Open to Commissions Again

Hey gang, I’m taking commissions again. Gotta save up cheddar for some stuff, you know how it is.

For the last few years I have drawn Christmas and Halloween cards for my family in different styles (most recently with digital colors.)

Now I’m open to doing them for you! I started out doing colored pencils and water colors and am now equipped to do digital drawings that you can print off on your cards, or use online.

$25 per drawing. Dreadpennies [at] gmail is my address. Hit me up.

“Not your fault” this song is stuck in my head.

Full confession: I have no idea what this song is about, it just sounds like a guy who really likes this girl he’s with, but he freaks out over stuff and she’ll probably leave him, so he’s trying to head her off at the pass.

That said, I dig the sound. I’ve never really been a fan of Awolnation but they have a unique flavor to them. That or I just don’t listen to a lot of that genre, whatever the heck it is.

State of the Dread: July 2018

I usually have projects going on a few fronts, and am trying not to spread myself too thin. When I was setting annual goals in January, I wanted to have a book out by now, but some other demands have landed on my lap and taken priority. Nevertheless, here’s what I’m up to:

ART: I have a commission on deck that I haven’t been working on because of my day job and other stuff. Once this other stuff (see “career” below) is taken care off, that’s the next big thing. Keep an eye on my instagram, @GrahamBeRad.

WRITING: So hey, good news! When the “Ready Set Write” folks on YouTube read one of my pages, I was unknowingly entered into a monthly contest to get a five-page critique, and I won! So I have them looking at the first five pages of a different project.

I’m attending Lisa Mangum’s writing retreat at Capitol Reef next month too, which gets me another five page critique, so I’m having her look at different pages of the same project, due out in November. This book will also have an audio part, narrated by yours truly. #FridayFighters

FITNESS: Not as explosive as it was in 2012 when I trained for a mud run back then, but I’m determined to keep it up even after my Spartan Race this month. Once again, outside life has been derailed by my…

CAREER: I’m still studying to make a position change at work. I’ve failed the test twice and I really want to pass it on the next attempt. But even if I were to pass it like, TOMORROW, I am sure I would still have to be a trucker for a little while because of some jobs the company has going. Nevertheless, passing the test will free up my time and energy for drawing, writing, and gettin’ dem gainz.

 

 

Subway Canyon hike, August 2008

My first summer in Provo, I entered a lottery for a permit to hike the Subway Canyon with two of my friends. I’d done the hike once before as part of a Scout Camp, but this go-round would be different: we’d start from the bottom and go up, then come back down, instead of dropping in from the top (because we needed to have our car at the bottom.)

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All the camping spots were full when we got in, and it was late, so we didn’t bother pitching tents on the ant-covered ground. I slept on the roof, while Shane and Eli reclined the seats in my Subaru and left the hatch open.

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At the entrance to the park.

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This was a foot bridge near the bottom of the trail, covered in debris from a flash flood before we got there.Sub Canyon 008

Shane and Eli playing Nature Boy.

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Eli was a wrestler from Texas, grew up on cattle ranches and whatnot. I spent that summer working out with him and Shane (who was an exercise sciences major.) Most nights at the gym we were pounding iron.

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The main appeal of this hike, for me anyway, is that you spend almost half of it swimming.

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There are holes like this all the way down.

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This is about as high up the trail as we could manage. Once you hit the waterfalls, it’s time to turn back.

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Some of the pools are really deep.

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And the rock formations are amazing. I don’t know how many tens of thousands of years it took to do this, but it’s been going on for a heckuva long time.

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The way back down is a lot more fun.

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Lots of natural water slides.

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I stopped taking pictures during the last two miles or so, because we were out of bottled water and the sun had taken its toll on us. It was pretty miserable once we were away from the water, and when we got back to my car it had ants crawling all up in it, so we spent the rest of the drive back to Provo squashing bugs and talking about the upcoming semester.

This was about year after I had read Louis L’Amour’s autobiography, EDUCATION OF A WANDERING MAN, wherein I learned a truth that has made a great deal of sense to me:

Adventure is just a romantic name for trouble. I’m glad I have friends to get in trouble with me.

Project Wūgòu zhū: The Dirt Hog

Last month I got a motorcycle, my first in over a decade. Admittedly there’s some anxiety over me getting on a bike again, after what happened last time. (Long story short, I did a stupid and crashed and it hurt real bad for a few months, and also it was expensive.)

Anyway, I’m not spending a lot of money on it yet because I have other priorities, but I will pick at it here and there and post updates as they come. It needs a little work and I need a full set of riding gear before I get it up and going.

As for the name, “Wūgòu zhū” is Google’s literal translation of “Dirt Hog.” I had a friend check it but she wasn’t 100% sure. I hope it’s right and that it doesn’t actually mean something like “swine genitalia” or whatever.

The most obvious problem when I got the bike was the broken front wheel fender, which is held to the underside of the front fork assembly by three bolts with 10MM heads, nothing crazy. I Googled around in search of parts, but since it’s a Chinese bike, it’s hard to find anything official over here in the states.

However, I did come across ChinaRiders.net, a forum of enthusiasts for Chinese bikes in the Americas, and they’ve been really helpful so far. One of them even sent me a spare fender he had lying around and didn’t charge me for it. Super helpful of him. I got it installed once it arrived.

Next up I need to replace the clutch perch because the mirror mount is broken off, so I only have a mirror on my right handlebar. Between that and getting the matching mirrors, it should cost about $30, so I’ll get around to it later. It sounds like most of the stuff on this bike can be replaced with generics.

But I do plan to design some vinyl decals and place an order in the near future, so maybe some decorative stuff will be my next move.

Reading Roundup, July 2018

What up. It’s the second week of July and I’m almost at 60 books read for the year. Some stats:

Average pace: 2.2 books per week, slightly inflated because:

Did not finish: 14

Print/ebooks: 17

Audiobooks: 42

Best-of-year candidates: 7

As you can see, I’m much more openly embracing the “bore me and die” mantra when it comes to not finishing a book. I’ve learned more about my own writing by reading so much, and ditching a book I don’t care for.

Basically I like to read books that move, and have energy. And I need to write the same way.

Two months of summer left 🙂

Ten Years On

It’s been a great two days at Fyrecon so far. I’ve done one presentation and five panels so far, with two more panels and another class tomorrow. Things are humming right along.

Tonight I’m decompressing in my living room, thinking back to where I was in 2008. I was on my own for the first time in earnest. Renting a bedroom in a rundown house in Provo, with intermittent utilities, friends out of town, a dating life that was deader than Nixon, and too many bills to pay for how much money I was making.

My happiness came from three things: reading, writing, and lifting weights with the only two guys I knew who didn’t go out to sell Comcast that summer.

Stuff broke. My car. My A/C. My hopes and dreams for grades and girlfriends. By summer’s end I would abandon my college track and embrace the working life whole-hog. I occasionally snuck out of the house to go for a run by myself, but mostly I juggled jobs while trying to make ends meet.

I worked for APX Alarm. Life was that rough.

In the spirit of counting one’s blessings, today I am really damn well off. And I need to keep that in mind when I start focusing too much on where I’m failing.

I haven’t yet passed that test at work. I spend most of the time driving the worst of the big trucks we have. I hate my dispatcher. Cash always seems to be short.

But.

I have Schaara. We have a house. We have two boys who are crazy, but we love them. I make a decent living and soon I will make an even better one. I’m presenting at writing conferences. I have readers! I have books out! I finally bench pressed 250 this year!

So here I sit, on my couch in my living room, listening to my generally quiet neighborhood, but for the passing cars every now and then, and the chirping crickets who are desperate to get it on.

My life is blessed, my prayers have been answered, and though my ambitions live on, I am content.

Despite setbacks, I will release a new book this year.

Ever since the launch of REBEL HEART in 2014, I have released a book every year. SUICIDE RUN came in 2015, PATRIOT’S GAME in 2016, and 2017 saw KILL THE BEAST and THE HERO NEXT DOOR come into the world.

2018 ended up being busier than I expected, and the projects that I wanted to finish won’t get off the ground in time. I have a book that is ideal for a Halloween launch, and I just won’t be done for this year. I also have about 8 or 9 straight months of illustrating for another book that’s already finished (but in need of edits.)

Still, I wanted to publish something this year. This week, I finally figured out what to do. The working title is THE FRIDAY FIGHTER.

For the last two years, I have launched a short story on Black Friday, satirizing the unofficial holiday, in which I have never participated. I really don’t care for the Black Friday brouhaha, and every year it gets crazier. That prompted the first story I did in 2016, which then necessitated a sequel in 2017.

For 2018, I will write a third story, one that wraps up nice and tight, and then of course illustrate it. Expect to see it early-to-mid November.

More details as we get closer. But yay! I will publish again in 2018.

Story time: I’m not as bold as I used to be.

One time, I called up a girl that I knew had a crush on me, and told her she shouldn’t marry a guy she had just gotten engaged to. It was the right thing to do and yet I would never do it again.

Last week, a friend gave me a motorcycle. Just up and gave it to me. Awesome. It took a little convincing for my wife to welcome it into our home, but she’s warming up to the idea.

Frankly I don’t blame her for being hesitant. She wasn’t in my life when I had my accident in 2009, but she’s heard the stories, seen the pictures, seen my scars get lighter over the years. She was with me when I went through PT in 2012 because I hadn’t gotten proper treatment three years prior. It lingers.

(And my accident wasn’t even that bad–hell, you could call it lucky, considering I was wearing board shorts, a T-shirt, and no helmet. But I digress.)

As I sat on my new Chinese steel horse in my garage, I thought back to the last time I owned a motorcycle, in 2007. I had bought it off of my older brother. It was the bike I learned to ride on, a ’92 Honda Nighthawk 250.

Great size for a novice rider. Plenty of power, but not so much that it would overwhelm you if you didn’t know what you were doing.

When I got that bike in 2007, my life was very different. I was 23, single, working full-time, in college part-time, still living at home and helping my mom with a few bills here and there. My parents’ divorce had just finalized and she was still on meds/chemo/radiation from her cancer treatments. I had a lot going on in my life and pretty much all of it was great, truth be told.

I had a lot of really great friends, too. And if I may be so bold, I was even kind of popular with the ladies in the circles where I ran. I went on a lot of dates but didn’t bother getting serious with anyone, since I planned to go to school out of state later on.

This particular story centers on a girl, we’ll call her Michelle, who I’d known for a year or so, friend-of-a-friend situation. Our mutual friend had dropped a hint or two that Michelle was into me, which I thought was pretty cool, even though I didn’t see us getting together. Major confidence builder, knowing that a girl likes you.

A few things about Michelle: she worked hard and supported herself, even at the young age of 21. She had to. She had a daughter. The daughter’s father was in the picture, but not with Michelle. It happens. No judgment from me, I’d dated girls with kids before.

Still, I knew I wasn’t going to get involved with Michelle, and I had to be careful when groups of us hung out, because I didn’t want to give her the impression I would go after her. Our lives weren’t on the same path.

Then she started showing up to group hangouts with another guy, and there was talk of an engagement on the horizon. I thought that was cool, good for her. She wanted to be married and have a family, all that stuff, and it looked like it was finally happening!

This is where the boldness comes in.

After a few hangouts with the group, and some observations I made, I got the feeling this wouldn’t end well for Michelle. The guy wasn’t necessarily bad news, he was just…well, there’s “settling for what you want,” and then there’s something three floors beneath that, and that’s what Michelle was going to anchor herself to for the rest of her life.

As I went about my life, working, studying, going to school, it kept swimming around in my head. Michelle is going to marry a deadbeat guy. Her life is hard enough without attaching herself to this, and maybe she thinks it will fix her problems, but it won’t.

I prayed about it, I thought over it, and got it into my head that I needed to tell her she shouldn’t do it.

I tried to talk myself out of it, to analyze the consequences and stuff, of what it might do to her if I said that to her. In the end I weighed the cost and the outcome, and decided it was better if I said something to her, if it would have a positive effect on her.

So one day, after I left work and rode my old motorcycle to school (heeeeeey it finally came into the story), I stopped in the parking lot, shut it off, and started to head inside. Then I stopped. I took my helmet off, locked it to the bike, and called up our Mutual Friend to get Michelle’s number.

Mutual Friend knew what I was up to, and had my back. So I called Michelle. I still don’t remember everything I said, only that I prefaced it with a lot of things, and it boiled down to “You might think you want this, but you can do a lot better for yourself, and it would be better for you to find that.”

It didn’t scare me to say that, it just made me really nervous, and I was worried even then that I had done the wrong thing.

Fortunately, to my relief, Michelle was grateful that I had called, and even better, she told me she had already broken off the engagement. She knew she was walking into the wrong situation, even though she really wanted to be married. Big sigh.

We still hung out in groups, and things were great after that. We even went to see Stardust that summer, and had a good time of it. It made me glad to see that she had taken control of her life and her daughter’s life, and to this day she is still an excellent mother, providing for her family mostly on her own.

The point of this story, as I think back to it now, is that I doubt I would be that bold today. And I mean even if I wasn’t a married man with my own kids. I just wouldn’t jump into a peer’s business like that, knowing they might get the wrong idea about my intentions.

I wonder why it is. Maybe cynicism? Maybe I have enough of my own problems? Is it self-interest? Do I lack sufficient altruism? It could be a degree of apathy. As I’ve gotten older, I know that I care less and less for my fellow man in the abstract.

I’ll help a stranger, I’ll help a friend, and yet I find myself remaining distant from a lot of, I don’t know, emotional complications. I find myself thinking that people should reap their own consequences, and they should, but shouldn’t I also care a little more? Reach out more? Give good advice, even if someone won’t like it?

You think that you get smarter as you get older. Me, well, I’ve gotten more information, but I think the last ten years have added to my confusion, not my wisdom. Hell if I know.

Maybe if a friend was going to make a damaging decision like that, I would still say something. I hope I would. Guess we’ll know when it happens.

I just know that there was a time when I would have done it without question. Even if I had to talk myself into it.

I’m getting older, there’s no stopping that. But I can decide if I get better or worse as a friend. Food for thought.

Characters First: Why “Incredibles 2” was a worthy addition to the first one.

It’s always scary when they make a sequel to a really great movie. If the first one was 100% great, the second one would only need to hit 90% for you to feel like it didn’t live up.

Fortunately, Pixar has enough cultural capital for people to give them credit in the sequel department.

DreamWorks, for example, sequeled the hell out of the Shrek franchise, and none of them were all that great. The How To Train Your Dragon series started strong, but the sequel wasn’t able to recapture all the magic, and the 500 spinoff shows have watered down the product. Still, the third looks promising.

Incredibles, though, knows what it’s about. Yes, there are superheroes, and societal issues, and Big Questions, but those are just dressing on the plate. At its core, it’s a family story.

Bob is the husband/father who hates his job and longs for the glory days when he felt more valuable to the world. Now he tries to fill that void by figuring out how to be the dad his kids need him to be.

Helen struggles with the opposite problem–trusting her husband to run a tight ship like she does at home, while also accepting the responsibility of being The Main Superhero who will usher in a new era.

Violet isn’t just the girl with invisibility powers; she wants more adult responsibilities, and a relationship with a boy. The fact that she has powers and has to hide them makes that really hard to manage.

Dash is trying to keep up with a changing curriculum at school, and idolizes his dad, hoping to live up to his standard of heroism someday.

And Jack-Jack…oh man. That baby. Anyone who has had a baby boy in their house knows what’s up. Even without any dialogue, and limited cognition, he imposes his will on the world around him. Jack-Jack steals the show.

I could go on and on about the brilliant angles and aspects of this, but really, you just need to see it and you probably will. The 14-year wait, while unconventional, was worth it, and your patience is rewarded.

I would rather have to wait a decade and a half and have them get it right anyway.