Reading Update! October Edition.

As per usual, I am burning through audiobooks at work (thanks largely to my library’s OverDrive selection–they don’t have everything I look for, but they have so many things I end up wanting to read and it is good to branch out.)

Obviously the October theme is the spooky stuff, whether horrific or whimsical. I am interspersing these reads with other stuff. Here is what I have been into:

SKULDUGGERY PLEASANT by Derek Landy. Heard about this years ago, finally got around to it, truly a delight. Middle-grade fantasy about a girl, Stephanie, in Ireland who inherits her rich uncle’s estate, only to end up in a sorcerer war. The eponymous Skulduggery Pleasant is a skeleton of a wizard who died a long time ago and is now a detective. He and Stephanie team up for an adventure. Hilarious wit and dialogue, great characters, and the story itself was plain but fun. I will read another.

A WALK IN THE WOODS by Bill Bryson. If you expect this saga of an Appalachian Trail hike to be insightful, fulfilling, or remotely of substance, you should set that expectation aside and brace yourself for accounts of annoying people with bad decision making processes who ultimately bail on the trail without completing even half of it. The only redeeming parts were the historical and scientific tidbits about the Trail, which you can probably read on Wikipedia. This book sucked, read Gary Paulsen instead.

CALL OF CTHULHU by H.P. Lovecraft. I have never read HPL and decided to correct that this year. Didn’t love it, didn’t hate it, it’s a forerunner to the modern horror genre and I see why. Glad I read it, won’t really prioritize other stuff over it. I see why people dig his writing though.

UNDER A GRAVEYARD SKY by John Ringo. Lifted my ban on zombie books to read this. 70 pages in, liking it so far.

And then…

DRY by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman.

Not going to say anything until I finish and write a full review, other than there is a reason why I have read 11 of Shusterman’s books and he is #$%@ing BRILLIANT.

More to come! Stay dreadful.

9/11 at 17 and 34

Not too much to say here, only that it’s been 17 years since 9/11, and I was 17 when it happened. I am now working with a group of youths at my church who weren’t born when it happened.

In the years since, we have constantly been in a hyper-politicized war in the Middle East, first in Afghanistan, then in Iraq. We wanted to crush the terrorist groups responsible. We wanted to remove their ability to ever do this to us or anyone ever again.

Clearly we haven’t achieved this and I don’t know what the answer is. We have a ton of veterans, dead soldiers, and monetary debt, and what to show for it? We keep crushing terrorists and their cells and their leaders and their offshoots in an endless game of Whack-a-Mole. One goes down, another pops up.

If we pull back, they surge and kill civilians. If we keep going, then…I don’t know.

I have spent half my life now in a country funding a war effort. I want to win, and have done with it.

I’m just one person. I don’t know what I can do.

I just want to remember the lessons of that day, remember what the world was like before it, and hope my kids can get a taste of it in the future.

Let’s be better.

Project Updates

Hi gang,

Last weekend I was at a writing retreat in Midway, put on by Lisa Mangum of Shadow Mountain. Great times were had by all.

Lisa is one of my favorite people in publishing, and very adept at her craft. After getting a chance to talk to her about one of my forthcoming projects, BRIMSTONE, I decided to postpone it for now.

The book needs some work–mainly in reprioritizing a viewpoint, adding some character changes, and removing about a quarter of what’s in the book.

No small feat, but doable. It isn’t something I can tackle right now though, so the podcast episodes won’t be happening in January as planned.

For now, MISTER FRIDAY is still on track for a November release, and I will have more on that as it comes.

On top of that, I am still scheduling commissions for Christmas card art, and you can get all the details on that here.

I officially announce my retirement from major mud runs.

Yes, yes, hello to you too, thank you everyone for attending, we’ll take questions after the announcement.

Everyone knows how much I have come to casually enjoy the sport of sporadic mud-running. I picked it up in 2012 while training for a Tough Mudder, and then made a lateral move to a Spartan Race in 2013. Come 2014 I was training for a second Mudder with my wife.

Those all went relatively well (though i didn’t hydrate enough at the end of my first and got sick). However, when I was recruited for a team in 2015, I hadn’t had time to train, and that one kicked my butt. I ended up getting even sicker and telling my wife not to let me sign up again.

But as the years passed I felt that itch, and decided to sign up for another Spartan Race, hoping to catch that bug again and lose 30 pounds in training.

Turns out that that is a lot harder to do while also working 50+ hours, being a good dad, and nurturing a side career as an artist. One must pick one’s priorities.

And so I declare that while my fitness will remain a focus, I will no longer train for these major runs. Maybe the occasional flat 5-miler. (Most of this last Spartan was on the side of a ski slope. We walked.)

It’s been real and it’s been fun, but a man’s gotta know what is important in his life.

Okay, now we will take questions.

5 Things I learned from a social media absence (#2 will SHOCK you!)

A week ago, President Russell M. Nelson of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints challenged the youth to go 7 days without social media. I decided to join in because I am an assistant youth advisor in my local Church ward.

Here is what I learned from those 7 days without constant social connection.

5: It was harder than I want to admit it was.

Granted, our lives are generally digital these days, but I’ve only owned a smartphone for five years, and I wish I was disciplined enough to not feel like I was going through withdrawals by avoiding Facebook or Twitter. That should be a warning to me.

4: Most of what I consume on social media is pointless.

We tell ourselves we are staying connected and informed…but about what? And at what price? How often are we really just filling ourselves with negativity and anxiety?

3: My immediate surroundings are more important than a digital environment.

It’s one of those things you know, but don’t realize that you were ignoring it until you actively address it.

2: The sting of a championship loss by your hometown’s first-ever pro sports team doesn’t suck as bad if you don’t wallow in it.

Up yours, Washington Capitals.

Really 2: Most of what I post is only interesting to me.

And I think my tweets and posts are just me assuming that my thoughts and observations are interesting to others. Instead of putting them online, I started writing them down privately. Hey, that used to be called a journal!

1: You do a lot of productive things when you don’t waste time online.

I packed food for work each night. I got out of bed on time. I hit the gym in the morning. And even though my kids ruined my scale with bath water, I can tell I lost a little more weight.

Were those the things President Nelson wanted me to learn with his challenge? Probably not, but I bet he suspected a lot of us would figure it out.

The real takeaway is that social media can be good if you actively make it so…but if you coast, and if you don’t prioritize, it becomes so much idle noise. Noise that distracts me from my commitments to my family and to God.

Even though I wasnt perfect in my fast (I did check it from time to time near the end, though I didn’t post anything), it helped me see what I want to do with it going forward.

If you didn’t participate in it this last week, try it sometime. Go without something that you are hooked on. See how you can better yourself without it.

Then get back to work.

Writing Update, December 2017

Hi gang,

It’s been an unimaginably busy year for me, and yet somehow I managed to get three books finished. KILL THE BEAST came out in February, and THE HERO NEXT DOOR came out last week. The other book, THE KORBADELL JOB, is currently under review with one of my favorite publishers. It’s a middle-grade fantasy.

All this, and I moved out of state, bought a house, and started training for a new job. At least life isn’t boring.

That said, I could not have done it without my friends, the Hibberts, and my mom moved in with us too, which has been nice. Between that and a lot of praying, things have gone better than it sounds on paper.

For now, I’m spending my evenings in training for a career change. I’m getting ready to get out of trucking. It will take a few months, but I’m excited to find something that works better for me.

Here’s what’s next in the meantime:

DECEMBER: I’ve got three short stories coming out on Wattpad, in a trilogy called Engines of Winter. These are sequels to Engines of Libertyset ten years after PATRIOT’S GAME. I’ll post one per week  until they’re all live.

JANUARY: Currently the audiobook for KTB is under production. It should launch around this time.

FEBRUARY: I’ll be at LTUE in Provo, Utah. I’ll post my schedule when we get closer. LTUE is a get-together between writers, artists, musicians, and producers, and it’s one of my favorite symposiums (symposia? Damn Latin) up here.

SPRINGTIME: My next book is called HOMEWORLD, about an alien invasion. More on it as I get closer to it. It won’t be terribly long, more like KTB in length. This is a fun one.

JUNE: I’m presenting at FyreCon. More details when it’s closer.

SEPT/OCT: It’s my intention to publish another book here, but I won’t announce it until the summer. This is subject to change.

Granted, the right publishing contract could derail a lot of this…so we’ll see.

THE HERO NEXT DOOR is live!

Hi everyone,

It’s been an incredibly long journey with this one and I’m so pleased that it’s finally out there. The Kickstarter backers got their perks this week, and now the book’s available to the general public.

Paperback is here. It’s $14.99.

Kindle version is here. It’s $3.99, but if you bought the paperback, it’s only $0.99.

Thank you, everyone. I’m looking forward to the rest of the year not being as crazy as it has so far 🙂

I’ve slashed the Kindle prices on four books.

Hey all,

For $6 you can own the Kindle versions of the four books I have out right now. Each of them is fully illustrated.

KILL THE BEAST: a spoof on the classic love story with the arrogant woodsman as the protagonist.

(Engines of Liberty)

REBEL HEART: Calvin Adler trains to become a technomancer so he can fight British magicians.

SUICIDE RUN: After ticking off both sides, Calvin literally runs for his life and accidentally empowers his most dangerous enemy.

PATRIOT’S GAME: It all comes down to this…mages and monsters versus men and machines. 
Enjoy! I hope you’ll leave a review on Amazon, those are a huge help to me. Thanks all!