About John McGuire

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.

San Diego Comic Con Musing

No, sadly, I didn’t go this year. Or last year. Or any year. I have yet to go. Mostly due to the fact that I’m on the east coast and it’s waaay across the map.

One day perhaps…

Comic-Con-Logo

But what I was thinking about was that we all know that it isn’t the Comic Book Convention anymore. It is an Entertainment Convention. It is a TV and Movie Convention. It is a place to see and be seen Convention. And then it is a Comic Book Convention.

Now the bigger companies still have a strong foothold, though that seems to be as much due to the fact that they have their movies and tv shows themselves going on – drawing attention back to the comics. And pretty much every major announcement happens at this convention for Marvel, DC, Image, Dark Horse, etc.

But is there too much Noise for the Signal?

On Saturday night I went to www.BleedingCool.com and promptly opened every article that even kinda appealed to me. After having to reboot the tablet because I had opened too many windows I had to wonder again about the smaller companies bothering with announcing anything at all. Heck, I know a couple of people who had panels that I never saw any press about – not because they weren’t good panels, but because they’ve been drowned out by the volume of other news stories.

So I have to ask: if you aren’t DC or Marvel, why are you bothering with big announcements there? Why not pick a con a few weeks earlier or a few weeks later where you are the big talk of the comic book world. I mean how am I supposed to get excited about your newest book when I didn’t even get a chance to check out the trailer for the newest <insert hot fall movie here>?

Years ago (20 some-odd) the 3rd largest comic company was Valiant Comics. They did Solar, X-O Manowar, Turok, etc. But just as they were really hitting big they came down to Atlanta and basically had their own convention here. They gave away all sorts of freebies, had various creators run panels pitching their books, and made themselves approachable to their fans.

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Why do I mention some convention 20 years ago? Because if you are Image or Dynamite or Dark Horse – you could do the same thing with a Denver Comic Con or a Heroes Con. Make that your coming out party for the summer. And do it year after year – set the precedence and then follow through so that in 3 years time people associate you with that city’s con. People who love your comics will go to that con to bask in the glory of YOUR THING. You get to control the message of your books and you do it during a time when maybe everyone else is holding off until San Diego to make that “cool” announcement.

Yeah, maybe you don’t get the volume of eyes of SDCC, but if I’m looking for your post and can’t find it, how many people are just going to randomly stumble over it?

I don’t know, just a random thought I had this past week.

 

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John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program. He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

The Dark That Follows is now available in print here or on Amazon!

TV Shows that Ended Too Soon

I was thinking about cancelled tv shows the other day, and it occurred to me that there are a handful of them that I loved when they came on, but just didn’t grab the audience they needed to survive. All of these either had 1 or 2 seasons, and while there are plenty of shows that maybe only got 3 seasons (Veronica Mars – I’m looking at you!), at least they got 3 seasons.

Also, I’m not going to put Firefly on this list, but only because it is a no brainer, and probably the biggest tragedy when it comes to cancelled shows. That said, so many other people have written that article/blog, that I’m just not sure what I could really say. Yes ,it was awesome. Yes, I thought so from the very first episode. And yes, I wish they’d do more episodes at some point down the road (why not an animated show? Then the cast only needs to show up for the voice work!).

So here are 3 shows that were ended too soon:

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Nowhere Man (1995-1996) UPN – I wasn’t actually watching a lot of tv during this phase of life. I was entering my second year at Georgia Tech, but somehow I saw an ad for this show about a man who has his entire life erased (because of a photo he took years earlier). That woman who was his wife no longer recognizes him, none of his accounts work, and there seems to be someone trying to kill/get him. Each episode followed him as he tried to figure out who was behind ruining his life and why. He’d travel from town to town, mailing the negatives to himself over and over (so he wouldn’t have them on him if he got captured). And each episode he’d learn a little more about the organization behind ruining his life.

Paranoia was the largest piece of this show. Our hero trying to figure out who it was that was ruining him, while at the same time trying to stay a few steps ahead of them when he could. But more than anything, I love the idea that everything we have could be stripped away from us at a moment’s notice. That if we aren’t careful about creating and maintaining real relationships out in the world… well, who will be there to vouch for us when it all goes sideways.

In the days before DVRs, I made sure to either record it or probably watched it live most of the time. And when it got cancelled I was scouring the fledgling internet for any news I could find on it from fan sites and the few interviews the creator (Lawrence Hertzog, RIP)Sadly, I actually never got the see the series finale (and it only just now occurs to me that I might be able to watch it out in the internet jungle… hold on… yep. Well, I know what I’m going to be watching sometime this weekend!).

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Brimstone (1998-1999) Fox – It is a deal with the Devil story!

I don’t think you heard me. It is a Deal with the Devil STORY!

The basic gist is that this cop’s wife is raped and the rapist manages to get away with it. So, our hero (Zeke), ends up tracking the guy down and murders him. Sadly, it is not that long afterwards that his own life expires and without additional time to get his good/evil scale back on the side of angels he ends up in Hell.

Flash forward about 18 years and there is a prison breakout of Hell. 113 souls have escaped back to earth. So the Devil makes Zeke an offer: track down these errant souls and at the end he’ll get a second chance at life.

All that would be enough, but then add John Glover as the Devil and you have a masterpiece. No, seriously. His portrayal of the master of darkness was such that whenever he came on the screen he took total control of the scene. Whether it was simply “annoying” Zeke with cryptic words or tying a sleeping bum’s shoelaces together for a laugh, he nailed the role.

This show had the misfortune to come onto Fox during a time when they were blind to anything that didn’t do X-Files type ratings on Friday night. Of course, they forgot that X-Files wasn’t a juggernaut immediately and was allowed to become the top-notch show.

Do I think that Brimstone was ever going to be the end all be all for Fox? No, I think, at best, it would have maybe gotten 2-3 seasons and the fans would have been happy with it. As it is we got 13 episodes that, to these eyes, only got better and better as time went on.

Oh, and Peter Horton (Zeke) always gets extra point from me by appearing in the greatest Volleyball film of all time: Side Out (look it up, you won’t be disappointed… well, you might be disappointed, but not this guy).

werewolf

Werewolf the Series (1987-1988) Fox – A show that owes as much to the Incredible Hulk as it does American Werewolf in London, Werewolf was one of those shows that I remember being excited about seeing, even if I never knew exactly when it was coming on. The thing is, I’m not sure it does much reinventing of the genre or anything. At its core it was a very standard werewolf story. Guy gets bit, guy tries to fight the urge to change, and then guy doesn’t know whether he’ll be able to live with this curse.

Except this had special effects that rivaled the Howling and American Werewolf in London. And they did give Eric Cord a goal with one twist on the legend: if you kill the head of your bloodline then you will be human once more. So much like the Fugitive, he’s tracking down his maker while avoiding his own pursuer, a bounty hunter named Alamo Joe (much cooler than it sounds).

I must confess that I’m not 100% on how well this one might hold up to today’s standards… I haven’t really sat down with it in a long while. But I remember watching as a 12-13 year old and thinking that it might be the coolest show I’d ever seen. It probably (most likely) is the reason I love werewolf fiction.

Honorable Mentions: Roar, Sports Night, Journeyman, Friday the 13th the Series. Rome, Deadwood, Awake, and many, many others.

 

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John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program. He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

The Dark That Follows is now available in print here or on Amazon!

Put Me In Coach, I’m Ready to Play

The following is about baseball and me betraying my math inclined side of my brain.

But mostly it is about baseball.

Of all the sports, I believe that Baseball is the one most steeped in mysticism. There is a magic about it, sure, but more than that, I think there is something to all the superstitions and whatnot. More than any other sport, it is the one that focuses so much on numbers. As science has gotten better and better, they have managed to distill the game into an algorithm. And the math side of my brain loves this idea – solving baseball.

We have movies celebrating this idea.

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But the other half of my brain wonders about sucking out the mystery of the game. Where a nobody can turn into a somebody, if only for one at bat. Where we value a player because he only fails 70% of the time. Where a pitcher can attempt to do something that only 23 other players have ever done: pitch a perfect game. Think about that. In over 100 years only 23 people have played the game perfectly. I look at the list and see names that are steeped in lore, but there are other names on there who I don’t immediately recognize.

How do you solve for that?

At some point tomorrow night (I’m writing this sometime on Monday) I’ll be settling in to watch the Baseball All-Star Game. I don’t always watch the All-Star game. As much as I love baseball, the game doesn’t mean the same to me it did years ago…

Wait – this isn’t one of those things where I say such and such was better back in the day. It wasn’t better. In fact, it was pretty much the same. The difference is that I’m not 10 anymore. The thrill of seeing an Atlanta Brave in the game is still cool, but there was something more to it when I was younger. The one thing I seemed to be able to count on was Dale Murphy being on the tv at some point during the All Star Game. As bad as the Braves were (and boy were they awful), I knew one of our team would be out there.

1986DaleMurphyDonrussCard1

I have this card upstairs.

Which is why I’m always amazed when I hear the sports talk machine complaining (bitching) about the fact that each team has to be represented. So that means 15 of your spots are automatically taken. They say that someone is going to be left off the team that deserves to be there… and maybe they are right. But considering the sheer amount of injuries that happen to players, it is not that uncommon for 3rd, 4th, or 5th alternates to get invited to play as well.

So that “loser” from the “loser” team, did they really take someone’s place? Not really.

Just like when the NCAA Basketball tournament has to decide on cutting the 67, 68, & 69th teams, there is always going to be someone annoyed at a choice.

Here’s my counter argument that throws stats and logic out the window. An argument that tries to look at the purpose of this mid-summer classic.

And no, it is not because “this time it counts”. That is the dumbest thing about the All-Star Game. Home field given to the league who wins… ugh.

I think back to a time when I was happy to see that at least Dale Murphy was going to be on the All Star team. There would be one player from MY TEAM who would make it worth while to watch.

In a time when baseball’s ratings get trounced by the new American pastime (football), why would you want to exclude ANY fan base from watching the game? It wouldn’t make any sense.

More than that, who is to say that the “loser”, that one guy who was the last one to make the team… what if it just happens to be a magical night for him? Don’t you think there will be some 10-year-old out there who sees that and forever falls in love with this silly game of hitting a ball with a stick?

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Logic and stats and numbers be damned when it comes to baseball. Something else moves the ball through the grass. Some bit of wind carries a fly ball higher and farther than it was supposed to go. And the guy who wasn’t supposed to be there… well, maybe tonight is his night.

We shall see.

 

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John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and now the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program. He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

The Dark That Follows is now available in print here or on Amazon!

Half Way There

At the beginning of the year I wrote a blog post talking about my goals for the year. We’re just over half way through 2014, so I thought it would be a good time to check in on this year’s goals and note any other happy writing things.

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Comics – This was a big section of the blog mentioning future issues of Gilded Age, Tiger Style, and Entropy. Sadly there has been little to no movement on these (not my fault, I promise!). Some of it has to do with funding, some to artist timing, and others to the grand thing that is life. I still have some hopes to see a Gilded Age #2 at some point in the Fall, and that Entropy #1 could get underway as well.

This is going to have to fall under the old “fingers crossed” bit.

NovelsThe White Effect – It is my goal to have this book out this year. I believe that will still happen, though again, the year is speeding by. As soon as I finish my current project, this will become my all-consuming focus. I’ve been looking for editors for this tale, so I should have one lined up by the time I’m done with the 3rd draft.

Hollow Empire – Life has intruded on this one more than anything else on this list. I still need a last editor eye on my portion of it, but that had to be delayed while I was out of work (not expecting that one – hard to pay for editing when you have no job). Now that I am returned to the path of the employed, this is getting done and soon.

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That’s a whole lot of incomplete. So what things have I been doing, if not the above?

Edge of the World – The current Work In Progress. This is what I’m happiest about. I just passed the 1/2 point in the novel and I’m very much digging the story. I’m liking it so much that I keep finding new things and avenues to explore within the world. New characters have made themselves known and demand to have some page time. And I’ve experienced that magic moment when you write something and then have it tie into something else you weren’t entirely expecting… like magic.

Blogging – Still haven’t missed a week. This is on track for 27  weeks (now 28).

Website -I have a website now. And while I didn’t do the heavy lifting (a heap of thanks to Tanya Woods for that), I have been trying to keep it updated. This should have been on the list, but wasn’t, but I’ll count it as a win.

4 Shorts to online magazines – I haven’t submitted anything, but I did complete a short story (Piece by Piece) and posted it on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords (and at the latter 2 it is completely free – and you can also find it here and here for download). So another positive step forward.

Kindle Worlds Novella – When I capped off the Jan 1 blog, I said there probably will be something that pops up that wasn’t even on my radar back in January. This Veronica Mars novella was definitely one of those. With my lovely wife as co-writer, we got this out there at the end of April. So that was another one in the win column.

The Dark That Follows – Lastly, my debut novel finally exists in PRINT (here)! Another one that should have been on the list. Regardless, this was a cool day.

2010-Biodiversity_countdown (1)

So that’s it, as far as I can tell. 6 months in and the one thing I’ve really learned is that I need to get my butt in gear. There’s plenty of time left to do what I set out to do, but that time is going to speed by if I’m not careful.

 

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John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and now the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program. He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

The Dark That Follows is now available in print here or on Amazon!

 

More Than Meets The Eye

I also could have titled this: Michael Bay Hates Me

While other kids were playing with He-Man (only saw the cartoon when I stayed with my grandparents, so for about 2 weeks a year) or GI Joe (Mom didn’t want me playing with soldiers) or Thundercats (OK, I was watching Thundercats), I was buying, watching, playing, collecting, and living Transformers. Comics, toys, and tv shows. I created scenarios where planets lived and died due to the eternal struggle of these mighty warriors. And if dinner was announced in the midst of battle – they’d hang onto the edge of the bed or dresser and hope I made it back to finish that story.

Many Autobots and Decepticons died while I ate corn dogs.

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I just wanted to include a picture of corn dogs. Jeremy gets to have skulls every week, so I wanted to show these bad boys.

But like any obsession, there comes pain and suffering.

Suffering when it came time to get your Christmas presents from relatives. All those boxes under the tree. I just knew that I’d get to open Omega Supreme or Optimus Prime or Starscream or any number of other bots.

Well, I did get to open some bots… Go-Bots. The not-so-cool cousin of the real guys.

You’ll never know the pain that a 10 year old kid can go through when he misses Transformers the Movie. Not that it is entirely my Mom’s fault. We lived in a small Georgia town, one theater, and a ton of movies only came for 1 week (Godzilla 1985 being another that sticks out in my memories). For some reason, lost to time, I wasn’t able to go see it opening weekend (“I’ll take you next weekend.”).

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But there wasn’t a next weekend. It was gone. Instead I had to suffer the ultimate in 10-year-old humiliation: having all my friends tell me about it.

A transformer who was a planet?

Optimus Prime dead?

Megatron transformed?

Starscream dead? (this hurt more than Prime’s death).

And who the hell was Kup?

That was maddening… and I made sure my Mom knew my disappointment.

It took me about a year before I saw the movie. I had been counting down till it was released on VHS, and somehow they decided to play it on tv. And it was glorious. Everything that my friends had told me and more.

I figured that would be the only movie.

When the 90’s rolled around and this new Transformers show: Beast Wars came on, I scoffed. “That’s not Transformers. It looks weird. Who are these characters.”

I was wrong. When I sat down and watched it…dare I say it, Beast Wars might be the best story the Transformers have told.

But still, that had to be it. There couldn’t be anything more, could there?

I must confess something… I didn’t mind Bay’s 1st Transformers. Yes, it has lots of flaws (tons), but I enjoyed it for what it was. And what was that? A live action Transformers movie! For the sake of my 10-year-old self I could say I liked it at the very least.

But they say that time has a way of giving us perspective… and with enough time that first movie didn’t age well. I didn’t go see the 2nd one in the theaters. With the vitriol that people were throwing towards it, that was easy enough to avoid.

When it finally came on HBO and there was nothing else on, and the wife was in the bed… I watched it.

The Horror!

So, yeah, I’m not seeing the new one. Fool me once… not going to go see a Bay Transformer movie. The only reason I’m writing that down though is to give myself some kind of willpower…

So I’ll be strong and explain to my inner 10-year-old why we can’t bother with it. And he’ll be mad, I’m sure. Maybe not as mad as I was when I missed the animated movie, but mad enough. He’ll talk to me right before I drift off…

“But it is a Transformers movie. That’s still cool!”

“Why have you given up on the old school cartoons? Go see the movie!”

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Yeah, he’s riding around on this guy!

“Dude! Optimus is riding on Grimlock’s back! Dude!”

Pray I have the strength to avoid this one…

 

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John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and now the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program. He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

The Dark That Follows is now available in print here or on Amazon!

I’ll Ride the Wave Where It Takes Me

There are many things which make me feel like a man out of time. I joke about it. That I was born too late for having a job in this country (I’d much rather be at one place for decade after decade rather than jumping from one employer to another). I was born too early to see us out there in the stars (since the space program seems to be a little stalled on the man missions to other places right now).

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But one place I might have been in the sweet spot was with music. I was reaching my teen years with the onslaught of Grunge which wiped away the awfulness of Hair Metal (which even now their looks seek to both embarrass and confuse. Where up until that point I was bouncing from whatever might have been on the radio (though there were a couple of years there that both my sister and I thought there was only one radio station – Oldies  – because that is the only point on the dial the radio ever sat on). A strange thought since I change the station on every kind of whim if a certain song is no longer holding my interest.

More than that is with this discovery of something that could be mine, it has been with me every since. I typically cannot sit down and write without it. Most days I’m fortunate enough to have it on while I work the old day job, my headphones assisting me in blocking out the background noise.

Music has become this important piece of my life. Songs and albums act as markers in my past in a way that no singular action could otherwise. And the playing of that particular tune, sending me spiraling back into my own life, and forces me to relive moments both glorious and terrible. Certain songs that can no longer be listened to because of an event I must now associate with them.

Random songs that carry strange and fantastic memories for me –

Kokamo by The Beach Boys – Summer 1988 – Cocktail soundtrack carries a Beach Boy song of all things: Kokamo. Because of the singular radio station in the house, aside from songs on MTV, my sister was obsessed with anything and everything Madonna. Now what does this have to do with the Beach Boys? Well, when you only think there is one radio station in town and you ask them to play Madonna on a daily basis during the summer they are going to tell you NO (especially if they only play the oldies). However, when you are 7 years old, like my sister was, you really just want them to play a song for you. And so Kokamo became the go to song to ask them (after petitioning for Madonna first, of course).

 

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Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana – Winter 1992 – We’re six months after Smells Like Teen Spirit has reached the airwaves, but it has only really been in my head space for a couple of months. But more to the point, this is pre-internet days where BBS(s) ruled the world. Where some people would set up their computers so that we could remote log in to them, play games, download or upload files, and then move on to the next BBS. And my buddy Chad had the idea to set one up on his computer… which worked well enough. As one of his first guinea pigs, I logged on, tried it out. And since the connection was sometimes spotty the following exchange happened:

Hello?

Hello?

Until the other one responded. Chad tweaked this a little bit because of a certain song playing on the radio.

Hello?

Hello?

Hello?

How low?

No matter when I hear the song I get a picture of my old vga monitor (which was large enough to kill an ox) with those words drifting down the screen.

Van Halen - Live - Right Here Right Now 2

Right Here, Right Now (Live) Both Discs by Van Halen – Every College Quarter Break between 1994 and 1999 – My parent moved to Richmond, VA right after I graduated high school in 1994, which mostly meant that when a quarter ended I had the unenviable task of driving 8 hours up I-85 by myself. In the days before iPods and satellite radio, I was not going to suffer at the hands of whatever radio station might be within range. And that meant a book of cds sitting in the passenger seat.

8 hours is a long time.

This is also the part where I confess that I am a Van Hagar fan more than a Van Halen fan. Don’t get me wrong, I like David Lee Roth, but I missed out on his antics with the band. By the time I cared about them, Sammy had been the singer for 3 albums. More than anything though, this thought was cemented by the double live cd I had. Every trip, without fail, I had to listen to the cd(s). It wouldn’t have been a proper trip without them. And, of course, they feature 95% of Van Hagar’s catalog.

Even now, when we make that drive, the desire to listen to those songs are powerful ones.

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Indifference by Pearl Jam – Spring 1994 – Those only familiar with the radio hits will likely not know this song, that’s fine. This serves as much as a lesson learned that I’ve since carried through every concert I’ve since attended. That Spring my future wife, Chad, myself, and our friend Lee had somehow managed to get tickets to their now legendary show at the Fox Theater. They were my favorite band at that point (and still are) so this was going to be amazing. We all ride down to downtown Atlanta together and go to our 2 pairs of seats (we were on level 1 and they were on level 2). The band played pretty much every song in their catalog and did a pair of encores. It still ranks as one of my top 5 all-time concerts I’ve ever been to.

But there is one song Courtney and I did not hear, and that was Indifference. Though, if you check the set-list for that night, listen to one of the copies of the concert that are out there, you might notice that it was, in fact, played as their final song.

See, the problem was that after their second encore they thanked us and the house lights came on. Now, I hadn’t been to very many shows at that point, but I understood that meant “Get the heck out of here.” So Court and I did. However, once at the car we began to wonder what was taking Chad and Lee so long. When they finally arrived we began our trek home and the following conversation took place:

Me – “That was amazing!”

Chad – “Yeah. I especially loved them playing Indifference. That blew my mind.”

John – “Uhm, they didn’t play Indifference.”

Lee – “Yeah, they did, it was the last song they played.”

Beat.

Chad & Lee – “John, did you leave when the lights came on?”

So now I don’t leave until the ushers and other concert staff start to poke me with sticks and the like. I don’t move until the band’s bus is on its way out of the parking lot.

Never again!

 

There are hundreds of others which move to a time and space trapped in my memories. And I am thankful to music for that. They serve as wondrous mile posts and exit signs in a way that I would have never expected.

What songs transport you?

 

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John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and now the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program. He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

The Dark That Follows is now available in print here or on Amazon!

A Little Luck

I want to try something for the blog. I’m not 100% on how it is going to work, but… I like the idea of demystifying things. So how do you come up with the stories you write? Just like this:

Royal Flush Poker cards & Chips

My wife and I play poker at one of the local restaurants nearly every Sunday evening. It works out well because it is something we are decent at and enjoy together. But I had a lot of time to think about Luck when a hand didn’t go my way (“Bad” Luck) and suddenly I was out of this week’s tournament. In my mind the fact that my opponent ended up winning the hand when (once we got all the chips in the middle) he only had about a 25 % chance to win tells me I had some bad luck in that hand.

Sometimes I wonder if I don’t just have bad luck in many other hands. But as many poker players (and more than one mathematician) would tell you, sometimes you are just in a bad stretch, but eventually things will regress back to the mean. Or to put it simply, things will average out.

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But let’s face facts, we remember the bad beats in cards and in life more than we remember the times when we got “lucky”. It is very easy to bemoan our fates when those negative thoughts keep coming up. When we know that the other shoe is bound to drop. We’re the types of people who when you say bad things happen in 3s, we are quick to point out items 4,5,& 6.

We compete to figure out who has it worse. We’ve all been in those conversations:

Me – “I blew a tire today so I was late to work.”

You – “Yeah, my car wouldn’t start today, so I ended up having to call in sick. And after repairs and everything I’m out $1000.”

Me – “O.K. You win!”

Though, let’s be honest. I’m going to talk about some other instance of something bad happening to me today while I was at work, because I cannot concede defeat that easily, right?

It’s the same in stories. One of the ideas I’ve heard is when you are writing figure out what your character wants and then put an obstacle in front of them. So maybe they have to get across the state for some meeting of the minds which will solve all their problems… oops! your tire blew, and because you didn’t have a spare you missed the meeting and now the aliens are going to invade (or something). In a lot of ways it seems like Bad Luck is almost the thing that can keep your hero from winning their story.

But I think the other side maybe works too well. Sometimes it is too much good Luck running amuck. It’s gotta be believable. It’s gotta be something where you don’t scratch your head because the solution was not just impossible, but beyond lucky.

Star Wars – If you were a character who didn’t understand the Force, but knew the events that led to the destruction of the first Death Star, wouldn’t you think that Luke was literally the luckiest man alive? I mean he closed his eyes and took the shot. “One in a million, kid!” What a stroke of luck.

Of course, we the viewer, know the truth of the situation.

StarWars_Scene3

One Lucky S.O.B.

The Hobbit – Bard ends up hitting Smaug in the one spot where he is vulnerable. Yes, maybe he is just “that good”, but I know  when I read the Hobbit, that was my biggest problem with it. So one arrow fired by someone not in the main group was going to be the thing to end the evil of this dragon? How lucky!

So there is a fine line to walk. You must make it so that your character has to struggle a bit, perhaps they bemoan their fate (their Luck), but most of the time they are going to triumph in the end. Overcoming the odds.

Overcoming the odds… sounds like they got lucky to me.

Something else that puzzles me about luck… Is it possible that there is an amount of luck that each person has? Can it be measured? Is it like matter in that it cannot be created or destroy, but merely transformed?

There’s an 80s movie with Richard Dryfuss called Let it Ride (a personal guilty pleasure movie). In the film, he’s a compulsive gambler (horse racing in this instance). There’s a line in that movie that’s always stuck with me:

“You could be walking around lucky and not even know it.”

That’s a profound thought. What if we have some amount of luck which ebbs and flows on a daily basis? What if we could predict when those cycles were so that we only played poker or craps or blackjack on the days when our own personal luck meter (for lack of a better term) was in the positive rather than in the negative? Maybe that’s why there is something to be said for the idea behind “beginner’s luck.” Those are people who have not burned through their luck for a particular luck based game. So that first time they play… well, it’s like they can’t lose because they really can’t.

I have a friend who I have joked with over the years about his luck. I’ve seen it in action before to the point that it is now a matter of fact that it will happen. It’s like he has a super-power where he can manipulate the odds into something a bit more in his favor. And obviously it doesn’t work every time, but it works enough for me to notice. It works enough for me to wonder if there might not be something to it.

Here’s the key thing, he doesn’t waste it. When we play games of chance, he isn’t always winning. In fact, he probably wins at an average rate. What you might expect any person to win who plays Settlers every once in a while. Does he know what he’s doing? Does the Luck?

I think there is something to all of that. Could I steal someone else’s luck? What would that look like? How might you go about taking something like that? Is there such a thing as taking too much? I mean, if you reduce all their Good Luck and only leave the bad… well, they’d probably get hit by a random object from the sky (oh, and if you are going to do that, make sure that you are nowhere near them afterwards).

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And this is how ideas begin to form. A bad beat in poker becomes something more… but where to go? This feels like there is something there. Buried underneath, waiting for a story to be told. The only question now is whether I can exhume it anytime soon. Or perhaps it is destined to be filed away for a while.

 

 

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John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and now the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program. He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

The Dark That Follows is now available in print here or on Amazon!

Grab Bag – June Edition

This week has been a little scattered. Lots of little things, some bigger things, and a glimpse at possibly really big things. As such, I don’t really know if any one topic feels right for this week’s blog piece. So instead I want to make sure I catch everyone up so that we’re all on the same page.

 

Hey I have a short story up for FREE!

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The short story, Piece by Piece, which I debuted on this very site here (for free), is now not only available on Amazon (for $0.99), but also available on Smashwords – and soon will be on your Kobo, Barnes and Noble’s Nook, iBooks, and and assortment of other ebook reading sites (all for free as well). So for any of you who might have wanted to have the short on your ereader, but didn’t want to deal with a Kindle or Amazon… well, I’m trying.

My plan was always to try and get a sample of my work out into the world for free. The old give you the first taste for free and then maybe you’ll want to read more about Jason Mills (the main character in Piece by Piece) in my novel, The Dark That Follows.

 

Hey I did an Interview!

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In conjunction with getting the short up on Smashwords, I also have an interview up on the site. Technically I announced it on Tessera on Monday, but it never hurts to remind you guys and gals in case you missed it.

 

Hey I’m up for an award!

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For the past 2+ years I’ve been working with Terminus Media on a Motion Comic Project for HIV and STD Awareness. I was one of the three main writers on the project having written 4 of the 10 episodes. It’s been one of those things that I’ve not really been able to talk much about aside from the bare bones (it’s hard to really explain to people what you mean by “Motion Comics”, but I’m hopeful that in the months to come I can talk a little bit about the process, from my end at least.

But the biggest reason to bring it up at all is that the project has been nominated for the  HHS Innovates People’s Choice Award. They have a blurb on the project and you can watch a brief sample of what we’ve been working on here. Most importantly you can vote for our project here!

And there is nothing stopping you from sharing this with your friends as well. The voting ends this week.

 

Hey I thought this was an interesting article!

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Elmore Leonard wrote this over a decade ago and was recently linked to on Warren Ellis’s email thingy. While we may not be Leonard, we can at least take a moment and see what is what.

For better or worse I try to strive hard for the last one “Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.” Some days I do better than others. Though I kinda feel like this one thing could be a whole blog post unto itself (makes mental note that he will promptly forget).

 

Hopefully next week I can also announce having my book in print. I have the proof copy and everything looks pretty good, so… until next time.

 

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John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and now the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program. He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

It’s Not November Yet

May was going to be THE MONTH. Nanowrimo, as some of you may know, is National Novel Writing Month. Basically you are challenged to write a whole novel in a month. Don’t worry, only you have to read it at that point. The real point is proving that maybe if you sit down and stop making excuses as to why you CAN’T do something, then maybe you’ll surprise yourself.

50,000 words in a month (about 200 pages). Yes, technically that may only be part of your novel, but I’m thinking no matter how long your manuscript will end up, 50k is going to make a bit of a dent.

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But wait, you say, it takes place in November.

That is true. And every year I think that I’d love to do that.November, when the weather begins to turn a bit cooler, and we here in the south get our first nights of what we think is really cold weather. Football season is entering its stretch run. Baseball is over with only dreams of spring to tide us over. And to top it off there is this novel writing month that I want to participate in.

And there is something else… Oh, yeah… there is that pesky Thanksgiving Holiday which means about 1 week of possible writing time is about to go out the window.

I don’t know how people do it. And this is coming from a guy who isn’t afraid to break off a few hours everyday into the wee hours of the night to write out that nights 1500 words or whatever it is.

But it is just not in the cards for me in November.

I hit upon an alternate idea: does it have to be November? What if I chose the beginning of a month to start on a book and see if I could get 50k words written. As it would happen, my schedule for writing is something that is a little in flux, dates slide a little here and there, but for the most part I try and stick to it the best I can. And the next big project on my list was a novel. What will end up being my 4th novel when it is done (behind The Dark That Follows, The White Effect, and Hollow Empire).

On May 1, 2014 I sat down to write my 50k words.

On May 31, 2014, I had about 15k in words… not so good.

I could blame life or work or the Beast (writer’s block) or learning a new software (Scrivener), but really I didn’t sit at the computer for long enough during May. And I was humming along in that first week… ugh.

So I failed.

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Failed myself. Failed my goal. 1 day off from writing became 2 and that became 3 out of 4. And before I knew it the month was almost over.

They say we learn more from failures than from successes. This is definitely a thought, even if I’m not sure it always applies to everything. Sometimes I think succeeding early just saves you a lot of headache and heartache. I mean, if you’ve figured out the answer the first time around, why do you need to go through all the other crap? So you’ll appreciate it? Eh, I’d rather just move on to the next idea, moment, or whatever.

So, yeah, I’d like to kick “They” in the ass.

Writing is literally filled with failure. Your first draft is horrible. Someone doesn’t like a particular section of it. Agents turn you down. Editors want to take the “soul” out of your work.

All of that is true, but…

Here’s the thing, the calendar switched over giving me 30 more days to try and figure this novel out. A clean slate to do whatever I want. And like the blank page in my document, I can fill it with anything I want.

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Anything I want.

I gotta go now… I need to continue writing that novel.

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John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and now the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program. He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

My Writing Process (Blog Tour Entry)

I loathe chain emails. I’m not sure if they existed in paper form, but the thing which always killed me was the warning at the end. Like something out of a Steven King novel: “If you dare break this chain of old, a thousand locusts will descend upon thy host until only misery and bones are left to thee.”

Chain Letter

 

I snub my nose at such dire warnings. And I’m insulted that you feel that the subject manner itself is not good enough to spur me into action. There are many things that are difficult in this digital age, forwarding something on is not one of those things.

(Though I wonder if some of my recent bad luck is a result of not sending along that latest one… hmm, maybe I should rethink my stance.)

But a Chain Blog Tour? Well now, that is a horse of a different color. And when a fellow Guild-mate taps you then you do your best to appease the chain-blog gods. So with that in mind a little something to say about J Edward Neill.

I’ve known Mr. Neill since high school, brought together by a shared love of basketball and roleplaying. For the many years I thought about writing a book, he was sitting in his dark cave (or mountain top or volcano fortress) actually putting pen to paper, fingers to keyboard to create his fantasy opus: Down the Dark Path. And much like in sports where they tell you to play against better competition in order to get better at your craft – I use him as one of my gauges. Of course, this week he’s come out with Book 2: Dark Moon Daughter… so my work is cut out for me.

 

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What am I working on?

Sometimes I feel like the question should be “What am I not working on”, but let’s see:

The White Effect – My science fiction story about a man who finds that his world is rebooting, and he is one of the lucky (unlucky) ones who realizes what’s happening. It is currently with BETA readers with my next draft being targeted for late summer.

Hollow Empire – Serialized Dark Fantasy is all I’ll say about this one until it is out. This one is done, I’m just in the process of getting a final proof-reader edit on it. This process has slowed due to some recent life developments, but I’m hoping (and I’m sure my co-writer hopes as well) to have this one all wrapped up in the next month or so.

Gilded Age – My Steampunk creator-owned comic series through Terminus Media. Issue 2 is set to have final inks and colors begin any day now, and in the meantime I have final edits on issue 3’s script.

Entropy – A post-apocalyptic comic series set at the Ends of the Universe. Co-written with Robert Jeffrey II (see below for more on him), we merely wait for the artist to be unleashed upon this project.

The Edge of the World – A story in the vein of Journey to the Center of the Earth where our heroine seeks to find her missing uncle. I am 15,000 words into the first draft of this one.

 

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

With my comic writing, and The Gilded Age in particular, I’m trying to write character based stories and create a world from them as opposed to plopping them into a world. With my novel, The Dark That Follows, I’d say that it differs from “standard” urban fantasy in that it isn’t a romantic story where you wonder will they/won’t they. Instead it is about a man in way over his head just trying to do the right thing.

 

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Why do I write what I do?

As you can see above, I’m a little all over the place with regards to genre (for better or for worse). I guess I just follow that old rule of write what you’d like to read, and since I don’t just read fantasy or science fiction or urban fantasy or super-heroes exclusively my brain ensures that almost everything I work on is something different from the thing I wrote before. I take everything I’ve read, everything I’ve watched, everything I’ve ever heard and put them through the grinder of my brain and then something comes out. If it is interesting and moves me, then I write about it, if not, I move onto the next project.

 

How does my writing process work?

It starts with music. Something to write to. Recently it has been 10 Years, Chevelle, and Deftones. Once I have the right mood set I generally have a decent idea of what needs to happen within the story, so much more plotter than pantser. For a comic script I tend to write out a 1-2 paragraph summary of the major story beats and then start writing dialogue. Only after most of the dialogue is written do I go back and fill in every panel’s description and manipulate the pace of the comic. After a couple of passes I send it on to my editors, do one more pass with their notes, and then end up doing a FINAL-FINAL pass during the lettering stage as I can see the whole picture (literally) and see if something needs to be added or subtracted.

With my novels I have the story beats, but I write out-of-order most of the time, jumping from one scene to another and then piece things together like a puzzle. After that first draft is done I follow Steven King’s advice and put it in the drawer for 6-8 weeks to gain perspective. After that time I do my second pass, and if I’m happy with that version I might reach out to a couple of BETA readers for thoughts. Another draft follows that and then the editor. And then the final draft.

But at some point I do say “pencils down” because while we can tweak and refine our work forever, it doesn’t mean we should. Release it into the world and move onto the next project.

 

whos next logo

Artist Highlights (or Next on the Tour):

Robert Jeffrey II: Robert is an Atlanta-based freelance writer whose portfolio includes a multitude of work in the arenas of print/web journalism and comics. His work with Atlanta-based Terminus Media includes comics (his creator owned/ 2014 Glyph Comic Award winning “Route 3” and “Daddy’s Little Girl”, “Terminus Team Up”, and B. Robert Bell’s “Radio Free Amerika”) and contracted client work including custom comics and animation scripting/editing duties for clients such as the Center for Disease Control and Nitto Tires.

Robert’s life long dream is to win a pop-locking battle to save a community center.

 

Sean Taylor: Bad Girls, Good Guys, and Two-Fisted Action is the official writing blog of Sean Taylor. But it’s not just a place to promote his stuff. It’s a resource (he hopes) of information about writing and creating genre fiction, literary prose, comic books, and just about anything else you can create with pens, pencils, paper, or word-processing software and a printer. On this site, you’ll be able to find publishers calling for submissions, tutorials about the craft of writing and editing, interviews with other writers, links to helpful and fascinating articles about the art, craft and business of writing and publishing, etc. — and of course, yes, you’ll also be able to keep up with whatever Sean has his writerly little paws involved in too.

 

 

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John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and now the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program. He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

Take a look, it’s in a book…

One of the things I always hear from other writers is that they never get the chance to read anymore. Sometimes it is due to the time investment. Sometimes it is because they don’t want a writer’s style to infect their own while they are in the midst of writing. And it is true. When it comes to free time, I’m pretty much trying to grab those extra seconds in actual book/comic writing. Why on earth would I take those precious minutes and use them on someone else. Words need to be typed!

But… but… there is also this thought that you have to keep reading. Like a fish, you have to keep finding new and different works to inspire you. So if you go completely cold turkey you’re bound to get stilted.

Or the better part of reading others is seeing how they used a technique and finding ways to incorporate them into your own writing toolbox. I’m still in my infancy of writing. There are tons of things I am learning and still need to learn to become a better writer.

So all that is my way of saying that I still find a little time to read, here or there. At lunch, on a plane, at the beach, when I get knocked out early playing poker, or sometimes on a lazy Sunday. What follows are the last five books I’ve read and maybe a little mini-review… or just whatever comes to me.

horns

Horns – Joe Hill

For those of you not in the know, this is Steven King’s son (yes, that Steven King). That put him on my radar, but this book… I believe his second full length novel (I’m too lazy to look it up)… for some reason it appealed to me. The basic plot is that our main guy, Ig, wakes up with what seem like horns growing from his head, some missing (drunk) time, and suddenly everyone wants to share their sins with him.

That was all it took. Maybe because I had been toying around with an idea kinda like that. Taking the idea of someone being able to see your darkest secret, but I had no idea where to go with it. Hill not only knows which way to go, but gives you a very flawed character who you are not sure if you should be cheering for him.

write publish repeat

Write. Publish. Repeat. – Sean Platt & Johnny B. Truant with David Wright

Non-fiction book from the hosts of The Self-publishing Podcast. I’ve been listening to their podcast since episode 1 (it is on 106 as of last week). And in many ways this book takes much of their technique, much of what they’ve discussed on their podcast, and presents it in a very organized way (which sometimes the podcast just can’t do).

But why should I, or anyone else, listen to these guys? Well, just based on their output alone. One pair (Platt and Wright) put out serialized books on a weekly basis over the course of 2 years, and in the last year Platt and Truant have published something like 2 million words. So, yeah, maybe they know something about writing.

And that’s the key bit to learn from them. They put butt in the chair and write and finish that work, and then move on to the next project. They don’t slow down, they don’t doubt, they just do.

Update – They are also the guys who are trying something completely new with a Kickstarter where you get to see exactly how they do what they do. From story meetings to the actual raw writing and everything between, they are pulling the curtain back. The Kickstarter is almost done, but I supported it if only to see how someone else does “IT”.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1027829739/fiction-unboxed-change-the-world-with-a-story

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Wool – Hugh Howey

This is the story/novella that put Howey on the map. He went from being just another indy writer to being one of THE INDY WRITERS (and I think he’s managed to get a few offers since then). The story of a post-apocalyptic world where humanity now lives in silos, closed off from a polluted (radiation filled) world. But there is more going on than meets the eye, and the Silo Sheriff has decided that it is time for him to leave that place.

But the biggest takeaway for me was how this story felt like one I might have read from a Ray Bradbury. Howey gets in, lays the groundwork for the world, and then gets out. And the ending… well, it was excellent.

He’s since gone and added on to the world. I haven’t read the rest, but it is on the to-do list.

WofP

The Wolves of Paris – Michael Wallace

Did you know that in 1450 a pack of wolves terrorized Paris? This is true world history. They killed like 40 people, and it took a concentrated effort by the citizens to finally kill them all.

Wallace tweaks this fact slightly: what if they were werewolves?

Yep, you had me at hello.

Wallace manages to weave a story that I think works within what history says while still making it not just a list of dates or events, but tying it all together into a cohesive story.

And werewolves, people! It’s got werewolves!

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John Dies at the End – David Wong

I don’t read “comedy” books. Most of the time I want the humor to be very light in my books. But this book, which, if I am honest, I only picked up because of the clever title, manages to work the humor in through one character: John (from the title… I wonder what is going to happen at the end?). There is a lot of self-awareness going on in the novel. The two main characters seem to realize that not only is what they are dealing with “crazy”, but that they really shouldn’t be bothering at various points.

Hmm… I feel like I’m not really doing this one justice, but it is one of the few books that I laughed out loud at when the shit hit the fan because of their reactions.

It also got turned into a movie, which captures much of the “feel” of the book, but is a poor substitute for the real thing.

 

So there you go. I would say these are the things on my bookshelf, but they are in my Kindle… so my virtual bookshelf. What might you be reading?

 

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John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and now the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program. He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

 

Behind the Comic – The Comic Script

 

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The company I do a lot of my comic related work with is Terminus Media. Early on, before the money and the fame (ok, maybe I’m still waiting on that), we met in the back of a comic book shop in Stone Mountain, Georgia. These were open meetings where any number of creatives were welcomed to listen in, discuss their own ideas, and even contribute to the anthology comics if they had the desire.

Each time new writers or artists came in they had the same questions I had when I walked through those doors. When I sat down to write my very first comic script I had no idea of how to go about setting it up. It’s a weird thing, this product we read on a weekly basis, but how in the world does it get from the writer’s brain to the artist’s fingertips? How does the script work?

In the comics industry there are basically two main forms that comics take: Full Script and Marvel Method.

Full Script – This is the one most people might be familiar with. In a full script the writer typically is going to break the comic down into pages and then those pages are broken down further into panels. Then within each panel would be a description of what you want the artist to draw (perhaps painting a general idea of the scene all the way to “camera placement”). Finally there will be any dialogue or narration needed. And so on and so forth until all 20-24 pages have been scripted out.

Yet, even among the Full Scripts there are those who give a small amount of  description and those who give tons. Do yourself a favor and try to find a copy of an Alan Moore script… that man writes tons of description and analysis for each panel (some might say too much, but he is one of the greatest comic writers of all time so what do they know, huh?).

 

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Marvel Method was something that developed from Stan Lee’s early days at Marvel Comics. Since he was the main writer (only writer) he didn’t have enough time for a full script. And he happened to work with the likes of  Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko. They were artists who he knew could “do the job” as it were. So he provided them with plots of the comic, but left it up to them to actually layout the pages, determine what would go in each panel, and so on. Then, once it was done, Stan would go back in and add the narration and dialogue.

I had no sample script to work from, so my first one was probably closer related to the Marvel Method than a full script. But that was due to me not knowing than any conscious decision about how this scripting thing was supposed to work.

Over the years I’ve mostly done the Full Script version for my comics. And the reason for that is because many times I don’t know who is going to be the artist on the book. And without that key knowledge, I’d rather give them my vision for the comic and then go from there, than leave them with just a plot.

But, as I work with an artist, and grow more comfortable with them, I try to leave more things in their hands. Fight scenes are probably the biggest one. I feel like no matter how I think the fight could go, the artist is going to have a better feel for the flow of the characters. So why not let them stretch their skills a little bit. I give them general ideas of what needs to happen: “Bill and Jack rumble on this page. Maybe Bill gains the upper hand early in the fight, only to have Jack turn the tables.” OR “Jack and Bill are going to fight on this page. The only key thing is that by the end of the page Jack needs to hold Bill out a window… otherwise go nuts!”

All that is a long-winded way of saying, lots of those people coming into those early Terminus meetings didn’t have a clue about scripting or, if they were artists, didn’t know how to draw from a script. They just didn’t have access to one. So a few years ago, at the behest of some, I wrote out a short called 3 Brothers for the express idea of helping newer artists have something to draw.

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I divided the story into 3 parts:

Part 1 was a love story (Romance). Two people in love with each other, some talking head shots, playful interaction.

Part 2 was about hate (Rage). Two brothers, in love with the same woman, have a major fist-fight that doesn’t go well for one of them.

Part 3 was about loss (Death). Two people, dealing with the loss of a loved one, standing in the rain (so they have a little bit of the environment to deal with).

Anyway, I think a couple of people tried it out here or there. I think it was a helpful tool, and as such I’ve added a copy of the PDF here Download.

Perhaps an aspiring artist will get inspired by this, or want to draw something that isn’t just superheroes for their portfolio.

Hope it helps.

 

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John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and now the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program. He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

Free Short Story Time: Piece by Piece

I’m trying to figure out this publishing thing. I’ve got the book, got a comic, got a little novella, but I know I need to do more. The chances of anyone having just one thing out there in the void and suddenly hitting it big are pretty low. And that’s fine with me. I know it is a marathon and not a sprint (to borrow that old cliche’). Still, the projects I’m working on don’t really feed the beast of The Dark That Follows. And while I have ideas for the sequel, I’m not ready to really dive in (too many other projects that must get done).

So how do I fix that? How do I get potentially more eyes on this book I wrote without writing another book in the same world?

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An aside… when the four of us teamed-up to form this little spot in the corner of the internet we talked about doing a short story for the site. Something that might even be able to use the name Tessera in its title or as its inspiration.

Jeremy jumped in, both feet first, because that man is a machine. Maybe in an effort to make everyone else look bad (jerk!) or maybe to light a fire under our collective asses, he wrote Old Man of Tessera (free on this here website!).

I’d been thinking about a story, but I really wanted it to tie into The Dark That Follows somehow. Have a place where they could get the short for free and if they liked what they read, maybe they’d check out the book. Something extra. And a story began to shape itself in my mind.

A short story.

This is the old two birds one story idea. And while I didn’t name it Tessera or Tesserization or Tesselation or… (well, you get the idea), it does take a little bit of inspiration from trying to see a bigger picture from little bits of information.

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So without further ado, I present to you Piece by Piece. You can find it here on the site, and shortly you should be able to find it for free download on the various other platforms… but you can get it first!

 

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John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and now the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program. He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

 

Spider-Man, Spider-Man, Does Whatever A Spider Can

With the release of the Amazing Spider-man 2 I feel like there is something I should say. I have a confession to make. Well, maybe not a confession, but more like a moment of truth. Spider-Man is my favorite comic book character.

That’s not the confession.

This revelation does not make me unique or anything. Plenty of people love Spider-Man (as evidenced by the sheer amount of money the movies alone have made). The fact that any kid might have something Spider-Man themed in his closet. Or that dozens of figures of the guy are released every year.

No, the confession is that I have not read a Spider-Man comic in quite some time (5+ years).

Now if Spider-Man is my favorite character why would I forsake him in the very media that I profess to love beyond probably even my wife’s understanding?

One name: Mary Jane Watson Parker.

Many of you will know the name Mary Jane Watson from the Sam Rami movies of the 00s as she was played by Kirsten Dunst. As you can tell from the movies, she is an important cog in Peter Parker’s life.

I personally think she’s the true love of his life, not Gwen Stacy, but that’s mostly because I don’t know Gwen. She had been dead for a decade before I picked up my first issue of Amazing Spider-Man. I only have the occasional flashback to let me know who she was.

Though, one of my favorite stories came from a “Gwen” moment. Spider-Man Blue by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale tell a story where on Valentine’s Day Peter is feeling reflective about how much he misses Gwen, and proceeds to talk into a tape recorder about the two of them falling in love. He talks to her about how her death messed him up for a long time, but through Mary Jane he learned to love again. And then this happens…

Spidey Blue 1

 

Spidey Blue 2

 

And if you were to pick up a Spider-Man comic from around 1987/1988 until about 2008 you would have probably seen Mrs. Parker in the comics. As Peter’s wife she’s been with him through think and thin.

However, if you picked up a Spider-Man comic today you might notice that Peter is no longer married.

More on that in a second…

Spider-Man appeared in Amazing Fantasy #15 in 1962. By the time I started reading the comic was approximately 25 years old. During that entire time Spider-Man was a single guy. Yeah, there were girlfriends: Betty Brant, Felicia Hardy, Gwen Stacy, and Mary Jane, but he was a single guy. For 25 years those writers got to weave stories featuring a single Spidey. But that changed in 1987 (Amazing Spider-Man Annual #21) when the two of them tied the knot.

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I was 11 at the time this happened. I think I had read about 6 issues of Spider-Man before he got married. Spider-Man getting married did not change how I saw the character. It did not make him my “Dad” all of a sudden. It didn’t make him the “winner” of life because he married this gorgeous model (these were some of the reasons for getting rid of the marriage, but more on that later).

Growing up I never saw myself as a good-looking kid. I was taller than all the other kids, maybe a little clumsy, and shy around girls. There were plenty of times I would think about the fact that I would never find a girlfriend.

Comics are a great escape from life. When you get down on yourself, get depressed about something that’s happened to you, they are there waiting for you, month in and month out. Ready to take on the worst of the worst bad guys.

So how did it make me feel when Spidey got married?

It actually made me feel like, maybe, just maybe, there was a girl out there for me. That even if I felt awkward and ugly that it wouldn’t matter. I’d find that person who I was meant to be with. Maybe that girl next door might take a shine to me.

It’s probably silly to think that way. These weren’t real people. And yet… because Mary Jane and Peter weren’t just two people who started dating and decided to get married. These were two friends from way back. They’d suffered through tragedy on both sides. And where he had never confided in Gwen about his alter-ego, Mary Jane knew (she figured it out – girl is smart). Because she was his best friend. Moreso than Harry Osborn (when he wasn’t the Green Goblin) or Flash Thompson (in the later years), MJ was the one that he could always turn to.

So, no, it wasn’t a bad thing that this happened. Not for me at least.

And so it went that from 1987 to early in 2008 Spider-man was a married character.

But apparently this was a problem for the people in charge. Apparently having Spider-Man married meant that they couldn’t have Peter date the Black Cat or whomever they wanted him to. Apparently being married… wait for it…

Made Spider-Man OLD.

They felt like the truest form of the character was that of a single guy. That him finding love with his best friend meant he’d won and was no longer the loveable loser everyone thought he was.

They (the writers) felt like they were hamstrung on stories because he was married.

Counselor, I present Matt Fraction’s take:

fraction annual

 

During J. Michael Straczynski’s run on the book I told my wife that I could have read 22 pages of just the two of them talking. But more than that, I think JMS understood how to approach the relationship. Mary Jane being married to Spidey is the life many women (and some men) live when their spouse is a police officer (or firefighter or in the military). There is always that chance that they may not come home that night. I don’t think that means they love them less, though. I think that means they try to fight for every moment they get.

But the powers that be didn’t like the marriage. And I’d heard the same argument about Superman and Lois Lane. And I think it is complete crap. It’s lazy writing to say you can’t come up with a story for the character because his connection to another person is marriage. Because, let’s face it, Peter Parker, single, was not going to be running around banging every chick that he meets. He’s not that character and never will be. So if he had a girlfriend he’s not going to cheat. So what the heck is the real difference there?

There isn’t one.

One other point about this that I’m not sure people really thought about. 25 years as a bachelor and 21 years married. That’s effectively the same amount of time, and one could argue that there were far more actual comics with him married than single (more titles in the 90s, etc.). But it wasn’t like this marriage had been around for only a couple of years. For all intents and purposes Spidey was a married man (or at least a committed man).

But the decision had been made. They came up with a story line that had Aunt May on the brink of death (yes, that old chestnut of a story – never used that one before!), and the only way to save her was to make a DEAL WITH THE DEVIL.

And the Devil wanted their (Peter and Mark Jane’s love).

Wait, that’s not right. He wanted their marriage.

Let’s toss aside the fact that Spidey lives in a Universe where superheroes come back to life on an almost daily basis. Let’s ignore the fact that there are mutants who have the ability to HEAL other people, and even if he doesn’t specifically know those people, he knows people who know those people (confused yet?). And let’s even forget about the fact that Aunt May is OLD and has lived the good life, and would NEVER want her nephew to make a DEAL WITH THE DEVIL.

The fundamental problem with this is that Peter and Mary Jane would never make such a deal. They just wouldn’t. Peter would find another way. He’d triumph through some angle we hadn’t thought of.

But no, he made the deal and the marriage was undone.

Amazing_Spider-Man_545

The last issue of Amazing Spider-Man I own.

And I haven’t picked up an issue of Spider-Man since.

The place I now get to read about my favorite character is in the pages of the Avengers when he happens to be on the team, or when he makes a guest appearance in a comic I read.

Now we’re 6 years into my “strike” on reading the character. They just finished a 30+ issue story where Doc Ock swapped bodies with Peter and then tried to use the powers for good. There’s a new story (that could have been told with him being married I’m sure), and one I would like to read.

But I can’t. Stupid principles.

So now I have to be content with watching Amazing Spider-Man 2 this weekend to get my fix. Fingers crossed its a good one.

 

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and now the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

 

John McGuire is at Challenges Comic Store for Free Comic Book Day May 3, 2014

GildedAge_Front Cover-tesseraThis weekend (Saturday) I will be at Challenges Comic Store in Decatur, Georgia from 10 till 4(ish). It’s Free Comic Book Day, so there are plenty of goodies to be had, and some of the other Terminus Media guys will be there with the latest issues of their series (as will I with hard copies of The Gilded Age and Terminus Team-up #2 which I wrote).

So come on out, check out the various things going on (Magic Grand Prix Trial for Atlanta will be there as well). Stop by the table and we can chat.

Hope to see you there.

John McGuire

Little Things Mean A Lot, Don’t They?

A strange thing happened to me on the way to work this morning. Normally along my route I pass any number of police cars. I’m not sure whether this is due as much to the recent (months ago) change in speed or if it is just good “hunting ground” for all manner of traffic violators. Regardless, I passed one of the 2 today (it is 11 miles to work and I have passed as many as 5 in my trips to and from work so I know better than to speed) and suddenly found myself being pulled over.

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And for the life of me I couldn’t figure out what it could have been for. When he actually got behind me I was at a dead stop… in my old car I’d been pulled over for a faulty taillight, so maybe…

Expired tags. That’s why he pulled me over.

Except, had I the money, I would have bet him tons of money that my tags were not expired (my birthday is in January, so this would be 2 1/2 months overdue). I could see, in my mind’s eye, me placing the new decal onto my plate. No doubt in my mind.

Of course, I might have been in a different kind of trouble had I broached that aspect with him. Still he double checked, and as the ticket in my hand states: Expired Tag.

How in the world did this happen? My wife and I are pretty good about dealing with the various bills that come with the not-so-fun aspects of being an adult. And in this case it’ll cost me probably a couple of hundred dollars to “learn this lesson”.

Not the best way to start your day.

The thing is, there are so many distractions in my (everyone’s lives) that something as “small” as making sure I have the right decal on my car slipped through the cracks. We got so caught up in LIFE that we allowed this mistake to happen.

***

When I’m reading books or comics or watching movies the big bold moments are the things that we all remember and all come back to, but sometimes it is the smaller things, the subtle things that make the bigger difference in a scene.

One of my favorite moments in all of the Christopher Reeve’s Superman movies is a moment where he has made up his mind to tell Lois that he’s Superman (of course, in this second, I can’t recall if it is Superman 1 or 2, but that doesn’t matter as much). She has her back turned to him and he takes off his glasses, stands up straighter, and that awkward Clark Kent is suddenly gone and in his place is Kal-El. But it is only for a couple of beats before he chickens out, puts the glasses back on and BAM, there’s Clark again.

Christopher-Reeve-Superman-1

It’s probably the only moment in the Superman mythos where I bought into the idea that Superman could hide in plain sight right beside Lois and her not realize Clark and Kal were the same being.

And it was one small moment.

***

What if I had gone to work thirty minutes earlier? Would the cop still have been there? Would he have noticed my tag from his position on the side of the road or would it have been blocked by another car? Could I have gone a whole year without paying, maybe not realizing it until it was time to deal with taxes next year (or possibly when I got my 2016 Decal and saw that I only had a 2014 one on my car)?

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Not trying to over analyze via the Butterfly Effect or anything. Really this is going to make this month tighter on the wallet than the wife and I would have liked, but in the grand scheme of things my life isn’t going to be fundamentally changed by this thing.

***

I’m a little scattered today/tonight, dealing with the aftermath of my little moment. Hence this blog feels a little scattered, and yet there is a connection in there somewhere. At least I think there is.

And I know that tomorrow is going to have some other little moment that I may not even notice, but it’ll be there. But what does it take? When do the little things become the big things? How can you tell?

I’m not even sure what answer I’m looking for. Maybe I’m not writing the right question?

We shall see…

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and now the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

Taking a stab at the Marvel Movies

This is the Golden Age of superhero movies. It is flat-out ridiculous to think that not only has so many of these type of movies been made, but they have grossed tons of money. They aren’t a joke, but actually movies that non-comic book people will go see.

So we’re a couple of weeks past Captain America: The Winter Soldier’s release and a couple of weeks before The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (though I must admit I’m a bit worried about that one), so it feels like a good time to post my rankings of the various Marvel movies. Note that I have not seen Punisher: War Zone, Elektra, Blade Trinity, and both Ghost Rider films (I’m guessing from most people’s thoughts that I haven’t missed anything.

2010-Biodiversity_countdown (1)

26. Wolverine: Origins – I didn’t see this one in the theater, so when I finally sat down to watch it I knew that it was supposed to be “bad”. Then the first five minutes of this movie went by and we saw Wolverine throughout the 20th Century and I thought that was all sorts of awesome. Sadly that is the only highlight of a movie whose big way to not invalidate the X-Men movies was a memory erasing bullet. Seriously. And Professor X didn’t notice the metal lodged in Wolverine’s brain… really?

Just terrible.

25. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer – My one take-away from watching this movie was: “Was that actually an hour and a half?” If ever there was an example of doing a movie “just because” this may be it within the confines of the Marvel Universe. I would say more bad things about it but I honestly can’t remember much about it. Ranked higher than Wolverine only because the Silver Surfer looked cool.

24. X-Men 3 – I can sum up my dislike of this movie in one way: they killed Cyclops off-screen. I was watching the movie and about 40 minutes after the non-scene I realized what exactly had happened. And I still was shocked that is how they managed to do it. I know X-Men: Days of Future’s Past is tying these movies with the First Class movie, but they could forget about X-Men 3 and be better off for it.

23. Daredevil – I liked this one more on the first viewing than on subsequent viewings, but regardless of all of that I think that people have maligned this movie more than it really deserved. Bullseye’s battle with Elektra on the roof was nice. Michael Clark Duncan, while not the Kingpin from the comics, worked perfectly in the role. Yes, there is bad in there, but it isn’t all bad.

It isn’t all good either.

22. The Hulk – This is the first one, with the radioactive dogs. This is a solid movie for the first 2/3 of the flick, and then everything falls apart in the last act. Completely. I also think this one suffers from trying to be something different. It’s not a superhero movie, it is a 1950s style monster movie with a bit of 24’s multiple cameras thrown in. But, yeah, the Absorbing Man stuff at the end was shoehorned in horribly.

And radioactive “Hulk” dogs… that’s not a good idea ever.

21. The Incredible Hulk – More along the lines of the old tv show and the second of the Marvel Universe movies… something was just not 100% on this one, and I can’t put my finger on it. I love Ed Norton. I love Liv Tyler. It had the Abomination in it. It even set the Leader up for a future movie.

And somehow it is just ok. A head scratcher.

20. Fantastic Four – I’m saddened by this and its sequel mostly because after Spider-Man and The Avengers, I have more Fantastic Four comics in my collection than any other Marvel titles. The good – The Human Torch. Chris Evans nailed Johnny Storm… 1000%. As to the rest, it’s more blah than outright bad to me (they saved all the true suck for the second movie). In fact, this movie does what it set out to do, but it suffers from probably the worst thing: being boring. Regardless, this could never be ranked very on my list since they completely screwed up Doctor Doom.

19. Spider-Man 3 – I like the emo Peter Parker. I like the goofy dance. I think Venom is an excellent character (and story)… from the comics. This one suffers from the oldest problem in the Superhero movie bible: too many villains. Venom, Sandman, and Green Goblin is at least 1 villain too many. I know part of the issue was the studio wanted Venom and Rami did not, but this one just gets too cluttered at too many times. And really Gwen Stacy is wasted in this movie.

18. Iron Man 2 – Another one that kinda falls apart at the end. I don’t know what Whiplash’s “plan” really is, and I really don’t care. Let’s be honest, we were just watching for another 2 hours of RDJ playing Tony Stark, right? That’s what I thought.

17. The Punisher – I know that tons of people hate this one. I don’t read the Punisher comics. I don’t like the character of the Punisher in the comics. Just never understood why he was so popular. But this movie gave me exactly what I wanted from a Punisher movie – 80s action flick. I dig this one if only for his last interaction with Travolta. “You killed my son.” An explosion goes off in the distance and Punisher says, “Both of them.” Come on! That’s some Clint Eastwood badassness!

Marvel Movie Montage small

16. The Wolverine – I needed this movie to be good. It needed to get the taste of the first Wolverine and X3 to a lesser extent, out of my mouth. So for that, it worked really well. It also showed that Wolverine didn’t need tons of other characters running around to make a movie… he’s the only focus the audience needs.

15. The Amazing Spider-Man – Loved the quips from Spider-Man in this one. Loved his interaction with Gwen Stacy. Loved that some of his movements in costume were very “spider-like”. I liked the Lizard’s look. I liked that they chose to focus on his parents some (at least in a background way, and more than anything they did in the Rami movies). Still, I didn’t need the origin again. I’m not sure the Lizard battle at the end holds up to any of the other Spider-Man movie fights. I wonder if the Rami movies didn’t exist would I like it more.

Too bad for it that the Rami movies do exist.

14. Iron Man 3 – I really need to rewatch this one because with more distance from it, I find my opinion of it lessens. It’s still a good movie. Again, any chance to see RDJ as Tony Stark is well worth the price of admission. I like the Mandarin swerve… did not see that one coming. But blowing up your armor, Tony? Really? You know there is another Avengers movie on the horizon, right? Let’s think this stuff through, ok?

13. X-Men – I didn’t see X-Men for a month or so after it initially came out. I was completely sure that it was going to be awful. There was no way any of it could work. So it wasn’t until my friends started talking it up that I finally broke down and saw it. I was stunned that somehow they’d made an X-Men movie that worked. The casting was just about perfect (even Hally Berry seems like she should be a decent Storm… seems). They were smart enough to focus on Wolverine and Rogue, to have them provide us our eyes into the world.

12. Captain America: The First Avenger – I liked the first Cap movie. They really nailed all the stuff I wanted to see in a WWII Captain America movie. If anything I think that the section where we delve into montages hurt this one more than anything else. They could have scrapped that and had a much tighter movie on their hands (and maybe use that time to get to know Bucky and the Howling Commandos? Just a thought). In light of The Winter Soldier, I do need to sit down and rewatch this one to see if my memory of the Bucky related stuff pays off in the second one the way I think it does.

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If only… if only…

11. Blade 2 – I flip flop between the two Blade movies. Sometimes I think the first is better and other times I think the second one is superior. But I think it comes down to the second one is more “fun”. Blade having to work with his enemies to ward off a new type of vampire… I’m in.

10. Blade – There is no reason this movie should work. It just shouldn’t, but it does. It captures the spirit of the Blade comics while being a little bit frightening at times. Pitch perfect adaptation in my mind.

9. X-Men: First Class – I could watch young Magneto and young Xavier wander around recruiting mutants for 4 hours if they’d let me. The stuff with the actual “First Class” was alright, but what made this movie sing was the friendship of two men who were destined to be on opposing sides of the coming war.

8. Thor – How in the world were they going to get Thor to work? How would they managed to tie in the Asgard stuff into the Earth (Midgard)? Would they get the character of Loki? This may be the biggest surprise of any of these movies (maybe the first X-Men is a little more because it had never been done, but I digress). Somehow they managed to paint a portrait of Thor’s home that made it where the connection it had to Midgard and the people there… well, it worked. But more than that, I think that the overall storyline, exiling Thor to Earth, teaching him humility. I don’t know if he learned a full lesson, but I dug it.

7. Thor: The Dark World – Again the theme of heroes and villains teaming up shows itself. Thor not only needing Loki’s help, but the fact that Loki needs to help his brother. I think I’m going to be sad when I watch Avengers 2, just because Loki won’t be there.

6. Spider-Man – I walked out of the first Spider-Man and you would have had to use a jack hammer to get the smile off my face. I loved this movie so much. That said, it isn’t ranked higher because the middle portion of the movie drags a little bit on rewatches. That being said, I will still watch it anytime it comes on tv, so that little bit doesn’t bother me all that much.

5. X-Men 2 – This might be the most “perfect” superhero movie of any on this list. I don’t think I have any complaints about it. Loved the interaction between Cyclops and Wolverine. Loved the good guys having to work with the bad guys. Loved the initial sequence with Nightcrawler teleporting around the White House. Had they never made another X-Men movie, this would have been a fitting one to end on.

4. Spider-Man 2 – Though my wife doesn’t like this one as much as the first, I just love it when we don’t have to worry about spending 45 minutes on the superhero origin. We get to focus on the characters and their interactions. And while I don’t know if I agree with the idea that Doctor Octopus is Spider-Man’s greatest villain. It is not the most obvious thing, like the Joker to Batman. But given that the Green Goblin became a legacy more than just one guy in a mask trying to beat our hero up.. well, Otto’s got the longevity.

3. Iron Man – Inspired casting of RDJ as Iron Man. Wait, this is a character with addiction problems and you’re getting an actor who has addiction problems. I wonder if he can bring anything to the character? A friend of mine always says he thinks Iron Man has the best origin story of any of the heroes, and after watching (and rewatching) this one, I don’t get sick of it. The first of the Marvel Movies really set the stage for something special to come down the pipeline in the years to come.

2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier – I may be riding the wave on this one, but that was all sorts of crazy. Falcon = awesome. Black Widow = awesome. And Steve Rogers = awesome. This was the inheritor of the Avengers movie mantle more than any of the other Phase 2 films. I would say more, but to say much more might open the door to spoilers and I don’t want to ruin any moment of this one for anyone.

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1. The Avengers – The pinnacle. Chad called me the moment he exited the theater and the message on my voicemail was simply. “Joss did it.” When this one was over I could only grin like an idiot. When you are 11 years old reading about these characters, you figure the best they might be able to do is a cartoon with them all in it. But a live-action version. Not in a million years. No, younger John, they just needed like 25 years. 25 years to make a movie that was both the beginning of a trilogy and the defacto sequel to 4 different franchises. Shouldn’t have worked, and yet it did.

 

Anyway, that’s my list, which will get at least 3 longer after this year and maybe more if I could bring myself to actually watch Ghost Rider. He’s a guy with a flaming skull on his head! How did they mess that one up?

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John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is currently in week one of its 6-part release. Each episode is only $0.99.

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

He’ll See Me On The Flipside

I’m 7-years old. The kid across from me has issued a challenge to me. We’re both to submit to the Sissy Test. We take our erasers and rub the skin on the back of our hands. Back and forth until the skin is raw. The first one to be in too much pain is the loser.

I won.

Office-pink-erasers

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I’m 38-years old typing this blog and take a look at the mark on my left hand. The tattoo of my own making. It is the second reward for winning the Sissy Test.

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I’m 7-years old and my mother is whipping me for being stupid enough to scar myself. This is my first reward.

****

In my defense, the act of rubbing the skin with the eraser never actually hurt. Once the other kid bailed I kept going for a little bit longer, surprised by the lack of pain. It wasn’t until one of the kids surrounding us told me to spit on it.

Then the pain came.

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It’s a strange thing, the past. The person you were and the person you currently are never get to meet. There is a younger version of you who has made every decision in your life. Every decision that may still affect you now. The so-called dominoes of our lives.

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I’m 18-years old. In front of me is my acceptance letter to the Georgia Institute of Technology to study Computer Science.

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I’m 19-years old and after 3 quarters at Ga. Tech I’m finally given authorization to change my major to Civil Engineering. Somewhere in my brain I have decided that my true goal is to design a bridge.

Thru-Truss-Bridge-drawing

Prior to this, Civil Engineering was pretty much an industry that I picked out of thin air. Really. I’m still not sure why exactly that major was the one I went with.

****

I’m 38-years old and I have designed plenty of roads and highways and interstates, but I have never designed a bridge.

****

I’m 24-years old and I have to decide which offer to choose. What job will be my first to set my course by? Maybe this will be a situation where this is the company I’m with until I retire many years from now.

I end up making my choice mostly on the basis of starting salary.

****

These aren’t decisions that I worry about so much. I genuinely like my day job (90% of the time), which makes me one of the lucky ones. But it doesn’t change the fact that a guy, fresh out of high school, made a major life decision for me. Then again, a fresh out of college guy is choosing where I’m going to go to work.  I’m wondering if either were even qualified to make such huge choices…

One of my best friends in the world shared a video with me yesterday from a camping trip a group of us took in 1996. Maybe that’s why my brain has become transfixed with these images of the past. Some key moments, others I just want to dwell in for a little while. I watch and see this 20-year old me with his friends, talking about nothing , but we all seem happy to be there in that moment together.

I wish we had recorded more of that evening. Even if utter nonsense flowed from our mouths, even if the jokes told were not fit for mixed company, every second reminds me of a time before responsibilities of  life crept in. Before friends moved away to pursue their own dreams.

Years later it seems like I’m chasing the weekends, wondering when I might find the time to see a friend, talk on the phone, or just hang out. Some of the people on the video I haven’t talked to face to face in a long time, and it makes me sad. But there is another part of me that is happy to know, to see that time when we were all together. That we have that shared experience with one another, and while memories may fade through time, bits and pieces of that weekend will always bind us.

Time moves fast and it moves slow. It’s like it has a mind of its own. I could say that the last 18 years have passed by in the blink of an eye, but that would be a lie. The memories which make us who we are get compiled day by day. And yet, we put things on a calendar to look forward to them and then forget to enjoy them when we are there, in that moment.

I acknowledge this and I am still guilty as I pen a portion of this blog on scrap pieces of paper at work. I’m counting down the hours, minutes, and seconds until it is time to go home.

****

I’m 11-years old and my new friend Lee has pushed a weird novel across a cluster of desks.

“Read this”, he says.

“I don’t read books.”

“Read it.”

On a Pale Horse

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I’m 38-years old and tell my wife that all I’d really like to do this weekend is read.

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I’m 34-years old and the company that I work for has just informed me I’ve been laid off. I stifle the tears while I’m speaking with my boss. Not only would crying be “unmanly”, but probably not the most professional. Though I’m not sure why that would matter in the moment, I try my best to exude a calmness. The peaceful exterior lasts until I make it outside of the building and am alone. I dial the numbers and then breakdown when my wife answers the phone.

****

I’m 34-years old and I’m talking to my wife about story idea 100476.

“You should just write it. You’ve got the time.”

“But I don’t know anything about it other than what I’ve told you.”

“Write it.”

****

I’m 20-years old in the video and see that the girl beside me is the woman who will become my wife in a few years time. I may not remember every thought he had, but I remember knowing that this was the girl I would marry. She was the one.

****

I’m 34-years old and the words pour out of me onto the computer screen filling the white with the black ants under each keystroke. The house is dark and quiet and the words continue to flow.

****

I’m 17-years old and the girl I’ve worked with for over a year at Kroger has agreed to go out with me. I’m nervous beyond belief.

****

I’m 37-years old and my wife’s hand is resting in mine, both our fingers ready to click the publish button on my first book.

It’s a new world.

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

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

m.

A Long Time Ago… We Used to be Friends…

My wife is obsessed.

I’m getting ahead of myself.

If you were a writer and you happened to know a Chemist, the best thing for you when you need to insert a generic scientist into your story MIGHT be to make that character a Chemist. I mean you have the access to that knowledge (so your story can be a little more authentic). It just makes sense.

Veronica_mars_intro

With the TV show Veronica Mars, I have access to an expert as well.

Now I’m not 100% on this, but I’d be willing to bet that she’s watched the show (3 seasons and 60+ episodes) more than anyone else on the planet (at the very least she has to be in the top 1% of Veronica Mars fans when it comes to watching episodes) (which probably means I’ve watched every episode 6 or 7 times). We own the DVDS and she’s manged to wear 2 of the seasons out from the repeated play (yeah, I didn’t know that could happen either with DVDs). When the SOAP Network (RIP) began showing the series in order during a 2 hour block every day (and then on the weekends as well) there was many a day I would come home from work to find V-Mars playing on the TV. Think about it, she’d watch episodes with commercials in them because she loved it so much (well, maybe there was a bit of laziness in there as well, not wanting to hunt down that particular episode).

A little obsessed…

So when Veronica Mars had a chance of returning to the world through a movie with their Kickstarter Campaign about a year ago, it was never a question of IF we’d be supporting the project. The only question was “how much would we pledge”. And when they passed 2 million dollars she squealed like a teenage girl. Then the countdown was on, and on March 14, 2014 at 7:15 we sat in a theater, about 1/2 full, and watched Veronica appear on the screen for the first time in about 8 years.

We also have a digital copy of the movie. Don’t ask how many times she’s watched it (I ran out of toes and fingers counting).

Amazon-Kindle-Worlds

Then when Veronica Mars was announced as being a part of the Amazon Kindle Worlds program, whether we were going to do a project was secondary to who the story would focus on, when to place it…

For those that may not know, Kindle Worlds is a way for you to write Fan Fiction in a world in a more legit manner. They license the properties and open them up to anyone to contribute. Whatever your opinion of fan fiction might be, it still strikes me as a kinda cool way to be more apart of the world(s) we all know and love.

With this opportunity and this particular World, my wife and I had to do something.

And that led us to Mac.

Veronica Mars

 

Mac is Veronica’s friend. She’s sorta the Q to Veronica’s James Bond. And since we weren’t going to write about Veronica directly she jumped out at us.

Collaboration is always tricky when writing comics or prose or whatever, but collaboration with your spouse… well, it was actually fairly easy. We spent a couple of weeks after the initial announcement in early February just talking about plot lines, possible angles to take. Which characters would appear? Which season would we set things? And so on. Then once we had the rough beats for things I started writing and over the course of about 2 weeks pounded out the first draft. She read it in 2 parts, the first 3 chapters and then the last 3 chapters. I then took her edits and did another pass on the story with her sitting beside me to really go over any places I had questions about.

The final step, after multiple drafts, was to read it aloud. I’ve read about other writers who do this in order to make sure that the sentences aren’t too awkward. The idea being that if you stumble over it as you read it aloud, then it probably needs to be rephrased. I gotta say, that after doing it I not only noticed more than a couple of odd sentences, but also caught a couple of simple errors, double words, that sort of thing.

So maybe there is something to this technique.

Anyway, we hit submit on the novella Sunday evening and last night I got the email from Amazon that it was now live! Right Here!

That’s right, you can now read a Veronica Mars story by me and the wife, if you happen to be into that sort of thing. And you should be, especially if you were ever a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Joss Whedon appeared in the show and at one point said it was his favorite show on tv (at least while it was on the air). So that’s gotta count for something, right?

dana-whedonverse

This guy likes Veronica Mars, you should too.

And now a little excerpt from the novella (just a taste)…

Get away from Beaver. Now. He’s a killer. I’m in the lobby.

The words scream at me from my phone. Veronica’s attempt to help me. To save me.

It’s been two weeks, and I’m not sure exactly what those words mean.

Oh, I understand the big things. The newspapers had part of it, and Veronica filled me in on the rest. Beaver was the one who killed all those people on the bus. Beaver tried to set Veronica up. And that night, he tried not only to kill her, but almost killed her dad with the bomb, which blew up Woody Goodman’s plane.

Get away from Beaver. Now. He’s a killer.

The words are in English, and yet they make no sense. Nothing about that night makes any damn sense. Try as I might I can’t wrap my head around it. What was supposed to be a special night became a nightmare. Since then, the days have been the better part of a blur. So I sit here at Java the Hut and stare at my cell phone, hoping through sheer force of will the phrase will make a little sense at some point.

I’m not holding my breath though.

He’s a killer.

What does that even mean?

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

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

am.

Six Comics You May Not Be Reading, But Should

I realized that I haven’t really written about current comics that I actually read, and since we all love lists, I thought I’d mention a couple I’m currently enjoying. The only rule that I provided myself is that I wouldn’t choose any Marvel or DC comic (though I read a fair amount of both). Those two tend to get more than enough love. I also won’t bother with mentioning The Walking Dead as you’d need to be living under a rock to both not know it exists and not have checked it out as of yet.

Otherwise, everything else is fair game.

 

Saga (Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples) – Image Comics

vaughan

This is probably a cheat to the above “rules” as I’m thinking quite a few people who read comics know about this book. It was Y the Last Man that hooked me onto Vaughn’s writing, but it was Runaways that made me a fan of his for life. As soon as I heard word he was doing a comic for Image, I added it to my pull list without even worrying about what it was about or whether I would like it or not. Not that I needed to worry, since the Romeo and Juliet story set against a space conflict where the entire thing is narrated by their child at some point in the distant future had me at… well, it had me as soon as I read that first issue.

The kicker is how much Staples art is both beautiful and bizarre all at the same time. Each new alien that we meet, whether it is the Prince’s with TV’s for heads or the spider-like Stalk or Lying Cat, the characters are so vivid, even the most crazy of the crazy works.

They just completed their 18th issue, but the first two trades are out and well worth picking up.

 

Manhattan Projects (Jonathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra) – Image Comics

relativity-chainsaw

It’s Einstein holding a frickin’ chainsaw!
What more could you want?

What if you wrote a comic about the fabled Manhattan Projects, but then twisted it so that everything and everyone made such little sense that somehow it just worked? Hickman takes a story about scientists pushing the envelope and turns it all the way up to 11. Oppenheimer is an insane person. Einstein is a dick. And even Laika, the Soviet Space Dog. Pitarra’s artwork does a good job matching the frenetic pace of the book with his cartoony style, lots of little bits and pieces on each page and in each panel.

It’s a crazy comic where there is literally no way that a reader could ever figure out where the next issue is going. And it is one of those comics I need to sit down with and do a full reread of the first 15 issues or so because I’m sure I’ve missed so much that has been included within the story, between the panels, and in the chapter breaks.

 

Archer and Armstrong (Fred Van Lente, Clayton Henry, & Matt Milla) – Valiant Comics

archer and armstrong

Since Valiant relaunched a couple of years ago, my refrain when referring to their comics has been that I think Harbinger is the best book they put out… but Archer and Armstrong is my favorite. A book that takes the absurd idea of a kid who grew up in a cult and an immortal (who might just drink a little too much) he was programmed to kill… and then turn that into a buddy comedy is something that shouldn’t really work. And yet, somehow, Van Lente gets it to work.

It’s the one Valiant comic (prior to the relaunch of Quantum and Woody at least) where I’ve laughed out loud on more than one occasion. And even when their enemies might not inspire the greatest “fear” from our heroes, the story doesn’t ever suffer. And I love the way that they have almost pop-up video style remarks within the panels which explain what a particular move or moment might have been. It is a technique that echoes back to the old days when an editor would put comments into the panel (“For more information on why Archer just crane kicked the bad guy see…”).

All of the Valiant books have been well worth the ride over these first 2 years, but this is the stand-out star.

 

Knights of the Dinner Table (Jolly Blackburn) – Kenzer & Company

1223721-knights_of_the_dinner_table_161

I used to roleplay. For many years I was very happy in spending an evening or a Saturday rolling the dice and weaving my character’s story through whatever world the Game Master supplied. But like many things, I just don’t have the time for it any more. And that makes me a little sad because no matter how cool video games are, there is something about spending time in another world with some good friends and drinking waaay too much soda.

Knights of the Dinner Table is my conduit back to those times. It is a black and white comic with the back half of the comic devoted to various roleplaying articles and whatnot, but the thing that brings me back month after month are the strips in the front of each issue. Most stories deal with things that might have occured during my own roleplaying sessions. Those funny, crazy moments, where you just about spit Coke out of your nose because of someone doing the “dumbest thing ever” (TM). That is the bread and butter of this comic.

untitled1-copy

It just passed issue 200 last year, but it is the type of comic that you could pick up and pretty much be in on the joke for the word go. And there are many, many trades to be had (though if they ever start doing Omnibuses that will be bought the day it comes out).

 

Alex + Ada (Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn) – Image Comics

AlexAda-01-0b-web72

During South By Southwest Comixology ran a promo where you could download the first issue for free. I’ve been a fan of the Luna Brothers since I read Ultra and Girls (I haven’t read The Sword yet, but it is on my bookshelf waiting), so I figured I’d give it a shot.

And then I bought the 2nd issue. And the 3rd. And the 4th. And if there had been a 5th I would have bought it as well. That’s called transforming “free” to “paying” customers.

Alex + Ada is about a man and his robot, just that in this case the robot looks like a fairly good-looking girl. And is willing to do whatever Alex would like. The only problem is that robots can’t have true AI due to an event prior to the beginning of the series. So Alex is in a weird place where he’s not sure what he’s supposed to be with this robot girl.

And then a potential solution presents itself.

That’s all I’ll say about it so that I don’t give anything big away, but I read these over the weekend and am now waiting for the next issue to arrive (I think in a couple of weeks it’ll be live).

 

The Last Days of American Crime (Rick Remender & Greg Tocchini) – Radical

The Last Days of American Crime Movie

There is only 1 week before the US government uses a signal which will make it so no one will want to commit a crime… and word has leaked out to a few. So now, with the clock literally counting down, they have to pull off the last heist anyone might ever pull off.

A mix of noir, cyberpunk, and good old fashioned heist story all rolled into one, Last Days is one of those stories where you end up pulling for the criminals, the “villains”. Will they get that big score and retire to the beach somewhere? Again, I don’t want to give too much away, but it is one of those I probably need to go back and read again.

This one has been out for a couple of years, but the good thing is that it is done and collected as a trade. I remember seeing a brief synopsis on this and earmarking it to buy if I ever saw it at a con. Lucky for me I did, and now it is sitting on my bookshelf.

 

Not an exhaustive list by any means, but definitely worth checking out if you have run out of things to read.

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows and the steampunk comic The Gilded Age.

John’s Top Six Video Games of All Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Tempest (Arcade Version)

tempest

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

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

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

 

WCW/NWO Revenge

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

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

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

 

Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem

Eternal_Darkness_by_professortorcoolguy

True enough!

The single scariest game I have ever played.

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

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

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

They’d gotten me.

Eternal-Darkness-pic-9

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

 

Madden

madden-covers_00s

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

 

Rock Band

Rock_band_cover

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

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

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

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

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

 

Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag

AC-Black Flag

Yo ho ho, and a sword in your gullet!

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

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

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

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

 

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

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

Behind the Comic – The Gilded Age

 

behindthemusic-thumb-3

This week over on the Terminus Media LLC’s Facebook page this week is The Gilded Age week (available at Amazon and Comics Plus). So I thought I’d provide the blog with a little bit of how this little project came to be.

GildedAge_Front Cover-tessera

It all started with a convention in Orlando a few years ago. My buddy Egg either had a table or was sharing a table or something (it doesn’t much matter). The important thing was that while he was down their he met an artist by the name of Larry Watts who was looking for a project to work on. For some reason Egg thought Larry and I could match up on a project. Larry has since gone on to work on a Zenescope Comic called Robyn Hood (found here).

The only problem was that I didn’t really have any ideas that were artist ready.

Now I certainly had a handful of ideas, but I had no finished scripts that were just begging for an artist. So when faced with the prospect of working with an artist and you have no solid ideas I cheated and went onto his Deviant Art page to check out his stuff and see if anything “inspired me”.

And there it was… a shot of a old western gunfighter… with a metallic arm. In that instant, something flipped in my brain and I had the barest bones of an idea. What followed over the course of the next few days would end up becoming a pitch called Machine Heart.

Now Machine Heart was ready, but I believe that Larry was no longer available to work on it (I probably missed my window by not being prepared with something). So I filed it away on the computer, just waiting for the moment to spring it from it’s prison.

A year or so later Terminus Media was beginning to look towards doing something more than just anthology stories. They wanted to have something that could be 5 or 6 issues to start. Something different than what was on the shelves. And that little voice popped up in my brain and I mentioned my “Steampunk” story. A couple of meetings later things began to crystallize and suddenly it looked like things were a go… there was just one problem.

With an indy comic there is always the risk that there will be a delay between issues. You might have production problems, money problems, printing problems, and who-knows-what-else problems. But here we are wanting to tell a story over the course of 5 issues… what happens if people don’t want to wait that long? What happens if someone stumbles onto issue 2 and can’t find issue 1?

So what was the answer? In a perfect world you would find a way to have a regular schedule. We, however, live in the real world (one populated with superheroes and the like, but real enough) where delays are going to happen…

xiron-man-alarm-clock.jpeg.pagespeed.ic.pNs3wejHrQ

Iron Man doesn’t like Daylight Savings Time either.

And then it hit me –  I could build this world from the ground up by telling single issue stories about a variety of characters. And what better way to ensure that there are plenty of characters to choose from? Have the stories take place in a vaudevillian carnival where you could have all sorts of weirdos running around and no one would bat an eye. Plus, the other bonus was that I could tell a variety of stories (adventure, horror, heists, etc.) and they could all work because of the characters involved.

There was only one more problem… a title. Machine Heart didn’t really apply to this particular story, so I needed to come up with something better than “Untitled Steampunk Comic”.

Enter Mark Twain and his coining of the phrase “The Gilded Age”. Now his applied to the late 1800s corruption occurring within the US government, but I saw something that could apply to this new world. There would be corruption (there always is), but it also rang true somehow for the comic… I can’t explain it completely, but it “fit”.

gilded age by twain

While Machine Heart’s plot-line no longer applied, the characters of Hannah and Elias still worked for me. An actress who is new to the carnival, bright eyed and innocent, and the stage magician of the crew who would need her help acquiring an item for his next performance. So I made the first issue about the two of them, giving the reader a complete story in 1 issue, but hinting at a much bigger world that I’m hoping to explore more and more of.

Issue 2 is still in the process of being finished, but that gunfighter with the metal arm that inspired it all… well, he’s getting to tell a story of his own…

Gilded Age #2-004-small

 

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

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

The Tribe Has Spoken

I don’t watch reality TV. It’s not that I think it’s beneath me or anything, I just prefer to watch truly scripted shows (and I’m not getting that confused with many, many of the reality shows that clearly are scripted… you know what I mean). But there is one that I do watch and have watched since the first time it aired: Survivor.

Now I know what you’re saying… “that show sucks now”, “all they do is keep bringing back people who played before”, “there is nothing new to the show”, or maybe even “that show is still on?”.

Survivor.borneo.logo

To you I say: I don’t care. Courtney and I love that damn show. We’ve watched pretty much every season with each other missing 1 whole episode (it didn’t record, it’s not our fault) over the 27 seasons. And I think the reason is because we like the game aspect of it as much as the “reality tv drama”. Those evenings when we start to go through the episode there are always frequent pauses as we discuss the strategy being used by Player A or Player B. And this isn’t just a matter of “Oh that was stupid, I hope they lose”. No, we analyze it like you might look at a chess board trying to figure out things 5, 10, 15 moves down the line. We’re trying to out-think the players (with the added benefit of doing from our comfortable couch and with the tv edits, but hey, we’re also not winning a million dollars).

The thing is our love of the show pretty much ends though with the show. We don’t search out fan-sites or strategy boards. And I’m normally pretty nerdy about stuff like that.

That being said we have come to our own conclusions about not only the show, but the strategy certain people use within the show. Now I’m not saying that any of them are sure-fire and if one of us got on the show we’d be a shoe-in for the million because there are tons of variables (heck there are 19 other players to start with), but some things you keep seeing time and time again and you have to wonder whether that contestant had ever viewed the show before.

So given that a new season started up last week – here are Courtney and John’s strategy for winning at Survivor (if any of you ever find yourself on the show perhaps these might help).

I believe that the game is really a sub-game of 4 levels. Different things happen at different levels and there are some overlap between moments and strategies one might employ, but in general I like to think about the game as the Early Game, Pre-Merge, Post-Merge, and the Final 3.

Early Game

PONG

For us the early game is pretty much from the moment you get the call that you are going to be in the game, but it probably should start even before then. This is the time to brush up on your boy scout skills (building shelter, fire, water, etc.). Why wouldn’t you try to come into the game with as much knowledge as possible? Now maybe they don’t tell them until very close to the time to begin, but I gotta think that people who have jobs aren’t in the position to just take off at a moment’s notice and would need some kind of heads-up.

Anyway, that Early Game lasts through about the 3rd Immunity challenge and corresponding Tribal Council. It is during this time that the majority of the big mistakes are made.

The Puzzle Gambit  (better known as “I’m a liability in challenges”) – These include those who are normally older or just not as fit, but it is also can include the clumsy. In those first couple of tribal councils people are looking at who is going to cause them to lose the next challenge. You manage to screw up in one of these, you may never get a chance to prove yourself later on. Really, though, this means that you need to be aware of your strengths and weaknesses and try and position yourself to play to your strengths as best you can. If you can’t swim (well first, why are you out there) then you need to find a spot in the challenge where your running or strength can be shown.

And for God’s sake, don’t volunteer for the puzzle unless you are REALLY sure you are going to nail it. So many people run the Puzzle Gambit and then find that when they can’t perform (even when they have a 3 minute lead) the vote will quickly turn against them.

The Annoyance – These come in a few flavors. There is the talker, the loud-mouth, the know-it-all, and the lazy person. People are going to be hungry and they are going to be tired. They don’t want to be annoyed. Too many times there is this person who decides they aren’t going to change who they are for sake of the game… but who they are annoys the crap out of everyone on their tribe. Suddenly your torch is snuffed and you’re wondering where it all went wrong. Maybe you should have listened a little more.

The Alliance Junkie – This is the person who goes around and tries to make deals with every person on their tribe. And on one hand it seems to make sense. If you have an alliance with everyone, then your name can never be written down. The problem is that other people are comparing notes in those early days. They are the ones who see you talking on the side with Player B and soon enough they are going to figure out you’ve promised everyone final 3. That math just won’t add up and Jeff ends up saying your name one too many times.

The Leader – This actually can work to the player’s advantage so while there is risk, there can be great reward. However, most of the time this person puts the target square on their back and it backfires. But if they are likable or they have some star power (maybe they are a returning player on a tribe of newbies) then they have a shot to take complete control of their tribe and set up their Pre-Merge Game. It probably has failed as much as it has succeeded, but if you look back at past winners many of them are going to fall into this category.

Bringing up a name – At this point you should be happy whenever your name is not being brought up. Now is not the time to throw Leader under the bus because he said something bad to you and no one else. Now is the time to go with the flow. There is a saying in Baseball that you cannot win the Division in April, but you can lose it. In Survivor I think that means that you need to keep your head down and vote with however the rest are going… remember, there will be plenty of time later to make your move.

So in the Early Game what is the best strategy? I think it is being the Worker Bee. This is the person who never complains, who works just hard enough that no one thinks twice when they do need to take a break. Listen, you’re not pushing things to make others look bad (see The Annoyance above). You want to be a part of the crowd and blend in. You need time to see how things are shaking out and maneuver yourself into the proper alliance. And this is the other reason I think the Worker Bee is a good one, they are the type that get into an alliance with a group and are seen as “solid”. Again, you’re not trying to win the game, you’re just trying to survive to the…

Worker-Honey-Bee

Pre-Merge

The game has been going on for at least 3 votes by this point and alliances have certainly been made. You’ve lost 1 or 2 or, lord forbid, 3 players. Hopefully you’ve found an alliance where you are comfortable with the people and can “trust” them.

The Numbers Game – This is more having to do with the challenges themselves. You need to find a way to win because, yes, you don’t want to go to tribal council, but more importantly, you need to have the majority when it comes to the merge. At worst you have to get things to even. So these are the votes where you make the big decisions of friendship vs. might or alliance vs. weakness. Choose wisely here because if you vote out the strongest guy because everyone hates him… he might have been the one to run just a little faster in that next challenge. These decisions many times are the undoing of a tribe as one bad choice rolls into another and suddenly you’ve lost the last 3 challenges.

Pecking Order – Don’t tell someone where they truly sit within your alliance. People need to be reassured that they are your best friend. That you and them are going the whole way. If you don’t reassure them eventually they’ll figure out that they are 5th best in your alliance and look to deal your fates for a better offer once you  make the merge.

Strengthen Your Core – During this phase of the game you should be getting a decent feeling for who you can trust and who you can’t. Moments like revealing a hidden immunity idol to a teammate can help cement their relationship. I really feel that this is where you need to take the time to get to know the people in your alliance so that you build that bond with them. It is much harder to write someone’s name down who you genuinely like.

Post-Merge

Merge-Ahead

So you made the Merge and feeling pretty good about yourself. You can already see the final votes where you win the million dollars, but not so fast! This is the point of the game where those old lines begin to blur a little bit. For every tribe that just systematically votes out the other tribe until they finally start fighting it out on their own, there is those tribes who have people flip and the blindsides begin to come fast and furious. You’re a King and then you’re a Pauper. What happened?

Threat – You won the first 2 individual challenges and now everyone sees you as a threat. I’m not saying not to win, but you always need to have an idea of how you are viewed in the game. If everyone is suddenly worried that they may not be able to beat you then they are going to vote you out on their first opportunity.

Mover and Shaker – This is the person who wants to shake up things with every vote. They love the high of the Blindside and want to relive it over and over again. When the rest of the people realize that you aren’t a person of your word then they are going to turn on you… before you can do it to them.

Reward Conundrum – You fought a good battle and won the immunity necklace and now you get to not only eat a feast, but also invite a couple of your friends. You choose A and B to come with you and those 4th and 5th members of your group suddenly realize the Pecking Order. When you get back you will find they may have flipped on you. So you need to have these talks with your group beforehand. Maybe a simple “I’ll take A & B if I win… if you win then take C & D” could go a long way to helping you remain in the game.

The Final 3

The End Game

Despite the name, the Final 3 probably begins at about 5-7 people left. This is where you should be looking to see where you are in not only the Pecking Order, but who is going to get who’s vote. You allow yourself to dream of sitting at the end and who you think you can beat.
Make a Move/ Don’t Make a Move – Are you number 4 in your group? Are you sure that your partners want to sit with you at the end? This is where you need to not only do the math, but figure out who you can beat in the end. Too many times someone is so focused on just sitting at the end they delude themselves into thinking they can win and vote the few people out who they might have had a chance against. You need to weigh everything now and put yourself in the best position possible… and that may mean taking a chance for top 3 if a move succeeds, but then top 7 when it fails. Go big or go home!

Did you Make Enemies – If you are the Leader, then you definitely have and there is no getting around that. Your goal now is to remain true to your alliance and hope they feel the same way because the only way you are derailed is if they think they can’t beat you OR you flip on them and lose the jury’s respect (I think loyalty goes farther than almost anything else in the game. When you flip on people that helped get you to the end it doesn’t sit well with many people because you get cast as the Villain.

The Villain – You’ve betrayed people, you’ve lied and stolen from people, you are a snake and yet no one would vote you out. If you make it to the merge sometimes the Villain is the best play IF you are happy with 2nd place. People don’t like to be lied to, but more than that they would like to think the person getting the million dollars is a decent human being outside the game. If you didn’t convince them of at least that much…

The Right-Hand Man/ Coattails – “You just were riding his/her coattails” may be the most damning statement a jury member can say to one of the final 3. There is almost no coming back from that one. So what if you were in on every decision with your alliance, if the perception is that you just coasted along while everyone else took all the bullets, then you’re not getting the votes at the end either. People want you to have earned it and to have made the tough choices. The Coattails never has to do that (at least in their eyes).

Who wins? It seems the people who win are those who stick with their alliances. The ones who got a couple of lucky breaks. And the ones who make their moves at the correct time. But mostly, they are the ones who don’t beat themselves. They may stay under the radar at the beginning only to make a run towards the end. Or they could be the Lead Dog the whole time leaving very little in doubt.

Those aren’t even all of it. Heck, when I started this blog way above I wasn’t sure how much I would really have to say about this. Now I’m thinking I could have went on for at least double this (I will spare you from that… this time).

This one is for you, Courtney Regan McGuire. Thanks for talking silly tv show strategy with me all these years. I wouldn’t want to watch it with anyone else.

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

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

High School Never Ends…

“This is what husbands gear up for.”

Those are the words I said to my wife after she relayed the news of her Dad’s sudden passing over the weekend. I don’t say those words glibly as I fully believe that I have one important task in the days and weeks to come:

To let her know that it is going to be ok.

And that’s why I want to share this little story about how no matter how old you are or think you are some things never change…

Flashback to about 6 or 7 years ago. My wife, Courtney, loves softball (I do as well) and had been recruited by one of our friends to play on their coed team. And it just so happened that Court’s Dad was in town staying with us for a couple of nights. So we all piled into the car and off we went to the softball fields.

Courtney went out onto the field to assume her normal position (catcher), and her Dad and I journeyed over to the bleachers to find a seat.

Well, I went to find a seat. He already had his seat. You see, a few years prior he had gotten hurt in an auto accident and so used a wheelchair and walker to move around the house. But when it was time to venture into the bigger world his weapon of choice was a scooter.

Scooter

No, not that Scooter.

Professor X wishes he had it so good!

So there we were, the two of us, me on the edge of the bleachers and him right beside me getting ready to watch Courtney hopefully kick some ass on the ball field and have a nice Summer night in Georgia.

The game got started, but after a few moments the pitcher got a weird look on his face. Like maybe he’d seen something that was distracting him. I craned my neck looking behind me, trying to follow his eye-line to see if I could figure out whatever it was. I didn’t see anything and he must have been able to block it as he went back to pitching.

Another minute or so passed, and suddenly the 2nd base umpire threw his hands up (signaling time-out) and pointed towards the fence and the bleachers where we were sitting.

“What in the world is going on?” I kept looking around to try and figure out what was distracting (annoying?) them. The home plate ump took a few steps towards him and conferred for the briefest of meetings. He then walked over to the fence, just opposite of where Court’s Dad and I were sitting.

“Sir, could you please turn off your hazard and front lights? It is distracting for the players on the field.”

Everything moved in slow motion. I rotated in my spot and looked down at my Father-in-law and saw that, yes, his lights were on. How did I miss that? As he turned knobs and flicked levers to try and get everything powered down I started to look around…

And saw that everyone was staring at us.

And in that instant I was 15 years old again. It’s that age-old feeling that every single person who has been in a public place with their parents where they secretly (or not so secretly in some cases) prayed that none of their friends saw them “hanging out with their parent”. It is a silly feeling to be sure; though being silly doesn’t lessen its effect. But I was sure, certain even, that with my own high school years long behind me, this feeling could be placed in the deep recesses of my mind never to be heard from again.

And suddenly it was back with a vengeance.

I believe it may be a moral imperative of parents to do this to their kids from time to time to teach them lessons about life. I like the thought that somewhere in their primal brains that a parent has that natural ability to take their own awkward moments and include their children in them.

far side

With this one, I’m not sure if my Father-in-law felt any of the embarrassment. I actually hope he didn’t. He just went about fixing the problem and let the game continue onward.

Lucky for me, the difference between me at 15 and me at 32 was that the 32 year old’s embarrassment lasted all of 10 seconds while the the 15 year old might have needed counselling (ok, maybe not that). Now it has become one of those funny stories Courtney and I joke about.

And maybe, just maybe, it brought a smile to her face during a tough time.

 

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

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

A little something happened on the way to the Convention

This week’s blog was going to be a convention report on Anachrocon, the steampunk con I went to over the weekend. The same con where I was to sit in as a speaker on my first panels ever. I could talk about how the panels went (really well, I actually got invited to sit in on another one, but had to decline due to day job commitments). Or talk about the people I met and talked to. Or even about the other guys and gals on the panels I sat in on.

Yes, it was all planned out and would be the easiest blog post of all time. The words would flow like… well like wine or water or soda or whatever you might drink.

Then this happened…

window smashed

 

Apparently a book bag sitting in the back seat is too much of an inviting target for some people… though they left the comic box also sitting back there. I was annoyed, mostly because I felt put out because my day at the con was now over. Suddenly I get to deal with some real world problems as opposed to trying to have conversations with people. However, what they got was a couple of comics, a Square card reader, some pens for signing comics, and some laptop power cords (though the laptop was not inside the book bag). As I thought about it more it seemed that the bag probably was worth more than anything within it.

Today it occurred to me that there was one other item in the bag which I had forgotten about. There would be no reason to contact the officer to add this thing to the police report, but it is priceless to me.

I had placed my notebook in the bag before I left the house.

My notebook that I use to jot down any number of wild and crazy ideas. The notebook that houses many a random line of dialogue that I might overhear as I got about my life. When inspiration strikes, it gets written down in that notebook.

And it is gone.

On Sunday, while I was talking on one of the panels, a question arose from the crowd asking about ideas and what you do with them, how do you ensure that you don’t forget that random idea at either 3 in the morning or 1 in the afternoon. I talked about writing it on scratch paper and then compiling all of them at the end of the week.

messy-desk_final

This is a what my wife has to deal with taking over the desk every week.

But I also mentioned the notebook. I never know when a moment of inspiration might strike me. Half the time I hear some scenario on the radio and I take it one step further and suddenly an idea appears. And I have to write them down. Far too many of those moments get lost in the Ether way too much during the course of a day. And while I didn’t have the notebook with me at all times, it traveled with me just enough to get some decent stuff.

Luckily I tend to be one of those people who constantly hits the save button, and the best way to do this with those scraps of paper is to put it into the notebook or type it into the computer. So probably about 1/2 of the notebook exists on my computer in half-finished ideas.

But there are still some of them that are now lost forever.

Now I’m saying that any of them are Steven King/ JK Rowling ideas which will cause me to start a book empire, but there are things in there that my brain came up with… no one else could have invented those words in just that way. And you/me/whomever never knows exactly what might or might not work. Maybe some of them need a little more seasoning.

But they are mine, and now…

Gone. Lost.

 

400px-Lost_main_title.svg

Not this type of Lost.

I wish I had some kind of nice ribbon to put on top of this story, and maybe one day someone will return it to me (I believe it has my address/email/phone number inside it). I’m not holding my breath exactly, but I will hope a little bit for that day where I’ll hold it in my hands like I’m Indiana Jones just before the Rock Trap is triggered. My fingers will tingle and I’ll be able to, for a moment at least, travel backwards in time to see what a younger version of me wrote down.

And say “This guy can’t even write!” 🙂

Hey, a guy can dream.

 

John McGuire is at Atlanta’s Anachrocon This Weekend!

This weekend (Saturday and Sunday) I will be at Anachrocon in Atlanta, Georgia. While I’m still unsure whether I’ll have a table, in theory I will be participating in a couple of panels talking about collaborating with artists in order to make a comic book (that should be on Sunday, though I am not sure of the time).

GildedAge_Front Cover-tessera

Regardless, if you are at the con, come find me and we’ll chat about all sorts of things I’m sure. And if you are trying to find me you can always hunt me down @JohnR_McGuire on Twitter.

Hope to see you there.

John McGuire

 

Slaying the Beast

This week I wanted to write a blog about my favorite love stories (romantic moments) from comic books. A sort of companion piece to Chad’s post yesterday. But I hit the wall hard on that idea, shelved it, and moved on.

I thought about writing specifically on Spider-Man and his “former” marriage to Mary Jane, but it’s still not anywhere near where I would like it to be (it’s coming at some point, I’m sure). So I moved on.

A couple of other thoughts struck me, but all of them required something, some aspect of the blog, that I am not entirely ready to begin/write/end. I put those in the “To Be Done” folder.

And it occurred to me – I think I’ve encountered Writer’s Block for the first time in a long time.

knight-vs-dragon

There is a problem to this sort of thinking, though. I don’t believe in Writer’s Block. Much like Santa and the Easter Bunny, I believe it is a mythical concept used by many as an excuse. An easy out that no one really knows how to conquer. Much like the ancient beasts of old, you’d need a knight in armor to slay this dragon. A non-writer might not understand, but they knew enough to know not to probe too deep.

They might whisper to your other friends, “What’s wrong with John?”

“He’s got Writer’s Block.”

“Oh… I better stay clear.” (as if they could catch it)

Fellow writers would go along with the gag. “Terrible thing, that Writer’s Block. Got me back in ’06 for the better part of a year.”

And you would nod and shake your head, but know in your heart of hearts that it was all a lie.

Writer’s Block doesn’t exist.

I did not know this truth for a long time. I leaned on this idea when what I really wanted to do was play video games or watch a movie or do anything other than sit in front of the computer and type out string after string of words. For me, I knew that Writer’s Block was just an easy out.

Turns out, I had it wrong. Writer’s Block as I think of it doesn’t exist. That much is true. Discipline has long been it’s ancient enemy. But this creature out there lives in the shadows of a writer’s mind. It preys on any possible weakness it can find. It whispers terrible nothings into your ears.

Tired? Don’t worry about those words tonight. There is a new South Park on after all.

Fried from a long day of work? No big deal, Facebook will comfort you in this hour of need.

Got some rough edits back and you don’t even know where to begin? Old WB has got your back and has warmed up the XBOX with your favorite game all prepped.

Last night’s writing session go absolutely nowhere and now you’re afraid that all those words you wrote and will write on the project will be absolute dog shit? Well, you’re right. Don’t bother, you suck.

calvin+hobbes

Calvin has it more right than even he knows.

This is the enemy. Writer’s Block is the thing that squeezes its vice-like grip around my brain and tries to convince me in any and every way possible to not write.

And the sad thing is, IT wins a fair amount of time. Sometimes without even trying.

But… but… but… I have found the best defense for it is a good offense. When I really get going on a project I have far fewer of the nights where Writer’s Block seeps in and prevents words from appearing on the screen. Instead, more ideas begin to flow out from me. My fingers struggle to keep up with my thoughts and I wonder how many more ideas get lost in the shuffle between brain and keyboard. When things are going well there is no such thing as Writer’s Block. It truly does become just another arrow in the excuse quiver. And you forget it even exists at all.

But don’t forget about it. Use it as further fuel for your own creative fire. Before beginning this blog I had not seen that old boy for a few years. Instead my nemesis has been TIME more than anything else. I have about 25 short stories that exist in some form or fashion. I have about 5-6 comic story arcs that could see the light of day someday if only I wrote them (and then convinced someone to actually draw them). And I have about 4-5 novels that I want to write. So Writer’s Block hasn’t had much of a chance to do anything to me. I forgot that it really existed, and in that moment it drew itself back into my soul and waited until there was a perfect time to strike.

Yet, here I am, near the end, and I’m not sure if he really was here at all tonight. The words did come. Maybe, just maybe, I imagined the whole thing.

the-usual-suspects-the-greatest-trick-the-devil-ever-pulled_design

And then again…

 

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

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

Time Enough for…

With the coming of February all I have to show for it so far is long days at the Day Job and almost every Sunday worked already. So what does that mean for the night job of writing? It mostly means that I’m squeezing 10 pounds of writing into a 5 pound bag. It means that there is too much to do and not enough time to do it in.

Time…

Mars

Did you know that on Mars the days are 40 minutes longer than they are on Earth? During the Curiosity flight to Mars one of the NASA engineers had his family adopt the Martian clock. What was of more interest to them was the fact that slowly they began to un-sync with the rest of us on Earth. Soon their days were our nights, their breakfast was our dinner, and so on. And all of that is interesting to a point, but…

I was more intrigued by the idea that they were gaining 40 minutes a day. What could I do with just 40 minutes more a day? Sleep, read, write, goof off… anything I wanted.

We schedule so much of our time away. The job takes 8, sleep another 6, travel to and from work another 1, eating is another 1 1/2, showering is 1/2, etc. It starts to disappear very quickly.

So how do I find that extra 40 minutes? That’s the question I’m constantly asking myself. Where can I subtract from my current Earth Day in order to get what I need/want/must get done on the writing side of things?

Sadly most of the time it comes from my sleep allotment (and it is sad… I love my sleep). I get the majority of my writing done during the hours of 11 pm to 2 am probably 5 nights a week. When I’m really rolling on a project or nearing a deadline (external or internal), that is when I really bear down and use that time efficiently. I know I’ve had a good night when it gets to 2 and I’m want to keep going because I’m in the flow of things. The bad nights are when I spent too long checking websites and blogs and email and Facebook and watch too much tv or play too much video games and the time slips away from me and it is 1 before I even open Word to start my night. It’s kinda hard to really get things going when I’ve shrunk my own time by 2 hours.

schedule-icon-fs

It all starts with a schedule I set up for myself. Maybe its the engineer portion of my brain, but I need milestones. When I laid out my goals for this year a month ago it was from having a decent idea of how much work I can produce on a daily basis. Then I take those projects and set up the next 3 months of my calendar. Putting it writing so that I can not only track my progress, but I can have those goals staring at me on a daily basis. I really do believe that left to my own devices I would find more and more ways to distract myself. But I look at the schedule and see that this week I’m supposed to be starting on a new novel and then think “I’m already 2 days behind this week”. It helps get my ass in gear

As to my nightly writing plan? 5 nights a week producing 1250 words done in a night. The industry standard for what 1 page of a book equals 250 words, so my number basically has me write 5 pages a night. That’s the bare minimum I want to get when I sit down at the computer to start hammering on the keys. It has to include all the false starts and stops. The nights when the words just won’t flow and every single letter disagrees with all it’s neighbors. They squabble until I begin to wonder if I have any ability to string 2 words together, much less 1250. Comic projects take a different amount of work as I typically do different passes. First draft is mostly dialogue with a little panel description, second draft is making sure I have a decent rhythm throughout, and then it is onto a more final draft that I then turn into whomever are my editors on that particular project.

On good nights it takes about a hour and a half to get my work in. On bad nights it might take four hours and I may only have 500 words done. But when that clock strikes 2 am and I begin to turn into a pumpkin, I have to start wrapping things up if I want to have any use the following morning.

wake-up

This is how I feel it is for me every morning.

The other thing it does is lay out everything in writing that I want to do. Sometimes we get bogged down by the sheer thought of all these tasks and projects, but I find that laying them out removes some of that stress from my brain. It lets me know that today I’m doing the blog, but tomorrow I have 1250 words of the new novel to write, and maybe on Thursday I have some editing to do on Hollow Empire (though I typically don’t jump around that much – I find focusing on one project over the course of a week is better to ensure I get into that groove).

Does my technique work for everyone? I’m guessing not. I think creative people enjoy flying by the seat of their pants. And they also may only have one project going at any one time.

Me? I gotta have a dozen pans in the fire as I’ve seen too many things have false starts or never get off the ground at all.

And crossing things off your to-do list is a small jolt as well. Knowing that you are that much closer to having a final product is probably the best thing.

 

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

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

And Now For Something Completely Different

Please excuse the following. It is mostly a rant about something of extreme importance. You might laugh at it. You might question my sanity in bringing it up. Up until this moment I have written about things like writing books and comics, stories about almost getting killed by hitchhikers, and even about one of my favorite sports teams. However, I must recall Monty Python this week…

Now for something completely different

 

I want to talk about pizza.

Yes, that pizza.

Look tasty? Think again!

Look tasty? Think again!

But first a bit of background…

I am an EXTREMELY picky eater. Wait, no, that’s not entirely true. It’s not like I am one of those people who can only eat chicken nuggets and mac and cheese. There are plenty of foods that I do like. I mean, most meats I really enjoy (save for tuna and salmon and liver and sushi in general). And fruits I do like (save for coconut and grapefruit). But veggies are my nemesis. It would take far too long for me to detail all the vegetables I do not like, so I’m not going to bother.

So I guess I should say I am a picky eater, without the EXTREME in there (maybe – my Mother-in-law may disagree).

I’m not proud. I’m not trying to win a contest. I want to like various foods. No, really I do.

But…

I…

just…

don’t…

BUT I have noticed something due to that very behavior. Over the years of watching the habits of people when it comes to ordering pizza I have hit upon a theory. And with it being Superbowl week this is probably the most timely blog post I could have ever dreamed of writing. I am going to save you a lot of heartache.

You should be ordering more pepperoni and plain cheese pizzas at your parties.

Wow. That’s it. That’s all.

Oh?

You want more details as to why I just blew your mind? O.K.

Say you need to order 5 pizzas for your party, lots of people end up doing the following: 2 Pepperoni, 2 Cheese, and 1 Supreme (like the one above).

And there is your mistake. Only you like everything on the Supreme. Sure, you did the call-out about the Supreme. You covered your bases. Two or three hands popped up for the Supreme. You’re set. What could go wrong?

So what happens is that the pizza arrives and you grab a couple of pieces of Supreme, no big deal. Those others start to get scarfed down because of the one guy who doesn’t like onions, and the girl who hates olives, and so on and so on. Those people who said they liked Supreme? Yeah, they ended up grabbing Cheese because they forgot about one of the toppings.

If I have seen it once, then I have seen it a thousand times.

Then at the end of the night everything is gone save for whatever bits of the Supreme that you didn’t eat. Now maybe this isn’t a problem for you… left-over pizza rules. But what happens when this guy shows up a little late and all you have is 6 pieces of Supreme? And he hates green peppers?

Last time he didn't get a piece, he burned the building down.

Last time he didn’t get a piece, he burned the building down.

And to be sure that I’m not just picking on my vegetable lovers out there, it also applies to the meat lovers. The solution is to be bland. Be boring. People will eat some cheese pizza. People will eat Pepperoni. Just Keep the pizza simple (KPS for short… Trademark Pending).

Plus, it is not a pizza only problem. This is something that is out of control in society confounding me at every turn. And just then, when I think it isn’t going to show its ugly head, my company has a lunch meeting and the premade sandwiches have their DEFAULT ham and cheese sandwiches in RYE bread? Why? Why? Why?

What was so wrong with plain old bread?

What was so wrong with plain old bread?

Yes, you in the back… I understand you don’t see a problem with that… but what happened to the staples: White and Wheat? What were wrong with those two? Why is the default setting so bad? Or maybe, if you are going to have a few RYE bread versions… LABEL THEM!

Though I can guarantee that they will be the last ones taken (KPS in effect).

Now, normally this would be the portion of the blog where I would tie things back into something I’ve learned about writing. Maybe even something I learned while writing The Dark That Follows (available at Amazon). Like sometimes being complex for complex sake is not good. That when you build a maze for people to comprehend it might just cause them to turn the Kindle off or put the book down. Sometimes you can be too clever for your own good.

But, this is too important a subject to be bogged down in such discussion.

This weekend don’t let a good pizza go to waste!

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

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