It’s finally ready! I’m excited to share this one with you. I mostly recorded it on my phone in my car whilst parked at work before my shift. Good acoustics in there, better than in my office, and doing it in chunks helped me to get the pacing and intonation right.
I’ve had this story swimming around in my head for years and years, so to finally have it out in the open is a relief. I hope you guys like it.
Jeez, I didn’t do a “State of the Dread” for this month AND NO ONE NOTICED. That’s blogging for you.
Anyway, 10 books made the list this year, and only two were fiction. Two of the nonfiction were biographies about the Civil War, focusing on generals on different sides. Quite fascinating. Here’s the list.
1: HILLBILLY ELEGY by JD Vance
Originally a recommendation from the Andrew Luck Book Club, I picked this one up from the library audio app and gave it a listen whilst hauling acid in January. It’s a jarring insight into the life of J.D. Vance, a guy who’s only a year or two younger than me, who grew up in hick country back in the Midwest.
He would go on to serve in the Marines and get a law degree at an Ivy League school. This book had particular significance for me because one side of my family comes from the exact location and demographic that he describes, and it helped me to understand that side of the family a lot better.
I’ve become a big fan of Ryan Holiday’s work since discovering THE DAILY STOIC in 2016, and it’s been a delight to get into his backlist. The audio for this one also came from my local library.
Holiday dives into the lives of successful people and examines how stillness, calmness, and the ability to self-analyze without explosive emotional responses is the best way to accomplish great things in life. The section on Tiger Woods alone was mind-blowing to me, and a very good cautionary tale.
In addition to SITK, I purchased a paperback of PERENNIAL SELLER by him, and was likewise impressed, but I didn’t want to saturate the best-of-year list with more than one title from the same author.
5: THE BALLAD OF SONGBIRDS AND SNAKES by Suzanne Collins
Far too many multi-year sequels or prequels or tie-ins have been disappointing of late. Many times it’s the author trying to retcon Current Year sociopolitics into a popular world of Yesteryear as an apology to the Woke Mob.
Fortunately Collins isn’t all about that, she actually gives a damn about characters and story in their true sense. The 64-year prequel to THE HUNGER GAMES was incredible and beautiful and moving, everything I’ve come to expect from her stories in this vein.
7: A HOBBIT, A WARDROBE, AND A GREAT WAR by Joseph Loconte
You probably knew that Tolkien and Lewis fought in the trenches of WW1 together, and later penned two of the biggest fantasy series of the 20th Century.
You need to read the story behind the story, especially of Lewis’ conversion from atheism to Christianity, and the role that Tolkien played in that journey.
Somehow I didn’t cover this one on the podcast, I must have finished BTBC before finishing this one.
8: WINTERDANCE by Gary Paulsen
It’s hard for Paulsen not to make my best-of lists, especially with his personal memoirs. In this case, his adventures running the Iditarod are mind-numbing, and the things he learned (both technically and spiritually) just blew me away. The man is harder than I’ll ever be.
This book covers his first attempt at it. He ran it twice before medical issues sidelined him for the rest of his life, and he talks about all that in the epilogue.
9: REBEL YELL by S.C. Gwynne
Funnily enough, I was only listening to this one as research for a character in a future DreadVerse story. And he’s not going to be a huge character necessarily, just an antagonist in a one-off story featuring Atlas and Razor.
However, Major General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson was such a fascinating figure that I found myself excited to turn this book on every time I was at work. Gwynne is now on my list of biographical authors that I want to read more of.
Stonewall Jackson, despite fighting for what was ultimately the wrong side of a moral conflict, was himself an incredible man. My personal takeaway after reading of his grit, his drive, and his exploits, was that it was necessary for him to die in order for the North to win the war. He was just too formidable.
Even as impressive as Robert E. Lee was in terms of his military command, Jackson was the more daunting foe for the Union to face. At least that’s my opinion after reading REBEL YELL.
Bonus: for a really cool audio recreation of what the rebel yell sounded like, take a few minutes to listen to this video.
10: GRANT by Ron Chernow
This marks the second Chernow bio I read in 2020, the first being TITAN, about John Rockefeller. I had also listened to a couple of audio-bios about different founding fathers (like Aaron Burr) and decided to put together a list of books to read about early US Presidents.
Grant wasn’t technically “early”, but having read Chernow’s books on Hamilton and Rockefeller, and having just read REBEL YELL, I decided to bump GRANT to the head of the list.
At the time of this writing I am only halfway through the book. While I will finish it this year, I’m confident that it will make the list, given Chernow’s adept writing and handling of his subject. He’s fair and genuine, going so far as to accurately recount Grant’s poverty, his poor judgment with the character of other men, and his alcoholism, contrasted alongside his impressive military successes.
Grant wasn’t a superman in the same way that George Washington was (and Chernow also has a book about him), he was more of an everyman who turned out to be the right guy at the right time.
I mean, this dude had a dozen failed business ventures and was SELLING FIREWOOD ON THE STREETS OF SAINT LOUIS, then went on to win the Civil War and become President twice. Beat that.
That’s it for this year, a few honorable mentions include:
LATE BLOOMERS by Karlgaard
THE WASHINGTON HYPOTHESIS (and its companions about Lincoln and the Pilgrims) by Timothy Ballard
MECHA SAMURAI EMPIRE by Peter Tieryas
SILVER STATE CRYPTIDS by David Weatherly
MINE WERE OF TROUBLE by Peter Kemp
and I AM DEBORAH SAMPSON by Patricia Clapp.
Hope you all had a great year reading, see you in 2021.
As I am frequently wont to do, I have ignored this website. It’s been a busy few weeks leading up to Thanksgiving. I had to choose between the day job, getting the podcast finished, and then blogging about getting the podcast finished, so you can guess which one got punted.
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!
Hey gang! Sorry this one is a week late, that has been life in a nutshell. Lots going on!
The biggest news of it all: the Brother Trucker Book Club has wrapped up for now (I haven’t ruled out future episodes, but it’s not on the docket for the foreseeable future.) Schaara and I batted cleanup last week and the final episode went live with much success.
And of course, the DREADPENNIES ADVENTURE HOUR is up and running! With an audio performance of SLEEPLESS HOLLOW by yours truly! You can now get the entire audiobook for free by subscribing to the podcast. Tell your friends about it, and please consider backing the Patreon! Behind-the-scenes episodes will post on Fridays.
This has taken a backseat what with having to record audio for the podcast, but since I just finished the final episode of SLEEPLESS, the next three weeks are focused on finishing the script for WITH ANSWERABLE COURAGE, which will launch in November.
Once again, I am participating in Inktober! Check out instagram.com/dreadpennies for my daily entries. I’m behind by a day, but I’ll catch up.
I want to address the so-called controversy surrounding Inktober this year. Apparently someone has beef with Jake Parker, the founder, and tried to get his forthcoming book canceled over it. I don’t know the details of this beef, and I’m not going to dig it up. The beef has entered the legal arena and I assume will be settled there. For the time being I continue to support Jake Parker as I have for years, given my familiarity with his good work and the work of his good colleagues, such as Will Terry.
It concerns me that this trend of accusing, dividing, and taking sides based on Internet Hype has reached this specific realm of public creativity, especially seeing as how it coincides with an attempt to hijack Inktober and replace it with a very similar idea controlled by someone else. (There’s a new hashtag circulating, I’m not going to say what it is, but it’s a clear attempt to steal the success Jake has had, and it’s annoying to say the least.)
I’ve seen this play out in a number of other areas over the last several years; somebody makes something, it becomes a success, somebody else hijacks it and turns it into a shadow of its former greatness, and we’re left muttering over how “X used to be cool.”
Kind of like how “Honest Trailers” used to be funny, before it started parroting dumb cultural talking points from the public sphere. I don’t want to see that happen with Inktober so I’m going to wait for all the fact to come out, and, like I said, continue to participate in the meantime. High school is over, you guys. Let’s act like it.
Hoooo boy, my reading took a huge kick in September, haha. Mainly because I wasn’t listening to anything, I was training for my new position at work. I think I read maybe 2 or 3 books in the whole month. Things are picking up now, though.
That’s about it. I’m adjusting to the physical nature of the new gig, mainly how I come home sore and exhausted everyday, but my pants are all a little looser and will continue to do so. Kind of awesome how I got this job right around Pie Season, I don’t have to worry about gaining 20 pounds this year.
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.
On last week’s episode of the Brother Trucker Book Club, my friend Case dropped in on the mailbag to ask what I thought of Stephenie Meyer going back to the well on Twilight.
Short version of my answer: if she wants to, great. It sells. Clearly people still want to read it, more power to her. You can like it or hate it, it doesn’t matter if either way if in the end she’s blowing her nose with Benjamins.
(Listen to the episode above, or subscribe on Apple/Spotify/Castbox/wherever.)
I wasn’t going to read this one, until one of my favorite book club podcasts announced it as their next selection, so I’m reading along now. I originally read the series in 07-08, and got pretty into it, much to my surprise.
I mean, the writing is pretty bad and the characters are just…let me put it this way, Hallmark would tell them to dial the soap opera levels down a little bit.
And yet, clearly, it works, because the movies alone have made over three BILLION dollars, and Meyer’s cut of the books are in excess of the GDP of many island nations.
So yeah, we can hate on it all we want, but those of us who have dreams of professional creations for a living need to figure out WHY it works. If it’s “so damn bad,” why can’t we stay away from it?
Why are women who read it at age 14 now reading it again at age 29?
I think the simplest answer is that it satisfies a deep, almost forbidden emotional fantasy–the kind people might be embarrassed to admit they have, but still enjoy seeing played out in front of them.
Apparently a ton of girls want to fancy themselves as mature-for-their-age, scholarly, well-read empaths who have an emotional intelligence beyond that of their peers. And naturally they’d want two hot guys fighting over them, one rakish, the other rugged.
And as a cherry on top, they’d want to see every one of their decisions validated, none of their flaws exposed, and every action taken by every named character in the known world would revolve around THEM.
Yes, it would be completely inane to admit to having those desires for yourself.
That’s why Bella is a projection. The reader can project herself onto Bella and pretend she’s walking around in that world, almost like a literary version of an RPG, but if/when it ever becomes “too much,” well then, it’s just a book, and any faults in it have to do with Bella, right?
That’s really what it comes down to. The books are the romance version of a roleplaying game, and within that game, there is only reward, no criticism.
Kind of a refreshing break from real life, I imagine.
I’m not sure this principle will ever really apply to my own writing, as I don’t write characters like Bella Swan. I’ve also read THE HOST by Meyer, and it was…not good either. So I’m going to guess that my stuff will never be successful for the same reason hers is, and I’m okay with that. I’m not setting out to tell the same stories she is (though I wouldn’t say no to the kind of money she’s made, hey-oh.)
Just some things I’ve been chewing on as I reflect on 15 years of this cultural phenomenon that I still don’t fully understand. More power to her, though.