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!

Guardians Vol. 2 gets a HISHE

The embedder sucks on my page, sorry. Click HERE for the video. 

The ineffable folks at HISHE worked their magic on what is so far my favorite movie of 2017, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
No movie is bulletproof, and I suppose you can always find a hole in a plot. Still, none of this stuff occurred to me as I was watching it, because the writers and actors did such an ace job of pulling me into the story. The characters really drove this tale, which was ultimately about fatherhood and family. 
I could go on all day about the brilliance of James Gunn’s artistic choices, or how much heart he brought to a bottom-of-the-barrel roster of characters. I learned a lot as a writer by watching this movie, mainly that I really need to focus more on my characters, their wills, and their interconnected conflicts.
Quill had a competition with Rocket, a resentment with Yondu, a skeptical approach to Ego, and a romantic entanglement (with obstacles) with Gamora. Gamora had a slight power struggle with Rocket, a familial conflict with Nebula, and a different brand of contention with her own father. Yondu stole the show with his own story, showing that he was more than just a hired thief, and had made decisions in the past he was not comfortable with–decisions that revealed his own complex humanity. 
It’s easy to put that stuff on paper, but the actors brought it to life with great skill. Three months later I am still jamming out to the soundtrack because it evokes so much feeling. 
These Marvel movies might never have been intended to be as good as they’ve been–and we’re lucky the directors and creators decided to go for broke, because by and large they’ve succeeded.
Except for you, Thor Movies. You suck.

I once resisted reading Harry Potter, and I’m glad I changed my mind.

Hi guys.

Recently the world celebrated the 20th anniversary of the release of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. (Yes, it has a different title in the UK. No, I don’t care.) Obviously it’s been a huge literary success and a cultural bulldozer, and for good reason.

I, like many people, resisted the craze for a number of years. The mania hit my hometown of Henderson around 1999/2000. That’s when I noticed friends and family feverishly consuming the first three books, which were out at the time.

I couldn’t go anywhere without seeing someone reading these childish books about a magic kid who flew on a broom at wizard school and went to weird places called “Azkaban” or whatever. That sounded like a fake Middle Eastern place. I was more interested in reading Michael Crichton at the time, because I was a Grown Man.

My parents tried to persuade me to read them, to no avail. This was my “rebellious” phase. If my parents and sister liked it, it must be stupid, right? Then my Mamaw tried to persuade me, and I more kindly turned her down, because what kind of savage ingrate sasses his Mamaw? She even mentioned that my super-cool tough guy Uncle Paul thought they were great. Nevertheless, I resisted.

Two more books came out before I went on my mission in 2003. Near the end of my time in Spain (where the books were still everywhere), a family gifted me a copy of Harry Potter y la Orden del Fenix, because they knew I was collecting books in Spanish to read at home. (I had already acquired a complete set of The Lord of the Rings  and Las Aventuras del Capitan Alatriste.)

As much as I wanted to hold on to my stubborn pride, I couldn’t rightly turn down this generous gift of a 900-page hardcover, so I accepted the book and didn’t tell them that I hadn’t yet read the previous four novels even in English. I went home, started reintegrating into American/English-speaking life, and dug into books again.

My then-girlfriend was, like most people, over the moon for Harry Potter, and her persuasion was the final nail in the coffin of my obstinate desire to resist this cultural wave. Like Wesley Crusher, I gave in and plugged into The Game.

After the first few chapters of Sorcerer’s Stone, I was intrigued. By the end of the book, I was quite impressed. Chamber of Secrets picked up the ball and kept running with it. Prisoner of Azkaban nuked the last shreds of my will, and I started to have dreams about being in the wizarding world, wielding a wand, casting spells and whatnot…

This was a new sensation for me. I never got into books like that. Dreams just didn’t happen, not even with books I was obsessed with. I killed the first six books in about a three-week span, and read the Spanish version of book five the following summer. Then began the long, drawn-out wait for Deathly Hallows, which would release on my 23rd birthday.

In the years since, I’ve re-read the whole series twice, and now my nephew is on his (third or fourth) trip through the books. For a kid who wasn’t even born until the seventh book had already come out, that goes to show their staying power.

But what is it about these books that makes them so magnetic? And can those parts persuade those who resist, as I once did?

Let’s examine.

  1. The Harry Potter books take something that young readers generally dislike–school–and make it impossibly cool. Any kid who hates getting up and going to school in the morning would gladly transfer to Hogwarts to learn magic. I think this is one reason why the series was so successful with an otherwise impenetrable demographic: young boys.
  2. Throughout the entire series, Rowling bowls you over with well-hidden twists. This, if nothing else, is a hallmark of the HP novels. While the villain reveal in book 1 might have been somewhat visible, the methodology of it was hidden well, and this trait continued throughout all seven books. Each of them had one huge twist–and several smaller ones along the way–that constituted a huge payoff for everything to come before it.
  3. The characters are quickly identifiable and convincingly real. If the school component makes the series accessible to young readers, the development of the adult characters is what makes it click for older readers. It’s a multi-generational series, with just as much weight for the parents and caretakers in the story as for the younger characters. While young readers identify with Harry’s displacement, Ron’s poverty, or Hermione’s nerdiness, older readers can relate to the burden on Professors Dumbeldore and McGonagle, the missed opportunities and stolen years of Sirius Black, or lifelong grudge held by Severus Snape.
  4. The world is a dangerous and heavy as it is cozy and inviting. Yes, there are dark wizards all over the place, and while the overtones of fascism, zealotry and ethnic purity can be all too real at times, they’re offset by the safe places in the book, like Hogwarts, the Burrow, Hogsmeade, and even #12 Grimmauld Place. This is why our world spends millions of dollars every year to go to Universal Studios and sit in a Harry Potter-themed restaurant, drinking butterbeer out of a keg and soaking in the ambiance. You’re transported there and it feels almost palpably real.
  5. Each new book dumps a fresh load of problems into your lap, as well as new places, new history, new conflicts, new magic, and new creatures. As a writer, I found this highly impressive, that a read-through of all seven books demonstrated Rowling’s mastery of her own world, and her ability to keep building on it in such a way that it stays clear and structured in the reader’s imagination. Over three thousand pages of fantasy fiction, and every spell, every scene, every interaction between these characters stays fresh in the mind, as if you had been there yourself to experience it.

Ultimately, I can’t twist anyone’s arm and make them read something they don’t want to. That’s not my aim. There are plenty of authors out there who are widely successful and enjoy the admiration of my peers, but I don’t particularly like their work or understand the hype. (Full confession: I don’t think Neil Gaiman’s books are all that great. I’ve started 6, finished 4, and liked 2. Granted, those two were brilliant, but the rest…I don’t get it.)

But, if any of the people who proudly celebrated #HP20 by announcing their longstanding resistance to it–and their decision to maintain that resistance–read this and finally decide to take a crack at it, well…hopefully they like it as much as I did. I’m glad I finally caved in the end.

That Thing Where You Openly Declare War On Your Bad Health

Image may contain: 5 people, people standing

5 years ago today I was celebrating on Facebook that I’d lost 25 pounds and was trying to lose 15 more, to get back down to about 180. I’d been training for my first mud run, so losing all that extra bulk was a necessity.

I kept it off for a few years, then got into trucking, then started working all kinds of insane and unaccommodating hours, and that took its toll on my body. The increase was gradual and steady. I’ve lost token amounts of weight here and there, but always gained it back quickly because of how I live and work.

This is neither healthy nor affordable, and I’ve decided to put the kabosh on it. I’m scared to go back and add up how much my “just a few bucks” trips to gas stations and truck stops has costed me. Something tells me it wouldn’t be hard to crack a hundred bucks a month, especially if I add in the recently-frequent fast food runs at work.

I can’t keep doing this, but I have been because it’s convenient and tastes good. And then I sit around wondering why I can’t get back into mudding shape. I peaked at 230 pounds this year, the heaviest I’ve ever been. Not good. If I had Andrew Luck’s BMI, that would be one thing, but I don’t.

So here goes:

I officially declare that I am no longer drinking soda, be it diet or otherwise. If I really want something bubbly, a case of La Croix is cheap and harmless. If I want something tasty, a case of electrolyte drinks is affordable.

I am no longer buying fast food, or buying lunch even if I’m out with the guys at work. I don’t care if I get weird sideways looks from the employees at Arby’s as my co-workers order their $11 combos and I’m eating leftovers out of a Tupperware. Fight me, bro.

I’m not getting candy, even occasionally. Beef jerky is overpriced at corner stores. Protein bars? Buy ’em in bulk and ration ’em out. I’m getting hosed on expensive good food, but shooting myself in the foot by eating cheap bad food. Then I come home at night, stay up late working, and grab a bowl of cereal while I draw or edit.

Gee Graham, I can’t imagine why you’re heavy, or why you often get short of breath after a fit of exertion at your oh-so-physical job.

So hold me to this, guys. This starts now and runs *at least* through four weeks, which gets me past my birthday. I won’t be so naive as to think I’ll be able to avoid every ounce of this stuff but I have to make the drastic change now, because weeks and months and maybe even years of saying “Okay, this time I’ll do it, and quietly…” hasn’t worked.

Cat’s out of the bag. I’m back in hardware mode. Let’s GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.

 

10 Ways Writing and Trucking are the Same Job

10– Technically anyone can do it, but if you don’t get some training you’ll make a huge mess.

9– If you hammer down but don’t know where you’re going, you’ll cover a lot of ground for no reason.
8– You can do it without planning the route. Just be prepared to take the long way and burn a ton of fuel…
7– …unless you’ve gone there before, in which case you probably know the way.
6– It will be a few days before you shower again.
5– If you keep a bottle handy, you can save time on bathroom breaks.
4– Don’t slow down unless you have to.
3– At this point you haven’t quit because you actually like the work, you weirdo.
2– “Woohoo, I made six dollars today!”
1– If you caffeinate yourself to the moon you can get TONS more done.