Shusterman’s waterless disaster novel is anything but dry

Neal Shusterman is in my top 10 of all authors, and it will be hard for anyone to edge him out for a long time.

Between the 4 Unwind books, the Skinjacker trilogy, the current Arc of a Scythe books, and such standalones as CHALLENGER DEEP and BRUISER, he’s proven himself competent and capable at delivering on the promises of his big ideas.

DRY is another standalone, co-authored with his son Jarrod, which I admit gave me a moment’s pause when I first heard about it. Was it mostly Jarrod? Was I in for an entirely different treatment from the eleven other Neal books I had loved?

I needn’t have worried, as DRY lands just as well as anything else the elder Shusterman has done. I would very much like to hear from both of them about their process and how they worked together to tell this story.

The premise is that Nevada and Arizona suddenly pull out of an arrangement with California that supplies most of their water.

Immediately society goes to hell, and people go feral, an idea that Shusterman explored back in Unwind, but this is a more grounded treatment.

DRY doesn’t depend on future tech or massive changes to the legal landscape of America. It’s not a “after [crazy thing X] comes [crazy thing Y], which parallels our reality.” Instead, it’s “we are very much on the cusp of this, because California has a water problem that they aren’t addressing.”

I don’t want to give anything away, because you should read it. I will only say these things about it:

1) The characters are great. Well-rounded, distinct in tone, and even though it’s mostly written in first person, the alternating viewpoints are clear.

2) The audiobook had six or seven narrators, which helped to expand the focus of the instant drought, and show how it affected so many people.

3) The book works well as a commentary on our society, in terms of emergency preparation, entitlement, self-interest, and the things people will do to each other when law and order go out the window.

I will say, in the end, that it was kind of a hard book to read, because it was so devastating, and so many people suffered. The Shustermans don’t cushion the blow with this story; if California were to lose its water supply in real life, millions of people would suffer, and the book allows us to safely examine that without the massive toll.

Final note, there is a content warning: numerous S-bombs and blasphemous exclamations litter the text. Convincingly so, but there. It would be a PG-13 movie.

Read on.

Ichabod Crane was not a sexy dude.

I wrote about this back in 2013 on my old blog, and it’s a good time to revisit this subject.

Washington Irving’s best-known tale is The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, featuring lanky Connecticut schoolmaster Ichabod Crane versus the ghost of the Headless Horseman.

Everyone has heard of the story, due to its staying power over the centuries (Irving wrote it in the early 1800s) but Hollywood tends to butcher the important parts.

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The two most recent adaptations were Sleepy Hollow from 1999, wherein Ichabod Crane is a sexy supernatural detective played by Johnny Depp, in his pre-Jack Sparrow days.

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Later he was played by Tom Mison in the TV show “Sleepy Hollow,” which was a wild, wild departure from just about anything having to do with Irving’s classic (other than Ichabod, Katrina, and the Horseman.)

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Apparently Jeff Goldblum portrayed Ichabod in a for-TV version of the movie back in the early 1980s. This version of the character was closer to accurate, even if the story wasn’t.

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To date, the most correct portrayal I’ve seen is the animated Disney version from many many decades ago. Both the character and the story are directly adapted from what Irving crafted.

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I bring this up because I usually read The Legend of Sleepy Hollow in October, and have for the past five or six years. Yesterday I plugged in the audio (I have the version narrated by Tom Mison, funnily enough) and as always, it’s a striking feat of language and emotion and storytelling.

This story always draws me in, and not just because Irving was a fantastic writer; I found out back in 2015 that I actually have a ancestors buried in the Old Dutch Church Cemetery in Sleepy Hollow, New York. (Their names were Dirke Storm and Gregoris Storm.)

Naturally this has fueled my imagination for some time, and I’ve poured that fuel into a story idea that I’ve been kicking around since my twenties. I’ve tried tackling it before, only to fail, but this is the year that I can make it happen.

So my NaNoWriMo novel is called SLEEPLESS HOLLOW. It’s a modern-day follow-up to Irving’s original story, one that treats it all as historical fact, and accurately portrays the characters he created.

I won’t get into too many details for now, just know that SLEEPLESS HOLLOW is going to be my big release of 2019. It will be about a year before you guys get to read it, but check back here for updates and snippets as I write and illustrate it.

And if you need something to hold you over in the meantime, head over to http://www.gutenberg.org and grab a free ebook copy of Irving’s Legend. Fall in love with it like I do every time I read it.

There is more to be discovered in that sleepy little villa…

Reading Update! October Edition.

As per usual, I am burning through audiobooks at work (thanks largely to my library’s OverDrive selection–they don’t have everything I look for, but they have so many things I end up wanting to read and it is good to branch out.)

Obviously the October theme is the spooky stuff, whether horrific or whimsical. I am interspersing these reads with other stuff. Here is what I have been into:

SKULDUGGERY PLEASANT by Derek Landy. Heard about this years ago, finally got around to it, truly a delight. Middle-grade fantasy about a girl, Stephanie, in Ireland who inherits her rich uncle’s estate, only to end up in a sorcerer war. The eponymous Skulduggery Pleasant is a skeleton of a wizard who died a long time ago and is now a detective. He and Stephanie team up for an adventure. Hilarious wit and dialogue, great characters, and the story itself was plain but fun. I will read another.

A WALK IN THE WOODS by Bill Bryson. If you expect this saga of an Appalachian Trail hike to be insightful, fulfilling, or remotely of substance, you should set that expectation aside and brace yourself for accounts of annoying people with bad decision making processes who ultimately bail on the trail without completing even half of it. The only redeeming parts were the historical and scientific tidbits about the Trail, which you can probably read on Wikipedia. This book sucked, read Gary Paulsen instead.

CALL OF CTHULHU by H.P. Lovecraft. I have never read HPL and decided to correct that this year. Didn’t love it, didn’t hate it, it’s a forerunner to the modern horror genre and I see why. Glad I read it, won’t really prioritize other stuff over it. I see why people dig his writing though.

UNDER A GRAVEYARD SKY by John Ringo. Lifted my ban on zombie books to read this. 70 pages in, liking it so far.

And then…

DRY by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman.

Not going to say anything until I finish and write a full review, other than there is a reason why I have read 11 of Shusterman’s books and he is #$%@ing BRILLIANT.

More to come! Stay dreadful.

Recent Reads

Here’s what I have read lately, what I’m reading now, and what I’ll read soon.

Previously…

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RED QUEEN by Victoria Aveyard. Verdict? It was a good book and deserves its fanbase. Did I get into it? Not really, but not through any fault of the novel; it’s a well-done assemblage of tropes for the young adult “fight the power” genre, and I already have favorites in that sub-category. The apex characters for me are Katniss Everdeen and Darrow of Lykos, and any new character would have to surpass them for me to go crazy over the book.

So check if out if you’re into that, it works pretty well on its own.

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DREAM OF THE IRON DRAGON by Robert Kroese. I’m Twitter-friends with Rob, but if I hadn’t really liked this book, I wouldn’t plug it here. Solid 5 stars, really cool story that starts in space in the future, and ends up with a spaceship crashing in Viking times. Stoked to read the next one.

Content note: fair amount of profanity including F-bombs, normal combat violence, no sensuality.

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THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING, BBC full-cast audio rendition. It’s taken me about 15 or 16 years to admit it, but it turns out that I actually don’t like reading these books in their fully-caffeinated iterations, nor do I enjoy listening to them. I like the movies! And these condensed-but-complete radio readings are also pretty enjoyable.

Fun fact, this was recorded in 1981, and Frodo was voiced by Ian Holm, who later went on to play Bilbo in Peter Jackson’s film adaptations. Sam was voiced by Bill Nighy, a.k.a. Davy Jones from the Pirates flicks.

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POWERS OF THE EARTH by Travis J.I. Corcoran. Lamentably I gave it three stars, only because so many of the characters were just caricatures of one form of idealism or another, and the author’s favorites were always heavily presented as the smart ones (though a lot of them were jerks.)

To its credit, the book boasts high-stakes conflict and tension, and a wealth of imagination on the tech-and-science side of things. I can see why it won a Prometheus award for hard sci-fi. But if it lives up to the moniker of “Atlas Shrugged in space” (and it does), then it takes the strengths of Ayn Rand’s classic novel as well as its flaws.

 

And at present I am reading…

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One is a sci-fi about drillers that fight an evil dragon, and one is about how to write sci-fi about drillers fighting evil dragons.

Also:

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In the mornings I toggle back and forth between some Church history books, about the early members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Man, we easily forget how comfortable our lives are in the modern age…

 

And coming up…

Legion: The Many Lives of Stephen Leeds audiobook cover art

The final installment in a Sanderson trilogy, and

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A hike down the Appalachians.

 

Stay tuned, fans.

9/11 at 17 and 34

Not too much to say here, only that it’s been 17 years since 9/11, and I was 17 when it happened. I am now working with a group of youths at my church who weren’t born when it happened.

In the years since, we have constantly been in a hyper-politicized war in the Middle East, first in Afghanistan, then in Iraq. We wanted to crush the terrorist groups responsible. We wanted to remove their ability to ever do this to us or anyone ever again.

Clearly we haven’t achieved this and I don’t know what the answer is. We have a ton of veterans, dead soldiers, and monetary debt, and what to show for it? We keep crushing terrorists and their cells and their leaders and their offshoots in an endless game of Whack-a-Mole. One goes down, another pops up.

If we pull back, they surge and kill civilians. If we keep going, then…I don’t know.

I have spent half my life now in a country funding a war effort. I want to win, and have done with it.

I’m just one person. I don’t know what I can do.

I just want to remember the lessons of that day, remember what the world was like before it, and hope my kids can get a taste of it in the future.

Let’s be better.

This Week’s Card Art

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Finished another template last night (though I might tweak some of the colors later, still a new discipline for me.)

On this one, you & yours would be drawn into Santa’s snowmobile, outfoxing the Abominable Snowman at the North Pole. I might also add some trees in the background just because.

Down below you’ll find the last two templates I did.

I won’t be heavily advertising these until November, but feel free to place an order whenever. Prices start at $25, I draw you in, you print them up and send them out instead of paying a photographer this year. Yay!

 

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First Christmas Card Templates Are Up!

Copyright 2018 by Graham Bradley

Yeah yeah, Christmas decorations in September…this isn’t that.

I’m trying to sell customized art to make a little extra cash this fall. The sooner I open up for business, the more overall moolah I can make. Plus it gives you time to think of what you want me to make for you.

This is cheaper than corralling your whole family front of a professional photographer, only to find out (once you have printed 100 cards) that your 6 year-old was secretly flipping the bird to the camera.

This last week I finished the first of the custom Christmas card art commissions for 2018, and I decided I need to change up my method. It took me about 8 nights of work to knock it out.

Instead, I figure I need to make templates so that I just need to draw people in them. The first two templates are featured above. Over the next few weeks I will add more. (And feel free to make suggestions in the comments!)

Template drawings will start at $25. Some of the more complex ones will be about $50, you’ll see what they look like as September rolls on.

This will allow me to fill orders faster and earn more overall money.

Which is kinda the point. 🙂

You can still commission something from scratch, but that option will start at $75. I’ll post an example of what that looks like once I have permission from the last client to share hers.

Feel free to message me at dreadpennies [at] g mail to get your order started. Or if you have questions, comment below!

Thanks.

We’ll Always Have Summer.

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And so the Bradley clan says goodbye to another summer, that perennial nest of adventure and wonderment and limitless bliss.

To the 11,000 miles of work truck grind, whittled away by audiobooks and podcasts and daydreams under the wide open desert sky;

The movies and the pool days and the barbecues, long nights with the office window open, freshly mowed grass, tank tops and gym shorts;

The birthdays, the 4th, the camping and the memories of summers past;

Reflecting on the few bad years, and the many good ones, liberated from the classroom, wandering the town at midnight, crashing a friend’s house, a short-lived romance killed by September, and the promise that the next year would be even better;

Recalling that final August alone, before securing Schaara in my life, and our journey since, passing on the zeal to our children, who yet will have many summers packed to the gills with that bursting-of-the-heart that comes with hot afternoons and boisterous nights;

Yes, fare thee well summer, we loved you plenty, and though the coming Autumn has venced you once more, we will see you again.

Thank you for always being there.

Updated Pricing on Your Christmas Card Art

Hey there, Dreads.

A few months back I announced I was doing custom Christmas card art for 2018.

This is still the case, and I’ve made some updates to the pricing and the options available. I just finished a custom card for a client and it took a lot longer than I intended, and I’m concerned that if I start scheduling more of these, I won’t get them all done and they won’t match the quality to the price I’m charging.

SO. The fix is this: I’m designing some templates for basic cards with stock backgrounds and stuff, and the “custom” part will just  be how I draw your families. Certain cards will cost more because of their details or popularity or what have you.

Fully custom cards will cost more, and still have a general turnaround time of a week.

Details are pending, as soon as I get the first round of templates done. If you have any questions, comment below or email me at dreadpennies (at) g mail.

Talk to you soon!