State of the Dread: So Ends January, 2018


Well, that’s 1/12th of the year down. My only 2018 resolution was to set monthly goals instead of yearly ones. Really I have enough tasks on my plate to focus on that I don’t have to worry about “resolutions,” I just have to get stuff done.

On the List Of One Million Things To Tackle is the image above. I’ve been meaning to do a better logo for DreadPennies, and I think I’m finally carving it out. The “Dreads” are going to be grumpy little robots that I draw every now and then. I’m trying to decide between a Buzzsaw Mohawk or Cable Dreadlocks and to be honest I think I’m just going to say “Screw it” and do both. The logo can be a Dread without any metallic hair, and I’ll draw Buzzsaw or Cables when I frigging feel like it.

Speaking of drawing, if you’ve seen my Instagram, I did a lot of these Colts/Avengers mashups during January, but I kind of ran out of steam on it. Still plenty of ideas for it, but it’s not a priority, there is other stuff I can draw that will help me practice speed and coloring. But here are some of the better ones:



So far I’ve read like eight or ten books this month but only a few of them have been good. Notable entries are CALVIN by Martine Leavitt, and IRON GOLD by Pierce Brown (which I expected to like anyway.)

It’s been a few months since I did a TMRGB post, probably because it’s been a few months since I read a good Girly Book. I’ll get around to it soon. I’m trying to find new authors to read, most of the Girly Books I pick up are by friends of mine, so it’s a good idea to cast a wider net.

Also I haven’t really been working on a writing project because I’m trying to focus on studying for a test I have in three weeks. Job-related. Pain in the butt, but there’s a hefty pay raise tied to it. Priorities.

That said, I took a breather this weekend to outline a series I’ve had in my head for about 5 years now. Tons of fun, it’s equal parts superhero/G.I. Joe, but I’m trying to take a direction that’s different from DC or Marvel, only because we’re a bit saturated by both (and only one of them is any good right now.)

My next published book is called HOMEWORLD, about an alien invasion of Earth. It’ll be art-heavy, and reads like a series of deep Web blog posts. I’m excited about this one, it’s another idea I’ve had for years. Release date pending.

Last of all, you probably heard that my “Blast Crew goes to Mordor” story got rejected by my publisher of choice, which really sucks, but it’s under review with an agent right now and I expect I’ll hear back about it in another few months. Iron is in the fire.

Thanks for reading, you guys. Sound off in the comments.

Trucker Man Reads Girly Books: BURN BY BURN by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian 

TMRGB is a series of blog posts wherein I, a disgruntled CDL driver who wakes up way too early for this crap, recommend effeminate fiction to the masses.

I enjoyed Jenny Han’s first Lara Jean novel, and the library had this one (different series, with a co-author) so I grabbed it. I had to run a lot of trailers back and forth between a drop yard and an oil refinery, so I plugged it in and enjoyed it a decent amount.

The advantage of the audio version was that each of the three main girls got a different narrator. (Even without that, they were all written distinctly, so reading it in print wouldn’t have been a problem.) Kat is the Tough Chick, Lilia is the Popular Chick, Mary is the Homely Quiet Chick.

They’re not friends, not at first, but their paths cross like poorly planned state highways that your dispatcher lies to you about, and they soon find themselves in a convoy…nope, sorry, they find themselves working together to deliver a high-value load of revenge against bullies.

I kept thinking of “Mean Girls” as I listened to it, though this book has slightly sharper teeth. There are a few F-bombs, teen drinking is casually accepted, and there are some sexual situations as well, so be aware. While I’m not fond of that content in YA, Han and Vivian weren’t gratuitous about it, and the instances all played into the plot.
The setting kind of made me wish I owned a house on a coastal American island, probably after I retire from trucking.

Final note, this book was very much the “first act” in a trilogy. There was some resolution to the initial conflict but you can tell this flaming crapstorm is only heating up.

I will real the sequel after I take some time off–I’ve read like three Girly Books in a row without meaning to, I need a change of pace.

Get back to work.

Trucker Man Reads Girly Books: KISSES IN THE RAIN, by Krista Lynne Jensen


Amazon link

TMRGB is a series of blog posts wherein I, a disgruntled truck driver who unfortunately is not allowed to have a beard because of current job requirements, recommend effeminate fiction to the masses.


You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy…provided that you are a west coast trucker.

I hate Seattle. It does nothing but rain, and the paper mills all smell like broccoli that’s been overboiled in a construction yard outhouse. Also the music is overrated. The worst part, though…the worst part of it is the trucking.

Is the sun up? Are you on Interstate 5? My psychic powers tell me that you are going no faster than 30 miles per hour. Yes! Real psychic powers! Now send me money.

Are you in Seattle proper? I am so, so sorry. No, don’t worry about what the GPS says, you can go down that road. There’s a low bridge but only in the right lane. Yes, everything is tight and packed and hard to get through. Those caveman-looking people? Why, those are hippies. Yeah, still have hippies in Seattle. They haven’t gotten the message yet.

And to answer your unasked query, I do indeed want to saw the entire western edge of Washington off and push it into the ocean Lex Luthor-style. There is nothing redeemable about the place…

…unless Jace and Georgie are real. If that’s the case, well, okay, I guess they can have it. But you can’t make me truck there. Oh, you’re my dispatcher? I guess you can make me truck there. But you can’t make me like it.

Yes, this is where I stop blabbing about trucking and start blabbing about KISSES IN THE RAIN by my friend, Krista Jensen.

Jace is a super chill Bachelor Hunk who lives in a rundown rental with a rescue dog and his own deep thoughts. He works at a restaurant, making food. He just got used by a girl so that she could make her ex-boyfriend jealous, and he vents his frustration by rage-riding his motorcycle through the Rain City. Oh, and he’s unconsciously handsome.

Image result for robert downey jr lip bite gif

Georgie also just got out of a bad relationship, but hers was a little bit easier, ’cause the guy died. The downside is that Georgie was in the car with him when he snuffed it, and she’s still trying to put herself back together, mentally and emotionally speaking. She comes to Seattle and gets a job at the same restaurant as Jace.

Ooooooh, are they gonna hook uuuuuuup?

Um, duh? Did I mention a rocket ship somewhere? This is guy-fi, not sci-fi.

Image result for lip bite gif


Among the strengths of this story–other than persuading me not to go Full Metal Supervillain on the Pacific Northwest–was the depth behind the main characters, and how they both had to do some self-examination before realizing they were ready to be with someone else.

Georgie probably had the more interesting arc on this front. It was nice to read about a character who’d been damaged by an abusive relationship but was later able to work her way out of the trauma by understanding that the abuse wasn’t her fault. Presenting that kind of relationship in fiction is a safe way to show how that abuse takes shape, because in real life people don’t always cotton on to it when it’s happening.

Also it was cool that Jace had a motorcycle. I don’t, because I have kids.

Final note, this book made me hungry for peppery shrimp with blackberry sauce. Time to go hit the fridge.

Carry on.

Trucker Man Reads Girly Books: SPELL CHECK by Julie Wright

Spell Check by [Wright, Julie]

TMRGB is a series of blog posts wherein I, a rugged truck driver with security clearances from multiple federal entities, recommend effeminate fiction to the masses.


Art is a transmission for my mind. It helps me shift gears when conditions change around me, and that’s especially true when a new season rolls into town. It’s raining, it’s cool outside, and Friday was the first day of autumn. It’s time to fully embrace the Halloween spirit, and that means Halloween books.

Enter SPELL CHECK, by Julie Wright. And speaking of check, it does that. Teen girl protagonist? Check. Evil cheerleader villain? Check. Totally hot guy figure? Check. Parents at home that Just Don’t Understand? Check. Last of all, beloved grandparent figure who fills the role of a Gandalf archetype? Super check.

Our heroine, Allyson, accidentally discovers she has witching powers when a practical joke goes awry and she curses her worst enemy at school. Her dear sweet grandmother, Farmor (that’s a title, not a name–there’s a Swedish flavor to this family) is there to guide her in the development of her abilities, and explain the ramifications of abusing them.

But of course it’s oh-so-tempting to use those powers to continually humiliate Queen Bee Cheerleader Wench, especially because it gives Allyson a shot at Totally Hot Dreamboat Dude. It’s been a while since I read this so I forget their names. I should probably read it again because hey, October!

When I first bought the eBook, it had the old cover on it, which you can see here:

Image result for spell check julie wright

I kind of liked that one more, but I realize why the change works: the new version captures the whimsical spirit of the book (seriously–at one point Allyson accidentally sends some loved ones to the Amazon, and she has to teleport there to intervene.) The old version, while more complex, also promises something darker, perhaps more Gothic, and much more fantastical.

SPELL CHECK hearkens back to the Halloween movies of the 90s that we loved so much. It’s a little bit Hocus Pocus, a little bit Halloweentown, and a whole lot of fun. The link at the top of this post takes you to Amazon. (Heh.) Do the meta thing and buy a copy!


Trucker Man Reads Girly Books: TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE, by Jenny Han


TMRGB is a series of posts wherein I, a bearded truck driver in the mining industry, recommend effeminate fiction to the masses. 

Today I posted one of my worst drive times ever between Clark County, Nevada and Salt Lake County, Utah. Partly this was due to me being in a convoy including another truck and two cars, and partly this was because our trucks were governed, heavy, and somewhat underpowered.

We moved my Mom up to Utah with us (oh yeah, by the way, I moved to Utah, hence the lack of posting…been busy) so today’s Girly Book was literally read/listened to whilst driving a truck. Even with the long drive time, I had to amp up the playback speed so I could finish it as we rolled into my neighborhood.

This book has come across my radar a handful of times, given its NYT bestseller status. One of Han’s other audiobooks is in my TBR pile but I grabbed this one after hearing the recent announcement of a movie adaptation. It’s about Lara Jean, a high school junior, who has had crushes on five different boys in the past, and overcame her crushes by writing letters to them and then hiding them in her room.

Then one fateful day, all of the letters somehow get…delivered.

This obviously sets off a chain reaction of events that throw Lara Jean’s life into a state of emotional chaos. One of these boys is the School Hottie! Another one is her Sister’s Ex-Boyfriend! The rest are…

…well admittedly the rest are pretty inconsequential, at least at first. There are two other books in the series and this first one seems to focus mostly on Peter and Josh. And that’s fine, because there’s enough going on between just a few characters to keep the whole thing moving without bogging it down in a car crash of conflicting wills.

As this book wrapped up, I had definitely enjoyed it, but there was a snag I couldn’t put my finger on at first. I think what it came down to was that it seemed to be less plot-oriented and more an exploration of the numerous characters involved, and the things they did to each other as the story progressed.

Obviously the story had some important things to say and show–about love, loyalty, honesty, and bravery–and it showed them very well. It was just a lot of cause-and-effect and maybe my brain was dialed in to expecting something else. I’m glad there are more to come, because I’d like to spend more time with these characters and see how they grow.

Han has taken an authentic approach to writing modern teenage relationships, walking a line between authenticity and propriety with respectable skill. Issues like teen sex came up (especially in the third act of the book, as it were) but not in a cavalier or flippant way. Likewise there was a bit of PG-13 language throughout, including a brace of F-bombs, both times used to express anger and disgust. As I said–authentic, yet she managed not to overdo it.

At the end of the book, Han’s talent was clearly on display, and I will definitely read another one of her books. I look forward to seeing where she goes from here.

Over and out.

Trucker Man Reads Girly Books: P.S. I LIKE YOU by Kasie West

TMRGB is a blog series wherein I, a bearded HazMat trucker and blast crewman, recommend effeminate fiction to the masses.


‘Twas mere days ago that I was amongst my Brotherhood of the Blast, working on a local construction site, having a testosterone-fueled conversation with fellow Blastards Scott and Case, discussing manly things like chest hair, hockey fights, and Kasie West’s P.S. I LIKE YOU.

“Graham, what are you reading right now?”

“Dude, it’s so chicky. I can feel my fingernails getting manicured as the plot progresses.”

Fortunately we were working with dirt and explosives, so the manicure didn’t hold. But Kasie’s book definitely did. It plucked right at my greasy heartstrings (directly adjacent to the valve that turns barbecued prime rib into blood and muscle) and played me like a heavy metal guitar.

It’s the tale of a pale, wan, homely young lass who comes from a slightly broke and somewhat eccentric family in Arizona. Lily, our protagonist, is of course a guitarist and aspiring musician who is only interested in the most independent and unknown music that speaks to her profoundly complex soul. Nobody understands her. Except, of course, for the Mysterious Guy Who Is Most Likely Hot, who somehow fills in the blanks on her desk when she idly scribbles indie lyrics on it in class.

Soon she’s secretly swapping notes with Mister Mystery, and they become ever more flirty and personal in nature. Before long she’s baring her soul to a complete stranger and gobbling up the replies as if she’ll die without them.

This seems like a really good idea.

Image result for ginny weasley diary

But that’s not all! There is, naturally a Twisty Complication to this fly-by-night Romance-Not-A-Romance: Lily has to figure out Mister Mystery’s identity! Could it be Dave, the Nice Guy her friends tried to set her up with? Or is it Lucas, introverted and brooding, always listening to music on his headphones, too cool to talk to people (and supes hot?) Wait a minute…there’s no way that…you guys don’t think it could be the evil Cade, a rich, hot jerk who always picks on Lily, do you?

I mean, Mister Mystery doesn’t know Lily is writing to him. It’s completely anonymous, painfully honest stuff, so if it ends up in the hands of an enemy, it could be embarrassingly compromising. But he’s just so sincere, and sweet, and he gets her! Because they listen to the same music! CONFLIIIIIICT!

I really felt Lily’s pain as I listened to the audiobook from behind the wheel of a beat-to-crap GMC TopKick, which is clearly on its last legs and needs to be run through a trash compactor. When Lily discovered Mister Mystery’s identity, and all of the staggering complications it presented, I was…well I wasn’t shocked, but come on, you kind of see it coming. (It’s no less earth-shattering for this, mind you. In fact, you kind of want it to go that way. I did, because I’m sadistic.)

Then Lily had to confront Mister Mystery when he showed up on her doorstep for Thanksgiving, all the while trying to keep the secret contained within herself, I was dancing on my tippy-toes and belting out SQUEEEEE at the top of my lungs, even as I chained an Everdigm T-450 to the back of a lowboy trailer, five points of securement, thank you very much Officer.

The revelations! The betrayal! The I-want-to-smack-the-socialite-wench-who-tried-to-destroy-our-beloved-protagonist feeling! The geyser of unabated emotion at the end!

That damned rabbit, too! (No context provided, go read the book!)

It tickles all the right spots for a good clean contemporary romance. This is the first of Kasie West’s books that I’ve read, but I wouldn’t hesitate to pick up another one, just as soon as I scrape the grit out from under my fingernails and find my hard hat. You should too. Read it, I mean. Well and maybe the grit thing too. And a hard hat, if your jobsite requires full PPE.

Back to work with the lot o’ ye.

Trucker Man Reads Girly Books: MY FAIRLY DANGEROUS GODMOTHER, by Janette Rallison

TMRGB is a blog series wherein I, a bearded HazMat trucker and blast crewman, recommend effeminate fiction to the masses.

My Fairly Dangerous Godmother by [Rallison, Janette]

Let’s hop in the way-back-when machine (maybe it’s a phone booth, maybe it’s a crappy car from the 80s, whatevs) and set the clock to 1997. I’m just starting the 8th grade. I don’t know what I’m going to do for a career, beyond writing killer awesome books with like, aliens and explosions and sweet car chases and stuff. And everyone will love my work.

While I daydream about this, sitting at the drawing table in my bedroom and listening to Smash Mouth (WHOOOO 1997) a grown man with a gnarly beard and a plaid wardrobe bursts into my room and tells me that he’s me, 20 years from now.

“Sweet!” Little Graham says. “What do you do for a living?”

Big Graham takes off his shiny Aviator sunglasses and, in a booming voice replies, “I blow things up. And people pay me for it.

“Awesome! Is there anything else I should know? Are you an artist?”

“Yes to the second. As to the first, I read girl books sometimes.”

*Record scratch*. “Wait, what? Why?”

“Peace out, Little Graham. And don’t date any girls named –”

I disappeared before I could tell me who not to date, a typical jerk move on my part.

Back to the present: two weeks ago I had to take a trip up to Northern Nevada to help some blasters blow up part of a gypsum mine. It was pretty sweet. I had, like, two whole days of driving, so I burned through a few audiobooks. One of them was Janette Rallison’s MY FAIRLY DANGEROUS GODMOTHER.

Look, when you play with explosives in exchange for money, you tend not to care about little details, like jumping into a series by reading Book #3 first. Which is what I did here. And fortunately, that panned out okay, because Rallison wrote these in such a way that you can do that. From what I gather, there’s a recurring character in all three books (Chrissie, the titular fairy godmother) who helps out a different girl in each book.

In this instance, we’re dealing with Sadie Ramirez, a girl who botches an America’s Got Talent-esque audition on TV, in front of her celebrity crush. Then she pukes on stage and becomes a viral sensation. Her fairy godmother intervenes to offer her a chance to fix this…by being a conniving little self-serving witch and forcing Sadie into a fairy tale deathmatch that could ruin her life.

(Also, I guess there are hot guys involved. I assume so, from Sadie’s perspective. I myself am wired the other way.)

I frequently found myself smirking at the clever twists and turns, as well as the projection-worthy moments in the story that would totally land with the target audience of teenaged girls who have secret crushes on celebrity guys. They are plentiful, and amusing. On top of that, the life lessons learned by Sadie are good things for young girls to learn as well, namely that of having confidence in one’s self and choosing not to place too much value on what others think of you.

Plus, Sadie’s audition snafu reminded me of Lindsey Stirling, whose entire career since then has been a giant middle finger to Piers Morgan, and I’m a big fan of that. (And her music.)

This book is plenty of good clean fun. I know I enjoyed it from behind the wheel of a Peterbilt with a lowboy Cozad and a bulk truck on the back, despite blowing an inner trailer tire somewhere near Hawthorne, a minor issue that took two freaking hours to resolve. Not that I am bitter; not when I have a book.

Carry on.

Truck Man Reads Girly Books: THE HOURGLASS DOOR, by Lisa Mangum

TMRGB is a blog series wherein I, a bearded HazMat trucker and blast crewman, recommend effeminate fiction to the masses.


Hourglass Door (Hourglass Door Trilogy) by [Mangum, Lisa]The Golden Spiral: 2 (Hourglass Door Trilogy) by [Mangum, Lisa]The Forgotten Locket (Hourglass Door Trilogy) by [Mangum, Lisa]


February continues with recommended romantic reads. This week’s selection features sexy Italian time travelers who play the guitar. Here we go!

In much the same way that Harry Potter spawned a biblical flood of middle-grade fantasy fiction, Twilight had a similar impact on a then-unpopular genre: YA paranormal romance. We may not want to acknowledge Twilight’s cultural impact, or the hunger it created in its market, but it’s there, and we can’t ignore it. Yes, my friends: we finally understand how our parents really feel about disco.

I worked at a Deseret Book in Utah for two years in college, and one of the employee perks that we got to read ARCs of new books before they hit the shelves. THE HOURGLASS DOOR came along, billed as a contender to fill the void in the market, since Twilight had wrapped the previous summer. The premise sounded interesting, so I picked up our store’s copy, and I burned through it in about two days, going back to it whenever I could catch a break between my two jobs and my own writing. What stood out to me then, and remains praiseworthy now, is that in a time when the most iconic book series of its genre featured a shockingly bland protagonist who did nothing but stand by and describe how hot a guy was as he rescued her over and over and over and over, THE HOURGLASS DOOR dared to give us a female lead who actually, yanno, did stuff. 

Sure, there was a mysterious and alluring male lead who had A Dangerous Secret, and an alluring male antagonist who Also Had A Secret, and it was Abby’s job to figure out the secret because of how alluring Boy A was. But don’t let that underlying staple turn you away from the appeal; Dante, our male hero, was a man out of time, catapulted into his future from an Italy 500 years gone, trying his best to blend in and keep a low profile. Nevertheless, his anachronisms surface, and he of course catches Abby’s eye, and things accelerate from there.

And Abby gets involved! She learns Dante’s secret, and she starts to help him! She fights the villain with him! She takes the reins when Dante is sidelined and helps to advance the plot! This was quite a refreshing turn of events. It was also one of the things I liked about Wings, which I rec’d last week.

(Don’t worry, ladies: there’s plenty of face-touching and mouth-whoopie and Deep, Longing Gazes into each others’ eyes.)

So I pitch these books to you if you’re looking for a good fun read that moves well and keeps you interested. Lisa’s a clean writer, making these a safe buy for the young reader in your life as well. Happy Valentine’s Day.

Trucker Man Reads Girly Books: WINGS, by Aprilynne Pike

TMRGB is a blog series wherein I, a bearded HazMat trucker and blast crewman, recommend effeminate fiction to the masses. Note to hipsters: this is what real irony looks like. Note to young male readers: don’t feel bad for liking girl books. A good book is a good book.


It’s February, so it’s fitting that you’d read romance this month. Let me recommend to you the debut paranormal romance series by Aprilynne Pike, a NYT best-seller.

The Wings series is about a girl named Laurel who finds out that she’s a faerie. Whoops! Spoiler? Well no, it’s on just about every description of the book, including the jacket flap, but it’s a revelation to Laurel, who finds out a few chapters in.

The story develops well over the course of the first three books, which span multiple years of Laurel’s high school life. The fourth book takes place in the span of a single day, and justifiably so, as there’s a lot going on. The fifth book, ARABESQUE, happens several years after the conclusion of the original series. I have not finished reading it yet; Pike was posting chapters weekly online, and I read several of them while sitting in a CAT skidsteer on a construction site in Nevada, waiting for clearance from the city to blow up part of the hillside. But that’s neither here nor there.

Now, I won’t regale you with tales of the manly exploits I undertook as I read each novel. I won’t bore you with how I had a fierce cold on a road trip in 2010, and while I was trying to burn it out of my body with the heater on full blast, driving in my AWD wagon across the desert at 80 mph in the dark, I listened to WINGS on audio, and was swept away to the Redwood forests of California, where Laurel lived with her adoptive parents. Nor will I emphasize the fact that I burned through DESTINED whilst camping in a tent on a manly campout with other dudes. My bonafides neither augment nor detract from the merits of these series. It’s worth the read, no matter who you are.

I recommend you read it because it’s good fun. It tickles the love-bone we all have. It’ll fly you back to your teenaged years with no small degree of fondness, and the added benefit of a fun fantasy plot involving Avalon, faeries, trolls, and magic makes it even more enjoyable. As much as I like these books, they’re not even Pike’s best (those reviews are to come later.)

So if you need a good romantic plot to pick at this month, start with WINGS and see where it takes you.

In matters of content warning, be advised that there’s an S-bomb in book one, but this doesn’t happen again in the rest of the series. Other than that, you’ve got teenagers making out in bedrooms and stuff, that’s about as far as it goes.

‘Til next time! Keep on truckin’.