End of January Report

Sup homies

January was productive. Fell short of a few goals, started some habits, failed to start others, February is a reset button.

I did 10 episodes of the Brother Trucker Book Club Podcast, to which you should subscribe. Only great things in the future there.

Several old Engines of Liberty drawings are on my Instagram page, you can see them there along with new works in progress.

I am still writing SLEEPLESS HOLLOW, my intended release for October.

There are other work-based considerations taking up my time, but forward movement is still happening, stay tuned here for details.

Peace out.

What makes a story truly land for me

Long story short: you need a big question, or a big concept.

Every time I come back to this scene ag the end of Star Trek: The Next Generation, the strength of the concept is just superb.

Q tells Picard that exploration isn’t a physical thing, limited to the five senses. It’s exploring existence and opening your mind up to the seemingly impossible.

That’s where faith finds its place in the universe. I love this exchange. I hope that when I tackle story ideas of my own, I’m able to succinctly describe big truths and concepts like this.

It’s what makes truly good art.

Still Trucking

When people say “Keep on trucking,” it really triggers my Dad Joke Gene because that’s literally how I pay for my life.

This week has sucked, though. I broke a trailer that we needed for a job, forcing me to take a different truck, which got stuck at a port of entry because it wasn’t the right truck for the job.

We’re way behind on stuff now, so blah. But today the truck got fixed and it works great and we took it on a rescue mission up the canyon…

…in this.

Taken while stopped at the PofE.

Perfect conditions for a maiden voyage with a GCVW of about 70,000 pounds. Long, slow crawl down the mountain, but we got it done.

Some weeks are just gonna suck. Roll with it, do what you can, and get back to work. The weekend is always coming.

Also I finished Mockingjay for the third time, beautiful book. Go listen to the “Brother Trucker Book Club” podcast, ep 005. I covered it there. Subscribe, download, all that.

Ok bye.

Around here, we celebrate Dread-ful years

Woot woot, sawlid Dad Joke.

2018 sucked for a lot of people in a lot of ways, myself included. That’s just life. Then again, none of my family died, we’re all healthy and I still have a job. Not too much to complain about here at DreadPennies.

January was chill as all hell, no pun intended. I did my first ever author event at a library in Tremonton, Utah. It was an excuse to get out of town and have a quiet anniversary weekend with the wife.

February I taught at LTUE about how to wreck different vehicles in different ways. Also somebody hit my dog with their car so I hope their car wrecks.

March saw more gym time because I was a massive fatty and needed to stop the train. I didn’t lose any weight but I benched 250 for the first time.

April Avengers: Infinity War hit theaters, and the Internet was instantly flooded with dusty people memes. What a movie. Also I sold a short story.

May At work we landed a huge contract for a job to clean up a diesel spill in the desert. I would spend most of my summer driving boxes full of dirt across Utah. Easy easy money.

June My friend Ryan gave me a motorcycle. The baseline for friendship leveled up significantly.

July We took a family trip to Yellowstone for our birthdays, and I saw a bison up close for the first time! Also, the acidic caldera smells a lot like an oil refinery. Nature is pretty bad for nature.

August I finally lost weight when the wife made me do Jillian Michaels workouts in the mornings. Then a routine pipe job at work ended up dislocating my shoulder. Not my best summer ending, more on that later.

September We all welcomed the fall with open arms, and there was much anticipation for a change in the Sunday schedule at church. Also, as the dirt job slowed down, refinery work picked up. I started 60+ hour weeks.

October I did Inktober for the first time and it was a ton of fun. Even got paid to do it! I was on standby at work and had my sketchbook in the truck.

November I got paid to write! Same sitch as Inktober. Also, after looking forward to Thanksgiving for months, I got sick with strep for the weekend. Ugh. But I took the wife to see The Scarlet Pimpernel so the weekend wasn’t a total loss.

December For the first time in a long time, I think I finally found real meaning in the great Christmas holiday, without being super bummed that it was over. God bless us every one (said without irony.)

And now begins the resetting of the apocalypse clock, as 2019 rolls in and I take the long view of what I will accomplish next year.

Will I bore you with it here?

Hell no.

Just get ready for adventure. Fill your life with it. Live for something more than the grind. Strive. Struggle. Achieve.

And get back to work.

I just saw a Classic Cartoon Christmas Moment.

A couple of facts up front:

1) I tend to deal with something akin to seasonal depression once Christmas is over, and I never know why or how to deal with it.

2) The older I get, the more I want to head it off when I see it coming.

3) Tonight, Saturday, December 15, 2018, at 6:32PM on my back deck, as I grill pork for lunches this week, I think I finally may have beaten this thing. At least for this year.

The above song, “Old City Bar” by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, always gets me thinking about how I spend Christmas. I once wrote a poem based entirely on the line “If you want to arrange it/this world you can change it…” because I really wanted to do Christmas right.

It’s a holiday about God keeping a promise to send us a Savior. And I think one reason I get gloomy after Christmas is maybe because I have made all kinds of promises to God to be a good Christian, only I don’t think I am. At the end of the day I don’t serve all that many people, or in a meaningful way that I can see.

Well, this year something great finally happened, and not to me–to my friend Lisa.

The short version is that she has had a crap year. Lost some extremely close family members, things like that. If you know her, you know the details, I won’t share them here.

Well, the cherry on top came when her car super-died last month, and a reliable replacement can break the 10k mark pretty fast.

Her brother Dennis came to the rescue and rallied the troops. Everyone who knows Lisa chipped in $10 here, $20 there, and she had the money she needed in an instant. Today she bought the new car and thanked everyone who helped. It felt really good to see my name on the list.

I’m not rich, but seldom do I struggle, and for as much as I consider the value of things I spend my money on, I’m glad I found myself in a position to help someone who needed it.

All those kiddie Christmas cartoons were right: there’s a true meaning of Christmas, and it isn’t about getting things. (Unless you’re Lisa this year, in which case it kinda is.) Maybe it is more about how you get them, and how you give them.

Maybe it is about how we keep our promises.

That’s all. Merry Christmas, you guys. I love you all. Go listen to the entire “Christmas and Other Stories” album by TSO. It’s beautiful.

See you out there. Now get back to work.

So Dies November

Put away the pumpkin spice and break out the peppermint.

3 weeks of Thanksgiving means 5 weeks of Christmas. Next year it’s back to 4 and 4.

I kind of missed Thanksgiving, strep laid me out and I lost the whole weekend.

But I finished MISTER FRIDAY! Buy it.

Anyway, Christmas is underway and it’s finally time to go full-bore on music and cartoons.

I’m editing a few pieces and gearing up to send out a few others. And of course, reading.

Hope you had a good November. This is not a very interesting blog post, but then again, nobody reads these, so who cares?

6 Historical Details about Thanksgiving (and you won’t BELIEVE #7)

This year both our kids are into reading, so we picked up some library books about this holiday, and learned/remembered some cool facts about how Thanksgiving came to be:

1) The modern holiday is an amalgamation of traditions dating back almost 400 years, from early colonial America. The main feast we celebrate took place in 1621.

2) The English Pilgrims that came over on the Mayflower had a hard first winter on this continent, suffering a 50 percent casualty rate from starvation and exposure. During the next harvest, they ended up with so much food, they knew they would do more than survive. They could even get fat.

3) This was unusual back then! We take our food for granted in America nowadays because it is so easy to come by, compared to how hard people had to work for it in 1621. It was about 85% of what you did.

4) The Pilgrims called their place “Plimoth Plantation.” The local Native American tribesfolk were the Wampanoag people. One of them spoke English, the famous Squanto (or Tisquantum), but he himself was not Wampanoag.

Squanto had had a hard life; he was taken into slavery, sold to the Spanish, escaped, came back to America, and found that his tribe, the Patuxet, had died of disease. He was the last one. He joined the Wampanoag people, and was with them when they met the Pilgrims.

5) As the Pilgrims were celebrating their massive harvest, the chief/king of the Wampanoag, called Massasoit, decided to join them, and brought 90 of his men with them. The English and the Natives celebrated by eating food and playing games for days. (Probably to avoid leftovers.) It was a joyous event for all present.

6) Thanksgiving Day was officially established in 1789 by George Washington. Later, Thomas Jefferson said “nah,” and made it less of a big deal. Americans celebrated it on and off until 1863, when Abraham Lincoln said “Boom, we’re doing this thing.”

7) Maybe John Wilkes Booth really just agreed with Thomas Jefferson. (Boom, also.)

So there you have it. Have a sit, have a think, and realize what a miraculous age we live in. There are still hungry people, yes. We haven’t solved all our problems yet.

But food is so readily available to us, in such a wide variety, all year long without interruption, border to border, coast to coast.

It’s a big deal to wrestle sustenance out of the ground. Let’s never take it for granted. Similarly, let’s be thankful for those who make it happen, and for those who celebrate with us.

Happy Thanksgiving.

I nuked my Twitter account

Image result for mushroom cloud

I meant to get this done a few weeks ago, but it was hard to find an app that could handle my entire archive of almost 28,000 tweets. Which, when you think about it, is a lot of bullcrap to be talking about in short bursts. That’s got a lot to do with why I wanted to scrap the whole thing.

My apologies to anyone who RT’d or Fave’d my stuff in the last couple of days. I’m really trying to minimize my digital footprint with regards to insubstantial things. I am friends with groups of people in wide circles (some writers, some fellow Christians, some general old friends, etc) and will use Twitter to engage in discussions with them as I see fit, but for the most part I wanted to really scale back my presence on there because it’s dumb, it’s a mob hive, and its rules are ever-changing with the intent punishing people @Jack doesn’t like.

So yeah, all my tweets, boom, gone. Nine years’ worth of them. I have an archive, so that’s fine. But they’re not hanging out there in cyberspace, reminding me that I have put a lot of junk onto the Web in the last decade.

Happy Monday, peeps.

The Synchronicity of HallowThankMas

You guys, I love this time of year. I love having a huge holiday to look forward to each month. Decorating, making treats, smelling the seasonal smells and seeing the seasonal sights…yeah, I’m one of those guys. The rest of the year is one huge giant slog, with an intermission in July for some crucial birthdays. Other than that, we’re all counting down to the Big Three:

Halloween!

Wherein we embrace death, the universal destination of life. The price that all men must pay. That innate fear within humanity. Some approach it with varying degrees of severity; I prefer the whimsical touch, with an understanding of the reality of death, of the necessity of fear, and our ability to live joyfully in spite of these two things we can’t control.

Thanksgiving!

That mighty feast of the harvest, wherein we take a look at how full our lives really are, how we have reliable channels to sustenance, an abundance of rich and delicious things to fill our bellies. A day of friendship and family and football and food comas…in my adult years so far, I have come to understand the innate value of all of this, especially in such a tumultuous world. Did my parents worry about my future the way I worry about my children’s? Perhaps. ‘Tis only human. But on this day, and in this season, I set aside the worry for what is to come, and revel in gratitude for what has already arrived.

Christmas!

O, thou art the grandest of kahunas. (Kahuni?) That capstone of the year, bursting with color and magic and fulfillment of wishes…of TV specials and blinking lights and mystery gifts in the living room…where reindeer fly and fat men pull one all-nighter and the bank account gets mugged like a cripple in a bad part of town. And the music! Oh, we could gush for days about the music. But we’d rather just listen to it.

Much like Thanksgiving, the lens of adulthood shifts the meaning of Christmas for me. I had a few rough ones in my twenties, on my own, short on funds, trying to make sense of certain trials in my life. While I still chase that childhood feeling, and see my boys lap it up like I did, the deeper meaning is clearer to me. Keeping Christ at the center of it is crucial, because ultimately it’s a holiday about God keeping a promise He made to us.

There is a synchronicity among these holidays, perhaps unintentional, but one that I find all the same: we live in a world where forces can exert their will on us, and we can’t always fight back, and at times we may despair because we know death is at the end of the road.

Yet we also live in a world of plenty, and with our cup running over, we can reflect on the bounties of life, and their real value.

Because ultimately this life is fleeting, and though death comes, its sting is gone, swallowed up in the fulfillment of a divine promise.

I love that we get to remember those things every year. That we dress it up in a parade that smothers all senses, with colors and tastes and smells and heart-shattering joy.

I can endure nine months of the hard, cruel grind of life if I know there’s a respite at the end of the road. Three gory, gracious, gift-laden months of respite.

I love you guys. I love this time of year. I love this life–especially when it’s going great, and even when it sucks.

I hope you love it too.

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.