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.

The Song of Your Life Part 2

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

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

***

1992-1994 – Nirvana’s Nevermind Album

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

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

You can never be too safe.

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

Image by jodeng from Pixabay

1995-1999 – Van Halen – Right Now

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

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

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

1992 – Ministry – N.W.O.

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Repost – I’m the Problem

Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay

I’m the problem.

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

Sampling the comic books that are worth sampling.

And I do.

Sometimes.

***

Except there is Comixology.

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

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

***

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

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

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

Might.

***

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Except there is waiting for the Trade.

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

Right?

***

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

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

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

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

***

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

***

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

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

What is wrong with me?

***

I’ve convinced myself that it is two things:

Space & Money

***

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

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

***

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

And I did.

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

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

I don’t know if that is true or not.

Book Report – The Lincoln Highway

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Normally you might get something like this:

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

However, in The Lincoln Highway, we get this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or

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

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

Finally, and this is a spoiler, so…

***

***

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

Something else to keep in mind.

***

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

 

 

Dragon Con 2022 Recap

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

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

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

The Good Old Line Ride!

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

Repost – Unfinished Business

 

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

***

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

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

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

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

And I’ve been thinking about them.

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

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

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

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

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

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

But mistakes have been made along the way.

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Gen Con 2022 Recap – Part Two

 

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

 

Day 3

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

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

Dread by The Impossible Dream

 

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

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

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

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

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

Every time.

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

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

 

Never Going Home by Wet Ink Games

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Mazes at Midnight by 9th Level Games

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

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

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

***

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

***

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Gen Con 2022 Recap – Part One

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

Day 0

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

(There is a horror story somewhere in here.)

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

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

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

“We close at 10.”

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

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

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

 

Day 1

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

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

Fallen Heroes by Magpie Games

 

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

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

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

 

Day 2

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

Wraith: The Oblivion 20th Anniversary by Onyx Path

 

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

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

***

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

***

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Burn Out

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

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

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

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

See you back in the real world next week.

***

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

The Reason Why – Piece By Piece

My writing brain doesn’t work right.

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

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

OR

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

But, my brain doesn’t work like that.

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

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

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

***

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

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

***

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

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

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

***

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

***

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

The Reason Why – The Crossing

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

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

Robert proposed an idea about hopping parallel worlds.

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

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

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

But…

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

How far would you go to save someone you loved?

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

How far would you go to prove yourself?

How far would you go with your lies?

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

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

***

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

***

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

The Reason Why – The Gilded Age

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

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

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

Right?

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

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

The Guilded Age

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

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

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

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

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

And each member has their own desires and secrets…

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

The Reason Why – Hollow Empire

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

So it went with Hollow Empire.

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

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

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

Zombie creatures.

Dark cults.

Assassins.

Bounty Hunters.

A coup.

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

For soon must come the Night of Knives.

Image by Twighlightzone from Pixabay

***

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

The Reason Why – The Dark That Follows

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

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

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

Just too much.

And then I got laid off.

***

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

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

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

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

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

“Well, you have time.”

Image by moritz320 from Pixabay

***

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

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

I opened up Word and started writing.

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

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

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

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

Talk about timing.

***

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

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

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

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

And I never looked back.

***

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Book Report – Cloud Cuckoo Land

Normally, when I choose to read a book I have a bit of an idea of what I’m getting myself into. If I pick up a Stephen King novel, I have a vague idea of where he might lead me (likely some form of horror or in the case of The Dark Tower, a twisting weird fantasy/western that seeks to answer all the questions of the universe). George R. R. Martin and the A Song of Fire and Ice novels (fantasy worlds where the world-building involved will make you wonder if the author has the time to write a book in between writing histories for his world).

But the thing with a book club is that you aren’t always picking the book, so when my mother picked Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr, I decided to go in completely cold. I didn’t look up reviews, I didn’t look at a general synopsis for the novel… heck, I don’t even think I looked at the dust jacket.

Completely blind.

I’ve read hundreds of books over the years. I like to consider myself a writer. So, I generally can get a good idea of where a story might be going. Not that I “figured out” all the twists or the big ending of a story, but more like “I bet that this character is going to do X thing and that will spur Y.” Nothing complicated, but you notice the familiar themes in stories.

I was about 50 pages into this book and didn’t know where we were going.

You see, the story takes place in 3 different time periods (during the Byzantine Empire, present-day, and then in the future on a spaceship). What in the world was going on? How in the world are these things going to connect?

I was about 150 pages into this book and still didn’t have a good feel for where we were going to end up.

Same at page 300.

Now the saving grace to all of this is that Anthony Doerr can write his ass off. There is a lyrical quality to his writing that both amazed me and made me realize I could never write like that.  He draws you in with his 5 main characters where you are living their lives alongside them. It isn’t so much a reading but more observing the stories first-hand. Even if I didn’t know what the BIG IDEA of the novel was going to end up being, I still found the characters engaging. I cried alongside them. I rejoiced when they succeeded. And I puzzled at the mysteries they attempted to discern for themselves.

Near page 400, I began to see the threads connect in very real ways. That larger story began filling in along the edges. And while I wouldn’t want to spoil anything for anyone thinking about reading the book, some of the connections between the characters came as a nice surprise in both the ways they were connected and the ways they really weren’t. With something like this, with the multiple points of view, Doerr could have almost made them 5 different novellas and that would have worked as well (again, due to the writing skill alone). But by threading them together, I think he ends up with something that is so much more than the individual pieces could have ever achieved on their own.

***

With Cloud Cuckoo Land, I learned that you don’t have to beat your reader over the head with the Big Ideas. You are allowed to let them breathe and maybe let the reader fill in some of the gaps on their own.

***

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Book Report – The Girl With All The Gifts

My mom and I have decided to do the book club thing; however, she is hustling through the novels so far, and I’m taking my dear sweet time. She got to choose the first book we did, so for my choice, I picked a nice, lovely book about the end of the world (timely, no?).

The thing about the horror genre is that I believe the point of every story is to show the audience what the creator is afraid of and ask whether that might also scare the reader/viewer. And while there are zombies (“Hungries”) aplenty in the novel, the novel is about the changing of society. What happens after everything has long since fallen and the handful of survivors are forced to do things that may go past the line in the world before (or even this world).

Zombie stories have a lot of baggage to carry with them at this point. The Walking Dead has been on the air for more than a decade at this point. I’m sure that everyone has their own zombie story (heck I do… I just haven’t written it yet). With all of that comes the need to look at the genre from a slightly different angle.

So what if there was a little girl who was really smart. A little girl who was fascinated by the Greek myths. A little girl who adores her teacher Miss Justineau.

Image by Simon Wijers from Pixabay

Oh, and by the way, a little girl who is basically a zombie (“Hungry”) who just happens to be able to think and speak and do pretty much anything else a little girl might normally do, except lose her mind when she smells human flesh.

You know, just a little thing.

What M.R. Carey does a great job of is really showing us this world through Melanie’s eyes for the first handful of chapters. As the reader, we know that things are normal (even if we may not completely know what he is at this point), but because we live for so long through only her, we not only get a really good look at why she thinks what she thinks, but also how she’s been institutionalized by this strange life she’s living. She knows nothing different, and can’t yearn for much more than what she has.

And that’s the real question at the heart of the book: Is Melanie a monster or a little girl or something else entirely?

It can be a bit heartbreaking to have her work through these revelations herself. When she’s considering the same questions the readers are considering, it makes determining the answer that much more difficult than if we couldn’t see into her thought process. To read how she can feel the hunger within her take over completely and have that moment always in the back of her thoughts when she is dealing with the others of her little world. How can you protect those you love when you can’t trust yourself.

And trust is at a premium throughout the novel. Melanie can’t trust the Doctor. The Doctor can’t trust the Sergeant. The Sergeant isn’t sure about Melanie.

The other twist of the novel is how much science enters into the story.  The author takes us through the reasons why all of this is happening and how. Where so many zombie stories handwave the WHY, it was a nice addition to the story and played a very important part in the development of the world.

***

One of the best compliments I can say about The Girl With All The Gifts is that I was reminded of I Am Legend a few times. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I won’t say any more.

***

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

How to Make Me

Sometimes the best way to inspire yourself is to look back at the archives of this very site and see what you’ve written before. I’ve done that over the last couple of years, doing repost blogs since there are likely more than a few people who might not have ever seen some of my earliest tales of fun and woe. But sometimes it is also worth it to take a look back at what others were doing and then steal the idea and make it your own.

So as I was doing so, I glanced in the “Drafts” folder for Tessera and found something that Chad Shonk (who wrote for this site many years ago) wrote up, but never actually published. The idea of “How to Make a Me” where he posted these images of things that he felt contributed to who he was at the time of the blog post (or would have been at the time of the blog post). I like this idea of trying to Frankenstein’s Monster myself

 

Comics

Comics are the great, singular passion for me. I couldn’t quit them if I tried. And while much of my collection is focused on the superheroes, that doesn’t mean my love doesn’t extend to the independents. If you have a compelling story, I’m in.

Blast from the past: Comics Are My Time Machine

Music

I’ve written about my love affair with Pearl Jam, but like so many people, music has been the time machine of my life. A song can signify a period that I might have long since forgotten. The nostalgia for those old memories and feelings are a great drug.

Blast from the past: I Like To Swim… Into the Mosh…

Movies

I joke that had I not seen Jaws, I would have gone into Marine Biology. But with my family getting HBO when I was around 10 years old, watching movies was just one of those things I always did. And rewatching your favorites give me a certain level of comfort.

Blast from the Past – My Top Ten Horror Movies

Sports

A long time I wrote about how my two main teams had only delivered one World Title while I’d been a fan (and that was probably one of the years I hadn’t paid as much attention to the Braves). If you aren’t a Lakers/Yankees/Patriots fan, it can be a bit of slim pickings. Of course, with the Braves winning the World Series last year, I finally got to experience that ultimate joy as a fan.

Blast from the Past – Finally!!! Atlanta Braves Win!!!

Books

Jack London was the first author I really recognized from name alone. Call of the Wild was one of the few books, as a young kid, that I’d read and reread. Over the years I’m not sure I’ve found anyone to replace him at the top of my pantheon.

Blast from the Past – Books That Changed Me – Part 2

Poker

Courtney and I play poker. We strategize. We watch Youtube videos. It is one of our great bonding pieces of our relationship. And it is one of those things we can always get better in through practice.

 

Pets

I’ve had cats my whole life. Something about pets overall helps fill in the pieces of your soul. But these two knuckleheads are the best I’ve ever had. And while Westley passed away last year, Inigo has been a rock since.

Blast from the Past – COVID Through the Eyes of a Cat

 

***

Of course, there are other pieces of me not reflected here (family, the beach trips, the travels), but these all consist of the bigger things.

***

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Repost – Free Short – So What’s He Going to Buy With All That Gold?

I saw all the Hobbit films in the theater, and while I’m not the biggest fan of the book, I find I’m watching bits and pieces of the movies here and there as I flip through the channels again and again. Some more than others. However, there is one scene that I must turn to and watch in its entirety every opportunity I get:

Weta-Smaug-Breakdown-1

Smaug.

Smaug slowly reveals himself from under a treasure trove that would invoke Dragon Sickness on Thorin. Smaug talking with Bilbo, toying with him, showing him exactly how impressive he might be. And the extremes he goes to prove that the dwarves will never retake the mountain.

I love every minute of it.

Yet, the other night I was watching these sequences and a strange thought popped into my head:

Why does Smaug (or any dragon) need all that gold? And it isn’t just him – so many of these creatures throughout our myths are guarding a treasure horde. It is a staple such that in Dungeons and Dragons it is not questioned. The only questions anyone has any real concern to answer are: how much is the horde worth? Are we powerful enough to kill the beast guarding it?

But I feel like there is more to this idea.

***

So What’s He Going To Buy With All That Gold?

***

The cavern shone whenever the tiniest glint of light broke through. In those instances, the gleam would bounce from coin to coin, making them sparkle. It would illuminate the lighter colored gems so they became tiny lanterns dotting the golden mound. Under this light the true spectacle could be seen. Appreciated. Gold and diamonds and coins and gems and… a myriad of skeletal forms cooked to a crisp inside their metal armor.

That same treasure acted as a beacon to some. Bands of adventurers who wove odd stories about how the dragon claimed their birthrights… their home. How every coin buried there was theirs to recover. Indeed, all of it would be restored to its rightful owners.

Yes, the cavern might have once belonged to dwarves or mountain men or even an orc herd, but it was the dragon’s now and had been for decades. It was his home. And more importantly, so were the riches it used as a bed.

For while the previous owners certainly contributed to its girth, not everything was from a singular conquest.

***

Krench moved into the cavern. Ever a creature of habit, he made sure to bring along a lantern, even if the act was worthless. At the outer chamber a familiar warmth ran down his leg. Long gone were the days he might have made excuses for such an action. How it could have been explained away as an involuntary response to the immense fear coursing throughout his body.

If his nephew smelled the urine, he did not show it. For that, Krench was grateful. There was far too much left to teach the lowly creature for them to become bogged down in such a trivial thing.

“The thing that no one understands is exactly what the Great Wyrm does with all his riches. The outsiders believe he simply slumbers on them. They make up superstitions where he extracts some form of nourishment from the metals in the coin allowing him to generate his awesome flame. They suppose he is vain and loves the way the gold and silver flicker in the darkness.

“Does that even make any kind of sense? It is up there with those who claim he stole the entire amount.

book-316391_1280

“Lies! And I have the numbers to prove it.” Krench patted the large book tucked under other arm. “A quick reading of this would inform everyone that of his original horde, only thirty percent was from what the dwarves possessed. Then there was the twenty-five percent in tribute from the lizard men. Another ten percent from random caravans he assaulted when bored. The last thirty-five percent an investment with the orcs that paid him quite well upon their successful campaign against the elves.”

The tunnel tightened enough that they both were forced to duck. His nephew passed through the narrow opening first and took the lantern and book from him while he made his way. Holding the items, the younglings resembled him decades earlier. His mind would be a swirl, a jumble mass of expectations, questions, theories, and who knows what else. To his credit, no questions were posed, but Ketch knew the sermon was far from finished. There was just too much to prepare him for. To explain how the world really worked.

“Once a week the Dragon’s Accountant must journey here to give a full account on all his holdings.” That got the boy’s attention. “I know your question: how would his horde ever change? He’s sleeping on the lot of it.

“And that’s the secret. He’s not. That’s small level thinking. For a creature such as this, who counts his life in decades or even centuries, you must expand on all of that. And this one has holdings as far east as Silverpool, as far north as the great seas… where ever money might exchange hands the likelihood is very high some of the coin originated here.”

“That inn located at the crossroads of Madras and Danan. Where all the caravans stop. Where lords and ladies and even princes have stayed… he owns a fifty percent stake. The blacksmith shop in Butte has worked out a nice living for himself because of a certain anonymous investor.

“A fleet of ships supporting the Merchant Guild in Silverpool.

“And the latest Duke of Parthan, who somehow found enough of a foreign inheritance to afford the new title and the lands which come with it.”

Krench let it all sink in.Watching his nephew’s eyes dart back and forth, a mind at work. After a few moments, a toothy grin emerged.

“Not to mention the coinage itself. Think about it, most of the coinage will be old. Then after a time it will be very old. Then ancient. Kingdoms and empires rise and fall in the blink of an eye (well, from His point of view). They mint new coins, phase out the old ones… and no one wants to have worthless coins. So periodic exchanges have to occur. In small enough amounts not to arouse suspicion, but in enough transactions so that you actually gain some ability to pay for what you want to invest in.”

The first of the outer doors appeared at the end of the tunnel. Remnants of the previous owners. A loose stone along the right side of the door, halfway down, provided the opening mechanism. Krench pushed until he heard the click and the engraved doors shifted open.

“What people don’t understand is dragons are ancient creatures. On a long enough timeline, barring random adventurers stumbling in and murdering them in their homes, they might well live forever. Even the ancient elves appear to wither in the eyes of dragons.

“But forever is a long time. And while they may share more in common with cats in their sleeping habits- they still wish to be entertained. And with the level of money they possess… well, pulling the strings on some of the humanoid peoples is a pleasant distraction.

“More than anything else, he knows history will repeat itself if you let it. So he can push and pull. Nudge things along for the better. Well, for his better.

“You see, dragons have gotten a horrible reputation as being evil. But what no one will tell you is the word is made up. They simply don’t realize have the perspective to appreciate everything as it moves and twists and turns. The elves… yes, they might, but the lower races, the dwarves and humans and halflings and gnomes and orcs… the lot of them just don’t live long enough. So they make up new stories to explain the world around them. And more often than not they only have the vaguest of memories as to what came before. The devastation, the wars, the armies… evil.”

They were getting lower now, the tunnel’s slope increased to the point Krench had to hand the lantern over to his nephew. They both stumbled a bit, but neither lost their footing. A hundred feet or so later things flattened out once more, and he took the burden back.

“Of course, they don’t know about the art. Creatives need funding as well. Ancient dragons need songs and maybe stories to be written about them. To be retold for the next generation. And who’s going to pay those bards to make such beautiful art? He is.

“Exotic animals? Seems strange, but my father explained it to me. Some days you want beef and some days you want Minotaur. Nothing wrong with either. And when you exist at the top of the food chain and have this level of wealth…”

Richard_Caton_Woodvilles_The_Battle_of_Towton

Richard Caton Woodville, Jr. [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

“My great-grandfather realized one undeniable truth: wars cost money. Conquests. Paying armies to conquer the world. It’s a terrible business plan. First you outlay all of that money on the mercenaries. You pay to feed them. To forge weapons for them. To build the forges. To build the siege equipment. And all of that work and gold guarantees absolutely nothing.

“Up to that revelation, the Dragon’s Accountant merely handed out the sacks of gold to the mercenaries and kept a log of it all in the book. But it was a drain on the coffers, and no amount of caravans would cover the loss. That pile he sleeps on will surely drain until he’s sleeping on stone like some commoner. No! That would not stand! So he dared to pose a single idea: if the Great Wyrm really wished to take over the kingdom, then why not buy it instead?”

Careful to turn the key two times to the left and then once to the right (no one wanted a face sprayed with acid from a trap set to keep the undesirables out), Krench led them into the cavern proper. Pausing to let the younger of them take the sight in, he pushed his spectacles back up his long snout. Long ago the glitter was enough to nearly blind him. Too many restless nights were spent trying to determine exactly how one might extract such a mass from the mountain. When his own father passed the Book onto him, he spent more than enough time to understand how moving even one coin was as important as the whole of it.

Later, when he took a full account of the book, Krench realized some of the investments had gone sideways. A small war between human kingdoms, a great flood, and suddenly there was a loss to report for the fifth year in a row. Such a glorious day filled with fire to signify the passing of duties to the next Accountant.

“Krench…” The Great Wyrm stretched out his name so that it appeared to come from everywhere and nowhere all at once.

The two of them moved over to the large platform where he would deliver the latest news. As they climbed the steps, crafted so long ago by rough dwarvish hands, he pushed the book into his nephew’s arms. There was no need for it anymore.

Dragons were patient creatures, but above everything else they did not like to lose money.

The Reason Why – The Echo Effect

When I attended Free Comic Book Day last month, I had to remember my pitches for my comics and novels again. When you are at conventions, you need your one to two line pitch for each of your products because the window you have to catch someone’s attention is measured in seconds sometimes. And since it had been a little while, I needed to practice a little bit as the day progressed… which hopefully meant that I got a little better at it each time until it was closing time.

The other aspect of this event was that, for the first time, I was selling copies of The Echo Effect. And I didn’t really have a 2 line sentence to pitch the book. This is what’s on the back of the book:

 

In the world before, Aaron Anders had a different life with a different family…

Until the White Light washed them away.

A select few know the truth about our world: every time the calendar approached the year 2025, the world resets and creates a new Earth, with a new history for each of us. The Awakened remember their previous lives, and throughout history, many of them have done their best to ensure that the world proceeds on a particular path.

The lucky few.

Aaron didn’t feel lucky. Trapped in this loop, forced to live again and again in half-remembered lives, his current reality was spiraling out of control. His wife and his best friend thought he was losing his mind, and the worst part was they might be right. Another existence filled his head, mixing false memories with his real ones until he wasn’t sure of the truth.

And the only one who seemed to know anything was a stranger convinced “They” were after both of them.

 

That’s not the easiest thing to potentially sell someone on for the handful of moments you might have their attention. But as the day went on, I tried a different tactic. I hit them with something like this:

“We’ve all had that experience where we walk into a room and things are a little out of place. Or those conversations with friends where they talk about an event like you were there, and you have no idea at all.”

When they nod or say “yes”, I tell them “That’s what this book is about. Helping me to deal with exactly those sorts of moments that have happened in my own life.

***

And here’s the thing – that is the reason why I wrote The Echo Effect. It directly stemmed from 2 incidents (one which appears exactly in the book and one is somewhat in there):

One day after work I went into our master bathroom and all of my things had been flip-flopped with my wife’s things. But it wasn’t just the counter space on top, no, the cabinets beneath had been completely changed. Now, obviously, my wife had decided to make the change for better functionality or just whatever worked better for her, but it also meant for a couple of weeks I would go to the wrong sink or look for the towels in the wrong place.

The other incident went back to sometime in my 20s. A group of us were hanging out one day and because we’re all big nerds we were talking about Atlantis. At that point, Mike looks at me and says “I’m still mad at you about that.”

“What?”

“Yeah, that book we checked out on Atlantis, well, I ended up getting a late return fee on that. And the only reason I borrowed the book was because you told me to.”

I looked at him completely dumbfounded. You see, I have zero memory of such an event. ZERO. He was convinced that I was to blame no matter how much I protested I had no idea of the incident at all.

***

Now, taking these as just two random incidents would have been fine, and I likely wouldn’t have made any connection, but something stuck in my brain. This idea of someone who lived multiple lives and dealt with these incidents all the time. How would he deal with such things? What would it mean that they weren’t just the randomness of the universe, but potentially something bigger at work.

And what if he wasn’t alone in living through it.

I’ve come to realize that writing, for me, is mostly about trying to work through my own thoughts about the world, my life, or just weird events that I’ve experienced. It’s a weird form of therapy to take these oddities and put them into a fictional format. Yet, I think it helps on some level to think that while I might not be reliving my life over and over, maybe there is a reason for the weirdness.

Who knows?

All I know is that I will have to write another book the next time it happens.

***

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

In Our Dreams Awake – Reflections on the Kickstarter

Pretend this says “Funded on Kickstarter!”

In case you missed it, I’m about a month past the end of the Kickstarter I ran for Egg and my comic, In Our Dreams Awake Issue #1. I have a ton of thoughts on the Kickstarter itself and just the whole month.

So this is the 5th Kickstarter I’ve had some level of participation in. I helped out on both the Route 3 and The Fox Chronicles campaigns. I was an active participant on the Crossing Issue #1 campaign, and then I completely ran The Gilded Age one.

On each of these, I’ve learned some things, made some mistakes, learned some other things, and made other mistakes. But you would think that after these previous experiences, I might not make as many decisions that end up causing me some level of heartache, but clearly, the only way I really learn is through banging my head against the wall.

So during the early part of the campaign, I jotted down some of my thoughts. The words that follow are in the moment, edited only for clarity, but they help to show a bit of what my thought process was going through and how easy it is to let the bad thoughts take over.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

***

This first note comes either late on Day 3 (Friday) or early on Day 4.

Day one was decent, but I had a couple of numbers in my head for where I’d like to be at the various milestones of the project.

$300-350 after day 1.

$600 after day 3.

$1000 after a week.

But the first day was $211, the second day was a huge drop and by the time Friday rolled around I was really concerned about the project and rethinking my idea of where to set the goal.

You see, the goal was set in mind to help recoup the art costs, but it actually wouldn’t pay for them 100%. I was fine with that, I’m willing to put “skin” in the game (I think from my calcs that somewhere around $2400 would actually be the break-even point).

I’d done the hustle, reached out to the websites, gotten some articles, and sent a notice to my mailing list (though it might be a bit colder than I’d like). I sent updates to the Gilded Age backers, to our bakers on the Love’s Labour’s Liabilities and Love’s Labour’s Liberated Roleplaying zines (even though it doesn’t directly coincide, it is still something).

With these things I kept thinking can I get 10% of those people to contribute:

185 in the mailing list = 19 people

12x in Gilded Age = 13 people

The Zines = I’m not sure who might come over from the roleplaying side, but it shouldn’t be Zero.

22 people clicked the Kickstarter notifications button = 2 people

I mean, even accounting for some overlaps there, 20 backers early wouldn’t be the craziest thing. And after 2 days we sat at 13 people.

***

As you can see, it was tough going there early on, and it really made me question a lot of things about what I did or didn’t do. And I recognized some of the things (which I’ll likely get into in a future post).

Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

***

Now flash forward two weeks. In the meantime, things had been slowly (and I mean slowly) proceeding where we’d have one decent day and then nothing for a couple of days. The swings were beginning to get to me.

Overall we hit the $1000 (50%) mark by the second weekend, which was certainly nice, but it has fallen off a cliff this last week, and I have no idea how to turn it around. At this point we’ve been sitting on $1149 for a couple of days, and we’re 8-9 days left before this thing ends.

I did look to see that approximately 65 people signed up to be reminded and I think 11 of them have actually already contributed, so that’s nice. But I thought the Kickstarter person who talked came on the Comixlaunch podcast mentioned something like an 80% conversion rate on those people (maybe I’m remembering it wrong). So that would be 41 more people to potentially help push us along. If all of them go for the $10 level (plus shipping) then I’d be sitting at $1750ish and we can push it over the last little bit. But if the majority of them are more digital then what, we get to half of that and make it over $1500?

***

And this last one was a few days later. As you can see, I’m still focused on having made the goal too high.

I should have set the goal at $1500.

Stupid.

I mean, I’d still be frustrated at how it is going, but I wouldn’t be worried it wouldn’t fund. Good lord!

The other thing on my mind is that those people get the reminder and see we’re too far away and they opt to not bother anyway, which is the worst-case scenario here.

It feels like I’m missing some avenue to get the word out to ensure this thing happens. But I’m not sure what that is.

Then, on top of everything else, what’s the plan for issues 2-4? I can’t (and shouldn’t) count on only friends and family to support the comic. I need to figure out how to get more eyeballs on the comic. This thing needs to grow. This thing needs to build on itself so that at some point it becomes a bit of a break-even situation financially.

Everything takes so long, and I’m sure that has hurt my path here. If I had the ability to push this comic immediately (within 6 months) of Gilded Age, that would have probably made a big difference.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

***

When you are in the dead zone and the goal looks like it is out of reach, you begin to focus on all the bad that is happening. It’s real easy to lose sight of why you’re putting your work out there. How excited you should be that people are supporting you in any way.

And don’t get me wrong, I was over the moon anytime I saw someone new had backed the project. That was always a pick-me-up. I said it many times during each of the other Kickstarters that this thing is like having another job (at the very least a part-time one). This means by the end of 30 days, you’re burned out on everything.

***

I was on vacation when the project was finally funded. And even though I was doing my best to relax prior to that moment, it was a huge lift of stress just like when using the new Budpop natural supplements. Sadly, I didn’t jot down my exact thoughts, but if I could go ahead and share them now they would have been a lot of internal screaming and yelling, some nice positive four-letter words, and just a sense of accomplishment. I love comics so much, that to be able to do them, even in a small way, is such a blessing.

For all of you who joined me on my journey and supported the dream, thank you.

***

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

Getting Scolded

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Tonight, I was scolded by both my wife and my cat. My wife gave me the “John!” phrase with a side-eye to round out the effect. And all I had to do was use that old favorite “That’s what she said.”

(Really, as cheesy as it is, it works in almost any situation.)

<That’s what she said.>

My cat scolded me for any number of reasons but the biggest was that I hadn’t opened a window for him to start looking at the birds and squirrels who roam in our side yard. In fairness to him, he likes to chatter at me for any number of things. Sometimes it is because I’m up too late and he feels like it is time for bed. Other times it is because I haven’t moved quickly enough to feed him. Lastly, he is a stickler for ensuring that both my wife and myself take breaks throughout the day. If we’ve worked too diligently on the 9 to 5 jobs, he’ll let us know it is time to get up and move (and maybe give him a treat or two).

All of this had me thinking and reflecting on how easy it is to scold ourselves for our “lack of progress”. So many times we set goals and then lament when we don’t reach them. Or we decide to compare our output against someone else when that is never very constructive.

But, more importantly we don’t celebrate our accomplishments. We don’t take the time to stop and look at what we’ve done up to this moment.

It applies in my own life all the time and probably even more so in my writing life. Two weeks ago Issue 1 of In Our Dreams Awake funded on Kickstarter, and I think I allowed myself a whole 5 minutes before I started thinking about the next step, what else I needed to do, etc.

Honestly, it probably wasn’t until I was at the table for Free Comic Book Day that I was able to recognize (at least a little bit) that slowly and surely, I’m creating more and more works. Whether they are comic related or novel related, my table was full of things which contained words I wrote. Pages and pages of words that have somehow seen the light of day so that other people can also read them.

Does that mean I want to rest on my laurels and not push to do more, to write more or simply create more? Does that mean that I can’t identify errors I made in the Kickstarter campaign? Does it mean that everything will go smoothly the next project I sink my teeth into?

Of course not, but…

But… if we are never happy with where we currently are once in a while, then we’re setting ourselves up to be unhappy.

So, maybe instead of scolding ourselves all the time, we allow for a small celebration. A look at where we’ve been and where we’re going. And maybe, just maybe, take a second to enjoy the ride.

***

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Free Comic Book Day 2022 – Report

This past Saturday was Free Comic Book Day.

It was also the first time since 2019 I’d done a Free Comic Book Day or any other convention of note. In the meantime, I’d published another novel, put out a comic, and just ran a successful Kickstarter for the first issue of another series. The hallway closet has mostly sat unopened for all of that time as that’s where all my stuff to sell is located (not sure how I managed to get such a prime spot, but it does make things a bit easier to manage when it is all in easy reach.

Anyway, I was able to get a last-minute spot at my local comic shop: Galactic Quest in Buford, Georgia. And when I say last minute, I mean the week of was when I locked it in, which I really appreciated.

Galactic Quest opened up at 9 AM and probably had about 30-40 people waiting in line to kick off the festivities. And throughout the day (I was there until 5 PM), there was a steady stream of comic enthusiasts to watch navigate the free comics and the handful of us who had set up tables.

Since it had been nearly 3 years of no conventions, I was a little rusty on my various sales pitches for all my wares. And since I had a couple of extra products, I tried to both give as succinct a pitch on each, while trying not to just eat away at someone’s time. And like any other time, you do spot people that are definitely willing to engage with you, and then others who are ready to just move on to the next thing. I think I judged most people pretty quickly.

I never know how much “stuff” to bring to any convention I go to. I always worry that I’ll run out of stock and then curse myself for not having that 25th copy of something. Usually that means I’m actually bringing extra stuff to the point that I am a full-on pack mule, straining under the weight of graphic novels, prose novels, a banner, and all the other things that I end up with. I did recall that the last time I set up at Free Comic Book Day, I did run out of one of my novels (The Dark That Follows), so I grabbed at least 5 copies of everything I had, with another 2 of each novel in the trunk of my car “just in case”.

I was pretty much the first thing you saw as you walked in!

Much like last time, the novels ended up being the overall bestsellers (when taken as a whole) while The Crossing #1 pretty much wiped me out of the little bit of stock I had of the regular cover. As with everything though, I’m just happy to get the books into people’s hands so that they can read what I’ve written.

All in all, it was a great way to dip my toe back into the water and get my work back in front of people.

Thanks again Galactic Quest!

***

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

John McGuire is at Galactic Quest (Buford, GA) for Free Comic Book Day May 7, 2022

This coming weekend (Saturday), I will be at the Galactic Quest Comic Store in Buford, Georgia from 9 till 4(ish). It’s Free Comic Book Day, so there are all sorts of goodies whether you are a young fan or old fan (or anywhere in between). Check out the website for information on exactly what comics are being offered this year. Plus, there are bound to be superheroes showing up here and there in all their costumed glory.

So come and stop by and we can chat. I will have copies of the Gilded Age trade and a peek at the recently funded through Kickstarter In Our Dreams Awake #1 as well as copies of The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, and The Echo Effect novels.

Hope to see you there.

***

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

In Our Dreams Awake – The Posts

Check out John McGuire’s new Fantasy/Cyberpunk/Dreampunk Comic!

 

Throughout this Kickstarter campaign I’ve written a few posts on In Our Dreams Awake, so this post will put them into a more comprehensive guide so that you don’t have to go stumbling through the Tessera archives in order to locate things.

 

Kickstart the Comic – In Our Dreams Awake #1: A Cyberpunk/Fantasy Adventure

A breakdown of the actual Kickstarter campaign laying out the pitch and story as well as looking at the reward options. I normally try to be as unbiased when doing the Kickstart the Comic posts on other books, but that might be a little difficult when talking about your own work.

 

Behind the Comic: In Our Dreams Awake

This is a peek at the history of the comic book. How things began all those years ago with a series of emails between Egg Embry and myself. It has been a long journey to get to the point where the comic is nearing a real release.

 

Behind the Comic: – Anatomy of a Panel – In Our Dreams Awake #1

A breakdown of a pair of panels from my portion of In Our Dreams Awake. Consider it a behind-the-scenes or director’s commentary on some of the thought processes when looking at a comic page from the point of view of the writer. And then see how the artist takes that and makes it 1 million times better!

 

I tried to put the spotlight on a couple of my collaborators on this comic book through a pair of interviews to try and get into their minds a little bit about their process and history.

Behind the Artist – Interview with Rolands Kalnins

 

Behind the Artist – Interview with Alex Lugo

 

The interview with Sean Hill, who did a variant cover for In Our Dreams Awake, is from a couple of years ago, but has some nice insight.

Behind the Artist – Interview with Sean Hill, Part 1

 

Behind the Artist – Interview with Sean Hill, Part 2

***

Please check out the current Kickstarter for In Our Dreams Awake!

***

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

Behind the Comic: – Anatomy of a Panel – In Our Dreams Awake #1

 

We have about a week left to go on the In Our Dreams Awake #1 Kickstarter, so be sure to check it out!

***

Taken as a whole, a comic book represents the input of multiple people, multiple perspectives, and multiple skill sets before the final product is created. I’ve said many times in the past that one of the reasons I love the format is exactly for that reason. You get to feed off of the creatives who you work with. And what begins as one thing can become something completely different in execution (and making the overall comic that much better).

 

In Our Dreams Awake #1 – Page 7, Panels 7 & 8

The Team

Pencils – Edgar Salazar

Inks – Genaro Olavarrieta

Letters – Egg Embry

Writer – John McGuire

 

Concept

This pair of panels represent the end of a larger conversation within the issue. So much of this world that Jason Byron lives (dreams?) in is dictated by the mages who control everything. They ensure the chaos technology threatens to bring to the people can never exist again. They are Order.

And to go against that would mean going against everything they stand for… and that way lies madness.

So what do we see? We see that Edgar made a choice to not allow for any other colors within these two panels, but instead presented them as a pair of black and white moments. Two men, representing opposite beliefs about their world, are separated by the small table.

 

The Script

Page 7 Panel 7

Annoyed by Peter’s accusation, Jason pushes himself away from the table as if to get up.

Jason – I know all of this, Peter.

Peter – So ask me your question again.

 

Page 7 Panel 8

Same shot as Panel 7 (Jason is still sitting). Jason pauses. No words are needed.

 

Breakdown

As you can see from the script, I actually made a slight mistake between the two panels. In Panel 7, Jason is frustrated/annoyed and pushes himself away from the table. Edgar followed that showing him standing up. His body language is very tense. However, when we come to Panel 8, I note that “Jason is still sitting”…

No, John, he is not.

But Edgar went with it, and I think it actually works in this visual context because of the artist’s choice to make these mirror images of each other (in regards to the black and white). Where Jason was angry in the previous moment, he has sat back down. But instead of either of them furthering the conversation, the darkness envelops them instead pointing two the very ideas that they stand for can not exist alongside one another.

It even mocks the prompt from Peter in Panel 7: “So ask me your question again.” Panel 8 answers that prompt with silence. There is no need to push the issue any longer.

There are no shades of gray here in this place.

***

But perhaps there is another world for Jason to find peace? One he can visit while he dreams?

***

Please check out the current Kickstarter for In Our Dreams Awake!

***

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Behind the Artist – Interview with Alex Lugo

 

As we go through this month with the In Our Dreams Awake Kickstarter going on (don’t forget to check it out), I wanted to spotlight some of the people who helped bring these crazy ideas to life. This brings us to the letterer and the person who is going to make sure the comic actually is formatted correctly to get printed: Alex Lugo.

 

***

How long have you been creating/working in comics?

I have been creating and working on comics since about the late nineties and early 2000’s part-time, mostly in the independent comics scene. So, for about the last 25 years as time allows.

 

What made you want to work on comics?

I’ve loved comics since I was about 4 years old and it’s been a dream that I have been fortunate enough to be able to accomplish.  The magic of the stories, the great characters, and being around creative people are what keep me coming back to comics.

 

Who inspires you? Or do you have a favorite artist or creator?

My favorite creators of all time are Jack Kirby and Frank Frazetta.  Those two guys are juggernauts in the comics/fantasy fields.  For me, it wasn’t even about their incredible output, but their amazing creativity that brought forth so many amazing characters and art pieces.

How do you manage your daily/family life with your creative work? Is this your 9 to 5 or is this your 10 to 2?

It’s definitely my 10pm to 2am work.  In the daytime, I have a full-time job, and I am also a full-time dad and husband as well.  But when everyone goes to sleep, I become my alter ego and jump into the comics fray.

 

How would you describe your creative process when it comes to making comics?

I think my process of making comics comes from learning about some of the great 60’s creators: Kirby, Ditko, Lee, etc…I try to do whatever it takes to get the job done. I don’t sit around waiting for inspiration, I go get it and dive into the project. Comics is a commercial art medium, so it needs to keep moving forward, so my process has come from that position.  I do research, interview my collaborators, come up with mock-ups, etc…anything I have to do to keep the process going.

 

Making comics often requires collaboration with others. How do you foster relationships and approach the collaboration process?

Well, I try to touch base with my collaborators/clients and really get into what they are thinking or what they need me to do.  I try to capture their vision if I can or offer them something they haven’t thought about to help and improve their story. I think of us as partners who rely on each other to make the best comic that we can. In order to break the ice, I like to get them on the phone, hear their voices, and let them hear mine.  This way we know we are real people, not just words in an email so that the project becomes as real as possible and we all have a stake in it.

 

What are your biggest obstacles when it comes to making art? How do you overcome them?

Really my biggest obstacles are time and daily life.  I don’t have a lot of time to create, and the daily routine of life threatens to derail the creative endeavors.  It’s tough just to have one job, but I have several jobs at one time.  So once everyone goes to sleep, it’s really morning for me again.  I grab a cup of coffee, play something in the background, and hit the computer or drawing board or whatever to get things moving.

How has your experience been with the indie comics community?

I love the indie comics community! It’s filled with some of the most talented people I have ever met.  They are some of the bravest people I have met as well.  They have chosen to deviate from mainstream comics to put out their own books and show the world their artistic soul.  That takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there like that.  There is no hiding behind known characters or big companies.

 

What advice can you give for people who want to start making comics?

I would say (1) make sure it’s your passion and you love it, and (2) make sure that you have a plan for financial return, or if you don’t, you’re ok with that.  Comics can be a lot of fun, but they can also be tough.

 

Are there themes and/or subjects/genres you find yourself drawn to again and again in your work?

Not really, I think my go to will always be superheroes, but I have done fantasy, sci-fi, new age, etc..

 

If you could go back in time ten years, what advice might you have for your younger self? Something you wish you knew?

Listen with open ears and an open heart to critics, but don’t let their words discourage you from working in comics.  Don’t let the person reviewing your work destroy your soul.  If they are good at what they do, they will enlighten and encourage you to keep going. Also, learn when to walk away from things and start fresh instead of beating dead horses.

Do you have any upcoming projects? Anything you’d like to promote? Anything else that you’d like people to know about you (Hobbies? Passions? Favorite TV Show)?

I am working on a couple of projects through my comic company 10 Worlds Studio, one superhero, and one paranormal, but nothing to announce just yet.  I did letter a comic series that was picked up by Heavy Metal called Mark of Kings, so I am excited about that for sure.  I also love Lord of the Rings, and I am a huge fan of Golden Age comics characters.

 

Where’s the best place to find out more about you and your works?

You can visit my Instagram page at alexanderlugo_10ws or my website, www.alexlugoart.com.

***

Alex Lugo is a first-generation Cuban-American artist hailing from Portland, Or, growing up in Inglewood, CA, and now residing in the outer reaches of Los Angeles County. He has worked in the fields of comics, storyboards, and design.  After reading All Star Comics 58 in a Portland barbershop, he was pretty much hooked on comic books and continues to work on them, and dream about them to this day.  Besides working on comics, Alex loves spending time with his family, traveling, studying the paranormal, and watching films with his son.  His work has been featured on TV, films, comics, and other mediums.

***

I want to thank Alex Lugo for taking the time to answer my questions. And I really appreciate his contributions in bringing In Our Dreams Awake to life. And don’t forget to check out the Kickstarter!

 

***

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Behind the Artist – Interview with Rolands Kalnins

Check out John McGuire’s In Our Dreams Awake Issue #1 on Kickstarter!

As we go through this month with the In Our Dreams Awake Kickstarter going on (don’t forget to check it out), I wanted to spotlight some of the people who helped bring these crazy ideas to life. This brings us to the artist and colorist on the Cyberpunk portion of the comic book: Rolands Kalniņš.

 

***

How long have you been creating/working in comics?

I’ve been working in the comics industry since I was 16 years old. And full-time since I was 20.

I’m 26 now.

 

What made you want to work on comics?

As a kid growing up in a post-Soviet country we got our entertainment(films, books, comics) much later than the rest of Europe. So I was lucky to grow up watching original TMNT, Star Wars, Spider-man and the X-men animated series, Power Rangers, Adam West Batman, Tim Burton’s Batman, Pokemon, Digimon…

These shows and films made me love these characters, and later on, I found out that many of them were based on comic books. Unfortunately, the only comics we could buy in Latvia were based on Disney and Hanna-Barbera characters aimed towards very young kids.

So I spent a lot of time drawing and creating my own comics. And when I was living in the UK at the age of 15, I had the chance to buy a lot of Marvel comics. And that moment when I first held a comic book in my hands was simply magical.

And that truly made me take the path to become an artist in the comic industry.

Variant Cyberpunk Cover by Rolands Kalniņš

Who inspires you? Or do you have a favorite artist or creator?

Personally, I have so many favourites/inspirations. Tho the most influential artists on me were/are: Dave Rapoza, Sean Gordon Murphy, Nick Dragotta, Junji Ito, and many others…

 

How do you manage your daily/family life with your creative work? Is this your 9 to 5 or is this your 10 to 2?

My daily routine used to be different. But for the last few years, I’m also a full-time Tattoo Artist at 2 private studios that I own. So my day-to-day is divided.

Most days I work from 8:30-11:00 on comics and tattoo designs. From 12:00-16:00, I work at my tattoo studio. 17:00-19:00 session at the gym (usually 4-5 times a week), and 19:00-24:00 more work on comics/family time.

 

How would you describe your creative process when it comes to making comics?

My process is quite simple. I read the script, gather references and inspirational images, and then I draw the pages, usually coloring them right after.

 

Making comics often requires collaboration with others. How do you foster relationships and approach the collaboration process?

Creative relationships for me are really different with each writer and or company. On some projects, I get complete creative freedom and just create the artwork.

On others, the process is more involved and created on a step-by-step basis. With a lot more back and forth. Visuals changing as the story evolves.

And these things are different on each project depending on my involvement as well. Am I just the artist, or am I the colorist?

In some cases, I design the whole book, spine and all.

For me, the most important thing is to do the best work I can for the client.

Jason Byron makes his way through the flooded streets. By Rolands Kalniņš

What are your biggest obstacles when it comes to making art? How do you overcome them?

Hmm, for hurdles in creating work…

The hardest thing for me is creating art in bulk for my personal projects. Client work comes much more easily for me because it has certain direction-script, or just a description of a piece.

 

How has your experience been with the indie comics community?

I love working on indie comics.

Of course, a dream of mine is to do a Batman book, but for the most part I’m most comfortable doing creative horror books in the indie scene.

The thing I like the most is the “out there” ideas and that there’s no limit to the craziness of the stories I could visualize…

 

What advice can you give for people who want to start making comics?

Best advice is to learn the basics first.

And that doesn’t mean human figure, faces, etc… It means drawing straight lines, perfect circles, cubes… and only then applying those skills to draw objects, and characters.

And of course, drawing non-stop, but doing illustrations, pages, and panels, not just studies for study’s sake.

Applying knowledge and learning on the go is key. Many things I learned over the years I learned on the job doing the actual work.

And of course, finishing things. Many up-and-comers tend to sketch a lot and never do finished work, which grows into a boatload of bad habits.

 

Are there themes and/or subjects/genres you find yourself drawn to again and again in your work?

My favourite genres to create for are usually pulp-fiction, neo-noir, cyberpunk, and horror type of work.

But I love doing most genres.

But dark fiction and psychological mind-bending work suits my style best in my opinion.

Jason Byron and Fem’A Lin kiss. By Rolands Kalniņš

If you could go back in time ten years, what advice might you have for your younger self? Something you wish you knew?

Hmm, I would probably say to myself to never stop drawing and don’t give up. Things will go your way eventually…

And don’t let anyone talk you out of anything career-related.

 

Do you have any upcoming projects? Anything you’d like to promote? Anything else that you’d like people to know about you (Hobbies? Passions? Favorite TV Show)?

I have many upcoming books and personal projects, but I can’t really talk about any of them due to NDA’s. Only thing I can say is that “The Pandora Window” a book I’m co-creating with Ray Chambers is finally announced and being drawn as we speak. And many other projects with Adam Barnhardt of Sh*tshow fame. Hopefully, soon they’ll be announced.

For hobbies, I tend to have many, but the most important ones are Powerlifting and reading. For me, it’s a way to clear my head. And of course, a healthy mind and body are key with this type of profession.

I personally believe you’ll go crazy quite fast if the only thing you do 24/7 is draw. It can become more of a detriment than a strategy to become successful.

 

Where’s the best place to find out more about you and your works?

I’m most active on my website(portfolio), Instagram, Twitter and Reddit.

https://rolandskalnins.carbonmade.com/

https://www.instagram.com/marvelzukas/

https://twitter.com/marvelzukas

https://www.reddit.com/user/Marvelzukas/

Jason Byron’s intense stare. By Rolands Kalniņš

Do you have a Bio that I can post at the bottom of the article?

My name is Rolands Kalniņš

I’m an illustrator, concept artist/designer, colorist from Latvia.

I’ve worked on many projects for different publishers and kickstarters.

Scout comics: Red Winter.

Fracture Press: Tales of Fractured Mind, Tales of Fractured Worlds, Soul of The Sea, The Burning Memory

Tpub: Transdimensional.

Source Point Press: Sirius

Frank Martin’s Pipe Creepers

Scapegoat Press Inc: Pcycho Path, Aeonian.

Roy Burdine’s Reapers.

VMComics: Hotel Hell

Musicians: Varien, Hellhills, Manic, Toracha, Cream of Cthulhu, and many more.

***

I want to thank Rolands Kalniņš for taking the time to answer my questions. And I really appreciate his contributions in bringing In Our Dreams Awake to life. And don’t forget to check out the Kickstarter!

 

***

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

Kickstart the Comic – In Our Dreams Awake #1: A Cyberpunk/Fantasy Adventure

As I talked about last week, In Our Dreams Awake has had a long journey to get from the kernel of an idea all the way to this next milestone: A Kickstarter Launch today!

This is one of those stories that examines that fundamental idea I think everyone deals with, which is wondering if their life is enough or if there might be another one we could live if only the circumstances were a little different.

We are raising funds to get the first issue of In Our Dreams Awake printed and out to readers.

***

In Our Dreams Awake #1: A Cyberpunk/Fantasy Adventure

John McGuire – Writer/Creator

Egg Embry – Writer/Creator

Edgar Salazar – Artist

Rolands Kalninš – Artist, Colorist, Letterer

Genaro Olavarrieta – Inker

Alexander Lugo – Letterer

Sean Hill – Variant Cover Artist

The Kickstarter campaign ends on Wednesday, April 27, 2022.

***

The Pitch:

In Our Dreams Awake is the story of what happens when both of those worlds begin to spin out of control. What happens when Jason no longer knows which world is the dream and which one is reality?

 

The Story:

Jason Byron dreams of two lives. In one fantasy, magi reactionaries won, technology is banned, and Jason is a portrait painter hiding a contraband telescope. In the other world, he leads a cyberpunk gang amid a future of flooded cities and gilled aliens. When he closes his eyes in one world, he awakes in the next. Jason’s only desire is to wake up in the arms of his true love, Laura… Uh, or is it Fem’a Lin?… If only he knew which one was real?!

Cyberpunk Variant – Art by Rolands Kalninš

John’s Thoughts:

I’m obsessed with the idea of What If when it comes to how people live their lives. Those little moments then spiral out to set the course of our lives. How easy it is to focus on the things we don’t have rather than embrace all the gifts we do have. It’s very easy to lose sight of what is important when you always are lamenting the things you don’t possess.

It’s human nature to evaluate and then reevaluate and then wonder about the path not taken.

With In Our Dreams Awake, Egg and I are giving this concept a bit of a twist. Instead of trying to figure out how Jason Byron’s life might have gone wrong, he instead sees a world nearly the opposite of the current life he lives. And that would be fine, we could all use a little bit of fantasy in our lives (or cyberpunk as the case may be), but what happens when those two realities begin to bleed into one another. How would you determine which was the real world and which was the dream world?

And how would you know which one was worth fighting for… or dying for?

The Rewards:

The Kickstarter is for the first issue in what we hope will be a four-issue series. We have the options of either the pdf ($5) or print version ($10) to send to you. We also have two different variant covers, one by Rolands Kalninš and the other by Sean Hill ($15).

And if being drawn into the Cyberpunk world as a potential member of Jason’s gang interests you, we have that for $200.

We also have a number of Add-Ons ranging from a copy of The Gilded Age Graphic novel to the Dreamr by the Apocolypse RPG Zine ($10-$20 each).

Mirror Variant – Art by Sean Hill

The Verdict:

As a co-creator of this little project, I’m so excited for it to become a reality. As my post last week talked about, it has been a long (looooong) road to get here, but we only have a little more to go before this story can see the true light of day and get into the hands of all you potential readers.

The other key piece is that the first issue is completely done. Finished. This isn’t going to be a Kickstarter that lingers on and on. In fact, my hope is that we fund quickly, and I can get the second issue into production while this Kickstarter is actually going on, so that the wait between issues isn’t so long.

***

I’d like to thank you in advance for checking the project out. And be sure to check back in on the project throughout the month as I’ll be posting various interviews with my fellow creators.

And be sure to check out the Kickstarter here!

***

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Behind the Comic: In Our Dreams Awake

 

I don’t have the email anymore where I first pitched Egg the basic idea behind In Our Dreams Awake. I basically remember that I had hit upon this idea of someone having to live two different lives, one when they slept and one when they were awake. I know that it happened around the Winter of 2004-2005 in one of many of our daily emails back and forth to each other. Those emails served as both catch-up on the day/week and also a dumping ground for us to share potential writing ideas.

You see, the goal with Egg and I always was to find a way to write comic books. During college, there were many, many, many weekends the two of us would journey from one comic shop to another looking for back issues. And during those trips, we’d talk story ideas. They ranged from some take on whatever Marvel or DC or Image might be doing at the time all the way to our own comic ideas featuring our own characters. But this was in the days before something like Kickstarter existed, back in the days when we were going to have to find a way to do things on the “cheap”.

Egg’s always been good about looking at potential story ideas and breaking them down into a format that might be a little different. And In Our Dreams Awake sent his mind going.

I know/remember a few things about this time:

Egg found the title from a quote by Thoreau.

Egg pitched the idea of the two of us writing portions of the story. One of us would take one dream and the other would write the other.

Egg found both the artists to do what would become a 4 issue mini-series: Edgar Salazar (pencils) and Genaro Olavarrieta (inks) for my “fantasy world” dream and an artist for “futuristic world”.

So we started on the scripts for issue 1. And then the pages started rolling in… this was working… we were going to have a comic book!

We quickly got scripts going for all 4 of the issues, as Edgar and Genaro were rocketing through their work. I learned how to color on the computer (which is a story for another time). Egg’s artist was turning in good stuff. The tone felt great… all we needed to do was find a home for the comic.

We approached Image, I think we sent it off to a couple of other places, but nothing ever came of it. I was working with the Terminus Media guys at the time and had learned enough to know how to get the book printed, but we realized we probably needed to have a complete book before going down that path.

And then Egg’s artist fell off the face of the Earth.

He’d done around 20ish pages out of the 48 or so we’d need to finish things up. But we couldn’t find him. He didn’t return email. I think Myspace was a bust (remember Myspace?). Months went by, which became a year, which became two years. Edgar and Genaro finished their pages and moved on, but we felt hamstrung by this artist. It was weird that one of the original reasons for doing the comic with two artists was so that it would half the load. We thought there was a chance that if an artist disappeared (or ghosted us) that it would be relatively early in the process. Maybe they’ve done 1-5 pages and then make like a wizard, but he’d done enough for 2 issues.

We scrambled. Egg came up with an idea to split his dream in two with the already finished pages and then get a new artist (potentially himself) to do the last 24 pages. We toyed with some other thoughts, but time went on, and like so many things…

In Our Dreams Awake passed into legend…

It nagged at me. Tugged at the back of my mind. Every year I’d look through my files and see the pages and think about what could have been. I wrote the Gilded Age and The Dark That Follows and still, it was there. Egg moved on to RPGs and writing for so many websites that I can’t even keep up with his output these days.

When we were first working on the comic, Egg found the Thoreau quote and it fit perfectly. But randomly during that same Christmas, my mom got me post-its with quotes on them. And while they didn’t have the In Our Dreams Awake quote, they did feature one from Poe that seemed made for our comic:

Things had lined up perfectly until they didn’t.

Then March 2020 happened and the world changed. We had time on our hands. And In Our Dreams popped up in my dreams again. So I reached out to Egg. Told him I wanted to make a go of it. That we knew so much more than we had nearly 2 decades earlier. The biggest obstacle was always having product, but in this case, we had 1/2 the story already done. There was only one hurdle to go: we needed to reach out to Egg’s artist and see if we could use those pages or if we were going to start over.

And after many weeks, we decided to go with someone new.

The thing was, I’m a part of a couple of Facebook Groups where artists post their work looking for their next gigs, so I’d been saving posts of anyone who caught my eye. So when we decided to move on, I shared all the potentials with Egg, and very quickly we identified Rolands Kalniņš as the person who could bring the sci-fi/cyberpunk dream to life. And Rolands has done that and more. And all of a sudden we had issue 1 ready to go.

All of sudden… after 17 years…

The Kickstarter launches one week from now, but we’d love it if you’d sign up for the Notification Page just so that Kickstarter will send you an email when the project goes live. You can find that page here.

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Repost – Searching for a Super Power

I’ve been busy with prepping for the upcoming Kickstarter, so I thought a look at an early blog might be interesting.

Oh, and if you’d like to sign up to be notified when the Kickstarter goes live, you can do that here.

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I’ve been thinking about the scene in Mallrats where they are playing their version of the Dating Game and Brody (Jason Lee) is asked “If you were a comic book character, what character would you be?” Brody then begins to break it down: “What does one gauge his response on? Physical prowess? Keen detection skills? The ability to banter well with super villains?”

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He never gets to really answer the question, but it is certainly one that I’ve asked myself. Or more directly, what power would I want? So I’m going to break it down.

Flight – Let’s face it, flight is an amazing ability for those of us who must move along on the ground. To be able to reach up into the sky and really see the world as it is, in a way that very few ever could.

But, eventually they are going to make that hovercar technology and then everyone is going to be able to fly and you’ll just be sucking fumes.

manofsteel

Invisibility – This could be a good one. I’m pretty sure that there have been more than a handful of times that not being able to be seen would come in handy… get your mind out of the gutter!

I’ve seen Hollow Man. I’ve read the Invisible Man. It seems like madness is truly the biggest side-effect to having this power. I mean, even the Invisible Woman has had her bouts with it from time to time. And I’d be worried that an ability like that pretty much can only make you the biggest pervert in the world… now get your head into the gutter.

invisible

Telepathy – To be able to read people’s minds. To know when someone is hiding something from you. To see when they are lying to you. To find out exactly what people really think about you…

The Twilight Zone even had an episode where the guy suddenly could read minds and as we all know (A Penny for Your Thoughts), if that show does an episode on something then it always… turns out… good?

Come to think about it, that might not be the best idea. Ignorance is bliss.

Super Speed – The Flash makes it look so fun. He can move so fast, vibrate through objects, even create sonic booms. In the comics they always show him as the guy who helps rebuild the city because he makes it look like things only take 5 seconds.

Here’s the thing, something that I’m not entirely sure has ever really been broached by the comic books or the tv shows… it still has to be done by him. ISo for him, even moving really fast, he has to actually shovel the snow out of the driveway, he has to clean the house one room at a time… yes, to the rest of us he gets it done fast, but he still gets to deal with the part of actually doing those crappy jobs. And he can’t ever complain about it because everyone else will tell him how long it will really take them to do the same task.

Sounds like a lot of work.

Super Strength – Awesome, you have a power that will come in handy if you need to… hmmm, I’m trying to figure out when this one would come in handy in every day life. I guess the pickle jar will never remain stuck. The groceries will never be too heavy? Luggage?

Yeah, might be cool for a second, but I need something bigger and better.

Laser Blasts – Unless I’m fighting a villain, I’m not sure I need to be a living weapon. I certainly don’t need anyone and their brother trying to use me to whatever military purpose I might be suitable for. I’m probably missing a cool application of this power, but since Doctor Doom is not on my dance card most nights, I’m not feeling it.

Teleportation – To be able to move great distances in a split second. To no longer need to use a car or a plane or whatever to get from point A to point B. To be able to roll out of bed and be anywhere in the world with just a thought. I mean, sure there is that whole making sure that you don’t teleport into a solid object, but you could always scope things out beforehand. Set up particular spots to go to and from. Heck, I could live on a luxurious beach and still work wherever I wanted.

Star_trek_beam

And sure, maybe that means when your wife sends you to the market, she means the market in Hong Kong for that authentic Chinese Take-out, but hey, that may be a price worth paying.

So for me, I think I’ll go take a quick trip to Hawaii where it is nice and warm as opposed to the beginning of winter that I’m already tired of.

 

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

In Our Dreams Awake – Kickstarter Prelaunch

Jason Byron dreams of two lives. In one fantasy, magi reactionaries won, technology is banned, and Jason is a portrait painter hiding a contraband telescope. In the other world, he leads a cyberpunk gang amid a future of flooded cities and gilled aliens. When he closes his eyes in one world, he awakes in the next. Jason’s only desire is to wake up in the arms of his true love, Laura… Uh, or is it Fem’a Lin?… If only he knew which one was real?!

In a society ruled by mages, Jason Byron is a master artist trying to provide for his family. He has a secret heirloom, a telescope. With it he can see the stars, but can he see the trouble his illegal piece of technology will bring to his family?

In drowning London, Jason Byron deals in chum, the hottest drug among aliens. He and his true love are trying to escape their world. Can they keep the peace long enough to get away before the world is pulled beneath the waves?

In Our Dreams Awake is the story of what happens when both of those worlds begin to spin out of control. What happens when Jason no longer knows which world is the dream and which one is reality?

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In Our Dreams Awake comes from co-creators John McGuire and Egg Embry. The first issue of this mini-series features two dreams, the first illustrated by Edgar Salazar and the second by Rolands Kalniņš. Both artists provide covers in addition to Sean Hill’s variant cover. Written for fans of love stories, dreampunk, steampunk, and cyberpunk, this comic offers an engaging mystery with amazing artwork. This story is about love and loss and asking the big questions: Who am I? Where do I belong? Who do I love?

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We are launching the Kickstarter on March 30, 2022; however, you can make sure that you get notified when it launches by signing up at the Pre-launch Page!

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Over the next month and a half, I’ll have preview pages, origin stories, interviews with the creative team, and probably some stuff I’m not remembering right now. I hope you’re ready to join me on another comic book adventure!

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com