I promise there’s a good reason for this.


I was perusing old drawings in my folder and found this one from several years ago–maybe 2012, I unfortunately didn’t put a date on it–and realized I had forgotten about it.

It was one of my first attempts at combing a few regular images I’d traced in CorelDRAW, which was the poor Canadian attempt at re-creating Adobe Illustrator at a lower price and higher bug count. For reasons I cannot feign to recall, I attempted a fusion of Clint Eastwood and a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, called (wait for it) “Clint Eastwood Ninja Turtle.”

But Graham! Why did you do this? You monster!

The manuscript I was working on at the time was, I think, called RESOLUTE. It was about high school football in Oklahoma…with gargoyles. (I have scrapped this idea and occasionally think of ways to salvage it, but I am not hopeful.) Anyway, I kept coming to certain scenes that got wildly distant from the story I was trying to tell, and I had no idea how to corral them back together. So I drew for a while to clear my head.

C.E.N.T. was the eventual product of one of these brain-clearing sessions, and suddenly I had a thought: I knew where I wanted the story to go, I just didn’t always know how to get there. When I reached those junctions on the story-map, Clint Eastwood Ninja Turtle would arrive on the page, take my main characters by the hand, and escort them through that scene or chapter (with a brief paragraph, highlighted in red so I could find it) and tell them where to go from there.

This is a terrible thing to do in final drafts, but a very nifty trick for early drafts. Good Old Clint hasn’t shown up in any of my early drafts for a while now, but he was there in spirit when I worked on THE KORBADELL JOB a few months ago.

Since Clint Eastwood is a real person and the Ninja Turtles are a copyrighted property, there’s no way in hell I can lay any sort of legal claim to either of these figures, nor do I really care to. I’m just putting him out there for my fellow writers to use as needed. If you’re bogged down in an early draft, let Clint Eastwood Ninja Turtle save the day! Write him into that paragraph!

Fade in. “And then C.E.N.T. showed up to grab Bella by the hand and said ‘You’re gonna keep trying to hook up with that sparkly, wimpy vampire, even though that hot shirtless wolf-dude isn’t trying to kill you, punk.’ And he led her to Edward, for…reasons. ‘We’ll come back to that. Cowabunga.'” Fade out.

Or, more likely, you’re a better writer than I am and this doesn’t happen to you in draft one. So leave him here and go enjoy your uncomplicated, unfrustrating writing life, you terrible demon you.

Carry on.

Should-Reads: SLEEPING GIANTS by Sylvain Neuvel

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Sylvain Neuvel’s SLEEPING GIANTS is like the book version of a found-footage film, written almost entirely in dialogue, as though from transcripts of recorded interviews. My wife read the ebook and I listened to the audiobook; I frequently found myself wondering if I would have properly read the inflection and tone in print, given how well the narrators performed their different characters.

Premise: A young girl falls into a hole in the ground near the mining town where her family lives. The hole is actually an underground cavern, and she lands in the middle of a giant metallic open palm, like that of a huge statue. It’s alien in origin and defies everything scientists know about metallurgy, and the government wants to know where “the rest” of the statue is.  17 years later, that girl is a scientist heading a project to find those pieces all over the world.

Also it’s not a statue…it’s a machine.

Honestly that’s all I can bring myself to say about it, for fear of spoiling any of the really cool developments of the story. As far as the audiobook goes, the cast really brought it to life. Neuvel proves that he’s a daft hand at withholding and revealing, giving you questions and then handing you answers before you get frustrated…then walking right into a new development or new angle to keep you burning through the story. I for one am glad that I didn’t read it until the sequel was already out, because now I don’t have to wait for the next leg of the story.

Content Warning: Some of the characters share romantic entanglements in their interviews (which are actually relevant to the story) and while none of these scenes “go pink,” sex is a topic in multiple chapters. As for language, there is a small handful of S-bombs and B-bombs throughout the book. Not done to excess, but they’re there.

Buy my mom’s house in Henderson, NV.

For years, you’ve wanted to be a legit Old Hendersonian.
You’ve wanted to live within walking distance of the Water Street District, where you can eat a different culture’s food every day of the week.
Where old men in white smocks cut your hair with hand-sharpened scissors and tell you stories about The War.
A place where whatever grocery store across from Wal-Mart is trying to survive this week. (Is it a Sav-On? It’s Albertson’s. No, it’s Haagens? No, it’s an Albertson’s again…)
Well, you no longer have to dream about being closer to Target AND Walgreens AND Friendly’s Donuts AND Johnny Mac’s AND Cinedome 12, with its $4 Tuesday Tickets and the same ticket-tearing lady who’s been there since I was 11.
Yes, all of this is within your reach, because a home just went up for sale in…THE TRIANGLE! Specifically, my mom’s house!
the triangle.jpg
You can be the envy of your friends as you step out into your front yard, look west, and gaze upon the industrial masterpiece that is Timet Industries! They make titanium there, how cool is that?!
And it’s right behind the James I. Gibson Library, which used to be by City Hall, but has since moved closer. About 90% closer. It’s on  your doorstep, giving you The Look, and jangling its keys. Once you own this classy, revamped, War-era house, you’ll have that last 10% right at your fingertips.
Directly east of your new Legit Hendo House is the leggitest Discount Tire Store in the whole valley, designation “NVL01”. I worked there in high school when it was a much less classy outfit than it is now.
A decade ago, many Triangle houses were derelict or outright abandoned. In just the last year or two, many of Mom’s neighbors have redone their houses, and the neighborhood on the whole is looking a lot better, which is why these houses have gone up in value. That, and the location.
In fact, here’s a short list of what’s within a mile or so of your new place:
-St. Rose Hospital
-Albertson’s (for now…)
-Del Taco, El Pollo Loco, Subway, Jimmy John’s, Carl’s Jr. (same shopping center)
-Target, PetSmart, Staples, Marshall’s, and Big Lots (also same shopping center)
-The Henderson Convention Center
-The Farmer’s Market (every Thursday)
-Jack in the Box, Sonic, Wendy’s, Arby’s, Pep Boys, and the US Post Office…all next door to each other.
-And that’s not even counting the Wal-Mart on the corner of Lake Mead and Boulder.
For crying out loud, you’re less than two miles from Cinedome 12 (the cheap seats!), Johnny Mac’s (wings! pizza! ribs!), Friendly’s Donuts (JUST ASK ANYONE IN TOWN), and the Sunset Pizzeria.
The only Old Henderson Landmark not inside that circle is the El Torito restaurant, which was teleported out of Mexico thirty years ago and is still serving the same recipes today. Deadpool himself would swear by these chimichangas, and we all know how Deadpool likes to swear.
But enough about the neighborhood perks! What about the house perks?
Well, my mom bought the place in 2009, after having to sell the house I grew up in off of Pacific and Horizon. Check out the B&A:
mom house
You’re getting new paint inside and out.
New windows, all up to city code.
Plenty of new plumbing and fixtures (including for the kitchen, hall bath, and laundry.)
Three of the rooms couldn’t even be used when she moved in. Now the house has 4 bedrooms and 2 renovated bathrooms, plus:
A walk-in pantry
A spacious living room and family room
Tile and laminate flooring
AC and a swamp cooler
A 12′ storage shed out back
And 2 driveways out front on either side of the property. (3, if you count the pull-through.)
Heck, you’ve even got pomegranate trees in the backyard, and fertile soil full of fertilizer from Mom’s two hyperactive egg-laying hens. Those planter boxes have more chicken crap in them than Green Valley High School’s entire athletic roster.
Mom’s been able to run a full-time business out of this house, with two 12-foot wide longarm quilting machines, the whole time she’s been there.
The downside of that is that her house has been full of business-related stuff, and she’s the only one living there, so most people who walk through have only seen a house full of unidentifiable quilting stuff that might or might not be used to conceal the activities of a serial killer–and I can’t think of anything more Vintage Henderson than that.
Not to worry, though–Mom’s bringing that stuff with her when she moves into my basement in Utah.
So if you’re in the market for a Hendo House, seize your chance to own a legend! Her agents Sherrie ((702) 525-4316) and Mary ((702) 281-0322) will get you a showing.
Or be a sweater vest sellout and buy a boxy little cookie-cutter shack in Green Valley that costs WAY more than it’s worth, plus an HOA. Don’t let me tell you what to do.

That Thing Where You Openly Declare War On Your Bad Health

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5 years ago today I was celebrating on Facebook that I’d lost 25 pounds and was trying to lose 15 more, to get back down to about 180. I’d been training for my first mud run, so losing all that extra bulk was a necessity.

I kept it off for a few years, then got into trucking, then started working all kinds of insane and unaccommodating hours, and that took its toll on my body. The increase was gradual and steady. I’ve lost token amounts of weight here and there, but always gained it back quickly because of how I live and work.

This is neither healthy nor affordable, and I’ve decided to put the kabosh on it. I’m scared to go back and add up how much my “just a few bucks” trips to gas stations and truck stops has costed me. Something tells me it wouldn’t be hard to crack a hundred bucks a month, especially if I add in the recently-frequent fast food runs at work.

I can’t keep doing this, but I have been because it’s convenient and tastes good. And then I sit around wondering why I can’t get back into mudding shape. I peaked at 230 pounds this year, the heaviest I’ve ever been. Not good. If I had Andrew Luck’s BMI, that would be one thing, but I don’t.

So here goes:

I officially declare that I am no longer drinking soda, be it diet or otherwise. If I really want something bubbly, a case of La Croix is cheap and harmless. If I want something tasty, a case of electrolyte drinks is affordable.

I am no longer buying fast food, or buying lunch even if I’m out with the guys at work. I don’t care if I get weird sideways looks from the employees at Arby’s as my co-workers order their $11 combos and I’m eating leftovers out of a Tupperware. Fight me, bro.

I’m not getting candy, even occasionally. Beef jerky is overpriced at corner stores. Protein bars? Buy ’em in bulk and ration ’em out. I’m getting hosed on expensive good food, but shooting myself in the foot by eating cheap bad food. Then I come home at night, stay up late working, and grab a bowl of cereal while I draw or edit.

Gee Graham, I can’t imagine why you’re heavy, or why you often get short of breath after a fit of exertion at your oh-so-physical job.

So hold me to this, guys. This starts now and runs *at least* through four weeks, which gets me past my birthday. I won’t be so naive as to think I’ll be able to avoid every ounce of this stuff but I have to make the drastic change now, because weeks and months and maybe even years of saying “Okay, this time I’ll do it, and quietly…” hasn’t worked.

Cat’s out of the bag. I’m back in hardware mode. Let’s GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.


Colts Comic #1: JJ tries to call Andrew.

These will get more sophisticated once I move out of my friends’ basement and have my full desk set up.

For those who don’t follow the NFL, JJ Watt is a defensive player for the Houston Trailer Trash. His job is to try to sack Andrew “God Mode” Luck of the Indianapolis Colts.

The joke here is that Watt claims to spend the offseason in a Spartan cabin in the woods, with no tech, just weights. In truth, it’s a fancy forest house.

In contrast, Andrew Luck can’t FaceTime because he still uses a flip phone. Enjoy.


Monster Hunter International (Monster Hunters International Book 1) by [Correia, Larry]Monster Hunter Vendetta (Monster Hunters International Book 2) by [Correia, Larry]Monster Hunter Alpha (Monster Hunters International Book 3) by [Correia, Larry]Monster Hunter Legion (Monster Hunters International Book 4) by [Correia, Larry]Monster Hunter Nemesis (Monster Hunters International Book 5) by [Correia, Larry]

This is one of the more adult series that I keep up with, so the tone and content of these is pretty different from what I normally plug. Just be advised if any of you take my recommendations seriously, there’s a fair amount of language and violence in Larry Correia’s flagship urban fantasy series.

The premise is this: Owen Pitt is an accountant and gun enthusiast (much like Correia) with a flexible mind and a penchant for pounding the crap out of anyone who shoots first. When he’s working after hours one night, he gets attacked by his boss, who is actually a werewolf. Using a combination of firepower and brute strength, Owen kills his boss, but wakes up in a hospital under the watchful care of the MCB (Monster Control Bureau).

What ensues is a Men-in-Black-esque briefing about the world of monsters, that they’re real, they’re a big problem, and the government pays private companies good money to hunt them down. Owen is invited to come to work for Monster Hunter International, and things go both up and down from there.

Why do I keep reading these books? Well, they’re good rip-roaring fun. They’re what SyFy Channel B-movies could be if the characters weren’t idiots, the weapons were accurate, and the writer(s) really tried to do a good job. Character is king, and Correia makes these characters lovable and admirable.

On top of that, he avoids big-city traps that other authors write. These stories don’t happen in Chicago, LA, or New York. He tries new settings and makes it all that much more interesting for it.

If you’re looking at a 6-book series and asking yourself how each one could possibly stay interesting, here’s a breakdown:

International: Pitt is recruited to MHI, learns he has a supernatural connection to a dead Jewish monster hunter, and needs to fight a killer demon who’s coming to destroy the world. (Takes place generally in the South in USA.)

Vendetta: An ancient evil comes to Earth to hunt Owen after the events of International. There’s an armored zombie bear in this one.  (Set in Mexico, the US South, and New Zealand.)

Alpha. This isn’t from Owen’s POV, it’s about MHI’s leader, Earl Harbinger, who is a government-sanctioned werewolf. He goes to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to face an old foe, only to learn that their pasts are more deeply intertwined than they thought. (One of the best of the series. Takes place in Michigan.)

Legion. Owen’s POV again. The team is at a monster-hunting convention when a nightmare demon breaks out and attacks the fictional dragon-themed hotel. (Takes place in LAS VEGAS!!!)

Nemesis. Not Owen’s POV. One of the MHI agents, Agent Franks, is actually a monster who’s been alive for hundreds of years. This is his backstory, interspliced with scenes in the present. I can’t remember where this one is set.

Siege. It’s not out yet but I’m dying to read it. Correia has written a bunch of other stuff since Nemesis came out in 2014, so this story has been sort of in limbo for a while.

Keep in mind, these are super watered-down summaries of these stories. There is a huge long roster of characters who are rich and well-developed, and their actions keep criss-crossing throughout the saga to keep things interesting. Correia knows how to write action and intrigue at a pace that does not invite you to take breaks.

So if gritty, high-octane urban fantasy is your jam, dig in. These are just a dang fun ride.

10 Ways Writing and Trucking are the Same Job

10– Technically anyone can do it, but if you don’t get some training you’ll make a huge mess.

9– If you hammer down but don’t know where you’re going, you’ll cover a lot of ground for no reason.
8– You can do it without planning the route. Just be prepared to take the long way and burn a ton of fuel…
7– …unless you’ve gone there before, in which case you probably know the way.
6– It will be a few days before you shower again.
5– If you keep a bottle handy, you can save time on bathroom breaks.
4– Don’t slow down unless you have to.
3– At this point you haven’t quit because you actually like the work, you weirdo.
2– “Woohoo, I made six dollars today!”
1– If you caffeinate yourself to the moon you can get TONS more done. 

Should-Reads: CODE NAME VERITY, by Elizabeth Wein


Amazon link here

Given that Elizabeth Wein just released the third novel in this series (a prequel to VERITY and ROSE UNDER FIRE) I thought I’d plug this book for y’all.

It’s written in a journal format, containing entries from two women at separate times, one of whom was a POW, and the other was a pilot. It’s a book that hinges on twists, reveals, and deception, so I don’t want to give away too much more than that.

What I loved about it was the richness of the two main characters, Verity and Maddie, who find a profound friendship as they serve behind the scenes in World War 2. I say “behind the scenes” because WW2 often conjures up images of island-hopping or D-Day, but even for the women in the war who were kept out of combat, peril abounded, and this book shows just how hard and fast it found these two.

It’s aided by Wein’s own chops as an airplane pilot, so those details give it weight without feeling forced. Ultimately it’s a tale of friendship and loyalty, and what shape those things take in wartime.

So far as I recall there was one F-bomb and a few sensual references, but nothing overt beyond that. Great book overall, and its sequel as well (though I confess I didn’t find as much optimism out of it as I did with the first one.)


Graham Re-Watches Pirates, part 2: Dead Man’s Chest

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Part 1 here

In the time between the first and second films in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, I served a two-year church mission in Spain, came home, changed jobs a few times (in a period I like to call “career A.D.D.”), and crashed at least two different relationships, maybe three. I don’t remember all that well. 2006 wasn’t great for me, in general.

So I was more than a little excited for a trip back down to the Caribbean during the golden age of piracy, sailing the seas with old Captain Jack and his merry band of miscreants. Gibbs, Marty, Cotton, Pintel, and Raghetti were still out there having adventures. I’d be dipped if I wasn’t going to be part of it.

There’s a hazard with watching a movie under those circumstances: you tend to overlook the flaws. And while Dead Man’s Chest was still a really good movie, it shot itself in the foot by not figuring out just a few things. I didn’t realize it back then, but after rewatching DMC last week, I thought I’d weigh its strengths against the weaknesses:

  1. Gore Verbinski. I will stress this again in my review of At World’s End, I’m almost sure of it. Now that I’ve watched 1 & 2 back-to-back, I’m much more aware of the thematic continuity that made these earlier films better than the later ones. Verbinski is the right director for these characters and stories.
  2. Jack once again was not the main character, but he managed to derail their lives. Doubtless Disney didn’t want to foul up the formula that had made Black Pearl such a success, so once again they started out with Will & Elizabeth in love, only to be foiled by Jack and his antics…which center on him dealing with a curse from his past. This promptly results in Will leaving Port Royal to hunt down Jack, and Elizabeth escaping custody to hide amongst sailors and find Will.
  3. Davy Jones managed to be an even more formidable villain than Hector Barbossa. Jack finally had to go up against someone that he proved unable to outwit, out-charm, or outmaneuver. Granted the antics of Commodore Norrington resulted in Davy Jones losing control of his heart, but that wasn’t Jack’s doing.
  4. Commodore Norrington proved he was more than a knock-over villain. While Black Pearl could have ended on a lighthearted note, with Norrington giving the pirates a slight lead before going after them, Dead Man’s Chest shows the writers’ commitment to following through on the events of the previous movie. What better way to motivate Norrington than to strip him of what he needs in order to be great–his crew and support staff–and leave him wanting? Without him, Jack would have gotten what he wanted (Jones’ heart) and the story would have ended very differently, possibly with Jack being forced into the captaincy of the Flying Dutchman.
  5. They patched up a stealth plot hole from the first film. Anyone who thinks about Black Pearl after the fact could only come to one certain conclusion: if Bootstrap Bill was a victim of the Aztec curse, then he was strapped to a cannon somewhere at the bottom of the sea, unable to die. (Which was why the pirates needed his blood.) However, that meant that he was still alive somewhere at the bottom of the sea, so the pirates could have easily dropped down there beside him and walked around until they found him, cut him loose, and brought him back to the surface to end the curse. BUT. In the likely event that they wouldn’t find Bootstrap, then breaking the curse would instantly kill him via drowning, wherever he was. We see how they resolved this in the second film: Bootstrap was shanghaied into Jones’ crew.
  6. Once again, the supporting cast were not overly hokey or weird. Aside from the aforementioned pirates on the Black Pearl, we also got introduced to Tia Dalma and Davy Jones, who were superb in their roles. The directors of Dead Men Tell No Tales tried to recapture this magic and succeeded…but only halfway. More on that in part 5.


Now that I’ve mentioned the strengths, I do want to address a few weaknesses:

  1. The practical effects for Jones’ crew were great. The CGI was not. And this became very apparent during my re-watch these 11 years later. While the pirate CGI from Black Pearl is still as good as ever, the sea monsters in Dead Man’s Chest were a touch too ambitious, to the point of being almost comical once the Kraken shows up to eat Jack.
  2. Some gags and sideplots took a little too long to play out. This was pretty clear with the Pelegostos natives. I feel like that segment of the story slowed the pace a touch too much, even if it was enjoyable on its own. It was, though, delivering on a side-joke from Black Pearl, when Jack told the British sailors that an unnamed band of natives “made me their chief.” We got to see this mystical legendary side of Jack, but at a cost to the pacing.
  3. The biggest complaint I have for this movie, and any of the Verbinski trilogy: they completely screwed up Elizabeth’s character in the second half. She starts out great–a scorned woman whose wedding was derailed by an ambitious and blackmailing sea lord!–only to be demoted from “character” to “mechanism” in the name of adding forced controversy. There was no prior indication that she should ever have fallen for Jack. That whole sidestory was bunk and it made her character obnoxious for this stretch of the plot.
  4. In their efforts to recapture the magic for the first film, they kept forcing too many things for the second film. This was never clearer than it was on Isla Cruces, when everyone showed up to grab Davy Jones’ chest. The three-way fight between Jack, Will, and Norrington–while certainly a great visual spectacle–was a major tonal shift from everything else leading up to it. In trying to showcase Jack’s agility and acrobatics, they shoved him into a water wheel and put a completely impractical–and highly distracting–fight on screen, hoping to remind audiences of the great fight between Jack and Barbossa in Black Pearl without outright copying it.
  5. There’s no way Gibbs would have left Jack like that. Yes, I understand they have to “stick to the code.” But when they asked where Jack was, and Elizabeth said he’d opted to stay behind and give them a chance, everyone had to know that that was bunk, and all anyone had to do–especially first mate Joshamee Gibbs–was look up over the side of the boat, or even call out to Jack (who would have called foul play or shouted for someone to let him loose). So on a second watch-through, that didn’t pass the smell test.

All that said, I still liked it overall. Those things weren’t major surgical problems (except for the misuse of Elizabeth’s affections at the end) they were just bits that stood out here and there and took me out of the story. If you’re asking me to sit through two and a half hours, they’d better all be worth it.

Still, it was better than Tides or Tales. 

Next up, part 3.