The Future of Super Penguin

I spend a lot of time day dreaming. Usually, it’s strategic day dreaming where I internally steer my thinking to be about Super Penguin and where his story goes next. As I wrote book one, I had most of book two in mind. I’ve struggled at times while writing book two, because I didn’t know what happens next in book three and beyond. (It’s very hard to foreshadow, when the writer isn’t aware of what’s coming down the road!)

This past week, I’ve spent more time daydreaming than I normally do, and at times outside my normal daydreaming time. For example, I had a rough bought of insomnia Tuesday morning, so between the hours of 2 and 3am, I stared at the ceiling fan above our bed and thought about superhero penguins instead of going back to sleep. There was also some planned daydreaming time, mixed in with some meditation and prayer, where I sat in a dimly lit room, played an Apple Music playlist called “Chill” and dreamed about Super Penguin’s future adventures. Last but not least, I bounced some ideas off my buddy, Gardner, too. Gardner is the kind of friend that every dreamer needs. If an idea is dumb, confusing, or defies the laws of physics he’ll tell you it’s dumb, confusing or physics-defying. (Fun fact: if you want to get Gardner fired up about super hero physics, ask him about Ant Man sometime.)

As I dreamed this week, pieces started to fall into place. Some of the pieces, I’ve been carrying for awhile, and I’ve not known where to place them. Others I’ve only had for a few days. But as I arranged the puzzle of Super Penguin’s overarching story, I began to see the bigger picture, and have much more clarity than I did the weeks prior.

I don’t want to ruin anything with spoilers, but I thought it would be fun to share an incredibly vague vision of what’s to come, sort of like how Kevin Feige announces upcoming Marvel movie projects or how James Gunn recently revealed his plans for the rebooted DC move universe. So, here is the planned future for Super Penguin! All the dates are my goals, we’ll see where life takes me and hopefully I can stay on track!

Book 2 (target release date Fall/Winter 2023)–Super Penguin 2. Picking up directly after the events of Super Penguin. The titular character learns how to deal with the aftermath of the events of the first book. New super powered friends join the fray, as well as a mysterious new villain who’s been hiding in plain sight. This book has a few twists that I think will make you want to go back and read the first book. It totally changes so much of Book 1 by showing this one character in a new light.

Book 3 (target release date, Spring/Summer 2025)–Untitled Spin-Off Story. Following the events of Super Penguin 2, two unlikely characters team up on an adventure away from Eagle City. This story idea is the newest in my brain, but I’m very excited about it. My goal is that it will fit nicely in the six-book arch, but that it could also work as a standalone book. Even sharing its title will be very spoilery, so the title will be announced after Super Penguin 2 is released.

Book 4 (target release date, Spring/Summer 2027)–Super Penguin 3. As Super Penguin becomes more popular in Eagle City, more citizens want to be heroes too…some more heroic than others. Some are answering the call and defending the city they love, for others it’s a publicity stunt, or a way to get more followers on social media. Will these new heroes help Super Penguin? Or just get in the way? Book 4 will have many new characters and will be more of a war story than a classic hero vs villain story. Some characters I’ve had set aside for awhile and I haven’t known what to do with them or where to plug them in, this week, I figured out where. I won’t tell you all of them but some of them include: a warthog who looks eerily similar to Rambo named “War-Pig”, the hockey playing turtle Wally Whax will use his hockey stick to fight crime as “Shell-Raiser” and there will be a dolphin in a mech-suite. This one will be crazy, but I think a lot of fun!

Book 5 (target release date, Spring/Summer 2029)–Untitled Sam Hart & Ricky Boone prequel. My hopes is that this book will be reminiscent of classic buddy cop movies. Set years before the events of Super Penguin. I don’t know a lot about what will happen yet, but I again aim for it to be an important part of the overarching story, but also work as a standalone book.

Book 6 (target release date, Spring/Summer 2031)–Super Penguin 4. I don’t know that this will be the last Super Penguin book, but it will at least be a definitive end to this phase of Super Penguin. There will be a big, bad villain unlike any previous villain, and Super Penguin will reunite with the friends of Book 3 and Book 4 to work together to take down this threat.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks for reading this week’s blog post! If you haven’t done so already, click the follow button, or subscribe on the homepage for updates! Also, please give Super Penguin a follow on FacebookInstagram, and follow me on Twitter for more Super Penguin content! Also WE HAVE MERCH NOW! Get your plush Super Penguin or a copy of the book HERE! Have a great week!

Convention Stories Part 1

This weekend starts our 2023 Tour! I’m stating the obvious, but I absolutely LOVE going to conventions. I’ve been incredibly blessed to go to several of them, and was able to meet so many of my favorite writers, artists and actors. My first thought was to write a single blog post about my favorite convention memories. I weeded out the conventions we’ve been to as vendors because I’ve already shared those stories. But as I began collecting thoughts (and pictures) I realized, there’s way too much content for a single post! So, as I’ve done before, I’m going to post this as a series over the several weeks. Here’s the first wave of some of my favorite convention memories!

Convention Number One– I think the best place to start this collection of stories, is at the beginning. Way back in the year 2014, a young Rob and his friend Gardner embarked on their very first journey to Indiana Comic Con in Indianapolis. We were like kids on Christmas morning, so excited for all that we would see that Saturday. When we got there we excitedly walked from booth to booth taking in as much as we could. Being the X-men fan/nerd that I was/am, I was especially excited that artist George Perez and actor Daniel Cudmore (of the second and third X-Men movies) would be in attendance. Being the naive kids that we were, we hadn’t yet learned of this popular new show “Game of Thrones” that was about to start its fourth season on HBO. We walked by Maisie Williams several times and didn’t even think about stopping in her line. Gardner, who became a gigantic fan of the show, sheds a tear every time we talk about that. We fell in love with the convention scene and vowed to be back many, many times (even if we did get swindled by a carnie!)

Gardner and me with actor Daniel Cudmore

Meeting the Princess– If I was forced to wipe out all of my convention memories and I could only keep one, I would keep the memory of meeting Carrie Fisher at our second Indiana Comic Con. I remember texting Gardner back in the fall of 2014, it was something along the lines of “Dude! Did you see Princess Leia is going to be at Indy Comic Con?!?!?!” Our day consisted of waiting in line to get our picture with the princess, and then waiting in line to get her to autograph our photos. While waiting in lines, we took turns looking at other things, and meeting other celebs, while the other held the spot. She was worth every minute of the wait. She was sweet while still showing her snarky charm, and the autograph I got will always be one that I cherish.

Gardner and me with Carrie Fisher

A Marevel-ous First Pop Con with my sister, Katie– I’ve been to one convention without Gardner. I don’t remember why he wasn’t able to go, but I suspect it was pretty dang important. This one time was the first Indiana Pop Con I attended, and this time took my younger sister, Katie. She had never been to any thing like this before, and having now been to a few, it was neat to see someone else’s introduction to comic con life. The celebrities, vendors, and adults dressed in costumes nowhere near Halloween are a lot to take in your first time! While we were there, we met one of the Guardians of the Galaxy, Pom Klementieff. She played “Mantis” in GotG 2 and subsequent Avengers movies. We also met another Marvel actress Elizabeth Henstridge who played “Agent Jemma Simmons” on Marvel’s Agents of Shield.

My sister, Katie and me with Guardians of the Galaxy actress Pom Klementieff
Katie and me with Agents of Shield actress Elizabeth Henstridge

Meeting One of my Heros– Last but certainly not least was the experience of meeting writer Chris Claremont. When I grew up in Las Vegas, I LOVED all things X-Men and especially the hero, Wolverine. I had several action figures, watched the animated TV series, and even dressed as Wolverine for Halloween one year! That love for the X-Men never went away. As I grew older, and learned more about the people who created these stories and characters, I learned about Chris Claremont, a Marvel LEGEND! Mr. Claremont wrote some of the X-Men’s best (and most famous) storylines. The cartoon I watched as a kid, many of his stories were the source material. The live action movies I watched as a teenager and adult, several of those used his stories for the source material too. One of his most popular (if not the most popular) was Days of Future Past, which became both a several episode arc on the animated series, and arguably the best of all the X-Men movies to date. I’m telling you all of his credentials and history, because it’s part of my history. I believe we all have a ripple effect that involves other people. Sometimes we affect people close to us, and sometimes we effect people we’ve never met. Mr. Claremont’s stories about super heroes got me interested in superheroes at a young age. That interest rippled into me creating my own character in the study hall at DHS. That rippled into me writing a book. The best part about meeting Mr. Claremont was how he treated me and the other fans. He was very sweet, and seemed genuinely happy to see the people that were happy to see him. My one regret about our encounter was that I hadn’t figured out that I wanted to be a writer yet when I met him. I was just there as a fan, happy to see someone who wrote some of my favorite stories. I hope one day, our comic con paths cross again, and I can gift him a copy of Super Penguin, and tell him all about the ripple effect that his stories had on my life.

Thanks for reading this week’s blog post! If you haven’t done so already, click the follow button, or subscribe on the homepage for updates! Also, please give Super Penguin a follow on FacebookInstagram, and follow me on Twitter for more Super Penguin content! Also WE HAVE MERCH NOW! Get your plush Super Penguin or a copy of the book HERE! Have a great week!

Roller Coasters

My brain is weird. If you know me more than an acquaintance, this isn’t groundbreaking news to you. My brain isn’t a creepy weird, but more of a “where on Earth did that come from?” surprising kind of weird. One example that happens every once in a while, is that I’ll hear a well-known, often used phrase and I’ll dissect it. I’ll engage my closest friends into unwarranted text conversation about the phrase, Google where it originated, and decide if it’s a good expression, or one that we should start using differently.

As I spent the morning reflecting on my weekend and pondering what to write about for this blog, I realized that this past week was jam-packed full of events. I used the term “roller coaster of a week” in my head, and then I started analyzing the phrase that I used, because…again, my brain is weird.

The Batman roller coaster at Six Flags St Louis

For context, here are the highlights of my week.

Sunday–Spent a few hours at work Sunday afternoon. I rarely work on Sundays, and usually only do so in an emergency. This particular day was not an emergency, but I had a monthly task to complete, that had to be done today.

Monday–Mostly meetings and administrative work at the office. Pretty normal day.

Tuesday–I spent part of the morning reading to my niece’s kindergarten class. My plan was to go to work after this, but my sister thought she was going to have a baby this day. My mom and dad who usually watch my son on Tuesdays were going to be at the hospital with my sister. So I had to “work from home”.

Wednesday–No new niece on Tuesday, so I took Wednesday off and planned on working Thursday (my usual day off)…also no new niece on Wednesday.

Thursday–My sister had her baby! My wife took the day off to watch Parker and I went into work. I plan out my calendar a month in advance, so trying to rearrange schedules let minute was hectic. Before work, I also had a doctor’s appointment. After work, Halley and I drove to Champaign to meet our new niece.

Friday–While at work, it was a struggle to remember what day it was. Having worked Sunday, was away two days I would usually be in a restaurant, then working on a usual off day. My routine was very, very off. Friday night, we attended a progressive dinner in Danville’s downtown and had a fun night with friends.

Saturday–Worked in the morning, had a plan for Gardner to pick me up at work on the way to Hoopeston, realized I didn’t have my wallet, last minute change of plans, and then went with Gardner and his daughter/my niece, Caroline to Hoopeston for the book signing!

Usually when people compare their life events to a roller coaster, it’s in a negative way. Did you read parts of my list in a negative way? Why is that? Don’t people go on roller coasters to have fun? Theme parks charge a lot of money to ride their roller coasters. We pay extra money to get our picture taken on the roller coaster, and buy souvenirs, so we can remember the roller coaster experience. Henceforth, when I say “my life is a roller coaster”I mean the fun, crazy, full of surprises kind of roller coaster. I welcome the corkscrews and loop-de-loops because when we look at it from the right perspective, these roller coasters can be a lot of fun! Let me re-write my list in a more positive way.

Sunday–I avoided some major Monday headaches by working on Sunday. I could have put this off until Monday, but it would have made for a much crazier day.

Monday–Today went smoothly because of the work I put in the day before.

Tuesday–First, I got to read to a bunch of kindergarteners. Many of them had read (or and loved) Super Penguin! Their teacher made the most delicious carrot cake cupcakes for me as a “thank you.” Then I got to play with Parker and spend time with my boy, instead of going to work!

Reading to Mrs Lukas’s kindergarten class on Tuesday

Wednesday–No work and I got to spend another day with Parker. Two full days in a row! This usually only happens when we are using our vacation time!

Thursday–Doctor appointment went great! I’ve lost over 12 pounds since the last visit and am becoming healthier along the way. Thankful that Halley has days she can take off for last minute issues. And then we got to meet Ellie!

Meeting my niece, Ellie.

Friday- Once my sister and her family were home, we took Parker to meet his new cousin. Parker also spent the night with his grandparents who didn’t get their usual time with him on Tuesday and Wednesday. The Progressive Dinner with our friends was a lot of fun!

Saturday-Had a good half day at work and had an even better time in Hoopeston! The forgotten wallet had a ripple effect that meant Parker got to see his older cousin, Caroline. His face lit up when he saw her and he was very happy to play with her.

Sure, I cut out the mundane and negative sounding stuff. But we don’t talk about the mundane parts of a roller coaster, do we? We don’t talk about waiting in line, or the slow, glide back into the loading/unloading area. Instead we fondly remember that first big climb and the drop down, or that double loop-de-loop that went straight into a double corkscrew!

I hope you fondly remember your next roller coaster kind of week and you enjoy the ride! -Rob

Thanks for reading this week’s blog post! If you haven’t done so already, click the follow button, or subscribe on the homepage for updates! Also, please give Super Penguin a follow on FacebookInstagram, and follow me on Twitter for more Super Penguin content! Have a great week!

SVUE Writing Contest

Before I start this week’s blog post, there’s some very important business I need to take care of …Alayna, Aaliyah, Gabby, Dez, Jose, Lariah, and Elliana, here is the official “shout out” I promised on Thursday.

The kids pictured above are all fifth and sixth grade students at South View Upper Elementary School in Danville, Illinois. Last fall, these students and their peers read Super Penguin, and were given a couple of options for a contest. They could write a book review, or write an alternate ending to the story. The seven students listed were seven of the eight winners (Freedom, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry you weren’t able to be there!)

Jose, Lariah and Freedom each wrote the three winning book reviews. Each one of them was very well written, and had very good insight in to what they liked about the story.

Dez wrote an alternate ending that took place a year later. There was an attack on Paul’s workplace. While trying to escape, Paul has guns pointed at him, and a mysterious, yet familiar, voice says “You didn’t think this was over yet, did you Mr. Frost?” Was it Talon? Dr. Pigg? It was even more suspenseful and cliffhangery than my ending!

Aaliyah’s ending involved the Dragon Corp robots capturing Super Penguin, and threatening to erase his memory if he didn’t help them take over Eagle City! I love that as a concept for a sequel! The hero was invited to join the bad guy’s plan in Book One, he declines, and in Book Two he’s forced into it!

Elliana expanded the world these characters lived in with new locations called “Newt Jersey” and “New Orca”. The main characters were headed by plane to New Orca, but their flight was attacked by Dragon Corp robots! And a penguin in a Mech Suit…that was Paul’s dad! The plane had to make an emergency landing in Newt Jersey! I loved those city names so much, I’m going to try to work these cities into future stories!

Gabi wrote a very dark, brooding ending that involved Talon escaping prison, and defeating the heroes! Personally, I’m a big fan of movies and stories that DON’T have a happy ending (No Country For Old Men being my favorite example). So I loved seeing the ending completely turned upside down from what I wrote! Gabi has some very strong writing skills, and I think a future author!

And last but certainly not least, Alayna introduced a new character, Leo, Sam’s evil-doing twin brother who had some nefarious plans! Lyla returned and a love triangle was revealed between Sam, Leo and Lyla. I always thought of Lyla as someone who just used Sam, but maybe there was something there! Leo was mean, but also had some funny lines. My favorite was both brother’s referring to themselves as the “better looking brother”. I literally laughed out loud when I read that line! Alayna told us at lunch that she is working on her own book and already has over 150 pages written! I can’t wait to read her book some day!

This day was so much fun! I’ve had conversations with many adults about how their kids enjoyed the book, but getting to hear it from the kids was even better! I loved hearing their insights and questions. The group was very divided on wanting to know what happens next. Some begged for spoilers, while others begged me not to tell them anything. So, I compromised and gave a spoiler-free teaser for SP2. The kids had lots of great questions: “Why is the hero a penguin?” “How long did it take to write the book?” plus some questions about growing up in Danville. I was prepared for all those questions. But my absolute favorite question was one that I was NOT prepared for, and it came from Gabi. After we took our group picture, Gabi came up to me and asked. “What would Talon eat at Tina’s?” I panicked, and gave a lame answer. I said “Well, he’s a meat eater, and in this world, they eat fish, so he probably had a big plate of fish.” The best questions are the ones you have to think about for a long time. And Gabi’s question was one that after I answered, I kept thinking about for the rest of the day. So, Gabi, if you’re reading this, I have a different answer now. General Talon is a bad, bad guy. I don’t think he would ever eat at Tina’s because it’s a happy, jovial place and I think Talon would be very uncomfortable eating with regular, happy people. I also think being a bad, bad guy, Talon might even partake in some illegal foods, like other animals! Maybe even penguin!!! (Now I’m wrestling with how he would get those “foods” and creating a black market food supply for the carnivores)

Without a doubt, this was absolutely one of the most fun days I’ve had as a writer. That’s not hyperbole either! I’m so thankful I had the opportunity! If you’re a teacher, parent, principal, or other person who works with kids and want to partner with me, please, please PLEASE send me a message on the contact page and let’s get something set up!

On Tuesday, I’ll be at Schlarman Academy reading some of my favorite books to Mrs. Lukas’s kindergarten class! I can’t wait!

Thanks for reading this week’s blog post! If you haven’t done so already, click the follow button, or subscribe on the homepage for updates! Also, please give Super Penguin a follow on FacebookInstagram, and follow me on Twitter for more Super Penguin content! Have a great week!

Super Penguin 2–January Update

Hey Friends! This won’t be a very long blog post, but it’s an important one! I’ve had a lot of questions recently asking, “When is Super Penguin 2 is coming out?” “How’s the second book coming?” and “Why didn’t you do any laundry today?” (Ok, only my wife asked the last question, but I have heard it a lot!)

So here’s an update on how things are going!

  • I’ve fully outlined Super Penguin 2, I know most of what’s going to happen. I say “most” because I occasionally ad-lib or even steer away from the outline as I write my draft. It’s a weird part of my process but an important one. Some of the best (in my opinion) side characters and scenes in Book One wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for my ADD-fueled sidetracks. I also start thinking about the next book while I write this one. That’s something I did in Book One and I included a bit of (probably) undetected foreshadowing that will pay off in Book 2.
  • I’ve written about 40% of Super Penguin 2…I think. I’m really bad with forecasting numbers, so in reality, that sentence should probably read, “I’ve written about 25-65% of Super Penguin 2.” But 40% sounds more official and update-y, so we’ll go with that!
  • That first 40% has been printed and I am sending it off to the best English major I know to start the editing process. Thanks to all the nice things people like you said about the first book, I’m not nearly as afraid/nervous about dropping off these pages.
  • My goal is to be selling Super Penguin 2 by Christmas 2023.
See! Look! I printed parts of Super Penguin 2!

Have a great week!

Thanks for reading this week’s blog post! If you haven’t done so already, click the follow button, or subscribe on the homepage for updates! Also, please give Super Penguin a follow on FacebookInstagram, and follow me on Twitter for more Super Penguin content! Have a great week!

“Execution” Update

Hello friends! I hope the first two weeks on January are treating you well! If you set a New Year Resolution, I hope you’re kicking butt and taking names! I mentioned in a previous blogpost that I’ve stepped away from resolutions and have shifted my focus to a single word for the year. “Execution” is the word for 2023. Here is a quick update on some short term goals I set for myself that fit in that category.

Finish Super Penguin 2 in 2023– As I write this, the sequel sits at 9,248 words. By the end of tonight’s writing session I’ll be over 10,000. I didn’t realize it until now, but Super Penguin was just under 23,000 words. I’ve got a lot of story left for SP2, and before I went back and looked at book one, I didn’t truly realize how far I’ve gone with SP2. I’m really bad at projecting how many words a story is even after it’s printed, so I have no idea how high SP2’s word count will go, but tonight’s realization of how much work I’ve done shot through me like a lightning bolt of excitement and energy!

Merchandise–There will be an announcement in a few weeks! I’ve got some work to do, but this plan is in motion! But that’s all you get to know for now!

Audiobook–I’m working with my good friend Logan Lee on some ideas for this. Things I love about working with Logan 1) Before the book was printed, he was a Super Penguin Super Fan 2) We are frequently on the same goofy/creative/fun wavelength 3) He says “yes” to me, more often than he ought to. So the idea is sort of morphing and evolving. We are still doing an audio book, but there may be a bigger project down the line that I’m super excited to share, though it may be a year or two from now. I used some Christmas present gift cards for recording equipment, now it’s just a matter of finding a quiet place to record.

Bi-weekly blog posts–I’m killing that right now with weekly blog posts since December 10th! Woot woot! I’ve got a few ideas for the next few weeks. My strategy for blogging has changed. Usually, I’d wait until Sunday morning and if I had something to say, I’d blog. If I didn’t have any ideas, I wouldn’t. Now I’m keeping a list at my desk for ideas. It seems like I always have 1-2 ideas. Thankfully by the time I use those ideas, 1-2 more have taken their place.

Tik-Tok–You may have seen my Facebook/Instagram post about the penguin puppet. I’ve had that puppet for about 6 months and he’s just been sitting in my office. Please help me come up with a name! I love the ideas coming in so far! I still need to learn how to use Tim Tok as a creator instead of a viewer, so that’ll take some time. But I’m hopeful to have at least a couple videos up before the 2023 Tour begins!

Though never diagnosed by a doctor, I’m pretty sure I have some form of ADD (my wife and closest friends will tell you I definitely have some form of ADD). Prioritization is hard for me sometimes, so I have to spell it out for myself. If I don’t spell it out, the Top 10 most important things in my life will be left untouched, items 11-20 will be barely worked on, and I’ll be transfixed with something that shouldn’t be in the Top 100 (like re-organizing all of my X-Men movies from release date chronological order to chronological within the movie universe, which gets really confusing when you consider the events of Days of Future Past…wait, I’m doing it again..dang it!). So here’s my list of my top responsibilities while at home or working from home. 1) Be a good Dad and Husband 2) Spend time writing SP2 3) Keep up the blog 4) Start the Tik Tok 5) Finish the Merchandise 6) Audio Book 7) New Mystery Audio Project

Have a great week!

Thanks for reading this week’s blog post! If you haven’t done so already, click the follow button, or subscribe on the homepage for updates! Also, please give Super Penguin a follow on FacebookInstagram, and follow me on Twitter for more Super Penguin content! Have a great week!

The Positivity Playlist

I’ve mentioned in a previous blogpost that from time to time I have a crippling bout of Imposter Syndrome when it comes to writing, attending conventions and many other things. If left unchecked, my brain will think all sorts of negative things. It’s a constant battle for me. To overcome this, I have to pump as much positivity into my brain as I can. I have many “weapons” to fight against my own negativity, but my strongest is music. A few years ago, I put together a playlist curated specifically for positivity. I’ll listen to the playlist when I’m driving to/from work, writing, or just to have music playing (I’m listening to it while I type this blog post). The playlist is constantly evolving. Songs will get added and subtracted and sometimes there’s a complete overhaul.

Truthfully, the list of songs on the playlist probably doesn’t make a lot of sense without explanation. It’s not just a playlist of inspirational songs, though there are many of those. Instead, it’s a list of songs that give me happy thoughts, bring back fond memories, or even just songs I like right now that makes me feel good inside. The only rule I’ve made for being eligible for the playlist is that it gives my positive vibes to combat the negative ones.

As we are in the season of resolutions and striving for positive changes in 2023, I thought I’d share some of my favorite songs that are on today’s version of the playlist. Some I’ll add explanations, others I’ll just mention.

  • “Odds Are” –Barenaked Ladies. Not the most popular BNL song, but it’s one of my favorites. The verses mention all these terrible yet very unlikely things that can happen to us (like getting struck by lightning, or killed by a Great White Shark) Then the chorus hits, “Odds are the we, will probably be, alright, odds are we’re gonna be alright”. Moral of the song, you can worry about all the bad things that could happen, or live your life worry-free because it’s probably gonna be alright.
  • “On Top of the World”–Imagine Dragons
  • “Could Have Been Me”–The Struts
  • “I Lived”–OneRepublic. This song has been on the playlist since the very first version of the playlist, and I don’t know that I’ll ever remove it. It’s just a good reminder of what living a full life means, and inspires me to carpe diem every day.
  • “Do a Little Good”–Ryan Reynolds and Will Ferrell (from the movie Spirited). The newest addition to the playlist. We loved this movie, and my son loves dancing to this song. I love the message about the importance of just being a little bit better each day.
  • “Say I Won’t”–Mercy Me
  • “On My Way”–Phil Collins (from Disney’s Brother Bear, which ironically I’ve never seen)
  • “Wrote My Way Out”–Nas, Dave East, Lin-Manuel Miranda & Aloe Blacc (from The Hamilton Mixtape album) My wife and I really, really like Hamilton. After listening to the soundtrack for the thousandth time (that might not be an exaggeration) I found this album. A song about life being better through writing, not too much more explanation needed there.
  • “Never Been to Spain”–Lost Immigrants. Originally a Three Dog Night song, and I know Elvis did it too (and both those versions are really good!) For whatever reason, I like this version best, and just think it’s a really cool song that I enjoy singing along.
  • “High Hopes”–Panic! At the Disco
  • “Lookin’ Up”–Barenaked Ladies. BNL is on the playlist a few times. They are one of my favorite bandss, and it’s just feel-good music. This entire song is about looking at the bright side.
  • “From Now On” –Zac Brown Band (from The Greatest Showman Reimagined album). Another musical that had a spinoff album happen ended up on my playlist. Hugh Jackman’s original is great, and it’s been on the playlist too. I like the twang Zac Brown Band adds to it. This song ends my ruts. If it’s been a few days, weeks or even months since I’ve worked on a project, this one encourages me to change. If I feel like I’ve been too focused on writing/work, and need to spend more time with my wife and son, this song refocuses me that way too.
  • “Anti-Hero”–Taylor Swift. Parker LOVES this song, and every time it plays he dances. I don’t even know that I hear the lyrics anymore, I just see him dancing and it puts a smile on my face.

If you’ve made resolutions this year, I’m rooting for you! Stay positive! If you’re a music lover like me, I hope you’ll make your own playlist! And if you do, let me know in the comments what’s on yours, I’m always looking for new music and new additions to my list.

Have a great week!


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Weird Holiday Traditions

Hello, friends! Happy New Year! I hope you had a wonderful holiday season, and hope you have a great start to 2023!

One of my favorite things about the holiday season, is all the traditions. While there’s a general outline we all tend to follow with decorations, gift giving, and celebrating our beliefs, everyone does it a little bit differently. For example, for the past few New Year’s Eves , my wife and I (and later joined my Parker) have gone to our friends’ house. We exchange gifts and for dinner, we dine on the unusual combination of Little Caesar’s Pizza and Chinese food. Weird, right? Well, like most weird traditions, there’s a story that started it all….

In 2019, the Peck family of four and the Witzel family of two met for their holiday gift exchange and dinner. It was a week or so into the new year, and through text messages hours earlier, we had decided we would have Chinese food for dinner. We placed a delivery order around 4:30pm in hopes of eating around 5-5:30 but it had begun to snow. Heavy enough snow that driver’s should slow down a bit, but not so heavy that it was dangerous to be out. We waited for our food…and waited…and waited. We conceded the thought of Chinese food and began making new plans, we called the Chinese restaurant and asked for a refund, but were denied. We were told “Just a few more minutes,” and “we can’t do a refund over the phone,” so, we waited some more. Somewhere in the 6:30-7:30 range, our hunger pangs reached an unbearable level, and so we called once again. Still, “just a few more minutes,” and no option for a refund. We couldn’t take it any more, so Halley volunteered to go to Little Caesar’s and pickup a Hot N Ready pizza and some Crazy Bread for our meal. Halley left, and about 15 minutes later she was back, pulling into the drive way…with another car following behind her. Sure enough, just as Halley returned with the Little Caesar’s, there was our Chinese food delivery driver. She apologized profusely and explained the situation one more time before heading out to her next hangry customers. It didn’t take long for us to find the humor in the situation. We went from annoyed complainers who just wanted to eat, to jovial goofballs laughing at our bizarre plates filled with pepperoni deep dish, sweet n’ sour chicken, egg rolls and breadsticks. What started as a negative experience, turned into a laughable memory. We remembered the laughs so fondly, that when it came time to decide our 2020 menu for our gift giving night (now celebrated on New Years Eve) the decision was unanimous. Chinese food and Little Caesars. While we found the humor in the situation, we also learned a lesson and in 2020 we switched from delivery to carry out, too!

What I enjoy most about this tradition, is how, as a group, we took something negative, leaned into the chaos of it, and came out the other side laughing. It would have been really easy to stay mad, and let it ruin our night. But that’s not the kind of people we chose to be that night. And for me, that was the lesson I learned from it. Bad things are going to happen. Mistakes will be made, problems will find you, and screw ups are never 100% unavoidable. But when those bad things, mistakes, problems and screw ups happen, we get to choose how we react to them. We can put the Chinese in the fridge and eat our pizza with a frown. Or, we can sit down and enjoy the craziness that comes with life. We can look for silver linings, lessons and/or humor. I believe this applies to even the absolute worst things that happen in life, like losing a loved one. We can dwell on how it “isn’t fair” that they are gone, or celebrate their life and remember all the great memories together.

Many good things will happen to us in 2023. Bad things will happen to us too, and when they do, I hope you lean into the chaos, and can find the positive.

Happy New Year!


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Christmas Gifts and Squiggly Lines

The image you see above was a Christmas gift I received so long ago, that I don’t remember when it was gifted to me. I think I was struggling my way through college at the time, but it may have even been before that. The important thing is I remember who gave it to me, and that was my very sweet and thoughtful Aunt Ellen.

I look up to my Aunt Ellen, and have learned a lot from her, over the years. She’s a strong, Christian woman who has been through some tough storms, but her faith doesn’t waver. Aunt Ellen is fiercely loyal, and loves her family very much but also tough, and is not one to be pushed around. She reminds me of the Theodore Roosevelt quote, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.”

Though I don’t have much to prove it. I think my Aunt Ellen might have some super powers of seeing into the future…though, I only have one piece of evidence to support that claim. That evidence is the picture posted above. See, when I first received this Christmas gift years ago, I didn’t have enough life experience to appreciate it. I saw it as a funny little cartoon in an inspirational frame that I would set out somewhere in my room. But then years went by and life happened. I won’t rehash my sob-story again (you can read that in a previous blog post if you’d like haha!) but as I got back on track, this picture grabbed my attention. I realized, I wasn’t failing life, I was just in one of those little squiggles. I joke about my aunt having that super power because she gave me a gift that I didn’t properly appreciate when I received it. I didn’t understand it then, but a decade later the message of the gift clicked, and it’s become one of the things I look to when I need some positivity in my brain.

As I started to focus more on my writing, I moved the picture from its insignificant place to one of prominence on my desk. From the time I started writing Super Penguin to this very day, it’s positioned in a way that when I sit down to write, it’s the very first thing I see. It’s gotten me through many a rough patch. Sometimes, the Bible verse is what gets me through. Sometimes I look at the picture and try to imagine exactly which squiggle I’m on and what to expect next. Today, it’s one of the most precious things I own.

A few weeks ago, I had a moment with this picture. I looked at it, as I do before every writing session, and felt an urge to send Aunt Ellen a “thank you” for a gift that I wasn’t even sure she would have remembered giving to me. Her response was so perfect that I wanted to close this Christmas blog post with it.

Thank You Rob!

In today’s culture of social media where we only see people’s highlight reels and our lives look like a bloopers real ,it’s good to remember that everybody’s life is messy , everybody’s family is complicated,
everybody looks great on the outside ,
on the surface, but everybody is carrying a burden of some kind.
I’m so glad it continues to encourage you.

Sorry for the Mom speech. Now that your are a Dad you could file that away for later.😆

Consider that lesson filed away.

Merry Christmas everyone!


Thanks for reading this week’s blog post! If you haven’t done so already, click the follow button, or subscribe on the homepage for updates! Also, please give Super Penguin a follow on FacebookInstagram, and follow me on Twitter for more Super Penguin content!

D102 Old Fashioned Christmas

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all my friends! This year I am a part of D102’s Old Fashioned Christmas, an over the radio (and podcast) storytelling event with a few Christmas stories and excerpts from Super Penguin. The readings will play on D102 on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, or you can listen anytime online at the link below!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

D102 Old Fashioned Christmas–Click Here