Writer of comics and novels. In 2006 his first short story "The God That Failed" was published by Terminus Media in their debut comic Evolution Book 1. Since that time he has had stories published in Terminus Media's Evolution Book 2 and Evolution Special, Kenzer and Company's The Knights of the Dinner Table, and Four J Publishing's The Burner #3. Currently he is eagerly awaiting the digital publishing of his first creator-owned comic The Gilded Age #1 to be published online as well as his first novel The Dark That Follows later this year.

Being an Advocate for Yourself

… Because you can’t count on other people doing it for you.

This idea has come up recently in my life. The idea that sometimes just showing up and doing good work may not be enough to get what you believe you deserve (or have earned). The mere fact that you’ve written a comic or a novel or short story or screen play or whatever doesn’t guarentee anything at all. There are other aspects that you have to be able to do, to help grow your potential fanbase, to help more and more readers find your wares.

But this isn’t about the marketing parts of being an independent writer. This isn’t about trying to do a mailing list every month or bi-weekly or weekly (which I am the worst at doing). This isn’t about the ads you need to run in order to drive people to your books.

It isn’t even about writing more books.

Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay

Except, maybe it is about all of those things. I gotta admit, I’m not entirely sure of exactly what it consists of.

I struggle with it. The thought of needing to pitch myself to every person I meet. Cold opening somehow letting people know that I write is not in my DNA currently. I do much better with a wingman/wingwoman who can do the whole “Did you know John writes?” Then I can launch into a conversation about it and we’re off to the races.

To be able to have a confidence that not only are your ideas and words good enough for their money, but also that they are good enough for their time. I’m not writing to get rich (though I wouldn’t turn it down, to be sure). I write because something in me makes me want to spill my thoughts onto the page. My hope is that someone else will read something of mine and come away with it having left an impression on them.

So how do I manage to be that advocate for myself? How do I find that spot in random interactions? How do I make sure that someone is willing to take a chance on a short story? A Kickstarter?

How do you prove your worth to those who have no idea who you are? How do you prove your worth to those who do know you?

No one else is going to do it for you. And I’m not sure anyone can really teach you what you need to do. My hope is that I get better at it with practice (at conventions, in online conversations, in random interactions).

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Maybe this is one of those take a small step forward every now and then and soon enough, you’ll have come a long way?

I certainly hope so.

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Another Year Around the Sun

I’ll be celebrating another birthday early next week. Another trip around the sun as they say. I’ll be 47 which feels like one of those ages that is insane for me to process. It’s not one of the bigger ones… 18…21…25…30…40..50..60… but for some reason it feels like one of those ages a younger version of me wouldn’t even understand. Not that I’m a wild child and “never expected to make it this far”, but more in the idea of how did I get to be 47? It sometimes feels like it was only yesterday that I was back in college, wondering when that portion of my life was going to end so that I could move on to that next stage of things.

***

My first memory is when I was 4ish. I remember seeing Star Wars at a drive in theater. I remember the moment the movie started and the space battle and the Star Destroyer that ate up the majority of the screen.

And I don’t know if that is the truth.

***

At some point it switches, right? Early on in life, we are in a hurry to get older, because through getting older we obtain a greater freedom. You get older and you get to stay up late. Stay home by yourself. Learn to drive. Go to college. Get a job. Get married.

And so on.

Sometime in there you need to start enjoying the current status you have obtained. Somewhere in there you need to make sure that you aren’t still living for the weekend. That you are happy with the life you have chosen (or perhaps the life that chose you). It means taking a little time to make sure you appreciate where you were, with those little dreams and big dreams and everything else in between. From that very first memory you have all the way to the next time you lay your head down to sleep. Every little moment has led you to this place. This moment in time. This mental state. For good or bad, we are what our experiences are.

***

You see, the movie certainly could have been playing a drive in theater in 1979. But there is another part of me who wonders if my mind constructed this memory from pieces of a dream. But then I remind myself that I would have to had seen it on the big screen back then. And I know I saw Empire Strikes Back (twice in the theater) and knew what it was. Knew what had happened before.

But I never can truly know, right?

***

We can never know where our path is going to go. Sometimes you need a kick in the ass to actually get moving on your dreams.

***

About 13 years ago, I was laid off.

I had dabbled with ideas for short stories. Dabbled with ideas for things that might make a cool novel. I’d even written some short comic stories.

I’m not sure if it would have become much more than that had I not been laid off. If my wife hadn’t told me to “just write it already”.

***

Star Wars, like so many others, has become a part of my life. My history. My lexicon. I remember the Special Editions and taking my future wife to see the movies for the “first time”. The moment in the theater with my friends as the opening scroll of the Prequels began and we all cheered.

***

Did that all happen because its my first memory? Or was I destined to fall in love with those movies?

Did the words I’ve written happen because I was laid off? Or would I have always found my way to writing?

I hope that I would have found my way to where I was writing in some capacity, but I was already in my 30s at that point and hadn’t pulled the trigger. So what makes me think that I would have changed my path.

But I grabbed the opportunity.

***

So I take another pass around the sun. Some memories as fresh as when they were made and others buried somewhere deep in my subconcious, waiting for the moment to come back to the surface to remind me of a lesson I need to learn, straighten out my current path, or just give me a smile on a rough day.

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Why Are There So Many Crazies On The Road?

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

My day job is being a Road Designer. I often joke that it really is to close ramps on I-285 (which is the perimeter around Atlanta) so that people continualy drive in circles, never to be able to get off the roadway. The thing is that I sometimes get excited about stupid engineering things on roads which my wife torments me about all the time. Mostly it is me looking at something and wondering why they did X or Y thing.

Roundabouts as far as the eye can see

My wife started working for a company based out of Indiana a couple of years ago, and as those things go, she had to take a trip up north. When she returned she had a bit of trivia for me:

“Where are there more roundabouts than anywhere else in the United States?”

“I have no idea.”

“Carmel, Indiana.”

So I looked at Google Earth, searching for these endless roundabouts. Because the way she tells it, you drive from one roundabout into another one to the point she actually said she felt a little car sick from the motion.

I can’t find anything.

Well, I can find some. Here or there, but nothing like she is describing. In my mind there are a few more than normal, but nothing that would get you in the record books.

But she continues with this story for the next year and a half. Until this past December when we decide to go up for the Holiday Party. Now, again, she is trying to prep me for the insanity we are about to experience. I half feel like my head will explode when we finally get there.

Yet, from the airport to the hotel… nothing. From the hotel to the resturant… nothing. A different way back to the hotel… nothing.

I’m pretty sure my wife is gaslighting me now. Until I talk to one of her coworkers the following day, and they point us to the right direction.

And she was right. There was roundabout after roundabout. There were double lane. There were single lane. There were ones that looked like infinity symbols.

And everyone seemed to know what they were doing. In fact, the only times that there was an issue was a random stop sign in the middle of the downtown area. That one had every driver confused as we sat there waiting for someone to make the first move. Apparently they are much better with Yield Signs than Stop Signs.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

A form of Road Rage, I guess

I find as I have gotten older, the one thing that sets me off are people not driving the speed limit. Now, I’m not talking about speeding. I could care less about you going too fast on a road (within reason). No, I’m talking about all the people who are in front of me on my drive home and won’t drive 45 mph. They go 35 or maybe tease me with a 40.

The thing is, if you have your hazards on… go as slow as you need. But that’s not what is happening. These are the regular streets where these people likely drive every day. If it only happened once in a while, I might not think anything about it, but it happens multiple times in a week. And I fume.

It’s not really a big deal, but it is like they are stealing my life from me. I could be home a whole 20 seconds earlier. I could be at the resturant with friends. But no, I’m forced to crawl behind you because you can’t be bothered to look at the speed limit.

The One Question I Always Get

I feel like most people, when they tell someone what they do for a living have some standard questions they get over and over. I feel like medical professionals are immediately asked about something that might be ailing the person. A lawyer normally is solicited for advise about something.

When you are a glamerous Civil Enginer who designs roads, you always get some form of the following:

“Oh, so you design roads? Do you know what’s going on at the corner of Random Road and State Route 999?”

Everytime.

It never fails.

And I have to let them know that there are hundreds (if not thousands) of ongoing roadway projects and I work on about a dozen or so in the course of a year. So, no, I have NO IDEA what you are refering to, nor do I know why they have closed 7 lanes and aren’t working for the last month. Not a clue.

Save for one time. One time I was talking to a friend’s mom, and she hit me up with The Question… and I actually knew the project. I had worked on it. For once I was actually able to answer nearly all the questions someone had.

It was a minor miracle.

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

Repost – John’s Top Six Video Games of All Time

If all of your friends jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge would you do it?

If all of your friends wrote articles about their favorite video games, would you complete the series?

For completeness sake you can see Jeremy’s list, Amanda’s list, and Chad’s list. Compare and contrast to this one, whatever you want.

There was a guy who lived down the street from me when I was about 11 or 12. While I was stuck playing Space Invaders for the ten thousandth time, he had a Nintendo. No matter how much I pleaded going into Christmas that year my parents wouldn’t budge. I had an Atari and we had a computer. My Dad in particular couldn’t figure out why I’d want a game system when a computer could play games and other things. Luckily my buddy would let me come over after school, and from about 3 until around 6 when it was time to go home we’d do one of two things: play basketball or play Nintendo. Typically we’d play outside when the weather was nice and when it rained we’d move inside and play Super Mario or Contra or even Duck Hunt. There were more than a few afternoons where I wished for storms so that I could play. Anything was an upgrade over what I had. Here were games with better graphics and story lines. Heck, you could beat these games… there was no “beating” Joust, things just got faster and harder.

I think it was the following Christmas that the Nintendo came… oh, happy days.

But when I look back to those early days I’m not sure a list of 6 is even fair. There were so many games that I spent hours upon hours playing and reading old issues of Nintendo Power to try and gain even a slight edge. But far be it from me to buck the trend.

 

Tempest (Arcade Version)

tempest

Yes, it doesn’t look like all that much, but when you’re 8 it is amazing!

My first “favorite game” was one that I played at the local arcades early on. Instead of a joystick you had a dial that you’d spin and slam your hand on the firing button as fast as you possibly could hoping to hit all the alien/insects/whatever the heck they were from crawling up the Doctor Who style hyperspace tunnel.

At least, that’s how I like to remember the game. I believe it was more my memory of the game, than the actual game play itself, but for many years I’d look specifically for this game whenever I entered an arcade.

 

WCW/NWO Revenge

2409917-box_wcwnwor

I’ll admit it. I like wrestling. Back in the 80’s the best part about Saturday afternoons was the fact that one of the local stations literally played wrestling shows all day. Guys I’ve never heard of and guys everyone has heard of. These were the days of the WWF and then everyone else who were “stuck” in the regional organizations. Flash-forward to the late 90s and wrestling was going through a second golden age. Those wrestlers from the 80s that we all recognized were beginning to clash with the newer generation. And possibly the biggest storyline throughout that decade was the NWO vs. WCW feud. It turned the fan-favorite Hulk Hogan into a villain, something the ten year old me would have never thought possible, and the teenage me thought was amazing. This game really set itself up perfectly by captializing on that feud, splitting your characters into their NWO or Wolfpack or WCW.

But the reason that I list it among my favorite games is that it was the first wrestling game I had ever played that used a “Grapple” system. Where in older games it sometimes came down to who could hit buttons faster than the other guy, this game encouraged you to perform moves after the characters locked up. For some reason this made it feel more like skill was involved. It really introduced a strategy that future wrestling games have seemed to abandon to go back to the “push buttons and hope” techniques.

I’ve played wrestling games since this one, but this is the last one I would pop in just for the hell of it and run a match… that’s how good the controls were.

 

Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem

Eternal_Darkness_by_professortorcoolguy

True enough!

The single scariest game I have ever played.

Many a night I would turn off all of the lights in our town house and play this weird Lovecraftian adventure through time. You see, you’ve inherited the family house, which would be great if it wasn’t right on top of some kind of other-worldly portal. You would move around the house looking for clues about the overall plot and read about these ancestors who’d also had the misfortune of ending up in the Old One’s crossfire.

But the best part of the game was the Insanity Meter. As you took damage or weird stuff happened, your meter would increase. At first you might just hear strange noises coming through the TV. Maybe a baby cries in the distance… but you know that it is just a game. And then you open a door to look in a room you’ve looked in 10 times already and a dead body is waiting for you.

Yet, all of that was child’s play for how the game played you. My favorite moment, that moment when I knew that this might be one of the greatest games I’ve ever played, was when, in mid-mission the screen turned black and a few words came up on the screen asking you to buy the full version of the game. As I say there, staring at the screen… thinking I’d somehow gotten a defective game, things flipped back to normal and you were back in the game.

They’d gotten me.

Eternal-Darkness-pic-9

If they ever do an Eternal Darkness 2, I will be buying that game at midnight and taking the next day off… that’s how good that game is.

 

Madden

madden-covers_00s

To be fair I can’t narrow this one down to a particular version. I’ve been playing some form of Madden football games for the better part of 2 decades. Now, I must admit, even though it is the best football game available (and the only one with the NFL license so that you can play with your favorite teams and players), I don’t buy every release. Typically I buy the new one every other year, as things (improvements) don’t change that much year to year. To me, this is the only football game worth bothering with (well, since Techmo Bowl back in the day, I guess). Upon releasing the latest one from its plastic prison, I launch directly into franchise mode with the Miami Dolphins and rack up Super Bowl victories until I grow tired and move on. But like a warm blanket, whenever I get the itch to play, it’s there, my franchise waiting to go into year 5 or something.

 

Rock Band

Rock_band_cover

Hey, I can be Eddie Vedder if I want to be!

This might be the greatest party game ever invented (apologies to Mario Kart) (I’m including the full gambit of Rock Band Games in here because of their song export feature).

For those that have played the game, I think they get it. Those who haven’t, I can see how it would be an odd thing to want to play karaoke with somebody holding plastic guitars and someone else banging on plastic drums. And yes, it is odd. I’d probably be one of the first to crap on the idea had I not gotten hooked on Guitar Hero first. Somehow it just works.

And then there is the the soundtrack. Without a solid soundtrack of songs everyone will know, the game wouldn’t have worked. But they even provided a work-around when you got tired of Dani California for the tenth time with downloadable tracks so that you could customize your experience. You like more heavy stuff? Go and spend a few more dollars on those songs. Want Pearl Jam’s Ten album in its entirety (yes please!)? The only bad thing about the game is that this whole genre of games seems to have died out… no new songs are being converted. Still, there are plenty of songs out there to get, so odds are this is a very small problem to have.

I still remember the very first night I bought the full band pack (a birthday present) we brought it over to some friend’s house who were going to have us over for game night. I might have felt bad about hijacking the event, but since everyone seemed to love it – I’ll count that one as a win. Recently Courtney and I broke out the plastic instruments for a comeback tour. Any game that my wife actually gets excited about playing is worthy of my list.

 

Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag

AC-Black Flag

Yo ho ho, and a sword in your gullet!

Assassin’s Creed with pirates. Need I say more?

Yes? Ok, let me just say that when I finish a game and am immediately looking for something more to download, more missions, more anything it is either that the game was waaaay too short or the game ruled. Having just finished Black Flag, this one falls into the later category. I skipped a couple of installments on the way, but tying the franchise into the Golden Age of Piracy not only made complete sense, the fact that captaining the ship didn’t feel like a minor bit of the game, but actually was integral to multiple pieces of the plot, made it almost feel like two games in 1.

The overall story line seems to be getting closer and closer to revealing what’s exactly going on, which is cool as well, as the story outside of the stuff in the past (this makes sense if you have ever played any of the games) does a decent job of feeding you just enough information to have your brain work overtime.

Honorable Mentions: Dragon’s Age, Final Fantasy 1, Dragon Warrior 1, RBI Baseball, Batman: Arkham City, Castlevania 1-3, Zelda (all sorts), Frogger, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, NCAA Basketball 2k8, Super Mario 3, F Zero, and numerous others I’m sure I’m forgetting.

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Nine Years In

 

As we turn the page on 2022, I like to take a minute and highlight some of the posts that I’m either especially proud of, posts I think deserve a second look, or just ones that struck me as worth highlighting.

Physical and Digital Copies Still Available! https://john-mcguire.square.site/

Behind the Comic: In Our Dreams Awake

Last year Egg Embry and I launched a Kickstarter for out comic book In Our Dreams Awake. While it was a bit more of a struggle to get across the $$ finish line we’d set, we managed to get it done and out. As we are preparing to at least do a Kickstarter launch for issue 2 this year, this was a comic project over 15 years in the making, with lots of twists and turns. It became that project I was sure would never see the light of day, and now we’re nearly 1/2 through the story. The post linked above takes you down that road with us.

 

Getting Scolded

One of the things I can struggle with as a writer (and a person) is not taking the time to appreciate my victories. Most of the time it is simply easier to focus on our failures instead. Focus on all the little things we haven’t done. Lament the list of things we should be doing. So I wrote this as a reminder to myself to celebrate how far I’ve come (even if I have a lot more to go).

 

Gen Con 2022 Recap – Part Two

There is a Part One which I also think is worth reading, but Part Two has some details on both the best game of the convention and the worst game at the convention… all within hours of each other.

 

The Reason Why – The Echo Effect

One of the things this blog is supposed to do is highlight my works (prose and comics) to those who might stumble upon it. However, I’m the first to admit I’m not the best at marketing myself. This year I decided to lean into an idea of telling those potential readers the reason why I wrote the stories. Sometimes it was where the idea came from or perhaps just an incident which ended up in a tale. But I liked taking a few minutes over the course of two months laying out my “Why”.

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

Repost – Sincerely Yours, The Breakfast Club

This is a week of rest. A week to recover from not only the last month and a half but from the last year as well. And it is also a time to reflect back on everything. This marks the end of my ninth year writing a blog (nearly every week, I think I’ve missed 1 over all that time and that was not planned, life just got me). So with that, I thought I’d go back to nearly the very beginning for a Christmas-ish repost about how the relationship between my sister and I changed for the better due to time spent together watching a not-very-Christmasy movie: The Breakfast Club.

***

I mostly recall fighting with my sister as we grew up.

Oh, sure, there were those times where we hung out and acted civilized to one another. Obviously, we loved each other, but more times than not my memories are of her chasing me around the house with a knife (this happened on more than one occasion) or me throwing a bouncy ball at her and her friends (“just leave me alone!”). Fights over whose night it was to do the dishes, and somehow her twisting things so that it was miraculously my night more times than not (you would think that I would have marked it on the calendar, but I didn’t). Heck, fights over trying to get her to “play Transformers right” (“No, they aren’t going to play friends!”).

dinobots

These guys don’t want to be friends. They are dinosaurs! This isn’t the Land Before Time!

So when I went away for college (or actually more to the point, my parents moved from Georgia up to Richmond, Virginia… the joke being that since I didn’t go far enough away to school, they needed to put some distance between us), I did not expect that to change very much. That first quarter I’m not sure how much, if at all, we really talked on the phone. I was trying to get accustomed to a whole new experience, living on my own, etc. And she was in the process of starting high school in a brand new school, in a state she had lived a total of about 3 months. Sufficed to say, we were busy.

Then Christmas Break was upon me, and I made the trek northward, not exactly sure how that would be (I lived in that house a total of 2 weeks before moving into the dorm, so it wasn’t like I was going “home”… I was going to the house where my family resided – a huge difference). My sister’s room was over the garage, which really meant that she had the largest room in the house. At the opposite end of the top floor from the parents, she could pretty much listen to music as loud as she wanted, stay up as late as she cared to, and so on. Somehow, during one of those first nights I decided (or maybe she suggested it) hanging out with her up there. After some talking, she popped in The Breakfast Club for us to watch.

breakfastclub

And we bonded.

Thus began a tradition we maintained for probably 6-8 years. Every quarter break I would return home and at some point we would sit down, normally around midnight, and watch that movie.

We expanded to various other 80’s movies Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Princess Bride, Adventures in Babysitting, The Goonies,  insert your favorite, we probably watched it. But not Ghostbusters 2 or Who Framed Roger Rabbit. I love both of those movies  but those are two we watched with my brother far too many times over the course of about 3 summers when he was 2 to about 5, so we had that one memorized. We recorded both of those from HBO on one VHS tape and in an effort to make sure he didn’t disturb our mother (who worked nights) would put that tape in and he’d sit content as could be. It got to the point that we were so sick of watching those two that my sister tore the name tag/tape off of it and he still knew which one it was.

S-VHS-cassette-tape

But I digress.

Those movies somehow became a part of us and our relationship. A chance to finally connect over common interests, which had eluded us for so very long when we were younger. Maybe we saw something within that one movie that spoke to each of us. Her just starting high school and me just starting college. That awkwardness of not knowing what the future will hold. Worried about how others perceived each of us. How those characters on the screen summed up much of each of us.

Perhaps it also was this place where our differences could be represented within these characters. The beautiful thing about that movie is that every single one of us is not just one aspect of the nerd or the criminal or the jock or the basket case or the princess, but made up of multiple ones. As they became friends on screen, I’d like to think that my sister and I became friends beyond just being family. That we could see our differences and embraced those things which formally put us at odds.  In those moments, I think we felt like it was us against the rest of them (whomever “them” may be on any particular day). Not quite kids, not yet adults, at times feeling like outsiders to the greater world.

It seems weird that this movie, which came out when I was 9 and my sister was 4 has come to mean so much to our relationship. A movie that when it is on TV I’ll end up watching, wading through commercials (even though I own the DVD).

Or how the lines still creep into my everyday talk (for better or worse):

bull and horns

“You mess with the bull, you get the horns.”

“Don’t talk, don’t talk, you’ll make it crawl back up.” (I use this one far more than I probably should)

“Impossible sir, they’re in Johnson’s underpants.”

Nothing wrong with having a little John Hughes dialogue running through my brain.

So thank you, Breakfast Club, for showing me how to get along with my sister and her with me.

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

A Love for Everyday – Part 12

Six years ago, I created a homemade book for my wife with all these quotes about Love from our favorite TV Shows and movies and books and then I added to it great quotes about love from history or just great quotes about love from anyone. For the past five years, I’ve shared a few from the book around the holidays.

Part 1 is here.

Part 2 is here.

Part 3 is here.

Part 4 is here.

Part 5 is here.

Part 6 is here.

Part 7 is here.

Part 8 is here.

Part 9 is here.

Part 10 is here.

Part 11 is here.

January 5

 

For it was not into my ear you whispered, but into my heart. It was not my lips you kissed, but my soul.

Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre

 

February 10

 

There is always some madness in love. But there is always some reason in madness.

Friedrich Nietzsche

 

March 7

 

Never stop doing little things for others. Sometimes, those little things occupy the biggest part of their heart.

Anonymous

 

April 5

 

When I am with you, we stay up all night.

When you’re not here, I can’t go to sleep.

Praise God for those two insomnias!

And the difference between them.

Jalaluddin Rumi

 

May 2

 

I want to be in a relationship where you telling me you love me is just a ceremonious validation of what you already show me.

Steve Maraboli, Life, The Truth, And Being Free

June 6

 

It had flaws, but what does that matter when it comes to matters of the heart? We love what we love. Reason does not enter into it. In many ways, unwise love is the truest love. Anyone can love a thing because. That’s as easy as putting a penny in your pocket. But to love something despite. To know the flaws and love them too. That is rare and pure and perfect.

Patrick Rothfuss, The Wise Man’s Fear

 

July 8

 

I want to do with you what spring does with the cherry trees.

Pablo Neruda, Twenty Love Poems And A Song Of Despair

 

August 3

 

The best thing to hold onto in life is each other.

Anonymous

 

September 6

 

When you kiss me my whole world vanishes.

Anonymous

 

October 6

 

Gravitation is not responsible for people falling in love.

Albert Einstein

 

November 4

 

I love you more than any word can say. I love you more than every action I take. I’ll be right here loving your till the end.

Anonymous

December 2

 

Love has given me wings so I must fly.

A Knight’s Tale

 

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Reflections on Christmas Past

The Truth Hurts

My roommate in college had a great story from the holidays. He’d gotten a gift, a large box, not too heavy, but there was definitely some weight to it. He was young (probably 8 to 10 years old I believe), so while his spidey sense was there in regards to what the shape of the box might contain, this one didn’t trip any alarms. Finally, it was time, and he dove into this gift, tearing the wrapping paper asunder, he popped his fingers under the gaps in the box and ripped the tape… only to reveal clothes. Clothes, clothes, and more clothes. So he turned to the person the gift was from, and spoke (in a voice as loud as he could make it given his youth):

“Clothes AREN’T gifts!”

 

A Cruel Trick

Growing up a Jehovah’s Witness meant that a part of my family didn’t celebrate Christmas, but, because my parents were divorced, I still got gifts from my Aunt, Uncle, and grandparents. Which meant, I was making my own list of all the items I could never afford. And for much of my youth, that meant Transformers figures. You see, back in the day, they had two different-sized figures. The smaller ones (like Bubblebee) were around $5 or $6 (if I’m remembering correctly). They were just the right amount that maybe, just maybe, if your parents were in a good enough mood on your visit to Wal-Mart, you could convince them to spring for a new one. The other group was the larger ones. This would have been the Megatrons and the Optimus Prime sized figures and I have no idea how much they cost, but it seemed like they were in the $30s.

Something that expensive was definitely out of my reach.

So I would make out a list (after scanning through the Sears Catalogue) of all the Transformers I wanted so that when I was asked by my dad, I would have them ready to pass along to my relatives. And I was very reasonable, normally only asking for one or two of the more expensive figures (OK, maybe like five or six of them, but still), knowing that if I put a few different names on there, the better the chance they would have to find them in Albany. And then I waited until the promised day. The packages were ready to get opened, and I could only imagine which toys I’d actually gotten. I opened that first one and saw a smaller package… hey, no big deal. A Transformer is a Transformer.

Except, it didn’t have a Transformer label. It had a Go-Bot label. For those not in the know, the Go-Bots were like knock-offs of Transformers. They were a little cheaper in price and generally all the same size. And they “transformed” which I’m assuming a bunch of out-of-the-loop adults took to mean they were Transformers.

A cruel trick from the rival toy companies.

Image by Pawel Grzegorz from Pixabay

You’ll Never Guess

As I said above, my mother’s side of the family were Witnesses, which meant Christmas wasn’t observed (nor were birthdays, ugh), but we did do a sort of “Gift Day” over the years where we exchanged presents, but we didn’t do any of the other stuff. There were no stockings or trees or decorations or any of that stuff. Sometimes Gift Day occurred in January, other times it was more convenient to have it on December 25th.

After I went off to college, it was the longest time I was away from home. I flew up for Thanksgiving, and then come December, it was time for Winter Break. Maybe a week or so before it was time to drive up to Richmond, I get a call from my sister.

“You’ll never guess what is sitting in our living room right now.”

After playing 20 questions, I still didn’t have a clue, so my sister blurted it out.

“A Christmas Tree.”

I thought for sure that she was making a joke. Figured that she’d have a good laugh once I walked in the front door and saw nothing out the of the ordinary. But when I arrived at the house, I walked into the Living Room and sure enough, a huge tree, covered in ornaments and decorations and anything else you could think of. Even with the foreknowledge, I was floored by this.

(And there has been one up every year since.)

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

Tales from the Cubicle – Part 6

Even though these last couple of years have introduced the Work From Home model of hybrid life to me, I still spend a ton of time in the office, which means weird interactions with your jobs, your fellow co-workers, or just strange days that you might not always be able to explain. I’ve written about a handful of my own here, here, here. here, and here.

I Wouldn’t Say He Had a Poker Face.

Many years ago, a couple of co-workers and myself, made it a nearly daily ritual of going somewhere for lunch. It was a good way to get out of the office, and a better way to spend time than staring at the computer screen at our desks. However, it turns out that even with a plethora of options near the office, you will eventually run out of new places to eat. And the repetitions may or may not start to wear on you. I think in our rotation we had Wendys, Mellow Mushroom, and Chick fil la.
However, it turned out that on one particular day, none of us could determine where we wanted to eat (much like many married couples). I suggested that old standby of Chick Fil A, and my friend James made a face like I’d offered him the worst/grossest thing he’d ever heard.
From that day onward, anytime he gave us that particular look, we referred to it as the “Chick Fil A Face”.

Clean, Old Fashion Hate

In Civil Engineering there have been two dominant programs that we use for drafting: Microstation and Autocad. Typically (in Georgia), Microstation is used for roadway projects and Autocad is used for site design projects. This really means that because you don’t have a choice once you’ve chosen your path, you also must hate the other program with a passion. No matter what is presented to you, you have no choice but to hate the program, the person running the program, and potentially any offspring they might have.
Or in the terms of Nick Miller (from the tv show New Girl), “I will teach my kids to hate his kids, and I expect him to do the same.”
For me, it wasn’t quite so clear. See my first two years on the job I pretty much used both programs every day. Sometimes in the morning I would be working on one type of project and then in the afternoon, a completely different type. I had to retrain my brain to use both because they do some things very backward. In one, you double-click to do something in the other program you only right-click. For the most part, I can see the benefits of both but am much savvier in Microstation.
But one of my co-workers couldn’t accept that. You see, he used both and there was a clear winner in his mind: Autocad. And no amount of discussion was going to change his mind. I believe I wore him down over time until he finally gave his line in the sand:
“Autocad is better because you can print directly to the plotter from the program, while in Microstation, you have to create a pdf first.”
Now, this was news to me, as I had been printing directly to the plotter from Microstation since the first day I started working. But he didn’t believe me. Until I brought in some plot drivers I’d used at a different company and demonstrated it. There was silence for a moment, I think his brain must have been spinning to try and figure a way to save face or something. Instead, he went another way.
“Yeah, well… Microstation still sucks.”

Image by Tiny Tribes from Pixabay

Children Work Here
This one is a very recent entry in my career as one of my coworkers has plenty of theories about life that he likes to share with the rest of us. I have told him he should write them down, but I doubt he’ll take me up on it, so I’ve decided to record this one for the future generations!
We were having lunch one day when the discussion of wings and spice and heat came up. I volunteered that I wasn’t really a spicy wing guy as I don’t find much pleasure in trying to kill myself with my food (at least not in that way), and would rather enjoy my meal (and not suffer the consequences later). In the process, I made my mistake. I admitted that I probably liked boneless wings better than the real thing.
Had I been in Buffalo, I would have never said such a thing, but I thought I was safe here in Georgia. However, he looked at me, with a smirk, and said “Boneless wings are for children.”
I didn’t have a response, and when I thought about it, they are basically chicken nuggets which my nephew pretty much only eats. So, after some dilberation, I think he may be correct.
Of course, I’m not going to stop eating them because I’m an adult… and I’ll do whatever I want! 🙂

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Book Report – The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

I’m a sucker for a few types of stories. Time travel, parallel worlds, time loops… and Deal with the Devil stories. I’m fascinated by the portrayal of the Devil in these tales. Sometimes he comes across as a sheer power of evil that only hopes to catch the deal-maker in a Monkey’s Paw-style wish fulfillment. The type that is going to rules lawyer you into the worst version of the deal you could have made because words have power… and specific terms can allow for precise parameters. Other times we see a version that is less adversarial. A version that is merely a being doing a job, trading a wish for a soul, the basic bartering system. A being who is both above it all, and also very much a mirror to reflect our own wants and desires.

Other times you get the best of both worlds, and it is left up to the seller to figure out exactly what kind of deal they’ve made and exactly what kind of being they have made it with.

That’s where we find ourselves with Addie LaRue. She’s a person who made a deal that is twisted into saving her from an impending marriage (that she does not want) to becoming an immortal who can do pretty much whatever she wants… with one caveat:

No one will remember her.

She can interact with people. She can carry on conversations with people for hours upon hours, but once she leaves their sight… they forget her.

Image by Edar from Pixabay

Throughout the book, we alternate chapters set in the present (2014) and in the past, beginning in the 1700s and slowly working their way to catch up with the present time. We’re told her story in these little bits and pieces, filling in some of the gaps in her present-day existence. V.E. Schwab does a deft job in not lingering too long in any one time period, though, it might have taken a little too long to get to the deal (not sure of the page count before the moment, but as a reader you know it is coming and yet it felt like it took a couple of chapters too long to get there). That being said, once the Deal happens, the book begins building steam as we rocket to the next big moment:

Addie meets someone who doesn’t forget her.

Throughout the novel, we get to see exactly how the life of someone who is forgettable actually might work. Schwab doesn’t shy away from the more unsavory portions of her life when she pretty much has to do whatever she can to get through a day. And this is the part of the novel that really contrasts with every other story about immortal beings. Most of the time they are able to enjoy their existence, day in and day out, even if the days pass into months and then into years and decades. Here we get someone who really has to experience her life one day at a time. She has no home, no clothes save for the ones on her back, no friends, no family, and potentially nothing holding her back.

All along the way, she gets to deal with somewhat yearly visits from the Devil (Luc). A bit of a contest between the two of them, for it is his job to collect her soul, but how do you convince someone who is immortal to give up on that? The confrontations range from verbal sparring to more of a carefully constructed dance between two beings who are playing a game on a level the rest of us will never know or see.

Luc is dealt with as a “someone” while also reminding Addie (and the reader) that he is more of a “something”. And like the titular character, I found myself wondering about his interactions with her, trying to determine how genuine he was or wasn’t. Even though the book isn’t about him, he is both this seen and unseen force always lurking in the background (or directly in the foreground). You can’t defeat him in a traditional sense, so you have to hope that Addie is able to outsmart him.

It is nice to see a version of the Devil shown in a complex way. He should be a being that is above the everyday things of the world, but also one who seemingly preys on the unsuspecting. However, they are the ones who make the deals. He never forces anyone to do anything they didn’t want… even if they don’t always understand the true meaning behind the contract they “signed”.

***

As we approached the end of the book, I had determined a possible ending for the novel, and it turned out I was both right and wrong… which I think is probably the best way for it to have ended. It’s nice to have a little bit of a surprise.

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

A Love for Everyday – Part 11

Six years ago, I created a homemade book for my wife with all these quotes about Love from our favorite TV Shows and movies and books and then I added to it great quotes about love from history or just great quotes about love from anyone. For the past five years, I’ve shared a few from the book around the holidays.

Part 1 is here.

Part 2 is here.

Part 3 is here.

Part 4 is here.

Part 5 is here.

Part 6 is here.

Part 7 is here.

Part 8 is here.

Part 9 is here.

Part 10 is here.

 

January 3

 

Family isn’t always blood. It’s the people in your life who want you in theirs;

The ones who accept you for who you are.

The ones who would do anything to see you smile

And who love you no matter what.

Natavia, Who Wants That Perfect Love Story Anyway

 

February 9

 

Romance is thinking about your significant other, when you should be thinking of something else.

Nicholas Sparks

March 6

 

Gamble everything for love, if you are a true human being.

Rumi

 

April 4

 

I sustain myself with the love of family.

Maya Angelou

 

May 1

 

To be fully seen by somebody, then, and be loved anyhow- this is a human offering that can border on miraculous.

Elizabeth Gilbert, Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage

 

June 5

 

For he would be thinking of love

Till the stars had run away

And the shadows eaten the moon.

W. B. Yeats, Selected Poems and Four Plays

July 2

 

If she’s amazing, she won’t be easy. If she’s easy, she won’t be amazing. If she’s worth it, you won’t give up. If you give up, you’re not worthy.

Truth is, everybody is going to hurt you; you just gotta find the ones worth suffering for.

Bob Marley, Guitar Chord Songbook – Bob Marley

 

August 1

 

I’d rather have bad times with you, than good times with someone else.

I’d rather be beside you in a storm, than safe and warm by myself.

I’d rather have hard tomes together, than to have it easy apart.

I’d rather have the one who holds my heart.

Anonymous

 

September 5

 

I always say that there is no greater act of courage than to be the one who kisses first.

Mad About You

October 5

 

Live, and be happy, and make others so.

Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein

 

November 3

 

But I love your feet only because they walked upon the earth and upon the wind and upon the waters, until they found me.

Pablo Neruda

 

December 1

 

Somewhere out there, beneath the pale moonlight, someone’s thinking of me and loving me tonight.

Linda Ronstadt

 

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com\

My Avengers Team

Over the summer, Marvel Studios gave a breakdown of their upcoming releases for their cinematic universe. One title, which caught many people’s eye was Avengers: Secret Wars. Now without going into the full breakdown of what Secret Wars may or may not mean to comic readers, one of the ideas (since this is all a part of the multiverse) is that we might see different versions of the Avengers come to help stop the big bad. And this got me to start thinking about the Avengers comics and how they are constantly changing their line-ups, giving different characters a chance to have a bit of the spotlight here and there. This might be hard to believe if you’ve only seen the movies and their somewhat core group plus the trio of Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor seemingly always needing to be there.

But in the comics, that isn’t the case. In fact, one of my favorite runs (West Coast Avengers) only had Iron Man of that trio, and later he wasn’t even there at all.

Regardless, I thought it might be fun to give it a go. Now, these would be the comic book versions of the characters, as some have not appeared on screen as of yet.

Hawkeye (Team Leader)

Probably my favorite avenger due to his run as the leader in West Coast Avengers, but it was as I learned about his past that he became my favorite. You see, he started his career wanting to be a good guy, but happened to fall under the spell of the Black Widow, who used him as a pawn against Iron Man. They tangled quite a few times, but when the Avengers experienced their first big roster change waaaay back in Avengers 16, it was a cocky archer who broke into their mansion as a way to show them he was worthy of membership.

Scarlet Witch (Magic)

Another first-timer from that same Avengers 16, it wasn’t until John Byrne began working on the West Coast title, that I understood the character’s importance, not only to the Marvel Universe but to the Avengers themselves. While the Fantastic Four are definitely Marvel’s First Family, the connections within the Avengers for many of the characters are such that they are the bringing together of many different characters. Her husband is the Vision, her brother-in-law is Wonder Man, her brother is Quicksilver, not to mention that gives them direct links to three of the bigger villains: Ultron, Grim Reaper, and Magneto.

And even though, she’s hit upon some hard times due to the fallout from “No More Mutants”, I love a redemption story.

Songbird (Sonics)

In the comic, Avengers Forever, a mismatched team of Avengers from various time periods are brought together to defeat a greater enemy. Some are from the past, some from the present, but two are from some point on the future timeline: Captain Marvel and Songbird. The thing is, when that comic came out, she was still appearing in another comic, Thunderbolts, which showed you who she really was: a member of the Masters of Evil – the big bad guy group. So here we had someone who was struggling with her place in the world. Who had been a villain forever, but because of the ploy the T-bolts were running, she was becoming addicted to being a good guy… a hero.

And then we see that maybe, just maybe, she will be able to redeem herself and join Earth’s Mightiest Heroes (and she can bond with Hawkeye and Scarlet Witch as they all have been on the wrong side of the law).

Nova (Cosmic)

I had never heard of Nova before the comic book New Warriors came out. He had his run in comics back in the 70s and early 80s but had mostly been forgotten until the early 90s. I loved that he was someone who had lost their powers, lost their way, and suddenly found a new purpose with a team of teenage heroes. He doubted himself, was angry at times and fell for one of his teammates. That comic was everything you’d want in a comic book.

Then it ended, and he sorta disappeared again. While a couple of his running crew joined the Avengers (Firestar and Justice) he never got his due… until the Annihilation Wave storyline began and he found himself fighting alongside and against some of the biggest baddies the Universe had ever seen. If there was ever any doubt that he was deserving of being an Avenger, his run through those space epics changed all of that.

Blink

An odd choice, as the entirety of my experience, reading about her is directly from the Exiles, a comic about a group of (mostly) mutants who jump from parallel world to parallel world trying to set right what once went wrong. Her was a character I got to see grow from an unsure hero into the leader of this squad, forced to make extremely difficult decisions about the fate of multiple worlds. I also like the idea of adding another character from the X-Men side of the universe. Sometimes things can get too insular, and you miss out on the oddites of weird and new combinations of characters who have never had the chance to interact before.

***

While we might (we’d definitely) add another character or two at some point, I like the idea of a somewhat small team to start. And the thing is there are multiple ties between characters, former villains, dealing with cosmic threats, and a couple of mutants mixed in. And perhaps, they are brought together by someone who has a sense that bigger things are at play across the multiverse… that perhaps Kang (and Immortus) are beginning to make their latest play for power.

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Prepping for Nanowrimo

So I’ve decided that this is the year that I’m going to give this Nanowrimo a shot. Of course, I’ve thought about it over the years, and I think I gave it a start a couple of years ago, but life got in the way. This decision means that I’m a little bit behind the eight ball, as it were because I made the decision all of about 7 days before the end of October. So I did what anyone might do, I started with some old-fashioned research on what things I needed to do to have the best chance of succeeding with my goal.

This list has been cobbled from my reading so many blogs out there. I tried to see what were the common themes that I kept seeing repeatedly. The biggest thing was asking the big question:

What am I getting out of this? What’s my goal beyond just having 50,000 words written at the end of the month?

Part of me is curious if I can do it at all. I’ve talked about this idea that if only I could keep my butt in the seat, then maybe I could write more than 1 draft in a year. I want to get going on book 2 of this series. I’m excited to push to make sure that the work progresses. I also know that my bigger goals only work if I can increase my word output. And finally, I just spent the weekend at a convention where I got to see all these people displaying their dozens of books, and I had my three plus a few comics. While I’m proud of the work I’ve done, I need to catch up!

Set up your calendar.

This is obviously a big one. Trying to figure out the days I’m available and the days that I certainly won’t have time to do much writing. It is not for the first time that I wonder whose bright idea it was to do this during a month with only 30 days and with a major holiday at the tail end of the month (you know, probably the time when you are going to want to play a little bit of catch-up). Looking at it, I definitely need to account for the days I can write but especially figure out those days when I cannot.

It breaks down like this: 50,000 words in 30 days = 1,667 words/day

That’s a bit intimidating.

November-2022-calendar-b18.jpg printable calendar

Clear the calendar of the to-do lists.

Some items cannot be cleared. Others will need to be juggled a little bit. One of the things I do every week is the blogs for TesseraGuild, so I sat down over the last couple of days and wrote out all the blogs for the remainder of the year. In fact, it might be the furthest ahead I’ve ever been since I started doing this.

 

Set up your Nano account

Need to set up my nano account (I guess). I saw this a bunch about having a group to help build friendships and discussions and whatnot for encouragement. It can’t hurt!

 

Outline the book.

I’m lucky in that I know exactly what book I’m going to be writing for the project. I also have already begun working on the outline prior to the start. However, I have plenty of blank spots leading into this that I will need to fill in.

For the first book, I did something called 40 sentences, where I basically had a beat sheet or plot sheet broken into 40 bullets, with the idea that each one would be a chapter (I don’t think that’s exactly what I ended up with), but it worked well to have that roadmap to fall back on, and it is interesting to review to see where I departed from the original breakdowns.

Some of this also falls under the list of having your title, having the story idea, having your characters and who they are. This is book 2 in a series, so with that comes a couple of known characters (my two POVs), but I do need to take a little time to flesh out some of the supporting cast for both.

 

Writing the story logline and/or pitch.

I don’t know that I’ve ever done this upfront, but then I realized that I basically have done it when I’m pitching the various ideas I have to my wife. She listens to me stumble around, trying to figure out the exact way to frame whatever it is, and generally is a good sounding board. For this story, I haven’t really told her much about it because she’s read book 1, she knows how things ended, and I kind of want to keep it all as a surprise. So I’ll need to do this on my own.

Have a tracking system

I have been tracking my writing over the years with a simple excel spreadsheet. I figure if it ain’t broke…

 

Research

Normally research is something that is a nice break from the actual writing process, but it also becomes this not-so-fun time sink. However, when writing the first draft, I mostly don’t concern myself with too much on the end of the research. If it is something that is only going to slow me down, then I should probably cut it for this draft and worry about it when I go to do my first editing pass next year. However, I did see something that talked about images (which I already use), but maybe spending a little of this prep time to grab some more for the story might not be a bad thing.

Another thing that enters into this is the idea of making a cover for your potential book, which is another rabbit hole I could definitely spend a ton of time diving down.

 

Notebook

I need to keep one of my notebooks with me at all times during November. I have a couple that are blank, so they might make the best ones to use for this exact process.

 

Mindset

I’ve seen in more than a couple of places talk about getting into the right mindset. This is truly a marathon (but perhaps one made up of a bunch of sprints). This is something that many attempt and don’t end up getting to that mythical finish line. So if I’m going to have a shot at writing that much during this month, then I need to prep my brain to get onto the good path.

***

Anyway, here I go. Wish me good luck!

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

31 More Days of Horror

In my annual quest to try and use October to watch a bunch of horror movies, I present the first three of the month…

No Escape Room

This was a Sci-Fi Channel movie, though I didn’t know that when I started watching. I was lured to the movie by Netflix’s promise of “horror” and “time loops”. It was interesting to try and convey an escape room as the place to stage a horror movie. I think that is extremely clever as I have done an escape room and there was certainly a moment when the door locked behind where my mind went to the place of “are we legitimately trapped in here now”. Of course, this is half a second flight of fancy.

In the movie, our characters move through this house, solving various riddles while still holding on to the hope that this isn’t some death house, but just a super realistic game. And from a sort of SAW-lite style movie, it has its moments. However, towards the end, one of the characters effectively dies off-screen, which is a huge blunder. It would be one thing if this was done to convince the remaining characters that everything is still ok, but that ship had long since sailed.

 

 

The Belko Experiment

The setup is straightforward, a group of employees for the Belko company have to kill a certain number of their own or twice that number will be killed at random.

That’s it. Put out the terms. Kill one person to prove you can do it, and then let human nature take its course.

I dug this one. Even though there are certain characters you immediately know are going to start hunting and others you know are going to try and figure out a way through it, I thought there was still some middle ground in the questions being asked. I mean, if it is a matter of me or a loved one or a bunch of strangers… well, I hope I would keep my moral compass, but you can never be too sure.

The only thing I wasn’t a fan of in this movie was the new employee character. I really thought she was going to slip through the cracks, but instead her death is treated as an afterthought late in the movie making me wonder why we spent any time with them at all if they weren’t going to factor into much of anything.

 

The Rental

Really this was two movies combined into one. The front half is the tale of two couples going on a weekend getaway only to have two of the members hook up with each other. The slow burn of the lies are complicated by the idea that they might be under surveillance from someone. The second movie is a straight-up slasher flick where you are wondering who, if anyone, might survive the madman’s blade.

The only problem is that the first half of the movie works extremely well. While there are certain beats you will recognize from any number of other stories, the actors are all crushing it. And much of the tension comes from the worry/expectation that they will be found out, sending everyone into a downward spiral none of them could pull out of. Had that been the only thing the movie was about, I think it would have been a better place to take things. Once the killer is properly revealed, it loses a bit as we are now in a race to the end of the film.

***

While not every story in anthology has to work, I think it is important to figure out why or why not they might have worked within the framework we’ve been given. It’s something that I’m thinking about for my own work.

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

How To Make a Me – Halloween Edition

Image by Enrique from Pixabay

There is a thread on Twitter where the whole point is to try and list 10 horror movies that sort of describe your Halloween tastes. I’m not taking it as strictly a Best Of or a Favorites list, but more of the movies which helped fashion some of my own horror tastes. These are things/themes which carry some level of importance because of the movie itself or because of some story around it.

Jaws

The joke in my Bio says it as plain and accurate as it could possibly be “John McGuire claims he would have been a marine biologist if it weren’t for Jaws.” When a movie scars you from walking down a career path, I’d say it somehow helped to shape your being.

Scream

Until I’d seen Scream all the slasher movies (save for Nightmare on Elm Street and we’ll get to that in a second) kind of ran together for me. Yes, Halloween is amazing, but the follow-ups to it and Friday the 13th plus an untold number of other 80s Horror had kind of killed the genre for me.

Then came Scream. It turned things completely upside down and showed us that there was still something unique to say about the genre. It was a breath of fresh air that I wasn’t expecting but found myself returning to repeatedly.

In the Mouth of Madness

Sometimes a movie rocks you to the core, makes you think about the world in a different way, and exposes you to thoughts you might have never reached yourself. That’s what In the Mouth of Madness is for me. My first real exposure to Cosmic Horror. A reminder that the universe is a big and scary place. It is something that we try to define and really, we have no fucking idea.

The Thing (1982)

A movie that only gets better with age. I am constantly amazed on rewatches how much the story not only holds up but that I find little bits and pieces every time. I just simply love everything about the movie.

Nightmare on Elm Street

This might have been the first horror movie I ever watched. I remember going over to a friend’s house for a sleepover around 10 years old and somehow we watched this (with his parent’s knowledge). It was my gateway horror movie.

The Howling

I have always been more of a werewolf guy than a vampire guy. Something about the internal struggle of someone not feeding into their base natures. That struggle had always been at the forefront of the creature. It was a curse… until this movie. These werewolves were enjoying what they were. In addition to having some of the greatest transformations ever, it really showed me that you can always look at the classics in a slightly different way.

The Lost Boys

However, I do love a well-done vampire story. This movie hit around the time I was getting into comic books, so to see the main characters in a comic store, understanding the lore around the creatures, hell, hunting the creatures. If you ever wanted to be in a horror movie when you were a kid, this was the one I’d choose.

Cabin in the Woods

Many years after Scream we got another movie that decided to look at the horror genre and turn it on its head. And maybe that’s what I really enjoy when you can subvert the tropes or use them in a way we’ve not seen before. Due to all the Easter eggs, this one has a ton of rewatch value.

Dawn of the Dead (2004)

I love Night of the Living Dead, and I like the original Dawn of the Dead a lot, but something about this version really struck me as a great way to do a remake without losing the spirit of the original. In many ways, it and 28 Days Later (see below) ushered in this new age of the Zombie, a genre that was due for some spotlight (an odd thing to say all these years later given you can’t turn on a streaming service without seeing a dozen such movies.

28 Days Later

The loneliness of this movie. The whole purpose of showing us that it is the family we choose who we have to remain true to. The imagery… him walking the deserted London streets… him hunting in the rain, turning more and more like the infected around him… the tunnel. This one is just so well done, I could watch it any and every time it comes on.

***

While not every story in anthology has to work, I think it is important to figure out why or why not they might have worked within the framework we’ve been given. It’s something that I’m thinking about for my own work.

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Tales of the Walking Dead – Season 1 Review

I’ve been thinking about anthologies a fair amount recently. From short story collections to old-school television shows, these shorter narratives can help to illuminate a story idea that can’t or shouldn’t be told in a longer format. In addition, when you are dealing with a shared universe like The Walking Dead, something like Tales of the Walking Dead should not only allow you to tell stories that wouldn’t fit within the regular series but also allow you to expand the world along the edges. These should be stories that could only exist within this universe. They should not be horror stories for the sake of horror stories.

I should come away with the idea that these are Walking Dead Horror stories.

 

EP 1 – “Evie / Joe”

I would consider this the quintessential Walking Dead story: The Travel Story. Much of the main show is about our characters going from Point A to Point B. Sometimes they are looking for supplies or a new home, and other times they are looking for a singular person. “Evie/Joe” is exactly that. Our two main characters meet once Joe is on the road. Like many other times, we can see the initial distrust bloom into an odd couple friendship. They are both looking for meaning in the dead world: Evie through trying to find her boyfriend and Joe through trying to find someone who he communicated with prior to the end of the world.

Overall this episode is less “scary” and more of a fun story. It’s the perfect lead-in for the series.

 

EP 2 – “Blair / Gina”

The spoiler for this episode – it is a Groundhog Day situation. The episode takes place at the very beginning of the outbreak where no one knows the world is about to end but viewers get to see all the tell-tale signs of impending doom. At the center of it is a story of two women who work together… who hate each other… and who find themselves reliving the same day over and over. Try as they might, they can’t seem to break the cycle, nor can they stay away from each other.

As a character study on two very different people (one beat down by the life she’s created for herself and the other beat down by her boss), this works really well. It plays both for horror and laughs, but really the horror is that it will take the apocalypse for either of them to start trying. However, while I’m a sucker for Groundhog Day-style storytelling, this one is a bit jarring within the bigger universe. At no point in the series are we led to believe some form of weird physics or magic is alive and well. And going back to my original idea, this could have taken place in any horror anthology as nothing makes it strictly Walking Dead.

 

EP 3 – “Dee”

I must admit it was strange to find a very familiar character as the centerpiece of this episode: Alpha of the Whisperers. Where in the show we saw her origin story, this episode deals with the time between her “beginning” and joining the Whisperers.

Given what we know about Alpha (or “Dee”), her obsession with keeping her daughter, Lydia, safe is on full display here. What’s interesting is that we know her only as a villain, so I admit it colored my perception of her throughout this story. It seemed as if the writers understood that idea as well as they presented the viewer with numerous opportunities for not only the other characters on the show to not believe her but us as well. It also gave a little more insight into how she might be OK with allowing her daughter to stay with the Alexandrians later on (the loving Mother).

While this was a story that could have been told within the main show, I can understand not wanting to stop that narrative for an episode like this. In light of this, I have to wonder if future seasons might use this format to shine a light on some of the lesser-known characters we’ve met on the way.

 

EP 4 – “Amy / Dr. Everett”

My favorite episode of the season, and the one which fulfilled the promise of what this show might or might not be. Dr. Everett is a biologist who has decided to study the Walkers. He’s marking their migration patterns, the idea they might display different traits/functions among the overall group/herd. Set in this odd area of America where a portion of the land has been cut off. This allows him to see how the land has begun to come back. The animals are thriving.

All without human interference.

This was an episode that leaned into the world’s overall lore, but also managed to expand some of the concepts in ways I hadn’t considered. Is it better if humans weren’t around? For the Earth, it appears the answer is yes.

 

EP 5 – “Davon”

An episode that swung for the fences, but I fear didn’t quite connect for me. Told in a series of flashbacks, the story focuses on Davon, a man who wakes up with gaps in his memory and is handcuffed to a dead person. Who then starts calling him a murderer. Throughout we get to see glimpses of what happened, slowly seeing how Davon ended up in a very isolated village, and how he found himself hunted by those same people who brought him in.

I’m not sure why this one didn’t click for me, but I think part of it was it felt more like a story that could have been told about any isolated community. The only Walkers we really saw were at the end, and while they did get a bit of mileage out of the “is the dead woman in his head or is it a zombie or…”, ultimately it could have been told in any horror anthology.

Image by Sandy Flowers from Pixabay

EP 6 – “La Dona”

What happens when you mix zombies and a haunted house story? You get something that is a bit different than anything we’ve seen in this series. Many times in a normal haunted house story, you have to suspend disbelief on why the characters would stay in a place that might be driving them insane. However, in this, we have a situation where going back out into the Zombie infested world is also insanity. Might you do your damnest to try and find a way to make it work? Might it be worth it to ignore all the odd and horrific dreams?

That’s a story that really looks at the world and says “how can we push things”.

***

While not every story in anthology has to work, I think it is important to figure out why or why not they might have worked within the framework we’ve been given. It’s something that I’m thinking about for my own work.

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

Repost – Horror… Songs?

Like most people (I think), I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook. My feed will fill up with the most stupid, crazy, weird stories that will cause blood to stream from my eyes and ears. And yet, occasionally, there will be some random link to something that is beyond a bit of genius. Today that was Brazillian Graphic Designer Butcher Billy who took famous songs and turned them into horror book covers. Each of them got my creative juices flowing, so I thought I’d share a few and what I thought the book could be.

Artwork by Brazillian Graphic Designer Butcher Billy

Every Breath You Take – The Police

By now everyone knows that this song is not a love song, but instead was always a song about obsession. Of course, that didn’t stop people from having it as “their song”. So when I look at the cover, the way that he’s laid out the lyrics in the bottom left are very much a mantra of someone who has completely lost themselves in this other person. This novel is a study of a young woman who has become enamored with a man who she works with or perhaps lives in a nearby apartment. She’s constantly finding excuses to be at the same places he frequents, in a hope to just strike up a simple conversation with this guy. She knows that she’s right for him even as she watches a string of women come and go. If only he’d turn and “see you belong to me”.

Of course, the reason these other women are constantly leaving (disappearing) is that she’s making sure there is no chance for them to truly connect with anyone but her. She hides the bodies and eventually does get that one moment with him… and she’s not going to ever let him go.

Artwork by Brazillian Graphic Designer Butcher Billy

Lady In Red – Chris de Burgh

Speaking of “their song”, Lady in Red is my wife and my song. We danced to it a Homecoming and then again many years later at our wedding. Yet, this cover has me seeing the song differently now…

As a serial killer, Daniel has very specific tastes. He only deserves the best. He cannot end up with just any person, what sport would that be? No, it has to be someone very special that he analyzes and then slowly brings them to the point that they are almost chasing him. Only when he can do that does the deaths mean anything.

So, when he sees Sandra at the club, she “shined so bright” and for once he saw someone who could maybe be his true love. All the death had led him to her. The only question was whether he could control his base urges and truly become a new man for her.

Or did he have to?

Artwork by Brazillian Graphic Designer Butcher Billy

Everytime You Go Away – Paul Young

It’s not Jessica’s fault that she is different. Just like it wasn’t her fault that bus t-boned her car a year ago. The doctors said that it was a miracle she survived at all. Now she just wants to go back to her old life. Move on.

Yet, she gets these cravings every now and then. Hunger pangs that aren’t satisfied with anything she ends up eating. Fruit and vegetables now make her sick and at best raw meat only causes the pain to subside for a day or so. No, there’s something else now at work inside her. And now, “when the leading man appears” she finds that the urges are too much to take.

But she doesn’t have to kill him. She only needs to “take a piece of me with you”.

Artwork by Brazillian Graphic Designer Butcher Billy

Maneater – Hall and Oates

I feel like this could be the sequel to Everytime You Go Away. That same creature of the night, Jessica, has continued her nightly escapades, but now she’s managed to attract the wrong attention in the form of the FBI who have now dubbed her the “Maneater”. Now she has to stay one step ahead of them all the while feeding the beast within her, for if this is her under control, what happens if she truly loses control?

***

I wonder what other pop songs might make good horror books? I feel like Duran Duran’s Union of the Snake could be something. Tears for Fears Everyone Wants to Rule the World. INXS Devil Inside seems a no brainer.

Got any good ones?

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

The Song of Your Life Part 2

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

I wrote a blog a while back about how a song can lock you into a moment and become etched in your mind (part one is here). I decided to take a walk down memory lane for another batch.

***

1992-1994 – Nirvana’s Nevermind Album

On three separate occasions, this CD was playing in my car when I got into a fender bender during the above years. Now, in fairness, this is when I was aged 16-18, so the odds of being a little distracted here or there while driving is a bit higher being a teenager. Still, those 3 times were the only times I had any incidents while driving. Now all of these were straight-up fender taps, I was stopped and hit the gas just enough to get going, and the car in front of me had decided not to move. We got out of our cars, surveyed the damage (there was none) and all three people said “don’t worry about it”, and we went about our business.

But I realized that Nevermind was on while I was driving, which I thought was a bit of an odd coincidence, so I instituted a moratorium on playing that album in my car for at least 4 or 5 years.

You can never be too safe.

The kicker was that Chad Shonk was in the car with me for at least 2 of the accidents (I can’t remember if he was there for the third or not), but I never thought to ban Chad from riding with me!

Image by jodeng from Pixabay

1995-1999 – Van Halen – Right Now

My parents moved away to Virginia right after my senior year of high school, and since I was destined to attend Georgia Tech, I would only be visiting during the various quarter breaks. From downtown Atlanta to my parent’s new house was approximately 8 hours of driving. For those who have never done the trip, it is a lot of trees broken up by the occasional interstate exit. As time went on, I had gotten pretty efficient about my stops, which I tried to limit to one just north of Charlotte. I would fill up on gas, use the bathroom, and grab food all at the same exit in the hopes of shaving a little bit of time off the trip itself.

The other key to this trip was my cd player. With a single disc player mounted under my dash, I kept my big book of CDs on the seat beside me and when one was done, I moved onto the next one becoming very proficient in the art of changing them using only one hand.

No matter what mix of albums I was going through, I always had to grab my double-disc of Van Halen’s Right Now, Right Here Live album. Something about that entire “concert” put me in the right mood for my solitary journey, and something about the title song has always made me think about how we need to take a little time to reflect on where we are in the moment. 8 hour trips let you do that all too well, and so it was the perfect companion song for that.

1992 – Ministry – N.W.O.

What I like to refer to as my musical awakening happened when Lollapalooza came to Atlanta. Obviously, I’d been listening to Nirvana, but the wide array of Grunge and Alternative music which was bursting on the scene was still a little out of my grasp. So when my Kroger co-worker invited me to go to the concert with her, I jumped at the opportunity to do something new and different.

The trip itself occurred prior to having cell phones with GPS to get you to the correct place, so we only had a brief set of instructions… and being 16, we completely missed our exit and continued on until we were well south of the city. This all meant we showed up later and missed most of Pearl Jam’s set. However, we settled in on the lawn and proceeded to listen to The Jesus and Mary Chain, Soundgarden, and Ice Cube.

The sun was beginning to set when Ministry hit the stage. And I must admit, I’m not 100% on what song they opened the set with (though the internet tells me they opened with N.W.O. a fair bit, so it’s a safe guess), I do remember what occurred in those next seconds. I’d never been to a metal concert at this point, so when the entire lawn morphed into a gigantic mosh pit, I was a bit concerned. Rebecca wasn’t and jumped right in while I stood off to the side holding our stuff.

Ever since, N.W.O. conjures that same image of thousands of screaming fans just going nuts… and painted the blueprint for many, many concert nights to follow.

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Repost – I’m the Problem

Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay

I’m the problem.

I’m supposed to be out there, trying new things.

Sampling the comic books that are worth sampling.

And I do.

Sometimes.

***

Except there is Comixology.

Did you know that pretty much any comic book that you buy in print for $3.99 is very shortly thereafter going to be about $1.99 for the digital copy? Oh, I don’t know the exact timeline on such things. You see, $1.99 is still far too much for me to pay for that thing I want to read. So I wait for better sales. Hey maybe when it gets down to $0.99 an issue, THEN I’ll give your book a try.

What’s that? You are about to package the first 6 issues together in a trade and offer it for $3.99? Well, that sounds like a deal.

***

Your new independent comic is coming out through Image or Ahoy or Aftermath or Boom or…

So you need those early issue sales, right? I mean, if I want to REALLY help you out I should get my local comic book shop to order me a copy of issues 1 through however many you are going to print. That’s where you are going to make your money and show the big wigs that your comic is the one they should bet on to go far.

Because the way comics work for as long as I can remember, is that you have to have good orders on Issue 1 so that when you get to the dip that happens with issues 2 and 3 and 4… you can survive the fall. Survive that for long enough to get to issue 6 and the 1st trade. Which might buy you another 6 issues.

Might.

***

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Except there is waiting for the Trade.

Because I don’t know if you really are going to make it. I have a couple of long boxes full of the NEXT BIG THING that sputtered out. Plus, I don’t know how you are going to tell your story. What if you really want me to read it over the course of 1 sitting… why would I get those individual issues when I can have them on my shelf as a trade? If I want to potentially read them all together, it would be nuts to buy them in any other format.

Right?

***

It is the best time to be a creator. You can do anything right now. You can build new worlds. You can show us what is inside your mind. There are no limitations.

That’s what is happening out there. Kickstarters are firing up at an awesome clip. People offering their ideas to a world and you don’t need any of the other companies. You can be your own company. You get to effectively do a pre-order of your comic. Hey, buy my issue one and hopefully, I raise just enough to find issue 2 and slowly this thing will grow to the point where they can continue forever.

I even got in on the Kickstarter (and now Indiegogo thing) with Gilded Age.

So all I need to do is help you on this issue 1 and HOPE you come out with an issue 2. But without my support, you may not even get that much. Well, sign me up!

***

Except, maybe I should only get your digital stuff at first. Or, maybe I’ll WAIT FOR THE TRADE… something even more suspect that the more traditional way we get our comics at the store.

***

But I’m the problem. I have the core books I want to read. Those Batman or Flash or Avengers comics (Walking Dead, RIP). You know, those books that will definitely, absolutely make it to a trade. But then I see something like The Wrong Earth (from Ahoy Comics), it about superheroes in parallel worlds and Tom Peyer was a great writer on the 90s Legion of Superhero books. This is a comic I need to support.

And I say – “I want that in a trade format.”

What is wrong with me?

***

I’ve convinced myself that it is two things:

Space & Money

***

The Space issue. My house is only sooooo big. The life of a part-time author doesn’t pay enough to do that add-on basement. So I think about whether adding another longbox a year is the way to go, or… perhaps, the better way is to make use of bookshelves for the comics?

Again, I don’t know if that solves any kind of problems or not.

***

You see, the price of comics continues to rise. When I was 16 and had a job at Kroger making $4.25 an hour, I could buy an infinite number of comics at $1.00 each.

And I did.

I probably got 90% of what Marvel offered at the time. The longboxes upstairs share that reality very well. Today, even though I don’t make $4.25 an hour, I probably spend double on comics for a quarter the titles. As things move to $3.99 and then $4.99, I’ve found that I stick with what I like and I try the occasional thing… once in a while. So the way I can try more and stretch my dollars is to find the sales and the trades instead of the brand new stuff the moment it comes out.

I’ve convinced myself that maybe supporting things a little bit is better than not supporting things at all.

I don’t know if that is true or not.

Book Report – The Lincoln Highway

The Lincoln Highway is a book where the destination (the end of the titular Lincoln Highway) isn’t the important part of the journey. It gives the characters a goal, to be sure, but this is a novel about the obstacles and potential growth of the main players of the story.

Let me start by saying that I enjoyed the book overall. It definitely falls into that “Great American Novel” category which is one I don’t read very much (or at least not since college). However, there were some choices the author made that made me think about how novels and movies are structured and had me pondering whether or not they were techniques that added to the story or not.

So in that sense, this will be less of a book report and more of me pondering if something worked for me or not.

I definitely like to read for “enjoyment” purposes, but I’m also always looking for things that other authors do that I can learn from. One of those things that Amor Towles did in this book was he had two main POV characters: Emmett and Dutchess, but he wasn’t afraid to occasionally give one of the other characters the POV for a chapter or two in order to illuminate the story from a different perspective. Now, this ends up doing a couple of things, he’s able to show us exactly how others see our main characters and allows us to see a larger part of the world he’s trying to build.

The only problem with this is that in doing this, by spending that time on these other characters, do you gain more than you potentially lose? For example, in the book, one of the characters we meet is the author of a book on mythological and real (legendary) characters in which Emmett’s 8-year-old brother is obsessed. At one point, Billy ends up meeting this author, and it is a very cute scene. However, it ends up leading to a short chapter where this author is the POV character (showing where he ends up after his meeting with Billy). Again, it is a nice scene, but had it been a movie, I would likely expect such a chapter to end up on the cutting room floor.

Of course, books are able to dwell into such things, they have the space to “breathe”, but I’m always wondering (when I’m writing) whether the chapter is advancing something? Is it advancing the overall plotline? Is it advancing a character arc? Or is there another purpose altogether? When I’m making edits, are these beats something important to the story or is it leading us down a tangent?

The Lincoln Highway had me asking those questions (among others) a couple of times. These side characters, while important to meet and understand, may not always need to have their own chapters. Especially when you consider there were 4 leads. Could some of that information have been shown through one of them? And if not, is the moment worth having?

The other thing Towles did was not use quotation marks when separating dialogue from the rest of the narrative.

Normally you might get something like this:

“He shot him.” Terry wrapped his arms tightly around Jimmy.

However, in The Lincoln Highway, we get this:

-He shot him. Terry wrapped his arms tightly around Jimmy.

Now, when 99% of the things you read do things one way (use quotations) and suddenly you come across a work that does something completely different, it can be very jarring. And while I was able to effectively ignore it as I read along, I couldn’t help but wonder why change something if it isn’t broken. Because not having the quotation marks there sometimes made it awkward when you have a sentence like:

-What do you think you’re doing? Jimmy asked me. I wish I knew what was going on.

In the above sentence, the portion after the period… is that continuing Jimmy speaking? Is that inner narration from Terry?

Who knows? Because it effectively could be read either way.

“What do you think you’re doing?” Jimmy asked me. “I wish I knew what was going on.”

Or

“What do you think you’re doing?” Jimmy asked me. I wish I knew what was going on.

So, I’m not sold on using new notation to do something worse than what we currently have.

Finally, and this is a spoiler, so…

***

***

The book is set up as a journey to the end of the Lincoln Highway and a potential reunion with Emmett and Billy’s mother. And we never get there. In fact, we travel the other direction for the entirety of the book, and only effectively start at the New York City end of the Highway. Throughout, Emmett has a lot of inner turmoil involved with how he views his mother (who abandoned them before the book begins). And yes, had we gone to the end we might not have had a satisfactory meeting with her either. But it is another odd choice to build something up and then not deliver on the implied promise. It makes me wonder if there was a point in one of the drafts where the boys did reach the coast, and they did get their reunion. Maybe he just could never make it work?

Something else to keep in mind.

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

 

 

Dragon Con 2022 Recap

There was something nice about the reduced attendance last year. It was like traveling back in time about a decade in regards to the number of people, but the footprint of the con still being similar to 2019. However, this year the even larger crowds were back which brought along with it wait times for getting into the Exhibitor area, badge pick-up, and I’m sure at many of the panels as well.

All that said, my wife and I had opted to wait to purchase tickets to Dragon Con as a “just in case” and missed early ticket sales where the costs are slightly reduced. On top of that, she’s hurt her back recently and wasn’t really going to be up for all the walking. I had a concert on Saturday night (Ghost), so I opted to just do a one-day on Friday.

Having to work in the morning, I didn’t arrive until 1:30 PM. Now missing out on some of the morning festivities is a bummer, but one benefit of showing up later was the Badge pick-up lines were non-existent. I’d heard horror stories, but I walked in and walked out in less than 2 minutes. It might be a new record. That, however, left me over-confident when going to America’s Mart (where the Exhibitors are located). The line to get in there was wrapped around the building and then back again. After 40 minutes of hanging out in the hot Atlanta sun, I managed to gain entry and made my way through the four floors of vendors, artists, etc.

The Good Old Line Ride!

Overall, the first floor is more geared to roleplaying and the 4th floor is for comics, but on the middle two floors, it becomes a real mix of clothing, dice, authors, comics, artists, anime, etc. I’ve often wondered if it would be better or worse if they more partitioned like-minded vendors together so that as a potential buyer I’d know where to find all the costuming stuff. But the more I thought about it as I walked the aisles, I realized there were so many which might not easily fit in any one category, and if you put them in the “wrong” place, they might get screwed over by an arbitrary placement. Better instead to have it just thrown together and let us go through the entire thing.

Really the Exhibitors area is something you could spend nearly a day going up and down the various aisles. In years past, we’ve normally scheduled panels throughout the days, so you might be able to catch an hour or two before you are on your way to see something else. For Friday, I only had one panel I needed to visit.

On my way there, I swung by the Artists Area (Alley?) to see Amanda Makepeace (of this very site) and got to chat a little bit with her before heading over to the Star Wars Panel – The Special Editions at 25 where my buddy (and a former contributor to Tessera) Chad Shonk was speaking. If you’ve ever met Chad, you know he is a walking Encyclopedia of Star Wars knowledge, so along with his co-hosts on the Execute Chapter 66 podcast, they broke down the various additions to the original movies by the Special Edition release. Some “debates” were a little more tongue in cheek with the majority agreeing on much of the following:

  • Greedo didn’t shoot first.
  • Jabba’s scene in A New Hope is unnecessary and undermines the character’s appearance in Jedi.
  • Boba Fett mugging for the screen was too much. (Also learned that I missed the memo in Boba Fett suddenly being called “the worst bounty-hunter”. And from the comments around me, it didn’t seem to have too much to do with the Book of Boba Fett).
  • Empire was pretty much all gold. No problems there.
  • Both new songs in Return of the Jedi (Jedi Rocks and the one at the end which replace “Yub Nub”) are… not the best.

There were some other odd quibbles here or there, but everyone seemed to really enjoy themselves, and I thought the panel went really great.

After a bit of chit-chat to catch up, it was time to take these old bones home. Years ago, I would only do one day at the convention because I was flying solo. It was very odd to have that experience again (although, there were more than a couple of friends there this year to hang out with, so I wasn’t solo for long). Still, here’s hoping next year Courtney can join me!

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

Repost – Unfinished Business

 

As I’m trying to finish up a writing assignment, I thought a look back at this idea of mine of just not throwing ideas out. Or more to the point, never giving up on the ideas. With In Our Dreams Awake taking over 15 years to finally see the light of day, the pack rat in me was right on that one!

***

Weirdly, in the aftermath of running a successful Kickstarter to get a project I’ve been working on for years, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about unfinished projects sitting on my hard drive. How for every file and folder that lies dormant on the computer, I will soon have something that is somewhat “complete”.

It was due to these incomplete projects that I created the Gilded Age the way I did in the first place. Too many comic book projects had gotten started only to fizzle out. It was very much the idea that the Gilded Age might only last 1 issue and I had a full 4 issue story-arc planned. What do you do with that? How do you get around the fact that 1 issue could very well be the only thing anyone ever sees?

In fact, there was a while there where Egg and I would email back and forth about 1 issue comic ideas because that was something we could see actually being done and finished. It was something concrete whereas the many talks about 50 issue comic storylines might (only might) have been a little beyond any of us.

Yet, even with those constraints, so many of them never saw the light of day.

And I’ve been thinking about them.

They say you are supposed to Kill Your Darlings as a writer. Basically, when you are writing, even if you love a scene or a paragraph or even just a sentence – you have to be willing to cut those just as easily as anything else.

And there is also some saying about always moving forward (I think). If something doesn’t work out, then toss it aside and start on the next thing. Something about ideas not being precious. That any creator worth their salt can come up with 100 more… and then 100 more.

Yet, I look through the files and remember things I’d forgotten. I see that there was potential within these projects. I see that there could still be potential within so many Lost ideas.

Maybe it is that Kickstarter success that suddenly has shown me a finish line is actually possible? Has it got me convinced there might be a way to bring those things back to life in some form or fashion?

It’s not about the business of the pieces… not yet at least. That will come. The questions about what does this particular thing being brought out of storage actually accomplish. What if by focusing on these older toys, I don’t give enough focus to newer ones?

I’m caught in a weird time loop of my own doing. Lamenting what should have been out a decade ago if only I’d have pushed the right buttons. How I could have been further along whatever path I currently make my way down.

But mistakes have been made along the way.

So what do you do about those old things? I’m a collector. I don’t throw things out without good reason. I believe that ideas are very precious, but I know that more will always be forthcoming. I could never just be rid of them. Do they represent too much thought, too much work, too much… growth?

Without each word, line, paragraph, half-finished script, or even finished scripts that never became comics… my current work wouldn’t exist. Without every pain of trying to pull or get pulled across a finish line, my couple of books, The Gilded Age, and a handful of short stories would not exist (or at least they would not exist in the way they do today).

So I don’t push delete on these things. I don’t erase them from my mind or my flash drive. I don’t purge the emails of random thoughts and nuggets of storylines… for they offer me a glimpse at all the paths I’ve been on until today.

Sure, they may frustrate me that they didn’t get there, but they might have helped me get there.

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Gen Con 2022 Recap – Part Two

 

This is the second part of my latest trip to “The Best Four Days in Gaming”, Gen Con. Part 1 can be found here.

 

Day 3

It all came down to this. In previous years we’d try to only do 2 games a day. We’re not big on trying to get up at some way too early hour of the morning to make a game. We’ve tried that in the past and regretted it. Of course, most nights we’re not actually asleep until close to 3 in the morning, so that might have something to do with it.

However, this Day 3 we had 3 games to look forward to, including a game from Midnight to 2 AM.

Dread by The Impossible Dream

 

Dread is a roleplaying game we’d heard about before and was always on our shortlist of games to play. You see, it doesn’t use dice or cards or tokens or anything like that to determine if you are successful or you fail. Instead, you use a Jenga game to do that.

You need to fight off the zombie in front of you, make a pull from the tower. You need to see if you can shut the door before the grenade you threw goes off. You need to make two pulls.

And so it goes as you make your way through the game. Each time the easy pulls are disappearing leaving only harder and harder ones. Until finally the tower is too unwieldy and someone’s pull topples things. Then, well then you’re dead. And we rebuild the tower and somewhat reset a portion of the game state you were in before (we were on our 17th pull the first time the tower toppled, so when we reset it, we had to make 13 pulls).

The good is that the tension definitely builds throughout the session. You find yourself pulling for your teammates. If you are lucky, one of your companions will be REALLY good at Jenga and can save the team’s ass on more than one occasion. All of that is excellent and adds a level to the horror game that other games attempt but can’t duplicate with dice rolls/

There is some bad though. We had a 5-hour session, and our tower fell at the hour and a half mark, killing that player’s character. So they were out for the rest of the game. I guess they could leave, but since you are with your friends, you kind of want to stick around, but you are just an observer and have no impact on things any longer. It would be nice if there was a way around that. Secondly, you are offered choices in the game and learn something more if you make a pull. Part of the fun is getting in there and trying it out. Heck, I’d never touched a Jenha tower before in my life. However, we had one player who appeared to never want to make a pull. He’d talk a big game when someone else was pulling. He would offer suggestions, but when it came time for him to do something, he bailed.

Every time.

Now we all have different ways to play roleplaying games. And maybe this player had decided that they wanted to try to get through a game without making more than three pulls the whole time or something, but it came across as… well, I have words for it, but I’ve said enough I think.

Dread is one I can see doing for a party game for sure.

 

Never Going Home by Wet Ink Games

 

Never Going Home is a game where you are playing soldiers in a World War 1 where something terrible has been freed/released/brought into the world due to the war. Now, as men on the front line you not only have to deal with the horrors of the war but also the horrors from other worlds. Sadly I’m not sure I got the best version of this particular game. The GM was still learning the system, so there was a little bit of a delay on the front end, and then… well, one of our players was… something else entirely.

When you are playing in a roleplaying game there is a constant push/pull on the camera time a player gets to have in a game. The best games are ones where everyone gets the spotlight on them for about the same amount of time so that they can enjoy themselves. And part of being a good player means that sometimes you have to be good with someone else having that focus on them.

However, for this game we had a player among us who didn’t appear to understand that at all. He was there to be the star of the story and run roughshod over the rest of us. If there was a split second where there was any pause, any bit of silence, you had to jump on it, otherwise he’d jump back in front of the camera. Had his play been more in line with something that is supposed to be grim and gritty, it might not have been so bad, but instead he was the comic relief.

And then, as sometimes happens in war, his character died. I must admit that I inwardly smiled because I thought “while he’s making a new character, someone else will have a chance to shine”. Sadly, it didn’t take him much time to find his replacement character, someone who apparently didn’t have a gun… in WW1… on the front lines… just… didn’t have one. He never volunteered exactly why he might not have a weapon, but I can tell he was hoping one of us would have asked him (we didn’t).

His antics were enough that two of the other players left mid-game. One didn’t come back from a bathroom break (he gave a flimsy excuse) while the second one literally just picked up his stuff and left in the middle of the game. Never seen that before.

So… that was a game we played. I wouldn’t mind trying it again sometime, just with different players.

 

 

Mazes at Midnight by 9th Level Games

In a strange twist, Egg Embry was tagged into duty to run a game. So Lee and I, along with another couple got our indoctrination via someone we play with weekly. Last year at Origins the best game we played was with 9th Level’s Polymorph system: you get one die, a d4, d6, d8, d10 and everything you do is via that one die. It is very simple and intuative and really is focused on being able to succeed most of the time. Heck, we were playing ancient heroes awakened to put down a Lich and Dragon we’d previously defeated eons ago.

But the best part was we played in the dark with flashlights and glowing dice to help illuminate our way. Music played in the background. It was a real event, and one that everyone bought into completely. The best games are those where everyone is having a good time, and this had that all across the room.

Again, 9th Level Games knocks it out of the park, and for me, comes away with the best game of the convention.

***

Even in the games where we might not have had the best time, hanging out with friends, getting to play games, and just see all the talented people with their various games out there is a nice way to recharge some of my own batteries. And it has me jonesing to play some more when I can!

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Gen Con 2022 Recap – Part One

After a lost year in 2020 and us opting for Origins instead last year, we picked back up on the pilgrimage back to Indianapolis, Indiana for “The Best 4 Days in Gaming”. From the announced attendance of over 50,000, it appears that things are returning to pre-2020 attendance levels. And that could be felt in both the crowds and our hotel location.

Day 0

Before we get to the actual convention itself, a few words on the process this year. We arrived Wednesday night and figured we could go ahead and pick up our badges and show our vaccination cards leaving the rest of our time for gaming and whatnot. Since we’d rolled over our 2020 badges to this year, I don’t think there was an option to have them mail the badge to us like in previous years. Let me say that paying an extra $10 is well worth avoiding what was a 45-minute line on Wednesday evening. But that would turn out to be the shorter of the lines, as the one to show our vaccination information stretched throughout the convention hall, doubling back on itself. Even finding the end of the line was an accomplishment. While the line mostly moved, it still felt as if our lives hadn’t existed before the Line and when we died, others would simply step over our bodies and continue on the never-ending sequence.

(There is a horror story somewhere in here.)

After an hour and 15 minutes, we wound through the hall and entered the room, showed our information, and then decided that it would be great to find some food.

As Hooters was within sight, we attempted to eat there. I say attempted because we arrived about 20ish minutes before they closed. A fact they let us know multiple times. “We close at 10.”

I understand that they might be short-staffed, but considering you have a convention in town, maybe a bar might want to stay open a little later? Maybe?

“We close at 10.”

We took our food to go and headed back to the hotel.

One last aside… Gen Con uses a lottery system to determine housing. The earlier in the day your time is, the closer your hotel is going to be. With three of us you’d figure at least one would have a decent time, but this year we did not have the luck. The hotel, while nice, ended up around a 15-20 minute walk. And let me say, that when you’ve been walking all over all day, the last thing you want is another 20 minutes of walking before you can get back to the room. Maybe we need to keep an eye on the hotels throughout the year to see if perhaps some closer hotel rooms become available.

With the location we had, we were also on the far side of the convention center which limited some of our food options. Let’s just say we ate at the same pair of restaurants about 5 times over the time we were there.

 

Day 1

Before we’d even arrived at the convention, we’d been informed that due to a shortage of Game Masters, one of our sessions had already been canceled, leaving us with an odd schedule of 1 game Thursday, 1 game Friday, and then 3 games on Saturday. Looking for the silver lining, it meant we’d get most of our Dealer’s Hall stuff done on Thursday, allowing us to strategically attack the booths later in the weekend if there was something we wanted to buy. It was pretty packed with vendors with the occasional empty booth area for some last-minute cancellations (I think around 10 at most).

Day became night and we were onto our first game session:

Fallen Heroes by Magpie Games

 

An Urban Fantasy Horror Game where you take on the role of one of the supernatural (or supernaturally touched) people in the city. We had Fae, someone who’d sold their soul, a ghost, a wizard hunter, and a gambler who had psychic powers. Using the Powered By The Apocolypse game, one of the things I thought worked really well was the ties we came up with between our characters. You might owe another character a Debt in the game which meant they could potentially use it to perhaps convince you to do something to help them (or hinder someone else). But that whole sequence worked really well as everyone had some reason to know each other AND also have reasons to want to work together (which can be an obstacle in any one-shot style game).

There was also a Corruption Mechanic that looked interesting for more of a campaign. You can gain access to other powers at the cost of your soul – and eventually, if it gets too much, then you become an NPC. Again, more of a long-term thing, but I can see it being something cool as the story progresses.

Overall, I liked the game and really enjoyed the session.

 

Day 2

More dealer’s hall and then we made our way to our second game.

Wraith: The Oblivion 20th Anniversary by Onyx Path

 

We’ve played a few of the World of Darkness games over the years, but somehow none of us had ever played Wraith. The idea that you’d roleplay someone who has died and now has to deal with all sorts of horrific things on the other side is definitely intriguing. I’m reminded a little bit of the scenes in What Dreams May Come where Robin Williams has to descend into the more hellish portion of the afterlife – stepping on the undead/lost souls.

Overall the game feels interesting, though this actual session mostly focused on the Shadows. The Shadows are the dark voices in each of us which compel us to go against our better interests. In this game, we had 5 players as PCs and then 2 others who acted as our Shadows. While an interesting dynamic (especially since if you aren’t careful, the Shadow will take over), the big problem is that if the Shadow takes over, there isn’t much the PC can do to retake control. This means you are on the sidelines for as long as it takes to kill yourself. At the con, this creates a bit of a  Player vs. Player dynamic which adds a layer to the game, but I’m not sure how well it might work outside of that particular setting. Again, thinking about longer stories, it might be better for the GM to handle the interaction.

***

That was our first two days, leaving a jam packed Saturday featuring 3 games! Part 2 will be up next week!

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Burn Out

I was at work the other day feeling a bit stressed out. We have any number of project milestones upcoming and then, to top things off, a project I’d hoped was put away for good instead decided to play Zombie and rise up again to send my entire week out of whack. I walked back from the break room to get some water and started chuckling to myself.

Now, luckily, no one was around to hear me snap and go insane in that moment. No, it wasn’t sudden madness. It was a bit of clarity. I’ve noticed that when the days are approaching when vacation is actually on the horizon, but still a little bit too far away to properly begin a countdown. For me, it was about 2 weeks prior to the vacation I’m on as you read this post.

The beach. The pool. A good book (or two). Headphones.

Hopefully, this is all going to restore my sanity, just a little bit.

See you back in the real world next week.

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

The Reason Why – Piece By Piece

My writing brain doesn’t work right.

You see, other writers and writing groups will tell you short of having some book just magically become a HIT, the best way to make it all work is to write a series, not stand alone. As a corollary, I would suspect that if you were going to write a bunch of stand-alones, it might be in a writer’s best interest to write those individual novels in the same genre. That way when you get someone to actually read your book, and they like what they read, you have an easy place to point them.

“Hey, you liked Book 1 so much, why not check out Book 2… and Book 3… and…”

OR

“Hey you liked that Horror novel I wrote, well, why not check out the 5 other Horror novels I’ve written?”

But, my brain doesn’t work like that.

If you’ve paid any attention to the writing I’ve done or followed along with any other of “The Reason Why” posts, you’ll readily see that I definitely don’t play favorites when it comes to genre. Dark Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, and Science Fiction for the novels, and then on the comics side I might be a tiny bit more consistent with some form of Fantasy (Steampunk influenced). Overall, I kind of go where my fancy takes me when it comes to developing ideas and stories.

I write the types of things I would like to read (so at the very least, one person is happy with the product).

However, I do get ideas for things that could act as sequels with the characters I create. So I decided to dip my toe back into the world of The Dark That Follows and write a short story featuring the lead character: Jason Mills.

***

Jason Mills is no ordinary Fortune Teller. As opposed to most of his brethren, Jason can actually see the future. And his latest customer wants to push that gift to its limits.

Piece By Piece shows what Jason Mills does when he’s not worrying about the end of the world.

***

Where The Dark That Follows is certainly a dark (horror) urban fantasy that deals with death, black magic, and otherworldly creatures, I wanted to focus a bit more on Jason Mills powers of seeing the future. The idea was that he used his powers every day for random people just looking to see if their lives were going to be a little better than the day before. It didn’t have to always be a matter of life and death. Though it probably did need to be a somewhat interesting.

What if he had someone come to him that needed to find something, and figured that if Jason actually was the real deal, there might be a way to use those powers to get him what he wanted (and pay Jason a boatload of money in the process).

Like I said, just dipping my toe back in that world. Plus it allows me to have that short story to give readers a taste of the character I created. And maybe if they discovered Piece by Piece first, they might go and check out The Dark That Follows.

***

If you want to check out Piece by Piece, you can download it on your Kindle right here.

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

The Reason Why – The Crossing

Along with Time Travel stories, Parallel Worlds are one of my favorite science fiction subjects. I think we all have had moments in our lives where we wish we could see the path not taken. Those What If moments can plague us if we aren’t careful. It’s very easy to believe you are in the Darkest Timeline if you look for the right (or better yet, the wrong signs). To find a way to peer beyond the veil of our world to see where things would end up. To know if we really did make the right choices. Or perhaps we were just scared.

The idea was that Robert Jeffrey and I would come together to co-write a comic book. So we each brainstormed some ideas and then met up to start breaking them down. Mine was a futuristic apocalyptic comic about surviving after the end of everything. A sort of Mad Max in space.

Robert proposed an idea about hopping parallel worlds.

Really, that’s all it took for me to be on board with the premise. A sort of “you had me at parallel” moment.

You see, even before we’d ever met, the two of us shared a love of a television show that somehow managed to make 5 seasons across two networks: Sliders.

And yes, it was goofy at times, trying to come up with some random worlds that could possibly exist, running into your doubles (a fair amount), and just stumbling through the multiverse.

But…

But… that idea is a good one. And our mutual love of those types of stories led us down the path to developing this story around a pair of fathers and daughters. An idea based around wanting to protect the ones you love, but not always being able to do everything that you can. We looked at it as asking a few fundamental questions:

How far would you go to save someone you loved?

How far would you go to get your loved one back?

How far would you go to prove yourself?

How far would you go with your lies?

We built everything from there. Assembling the building blocks to the point where we could get the amazing artist Sean Hill involved with the project. It was then about bringing all the love for the world jumping and wrap it in this grounded, human story. Luckily for us, 133art thought highly of it as well.

And while it is a little slow going with releases, it doesn’t mean we aren’t pushing things as much as we can. This is a story, I feel, that will be worth the wait.

***

Fugitive Dr. James Kincaid is running for his life. Years prior he was the most accomplished physicist in the realm of Crossing, but due to his own mistakes (professional and personal), he lost everything. Now, in a last-ditch effort to fix things Dr. Kincaid runs afoul of powerful US Senator Christopher John Rice. Kincaid steals Crossing tech and escapes into the multiverse. However, Sen. Rice will stop at nothing to get what he wants, so he enlists renowned Crossing physicist Jun Patton and FBI agent Kayla Cooke in a covert mission to hunt him down.

***

The first issue of the Crossing can be purchased here: 133art.

The Reason Why – The Gilded Age

It was always supposed to be a four-issue story.

Back then, that’s where my brain went when talking about comic books. “What’s the 4-issue storyline?” You gotta be able to sell it to a publisher and since no one knows who the hell you are, well, at best you might be able to squeeze 4 issues out of them.

Well, actually that’s not true. There were many days when I would collaborate with a friend on what should end up as the 60-issue limited series for some comic storyline. Now, it should be pointed out that one should walk before they run, but where is the fun in all of that? It’s much better to create a world where you would need all that space to convey your true message to everyone who was reading.

Right?

It wasn’t until I got together with the Terminus guys and gals that more bite-sized ideas began to emerge. You know, 8-page stories. Maybe, if we were feeling a little bit crazy we could go to 10 pages.

There is truth in determining a four-issue storyline might be the key to actually getting something published by some company willing to take a risk on an unknown (this is pre-Kickstarter that we’re talking about). Egg and I began working on something that would eventually become In Our Dreams Awake (the first issue of which was just funded this year). However, in Egg’s early comic convention travels he came across an artist who he thought might be a good fit to work with me. I looked through his artwork and discovered a shot of a cowboy with a metallic arm, and I had my idea for a steampunk story.

The Guilded Age

And that original story, called Machine Heart, is literally still ready to be drawn up and become The Gilded Age Issues 5 through 8.

However, like many such things, nothing became of it, and it became another file on the computer, threatening to be lost to time.

And then, Terminus decided they wanted to do more than the occasional anthology we were putting out roughly once every year. So Robert Jeffrey, Tony Cade, Pete Mitchell, and me all came up with story ideas. I dug through my files and came across Machine Heart. That was going to be my pitch.

At the same time, I was reading Sandman for the first time. Enthralled with the series, I noticed, especially early on, Gaiman had a lot of self-contained issues. They told a story and then they were done. It also occurred to me that if it took us a year to put out each issue, it might be difficult to actually have a coherent story for someone (anyone) to actually read and follow. What if, instead, I did 4 self-contained stories which would feature different characters – yet still connect in some way.

Trying to find its own way in this world, the Branning Troupe, made up of actors and carnival folk, moves throughout Europe performing its acts night in and night out. For some, the Troupe offers a direction to their lives; others seek the adoration of the crowds.  For all, it represents a fragile, simple refuge from a world which has cast them out.  They are a new family.

And each member has their own desires and secrets…

I wrote the first story featuring the two leads from Machine Heart. The second issue would see that metal-armed cowboy come to life. The third was a bit more of a horror story. And the last trying my hand at mixing fantasy and oddities together.

Each issue would let me tell the types of stories I wanted to tell while building the world in a very organic (hopefully) way. It allowed me to learn at a slower pace. Worry about the 22 pages instead of all 88 pages. That freedom was great, and in retrospect, I think was the right approach to take as it was years (more than I would have expected) before all 4 issues were done and collected in a trade.

Probably the other big thing to come out of it was that I gained a level of confidence. So many times as writers we are not sure if the piece we’re creating is ever going to see the light of day, and my limited time in comics has only reinforced that thought process. So to have a completed piece was amazing and gave me hope to push on other projects down the road.

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

The Reason Why – Hollow Empire

Some of the best times I’ve had as a writer is during those initial days of an idea. Where everything is available to you and you’re not sure exactly where you are going to go with it. Most of the time, I’m bouncing ideas off my own subconscious, allowing the ideas to percolate while I’m doing other things (or many times when I’ve laid down to go to sleep… that’s a good way to miss out on a ton of zzzz). When you are working with another writer, those same ideas begin generating a momentum that is hard to even know or expect.

So it went with Hollow Empire.

You see, Hollow Empire was the result of a random comment to Jerermy. We’d been talking about projects, and I’d mentioned a podcast (Selfpublishing Podcast) where the hosts were talking about doing serialized fiction. And I wondered if I’d be up to the task of having to turn things around in a somewhat rapid fashion. The next day Jeremy sent me an email saying he was IN if I was.

Could it be that easy? Just do it, as the marketing says.

With a land (world) ravaged by a pandemic (we were looking back to the Black Plague, not trying to be prophetic), some of those who managed to survive the virus would get a power. A bit of magic, if you will, that was their “reward” for making it through the otherside. Hollow Empire was always a way to write a superhero story set in a medieval time period. But we put many other things in there.

Zombie creatures.

Dark cults.

Assassins.

Bounty Hunters.

A coup.

By co-writing the book we’d reduce the amount we’d need to write to something a little more manageable (while Jeremy is a machine, I like to go to sleep once in a while). We mapped out a little bit of the story. Against the backdrop of a coup (the Night of Knives), we’d take our pair of characters through this world and see what happened. It was a mixture of plotting and pantsing as we had a very rough idea of where we might end up, but I don’t believe either of us had our full stories at that point in our head.

The goal was really to entertain ourselves. Maybe put forth some surprises for each other. And expand this idea as best we could through these weekly episodes.

And that’s exactly what we did. We wrote our chapters and then swapped the stories for edits. I joked that my job was to curb a bit of Jeremy’s descriptions and his job was to get me to increase mine.

The nice thing about the series was that by having 2 authors, the voices were going to be different. And since we didn’t know where the other was going, some of those surprises would cause us to adjust our own writings. Plenty of emails were “hey, I really liked that thing you did with XXX, I’m going to reference that in my stuff.” In my mind, that’s when I knew things were clicking the way we wanted it to.

Eventually, we finished those 6 episodes. Eventually, we put them out into the world. And it has become an itch for me because Jeremy has written a couple of follow-ups to his characters while mine are a bit in limbo. I have one additional story written, and I have ideas for some more, so perhaps we could see more of the Hollow Empire in a Season 2?

***

In the aftermath of a horrific plague, the nation of Vhur teeters on utter annihilation. Its cities lie in ruin. Its king hides in his tower. Its people rot in their graves.

Surrounded by death and suffering, four survivors struggle to live their separate lives.

But the lords of Vhur have different plans in mind for them.

For soon must come the Night of Knives.

Image by Twighlightzone from Pixabay

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

The Reason Why – The Dark That Follows

The way the story goes, I’d been thinking about writing something for a long while. Dating back to college I talked about various ideas I had. Sometimes they were for comic books and sometimes they were for movies and sometimes they were for short stories or novels. Mostly they ended up being little more than notes in a folder on my computer. Maybe, if I was really dedicated, I might get a whole two or three pages into something before running out of steam.

After college, writing wasn’t anything that seemed like a thing I would do. And it wasn’t until I fell in with the Terminus Media guys that I decided to push myself to write a television script (which I talk about here). And then I was writing comics.

But books felt like they would be too much. Too much time. Too much effort.

Just too much.

And then I got laid off.

***

At dinner, doing my best to distract myself from the looming task of trying to find another job in an economy and industry that didn’t have very many opportunities, I pitched my wife an idea for a story (I wasn’t sure exactly what it was going to end up being). The pitch went something like this:

The story is about a fortune teller who can actually tell the future. One day he has a client come in and get a reading, but he doesn’t see anything for him… no future, and he realizes the guy is going to die.

That was it. Literally that’s all I had. A very rough pitch.

My wife said something to the effect of “You should write that.”

“Oh, I’m not going to write that, I don’t have any idea what the story is actually about.”

“Well, you have time.”

Image by moritz320 from Pixabay

***

I had time. During the day I would proceed with my searches of every job website or journeying down to unemployment to get that process rolling, but at night I had time to write.

I had no idea what I was doing. No idea if this was going to be another thing that would just peter out and become another partially written file on my computer.

I opened up Word and started writing.

I had no idea what this thing was supposed to be, but slowly, Jason Mills began to take shape in my head. Here was a former cop, divorced from his wife, an alcoholic, who, for some reason, had the power to read people’s futures. He had to be a little theatrical about it, play up to the visions we have in our head from television about how he’s supposed to act. He needed it to feel both real and fake at the same time.

For four months I wrote pretty much every night on this novel. I’d write and then the next night go back and read what I’d written the night before. And sometimes I’d be a bit proud of a section or a turn of phrase. And other times I would want to break my fingers to ensure that this writer didn’t do that again (I managed to just edit those sections as a compromise with myself).

It became a story about trying to save the college kid who came in. It became a story about Black Magic and other worlds and demons.

4 months, nearly to the day, I finished the first draft. I think it clocked in at around 60,000 words. The following morning I’d start my new job.

Talk about timing.

***

It would still be a couple of years before the novel was ready for the world. I leaned on my friends to give it a read. Chad Shonk and Egg both wrote me a bunch of valuable notes about both the story and some of my crutches in the writing itself (those are things I try to keep in mind when I’m writing anything nowadays). Three years and 3 months later, I published The Dark That Follows on Amazon.

And the nicest thing about that was having finished the project. Having people (strangers) read the book. Having other people ask if there was ever going to be a second book (it is self-contained, but I would like to revisit Jason Mills at some point).

Because when you put your story out there… it’s beyond terrifying. You spent months and months (and years and years) working on this project and up until you hit Publish, it really doesn’t exist. It can still get stored away on your computer and be the thing you open a couple of times a year and tinker with it, and then close the file again.

Without The Dark That Follows, there would be no Hollow Empire or The Echo Effect (or the 3 other books I have drafts of currently). This book showed me that not only was it possible to “just write it”, but that I had other stories ready to come out as well.

And I never looked back.

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com