July 2020: State of the Dread

It’s July!

The Podcast

This week episode 9 of “Welcome to the Faro” went live. It’s the 2nd of a 3-episode arc that covers my time in Tarragona, the hardest stretch of my mission.

Subscribe on Apple Podcasts here, or look it up on your preferred podcast app. As of right now almost 20 episodes are recorded, and it will have 25 in all.

The Brother Trucker Book Club Podcast comes back this month as well, airing weekly on Wednesdays.

The Writing

I have two semi-finished drafts of different books, HOMEWORLD and FOOL’S SILVER. Right now I’m reading the former to my wife, and her feedback is helping to tighten it up. She’s been really supportive of my storytelling, going all the way back to our dating days 10 years ago.

When I can, I pick at WITH ANSWERABLE COURAGE too. I’m not in as much of a rush with that one, but I don’t want to dawdle either, as it needs work.

The Artwork

Still drawing every day over on Instagram, and I finished the rough inkwork for the WAC cover (above). Digital art is similar to traditional, different in a few ways, and really crisp overall. I quite like it.

The Reading (and the Watching…)

I’ve been getting more DVDs from the library for background noise, Turn is a really interesting show, if historically inaccurate in spots. Par for the course with the genre, I’m liking it for the most part, it’s just too horny sometimes.

There’s an old flick from the 50s on Disney+ that I started to watch and it mentions the novel JOHNNY TREMAIN by Esther Forbes, which I never read. Grabbed an audio copy of it from the library, and I will read it this month along with BUNKER HILL.

The Fitness

My wife has a subscription to some online workouts that I like so far. Intense stuff but the results are really great. My back is popping a lot more, haha.

I also did over 2,000 pushups in June. So that feels pretty good.

The Rest

I have to keep reminding myself not to surrender to malaise, there’s just a lot of it going around. Everything is a matter of perspective though. Maybe I haven’t been tried hard enough or in the right ways. God knows what He’s doing.

Chin up kiddos, the best month of the summer is now upon us. Get back to work.

Success costs. What’s your currency?

I read this book a few weeks ago called THE DINOSAUR ARTIST by Paige Williams. It’s part of my paleontology kick because I want to know more about the science and its practice.

In exploring the world of black market fossils, Williams uncovers an even more fascinating cautionary tale in the life of Erik Prokopi, swimmer-turned-fossil hunter, and how his world got turned on its head.

First, a point that needs to be made: success costs. Sometimes it costs money, or time, or your pride. It can also cost you relationships if you’re not careful.

In Erik’s case, it cost him his entire net worth and then some, a few years of his freedom, and his marriage.

Williams lays out the story quite fairly, and I should be quick to say that her portrait of Prokopi is not that of a bad guy in general. Rather I think he fell for one of the oldest errors in history, where he put himself just a little too close to temptation.

I’m a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the point I want to emphasize ties in heavily with the philosophies taught in that faith. One of the things that the prophets have taught us continually since the Restoration is that we ought to avoid debt.

There is a such thing as a wise use of debt, and doing so to create wealth can be a great tool for blessing our lives and the lives of others. Prokopi was pretty wise with his capital early on in his career as a treasure hunter, digging up Native relics in the swamps of Florida.

But as time went on and he started to find old fossils, he realized there was a market for them, and he started to make more and more money off his recoveries. He went from success to success and started putting together dinosaur skeletons shipped to the States from all over the world.

Now, while there were laws on the books about removing natural history relics from other countries and taking them to America, Williams notes that these laws were scoffed at, ignored, and not enforced, to the point where a robust black market had surfaced and anyone could buy dinosaur bones from anywhere. (Leonardo DiCaprio and Nicholas Cage were two such buyers.)

But between a change in some laws in the US, and the drive of a Mongolian national to protect her country’s natural history, a case was built against Prokopi right when he was at a peak level of vulnerability.

He had acquired too many assets, taken on too much debt, reached just a little too far. His wife was also taking on a lot of debt for a house-flipping business that she ran. While they were successful, they also had a high overhead, and the financial crash of 2008 came down on them hard.

When the market dies and you have $11,000 per month in liabilities, you tend to show hampered judgment.

Fortunately Prokopi had a big job land in his lap. Unfortunately, he was about to get arrested by the Law and charged with all manner of crimes that now had teeth to them.

That’s not the worst part of it though: that came when it surfaced that Prokopi had been having an affair with one of his assistants, a woman who’d been helping with the assembly of an illegal dinosaur skeleton.

His marriage ended, his business was ruined, his finances were destroyed, and he served time in a low-security prison for a few years as part of his sentence.

It was a tragic end, not just to a really fascinating career, but really to what sounded like a beautiful marriage and family. It had to be hard to go through it, then re-live it all for a writer who wanted to put it in a book for the whole world to see.

There is, I think, a positive takeaway for the rest of us though:

Success. Costs.

How do you define success? What will it take to achieve that? Are you willing to pay that?

These are personal questions and the answers will most likely be personal too.

For my money, I’m not willing to do anything to hurt my wife or kids, no matter how badly I want to be a professional artist and full-time writer. Or even how badly I want to be financially affluent. Or physically dominant. Or whatever.

If I fail my family, nothing else will matter.

I’ve learned this repeatedly as I’ve read bios about great men, men whose accomplishments will be remembered for years and decades to come.

Johnny Unitas, legendary Colts quarterback. He won four rings back when “playing defense” and “assaults & battery” were the same thing. He also cheated on his first wife with a woman who his kids hated, and would go on to marry her. His son’s book THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN ARM was heartbreaking in that regard.

Charles Schulz, one of the greatest American cartoonists of all time, creator of Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang. Cheated on his wife after a quarter of a century, paid for his daughter to get an abortion in Japan, and had to sell his home and start over somewhere else. His kids found out about the divorce on the radio. Just tragic.

Alexander Hamilton was another one. Dude might have been President of the US someday, but he cheated on his wife and compromised himself politically, which was disappointing enough but still didn’t approach the level of failure in the home.

All of these men are remembered, and they accomplished great things in their lifetime.

I can’t imagine that being good enough to replace an unfaithful spouse or an absent parent. Not when you’re the one in that marriage, you’re the one in that family, trying to make sense of the hole that is suddenly there.

Success costs.

But.

It can also cost too much.

So be careful of the actual cost. Read the fine print. Use your debt wisely, tactically. No matter the currency, don’t overpay.

Some things, like your family, are not worth paying.

June 2020: State of the Dread

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Summer is upon us! Wherever and however we may, let us roll the top back and put the hammer down, for beyond us lies ADVENTURE!!!

 

The Podcast

Welcome to the Faro has been a great project so far, and it’s now on Apple Podcasts! I’m recording these several times a week but they only go live on Mondays, so I’ve got a bit of a buffer in case things go crazy.

The Brother Trucker Book Club is still scheduled to resume in July, but there will be a special bonus episode for THE BALLAD OF SONGBIRDS AND SNAKES by Suzanne Collins. Schaara and I finished reading it and we’ll team up for a discussion about it. (We both loved the book.)

Scholastic on Twitter: "RETURN TO THE HUNGER GAMES! THE BALLAD OF ...

The Artwork

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I’m up to #9 on a list of presidential puns that I came up with a year ago. (I tweeted them all out with GIFs in an epic thread starting here.) The ones I’ve drawn are mostly the same as the ones I tweeted, but I’ve changed a few because they worked better visually.

This particular theme will run its course right around the 4th of July, maybe a little sooner, we’ll see. As we head into Month 6 of 2020, I feel the need to structure my sketchbooks a little better, and work on particular weaknesses of mine. When I’m done with the presidential puns I think I will grab one of my old artbooks and go through the exercises to sharpen my skills. That or I’ll work on Figurosity poses. I don’t know, the options are limitless.

The Writing

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Oh MAN this is picking up! Once the Faro podcast starts to wind down, I have a new podcast on deck tentatively called the DreadPennies Adventure Hour. My writing at the moment is focused on generating content for that new show. I finished the cover art for the first short story I will feature, called HOMEWORLD. Add it to your Goodreads list!

This one will last about three episodes. The following short story will be called FOOL’S SILVER (completely unrelated to anything I’ve written so far). That will also be three episodes, and the third story will be WITH ANSWERABLE COURAGE, my Thanksgiving epic fantasy.

Whether I will immediately have another story ready in December or not remains to be seen. More details as the year unfolds, because it’s hard to predict my schedule with certainty right now.

The Fitness

JUNE IS THE MONTH I GO ON A SUGAR FAST. I will probably spam my Insta with daily reports, we’ll see.

In addition to doing pushups almost every day in May, I did decently well on my food intake. I have no way of knowing whether I hit 205 on my body weight because my scale died and funds are, let’s say, frozen at the moment, so replacing it isn’t a priority. Nevertheless I shall improve my eating and also work out every day but Sunday, because this train never stops and I WILL weight 177.6 this year.

Doesn’t look like it will happen by July 4th, unfortunately, but it will happen. All my pants are fitting looser and my pecs only bounce when I tell them to. Things are going well.

The Rest

The country is going insane and I refuse to be a part of the problem. I’m gonna be a good neighbor, a good father, a good husband, and a good artist. Summer is upon us and we can still make it a good one for ourselves and the people we care about.

That’s it, get your butt back to work.

May 2020: State of the Dread

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The Mascot of May!

We are 1/3rd of the way through the year! Here’s what’s up:

The Podcast

The BTBC Podcast is on hold until mid-July at the earliest. I’ve wanted to take a break for a while, and I’ve been more excited about a different podcast idea, so I’m tackling that instead. The WTTF Podcast (Welcome to the Faro) is a new podcast wherein I recap my experience as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Find it on whatever platform you use for podcasts and subscribe! I’m really proud of how it’s coming together so far.

Image may contain: 2 people, people standing, possible text that says 'Welcome to the Faro! Missionary Training Center A Chronicle of My Mission to Barcelona, Spain'

YouTube!

I was only able to record the first 5 chapters of REBEL HEART last month. You can find them on my YouTube playlist here. Right now the view count is pretty low, and filming/uploading is time-consuming, so unless more people are interested I will be leaving that alone for now. Too many irons in the fire. (A frequent problem of mine.)

The Artwork

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I’m up into the 120s on my #draweveryday challenge. This huge commission was for my friend Lisa, who’s been having a rough go of it even without the WuFlu coming at her. Here’s a bunch of her friends (including yours truly as the Winter Soldier Brother Trucker) wearing Marvel skins.

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This one, though…this one I’m very very pleased with. It’s only a small portion of the cover for WITH ANSWERABLE COURAGE (coming November 2020!) but man alive, I LOVE digital drawing! Steelpunk Myles Standish is so much fun to write and draw, too.

As always, follow my Insta for the daily drawings and sketches.

Writing

I’ve been alternating between two short stories that will be the inaugural fare for my StoryTime podcast. The first one is HOMEWORLD, the second is TORERO, both are working titles. I won’t have interior art for them for a while, but I will have cover art before I narrate either. Each one will comprise about 3 episodes of 30 minutes or so. More on that as it develops.

By the end of May I will have a ready script for HOMEWORLD, as I think that’s the stronger of the two stories, and the closest to the greenlight.

Fitness

You may not care, but I do.

My shoulder is back to about 95%. The rest is just details. I can hammer out pushups like before–hell, even better than before, as I don’t have any pain in that shoulder. Pull-ups are another story and I can do about 2.5 before my form collapses, so I need to focus on that direction to get my strength back.

By the end of May, I will weigh under 205 pounds.

Okay now get back to work.

March 2020: State of the Dread

Hey there, DreadHeads! 2 down, 10 to go. Here’s what happened in February and what’s going down in March.

The Podcast

3 more episodes last month, and there will be another 3 this month. I’m still organizing content for the eventual DP StoryTime podcast, that one isn’t in production until I have my current book farther along. Find the podcast wherever you subscribe, and follow along!

The Artwork

Myles and Rose Standish, With Answerable Courage

29 pieces done in February, including 3 for my next big release. I’m using AutoDesk Sketchbook to do digital art for that book, and I love how it is all coming together. I am also drawing the cover for this one, it is going to be fantastic. Can’t wait to share it with you!

The Writing

Blogging is all but dead, I only keep this page going as a placeholder for an eventually larger, sexier, more powerful website.

I did finish a draft of WAC, it’s rough but very workable, and once I finish the art I will polish the text.

I also picked at a story called HOMEWORLD which will be one of the first DP StoryTime adventures once that gets underway. Having a few ideas in process helps me to keep the wheels turning in case I stall on one.

Once this thing gets moving it’s going to be a ton of fun.

The Unfattening

Yeah I lost zero weight in February. Well, maybe a pound or two, but life was just a kick in the pants. We had a baby last month so we’re still in adjustment-and-new-sleep-schedule mode at House Dread.

I’m going all-out tyrannical on it for March and I will weigh 205 pounds by the end of the month. Mark it.

Whatever Else

During my art sessions I either listen to podcasts or watch B-minus programming on Amazon, and this show has been pretty interesting so far. It’s about Prohibition in the south and the lasting impact it has had on the region.

It’s good research for a future project I have. 🙂

That’s all, folks. Get back to work. 👍

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.