Don’t waste good time on bad ideas.

Hannibal Barca was Rome’s greatest military enemy. He almost toppled their republic during the Second Punic War, and The Ghosts of Cannae explains the history in dry detail.

Popular history remembers Hannibal as the guy who led an army across the Alps to Italy, a huge fighting force that consisted mostly of foot soldiers, but also included cavalry and war elephants. When asked how he intended to do this, he famously said:

We will find a way, or we will make one.

Hannibal “Suck It” Barca

Of the many takeaways in this book, the one that sticks out the most in my mind is Hannibal’s fixation on elephants in combat.

Tank warfare didn’t exist yet, but he clearly envisioned having heavy, powerful units on the battlefield that could crush enemy troops. He was so hooked on this that he had the elephants trained for it despite the fact that they were expensive to find, train, and transport.

Economic resources were a lot more real back then too. You couldn’t just buy things on a credit card, you had to either pay for things, conquer them, or enslave their producers.

Even worse, the elephants were not effective on the battlefield. A lot of them died in the Alps, and the few survivors spooked when attacked.

Ultimately the vision didn’t match up with the reality. No matter how much he wanted it to work, it was a huge waste of resources and he couldn’t force that to change.

Makes me wonder what I’m doing in that same vein. What ideas and methods am I committed to in my craft that sound cool but don’t work?

I need to reflect on that. Need to find the answer and change tactics.

Get back to work.

Success costs. What’s your currency?

I read this book a few weeks ago called THE DINOSAUR ARTIST by Paige Williams. It’s part of my paleontology kick because I want to know more about the science and its practice.

In exploring the world of black market fossils, Williams uncovers an even more fascinating cautionary tale in the life of Erik Prokopi, swimmer-turned-fossil hunter, and how his world got turned on its head.

First, a point that needs to be made: success costs. Sometimes it costs money, or time, or your pride. It can also cost you relationships if you’re not careful.

In Erik’s case, it cost him his entire net worth and then some, a few years of his freedom, and his marriage.

Williams lays out the story quite fairly, and I should be quick to say that her portrait of Prokopi is not that of a bad guy in general. Rather I think he fell for one of the oldest errors in history, where he put himself just a little too close to temptation.

I’m a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the point I want to emphasize ties in heavily with the philosophies taught in that faith. One of the things that the prophets have taught us continually since the Restoration is that we ought to avoid debt.

There is a such thing as a wise use of debt, and doing so to create wealth can be a great tool for blessing our lives and the lives of others. Prokopi was pretty wise with his capital early on in his career as a treasure hunter, digging up Native relics in the swamps of Florida.

But as time went on and he started to find old fossils, he realized there was a market for them, and he started to make more and more money off his recoveries. He went from success to success and started putting together dinosaur skeletons shipped to the States from all over the world.

Now, while there were laws on the books about removing natural history relics from other countries and taking them to America, Williams notes that these laws were scoffed at, ignored, and not enforced, to the point where a robust black market had surfaced and anyone could buy dinosaur bones from anywhere. (Leonardo DiCaprio and Nicholas Cage were two such buyers.)

But between a change in some laws in the US, and the drive of a Mongolian national to protect her country’s natural history, a case was built against Prokopi right when he was at a peak level of vulnerability.

He had acquired too many assets, taken on too much debt, reached just a little too far. His wife was also taking on a lot of debt for a house-flipping business that she ran. While they were successful, they also had a high overhead, and the financial crash of 2008 came down on them hard.

When the market dies and you have $11,000 per month in liabilities, you tend to show hampered judgment.

Fortunately Prokopi had a big job land in his lap. Unfortunately, he was about to get arrested by the Law and charged with all manner of crimes that now had teeth to them.

That’s not the worst part of it though: that came when it surfaced that Prokopi had been having an affair with one of his assistants, a woman who’d been helping with the assembly of an illegal dinosaur skeleton.

His marriage ended, his business was ruined, his finances were destroyed, and he served time in a low-security prison for a few years as part of his sentence.

It was a tragic end, not just to a really fascinating career, but really to what sounded like a beautiful marriage and family. It had to be hard to go through it, then re-live it all for a writer who wanted to put it in a book for the whole world to see.

There is, I think, a positive takeaway for the rest of us though:

Success. Costs.

How do you define success? What will it take to achieve that? Are you willing to pay that?

These are personal questions and the answers will most likely be personal too.

For my money, I’m not willing to do anything to hurt my wife or kids, no matter how badly I want to be a professional artist and full-time writer. Or even how badly I want to be financially affluent. Or physically dominant. Or whatever.

If I fail my family, nothing else will matter.

I’ve learned this repeatedly as I’ve read bios about great men, men whose accomplishments will be remembered for years and decades to come.

Johnny Unitas, legendary Colts quarterback. He won four rings back when “playing defense” and “assaults & battery” were the same thing. He also cheated on his first wife with a woman who his kids hated, and would go on to marry her. His son’s book THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN ARM was heartbreaking in that regard.

Charles Schulz, one of the greatest American cartoonists of all time, creator of Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang. Cheated on his wife after a quarter of a century, paid for his daughter to get an abortion in Japan, and had to sell his home and start over somewhere else. His kids found out about the divorce on the radio. Just tragic.

Alexander Hamilton was another one. Dude might have been President of the US someday, but he cheated on his wife and compromised himself politically, which was disappointing enough but still didn’t approach the level of failure in the home.

All of these men are remembered, and they accomplished great things in their lifetime.

I can’t imagine that being good enough to replace an unfaithful spouse or an absent parent. Not when you’re the one in that marriage, you’re the one in that family, trying to make sense of the hole that is suddenly there.

Success costs.

But.

It can also cost too much.

So be careful of the actual cost. Read the fine print. Use your debt wisely, tactically. No matter the currency, don’t overpay.

Some things, like your family, are not worth paying.

June 2020: State of the Dread

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Summer is upon us! Wherever and however we may, let us roll the top back and put the hammer down, for beyond us lies ADVENTURE!!!

 

The Podcast

Welcome to the Faro has been a great project so far, and it’s now on Apple Podcasts! I’m recording these several times a week but they only go live on Mondays, so I’ve got a bit of a buffer in case things go crazy.

The Brother Trucker Book Club is still scheduled to resume in July, but there will be a special bonus episode for THE BALLAD OF SONGBIRDS AND SNAKES by Suzanne Collins. Schaara and I finished reading it and we’ll team up for a discussion about it. (We both loved the book.)

Scholastic on Twitter: "RETURN TO THE HUNGER GAMES! THE BALLAD OF ...

The Artwork

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I’m up to #9 on a list of presidential puns that I came up with a year ago. (I tweeted them all out with GIFs in an epic thread starting here.) The ones I’ve drawn are mostly the same as the ones I tweeted, but I’ve changed a few because they worked better visually.

This particular theme will run its course right around the 4th of July, maybe a little sooner, we’ll see. As we head into Month 6 of 2020, I feel the need to structure my sketchbooks a little better, and work on particular weaknesses of mine. When I’m done with the presidential puns I think I will grab one of my old artbooks and go through the exercises to sharpen my skills. That or I’ll work on Figurosity poses. I don’t know, the options are limitless.

The Writing

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Oh MAN this is picking up! Once the Faro podcast starts to wind down, I have a new podcast on deck tentatively called the DreadPennies Adventure Hour. My writing at the moment is focused on generating content for that new show. I finished the cover art for the first short story I will feature, called HOMEWORLD. Add it to your Goodreads list!

This one will last about three episodes. The following short story will be called FOOL’S SILVER (completely unrelated to anything I’ve written so far). That will also be three episodes, and the third story will be WITH ANSWERABLE COURAGE, my Thanksgiving epic fantasy.

Whether I will immediately have another story ready in December or not remains to be seen. More details as the year unfolds, because it’s hard to predict my schedule with certainty right now.

The Fitness

JUNE IS THE MONTH I GO ON A SUGAR FAST. I will probably spam my Insta with daily reports, we’ll see.

In addition to doing pushups almost every day in May, I did decently well on my food intake. I have no way of knowing whether I hit 205 on my body weight because my scale died and funds are, let’s say, frozen at the moment, so replacing it isn’t a priority. Nevertheless I shall improve my eating and also work out every day but Sunday, because this train never stops and I WILL weight 177.6 this year.

Doesn’t look like it will happen by July 4th, unfortunately, but it will happen. All my pants are fitting looser and my pecs only bounce when I tell them to. Things are going well.

The Rest

The country is going insane and I refuse to be a part of the problem. I’m gonna be a good neighbor, a good father, a good husband, and a good artist. Summer is upon us and we can still make it a good one for ourselves and the people we care about.

That’s it, get your butt back to work.

May 2020: State of the Dread

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The Mascot of May!

We are 1/3rd of the way through the year! Here’s what’s up:

The Podcast

The BTBC Podcast is on hold until mid-July at the earliest. I’ve wanted to take a break for a while, and I’ve been more excited about a different podcast idea, so I’m tackling that instead. The WTTF Podcast (Welcome to the Faro) is a new podcast wherein I recap my experience as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Find it on whatever platform you use for podcasts and subscribe! I’m really proud of how it’s coming together so far.

Image may contain: 2 people, people standing, possible text that says 'Welcome to the Faro! Missionary Training Center A Chronicle of My Mission to Barcelona, Spain'

YouTube!

I was only able to record the first 5 chapters of REBEL HEART last month. You can find them on my YouTube playlist here. Right now the view count is pretty low, and filming/uploading is time-consuming, so unless more people are interested I will be leaving that alone for now. Too many irons in the fire. (A frequent problem of mine.)

The Artwork

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I’m up into the 120s on my #draweveryday challenge. This huge commission was for my friend Lisa, who’s been having a rough go of it even without the WuFlu coming at her. Here’s a bunch of her friends (including yours truly as the Winter Soldier Brother Trucker) wearing Marvel skins.

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This one, though…this one I’m very very pleased with. It’s only a small portion of the cover for WITH ANSWERABLE COURAGE (coming November 2020!) but man alive, I LOVE digital drawing! Steelpunk Myles Standish is so much fun to write and draw, too.

As always, follow my Insta for the daily drawings and sketches.

Writing

I’ve been alternating between two short stories that will be the inaugural fare for my StoryTime podcast. The first one is HOMEWORLD, the second is TORERO, both are working titles. I won’t have interior art for them for a while, but I will have cover art before I narrate either. Each one will comprise about 3 episodes of 30 minutes or so. More on that as it develops.

By the end of May I will have a ready script for HOMEWORLD, as I think that’s the stronger of the two stories, and the closest to the greenlight.

Fitness

You may not care, but I do.

My shoulder is back to about 95%. The rest is just details. I can hammer out pushups like before–hell, even better than before, as I don’t have any pain in that shoulder. Pull-ups are another story and I can do about 2.5 before my form collapses, so I need to focus on that direction to get my strength back.

By the end of May, I will weigh under 205 pounds.

Okay now get back to work.

April 2020: State of the Dread

The Podcast

I put out 4 episodes last month, despite everything. Look up the Brother Trucker Book Club Podcast wherever you subscribe to those!

YouTube!

To contribute to home entertainment during COVID-19, I’ve been reading chapters from REBEL HEART on YouTube. So far the first 4 are up, and number 5 drops Friday. The whole playlist is here.

The Artwork

Yup, still drawing every day. Caption this one with a lie Pinocchio might tell in order to make his nose grow on purpose!

What Else?

This pandemic will end. We should all figure out how we will use this rare downtime to better ourselves. We can do it.

Okay now get back to work.

March 2020: State of the Dread

Hey there, DreadHeads! 2 down, 10 to go. Here’s what happened in February and what’s going down in March.

The Podcast

3 more episodes last month, and there will be another 3 this month. I’m still organizing content for the eventual DP StoryTime podcast, that one isn’t in production until I have my current book farther along. Find the podcast wherever you subscribe, and follow along!

The Artwork

Myles and Rose Standish, With Answerable Courage

29 pieces done in February, including 3 for my next big release. I’m using AutoDesk Sketchbook to do digital art for that book, and I love how it is all coming together. I am also drawing the cover for this one, it is going to be fantastic. Can’t wait to share it with you!

The Writing

Blogging is all but dead, I only keep this page going as a placeholder for an eventually larger, sexier, more powerful website.

I did finish a draft of WAC, it’s rough but very workable, and once I finish the art I will polish the text.

I also picked at a story called HOMEWORLD which will be one of the first DP StoryTime adventures once that gets underway. Having a few ideas in process helps me to keep the wheels turning in case I stall on one.

Once this thing gets moving it’s going to be a ton of fun.

The Unfattening

Yeah I lost zero weight in February. Well, maybe a pound or two, but life was just a kick in the pants. We had a baby last month so we’re still in adjustment-and-new-sleep-schedule mode at House Dread.

I’m going all-out tyrannical on it for March and I will weigh 205 pounds by the end of the month. Mark it.

Whatever Else

During my art sessions I either listen to podcasts or watch B-minus programming on Amazon, and this show has been pretty interesting so far. It’s about Prohibition in the south and the lasting impact it has had on the region.

It’s good research for a future project I have. 🙂

That’s all, folks. Get back to work. 👍

February 2020: State of the Dread

Hey Dreads, what’s kraken?

Celebrate with me, January is finally over! One of the two most miserable months of the year, the other one being August. The first is cold and joyless, the second is hot and joyless, it is what it is. Here’s what I did last month:

Brother Trucker Book Club

THE PODCAST

Putting out 3 episodes proved to be much better than doing 13. So far I like that format. The first two episodes saw the passing of Mike Resnick and Christopher Tolkien (who I have read) and the third episode dropped right at the passing of Mary Higgins Clark (who I have not). A solemn month for legendary writers in their genres.

Right now I’m reading an old Resnick title that I never got to, and I’m already enjoying it tremendously after one chapter. The man uses dialogue like surgeons use scalpels.

Be sure to subscribe to the Brother Trucker Book Club Podcast wherever you listen to podcasts. Thank you, listeners!

 

THE ARTWORK

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My #draweveryday challenge was a success! 31 new pieces of varying quality made it into my sketchbook, or into the digital archives as the case may be. Check out instagram.com/dreadpennies to follow along. 

The above image was by far my favorite. I got to sit in a safety class for three days at work, and had this idea after seeing an article that said Texas legalized the hunting of feral pigs from a hot air balloon. Story Idea! 

So I drew it as I listened to the instructor drone on about the importance of not running people over with your truck. (I had heard this information before.)

As for this challenge in February, check out the video below:

 

THE WRITING 

I admit I wish I had finished a draft of WITH ANSWERABLE COURAGE this month. To be honest I’m having trouble finding a balance between the new job at Krakengard and my responsibilities at home, but I think things are finally clicking. Just gotta grab life by the face and slap it around a little bit.

That said, I’m three chapters away from having a draft down, and then I’ll switch gears to the illustrations. Still looking at a post-Halloween release date.

I’m also–and this is very tentative, I don’t have details for you–beginning the preliminary stages of developing an audiobook for SLEEPLESS HOLLOW. Cannot wait to have that one out there in my favorite format.

 

THE UNFATTENING

Last year I lost 20 pounds and then found them again in about 5 months, so believe me I’m pretty mad about that. I blame the new job, which is exceptionally less physical than the old one. I’ve finally figured out what to do about that, and if you care to follow along my fitness journey, check out @batteringraham on Insta.

 

WHATEVER ELSE

Really we’re just gearing up for the baby to come, which feels like it’s taken forever, and I’m not even the one who has to carry her all the time. Ugh you guys, my poor wife…almost there. Home stretch.

In the meantime, GUYS check out this great YouTube Channel I found and totally love: it’s called Ambient Worlds, and the guy puts together these hours-long videos of movie soundtracks with nice sound effects in the background. For example, he’s got mood music for each of the Hogwarts House common rooms, with fires crackling and whatnot. He also has videos for Gondor, Rohan, the Shire in Middle-Earth, or stuff for the Hunger Games, I mean…everything. It’s just beautiful. I’ve been writing to it and I love it.

Okay time to get back to work. If you’ve read any good books lately, comment below! I’m always on the hunt for a recommendation. I’m trucking full-time, last month I read 15 books, I can probably get to yours 😀

January 2020: State of the Dread

Happy New Year, here’s how things are going at DreadPennies:

1) The podcast was a great success last year! Here’s the New Year’s Eve episode if you haven’t listened already: https://anchor.fm/brotruckbooks/episodes/Ep-100-We-Made-It-e9tch0

2) One of my 2020 goals is to draw something new every day. I really want to level up this year. Follow along at instagram.com/dreadpennies.

3) I’m also back to burning off weight. I will get down to at least 180, maybe less. That’s 30 pounds for now. Follow that voyage at instagram.com/batteringraham

4) Publishing? My only firm release date this year is for WITH ANSWERABLE COURAGE, due out early November 2020. If I get anything print-ready, I’ll notify you here.

5) Gear up for a big year, Dreads. Stuff is happening. See you out there!

SLEEPLESS HOLLOW Free Chapters

Front Cover

Hi gang,

If you haven’t been following on Twitter or Insta, I’ve recorded the first 3 chapters of SLEEPLESS HOLLOW, which launches next week! They’re on the Brother Trucker Book Club Podcast. Individual episode links below:

Chapter 1: A Distant Relation

Chapter 2: Endless Watch

Chapter 3: The Book in the Box 

And for some icing on the cake, check out my page on Inktale! You can buy all kinds of sweet merch with the Headless Horseman on it! Everything from throw pillows to towels, mugs, shirts, hoodies, and more.

Thanks for tuning in!

States of Dread: Production Update

Hey there, DreadHeads. Here’s an update on my various projects, and when you can expect various things over the next year.

SLEEPLESS HOLLOW:

I’m 95% done with the cover. Illustrator Greg Newbold (check out his wonderful work here) has graciously weighed in on my in-progress shots on Facebook, and his feedback has really helped to clean it up. Here’s what it looks like right now, cover not final.

I still don’t feel comfortable announcing a release date for it. I have a few more things to write into the manuscript, which came in at 60k words. Right now my editor has it and her initial opinion is highly encouraging. I’m sooooo excited to share this book with you guys.

THANKSGIVING EPIC FANTASY:

A few years ago I jokingly drew a picture of some Pilgrims and Indians riding giant turkeys into battle together, and I lamented the lack of fun Thanksgiving books. We have tons for Halloween and Christmas, why not round out the trifecta?

So I’m working on a book that will come out next year in November, which coincidentally is the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower arriving in North America. Right now I’m in the research phase, and I just finished reading this great book by Caleb Johnson.

I want to use as many real historical figures as possible, and in order to do it well, I needed to know more about everyone on the boat. In November I’ll read another book for research, written by William Bradford himself:

Of Plymouth Plantation by [Bradford, William]

I’m not revealing the title of my book yet, but you can bet it will be fully illustrated. This continues the streak of my best story ideas starting out as sarcasm.

BRIMSTONE, or “Blast Crew Goes to Mordor”:

This book needs a lot of work. Major thanks to my friend Madeline for an extremely thorough reading of it, she gave me a lot of feedback that will make the story tons better if I apply it right. Unfortunately there is nothing about that process that I can rush, and when I do get around to this book it will have a TON of artwork in it, so I wouldn’t expect it out before 2021 at the absolute earliest. Trust me that it will be quite the ride when it is there. In the meantime I’ll work on smaller projects for annual releases, and pick at this one slowly so I don’t rush it.

THE PODCAST:

I’m so happy about how well the podcast is doing! Big thanks to everyone who’s tuning in. Look up the BROTHER TRUCKER BOOK CLUB wherever you listen to podcasts. I do three episodes a week–two for book reviews, one for trucking stories, usually around 15 minutes.

READING:

At the time of this posting I have read 98 books in 2019, 35 in print and 63 on audio. This doesn’t include 12 books that I elected not to finish after getting about a quarter of the way through. 2019 has been a great year for discovering new good books. And the best time of year hasn’t even landed yet!

THE FUTURE:

This is hard to predict, and is mostly guided by things that I would like to do. I just have to be selective with my time. I want to release at least one book per year. Sometimes that will mean a short book, but I’ll always have something in the queue.

This fall I’m going to practice more with digital drawing, because I’ve got a major itch to get into cartooning. We’ll see how it works with my writing, because novels are my first true love. It just might be time to start having some little art kidlets, if I can swing it.

The important thing is to not spread myself too thin and burn out, as I often do. My real kids are getting older and I really want to dedicate more time to adventures with them. I just have to balance my craft with the more important things.

That’s all. Stay tuned to my Twitter and Instagram (@DreadPennies) for other updates. Thanks everyone.