December writing update

Hey, Dreads.

Last night I finished a short story for an anthology about lesser-known fairy tales. Mine’s based on a Spanish story. I sent it in and now the waiting game begins.

The other project I worked on during November was a romance novel. There’s a lot of secrecy around this one, so no details here.

The most important update for today is that I am taking another crack at my fantasy epic, Brimstone. This is my “blast crew goes to Mordor” series and I love it more than most of what I have written.

It just had some flaws in the mechanics of the story, and I think I know how to address them now. It will be a good palate cleanser from these other two stories, and it will get a considerable monkey off of my back too.

I need to rearrange some chapters, rewrite others, and cut about 20% overall. This will be Graham at his Genghis Khan-iest.

Get back to work.

Heroes get remembered, legends never die.

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While it may be premature to call Michael Crichton a legend after ten years, the man was certainly prolific, productive, and proficient. I will always heap praise on his imagination as well as his technical knowledge, his zeal for research, and his ability to take that which is “commonly known to be impossible…”

…and make me believe that it is not only possible, but about to happen.

Time travel. Cloned dinosaurs. Alien probes that give us godlike powers by accident. Gnarly aggressive gorillas that really don’t want us taking diamonds from Africa. And that’s just a small sampling of his work that I’ve read.

The man had the #1 book, movie, and TV show in America at the same time in the 1990s. He wrote novels to pay his way through medical school because oh yeah, he was a freaking doctor.

When I hit seventh grade, and was just about tired of middle grade/young adult books (keep in mind that Harry Potter wasn’t a thing yet), I made the jump to big-time sci-fi so I could read THE LOST WORLD and then JURASSIC PARK. (Oops. Order, and such.)

Then I gobbled up whatever else of his I could, partly because I was much less picky, and partly because I didn’t know why I liked what I liked, only that I liked it, and I didn’t have this idea in my head that I only had time to read the best of anything. Some of his stuff wasn’t the greatest, but most of it was, and it fueled my drive to tell my own stories.

Granted, I made up a lot of stuff that he would have researched, but hey, baby steps.

Today marks the tenth anniversary of his passing due to cancer. It was significant enough in my life that I remember where I was and what I was doing when I heard the news.

I’m just glad that he left so much of his time and work for people to enjoy even after his death, in the form of books. The fact that they’re good, and historically significant in American culture, ensures that many future generations will have the chance to enjoy them as I have, and that makes me happy.

RIP, Mr. Crichton. And thank you for your labors.

Ichabod Crane was not a sexy dude.

I wrote about this back in 2013 on my old blog, and it’s a good time to revisit this subject.

Washington Irving’s best-known tale is The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, featuring lanky Connecticut schoolmaster Ichabod Crane versus the ghost of the Headless Horseman.

Everyone has heard of the story, due to its staying power over the centuries (Irving wrote it in the early 1800s) but Hollywood tends to butcher the important parts.

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The two most recent adaptations were Sleepy Hollow from 1999, wherein Ichabod Crane is a sexy supernatural detective played by Johnny Depp, in his pre-Jack Sparrow days.

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Later he was played by Tom Mison in the TV show “Sleepy Hollow,” which was a wild, wild departure from just about anything having to do with Irving’s classic (other than Ichabod, Katrina, and the Horseman.)

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Apparently Jeff Goldblum portrayed Ichabod in a for-TV version of the movie back in the early 1980s. This version of the character was closer to accurate, even if the story wasn’t.

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To date, the most correct portrayal I’ve seen is the animated Disney version from many many decades ago. Both the character and the story are directly adapted from what Irving crafted.

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I bring this up because I usually read The Legend of Sleepy Hollow in October, and have for the past five or six years. Yesterday I plugged in the audio (I have the version narrated by Tom Mison, funnily enough) and as always, it’s a striking feat of language and emotion and storytelling.

This story always draws me in, and not just because Irving was a fantastic writer; I found out back in 2015 that I actually have a ancestors buried in the Old Dutch Church Cemetery in Sleepy Hollow, New York. (Their names were Dirke Storm and Gregoris Storm.)

Naturally this has fueled my imagination for some time, and I’ve poured that fuel into a story idea that I’ve been kicking around since my twenties. I’ve tried tackling it before, only to fail, but this is the year that I can make it happen.

So my NaNoWriMo novel is called SLEEPLESS HOLLOW. It’s a modern-day follow-up to Irving’s original story, one that treats it all as historical fact, and accurately portrays the characters he created.

I won’t get into too many details for now, just know that SLEEPLESS HOLLOW is going to be my big release of 2019. It will be about a year before you guys get to read it, but check back here for updates and snippets as I write and illustrate it.

And if you need something to hold you over in the meantime, head over to http://www.gutenberg.org and grab a free ebook copy of Irving’s Legend. Fall in love with it like I do every time I read it.

There is more to be discovered in that sleepy little villa…

State of the Dread: July 2018

I usually have projects going on a few fronts, and am trying not to spread myself too thin. When I was setting annual goals in January, I wanted to have a book out by now, but some other demands have landed on my lap and taken priority. Nevertheless, here’s what I’m up to:

ART: I have a commission on deck that I haven’t been working on because of my day job and other stuff. Once this other stuff (see “career” below) is taken care off, that’s the next big thing. Keep an eye on my instagram, @GrahamBeRad.

WRITING: So hey, good news! When the “Ready Set Write” folks on YouTube read one of my pages, I was unknowingly entered into a monthly contest to get a five-page critique, and I won! So I have them looking at the first five pages of a different project.

I’m attending Lisa Mangum’s writing retreat at Capitol Reef next month too, which gets me another five page critique, so I’m having her look at different pages of the same project, due out in November. This book will also have an audio part, narrated by yours truly. #FridayFighters

FITNESS: Not as explosive as it was in 2012 when I trained for a mud run back then, but I’m determined to keep it up even after my Spartan Race this month. Once again, outside life has been derailed by my…

CAREER: I’m still studying to make a position change at work. I’ve failed the test twice and I really want to pass it on the next attempt. But even if I were to pass it like, TOMORROW, I am sure I would still have to be a trucker for a little while because of some jobs the company has going. Nevertheless, passing the test will free up my time and energy for drawing, writing, and gettin’ dem gainz.

 

 

Despite setbacks, I will release a new book this year.

Ever since the launch of REBEL HEART in 2014, I have released a book every year. SUICIDE RUN came in 2015, PATRIOT’S GAME in 2016, and 2017 saw KILL THE BEAST and THE HERO NEXT DOOR come into the world.

2018 ended up being busier than I expected, and the projects that I wanted to finish won’t get off the ground in time. I have a book that is ideal for a Halloween launch, and I just won’t be done for this year. I also have about 8 or 9 straight months of illustrating for another book that’s already finished (but in need of edits.)

Still, I wanted to publish something this year. This week, I finally figured out what to do. The working title is THE FRIDAY FIGHTER.

For the last two years, I have launched a short story on Black Friday, satirizing the unofficial holiday, in which I have never participated. I really don’t care for the Black Friday brouhaha, and every year it gets crazier. That prompted the first story I did in 2016, which then necessitated a sequel in 2017.

For 2018, I will write a third story, one that wraps up nice and tight, and then of course illustrate it. Expect to see it early-to-mid November.

More details as we get closer. But yay! I will publish again in 2018.

Characters First: Why “Incredibles 2” was a worthy addition to the first one.

It’s always scary when they make a sequel to a really great movie. If the first one was 100% great, the second one would only need to hit 90% for you to feel like it didn’t live up.

Fortunately, Pixar has enough cultural capital for people to give them credit in the sequel department.

DreamWorks, for example, sequeled the hell out of the Shrek franchise, and none of them were all that great. The How To Train Your Dragon series started strong, but the sequel wasn’t able to recapture all the magic, and the 500 spinoff shows have watered down the product. Still, the third looks promising.

Incredibles, though, knows what it’s about. Yes, there are superheroes, and societal issues, and Big Questions, but those are just dressing on the plate. At its core, it’s a family story.

Bob is the husband/father who hates his job and longs for the glory days when he felt more valuable to the world. Now he tries to fill that void by figuring out how to be the dad his kids need him to be.

Helen struggles with the opposite problem–trusting her husband to run a tight ship like she does at home, while also accepting the responsibility of being The Main Superhero who will usher in a new era.

Violet isn’t just the girl with invisibility powers; she wants more adult responsibilities, and a relationship with a boy. The fact that she has powers and has to hide them makes that really hard to manage.

Dash is trying to keep up with a changing curriculum at school, and idolizes his dad, hoping to live up to his standard of heroism someday.

And Jack-Jack…oh man. That baby. Anyone who has had a baby boy in their house knows what’s up. Even without any dialogue, and limited cognition, he imposes his will on the world around him. Jack-Jack steals the show.

I could go on and on about the brilliant angles and aspects of this, but really, you just need to see it and you probably will. The 14-year wait, while unconventional, was worth it, and your patience is rewarded.

I would rather have to wait a decade and a half and have them get it right anyway.

Send Graham to Writing Camp!

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Well okay it’s more a of a retreat than a camp, but there will be real hiking and stuff. But the important part is, there will be writing, and coaching and stuff, with a legit editrix who I really want to work with.

Here’s the skinny: we were able to pay for my dog’s leg surgery, but it’s left just about no wiggle room in the budget for a while. This retreat is one of the reasons I moved up to Utah, to improve my writing and my career, so it’s really important to me that I get in.

SO. I’m open to commissioned artwork. These make great customized gifts (see the gallery below.) The larger pieces are 18″ x 24″. I can do them for $75 apiece, and I’ll include shipping in that. Please note that for this promotion, $75 will also get you an illustrated background, not just a foreground. 

I also have copies of the Engines of Liberty books on hand, as well as about 18 copies of THE HERO NEXT DOOR, with a blank sheet in the cover for a custom drawing. Contact me for prices on those. Many a reluctant teen reader has jumped into these books for hours of fun.

My email address is grahampbradley [at] gmail (dot com.)

Talk to you soon!

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My sister requested a female Star-Lord for her friend’s birthday.

 

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Another gift for a friend, with her two oldest kids as Winter Soldier and Captain America.
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Illustrations from “KILL THE BEAST”
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More illustrations from “KILL THE BEAST.” My friend Danielle was the female model.
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Commission for my friend, with her oldest as Batman.
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Same friend as the Batman drawing, this is her youngest.
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Commission for my friend Case, a drill operator on the blast crew.

5 Great Moments from LTUE

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Sweet death, I’m getting chubby.

Hi gang. I just wrapped up my 4th consecutive LTUE symposium as a panelist, and my first as an outright presenter. It’s the writing-related event that I look forward to most every year, and I’m lucky to have been a part of it this way.

This is one of the many advantages of me being a hybrid author-illustrator. If I was just there as a writer, they wouldn’t have me on hardly any panels, because this area is overflowing with writers. Artists are farther in between.

Anyway, in no particular order, here are 5 great memories I made this year:

1It was my first time teaching a class on my own. The “How Do I Wreck This?” class was well-attended, for being at 9AM on a Friday. I think I had 8 or 9 people show up, and though I ended up rushing a little at the end, it was a success. I will eventually put that content up here on the website.

2) I got to moderate a panel, too. The subject was on how to make your art style unique, and there were great artists there who contributed. Devin Dorrity brought a bronze werewolf sculpture that he made, Greg Newbold is a full-time illustrator, Jessica Douglas is a painter who incorporates stones and stuff into her work, and Bobbie Berendsen W is renowned for her steampunk art. Such a wealth of experience in that group, and it was really cool to bounce questions off of them and hear their perspectives.

3) I met up with a bunch of people from a Supernatural FB fan group. My friend Lisa added me to a group, since I started watching Supernatural last month. It’s totally a chick show, but for being a CW program, there’s a great depth of story, character, and humor to it. Plus the social element of fandom is just cool to have. A bunch of us hung out at lunchtime on Friday.

4) I broke my single-conference record for books sold. Which, yanno, isn’t saying a whole ton, because the record was 7, but this year I sold 10 books, 8 of which were at the signing on Friday night (always my favorite part.) I hate selling stuff, but hocking my books comes very easy to me. Getting turned down is surprisingly easy as well; I know people are there for the Sandersons and the Correias of the con, so grabbing bread crumbs along the way and meeting new readers is an accomplishment on my level.

5) I love working with people who understand what I’m going through as a part-time, small-time creator. Oftentimes I joke with people and say “I’m an author-illustrator, so I drive a truck for a living.” The truth is that it’s hard to get to a point where you can work full-time as an artist, especially in the age of digital indie publishing. A handful of my peers get to do it, but most of us are average 9-5ers with other real-world concerns beyond our art. The camaraderie I feel with them is kind of a relief, and helps me understand them a little better.

This is my “tribe,” these are my people, and I’m lucky to be a part of this community. Can’t wait for the next conference!

Keep On Rolling, Chapter 2: Grinding the Gears

  This is an ongoing series about my career as a trucker. Chapter 1 is here.

 

The Starting Beard.

The summer before I lost my job, I had my ten-year high school reunion. Facebook was abuzz with former classmates that hadn’t friended me yet. One of these friends was Roy Hinebauch, and right around the time I got fired, Roy was getting his CDL from an accredited trucking school in the valley. After I had studied some other options, I got the info from him, checked out the school and the career path, and decided to bite the bullet and do it.

For $4,500, I could knock out the school in 4 weeks and have my license. Truckers can pull down about $40K a year pretty easily, which would replace the income Schaara and I lost when she and I both stopped working.

We knew up front that it would be hard. Local jobs don’t pay well for inexperienced drivers; you need at least a year of OTR (over-the-road) driving under your belt first. Preferably two. And you can expect to be gone for two weeks at a time, minimum, which then earns you two days of home time before you have to go back out again. Grab a load, drop it off, grab another, drop it off, repeat ad nauseum until your dispatcher routes you back home.

A whole year. Schaara and I had only been married for two at the time. Being away from her and our newborn son was the hardest part for me. On the flipside, she wouldn’t have to work, wouldn’t have to put Gray in day care. It was important to us that we be the ones to raise our kids. It was also important for me to be home helping her, but me being gone was a result of other choices I had made in the past. With her support, we made a plan and went after it.

The place I went was a good trucking school. The instructors were all 20-year veterans of the road, minimum. That’s roughly 3 million miles of trucking apiece. When they talked, I listened, and learned. The school was affiliated with three trucking companies, none of which I went to work for. I found out that the companies and the school got kickbacks from the government for every student they hired, and from there, it didn’t matter what happened. A lot of these new drivers were underpaid, underworked, and couldn’t make a living on those terms. The companies didn’t care if they quit, and a lot of the new drivers washed out.

It sounds cruel, and there’s probably some truth to that. One would hope that for many thousands of dollars, you’d have the school slightly deeper in your own corner, but then again, one would also hope that fully grown adults would buckle down, work hard, and figure out a pretty basic trade. The school did have lifetime job placement, but that depended on your recruiter’s integrity (which wasn’t always solid…). So caveat conductor.

There were ten other students in the classroom with me, all dudes, and from a bunch of ethnic and career backgrounds. Three of them had Army experience–two in Afghanistan, one in Vietnam. A lot of the guys had criminal records. One guy had emigrated from the Philippines a few years before. We spent two weeks learning from the books, then another two weeks on the driving range behind the school, practicing how to shift, back up, park a trailer, and so forth.

While I was doing rangework, I talked to one of the instructors about which trucking companies to apply for. Since I had a clean criminal background, he told me to look into Knight Transportation. They had a terminal in town, so I applied and was hired pretty quickly. They were paying better than the companies connected to the school, and had a reputation for getting you more miles as well. As a cherry on top, my wife was related to the Knight family, and got the annual invitations to the family reunion. I never told the company this, I just thought it was neat.

Two weeks into training. More beard.

 

I aced the classwork and passed the range test on the first try. Then I sat home for about a week and a half while Knight found me a trainer, and routed him into the valley. Saying goodbye to my wife and son was really hard, and naturally I was anxious, but since it had been over a month, the sting of getting fired had faded a little bit.

My major concern was my trainer–would we get along? I was supposed to spend four weeks on the road with him. I needed to get along with a perfect stranger for four weeks, and not suck at my job. No pressure.

This is where my experience as an LDS missionary really saved me. The apartments where I lived in Spain were slightly larger than the inside of a semi-truck, but that space feels a lot smaller when you don’t like your companion–someone you have to be next to 24/7 for months at a time. While I was a missionary, I had eight different companions. I loved two of them like brothers, got along great with four, was supremely annoyed by one, and close to outright hated the last. That last guy, we’ll call him Tibbs, is the only dude from my mission that I don’t talk to, and haven’t since he went home.

I tried, I really did, he was just a turd. The rest of the guys, we were able to work out any clashing personality issues that we had. The main reason was that we were there as messengers from the same Church, with the same values and goals, and could hold each other accountable to those values. I didn’t know anything about my trainer, Abraham, other than he had a Biblical name and was from Utah.

“Oh, cool, maybe he’s also a Mormon, maybe this will be easier than I thought.”

Abe rolled into town, I took one look at him, and while you shouldn’t judge by appearances, I was pretty sure this guy wasn’t LDS. The tattoos, piercings, and tendency to curse “like a monkeyfighter” (not his actual words) gave it away. He just happened to be named Abraham, and had a house outside Salt Lake.

All good. No problem. I can get along with anyone, and I would have to, so I could get paid. Nature of the beast.

Without getting into too many anecdotes, I’ll sum it up like this: Abe was a good trucker, and a good teacher. He’d gotten into drugs earlier in his life, rehabilitated, and was one of the lucky people who survived homelessness and prison to become a productive and self-reliant person. He had three kids and a wife of his own, and had only been a trucker for about a year and a half, but had started training so he could make extra money. We understood each other on that level and it helped us work together.

That said, he was sometimes very impatient and terse, and at one point even kicked me out of the driver’s seat when I had inexplicably had three brain farts in a row in Pennsylvania.

Still, I learned from him. He’d quiz me on highway signs, and randomly ask me what was the last sign I had seen, or what mile marker we were at. I usually didn’t know the answer off the top of my head. Try as I might, it’s hard to pay constant attention to absolutely everything for 8-10 hours straight, day in and day out like that, but he did it for a reason.

Every week, we’d sit down and he’d pull out a clipboard and evaluate my progress. Even with me trying to be modest about how I was doing, I tended to rate myself a little bit higher than he did, so I scaled back my assessment of myself and tried to think more about how I could improve.

Most days were good, honestly. There were days when we’d clash personalities, or I felt he was being pointlessly jerkish, and I’d give him 500 miles of silence until the day’s work was done. One snowy night in Iowa, after we parked and shut down late, he flopped down on the bottom bunk and I grabbed my coat and legged it a mile away to the Steak & Shake so I could have some time to myself.

As difficult as any of my training period was, I reminded myself of the same thing: I was here because of choices I made, and I didn’t get to pick what came with that. There’s an old Spanish proverb, attributed to various sources in different types of literature, that goes like this: Take what you want and pay for it, says God. For better or worse, I was paying for what I had taken. I had taken time away from developing a career, thinking that I’d be a best-selling author any day now. If I didn’t like the bill, I shouldn’t have ordered the meal that way.

Having too much faith in oneself is a form of vanity, especially when certain virtues are ignored in the expense of pursuing one’s dreams. I still wanted to be a writer. I was going to bust my butt to be a writer. But right then, I needed to be a provident husband and father. And to do that, I needed to be a good trucker.

Four weeks of trucker beard. I looked in the mirror and saw my Papaw. Did a legit double-take.

 

So I put up with it. I chastised myself. I prayed constantly, and I reminded myself to listen to what Abe was saying. And when the four weeks were up, he signed off on my training, and wished me well. Knight Transportation assigned me a vehicle, and I was officially a new driver in the “Squire” program.

That was when the real adventure began.

 

 

Photo Gallery

My wife is from Moses Lake, Washington. I’d never been, so when we stopped for fuel, I snapped this and sent it to her.

 

My best friend Matt had family in Joplin during the 2011 tornado. Two years after it happened, they were still repairing highways in the area.

 

Spent a few minutes in D.C. in April 2013. Horrible, horrible highways. Constant, pointless lane changing. Like Congress.

 

In trucking school, one of the instructors told us to watching out for “Mormon buggies” in eastern states like Ohio and Pennsylvania.

(I frown.) “You mean…Amish buggies?”

(She blinks in confusion.) “Mormon buggies.”

(I try not to smile too wryly.) “Amish buggies.”

 

  

There was a war museum outside Pennsylvania, with vehicles on display by the road. I snapped this while Abe was driving. Perfect timing.

 

 

The industrial district in Kansas City had an eerie silence to it. Not quite Atlanta, but I expected a zombie attack.

   

We got stuck with an old trailer, and it ended up blowing two tires on a hot South Carolina day. Beautiful country out there, though.

 

Go Colts! Screw the Packers.

 

My brother lives out this way now.

KILL THE BEAST is live on Audible!

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Less than $5 for Audible members! Link here.

Finally! After two months of production, I’m thrilled to announce that I have an audiobook out there!

I used ACX, which is like the CreateSpace of Audible. You can find narrators and let them audition, then send them offers and whatnot. I’m really fortunate that Jean-Michel George auditioned for this book, because he is a great talent and a superb voice for Gautier Lesauvage.

Monsieur George was the second man to audition for KILL THE BEAST, and the better of the two options, both in terms of production quality and characterization. It helps that he’s a native Frenchman who speaks British English, so his accent matched extremely well.

On top of that, he composed intro and outro music for the book (without me even asking), and also tacked on an afterword that I recorded in my office.

I’ve been listening to audiobooks on Audible for over 10 years, and it’s a huge thrill to have one of my own titles in their catalogue.

I hope you’ll give it a listen and leave a review. I can’t wait to hear what you guys think of it.

See you out there!