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.

Concert Review: GHOST

 

This past Friday I went to see Ghost play at the Roxy just north of Atlanta (actually across the street from where the Atlanta Braves now play). A friend had asked if I wanted to go and seeing as how I had heard about 2 songs from them… I obviously said yes.

Here’s the thing about Ghost, they are a Dark Metal or Doom Metal or Heavy Metal Band… I’m honestly not entirely sure. They are definitely all those things, but as I told a guy at work, their stuff is very catchy… more so in my mind than a lot of the Metal I’ve listened to in the past (and still listen to). Even when I was at the show itself, songs I’d only heard maybe 4 or 5 times were already in my head, and I found myself singing lyrics I didn’t even realize I’d known.

With Metal shows, you never know quite what you are going to get. They are very theatrical. And by having 8 people in the band (yes, 8!), it allows them to have a very “full” sound during the show. I remember going to shows in my 20s where everyone in the place was around 18 to 25 and there would be the couple of “older” guys in the back bobbing their heads along with the music. Now enough time has passed that I’m the “older” guy in the back bobbing my head. But at the Ghost show, it was a true meeting of so many different types of people. You had your 18 to 25-year-olds, you had your slightly older metal-heads, your Goth guys and gals, your more straight-laced people, families (mom, dad, and two 13ish daughters right beside me), and even those who dressed up and wore the face paint to match the band.

So definitely one of those shows where you were never going to be “out-of-place”.

The actual show was excellent. They sound pretty much as they do on the albums. And to top it off they played for 2 hours and 45 minutes (with a 15-minute intermission!). Only Pearl Jam has ever matched something like that of all the bands I’ve seen.

Highlights:

There were costume changes, a keytar solo (which is something that I never knew I needed in my life until I saw it – amazing!), a sax solo (yes, these are the reasons they don’t “fit” in a category), a guitar battle between two of the eight band members (Cardinal Copia and 7 Nameless Ghouls), the introduce the band segment (ladies and gentlemen: Ghoul!), Cardinal Copia’s alternate idea for what they should do instead of an encore song (let’s just say that it was very crude and funny and would have broken way too many city ordinances). The lead singer was very personable, interacting with the crowd, and telling stories (i.e. buying time for the band).

The venue had good sight lines. The acoustics were great. In fact, if I was going to see another band there I would look into having seats right on the balcony edge to get the more comfortable seats (see Low Lights for the problem with the seats).

Low Lights:

Probably the introduce the band segment, while funny, with 7 “Nameless Ghouls” to introduce, it went on a little too long.

This has nothing to do with the band, but instead with the venue: the seats we had didn’t fold up, so while you’re standing the back of your legs are constantly banging against them. Plus, if someone is still sitting in the row ahead of you, there was a real danger of me kneeing them in the back of the head (luckily no incidents to report).

Overall:

I’m looking forward to really delving into the records now (you know, listening to them 30 or 40 times in the next month or so!). And looking forward to when they come back to Atlanta.

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Kickstart the Comic – Mine To Avenge: Book of Layla #1

Ancient evils… this normally lends itself to fantasy style settings, or maybe some kind of urban fantasy where there is something that will destroy all that you hold dear.

But what if there was a group who had to ensure the evil remained put down? What if you were recruited into such a group? And what if you realized that the shadow war you never belived in was very, very real?

***

Mine to Avenge: Book of Layla #1

Creator/Writer – Robert Jeffrey II

Artist -Matteo Illuminati

Colorist/Letterer – Loris Ravina

 

Kickstarter Campaign ends on Saturday, December 15, 2018 at 3:43 PM EST.

***

The Pitch:

In a time of technological marvels, an ancient evil rises.

 

The Story:

The  little  girl  who  escaped  the  demonic  forces  which  occupied  the  LaLaurie  New  Orleans  mansion  on  a  sunny  day  in  1833,  though,  called  it  something  else:  the  site  of  a  rebirth.  The  little  girl  swore  on  that  day  that  she  would  never  be  anyone  else’s  victim,  and  so  began  a  centuries  long  campaign  of  bloody  revenge.  The  Retribution  Cabal  (RC)  was  born,  protecting  only  those  descendants  of  America’s original sin.  

Now  on  a  cyberpunk  stage  where  technological  wonders  leave  no  place  for  creatures  of  legend,  the  LaLauries  and  their  denizens  reappear,  continuing  their  blood-soaked  quest  for  obtaining  ultimate  power.  Time  will  tell  if  the  remaining  members  of  the  fractured  Cabal  can  stand  as  the  bulwark  between  humanity  and  the  rising  hordes  of  darkness.

John’s Thoughts:

Robert Jeffrey II was a regular contributor to TesseraGuild, where he talked about comics and sci-fi and Sliders (he and I have talked many times about Sliders!). I know that he eats, breathes, and everything else comics. For a long time, we’d tease him by saying “Robert, you’re are on the cusp! Just have some patience.”

Well, in my opinion, he’s no longer on the cusp. He has made it big time, and with this comic, it will only further his empire!

 

The Rewards:

Since this is issue #1 of the comic book, you have the entry-level tiers: Digital ($5), Physical ($10), and then starting at $25 you can either get an alternate cover or a print. On the higher end, you can potentially get a cameo appearance in issue #2 ($100) or you can go BIG and become a character within the story for issues 2-5 ($500).

The Verdict:

Look… if Robert writes it, I’m buying it. That’s been my attitude since I first met him. You should do yourself a favor and check it out.

Plus I’m a sucker for stories which bring that centuries old grudge to bear all over again and again and again and…

***

To find out more about Mine to Avenge: Book of Layla #1, check out the Kickstarter Page here.

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Kickstart the Comic – Sorghum & Spear Fantasy Graphic Novel & Animation Short

It’s a strange thing to create a universe from the ground up. Gamers do it all the time without thinking twice about it. They love to explore lands never seen before. They want to introduce you to all manner of people and beasts. How man and machine interact. How man and magic are at odds.

So what other worlds have yet to be discovered?

Sorghum & Spear Graphic Novel by Dedren Snead and Welinthon Nommo

***

Sorghum & Spear – Fantasy Graphic Novel & Animation Short

Creator/Writer – Dedren Snead

Artist – Welinthon Nommo

 

Kickstarter Campaign ends on Friday, November 23, 2018 at 1:13 PM EST.

***

The Pitch:

SORGHUM AND SPEAR is an African fantasy saga about young girls called to serve their people in a time of war during their ages of innocence. For a young farm girl named NAMAZZI who dreams of escaping the sleepy farm village of her birth, her life would be forever changed the day that monsters came there to find her.

 

The Story:

SORGHUM AND SPEAR is centered around the lives and stories of a mythical race of warrior women, known as the AN’FRE, who fight against a legion of demons to protect a rare and ancient artifact known as the LIFESEED. Created and guided by a living goddess known as ESHE, THE ALL-MOTHER who wields the Lifeseed, they have found a rise in power of their foes known as the ABIKU.  The shifting tides of the FOREVER WAR now threatens to end their people, they call upon the last generation of girls to use their hidden powers and skills to save their world and their way of life. Each girl has their own voice and within the war’s final outcome, and their decisions will impact the fate of the ETERNAL REALM.

 

John’s Thoughts:

This is the second Kickstarter for Sorghum and Spear with the first one being for the very first issue. This one is much more adventurous as they are going for a three comic book-length graphic novel.

I was a contributor to the first Kickstarter (as well as an editor of sorts on the script – full disclosure). Even so, Dedren managed to create the entry point into a larger story with that initial tale that made me want to see how the world would open up. And if you’ve ever seen him at a convention, he always has so many prints of the characters… different interpretations of the heroes and villains of the stories. It’s almost as if his brain might explode without getting some of those ideas down. And I believe that is the kind of passion he has for the story itself.

Preparing for Battle by Welinthon Nommo

The Rewards:

There are a number of pledge levels that have some very unique rewards. Aside from the digital version ($10) or the Physical copy of the Graphic Novel ($30), you can help donate to the Ancholi Quarter in Uganda ($50). At $75 level you can get Ancient Coin Jewelry. While at $200 you get to be within the graphic novel.

And there are numerous others that I didn’t list, so do yourself a favor and scroll through the various options.

 

The Verdict:

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Nichelle Nichols was an Executive Producer on the project. I can’t wait for her to lend her talents to the animation.

The project is only a couple of days away from the end of its Kickstarter life and needs just over $2000 (at the time of this writing) to fully fund. If you check out the Kickstarter page, you can see that Dedren has plenty of guest artists on tap for potential alternate covers or new prints (or probably other things I’m overlooking). This is one of those projects where I believe that if enough eyeballs see it, there is no place to go but up.

Eshe the All-Mother by Sheeba Maya

***

To find out more about Sorghum and Spear, check out the Kickstarter Page here.

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Stan Lee

I thought I’d sit down and pour out the words about Stan Lee passing. I thought that it’d be easy to put into words what his creations have meant to me for pretty much my whole life. But it turns out that it isn’t an easy task to figure out what someone you’ve never met dying actually means to you.

There was a point in my life that I didn’t read anything other than comic books. If you’d asked I would have told you that books were boring.  Not comics though and specifically the Marvel superheroes. They kept me comfort on rainy days with their adventures. They inspired me to fill a tattered blue notebook with my very first (terrible) stories about a super team called the Threats.

Back when I started collecting comics, Stan Lee wasn’t writing them anymore (aside from the Spider-Man comic strip, I believe). But there was a comic series called Marvel Saga coming out at that time. It was effectively a “history” of the early (1960s) comic stories. And I might not have known it, but Stan Lee had a hand in many of those stories during the founding of the Marvel Universe. For a ten-year-old, it was like having a crash course in comic books. Characters I was slowly becoming familiar with… now I got to read their origins. At the time, I don’t think I would have understood that they had a nearly 25-year lifespan already.

The fun was built in. Lots of articles will talk about how he made characters who had problems just like the readers had. Or that he gave them flaws. Made them more human. And he did do that. But for me, he’d created fun characters I enjoyed reading.

This hobby has gone from niche to people buying 10 copies of an issue #1 in hopes of funding their retirement to bankruptcy and now movies. What’s even more amazing is that I’ve been collecting long enough where the rest of the world has only now caught up to what us funny-book readers always knew: this stuff was never just for kids. It was always for everyone.

It is possible I could have discovered comic books without Stan Lee’s creations. I wonder if my love for the format would have been possible without his influence. Would the medium be something that I have not only dedicated 30 plus years to supporting, but also in creating my own comic books… my own characters.

I’m glad I don’t have to figure that out.

Throughout our lives, there are people who have influence over us that we will never meet in real life. Those people can create things which leave the world in a far better place than it was prior to their existence. Those items floating out there waiting for you to stumble upon them somehow. And others are touched by these things leading them to create and those things only add to a person’s legacy. Like a family tree which grows stronger and stronger with each passing year. It stretches out and up to inspire others.

Stan Lee was one of those people for me. And now he’s gone. But I can’t feel empty because he’s filled my mind and heart with so many stories and ideas.

Thank you, Stan… for everything.

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

You Only Need One

I started to write this post about being a writer when I realized it applied to more than just writers. Then I was going to include artists, but that was still too narrow a view. Then it was about including all the creatives… still it felt like I was forgetting people.

So this probably applies to everyone. I think, but I’m thinking about the writing thing…

You only need one moment of one person believing in you. That one pure moment where there is no judgment, only encouragement. And weirdly it can come at the oddest of times throughout your life. Sometimes it is there when you are struggling to find a foothold in this crazy life you’ve made for yourself. Sometimes it comes in a more normal fashion, you provide someone with your work and they say something that just strikes to the heart of things.

No matter what it is or how it happens, you are left with that feeling of being full. Knowing you are on the right path.

You see, writing is a lonely endeavor. Whenever I’m telling others about it I always mention that there are many nights of you vs. the blank screen. You are shouting into the void with your strings of letters. And deep down, no matter if you think it is decent, you still need someone else to take a look and validate what you have done. Validate all the hard work into this THING. You can’t get discouraged when you don’t have that, but those pure moments are some of the greatest ways that you are doing alright.

In the end, you want the thing you have done… the thing you have created, being used or read/viewed/etc. If no one sees it and no one knows it exists, then how are you ever going to be better off?

Those small victories. The tiniest ones. Those are the ones you have to celebrate because you don’t know when the next perfect sentence is going to spring forth from your brain. You have to cherish them because the Writer’s Block Beast is always around the corner to take away those ideas and confidence.

This isn’t profound information. This won’t change your world. But it isn’t supposed to do such things. This is about allowing yourself to feel good about the things you’ve done and maybe even cut yourself some slack on the other things… those you haven’t done.

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Who Goes There?

While we do spotlight many different RPG and comic Kickstarters on Tessera Guild, we don’t tend to focus too much on board games. Mostly that’s because (at least for me), I don’t end up buying very many board games through the platform. However, last year I saw a game that intrigued me to the point that I had to contribute:

Who Goes There?

If you’ve seen John Carpenter’s The Thing or the original The Thing From Another World then you should know that the story originated from John W. Campbell, Jr.’s novella: Who Goes There? The novella sets the stage of researchers in Antartica who come upon an alien creature who has the ability to consume and replace those it comes in contact with. Paranoia runs rampant. And the big question is who do you trust?

 

That’s what the game is focused on as well. That idea of having a game begin to capture whether or not you can trust the other players or if perhaps you are the only human still alive. I watched some of the play videos where players were having to make game decisions based on whether one person or another could be trusted or not.

And for the first time since it arrived, I was able to break it out for a few friends.

While I don’t want to get into a full play by play of the game itself, the breakdown is that each character has different strengths and weaknesses. McCready is better at surviving the cold. Kinner (the cook) is able to subsist on snacks as opposed to full cans of food. Others might have a dog companion or be able to heal injuries sustained in the game. Throughout your turns, you are gaining items (cards) to build weapons and other supplies to help you survive.

And through it all, you have to be on the watch for The Thing. Up until the first person has to draw from the “Vulnerable” card pile, everyone is human and can be trusted. But as soon as that first Vulnerable card is drawn, you no longer are able to know if that person might be infected or not. It takes the game from a cooperative love fest to a game where you might just be on your own until the end game – where you have to board a helicopter and hope you haven’t allowed any infected to go with you back to humanity!

On this first go through, we actually didn’t get to play a full game (ran out of time and had a prior engagement). However, even playing about 1/2 a game, we could all see the potential for certain strategies and how we might end up playing on a second time through.

In addition, we couldn’t help but talk about the inspiration for the game. Which intrigued my wife (who hasn’t seen any of the versions). Which leads us to tonight. While we hand out candy, we will be watching Carpenter’s The Thing. I’m hoping that we haven’t built it up too much for my wife. Fingers crossed.

To learn more about the game Who Goes There? click here.

In addition, if you want to read the original novella, there is actually a Kickstarter for the original full-length novel that was trimmed down into the story we all know. You can find Frozen Hell here.

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

 

Halloween Costume Ideas

They’re everywhere. Little kids dress up like them. Adults sometimes dress up as “sexy” versions of them. Every week there seems to be another one appearing on the theater screens.

Superheroes.

Yeah, I love them, but when it comes to Halloween, it is always the same things. Spider-Man or Superman or Batman or Wonder Woman or… just the same characters over and over.

But what if you could be a hero/villain that no one has heard of? You could be on the beginning of the bandwagon for once! Plus, if they had easy enough costumes, then you wouldn’t be out tons of money.

So here are your newest inspirations to make everyone ask: Who the hell are you supposed to be?

Turner D. Century

Are you a man? Can you grow a handlebar mustache in the next week? Do you have white pants and a striped jacket and look like you stepped out of the early 1900s? Then I have a villain for you!

You see, apparently, Turner is not a fan of “modern times”. He longs for the days of his great-grandfather’s youth. When women couldn’t vote and everyone was hoping the Titanic would make it across the ocean in one piece. A simpler time before the century of wars. He longed for those days so much that he tried to send San Francisco back to the stone ages and then rebuild that glorious society once again.

Spider-Man stopped him, have no fear.

Crazy Quilt

I know, we all have those blankets our Aunt Bertha knitted us. We have a smile on our face when we open the gift (“You shouldn’t have!”), and then it gets stored in the upstairs closet until there is a snowstorm and we lose power. Otherwise, it is never seen again.

Well, why not dig out that bad boy and give the gift one more ride!

If anyone asks, you can tell them that you can use it to send powerful laser beams (maybe bring a laser pointer too?) which can blind, kill, confuse, and possibly control other people. However, if Batman or Robin are at the same party, you should get out of there… because Robin is your arch-nemesis.

Peek-A-Boo

Do you like to roller skate everywhere you go? Do you often think that life can be solved by going as fast as humanly possible on those skates? Then maybe you should give Peek-A-Boo a go!

When asked about this one, you can always go with the idea that you can teleport as far as you can see, making you theoretically as fast as… The Flash (yeah, I don’t think so).

Still, she only got into villainy because she needed to steal a kidney for her father.

Madame Fatal

Not in the mood for villainy? Looking to put a use to your grandmother’s clothes? Here’s a hero:

Richard Stanton decided that he needed to go undercover to infiltrate a gang. So what better way to do just that, but as an old, elderly woman with a cane? Apparently, gangs were just letting in the elderly left and right in the 40s.

Dazzler

Are you a fan of the 70s? Do you have the platform shoes? The white bell bottoms? Maybe even an outfit that might be better featured on Saturday Night Fever? Then she’s the hero you’re looking for. It’s not that it is a bad costume, but instead one very much of the time she was created. However, the nice thing is that Dazzler goes with the current trends, so you could always update it to a modern pop-star and be fine… as long as you’ve got some glitter for your face!

***

These are the types of costumes you don’t have to do much more than go up into your attic/ down to the basement or maybe raid a thrift shop somewhere. And then you too can become part of the superhero craze!

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

 

Kickstart the Comic – Arthur Blackfrost

Curses and horror go hand in hand. Whether it is something that ensures you live forever as a rotted corpse or it foretells how you are going to die, they become all-consuming for those afflicted. A disease of the soul, which ensures nothing else can be well and good until it has been lifted.

And that might be the worst part, trying to figure out how to remove it.

***

Arthur Blackfrost: A 72-Page Dark Fantasy Graphic Novel

Writer – Justin Gray

Illustrator – Laura Rimaszombati

 

Kickstarter Campaign ends on Wednesday, November 14, 2018 at 10:00 AM EST.

***

The Pitch:

A remote fishing village – surrounded by vast seas and faced with a magical heritage, he never knew existed, Arthur Blackfrost will discover some folktales about his island home are true… and could be the key to breaking a centuries-old family curse or… make it much worse.

 

The Story:

After his father abandons his family, a young fisherman named Arthur inherits a curse that has plagues his bloodline for generations. On the eve of the annual fishing tournament, Arthur begs the spirit of the ocean for help. What happens next changes the lives of everyone in Gull Harbor and unravels the mystery of the Blackfrost Curse.

 

John’s Thoughts:

When I clicked on the Kickstarter Page, I was struck by Laura Rimaszombati’s artwork. In the introduction, Justin Gray invokes stories like Coraline and Corpse Bride, and while this artwork isn’t that, it has a fantastical feel to it right away. It reminds me of various pieces of art and nothing at the same time. And seems perfect for the type of story Justin Gray has laid out in the Kickstarter.

The Rewards:

Overall, this is a pretty straightforward Kickstarter when it comes to Pledges. You can get the book in digital ($10 level) or paperback/softcover ($20 level) or hardcover ($30 level). There are also opportunities to double down with Arthur Blackfrost and and all-ages novel The Adventures of Penelope Hawk ($40 level). The one higher end Reward Level ($120) has not only the hardcover of Arthur Blackfrost but a “box full of Hardcovers and paperbacks predominately from DC Comics” – which is one way to start up your Justin Gray collection!

 

The Verdict:

I feel like you just need to look at the images and ask yourself if you want a dark fantasy graphic novel to sit on your shelf. Something with great looking artwork and a compelling story? Is that something which might interest you? 🙂

***

To find out more about Arthur Blackfrost, check out the Kickstarter Page here.

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

A Free Short Story by John McGuire – And I Feel Fine

In honor of everyone’s favorite month of scares and strange, I present:

 

* * *

And I Feel Fine

 John McGuire

 

Begin log. Sarah Knotts. May 11, 2019.

 

Huh… I guess the Mayans were right after all.

That was my first thought when the end times came. You might have expected screams or crying or begging… basically any of the five stages of grief. But no, that’s not how I work. I’m too worried about ancient prophecies coming true rather than the immediate need to extract myself from the situation.

Typical.

Oh, sorry. I should probably be a little more official in how I do this. I mean, I activated this recorder for a reason right? My grandmother always said that when you cut corners you only hurt yourself. Or was it when you skip steps you bounce… no, that’s not it either. Damn, can’t remember. I guess it doesn’t much matter.

Still, always better to be official.

 

End log.

 

 

Begin log. Sarah Knotts. May 12, 2019.

 

Seven years after the big one. Though, you might say that’s a bit of a misnomer. Really, I should say seven years after the first one. That would be much more accurate.

So why am I so calm?

It’s a question I ask myself all the time, honestly. I should be a screaming mess, running around, panicking… or whatever it is a person is supposed to be doing. This, if you think about it, is the strangest thing you could possibly even think. I’m saying I should act normal… when the world hasn’t acted normal in quite some time.

Either way, once you lived through a dozen or so cataclysmic events in your lifetime, what’s the difference? Wait, what am I saying? You probably know exactly what I’m talking about.

I guess.

I mean, I’m not yawning about it, but if it is my time… well, what the hell am I supposed to do about it?

I remember that first morning after it happened. Heaps of clothes on the ground, cell phones lying on top of the piles, drinks and food once being enjoyed now serving only the scavengers and ants. News spread fast, and all over the world it was the same scenario. People had just up and disappeared.

Nothing brings out some religious nuts like a good mystery so we heard lots of claims about how God had finally had enough with us screwing up the Earth. That he had taken his faithful up to Heaven and abandoned the sinners.

Maybe that was what happened. The rest of us poor schmucks biding our time until the absolute end.

I always thought it strange that things got back to normal so quickly after that. Don’t get me wrong, there were still tons of things we had to deal with. Family members lost and gone and all of that. But it was a shared grief. Everyone knew at least one person who disappeared…

It bound us together.

And when you think about it, percentage wise, there weren’t a lot of people taken. Then you had that scientist make the claim that it was spontaneous combustion. Had all sorts of charts and graphs to back up his theories. Like anything else, you can get scientists to say anything if you pay them enough. And I gotta believe the governments of the world didn’t need some kind of religious fervor let loose… hence the combustion theory. I didn’t buy it, but it seemed to calm a lot of people down.

People just want to believe.

I was never a big one on the Bible, but I have wondered, how many people survived the flood? I remember that he brought two of every animal, but he also brought his family.

Is that right?

Well, it couldn’t have been all that many. We may be getting down to that number here shortly. Assuming we haven’t already reached it.

To be honest, I’m not even sure who this message is for. For all I know the amount of humans left in the world could be down to a few dozen. And I think that I read somewhere that you’d need a minimum number of potential breeders to be able to restart the human race. Something about genetics and inbreeding.

What really sucks… ok, what really sucks more is that you know it is coming, but there is nothing you can possibly do to stop it.

And folks thought Global Warming was bad. Oh no, we’ll be dead in hundreds of years.

I’d kill for Global Warming. I could do it in my sleep.

 

End log.

 

 

Begin log. Sarah Knotts. May 13, 2019.

 

It was a zombie uprising last year, and I have to say, putting down Johnny in front of his mother may have been one of the least happy days I’ve ever had. Man, did that woman have a set of pipes on her. My ears still ring sometimes when I’m getting ready to go to sleep. For most people they get the ear ringing from loud music, me, I get it from the unholy screams of a woman whose son you just killed.

For a second time.

Whoever is out there listening to me blather on about all sorts of horrible things… I just want to say that I don’t mean to be so callous. I really don’t. Mostly I blame others and that seems to get me through the days.

Dreams of alcohol get me through the nights.

The thing they don’t teach you in school is how to be all right with it all. We study history, but what is history? Just a series of horrible events, and then we answer questions about dates. But, we never learn what it really means. Those people who died in the Black Plague, we know the numbers, but what about the survivors? When they thought the world was ending, did a bunch just take a knife to their throats and end it all? Those that didn’t, how did they find the internal stamina to keep going on?

This is the stuff that keeps me awake at night.

I need a drink.

 

End log.

 

 

Begin log. Sarah Knotts. May 14, 2019.

 

The worst part is the waiting.

Or maybe the worst part is the loneliness?

I mean you really can’t trust anyone these days. I get a knock on the door, hoping it is the pizza delivery order I put in a decade ago. Maybe the guy just got lost? But no, it’s some random scavengers.

Oh, they tell you they’re nice, but sure enough, it is just more of the same crap. They’re trying to take your stuff, or they want to infect you, or whatever.

Hey! It’s not as if it’s my fault Dad was a nutbag who not only stocked his shelter, but had a shelter to begin with. What did you expect? They had to have bomb drills when he was in elementary school. Duck and cover or some such shit. Like any of that would save you from the mushroom cloud shape filling up the horizon. But it was something for them to do, and I have to think doing something is better than doing nothing. My grandfather raised him with plenty of stories about the Soviets, which would be enough to make any kid a little nuts.

So he went out of his way to ensure that this place, this bunker, was full of everything you would need to survive whatever came. Food stores, a way to replenish the water supply through extra deep wells, exercise equipment, all sorts of entertainment, and just about anything else you could think of. He didn’t know if he would need to be down there for a year or ten, so he prepared.

I want you to know something; I did my best to save everyone I could. I invited the good ones in, and I invited the bad ones in.

No matter what, I learned that people end up as bad ones most of the time.

Except for Ian.

 

End log.

 

 

Begin log. Sarah Knotts. May 15, 2019.

 

You know I am making up these dates, right? I have no way of knowing what the real date is. This camera says May 15, 2019 on the little display, but how do I know it hasn’t been reset or rebooted? There aren’t any new patches to update the damn thing, that’s for sure.

They say that in a nuclear Armageddon the only survivors would be cockroaches. I think that statement is wrong and sells us short. The real answer is always cockroaches and humans will find a way to survive. Though I suppose, at this point, humans are effectively cockroaches.

So maybe the original statement works.

 

End log.

 

 

Begin log. Sarah Knotts. May 18, 2019.

 

I buried Ian six days ago.

One week. That’s how long it has been. One week. I don’t know how to go on.

My constant, my love. My…

I’m sorry, I can’t… not today.

 

End log.

 

 

Begin log. Sarah Knotts. May 19, 2019.

 

This must be cabin fever kicking in. Heh. I’m actually surprised that it took this long.

Ok.

Let’s try this again.

Deep breath.

I buried Ian eight days ago.

I don’t know what I’m doing here anymore.

This was not how it was supposed to be. My family had the shelter since back during the Cold War when everyone either had a bomb shelter or hoped those old videos about crouching under a desk were going to be enough.

They should have called those old things ‘Better get ready to kiss your ass goodbye!’

It was a lark, a goof. We used it as a teenaged clubhouse.

Back when I was nine one of the houses in the neighborhood went on sale and somehow, one of the teenagers managed to get in the locked house. And then he told a friend, who told their brother, who told me, and soon enough we had a fully functioning house to hang out in. It was the perfect place to just get away from everyone else.

You know, just how every little kid needs their own house to really reflect on the rigors of elementary school.

Anyway.

It made us think we were older than we really were. And yeah, the older guys hated that us youngsters where always there, but they couldn’t kick us out because then we would have told on them and poof the whole thing would have been gone.

Mutually assured destruction.

Of course, no matter what there is always some dumbass in the neighborhood. Some kid or pair of kids who think they know better or think they are cooler than they really are. Yeah, we had those kids in our neighborhood. We had those two idiots. You want to know what they did?

They were playing in the house without anyone there. No supervision whatsoever. These two first graders who decided they were above it all.

Yeah, mistake number one. Not like they murdered someone. Very forgivable.

But then the dumbasses made sure that whatever it was they were doing in the house occurred in full view of the front kitchen window. Suddenly every person out for a walk in the neighborhood could look in as they passed the For Sale house and see one the neighborhood kids in the window.

You can guess how that turned out. Locks were changed, windows sealed up, and the clubhouse became a distant memory.

But it was a fun two months.

That’s what the bomb shelter was supposed to be. I mean, sure we were teenagers and no one knew we were going to be down there… uhm… mixing it up.

We’ll I don’t want to get graphic about it. A lady never talks.

So yeah, that’s why we’re down here when the shit went down the first time. When things went sideways…

All five of us.

Wait. Stop.

It just occurred to me, every one of those horror movies begin with the five teenagers and then one by one they end up dying or getting killed or…

Having to kill one of their own.

Yeah, life can be funny. But mostly it has a really sick sense of humor.

 

End log.

 

 

Begin log. Sarah Knotts. May 20, 2019.

 

Jimmy and his mom arrived in those early days. This was after the people disappeared, of course. This was just the next thing.

We were too scared to venture out. Too scared about what the broadcasters were saying. Then one by one, they disappeared from our screens. But we had the internet to tell us about the chaos. And it told us more than we wanted to know. It told us about the fallout in Russia, that New York had sunk into the ocean, the fact that one of the missiles diverted to the North Pole… the heat from the bomb caused glaciers to melt. The ocean rose…

We’d sent out emails, to family, to friends, trying to let them know we were somewhere safe. I wanted to go get my dad, but he told me not to bother. Both he and Mom worked downtown, and the city had taken the worst of it. Still, he thought there were a couple of places where they’d be safe enough. Maybe even make it to us if things got any better.

So I stayed put.

But Jimmy and his mother came because of the emails. And it was good. Ian and him had lived across the street from each other since they were five, but I think his mom never liked Ian. And when you start to get that cabin fever after a couple of months. When the fear kicks in and every moment of every day is full of worry.

Well, that’s when those little whispers begin to get the best of you.

 

End log.

 

 

Begin log. Sarah Knotts. May 21, 2019.

 

It was Jimmy’s mom who let the new guy in. He’d begun pounding on the door and would not stop. She screamed at him to go away, and when he didn’t move she opened the hatch and let the bastard in.

Yeah, it only takes one idiot to ruin it for everyone else.

He wasn’t right in the head. The radiation or the solar winds or whatever it was that week swept across the nation and gotten its hooks into him. He’d turned like most people do when they have nothing left to live for. He’d become a creature even if he wasn’t actually infected with anything. Whatever it was, it was enough.

Somehow, Jimmy stepped in the way, got bit. Infected. The disease transmitted itself to him.

If it is any conciliation, and I’m not one hundred percent sure there is, he did it to save his mom.

Ian put them both down. Because even if Jimmy tried to save his mom, she still got the sickness too.

We burned the bodies in the incinerator, and then hoped that we weren’t infected too.

 

End log.

 

 

 

Begin log. Sarah Knotts. May 22, 2019.

 

Someone decided we needed to go out. I’m not naming names, but it was Rick.

Have I mentioned Rick up to this point? Sorry. Rick was the fifth member of our little group. The odd man out. The one who secretly hoped he could use the friend zone as his way in with Kelly or me if we broke up with Daniel or Ian.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved Rick. Just not in that way. He used to spend the night at my house. Heck, he spent more time at my house than he did at his own most days. Not that I blame him. His parents were real pieces of work. His dad was constantly on his case about college and his grades. Never mind he had the highest grades in the school twice over. I remember asking him how far ahead of the second place person he was, and he told me that he could have skipped his last semester of senior year, gotten zeroes in every class and still been our school’s valedictorian.

So, pretty smart.

But it can be a bit lonely in this place, as I am beginning to find out. And now I feel bad for Rick. At least we had someone to cuddle with at night. Someone who we loved was right there with us. That personal connection is a huge thing when you are not sure what tomorrow is going to end up bringing to you.

Cabin fever though, it’s a real thing. I was beginning to wonder if it was the last stage of the Earth trying to kill us.

Rick wanted to go out. To see if he could find any survivors. To see if anything of the old world still remained. Maybe it was the cabin fever. Maybe it was that he needed to know what happened outside our four walls. Mostly I think that he needed to either find someone for himself or die trying.

I begged him to stay put. We all told him that there was nothing left for any of us. That the world out there was the past and we just needed to deal. But he wasn’t listening anymore. He waited until we were asleep and left.

I…

God…

Sorry, I don’t mean to break down on you like this. I’m supposed to be giving an account, but I never realized how much I would miss him. It’s been three years since he walked out the door. I really do hope he found someone else out there. That he is with the love of his life doing all sorts of naughty things that you are supposed to do when the world ends.

That’s what I hope for him.

 

End log.

 

 

Begin log. Sarah Knotts. May 23, 2019.

 

Kelly and Daniel. I wanted to say a little bit about them, but I’m not entirely sure how to frame it. They were Ian and my friends.

Well our couple friends.

You know the kind that you can do everything together and not get bored. But you never are on your own with one of them. Ian called it playing two on two defense. That’s the only way it could work. Otherwise, it becomes one of them bitching about the other, and you’re stuck in the middle.

I mean, how many times can you tell me about some horrible slight Daniel has done to you and me telling you to break up with him and you not doing it has to happen before I stop hanging out with you altogether?

We had reached that point before the world went to shit. And after two years’ worth of it, the whole time Kelly wanted out of the relationship. I mean, you’re stuck with this guy you now hate. You could see it with the two of them after about six months. They no longer cuddled at night. Soon he was sleeping on one side of the bunker and her on the other.

I thought that might be the opening for Rick to make his move out of the friend zone, but it wasn’t. Thought Daniel might have killed him if he had tried, so I didn’t push it.

But when it was just the four of us… it got to be too much.

I wish I knew when it really turned. What was the last step that pushed them over the edge? Was it this idea of their not being anyone else out there for them? Was it Ian and me, still happy, not sharing in their misery?

I wish I knew. I might have been able to stop what had happened.

 

End log.

 

 

Begin log. Sarah Knotts. May 28, 2019.

 

I awoke to Kelly standing over Daniel with the knife in her hand. He was gurgling on his own blood, and she had the spray all over the front of her shirt. Her eyes were glazed over, like someone who couldn’t see anything anymore.

And that smile…

Her smile.

I sometimes see it when I dream.

Ian did his best to approach her. He talked to her in that calming voice he has. A voice that would say everything was going to be all right if only she would give him the knife.

For a second, maybe not even that long, I saw something in her eyes. The glaze melted away, and she saw the knife, and she saw Daniel, and the smile didn’t leave her face.

Madness.

I don’t blame Ian for what he did. She went at me with the knife, and he stopped her. He stopped her the only way he knew how.

When it was finished, we clutched each other, just the two of us in this place.

I don’t know what terrified me more… Kelly’s actions or Ian and I being there by ourselves.

 

End log.

 

 

Begin log. Sarah Knotts. May 29, 2019.

 

I’m at the end of things now.

The food has nearly run out. It was a good run. I can’t complain about that. Ian really did me right on that accord. Almost makes me…

No, I told myself that I would be strong about this. I’ve collected every spare bit of whatever I have around here. I don’t know if I’ll need it. Maybe the problem with being a pack rat is that even now, of all times, I can’t let the old shit go. My bags are packed. I’m ready to step outside, for whatever that is worth. I may not last five minutes out there. There’s actually no way to know what a person might encounter out there. It literally could be anything.

Anything.

That’s a difficult thing to prepare for. What was it last year? It all runs together these days. Plague I think. Some unknown horror left behind by the CDC or some terrorist organization?

It makes a girl wonder if maybe the Earth is trying to tell us something. Dad had an old stereo, which actually could play albums. Yes, even long after the days of cds and then mp3s he loved that thing. More than that, he’d go out and get these great comedy records.

Pryor, Murphy, and Carlin.

George Carlin had a whole routine about maybe the Earth invented AIDS in order to wipe the humans out. Now, I’m pretty sure he was joking with that one, being a comedian and all. Then again, when you have one extinction level event and you survive… maybe he was onto something. Maybe, just maybe, the world is tired of us and now wants to weed out the undeserving.

So what do you call it when you’ve survived five of them?

The air may be on fire out there. There could be an asteroid streaking towards us right now, and I wouldn’t know. I’d be stuck in this fucking box, staring at the empty shelves, dingy furniture mocking me from the corner, the entire world would incinerate, and you know what…

I’d probably survive that as well.

Only the strongest survive? I got news for you; I’m not all that strong.

Or maybe I don’t care about surviving anymore.

 

End log.

 

***

I Feel Fine appears in the Machina Obscurum Anthology and can be found here.

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

The Novels of My Youth: Richard A Knaak

Years ago when I was just beginning to discover this new world of books that had opened up to me, a pair of trilogies were thrust upon me by my friends. They were branded with the words Dragonlance which I was beginning to put together was a Dungeons and Dragons world. Years later I wonder what made them think that I needed to read these particular books. I’d only just learned how to play D&D. And while I could certainly understand the idea of a shared world from my few years (at that point) reading comic books, I’m not sure why they thought these were the way to through me in the deep end. Of course, they were right. Those six books basically made it so that any extra money I had (that wasn’t going to comics) ended up in one of the various D&D books. And like everything, when you were dealing with the sheer numbers of books I was reading, you’d get some good ones and some clunkers.

One of the things about TSR (the makers of D&D at the time) was that with Dragonlance, you had the original creators writing the initial series, but also expanded the history of the world. They invited other authors to write about those legendary characters in their own series.

The Legend of Huma, but Richard A Knaak, was one of the first Dragonlance books I read that wasn’t by the original authors. And I wasn’t sure what to expect as I flipped through the pages. Sometimes the problem with the legends is that they are merely there to teach the main characters a lesson of some sort. That tidbit is interesting, but a whole book on the character might be pushing it.

Luckily that wasn’t the case with The Legend of Huma. Knaak managed to not only bring the main character to life but wove a story around it introducing readers to Kaz the Minotaur. Someone that by the end of the story was as big a character as anyone might have been. Being able to bring that well-roundedness to what was a “monster” – and typically would have just been something Huma should have killed right out. I think it taught me that if you infuse your characters with personalities and hopes and dreams that they would become full-fledged characters for the reader.

The initial book was followed up by a sequel focusing on Kaz (titled Kaz the Minotaur). Which, in my mind, put the character into that pantheon of all-time Dragonlance characters.

Knaak would follow these up with more books about the Minotaurs of Dragonlance, effectively becoming the go-to guy when it came to their culture and customs. I also love the idea that a writer in one of these worlds can basically make themselves the expert of a whole race of creatures. So many times, you can get lost in the shuffle because so many books are coming out at a time, but Knaak not only found his niche but made it his own.

I have books that I want to reread (which run into my list of still haven’t read and the list of dying to read). Whether or not I am able to really make the time, I know those initial two Dragonlance stories would be at the top of the list with Huma and Kaz read immediately afterward.

Currently, there is a Kickstarter running which focuses on Knaak’s newest world of novels (which I am eager to jump in and read!) and bringing it into the roleplaying side of things. You can find information about it here.

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Kickstart the Comic – The Adventures of Parker Reef – To Save a Soul

Writers and Artists have a somewhat unique ability. Most of the time they don’t think about it, but it is always there… always a possibility. Both can offer a form of Immortality.

It is no substitute for the person being in front of you, but to tell their story to others is a way to keep their spirits alive. Knowing that even if they are gone, a part of them will live on.

And that is a beautiful thing.

***

The Adventures of Parker Reef – To Save a Soul

Created by – Christopher Campana

 

Kickstarter Campaign ends on Friday, September 28, 2018 at 8:13 PM EDT.

***

The Pitch:

The Adventures of Parker Reef is a love letter to the life, I, my family and so many people will never get to experience. On March 14th, 2018, my girlfriend Tana and our son, Parker, died in my arms. It was supposed to be the day we welcomed our son into this world. My third child and Tana’s first. 

This book (90 + pages) is my way of having them in this world in some way. Loss is always difficult and we all experience the pain of someone leaving us. Be it too soon, or after a life well lived, it hurts the same. No more smiles, phone calls…no more anything.

 

The Story:

This story is about Parker’s dream to see me in this world and Tana helping him prepare for that dream. Tana always believed you should follow your dream and that is exactly what Parker Reef will be trying to do within these pages. 

Adventure? Well, you can’t just choose to leave the after world and just come back. 

You have to earn that. 

In my story, souls are the rarest of treasures. When someone is attempting something like Parker is, ALL are watching. All bets are off and the peaceful land he had been in with Tana is no longer where Parker will be. No, the land Parker will be set in will be dangerous. Full of those souls who have been lost, those souls who did evil while in this world and creatures sent by pure evil to try and stop Parker and covet his soul.  A land full of challenges and adventure. A land Tana has been preparing him for. After all, who knows what their son would wish for more than their parent? 

John’s Thoughts:

I cannot imagine having to go through what Christopher Campana has gone through these last 6 months. The idea of taking that pain and anguish and probably a thousand other emotions and putting it in this format is an incredibly brave thing for a person to do.

 

The Rewards:

While a couple of the rewards have already been gobbled up, there is still the opportunity to get some original art ($80 level) or variant covers ($150 level) or if you just want the physical book ($20 level). So there are a few choices for all types of backers.

The Verdict:

Time is short on the campaign as there is only a couple of days left, but I only discovered it tonight… I’d say if the story has touched you in some way… then take a look at the Kickstarter page.

***

To find out more about Christopher Campana, check out the Kickstarter here.

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Kickstarter Reflections – To Do List

This is part of a series of posts where I look back at the process of running a Kickstarter. The steps we took, the mistakes we made, and a bunch of other things I wish I had known.

Other Kickstarter Reflections Posts

Kickstarter Reflections – Mailing List Blues

Kickstarter Reflections – Starting at the Finish Line

Kickstarter Reflections – Shipping And Handling Not Included

***

The preparation was the most important thing. The more you have planned out, the more you can anticipate, then the more you can adjust when things go sideways (like they already had before).

When I launched the Gilded Age Kickstarter, I had my master list from having helped out on the Route 3 campaign. What no one will tell you, or maybe what no one really understands is that assisting on a Kickstarter and running your own is like… is like doing something Hard and then doing something impossible! They say that running your own Kickstarter is very much like having a second job, and while that is close to what it is like, I’d compare it more to an extra part-time job. Because, for all the preparing you’d done prior to pushing the button to launch your campaign, there is a whole other aspect to the campaign which begins to reveal itself.

But I’ve jumped ahead. Here was my list of things (from another email) to do prior to the actual launch (about 3 weeks out):

I’d started a Steampunk Fridays blog on this site in order to get some eyeballs on their work and get my own name out there a little bit. This meant either finding Kickstarters which fit the theme or getting interviews with the creators. At that point, I’d reached out to 4 or 5 Steampunk Creators about interviews and then send on questions to those that had responded.

Since I was waiting, I needed to figure out my Steampunk Friday post for the week.

Needed to do my weekly blog post.

Needed to finish the first draft of the Kickstarter Page. I’d done a bunch of the basic stuff, but was still figuring out exactly what images to upload, how to arrange things, etc. Then I needed to send out the link to some trusted people to get feedback on the page. This was honestly the single biggest thing I had to do as each section had various images and each image had to be manipulated in order to fit correctly on the Kickstarter page.

Needed to create a handful of Kickstarter images for promotional purposes.

I was still debating the Rewards (both with the other Terminus guys and in my head).

There was an online Kickstarter hour video I needed to watch (which I’m pretty sure was from Tyler over at ComixLaunch – which if you haven’t had a chance to check out his podcast and you are thinking about doing a Kickstarter… well, you are missing out on a ton of great information).

Copies available now! Click the image to order the book!

Contact the artists on the project and get them to send in their Bios. If you’ve dealt with creative types you know this will end up being akin to herding cats.

At this point, the last couple of pages were being lettered, and that meant getting those pages to him (his computer was acting up, so this required traveling into the city).

Of course, I also was trying to identify places online where I might be able to spread the word. Whether it was blogs, websites, Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, and any other places I could think of. A master list was beginning to take shape at this point.

***

All of that, and I hadn’t even launched yet. And I still had regular life commitments like work and family.

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Power of Positivity?

Power of Positivity?

It’s a question, not a statement. Because along with the statement comes a myriad of questions:

Is this even a real thing? Who is this for? How would you know if it was working in the first place? What good does it do?

Have you ever noticed the various memes online about being positive or being happy or choosing to be a better person? Most of the time I think the people posting them are really trying to tell their friends a deeper secret about themselves. 4/5 times those people who say they have to cut loose the people who are dragging them down are normally the actual culprit. They are the leech for their friends. The same people who talk about all the negativity everywhere are most likely the same one spewing it offline (and online).

Look, you posting some meme isn’t changing anyone’s life/opinion/habits/nothing. It’s not like they are going to wake up today and then log onto Twitter/Facebook/Instagram/Etc. see your meme which reminds them that they have been a shitty friend in the past and suddenly change their ways. That’s not how the world works.

We don’t really talk about religion or politics on this site because all it does is degenerate into a fight. But really, I think the reason it’s probably for the best is that you can’t change people’s mind about things. If they love the current situation(s) or hate them, your post doesn’t change anything for them except maybe to remind them they agree with you or to remind them that they might need to move you up on the old “Block” list.

I think we’re all too quick to jump to tear down others. Whether it is the people or the ideas or the actions or whatever. And it isn’t in politics only, it’s in pop culture. I guess it is much more fun to trash talk some movie or book or whatever than just focus on the things you really like. You can pat yourself on the back for all the things you got right about the latest movie that flopped or maybe you can take the time to build up something else. Especially those little bits and pieces others may not even know exist.

I mean, as much fun as it is to tear down things with other people, there is something special about sharing in the things you love with others who love it as well. Instead of a club that works to undermine others, you are constantly building on the bits you enjoy. It doesn’t mean you don’t get to hate things. It only means it stops becoming your only focus. I know I don’t always do a great job with this. Many times I have to be dragged into those moments. Maybe it doesn’t have to be big things either. It can be as simple as sharing something with one other person. Providing a bit of your time to help them make something better. Those people who give of themselves with no worry about repayment. They are doing it because of the sheer joy of the craft or the idea or…

When you’re not looking for the flaws; you get to focus on the brilliance contained within.

Even this blog, in which I hate upon those who are hating on things is making me a bit of a hypocrite.

Hopefully, you can see it comes from a good place. A place where we use our powers for good instead of evil.

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Projects and Accountability

Whether it is the smallest things on your to-do list or the last check on the biggest project of your life, it becomes very useful to have some measure of accountability for both things. Something as simple as writing this thing in a blog may be enough to allow it to come to life when and where you say it will be completed.

I have discipline in some things and less so on other things. I watch others achieve successes I can only dream about, but I know the reason it happens – they bust their asses every day to ensure they get a little closer to their goals. It’s not a big secret. It doesn’t take hundreds of thousands of words in a self-help book. Neither does it mean you have to watch hundreds of hours of self-help programming. No, no matter who you are no matter what your plans, the only way to get there is to choose to do it.

I guess.

I mean, that’s what those books would tell you… when you really get down to the core of it all, that’s what they would tell you. Only you can make this thing happen. Only you can decide to not continue to do the bad and instead shift to the good.

There is this dream I have. It is the same dream I’m sure so many other writers have: to be able to write for a living. To not have to go to the day job day in and day out. I’ve always said that I’m pretty lucky in that, most days, I like what I do for a living. And even if I could go 100% to writing, I’d probably want to find a way to still be an engineer part-time (if only to ensure I didn’t become a full-time hermit – which might be likely for me).

The thing is, if that’s my goal then I know that the way I’ve gone about this writing thing is backward. It’s never going to work for me to release things unrelated to other things. I have two novels out there, one I wrote solo and one I co-authored. I have two other novels waiting to be formally edited and then released. None of these things have anything to do with any of the other stuff I’ve done. Even my comic work doesn’t fit into a genre similar to any of my prose work.

And this might not be a problem if I was already established, but I am nowhere near that point.

Back at the beginning of July, I took a two-day online writing class from Sterling and Stone. I’ve never taken a writing class like this before. The most I’ve really done is some panels here and there at Dragon Con. This was very much a crash course in how they prepare for the novels they write as well as just a mindset they enter into. It was about developing the idea prior to just jumping into things and hoping it might turn out alright (doing that dreaded Outline thing).

So as part of the class, the goal is to have a full draft of a novel by the end of the year… but this isn’t just another standalone, but needs to be the first book in a larger series. And while my brain doesn’t like to work that way, I actually had an idea which seems rich with possibilities. It’s forced me to think about the outline for Book 1, but also consider aspects of a Book 2 and Book 3 and Book 4 and…

I believe that I have the ability to do it. I know what my output can be when I sit down and focus on the writing. When I minimize my distractions.

So that’s the goal. I have 4 months to get this first story told. Wish me luck.

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Dragon Con 2018 – Wish You Were There

 

It’s been a while. No, not just the 365ish days since the last Dragon Con. No, it’s been over a decade since the last time I missed a Dragon Con.

(Duty calls with a family wedding in Dallas this weekend.)

It’s a weird feeling to be only a day or so away from it and not be prepping to go. You know, looking over the schedule, picking literally every panel I might possibly want to go to no matter if it interfere’s with 3 other ones.

The last time I missed the convention was a very different time. I wrote a bit about it here, but it was during a time when I think I went to Dragon Con because to not go to Dragon Con wasn’t an option in my mind. Most of my friends had long since stopped going. And while I would run into the occasional person I knew, it just wasn’t the same. You know, it’s not as much fun (for me at least) if you don’t have that person you can tap on the shoulder and show them the coolest costume or talk about the panel you both had just gotten out of. Or even listen to someone else’s Con experience over Lunch or Dinner.

So when I missed that one (about 15 years ago due to another family wedding), it was a bummer, but at the same time, it felt like less of a sacrifice than it had in like year 2 or 3 of trying to go.

So I thought I would offer a few Hacks for Dragon Con. Most people who have gone in the past probably know these things. But it is never bad to have a reminder.

This will feel like it is 2 feet from your head!

***

Dragon Con Hack #1 – The secret is – you’re going to get tired. It’s hot in Atlanta over Labor Day weekend. Dragon Con isn’t like other conventions that might be more centrally located. It is spread out over a few blocks at a myriad of hotels. So you get out of one panel and suddenly realize that the next one is on the other side of the world and you need to grab a snack and… what do you do?

Well, if you had planned some backup panels you could do everything you need to and maybe not be a sweaty mess when you get there.

***

Dragon Con Hack #2 – Make solid plans with people. If you leave things up to Fate then you are just asking to eat your sandwich by yourself.

So many people have so many things pulling their attention. So if you are able, get that stuff locked in early.

***

Dragon Con Hack #3 – Do not go to the Dealer’s Room on Saturday.

Seriously, you are just asking for trouble. You won’t be able to move, and if you are anything like me, you will feel like you’re stopping up the entire aisle if you look at a booth. Go on Friday if you can or Monday if you are able as those are the slower of the two days (or, possibly during the parade, you might beat the rush for the day).

The Dealers Room on Saturday.

***

Dragon Con Hack #4 – The map is your friend.

Whether it is on the app or the paper version, refer to the damn thing. I swear it feels like they move everything around every couple of years. So if you are wondering where the Walk of Fame is, it might not be your memory… it might have just moved.

***

Dragon Con Hack #5 – The skywalks on Saturday and Sunday are going to be full… they are not the quicker ways anymore.

While you do get hotter and will sweat more, use the outside sidewalks to go between the hotels. Too many times I’ve tried to take a Skywalk from one hotel to the next only to have to wait because of capacity or because people have forgotten how to actually walk or… I honestly don’t know. Spare yourself a headache.

***

I hope everyone has a great time this year. I’ll miss you, but look forward to seeing you again next year! And make sure you check out Jeremy Neill and Amanda Makepeace’s work at the Art Show!

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Kickstart the Comic – Knight in the Snake Pit Issue 2

Who are we?

Reality is what exactly? Who determines it? Is it as simple as one man’s insanity is another’s reality? Is it something you would even know was happening to you?

Do we ever truly know what is real?

***

Knight in the Snake Pit #2

Writer/Creator – Kevin Chilcoat

Artist/Letterer – Marc Olivent

 

Kickstarter Campaign ends on Friday, September 7, 2018 at 9:45 PM EDT.

***

The Pitch:

Allister must determine if he’s really suffering from delusions or if everything in both worlds is real.  If that’s the case, he needs to worry about how to not get killed by his “delusions.”

The Story:

In Knight in the Snake Pit, we follow a character Allister Ward who is stuck in two worlds, jumping back and forth at random.  One world is 19040’s Los Angeles, where he’s a patient at a mental hospital and the other world is a medieval fantasy world, where he’s being begged by a king to save his daughter and his kingdom from an impending invasion that could happen at any moment.

Issue 1 has Allister fearing for his life in the mental hospital, as he’s one false move away from a lobotomy.  Issue 2 has Allister fighting for his life and freedom in a Gladiator pit.  Both issues have a combined 48 pages (without inserts and variant art).

John’s Thoughts:

I’m utterly fascinated by the idea of who we are deep down and whether the reality I’m experiencing is the same as the reality others are experiencing. Stories like Knight in the Snake Pit take that conceit and enter it into a more fantastical realm that any of us might see on a daily basis, but that doesn’t mean what Allister Ward is experiencing (in either reality) is any less real for him than it would be for any of us.

Plus, I’m really digging the name of the comic…

As this is a Kickstarter for the second issue, it allows you to really sink your teeth into the overall story… and there are plenty of rewards to get you all caught up, so no worries there.

The Rewards:

So many Kickstarters tend to overload the Rewards, trying to anticipate every possible combination, however, Knight sticks to pretty much the basics. At the lower end, you can get the first two issues in PDF at the $5 level. Going up a little, if the physical copy is more your speed, you can get a hard copy of both issues ($20). And if what you really want is something to call all your own, you can get an original quick sketch from Artist Marx Olivent ($40).

The Verdict:

Bouncing between a more contemporary time period and one that looks to be a mixture of the Roman Coliseums… with dragons.

I mean, you had me at Dragons… or stuck in two worlds… or a lobotomy? Maybe not the last one. But if you’re in the mood to question your own reality for a little while, it looks like Knight in the Snake Pit might be your next favorite comic.

***

To find out more about Knight in the Snake Pit, check out the Facebook Page here. And check out the Kickstarter here.

***

John McGuire has co-written, along with his wife, two Kindle Worlds novellas set in the world of Veronica Mars: Theft & Therapy and There’s Something About Mac.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Gen Con 2018 Recap – Part Two

You can read part one here.

Day 2 (Cont)

Eclipse Phase

There are two potential hurdles when playing new games:

You are unfamiliar with the mechanics of the system.

By that, I mean actually how to play. What stats do what thing. What should you roll if you want to attack or climb a wall or hide. Many times you can lean on your overall knowledge to get you by. Other times you may not be successful.

You are unfamiliar with the language of the game.

D&D is fantasy – most of the stuff is easy enough to understand. Vampire the Masquerade is set in the modern world. But when you start getting into some of the science fiction settings, the language gets… complicated.

So that was the issue with Eclipse Phase. It is a science fiction setting with a language all its own and a ton of stats and skills that don’t always jump out at you as “Use me to do X thing!” It was a 2-hour session that really needed to be 4 hours if they are hoping for you to “get it”.

Luckily, our friend Nate has promised to run a game of it for us at some point in the future – so the nail has not been put in this coffin by any stretch.

Afterverse

Another sci-fi setting that was a bit easier to understand. The Game Master was actually the creator of the game (and is in the process of running a Kickstarter for the launch of the game if you want to check it out here!). The game ran fairly smoothly with only a couple of minor hiccups. During the course of the game, the GM (who was recording) had to leave a note to himself about a particular rule call. We were all interested in the potential for space combat (which sadly the adventure we played didn’t have) as he mentioned that he thought his system played pretty well on that front (everyone has something to do – as opposed to just having the pilot and maybe gunner being the only important jobs).

After the game, we chatted with him for a bit. He’s planning on running a few games at Dragon Con, so if you’re interested in checking out something completely brand new – check it out.

 

Day 3

Shadows of Esteren

Last year Lee mentioned that there was so much to see in the dealer’s room, that in order to actually make your way through it you had to have a high caliber for the artwork used to even bother checking out your project. However, even that doesn’t work because everyone has beautiful stuff adorning their booths, books, posters, and everything else. Shadows of Esteren has all of this in spades and we both lingered near their booth last year, but never pulled the trigger on buying any of their stuff.

Cut to this year, where we had a non-standard session. I believe one dice was rolled during the entirety of two hours. The conceit was that our session was actually one happening in the middle of a longer campaign, but that this particular session would be a spotlight on one character and their past. The other players at the table would then play other roles (in this case, a sister, a mother, a brother of the main character). The hope was through these various little scenes the main person would gain some insight about their charact, and the other players would become invested in that story.

Now for some people that might not work, but for Lee and I (Egg was detained elsewhere), it really got us thinking about stories, ideas for how to incorporate these type of scenarios in our home games. And while I wasn’t 100% on how the game was going to work (and since we really didn’t get to see the mechanics of the system, we may need to come back to this one at the next convention).

Legend of the Five Rings

It said “No experience necessary”, yet when we arrived there was a line to get into the room to play.

And people were grouping up together.

And various GMs were shouting things.

And Egg, Lee, and myself were confused.

“Are you new players?”

“Yes, it said no experience necessary.”

“That it did!”

It turns out that we found ourselves in the middle of the final battle of the weekend. Clan honor was at stake. A battle would rage at various tables… 3 rounds in fact. If you died, then you left the room. If you won your round, your team was awarded points, and those points were added to the total for your Clan.

Not knowing what we were in for (the fourth member of our table had only played twice before and one of those times might have been in the 90s), we opted for an easier scenario at first before ramping up each round. Around the room, you could hear tables roar out their approval at good plays. And while you were waiting for the next round to begin, people would go watch other games (not something you experience at most games).

Luckily, we were joined by 3 other players in time for the final battle who had a little experience playing the game (6 years running the game!). It worked out well as by that point I had a decent enough understanding of the rules, but one of the new players helped me understand a couple of other aspects I didn’t 100% catch previously.

While we may not have gotten a great feel for the world of Legend, we certainly were educated in how to play the mechanics… and they might have been my favorite overall of the games we’d played over the weekend. I can understand why it has such passionate fans.

 

Day 4

The Dark Eye

Apparently, The Dark Eye is the #1 game in Germany for the last 30 years. It is a fantasy game (so right in our wheelhouse). The GM did a great job with running the game, and I enjoyed the voices he used for the different characters.

However…

Within about 5 seconds of him explaining the system to us, I knew this wasn’t going to be “The ONE”. Most games you are asked to roll your dice to perform an action like climbing a wall. You roll one dice, add your bonuses and penalties and then see if you were successful. With Dark Eye you had to roll against 3 different skills… and if you failed one of those checks, then you failed the overall check.

I’m not sure how that works in the long run as I’d get too frustrated to bother. Just running simple odds would tell you trying to succeed at something 3 different times is probably going to fail a decent amount of the time. At some point, I’d like to seek out the players of the game and see if there is some good reason for the multiple checks (and hence why it might be in the game, to begin with).

***

Overall it was a great time at the convention. I was sore after all the walking, but made it through all the same. Got to see a couple of friends from the previous year, and somehow managed to hang out for 5 days and get along with my convention mates as we talked pretty much non-stop the whole drive back to Atlanta. So, until next year (hopefully)…

***

John McGuire has co-written, along with his wife, two Kindle Worlds novellas set in the world of Veronica Mars: Theft & Therapy and There’s Something About Mac.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Gen Con 2018 Recap – Part One

After the success of the trip last year (which you can read about here and here) (you know, none of us killed any of the others after being together non-stop for the better part of 5 days), Lee, Egg Embry, and I took a drive back to the land of corn and at one point Peyton Manning.

This year continued the idea of checking out all the gaming systems we’d never had the opportunity to play previously. In fact, much of the last year or we’ve played a handful of games just to get that different kind of exposure.

DAY 1

Thursday started off with a trip to the Dealers’ Room. I’m not sure if I mentioned it last year, but the room is enormous. Even if you were moving quickly and barely taking any time to look around it would probably be a couple of hours. Throughout the weekend we’d squeeze an hour here or an hour there to try to slowly move through the building and even then it was easier said than done. In addition, you have all the game demos going on, but if you are only in the room on a scattered basis, there is almost no way to fit it in. The best we can figure is MAYBE you set aside Thursday and not do anything but go through the room playing demos and squeezing everything you can out of that room and then basically be done with it.

However, we couldn’t do that, and after a couple of hours, it was on to the first game.

Flash Gordon (Savage Worlds)

While I’d like to claim that I have an in-depth knowledge of the old serials or the cartoons or even the comics, my brush with Flash Gordon is limited to three things:

  • The Queen Soundtrack
  • The 80’s Movie
  • And explaining to people that the Flash and Flash Gordon are two entirely different characters.

Savage Worlds is an interesting system in that the is probably just enough complexity to give those people who really like the more Crunchy systems, but for the most part, it was fairly easy to understand. We were introduced to the “Exploding Dice” mechanic which basically means that if you roll the maximum value on a dice you get to roll again (so a 6 on a d6 would mean a reroll and add it to the first result). I enjoyed the system enough that I wouldn’t mind seeing a bit more of it at some point.

Given that we were playing in a pulpy game setting with ray guns and short skirts and evil robots, Lee and Egg told me that I had to use my newsreel voice for whatever character I get (to get an idea of what that might sound like, think about the old movies where the news was also played along with the film and how the narrator might have sounded). I chose a Mad Scientist type character and put maximum effort into the voice. I hope that the other players had fun because I had a ball (as goofy as it might have been to say “What’s that dame up to now?” or “This just in, we need to get the hell out of here!”).

Rest easy, we stopped Ming’s latest plot to destroy the Earth, so you can thank me the next time you see me!

Wicked Pacts

I didn’t have any idea what Wicked Pacts might have been, but it was pretty easy to figure out as it plays in the Modern Day (Urban Fantasy, where the supernatural are all too real, and you get to play a magic user of some type). The system combined Tarot cards along with D10s. The DM did a great job, and the players seemed like they were having a good time as well. There were minor things that I wasn’t overly thrilled with in regards to the system, but there was plenty of good as well. I think that if you wanted to play a Dresden Files type of game this would be a good one to check out!

Day 2

Geist

We had it all figured out. A five-hour session playing Geist (a Storyteller/World of Darkness Game). We visited Onyx Press’s booth on Thursday and talked to one of the guys who had worked on the 2nd edition of the game. And promptly got screwed up… on the time and place of our game. He said he was running the demo at 10 AM and that was the time we had set up for our game. But it was actually in the dealers’ room – something none of us had done before. Still, we didn’t think anything of it until the game ended about an hour and a half… it was a five-hour session. At which point Lee double checked the ticket and realized we were in the wrong place!

The game just completed a Kickstarter for the 2nd edition we played. You can check that out here.

As to the game demo itself, I’ve now played Storyteller games a few times in the last year, so the familiarity is now there. I was more concerned with the story. I know nothing of the original 1st edition Geist, but this idea of people who deal with ghosts while dealing with the fact they’d come back to life in another way. Even as a simple short story, it suddenly clicked on how you could do a full campaign with the system and really have some fun with local ghost stories in your area.

Hmmm, research, where I have to visit creepy places in and around Atlanta, may not be the best idea…

***

Hope you enjoyed Part 1, Part 2 will be up next week.

***

John McGuire has co-written, along with his wife, two Kindle Worlds novellas set in the world of Veronica Mars: Theft & Therapy and There’s Something About Mac.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Unprepared

At some point today, I’ll be in a car driving up to Indianapolis on my way to Gen Con for the second year in a row. And even though I’ve known the dates involved or had my badge arrive and signed up for the various gaming sessions and paid for a hotel and all of it…

This kind of snuck up on me.

I guess as much as anything can sneak up on a person. But like anything you might have circled the calendar for or things you’ve been looking forward to, sometimes life throws you for a bit of a loop and decides that the best time to do a whole bunch of things is at the same time. That’s where I’m at right now, waiting until the night before to actually pack my stuff up and hoping I don’t forget anything. Deciding to write the blog two days before as opposed to the night before – nah, that wouldn’t be my style.

In my day job, where I’m a mild-mannered civil engineer, we’ve talked about organization and making sure to spin multiple plates in the air. And I do a decent job of it, but sometimes… just sometimes you need time in order to free up other time. Like in order to get your life in some kind of order, you must first throw everything into chaos because you must have the room to just stretch out.

It’s a bit like that with the writing I’ve been doing. I took a writing course a month ago and have been really, really trying to follow the steps in creating an outline for the next project. And it’s been a fun time trying to be in total brainstorm mode for this long. Compiling notes here and there. Basically trying to make sense of a bunch of chaos in my head. I’m trying to sift through the bad stuff to get into the good – sometimes with success and sometimes not. It has been a struggle to hold off on just diving into the story immediately. That’s what my creative (unrestrained side) wants to do. Jump in and figure it out as you go along. I’m fighting that urge.

I need to be organized for this to work the way I want to.

Which is a long way of saying that the last few weeks have been hectic and I’ve still managed to write about 5000 words of an outline for a book. I gave myself the month of July to really get into it, and tomorrow is August and somehow…

It snuck up on me.

Luckily, I have a long drive with some friends who are going to have to be my 1st outline beta listeners.

As schools start back, and life begins to speed up from the summer days, no matter what you are doing – every little step gets you a tiny bit closer to your goal.

 

***

John McGuire has co-written, along with his wife, two Kindle Worlds novellas set in the world of Veronica Mars: Theft & Therapy and There’s Something About Mac.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Indiegogo the Comic – Fallen Ones

Werewolves, Vampires, Zombies… while I haven’t done much in my own writing with either of those, I am a consumer of such things. Always looking for a different approach or something that uses them in a slightly different way.

Fallen Ones might scratch that itch…

***

Fallen Ones

Writers – Balint Bank Varga & James Grey

Illustrator – Mate Vadas

Designer – Balazs Bodnar

Communications Manager – Orsolya Toth

Executive Director – Peter Hornyak

This project has already funded and is a part of Indiegogo’s Indemand Service, which means it is still available to order!

***

The Pitch:

An outcast werewolf, a lonely inventor, and a beautiful assassin. You would think that they live in separate worlds, having nothing in common but their fate still brings them together to form an alliance against the scheming of a demonic dark sect. Will the Fallen Ones rise again or are they doomed forever?

The Story:

The series is set in a dark fantasy universe, the Unseen Domains.

It is the middle of the 17th century. Magic has awakened, and its deadly impact along with the raging plague of the undead have obliterated Europe, changing the known world forevermore. Entire nations have disappeared, and its people are scattered all over the continent. The old traditions can now only be found at small cultural refuges.

Those who wish to survive must adapt to the age of witch plague. New heroes rise, answering the call of changing times, as creatures long thought to be vanished now crawl out from their lairs. People realize that things thought to be nothing more than myth and superstition have always existed, only their necessary magical sense was missing to see them.

If these times had cartographers, they’d draw very strange maps. Landscapes without borders, only zones around the Haven. Enclosed valleys still capable of sustaining life, and regions less roamed by the undead hordes. Everywhere else is desolation and barren lands- the realm of the dead.

John’s Thoughts:

Like I said above, a world gone dark. Where the things which go bump in the night might be the very creatures humanity will need to embrace if they are to survive. I like the idea of wondering who are the monsters and who might be the heroes.

The Perks:

The main Perk is at $25 for the hardcover edition collecting the first 5 issues of the series, or $5 if you are interested in only the pdf. However, if you are looking for something a little special, at $45 you can get an autographed Limited Edition Fallen Ones with an Indiegogo exclusive cover!

The Verdict:

This is a book that has already funded, so that’s an automatic plus right there. You don’t have to do the whole shuffle of wondering whether the creators are actually going to finish things up or even print the comic. Plus, it’s a Monster book set in a very Dark Universe… which should have anyone into horror stories that much more intrigued.

***

To find out more about Fallen Ones, check them out here.

***

John McGuire has co-written, along with his wife, two Kindle Worlds novellas set in the world of Veronica Mars: Theft & Therapy and There’s Something About Mac.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Comic Challenge, New Day, New Questions

A while back I did one of those 30 day challenges… except instead of doing it daily over the course of a month, I did 4 at a time over the course of a year (and ended up doing 33 total for good measure and because months should have more days in them… or something).

I got to thinking about some of my previous posts and then saw someone else had done one of those 30-day challenges (the correct way… you know, daily). Anyway, I thought “Here are some new things I haven’t posted in the previous run… so why not continue things. We’ll call this Volume 2 or something.

For the previous posts, check out: 1 & 2 & 4 & 5 & 6 & 7 & 8.

1. My Favorite Villain

This one is easy. When I think about villains, I’m looking for those characters who could have gone the straight and narrow had one thing gone the other way. Villains should be flawed versions of the heroes and at the same time be better than the hero in some way (otherwise, where is the struggle). For me, that villain has always been Doctor Doom.

And while he is a no doubt villain, there is an honorable man buried beneath that armor. Yes, he is petty, and he is power-hungry, and he always thinks he knows more than everyone else (and most of the time he’s correct), but when he shows up he has that presence where every hero has to go “oh, crap!”

2. Favorite Villain Team

The Masters of Evil

This is more the version from just before I started collecting “The Siege on the Mansion” where they laid waste to the Avengers.

Wait… what? How’s that?

Yeah, they took them out systematically. Baron Zemo used his brains to isolate them, take them out, and then go onto the next. Until it was him and Captain America… and he wanted to hurt him.

Of course, it also features Captain America overcoming the odds to win the day, but it was a hollow victory for sure.

3. Superhero who should have stayed dead

This is more about the soapbox of death in comics. When I was first getting into collecting comics, Marvel put out these Marvel Universe books which were a breakdown of their characters. It would give things like first appearance and an overall bio… every page was fresh and new to me as I was just discovering how big the world was at that point. But my favorite run of that comic series were the Books of the Dead. Even back then I knew that death in comics wasn’t an every issue occurrence – otherwise who is the hero going to fight after a while. In that series, I read about obscure characters I’ve still never seen mentioned since, and there were the biggies, like the Green Goblin.

I might have read those a dozen times.

Around the same time, there was a two-part story in Avengers and West Coast Avengers where the team is forced into a fight to the death against some of those very same characters from my comic. It was one of those comics where I realized both how cool it was to have some of them back, even if only briefly, and also how it was nice to have this assortment to choose from.

In the years since many of those characters have returned from the grave (it is comics after all)… but it makes me think about that Avengers story – it doesn’t work anymore. Yes, if they magically came back to life it works, but what about someone who was in hiding during that time (Norman Osborn)?

I don’t like things being completely invalidated like that.

Plus, I kind of like the idea that if someone had a reason to kill a character off, there should be a good amount of time passed before they can come back.

***

John McGuire has co-written, along with his wife, two Kindle Worlds novellas set in the world of Veronica Mars: Theft & Therapy and There’s Something About Mac.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

Peacebuilders and Comics

This past Friday, Robert Jeffrey and I journeyed down to south Georgia in order to participate with the campers at the Peacebuilders Camp at Koinonia Farm. From the website:

Peacebuilders Camp at Koinonia Farm is a unique overnight summer camp in rural south Georgia where youth ages 11 to 15 spend a week together learning how to work toward peace and justice. Campers enjoy games and sports, laugh with new friends from diverse backgrounds, go on field trips, learn about human rights, make a difference for others through service projects, and explore the stories of peacemakers past and present.

Our task for the day was a pair of workshop sessions with the kids to talk about How to Make a Comic. This was a part of the concept of being able to Express yourself. The kids got to sit down with C-Grimey, a DJ from Chattanooga, TN for a chance to make a rap song or sit with us talking comics.

While we have a Powerpoint Presentation which breaks down the different aspects of a comic book: from developing characters and a script to working with artists, inkers, colorists, and letterers. We talk about how the medium is great because it is so collaborative. And that same fun you get from just talking to your friends about ideas or artwork you’ve done makes it very much a shared experience.

After that, we provide the campers with some blank pages with blank panels already drawn on them. When we did the Workshop for the first time this past December we provided the kids some example one page scripts so they could practice drawing that way, but as that session rolled along, we realized the better ideas just flow out from them as they want to tell their own stories. So this time we told them that while we had some examples, they should feel free to just wing it.

From the two sessions we got:

A lesson about what to do if your friend trips over a rock (the answer is to ask the rock for help!).

A cover piece of The Green Lantern: John Stewart.

A breakdown of the helicopter scene in Suicide Squad between Harlequin and Joker.

The best tagline ever – “It’s so stupid, it might just work.”

Learning that one of the kid’s favorite movies was the Purge (remember, he’s between 11 and 12 years old)!

Deadpool was another favorite.

In addition, we had a couple of copies of Route 3 and The Gilded Age trades on hand, and it definitely warmed my heart when I saw the kids reading through during the lunch break. We ended up leaving the copies so hopefully not just the campers last week, but the others this week and next could enjoy them.

Really though, my hope is that a couple of the kids will end up pursuing their comic dreams. We told them to practice every day because a year from now they will be better than they were. Who knows, maybe I’ll be buying one of their comics before too long!

***

John McGuire has co-written, along with his wife, two Kindle Worlds novellas set in the world of Veronica Mars: Theft & Therapy and There’s Something About Mac.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

When In Doubt, Learn Something New

The Grind. Day in and day out the same things. Days blurring together to the point that you legitimately might not know what day of the week it is. The 4th this year, while coming in the middle of the week is very weird, also allows for some grounding and rest and recharging.

But it is not the only way.

Over the weekend, I attended a two-day, online writing course. And by attended, I mean I stumbled out into the room where we have our computer set up and watched and listened and took notes. After the two days were over, I was so jazzed about the ideas I had for my next project that every free moment has been me jotting down ideas on spare scrap paper and spending the last two nights up way too late trying to get every crazy idea out of my head as best I can.

Which I’m only realizing this now, but sometimes we just need to go back to the beginning and remember that while we may know a lot of things, we can still learn brand new things.

As an indy writer, there are so many little bits and the piece you pick up along the way that it very much becomes the bright and shiny thing. And even if you know how to do something, it never hurts to take those steps back and reevaluate your approach.

And really, that’s what can recharge you the easiest and best overall. The daily grind of work, home, work, home and fitting in some sleep somewhere in there can weigh on you.

Years ago, as Terminus Media was beginning to get off the ground we had weekly meetings in the back of a comic store. I’d show up at 5 or 6 and we’d go until 9 or 10 talking, swapping ideas, looking at new artwork. All of it got you pumped. It inspired you to create new things, and it challenged you to try to one-up the previous week’s notable stories. Yeah, there was plenty of times where we didn’t know what we were doing and yet those days, even when an outsider might think that nothing was learned by the people in the room… if you really paid attention, you’d find one thing.

Those are the invaluable moments. And as much as this day off from work to hang out with friends and family is welcomed… it is not the only recharge you should allow yourself to enjoy.

***

John McGuire has co-written, along with his wife, two Kindle Worlds novellas set in the world of Veronica Mars: Theft & Therapy and There’s Something About Mac.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Book Report – The Death of WCW

Wrestling.

I started watching wrestling during the 80s. At some point, my sister and I discovered that on the UHF channel they’d show wrestling pretty much all day on Saturdays. There’d be WWF and NWA to bookend things, but in the middle, you got all sorts of regional wrestling shows with people that my dad recognized but neither of us had any clue. We watched the goofiness of GLOW (well before it became a Netflix tv show). We’d absorb it. We’d cheer for our favorites.

And we had no idea that it wasn’t real.

Then I didn’t watch it for many years, only to pick it back up in the mid-90s when I heard that Hulk Hogan had turned bad guy and the NWO (New World Order) was running roughshod over WCW (which I later understood to be basically the successor to those NWA shows I’d watched as a kid. Every week I tuned in.

And then I stopped again. I’m not sure if I grew tired of it or just faded out with it. Once in a while, I’d flip it on and see who was wrestling. I watched the last episode of WCW when WWE bought them. I watched handfuls of episodes of TNA Wrestling. And even watched WWE.

A couple of years ago I started back up (much to my wife’s chagrin). My nephew has tons of the figures and at the beach, we watched an episode of RAW (WWE’s flagship show). It was over.

Luckily, I knew it wasn’t “real” anymore, but I still like to watch.

***

The Death of WCW by R.D. Reynolds & Bryan Alvarez is a history lesson and a cautionary tale. It is about making all the correct decisions for a short amount of time and then having it all come crashing down around you.

You see, in the 80s, the WWF was king. Everyone knew Hulk Hogan and Wrestlemania and Andre the Giant. They had a cartoon. Andre was in one of my favorite movies (The Princess Bride for those keeping score). But in the 90s WCW had a run where they took over and all people wanted to see was the NWO.

The book goes into the history leading up to this revolution. It talks about WCW’s roots within the regional wrestling business. How Ted Turner’s TBS Superstation made him want wrestling programming. And how with a few signings of talent from the WWF (Hogan, Kevin Nash, and Scott Hall), WCW became number one.

It walks you through the weeks. And as it did, I began to remember many of the matches talked about. One of the great things about wrestling is this ability to connect to your childhood through the championships and through the wrestlers who span the decades. Each backstage glimpse revealed answers to questions I’d long-since forgotten about.

If I had one complaint about the book it would be that towards the end you could almost cut and paste the words on the pages. WCW did this stupid thing and made this stupid decision and then doubled down on that dumb thing… but that’s not really the book’s fault. Those were the decisions being made by whoever might have been in charge at that particular time. I mostly found myself thinking (even though I know the ending… it’s right there in the title) “Surely they are going to learn from this mistake, right?”

They didn’t.

And like a train wreck, you can’t look away and you want to keep reading if only to find out the next dumb decision.

Wrestling might be fake, but the decisions being made were very real indeed. If you are a fan of wrestling now or then, it is an eye-opening read to be sure.

 

***

John McGuire has co-written, along with his wife, two Kindle Worlds novellas set in the world of Veronica Mars: Theft & Therapy and There’s Something About Mac.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Kickstarter Reflections – Shipping and Handling Not Included

This is part of a series of posts where I look back at the process of running a Kickstarter. The steps we took, the mistakes we made, and a bunch of other things I wish I had known.

Other Kickstarter Reflections Posts

Kickstarter Reflections – Mailing List Blues

Kickstarter Reflections – Starting at the Finish Line

Kickstarter Reflections – Shipping And Handling Not Included

***

When we last left our intrepid hero, he was busy crunching numbers for the Route 3 Kickstarter, trying to find the bare minimum it would take to actually get the trade funded. And I had my number: around $4500 would get us what we wanted.

Aside from my mistake, that is what it would cost…

I didn’t notice my mistake at first. And I really must say that I had done a ton of research. I’d listened to podcasts and read blogs until I was cross-eyed, and still didn’t see it coming. Because here’s the warning that you get on every single one of those posts:

Watch out for Shipping costs.

So I did. I was a maniac about it. I was making sure to count every person at the $7 shipping charge. What I didn’t realize is how Kickstarter actually incorporates that number. My brain said:

The shipping is determined after you make your pledge selection, so it CAN’T be a part of the overall $$. It’s a separate item and is effectively collected separately.

What reality said:

No, that $7 for shipping is actually added into the total goal number. So when you were calculating your goals, you should have included that one, but you didn’t.

It seems like it probably shouldn’t matter all that much, but I didn’t realize it until I did an update to the spreadsheet once we’d gotten past the 50 backer mark – and then realized my error.

On the positive, it meant we were much more likely to hit our goal when our $25 reward level was actually worth $32 to the campaign each time. On the negative, I was now seeing that there was as much as an $800 difference. Which basically meant if we barely funded, we’d potentially be behind by $800. Of course, that was the absolute worst case scenario (and I kept reminding myself of that very fact). That was if everyone only contributed at the $25 level. The idea of that happening was highly doubtful. It would mean no one would buy any PDF only levels or any of the higher tiers… again, not realistic.

That rationale didn’t help ease my brain spinning, and I can only imagine Robert’s state of mind when I told him the “good news”:

“So after we got off the phone tonight I got curious about the overall numbers. I quickly added the 55 backers up and found that the shipping charge (the $7 or $20) that appears to be an add-on is actually contributing to the Project Fund Goal.
This obviously causes a problem because we did not factor that into our cost breakdowns. I have written Kickstarter to make sure that I am seeing this correctly. What follows is the note I submitted through their “Support” button:
“I would like to confirm whether or not the added charges for domestic and international shipping is a contributing factor to the project’s overall Funding Goal. I had been under the impression that this was not the case when we launched on Friday afternoon. Is there any way that this can be altered for a project, as our calculated costs did not assume the shipping applied to the pledge amount? We believed it was an add-on. Any assistance you can provide on this would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for your time.”
Assuming that this cannot be changed for the project, it appears that our True Number should have been approximately $5625 ($775 difference).
Now, this number is based on various factors:
Digital vs. physical backers – I’m assuming 25% digital based off our current level
Potential of International vs Domestic Shipping – This is probably only going to be a handful of people, but it is something to consider
The number of people who actually chose to do a higher reward level – This would reduce the number of people we actually have to ship anything to.
And potentially people who can get their reward hand delivered – Again, reducing the number of people we actually have to ship anything to.
That’s a lot to take in. I can walk you through it if you want to talk by phone at some point. I’m sorry that I didn’t catch this as I thought we’d been as thorough as possible.”

***

 

Of course, things couldn’t be changed at that point, and Kickstarter wasn’t going to change their whole setup for little old me. So I mentally prepared myself to make up for the blunder if it came to it. As the campaign went on I tracked the updated numbers and found that for every digital only person, it brought that value down (nothing to ship), for every higher award number chosen, it brought the numbers closer together.

I said it last post – the biggest part of Kickstarter is that it changes with every new person who contributes. We’d calculated in the “have an artist draw you tier” into our numbers, but if all of them weren’t taken (I think we were limited to 10) then it would reduce the number. So there were tons of ways to get through this gaffe. And by the end, just due to the rewards taken, we ended up all good and got some Stretch Goals in for good measure!

***

So I suppose the lesson is to really, really try to identify the potholes where you can. And even if you think you have a handle on the costs, maybe reach out to someone who’s already done a Kickstarter. Sometimes it is the question we don’t even know to ask which end up biting us in the ass.

***

John McGuire has co-written, along with his wife, two Kindle Worlds novellas set in the world of Veronica Mars: Theft & Therapy and There’s Something About Mac.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

 

Kickstart the Comic – 5 From Beyond

When Terminus Media decided to get into comics, we cut our teeth on four different anthologies. The thought process was that it was a lot to ask an artist for 22 pages, but 8 pages… that would be doable. On top of that, learning to write in those 8 page blocks only helped me as a writer. Considering I was still trying to figure out how exactly to script a comic in the first place, it allowed for learning on the job.

So I have a soft spot for anthologies…

***

Five From Beyond

Published by From Beyond Comics

Writers – Kyle Roberts, Dan Kern, Clay Adams

Artists – Rafael Romeo Magat, Kyle Roberts, Rafael Dantas

Colors – Ilaria Fella, Mai, Davi Comodo, Emilio Pilliu

Kickstarter Campaign ends on Friday, June 22, 2018 at 11:00 PM EDT.

***

 

The Pitch:

Drawing inspiration from classic anthology comics and television shows like Creepy, Eerie, The Twilight Zone and Tales From the Crypt – FIVE FROM BEYOND is a full color, 48-page anthology comic featuring five short stories infusing elements of horror, suspense, and science fiction into each gorgeously illustrated tale.

 

The Stories:

Parent/Guardian

In the far flung future, beyond the far reaches of our solar system, PARENT/GUARDIAN tells the story of a father’s fight for redemption in the eyes of his daughter.

The Brokener

Born from the imagination of a three year old girl, THE BROKENER is a terrifying tale of folk tradition and the cycle of abuse.

Deathtrap!

A mind bending re-imagining of Edgar Allen Poe’s classic The Pit and the Pendulum. DEATHTRAP! turns the focus outside the pit and onto the rescue party tasked with saving Poe’s original protagonist.

The Ark

Earth’s attempt at colonizing a new world is jeopardized when the transport’s commander decides to play God aboard THE ARK!

The Bin

Based on true events! Four teens stumble upon an unsettling discovery when they go snooping within THE BIN!

John’s Thoughts:

Kyle Roberts clearly knows how to hook me in the very first sentence as he called upon The Twilight Zone. I might as well stop reading at that point as “you’ve got me!”. That aside, the biggest thing with anthologies is doing the initial scan when you are trying to see if any of the story synopsis grab you. So I do that, and knowing nothing else, I’m intrigued by “The Ark” and “Deathtrap!”. The first due to the fact that I have about 10 different ideas on where the story may go and want to see if they’re true. With the latter, Edgar Allen Poe’s story is one that’s always caught my attention (if, for no other reason, that my wife once had nightmares from watching only the beginning scene of the movie).

And I love the cover!

 

The Rewards:

You have the PDF ($5) only or the Print ($15) versions of the comic. At higher levels you can get an 8 1/2 x 11 inked drawing ($60) or an original interior page from the book ($100). At the $25 level, there is a unique reward where you get a panel from the comic that is suitable for framing.

 

The Verdict:

The book is done, so that’s always a great thing to be able to read it all the quicker. And like I said above, I’m a sucker for this type of comic. When done well, you end up with stories that will stay with you for weeks after you’ve read them!

 

***

To find out more about From Beyond Comics, check them out here.

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Book Report – House of Leaves

Years ago, I heard stories about a strange book: House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. The person claimed it was a horror book, but that it was so much more. It used narrative within a narrative within the narrative to tell its story, bouncing between these moments via footnotes within the text itself. They said it used the book itself as a way to tell the story, with the edges of the paper acting as the walls of the haunted house, and the words were the characters trying to find their way through to the other side.

I’m sure they said the name of the book, but it was lost somewhere within my mind. And for years I thought nothing more of it.

And then, as these things do, it reappeared on my radar, randomly mentioned on a podcast. At my desk, I scrawled the name on a scrap piece of paper before looking it up on the internet. It didn’t take long for me to remember the previous conversation about the novel, so I went ahead and put it on my Christmas list in the hopes some family member might purchase it for me. Sure enough, that wish was granted.

But I waited.

I read most of the books I have on Kindle. Yet, this was a book – well, I’m not sure there would be a way to construct it for digital consumption. It almost demands you have the tactile sensation of holding it in your hands. Flipping the pages and then flipping the orientation of the book. So I saved this beast for the beach.

I have a habit of not always choosing the bright and cheerful books for the beach, having read The Road a couple of years ago. House of Leaves demanded a different level of focus from me than I’d been expecting – so much so that after a day of reading. I was only at about 50 pages into the book. I’m a fast reader, but this crawled along.

Note that’s not a slight on the book, instead it speaks more to how the book is laid out.

One of the things I have learned in writing comics (and am always learning) is the idea of the pace of reading a page. Typically, if I want to slow the reader down (maybe because there is something coming that needs to be built up) I add more words to the page. Narration boxes, dialogue, etc.

And on those pages that need fly by, to feel fast, I include fewer words, let the art breathe a bit more.

House of Leaves is the 1st book I’ve ever seen that attempts to do this as well. Pages will have only a couple of a couple of sentences, a word presented upside down, twisting and turning on the page.

It uses footnotes, editors ramblings, forward, and appendices to paint a picture of how this House affects these people throughout the world. Students write theses on it (within the world it has constructed).

It’s complex and confusing and maddening and at times you can’t put it down and at other times you are unsure whether to pick it back up.

It has highs and lows as to what held my interest more, but once things get “weird”. I was devouring pages.

It may make you obsess. I found myself looking for answers to some questions while still reading, chastising myself for doing it as I didn’t want to spoil anything.

***

What is House of Leaves about? It’s about multiple things – a weird, possibly haunted house and the people who live there. A documentary made by those people who live in the house. The world at large’s thoughts on the doc.

But it is also about a man who had written “House of Leaves”

Oh and about the man who found the “House of Leaves” manuscript.

And the subject of the manuscript. The one who made the documentary. The one who journeys into the darkness within the house itself. That’s where the book really shifts into forcing you to turn your book sideways or upside down. The text will shrink the gutters on one page before expanding to the next. You’ll have pages with only a dozen words on it.

It pulls you in. All the techniques, which on the surface appear to be a pain in the ass, all serve the same goal. Through this, it makes you a part of the story. As much as any of the people you’re reading about.

It’s horror, but not always scary, but quite often disturbing. It’s the type of book that pushes the boundaries of what a novel can actually look like. Fiction upon fiction upon fiction. If you want to read something odd and strange and something that will have you searching the internet at 2 in the morning to try to figure out… this might be the book for you.

***

Most of the time book reviews/reflections/whatever want to be a little vague so they don’t spoil anything, but I honestly think that I couldn’t give anything away without giving everything away. A strange and amazing read. I’ve seen book reviews online for this where the person says they hated the book in one sentence and yet they recommend everyone read it. Such a strange thing to be said about anything.

So I’ll say, if you want to read something pretty unique… this is the one.

***

John McGuire has co-written, along with his wife, two Kindle Worlds novellas set in the world of Veronica Mars: Theft & Therapy and There’s Something About Mac.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Kickstarter Reflections – Starting at the Finish Line

Here we are, at the gateway of Summer (is that a thing?). You have people everywhere casting off their high school personas and trying to take their first stabs in the “real world” (whether college is the “real world” or not is a discussion for another day). I couldn’t tell you anything about the speeches given during my graduation, but I do remember the closing line from my sister’s which was a quote from the band Semisonic “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”

That stuck with me more than anything else.

This idea that an ending becomes a new beginning is a beautiful thing. It means we get a chance to close the door on something old and move onto something new. And maybe it is a chance to see that before you can begin, you must look at the end… where you are going.

I’m in the process of final fulfillment of my Kickstarter for the Gilded Age, but I’ve got all these thoughts swirling around in my head about the process over the last year or so. You see, about a year ago Robert Jeffrey II launched his Route 3 Kickstarter. He was the guinea pig for this process. And knowing that I’d be launching one of my own in the Fall, I wanted to be along for every step he took. You know, so that hopefully if we made errors, then it wouldn’t happen again the next time (a wonderful thought, if nearly impossible to anticipate everything).

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Where to start is always an odd thing. You have blogs and posts out there that talk to you about certain things, but a lot of time there is very little consensus in the right way to do something (note- there are TONS of wrong ways to do it… don’t worry). But honestly, the place to begin a Kickstarter is by thinking about the very end: what is the goal and what does that equate to? Numbers, dollars, cost, shipping, taxes, fees, and so on. You really need to have a grasp on those numbers so that you can set the right goal to get to, otherwise, it doesn’t matter what you plan and publicize or whatever. If you set your goal too high you’re dead before you even get started.

That meant looking at what our costs were going to be and trying to set a slightly moving target.

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Route 3 by Robert Jeffrey II and Sean Hill – Available for order… just click the image.

With Route 3, we started with what we knew. We knew we’d have a 108-page trade as the final product. The layout had already been done and a small print run had been completed (about 25 copies), so we knew what it looked like (and what it was like to hold in our hands). We knew that the target retail price would be about $20 each. And we wanted to not only be able to fulfill our Kickstarter order, but also have extra copies for conventions. However, we didn’t want to fill Robert’s apartment with too many copies. It needed to be… manageable.

Then it was a matter of determining what kind of prices were even available. We ran the numbers through 5 different printing companies (Kraken, Artist Express, Ready Comics, Print Ninja, and Colorwise Commercial Printing). And by running the numbers, I mean trying it out with different copies ordered. Trying to find out where the best price break might be while always being mindful of having a number that still was attainable.

Key Takeaways: From most of the places listed above, it became apparent that the price break (and therefore the question we needed to ask ourselves) happened at 500 copies. At that number, the price of each trade is around $6 to $7 whereas if we tried for fewer copies, like 200 or 250, we were in the $10+ range per book.

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I wrote this to the Terminus guys as I was breaking down the numbers, and it really remained true throughout the number crunching process and into the actual campaign as well:

“What I’m really finding is Kickstarter is like having a target that keeps moving every day. Sure, you have the big target that stays the same, but everything else ends up being highly dependent on about 3 or 4 additional things which need to be factored in. It’s like – ok, you need another $1000 to get to this stretch goal, but that really means you need $1000/$32 = 32 additional backers who need stuff shipped to them and… so you put in a number and then recalculate and recalculate and…”

Beyond true.

It means you are going to be doing iterations with your numbers. And you’ll want to factor everything in. T-shirts and buttons and prints and anything else you can think of, but each of those come with a cost, which drives your shipping up which drives your overall numbers up which drives the Kickstarter fees up.

Oh, and did you factor shipping into your numbers? No? Well, start again because you’ll need to have those in there as well.

I was coming up with numbers around $6000 for Route 3’s Kickstarter.

But I’m looking around at other Kickstarters that might be comparable and they are closers to $4000 or $5000.

My thoughts from an email to the team:

“I’m a little concerned about hitting these numbers. Maybe that’s unfounded, maybe I’m being pessimistic, but I’d love to have these numbers lower.

So…

I also went ahead and calculated what the costs might be if we went “Bare Bones” with the rewards. Basically, we’d be doing the trade and the pdf and that is it… no prints, no additional artist stuff, and no t-shirts or stickers. This also eliminated the 10% contingency (I don’t think we should get rid of these things necessarily, but I wanted to know what our “Floor” really was).”

Doing all of that I finally got the numbers down to something closer to what I hoped might be attainable: about $4500.

And so we had our first real target… but I’d made a mistake that might have cost us…

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This is part of a series of posts where I look back at the process of running a Kickstarter. The steps we took, the mistakes we made, and a bunch of other things I wish I had known.

Other Kickstarter Reflections Posts

Kickstarter Reflections – Mailing List Blues

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John McGuire has co-written, along with his wife, two Kindle Worlds novellas set in the world of Veronica Mars: Theft & Therapy and There’s Something About Mac.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

Kindle Worlds – Looking Forward Back

“I’ve come to bury Kindle Worlds, not to praise it.”

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In Indy publishing, the big worry is What is Amazon going to do? For so many independent writers, Amazon has provided them with a steady income to turn their hobby of creating fiction into a true job. They see that constant stream coming in, month by month and believe it will never end. So they up and quit their day jobs only to see their returns begin to dry up. And why does this happen? Many times it is due to Amazon changing their algorithms in how your books get presented to the book-buying public. If your title gets some extra love from Amazon, maybe it takes off into the Top lists for your category or even for the whole of the store itself. That one thing can be the difference between pizza money and a house payment.

But the whispers are always there:

What if Amazon changes something?

What if Amazon decides to overhaul their programs?

What if they decide to get rid of some aspect of the program?

Some people worry and diversify their writings to other sellers (Smashwords, Draft2Digital, Barnes and Noble, etc.) and others say they’ll cross that bridge when they come to it.

For those people making more than pizza money on their Kindle Worlds stories, the end is nigh (see the email here). And much like those oracles had predicted… you never know when or if it is going to happen (and my follow-up).

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For the two Veronica Mars Kindle Worlds Courtney and I wrote (still available here and here!), it was always on the pizza money side of things. Four years ago I wrote a post talking about writing in that universe and the birth of a story (here). Last year we finally followed up that one with another book, which I wrote about (here).

Prior to Kindle Worlds existing, I didn’t get Fan Fiction. I certainly didn’t understand that there were tons of places on the internet where you could go and read about your favorite tv show or movie characters further adventures. Did you want to know what would happen if Show X crossed over with Show Y? There’s probably a whole subgroup for that. And, if there isn’t, you could always invent the genre!

But writing Fan Fiction isn’t that different from many things I’ve done over the years playing RPGs or coming up with my comic book pitches that will never be read by anyone over at Marvel or DC (but seriously, I have a 60 issue pitch for Moon Knight that you wouldn’t believe!). I’m still not sure how I feel about the whole Fifty Shades origins, but clearly, it worked, so who am I to judge?

So the announcement last week that this was all going away hit me well and good. Not because they were selling thousands of copies, but because it helped me convince my wife to write with me. Or maybe it was her telling me that we WERE going to write something together once it was known that Veronica Mars was going to be a destination spot within the program.

The nice thing about the program is/was that there really wasn’t any pressure. I’m not saying we didn’t put our best work out there… I think we did a great job working within the world of the TV show. I just mean that this was something on the shorter side (just over 10,000 words in each of the two novellas) that we could put out for consumption pretty quick. A full-length novel takes me months/years to write a draft, then do another draft, then set it aside for a while, then hire an editor…

These were different.

In addition, I wanted to make sure all those hours of her watching and rewatching the show could suddenly be called RESEARCH! 🙂

There was always good and bad with creating these stories though. We knew that if Veronica Mars removed herself from the program, the books wouldn’t really have a home anymore other than on the Kindles who’d already bought them and our hard drive. We also knew these weren’t our toys; they would need to be returned to the toy box. I’ve only had a couple of occasions in my writing projects where I wasn’t the one creating the story and characters and worlds. These two projects allowed me to stretch a different kind of writing muscle. Hopefully, it made me a better collaborator and writer for it.

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I want to thank everyone who has downloaded them over the years and appreciate the reviews that have been left. These two stories are going to become this thing we did. Maybe some other program will come along allowing us to display our works once again.

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John McGuire has co-written, along with his wife, two Kindle Worlds novellas set in the world of Veronica Mars: Theft & Therapy and There’s Something About Mac.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Kindle Worlds Closing

 

Almost five years to the day, from when they originally announced the program, yesterday Amazon sent out emails to the various Kindle Worlds authors letting them know that they were discontinuing the program.

As of May 17th, Kindle Worlds will no longer be accepting new submissions. Previously published Kindle Worlds stories will no longer be available for sale on Amazon.com on or around July 16th. The Kindle Worlds website will be closed on August 29th.

When Kindle Worlds rolled out, it was with three worlds fan-fiction authors could play in: Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars, and Vampire Diaries. Over the past five years, this number has grown to ninety. Ranging from other television shows to romance to comic book superheroes, the line seemed to be the answer for many aspiring writers who populated fan fiction boards and posted their latest versions of the characters. Expanding on moments from the series, whether that was television or in print form, Kindle Worlds encouraged them to not only continue what they were doing but actually get paid something for their efforts. If your work was over 10,000 words the royalty rate would be 35% of net revenue. Works between 5,000 and 9,999 words, which would be priced at $0.99 would provide a royalty of 20% of net revenue.

It really felt like a win/win scenario for all parties.

There were a few caveats to this. Authors would need to follow Amazon’s content guidelines. In addition, anything new that was created within the world would potentially be owned by the license holder. Still, even with those parameters, Amazon was able to launch the website with titles from some established authors. They put the spotlight on these works and the fan fiction began to populate. A look today shows The Vampire Diaries as the largest library with 232 submitted stories with GI Joe (124) and the Silo Saga from Hugh Howey (122) coming in at numbers two and three.

One of the early Kindle Worlds.

In light of the announcement, the questions of what to do with those works fall back to both the original authors and potentially the license holders. When Amazon closes the doors, the rights will shift back to the author who could then strip out any reference to the Kindle World in question and potentially put out a “clean” version of the story for sale. Whether that is worth the effort or perhaps these become lost treasures mentioned on an author’s website and nothing more.

For an indy author who had the fortune of people writing in their worlds, more eyes should translate to potentially more sales. This removes one of the avenues to get the word out there. Though, there is always the chance that the license holders will come up with ways to keep those versions out there, pointing new readers to their own series while still rewarding their fans who wrote the stories. Some writers have already taken to Facebook and Twitter to announce they have “something in the works”, so authors would do well to continue to pay attention to their World’s Creators in the coming months.

 

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John McGuire has co-written, along with his wife, two Kindle Worlds novellas set in the world of Veronica Mars: Theft & Therapy and There’s Something About Mac.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com