Trucker Man Reads Girly Books: UNTIL WE MEET AGAIN by Renee Collins


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



Generations ago, when America was in the throes of the Great Depression, the federal government tried to spur the economy on by paying for public works projects. One of them was the structure we know today as Hoover Dam.

It’s a monument of triumphant engineering and unbridled masculine labor from an era when safety regulations were for sissies, now get back in that mineshaft with the diesel fumes and MAKE QUOTA.
Nowadays we have stuff like OSHA to keep that from happening, but man is still finding ways to beat nature into submission near my hometown. I give you the I-11 Bypass, a highway designed to alleviate traffic around Boulder City, NV and Hoover Dam.

If you’ve ever been down there, you’re probably scratching your head and saying, “But Trucker Man, you already have highways on all the flat ground by the dam.”
I know! That’s why we punched a hole through a mountain nearby. 
I was fortunate enough to be a part of this venture, not only delivering equipment and fuel, but blasting sections of the roadway as well. 

And on one particular day, there was a shot on a hill that was so steep and inaccessible, my truck couldn’t climb it. I had to chain my rig to the back of a bulldozer so he could drag me up to work.
Facial hair. Red meat. Screaming eagles overhead.



But while I waited for the bulldozer, I read a book, and that book was UNTIL WE MEET AGAIN by Renee Collins. 
What’s it about, you ask? Well there’s this chick, forced to endure a brutal summer of hardship in the labor mines of North Korea…wait nope, she’s on a summer vacation in a rich neighborhood on the Massachusetts coast, my bad. 

Um, yeah, okay so she is having a tough time, family issues and what, when she accidentally discovers that her beach (right? The beach belonging to her house, that’s so sick) is a time portal to the 1920s, and she meets a Hot Guy there, but he’s stuck in the past, and they only have that summer before the time portal closes, so you’d better believe they’re gonna make out. (Which is really why we read these books anyway.)
Oh also she has to help him solve his own pending murder, which she learns about at the local library.
I didn’t finish the book that day, but I did finish it a few days later in the cab of an explosives truck, waiting out an intense rainstorm so we could finish blowing up a mountain. It’s a summertime book and it made me happy on a day of bad weather, which many of my fellow Americans are currently enjoying.
So pick up a copy. I’ve got to get back to work, we’re about to set off a shot near a neighborhood full of rich golfers, this is gonna be fun.

The Gutsiest Thing I Did In High School

More often than not, I’m met with disbelief when I tell people I was a cheerleader in high school. In their defense, it’s been 15 years, and I’m not the lithe 170-pounder I was when I graduated. Back then, I’d rip my shorts when I did a toe-touch. Today, I’d rip a groin.

But I was, and I’m really glad for it, because it was one of those things that taught me more than any bookwork I ever did in class. It taught me to figure out something that I wanted, and then go for it,¬†damn the torpedoes.

Keep in mind, I did this in 2001, before the numerous homosexual epithets that we know and love today became so widely taboo. If I went through an entire day without somebody asking me right to my face whether I was attracted to other dudes, I’d wonder if people didn’t recognize me.

(And as secure as I’ve always been in my liking of the fairer sex, when you’re 17, that stuff tends to wear on you at some point. At least, it did to me. But I put up with it, because that’s just what you do.)

To give you some context, I never really played any sports in school prior to trying out for cheer. I fiddled around with roller hockey in my freshman year, but only because my brother did it too, and the school “team” (really just a club) was so short on participants and they needed a rotational guy for the right wing D. (You know…for all the games we played. :P)

I got back into cycling my sophomore year, but not through school. Then my junior year rolled around, my big brother had gone off to college, and suddenly I was the oldest kid at home, and that had a big impact on me, having been Numeros Dos growing up. Early that school year, I saw the posters for the Powderpuff Game, kind of laughed it off, then stopped myself and thought…

Why not?

Suddenly I wasn’t looking for reasons not to do it. I wasn’t considering what my brother might say if he found out I wanted to do it. I was figuring out ways that I could just do it.

So I took a shot at it. I endured the laughs and the jokes and the ribbing from my peers. I hung out after school with a bunch of guys who were in much better shape than I, and we learned from the varsity cheer girls (who, surprise, were much better at cheer than we were) how to do some basic builds and fool around with pom-poms on the sideline. We had a heck of a time goofing off, the game came and went, and once it was all done, I found myself thinking…man, I could still do that.

I wouldn’t have been the first male cheerleader at my school. There were already two guys, one on varsity, one JV, so the trailblazing aspect of it was well and handled. I chewed on it all year long. I exercised, lost a few more pounds, built some upper body strength, and spent a week of after-school sessions at tryouts.

Come Friday, with no previous experience, just busting my hump and learning from Larry and Chris, as well as the outgoing senior girls…I made varsity.

And I learned a TON about myself in the process. I don’t know how much I’ve ever opened up to anyone about this in the years since, but of all the decisions I ever had to make in my teenage years, joining the cheer squad sticks out clearly in my memory as the one most outside my comfort zone.

Yet it gelled so well with who I am. I’m loud. I’m explosive. I’m obnoxious and colorful and get way too into things that I like. (These things are not always virtues. Learning to temper them was a process that lasted most of my 20s, but that’s a story for another day.)

My wife can tell you of the numerous decisions I made in my youth that I would go back and change, if I could. Or of the things I’d go back and tell myself, so I could get started sooner. These are things we plan to teach our boys, about having foresight, wanting something, learning how to get it, and so forth.

But she’s never once heard me express regret about being a cheerleader. I never have. It’s less about the sport itself, and more about the fact that I finally learned how to see something I wanted and grab it without giving a single damn what anyone else thought about it.

And in my adult life, that has so often made the difference.

As we clear out our garage, deciding what things to take on our move to Utah, we occasionally come across old mementos of things that we don’t really need to keep. I still have my cheer megaphone, which cost me $50 back in the day, and was custom air-brushed by local artist Shawn Ealy. I decided to part ways with it, and was just going to toss it, when my wife suggested donating it to my alma mater. I did (and the current principal happens to have been my Spanish teacher back in my teens) and we’ll be delivering it in the coming weeks.

Hopefully I’ll figure out how to condense the guts of this post to a single sheet of paper, so it can hang with the cone in the display case on campus. Not necessarily to inspire a new generation of cheer-bros, but rather to embolden everyone to shake off their fears and choose what they want for themselves.

That was the takeaway for me, anyhow.

That’s all. Get back to work.

Something Great for Something Greater

For the second time in a decade, I’m planning a move from Nevada to Utah. 
The wife and I have been talking about it for a couple of years. Henderson is and always will be home, yet at the same time I feel an itch not to be stationary just for sentimentality’s sake; there are things we want, and we can make them happen more readily in a different place, so we’re going to move.
The plan is for it to go down this summer, when our lease is up. I’m still in the homework phase of job searching, fortunately our friends are helping out in that area. 
Much like I did in 2008, I of course have reservations. I have a good job here! Great friends and co-workers. Family all around. A bucket of memories on every block.
But there are better things for me and my family, that I have a better opportunity to achieve if we get set up in Utah for a few years. I have lots of fun at my job right now, blowing things up and mythologizing the work on Instagram, but I also work with guys who are ten, twenty, thirty years my senior. I see the toll it takes on their bodies to be 4AM risers in an unstable industry. Plenty of them are still trying to get “other things” going on the side. My income might support a wife and two toddlers, but can it support two teenaged boys, and any other kids we’ll have? Maybe not. I shouldn’t make assumptions.
So I want to go where I’ll have more flexible education opportunities (and abundant employment offers) in tech and programming. I want to be able to take my kids abroad, teach them trades at a young age, put them in sports and stuff. And I want to set an example of visionary pursuit, to not just tell them, but show them that if you want something, you ought to chase it! Then pin it down, slit its throat, stuff its head and mount it on the wall.
On top of all that, I have a vision of myself as a successful author and artist. I’m going to a place where I can work more conventions, meet more readers, talk with them, and share my work. I’m only 32, but there are plenty of things I wished I had done differently at 22. I’m not going to wait until I’m 42 before I decide I should do things differently now. 
That’s it. Cat’s out of the bag, the Bradleys are planning on moving this summer. More details to come! And if you know of anyone paying top dollar for local drivers in the Utah County area, holler at me ūüôā
Thanks everyone. 

Engines of Liberty Kindle Trilogy Free through 11/29/16

Hi everyone–

I decided to put the¬†Engines of Liberty¬†trilogy up for grabs for the weekend. If you have a Kindle or a device that lets you read Kindle books, you can get each book at their respective link below. I hope that you’ll pick them up and share this with your friends. I put a ton of work into these over the last three years. They’re fully illustrated, with magic, dieselpunk technology, black powder weapons, and a cast of diverse characters.

 

Enjoy! And have a great weekend.

Rebel Heart (Engines of Liberty Book 1) by [Bradley, Graham]

#1 REBEL HEART

Suicide Run (Engines of Liberty Book 2) by [Bradley, Graham]

#2 SUICIDE RUN

#3 PATRIOT’S GAME

Halloween Reads

I do love to read good seasonal books in the final stretch of every year. I just started re-reading¬†Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone¬†for the third time. It’s not a Halloween book, but the first few months of Harry’s first year at Hogwarts are thoroughly done, and really capture the feel of the changing seasons.

Anyway, here are some reads I’ve recommended in the past elsewhere, compiled here for your ease. All links lead to Amazon.

 

RULES FOR GHOSTING by AJ Paquette. A girl who died in an old house suddenly finds herself dealing with the new tenants, as well as a local ghostbuster who wants to capture her.

SPELL CHECK by Julie Wright. (Admittedly I prefer the old cover to this one.) A girl finds out she’s descended from witches, etc etc…things go awry when she accidentally, and then deliberately, starts using her powers to get revenge on her enemies, as well as trying to get her parents back together.

THE GRAVEYARD BOOK by Neil Gaiman. Think The Jungle Book only it takes place in a graveyard, and our Mowgli character, Nobody Owens, is raised by ghosts. A charming tale. Gaiman narrates the audiobook.

THE HALLOWEEN TREE by Ray Bradbury. I mean come on. This book is basically a love letter to Halloween, and a celebration of similar holidays in different cultures the world over.

Something Wicked This Way Comes (Greentown Book 2) by [Bradbury, Ray]

SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES also by Ray Bradbury. The quintessential “an evil carnival comes to town” novel, and a monumental classic.

Lockwood & Co.:  The Screaming Staircase by [Stroud, Jonathan]        Lockwood & Co., Book 2:  The Whispering Skull by [Stroud, Jonathan]      Lockwood & Co. Book Three: The Hollow Boy by [Stroud, Jonathan]          Lockwood & Co.: The Creeping Shadow by [Stroud, Jonathan]

LOCKWOOD & CO, a series by Jonathan Stroud. Includes¬†The Screaming Staircase, The Whispering Skull, The Hollow Boy,¬†and¬†The Creeping Shadow.¬†A delicious series of well-rounded tales from our superb heroine Lucy Carlisle, who’s a teenaged ghost hunter in London. Ghosts have been popping up and causing mayhem for decades in Britain’s capital, and two things are ironclad: there seems to be no final solution, and only children and teens are able to see them outright. (Adults still know they’re there, they just don’t have the talents to hunt them.) I look forward to each installment in this series almost religiously. I hope he does more than just another one.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (Illustrated) by [Irving, Washington]

THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW by Washington Irving. Couldn’t possibly overlook this one. Flawless in its magic.

 

Those should keep you busy over the next thirty days. Lamentably there aren’t as many Thanksgiving novels out there, but I’ll have something to mention at least. Happy reading!

 

A DreadPennies Comic

Hi guy and gals.

The loading bar of my life is currently at 32%. (I mean to live to 100.) I have been working toward a career as a full-time writer (and artist!) for over a decade now, with varied levels of intensity and focus. I think that’s plenty of time to kick my work into a higher gear.

In 2013 I decided I didn’t want to wait any longer for someone else to make that dream come true, so I got to work on my Engines of Liberty trilogy. I’m so lucky to live in a time when self-pub has never been easier, and that I can connect with artists and editors who can make my work better. But Engines was just the starting point. I have so many other stories to share with you.

Granted, I am still self-publishing. I am also still querying agents. And when I feel like I can do it well, I am doing art on the side.

Some of it will be commissions, other stuff will be for books, and some will be for this site. As to the methodology of it, and the approach I’m taking, well, see below ūüôā

And thank you for reading. I have to get back to building the dream.

 

dp-i1-v1

dp-i1-v2

dp-i1-v3

(Howard Tayler: www.schlockmercenary.com)

(Matthew Inman: www.theoatmeal.com)

What Have I Been Up To?

Hi guys and gals. A few notes here:

  1. Charity Auction Results
  2. Drawings
  3. Forthcoming books

–THE AUCTION

A few weeks ago, my friend Lisa Mangum (the chief poo-bah editrix over at Shadow Mountain) invited me to chip in for a charity auction on her brother’s behalf. I say “invited” instead of “asked to” because while I now have to provide some free swag to the winners, participating was really a privilege. Tons of other writers, agents, and editors contributed, and the winners raised over five grand for the family.

If it’s true that Mormons “take care of their own,” it’s especially true of the LDS writing community out here in the Mountain West. Most of us believe in rugged individualism, but we also believe in giving someone a hand when their boat is sinking.

It’s really cool that Charity Auctions Today put together a great website, and that Lisa reached out to so many of us. I personally could not have afforded to donate $200, but the items I put in ended up selling for that amount, which still surprises me.

Hats off to the bidders and contributors. What a great two weeks that was. I love you all!

–THE DRAWINGS

One of the auction items I put up was a 24×18 commissioned piece, and I’ve been going over the details with the winner. It’ll be a unique piece, as well as a challenging one, and I want to do it really well. It’s meant to be a birthday gift for an octogenarian.

I’ve also been commissioned to do a¬†Star Wars¬†family portrait, which I’ll have to do right after the aforementioned piece is done. I expect each one will take about two weeks, given how life has gone lately.

After that I have a third commission on deck, but it’s small. And somewhere in there, I have a piece of digital art to render. Also small, but time-consuming nonetheless. If you follow me on Instagram (@grahamberad), I posted some work-in-progress shots of a comic I was drawing, and that will get finished soon, I just don’t know when.

–THE WRITINGS

My next releases! Currently I have one book out on submission to agents. It has been rejected 11 times. I’m aiming for 100 submissions. If I get 100 rejections…I’ll buy myself something really cool, I guess.

I’ve finished a draft of a sci-fi novella, and I have set it aside to write a fantasy novella, which was part of the charity auction: the winner purchased naming rights to a side character, and I’m trying to do justice to the whole concept. Both of these novellas should be out by January of next year.

And that’s about it, really. It’s nice to be busy, and nicer to have fans. Thanks to those of you who read this, who have read my books, and who have supported my work. Thank you!

Now get back to it.

I Finished A Trilogy

Hi guys,

If you follow me on FB, IG, or Twitter, you’ve probably been bombarded enough, so I’ll keep it short:

My third published novel launched today. Here are Amazon links to the first two, REBEL HEART and SUICIDE RUN. Today’s book is PATRIOT’S GAME, intentionally released on the Fourth of July.

I hope you’ll give them a read! I priced them as low as I could (ebooks are cheaper than print) and if you follow this link, you can enter to win a copy of REBEL HEART.

Thank you, and have a great Fourth! Hopefully we’ll take better care of what was left to us by our predecessors.

 

Best,

 

Graham

My First Ever Local Political Endorsement

 

The short version: I recommend that you vote for Richard Vaughan for Clark County School District Trustee, District A.

The long version: we step into my time machine and go back to 1991. I’m a 2nd grader at Gibson Elementary. For PE that year I have two coaches, a man and a woman. The man is a portly fellow with a warm smile on his face, like a desert-dwelling Santa Claus. Throughout the year he’s positive and encouraging, even when scrawny little 7 year-old me can’t do a single pull-up. One of the activities in the spring was to learn how to jump rope a bunch of different ways. At one part, the coaches wanted us to jump backward. I couldn’t figure out how, until Coach Vaughan pulled a few of us aside and taught us the trick: you had to jump when you heard the rope click against the asphalt behind you.

It was a simple thing, but the fact that he took the time and effort to teach me (and one other kid) something so inconsequential left an impression. I knew that he wanted us to learn.

Back in the time machine. Fast forward ten years, and we disembark in 2001 at Foothill High School. I walk into my senior year government class, and there’s something familiar about the even more Santa-esque man at the front of the room, especially now that his hair is whiter and he probably hasn’t jumped rope in a while.

“Hey! You’re Coach Vaughan! You taught me how to jump rope backward!”

He got a kick out of the fact that I remembered, and he indeed remembered me. (Good or bad, I do tend to leave an impression on people).

Although Government Honors was not 2nd grade PE, Mr. Vaughan’s zeal for teaching was the same. But it’s not just his zeal that qualifies him for the office he now seeks.¬†A number of anecdotes should illustrate this:

Our education system sucks. It’s expensive and inefficient. The good teachers don’t last long and the bad ones don’t seem to go away. It is in this environment that the excellent ones stand out. Mr Vaughan told us on Day One that he was a Democrat, but that his wife often said he’s the most conservative Democrat she knows. I, a lifelong Republican from a conservative family, wondered what that might mean for the direction of the class. Was I on track for nine months of bias and indoctrination?

I soon learned that I had no reason to worry. Mr Vaughan wasn’t declaring his bias by declaring his party. On the contrary, he was fair all throughout the year when it came to explaining the flaws and virtues of both major parties and their ideologies. He started the year by giving us a multiple-choice test on a number of then-important national issues, the results of which would broadly classify us as Republican, Democrat, or Independent (just to give each student a barometer on where they stood.)
On the open house night, he made his case to our parents, saying that his goal for the class was to have every student develop their values by year’s end–and if they already had values, then to develop underlying reasons for them. I think his lack of bias was never clearer than when he introduced the class to a number of prominent media figures, one of whom was Rush Limbaugh. He played a few clips and segments from Limbaugh’s defunct television program, demonstrating Limbaugh’s ideologies and his unique method of delivery to an audience. When the clip ended, Mr. Vaughan simply told us that Limbaugh had a lot of sway as a non-conventional media source…and that we should make up our own minds about him.

That’s not the kind of objectivity we often hear of from teachers lately. Mr. Vaughan understood the influence that he held as a teacher, and the responsibilities that came with it. He encouraged us, all of us, to come to our own conclusions. (At the time I was a big fan of Limbaugh, though this is not the case anymore. I can tell you this much: were I in Mr. Vaughan’s place, I know I wouldn’t have dealt so fairly with some of my ideological opposites.)

Mr Vaughan’s principles and objectivity were on full display throughout the rest of that year. He took time to explain the purpose of government, starting all the way back at Hammurabi and Mesopotamia, then going on to Persia, the Greeks, the Romans, the British, and finally, our present-day system. He helped us understand the important context of our democracy and our Republic. By year’s end, he even had us group up and form our own fictional countries, developing a legal system and analyzing the outcome of it.

Richard Vaughan understands why we need government, and how a great school system is key to preserving it. He knows that it¬†ought to be prudent, frugal, and functional. I know he has a love for education. He spent over two decades in the trenches of it, working with hundreds of students, feeding their minds and preparing them for the world. I am one of them. Without casting any aspersions on the other candidates for this office, I can tell you this: he is the right person for the job, and if we want to get on the right path to improving Nevada’s education system (we’re 50th, people!) we need to start with Richard Vaughan.

Voting Day is June 14, 2016. Look up your polling place and vote for Richard Vaughan for School District Trustee!

Asking “Soup Questions”

 

Did you ever see that movie Finding Forrester, with Sean Connery? The elderly Scot plays a retired writer living in the Bronx. He only ever wrote one book, but it was apparently awesome and he retired off of it. (Harper Lee, anyone?)

In the film, Forrester takes a budding young high school writer under his wing and teaches him how to write better. They come from opposite sides of cultural, economic, and racial barriers, so their story is one of finding common ground as they work together. At one point, Forrester (Connery) is making tomato soup, and tells Jamal (the student) to give it a stir on the stove. Jamal asks why Forrester stirs his soup so meticulously as it cooks. Forrester explains that when he was a kid, growing up poor (think Depression-era), milk was a precious commodity, and when you used it to make a condensed soup, you were careful not to burn it.

Later Jamal asks Forrester something personal, and Forrester scolds him, saying the purpose of asking a question is to obtain information that is relevant or useful to you–such as the question about the soup. For the remainder of the film, they have a running exchange about whether what they ask each other is a “soup question”, e.g., something relevant or useful.

I thought about that scene as I figured what I might write about tonight. I’ve been meaning to pay this blog some attention, because I used to write with great regularity. Then I wrote a long post about when I turned 30, and I haven’t really touched it since. I took down the old Grahampage, and my new WordPress site has only a few scant and scattered pieces on it.

Here’s the thing: I went back last year and a read a bunch of my blog posts.

Most of them sucked. They were worthless. Nobody learned anything from the stuff I posted, it was just noise.

Not exactly “soup posts”, you might say.

Since then, whenever I’ve felt the impulse to write on the blog, I’ve wondered whether what I’m saying just sounds interesting to me, or whether it could really be of use to the populace at large. More often than not, the answer was “no.”

Combine that with the schedule that I keep as I work on my third novel-to-be-published, PATRIOT’S GAME. I get up early in the morning, I clock in at 6, I drive a truck and swing a hammer and turn a wrench for ten hours a day, then I come home and play with my cute kids and my cuddly dog and my hot wife, then everyone goes to bed and I stay up for three hours scribbling on the drawing board. I’m a dad, I’m a husband, I’m a commercial driver, I’m an author, I’m an illustrator…I have a lot of hats. “Blogger” falls way down the list.

So my resolution, then, is this: I will write something here when I have something to say.

Until then, I’ve got soup to make elsewhere.

Best wishes, guys.