About John McGuire

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

Atlanta will never be a baseball town

We are only a few weeks away from the worst time to be a sports fan. The Super Bowl will be over and with it another season of futility for my Miami Dolphins. We’ll have the better part of a month to wish it was March and therefore time to fill out our tournament brackets with any number of theories on why this team or that one will end up in the Final Four. You will try to convince yourself that just because you did not watch one minute of college basketball up to that point that your opinions should still be valid.

But really we’re all just biding time until Baseball and Opening Day.

I’ve spent most of my life in Georgia in one form or another (minus about a year or so in Florida when I was 4 and about 2 weeks in Virginia) so there is only one baseball team as far as I am concerned:

The Atlanta Braves.

Braves

Forgive the flash, though it landed right where the tomahawk hit…

This is my favorite picture hanging in my house. I’ve had it since 1991 when my mom got it framed for me. It’s gone with me through a handful of moves, but I always make sure to find a place for it.

While I know the exact point in time that I became a Miami Dolphins fan (January 23, 1983 The Miami Dolphins defeated the NY Jets in the AFC Championship game and that was all it took – I shudder to think what would have happened had the game gone the other way), I have no idea when I became a Braves fan. At some point it became a part of my conscious, surely helped by lots of readily available viewings on TBS.

But it was probably cemented by the trips to Atlanta I spent with my Dad. We would do a week there, and then a week in south Georgia with my relatives. During that Atlanta week we’d see the Braves at least twice (there might have been even one year where we saw them three times). Looking back I can’t say I remember any specific game that we went to, though I remember seeing them play the Padres at some point (possibly more than once). At one point I even knew their record in games I went to (for such a terrible team during most of the 80s, they tended to win more than they lost when I was there), though that knowledge is long since lost from the recesses of my mind.

I remember my Dad telling me stories about the Braves though. “Did you know that Dale Murphy used to play catcher?” “Did you know that Pascual Perez once got lost on I-285?” (It is the perimeter around the center and he never got off… just kept going in a circle).

And I knew I would get a chance to see Dale Murphy play. In person. Number 3. Your starting center fielder for the Atlanta Braves (maybe he’ll hit a home run!).

In Waycross, Georgia (the largest city, in the largest county, in the largest state… east of the Mississippi – look it up) (where I lived) you better believe that Braves cards were gotten at a premium. But a Dale Murphy? That was the end game. You opened pack after pack in hopes of seeing #3.

Dale Murphy Baseball Card

I’m pretty sure I have this one… sadly it is not worth what it once was.

Mercifully much of the 80s Braves, for me, is tied less to their record and more to their baseball cards. And it really remained that way until 1991.

But in 1991 it all changed. I remember how that season made every single person a Braves fan. I went to our High School Homecoming football game and people were doing the tomahawk chop (by the way, yes we stole it from Florida State… who cares, most of those people were Braves fans anyway). People would honk their horns and stick their arms out the window. And every night as the season progressed I’d look in the paper to see if the Dodgers had won the night before.

And when they won the division? And then when they won the NL? It was ridiculous. There is no other words to describe it. And had Ron Gant not been pulled off the bag by Hrbek, well… (no, I’m not still bitter about it 22 plus years later).

Still, they were not the losers anymore.

For the next decade plus we got treated to seeing one of the greatest rotations of all time. I don’t know that I even realized it until it was close to over at the end of the 90s. Maddux, Glavine, and Smoltz under Bobby Cox’s managing brought wins to a town starved for them. It is a fine thing to accomplish winning, but when you win as much as they did and make it where people are slightly bored of the winning (not me, but some). That is a true accomplishment. They turned the Atlanta Braves into a model for how to win.

Last week two of those three were voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. And while I would join my voice in with the people who feel Maddux should have been a unanimous decision (if not for people gaming the system), I’m too excited about the prospect of this years ceremony being so Braves focused.  Though there is a bit of weird timing as this year will be the first without any true tie to those division winning teams (Brian McCann leaving to become a Yankee) is the same year where a huge reason for their being a streak will get their honor by all of the baseball world. I guess it really is the end of an era.

And yeah, maybe we only won the 1 World Series, but being it the thick of it every year, having a chance… I’ll take that all day long.

Braves Pitchers

Smoltz will be in there shortly with you guys.

So thanks Bobby, Greg, and Tom. Get the place ready because we’ve got two more of your teammates (John Smoltz and Chipper Jones) coming to really give the Hall a nice Braves feel

 

***

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.

 

Forget Me Not

People seem to ask writers one common question: “Where do your ideas come from?”

writing-letter

And while I’m still in my early writing career it is a very easy question for me to answer. It comes from answering what drives me as a person.

I’m obsessed with perception, memory, how time can distort both things, and what that means for a person (I am obsessed with other subjects as well: Time Travel, the future, alternate timelines, the supernatural, but I digress).

One of the things I’ve noticed over the years is how my own memory contorts and changes as I get further and further from an event. Now, I assume that for most people this is the case. Especially if it is not the most important of events it is very easily forgotten (though I seem to retain the most useless of knowledge, a gift from my Father I think). Perhaps it remains in some recess of our minds, waiting for a trigger to allow it to rush back to the surface of our mind, but mostly I think our brain just deletes that old, unused data. Kinda like my wife’s pack rat solution she (attempts to) employs upon me. “If you haven’t touched it in 6 months, then you can throw it out.”

Here’s the problem, there are moments in my own life that I have a different memory than those of my friends and family. Sometimes they have been instants where I wish it had been me there because the person feels like we’ve shared this moment and are closer because of it. So I typically go along with it, hoping that at some point it does loosen the old memory and then… but it doesn’t happen.

I can never figure out if it is a ME problem or a THEM problem.

And unless there is audio or video recordings of the event, who is to say that they are right or wrong about these things. If someone tells a story that features you in it, you have already bent in their minds to fit their version of events. Given enough time and enough retelling of that story, why wouldn’t you suddenly adopt it as a part of your own narrative? At what point would you no longer be able to know your own truths compared to those of the story-tellers around you?

Is it gaps in my memory or is he just remembering the event wrong? What do I not understand about my own self? Which is the better outcome for the both of us?

In the mouth of madness

One of my favorite horror movies of all time is In The Mouth of Madness (really, ask my friends Lee and Egg about watching this movie late on a Sunday night and Egg refusing to drive home to north Georgia because of the “guy on the bike”) (I also did not go home that night – dude on the bike is waaay creepy).

For those that don’t know, aside from being a John Carpenter flick (he of The Thing and Halloween to name only 2 classics), the main reason I love this movie, though, is that it postulates a very important question: If the majority of the world suddenly went mad, what would that mean for those of us who still had our sanity? Or, to put it another way, if reality is only this thing that we all have agreed upon, and then a large group no longer shares our same perspective… what happens then? When the inmates run the asylum, then are the remainder of us really the insane ones?

So does that mean that my reality is shaped by others because they remember things about me that I don’t? Should I take in their ideas of me and… and… what? What would I do with them?

These kind of thoughts keep me up at night, furiously typing away on the keyboard, trying to make some sense of my own world through the creation of new ones. Worlds populated with people that I can create and mold. Maybe through them I can try and work some of my own angst about this concept so that perhaps, somehow, I can find a small amount of solace in my own reflection of reality.

winter-reflection-mirror

So yeah, that’s where I get my ideas from, rantings and ravings from the inmates within my own brain.

***

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.

.

At the End… At the Beginning

New Years is supposed to be that time of year for looking forward, setting goals for oneself, and then taking measure in those things from the previous year. So I’m doing that for my writing career. My hope is that the things I write below all come to fruition plus some other things that I might not possibly even know. There were a couple of surprises from 2013…

First a look back at 2013 with the major accomplishments. This marks the end of Year 1 of my mental 5-year plan to take over the world.

Amazon Breakthrough

February/March – Made it through the first round of cut-offs in the Amazon Breakthrough Novelist Contest last February with The White Effect. I actually entered this contest with The Dark That Follows the previous year, but didn’t get out of the pitch stage (I found out about the contest the night before it was due, not a lot of time to revise and really think about every detail). This time I knew it was coming and really worked on the pitch to the point where something must have clicked as I made it to the 5000 word submission round. And while I did not make it past that point, I learned a little bit about how things work (or didn’t work) in that beginning.

GildedAge_Front Cover-tessera

May – The Gilded Age #1 – First full length comic book I wrote and created debuted at Free Comic Book Day. Prior to this my comic work was limited to anthologies, but with this I feel like I’m moving up a step (8 pages to 22 pages!). What started as a bit of inspiration based off a pin-up by an artist (who I never actually got to work with) morphed into this concept of doing a series of complete stories about the various members of a Steampunk era carnival. I’m extremely proud of this comic and cannot wait until the next couple of issues come out. And though I might be a bit biased, I really feel like each issue is better than the previous one (available at Amazon and Comics Plus).

tigerstyle-tessera

June – Tiger Style #1 – Technically written before Gilded Age, but comics is, at times, a slow moving field, and this book came out at Heroes Con in Charlotte. Up until this convention I had only traveled to cons as a spectator (there is little need for a table when you don’t have wares), but for that Saturday and Sunday I was on the other side of the table (technically I had done Dragon Con as a creator a number of years ago (back in the Dark Ages), so we’ll call this my Modern Age debut!).

June – Hired an editor for The Dark That Follows. In order to get the manuscript ready for publishing, I shelled out some funds and hired Will Flannigan to help me in that final process. It’s been a learning experience on my end to see the various things that someone outside my circle notices after reading through things. It is a weird position to be in as technically I have the final word on whether or not I agree with one of his suggestions, but I probably did about 95% of the recommended tweaks, changes, expansions, and I’m positive that the work is better for it.

June – Began the serialized novel, Hollow Empire, with J. Edward Neill. This idea formed from a conversation over cards one night where I was talking about a podcast I had been listening to and how they wrote serial novels (Self Publishing Podcast). A couple of days later I had an email waiting for me from Mr. Neill, which basically said: “I’m down with doing something if you are.” Through the next couple of weeks we fired emails back and forth about a potential setting and how exactly we were going to try and conquer this strange format (the goal is to release it in Episodes, like little novellas, on a bi-weekly basis before eventually collecting the 6 parts into a book – Season 1). Writing Hollow Empire has made me a better writer because I have had to turn in something to Mr. Neill pretty much every 3 weeks. I’ve learned as much on this project as maybe my other two novels combined.

July – Finished the 2nd draft of The White Effect, my sci-fi novel. Not only am I excited about that book (and getting it finished up in 2014, but more on that below), but it is the longest work of mine to date (90,000+ words) (nothing compared to the esteemed J. Edward Neill, but he’s crazy with his epic fantasy word counts!). Probably the single biggest thing about this project was that I proved to myself that I could finish another book.

October – Terminus Team-up #2 debuts at New York Comic Con. My 3rd comic of the year is still only available in print (that should change in the new year). It is an attempt at trying to tell a story combining a Terminus Media character into the world of The Gilded Age. So I structured it the same (a complete story in 1 issue). It’s a cool book with some heart in there (and dinosaurs… and flying carpets… and clockwork men… and adventures… escapes… true love…). An example of what happens when I convince myself that I cannot possibly write a story given certain parameters… and then go on to find that story in the deep crevasses of my mind.

Tessera - A Creative Guild

October – This here site: TesseraGuild.com. It launched during that month and I’ve managed a blog every week since. Another idea pushed to fruition by Mr. Neill, I believe he chose his Guild wisely with Amanda and Chad (and hopefully me too). I think we are still discovering what this site can be and in the coming months I believe we will only get better.

December – Finished the first draft of Hollow Empire. Technically, I’m in the process of writing the last thousand words on my portion of the first draft (got a little distracted by The Dark That Follows being released)…  While there is still editing to be done, I’m extremely happy with the stories we’ve managed to read. This is one of the biggest surprises of the year as this thing didn’t exist at all before June.

December – Finished scripting duties for a CDC project (actually my second batch of scripts). Can’t say much more about it until it debuts (hopefully next year sometime, fingers crossed). Once it does, I will definitely blog a little about the experience.

The Dark That Follows_Ebook

December – Publishing The Dark That Follows with all the nervousness that such an endeavor entails. When I pressed publish it ended a portion of my life that began 3 1/2 years ago when I was laid off from work for 4 months. After pitching the barest of ideas to my wife over dinner one night: “What if there was a fortune teller who could really see the future? And then what if someone came in who he saw was going to die? What would he do?” – she said “You should write it; you’ve got the time”. So I did. I finished the 1st draft the night before I began at my new job, and as per my last post, pushed Publish on December, 23, 2013 (it too is available at Amazon… maybe you need something to read during this winter?).

Since then it has gone through beta readers, wife readings, personal editing, and outside editing. I’m sure it is not perfect (nothing ever is), but I am proud of my work on the book.

I think that’s the majority of it. So long 2013.

Hello 2014. Goals for the year:

Publish Issue 2 & 3 of The Gilded Age. I’m hopeful for more than that, but given the speed of things and the money involved, I’d rather be a little conservative in my estimate here. Issue 2 is being inked right now, and Issue 3’s script is needing 1 more pass after going over editing comments.

Publish Issue 2 of Tiger Style. I believe this one is all but done. Maybe we might get issue #3 as well, Arena Comics?

Publish Issue 1 of Entropy. This is a comic book from myself and Robert Jeffrey II about what happens at the edge of the universe after the wars and the plagues and all the other bad stuff has happened. What do you do when all you can trust is yourself and your ship? Kinda a Mad Max in space is what we’re going for.  I’m so excited about this comic. I think that Robert and I have created a world that has so much potential.

Finish Scripts for Issues 4 & 5 of The Gilded Age – The first set of stories ends with issue 5 and the eventual goal is to collect them all into a graphic novel and then publish them and get them distributed through Diamond. I’m of the opinion that in the comic book process things cannot afford to wait on the writer. He (or she) should never be the thing holding up the penciler. So, I need to make sure to have the last 2 in the bank ready to go when they are called upon.

Finish 3rd Draft of The White Effect. I’m hopeful for a few more beta reader comments. I’m targeting late February for the next draft.

Hire an editor for The White Effect.

Publish The White Effect. This is something that is more than doable, barring something strange happening, it will happen.

Hire an editor for Hollow Empire.

Publish Hollow Empire. Again, this is going to happen. Saying that aloud is crazy as that would mean I would be publishing 2 books this year.

Begin Hollow Empire Season 2. I’m not sure how Season 1 is going to go from editing to getting out there, but I know the story of the world is far from over. Even if it was just getting those first drafts done, that would be a major accomplishment.

Finish 1st Draft of The Edge of the World. This is one that my wife has been after me to write for about 2 years now. The story about a young woman, her missing uncle, and the secret of what lies at the end of the Earth. I have it fully outlined and is just waiting for a block of time to get it on the computer. I’m going to try to start this one very soon.

Finish at least 4 short stories and send them off to various online magazines. I have a folder on my computer filled to the brim with about 20 story ideas. Some are just a title and a couple of sentences, some have a couple of thousand words written in them, and still others are not sure what they are going to be when they grow up. Regardless, I want to take my shot with a few of them as they each burn a tiny hole in my brain telling me to finish them.

Continue blogging for a full 52 weeks. My goal is to not miss a week. We shall see how that goes.

So there it is, the plan for 2014. I can’t wait to see what things I accomplished when I check back in at the end of the year. There may (probably will be) something that isn’t anywhere in my brain right now, and that is even more exciting.

Happy New Year!

John

It’s A Christmas Miracle!

As I was preparing to hang out with family on Christmas day I have been a little (read: a lot!) distracted by my smart phone. As it rested in my pocket or on the console of our car or where ever I was throughout the day, I found myself fishing for it and checking my email. First for the news for this:

 

The Dark That Follows_Ebook

 

That the cover was ready. I had formatted the novel over the last week, pushing myself to finish what ended up being (and what Chad told me) about 8 hours. Just prior to that the last of the edits came in, so I put all other projects on hold and got the book ready.

Which leads me to today (or actually Christmas Eve as I write this) and waiting for that cover to be ready. And then uploading it… I called my wife over to the computer so that she could click the Publish button with me (she actually clicked it faster than I could).

And then more waiting. Is it live yet? Check? Nope, no email. Thirty minutes later check again. Nope.

Around 8 I checked Amazon.com to just see if I could find it.

Sure enough, there it was (the email appeared shortly thereafter).

I’ve heard the saying that writers don’t actually like writing as much as they like finishing. I’m not 100% on that one. The act of putting words on the screen is very much a huge part of what I like to do. Those words may not always be the best ones or even the ones that last the longest, but they offer me the escape into those other worlds. I love the writing.

Now, after 3 and a half years of typing the first few lines of The Dark That Follows… after various drafts… after Beta reader comments… after hiring an editor and going through things one more time… staying up until 2 in the morning many nights in a row and then finding my way into work the next day…

I’m releasing this into the world. And it feels pretty good. I’m beginning to understand why a saying like the above could come into being.

So I may take a couple of days to bask in this one. To allow myself a moment to reflect on it all.

At least until January 2nd… then its on to the next project!

John

PS – The Dark That Follows is available on Amazon.com as an ebook (the print version is forthcoming). Hope everyone has a grand Christmas!

My Muse

Today is my wife’s birthday.

Courtney puts up with a fair amount from me. She has endured the loss of an entire closet to a boatload of comic long boxes. But it doesn’t end there. Comic books are normally lying all over the house, and she just takes it in stride… though her favorite line may be “do you need to go buy another long box to put these comics in?” (meaning, maybe these need to go upstairs in the comic room).

longboxes

Now, we’ve been together since high school, so she did not enter into this situation unaware. MAYBE she didn’t quite understand the extent of how many comics I had or how deep my love is for the format, but she had a preexisting knowledge of some aspect of it.

Over the years I even managed to get her to read a Bone comic. She has a Superman t-shirt and a Wonder Woman t-shirt.

She journeys to all the latest comic related movies. She knows not only who Mary Jane Watson is, but knows that her husband hasn’t read a Spiderman comic since their marriage was done away with (even if she doesn’t know how that bit of strangeness happened in the first place).

avengers-movie-poster-1

I try to take her to this type of movie…

 

batman_and_robin_movie_001

Not this type of Superhero movie!

But that’s not all. I’m not sure she knows this (I don’t know that I’ve said it to her), but she’s my Muse.

She’s the person that has to endure my random story-ideas as we are driving around, running errands, or perhaps even worse for her, when we have a longer trip planned. I can only imagine what she thinks of some of the things which roll past my lips. Yet, somehow, someway, she not only spares my feelings when perhaps the idea is not one of the better ones, but she helps to flesh out some aspects of these tales. There has been many a time where my side of the conversation began with:

“So I have this idea about a guy who does this X thing… and that’s all I have really.”

She takes this in stride and knows to ask questions that may or may not prompt me into some kind of discovery.

This is how The Dark That Follows came to be. I literally had the barest spark of an idea for a story (I didn’t know what it would be or the length even): What if a fortune teller could actually see the future? And then what if he came across a person who no longer had any kind of future? What then?

That’s all I had, just the barest of a thought. She was the one who encouraged me to begin writing that book. And then she assumed her next role… that of my Alpha reader.

Through this entire adventure through my writing those first couple of short comic stories for the Terminus anthologies to my first novel (extremely soon to be released), she has been the rock that not only supports my dreams, but shares in them. I’m in the final phase of editing/formatting The Dark That Follows, and I think she is happier about it than I am (that’s not to say I’m not happy, but it is mixed with a sense of relief that I can finally release this thing I’ve worked on for the last 3 years into the world). She’s bouncing up and down thinking about various ways of letting people know, her hand on the trigger to call all the friends and relatives as soon as the book goes live on Amazon.

And that feeling, knowing that she is proud of the work I’ve done, proud of OUR accomplishment in all of this, is better than the finishing of the book. Because this book is as much hers as it is mine. Without her constant support, I’m not sure I would have gotten this far… perhaps video games or some other shiny object might have occupied my attention.

In the new year, I want to repay her for a little of this support by writing the book she’s been wanting me to write for about a year and a half (currently titled The Edge of the World). Again, I hit her up with a bare-bones idea, but she latched onto it. I keep teasing her with it, telling her that it is next on the docket as soon as I get some free time, as soon as the writing schedule frees up. And in January I should have a little time, maybe a bit more in February, so I’m putting it out there in writing for all to see. It’s not quite wrapped in birthday paper, but it will be my gift to her.

And who knows, maybe a year from now I’ll be talking about publishing that one.

birthday

Happy Birthday, Courtney McGuire!

Thank you for everything you do… I literally couldn’t do it without you.

Sincerely Yours, The Breakfast Club

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

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

dinobots

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

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

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

breakfastclub

And we bonded.

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

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

S-VHS-cassette-tape

But I digress.

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

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

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

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

bull and horns

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

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

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

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

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

 

***

John McGuire

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.

A Band Called Death

I don’t remember caring much about music before I was about 12. Maybe that’s the way it is for most kids. I’m not sure. Most of what I listened to was either on MTV or through the oldies’ station on the radio. In fact, there was a window of time that I did not (nor did my younger sister) know the radio had other stations because it was always on that same station playing those old pop-rock songs (no, I don’t know what we thought the dial was for). Then as I got older, my tastes looked to the heavier music: Metallica, Helmet, Alice in Chains, Faith No More… before eventually coming into the various Grunge bands.

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Yet there was one music type that eluded me. The only representative of Punk within my budding music collection was The Misfits. It’s not that I didn’t like it, it was more that I just didn’t have that exposure to it. It wasn’t until I was older that I began to hear the Ramones or The Clash or The Dead Boys. Even today my access to most punk is through online sources and not through my iPod.

That being said… over the Thanksgiving holiday, I had the opportunity to watch a documentary: A Band Called Death (it is on Netflix and well worth watching).

The gist is this: Death was a punk band before punk bands existed. In the early 70’s, when it would still be a couple of years before the world knew of the Ramones or the Sex Pistols, there were 3 African-American brothers from Detroit who was doing their own thing. Their love of “Rock” which caused them to buck the trend. To eschew Motown for a heavier sound. One influenced by the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix.

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Three brothers who did their own thing and for a little while it worked. The Documentary basically tells their story of how they seemed poised to break and then, mostly because of the name of the band, DEATH, they kept getting turned down. A band with a name like that was going to have a hard time convincing people to look past the title. And so the rejections kept adding up, and like many things, when you are told “no” enough you stop wanting to get your head beaten in.

And the brothers moved onto a different sound with a different name.

I’ve checked out their music and must say that it feels ahead of its time, and my iPod is about to have a little bit of new/old songs for me to listen to.

But maybe the biggest thing I took from the documentary had to do with the fact that one brother effectively decided the fate for the whole band with the name (it was his idea to start), and then later by not giving in on changing the name to something… more agreeable. Think about it… you’re being told that the music you’re doing is good, maybe even great, but that pesky name is going to be a problem. What if you just changed it?

And my initial thinking would have been, “F- it, change the name and get paid. It doesn’t change the music you’ve already written and the music that you may write in the future.”

I mean, this would be the opportunity to have others hear your work… isn’t that, at least partially, why you got into music?

Maybe part of my thinking comes from the fact that I see titles as almost placeholders. In fact, in the stories I’ve worked on, the title is the thing that eludes me for the longest time. And even at the end, when I finally fight through the forest of words to come upon that single word or phrase which works for that tale… I’m not married to it.

So if they (whomever “They” are) asked me to change a book/story/comic title in order for more people to see it… I would make the change.

In a heartbeat.

However, if you see the title of your story as a true extension of the art, then wouldn’t the very nature of that change mean you were altering whatever you intended the reader to see?

Let’s go deeper then. Instead of focusing on the title, what if they were talking about changing the story? Not just editing, but really an overhaul to what the story was about.

Would that be right?

At what point would being asked to change something become too much? Where is my line? What aspects of the writing is worth fighting the good fight over and what things are just something to let slide. Pick the battles worth fighting.

And isn’t that the same thing as what David Hackney and Death was trying to fight against? They wanted to have control over their brand, their identity, but the more I think about it, I believe they just wanted to do it on their terms. Had they lived 30 years later, they would have been able to get their music out. Get past the gatekeepers and let the public determine their fate.

These are the thoughts that spin in my head as we close in on the end of the year. With the advent of the Kindle and then other readers/tablets/apps, we’re now in a world where I can have complete control. Right now, I’m in the process of finalizing my very first novel, The Dark That Follows. And in this new world, I can write my book and not have to answer to anyone. I can hire an editor to help me out, but at the end of the day I get to be the final arbiter on what stays and what goes. It will be my vision 100%.

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And that is terrifying.

Because it is all on me. There are no final checks hired by some company to make sure that every bit of grammar is correct. Or that the cover looks right. Or… or….or…

All on me.

It’s made me realize that sometimes having all that control isn’t always the best thing. That old adage of “be careful what you wish for” fills my brain. This is the path that I have chosen, and the path I’m going to abide by. For better or worse.

So I salute you, Death… in my own way, I’m just following in your footsteps. I just hope I don’t have to wait 30+ years for someone to know it exists.

Brought to you by Yellow #5

With it being Thanksgiving Week, I figured this was a good time for me to reflect on what I’m thankful for. However, this particular thing is not a person or a place, but a moment in time that could have gone all sorts of sideways on me. So, sit back on this pre-turkey day and take a stroll to March/April 1999.

It was during my last year at Georgia Tech, at the end of Winter Quarter… finals week. I don’t know how many finals I had that quarter, I believe 4, and of course, I had 2 scheduled on that Friday.

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Which wasn’t supposed to happen. The policy at Tech was that you only should have 1 final per day. They figured, smartly, that you were under enough stress studying for a test that would pretty much make or break your grade, so why complicate things with trying to study for 2 at once. And let me tell you, I tried to get one of them rescheduled for earlier in the week. I begged and pleaded, and each of the professors told me that I needed to talk with the other one as “Their class took prescedence”. After banging my head against that wall, I sucked it up, and took my medicine like a good boy.

I don’t remember what the classes were, nor do I remember how long I was up the night before (heck, the week before). What I do remember is that feeling of relief as soon as I finished that second test. I walked out of the classroom feeling both the extreme fatigue, but also filled with a warm feeling knowing that I was that much closer to being done with school (I would graduate at the end of the year). The Mountain Dew surging through my veins had managed to keep me awake long enough. So, I begin driving back to my apartment in Decatur, Georgia.

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Again, I don’t recall much of the drive until I got into the city limits. Only 1 mile away from my place I come to a stop at a redlight. All I want at this point is to go and take a nap and not wake up until sometime on Sunday. My body ached, my brain ached, and my eyes ached. The light seemed to go on forever, but with the free time afforded to me suddenly, I took a glance into my rearview mirror…

And saw one of Decatur Police’s finest behind me. Now I pass the Police Station almost on a daily basis. Never worried about it…

Until right then.

What’s the problem you ask? Well, there was one other thing that happened to me prior to my double finals. My poor Pontiac Sunbird was in the shop (I was just hoping to get through school with it, figuring once I got a job I could get a new car). Courtney, my girlfriend at the time (and my wife now) was going to Cancun on Spring Break. She made me a deal (she loves to make deals, her nickname is Monty Haul): I can use her car for the week if I take her to the airport (or perhaps it was to MARTA) at some ungodly hour in the morning. Not having much of a choice, I agreed. As I dropped her off she said these fateful words:

“Hey, if you get a chance, could you swap out my tag, I haven’t done that yet.” (She placed the physical tag in the passenger seat so I wouldn’t forget.)

“Sure.”

Oh, and if you don’t know, her birthday is in December…

And it was now late March/early April.

And the tag still hadn’t been changed.

Anyway! Flashback to me in the car with the cop behind me.

Please don’t notice, please don’t notice…

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Light turns green. I press on the gas and the red lights flicker on behind me.

Damn.

I pull the car over on the next sideroad. Annoyed. Nervous.

Oh, and the window on her car did not work (did I mention that this Honda Civic from the stone ages was effectively a lemon?). So I have to open the door when he approaches. I’m sure that got his Spidey Sense tingling.

“Do you know why I pulled you over?”

I did.

“I’m assuming it is due to the expired tag?”

“Yes.”

“Look, it is right here. This is my girlfriend’s car. I’m on my way home and I was going to change it.”

When I handed him my licence and insurance card my hand was shaking. Visibly shaking. The kind of shaking where you realize that it is shaking and the more you try to stop it from doing it, the more it continues…

Shaking.

“Why is your hand shaking son?”

Because I’m running on about 4 hours sleep for the week. Because I have enough Mountain Dew in me that my blood is yellow and not red. Because my brain is fried from taking two finals in one day.

I did not say any of those things.

“I don’t know.”

“Please step out of the car, son.”

A second police car pulls up at this point.

“May I search your vehicle?”

Yeah, I’ve got nothing to hide. I’ve never done drugs. I’m not drunk.

“Sure”.

NOOOOOO! What are you thinking? This isn’t your car. You don’t know who Courtney might have had in the car. Yeah, you trust her, but what if they stuffed something under the seats?

Well, too late now.

The second cop pulls me aside while the first begins to go through the car, my backpack, glove compartment, trunk, etc. I joke that Courtney is going to get an earful after this. A few minutes later, the first cop calls me back over. Stacked in a nice row on top of the car are pills of various shapes and sizes.

Loose-Pills

Courtney was notorious for opening her pill bottle and having them go flying about the car. She never cleaned them up, so the floorboards were littered with various pills. If you knew her, it was no big deal.

These guys don’t know her.

“What are these?”

I looked at them, fear in the pit of my stomach.

“Those are herbal diet supplements my mom sells.”

“Those are my girlfriend’s epilepsy medicine.”

Those I have no idea what they are.

“I think those are more epilepsy medicine.”

And then came the words I never hope to hear again…

“This will go a lot easier on you if you just tell the truth.”

What!?! But I am… I don’t… WHAT!?!

“Are you on something? Speed?”

“No, sir. I don’t do drugs.”

“And this diet pill, if we call your mom and she comes down to the station she’d confirm that?”

I don’t think I was trying to be a smart-ass, but…

“Well sir, she’s in Richmond, Virginia.”

A third cop pulled up (I am not kidding). Apparently it was a slow day in the City of Decatur. That or I was Walter White 10 years before Breaking Bad… or would that make me Jessie?

At this point, I was led to the first officer’s police car and placed in the back seat.

A couple of observations:

Not a ton of legroom. Guess they shouldn’t be all that concerned about whether the criminals are comfortable. Still, I’m 6’5″ and I was kissing my knees.

This was the first and only time I’m ever been in the back of a police vehicle (I’m hopeful that this remains true for a very long time). I missed that opportunity earlier in my life by 15 minutes back in high school (another story for another holiday).

While the 3 officers searched the car, ran my information, and made me sweat, three songs played on the radio. I wish I could say that I remember them (my guess is that there was a Red Hot Chili Pepper’s song since they are the bane of my existence and 99x played them about every 5th song), but my brain focused on the various scenarios where my future mother and father-in-law would have to come bail me out of jail.

My friend Egg’s voice popped into my ear, “John, they’re cops. They can do anything they want.”

Later, when I relayed this story to my sister, she said, “You do realize that there was probably a drug deal going on within 100 yards of you and yet they are harassing you.”

My Dad said, “Well, you did fit the profile. 20-something, expired tags, beat-up car.”

So about 10 minutes pass and the first cop comes around to the door and opens it up.

“Get out.”

I stood up as he handed me my information (along with the tag).

“We’re done, for now. Get that tag changed.”

“Yes, sir.”

Drive that last mile home. Go upstairs and grab my tools and CHANGE THE DAMN TAG.

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It was only at that point did my pounding heart begin to slow down.

A small postscript to this story. That night, Courtney called me to tell me she was in Cancun. By this point, I’d relayed the story to my roommate and to another friend, so it was becoming something funny (Comedy is just tragedy from a distance). So I started telling her about it. I was about 1/3 of the way into the story when I heard her start balling on the other end of the phone. “I’m so sorry!” over and over. I felt so bad about making her cry I don’t think I ever really gave her the business about the incident in the first place.

I guess I still owe her for that fun experience.

But, yeah, I’m (very, extremely, beyond, etc.) thankful that I didn’t go to jail that day.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Behind the Comic – The God That Failed

Of the four of us who write on the Tessera Blog, I’m the comics guy. Though that is a bit of a misnomer as I know both Chad and Amanda read comics as well. However, on the writing side of things, until my novel comes out next month, the only thing I’ve ever gotten published is in the comics field, so…

The first comic book story I ever wrote was composed while I was at my day job in about 10 minutes time. I’m not talking about the basic beats of this 8-page story, but the full script was furiously jotted down on scrap paper to the point that the rest of the world no longer existed (probably a good thing my boss didn’t walk by me at that point, I wouldn’t have noticed him). This idea of a superhero story that wasn’t just the typical story that you’d normally get. That’s what I was shooting for. That and something that could be told in a short form (8 pages).

Now forget that I had no idea what a comic book script was supposed to look like format wise… at least not really. I had this vague idea that I’d need to break this plot down into pages and that those pages would need to be broken down into panels, but for some reason I either couldn’t or just wouldn’t do that. Instead the script that I delivered to the artist was mostly composed of narration and some vague attempts at “Hey this would be an interesting image to appear somewhere on this page”.

But of all of the things I’ve written, The God That Failed holds a special place in my heart. Most likely because it was the first thing I got published in a comic (it appeared in Terminus Media Presents: Evolution Book 1), but I think it also was that first spark which showed that maybe, perhaps, this dream I had since I was all of 10 years old scribbling ideas in a blue spiral notebook might be attainable.

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Since the internet loves a list, here are 10 things (Why 10? Because that’s how many I came up with!) about my first comic that might strike your fancy, a behind the scenes, if you will:

1- The story is online, for free at Terminus Media’s webpage. Click here to give it a read and tell me what you think in the comments section below (on Terminus’s site or on this very blog).

2- John Etienne was the artist on the story. The only reason that Etienne was my artist is because I had approached him a couple of months earlier, before the idea of doing an anthology was even a real thought in anyone’s head. However, it wasn’t because I had this story lined up. No, instead I had wanted him to draw an 8 page Moon Knight story for me (not sure what my goal there would have been). Lucky for me he didn’t have time right then to work on anything, and when the anthology project was finally launched I had a story of my own.

3- John Etienne happens to know my Mother-in-Law. She played a trick on him once the comic was out by telling him that not only had she gone to Dragon Con, but she had bought this comic book and wondered if he was the artist on it. “I always go to Dragon Con, and I love comic books”. After a few dumb-founded seconds she fessed up, but both of them later relayed the story to me (and the look on his face as he wasn’t sure if he’d stepped into Bizzaro world or not). I believe Etienne’s words were to me that he just couldn’t see her at Dragon Con. Though, I would pay good money to see her downtown on Labor Day weekend.

4- There was some debate about the order of the stories within the book. I generally like to be the nice guy about most things, but by my thinking I believed you either wanted to be the first story or the last story in the book (actually we all may have thought those spots were the best). I ended up with the last story position, but when the first story ended up delayed (or abandoned, I can’t remember) everyone agreed to put The God That Failed into the first position. Again, I have to thank Etienne for actually being the first one finished with his pages which made the choice fairly easy plus they looked pretty damn good as well, which did not hurt our cause).

5- I mentioned in the last blog that my favorite superheroes are Spider-Man and The Flash. The God That Failed was my idea of what would happen to a guy who received the abilities of The Flash, but that power was burning him up inside.

TheFlash

6- In my original script, page 7 was actually page 6, and page 6 was page 7. Given the way the narration was done the story wasn’t as much linear as it was a guy talking about his friend who was disappearing from the world. When I actually saw the finished pages I had those two flipped given the way the story played out. That being said, page 7 is a “what if” moment, not something that the character actually did (he didn’t need to get more power, he already had way too much).

7- Though I love the serialized format of comic books, this was always a stand-alone story… a cautionary tale, a new myth or something. Thus began my apparent need to tell complete stories (done in one) in comics. That continues today with The Gilded Age. But the real reason that I didn’t want to have him as a new hero for future stories was that I had no idea if or when I’d ever get a chance to do more comics. And as a reader there is nothing more frustrating than buying a comic that says “To Be Continued” and then not ever finding the rest of the story.

8- The main character’s name was John Smith; however, it wasn’t because two Johns worked on the story. I wanted a generic name, someone who might be easily forgotten regardless of all the good deeds he might have done. That fear is something that I know I have and I was channeling that fear into John Smith. This is really summed up to me on pages 5 & 6 but mostly in panel 4 on page 5. John carving into the Easter Island statues is not him destroying something precious; it is his attempt to prove that he existed at all. I sometimes wonder if he did that all over the world.

9- The title is taken from the title of a song on Metallica’s Black Album. I just liked the way it sounded, and since superheroes many times are considered gods, it fit exceptionally well in my mind.

Now I probably owe them money or something.

10- My favorite page of the story is the last one. I think (I hope) that I dodged becoming too preachy by having that last panel thrown in there. I love the idea of another what if… this one being, of course, what if John Smith had lived. The shot of The Fruit Fly conjures up memories of a 10-year old me. I think he would have gotten a kick out of that.

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So there you go, a few bits and pieces about the story… my own commentary track. Sadly it is not like the old VH1’s Behind the Music because at no point could I really say “And then tragedy struck”.

Or maybe not so sadly…

The Biggest Fish: Smallville

At some point the following tale has become my own Big Fish story. Or perhaps it just has that sort of potential. I can only relay the events as they are currently in my mind… somewhat dulled by the time and distance from the original events. What you do with this information is completely up to you.

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I cast my mind back to sometime in 2002 where I had joined up with a group of like-minded aspiring writers in the back of the Dragon’s Horde comic shop in Stone Mountain, Georgia. I like to think of this time as the beginning of Phase 1 of my writing career (Phase 2 came in 2010). The beginning of working with others on various projects, and the beginning of having someone read something I had put to paper (up to this point writing was this distant thing in the back of my mind, but I either lacked the willpower or the knowledge to even know where to begin).

Anyway, one of the group members (we called ourselves WriteClub… possibly not the most clever of names, but it got the point across) told us he had a connection through his sister that could walk a potential script into the Smallville offices. We just needed a script.

Smallville-Logo

Of course the first question after “How exactly is this going to work?” and “Really? No BS?” was how were we going to do this? There were 6 of us in our little group and this could be something we all focused on. A true collaboration. So we sat around one Sunday and talked about the show, and if we were going to do a script what plot points should we hit? I want to say after that one afternoon we had a rough outline and plot points, but it may have been a couple of meetings before that happened. And I don’t remember all the specifics of those meetings, but I do recall the FUN of it all. This was our chance, no matter how small, and we were all ready to give it a shot. No idea was off limits at first, and then we slowly began to circle around the true idea… the one that would serve as our story for this script.

That story was roughly as follows:

Green Arrow would make his first appearance on the show. (What nerve we had to even think this way. I mean not only were we going to immediately get this script sold, but we’d also be the first to really bring in a non-Superman hero. Like no one in their writer’s room had thought of that.)

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He would meet/come into contact with Chloe (she was the sorta Lois character before Lois showed up on the TV Show) and there would be some definite sparks that would fly between the two of them. (While I think this is a fairly obvious thing to do, I actually still like the idea of trying to introduce another person into the Lana/Clark/Chloe triangle. And there would be someone else for Chloe to add to the Wall of Weird.)

He would need something from Lex. And to get that something would require breaking into Lex’s home. (I believe this was one of those things that would initially bring our heroes into conflict as suddenly Clark is really stuck between possibly covering up a misdeed of Lex or letting a thief get away with something that could hurt his friend… a pseudo gray area for the Man of Steel).

And at the end, Green Arrow would get the heck out of town with some aspect of the information he was after (courtesy of Chloe), but with the feel as if he could be back.

Again there was more to it than that, but this was the basics as we settled on them. Now the only question was: Who wanted to bang out this script?

And the table went silent. I’m not sure if it was because none of us really had a clue what we were doing and didn’t want to be called out on it or what, but for whatever reason I found myself saying the words: “I’ll do it.”

Looking back, this was a huge step for me. What in the world was I thinking? What if they hated it? What if I was exposed as a fraud? Hell, I barely understood the way a script was supposed to be formatted at this point. And still I raised my hand and volunteered. I rushed home with Final Draft ready to be installed on my computer and began to type, my fingers a blur as the ideas and the dialogue flowed from me. I did my best to develop scenes and made sure to hit all the high points. By the end of the night (probably more likely very early in the morning), I had the roughest of rough drafts finished. A masterpiece of American Television waiting to be unleashed upon Hollywood.

It was 29 pages.

Now, what I did not know at the time was that in script terms for movies and TV 1 page equals (roughly) 1 minute of filming. Smallville had a running time without commercials of around 42 minutes. Which meant I should have something around 42 pages.

And I had 29.

No problem, though. I was excited to have that much written up. And when I found out about the discrepancy, well that was why I was a part of the group. We tossed more ideas around and I believe we got the script up towards 40 pages (I might be wrong on this, but as I said above, this is my Big Fish and it weighs…). But we weren’t done. We did a table read. We brought in a couple of females to read the women’s lines to help make sure nothing was too out of whack. And at the end of that follow-up meeting I took the notes and compiled that final version.

We sent it off to the sister.

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And waited.

And waited.

And then heard back from her that she read it and really liked it! It was on its way as she’d pass it along to her contacts over at Warner Bros.

And then nothing. Nothing came of it. In my mind, I constructed an elaborate Twilight Zone style scenario where the script was on the desk of the man (or woman) who was the final arbiter and somehow it had fallen behind the desk, just out of sight. Because that was the only reason our phones had not been ringing off the hook (back when phones did that and didn’t just vibrate in your pant’s pocket).

Months passed and the script became almost an urban legend in the group. We’d mention it in passing like someone who had taken a grainy picture of Bigfoot or Loch Ness. The thought was occasionally passed around that we might be able to resubmit via another connection (we may or may not have done that, I can’t remember). I took the last printed copy and stored it away for safe-keeping. Eventually, like most legends it slipped completely from our consciousness.

Fast forward to October 20, 2004. I settled in to watch Smallville for the evening as the episode “Run” appeared. It was to feature a non-Superman hero: The Flash.

For those of you that don’t know my two favorite superheroes are Spiderman and The Flash… but I’ll talk about that in another post. So to say I was glued to my seat would be an accurate statement.

This version of the Flash flirts with Chloe, steals something from Lex, which causes him to come into conflict with Clark.

Watching the episode was a bit surreal. Little things here and there seemed familiar, big things seemed close…

And when I was done I felt a warmness spread throughout me. We were on the right track with our script.  This episode felt so much like ours that it only reinforced that thought in my mind. The next day I talked to one of the group. His first words were:

“I liked the episode of Smallville you wrote, John.”

Now do I know if anyone in the Warner Bros’ offices actually ever saw our script? No. Heck, I’m 100% (well more like 99.999 – with a lot more 9s, but we’ll round up) that they did not. I’m not accusing anyone of anything unsorted.

I just think we tapped into that common Idea Space that is out there, that so many creative people seem to be able to harness. That same reason that multiple movies come out about the same subject (of course the other reason for that is because the studio sees an opportunity to beat an opponent at the same game, but I digress).

This was an example of that. That’s how close it was/felt to what we had done. That’s how close we were to getting a shot at the big leagues.

But above everything else, that project gave me some measure of confidence in my abilities. Writing that script in the first place and then watching as the others read it I felt like a team with others, but more than anything I felt like I could be one of the heavy hitters for that team. My future in writing was going to be big and bright.

I mean, I’d written an episode of Smallville after all.

Just Finish It

I’ve gone to plenty of writing panels over the years hoping to discover, like Ponce de Leon looking for the Fountain of Youth, the secret formula to their success. How the heck did they manage to get up there with their book, comic, etc? Most of the time I do learn something, some nugget of truth that makes the trip worthwhile (maybe a technique or some obstacle they managed to overcome). But there really is one thing that separates them from those of us in the room:

You want to be a writer?  Then write, sure, but FINISH the task.

Too much I get caught up in the idea of writing. Make sure that I get my WORDS in for the day, or make sure that the latest chapter gets revised.

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 But at some point you have got to get to “Pencil’s Down”. This is something I have only just now begun to understand, and I am not even close to where I want to be.  I have only scratched the surface of this for myself and constantly have to fight to get there.

There is a difference between “Wanting” to be a writer (nevermind the great) and “Being” a writer.

It is the “Doing”.

In everyday life there are people who WANT to do, be, have something.  How many of them take the time to sit down (or stand up as the case may be) and actually do it?  How many distractions can one person have before their WANT simply becomes their DREAM and then later their REGRET.

Dreams Road Sign

 

This is the mantra I have to keep telling myself over and over. When I get tired or don’t want to sit down at the computer, I repeat it.

It seems so simple. It seems like one of those things that you read and say “Of course. What else would you think you needed to do?”

Even knowing it isn’t enough. It’s never that easy. How many ideas do I currently have sitting on my computer or flash drive that are waiting for me to finish them?  Dozens.  How many are finished?  Not nearly enough (not by a long shot). So why can’t I get there every time? What’s the hold up?

Sometimes it is the FEAR. The FEAR that what I’m writing is not going to be liked. I’m just as worried that by finishing said story or script or novel or whatever that people will read the FINISHED product and not like it and then where did my work get me?  What a waste, right?

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Really? Worst film you ever saw. Well, my next one will be better.

I have to convince myself that it isn’t a waste. That with each word that I write (and rewrite and edit and then even the ones I cut) means I am one inch closer to where I need to be. I get to that million words and beyond.

So that unfinished thing is doing you so much good then?  Sure, you can’t get hurt if you don’t finish it, but I have to say, putting that final word down on the page and knowing that you have actually completed something.  That’s got to be worth something.

Right?

When somebody posts their finished piece of art or script or whatever, they are 1 million times ahead of me with my dozens of unfinished products.  It doesn’t matter how much better of a writer I THINK I am because they have already lapped me 4 or 5 times.

I know plenty of people (I am one of those people some times) that start a project and get bored and then jump to another project, get bored, wash, rinse, repeat.  At the end of a year they have enough stuff that you’d think they’d have a Finished Product, but instead it is spread out over ten different things. Ten different UNFINISHED things. Ugh.

It’s an odd thing that really in the last year I feel like I’ve started to have real successes on the writing side of things, but even those are still not quite finished. Sure, issue #1 of The Gilded Age is complete, but I think I allowed myself about 5 minutes to enjoy that it existed in a tangible format before my brain started spinning on when the next issue would be finished. Same with Tiger Style #1.

The greatest thing about comic books is that it is a collaborative process. You need a writer and an artist and maybe an inker and a colorist and a letterer and an editor before the whole thing is ready and done.

The worst thing about comic books is that it is a collaborative process. And that you need to have those other people because when any one point slips, the whole process comes to a complete halt. I don’t get the artist the next issue’s script, well I guess that is going to delay the book. The inker doesn’t get the pencils by the deadline… now we have another delay. And so on.

It can be maddening. It’s one of the reasons I started writing a novel in the first place. Finally, something that is totally on me and only me to get done.

Only. On. Me.

Gulp.

Yeah, so now who do I get to blame when my next chapter isn’t written yet? Who do I get to blame when that second draft is still waiting to get done?

Oh, that would be me.

Even now as I seemingly crawl through the last bit of editing on my first novel, The Dark That Follows, it doesn’t really exist until it is done. Before that it is just another unfinished project hoping for me to put the time in and get it out the door. The serial I’m working on with J Edward Neill, Hollow Empire, has many chapters completed in various forms (some in needed of editing, some ready for a read through, etc.), but until Episode 6 is complete and edited and out the door it just is another thing “I’m working on”. The next issue of The Gilded Age or Tiger Style or whatever else is coming down the pipeline.

So I repeat my mantra and put my butt in the seat and start typing.

I should have paid more attention to C. Thomas Howell

In honor of tomorrow being Halloween (and my brother’s birthday – Happy Birthday Mark!), I present the stupidest thing I have ever done.

dunce-cap

The year was either 1997 or 1998. Now a Junior in college, I had driven up to the Georgia Tech Student Center to pick up my mail and was on my way back to my car (and then my dorm room) when I heard a woman’s voice call out to me from the dark Atlanta summer night.

“Excuse me, sir? I was wondering if I could ask a favor of you?”

I turned around and saw an older woman, maybe late forties, but most likely in her early fifties. Regardless of her actual age, she was someone who had that look where life had never really cut her a true break. Through cigarettes and alcohol she might be able to numb the pain of existence, but she was destined to be one who, from cradle to grave, would work until her fingers became little more than nubs. Stick thin, her leathery flesh hung off her bones.

I felt sad for her immediately.

“Can I help you with something?”

She moved a little closer to me and nodded, fully emerging into the parking lot’s light. “I hope so. You see, I’m supposed to go and get my younger son from the baby sitter. And my older son was supposed to give me a ride, but he’s not in his dorm room. I can’t seem to get a hold of him.” She glanced down at the watch on her wrist. “And the sitter is done at nine and it’s already eight-thirty.”

I didn’t immediately respond, even though I could tell where this was going. When you live in downtown Atlanta, you get used to people coming up and asking you for spare change or various other favors. In my first year living downtown, I probably (read: definitely) ended up giving too much money to the random homeless who crossed my path. But that bit of humanity had been stamped out by the bank account of a college student living a few years on his own.

I braced myself for the question.

“She’s only a couple of miles down the road. If you could give me a lift,  I’d be forever grateful.”

Now my mind and mouth normally do things in agreement. Mostly the mouth waits until the brain has finished its various calculations or what-have-you and then when it gets the proper instructions it spits out the correct sequence of words.

Not this time.

“Uh, yea, I guess I could do that.”

Immediately my brain rebelled. Why had I said that? I don’t want to give her a ride. What the hell am I thinking?

Her face lit up, and I was suddenly glad that I had said yes. This would be my good deed for the year. Heck, for the century possibly.

“I’m right over here.”

As I moved over towards my 1990 red Pontiac Sunbird, I didn’t notice her wave to another person. Another beaten down by life person, but male. Same tanned leathery skin… in his late forties, early fifties as well. He wasn’t rail thin like his wife, but there was only the slightest beginning of a beer belly hiding under his shirt.

“This young man is  going to take us to the sitter’s.”

Now this is the point I should have said something like “no” or even “hey I’ve got something else I need to get to that I just remembered”, because now the numbers were not in my favor. With just her in the car she’d be in the passenger seat beside me. I’m 6’5″ 275 lbs and all of 21-22 years old. I could take on the world with the side benefit that being that size, no one typically bothered me in the first place.

Yet, with him along for the ride that meant someone would be in the back seat.

Behind me.

Where I couldn’t see what he was doing. Not a good idea.

I think my brain was on strike that night because it only barely fazed me. My southern hospitality was going to get me killed. And there is even a saying for a situation like this. Don’t pick up hitchhikers. I mean that is the number one thing right up there with “Don’t take candy from strangers.”

What is wrong with me? My parents taught me better than this!

Sure enough she moved into the front passenger seat, and he sat in the back, straddling the middle so that I could see him in the rear view. But not really see what he was doing back there. I turned out onto North Avenue going West. My eyes darted from her to my rear view mirror to see him and then back to her. I barely remember the road, driving on instinct.

urban-legend-killer-backseat

“So, where is it I’m taking you?”

The woman answered quickly. “It’s only a couple of miles up the road.”

“Actually, we don’t need to go to the sitter’s. She’s taking the baby back to the house.” The smoker voice from the back jarred  me to the core. What the hell? Now I’m taking them home?

“Oh, then just continue on North.”

Again, I should have found a way to get them out of the car. But I was stuck taking them home. Somewhere my screams wouldn’t be heard by anyone.

I’ve been in three fights in my entire life. Two of them were won pretty quickly. The other was a losing battle, one of the few times where the other kid had been a little older and a little stronger. Mostly I observed what my grandfather had always told me: I better not ever start a fight, but I damn well better finish one that someone else started.

Those thoughts drifted into my mind while I tried to determine my best course of action. If they had a knife or something similar I might be able to put a hurt on one or both of them… if she had the blade. If he had the weapon, then I was going to need something of my own. But what else was there? A passing car’s lights illuminated the interior of the car and my eyes flashed to the keys dangling from the ignition. Rough edges of a weapon. It wasn’t much, but it might be better than naked fists.

Still I tried to think things through. I figured as long as I don’t do anything to set them off, or show that I know I am in trouble, it has to be in their best interest to wait until I get them to wherever their true destination was. Otherwise they might risk the chance that I drive the car off the road and try something now.

They made idle chat with me. A decade later, I couldn’t tell you what we talked about. I’m pretty sure that the most that escaped my lips was Yes, No, or I don’t know. I was too busy putting that math side of my brain to work trying to analyze the angles of this situation I’d gotten myself into. Plus it was hard to hear what either of them were saying due to my heart echoing throughout my body.

We drove and drove and drove, more and more minutes piling up on the odometer. Now I’ve taken North Avenue east many times on my journeys to hang out with friends, but I had never gone this far west on the road. Everything had long since become unfamiliar and I kept waiting for them to say something, to have me turn off, but more time passed and nothing. I had no idea how far we needed to go before I got them “home”, but I kept on, sure that terrible things awaited me.

Finally at some point we turned off North and then worked our way onto some of the more back roads.

For those unfamiliar with the layout of Atlanta, if you are in downtown and you drive more than about 20 minutes in any direction you will run into an interstate. Worst case you’ll hit the perimeter I-285. This is a road that loops around the city, encircling it.

Base Map 285

Yet, we had driven far enough and still I didn’t see a sign for the highway, nothing. Somehow I was in the backwoods of Georgia while still being in the city. It was as if they had managed to take me to a part of town where street lights were only a suggestion and not required. Long stretches went by with only my Sunbird’s headlights to show that the world outside the car even still existed. And I was driving these two random people up these roads I didn’t know existed.  And these roads were the type where I don’t even know how there was nothing on them. Very few houses. No restaurants or gas stations. It was like I’d crossed over into the Twilight Zone. Nothing made sense in my head. My heart pounded in my chest, threatening to explode.

dark road

What was I supposed to do? Call their bluff? Point out, ever so nicely, that I had only agreed to take one of them “a couple of miles” to their younger son?

I spotted a small cluster of lights in the distance. As we got closer I could see it was a convenience store, and then the night took a turn.

“Do you think we could stop up here? I need to get some cigarettes.” The way the man said the words and the paranoia in my brain combined to make me wonder whether it was a question or an order. So I pulled over.

“Would you like anything? A drink or something?”

Yeah, that’s what I’m going to do, let you get me a drink and somehow put a drug into it and then I’m missing a kidney or I’m dead or something.

I locked eyes with him in the rear view mirror. “No, thank you.”

The man exited the car, and I held my breath that the woman would follow. I slid my hand very casually so that it was resting on the gear shift.

They both get out of the car and I’m gunning it.

She didn’t budge. “Hey honey, get me a pack of smokes too while you’re in there.”

They were just playing with me now. I know it.

He returned a few minutes later and I wondered if the old guy had gone in and robbed the store (sometimes I still wonder this). They might already be ready to kill and eat me, but there was no telling how far they might go.

Hmm.

We journeyed for a bit longer. Again, I would say the exact amount, but I lost track. I think I’d been gone from Georgia Tech about 40 minutes by this point.

They both pointed out a side road to turn down… it was dirt. “Ours is the one on the end.”

Of course it is. Where else would you live but off a dirt road within the Atlanta city limits.

I stared out into the darkness, but couldn’t really find the beginnings of a structure to know where I might be going or for how far. My car’s shocks protested the pot holes and each bump caused my two passengers to shift in their seats. We began to climb a fairly steep hill, and when we finally came over the crest I caught site of their double-wide home.

This thing might have been nice looking once upon a time, but now, through either the elements, or lack of caring about what the shit-hole looked like, it could only remind me of something that should be condemned. Various bits of junk littered the yard and every redneck stereotype crept into my thoughts.

“Home.” My voice may have cracked with the hope that this was the end of our voyage. My own fight or flight on high alert.

The old man shifted in the backseat. “I just feel awful about making you drive all this way. I have some money in the house. If you could wait a minute I’ll run in and grab it for you.”

I shook my head. “That’s OK. I’m just glad I could get the two of you home.”

Liar! Just get the hell out of the car and let me go!

“You sure?”

“Yeah. Have a good night.”

They seemed to pause at that. And to this day I’m not sure about what they were thinking. Maybe this whole thing was just them trying to get home without needing to take the bus. Maybe they really had a son at Tech who they’d come to see. Maybe they had a younger son who they needed to get to, but then the sitter decided to bring him home instead of waiting for them to arrive.

Or maybe they had been planning on killing me the whole damn time.

Until I told them to have a good night. And that was the point they had a change of heart.

The two of them got out of the car, but before the wife could shut the door the man held it open and stuck his head back into the car.

Just gun it!

“You know how to get back?”

I nodded in the darkness even if he couldn’t see my action. “I’ll figure it out.”

“Alright. Take care.”

And with that he shut the door and I turned my car around and headed back to the paved streets. It was only then that I saw a sign for I-285. I may have taken it to just get my bearings (I honestly don’t remember). My body began shaking, the adrenaline pumping through my system for the better portion of an hour finally began to wear off. In a daze, I somehow managed to guide my car back to more familiar streets and then back to the dorm.

Somehow still alive.

I may not have slept well that night… or the next few.

So there you have it, The Stupidest thing I have ever done. My last good deed, ever.

John McGuire

New York Comic Con Recap – Stories from the Con

New-York-Comic-Con

Even a week and a half later I’m still recovering and reflecting from my experience over those (very) long four days. I went up as part of Terminus Media‘s 3-man team. Our goals were to sell some comics, do an interview with the kind folks at Comic Con, and just begin to get the word out about our books. In the coming weeks, I’ll get a little more into Terminus and our books, but for this post I wanted to share a handful of moments/stories from the convention (or just from those four days).

Steampunk Guy

When you are passionate about something in the “Geek Culture” you want everyone else to know it. Maybe you love dropping obscure knowledge or quoting the movie/tv show/book/comic/whatever on some unsuspecting person.  But the biggest thing, is that much like a Superhero, it is your solemn duty to stamp out any perceived ignorance about your LOVE. This means that you must constantly be vigilant for anyone who might take this LOVE’s name in vain. I mean Heaven help those who might get something wrong about that thing you LOVE.

So the comic book that I’m currently working on… the thing which has sprung forth from my little brain is The Gilded Age.  Now this is a Steampunk book (at least according to me… the creator).  That is an important piece of information. I’m at the table and this guy comes up dressed in a Steampunk inspired costume and the following conversation happens once I give him my 30 second spiel about The Gilded Age and he begins to flip through the comic.

Me – So I want to build things through the characters… from their eyes before I throw you in the deep end with dates and everything.

Him – Well that’s not really Steampunk.  You know, that’s what people want, they want all of that information and then they’ll want even more from you.

Me – Well I guess that’s what I like about the genre is that it is open to various ways of telling a story.

Him – Yeah… no, people want it all at once.  That’s what Steampunk is about. <pause> What’s your Point of Divergence?

Me – Sorry?

Him – Where the timeline breaks off?

Me – Oh, well, I haven’t gotten into it, but it has more to do with DaVinci and his inventions than something like Babbage.

Him – Hmm. <takes a moment to flip through the issue again> This isn’t Steampunk.  This is really Arcane Punk.

Me – Ok.

Him – Do you know what <some art related criticism> is?

Me – No, sorry, I’m not sure what that is.

Him – Of course you don’t. You’re just an artist. But it is done wrong in this book.

Me – Well, actually I’m not the artist. I’m the writer.

Him – Oh.

During the whole conversation I’m alternating in my head between channeling Samuel Jackson and just smiling. It took some self-control, but I kept smiling.

Arcane Punk

He bought a copy though.

Airport

After the con was done we had to head back to Atlanta so we got to the airport way early… like your Dad gets to the airport early (three hours early). I’m fine with it even if we had to abandon our booth a couple of hours early, but I’d rather have a moment to grab a little food and rest.

Of course, the flight was delayed 15 minutes to start.  We finally get boarded and then promptly sit on the tarmac for another 30 minutes. It was at this point I found out/remembered that Airtran may possibly have the least about of leg room of ALL TIME.

A little about me: I’m 6′ 5″ tall which means that I have long legs.  Now I have come to grips on the fact that the world is built for much smaller people (on the way up I somehow lucked into an exit row seat – glorious leg room!). However, I’m ready to say right now that sitting on the runway for that long amounts to a form of torture and by the Geneva Convention I think I have a case against the airline.

Really. Kissing your knees is not a fun way to spend the evening.

Phones have not been invented yet

We get to the hotel to check in.  Go up to the front desk and give the concierge our names, but alas the room is not under Tony or my name. Mark (head of Terminus) had reserved the rooms for us. No problem.  We get Mark on the phone in an effort to get all of this resolved.

Tony – I’ve got him on the phone. He can give you all the correct information.

Concierge – No! I can’t take that phone. I can’t do anything over the phone.

Tony – But he’s right here. He can tell you.

Concierge – No, I can’t do it over the phone. What he will have to do is FAX me his information.

At this point Tony and I turn to each other, dumbfounded.

What year is this? FAX? 1993?

Do they still have dial-up modems?

Do dinosaurs still walk the Earth?

dino-phone

Tony – Can he email it to you?

Concierge – Yes.

So wait… he knows what email is, but he can’t take the EXACT same information over the PHONE? In case you were wondering that would be where a person SPEAKS to another person. It’s like texting, but Ma’ Bell thought it up about 100+ years ago!

But he can take it through a FAX which uses the PHONE LINE.  Good lord!

Our Booth Location

Terminus was situated just across from the Intel gaming area which actually was a blessing in disguise as we weren’t cramped up in regular aisles. Instead there was plenty of room in front of us.

It also meant that we had a front row (figuratively speaking) to the Starcraft Tournament they were running. Now the last time I played Starcraft was over a decade ago. I liked the game, but my Xbox 360 pushed it out, and I haven’t really thought about it until the con.  Where they played.

Every day.

On the big screens.

For hours on end.

Never-ending battles of Terrans vs. Zerg vs. Protoss.

Feature matches on the big screens.

At night I would dream of those units moving back and forth across the screen. My brain slowly trying to figure out which board might give an advantage to a certain army.

It may have been too much.

Since I’ve gotten home though I do feel like something is missing in my life. And that old game has begun calling my name.

334px-Starcraft2-logo

Excuse me while I download the latest version for my machine…

Why Can’t I Be Rod Tidwell?

In the movie Jerry Maguire, Rod Tidwell is an athlete who has confidence in himself (some might say too much), in his abilities, and in his skill. But he’s hit the wall. No one seems to know about him and no one seems to care about him (in the football world at least).

Until… finally, at the end of the movie he shows up and on a national stage does something to capture everyone’s attention.

That’s what I want.

No, not the money, I certainly don’t write to make tons of money. I just want the opportunity to show that I have some talent. To tell a story and to have others see it.

To have others enjoy it.

The most maddening thing about being a writer who is on the outside looking in is that moment when you read something “professional” and know, 1000%, that you could do it better. That your ability to string words together in a sentence was better than that particular writer. If only you had the chance.

If only someone with power knew you existed.

I’ve been at this writing thing for almost a decade now. I say a decade because the stuff before it doesn’t count for me. It was playtime in a notebook. I cringe to think about those stories I wrote back in school. The terrible poetry (maybe it is good – with that certain teenage angst running through it, but I cannot bring myself to look) sitting on my hard drive. The one problem with being a pack rat is that old stuff is still around. Everything is kept because to not keep it would be disastrous.

So, ten years ago I became involved in a writing group. We met in the back of a comic book shop. Artists flowed in and out of the place and someone had the idea “let’s make a comic book”. That first day I saw a page of something I’d written drawn was a moment akin to magic.

That was the first step.

But with every little step forward it was followed by at least two steps backward. A cliche, to be sure, but beyond true. Flaky people who promised one thing and then never delivered. They all seemed to fall right off the face of the Earth. And yet, stubbornly, I continued on. The first anthology comic came out. A year and some later another one came out. Then the first color book about a year after that.

When Do I Get To See The Sailboat?

When Do I Get To See The Sailboat?

And still the frustrations grew. Projects thought up and then abandoned for all sorts of reasons. And still I wondered what it was going to take.

“I should be further along…

If only the artists would stop being so slack and finish something…

If I had more free time…

If…”

Almost three years ago I got laid off from my day job.  For the first time since college, I was out of work for almost four months. That time might have been eaten up before I knew it, if not for my wife. She was the one who suggested that I just write a book.

“You have these stories, and you never have the time normally, but now…”

So I went home that night and started to write what would become The Dark That Follows. Every night after my wife went to bed I stayed up into the early hours writing on that draft. Stumbling over words, but doing the deed.  Butt in chair every night.

I finished the first draft the night before I started my new job.

Since then I’ve written another novel, worked on a bunch of comic projects (both of which I’ll be talking about as time goes on), and slowly feel like the tide is turning. The old 10-year success… maybe. I’m certainly hoping that someone notices.

That someone enjoys it.Rod Tidwell Touchdown

I’ve got my celebration dance ready for that day.

John McGuire

PS – You can find that very first comic here: http://www.terminusmedia.com/new-retro-the-god-that-failed/#more-1063