Otherworldly – A Coffee Table Art Book

Otherworldly – a book for lovers of surreal, shadowy, magical artwork.

J Edward Neill’s second art book, Otherworldly reveals an undiscovered universe of unique and spiritual paintings. More than 120 full-color photos are featured, including creatures of the night, surreal landscapes, haunting felines, dark apparitions, and mythical locales.


Learn the backstory for dozens of J Edward’s works as he displays a full decade’s worth of his sometimes strange, often ethereal acrylic art.

Otherworldly offers a rare, intimate glimpse into the mind and work of a contemporary (and sometimes dark) artist.


Now available exclusively at Amazon. 

A Free Short Story – Piece By Piece

I sometimes forget that I should be promoting myself, things that I’ve done, or books and shorts that I’ve written. I end up more passive than I would like to be by including it into my signature at the end of the blogs. But it occurs to me that maybe people aren’t reading those things. And it also occurs to me that being passive isn’t the answer. As I get ready to launch some more work into the world, I need to remind people what is already available as well.

I wrote this a few years back, but it is available for Free. And if you liked The Dark That Follows, it features Jason Mills doing his psychic thing (and if you haven’t read The Dark That Follows, you could do worse than having this short be your introduction into the world).


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?


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.


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!


Repost – Prepping for Nanowrimo

I attempted this last year and while I didn’t hit the 50,000 word goal, I still managed over 30,000 words which considering the last week or so is extremely hard to get much in the way of words with travelling and spending time with family. So I considered it a success.

My wife asked me if I was planning on doing it again, and the answer was yes. I’ve been making notes, outlining, and all the other things begining on the first. Plus, October has been a bit random with good writing nights. I’ll hit two or three in a row and then not be able to get much done for another two or three… for pretty much the whole week.

Anyway, I wanted to reshare some of my prep from my post last year as I focus on this next month!


So I’ve decided that this is the year that I’m going to give this Nanowrimo a shot. Of course, I’ve thought about it over the years, and I think I gave it a start a couple of years ago, but life got in the way. This decision means that I’m a little bit behind the eight ball, as it were because I made the decision all of about 7 days before the end of October. So I did what anyone might do, I started with some old-fashioned research on what things I needed to do to have the best chance of succeeding with my goal.

This list has been cobbled from my reading so many blogs out there. I tried to see what were the common themes that I kept seeing repeatedly. The biggest thing was asking the big question:

What am I getting out of this? What’s my goal beyond just having 50,000 words written at the end of the month?

Part of me is curious if I can do it at all. I’ve talked about this idea that if only I could keep my butt in the seat, then maybe I could write more than 1 draft in a year. I want to get going on book 2 of this series. I’m excited to push to make sure that the work progresses. I also know that my bigger goals only work if I can increase my word output. And finally, I just spent the weekend at a convention where I got to see all these people displaying their dozens of books, and I had my three plus a few comics. While I’m proud of the work I’ve done, I need to catch up!

Set up your calendar.

This is obviously a big one. Trying to figure out the days I’m available and the days that I certainly won’t have time to do much writing. It is not for the first time that I wonder whose bright idea it was to do this during a month with only 30 days and with a major holiday at the tail end of the month (you know, probably the time when you are going to want to play a little bit of catch-up). Looking at it, I definitely need to account for the days I can write but especially figure out those days when I cannot.

It breaks down like this: 50,000 words in 30 days = 1,667 words/day

That’s a bit intimidating.

November-2022-calendar-b18.jpg printable calendar

Clear the calendar of the to-do lists.

Some items cannot be cleared. Others will need to be juggled a little bit. One of the things I do every week is the blogs for TesseraGuild, so I sat down over the last couple of days and wrote out all the blogs for the remainder of the year. In fact, it might be the furthest ahead I’ve ever been since I started doing this.


Set up your Nano account

Need to set up my nano account (I guess). I saw this a bunch about having a group to help build friendships and discussions and whatnot for encouragement. It can’t hurt!


Outline the book.

I’m lucky in that I know exactly what book I’m going to be writing for the project. I also have already begun working on the outline prior to the start. However, I have plenty of blank spots leading into this that I will need to fill in.

For the first book, I did something called 40 sentences, where I basically had a beat sheet or plot sheet broken into 40 bullets, with the idea that each one would be a chapter (I don’t think that’s exactly what I ended up with), but it worked well to have that roadmap to fall back on, and it is interesting to review to see where I departed from the original breakdowns.

Some of this also falls under the list of having your title, having the story idea, having your characters and who they are. This is book 2 in a series, so with that comes a couple of known characters (my two POVs), but I do need to take a little time to flesh out some of the supporting cast for both.


Writing the story logline and/or pitch.

I don’t know that I’ve ever done this upfront, but then I realized that I basically have done it when I’m pitching the various ideas I have to my wife. She listens to me stumble around, trying to figure out the exact way to frame whatever it is, and generally is a good sounding board. For this story, I haven’t really told her much about it because she’s read book 1, she knows how things ended, and I kind of want to keep it all as a surprise. So I’ll need to do this on my own.

Have a tracking system

I have been tracking my writing over the years with a simple excel spreadsheet. I figure if it ain’t broke…



Normally research is something that is a nice break from the actual writing process, but it also becomes this not-so-fun time sink. However, when writing the first draft, I mostly don’t concern myself with too much on the end of the research. If it is something that is only going to slow me down, then I should probably cut it for this draft and worry about it when I go to do my first editing pass next year. However, I did see something that talked about images (which I already use), but maybe spending a little of this prep time to grab some more for the story might not be a bad thing.

Another thing that enters into this is the idea of making a cover for your potential book, which is another rabbit hole I could definitely spend a ton of time diving down.



I need to keep one of my notebooks with me at all times during November. I have a couple that are blank, so they might make the best ones to use for this exact process.



I’ve seen in more than a couple of places talk about getting into the right mindset. This is truly a marathon (but perhaps one made up of a bunch of sprints). This is something that many attempt and don’t end up getting to that mythical finish line. So if I’m going to have a shot at writing that much during this month, then I need to prep my brain to get onto the good path.


Anyway, here I go. Wish me good luck!


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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

101 Questions to Ask Your Tarot Deck

A new release from the creators of Haunted Cat Tarot and Spirits & Shadows Oracle…

101 Questions to Ask Your Tarot Deck

In 101 Questions to Ask Your Tarot Deck, you’ll find prompts and ideas to help guide and support you as you read and interpret spreads of tarot (and oracle) cards. This book features four sections, each of them concerned with a particular realm of tarot queries.


Friends & Family


Romantic Love

On each page you’ll find a detailed query which you can meditate upon, bring into focus, and make a request of your cards. The intent is to help you discover new and interesting questions. Change the wording of each question however you wish. Make them completely yours.

Now available HERE!

And of course, all of our card decks are available on Etsy and Amazon. 

Book Report – Demon Copperhead

During this last year of reading the same books as my mom, I have gone into them knowing very little about what they may or may not be about. I don’t know what genre they are or even how long the books are going to be (reading on a Kindle I figure out as I go by the percentage). This is the opposite of books I have picked out for myself, since I’m normally looking for some tag-line or plot synopsis which may catch my eye.

All this means is that I am sometimes in for a bit of a ride as I wrap my brain around the book she’s picked.

Which brings us to Demon Copperhead (by Barbara Kingsolver).


Demon Copperhead is the nickname of our title character. As we read along, we follow his life from very early on (while the story itself doesn’t really start until he’s elementary school age – we do get some stories about his birth as well). Demon lives in the middle of nowhere Lee County, Virginia. It is one of those places we all can likely imagine in our mind. A small town where the people who live there have been there for a long while. Their grandparents lived (and died) there, and so have their parents, and eventually so will they. They love their local football team. They grwo up, make friends, fall in love, and sometimes… they become addicted to drugs.

Demon’s mother is an addict. As time goes on and Demon grows up, he finds that the call of getting high becomes the thing to do. Whether it is something simple like weed to the big heavies.

And this is the key here. This is not what I would call a Beach Book. There is a reason summer is the time to release the blockbusters where the pagentry is what you atre interested as much or more than the actual plotlines. Books are much the same. You want a beach book to be something you can just enjoy. You don’t want to have to ponder the fundamental questions of the cosmos and you don’t want to try and figure out if your main character is going to survive the next couple of pages.

Image by John Hain from Pixabay

Demon Copperhead is instead a book that forces the reader to sink into the muck with Demon as he loses his family, gains a new one, and then throws all that away as well. It is not a book where you are grinning while you are reading it. Instead, I had many times where I mentioned ot my wife “I’m beginning to wonder if anything good is going to happen to this kid.” And while a regualr novel might have allowed a happier point sooner than this one did (I swear we were over 100 pages in before anything “good” occurred).

That can make the read take a little longer. Because while the writting is stellar, it also asks a ton from the reader. And since it wants you to live all that bad, when the good does finally occur, there is cause for celebration… but like everything in this kind of life, the moments of glory and happiness are far apart. You have to cherish them when you can before they turn to ash in your mouth.


I would close by saying this book represents a slice of America you may only have seen glimpses of in your life. Maybe only through tv or books, but it exists. So to have this novel exist gives a voice to many who may have been forgotten over time.


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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Book Report – The Plot

As a writer you are constantly searching for the next plot, the next story, the next character… the next work you are going to be pouring your soul into. I have a bunch of old and in-progress files on the computer with short story ideas. Sometimes there is a little meat on those bones… stories I come back to from time to time and work on. In some cases they are still in that folder because I haven’t quite figured it out. Maybe I have the beats but not the ending. Maybe I have the ending but no idea of how to get there. Maybe it is little more than a concept or tagline. Something just waiting for inspiration to strike so that it can become a real story.

Whether you are able to write a book in a few months (weeks?) or it takes decades (still waiting on a couple of series…), you feel like there has to be something out there which has never been seen. Something which will put you on the map and finally get you to the best seller list (or maybe just your local library… whatever your goals might be). It’s the Great White Whale. And that singular idea is enough to keep many constantly rattling away on their keyboards into the deepest parts of the night.

Which brings us to The Plot (by Jean Hanff Korelitz).


Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

Jacob Bonner is a writer who has lost his way. He’s someone who had their first novel come out to a little bit of fanfare. Nothing huge, but enough that he thought he was someone. Then his second book doesn’t do anything. And now, only a handful of years later he has fallen into a measure of obscurity. He now teaches other writers at colleges, doing the bare minimum to help them pursue the dream that he is sure he deserves.

Until one of his students comes in with an idea for a book that he hasn’t heard before. This is the ONE. Something that will make his student famous. Something that will ensure everyone will be talking about it.

For Jacob, it helps sink him into further depression.

Time continues on and he looks up that writer… only to discover he died without ever actually publishing a novel. So Jacob takes the PLOT and writes the book. And it is everything he wanted. The fame, the money, the book tours… and so much more. Things are going great until he gets an email which says “You are a thief.”


What’s interesting about the novel is the author employs a technique I haven’t actually see in a novel since I read Misery by Stephen King: we get to read excerpts from the stolen book throughout our journey with Jacob. It’s a bit jarring at first, I must admit that I wasn’t sure why we were getting to see what the book was going to be about because in my mind whatever THE PLOT actually was would either end up in a couple of directions:

We never actually get to see what it really was because nothing Korelitz presents as the actual Plot wouldn’t live up to the ethereal idea in the readers head.

Or we get to see what it is and are disappointed by whatever it is because we’ve built it up as something which doesn’t exist.

So to include the pages from the novel within the novel felt a little like filler at first. A distraction from the overall plotline we are following: who sent the email? That’s what I wanted to know and every chapter that we spent on the other novel broke up our journey.

Being a writer, I should have had more faith in the web Korelitz was creating throughout the narrative. Slowly, we begin to see how what Jacob has written helps inform us reading The Plot of what might be going on between the lines of both pieces. It ends up working out pretty well, though there is a part of me that wonders if a couple of the sections could have been trimmed and then spread out a little bit more.


The funny thing is that Jacob is searching throughout for something that will propel him into the life he always wanted, but I could see his story as being told on the big screen. Movie life imitating printed life?

Is that even a thing?


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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Cover Work by J Edward Neill

Hi there.

I’m J Edward.

Quite often, I get asked to do album covers, book covers, and other licensed products. It’s time I addressed it publicly.

A lot of artists have complex or difficult-to-understand rules regarding art rights, cover work, commissions, and exclusivity.

I do not.

My rules are simple:


Album Covers, Book Covers, T-Shirts, & Other Licensed Products

  • If you purchase an original painting (not a print) you may use it for your book cover, album cover, t-shirt line, or any other licensed product. Simply let me know after the purchase is complete, and I will agree in writing not to ever give license for that piece to another person for the purpose of cover work.
  • If you live overseas and are unable to purchase an original (usually due to high shipping costs) and you want to use one of my images for cover work (either for business or personal use) I will accept a one-time payment of $75. For this, I will email you a high-resolution image and grant you non-exclusive rights (meaning someone else is permitted to use the image if they pay similarly) to the image.
  • If you’d like to use an image for your business, cover art, or album art, but the original painting has sold (but has not been licensed) I will accept a one-time payment for $75. This option is for non-exclusive licenses only (meaning someone else is permitted to use the image if they pay similarly) to the image.


Digitally Downloaded Prints

  • If you’d like to use one of my images to make your own prints (for personal use only) but you live outside of North America, please click on my available art downloads here. Any digital images obtained this way are not to be used for cover work, sale, or commercial distribution. (I’m trusting you to be a good human. 🙂 )  Also, if the image you’d like doesn’t appear available for download, please reach out to me. I can add them very quickly.


Tattoo Art

  • If you’d like to use one or several of my artworks for tattoos, I request only that you download the images (very inexpensive) using this link here.


Commissions, Custom Work, Copyrights, A.I. Art & NFT’s

  • I seldom do commissions or custom work. It’s nothing personal, of course. Unless of course you want a custom portrait of your black cat or a Soul Moon painting. In that case, head HERE. 
  • I reserve the right to sell my prints until the end of time. Regardless of any image’s use as cover work.
  • None of my work is digital art or A.I. I keep it old school…always.
  • I do not do NFT’s. If you see an NFT with my artwork, be advised it is unauthorized and stolen. Proceed at your own risk.


Want to discuss further? Find me via any of my social media links.

Want to view the originals and prints I have available? Go here.

Much love to everyone.

May the art live forever.

A Sample of Previous Cover Work (Albums & Books)

Book Report – The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

I’m a sucker for a few types of stories. Time travel, parallel worlds, time loops… and Deal with the Devil stories. I’m fascinated by the portrayal of the Devil in these tales. Sometimes he comes across as a sheer power of evil that only hopes to catch the deal-maker in a Monkey’s Paw-style wish fulfillment. The type that is going to rules lawyer you into the worst version of the deal you could have made because words have power… and specific terms can allow for precise parameters. Other times we see a version that is less adversarial. A version that is merely a being doing a job, trading a wish for a soul, the basic bartering system. A being who is both above it all, and also very much a mirror to reflect our own wants and desires.

Other times you get the best of both worlds, and it is left up to the seller to figure out exactly what kind of deal they’ve made and exactly what kind of being they have made it with.

That’s where we find ourselves with Addie LaRue. She’s a person who made a deal that is twisted into saving her from an impending marriage (that she does not want) to becoming an immortal who can do pretty much whatever she wants… with one caveat:

No one will remember her.

She can interact with people. She can carry on conversations with people for hours upon hours, but once she leaves their sight… they forget her.

Image by Edar from Pixabay

Throughout the book, we alternate chapters set in the present (2014) and in the past, beginning in the 1700s and slowly working their way to catch up with the present time. We’re told her story in these little bits and pieces, filling in some of the gaps in her present-day existence. V.E. Schwab does a deft job in not lingering too long in any one time period, though, it might have taken a little too long to get to the deal (not sure of the page count before the moment, but as a reader you know it is coming and yet it felt like it took a couple of chapters too long to get there). That being said, once the Deal happens, the book begins building steam as we rocket to the next big moment:

Addie meets someone who doesn’t forget her.

Throughout the novel, we get to see exactly how the life of someone who is forgettable actually might work. Schwab doesn’t shy away from the more unsavory portions of her life when she pretty much has to do whatever she can to get through a day. And this is the part of the novel that really contrasts with every other story about immortal beings. Most of the time they are able to enjoy their existence, day in and day out, even if the days pass into months and then into years and decades. Here we get someone who really has to experience her life one day at a time. She has no home, no clothes save for the ones on her back, no friends, no family, and potentially nothing holding her back.

All along the way, she gets to deal with somewhat yearly visits from the Devil (Luc). A bit of a contest between the two of them, for it is his job to collect her soul, but how do you convince someone who is immortal to give up on that? The confrontations range from verbal sparring to more of a carefully constructed dance between two beings who are playing a game on a level the rest of us will never know or see.

Luc is dealt with as a “someone” while also reminding Addie (and the reader) that he is more of a “something”. And like the titular character, I found myself wondering about his interactions with her, trying to determine how genuine he was or wasn’t. Even though the book isn’t about him, he is both this seen and unseen force always lurking in the background (or directly in the foreground). You can’t defeat him in a traditional sense, so you have to hope that Addie is able to outsmart him.

It is nice to see a version of the Devil shown in a complex way. He should be a being that is above the everyday things of the world, but also one who seemingly preys on the unsuspecting. However, they are the ones who make the deals. He never forces anyone to do anything they didn’t want… even if they don’t always understand the true meaning behind the contract they “signed”.


As we approached the end of the book, I had determined a possible ending for the novel, and it turned out I was both right and wrong… which I think is probably the best way for it to have ended. It’s nice to have a little bit of a surprise.


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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Repost – Horror… Songs?

Like most people (I think), I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook. My feed will fill up with the most stupid, crazy, weird stories that will cause blood to stream from my eyes and ears. And yet, occasionally, there will be some random link to something that is beyond a bit of genius. Today that was Brazillian Graphic Designer Butcher Billy who took famous songs and turned them into horror book covers. Each of them got my creative juices flowing, so I thought I’d share a few and what I thought the book could be.

Artwork by Brazillian Graphic Designer Butcher Billy

Every Breath You Take – The Police

By now everyone knows that this song is not a love song, but instead was always a song about obsession. Of course, that didn’t stop people from having it as “their song”. So when I look at the cover, the way that he’s laid out the lyrics in the bottom left are very much a mantra of someone who has completely lost themselves in this other person. This novel is a study of a young woman who has become enamored with a man who she works with or perhaps lives in a nearby apartment. She’s constantly finding excuses to be at the same places he frequents, in a hope to just strike up a simple conversation with this guy. She knows that she’s right for him even as she watches a string of women come and go. If only he’d turn and “see you belong to me”.

Of course, the reason these other women are constantly leaving (disappearing) is that she’s making sure there is no chance for them to truly connect with anyone but her. She hides the bodies and eventually does get that one moment with him… and she’s not going to ever let him go.

Artwork by Brazillian Graphic Designer Butcher Billy

Lady In Red – Chris de Burgh

Speaking of “their song”, Lady in Red is my wife and my song. We danced to it a Homecoming and then again many years later at our wedding. Yet, this cover has me seeing the song differently now…

As a serial killer, Daniel has very specific tastes. He only deserves the best. He cannot end up with just any person, what sport would that be? No, it has to be someone very special that he analyzes and then slowly brings them to the point that they are almost chasing him. Only when he can do that does the deaths mean anything.

So, when he sees Sandra at the club, she “shined so bright” and for once he saw someone who could maybe be his true love. All the death had led him to her. The only question was whether he could control his base urges and truly become a new man for her.

Or did he have to?

Artwork by Brazillian Graphic Designer Butcher Billy

Everytime You Go Away – Paul Young

It’s not Jessica’s fault that she is different. Just like it wasn’t her fault that bus t-boned her car a year ago. The doctors said that it was a miracle she survived at all. Now she just wants to go back to her old life. Move on.

Yet, she gets these cravings every now and then. Hunger pangs that aren’t satisfied with anything she ends up eating. Fruit and vegetables now make her sick and at best raw meat only causes the pain to subside for a day or so. No, there’s something else now at work inside her. And now, “when the leading man appears” she finds that the urges are too much to take.

But she doesn’t have to kill him. She only needs to “take a piece of me with you”.

Artwork by Brazillian Graphic Designer Butcher Billy

Maneater – Hall and Oates

I feel like this could be the sequel to Everytime You Go Away. That same creature of the night, Jessica, has continued her nightly escapades, but now she’s managed to attract the wrong attention in the form of the FBI who have now dubbed her the “Maneater”. Now she has to stay one step ahead of them all the while feeding the beast within her, for if this is her under control, what happens if she truly loses control?


I wonder what other pop songs might make good horror books? I feel like Duran Duran’s Union of the Snake could be something. Tears for Fears Everyone Wants to Rule the World. INXS Devil Inside seems a no brainer.

Got any good ones?


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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Book Report – The Lincoln Highway

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Normally you might get something like this:

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

However, in The Lincoln Highway, we get this:

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Finally, and this is a spoiler, so…



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

Something else to keep in mind.


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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com




The Reason Why – Piece By Piece

My writing brain doesn’t work right.

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

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


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

But, my brain doesn’t work like that.

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

The Reason Why – Hollow Empire

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

So it went with Hollow Empire.

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

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

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

Zombie creatures.

Dark cults.


Bounty Hunters.

A coup.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

For soon must come the Night of Knives.

Image by Twighlightzone from Pixabay


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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

The Reason Why – The Dark That Follows

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

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

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

Just too much.

And then I got laid off.


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

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

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

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

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

“Well, you have time.”

Image by moritz320 from Pixabay


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

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

I opened up Word and started writing.

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

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

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

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

Talk about timing.


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

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

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

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

And I never looked back.


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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Book Report – Cloud Cuckoo Land

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

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

Completely blind.

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

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

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

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

Same at page 300.

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Book Report – The Girl With All The Gifts

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

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

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

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

Image by Simon Wijers from Pixabay

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

You know, just a little thing.

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Coffee Table Cats – A Mini Art Book by J Edward Neill

Black cats aren’t so unlucky….

Charming, sensitive, and wily, these enchanted felines bring love to every heart they touch.

In this artsy book by J Edward Neill, enjoy numerous illustrations of our black cat friends, each paired with a loving tribute.

Each piece of cat art is based on one of J Edward’s original paintings, and appears in full-color.

Now available in paperback and hardcover!!

The Reason Why – The Echo Effect

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

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


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

Until the White Light washed them away.

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

The lucky few.

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

Who knows?

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


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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

A Love for Everyday – 9

Many years ago, I gave my wife a homemade gift. Yes, those are cheesy and many times it is a cop-out to giving a “real gift”. But I decided, partially inspired to the multitude of Jeremy’s various Question books, to go through and look for quotes about Love, about how I feel about her, and still embrace my own nerdiness – so it included lots of bits and pieces from various media that we both love.

I called it A Love For Every Day, and set about trying to find the right words for each day.

Let me tell you, it is not as quick and easy as you would think. Especially as I tried to include little nods to the actual day if possible – sometimes those being birthdays or anniversaries or just plan old holidays… many times the quotes play off of that as well.

As these holidays come to a close, I thought I’d share a few of my favorites from these 365 days.

January 1

Once upon a time there was a boy who loved a girl, and her laughter was a question he wanted to spend his whole life answering.

Nicole Krause, The History of Love

February 2

Love is the answer to everything. It’s the only reason to do anything. If you don’t write stories you love, you’ll never make it. If you don’t write stories that other people love, you’ll never make it.

Ray Bradbury

March 16

Have you ever been in love? Horrible, isn’t it? It makes you so vulnerable. It opens your chest and it opens up your heart and it means that someone can get inside you and mess you up. You build up all these defenses, you build up a whole suit of armor, so that nothing can hurt you, then one stupid person, no different from any other stupid person, wanders into your stupid life… You give them a piece of you. They didn’t ask for it. They did something dumb one day, like kiss you or smile at you, and then your life isn’t your own anymore.

Neil Gaiman, The Sandman

April 19

Mawage. Mawage is wot bwings us togeder today. Mawage, that bwessed awangment, that dweam wifin a dweam… And wuv, tru wuv, will fowow you foweva…

So tweasure your wuv.

The Princess Bride

May 4

I love you.

I know.

The Empire Strikes Back & Return of the Jedi

June 19

You know that place between sleep and awake, the place where you can still remember dreaming? That’s where I’ll always love you. That’s where I’ll be waiting.

Peter Pan

July 16

If you have just one,

Let me be that love

If you have lots of others,

Please let me be

Please let me be one

Let me be one

Jonah Matranga, Crush On Everyone

August 13

I’m afraid that once your heart’s involved, it all comes out in moron.

Gilmore Girls

September 30

You can learn all the math in the ‘Verse, but you take a boat in the air that you don’t love, she’ll shake you off just as sure as the turning of the worlds. Love keeps her in the air when she oughta fall down, tells you she’s hurtin’ ‘fore she keens. Makes her a home.


October 31

My dearest friend

If you don’t mind

I’d like to join you by your side

Where we can gaze into the stars

And sit together now and forever

For it is plain as anyone can see, we’re simply meant to be.

The Nightmare Before Christmas

November 8

I think we dream so we don’t have to be apart so long. If we’re in each other’s dreams, we can play together all night.

Calvin and Hobbes

December 29

I thought our story was epic, you know, you and me.

Epic how?

Spanning years and continents. Lives ruined, bloodshed. EPIC.

Come on. Ruined lives? Bloodshed? You really think a relationship should be that hard?

No one writes songs about the ones that come easy.

Veronica Mars


Hope you have some great holidays with those you love.


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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Ramblings about Anne Rice

This past weekend Anne Rice passed away, which has gotten me thinking about Vampires (of course).

I was a teenager when I first read Interview with the Vampire (around the same time as when the movie premiered back in 1994). It’s hard to believe that my picture of vampires up until that point was pretty singular in the black and white Universal monster version of the monster Dracula or the more recent version of the book by Francis Ford Coppola. This singular entity that was either evil or misunderstood or possibly both of those things was my picture of the myth.

Then came Interview.

And while it obviously leaned into the romantic idea of the creature, it focused on this person who was at odds with his true nature. Louis (our narrator), walks us through his life with a remorseful look. Here was someone who no longer relished their eternal life, but instead saw it as it truly was: a curse. He was not a part of humanity any longer, but was forced to endure alongside it.

It seems hard to even think about the idea of the reluctant vampire as something groundbreaking now. We’ve had decades of versions who are the bad boys, the mysterious strangers, the reluctant heroes, and the monsters underneath that they dare not expose anyone to. Whether it is the Vampire Diaries, Twilight, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or True Blood (or probably a hundred others I’m forgetting), you can draw a straight line from Anne Rice to these versions of vampires being depicted now. I’m not sure there has been anyone as influential since Bram Stoker wrote Dracula almost 125 years ago.

It seems a weird thing to think about that an entire genre can be effectively reoriented by one person, but that’s really what Anne Rice did.


The only one I immediately can think of that might challenger to that idea is Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend, which looks at the vampire “problem” from a very scientific idea rather than a mystical one. Strangely, it draws its line to Night of the Living Dead and our modern Zombie movies and television shows.


30 Days of Night might be the other one in that it is leaning instead to the sheer monster/horror of the legend.


Without Anne Rice, White Wolf roleplaying wouldn’t look the same as it currently does. I’m sure it would still exist in some form or fashion, but there is no doubt in my mind it is what it is because of her contributions to the genre.


I hadn’t realized she had written 13 books in the Vampire Chronicles series. I think the last one I read was number 4, Tale of the Body Thief. In fact, I’ve been looking at her Bibliography in amazement. She has written about vampires and mummies and werewolves and witches and genies and…

The focus on those creatures who we might view as monsters, she decided to go in and look at their souls (what was left of them) and show the reader that there was more to them than teeth and claws. They might haunt our nightmares, but it was they who were living the nightmare.

It’s an incredible way to put the mirror up to our own faces. Show us the creature who resides in each of us. And to do that for a generation of readers is a great gift. Thank you for the reflection and the stories.


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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Books That Changed Me – Part 3

I love horror movies. Since I was around 9 or 10, I’ve loved them. Somehow, I managed to watch the first Nightmare on Elm Street and that was it. I was taken down the path. Over the years I’ve watched slasher films, metaphysical films, bad zombie films, good zombie films, and everything in between.

But I haven’t read much horror over the years. Which seems like it shouldn’t be an issue at all. I mean, if I love the genre, then I should read some of the novels that are out there. But I stayed more in the Fantasy or Science Fiction worlds growing up (once I started reading for fun). It wasn’t until I decided that this Stephen King fellow might be onto something with his movies here and there that I’d catch. So I went to the library (back when you did that sort of thing) and picked up Misery.


Misery – Stephen King

In some ways this book managed to teach me about the idea of a story inside of a story. I probably knew of the technique (1001 Arabian Nights being one of, if not the biggest, example), but I’d never read anything that tried to do it. Effectively having to write one book about what the author was going through (just trying to survive his crazy, obsessed fan) and then being able to read the story he was writing. But not only that, once he’d finished the pages, he’d hand them over to Annie and he and the reader had to hope that she enjoyed the pages as he went along, otherwise, she would end up punishing him for it.

I’ve wondered if there could be a version of the overall novel that merely hints at what the “other” story was about. And the more I do, the more I realize that it is important for the reader to really get involved with this fictional character’s creation. Somehow it helps to make his plight all the more real when trying to please someone who is mentally damaged. We’re rooting for him to find a way out of the situation, but all the while reading along with the pages he “writes”. Those interludes offer a slight respite from what’s going on the rest of the time… a way for the reader to catch their breath a little bit.

I’ve since gone on and read some of King’s shorts, a couple of other books, and The Dark Tower series, but there is something about the pure horror of being under another’s thumb, with little to no hope of changing your fate.

World War Z – Max Brooks

Where Misery takes the story within a story motif and runs with it, World War Z approaches the horror in a different way, focusing on smaller stories as part of an overall theme: a reporter who is doing a retrospective book on the War with the zombies.

The key part of that is where the stories themselves are not directly related, they still are interconnected by the bigger theme: a world at war with a supernatural threat that may not being able to be stopped. But because it is a reporter “covering” the story, the reader is pulled along into the different lives of regular folk just fighting to survive. And then, just when you are settling in, you are pulled into the war effort itself with a focus on the war the armed forces were coordinating.

And while we know that humans won the war, by focusing on smaller tales, we can never be sure who within the story may or may not survive- furthering any tension they might be dealing with.


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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Books That Changed Me – Part 2

Like everyone, I go through phases where I don’t read a ton of books. Those are the days when time seems to never actually slow down any so that you can actually enjoy things. Where you have those quiet moments to lose yourself within the pages of a book to a short or whatever. My bookshelf beckons me. My Kindle mocks me with all the unread titles that I still continue to buy because “I’ll get around to them at some point”. Even my Amazon Private List has thirty or forty books that I managed to have the willpower to not actually buy at the moment but still intrigued me enough to want to flag.

It’s normally those forced days of doing nothing where I manage to come back to the love of the page. Vacations being the biggest thing to spur me back into the mode so that I can really dwell in the words of someone else. Where I can feel the character’s voice in my head, hearing it almost before I read the words. When you look up and two hours have passed and the only thing you know in that moment is you need to get back to the story. Because to not dive right back in would be nearly a sin against your very being.

There have been books that have spurred me on to continue reading more and more. As much as I could get my hands on. But there was a dark time before I really read for pleasure, and while the novel is one of my favorites, it was a forced read of sorts.

The Call of the Wild – Jack London

You see, the only reason I ever read this book was that I was grounded. Suffice to say that I had allowed our dog to come in during a bad storm, and she decided that the coffee table would look much better if she chewed on it. I didn’t notice because I was all of ten and probably watching TV or playing with my Transformers. It wasn’t on purpose and had I seen her, I would have stopped her, but neither of those things happened.

Suddenly, I was grounded for a month with the added punishment of doing a book report each week. My “out” was to get a spanking. I thought I was being smart avoiding it. I’d eventually give in after a week (which I obviously should have opted for it immediately and saved myself the trouble).

But the first book I chose was The Call of the Wild, this somewhat illustrated book that I’d probably gotten for a gift or maybe I picked it up at the book fair one day at school. Either way, I started in on it and found that I was enjoying my “punishment”. The story of this dog and the amazing and sometimes terrible things he was forced to do in order to just survive. I don’t know for sure what impression it made on me in the moment, but it lingered in there, somewhere deep in the brain… waiting for me to access it again. To determine whether something else this author had written might also appeal to me.

Luckily late middle school or possibly freshman English had an assignment to read one of Jack London’s short stories “To Build a Fire”. And with that, he graduated to one of my favorite writers. It had only taken half a decade or so…


The Hobbit – J R R Tolkien

In middle school and high school, my group of friends all read fantasy books. Since we played Dungeons and Dragons we naturally leaned toward all the books TSR was putting out. Those stories slowly built the various worlds they’d developed. We read the Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance novels and later when they expanded into the Dark Sun universe and Spelljammer novels, we devoured those as well.

All the time, though, one of my friends kept telling me that I needed to read this book: The Hobbit. Didn’t I understand that Mr. Tolkien was the headwaters of the whole genre? Didn’t I want to see where the things I loved so much had come from originally?

Much like other people, it’s always a hard thing when someone tells you constantly that your life isn’t complete without doing/seeing/reading something. My natural tendency is to fight against it. Not always, but more often than not. Maybe I don’t want them to be right (which makes no sense, as I should want to be entertained by good things). So I put it off and put it off… until the day came where he might have put the book down on my desk one day.

So I begrudgingly read it.

Now, I assume you know where this little story is going. I tore through those pages in a way that I didn’t think was possible. And upon reaching the end of the book, I asked if he’d done anything else which would lead me down the rabbit hole of The Lord of the Rings.

You’d be wrong about all that, but it was a good guess.

Sadly, the book didn’t grab me. I was bored by many of the early scenes. And at some point, I put the book down for nearly six months (or was it nine). I had other things to read and no matter what pedigree this novel had, it didn’t work for me. But after much shaming from that same friend, I picked the book back up and finished it.

And still didn’t like it.

This is my gift. It is my curse. I love fantasy, but I didn’t like The Hobbit.


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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Free Chapter – Hollow Empire – Cassidy

If you enjoy this sample chapter, you can get the full Season here.






What once had been two living, breathing men now swung in the soft breeze. Though this area along the road did not possess much foliage, the outlaws had chosen one of the larger oak trees with its thick branches to support the display. Stripped of clothing, the dead skin baked under an autumn sun. A trio of crows roosted on the two bodies and pecked at the exposed flesh. It would only be a matter of time before they picked the corpses clean.

Cassidy rode closer to the bodies, and the air turned sour with death and decay. His stomach seized and contracted, but he fought the urge to vomit. When he was within an arm’s length of the once-men, he shooed the black birds away. They had devoured three of the four eyes thus far, but it was not enough to obscure the men’s identities.


“Is it Hadrian?”

Isidora’s voice broke through the stench. Though her horse seemed to have reservations about being so close to the dead, Isidora trotted up alongside Cassidy and studied the deceased men’s faces.

Cassidy shook his head. “No, it was Darius. Didn’t realize he’d been put on this hunt as well.”

Isidora guided her steed over to the other swinging corpse. She reached out with her gloved hand and spun him around.

“Wasn’t this one of their men?”

Cassidy looked up. “Lichy, maybe?”

She continued to twirl him, the rope tightening with each revolution. “No sores, no blackness along the fingertips, and no bleeding gums. He’s clean.”

“You think he wore out his welcome? Though, I suppose finding anyone other than Hadrian is welcome news. Perhaps he’s managed to remain in their good graces.”

Turning back to his corpse, Cassidy rotated Darius one more time. Aside from the battle scars, and a few bruises, the man might have been in good shape, other than being deceased. As he pulled back from the body, he caught sight of the scar. The mark of an eye, no larger than the width of a finger, rested on the inside of Darius’s wrist.

“He has the Brand.”

She backed her horse away and twisted in the saddle to scan the hills around them. “A warning then.”

“For who?”

“Us. Our kind.”

“Lovely thought. And here I figured they didn’t make us in Tolem.”

“Obviously your ability to maintain a low profile could use some work.”

Cassidy ignored the comment and pulled a folded map from his pack. He marked their position with one finger and then traced the long black line, the King’s Road, with his other. Ahead, the line wove between the foothills before turning northward to skirt the mountains. A series of small scratchings along the road indicated the occasional village.

Isidora dropped down from her horse, took a few light steps away from the execution site, and squatted. Cassidy had observed her perform this bit of artistry more times than he could count. She studied the rocks, the dirt, and the very dust, nothing lost before her vision. He had watched her pick up the barest of markings after a rain. It was rumored that she might have been the finest tracker in all of Othis. They were wrong. She was better than they could imagine.

“We’re close now,” she told him. “Tracks no more than a day old and they lead east.”

“Old Welkwood is nearby. Maybe two or three miles ahead along the road.” He marked the sun’s progress in the sky. “We ride hard, we can make it prior to dusk.”

He nudged his steed forward on the road. Isidora remounted and flanked him. Then without a word, she put her heels into her mount and charged off ahead.

* * *

Cassidy looked down over the shell of a village. From their vantage point along a small rise in the ground, it stretched out in front of them. In its prime Welkwood might have been a proper town. The King’s Road cut through its center, lined with what would have been a blacksmith’s forge, a stable, a tavern, or any number of other businesses. Now those same positions were marked by decaying framework or the occasional stone wall. A large statue still stood in the center of town; though weeds and vines threatened to overtake it. He suspected it was one of Lord Rowan’s visages. At the statue, the road split and divided, and from that point, everything radiated outward along a pair of smaller roads. Four larger buildings, more stone than wood, flanked the midpoint.

He glanced at Isidora. “Looks as though those four are in the best condition. One might be an inn or larger tavern. Seems as good a spot as any for them to hole up in. Can you take a look?”

She nodded and closed her eyes. Each breath steadied into a rhythmic pattern. Her body swayed from side to side, threatening to tip over at a moment’s notice. Cassidy made no move to steady her; he did not dare interrupt her gift. Just below her neck, the faint, telltale glow of her Brand began. He looked at her face and saw her eyes rolled up into the back of her head, her eyelids flickering.

A survivor of the Lichy, she was one of the so-called lucky ones. When the madness of the times came, her parents left her on the doorsteps of the church. The priests and sisters found her; the dark heart of the disease clutched her to its breast. This frail little form, barely strong enough to lift her head for the soup they provided to her. She was given a day, no more than two, before she would expire. Yet on the following day, she could talk. On the second day, she stood without any assistance. By the time a week passed, she showed no signs of the plague, save for the small crescent scar on her lower neck.

Not one out of the hundreds who found themselves with the Lichy sores survived. Entire towns ceased to exist over the course of a few weeks. Yet this small girl survived, with only a mark to distinguish her from every other person, a lingering reminder that she was now the stronger breed.

It was only later she learned about the other aspect the disease left. She’d been blessed with the gift of second sight, or perhaps cursed with it. Cassidy never knew what she saw; she only gave him enough information to accomplish whatever task lay directly before them. Still, her foreknowledge saved his skin more times than he could count.

Isidora gasped for air beside him and rolled onto her side. Her body shook like a spastic ragdoll on the grass-patched dirt carpet. He instinctively reached out and placed his hand on her side to keep her from injuring herself while the shaking occurred. Her dark hair, usually shorn close to her head, had begun to grow out, a consequence of the hunt. He pressed a cloth to her forehead and blotted the beads of sweat. A small amount of blood leaked from her mouth.

Her tongue will be sore on the morrow.

He blotted her cheeks as well.

Soon the shaking subsided, though her eyes had not yet reopened. They still danced underneath their lids.

Cassidy never knew if his presence helped to bring her back to the present, but it made him feel better. Not that he would ever voice it to her, but in these moments after she used her gift, the intensity and the scowl, which normally accompanied her face, disappeared. In those moments, she seemed at peace with herself, with the world, and with him.

He pressed his canteen to her lips, and she drank as if it were the last drop in all of Othis.

He whispered, “Did you see how many there were? Do you know if Hadrian is still alive?”

Even with the water, her voice scratched and strained, “You need to go into their lair. You must confront them. It is the only way.”

“Very well, we will hold here until your strength has returned. Then when you are ready-”

“No, you don’t understand. You must do this. Only you… alone. I will have the horses ready for a swift ride back to the capital once it is done.” Her eyes pierced the darkness. “But you are to do this alone.”

* * *

The half-moon’s light illuminated the abandoned trail as Cassidy crept down to the outer structures of Old Welkwood. No potential sentries roamed this portion of the fallen town. At the bottom of the slope, he pressed himself against the broken stone wall and peered around its edge before sprinting along to the next barrier.

Now, in the middle of it, he saw the signs. Once it might have been a thriving burg, yet when the first infected showed up, many chose sanctuary in the larger cities. They hoped the abundance of doctors and apothecaries might spare them. Families left sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers, and even children behind. They flooded to the largest churches and prayed to God to spare them, as if a change of scenery would have made any difference.

They were left wanting.

He turned his focus back on the ruined town. Everywhere he saw the marks of the Lichy, and suspected it had run through this place like wildfire. Mounds of ash and bone on the west side of the town marked the last remnants of the doomed, revealing how little time the citizens had to put the dead in the ground. Up close, he could see that the buildings were not simply abandoned or destroyed by the wind and rain, but put to the fire a long time ago. A choice made to head off the plague before it consumed them all.

Glancing back up the hill to their perch, he saw no sign of Isidora. He only hoped that he would have the opportunity to make his way back out to her. He trusted her gift, and the glimpses she saw of things to come.

Cassidy weaved through the buildings’ husks towards the town’s center. Charred and blackened frames surrounded the main street. A small church sat in ruin, the holy spire long since collapsed, spearing the remains of the structure below. Slowly, nature had begun to reclaim her land. Vines climbed and squeezed a few of the standing walls, threatening to pull each down to the earth.

At the very center of the town was the old Rowan statue. One arm outstretched in each direction, a symbol of the vastness of the empire Lord Rowan had amassed all those years ago. This one no longer had either of its limbs. The head was only a partial head, storms or vandals having ripped the missing pieces from it many years earlier. Here again, the vines and weeds worked their way upward, tying themselves into knots around the legs, up the torso, before finishing around his neck like the hangman’s noose. Flames from a small fire cast shadows up and down Rowan as it spat and seized, threatening to expire.

No one tending it.

He crouched behind the last of the stone remains and waited. To his left, he could hear the whinny of their horses. He counted to one hundred before he felt sure no sentries were patrolling.

No one is mad enough to enter this area, even if they didn’t know who was here.

Across from him stood the one building not in complete disrepair, and from his vantage point, he could see a soft light coming from inside the lower level. Cassidy darted across the street and positioned himself just outside the entrance. An ancient sign of a woodpecker drinking from a mug creaked in the wind above his head. Coming from inside the shell of a building, he heard grumbling and shouting. A quick glance showed him six… no, seven men.

He unslung the crossbow from his back and loaded a quarrel. Cassidy exhaled and swung the door open.

“I’m here for Hadrian.”

The entire crew halted their drinking, their card games. One fellow even paused his pissing in mid-stream. They all took a long look at him. One of them rubbed his eyes to make sure the man before them was not a drunken vision, which presented as a dirty, unkempt, and road-weary Cassidy before them. One of the card players pushed himself away from the table and stood, his skin tanned from many years on the road. His patchy beard matched his shaggy dark hair. A toothy grin escaped from his lips and he cocked his head from one side to the other doing his best to analyze the situation before him.

“And what business do you have with Hadrian?”

Cassidy held the loaded crossbow out in front of him so that all could see. “For crimes against the King, I have been authorized to bring him back to Othis to await judgment.”

“Is that so?” The man turned to look at his men and chuckled. They all joined in. “Well, I’m afraid that you will have to wait for your King’s business.”

“Do you have Hadrian or not?”

Another laugh, full of anger, erupted from the man. “I am in possession of Hadrian. Well, me and the boys in this room.”

“I have been charged to bring Hadrian back to Othis to stand trial. I have tracked him to you and yours. Will you turn him over to me?”

The man moved over towards the partially standing bar and snagged a canteen. He downed the contents in one swift drink, only a small amount of foam leaking at the edges. With a hand, he wiped his beard clean.

“Sadly that is not possible. Hadrian is also accused of crimes against me and mine. And I prefer him where he sits.”

He pointed to the back corner where a little man, who looked like he would have been more suited for scribe work, sat. The top of his head bore small nicks and cuts from where they would shave him. The clothes he wore looked four sizes too large for him, hanging from his body like loose skin. At the mention of his name, Hadrian looked up and Cassidy saw the weariness in his eyes. A defeated look, which said that he had no fight left in him. He would not run or attempt escape. Cassidy doubted he would get very far with the shackles around his legs and the manacles on his wrists.

“Perhaps when his flesh is flayed from his bones we shall let you collect. By what right do you have to take him?”

Cassidy reached under his cloak and revealed the metal disk pinned to his armor. Though faded, it remained easy enough to see the falcon wings crossed by a pair of lightning bolts. “By the law of this land-”

One of the card players shouted, “He’s a Walker.”

His tablemate joined in. “Didja not see the gift we made of the last one of yours who came here? Are you so eager to feel the rope burn your neck as well? Alric, it looks to be another hanging!”

“This place, Walker, this place is ours. Your kingdom no longer exists for the likes of us. We are a free people who want for nothing. We drink, we fight, and when we find women, we screw. We live by our own code here. That one,” their leader, Alric, pointed to Hadrian, “that one is a rodent of the worst kind. He possesses no honor, no code, and the limit of his depravity begins and ends when the coin stops flowing. So by what authority do you think to take that which is rightfully ours? For yours, in this room, is severely lacking.”

Cassidy studied the room. He did not miss the various movements of his opponents throughout the exchange, subtle as they attempted to be. Five feet in front of him, the two at the card table had relieved their blades from the sheaths at their feet. The pissing man in the back now stood near the other side of the bar, his hands below the crest. Two of the men he had first thought too drunk to stand held gnarled clubs in their hands, waiting on his right. The third drunk Cassidy had pegged correctly; his head had not risen from the table near the middle of the room.

Alric, for his part, leaned against the bar to Cassidy’s left, his anger replaced by calmness. He had made no move to secure a weapon. That worried Cassidy more than anything else he saw. Even on his best night, with no road weariness, he would not be able to take on the other five. He might fell three before he finally succumbed to their superior numbers.

The math did not add up.

I trust Isidora’s gift, my Lord. I place myself in your hands.

He turned his crossbow and leveled it at the man behind the bar. The bolt whistled through the air before it buried in his throat. Cassidy let the device slip from his grasp, replacing it with his sword. The two card players came at Cassidy and he darted between them, his sword parrying each of their first attacks with ease. Steel clashed with steel, the small fire casting a shadow of the combat onto the far wall.

He observed their techniques, which were rudimentary. They used brute strength and superior numbers more than any real tactics. He slowed his breathing, slowed his mind, and watched their movements.

Anticipate the next blow, move your enemy, make them strike where you are not.

Another blade imbedded in a nearby table, barely missing Cassidy’s sword arm. With his enemy exposed, he severed the bond between sword and man at the wrist. A scream followed, and the man crumpled to the ground, his hand dangling, held on by only bits of sinew and splintered bone.

A bolt slammed into Cassidy’s chest and he stumbled backwards. While the leather took the brunt of the impact, he would have a hell of a bruise on the morrow. Alric stood on the backside of the bar loading the next shot into the crossbow. When he raised it again, Cassidy reached out to the first card player and spun him around to act as a shield. The man’s eyes grew wide in conjunction with the sickening thud as Alric struck true, just late.

Cassidy’s instincts told him to roll to the ground. Sure enough, a gnarled club occupied the air where his head had been. He kicked out and the man’s knee buckled under the impact. Above him the other club-bearing beast of a man stood, his weapon ready to crack Cassidy’s skull.

The whistle of an arrow’s flight broke the silence and hit the man square in the chest. He took a step back, unsure where this new threat came from. Two more arrows embedded themselves in his stomach. He staggered, blood oozing from his lips, before toppling over, his strength no longer able to support his great form.

Cassidy sprung to a crouch and scanned the area before he spotted her at the rear of the room beside Hadrian. Isidora notched another arrow and let it fly at Alric. Again and again, she fired on his position never allowing him to gain an opportunity to respond. Cassidy sprinted to the back of the building, leaving the wounded and dead.

Isidora motioned to Hadrian. “Grab him and let’s be gone from this place. There is an entrance behind me. I’ll be right behind.”

Cassidy nodded and grunted as he lifted the prisoner and tossed him over his shoulder. Outside he found three horses: his, Isidora’s, and a third, stolen from the outlaws. He loaded Hadrian onto the back of the last one before he mounted his own. A moment later, Isidora rushed out of the building and vaulted onto the back of her horse.

The two of them shouted at the horses in unison, “Go!”

* * *

The three rode as hard as they dared under the moonlight for the next hour. It was only when heavy clouds began to obscure the orb’s radiance that they slowed the pace. Cassidy watched for any signs of pursuit.

“How far behind do you think?”

Isidora cocked her head to the side as if doing calculations in her head. “Hard to know. What survivors there are will have to locate their horses. I stole one and scattered the rest to the night.”


She continued, “Most are injured or dead. My guess is that unless they have more we did not see, they won’t have the will to give chase.”

Cassidy nudged Hadrian. “How many are there?”

He coughed. “Water, please.”

Cassidy retrieved his canteen and held it just out of reach from his prisoner. “How many?”

“You don’t want to know the answer to that.”

Cassidy leaned in closer, so that he could look into the man’s eyes, “How many?”



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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Free Chapter – Hollow Empire – Vadim




The splintering door shattered Vadim’s peaceful sleep. A booming voice ripped through the early morning tranquility.

“You slept with my wife!”

His instincts took over, and he threw himself to the floor beside the bed in an effort to avoid the oncoming blow… that never came. Furniture exploded, a man roared again, and yet Vadim’s room lay seemingly undisturbed. Daring himself to peek at the carnage, he raised his head up so that his eyes were above the lip of the bed, just over the edge of the sheets.

And saw only his guest from the previous evening…

Hilda? Rayne?

She met his blue-eyed gaze, “Is there something amiss, milord?”

“I thought…,” Vadim caught a glimpse of himself in the full-length mirror along the wall beside him and observed his predicament; his manhood exposed and him cowering on the floor. No way for one of the King’s Men to behave. He stood up allowing his six-foot frame to come to its full height. It was not the nudity that brought awkwardness, but his stumbling and fumbling about on the floor. In fact, he never had any complaints about his appearance. The other Long Riders often teased him for his boyish grin, his bright, blue eyes, and his shaggy blonde hair. All of which resided on an untouched face, somehow free of any scars or wounds in his years journeying the Circuit. “This is rather embarrassing. I thought perhaps that which is happening next door was instead being visited upon the two of us. It’s not occurring in this room though, is it?”

“No, milord, it is not.” The freckled young woman stifled a giggle and ran her hands through her long blonde hair attempting to excise any tangles she found there. Vadim paused and stared into her deep green eyes trying to light a candle, which would be her name.

The wall behind the bed shuddered. Pieces of the ceiling flaked off and fell to the floor. Next door, a woman screamed.

Vadim searched for his trousers and found them tangled with his tunic and his consort’s skirt and blouse, all of it abandoned in a pile the night before. As he pulled up his trousers, he heard another crash, this time away from their shared wall. Then came more shouting from the hall and additional voices joined the chorus with the first.

Vadim glanced at… Sara? Trianna? and raised a finger. “One moment.”

Tightening his belt, he moved towards the door. Through the wood, he heard the shouting continue. There were calls for blood, pain, and then a slur of unmentionable deeds described by someone who must have been the original injured party. Vadim ran fingers through his blonde hair before gripping the handle. Preparing himself for the carnage, he took a deep breath.

When the door opened, he bore witness to sheer chaos. How the inn’s hallway could support the volume of patrons who watched, cheered, and shouted at the two combatants, he could not be sure. They crowded each end of the corridor, some stood just inside their open doorways, but all wanted to see these combatants duel. However, the word duel invoked images of two men squaring off in agreed-upon combat. This stank of something else entirely.

Vadim caught glimpses of the two men, flashes between arms and legs of the mob until he made himself a place in the crowd. It was only then that he could see the fight for what it was. Spittle erupted through the barrel chested man’s full black beard with each roar. A giant of a man, but not one someone might call attractive. His eyes appeared a bit too close to each other while his forehead seemed to slope until it gave way to a receding hairline. He appeared to have a full foot on his opponent giving him the reach advantage, but it seemed the smaller was adept at using his quickness to slip under the devastating blows. The two stumbled, the sea of bodies parted, and they crashed to the floor in front of Vadim.

“Jericho, how goes your morning? Rest well?” Vadim shouted above the din of the crowd hoping to catch his oldest friend’s attention.

Jericho looked up from his assailant. His red hair clung to the side of his face. Blood leaked from various cuts and lacerations on his head. In fact, red appeared to be the only thing that covered him.

Vadim smirked and shouted again. “Did you notice you don’t have any pants on?”

Jericho struggled to keep the large man’s blows from colliding with his body. “Perhaps you’d like to lend a bit of help?

His assailant bellowed, slamming a fist into the floor, just missing Jericho’s head, denting the wooden planks. “My wife!”

The two twisted and scrapped, each trying to gain some kind of advantage. Jericho managed to regain his feet and pushed away.

“He says you slept with his wife. Is that true?” Vadim asked the question through the din of noise, but did not give Jericho time to answer, “Tsk, tsk.”

A wild swing and another dodge.

“Vadim! I promise you, that was never my intention.”

“This gentleman would beg to differ on that point.”

“She never spoke anything of having a husband,” he spoke first to Vadim and then shouted it again at the large man, “I didn’t know!”

“It was our wedding night!”

Vadim whistled at the revelation, “Doesn’t seem like this man is all that eager to issue forgiveness. And even if he was, your explanation is not going to cover it.”

Jericho awaited the oncoming charge and slipped to the side under the brute’s undisciplined swings. The giant rammed into some of the crowd, toppling them in a mass of arms and legs.

“Even so, a little help?” Jericho screeched the last before sidestepping another missed blow.

Vadim nodded, “Right. Uhm… one moment.”

He turned back into his room and shut the door, muffling the roar slightly. He strode towards the partially dressed… Pia? Selene? woman sitting on the edge of the bed.

“Terrible thing, my mate is out there getting his head bashed in by a rather large, angry fellow. Something about sleeping with his wife. A pity. Still, it now falls to me to save the… wait; you’re not married, are you?”

She blushed and shook her head. “No, milord.”

“Right. Brilliant. Wouldn’t want to have a similar exchange as those two out there.”

Vadim scanned the room for the remainder of his belongings. Sunlight glinted off the small emerald gem sealed inside the pommel of his sword, which was resting in the corner alongside his pack.

He fastened the weapon around his waist before sliding his cuirass over his head. With one hand, he reached into his small pack and fetched a silver coin from a pouch within.

“You were a sheer delight, and I would love to spend another glorious evening with you when I return from the Long Ride in…,” his brain struggled with the length of time he would be away, “a few months’ time. If that would please you?”

A smile appeared as she blushed again. “Indeed, milord, it would.”

Vadim moved close and pulled her off the bed into him. Their lips met and she engaged his tongue with her own. His free hand explored her exposed right breast with one final squeeze before relinquishing its touch. He felt the familiar stirring in his trousers. He heard her moan softly and the bed creak as she lowered herself to engage him elsewhere. Yet it was what his ears did not pick up that troubled him. Only muffled sounds of the fracas filled the air to the point he could not be sure there was a fight left. He released his grip on her and slid back to the entrance to the room. A quick turn of the handle and an empty hallway greeted him.

“For your breakfast,” he turned and flipped the silver to her, “though I might wait until the festivities ran their course. Farewell…” Rachel? Miranda? “milady. Until I return!”

The hall was in disarray. The door to Jericho’s room hung lazily from one hinge. Shards of broken wood lay scattered, marking the path of destruction, a trail of crumbs leading him downstairs into the main area of the inn.

Vadim took the stairs two at a time. Jericho was the one man in the company he did not want to see injured. Of all the King’s Men Vadim had ridden with, Jericho was the only one who always had his back, whether it was when they were under fire from bandits or dealing with the strangeness of the infected. The man knew no fear, and never hesitated to rush in alongside Vadim. His other brothers never showed that kind of loyalty.

Now he hoped that he had not misjudged the threat his friend was under. As he made his way around the last corner, a mug exploded on the wall near him. Remnants of someone’s coffee leaked down the paneling. Those patrons from the second floor filled the dining area. They had pushed the tables and chairs up against the walls and out of the way. Their faces contorted in a frenzied desire to observe more pain.

“Kill ‘im!”

“Break his face!”

Each time Jericho tried to cut a path through the crowd they held fast and did not part. Instead, they tossed him back into the center. Vadim watched another tankard fly through the air, but this one found its mark and glanced off Jericho’s forehead. While not an incapacitating blow, it was enough to stagger the naked man. Jericho reached out to steady himself against a nearby spectator who shoved him down. Tree-like arms slipped around Jericho’s throat. It would take only one quick snap and the fight would be over.

The large man raged, “Most of you know me, but for those who do not, I am Otto Wilmot. My family has lived in Racein since before the Lichy. When everyone else fled to the larger cities, the Wilmots protected them and theirs. And when the plague had run its course, they helped rebuild with the rest of the survivors.

“Yesterday I married a woman before the town center. Under the statue of Rowan, we proclaimed our love as truth. The party which followed last night was a grand one indeed.”

The crowd bobbed their heads in agreement.

“And I must confess that both myself and my dutiful bride managed to imbibe much of the fine ale provided. I fear, in my drunken stupor, I failed to realize that my new wife did not return to my bed last night. She stumbled throughout this inn, clearly beyond her mind and this man… no, this wretch… he chose that moment to strike. He charmed her, brought her upstairs to his room, and defiled her!”

Jericho wheezed trying to explain but his captor tightened his grip.

“So I ask you, good folks of Racein, how do I answer this affront to the sanctity of my vows? Should I be content to extract my vengeance in bloodied knuckles and broken bones?”

Many in the crowd murmured amongst themselves. The early morning fog must have gripped them still, as they did not seem to understand the sermon’s purpose. Vadim understood all of it. Otto was not merely asking whether it was acceptable for him to kill Jericho, but asking the crowd to demand that satisfaction.

Vadim slipped through the throng, who had parted in an attempt to get a better look, and slid behind the combatants. Another stein, long since emptied, sat on the table beside him. He reached out and gripped the makeshift weapon. Otto continued,,, oblivious to the presence behind him.

“What say the lot of you? What judgment for this sinner?”

Vadim could see a few of the men did not care what the outcome was, but more of them were starting to realize the stakes presented to them. They might be a mindless lot, but they would never condone murder. But it only takes one…

From the rabble someone yelled, “Kill him! Teach a lesson to all the outsiders that our women are not their receptacles. We show them our hospitality and they abuse it for their own base needs.”


“Split his ‘ead open!”

Otto nodded. “Thank you, brothers. I am grateful you see the truth of the matter. If you deem it to be righteous and just I will act as your implement of destruction.”

Otto looked down at Jericho, whose face was tinted red as he groped and gasped for release. The enormous muscles flexed and seized around his neck.

“The Lichy may have spared your whore mother, and may have allowed you to enter this world, but I shall be the instrument that forces your exit. This insult will be met with righteous just-.”

Vadim brought down the large stein and shattered it on the back of Otto’s head. The blow was not enough to fell the giant man, but it did cause his grip to loosen. Jericho slipped out and crumpled to the floor, gasping for breath.

Vadim stepped out of the shadows, and pulled Jericho behind him. “This has gone on for long enough.”

The mob, for their part, did not know how to respond. They stood in shocked silence.

Otto did not possess that problem. He unleashed a guttural roar and spun around. In the same instant, Vadim released his sword from its sheath and placed it just under the man’s neck, freezing any further movement.

“My friend is sorry.”

Jericho had coughed his voice hoarse. “So very sorry. It was a misunderstanding.”

The giant rubbed the back of his head and took a step back. “You think you are going to stop me from exacting my vengeance?”

“Well, not only me, but this sword in my hand. Yes, I believe that changes the currency of this situation.”

“There is an entire room of men seeking justice here. Each willing to strike you down with a word from me. How is your sword going to stop them all?”

Vadim took a long look at the group still in the main room. Most of them had cleared out with the change of fortune, but he still counted eight, no nine including the lumbering hulk in front of him. Otto Wilmot might not understand what justice or consummating his wedding meant, but he was not so far wrong in his analysis of this situation.

Jericho’s legs were still a little wobbly, but he held a tankard as his weapon. The two of them, one naked, made for a laughable sight.

Perhaps, if we manage to escape with the better parts of ourselves intact, we could use this as great fodder for many a story in the future. For now, though…

“This sword does not need to stop all of them, only you. And do not doubt my word in that. You will be dead, gutted like a fish, before the first one of them reaches me. That is my promise to you.”

Traces of fear shifted through Otto’s features, but were gone just as quick. Vadim caught sight of it, and watched it vanish. His entire body steeled for the fight.

Emma! That was her name.

“Come on then.”

An ear-piercing whistle penetrated the room. Each and every man, including Otto, Vadim, and Jericho found himself wincing in pain.


In the doorway of the inn stood the Watch Commander, his King’s armor glistening in the morning sunlight. His wiry frame doubled in size under its weight. The grays in his beard were the only thing that betrayed his apparent age. No one in the company knew his exact age, and none ever felt the need to ask. Around his neck, a bronze chain held the instrument that caused their mutual pain. He let the whistle slip from his lips.

“I believe that I must be witness to some kind of elaborate competition. For that is the only reason I could possibly see citizens squaring off against King’s Men.”

Vadim stared into Otto’s eyes. Even with the Commander’s appearance, he did not dare lower his weapon. The entire room held its breath, waiting to see which way the winds blew this day. When there was no immediate answer, the Commander spoke again.

“Mayhap the patrons are deafened by my device as well?”

Otto spoke through gritted teeth. “I demand justice from this one.” He pointed at Jericho. “He defiled my wife.”

“Is this true?”

Jericho opened his mouth to speak, thought better of it, and nodded.

“It appears you have taken the measure of this man through your fists. He is bloodied and he is beaten, what else must you have for your sense of justice to be satisfied?”

“His death,” said Otto.

“Tis treasonous to assault one of the King’s Men. The answer for such a crime is death. You have already committed one crime this day. Yet I am an understanding man and am willing to forget this event in its entirety. Make no more trouble and be content in the knowledge that this man is on his way to the Long Ride, and as such, you will not see him again for many moons.”

The Commander stepped closer to Otto, and Vadim thought it strange that even though the larger man stood at least a head taller, he seemed to shrink when he gazed into the Commander’s eyes.

“Do we have an accord?”

Otto forced the words reluctantly past his lips. “Aye.”

He then began to move towards the inn’s entrance, “Come on, lads. These King’s Men are needed to protect the land from all sorts. Let’s let them get to their business.

“Though, there will be a day between you and I, naked man.” Otto never took his eyes off Jericho until he was out the door. “Believe in that.”

After Otto and his gang were gone, the Watch Commander turned his gaze on the two of them. “All this… the two of you are going to be the death of me, you realize that don’t you?”

“Yes, sir,” they spoke in unison.

“The squad is set to leave. Get your asses outside and on your horses.”

“Yes, sir.”

The Commander moved to leave, but paused and turned back to look at Jericho, shaking his head.

“And for God’s sake, put some clothes on!”


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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Books That Changed Me – Part 1

They say that the number one thing a writer should do (besides writing, of course) is reading. You should be devouring other books. I think the biggest reasons have to be:

Know what other authors (your contemporaries) are writing.

Learn the tropes of your genre.

Pick up new techniques and new skills by watching how the greats do it.

Let your mind hang out in someone else’s world for a little while.

But really, the biggest reason is that it’s just fun.


Many, many years ago, reading was not something I did. I’m sure it was that way for plenty of folks. If you read anything it was because the school required it. But to actually seek out a book to read on your own? That sounds ludicrous. Why would anyone choose to do such a thing?

Yet, now I can hardly find the time to just sit down and let myself go into a book. That thing that is both important to the person and the writer in me. So I look back, to remember those books that probably put me most directly on my current path one way or another.


On A Pale Horse – Piers Anthony

I consider this my awakening into the world of books. I’ve talked about the moment on this blog before, but my friend Lee came to sixth grade one day and put this book on the desk in front of me only saying the words “Read this.” But even more than that moment, which sealed my fate as an avid reader, it also created my first “favorite” writer. It was one thing to read this book about Death and these other Incarnations, but then I found out there were 4 other books in the series (at that point).


There’s more to be read? I can hang out in this collective world for even longer? Where do I sign up?

Through a Tangled Skein (the 3rd book) is one of the first books that I ever reread immediately upon finishing.

And then I moved on to his fantasy series, Xanth, which was filled with puns and silliness, yet there was also a ton of heart waiting between those pages. I remember one particular week in 7th grade where I think I read 4 of those books in 7 days. Which, to be honest, isn’t as much reading, but simply devouring the text and then eagerly grabbing the next helping. The only thing that would stop me was if the library didn’t have the next book or if Lee didn’t. Then I had to wait until a trip to the bookstore could free me of such problems.


So we go from something that caused me to develop a love for the art form. Something that got me to reread something I’d just read. Something that changed the way I perceived books.

To something that caused me to realize that I don’t have to like everything I read.

A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens

It’s probably a bit of blasphemy, but I not only didn’t like this book, I actually never finished it. Oh sure, I know the end, I know where it was going, but for every bit that this might be a masterpiece of literature, I could not get into it. The writing style didn’t work for me, and later, when I found out that Dickens was paid by the word, I suddenly understood the role an editor might have in making a book even better.

It should have been so easy. There is history between those pages. I love history!

And I tried… I really tried. I was doing my best to get into the story and the characters and it just didn’t happen for me. I’m a fast reader, and it turned my experience into molasses.

So why did I bother with it at all? Why did I fight with it for as long as I did? Probably for the same reason many of you might have picked up the book: It was the next assignment in English class during high school. While I don’t remember completely failing the test(s?) on the book, I’m pretty sure I didn’t do as well as I normally did on those types of assignments.

I mean, I disliked it enough that I didn’t even bother with the Cliff Notes!


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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com


Chapter Preview – The Echo Effect

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

Until the White Light washed them away.

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

The lucky few.

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

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

The Echo Effect is currently on Amazon.


Please enjoy the following preview chapter of




The shadow of Olympus Mons stretched beyond Lieutenant Aaron Anders’s sight. Its false darkness obscured the Martian soil beneath him, the rocks underneath his boots clicking and scattering while he surveyed the latest outcropping.

Identified to offer the easiest access to older samples, this area held many promising models. Coming to the end of a long day of collecting, he went to wipe away the trickles of sweat inside his pressurized suit. His hand tapped on the glass of his solar visor, and he shook his head at the wasted motion.

The helmet’s light illuminated an odd shape in the formation to his left. Of course, these rocks should be odd and alien to him, the result of millions of years of wind and sand having taken their toll. But while wind abrasion could provide some strange results, this was something else.

He ran his hand over the area, surprised by its smooth definition.

The crackle of static followed by a familiar female’s voice jarred his daydreaming. “Lieutenant Anders, what’s your status?”

Aaron paused in his excavation, pressing the radio control on his suit.

“Captain Reyes, location’s approximately a kilometer from the ARES site. Currently collecting the last of the Zone C samples near the southern base of the mountain. Found some curious formations.”

He continued to work on the flat area in front of him, bringing out one of his brushes to sweep away the dust and sand. The more he worked on it, the more curious he was to see if anything interesting lay beneath.

The radio popped again.

“Go ahead and make your final measurements, then return to the ship.”

A short pause and before he could confirm the order, she spoke up again. “You should make note that in two hours, we’re going to be ringing in the New Year with all the formality of an Earth gathering.”

“Sir, you do realize that we’re still the better part of a week away from that particular day? Unless I have my calendar dates wrong.”

“Understood, but the brass back on Earth wants to pretty us up with the help of a few of their Hollywood friends. They’re talking music to try and make people cry with a great edit. And really, who are we to deny them that privilege? Therefore, they want a little lead time on this. We can all look forward to seeing it for years to come. Regardless, if you don’t hurry up and get back to the ship, all the pretty girls will be taken for the midnight kissing, leaving you all alone on fake New Year’s Eve.”

Aaron paused. Was that an invitation? Not a question he was going broach.

“Copy. I’ll make this one my last.”

As the years of dirt began to clear off, his suit’s trail of light glinted off a piece of the rock. A brush revealed not stone, but what appeared to be metal.


Not ore—but processed.

That fact alone sent a surge through him, his brain overloaded with conflicting thoughts. At each new pass with the brush, he managed restraint, careful not to damage this find. Aaron kept a delicate hand with whatever it was he uncovered, even if it wasn’t possible it existed in the first place.

Searching for an edge, he began fingering the metal’s uncovered grooves. His gloved hand traced around the object, and then the brush slipped from his grasp and he stumbled backward. Aaron closed his eyes hard as if being so close to the item tainted his vision.

Yet the piece, its grooves and edges now revealed, remained. His light continued to shine off the metal. No, not just metal, something more than that.

It was a plaque.

A metal plaque mounted on the side of the Martian mountain, with indentations that ran across its face, forming letters and words. Those very letters and words he recognized as English, even when his mind assured him that it could not be. It was dehydration. It was exhaustion. His brain attempted to make sense of it. Even explaining a single piece would be enough to ground him.

It could not exist, and yet…

There it was.

No matter how many times he blinked in hopes it would disappear.

There it was.






He recoiled and almost toppled over, stabilizing in a half-sitting, half-crouch position. It was as if electricity leapt from the plaque onto his fingers. From this position, his eyes strained to read the message again.

It was beyond impossible. And then his insanity deepened.

“Base, this is Lieutenant Darlington. I have…”

Darlington’s voice cut out. Captain Reyes’ voice broke through the silence. “Lieutenant Darlington repeat that last statement. We were unable to read you.”

There was a moment before Darlington made his reply. “Sir… I’m not entirely sure what I have here.”

Base crackled through. “Lieutenant, what is your current position?”

“I’m in Zone D… at another landing site.”

“Say again, Lieutenant? We’re not sure we understood your last message. Something has happened at your site?”

“Negative, Base. We have found another landing site. I repeat. We have located an additional landing site.”

Aaron froze in place. Minutes before, he’d questioned his eyesight—and now, he worried about his hearing. None of this was possible. Surely, NASA would have let them know if someone else beat the United States to Mars. On the other hand, perhaps this was the reason they assigned their landing to this planetary point.

He needed more than just his eyes for proof and brought out his camera. Taking a myriad of pictures of the plaque, Aaron made sure to note his exact location and began uploading them to the ship’s computer. Once the last picture was complete, only then did he move out to the other landing site.



Their momentous landing had taken place only days earlier, the world watching them speed across the vastness of space. They’d called them otherworldly celebrities, but Aaron didn’t know anything about that. What little information they’d received from NASA concerned itself more with the instrument readings.

While “third man to walk on the red planet” hadn’t provided the ring the word first conveyed, the moment he’d first stood on the alien world’s surface had left him speechless.

In those seconds, he had found the order of descent no longer mattered to him.

Reaching the perimeter of designated Zone D, he’d spotted five members of the ARES crew. While it was possible the plaque was an elaborate hoax or even a sign of dehydration, this was neither. Its existence meant that now, six people were seeing something that should not exist. Therefore, it was either fact or some sort of crew-wide space madness. Neither thought reassured him.

The scientific side of his brain began to compartmentalize the sights before him. It was clear as he watched the sun’s movement across the sky that it was the area’s proximity to the Mons that concealed this position upon their initial approach. It was more surprising Darlington found it at all, as the years had not been kind.

The lander base lay buried under shifting sands. A large transmission antenna jutted out of the ground, but otherwise, there was very little visible. Random pieces peeked out from their tomb. Had the late afternoon sunlight not glinted off the lander base, it would have stayed hidden. The site itself felt much like the original moon landing must have seemed to conspiracy theorists: a hoax or a galactic trick.

With Aaron moving down the slight incline to join the ARES crew, he could imagine the looks underneath their helmets. Stumbling a bit on his descent, it was everything he could do not to scream. Their brains must have been doing the same level of gymnastics, attempting to process the information slapping them in the face, and endeavoring to reconcile their previous shattered reality with a new one.

Most shuffled about the area as if unsure of what their duty should be in light of this illumination. Ensign Janic stood like a statue, afraid to interact with the zone, almost as if touching it would break the last barrier to this new reality. Something he wanted to avoid for as long as possible.

Captain Reyes took a different approach. Her hands traced along the bits of the lander base. A piece flecked off, and she stooped to pick up the debris, holding it up to the sun’s fading light. Delicately, she rolled it in her hands.

Beside her, Aaron reached out to touch the antenna and found it to be as solid and genuine as anything else on the planet. Yet his mind screamed at the impossibility of it all.

“Theories, anyone?” Captain Reyes’s voice jarred Aaron from his nightmarish thoughts.

Silence greeted the Captain. The rest of the crew looked to each other, waiting for someone to offer a solution.

“Nothing? Surely someone has a theory?”

“Is it possible that this is just… uh, leftovers from one of the Martian Landers missions back in the nineties?” Ensign Janic’s voice had no confidence behind it.

Another voice chimed in. “How long has this been here, you think?”

Aaron knew part of that answer and could thank the plaque.

“1979. Nearly forty years.”

All five turned and stared at him through their sun visors. Captain Reyes asked the question for them. “And how do you know that?”

“I found an… oddity… as I gathered rock samples. Something that didn’t make any sense to me at all until I heard Lieutenant Darlington’s communication. A metal plaque… a marker proclaiming that some kind of class trip made it to Mars. Apparently, it was the first class to visit Olympus Mons.”

“I’m sorry, Anders. You say you found a plaque? Are you sure?”

Aaron pointed around them at the half-buried site. “I am as sure about seeing the plaque as all of you are about seeing all of this.”

The Captain failed to deliver any kind of answer to that thought, and everyone else remained stunned. After a good minute of silence, she began pointing at the five of them and at the site around them.

“Alright, we document this as best we can in the next hour. Our orders have been to avoid venturing out in the Martian night. The sun’s going down, and I don’t want anyone outside after that. Regardless of whatever all of this is, it’s been here for some time, so I think we can safely assume it isn’t going anywhere in the next twenty-four hours. Take as many pictures as you can and upload them to the ship’s computer so we can get the big brains back on Earth to start analyzing it, figuring out exactly what we have on our hands here.”

No one moved.

“Did you not hear me? Double time, people! Move!”



Image by WikiImages from Pixabay

As they huddled around the radio and awaited Earth’s response to the strangeness, Ensign Janic noticed the time. A jittery young man, his dark hair pressed and matted against a head stuck with sweat. His body rocked in a constant rhythm, leg bouncing from excess energy. A contagious sort of nervousness enveloped him.

“Do you realize we’re two minutes from the planned New Year celebration? Or what would have been two minutes if we’d started on time. Now we’re probably a good ten minutes at least from getting to that point.”

The entire crew turned as one, glaring at him. Captain Reyes broke the awkwardness and said aloud what everyone else was thinking. Her shoulder-length jet-black hair was pulled back against her scalp by her perspiration, but it did nothing to conceal her sharp eyes. They pointed like daggers at the Ensign.

“After what we have out on the Martian landscape, you’re concerned with New Years? This is a completely new world we find ourselves living in. Whatever that is out there is far more important than staging a New Year’s bash for the sake of someone back on Earth.” She moved over closer to him, as if her proximity would make him understand. “Literally, everything we ever knew or thought we knew has been upended.”

“Mmm, sorry, Captain. It’s just…” Janic swallowed hard. “…the big balloon dropping on New Year’s Eve is the most normal, calming thing I can think of right now. And even though we’re a good ten days early, it feels like there should be something stable to focus on before everyone else’s world goes to shit.”

Her stern gaze cracked, and the shock on her face melted into a smile. She slapped the back of Janic’s head. “You are an idiot.”

Aaron could see that the moment of levity did exactly what the Captain had wanted. Everyone’s shoulders released a small measure of tension. Janic even stopped bouncing quite so fast in his chair. Aaron turned back to his station.

Increased solar flare activity had played havoc with their communications throughout the last day. NASA had warned them of as much in their preflight briefings, the head brass having debated whether it was worth it risking something going wrong with such a momentous occasion. Yet, if they’d waited for the flares to return to normal levels, they risked missing their departure window to return to Earth. Therefore, they had carried the ARES mission out. Since the initial landing a few days earlier, there had been sporadic contact with Earth. Even though it was unlikely they’d get through consistently for a few more days, the schedule served to keep everyone from freaking out at the isolation.

Their ship was as spacious as had been advisable by the suits back on Earth.

The main area was about the size of two large living rooms, while the sleeping area stood along the sides where their bunks were stacked on top of each other. Much better than anything man sent to the Moon, but a bit cramped when the entire crew was back at base and attempting to move around.

“Anders, any word from Houston?”

Aaron looked up from the radio and spun his chair around to face the crew’s leader. Always strong and in control of her surroundings, it was no surprise to anyone that they’d tasked her to lead this mission. She excelled at the physical stress tests and blew the curve in the mental challenges. Aaron thought he could sense something else behind those thoughtful looks.

“No, sir. We’re still in the dark.”

“Damn, we need to get them word of this.”

Aaron stood up to stretch and moved to near one of the portholes of the ship, taking a moment to reflect on the majesty that was the Martian sky at twilight. Like Janic, he needed to focus on anything other than what those pieces of metal meant. So instead, he concentrated on the mission itself. A short-term solution, his joy of being a part of the first manned voyage to Mars was a little dimmer than the previous evening. His brain raced with questions and possible theories for what he and the others saw.

Massive hallucination, Martian madness, or something even worse…

Still, he strained to see the bright-blue orb that resided out there. Were Samantha and Jacob looking back up at their sky through the telescope they’d bought Jacob all those months ago before Aaron boarded this ship? Today, he missed them more than on any other day so far. The separation sat on his chest even while he moved amongst the crew.

A handheld camera’s sudden appearance brought him back to reality.

Sergeant Tom Willis held onto it in a way that made it the opposite of a steady camera. With his more-and-more-mountain-man beard, he was the perfect choice for a proper director. Or at least, someone who should be behind the camera instead of in front of it, even if his technique sucked.

“Alright, Aaron, do you have anything to say to the good people back on Earth?”

Aaron forced a smile. “I thought we weren’t going to do this?”

Tom shrugged. “Janic’s an idiot, but he’s not completely wrong on this one. Plus, what else are we going to do? We can’t head back out until morning. Pending Houston sending a message, we can only speculate on what seeing that… stuff… means. Which leaves this camera. So, with all that said, Aaron Anders would you like to say anything to your family?”

“Hmm… Happy New Years to everyone back at home, especially my beautiful wife and great son, Samantha and Jacob. Dad will be home soon.”

Tom nodded and then moved on to interview the others while Aaron went back to staring out the viewport. Captain Reyes sat down next to him.

“So, on a scale of one to ten…”

Aaron did not wait for her to finish the question. “One million.”

Claudia smiled and nodded her head. “Same here.”

“You think the brass back at NASA are going to have any clue about what it is we found up here?”

Claudia began to answer and then stopped herself.

“I caught that. What?”

She leaned in close. “Odds are this information isn’t going to be something that’s ever broadcast out, even if they do figure out what the hell is going on. This is one of those things where you have to be on a need-to-know security clearance. And I’m pretty sure none of us will have that level of clearance in our immediate futures.”

Ensign Janic’s voice broke through the ship’s comm as he played the role of Dick Clark for the inhabitants of the ship.


Aaron looked over at his Captain and smirked.



“I remember something about a kiss at midnight?”


Claudia laughed. “I did say that, didn’t I? What will Samantha think?”


“I don’t think she’ll mind all that much when I’m home.”

“Well then, pucker up.”


“A little early, but what the hell, right?”

As their lips brushed against each other, Aaron noticed the blue star that was Earth growing a bit brighter.


The light exploded outward. Like a ripple on the water, it grew and grew, faster and faster.


Aaron broke the kiss. Claudia could see the fear in his eyes, but Aaron’s voice caught in his throat.


“What is it?”


He wanted to scream out, to warn everyone, but the light began to obscure the entire skyline.


Then his world burned white.


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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

A Love for Every Day – 5


Four years ago, I created a homemade book for my wife with all these quotes about Love from our favorite TV Shows and movies and books and then I added to it great quotes about love from history or just great quotes about love from anyone. The past three years, I’ve shared a few from the book around the holidays.

Part 1 is here.

Part 2 is here.

Part 3 is here.

Part 4 is here.


January 7


I see you everywhere, in the stars, in the river; to me you’re everything that exists; the reality of everything.

Virginia Woolf, Night and Day


February 8


Sometimes your nearness takes my breath away;

And all the things I want to say can find no voice.

Then, in silence, I can only hope my eyes will speak my heart.

Robert Sexton


March 3


Every girl needs a guy best friend to help her laugh when she thinks she’ll never smile again.



April 2


All your life, you will be faced with a choice. You can choose love or hate…

I choose love.

Johnny Cash


May 13


Love isn’t an act, it’s a whole life.

Brian Moore


June 2


There isn’t time, so brief is life, for bickerings, apologies, heartburnings, callings to account. There is only time for loving, and but an instant, so to speak, for that.

Mark Twain


July 9


August 14


Faith. You give it to the people you love, but the people who really deserve it are the ones who come through even when you don’t love them enough.

Veronica Mars

September 8


Never close your lips to those whom you have already opened your heart.

Charles Dickens


October 3


When a girl is in love,

You can see it in her smile.

When a guy is in love,

You can see it in his eyes.



November 2


This is true love-

You think this happens every day?

The Princess Bride



December 3




Here’s to showing your thanks for the loves in your life.


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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com


New Release – Tales from Vigilante City

Anthologies are a great smorgasbord of being able to get a wide breadth of stories that you might not have normally been exposed to. In addition, there may be an author or two whose story grabs the reader in a way that they want to seek other writings from them. For me, I just like a good short story. Something that can be consumed entirely in one sitting. Something that can ask a question or look at an event in a different way than a novel ever could. With novels, you have time. The writer can spin four or five different storylines and double that many characters over the course of three hundred pages. Short stories aren’t allowed those luxuries. You have to really focus in and cut through the noise.

I’m honored that my short story, “Anonymous”, has found a home in the Tales from Vigilante City Short Fiction Collection (which you can find here).

Vigilante City is the main city of the “gritty, street-level, superhero game set in the near future”, Survive This!! Vigilante City from Bloat Games. If it wasn’t apparent by the name, this is more on your Batman style of crime-fighter and less of the Green Lantern types (although the game allows you to tailor it to whatever style you want).

For my short story, I knew I wanted to submit something, but I didn’t have anything in the hopper that really fit into this genre. Weird that as much as I love comics, I tend not to write them in a prose format. And I was stumped with what to write. Was there a hero doing… something? Could I maybe write about a speedster? I love the Flash, but even that didn’t go anywhere.

Sometimes, though, you just need to let your subconscious mind work things out for you.

I’m not exactly sure why I started thinking less about the hero and more about the villains… but I do remember that I effectively wrote the story in the twenty-minute commute I had, literally speaking it out to an empty car in the hopes that I wouldn’t forget my idea before I could write it down. I wrote the first draft that night and finished it up only a couple of days later.

This is what I came up with: what if I wrote about a henchman instead of the big bad villain. What if this henchman has been doing this gig for long enough that he’s finally got that “one big score”? How would his story end?

Image by Allen_Henderson from Pixabay


“Anonymous” by John McGuire

“In Vigilante City, there are opportunities to be found whether you are on the right side of the law or the wrong side. However, the glitz and glamour of being the villain captured on the evening news isn’t all it is cracked up to be. And for one anonymous henchman, he has a plan to get his last score.”


In addition, I’m joined by some talented writers in the collection:

“I’m Not a Superhero” by Clare L. Deming

“BANG-BANG” by Egg Embry (hey, he writes for Tessera too!)

“The Icy Death of Dr. Furious” by Christopher Robin Negelein

“Marshwalk” by ‘Aerzyk’ Thomas Parent

“Midnight Ace and The Atomic Engine” by James M. Spahn


I just want to thank the guys and gals over at Bloat Games again. It’s very cool to get to play a bit in this kind of world! And remember, you can purchase it here!


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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

The Fall of Castle Carrick – A Goodreads Giveaway

Enter here for a chance to win one of 100 copies of The Fall of Castle Carrick!

Alex O’Riley has always tried not to fit in. In his simple life, at his tiny house, he paints quiet masterpieces while living as a hermit. But with one phone call from a brash New York lawyer, Alex learns he’s inherited Castle Carrick, the grandest fortress in Northern Ireland. At Carrick, strange and dark events begin to swirl ever closer to Alex, turning his hoped-for quiet life inside out.
Now, he must decide: flee from Ireland and give up his inheritance…or embrace the dark power which compels him to paint wondrous, yet terrifying things.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Fall of Castle Carrick by J. Edward Neill

The Fall of Castle Carrick

by J. Edward Neill

Giveaway ends November 12, 2020.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway


Interview with Richard A Knaak

I’ve written about Richard A. Knaak a couple of years ago when his Rex Draconis novels had a RPG Kickstarter running. In it, I talked about Knaak being one of those authors whose work really pulled me in and fleshed out worlds I’d either already invested in (Dragonlance) or he invented (The Dragonrealm series). Well, he has a new Kickstarter going on right now to help fund his newest work/world: Rogues Gallery.

I read in an interview with you that you initially broke into writing by driving up to TSR and just asking to speak to an editor. Which kind of blew my mind. That seems like a very big step to take. What made you think that approach might work for you?

I was young, naive, and very stubborn. It was only around an hour and a half away, but I thought I’d give it a try. Wouldn’t work these days, but I caught them at just the right moment. In a sense, though, it goes with what I often say.  You usually have to make your own breaks.

Before that trip, had you been pursuing more of a  traditional path prior to that? Submitting to agents and editors and crossing your fingers?

Yes, although mostly I submitted to publishers on my own since it’s often hard to get a GOOD agent without a sale. I’d almost sold a book on my own but could not get the ending to the satisfaction of the editor. Sadly, that novel was lost later. with both the paper copies and disks accidentally thrown out during a move.

What’s a typical writing day for you? Do you strive for a certain number of words or hours? Do you have any habits or techniques that allow you to juggle the various projects your working on?

I tend to have multiple writing sessions, most often in the afternoon and evening. I don’t have a set amount of words, but I seem fairly consistent. No real techniques, although a temporary change of scenery between writing sessions is helpful.

How do you manage your daily/family life with your creative work?

Writing is my life.

What’s your process look like when you’re writing? Do you go with the full outline or are you a fly by the seat of your pants type?

I’ll take notes and I likely have a very rough outlines, but nothing is written in stone. I’ll try to write a short paragraph or two about a chapter unless I’ve gotten to the point where I know what must happen. I generally know the basic climax. There is some flying by the seat of my pants, too.

Are there subjects or themes you find yourself coming back to again and again in your writing?

Redemption is a big one. Many of my characters have something in their background that confronts them in the present. It can be a really big problem, too. Also, characters who don’t start out to be a hero, but just do what must be done regardless of the consequences to themselves.

You’ve just launched a new Kickstarter for your next series. What is Rogues Gallery about?

Rogues Gallery concerns an alternate Chicago around 1930, where the sort of costumed adventurers and villains of the pulp era abound. However, the city’s protector, the Legionary, is missing. When it becomes clear that he is not likely returning soon, chaos overwhelms Chicago as various villains act. The police try their best but are failing. However, as the turmoil grows, conflict arises among the various rogues as their differing reasons for becoming who they are come into play. In fact, those reasons may be the only hope that the city has as the thus-far fruitless search for the Legionary continues.

We’ll also explore some of those reasons behind the rogues emerging in general, such as the aftermath of the Great War.

It seems that Rogues Gallery allows you to write in a genre that you haven’t dealt with much with your other novels (other than the Black City Saint series). What about the idea of that pulp era made you want to write this novel?

Well, in addition to having grown up in the Chicago area where Prohibition was something I heard about a lot, I’m a big fan of the Shadow, among other pulp characters.

Have you found it Is easier or harder to write a book that is somewhat set in the real world?

Well, there’s more research, but I enjoy it because it helps make the story feel more real while still giving you an adventure.

What is the plan with Rogues Gallery? Is this a standalone book, or do you have plans to release sequels down the road? How much do you already have mapped out?

This is designed to stand on its own, but I have ideas beyond it and, if the Kickstarter goes well, one of the stretch goals would likely lead toward a sequel. I know where I would go with the story if that happens.

You’re obviously a very successful writer, with many novels to your name over the years, so why go the Kickstarter route? Is there something specific about it that caused you to go this way?

This is a novel that is a little harder for publishers to pin down, as I learned even from Black City Saint. It also allows me to schedule it in a different way so that I can get it done as it needs to be. I will be doing the audiobook in concert with Hydra Publications, so, one aspect will be more traditional.

Your world of Rex Draconis was featured in a Kickstarter last year allowing backers to play in the world you’d devised. Is there any chance of being able to play an RPG set in the Rogues Gallery world?

Actually, the novels were a combination of an independent support setup and later publication through Hydra. The RPG material went through a very successful Kickstarter. I’ve actually had someone ask me about doing something with Rogues Gallery, so, yes, there may be some RPG alongside it. We’ll see.

Where can someone find out more about you?

I have a website, but I haven’t had the patience for it due to personal matters. I’ll get it up and running again soon. The best place to find me is on Facebook on my pro page at: https://www.facebook.com/richardallenknaak


I want to thank Richard for taking the time to talk to me and answer my questions. Make sure to check out Rogues Gallery on Kickstarter!


Also, just a reminder that my newest book, The Echo Effect is newly released and only $2.99 for the remainder of October! Check it out here!

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com