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:


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

Image may contain: 2 people, indoor
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!

audiobook cover

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!