“Up close” might technically be wrong. I was on a hike with an old friend and we turned around and the massive thing was just there. He and I had our sons with us so we took a few pictures and then moved in the other direction, checking over the shoulder every few seconds.
Maybe if I had been packing I might have chambered a round just in case even though shooting a moose would be A) stupid, B) immoral, C) ineffective and D) poaching, from a legal perspective. But if I had the choice between trying that or getting trampled, well, not a tough call.
Fortunately the big old beast seemed content to look at us but not charge or anything. He was chewing his twigs, we were walking, he kept chewing, we kept walking.
Anyway, that’s all, it was cool to see from this close. If I had the choice I wouldn’t have gotten that close knowingly. I’ve been closer than that to a moose cow, but I was in a semi truck when it happened, which affords you a little bit more armor.
A couple of YT channels I follow covered the recent death of manga artist Kentaro Miura, the creator and writer of long-running series BERSERK. Here’s YBZ’s video:
And here’s one from Clownfish TV:
Both channels brought some unique perspectives that touched on things I hadn’t put into words, but had felt pretty deeply for a while.
Ya Boi Zack is a retired soldier and Marine who isn’t far from turning 50 years old. He’s had a long and turbulent life, bouncing in and out of the armed forces, being married and divorced multiple times, and fathering a few kids. His experiences mirror mine in very few ways, and contrast with them in many more. I usually find his perspectives insightful and informative.
Given the amount of death he saw up close in the Middle East as a soldier, his views on the amount of life we all deserve are tempered by the fact that anyone can die at any time, and all the time we have is the all the time we get. This is an old idea in the Western world that I first recall studying from Marcus Aurelius, the Roman emperor. Applied properly, it would prompt us to be judicious with the time we have, and the efforts we expend in mortality.
As for Clownfish TV, their video was more about the work required to create great art, and how you have to build your entire life around it, and if you’re successful at it there’s some monetary success, but so much time goes into it that it’s hard to have any left for yourself. I kind of learned that lesson when I illustrated the Engines novels, because the art took way longer than the writing did (and a lot of it hasn’t aged well.)
Everyone wants that success but not everyone wants to work for it the way that Miura did. And who can blame them? He was only in his mid-50s and he was working on Berserk for more than three decades. I guess the point is you have to love your work first, love it enough to do it even if it doesn’t make you a million dollars, and use the time you have in your life for that which you deem most important.
For me, if I ever fail in my duties as a husband and father, it won’t ever matter how successful I am as an artist. I hope I never lose sight of that.
The DreadPennies Adventure Hour is underway! Thank you guys for the response on SLEEPLESS HOLLOW. It was a lot of fun to record. This month the adventure is WITH ANSWERABLE COURAGE. Here are the links to the podcast on the big three platforms. Subscribe and enjoy!
The #DrawEveryDay campaign continues. I was able to knock out Inktober (because I’ve kind of been doing it all year) and had a lot of fun with it. Check out my Instagram and hit the follow button.
The main focus of my writing is to generate content for the DPAH podcast. I have some chapters to edit for WAC, so I’ll take care of those over the next week or so, and then I’m into editing the Adventure for December. I need to roll back the drawing and get back on the writing so that I don’t record more than my buffer has in store.
WINTERDANCE by Gary Paulsen, THE THIEF by Megan Whalen Turner, and OVERSTATED by Colin Quinn are on the list of good books I’ve read in October. One is a nonfic about sled dogs, one is a really great fantasy caper, and one is a comedy roast of all 50 states.
Now I’m delving into some classics, like 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA because I haven’t touched that one in years. Jules Verne in one of the earliest voices in sci-fi and worth the attention. As for audiobooks, I’m doing a lot more podcasts right now, so I’m only picking at the odd book here and there.
That’s about it, really. Just enjoying the seasons and trying to find ways to spend better time with my kids. You should too. Tune into the podcast, see you out there!
As much as it pains me to do this, I will not be releasing a physical book in 2020. But! I will still be publishing. WITH ANSWERABLE COURAGE will be the second story on the DPAH podcast, broken into episodes all throughout November.
This has become necessary as a result of stuff in my home life and my day job. My career was affected by Big ‘Rona and that’s forced us to take on a bunch of other stuff at once. I will spare you the details.
Suffice it to say that if I tried to finish all the art that I want in that book, it wouldn’t be good, and some would be left out. So I want to take my time on it. I can still record the audiobook for the podcast, and meet the 2020 deadline.
The physical book will come out in 2021, fully illustrated. After all, the Pilgrims set sail in 1620, but the First Thanksgiving was in 1621. That way I hit both dates!
I finished my series on Presidential Puns. That actually got me a paid gig designing a logo for an old friend, so that’s cool. Exactly what I’m into. Make sure you’re following me on Instagram to see what I draw every day.
You can expect me to slow down a little on this too, as I am not going to be plugged into my phone as much, listening to books all day long.
That said, I am being more picky about my reading in general, and more nonfiction is taking the stage. Maybe I’m just getting bored with so much genre fic, very little of it transcends its peers.
I like to be blown away when I read something.
I’m still doing push ups. I’m about to get a much more physical position at work, so the burn is going to be legit. All the rust and cobwebs will be gone by the end of September. I seriously cannot wait.
Be excellent to each other. And stand up for yourself a little more. Let people know that you love them, but they don’t own you. Own yourself.
This morning I thought about a man that I haven’t remembered in a while. Back in the days of my old blog I wrote about him once or twice and he deserves to have his story told a little more often, or at least, to have my part of his story told.
His name is Jim Heller, and he was an artist. He was also almost completely paralyzed; anything from the neck down was immobile, except for very slight movements in his right hand.
It was those movements that allowed him to become a precise artist. I got to see him work every now and then because we went to church together, and our ward would divide up service assignments to help him out.
On the 2nd of every month, my brother and I would ride our bikes down to his place and make him dinner. This was always a bit of a process because Jim was a slow eater. He would wheel his electric chair into the doorway of his kitchen and tell us what to pull out of the fridge or the cabinets, then have us nuke it in the mike.
We had to cut everything up for him and feed it to him one small bite at a time. He had to tell us every time he was ready for another bite, or a drink through the straw. It took a few hours.
Not that it was an imposition or anything; he was very easy to talk to and we had great conversations. Jim loved movies too, so we would put on a John Wayne flick, or a cheesy sci-fi, or a WW2 film. I watched Anaconda and Tora! Tora! Tora! while feeding him. The only time I’ve ever seen The Ghost In The Darkness was while I was spooning peas into Jim’s mouth. (Awesome movie, btw.)
In my teens I didn’t have a lot going on that wasn’t scheduled for me by my parents. Go to youth activities at church, go to piano lessons, go to Boy Scouts, go go go. When I had time to myself, I spent it ignoring my homework so I could sit at my drawing table while blasting KoRn or Offspring on my CD player.
The lack of a full schedule made it easy for me to visit Jim. I don’t remember seeing it as an imposition or anything, because what else was I doing with my life? Goofing off and daydreaming about girls who would never date me because I was the weird kid?
No, go take one night in thirty and feed someone. That’s a kind of service I don’t do any more. I’m too busy, too dialed in on my own stuff. Plus, obviously, I’ve got a wife and kids now, it’s just different.
But back then, I think it was really good for me to see up close the life of someone who had to rely on others for absolutely everything. Jim had a nurse come by who helped him with his medical stuff, his pill sorting, his bathing and dressing, getting in and out of bed, all that. He always had to have his remote on his tray and his LifeAlert right next to it.
One night he called his neighbor at 2AM because there was a bug chewing on the soft skin under his arm and the pain was excruciating. Jim tried to ride it out without calling and it just got to be too much.
Think about that next time you have an itch and you scratch it and it goes away. Think about a life where you couldn’t do that for yourself.
I never once, in the three or four years that I regularly visited him, heard Jim gripe about his condition, or pity himself. Dude got diagnosed with whatever had put him in a chair in his 20s. Doctors said he would probably die in his 40s. He made it to his 60s.
And to the utter extent that he was able, he worked to support himself.
Every time we came by, we wrapped up the night by setting his art supplies out on the tray on his wheelchair. Pencils and brushes with long sticks attached. Paint pallets with just a drop of this color here, a slight mixture of these two there. Throw some water droplets on to loosen up this shade here, I don’t need much.
He painted scenery, animals, westerns, faces. Indians and mountain men, cowboys and pioneers. Wolverines battling wolves for a kill. Lynxes in the wild. Temples. Christ. His friends.
A few times a year we would load his stuff into his big old van, then help him onto the ramp so he could get inside. Hook his chair to the floor with ratchet straps and drive him to convention centers so he could sell prints and originals. It was heavy and repetitive, and tiring in the Vegas heat.
Yet the whole time you’re doing it, you’re saying to yourself, what am I going to do? Cry about it to the guy who can’t walk? Can’t take a leak without help? Come on, man. Even when I was just a low-ambition punk@$$ from Henderson I could figure that part out.
There are still times that I feel bad about not being there when he died, in July of 2001. I had missed our appointment on the 2nd of that month because I finally had things on my calendar. I had a job (tire tech) and a sport to train for (cheerleading).
He called our house and asked if I was coming. It was 6:30. I apologized profusely, I can’t even remember what I was doing that night but I was busy. He said NBD, he would call his niece, she was over there all the time.
I said I would make it up to him next month. He died about two weeks later.
I made it a point to sing at his funeral. Felt I owed him that.
Often I make the mistake of assuming that everyone has had the same life experiences I have, that they’ve known the same kind of people and have shaped their expectations of life accordingly. I have to remind myself that that isn’t the case.
We’ve all had unique struggles, they just happen in the same vein sometimes. And there will always be someone who has it worse than we do–not that it’s a competition. The point is that someone else’s trials can help you realize not only your blessings, but the limitations you are putting on yourself.
Especially today, in the age of competitive victimhood, with social media being such an easy platform for you to scream your hardships into the void of the world, looking for validation.
When that temptation arises, think of men like Jim. He dealt with those demons at some point in his life, I’m sure of it. That kind of stoicism is usually a destination, not a starting point, and he got there.
I for one am very grateful that he did, and for what he taught me in our short time together. Men like that ought to be remembered.
But the real gem is the launch of the DPAH, coming next month 🙂 I’ll draw the cover art for it then.
Edits are humming along for WITH ANSWERABLE COURAGE. I am fighting distraction because I keep getting ideas for other stories. The best thing for those ideas is to just let them percolate, because they’re not ready if I’m not actively working on a story.
I’m glad that I have finally embraced the short story model. Lots of my ideas will work better that way.
Funnily enough, after I read HOMEWORLD to Schaara, she suggested I write a full-length treatment from one of the other character’s POV. That one is percolating. Dunno when it’ll happen, but it just may.
Still plugging right along. I fell back on a lot of puns and stuff in July, what I need to do is change it up and do more structured exercises. I have an anatomy book I’ve been meaning to dig through, however…
…as I get ready to homeschool my kids with my wife (she’ll be doing most of it, but I’m not going to be a bystander), I have to read some other preparatory materials, and that’s getting my attention.
Also I’m getting bored with fiction generally. That’s a weird feeling. Nonfiction is finally entertaining me more.
I’m doing over a hundred pushups a day, every day. With my schedule, that’s all I can manage. If it changes, I’ll let you know.
Please understand, from the bottom of my heart, that I do not care about anyone’s panicky opinion about what’s going on in the world. I wash my hands of it. It only serves to hold me back from conquering my own corner of this island Earth.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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!!!
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.)
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.
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.
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 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.
We are 1/3rd of the way through the year! Here’s what’s up:
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.