Thoughts on Mind-Reading

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It was oddly difficult to title this post, because I know what I want to say, I just don’t know how to sum it all up in a one-liner. Here goes:

I have a theory about the impact of social media on our interactions with each other: Twitter and Facebook are the closest thing we have to actual telepathy, where we get raw, brutal insights into the minds of those around us, oftentimes whether we want to or not.

To illustrate the net result of this, I give you an anime parable from the Japanese cartoon Kino’s JourneyKino is a young girl who rides around on a talking motorcycle called Hermes, going from fictional country to fictional country, never spending more than three days in the same spot.

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Each episode of the cartoon (available on Amazon) had a fairy tale quality to it, and Kino learned lessons from the various places she traveled. I found it quite touching and insightful, as any good fairy tale would be.

The pilot episode has hung with me for a few years. Kino arrives in a country where everybody is in hiding and nobody leaves their homes to talk to each other. She visits a man in his home and learns that everyone in town drank a potion that would give them telepathy. The idea was that if everyone understood each other’s thoughts, it would create harmony.

Instead, it drove everyone apart, and nobody could stand each other. Even the man and his wife split up, despite loving each other deeply before the potion. He was a musician and she was a florist, but neither of them could stand each other’s trade by the time the telepathy had taken full effect.

Now everyone lived so far apart that they wouldn’t have to hear each other’s thoughts. As tragic as that was, Kino noticed when she left the man’s house that he had maintained the flowers out front, the flowers planted by his wife.

Down the road, Kino passed another house occupied by the wife, and she heard classical music coming from inside.

The takeaway for me was this:

  • There’s a reason our innermost thoughts are known only to us and God. Part of the human experience is to decide what to say, what to think, and what to keep to ourselves, especially in consideration of others. This burden is heavier than we think, and we ignore it at our own peril.
  • People leave their mark on us in one way or another, especially the ones we love the most. Those closest to us can push our buttons in ways that others can’t, but we take people as the sum of their parts.
  • Love (specifically) and society (broadly) is about living together in spite of the things we might not like about each other, because we value the things we do like about each other.

I’m writing about this tonight after an experience I had yesterday, where somebody shared an opinion on Twitter that grated hard against my values. (Shocking, right.) This person was also an artist, working in a different medium than I do, but I am a fan of their work.

I’m sure they felt very passionately about what they said. They might have even been coming from a genuinely good place. My instinct was to assume otherwise, to the point of feeling like they were directly attacking my belief system, and by extension, me.

When I sat down to update my journal for the evening, I chastised myself for thinking that way, and recalled Kino’s journey to the country of nationalized telepaths.

This wasn’t the first time I had had such an interaction with a fellow artist. I myself am on the “conservatarian” side of the spectrum, while a lot of other artists fall on the left side of the grid.

What good would I be doing them if I got so angry at their Tweets or blog posts that I cut them out of my life? Not just stopped following them on social media, but tossed out their books or albums or movies?

I used to follow a bunch of authors and artists whose work I loved (and still do.) But most of them, at one point or another, spouted off ideas that I found philosophically wrong or politically ignorant. Often in today’s climate you’ll see people attach their dislike of an artist’s work to a dislike of the artist’s values, whether or not those values are reflected in that work.

And I think back to Kino. I think back to a nation full of people living so far apart from one another that they have no interpersonal connections, no communication, because they can’t stand each other…and yet they miss each other.

People will spout off on the Internet with things that they would mostly never say in real life to a random stranger. (There are exceptions, we’ve all met one.) I don’t blame Twitter or Tumblr or anything for this; a person’s words are the property of that person. They alone are answerable for it.

I’ve had to unfriend very few people for espousing really, really offensive beliefs (including cutting out a couple of friends in 2016 who I found out were…pretty proud racists, actually.)

Other times, if I run into a fellow artist who starts spitting political fire all over their platform, my policy is just to mute or unfollow (if it’s bad enough), and continue to enjoy their work. I don’t have to be a florist to enjoy flowers, or a composer to enjoy music.

What I’m trying to say with all of this is that social media connects us to each other in ways never before seen in human history. Maybe the rampant, staggering division is an unforeseen consequence (I doubt it) but we can still choose to be better. To be kinder. To listen to each other. And to share the best things about us with each other, patiently, and considerately.

I hope all of this made sense. Online, you’re pretty close to reading someone’s mind. Remember that everyone is imperfect, like you, and that before we completely cut anyone out, let’s remember the good parts about them in the first place.

That’s all for now. Get back to work.

Pacific Rim Uprising was really cool.

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Pacific Rim was a borderline cult-hit from 2013 that somehow lost its opening weekend to a Dreamworks Minion movie, and an Adam Sandler sequel. That kind of sucks, because it was better than its trailers led people to believe.

First off, I get it: you see a movie trailer about giant monsters and giant robots, and you think “Well, the last Godzilla movie sucked, and the Transformers flicks have never had a story, so why bother?”

Well, Guillermo del Toro is not a “low-hanging fruit” kind of director. Pacific Rim had a story, an interesting world, and a fun cast of characters. Del Toro had a 400-page manual of worldbuilding that he had put together to answer practical considerations about a monster apocalypse. Trade routes across the Pacific would be interrupted, there would be food shortages, etc.

(Granted, he didn’t see the problem with *waiting* to put swords on the Jaegers, but I digress…)

Either way, whether it’s a giant robot movie or a giant monster movie, the plot is smart, the characters are memorable, and the “Cancelling the apocalypse” line was an instant classic.

After  being stuck in development hell for a few years, they finally got a sequel off the ground. Again, people were apprehensive. “It just looks like a smasher.” Well, after seeing DC’s poor excuse for a superhero franchise–and in fairness, the fact that Marvel tends to level cities in its movies–there might be fatigue on this subject.

But again, there was a smart plot with a natural development from the first one, focusing on John Boyega’s character, Jake Pentecost.

It’s a story about freedom, survival, unity, and grit. Some characters came back from the first one, and they all progressed and had good arcs with natural motivation. There’s a plot twist halfway through where you realize the villain is not who you thought, and the final obstacle is not what you expected.

And also there are giant robots smashing monsters with some pretty impractical weapons. (Titan Redeemer’s “Ball of Death,” for example.)

If I have any knocks on it, there are as follows:

–The cast seemed kind of bloated at times, especially once you get to the cadets at the Shatterdome. The only  name I remember is “Vik” for the Russian girl. Beyond that they were pretty much Russian Boy, Indian Boy, Chinese Boy, etc. Their names did appear on screen at different times, but not long enough for them to sink in.

–Jules Reyes, the apparent mutual love interest between Pentecost and his Jaeger co-pilot, is just…kind of…there. Without spoiling anything, I think she should have been the one to pilot Scrapper, instead of the pilot that ended up doing it. Minor tweak that would have given her character more relevance.

But that’s really it. I am glad I spent the extra bucks to see it in 3D, that gave it some depth (heh) and made the world more immersive. I’m taking the wife again soon.

Go see it. It’s a fun ride.

Send Graham to Writing Camp!

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Well okay it’s more a of a retreat than a camp, but there will be real hiking and stuff. But the important part is, there will be writing, and coaching and stuff, with a legit editrix who I really want to work with.

Here’s the skinny: we were able to pay for my dog’s leg surgery, but it’s left just about no wiggle room in the budget for a while. This retreat is one of the reasons I moved up to Utah, to improve my writing and my career, so it’s really important to me that I get in.

SO. I’m open to commissioned artwork. These make great customized gifts (see the gallery below.) The larger pieces are 18″ x 24″. I can do them for $75 apiece, and I’ll include shipping in that. Please note that for this promotion, $75 will also get you an illustrated background, not just a foreground. 

I also have copies of the Engines of Liberty books on hand, as well as about 18 copies of THE HERO NEXT DOOR, with a blank sheet in the cover for a custom drawing. Contact me for prices on those. Many a reluctant teen reader has jumped into these books for hours of fun.

My email address is grahampbradley [at] gmail (dot com.)

Talk to you soon!

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My sister requested a female Star-Lord for her friend’s birthday.

 

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Another gift for a friend, with her two oldest kids as Winter Soldier and Captain America.
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Illustrations from “KILL THE BEAST”
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More illustrations from “KILL THE BEAST.” My friend Danielle was the female model.
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Commission for my friend, with her oldest as Batman.
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Same friend as the Batman drawing, this is her youngest.
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Commission for my friend Case, a drill operator on the blast crew.

Grind O’Clock

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Six years ago, I got into the best shape of my adult life, thanks mostly to my friend Braden (left, with Mjolnir.) He told me to train for a Tough Mudder, so with 7 or 8 months to go, I signed up and hit the cardio.

Between exercise and calorie counting, I dropped thirty pounds and had a great time running with Braden and my other friend, Aprilynne. We went with an Avengers theme, since it was 2012, and I thought the shield would come in handy on the electric cable obstacles.

It ended up being a nuisance more than anything, but it got the job done.

 

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Six months later I did a Spartan Race with a different group. I liked it a lot more than the Tough Mudder, because the obstacles were spaced out better, and were more geared toward upper body strength, which I had. I managed to stay around 190 pounds for this run, as well as the Mudder before it.

 

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Two years after my first run, I did a third, this time with my wife. Between life as a trucker and life as a parent, I had gained some of the weight back, and ran this one at about 205. It was also at a higher elevation, double what I was used to, so it didn’t go as smoothly for me, but we had fun.

Then this one happened. October 2015.

 

 

Aprilynne invited me back for a third Mudder, my fourth overall mud run, and I had not had the time to get in shape for it. Our second kid had just come along (and Schaara had been sick for most of that pregnancy) and I was working a new job with longer hours. I ran this one at about 215 pounds, and wanted to die after 3 miles. (The whole course was 11-12.)

At one point I even looked to my wife, who was there as a spectator, and said “Don’t let me run one of these ever again.”

About that. I’m signed up for another Spartan, later this year.

Having been stuck at 230 pounds for about six months, I’ve decided to get back in the game. Changing my diet again, counting calories again (though with some modifications…the first time, I was 27 working a desk job. Now I’m 33 working a field job. Different animals.)

I’m going to do this. I have five months to get back into shape and the clock is ticking. I’m only a third of the way through my life, I really don’t want to be an out-of-shape suck for the rest of it.

Here we go. It’s Grind O’Clock.

Mother Knows Best (How To Get You In Trouble)

Once, when I was 18, my mom insisted that I wear a sweater to a girl’s house. The sweater had a bad double-entendre on it.

Story time:

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In 2002, my older brother went to serve an LDS mission to Italy. He left his ’92 Honda Nighthawk 250 at our house. Our vehicular situation required me to learn how to ride, and I quickly fell in love with motorcycles.

My parents, being the safety ninnies that they were, wanted me to “be careful” on the bike, whatever that meant…well anyway, in those days I usually spent Saturday nights hanging out with my friend Rachael, who lived on the edge of town.

As I was gearing up to ride the bike out to her neighborhood, my parents complained that I was wearing dark clothing (cargo nylons, a hoodie, a backpack) and would not be immediately visible to motorists on the dark roads in Henderson.

I informed them that I wasn’t wearing dark clothing, but rather really cool-looking clothing which enhanced my aesthetic appeal, a key factor when I was going to Rachael’s house, because I liked to hit on her sister.

There was some back-and-forth, but my parents insisted that I wear a light-colored sweater for the ride. I didn’t have one. Dad dug one out of his drawer, a sun-worn old white sweatshirt that was older than I was. It had a logo on it. And a slogan. I read the slogan.

And I quickly realized something.

Flashback time: my parents owned a print shop when I was a baby. It was called “Graphic Insanity.” My dad probably thought it was cool and edgy to put a slogan on the sweater that…had more than one meaning. I remembered seeing the sweater when I was five or six, before I had the frame of reference to understand.

Flash forward to 2002, when I was 18, after spending my formative years in the Las Vegas valley, and suddenly I understood what “printers do it without wrinkling the sheets” meant.

In my own constructive way, I indicated to my mom that this was a problem. There may have been a subtle charge of hypocrisy leveled against her and my dad (e.g., “you filthy hypocrites”) when I put it all together. Nevertheless, they again insisted on the sweatshirt. For visibility, or whatever. Never mind that the motorcycle had, like, LIGHTS  on it, and stuff.

At this point it’s worth mentioning that Rachael’s dad was a CSI agent, so my very conservative, very Mormon parents were basically ordering me to put on a shirt with a sex joke before riding a motorcycle to the house of a girl with a cop father.

Understandably, I put my original hoodie in my backpack, donned the dirty sex sweater, rode the motorcycle down the road, changed into the original hoodie, and went to Rachael’s house for the evening as planned.

It simply occurred to me that there were better ways to die, thus, I acted accordingly.

Besides, I had already used up my extra grace capital with Rachael’s dad earlier that year, when I knocked on his door at 1AM because my truck had died while I was trying to drop an old car in the desert near his house, and I needed to use his phone.

But that’s a story for another day.

5 Great Moments from LTUE

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Sweet death, I’m getting chubby.

Hi gang. I just wrapped up my 4th consecutive LTUE symposium as a panelist, and my first as an outright presenter. It’s the writing-related event that I look forward to most every year, and I’m lucky to have been a part of it this way.

This is one of the many advantages of me being a hybrid author-illustrator. If I was just there as a writer, they wouldn’t have me on hardly any panels, because this area is overflowing with writers. Artists are farther in between.

Anyway, in no particular order, here are 5 great memories I made this year:

1It was my first time teaching a class on my own. The “How Do I Wreck This?” class was well-attended, for being at 9AM on a Friday. I think I had 8 or 9 people show up, and though I ended up rushing a little at the end, it was a success. I will eventually put that content up here on the website.

2) I got to moderate a panel, too. The subject was on how to make your art style unique, and there were great artists there who contributed. Devin Dorrity brought a bronze werewolf sculpture that he made, Greg Newbold is a full-time illustrator, Jessica Douglas is a painter who incorporates stones and stuff into her work, and Bobbie Berendsen W is renowned for her steampunk art. Such a wealth of experience in that group, and it was really cool to bounce questions off of them and hear their perspectives.

3) I met up with a bunch of people from a Supernatural FB fan group. My friend Lisa added me to a group, since I started watching Supernatural last month. It’s totally a chick show, but for being a CW program, there’s a great depth of story, character, and humor to it. Plus the social element of fandom is just cool to have. A bunch of us hung out at lunchtime on Friday.

4) I broke my single-conference record for books sold. Which, yanno, isn’t saying a whole ton, because the record was 7, but this year I sold 10 books, 8 of which were at the signing on Friday night (always my favorite part.) I hate selling stuff, but hocking my books comes very easy to me. Getting turned down is surprisingly easy as well; I know people are there for the Sandersons and the Correias of the con, so grabbing bread crumbs along the way and meeting new readers is an accomplishment on my level.

5) I love working with people who understand what I’m going through as a part-time, small-time creator. Oftentimes I joke with people and say “I’m an author-illustrator, so I drive a truck for a living.” The truth is that it’s hard to get to a point where you can work full-time as an artist, especially in the age of digital indie publishing. A handful of my peers get to do it, but most of us are average 9-5ers with other real-world concerns beyond our art. The camaraderie I feel with them is kind of a relief, and helps me understand them a little better.

This is my “tribe,” these are my people, and I’m lucky to be a part of this community. Can’t wait for the next conference!

Remembering Edwin Jackson

 

Aside from Nick Foles winning Super Bowl MVP honors over the New England Evil Empire, there was news in the NFL yesterday, of a more tragic sort. Indianapolis Colts linebacker Edwin Jackson was killed by a drunk driver on the I-70.

It’s been heartwarming to see the condolences pour out of Indy and the League at large. Anyone who knew this man had great things to say about him. He was humble and cared about his community. People were his people. He took care of his family, and his mom especially played a huge role in getting him into the NFL.

His nickname was Pound Cake. For a guy in his position, you might think it’s because he hits hard, and while that was certainly true, the real story is more moving than that. He had a meeting with the Arizona Cardinals after going undrafted in 2016. Unfortunately he missed his plane from Georgia, so the staff was waiting for him in Glendale, staying late on their own time, only to find out he wasn’t coming.

So he called his brother, who told him to call his mom. His agent rescheduled the flight, and his mom made a ton of home-baked southern pound cakes, fresh and boxed warm, for Edwin to take to Arizona. When the coaches hinted that they wanted compensation for their wasted time, Edwin gave them the cakes, and all was forgiven. From then on, he was the pound cake guy. (Full story here, at IndyStar.)

He didn’t land a roster spot in Arizona, but the Colts picked him up in the offseason, and he ended up being a bright spot on an otherwise anemic and uninspiring defense. He was set to be a player for a while in Indy, until he was tragically taken by a motorist who was in the US illegally, driving without a license (illegally), and drunk (illegally.)

A scofflaw ignored three rules that should have protected people on the road, the biggest of these being that he was intoxicated, and in an instant, he robbed a mother of her son, a family of their brother, a team of their friend, and a legion of fans of an admirable player. The loss to his family is severe, and the loss to the community is tragic. Nobody deserves this, and yes, it’s even harder to bear when the person lost was kind, humble, and charitable.

I keep thinking back to Zurlon Tipton, another former Colt who passed away in 2016 (though under drastically different circumstances.) Both Zurlon and Edwin were 26 at the time of their deaths. Far, far too young to be gone. I got married at 26. The biggest moments of my life hadn’t even happened to me yet.

My condolences, my thoughts, and my prayers go out to the Jackson family. I know that that doesn’t alleviate anything. It doesn’t give them their son back. The best I can do is offer that, and remember the good example that Edwin Jackson set.

As a final note, Edwin Jackson’s preferred charity was Hope For Justice, an organization that fights human trafficking and modern-day slavery. A couple of fellow Colts fans at r/Colts have made donations in Edwin’s name, to the tune of $53 (his jersey number.) I’ll be joining them when I get paid on Friday.

Drive safe, drive sober, you guys. It’s never worth it.

Rest well, Pound Cake. Colts Nation misses you already.

 

Keep On Rolling, Chapter 2: Grinding the Gears

  This is an ongoing series about my career as a trucker. Chapter 1 is here.

 

The Starting Beard.

The summer before I lost my job, I had my ten-year high school reunion. Facebook was abuzz with former classmates that hadn’t friended me yet. One of these friends was Roy Hinebauch, and right around the time I got fired, Roy was getting his CDL from an accredited trucking school in the valley. After I had studied some other options, I got the info from him, checked out the school and the career path, and decided to bite the bullet and do it.

For $4,500, I could knock out the school in 4 weeks and have my license. Truckers can pull down about $40K a year pretty easily, which would replace the income Schaara and I lost when she and I both stopped working.

We knew up front that it would be hard. Local jobs don’t pay well for inexperienced drivers; you need at least a year of OTR (over-the-road) driving under your belt first. Preferably two. And you can expect to be gone for two weeks at a time, minimum, which then earns you two days of home time before you have to go back out again. Grab a load, drop it off, grab another, drop it off, repeat ad nauseum until your dispatcher routes you back home.

A whole year. Schaara and I had only been married for two at the time. Being away from her and our newborn son was the hardest part for me. On the flipside, she wouldn’t have to work, wouldn’t have to put Gray in day care. It was important to us that we be the ones to raise our kids. It was also important for me to be home helping her, but me being gone was a result of other choices I had made in the past. With her support, we made a plan and went after it.

The place I went was a good trucking school. The instructors were all 20-year veterans of the road, minimum. That’s roughly 3 million miles of trucking apiece. When they talked, I listened, and learned. The school was affiliated with three trucking companies, none of which I went to work for. I found out that the companies and the school got kickbacks from the government for every student they hired, and from there, it didn’t matter what happened. A lot of these new drivers were underpaid, underworked, and couldn’t make a living on those terms. The companies didn’t care if they quit, and a lot of the new drivers washed out.

It sounds cruel, and there’s probably some truth to that. One would hope that for many thousands of dollars, you’d have the school slightly deeper in your own corner, but then again, one would also hope that fully grown adults would buckle down, work hard, and figure out a pretty basic trade. The school did have lifetime job placement, but that depended on your recruiter’s integrity (which wasn’t always solid…). So caveat conductor.

There were ten other students in the classroom with me, all dudes, and from a bunch of ethnic and career backgrounds. Three of them had Army experience–two in Afghanistan, one in Vietnam. A lot of the guys had criminal records. One guy had emigrated from the Philippines a few years before. We spent two weeks learning from the books, then another two weeks on the driving range behind the school, practicing how to shift, back up, park a trailer, and so forth.

While I was doing rangework, I talked to one of the instructors about which trucking companies to apply for. Since I had a clean criminal background, he told me to look into Knight Transportation. They had a terminal in town, so I applied and was hired pretty quickly. They were paying better than the companies connected to the school, and had a reputation for getting you more miles as well. As a cherry on top, my wife was related to the Knight family, and got the annual invitations to the family reunion. I never told the company this, I just thought it was neat.

Two weeks into training. More beard.

 

I aced the classwork and passed the range test on the first try. Then I sat home for about a week and a half while Knight found me a trainer, and routed him into the valley. Saying goodbye to my wife and son was really hard, and naturally I was anxious, but since it had been over a month, the sting of getting fired had faded a little bit.

My major concern was my trainer–would we get along? I was supposed to spend four weeks on the road with him. I needed to get along with a perfect stranger for four weeks, and not suck at my job. No pressure.

This is where my experience as an LDS missionary really saved me. The apartments where I lived in Spain were slightly larger than the inside of a semi-truck, but that space feels a lot smaller when you don’t like your companion–someone you have to be next to 24/7 for months at a time. While I was a missionary, I had eight different companions. I loved two of them like brothers, got along great with four, was supremely annoyed by one, and close to outright hated the last. That last guy, we’ll call him Tibbs, is the only dude from my mission that I don’t talk to, and haven’t since he went home.

I tried, I really did, he was just a turd. The rest of the guys, we were able to work out any clashing personality issues that we had. The main reason was that we were there as messengers from the same Church, with the same values and goals, and could hold each other accountable to those values. I didn’t know anything about my trainer, Abraham, other than he had a Biblical name and was from Utah.

“Oh, cool, maybe he’s also a Mormon, maybe this will be easier than I thought.”

Abe rolled into town, I took one look at him, and while you shouldn’t judge by appearances, I was pretty sure this guy wasn’t LDS. The tattoos, piercings, and tendency to curse “like a monkeyfighter” (not his actual words) gave it away. He just happened to be named Abraham, and had a house outside Salt Lake.

All good. No problem. I can get along with anyone, and I would have to, so I could get paid. Nature of the beast.

Without getting into too many anecdotes, I’ll sum it up like this: Abe was a good trucker, and a good teacher. He’d gotten into drugs earlier in his life, rehabilitated, and was one of the lucky people who survived homelessness and prison to become a productive and self-reliant person. He had three kids and a wife of his own, and had only been a trucker for about a year and a half, but had started training so he could make extra money. We understood each other on that level and it helped us work together.

That said, he was sometimes very impatient and terse, and at one point even kicked me out of the driver’s seat when I had inexplicably had three brain farts in a row in Pennsylvania.

Still, I learned from him. He’d quiz me on highway signs, and randomly ask me what was the last sign I had seen, or what mile marker we were at. I usually didn’t know the answer off the top of my head. Try as I might, it’s hard to pay constant attention to absolutely everything for 8-10 hours straight, day in and day out like that, but he did it for a reason.

Every week, we’d sit down and he’d pull out a clipboard and evaluate my progress. Even with me trying to be modest about how I was doing, I tended to rate myself a little bit higher than he did, so I scaled back my assessment of myself and tried to think more about how I could improve.

Most days were good, honestly. There were days when we’d clash personalities, or I felt he was being pointlessly jerkish, and I’d give him 500 miles of silence until the day’s work was done. One snowy night in Iowa, after we parked and shut down late, he flopped down on the bottom bunk and I grabbed my coat and legged it a mile away to the Steak & Shake so I could have some time to myself.

As difficult as any of my training period was, I reminded myself of the same thing: I was here because of choices I made, and I didn’t get to pick what came with that. There’s an old Spanish proverb, attributed to various sources in different types of literature, that goes like this: Take what you want and pay for it, says God. For better or worse, I was paying for what I had taken. I had taken time away from developing a career, thinking that I’d be a best-selling author any day now. If I didn’t like the bill, I shouldn’t have ordered the meal that way.

Having too much faith in oneself is a form of vanity, especially when certain virtues are ignored in the expense of pursuing one’s dreams. I still wanted to be a writer. I was going to bust my butt to be a writer. But right then, I needed to be a provident husband and father. And to do that, I needed to be a good trucker.

Four weeks of trucker beard. I looked in the mirror and saw my Papaw. Did a legit double-take.

 

So I put up with it. I chastised myself. I prayed constantly, and I reminded myself to listen to what Abe was saying. And when the four weeks were up, he signed off on my training, and wished me well. Knight Transportation assigned me a vehicle, and I was officially a new driver in the “Squire” program.

That was when the real adventure began.

 

 

Photo Gallery

My wife is from Moses Lake, Washington. I’d never been, so when we stopped for fuel, I snapped this and sent it to her.

 

My best friend Matt had family in Joplin during the 2011 tornado. Two years after it happened, they were still repairing highways in the area.

 

Spent a few minutes in D.C. in April 2013. Horrible, horrible highways. Constant, pointless lane changing. Like Congress.

 

In trucking school, one of the instructors told us to watching out for “Mormon buggies” in eastern states like Ohio and Pennsylvania.

(I frown.) “You mean…Amish buggies?”

(She blinks in confusion.) “Mormon buggies.”

(I try not to smile too wryly.) “Amish buggies.”

 

  

There was a war museum outside Pennsylvania, with vehicles on display by the road. I snapped this while Abe was driving. Perfect timing.

 

 

The industrial district in Kansas City had an eerie silence to it. Not quite Atlanta, but I expected a zombie attack.

   

We got stuck with an old trailer, and it ended up blowing two tires on a hot South Carolina day. Beautiful country out there, though.

 

Go Colts! Screw the Packers.

 

My brother lives out this way now.

KILL THE BEAST is live on Audible!

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Less than $5 for Audible members! Link here.

Finally! After two months of production, I’m thrilled to announce that I have an audiobook out there!

I used ACX, which is like the CreateSpace of Audible. You can find narrators and let them audition, then send them offers and whatnot. I’m really fortunate that Jean-Michel George auditioned for this book, because he is a great talent and a superb voice for Gautier Lesauvage.

Monsieur George was the second man to audition for KILL THE BEAST, and the better of the two options, both in terms of production quality and characterization. It helps that he’s a native Frenchman who speaks British English, so his accent matched extremely well.

On top of that, he composed intro and outro music for the book (without me even asking), and also tacked on an afterword that I recorded in my office.

I’ve been listening to audiobooks on Audible for over 10 years, and it’s a huge thrill to have one of my own titles in their catalogue.

I hope you’ll give it a listen and leave a review. I can’t wait to hear what you guys think of it.

See you out there!

Keep On Rolling, Chapter 1: The Big Bad Horrible Thing.

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It seems every artist I know has a story about the Big Bad Horrible Thing that happened to them on their road to success. They hit a point where everything sucked but it was worth it because in the end, they got a Huge Publishing Deal or something. These stories help me because I haven’t yet “broken out” like I want to, so I figure my trials are just part of my Big Bad Horrible Thing. They always have been.

But to be fair, my life has been pretty comfortable. I’m an American of Irish/German descent, born into a blue-collar family west of the Rockies. I have lived abroad, I’ve known people rich and poor, and I’ve known plenty of people who have endured (still do, and still will) much harder things than I have. My trials, relative to those of people I know, aren’t that bad.

At the same time, I’ve met plenty of people who are going through trials I’ve already experienced. When those trials hit me, the worst part was not knowing what to do about them. Hopefully the story I’m going to tell you will help you get some ideas about how to work through your own trials. I did have a Big Bad Horrible Thing happen, though it was less of an economic thing and more of a pride thing. That’s probably the hardest part to admit.

I’ve told parts of this story before, but Keep On Rolling will get into the details and the anecdotes of my Big Bad Horrible Thing. I expect that mostly young people, teenagers especially, will gain something from this. I’m curious what the response will be.

For now, our story begins about 25 years ago, when I started the third grade. That was when I discovered my love of writing stories, and knew that I wanted to be an author.

As the years rolled on, I clacked away at the keyboard on our family computer, first writing fanfics of Power Rangers and Transformers. Later I would make up my own stories, illustrating them with my friends, and dreaming of a future where I raked in piles of money from my wildly popular novels.

Ha.

As high school ended and I pushed into my adult years, I made career choices with low levels of commitment–no college degree, no high ceiling, no path that would be hard to abandon. I was waiting for my big break as a writer. It was always just around the corner! Because of course it was. I read, I wrote, I lathered, rinsed, repeated.

Still the years crawled by. My teens gave way to my early twenties, then my mid-twenties. Rejections piled up. I kind of didn’t understand it. I read plenty of published works that were worse than my own stuff, right? I mean, I was SO much better than those authors, why couldn’t anyone see that?

Pro tip, that’s kind of a garbage attitude to have about your craft, whatever it is.  An artist should be their own greatest critic. I was my own greatest cheerleader. That’s a blueprint for failure.

Still, I got better at it. I learned how to edit, and landed an agent. Even though I had dropped out of college (twice), my success was at hand! All of my lackluster career decisions were justified! Suddenly it wasn’t such a big deal that I had been a delivery driver, a  telemarketer, a bookstore worker, and a print shop manager. I was going to get published!

Ha.

Wrong. Two years came and went, with my agent working tirelessly on three manuscripts of mine, only for us to part ways when she just couldn’t find a home for my work. In 2013, I was back to the beginning.

This would have been hard enough to bear if I hadn’t also just been fired from my job.

Which was even harder to bear two weeks after my oldest son was born.

On the night I lost my job, I came home, broke the news to my wife, and allowed myself a solid hour of self-pity before reaching out to a friend who had been in this same position. He gave me some comfort, but not a ton of direction, and I went to sleep that night beating myself up over what had happened.

I come from a philosophically conservative background. Rugged individualism, self-reliance, personal responsibility, all that. Throughout my life I had told myself that the world didn’t owe me anything, that I reaped what I sowed, and that I would live or die by merit.

I believed those things in part because I thought I was too good, or too clever, or too special to find myself on the losing side of them. Maybe I had been complimented too often in my youth, and wasn’t self-critical enough as a result. I bit down too hard on the dream of artistic success, despite the very real probability that I wouldn’t be commercially viable for a long time.

Losing my job wasn’t the Big Bad Horrible Thing; finding out that I had gambled my time and my efforts, only to scratch when it counted…that was the Big Bad Horrible Thing. And it suuuuuuuuucked.

There wasn’t much time to wallow in self-pity about it, either. With an eclectic skill set and work history, I couldn’t expect to easily pay the bills anytime soon, unless I made a big, big change. So I decided to become a trucker. And that is where the adventure really begins.

This story will continue next week.