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.

My Top Ten Horror Movies

Ah, October (I’m a week early, forgive me.). This month is one of the best of the year. Football season is a go and we’re beginning to see where our favorite teams stack up. Baseball playoffs are in full bloom (or for some we are looking forward to Spring as there is always next year). And yes the leaves are falling, but I am called to focus on something else:

Fear.

I’ve talked about Fear before… mostly as it relates to writing and my own personal goals. But in October I like to focus on that external Fear. Those movies and books and video games which scare me in a way that I not only don’t always understand, but that I actively search out.

These are my horror movies of choice. Some because they were the first movies to scare me, others because I was so blown away by what I saw it disturbed me for days, and then a few that I just love even when they no longer offer the scares they once did. Some I’ve seen only once and others I’ve seen dozens of times (one I might have seen over 100 by this point).

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Scream

I don’t think Scream ever “scared” me. From those opening minutes I wasn’t scared. Through the twists and turns of the movie I wasn’t frightened. So why is it on this list?

Because I think Scream did something for Horror movies that had never been done before. It deconstructed the late 70s and 80s slasher movies in a way that poked fun but still allowed it to cap off that era. The idea we all sat around and discussed (why are they running back into the house? why do they wander off alone? etc.) – Williamson and Craven made that movie. They made “our” movie.

I saw this twice in the theaters. The first time was an advanced screening at Georgia Tech by myself. As soon as it was over I made sure to get a couple of friends to go to its release. And after that first scene ended my buddy Lee leaned over and said “If nothing else happens for the rest of the movie, that one scene was worth the price of admission.”

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Jaws

I joke and say that Jaws prevented me from becoming an Oceanographer or marine biologist, but really it is just that terror of the unknown which truly does it for me. Again, what I want to be able to see and hear – all of that disappears under the water’s surface. Every moment of control you have is an illusion, and really it is only luck that a large predator doesn’t have its way with you.

I don’t randomly go into the jungle and hope to avoid large predators, but for some reason I do it at the beach every year. And yes, I know the odds are slim… but…

That’s why, even after maybe 100 views, this movie sticks with me.

the strangers

The Strangers

“Because you were home.”

That’s why that movie frightens me on a level I cannot even fathom. Why do bad things happen? Is it luck? Is it just a matter of doing sketchy things that eventually catch up with us? Horror movies like to pose that question. And they give us the answers.

Don’t stay in the haunted house.

Don’t have underage sex.

Don’t drink and do drugs.

Don’t have your car break down in the middle of no where.

Don’t mess with things that you hear dark rumors about.

And if you follow all of those rules… guess what? The Strangers let you know that it might not be enough.

“Because you were home.” chills me like no other line could.

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The Conjuring

I was surprised by this one last year. I expected another run of the mill haunted house movie. I figured it would be ok at best, and at worst we’d get a good laugh in our annual horror movie night.

The Conjuring was legitimately good and scary.

Color me shocked.

All the tricks of other movies seem to be used to better effect in this one. All the things we’re accustomed to in “these types of horror movies” still gave me the creeps when I watched this one. They hit all the notes. Definitely one of the best in the last few years.

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The Ring

The image of the woman after she’s watched the video. That’s the one.

This movie sought to disturb me. And it did an excellent job of exactly that. And yes, I’m only referring to the American version, and that may be blasphemy, but I have to go with what I watched.

The image of the woman crawling out of the tv.

Yes, this one ushered in the J-Horror movies for better and worse, but still… something about the Ring.

The images presented in the video itself.

Maybe that’s just it. It is disturbing. And sometimes that’s enough.

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Dawn of the Dead (Remake) & 28 Days Later

The speed zombie movies. The beginning of the current zombie craze in films. The end of the world.

Post-apocalyptic movies like these show me the best and worst of humanity. They show how quickly all our work and dreams and desires could be ripped away. And while I don’t believe that zombies are going to do us in, I think ever since we discovered the ability to destroy on the level of a nuclear bomb, ever since we’ve found diseases with no cures, and space rocks that could create another extinction event… these are things outside of our control. And that’s what this is – if there is no control, no rules left, then what does it mean to be a person? What does it mean to be human?

In the mouth of madness

In the Mouth of Madness

I’ve written about this one before. Check it out.

invasion of the body snatchers

The Thing (John Carpenter’s version) & Invasion of the Body Snatchers

The idea of something not being who or what they say they are hits me in a way that I’m still not 100% sure of. It is one of the oldest fears available to us, because we want to trust those very people who we know and love. And when that gets taken away from us. When we are no longer sure who we can or cannot trust. When our hearts and minds cannot rationalize a way out… then we are truly screwed.

The thing about both of these movies is that even though they take place in two very different environments, the story is still one about isolation. Sure it is more blatant in The Thing, but Invasion pushes it to the point where surrounded by a street-full of people, you still are not sure who to trust.

These are ideas that will always be there, regardless of the current climate of life.

***

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 two of its 6-part release. Each episode is only $0.99.

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

Hollow Empire – Lessons Learned

My second novel-length project made its first real steps this past weekend. Hollow Empire’s first Episode came out on Friday night to a Kindle reader near you for a whole $0.99. For that you get to meet the characters, get immersed in the world, and get left on one heck of a cliffhanger for… another 2 days. Because that’s when Episode 2 comes out. And then a week later Episode 3 comes out. And so on for 6 straight weeks.

HollowEmpireEP1

Check it out on Amazon here!

Last month I talked about how the project began (in the various emails sent back and forth between Mr. Neill and myself). You can find that here.

The thing about this project was that while we had a bit of a road map, this was different than the way I normally write. Typically I’m working in solitude, late into the night, trying to hit my goals for the night. But even before that I have an outline of some sort set out. It might not have all the twists and turns laid out, but it gives me enough road signs that I know where I’m heading.

It’ll be months working on that 1st draft. A draft that no one else can see (not even Courtney). It is in this draft that I become unafraid to suck. Unafraid to write down everything that my brain might only be tangentially trying to tell me. It all goes in… because I know that when I sit down for Draft 2, I can easily cut the chaff from the wheat.

Or something.

Hollow Empire worked a little differently. Initially we set up goals of turning around the episodes every 3 weeks. At that point I’d send J my 3 chapters and he’d send me his 3 chapters and I’d spend a night or two on edits (and he’d do the same).

Let me say right now that J got the short end of that stick. Especially at the beginning. His chapters were pretty clean overall. A few grammar things, a misspelling or three, and maybe a tweak of some plot (mostly that was me asking questions like this: “Wow, this thing you introduced was cool, how does that work?”).

Editing

Mine were a little rougher. Mostly because, while I did give them a writer edit before sending them on, they were probably closer to 1st draft form than 2nd or 3rd draft form. I can only imagine what J thought when he read that first chapter.

Hopefully it wasn’t a “what have I gotten myself into” situation. 🙂

I believe that by the 5th and 6th episodes I’d cleaned up some of the bigger mistakes, crutches, etc. that I was using (or he’d given up by then).

I’m fairly new at this, but I have to believe that even the JK Rowlings and Steven Kings still learn things with each project they write. Maybe they aren’t the HUGE things anymore, but I have to hope that there are still techniques to figure out… an envelope to push.

And I’m still at the point where everything is HUGE realizations. Writing Hollow Empire, getting that instant feedback, and then doing the edits immediately showed me a different perspective on how my work… worked.

I wasn’t expecting that when I agreed to the project.

The other big thing I learned was that 3 weeks isn’t as long as you think when you have a day job. You see, I was under the assumption that since my nightly goal is 1250 words and our portion of each episode was about 7000 words… well, you do the math. That should be only 6 days. Figure 2 more for any edits. Even if I only write 5 days a week, that’s only half the time.

time slipping away

Well to mis-quote Top Gun: My brain was writing checks that my body couldn’t cash.

I hit the first deadline, no problem. Heck, I had a whole spreadsheet set up with due dates and how long edits would take and so on. By Episode 2 I only barely hit the date, and I’m pretty sure by Episode 3 I was a little late. And so on.

That being said, I would set up the same schedule the next time (3 weeks). Some of the delays were from not knowing the characters quite yet. Some of it was trying to  make sure that I hit the goal posts I’d set up in our initial story meeting. And some of it was vacations and work. At 3 weeks per episode we’d still be done in 4 months. Which leads me to the 3rd thing I learned.

The speed of the project made me a faster writer. More pure. I wrote my characters into corners in one episode and then had to figure out how in the world they were going to get out of that situation. And while that made for some longer nights than I would have liked, I’m hopeful that the end result of not agonizing over every last sentence captures a feeling with the readers.

What I’d like to know now is whether this experiment worked. How do the readers react to those moments and cliffhangers and everything else? Can we make it so they are hyped for a new episode to come out on Friday night?

I guess I’ll have to wait and see.

***

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.

 

Author Interview with Kevin Tumlinson

Among the handful of podcasts that I listen to is the Self Publishing Podcast. Basically 3 independent writers come on weekly and share their thoughts and experiments and interviews with the rest of us trying to find our way in this brand new world of ebooks and tablets and whatnot. I’ve been listening since almost the beginning, randomly stumbling upon them through some way or another.

I’ve since become a bit more interactive with some of those like-minded fans of theirs. And it has been a wonderful experience so far with people sharing ideas on how to go about getting more eyeballs on the works we’re creating. So, when Kevin put out the call to do some kind of interview swap, I raised my hand.

***

What would you like people to know about you?Kevin-wall-Brenham_300

I hail from a once thriving world called Wordslingeton, where my highly advanced race loaded me into a small capsule and launched me to this planet in an effort to preserve Wordslinging culture. I also provide author coaching for those looking to get into this game. The two are very similar.

At what point did you sit down and decide to write that first book?

I was actually in about second grade the first time I sat down and decided to write a book. I wrote in pencil, on lined notebook paper, and filed about four pages front and back (including the hand-drawn cover … very “young Renaissance!”). When I took my book to school, my teacher informed me that “books aren’t written on notebook paper.” Thus propelling me into a downward spiral of “my work isn’t good enough” that has lasted to this day.

But the first real book I wrote was an as-yet unpublished horror story. Unpublished, because it was just awful. Truly terrible. It’s not bad as “writing” goes, but for plot and structure and characterization, it’s more horrible than its own premise. I’m haunted by it.

I did, however, learn a lot from it.

Just the act of sitting down and actually writing a book was a big boost for me. It showed me I could do it. And, having done it once, I did it again. And again. And again. I may not ever publish that first book (I go back and forth on it, digging it out of the drawer at least once per year), but I’ll always be grateful to it, because it was a start.

The first time I followed through and actually published, however, was the first book in my “Citadel” series. That book, too had it’s “awfulness.” But mostly in the form of arrogance on my part. I didn’t bother with editing or proofing, for example, because that would keep my book from reaching the yearning masses in a timely manner. So instead, I released the first edition au naturale. Raw. Straight from my keyboard to the page.

And, shockingly, despite all the typos and continuity errors, it was actually well received! It didn’t draw those “yearning masses” I had hoped for (I’m still looking for those guys … I imagine them out there, wandering and yearning, forever hoping to stumble upon my work. Poor buggers). But I did get an audience out of it. And an education. I’d say that writing and publishing that book, and then rewriting and re-publishing it, was the best author course I could have enrolled in.

If you could start all over again, what advice might you have for your younger self?

Two things: Start writing sooner, and write more books.

It’s ridiculous how much time I wasted in my younger years. Wholly ridiculous. More than anyone else I’ve ever known, I’ve had piles upon piles of free time in my life, in which I had this yearning to write, but was too lazy to actually do it. I wanted to be published, but I didn’t want to write a book. That was hard. That was work. I wanted my brilliance to be recognized just in and of itself.

So once I perfect my own TARDIS (made, at the moment, using old TV parts and zip ties), I’ll be paying a visit to Young Kevin, giving him a thump on the head and a copy of Scrivener, with a note that says “Write the books, save the world.”

Because the one piece of advice that’s universal, from all authors everywhere, is “Write more books.” It’s also the best marketing advice you’ll get. “Write more books,” and you’ll be more “discoverable.” “Write more books” and you’ll build an audience faster. “Write more books” and you’ll have more credibility. And you can write more books by starting right now, not waiting until “the time is right.”

In your latest work, what was the hardest scene to get right? And what did you do to solve the problem?

In “Sawyer Jackson and the Long Land,” the toughest scene was when I had to introduce the main character (Sawyer) to the main antagonist (Aeodymus). The two are on different planes of existence, by necessity, and can’t actually interact with each other yet. So it was the classic conundrum … Aeodymus is the Voldemort to Sawyer Jackson’s Harry Potter, and you can’t have them facing off in the first act. You have to spend some time learning to fear the guy. You have to feel the anticipation.

I worked on this for a while, but the answer came to me all of a sudden, in the shower (as all answers do). I had already created a very cool “magic system” for this book, and tied it to what I was calling the Omni—the Omniverse, or the collection of all existence and realities. The knotwork is this thing that winds through everything in existence, and our guy Sawyer can see and manipulate it. I made the decision, then, that to make Aeodymus a more personal threat, I needed him to have the same ability. So I wrote a scene in which Sawyer and Aeodymus interact within a sort of dark knotwork.

It was a real turning point for the characters, and a real point of danger in the story. It started a thread that has woven its way right into Book 2, which explores the idea of the dark knotwork even further.

And I think that’s the key to good storytelling. The practical solutions are both fed by and fed into the story itself. One influences the other at all times. So there are those story telling devices that we, as authors, study and commit to using. And when we start implementing them we realize, “I have to tie this to my mythos. I have to make these practical, real-world pieces fit my improbable world.” That’s when it gets fun. That’s when you get to really be the author you always dreamt of being. Real writing happens right there.

Writing is often a very lonely profession, but one of the ways to combat that is through collaboration. Have you managed to work with any other writers on projects up to this point?

I’m actually collaborating on two different books right now, along with my own work. One is a serialized project called “The Lucid,” which was the brain child of author Nick Thacker (www.nickthacker.com). Nick’s another author coach and marketing smartypants, like me. I actually went to him at one point for author coaching, and liked him and his approach. I pinged him about collaborating together, and he was onboard immediately. He’d been looking for someone to write with, and he liked my work. So he shared his idea for “The Lucid,” and now we’re finishing up the first episode. It’s already available for pre-order on Amazon! (http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00N4AO18U)

The second collaboration is with an old friend and mentor. Todd Hewey and I have produced documentaries together in the past, and he was actually the first person to give me a real shot at breaking into that industry. I learned a lot from him. So when he approached me with his idea for a book, based on a film treatment he’d written that was getting some attention from Warner Bros., there was no way I could pass it up. It’s a grueling book to write, of course. It’s science fiction, but int he style of Tom Clancy and other prolific and hyper-detail-oriented authors. Not really a strength of mine. But that’s where Todd comes in, supplying me with more detail than I can handle, most of the time.

What’s been great about both of these projects is how much I’ve learned from my partners. We’re always teaching each other, frankly. I know quite a bit about characterization and plot, and how the two meld and dance together. I’m a character writer, first and foremost. And that, I’ve discovered, is something unique in this business. Most authors tend toward setting or details as their mainstay. I start with and lead with the characters. In my own books, the charactersare the story. You could lift them out of their settings and put them anywhere, and it wouldn’t change much.

So working with these two guys has given me a chance to hone that skill while learning a few new tricks. Nick’s experience in marketing his work has been invaluable. Todd’s experience as a historian has as well. I’m picking up traits of both as we go, and coming out a better writer for the experience.

What’s your process? Outline? Pantser? A bit of both?

I lean way more towards “pantser” than “outliner,” which is ironic, considering my staunch position on pants. But I have to admit that as I’ve taken this on from a more business-oriented approach, I’ve started outlining a lot more. I use story beats to guide my work.

Typically I’ll write beats for the first few chapters, though, and get excited about the story, and frustrated with the sort of truncated way I’m having to outline. At that point, I just start writing. And I think that’s for the best. Because anything that lets you start putting words to the page is good, and you should always go with it.

Once I get to the end of my beats, I almost always just keep going. I know the story by now, and the characters. There’s no reason to stop. But then there may come a point where I don’t really know where I’m going anymore, and I need to stop and reassess. At that point, I’ll sometimes finish out beats for the rest of the book. And by the time I’ve gotten a few down, I’m already raring to get back to the writing. So it’s a nice balance of both, I think.

What does your typical writing session consist of? Do you have a specific goal of words or time or chapters?

I get up every morning and exercise for an hour or so before writing. I do the dishes from the night before. I shower and shave and brush my teeth. Basically, I start my day just like I would if I were going to a “real job.” And I start early, about5 am every morning.

Usually by about 6:30 am I’m in front of the keyboard, and Scrivener is up and humming. And I begin.

I have a word goal for each session. I aim for 1500 words. That’s actually about a third of what I can comfortably produce in a morning, but it’s enough of a goal to make serious daily progress. You won’t write a book in 30 days at that goal, of course. When I’m really aiming to churn a book out each month, I set my daily count around 3K, and generally double that on most writing days.

But I think it’s more important to have that minimum word target than to aim for blasting a third of a tenth of a book out with every session. For some authors, just sitting down with that block of time is tough enough. I think if you can set a word goal and stick to it, you’re doing the work you mean to do. You’re actually being an author, instead of paying it lip service.I used to aim for a page count, but that never felt natural. Hitting a set word target each day helps me feel a rhythm for this stuff. Besides, the number is bigger. What sounds more impressive, 1500 words or 3 pages?

Sawyer Jackson-FRONT

Writer’s block – do you get it and how do you handle it?

I have absolutely no idea what this is.

I’m not being flip—I legitimately have never experienced anything I’d call “writer’s block.” I’ve had moments when I sat down with no plan and no idea, with the intention of “I’m going to write something, dammit!” And at that point, sure. I was a little stymied. But I think it’s in the same way that an architect would be stymied if they had no idea what sort of building they needed to design, and where it was going to be placed, and what it was going to be used for.

Having an idea, before you sit down, is the key to keeping things flowing. Sometimes that idea is small and simple. “I’m going to write about a frog with a magic hat.” Sometimes it’s more grandiose, involving reams of research on a topic that evokes passion in your breast. But I’d advise writers to avoid sitting in front of the keyboard at all until they actually know what they want to say. Not word for word—but they must have the spirit and essence there, ready to go.

If you’re still stuck at that point, I think the secret is to just start typing (or writing by hand, if that’s your thing).

I’ve worked as a copywriter for most of my career. There were times when I was asked to write something for a client, and the instruction was a very informative “We need 1,500 words on Subject X.” I may know nothing whatsoever about Subject X when I sit down, but that’s easily solved with Google. And once I have some background, now it’s all about the output. I’m probably not an authority on Subject X, but I know how to start a sentence and see it through. So I just start writing.

That adage of “writing is rewriting” is true. Absolutely true. You may start by plunking down whatever nonsense is in your brain, but eventually you’ll come back and revise what you’ve written to fit the timbre and tone of what followed it. As you write, the ideas take form, and gel. They become something, whereas before they were just concepts and abstract thoughts. Now they have form. They’re clay. But they’re clay you made yourself, and as you shape it you’re even more in contact with it than a sculptor or carver would be. They shape what the world gives them. Writers shape the medium of their own creation.

The secret to kicking writer’s block to the curve, then, is to just start. Write without editing. Write without caring about your mistakes. You’ll get it fixed when you come back later. Write knowing full well that a more informed, better educated version of you, in the future, will be back to make it shine.

What inspires your writing? What are the questions you want to answer with your books?

I’ve lived with the stories I tell most of my life. My childhood and upbringing inspired a lot of my writing. The fantasies that play out in my head, and the grist of books and television and films I’ve seen, they all come together to form a sort of ongoing tale. I’m just shaping that tale and putting in on the page, with faces I drew myself, and dressed in clothes I made.

I don’t know that I’m actually trying to answer a particular question with my books. Quite the opposite, actually. I’m trying to evoke questions. I want people to read something I wrote and think, “Huh. That’s something I never thought about before. Where could I take that? Where could it take me?”

Music while you write? And if so, does it change based on the project? Favorite albums?

For the most part, I listen to a lot of instrumental Celtic music. A few years ago I discovered that it really resonated for me as I wrote. I keep it pretty low, almost inaudible, but it makes me feel a little “comfy” as I sit in my home office, tapping away. It’s a very “transporting” kind of music.

I’d say there’s likely a flavor in all my books that ties in with that music.

Of course, I do switch it up every now and then. Sometimes I’ll play something contemporary. But that usually makes me feel a little off balance. The tones of my work change, slightly. It’s like switching the source of water at a soda factory. You get pretty much the same product, but it has a slight difference in taste. Maybe I should have used a classier analogy, like wines made with grapes from different regions.

Do you have any upcoming projects? Anything you’d like to promote?

I mentioned this earlier, but Nick Thacker and I are working on episode one of “The Lucid,” which promises to be a very cool serial. Lots of action, lots of clandestine activities, and a nice post-apocalyptic flavor. It’s a very unexpected kind of story, and one I think my readers will love!

I’m also nearly done with the second Sawyer Jackson book, “The Shadow Strait.” It’s a fantastic continuation of the series, and the people who loved book one are not going to be disappointed. The characters in this book keep evolving and keep getting better. I’m completely in love with this story!

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

My home online is www.kevintumlinson.com. That’s a portal to anywhere and everywhere else you can find me! But you can also connect with me on social media:

Facebook: /kevin.tumlinson

Twitter: @kevintumlinson

Google+: +kevintumlinson

Kevin Tumlinson’s Author Bio:

Kevin Tumlinson is the Wordslinger—a full-time indie author and author coach, spending most of his days enslaved to a MacBook that just won’t let him go outside and play. His “Citadel” and “Sawyer Jackson” series are reader favorites, and his readers are Kevin favorites.

Learn more about Kevin and his work at www.kevintumlinson.com.

 

 

TV Casualty – Please Don’t Feed My Television Screen

This is how it goes come September. Our DVR is relatively clear. Sure, perhaps there is that one lingering show from last year we just haven’t quite gotten around to watching… but otherwise we start fresh.

That lasts for all of about 2 weeks.

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We scan through the new shows, looking through Entertainment or online or even TV Guide flagging those shows which catch our eye and ensuring there are no conflicts with any existing shows. Slowly that DVR fills up. Shows become endangered species as the capacity approaches. 5% left and now the easy decisions get made:

We were never going to watch X show… let’s just delete it. That buys us, what? 3 days?

My wife sees the numbers of episodes click ever upward. Her palms begin to sweat. She’d rather not bother with the show if the number gets too high (Heaven help you if she finds out that pilot is 2 hours – she might go screaming from the house). So now I become a Vaudevillian performer with my spinning plates, ensuring that everything survives as long as it can (or until we make a decision about locking it in for the rest of the year.

dtv_dvr_ad

Maybe this is beginning to change though. We’ve certainly joined into the binge watching affairs during this last year. 2 seasons of Orange is the New Black, all of Breaking Bad, and even the new run of 24. And each one of those had a number beside them that was at least 12 long, and in some cases many, many more than that.

And then last year, even though Sleepy Hollow looked right in my wheelhouse – I waited. I recorded the episodes, but didn’t watch them. Had I not been burned time and time again by these shows? And this one looked like the type that begged to be cancelled 4 episodes in. Plus it was on FOX, so there was little doubt.

Imagine my surprise when they were picked up for a full season well before Christmas. Somehow a genre program which walks that line between goofy and serious has turned into the little show that could.

Maybe I shouldn’t be so quick to judge this year’s newcomers?

We may still be in the Golden Age of TV… I don’t know for sure. I do know that for superhero “stuff” on TV, this next year is above and beyond anything we’ve ever experienced before. It’s an all you can eat buffet.

I just wanted to look at the comic shows debuting this Fall:

Gotham – If you haven’t listened to Kevin Smith’s “Fatman on Batman” Podcast, you are missing out. He typically does these epic 2 + hour conversations with the various creators, voice actors, animators, etc. who have worked on something Batman related. But it was one of his conversations with Paul Dini where they discussed a potential Batman show done where he was much younger than anything we’d ever seen before. How you could focus on Gordon when he was a much younger man trying to make his way in the world. How you could slowly introduce many of his villains.

The tangent probably lasted 20 or 30 minutes, but I was in. Gotham seems like it sprang directly from that talk (though it was developed entirely separate). But, yeah, I’m in on that one.

Flash – I actually have a blog post coming up in a couple of weeks about the Flash. Sufficed to say I will be watching it.

Constantine – I think I have about 6 comics with Constantine in them. I never have read Hellblazer (it is on my list). I didn’t see the Keanu Reeves movie from a few years back (though that might be a blessing). Assuming I do check this one out, I’m pretty much going into it blind. I know there will be demons and magic and that’s about it.

I check this one out, but I need to be wowed quickly.

Agent Carter – I wonder if this concept has enough “juice”. I like the general idea of exploring the early days of SHIELD and the Marvel Universe, but I worry that once the gimmick runs its course, the show won’t have much more to stand on. There is definitely some opportunities for them to universe build, but it could easily turn into the show winking at the audience every week with some random comic easter egg (which Agents of SHIELD did a few times to mixed results).

The other worry is that it took SHIELD half a season to get to where they should have started. Now, don’t get me wrong, by the end of the season it was running on all cylinders, but if Carter fails to get out of the gate in the same way, I wonder if the leash will be quite so long?

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3 from DC and one more from the Marvel movie universe. My best guess is that Gotham and Flash survive, Constantine doesn’t finish the season. Agent Carter gets 1 full season and then it is done (and maybe they end up saying that was the idea all along).

But aside from these, what shows should I be checking out (no guarantee they get added, but I know I’m going to miss a few somewhere in there).

***

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!

Dragon Con Review

Last week I talked about heading down to Dragon Con over Labor Day weekend. This weekend I tried to make some new memories.

The first thing that always occurs to me is how big the con has gotten since I first went down to it so many years ago. I will say that I believe Atlanta has scheduled a few too many things for Labor Day weekend (maybe). Since we weren’t staying on site (something we’ll hopefully remedy next year), it meant that trying to get into that 10 AM panel presented not only some highway issues…

atlanta traffic

But also actually making our way to that early panel in light of the parade. The sidewalks packed with people, we struggled to reach the Whedonverse panel over at the Westin, only to find it packed.

Boooo!

No problem, we’ll just go to our back-up TruBlood panel… across the street… across a sea of bodies in costumes.

Hmmm.

Which brings us to our first real story. We’re pushing through the mob, but are unsure how we’ll actually get to the Hyatt when behind us we hear a guy asking to get through… carrying a young woman in his arms, passed out from overheating. Of course we make room, as do many of the others lined up on the sidewalk. As they pass, she lifts her head and smiles before resuming her previous “unconscious” state.

Though, Karma is a thing, because the parade was over less than a minute later, so all their deceit got them nothing.

Terminus Media had a panel on Saturday night at 10 PM to discuss the motion comics we’d been working on for the CDC, and to talk about the motion comics side of things in general. Myself and Robert Jeffrey II (a contributor to Tessera) were a part of the panel. About 15 people showed up, and even though there was no real rehearsal, I think we acquitted ourselves pretty well.

It is always weird to see something you had a hand in creating being shown on a screen for others to see (in a good way). Hopefully we did a decent enough job that Dragon Con will invite us to do more next year.

Ran into (literally in couple of cases) a few friends I had not seen in a while. As I touched on last week, that’s one of the biggest and best things about the con – reconnecting. Finding out how everyone is doing. This year I also got to show a complete con newbie around. And she enjoyed it enough that she went ahead and got her 4 day pass for next year.

Aside from not being able to get into the Whedonverse panel (luckily we did get into the Agents of Shield panel on Sunday which had plenty of Whedon love) and not being able to see Cary Elwes (another capped line), there was one big “problem”. The Dealers room is a bit of a nightmare to deal with. I know they are expanding again next year, but there were multiple times that people couldn’t get into the building or into a room because it had reached capacity. If Dragon Con is going to keep getting bigger, they need to figure out a way to handle that.

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Expand, DCon, expand.

Second story of the con – We are ready to leave for the night. It is about 11:45 Saturday evening. I am finished with the Terminus panel and am looking forward to getting home, to bed, and then back again the next day for more fun. We only have to get down the outside stairs of the Hyatt, which for some reason the DCON staff decided to block (with their bodies) so as to allow a line for one of the late night panels to move through.

Now, I don’t have a problem with this if it takes a minute or two. When it takes 10 minutes then maybe you need to pause that line and let the queue of people on the stairs out to where they might be able to get to meeting spots, late dinners, gaming, or home (in our case). What kills me is that they finally did have to pause that line because I think we were about to storm through them. Not the best way to end the night.

Oh, and I did have one huge regret.

C. Thomas Howell had a panel (along with Cary Elwes) and not only did I not know about it, I didn’t know he was there at all. Those that know me know of my fierce love of 80s movies that include C-Tom (as I like to call him).

Yes, they know about it even if they don’t understand it!

Anyway, I just wanted to let him know that he still holds the distinction of being in the greatest volleyball movie of ALL TIME – SideOut.

Sideout

Summer did, in fact, get hotter!

A bold statement, for sure, but one I stand by. Regardless of the fact that I’m not sure there are other volleyball movies!

So that was a bit of my Dragon Con for the year. I can’t wait to see what next year brings!

***

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!

 

Dragon Con Memories

We’re days away from another year of Dragon Con. As you may or may not know, I’ll be at the Terminus Media panel on Saturday night at 8pm. I’m not 100% on what we’ll be discussing, but it should be a fun time to mix it up and talk with some of the local independent comic people around Atlanta.

Dragon Con 2014

Dragon Con is this weird thing for me because it has always been there. I believe the very first time I went I was 15 or 16 and Chad’s dad dropped us off and then picked us up some time later. It is where I first realized that there were these comic book conventions, and where I got my very first comic autographed (issue 300 of Amazing Spider-Man by Todd McFarlane). We were only there for a few hours, but my mind was blown, and I resolved to come back again the following year.

ASM-300

Of course that promise was blown away the very next year when family commitments meant I couldn’t attend and ended up missing a DnD session run by Tracy Hickman (of Dragonlance fame). For the weeks afterward my friends all made sure to let me know what I missed out on.

A year later the Magic the Gathering frenzy had taken over. You had to wake up early, stand in line for some crazy amount of time, and if you were lucky you would get 1 pack of Legends. Now I know that must sound crazy to think that the current set could not be bought at any random comic store, but it was the world we were living in.

The years went by and most of the time I tried to ensure I’d go at least two of the three days. And then when it became a four-day con, I pretty much stuck to  the two days anyway. At the time it felt like they were expanding just to do it… I mean, I could see 90% of what I wanted in 2 days, why bother with 3.

But then a curious thing happened… friends began to move away or maybe they lost interest into going. And soon that group of 10 or so that made it where no matter what panel you wanted to go see or what deal was going on in the Dealer’s room – you’d know about it and have someone to share in the experience. I don’t know about you, but doing things by myself means there is no one to nudge when you see that “cool thing”.

And not long after that, I was the only one going to con… and it became strictly a 1 day thing for me.

I carried the flag for those “dark” years for my group of friends. Sure, I might see a couple of people I knew, but that old core group was nowhere to be found… and it lessened things a bit.

Then came Firefly and Serenity.

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For most of this time my wife avoided Dragon Con. It was something I think that amused her from a distance. That “thing” John did around Labor Day. Every year I’d ask and nudge and hint that I thought she’d have a great time if she just did 1 day with me.

And she always put it off. Maybe next year. Maybe next year.

Then came Firefly and Serenity. And a panel at Dragon Con with pretty much the whole damn cast.

And I had her.

And she came to Con, and saw the panel, and then saw that Charlene Harris and TruBlood was there and sat in on another panel. And we spent the evening watching the costume contest with some good friends in their room on closed circuit enjoying room service.

That’s all it took.

And suddenly I wasn’t alone anymore. I had my best friend to nudge and point at a cool costume and to experience things with and just enjoy this piece of my own life with her.

Soon enough some of the other friends have drifted back (here and there) to the con. And I get to meet up with newer friends as well… guys and gals I may not have seen in months.

It’s glorious.

At the end of Dragon Con I’m always hit with a slight melancholy. No matter how much I enjoyed myself or even on those years I was bummed out about being by myself… I would still get it. That idea of all these people who shared some passions with me… all these people who said fuck it, I want to enjoy what I want to enjoy and not worry if I look or act silly during these 4 days. I love that about Dragon Con. I love people watching. I love going to panels and seeing tv and movie stars talk about their projects and getting excited about the next big thing. I love going to writing panels in an effort to glean as much information from people in the “know” as possible.

sad panda

It makes me feel not so alone. Because, for a long time there us nerds were out in the wilderness. It wasn’t cool to say that you played DnD or Magic or read comics or liked Anime or played computer games. And for 4 days Dragon Con offered an oasis for those of us who wanted to feel apart of something bigger than just us.

So yeah, at the end of the day on Sunday (most likely I will not be down there on Monday – we’re using it to recover) I’ll get that funny feeling in my stomach that another one of these has ended, and it will be another year before I get the chance to do it again. I’ll be tired, my feet may hurt, and my wallet will likely be lighter, but even with that slight sadness I know that it is only a matter of a little time before we get to do it again.

Hope to see you this weekend!

***

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!

Hollow Empire – Those Initial Steps

On March 23, 2013 I received the following email from J Edward Neill:

“My final round scooped. Weak. But seriously, if you want to try your hand at the serial story blog thing, I’m all in.”

The first part of that line refers to Magic the Gathering, so not really important to our discussion right now. The second refers to a conversation I had with J about a podcast I’d been listening to “The Self-Publishing Podcast” and how two of those guys had been on a tear with serialized fiction (which if you are at all interested in independent writing, you should check out the podcast). The format basically was about 15,000 words per episode (which equals about 60 pages), six episodes make a season (apparently we are on an English schedule)… leaving you with 90,000 words for the book (360 pages). They released them on a weekly basis, cliffhangers at the end of episodes (just like some of your favorite tv shows).

breakfast_serial_forum_183

No, not this kind of serial!

And I thought it could be duplicated.

So a couple of days later I got that email. And I replied on March 25, 2013:

“Serial – I’d be down.”

There was tons more included. Talk about potential schedules, the idea that this book could help not only cross-pollinate our works, but also generate content for our virtual book shelves. The one thing I am sure of in this writing thing is that if I only have one book, then it is much harder for anyone to find me. But if I have another book, I’ve increased my odds. And by co-writing it, I only have to do 1/2 as much work to get to the full novel.

Right?

Anyway. At that point we had no idea what this was going to be besides the barest of formats. Genre? Who knows. I only knew that we probably wanted to avoid vampires and zombies since they seemed to be running rampant throughout fiction and tv and movies.

J mentioned “a superhero theme, but waaaay back in time… fighting against ancient evils in a fantasy dark ages setting.”

I took that and wrote the following:

“125 years ago the last of the Great Wars were fought and the beginning of King XXX began. And the Age of Peace spread throughout the lands that he had conquered. Much like Alexander in our own world, this King spread his kingdom to the far reaches of the known world, but unlike Alexander, he lived to a ripe old age. Long enough to ensure that his heir would be ready to rule after him, long enough to make sure that the new lands remained within the kingdom. Trade increase, prosperity increased, etc.

10442Jollain_The_Plague_of_Frogs

20 years ago marked the beginning of the Outbreak in YYY. hey stacked the dead along the walls until they reached the top, and then they began a new corpse wall. The spread like wildfire throughout the world; the downside to having increased contact with the far reaches meant that no one could outrun it. The population of the world decreased over the next 10 years by 50%. Small villages now are ghost towns, empty of all life, as those who survived journeyed to the cities for protection, cure, help.

Now we deal with a medieval world which has begun to pull itself out of the apocalypse. They are trying to figure out where they stand. But there are peasant revolts, coups, kingdoms which quarantined themselves and have not been heard from in the last dozen years.

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<Insert Project Name> – Dark Fantasy – Not saving the world, not saving the day… just saving yourself.”

That’s all it took and we were off to the races. We began to flesh out the pieces of the world and the people who survived the end of the world. We came up with our four Points of View, each choosing to write two of them. We’d be each other’s first editor. And when it was done we’d have something greater than the one could possibly do.

I must admit, I wasn’t sure how it was going to work out. I’ve collaborated plenty on the comic book side of things. Heck, the whole format is about that very thing. Writers and artists working together to achieve something they could not have done alone. But this was something else.

And it worked (at least I think it did, you’ll have to read it and be the judge). I think we’ve not only managed to flesh out a world, but we’ve done it by using the characters as our vehicles to get there. They determine so much of what the world is going to look like.

The best part, though, was getting that new chapter from J. There would always be something new one of us would include in a chapter that the other one would want to add to their own story. So many emails and conversations seemed to begin with “X thing is cool… how exactly does it work so that I can use it.” Those surprises made it fresh in a way that working by yourself sometimes can’t be.

I’m excited to release this new creation into the world. I can’t wait to have people give it a read and let us know what they think.

And by the way, Mr. Neill also has given a little bit of teaser for Hollow Empire here.

***

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!

Roleplaying for fun and profit

It’s not a secret, not really. I wasn’t embarrassed… not exactly. Much in the way that many things I have done in my life which fall under the heading of “geeky” or “nerdy”. Before the days when telling people about comic books was shunned.

I mean, I keep hearing about how the nerds won. As if it was for the very soul of the world. That they’ve done what we all predicted would happen when that first “nerd” started messing around with the family computer. They have overthrown their jock-overlords and have claimed the top of the mountain.

Rise up in the cafeteria and stab them with your plastic forks!

Rise up in the cafeteria and stab them with your plastic forks!

Throughout middle school, through high school and college and for some time afterwards I role-played. And I think it has made me a better writer.

How’s that? Well, let’s see.

Character Creation – One of the biggest things in role-playing is that initial character creation. Maybe you are trying to balance out the team that already exists, or maybe you’ve had the nugget of an idea swimming in your head for the last few weeks and now you get to try it out. Sure there is the rolling of dice for your stats, and you would love to roll well to get them higher. But the character is something more than just numbers. There is a history there. A personality that you want to play with and figure out. Sometimes it is tropes, the disgraced knight, the reclusive wizard, the thief who walks the line between good and evil.

But the best characters are those ones who begin to mold themselves as you play them. As your Game Master puts you through the paces on an adventure. As the other players begin to speak with you character… a true personality emerges that you could have never expected… not 100%.

In writing, at least for me, I’ve found it is much the same. I may have the barest idea of how a character will react to something, but time and time again, when that moment comes something crazy happens.

The character surprises me. In the same way that those characters I role-played needed to act a certain way a month after I created them, so too does the written character need to be true to themselves. In fact, I sometimes learn more about them in that moment than I did in any of the moments previous to it (and then I have to go back and tweak a couple of things to help seed that “turn” or “moment”).

ddi_characterbuilder

World building – A lot of times this is the domain of the Game Master, but a good player can help develop the world in lots of different ways. Through their personal histories: maybe your uncle is a local lord (what is he the lord of? are you in line for his property? would someone want you dead to get their hands on it?), perhaps your best friend died in a conflict across the great sea (was it a conflict or a war? is this the first volley or the last? ), or maybe the village you came from was burned to the ground (who did it? why? are they still coming?).

I’ve heard that writing for comic books is a lot like playing with someone else’s toy box: you want to leave it with more toys than it started with. A good Game Master will take these toys from you and weave them into their world, creating more cohesion, and more stakes for the players.

Heroes – Most of the time I have played the hero (or one of the heroes) of the story. And in that I push the villains as hard as I can. I want to escape their death traps, foil their master plan, and save the maiden. But if I’m paying attention, I can see the obstacles that the Game Master is throwing in my way. You see, it is his job to not quite let me win… at least not for a while. Small victories will keep you going until that final big battle.

In my writing it is the same way. My job as the writer is to figure out what my character wants to achieve and then put as many obstacles in the way of them succeeding in their goals. In overcoming those setbacks, I learn more and more about how my characters think and feel and maybe even what it might take to completely break them.

Villains – I’ve played a couple of villains through the years. And it is fun. It  is fun to mess with the other players and sometimes even catch the Game Master off guard with a line of play. Mostly I’ve found that while sometimes the Game Master isn’t looking to flat-out kill your character, another player who is opposing you has no such qualms. That’s where fast thinking comes in handy. But it is also the point where you can fill a villain with more traits than just “he’s evil”.

Not that there is anything wrong with that!

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The End – I’ve played in epic novel length campaigns. They have that feel of a good book series where the heroes get a victory towards the end of the book, only to have something else happen which will propel the series forward for book 2 and 3 and 4. So I can identify where a good breaking point for a chapter, a section, and even the end of the book should be. It is a more subtle thing, but I believe it is there all the same.

Plus it never hurts to end something so that later you can get those heroes out of the mothballs and send them on their one final adventure. Everyone likes a last ride story, right?

Sadly, the closest I come to role-playing these days are playing Dragon’s Age (waiting for the next one!), but I take those old sessions to heart. What might have been cool and what moments might have caused groans. Either way I continue to sift through my memories to see if there is more buried treasure somewhere in there.

I’d like to think there is tons.

***

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!

 

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

No, I’m not talking about Christmas… that’s still months away. No, I’m talking about that special week that only graces us once a year. That certain something which tells me summer still has about 1 solid month left. That week that informs me that I’ll always be a little scared to go back into the water.

Shark Week.

shark-week

Oh, yea!

Next week I’ll begin filling my DVR up to the brim with any and everything shark related. And then, over the next month I’ll watch it in little pieces here and there (cause I know how to party, clearly).

I’ve said it before, but I truly believe that had I not seen Jaws I might have been a marine biologist. Maybe those were just the dreams of a ten-year old John, but I’m not so sure. I do know this, Jaws scared me more than any horror movie I’ve ever seen: because it changed my thinking of the ocean (it may be fitting that it is currently running in the other room as I write this).

My family goes to the beach every year. We have since I was about 13 or 14. Typically the beach of choice is Destin, FL, but it does change from time to time. The reason I bring this up is that my mom knows to find a place with a decent pool, because that is where I’d rather go swimming. Don’t get me wrong, I love sitting under an umbrella and feeling the salty breeze on my face, nose buried in some book. If that was my life every day for the rest of my life, I wouldn’t be too upset.

But to get into the water? I guess, if you force me to. And I’ll enjoy myself for a little while.

But always I wonder what is beneath me. What’s in the water that I cannot see? Where is that instrument of destruction that could tear me limb from limb?

hammerheads

You may scoff. Say it is an irrational fear. You’re not entirely wrong. It is what it is.

So why, in the name of all that is sane, like shark week so much? Do I get some sort of sick joy from scaring myself mere weeks from when I might find myself face to face with one of them? I certainly don’t want to look into those black, “doll eyes”.

It is because I am fascinated by what they show. I am floored by the documentaries they put on each year. And yes, I know there are a fair number of repeats, but some of those I missed the first time around anyway.

Mostly, I think that kid inside me, who wanted to be a marine biologist all those years ago is exerting his will. Maybe if I had seen the Air Jaws doc instead of Jaws first… who knows?

 

Bonus:

Top 5 Shark movies –

1 – Jaws – Obviously. No brainer. The first, the best, and one of my top 5 all-time favorite movies. I’m amazed by the way we don’t see the damn shark for most of the movie. We see things from its perspective. We see the chaos it has wrought. But until it pops out of the water that first time (“You’re gonna need a bigger boat”). The end of the movie. The moment where father and son are at the dinner table and the kid is mimicing his father.

But more than anything it is the scene where Robert Shaw tells his story about the Indianapolis. That kills me every time. I get goose bumps just thinking about it.

2- Jaws II – Flawed, yes. But its biggest flaw is that Jaws I exists at all. You cannot compare yourself to one of the greatest films of all time. That’s just silly. The scene where the sailboats are tied together and the shark is hunting them. That’s just a cool scene.

3-Open Water – Not exactly a shark movie as much as it is a movie about being stuck in a bad situation… and then there are sharks later. This maybe my second worst nightmare put on the screen (the first being buried alive).

4- Deep Blue Sea – Sam Jackson gets eaten by a shark. Nuff said.

Actually this movie is horrible because why would you develop a smart shark? I get the study to help against Alzheimers, but why wouldn’t you make them without teeth or something. Everyone deserved their fates in this movie.

5- Sharknado – I mean, if by #5 I mean a train wreck that I can’t turn away from. At the time of this blog I have yet to see the Second One (that should have been called Electric Boogaloo), but I am sure it will be all sorts of awesome (and by awesome I mean really horrible).

***

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!

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.

valiant-comics-relaunches-headed-by-ex-marvel-ceo

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.

 

***

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).

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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.

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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.

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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!”

NElsezRvBddSot_1_3

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.

pearljam-indifference

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).

writing

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!

PIECE-BY-PIECE-COVER

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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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?

***

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.

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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.

****

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.

****

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

****

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.

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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

****

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

****

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.

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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?

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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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

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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.