th and Comey has nothing substantial, he’s toast. He’s not an idiot – he knows this.
Which means there’s no way he reopened this investigation unless he had something real, and something important.
Get some popcorn folks. This election just got real.
On Saturday, November 5th my dojo, Spirit Made Steel Martial Arts, will be hosting its fourth annual Extra Life charity event. Extra Life 2016 will be our biggest Extra Life ever! We’ll be playing games for 24 hours – from 8AM Saturday to 8AM Sunday – and raising money for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. For those of you who don’t know, Children’s Miracle Network pays for life saving treatment for terminally ill children who otherwise couldn’t afford to pay.
That’s right – your donations will literally help save the lives of children.
If you’re in the north Alabama area, please consider coming out to join us. You don’t even have to play all 24 hours – although you’re certainly welcome to! You can drop in for as much or as little gaming as you like. We’ll have board games, card games, tabletop role playing, the official Extra Life at Spirit Made Steel 10′ screen awesome projector of awesome, modern game consoles, PC gaming, classic game consoles, a home brew multi-game arcade system, and the Virtual Reality Corner! Don’t see a game you want to play? Please feel free to bring your own!
Last year we had 55 participants, and eight of us stayed for the entire 24-hour marathon. This year we expect even more people and even more fun. We also have representatives from Steve Jackson Games and Foresight Games on hand, among others. What’s more, I just might have a few free Steam keys for Oxide Games‘ Ashes of the Singularity to give away.
You can help us with the fundraising in three ways.
Old school blogger Steven Den Beste has passed away. I realize that most of my readers will have absolutely no idea who he was – and that’s a tragedy. Steven’s old blog, “U.S.S. Clueless,” wasn’t just his original blog. It was one of the original blogs – and one of the very best. He stopped that blog nearly a decade ago due to health problems and switched to blogging about anime. Yet I still use examples he gave on that blog to explain concepts to others. I vividly remember others, such as the riotous story of how one of his smart-ass Dutch ancestors, when forced to choose a surname, literally chose the Dutch version of, “The Best.”
Steven’s blog was the single biggest inspiration that pushed me into blogging myself. You can either thank or blame him for this blog’s existence, both in this and its previous incarnations. I have seldom bothered to check his blog over the past few years, but every now and then who would turn out another one of his old masterpieces. The were always worth the time.
The world is diminished by his loss.
I first watched Father (now Bishop) Robert Barron’s epic television series Catholicism in 2011, right around the time of my conversion to the Catholic faith. Father Barron took viewers to locations around the world in a high budget masterpiece explaining both the history and the tenants of the Catholic faith. The series was not responsible at all for my conversion – but it did help cement it and nourish it. I have no doubt that this series did convert at least some viewers, however. It’s powerful. And unlike many religious films, the production quality is extremely high. I’ve begun rewatching the series lately, and decided to share my thoughts. Today my focus is on Episode 1, Amazed and Afraid.
The quote I opened with at once displays the profundity of the series and nails the coffin shut on the most popular contemporary view of Jesus. This idea that he was a “good man” and a “great moral teacher” – but nothing beyond that – falls apart completely under examination. In Episode 1 Father Barron thoroughly eviscerates this idea. He reveals Jesus to be a deeply subversive figure – both in the first century and the twenty-first century.
One idea I had in my head in my youth is that Christ himself never claimed divinity. It’s a common modern idea. I didn’t invent it, although I can no longer recall how I acquired this ridiculous notion. It’s also patently false. Father Barron shows us in this episode that Christ claimed his divinity outright on more than one occasion. More than that, however, Christ used his very language to continue this claim. We miss much of this in the modern world because we are deeply ignorant of the Old Testament scriptures. But for the Jews of his day, to whom Jesus taught directly, scripture permeated every aspect of life.
Father Barron shows us how every aspect of the Gospels proclaims Christ as God himself. And then he points what should be obvious. Either Jesus is God himself, among us, as he claims or he’s not a very good man at all. If he’s not God, he’s a blasphemer. If he’s not God, then he’s subverting both temporal and spiritual law. If he’s not God, he’s up to some very serious shenanigans.
What Father Barron doesn’t say, but what also follows, is that if he’s not God, some of the Christian morality that runs through our culture doesn’t make any sense at all. If he’s not God, Jesus is not a good moral teacher. Turn the other cheek? Sure, it works well… in modern, civilized society where people will stop the beatings. It works terribly in first century Roman society where nobody cares about cruelty. It works terribly in parts of the world today that don’t share our morality at all. It works terribly… well, honestly in most of the world for most of history. If Jesus is not God, then his teachings aren’t actually all that good.
The same modern thought that labels Jesus as merely a great teacher loves to sweep the resurrection under the rug. Clearly this was just a metaphor. No, wait – it’s just those pesky, superstitious first century rubes. They’ll believe anything!
But the resurrection is clearly more than a metaphor. As the series notes, nobody would have listened to Saint Peter if he’d run into the forum of Rome shouting, “I want to proclaim a dead man who’s very inspiring!” They listened to Peter because he ran into the forum shouting, “I want to proclaim the good news of Christ Resurrected!”
In one of the less theological parts of the series, yet one I found more interesting, Father Barron goes on to describe the use of Christian imagery to specifically subvert the Roman empire. The cross – the symbol, literally, of Roman terror and dominance – becomes the symbol of its own subversion. But it’s more than that, it’s also in the language. Iesus Kyrios, “Jesus the Lord,” directly co-opts Roman coinage, where the phrase Caesar Kyrios can be found. Evangelion, the Greek word for Gospel, is a direct rip-off of the term used to announce Imperial victories. These are but a few examples. The subversion runs deep.
Finally, Father Barron discusses the longevity of the Church itself. Jesus wasn’t just some cult figurehead. There were plenty of great rabbis, plenty of great moral teachers, even plenty of faith healers wandering around the holy land in the first century. Yet nobody remembers them two thousand years later. Yet something about Christ still inspires people today. I found this part particularly compelling because had been a huge part of my own journey to the faith.
Father Barron gives us a great anecdote about the late Cardinal Francis George, and it seems a fitting place to end my thoughts on Episode 1.
Saint Peter, like ten of the other eleven apostles, was martyred for his faith. Specifically, he was crucified upside down in Rome. Cardinal George had the fortune to stand at the side of Benedict XVI as he was anointed pope in 2005. He is rumored to have thought at that moment, as he looked out over Rome at the ancient palaces of Caeser, “Where is the successor of Caeser?” He answered himself, “Who cares? But the successor of Saint Peter is right there.“
Readers loved “Who’s Afraid of the Dark?” when it was part of Make Death Proud to Take Us. Since we released it standalone, even more praise has come in. Here’s a sample of what the readers have to say.
The anxious anticipation is nearly over! Although Post Traumatic Stress is not, strictly speaking, a Peter Bishop novel, it does actually feature his origin story as the b-plot. The first draft of the novel is now 90% done, and it’s coming together rather quickly at this point. I expect to have the manuscript off to my editor sometime in November. God willing, we’ll have the novel published sometime around the first of the year.
In the meanwhile, the second Peter Bishop story, “Knight of the Changeling”, is already available as part of the anthology Between the Wall and the Fire. We’ll also be releasing it soon as a standalone story. Meanwhile, “Who’s Afraid of the Dark?” is available DRM-free for the bargain price of $0.99 on Amazon.com, or free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers.
Little Johnny isn’t afraid of the dark. Big boys aren’t afraid of the dark – and at five, Little Johnny is a big boy. No, he isn’t afraid of the dark. He’s afraid of the things that come out in the dark, and what they might do to his baby sister. But his parents don’t believe him – so it’s up to Johnny to keep her safe, armed only with his toy sword and shield.
About the Tales of Peter Bishop
Peter Bishop had a simple life. He had friends he liked, a church he loved, and a job that he actually kind of enjoyed. He didn’t want much more. Maybe just a nice girl to settle down with. OK, maybe just one specific girl. And then again, maybe she wasn’t as nice as he thought she was. And maybe she wasn’t all that into him, either.
Yes, Peter Bishop had a simple life. Until a demon attacked his town, his friend Michael joined an ancient band of knights, a dragon kidnapped the girl, and a seventy three year old monk gave Peter the sword of an archangel.
Peter’s life is not so simple anymore.
The Formless are roving the land, unleashing untold havoc. But today, Alis must deal with a bigger problem. It’s Cahan’s birthday, and she’s figured out the perfect gift for him. But it means breaking the rules. The things she does for her friends…
A MIDSUMMER’S PARTY is the second story of the The School of Spells & War series. following the adventures of the sorceress Alis and her companion Cahan the warrior.
The School of Spells & War Tale Two, A MIDSUMMER’S PARTY, is 24 pages, DRM free, and $0.99. If you enjoyed Mrs. Newquist‘s DOWN THE DRAGON HOLE, you will definitely enjoy the second story in The School of Spells & War.
As an added bonus, the first tale of The School of Spells & War, DOWN THE DRAGON HOLE is free on Amazon through Friday for those who have not yet begun this delightful series.
Finally, stay tuned – we have rather a lot of Silver Empire related announcements coming up over the next few weeks.
L. Jagi Lamplighter‘s Rachel Griffin series is a fantastic modern fantasy series for young adult readers. I’ve already reviewed the first two entries here and here. The newest entry, Rachel and the Many-Splendored Dreamland, is available today. As with the second book, I was fortunate enough to receive a free review copy – only this time I was even luckier because I got it in advance!
Like the first two entries, this book is fantastic for the Harry Potter fans in the audience. Mrs. Lamplighter does a wonderful job of capturing the feel of Ms. Rowling’s world without making it feel like it’s just a copy. Roanoke School resembles Hogwarts in feel, but it’s definitely a unique place of its own, and the characters are fresh and interesting, not just retreads of Harry and Friends. Rachel Griffin herself continues to be an excellent and interesting character. Somehow I have now read three books about this thirteen year old girl without once wanting to strangle her. I suppose it is a fantasy book, after all!
For those who haven’t been paying attention, I had this to say about its immediate predecessor:
I do have two complaints about this book, however. First, there is a pretty fair amount of talking rather than doing. It’s engaging talking, and it’s fun. It never gets dull. But at the end of the day it feels like not much actually happens… until all of a sudden there’s a giant confrontation at the end. The first book suffered a bit from “talking rather than doing” syndrome as well, but not to this degree. And that feeds into the second problem, which is closely related. This book is a “middle” book, and it kind of felt like it. It wasn’t anywhere near enough to destroy the book – I still found myself so enthralled that I finished it very quickly. But it is enough that I noticed it.
This book completely fixed both of those issues. Indeed, it went much the opposite direction. The book opens with a bang and it hardly stops to catch its breath. This is definitely the action-packed entry in the series. It’s a wild ride that’s over all too soon and leaves you wanting more.
There is one issue that I will log not so much as a complaint as a note. This book is about a thirteen year old girl, and its target audience is the Young Adult market – specifically, young girls. Parts of the book delve into Rachel’s feelings about relationships in a way that is probably pure crack to that target audience… but it’s not particularly appealing those of us, say, in the “mid 30s and male” demographic. It’s not a bad thing. Teenage girls will eat it up. Me? Not so much. Still, that’s what this book is aimed at, and it fulfilled its goal well.
Even with that, this was easily the best entry in the series to date. Highly recommended for Young Adults, especially girls, who like fantasy books. Highly recommended as well for adults who like fantasy and can enjoy the occasional Young Adult novel. Five out of five stars.
My first collection of superversive science fiction and fantasy short stories is on sale this week. Pick up your copy of Make Death Proud to Take Us for only $0.99 – but hurry, this price is only good for 24 hours! It’s an awesome collection, but don’t take my word for it.
Mr. Niemeier gets points for zen. Astlin handled the Gelatinous Cube with poise and grace, and almost without noticing it.
Mr. Finn, as before, scores for lots of guns and explosions, as well as tying the scenario in to Amanda’s backstory.
As with round 1, round 2 was difficult to judge. In the end, however, this round must go to Mr. Finn – as Amanda was the only character to actually defeat the Gelatinous Cube, rather than ignore it.
Sadly, Mr. Niemeier has had to bow out of future rounds due to scheduling issues. Therefore, we leave this challenge the way we began: in a draw. Except that this draw is really a win for us, the readers, because both authors have provided us with excellent reading material.