Bouncing Between Bottles – Memoirs of a Tipsy Author

He promises to drain one bottle per chapter. That’s the rule. There’s no breaking it.
And while deep in his cups, J Edward Neill takes readers on a sometimes funny, often poignant journey. Playful yet serious, humorous yet honest, his bounce between bottles delivers readers on a stroll through everything. It’s a lighthearted memoir blended with sharp philosophy. It’s social commentary blended with powerful cocktails.

Dating. Religion. Politics. That one time J Edward and his friend built a dam and met the world’s most relaxed water moccasin…
It’s all here.
One bottle per chapter.
One chapter every night…

*

*

Now available for every e-device worldwide. 

101 Questions for Single Parents

This book is for you if…

…you’re a sleep-deprived single mom who can name at least 50 Pokémon but can’t keep your kids’ names straight or remember where you parked your car at the grocery store.

…you’re a single father who sits in a morning work meeting, waiting to give a monthly report presentation, when suddenly you realize you forgot to remove the polish your daughter had applied to your finger nails (and half your hand) the night before.

…you ‘re the grandparent who can’t retire because you’re raising your young grandson alone. After an eight-hour work day, your nights are filled with homework, constructing cities out of Legos, and answer 2AM calls to chase monsters out from under the bed.

…you are, know, love, or want to get to know a single parent. Here are 101 ways to dig deep into the challenges and the joys of single parenting. The following questions are sometimes fun, sometimes thought-provoking, and always enlightening.

*

7 Questions for Single Parents

7 Questions

For Single Parents

…or really any Parent

* * *

*

*

Timing is Everything

 You’re a single parent, right?

(Even if you’re not, you can still answer this one.)

When dating a new person, how long should a single parent wait before allowing their new lover to meet the kid(s)?

*

Think Fast!

Using one or two-word answers only, describe what you’d do in each of the following scenarios:

  • Your child walks in after visiting your ex and claims they now believe the exact opposite of whatever your religious beliefs are
  • Your ex withholds two months of child support, claiming a financial hardship
  • Your two children (ages 10 and 15) announce they want to live exclusively with your ex-spouse
  • Your one child (age 7) announces they want to live exclusively with you and never, ever see their other parent

*

The Answer is 84

 At what age should a child have the legal right to choose to live solely with one parent?

*

Mecha-Ninja Tech-Savvy Godzilla Mom

From the following, choose one or more descriptions that would best fit your style of single-parenting:

Tiger (High discipline, emphasis on structure and academics)

Free-Spirited (Lower emphasis on structure. Let the kid do almost anything they want…within reason)

Soccer Mom/Dad (Athletics, exercise, and physical activity)

Techie (Video games & devices allowed. Emphasis on computer skills)

Skill Builder (Teach the kids to follow in your footsteps. i.e.; fixing cars, hunting, fishing, cooking, sewing, et cetera)

Culture Warrior (Teach the kids to become highly involved in society.)

*

*

Fight Club!

 You’re a single parent of two boys, ages 8 and 10.

You’ve had it with their constant bickering and sibling rivalry.

Your ex-spouse isn’t helping.

How do you handle their disputes?

  • Every time a fight goes down, I break it up and dish out the appropriate punishment.
  • I get involved in the serious conflicts, but let them handle the small stuff.
  • Ignore them. What kids?
  • I hand them each a sword and tell them to fight to the death!

*

All Fridays become National Holidays for Grocery Shopping and Mario Kart

Here’s your chance.

Create a new nationwide law that will apply only to single parents.

Your new law can be beneficial or punitive; it’s up to you.

If your law goes against single parents in any way, describe the penalty for breaking it.

*

Bragging Rights

 Do single parents have the right to be extra-proud?


*

So…

You like answering these kinds of questions? Go here.

Or maybe you’re tired of talking about your kids. In that case, go here.

*

A Free Short Story by J Edward Neill

 

*

*

* * *

The Skeleton Sculptor

 J Edward Neill

*

On the morning the hunt began, we’d had a hundred men.

After three months, we were down to eleven.

We all knew how it would end.

But only a few got to see it.

My name is Costas. Those who knew me would’ve said I listened more than I talked. They’d have been right, of course. I was always a watcher more than a doer. I’d grown up in the Master’s service, in a mountain city graven of pale stone. In the Master’s Citadel, we had towers taller than anywhere else in the known world. We had women more beautiful than the sun, moon, and stars. Why talk, I thought, when surrounded by such glory?

And so I watched. And listened. And learned.

It was a perfect place, my home. I loved it.

And if I weren’t dead, I’d return there and never leave again.

* * *

Most of what I remember of our ninetieth night out was that my feet hurt. I sat beneath the full red moon, the campfire snapping at my toes, and I rubbed my soles until my fingers went numb.

For a short while, I didn’t care about all the men who’d gone missing.

I didn’t care about the Master’s orders.

All that mattered was that my sandals were off, my armor was loose on my shoulders, and my belly was full of stew. After all, there weren’t many of us left to eat the food we’d started with. There seemed no sense in dying hungry.

“It’s ten days home,” a soldier murmured across the dying campfire. “Which means if we leave tomorrow, one of us will survive.”

I looked at the other men. Five of us were hunkered in the scrub. We were sulking by the fire, our gazes inky in the night. The other six were asleep in two tents atop a nearby hill. I could see the lights of their fires dying the same as ours. The flames were red, just like the moon.

There was no wind that night. Only the scarlet light on the silent earth.

“So,” Aios grumped on the fire’s far side, “the one who makes it back home…he gets to die on the Master’s gallows ‘stead of out here in the grass.”

I listened while the argument began.

“We don’t know the others are dead,” Nikolas grunted. “Could be they’re hiding. Could be they’re lost in the hills somewhere.”

Nikolas wasn’t wrong, not exactly. We’d never actually found any of the bodies. But Aios knew better. So did I. Not that I said anything.

“As likely missing as swimming on the moon.” Aios glanced skyward. “They’re all dead and you know it.”

Philok, biggest of our cadre, rolled his massive shoulders. Tanned to gold by the sun, still packed into his hard leather hauberk, he was the only one of us who still looked fierce.

If any of us survive, I thought, it’ll be him.

“I want it to come,” Philok rumbled. “Let it skulk out of the darkness. I’ve a spear for it. There’ll be no more of our bones. Only its.”

It was wishful thinking, and we all knew it. Aios shook his head. Nikolas just looked afraid. Leuk peered over the fire, moonlight in his eyes, and went back to eating from his wooden bowl. He never talked, our Leuk. He was even quieter than me.

“Spears don’t kill ghosts,” murmured Aios.

“Mine might.” Philok glared.

Our huge friend had a point. His spear, a man and a half tall, leaned on a boulder near the fire. Its haft was as thick as most men’s forearms, its tip catching the moonlight just so. I’d seen Phi skewer a boar with it once. It’d split the poor, squealing thing in two.

But our quarry wasn’t a boar. It didn’t squeal. It didn’t die.

All it did was take the living away. And never bring them back.

The men argued more. They’d done the same every night for weeks. But by now no one bothered to get truly angry. We all figured if we started killing each other, it’d only make our quarry’s work easier.

Easy enough for the Ghoul already, I thought.

I rubbed my feet one last time and went to sleep.

 

* * *

It had started ages ago, this problem of ours.

It’d begun before I’d been born. Before the Master’s great-grandfather had been born.

Before any of us.

Back then, before the Citadel, before all the pale stone cities had sprung up along the coast, it had been a better world. At least, that’s the yarn our elders spun around the hearths at night. And so that’s the tale we believed.

A fine, quiet realm,’ they used to say. ‘Green pastures, hillocks teeming with olive trees, golden sun shining on endless vineyards.’

And no Ghoul.’

I’d never cared about the stories. Not as a boy, anyhow. In the Citadel, home of the Master, there’d never been any ghosts. The clap of hard sandals on marble streets had been our music, not the howls of mothers who’d lost their sons or or husbands whose wives had never come home. The stories we cared about had been of wars fought and won, of islands conquered, and of white-sand shores. We dreamed of golden coins in our pockets and raven beauties that would one day be ours if we served with honor in the Master’s guard.

We’d known nothing about the Ghoul.

And our lives had been better for it.

* * *

In the morning we woke to shouts again.

“It’s Saulos!” I heard Nikolas scream. “How? He slept in his armor! He’s gone, but his breastplate’s still here!”

“Where were you?” one of the hill-camp soldiers cursed another. “You were on watch! You were supposed to be guarding us!”

“I was on guard! I—”

Amid their shouts, I clawed away sleep’s last cobwebs and sat up beneath the dawning sun. It was hot already, and I was tired despite having slept so well. To defend against the Ghoul’s nightly visits, the others had taken to sleeping for only an hour or two at a time, if at all. Not me. I couldn’t do it. I didn’t want to be awake when death came for me, and so I’d almost always slept full nights…and weathered my nightmares alone.

I shambled up the hill. My sword pattered against my outer thigh, and the straps of my armor dangled without care. A year ago, I’d been a fresh recruit in the Master’s service, a newly-minted member of his honored guard.

And now what am I?

Dead.

I came to Saulos’ empty tent. It was just as the others had shouted. There lay his armor, all red leather and polished steel. Saulos had been a captain. His armor was better than ours, or at least prettier. It didn’t much matter. It lay on the ground, almost untouched. It looked like someone had snipped the straps off and carried him away while he was sleeping. There wasn’t even any blood.

As I stood there, the others fell into their ritual panic. Some muttered prayers. Others shouted that we should return to the Citadel at once. Both cries were familiar. Neither really mattered.

One of us alive is better than nothing!” cried a soldier whose name I hadn’t bothered to learn.

“The hell it is!” argued Aios. “You think the Master will understand when one man marches up and explains ninety-nine of his brothers are dead? He’ll smile, name the survivor a deserter, and hang his body over the cliffs for the gulls to laugh at.”

Aios was right. If there was one truly hard thing about life in the Citadel, it was the Master’s law. He didn’t suffer failure, not from his fabled soldiers. If our hundred never came home, it wouldn’t matter. He’d have a feast, sacrifice a few bulls, and send out two-hundred more men.

Though somehow I knew the result would be the same.

The men argued. It got vicious. Someone cursed the Master’s name. Someone else shoved Nikolas in the dirt. Philok shook his spear, and everyone finally fell silent.

I don’t know why I stopped watching and started talking.

Might’ve ended better had I not.

“There’s one place we haven’t looked,” I chimed in.

“Where? What place?” grunted Philok.

“The lighthouse. It’s only a day south.”

“Why there?” spat Aios. “It’s just one cripple in a rotten tower. He’s probably a hundred days dead. Besides, the lighthouse doesn’t work. Doesn’t need to. Ships don’t use that route anymore. They come up the river.”

“He’s right.” Nikolas stood and dusted off his armor. “We’re trying to help the villagers, not some lonely old cod stuck in a tower.”

They were right, of course. We’d not help anyone by marching down to the sea and visiting one old man in his tower. The lighthouse keeper didn’t even have a family. Never had, not that we knew of. Even if he was still alive, we’d not do the countryside any favors by rescuing him.

But that wasn’t my point. Maybe it should’ve been, but it wasn’t.

“Nikolas, you still have the map?” I blurted.

“Aye,” he said.

“Well. Fetch it.”

He did. In moments he marched down the hill and back up. The others stared at me like I’d just slapped the sun out of the sky. Wouldn’t have been the worst thing, considering how hot it was.

Nikolas brought me the map. It was big, the Master’s chart, and I unfurled it on the hillside while several others knelt beside me.

“There.” I pointed to a village by the sea. Veni, jewel of the south, sat on a beautiful beach right in the map’s center. It was a new city, paid for by the Master’s coin. We’d been there a month prior. None of us had wanted to leave. Until the villagers had made us.

“So it’s Veni. What about it?” said Aios.

I dragged my finger eastward along the map. I stopped at a nameless black ink-blot. It was the lighthouse. I tapped it twice.

“We’ve been to every other village, tower, and crumbling old fort along the sea. But not the lighthouse. Not there.”

No one could disagree with that. We’d marched to dozens of hamlets, fisherman’s wharves, and sad little huts along the coast. All of them had lost people over the years. By the dates they’d given us, we’d figured it out. One person had gone missing every night. Just one, never more, never fewer.

For hundreds of years.

And we’d only just now worked up the courage to try to stop it.

“The lighthouse,” I said, “it’s right in the middle of it all.”

I traced a circle with my finger. All the places that had lost people, all of them, lay within it. And in the circle’s center sat the lighthouse.

The men stared for several moments. I figured Aios would be the first to argue. He was, after all, the smartest of us. If anyone ever forgot it, he was always sure to remind them.

“Now just you wait.” Aios didn’t disappoint. “The Master knew about the lighthouse. He sent men last year to scour the old tower up and down. They didn’t find a thing.”

“Aye,” agreed Philok. “I remember. That’s what started this whole mess. While our soldiers were in the lighthouse, people were disappearing in cities three and four days away. That’s when the Master decided to start the hunt.”

I closed my eyes. I knew what I wanted to say, just not how to say it.

“What if the Ghoul doesn’t come home every night?” I finally exhaled.

“So it goes out on rounds?” Aios let out a morbid laugh.

“Maybe so,” I countered. “But it still has to have a lair, right? A place to retreat? What if it’s the lighthouse?”

“Nice theory, but after all these years the lighthouse would be stuffed with bones a thousand men high,” said Aios. “The Master’s men would’ve noticed, I think.”

“Or they’d have found the bodies along the way,” murmured Nikolas.

And they’ve never found any of the missing, I thought.

They’re right. I’m stupid to bring it up.

But wait. There was something else I wanted to say.

Maybe it’d been a dream. Maybe something else. If the morning hadn’t been so damnably hot, chances are my brain wouldn’t have cooked and I’d have never remembered it.

What was it I’d thought of?

Was it a nightmare I’d had?

A memory of my childhood?

“I think I was born out here,” I said.

“What?” Aios made a face.

Several of the other soldiers stood and left. I knew what they thought. They thought I was a fool wasting their time. I didn’t blame them. I heard them talk about fleeing home to the Citadel. They didn’t want anything to do with the map or hunting the Ghoul. They wanted to be home in their beds.

But Aios, Philok, Leuk, and Nikolas remained.

“I was born out here,” I continued. “Not in Veni. But close. It was near the sea. I remember my mother. I think I do, anyway. And I remember the rocks. And the lighthouse.”

“No you don’t,” spat Aios. “You were born in the Citadel, same as us. It’s just another of your dreams.”

“What if—” I started.

“I wasn’t born in the Citadel either.” Philok came to my rescue. “I’m from the mountains. My father was dying, so they brought me down to the Master’s fortress. My family figured I’d never have a life unless I served in the guard.”

Aios looked stunned. I nodded at Philok, grateful.

“I remember walking on the shore.” I stared off into the sky. “My mother sent me off to play while she worked. At least, I think she did. One day, I wandered near the lighthouse. I remember it. It was above me. Way above. And I remember seeing something in the cliffs beneath it. Was it holes? Breaks? Cracks in the rock?”

“Holes?” Aios shook his head.

“I think he means caves,” said Nikolas.

I looked at the three of them. They’d been my brothers for the last year. They knew I didn’t talk much, but when I did, I meant what I said.

“That’s right.” My eyes were wide. “Caves.”

It hadn’t been a dream.

I’d just remembered a part of my childhood.

And my mother, who’d I been made to forget.

* * *

Clouds gathered over the sea. Greys and blues smoldered in the sky, darker than the water. The hour was only late afternoon, yet the world looked ready for twilight.

We were terrified.

We’d every right to be.

The five of us mounted a last hill and caught sight of the distant lighthouse. It was an old, old thing, its stones bleached skeleton-white. It’d been built long before the Master’s time, long before any of us. I couldn’t help but wonder how many of the Ghoul’s prey the lighthouse had watched vanish.

One every night.

Hundreds of years.

I couldn’t make the numbers work in my head.

We’d walked all day. Ever since we’d split up from the other soldiers, I hadn’t said a thing. Phi, Aios, Nikolas, and Leuk had decided to join me. The others had chosen to go back to the Citadel and face the Master’s wrath.

Our group hadn’t lost anyone last night.

And so we all knew what had happened.

“I hope it took Diok,” chuffed Aios as we walked down the hill and into the fields between us and the lighthouse. “Never liked that prick.”

Nikolas sighed, “Maybe it’ll follow them instead of us. That’ll give us what…three more days?”

“Maybe.” Philok’s knuckles were white around his spear. “But what if there’s more than one Ghoul?”

None of us had ever thought of that before.

We shivered the notion away and kept walking.

The five of us drew nearer the lighthouse. Switches of dry grass skirled at our waists, dancing wildly in the wind. My feet hurt again. My ankles, too. The grass had nicked me in a hundred little places. If the Ghoul didn’t kill me, I half-believed the fields might drown me.

At least it’s not hot anymore.

By the time we came to the cliff, upon which the lighthouse stood tall and formidable, the rain began. The wind hit us and the storm’s droplets beaded on our sunburned skin. I looked my companions over. To a man, we savored standing in the rain. It was an island of peace in a world of despair.

“Are we going in?” Nikolas nodded.

“The lighthouse?” Aios smirked. “Why should we? We know what’s in there. Nothing.”

“Might be wise to weather the storm in there,” Philok held his huge palm open to catch the rain.

Aios looked annoyed. But then again, he always did.

“Fine.”

I knocked at the lighthouse door. The oak plank must’ve been two-hundred years old. It felt soft as soap beneath my knuckles. I rapped it ten times before Philok pushed me aside and kicked the thing in. I’d hoped the old man would answer. But the moment Nikolas fired a torch and walked into the great round room beyond the door, we knew the lighthouse had gone untended for months.

“Think he died all alone in here? Somewhere up there near the top?” Aios’s voice echoed in the void.

“Maybe the Ghoul got him,” said Philok.

“Why would it bother?” Aios cracked. “Old man was damn near a hundred. Pointless to kill what’s already dead.”

Except the Ghoul doesn’t care, I almost said. He takes children. Pregnant women. Venerable old men.

And soldiers.

We used pieces of the broken door to light a fire. With it blazing, we peeled off our armor and hunkered down in the shadows. The rain shattered the world beyond the lighthouse walls, harder than anything I’d ever heard. It didn’t feel natural. Bitter breezes flew into the windows, and stray drops of water swirled into the room, stinging our shoulders. No matter where I sat, the rain found me. I finally settled on the spot farthest from the fire. Leuk, stoic and silent, shook his wet hair when he sat down beside me.

“Maybe you were right.” Aios smirked at me while cooking up a pot of stew. “This place is creepy. I hate it. That old man’s body is probably up those stairs. The Ghoul’s probably waitin’ for us.”

“How do you suppose we kill it? I mean really, really kill it,” asked Nikolas.

“The Ghoul?” Philok rubbed his forehead.

“No, the fucking rain,” quipped Aios. “Of course he means the Ghoul.”

Philok didn’t flinch. “This spear.” He flicked the blade of his man-and-a-half tall weapon. “Or Costas’ sword. Or Leuk’s daggers. Doesn’t matter. Everything dies.”

“Does it?” Nikolas looked afraid again. “It’s been a few hundred years, right? It should’ve been dead by now. What if it can’t die? What if it’s…forever?”

Philok thought about it for a moment, and then huffed. “There’s probably no such thing as the Ghoul. It’s probably a family of murderers. Might be they’ve passed down the family secret over the generations. Fathers teaching sons…hell…mothers teaching daughters. ‘Here’s how best to kill a man, lassie,’ they tell the little ones. ‘A drug in his wine to make him sleep, then a knife between his ribs. No one’ll be the wiser. Not even the Master.’”

No one laughed except Aios.

I might’ve known.

We set up a watch. I went first, else I’d never have woken for second shift. The rain raged as I tightened my armor and laid my sword atop my thighs. I probably should’ve been afraid. As it turned out, I’d little energy left for fear.

I didn’t remember falling asleep that eve. I suffered no dreams, no nightmares. One moment I was sitting beside the fire, the mist collecting on my shoulders.

And when I woke, Nikolas was gone.

The others were still dozing. It’d been Aios’s turn to watch, but he was curled up beside the long-dead fire, looking little different than a sleeping boy. Dawn’s first glow crept into the high windows. In a pool of soft light lay Nikolas’s armor, his blanket, and his bowl.

And his sword, still in its scabbard.

If I shout, it’ll go like it always does, I thought.

I’ll be quiet. 

I knelt beside the patch of stone Nikolas had slept on. He’d lain there for some time, it appeared. The mist had gathered all around him, but his blanket was dry. I touched the brittle fabric, and in the cold light examined it.

No blood.

Not torn.

Almost like he left willingly.

And then there was his armor. The straps were sliced clean through, the same as scissors through twine. Looking at the hunk of leather and steel, I wasn’t sure why we even bothered with armor anymore. The Ghoul wasn’t afraid of it.

The Ghoul wasn’t afraid of anything.

I looked at my hand. My knuckles were bloodless. I realized I was squeezing my sword.

For all the good our weapons do.

I woke Philok first. He came to with a jolt, seizing my throat in his massive hand.

“Phi—” I coughed.

He let go of me. As I knelt there gasping, something in my eyes gave the truth away.

“Who’s gone?” he rumbled.

“Niko.” I sagged.

“No blood? No one heard him?”

“Nothing.” I rubbed my neck. “It’s morning now. He’s only been missing for a little while.”

We woke the others. For once, there was no panic. Leuk said nothing. He looked stoic as ever, no different than if he’d slept in his bunk at the Citadel. Frowning, Aios kicked at Nikolas’s things and glared at the rest of us, but kept his curses beneath his breath. This was what it had come to. We were dying one by one, and we hardly even minded anymore.

After a time, Philok dropped a helmet on his head, shouldered his spear, and marched to the bottom of the stairs that led to the lighthouse’s top. The weathered stone stairwell twisted up through a gaping hole in the ceiling. No sunlight spilled down from above. The inky darkness of the lighthouse’s hollow heart oozed down onto Philok’s face.

“I’m going up there,” he grunted.

I expected an argument. But Aios plucked up Niko’s sword, unsheathed his own, and nodded at Philok with both blades in hand. “I’m coming with you,” he said.

Leuk and I had no other choice.

With Philok in front and Leuk in the rear, the four of us stalked up the stairs. We emerged into the void above the room we’d slept in, and we saw slender shafts of light carving pallid lines into the darkness. The windows on the lighthouse’s sides were shuttered. The climb to the tower top would be done mostly in shadow.

Step by step, we marched. The lighthouse felt a thousand steps high. The musty air filled our lungs, while plumes of dust from our footfalls floated the same as stars at midnight. We wound our way up through the cold emptiness, at last arriving at the door to the lighthouse’s top. None of us knew what to expect. I held my sword with no more confidence than when I’d first set foot in the Master’s training garden.

“If anything’s on the other side,” Phi whispered, “kill it. Don’t stop cutting until your blades are down to nubs.”

We all nodded. Aios cracked a wicked smirk. Philok shouldered the door with all his might, breaking the door to pieces.

The sunlight poured over us.

We invaded the lighthouse’s top room. We were an army, the four of us, a cloud of fear and steel. Philok roared when he went in, and Aios growled. Leuk and I didn’t make a sound, but we were ready. Our blades were as sharp as any in the world. And they should’ve been, for we’d never used them.

But there was nothing in the room.

No caretaker.

No bodies.

No sea of bones or carpet of skin.

Philok looked disappointed. Halting in the sunlight, he rapped the butt of his spear on the floor and glared at everything. As for me, I couldn’t help but be relieved. I let my sword sag and my shoulders droop. After all, the sunlight in the tower’s top was warm and soothing. It swam over me, gliding in from each of thirty windows, sparkling on the giant glass lens in the room’s center.

I figured it was the last time I’d ever feel warm.

No. I didn’t figure. I knew.

“It wasn’t ever up here,” cursed Aios. “We’re idiots.”

“We still had to check,” argued Philok.

“Yes…well.” Aios shook his head. “We checked. And nothing. So now what?”

“Costas’s caves,” said Philok.

I could tell Aios had expected Phi to say it. “No. Not yet,” he grumbled. “Breakfast first.”

Too soon, we abandoned the warmth of the lighthouse’s top. I felt sad to leave so quickly. Halfway down into the dark, I realized I’d never even taken the chance to look out across the sea.

At the bottom, Aios prepared breakfast for us. It was hard tack and fried cakes softened with hot water, same as most mornings. It didn’t much matter. Cooking had always calmed Aios, so we never complained.

With only a rotten beam of lighthouse timber to burn, Aios’ kindling of choice that morn was Nikolas’s satchel. Nikolas didn’t need it, after all. But just as Aios snared the leather bag and began cutting it to shreds with his knife, I stopped him.

“Wait,” I said, “Something’s in there.”

Aios made a face. “It’s just a book. Tear out the pages. It’ll save us from sending Leuk out to collect things to burn.”

“No…” I grabbed the bag and pulled the book out. “Just use the satchel. Let me keep this. I want to see what Niko wrote.”

Aios squeezed his eyes shut. He looked like he wanted to kill me. “Fine,” he muttered. “But remember; the dead can’t read.”

While Aios cooked and Philok rummaged through the rest of Niko’s things, I sat in a pool of sunlight and cracked the book open. It was well-made, a far finer thing than Nikolas had any right to possess. I couldn’t believe that with all my hours of watching, I’d never seen him with it. And then, when Philok grunted that he’d found a quill and a vial of ink, it hit me. I understood.

Nikolas had been keeping a journal.

The book has the Master’s mark on it.

Niko had always been a lazy soldier.

But he’d learned to write far sooner than the rest of us.

The rest of the world fell away, and soon it was just me and the journal. I read dozens of entries. Nikolas had done his work well. He’d catalogued how much food we’d had, our movements beyond the Citadel, the people we’d questioned, and the names and ranks of the soldiers that had vanished. He’d even written the dates they’d gone missing.

I skimmed across as much as I could. Most of it was trivial, but the deeper I read, the more I saw of Niko’s personal comments.

And the more I was filled with dread.

He’d written things like:

One soldier from Camp B gone in the night. Left his armor and sword. No blood. Same night: A man from Camp C swore he saw a shadow moving. The camps: an hour apart.

 Rained hard last eve. Saulos’s tent-mate was taken. Grigora says he found tracks in the mud. Not one set, but two. Not sandal prints. Bare feet.

 Another gone last night. Bibi – Captain, 1st Company. But Camp D, upon returning from the city, says that Veni lost someone that same eve. It’s always been one a night. But maybe this was more.

Does it mean two Ghouls?

 Occurred to me that we should look beyond our borders. Ask if others have vanished on the same dates. I know we can’t – they’re our enemies in the North and West, but still.

More than two Ghouls?

 Why is it hunting only soldiers now?

 Does it know we’re coming?

 Will it stop?

 

I closed the cover. I couldn’t read any more. Aios dropped a wooden bowl in my lap and snorted. “Boring read?” he chuffed. “Books are for scholars, Cos. Now give it over. We’ll use it to make a fire for tonight’s dinner.”

“No.” I pushed his hand away. “I’m going to finish it.”

“Finish it?”

“Yes. Reading it. And writing it.”

“Why? You’ll be dead soon.”

“I know, but—”

“Fine. Keep the damn thing. Whatever helps you die better.”

I ate in silence. I say silence even though Aios talked the entire time. He rambled about how our lives had become meaningless, how our deaths wouldn’t matter because we had no children, no lands, and no possessions beyond our weapons and armor. Maybe it was true. Maybe we were dead men no matter what we did. But when he said meaningless, it didn’t sit right with me. Whether the Ghoul killed us for sport or the Master hung us for being failures, it seemed wrong to just let it happen.

I have to make it meaningful, I thought.

The journal. I’ll finish it.

Maybe someone will find it.

After breakfast, a deep quiet overtook the four of us. There was no fleeing for the Citadel now, we knew. Unless the Ghoul abandoned his hunt, we’d all be dead within eight days. And so we sat there for a time, sharpening our swords needlessly. I like to think we dwelled on the purpose of our lives, the good things we’d seen, and all the glory we’d hoped for.

But I knew better.

Philok dreams of destroying the Ghoul. Of being heroic.

Aios dreams of how he’d have done it if he were the Master.

Leuk dreams of the life he wanted. Of what might’ve been had he finished his twenty years of service.

And what do I dream of?

Death.

And then it ended. Philok stood, spear in hand, and looked at us. We didn’t say anything to him. We gathered our swords, strapped on our armor, and doused the fire. In a short, ragged line, we trailed Phi out into the sunlight.

And for all the glamour of the great blue sky, we felt the shadow upon us.

We left the lighthouse and walked to the cliff’s edge. As the tower fell behind us, I looked over my shoulder at it. The edifice was white as death. Its sides were smooth and ashen, its outer walls seamless. The old thing looked like it had sprouted right out of the cliffs. I was glad to be rid of it. I don’t know why, but I promised myself I’d write about it in Niko’s journal.

“Costas.” Aios’ voice pulled me out my daydream. “Wake the hell up. We can’t get down from here. See?”

I gazed over the cliffs and onto the dark ocean. The water boiled over the shore far below, the waves black and foaming. I imagined if one of us fell over the edge, we could’ve counted to ten before we hit the rocks. Aios was right. From our vantage, there was no way to reach the shore.

Or the caves. 

“We’ll have to go—” I began.

“To Veni,” Philok grunted.

In hindsight, I should’ve suggested we find another way down. A quicker way.

But Veni it was.

We marched.

And marched.

And marched.

That eve, tired and sweating, we descended out of the cliffs. Veni lay before us, sprawling and fresh beneath the violet sunset. It wasn’t a big city, but it was still beautiful at twilight. Strands of hanging lamps lit its rooftops the same as the stars. The waves were too rough for sailing, but I could see the masts stark against the sky, and I could hear the people’s laughter. I envied them. But I knew as soon as we soldiers were gone, the Ghoul would go back to hunting at random.

Some from the countryside.

And some from Veni.

“We shouldn’t go in there,” I said to the others.

“Why not?” Aios stared at me.

“We’re bad luck. We’re hunted men. Veni knows us. Even if they don’t kick us out, we’ll not be welcome.”

“The Master’s soldiers can’t be refused,” Aios argued. “If they deny us, it’s under pain of death.”

I looked down at the dirt path leading into the city. Sandy scrub and lonely trees pocked the twilit way. The sky was cloudless; no rain threatened us. There were a thousand places we could camp if we liked.

“I just don’t think we should,” I said. “The city can’t protect us. No one can.”

Aios looked ready to split me in half. “Fine. We’ll stay the night out here,” he said. “In the sand. In the dirt. If the Ghoul comes, you’re first.”

I almost hoped so. Not because I wanted to die. But because I wanted to know.

Beneath the endless stars, we made our silent camp. No one from Veni noticed us. Or if they did, they didn’t care. I’d rarely seen a night sky so bright as that eve. A million white pinpricks in a perfect black sheet, it seemed. Leuk and I stared at it for a long, long while.

By the dying campfire, I wrote my first words in Niko’s journal:

We make for caves east of Veni. Four of us left: Costas, Philok, Leuk, and Aios.

 We don’t hope to find anything. We’re going anyway. If nothing’s there, it’s my (Costas’) fault. I convinced them to do this by a feeling in my gut.

 And there’s something else.

I think the lighthouse is made of bones.

I closed the journal. I needed to focus. We’d agreed to do a double watch: Leuk and I first, then Phi and Aios.

I worried I’d fall asleep.

But it was Aios who drifted off during his watch.

And Philok who went missing.

I woke with Aios’ boot in my ribs. It hurt. I squinted into the early sunlight and saw him standing over me. He scowled, Phi’s spear shaking in his grasp. He’s gone mad, I thought. He’s going to save the Ghoul some trouble and run me through. But he didn’t. He just glowered and spat in the sand.

“Get up,” he said.

I complied.

“The caves. Take us now. Let’s finish this.”

“But—”

“It’s fine if nothing’s there. I won’t blame you. I might kill you, but I won’t blame you.”

We didn’t eat breakfast. We didn’t mourn Philok. Walking ahead of Aios and his spear, Leuk and I led the way down to the shore. At the ocean, a lone child saw us marching. He stood in the foamy shallows, throwing rocks into the water. He smiled at us, watching us long enough to see us pass into the shadow of a stark and terrible cliff. I thought it strange to see the boy all alone. He reminded me of myself, of all the mornings I must’ve spent doing the same as he.

We walked into the shadows. And he was gone.

“I dreamed last night,” I said as I walked on the narrow strip of sand between the ocean and the cliff.

“No one cares,” answered Aios.

“I heard a woman laughing.” I ignored him. “She whispered something in my ear. She had dark hair. She was beautiful. I didn’t want to wake up, even with you kicking me.”

“A shame you’ll never meet her,” he mocked.

Maybe I will, I wanted to say.

We marched. Was it for many hours? Or much less? I couldn’t have said. The ocean crashed against the rocks and swirled at our knees, drowning out all the world’s sounds. Guarded by the mighty cliff, the sunlight never quite reached us. But the shadows and the cold couldn’t slow me. I slogged on, convinced I was going to my doom, certain I still had some part to play.

This is what madness feels like, I thought. All these years of not much talking, and now the loudest voice is in my head.

And then we came to it, a great dark hole in the cliff wall. The ocean roared in and out of it, and the rocks like teeth crowned its top and sides. Twenty men standing side-by-side could’ve marched into the cavern’s mouth.

And all of them would be eaten.

“Fucking lovely.” Aios marched past me. He still had Phi’s spear in his grasp, and he was wet up to his chest in seawater. The salt stuck to him, and us, in powdery white patches. We were miserable. We hadn’t eaten all day.

“Got a lantern?” he spat at Leuk. Leuk shook his head.

“Torches,” I murmured. “Just three.”

“We’ve got some daylight left.” Aios pointed Phi’s spear into the darkness. “Let’s go kill this thing. Just think…we’ll be heroes.”

I fired a torch, and in we went.

We were fifty steps deep when I realized what we’d gotten ourselves into. The ocean’s rush faded at our backs, and the absence of light swallowed us. I squinted in the dark and saw other tunnels, black branches trailing into the underworld. I remembered a story someone had once told me about such places, and why no one should ever go into them.

“Four different tunnels.” Aios saw them, too. “Wonder how deep they go.”

I wished Philok had still been alive. He’d have known which tunnel to choose.

“That one’s half underwater.” Aios nodded at the farthest tunnel. The black hole gazed back at us, smiling as if aware of our fear.

“So we’re going into this one.” Aios pointed his spear at the nearest cave. It sat above us, its archway crusted in ancient limestone. A pile of broken shells sat beneath its mouth, deposited by the sea. It was the narrowest of the four.

And the darkest.

Leuk and I didn’t argue. We clambered up the shells ahead of Aios. At the tunnel’s mouth, I held the torch into the darkness and saw that it went down. Way down. Aios climbed up beside me, snared the torch from my grasp, and smirked at me as he marched straight into the blackness. “Three men wide,” he laughed at us. “It’s perfect. Not scared, are you?”

We were, but it didn’t matter.

Down, down we went into the cave. I couldn’t believe any place in the world could be so dark. The ocean’s crash fell away to nothing. The only sounds were the torch’s snaps and our rotten boots squelching on the stone.

We walked for what felt like an hour. Then two. The tunnel never narrowed, never widened. The air tasted stale. White powder sloughed off the walls wherever we touched, and our boots left footprints in places no other men had ever been. I was sure night had fallen outside, but I’d have given anything to be back out there, to let the Ghoul steal me from sleep instead of moldering away after a long, slow walk to the world’s bottom.

Our first torch died. We lit another. Moments later, we slunk out of the tunnel and into an unthinkably vast grotto. It was truly massive, the cavern we’d found. Our torch felt like a candle in the great darkness. Far above, a lone shaft of moonlight cut through a hole in the ceiling and pooled in the grotto’s center.

“What is this place?” I whispered.

“A cave. Big as Veni.” Aios’ gaze was wide and black. “A giant, empty coffin.”

“No. Not empty,” I observed.

I’d seen caves before. In the mountains east of the Citadel, we’d walked through tunnels and grottos. They’d had growths in them, daggers of lime and ancient rock. There had been beauty in those caves, elegance in the way nature had carved them.

But the shapes in this cave were different.

They were sculptures.

Something had made them.

We didn’t say a word. We were too scared to talk, and too weary. Wandering out into the pool of moonlight, we gazed at the many hundreds of pale, ghostly statues standing on the grotto’s floor. They were graven of white stone, and in my heart I knew they were made of the same stuff as the lighthouse.

Bones.

Human bones.

Most of the statues were of people. We glimpsed beautiful maidens holding decanters. We saw smiling children, some holding hands and standing in great rings, others all alone. As we walked through the pale, silent gallery of thousands, we saw old men and venerable ladies, soldiers and wealthy lords, beggars, fishermen, and stoic hunters. The sculptures were beautiful in a way. Whoever, or whatever had carved them had a talent like no other.

Somewhere in the midst of it all, Leuk tapped me on the shoulder. I looked back and saw horror in his eyes.

“What is it?” I felt myself turn pale.

He pointed at a row of sculptures removed from the rest. I took Aios’ torch and forged into the dark. We came to it, the part of the cavern struck least by the moonlight, and we stood there with our mouths open.

“Monsters,” I exhaled.

“Demons,” we heard Aios whisper.

The sculptures in the shadows were not of men or maidens, children or village elders. They were of monsters, malevolent and skeletal, with talons in place of hands, pale knives instead of teeth, and faces made of nightmares. Some had horns. Others had tails. All of them had strange writing on their skin, words and sigils from a language none of us knew. But the true terror lay in their empty eye sockets, which were huge and full of evil.

As I stood there, breathing not at all, I believed in my heart these statues mimicked creatures that must have existed. “How else could they look so real?” I uttered without knowing it.

Aios pointed his spear at one of the horrific sculptures. He looked wild with fear, sweating and cursing beneath his breath.

“We have to destroy them,” he hissed.

“How?” I argued. “There’s thousands. Tens of thousands.”

“Fine. We have to find what made them. Find it and kill it.”

“What if…” I looked up at one of the horrors. “…what if these are what the Ghoul looks like?”

“All the more reason to kill it,” Aios growled.

I didn’t know where to start. My fingers went numb, and a chill crawled down my backbone. We stood there, the three of us, gazing into the grotto, stricken still with our terror.

It would’ve taken us hours to search the cave.

As it turned out, we didn’t have to look at all.

The first thing I heard was the patter of footsteps. Aios and Leuk heard it, too. Bare feet, I thought. But…small?

Aios waved his spear in the direction of the sound. He crouched, looking deadly and afraid. And then I saw it, a little boy darting between the sculptures. He was naked, pale as a fish, and faster than any child had a right to be. At ten paces, he climbed atop a sculpture and leapt from its head to another, smiling all the way.

I shouted. Leuk pulled his daggers out.

The boy. It’s him…the one throwing rocks on the beach, I thought.

We were too slow.

The boy leapt from atop the statue of a milkmaid. Aios spun, screamed, and jabbed with his spear. He missed. The boy landed on Aios’s head, and Aios started screaming. I don’t know what happened to me. As they struggled, I just stood there with my sword in one hand and the torch in the other. It was like I knew:

No matter what I do, we’re dead.

I never expected Leuk to be the brave one. Never. The boy clung to Aios’s head, clawing and snarling. As Aios squealed, Leuk stuck his dagger into the boy’s back. For a single breath I allowed myself to hope.

Leuk’s done it. I backed away. He’s saved us.

No.

Three times Leuk plunged his dagger between the boy’s ribs, and three times he drew it out. If the boy felt anything, I saw no sign. No blood oozed from Leuk’s steel. The boy’s skin opened up like dry, cracked parchment, but knitted itself closed within moments. I didn’t understand how such a thing was possible. Nothing the Citadel’s wise men had told us lived up to the truth.

With one of Leuk’s daggers still in its back, the boy-Ghoul leapt off Aios’ head. He looked up at us, still smiling, as Aios collapsed dead on the cavern floor. I saw no blood. I couldn’t conceive how so small a creature had killed one of the Master’s warriors. I was paralyzed. My sword felt as though it were made of paper. My blood felt like water in the last moments before a long winter’s freeze.

The boy-Ghoul dragged Aios into the shadows. Leuk stared at me, and then went after them. I swallowed so hard it wounded my throat. I knew what was about to happen. Somehow, someway, I knew. And when I heard a second set of bare feet pattering, and when Leuk cried out his last breath, I sank to the floor in a puddle of my own fear. Perhaps it was cowardice. I knew my sword wouldn’t matter.

So I didn’t even try.

Many thousands of breaths went in and out of me. I closed my eyes, and the world went dark. I don’t know whether I slept, but at some point I lifted my head from the floor and gazed into the darkness. The second torch had burned out, and so I fired another. It burned beside me as I sat there, a red whisper in the vast darkness.

There was but one thing left to do.

I opened Niko’s journal, dipped the quill into the last of his ink, and wrote:

There is more than one Ghoul. There may be dozens. Or hundreds.  

In a cave east of Veni, they hide.

They’ve been here for thousands of years, I believe.

They sculpt whatever they kill. Murder is their art.

They made the lighthouse.

They made the cliffs.

They took Aios and Leuk last night.

Tonight they’ll come for me.

 

The ink was almost gone. I only had a few strokes of Niko’s quill left. I don’t what made me do it, but I stood and walked to the most terrifying of the Ghoul’s demonic sculptures. I wasn’t as afraid anymore. I stuck the torch in the creature’s hand, held Niko’s journal before me, and started drawing the strange symbols and words graven into the sculpture’s skin. The words were old, old things. Maybe they were magic, if such a thing existed. I’d already shut the boy-Ghoul out of my mind, but for him to have survived Leuk’s knives meant something I’d never understand was at work.

I drew as many of the words and symbols as I could. When the ink ran out, I hunkered down and gazed into the dark. I left the book on my lap. I had the foolish hope someone would find it one day. The shaft of moonlight was far away, not enough to see by. I knew when my torch burned out, I’d die even if the Ghouls never came for me.

I didn’t have to wait long.

Within a hundred breaths, I heard their bare feet on the cavern’s cold floor. The boy came first. He was naked and ghostly pale. White powder, surely bone dust, coated his arms up to his elbows. His fingernails were crusted in dried blood. He’d been sculpting, I was sure.

My sword lay beside me. I didn’t bother to pick it up.

And then the second Ghoul came. I didn’t know what I expected, but it wasn’t her. Naked and beautiful, she walked into the yellow sphere of light made by my torch. Her hair was raven, her eyes pale blue lanterns. She wasn’t terrifying at all, at least not yet.

“I dreamed of you,” I said to her.

She didn’t flinch.

“Are all of these your work?” I regarded the thousands of sculpted dead.

She shook her head. Only some of them, she told me without words.

I sat, limp and sweating, and looked at them. The boy was her ward, her student, or maybe even her child. She tousled his hair, and a plume of bone powder drifted into the torchlight.

He’s the next in line, I thought.

She’s teaching him.

Just like another taught her.

Without moving any other part of my body, I extended my arm and set Niko’s journal into the nook between two sculptures’ feet. I left my sword where it lay. It occurred to me that I’d never once used it. Ever.

The Master would’ve stretched my neck just for that.

The boy-Ghoul started for me, but the woman held him back.

And then she showed me what she was.

With her fingers, she pried the flesh back from her cheeks. She tore like sackcloth; the sound alone made me sick. Next she peeled back the flesh from her arms and collarbone. She was one of them, one of the monsters so perfectly sculpted behind me. Her true fingers were boney claws, her real face a horror of white bone. She had no blood in her. She was all sinew and marrow, a skeleton wrapped in human skin.

I understood why none of the missing soldiers had cried out.

She’d probably never shown them the creature beneath her skin.

All they’d seen was a beautiful woman or a handsome little boy.

And when she killed me, it didn’t even hurt.

*

* * *

If you enjoyed The Skeleton Sculptor, consider reading The Hecatomb or leaving a review here.

Thank you,

J Edward Neill

The 10 Best Book Covers of All Time

Obviously, this list will be super subjective.

With that in mind, I won’t comment on why I believe each cover to be among the best.

I’ll leave that to you.

And I’ll let the art speak for itself.


 


*

And then of course…there’s these.

Nadya the Deathless – A new short story by J Edward Neill

Mother to a slain child…

Hunted for her power…

Some fear her…

Others adore her…

Those who know her best have named her…

Nadya the Deathless

Episode 8 in the Hollow Empire series

Now available on Amazon.

Book Report – The Death of WCW

Wrestling.

I started watching wrestling during the 80s. At some point, my sister and I discovered that on the UHF channel they’d show wrestling pretty much all day on Saturdays. There’d be WWF and NWA to bookend things, but in the middle, you got all sorts of regional wrestling shows with people that my dad recognized but neither of us had any clue. We watched the goofiness of GLOW (well before it became a Netflix tv show). We’d absorb it. We’d cheer for our favorites.

And we had no idea that it wasn’t real.

Then I didn’t watch it for many years, only to pick it back up in the mid-90s when I heard that Hulk Hogan had turned bad guy and the NWO (New World Order) was running roughshod over WCW (which I later understood to be basically the successor to those NWA shows I’d watched as a kid. Every week I tuned in.

And then I stopped again. I’m not sure if I grew tired of it or just faded out with it. Once in a while, I’d flip it on and see who was wrestling. I watched the last episode of WCW when WWE bought them. I watched handfuls of episodes of TNA Wrestling. And even watched WWE.

A couple of years ago I started back up (much to my wife’s chagrin). My nephew has tons of the figures and at the beach, we watched an episode of RAW (WWE’s flagship show). It was over.

Luckily, I knew it wasn’t “real” anymore, but I still like to watch.

***

The Death of WCW by R.D. Reynolds & Bryan Alvarez is a history lesson and a cautionary tale. It is about making all the correct decisions for a short amount of time and then having it all come crashing down around you.

You see, in the 80s, the WWF was king. Everyone knew Hulk Hogan and Wrestlemania and Andre the Giant. They had a cartoon. Andre was in one of my favorite movies (The Princess Bride for those keeping score). But in the 90s WCW had a run where they took over and all people wanted to see was the NWO.

The book goes into the history leading up to this revolution. It talks about WCW’s roots within the regional wrestling business. How Ted Turner’s TBS Superstation made him want wrestling programming. And how with a few signings of talent from the WWF (Hogan, Kevin Nash, and Scott Hall), WCW became number one.

It walks you through the weeks. And as it did, I began to remember many of the matches talked about. One of the great things about wrestling is this ability to connect to your childhood through the championships and through the wrestlers who span the decades. Each backstage glimpse revealed answers to questions I’d long-since forgotten about.

If I had one complaint about the book it would be that towards the end you could almost cut and paste the words on the pages. WCW did this stupid thing and made this stupid decision and then doubled down on that dumb thing… but that’s not really the book’s fault. Those were the decisions being made by whoever might have been in charge at that particular time. I mostly found myself thinking (even though I know the ending… it’s right there in the title) “Surely they are going to learn from this mistake, right?”

They didn’t.

And like a train wreck, you can’t look away and you want to keep reading if only to find out the next dumb decision.

Wrestling might be fake, but the decisions being made were very real indeed. If you are a fan of wrestling now or then, it is an eye-opening read to be sure.

 

***

John McGuire has co-written, along with his wife, two Kindle Worlds novellas set in the world of Veronica Mars: Theft & Therapy and There’s Something About Mac.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

Book Report – House of Leaves

Years ago, I heard stories about a strange book: House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. The person claimed it was a horror book, but that it was so much more. It used narrative within a narrative within the narrative to tell its story, bouncing between these moments via footnotes within the text itself. They said it used the book itself as a way to tell the story, with the edges of the paper acting as the walls of the haunted house, and the words were the characters trying to find their way through to the other side.

I’m sure they said the name of the book, but it was lost somewhere within my mind. And for years I thought nothing more of it.

And then, as these things do, it reappeared on my radar, randomly mentioned on a podcast. At my desk, I scrawled the name on a scrap piece of paper before looking it up on the internet. It didn’t take long for me to remember the previous conversation about the novel, so I went ahead and put it on my Christmas list in the hopes some family member might purchase it for me. Sure enough, that wish was granted.

But I waited.

I read most of the books I have on Kindle. Yet, this was a book – well, I’m not sure there would be a way to construct it for digital consumption. It almost demands you have the tactile sensation of holding it in your hands. Flipping the pages and then flipping the orientation of the book. So I saved this beast for the beach.

I have a habit of not always choosing the bright and cheerful books for the beach, having read The Road a couple of years ago. House of Leaves demanded a different level of focus from me than I’d been expecting – so much so that after a day of reading. I was only at about 50 pages into the book. I’m a fast reader, but this crawled along.

Note that’s not a slight on the book, instead it speaks more to how the book is laid out.

One of the things I have learned in writing comics (and am always learning) is the idea of the pace of reading a page. Typically, if I want to slow the reader down (maybe because there is something coming that needs to be built up) I add more words to the page. Narration boxes, dialogue, etc.

And on those pages that need fly by, to feel fast, I include fewer words, let the art breathe a bit more.

House of Leaves is the 1st book I’ve ever seen that attempts to do this as well. Pages will have only a couple of a couple of sentences, a word presented upside down, twisting and turning on the page.

It uses footnotes, editors ramblings, forward, and appendices to paint a picture of how this House affects these people throughout the world. Students write theses on it (within the world it has constructed).

It’s complex and confusing and maddening and at times you can’t put it down and at other times you are unsure whether to pick it back up.

It has highs and lows as to what held my interest more, but once things get “weird”. I was devouring pages.

It may make you obsess. I found myself looking for answers to some questions while still reading, chastising myself for doing it as I didn’t want to spoil anything.

***

What is House of Leaves about? It’s about multiple things – a weird, possibly haunted house and the people who live there. A documentary made by those people who live in the house. The world at large’s thoughts on the doc.

But it is also about a man who had written “House of Leaves”

Oh and about the man who found the “House of Leaves” manuscript.

And the subject of the manuscript. The one who made the documentary. The one who journeys into the darkness within the house itself. That’s where the book really shifts into forcing you to turn your book sideways or upside down. The text will shrink the gutters on one page before expanding to the next. You’ll have pages with only a dozen words on it.

It pulls you in. All the techniques, which on the surface appear to be a pain in the ass, all serve the same goal. Through this, it makes you a part of the story. As much as any of the people you’re reading about.

It’s horror, but not always scary, but quite often disturbing. It’s the type of book that pushes the boundaries of what a novel can actually look like. Fiction upon fiction upon fiction. If you want to read something odd and strange and something that will have you searching the internet at 2 in the morning to try to figure out… this might be the book for you.

***

Most of the time book reviews/reflections/whatever want to be a little vague so they don’t spoil anything, but I honestly think that I couldn’t give anything away without giving everything away. A strange and amazing read. I’ve seen book reviews online for this where the person says they hated the book in one sentence and yet they recommend everyone read it. Such a strange thing to be said about anything.

So I’ll say, if you want to read something pretty unique… this is the one.

***

John McGuire has co-written, along with his wife, two Kindle Worlds novellas set in the world of Veronica Mars: Theft & Therapy and There’s Something About Mac.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

Grinding Away in a Creative Life

It’s sunny outside.

It’s the kind of morning of which I like to dream. Not cold, but not quite warm. No clouds. No wind. I can hear the birds and smell the honeysuckle. It’s perfect.

It’s enough to make me want to freeze time and wander the morning for a few thousand years.

I should be working, but I’m not. I’ve just finished publishing another pair of books, and I find myself slogging through a short story about which I’m only somewhat passionate.

Sometimes, when I hit a lull like this, I pick up my paintbrush and spread out a few shadows. Maybe a colorful tree. A mournful maiden. Or maybe something terrifying.

Not today. I’m not in the mood.

I really just want to hang with the cat.

This is where I’m at:

Eaters of the Light, my sci-fi/romance/thriller series? It’s published.

My goal of finishing thirty canvas paintings at this point in the year? Exceeded.

The latest entry in my ridiculous ‘Reasons to Break Up’ trilogy? Slapped together and shipped.

It’s been a good year so far. But I want more.

Some people talk about creative exhaustion. About writer’s block. About procrastination, lack of direction, and boredom.

Nah. Forget all that.

I’ve got 99 problems, but none of ’em are those.

My cardinal sin? Setting reachable goals.

Yeah. Oops.

It’s like this. Some mountains in life are meant to be climbed. You say you want to save $1000 bucks for a vacation? Boom, you did it; now get in the car and head to the beach. Land a big promotion at work? Achieved. Need to step outside and mow your lawn? Nice, you’re finished…hopefully with a cool glass of bourbon awaiting you inside.

But artistic goals – are those really meant to be conquered? Of this, I’m not so sure. Is there ever a point at which an author sits down and says, ‘You know…I think I’m done. No more books. I’m just gonna drift away into the sunset .’ Do painters, sculptors, and photographers one day just set down their tools and declare their life’s work complete? I mean…maybe. Maybe some people can do it. Maybe the best of the best reach a point of contentedness, and afterward float away in the clouds with a satisfied smile on their faces.

Maybe.

But somehow I doubt it.

My son – the G Man. He’s not impressed.

Last night, for the first time in forever, I didn’t create. My brushes sat in a Mason jar full of water, soaking up nothing. My new short story ‘Nadya the Deathless’ laid untouched on my century-old laptop. I didn’t draw. I didn’t write. I didn’t wander outside beneath the perfect stars to dream up a new and exhilarating story.

I just sat there in the gloom of my basement. With a bowl of Progresso soup. Vaguely watching a movie. Not really thinking, moving, or existing.

For a while, maybe an hour, I floated in the stillness. Near the end, a scary idea crept over me. I thought perhaps I’d made a grave error in setting goals that were too easy to achieve. ‘Aim low, and you’ll hit your target,’ I realized. ‘Shoot for the moon, and though you’ll never make it, you’ll get to die trying.’

I opened my eyes. The back door was open, and the moths fluttering inside to get at the room’s only lamp. My cats dozed beside me, savoring my rare moment of inactivity.

It was then I knew my low-goal setting hadn’t been some tragic thing.

I can make a new goal, I realized. Something lofty. Something impossible to reach.

Something I’ll be proud to die trying to do.

So let’s talk goals.

Absurd goals.

Quest to drop the One Ring into Mount Doom kind of goals.

Right now I’ve got thirty-two published books. My new goal – one-hundred.

Right now my painting store is stocked with one-hundred nine original canvas paintings. New goal – three-hundred.

Season one of Hollow Empire is finished. New goal – finish three full seasons.

This giant fantasy trilogy, the one I published five years ago, has begun to gather dust. New goal – sell one-thousand new copies…and write a sequel.

And my most ambitious goal, the one that’ll allow me to sniff retirement, is to sell one-million copies of this little tome. (Right now I’m only at thirteen-thousand copies sold.)

Challenges, challenges…

Insurmountable.

Unlikely.

Delusional.

This should be fun.

It’s still sunny outside, although maybe a bit warmer now. And there’s just a few things more I want to share before I wander outside.

My art partner, Tahina Morrison, with whom I’ve created nearly one-hundred sculpted paintings, is leaving town. It was inevitable, this change. It’s humanity’s natural ebb and flow.  As I sit in my little chair and think about the challenges that will arise in her absence, I can’t help but smile.

We did good work together, she and I.

We had a blast.

 

Furiosa

Twilight Shaman

 

Horned Queen

*

These are just a few of my favorite collaborative pieces. In Tahina’s absence, I realize my painting goals will be even more difficult to achieve.

So be it. Challenge accepted.

Now then…

I think it’s probably time.

Time to open the door and step out into the sunlight.

Time to stop talking about goals and start realizing them.

Time to feed my cats.

Thanks to all my readers for sticking with me. Thanks to all the art collectors who’ve invested in me, and who happily stick my canvasses on their walls. And special thanks to Tahina and the G Man, without whom the last two years would’ve been infinitely less rewarding.

Goodbye for now.

I’ll be back.

 * * *

Readers will want to check out this book here. Trust me…you’ll be happy you did.

And dark art lovers might appreciate this piece, which I created based on an actual skull sitting in my living room.

J Edward Neill

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kindle Worlds – Looking Forward Back

“I’ve come to bury Kindle Worlds, not to praise it.”

***

In Indy publishing, the big worry is What is Amazon going to do? For so many independent writers, Amazon has provided them with a steady income to turn their hobby of creating fiction into a true job. They see that constant stream coming in, month by month and believe it will never end. So they up and quit their day jobs only to see their returns begin to dry up. And why does this happen? Many times it is due to Amazon changing their algorithms in how your books get presented to the book-buying public. If your title gets some extra love from Amazon, maybe it takes off into the Top lists for your category or even for the whole of the store itself. That one thing can be the difference between pizza money and a house payment.

But the whispers are always there:

What if Amazon changes something?

What if Amazon decides to overhaul their programs?

What if they decide to get rid of some aspect of the program?

Some people worry and diversify their writings to other sellers (Smashwords, Draft2Digital, Barnes and Noble, etc.) and others say they’ll cross that bridge when they come to it.

For those people making more than pizza money on their Kindle Worlds stories, the end is nigh (see the email here). And much like those oracles had predicted… you never know when or if it is going to happen (and my follow-up).

***

For the two Veronica Mars Kindle Worlds Courtney and I wrote (still available here and here!), it was always on the pizza money side of things. Four years ago I wrote a post talking about writing in that universe and the birth of a story (here). Last year we finally followed up that one with another book, which I wrote about (here).

Prior to Kindle Worlds existing, I didn’t get Fan Fiction. I certainly didn’t understand that there were tons of places on the internet where you could go and read about your favorite tv show or movie characters further adventures. Did you want to know what would happen if Show X crossed over with Show Y? There’s probably a whole subgroup for that. And, if there isn’t, you could always invent the genre!

But writing Fan Fiction isn’t that different from many things I’ve done over the years playing RPGs or coming up with my comic book pitches that will never be read by anyone over at Marvel or DC (but seriously, I have a 60 issue pitch for Moon Knight that you wouldn’t believe!). I’m still not sure how I feel about the whole Fifty Shades origins, but clearly, it worked, so who am I to judge?

So the announcement last week that this was all going away hit me well and good. Not because they were selling thousands of copies, but because it helped me convince my wife to write with me. Or maybe it was her telling me that we WERE going to write something together once it was known that Veronica Mars was going to be a destination spot within the program.

The nice thing about the program is/was that there really wasn’t any pressure. I’m not saying we didn’t put our best work out there… I think we did a great job working within the world of the TV show. I just mean that this was something on the shorter side (just over 10,000 words in each of the two novellas) that we could put out for consumption pretty quick. A full-length novel takes me months/years to write a draft, then do another draft, then set it aside for a while, then hire an editor…

These were different.

In addition, I wanted to make sure all those hours of her watching and rewatching the show could suddenly be called RESEARCH! 🙂

There was always good and bad with creating these stories though. We knew that if Veronica Mars removed herself from the program, the books wouldn’t really have a home anymore other than on the Kindles who’d already bought them and our hard drive. We also knew these weren’t our toys; they would need to be returned to the toy box. I’ve only had a couple of occasions in my writing projects where I wasn’t the one creating the story and characters and worlds. These two projects allowed me to stretch a different kind of writing muscle. Hopefully, it made me a better collaborator and writer for it.

***

I want to thank everyone who has downloaded them over the years and appreciate the reviews that have been left. These two stories are going to become this thing we did. Maybe some other program will come along allowing us to display our works once again.

***

John McGuire has co-written, along with his wife, two Kindle Worlds novellas set in the world of Veronica Mars: Theft & Therapy and There’s Something About Mac.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

Wait…why exactly do authors need reviews?

Let’s turn back the clock a few years.

…just for fun.

For argument’s sake, let’s say it’s 1999. Everyone’s prime concern is Y2K, and whether or not our computers are going to self-destruct on New Year’s Eve.

In other news, the human population on Earth has surpassed six-billion people. Two idiots just shot up Columbine High School. SpongeBob SquarePants has hit children’s faces everywhere. And J.K. Rowling just published Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

What a year, 1999.

Feels like centuries ago.

So about that J.K. Rowling Harry Potter book. How’d J.K. get so famous, anyway? Did she debut on Amazon with ten-thousand five-star reviews? Did Dumbledore himself hand-deliver her new book to readers across the world?

Nope.

See, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban wasn’t a self-published book. J.K. (deservedly so) had a traditional publisher, just like pretty much every other author on the planet in 1999. Between a powerful marketing team and an already fervent fan-base, J.K.’s new book couldn’t fail. It wouldn’t have mattered if no one on the planet left her an Amazon review. Her success was all but guaranteed.

Guaranteed to succeed….despite the wonky cover art.

Here we are, two decades later.

Everything is different.

Why?

It’s simple…

Back in 2007, the game changed. Amazon.com (you’ve heard of Amazon, right?) debuted a little something called Kindle Direct Publishing, or KDP. What’s KDP, you ask?  It’s a program that allows anyone to publish anything at any time. Writers who would never have come close to publishing a book suddenly had access to publish ALL their books. Instantly. The five companies who’d previously controlled nearly all the publishing in the world shivered in their boots. The market they’d cornered for decades had suddenly opened up.

…to everyone in the world.

And so began the flood. Authors, poets, and illustrators invaded KDP in force. At first, tens of thousands of new, self-published books hit Amazon. And then…millions more. Anyone who wanted to publish something, no matter the quality of their writing, had an easy outlet to push their novels onto the scene.

Sounds great, right? Freedom for authors everywhere! The creative masses, liberated!

Yes!!! Now I can publish my new book series, ‘Gary Cotter and the Jailer of Kazakhstan!’

So…

Doesn’t KDP sound like the most amazing thing ever?

Well…yes.

And no.

When the flood of new books hit the world, everything seemed great. Writers were no longer shackled to the five big traditional publishers. Thousands of fantastic new books landed atop the market…which never could’ve happened without KDP.

But along with thousands of good books came tens of thousands of really bad ones.

Poorly edited books.

Books with misleading descriptions.

Books with horrible art, lousy plots, and just plain crappy writing.

A new challenge arose. Readers who’d long been funneled into book-buying decisions by the big five publishing companies faced a whopping armada of new titles. “Which books are good?” they asked themselves. “How do I know if this epic sci-fi thriller is amazing…or total crap?? Which new authors are legit, and which ones are just here to make a quick profit???”

The answer lies in the stars…

No, no, no. Not THOSE stars.

THESE stars.

Before Amazon, before KDP, the average reader would’ve almost never posted a book review. Reviews were something handled by professionals, most of whom worked for newspapers, magazines, and other periodicals. Readers’ only engagement with books was to buy them, read them, and maybe tell a friend or two about them. That’s it. Nothing more.

But it’s not 1999 any longer.

It’s not even 2007.

Nowadays, we’re in a new era. Self-published books outnumber traditionally published works. Thousands of new novels hit the web every single day. Many are sub-par, but many are just as good…in some cases even better…than what you’d find in bookstores around the world. And yet many of the best books by the most talented writers fall into the shadows. Why? Because no one reviews them. No one clicks the little ‘write a customer review?’ button.

No one cares.

So why should you?

Why should readers, having already paid for and read their book of choice, give any thought to posting a review for a book they enjoyed?

*

Here’s why:

Like any product on Amazon, more reviews means a brighter spotlight.

In the case of a good book, a brighter spotlight means the author (of the book you just enjoyed) is more likely to produce additional good books.

Which is what we all want, right?

Without the marketing power of a traditional publishing house, the burden falls on the author to promote his or her own work.

And the biggest promotional tool available? The Amazon review system. 

Even better, the average review takes 60 seconds or less to complete. Don’t believe me? Check this super-fast tutorial.

There’s even a handy tool to help readers decide how many stars to give.

*

It’s simple, really.

If readers want good books, it benefits them directly to leave honest reviews for what they read.

Otherwise, the market will continue to be invaded with sub-par, poorly-edited clutter.

…which no one will be able to distinguish from genuine, well-written books.

I’m a reader, too. And as a reader, I’m heading to Amazon to leave an honest review for every book I can remember reading.

And I’m doing it today.

I urge you to do the same, fellow book-lovers.

Get in there. Click a few stars. And move on with your lives.

Sincerely,

J Edward Neill

 

 

 

 

Kindle Worlds Closing

 

Almost five years to the day, from when they originally announced the program, yesterday Amazon sent out emails to the various Kindle Worlds authors letting them know that they were discontinuing the program.

As of May 17th, Kindle Worlds will no longer be accepting new submissions. Previously published Kindle Worlds stories will no longer be available for sale on Amazon.com on or around July 16th. The Kindle Worlds website will be closed on August 29th.

When Kindle Worlds rolled out, it was with three worlds fan-fiction authors could play in: Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars, and Vampire Diaries. Over the past five years, this number has grown to ninety. Ranging from other television shows to romance to comic book superheroes, the line seemed to be the answer for many aspiring writers who populated fan fiction boards and posted their latest versions of the characters. Expanding on moments from the series, whether that was television or in print form, Kindle Worlds encouraged them to not only continue what they were doing but actually get paid something for their efforts. If your work was over 10,000 words the royalty rate would be 35% of net revenue. Works between 5,000 and 9,999 words, which would be priced at $0.99 would provide a royalty of 20% of net revenue.

It really felt like a win/win scenario for all parties.

There were a few caveats to this. Authors would need to follow Amazon’s content guidelines. In addition, anything new that was created within the world would potentially be owned by the license holder. Still, even with those parameters, Amazon was able to launch the website with titles from some established authors. They put the spotlight on these works and the fan fiction began to populate. A look today shows The Vampire Diaries as the largest library with 232 submitted stories with GI Joe (124) and the Silo Saga from Hugh Howey (122) coming in at numbers two and three.

One of the early Kindle Worlds.

In light of the announcement, the questions of what to do with those works fall back to both the original authors and potentially the license holders. When Amazon closes the doors, the rights will shift back to the author who could then strip out any reference to the Kindle World in question and potentially put out a “clean” version of the story for sale. Whether that is worth the effort or perhaps these become lost treasures mentioned on an author’s website and nothing more.

For an indy author who had the fortune of people writing in their worlds, more eyes should translate to potentially more sales. This removes one of the avenues to get the word out there. Though, there is always the chance that the license holders will come up with ways to keep those versions out there, pointing new readers to their own series while still rewarding their fans who wrote the stories. Some writers have already taken to Facebook and Twitter to announce they have “something in the works”, so authors would do well to continue to pay attention to their World’s Creators in the coming months.

 

***

John McGuire has co-written, along with his wife, two Kindle Worlds novellas set in the world of Veronica Mars: Theft & Therapy and There’s Something About Mac.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

Kindle Worlds Shutdown

As a co-author of two Kindle Worlds novellas, I was sad to get the following in my email this afternoon:

 

Dear John,

As a valued member of the Kindle Worlds author community, we wanted to let you know of some upcoming changes to the Kindle Worlds program.

As of May 17th, Kindle Worlds will no longer be accepting new submissions. Previously published Kindle Worlds stories will no longer be available for sale on Amazon.com on or around July 16th. The Kindle Worlds website will be closed on August 29th; we ask that all Kindle Worlds participants update and validate their banking information, mailing address, and contact information by July 31, 2018 in order to facilitate a timely final royalty payment.

Your final royalty statement will include a proactive final payment for all remaining Kindle Unlimited borrows, including borrows that have not yet met the qualified borrow threshold. We plan to remove Kindle Worlds stories from Kindle Unlimited on May 16th.

Effective as of the date we remove your work from the Kindle Worlds program, we revert the rights granted to us by you in your Kindle Worlds Publishing Agreement. As a reminder, please note that certain rights have been granted to the applicable World Licensor and, as a result, you may not be able to republish your work, use elements from the world, or otherwise exploit the rights you granted unless you obtain the World Licensor’s permission.

If you have any questions, please feel free to email kindle-worlds-support@amazon.com.

For five years, Kindle Worlds has been thriving, engaging writers and readers who enjoy writing in one another’s worlds, and we’re proud of the work we’ve done together. While we are closing Kindle Worlds, Amazon is constantly innovating on behalf of our authors and readers, and we look forward to continuing to do so. 

We hope that 2018 and beyond bring wonderful things for you and your stories, and we appreciate your support over the years. 

Warm wishes,
The Kindle Worlds Team  

 

Kindle Worlds was a great opportunity to play in someone else’s sandbox for a little while. And being able to write with my wife in a world she is… obsessed with, in Veronica Mars, is one of the highlights of the writing side of my life.

So I guess now I should say: “Still available for a limited time!” (Click on the image to see the books.)

 

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

10 Terrifying Ways to Break Up

Ten Terrifying Ways to Break Up…

*


Vanishing Act

I used to think ‘ghosting’ was only for people who were dating. Usually, at least the way I understood it, one person in a relatively new relationship would suddenly cut off all forms of contact—i.e.; they’d ghost their partner.

Ok. Well. I was ghosted by my husband of seven years. I came home from work to find all his clothes, electronics, and a few pieces of furniture gone. He didn’t leave a note or anything. At first I thought we’d been robbed.

The next day, his lawyer called me. I was being served with divorce.

The only time I ever saw him again was about two months later in the courtroom. He didn’t look at me, speak to me, or acknowledge my existence.

To this day, I still don’t understand.

– Kim

*

Kicked to the Curb

My ex, who fancied himself an MMA fighter, always liked to play wrestle and box with me.

It didn’t bother me much until one time he play-kicked me in the knee and blew out my ACL.

I was on crutches for seven months afterward.

Dick.

– Cassie

*

Straight Outta the 50’s

Shortly after getting married, my new husband informed me that my body belonged to him.

In other words, he meant he could have me whenever and however he wanted.

I suppose some women might find it flattering to be desired that much.

But I’m pretty sure our vows didn’t include, “To have and to hold…and to have sex with whenever you want.”

We’re still married, but we haven’t been intimate in years.

– Kelly

*

One Story. Zero Winners.

My former girlfriend was high-maintenance.

Beautiful, but vain.

Smart, but ignorant.

She used words like ‘bae’ ‘fleek’ and ‘nice burn.’

She looked great in heels, but refused to pump her own gas.

She took two and half hours to put on her makeup…only to later decide she wanted to stay in.

They say beauty comes at a price.

And that price, my friends, is just too high.

– Anonymous

*

What about Pokemon?

She said Dragon Ball Z is stupid.

I don’t need that kind of negativity in my life.

– Bart

*

Long & Hard Road to Recovery

My ex was a self-admitted porn addict.

She (yes, she) watched the stuff several times every day. She used it for her own private pleasure, and she tried to get me to watch it wayyy more than I normally would. I guess she thought everyone would have the same reaction to porn.

I really didn’t mind at first. We were still kind of in the ‘honeymoon’ phase of dating.

But eventually it became such an integral part of her life that she couldn’t orgasm unless she watched highly-specific scenes at the same time as having sex.

All the porn had the opposite effect on me. I eventually lost my attraction to her.

I don’t think she minded breaking up that much. It wasn’t like I could do any of the things her favorite porn stars could do.

– Anonymous

*

#

She used hashtags.

A lot.

Every text she sent me had #winning or #loveforever or #youforgottotakeoutthegarbage or any one of a million other things.

It was only mildly annoying at first. But then she started using them in actual conversation. As if holding her fingers up to make a # sign and saying ‘hashtag – don’t talk to me right now’ was an effective means of communication.

I pity her next boyfriend.

He’s in for a #surprise.

– Jerry

*

Now THAT’s how to Break a Heart

One day while doing some spring cleaning at our house, I found a stack of letters handwritten by my husband. I couldn’t help myself. I read them all.

They were love-letters, and were addressed to ‘the love of my life’ and other adorable terms.

While reading them, I was absolutely positive the letters were meant for me. I felt my heart swell up with so much happiness I thought I’d burst.

But when he got home and I smothered him with affection, he looked at me with a blank stare.

He hadn’t written the letters to me. They were for his side-girl, Tristin, who I’d never known about before that moment.

They’re married now. Still kinda stings when I think about it.

 – Cal

*

Denture Adventure

I used to believe her teeth were real.

I mean, she was only twenty-eight.

But those chompers of hers…fake. All of them.

Turns out she was a recovered meth addict.

I’m glad she got past it.

But even gladder I got past her.

– Anonymous

*

Sharing isn’t always Caring

 He decided he wanted to get into the nudist lifestyle.

He wanted us to go nude camping, attend naked music festivals, and join all-nude social groups.

I tried to play along at first, but it quickly got weird.

The final straw—he suggested I sleep with several other men during a camping trip.

It wasn’t just about being naked. It was this weird cult-like fad populated with ugly, unshaven people who wanted to sleep around.

– Anonymous


*

Read five MORE brutal breakups right here.

*

And get more than one-hundred of the most unbelievable breakups HERE.

Tyrants of the Dead – An Epic Fantasy Trilogy

In a far and ancient land, Emperor Chakran dreams of conquest. His desire to resurrect the evil, world-ending Ur casts a dark shadow across an unsuspecting world. But as his army butchers its way across the realm, leaving only a vast, storm-riddled graveyard in its wake, a small band of warriors rises up to oppose him. They know what will become of the world should Chakran succeed. They know the Emperor is but a puppet to the true evil – the Tyrants of the Dead.
Follow Rellen Gryphon, Garrett Croft, and Andelusia Anderae on their voyage to stop the darkness.
If they should fail, the sun will die.
…and the night will forever reign.

Tyrants of the Dead – The Complete Collection includes all three epic volumes in the series:
Down the Dark Path
Dark Moon Daughter
Nether Kingdom

Reality is Best Served with $0.99 Books

Books to give as gifts.

Hilarious autobiographies.

The world’s funniest breakups.

Soft-hitting philosophy.

This spring from April 23rd – April 26th, get all my best non-fiction books for $0.99 or less. Read ’em. Love ’em. Review the heck out of ’em!

 

Eaters of the Light Glossary

Three Books

Countless Worlds Destroyed by Vampiric, Star-Eating Aliens

Eaters of the Light

Welcome to the official Eaters of the Light glossary. Herein you’ll find descriptions and blurbs for every major character, place, historical event, and technological advancement appearing in the Eaters of the Light book series. This appendix is for all the folks who’ve read the books AND for those who are thinking about it. Fear no spoilers! No major event taking place in any of the three books will be revealed.

Scroll down to begin!


Characters

Aly Armstrong – Sister to Joff Armstrong, Aly isn’t the naïve girl she pretends to be. It’s all an act ordered by Earth’s government.

Babar – A brave pilot from the planet of Hermes.

Callista (Lightbringer) – Cal, a powerful artificial intelligence made of nano-light particles, is created to accompany Joff Armstrong during his voyage between the stars. Little does Joff know, Callista serves many purposes her makers have not yet revealed.

Castyn Clarke – An ice cold news anchor for the Dusktime Dispatch, Castyn tells only the stories her government pays her to tell.

Doctor Abid – He’s not a real doctor. But he is tasked with preparing Joff for his voyage into space.

Doctor Tiana – Abid’s beautiful assistant, her appearance is copied by Callista in the hopes of charming Joff.

Griff – A nano-light AI similar to Callista, only less powerful and with more inhibitors to his personality.

Hephast – The Emperor of a powerful human settlement on the garden world of Sumer.

Joff Armstrong – A young farmer from Earth. He enjoys his simple life and loves his family, but he’s meant for much greater things.

Kira – A soldier of planet Hermes. She’s fought the Strigoi her entire life, and doesn’t want anything to do with Callista Lightbringer.

Lukas Mosk – A smuggler working for off-world weapons manufacturers. Lukas’s real mission is to aid the settlement of Ebes in its battle against the Strigoi.

Mahtim (Captain) – The second in command of planet Hermes’ military. He believes he should be in complete control.

Maliah – The Calipha of planet Hermes, Maliah trusts no one, least of all Callista.  She desires only to maintain her iron grip of Hermes’ affairs.

Maura – A human woman from the Sumerian city of Mercuria, Maura is in love with Joff Armstrong.

Mina – A young pilot of planet Hermes. She has to choose between leaving her daughter behind or abandoning her position in the war.

Rami – Commander Strope’s little brother. Rami is a young, prodigal scientist who accompanies his big brother during all his battles.

Samison – Husband to Maura, also a skilled astronomer and physicist.

Siraya – A lonely young woman who keeps her great-grandfather’s artifacts secret from the powerful Arcadian government.

The Strigoi (aka: the Varkolak) – A vampiric alien race desiring the death of all light in the universe. They typically appear as three-meter tall skeleton machines, but they have many other forms unknown to humanity.

Strope – The Commander of planet Hermes’ interstellar fleet. He’s young, brash, and brave. He also keeps too many secrets.

Sylpha Frost – The leader of planet Ebes’ military. She’s willing to do anything to destroy the local dark planet – aka: the Strigoi homeworld near Ebes.

Tabir – Husband to Joff Armstrong’s sister, Aly. Governor of the city of Arcadia.

Wendall Wight – A sicario tasked with assassinating anyone unwilling to help the causes of Planet Ebes.


Locations

Arcadia – The largest city on planet Sumer. The humans here live decadent, opulent lives.

Atreya & Kokab – The binary stars around which planet Sumer orbits.

Donva – A highly-advanced Earth city located roughly near modern-day Colorado.

Earth – Hundreds of years in the future, Earth is largely depopulated. Wars, evacuations to off-world settlements, and famine have changed everything.

Ebes – The large human settlement founded on planet Ebes faces the most direct threat of extinction by the Strigoi.

Grave B-7 Black – A giant Strigoi homeworld in the Andromeda Galaxy. Rumored to house enough weapons to destroy millions of stars.

Grave DD-9 Ebon – The largest source of Strigoi in the Andromeda Galaxy. Grave DD-9 boasts a mechanized moon used to create weaponry for the war against humanity.

Hades – The home galaxy inhabited by the Strigoi. All of Hades’ stars and life have been destroyed. Only the Strigoi remain.

Hermes – An icy cold planet in the Andromeda Galaxy. Hermes is the vanguard of human resistance against the Strigoi. Its people worship the small, remote star of Sufi.

Lun-Dun – The ruins of London, destroyed by nuclear fallout after a massive exodus from Earth.

Nosfera System – The source of the Strigoi infestation in the Milky Way galaxy. Nosfera houses a giant, planet-sized weapon used by the Strigoi to kill stars.

Sumer – A giant planet many thousands of light-years from Earth. Sumer has no native animal life, only giant plants and trees.

Zeus & Hera – The binary stars shining on planet Ebes.


Events of Historical Significance

The Exodus – A period of two-hundred years during which millions of scientists, humanitarians, doctors, and scholars abandoned Earth for the hope of a better life among the stars. Many believe the Exodus was triggered when a few select people became aware of the Strigoi plan to annihilate Earth.


Technology & Weapons

Coffin Engines – These massive Strigoi craft can turn large swaths of interstellar space into graveyards, destroying light, planets, even gravity.

Death-Beams – Deadly ‘dark’ plasma weapons used by the Strigoi. They both burn and freeze whatever they touch.

Dream Makers – Tiny devices capable of triggering powerful hallucinations in humans.

Hypo-Chambers – A device which allows humans to exist in stasis while traveling through deep space.

Interstellar Rings – Whenever large groups of humans want to travel at FTL (faster than light) speeds through space, they take their journey using powerful Ring transport ships, which have their own gravity and boast immense food & energy supplies.

Gamma Suit – A super-powered battle-suit constructed for Callista, it’s far more powerful than Joff’s original Vezda suit.

Sabre – The universe’s most advanced interstellar warship. The Sabre packs enough weapons to destroy entire Strigoi planets.

Scythe Ships – Fast and armed with terrifying death-beams, the scythes are the primary warship used by the Strigoi. They’re made of the same bone-like substance as the Strigoi themselves.

Skypads – Small, flat, and sticky, Skypads can be adhered to any surface and used as video screens and high-powered computers.

Sprites – Tiny floating sprites flutter around humans’ heads, providing them information, entertainment, and guidance.

String Reprogrammers (S.R.’s) – Powerful missiles capable of turning all matter in a given area into something else. For example, rock could be changed into hydrogen…or light. S.R.’s can also make stars go supernova.

Tombspire – A giant Strigoi construct capable of tearing wormholes in deep space.

Vezda Suit – A powered battle-suit constructed for Joff to wear during his fight against the Strigoi. Virtually indestructible, it boasts a powerful array of weapons and movement systems.

Xiphos Warships – Slender and swordlike, the Xiphos ships are planet Hermes’ first line of defense against the Strigoi hordes.

 


The Eaters of the Light trilogy is now available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle form.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*

*

*

*

*

Buy it today.

…plunge into the darkness between the stars tonight.

If you like fantasy more than sci-fi, you’ll love my Tyrants of the Dead glossary.

Eaters of the Light

The stars will fall, one after another.

Their last light will be an echo of everything that could have been…

…but now fades out of reach…

The Eaters of the Light

Breathers of darkness.

Builders of tombs, vast and empty, in which to bury all life.

…forever.

All three books are available here.

A cool glossary for the Eaters of the Light series is here.

 

Fantasy & Sci Fi Spring Book Sale

Dark magic.

Evil sorcerers.

Fiery Witches

Ghoulish creatures.

Star-destroying vampires.

Get your spring reads right here. This week only (April 9th- April 12th) All titles are $0.99 or FREE.

 

101 Best Reasons to Break Up – True Life Tales from Splitsville

People love a good breakup story.
…especially if it’s true.
So here we go again. Readers of 101 Reasons to Break Up and 101 MORE Reasons to Break Up will find this to be the funniest (and perhaps most tragic) entry in the series. Newcomers will be shocked.
Truth is, I had no intention of writing this.
But readers kept sending me more and more breakup tales.
And every time I mentioned the first two books at bars, hockey games, and on Facebook, people reacted by telling me the details of their own personal heartbreak.
Who am I to say no?
These 101 stories are from real life. Contributed by strangers, friends, frenemies, and one tale from my own life, these are some of the funniest, harshest, and most absurd breakups you’ll ever read.
Enjoy!

And if you’re new to the series, you can pick up all three books in one big book:

Eaters of the Light – Coming Soon!

My name is Callista Lightbringer.

Although I’m not human, I am humanity’s last hope.

For a thousand years, I’ve warred against the star-killing Strigoi. I’ve destroyed billions. I’ve snuffed hundreds of their hollow, vampiric planets.

It’s not enough.

Alone, I must find the source of the Strigoi power. I must venture deeper into space than any living creature has dared to go.

And there, in the galaxy known as Hades, I must resurrect the light.

…and defeat the Strigoi forever.

 Eaters of the Light

 Sequel to Darkness Between the Stars & Shadow of Forever

 The night is darkest before the dawn…

The first chapter is free to read right here.

Coming in March 2018

A Scary Short Story Collection

In the old world city of Ellerae, one person goes missing every day.
Poor little Mia doesn’t stand a chance.
Or does she?

Let the Bodies – A creepy follow-up to chilling tale, Old Man of Tessera – appears in anthology book UnCommon Evil – Release date Feb 20th, 2018.

Preorder Uncommon Evil right here.

Making Fun of all my Books

A few weeks ago I got super sarcastic with my list of alternative movie blurbs.

Now that I’ve made fun of everyone else’s artistic work, it’s time I turn the cannon on myself.

Here’s everything I’ve ever written, but with smartass descriptions.

Have fun…


Darkness Between the Stars – An uneducated farmboy happens to notice the world’s about to end while fixing his father’s tractor.

Shadow of Forever – The aforementioned farmboy picks a fight with a gang of space vampires, accidentally triggering an interstellar war.

Eaters of the Light – An immortal blue-haired girl decides she’s not allowed to have sex until she eradicates every alien species in the universe.

*

1

Down the Dark Path – Book I – A redheaded girl decides the best way to improve her social status is to follow a murderer into the woods. Meanwhile, a guy with a beard builds a shitload of boats.
2Down the Dark Path – Book II – Rather than live happily in a beautiful city where everyone loves her, a lonely woman stalks a clueless soldier directly into the battle he’s trying not to fight. The soldier’s friend (his hopelessly lousy wing-man) starts killing everyone with a purple sword.

*

3

Down the Dark Path – Book III – A bearded douchebag uses his sword to turn his enemies’ country into Seattle. Meanwhile, five guys try to end a war by marching through a swamp and bitching endlessly about the weather.

**

 4
Down the Dark Path – Book IV – After ruining a bunch of people’s lives, a woman decides to marry a creepy old wizard. In a petty act of revenge, her boyfriends and their cohorts sneak into the wizard’s house and start breaking his stuff.

*

 

Reality is Best Served with Red Wine – A lonely writer glamorizes his alcoholism using uncomfortable stories from his childhood.

Life & Dark Liquor – Already sloshed from too much wine, an author lurks in his kitchen while pounding scotch and talking about his grandma.

*

101 Questions for Women Cover

101 Questions for Women – A sexist pig attempts to disguise his chauvinism by approaching women with inappropriate questions.

101 Questions for Men Cover

101 Questions for Men – Too terrified to go out and get laid, a guy poses questions about sex and beer to other guys.

SleepersImageForBlogging

The Sleepers – After a family trip to the zoo, a rich kid lets his dad talk him into genocide.

*

Let the Bodies – A little girl counts her grandpa’s money while watching everyone else die.

*

 
The Skeleton Sculptor – Rather than actually pick up a sword and fight, a lazy soldier writes a diary about all his missing friends.

*

The Circle Macabre – A cranky woman swears off men and annoys the locals in her bid to become a Ghostbuster.

*

101 Deeper Darker Cover

101 Deeper, Darker Questions for Humanity – Not content to ruin just one party, the asshole returns with the goal of depressing even the most optimistic people.

*

101 xxxy Questions Front Cover

101 Sex Questions – A sex-addict with no relationship skills breaks into normal people’s bedrooms and begs to watch them do nasty stuff.

*

  Dark Moon Daughter New Kindle CoverDark Moon Daughter – Thinking it’ll be the life change she needs, a red-headed woman dyes her hair black and starts having an affair.

*

NetherKingdomWebLg-331x500

Nether Kingdom – Fully gothed-out, a woman wanders the countryside in search of her dad’s house. Meanwhile, a guy starts a war just so he can have a séance in a cave.

*

41X6vKWTtJL__SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

444 Questions for the Universe – The party-wrecking A-hole returns, compiling a crapload of philosophical BS to annoy and frustrate his friends.

*

The Ultimate Get to Know Someone Quiz – Too cheap to hire a proper cover artist, an author asks his five-year old son to paint a book cover.

*

Big Red Shiny Buttons – There aren’t any actual buttons in this book. It’s really just a bunch of questions designed to help parties be 4% less dull.

*

101 Reasons and 101 More Reasons to Break Up – A tipsy loner harasses people at the bar while attempting to collect bizarre break-up stories.

*

Lys & the Heart Stopper – A cute medieval co-ed gets out of jail and decides to party with a mass murderer.

*

 The Hecatomb – An art lover and his offspring stay up late at night to torment local villagers and build Legos out of dead stuff.

*

Hollow Empire Front Cover

Hollow Empire – Night of Knives – Five homeless people with crappy hygiene do their best to avoid living normal lives. The five include an overweight leper, two lovers who refuse to have sex, and the world’s most negligent mom.

*

101-Questions-for-Humanity-333x500

101 Questions for Humanity – An asshole who never studied philosophy in college decides to ruin everyone’s buzz by asking complicated questions.

101 Questions for Midnight Front Cover

101 Questions for Midnight – The aforementioned asshole shows up really late and craps on the party. This time he brings a pile of immoral questions to pester everyone with.

DoorNeverDreamedPaperback1

A Door Never Dreamed Of – Two racists decide to impress their girlfriends by using high-tech gadgets to slaughter a bunch of people who can’t even move.

*

The Little Book of BIG Questions – This guy didn’t even graduate college, and yet he thinks he can match wits with Socrates and Stephen Hawking.

101 Questions for Couples – Two people with zero romantic experience pair up to write a book about love, sex, and what it might be like to not be utterly alone every night.

101 Questions for Single People – After being swiped left too many times on Tinder, a guy groans about how hard it is to land a date.

Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows – A morbidly obese guys runs a day-care center, a pothead decides to get pizza, a woman starts dating the dude she murdered, an arguing couple kills in the name of train-hopping, and much, much more…

 

* * *

I’d love to say these were all jokes and that none of these descriptions are accurate.

But let’s not kid ourselves…

J Edward Neill

Steampunk Friday – Kickstart the Book – Make 100: SteamBear Books

I’m always on the lookout for gateway items to get the next generation into the stuff that I’m into. Wondering if anything might make a nephew or neice interested in something comic or fantasy or science fiction related. So a children’s book is definitely right in that wheelhouse.

***

Make 100: SteamBear Books

Creator/Writer/Colorist – Andres Salazar

Chief Financial Officer – Nicole Salazar

Chairman of the Board – Santiago Salazar

Kickstarter campaign ends on Monday, January 29, 2018 at 11:51 PM EST.

***

The Pitch:

SteamBear is an interactive children’s picture book and comic. It’s book two of  THE ADVENTURE BEAR SQUAD.  A Sci-Fi adventure story designed for the geek-parent and their children. It is built to stimulate creativity and learning. It is a team of bears across genres like the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen meets the Care Bears.

The Story:

The exciting second installment of the Adventure Bear Squad book series is upon us!  Faced with the disappearance of dreams by every man, woman and child the world is thrown in turmoil and it’s up to SteamBear and his compatriots to save the world from curmudgeonry.  They travel through time and space in SteamBear’s Travel-train and find out why the dreams have gone missing and how to bring them back!

John’s Thoughts:

Bears fighting pirates.

Bears in hot air balloons.

Bears wearing top hats and hopefully monocles.

This seems like one of those fun books where you can read with the kid in your life and discover new little pieces while also learning about different points and places in history (judging from the images on the Kickstarter page). I can definitely imagine laughing at the site of a bear flying past Big Ben over in London.

The Rewards:

Given that this is a limited edition of the book, as part of the Make 100 campaigns Kickstarter is encouraging for the month of January, the overall product is limited to… 100 copies. So each category has a limited number next to it for the hard copies (this has digital versions as well). At $25 you get the Hardcover along with an original drawing inside. The intriguing one is the $99 level where you not only get the book and the original drawing, but you also will get an original 11×15 watercolor painting. I could see that as being something to hang up in the kid’s room for a long time.

The Verdict:

Let’s see – Steampunk, kid’s book, bears, and various spots in time… educational and something you and the kids will enjoy as part of your reading rituals… yeah, this seems like a nice additon to your library!

***

To learn more about SteamBear, check out DecadeBrothers here.

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Wildflowers of Stone Mountain

Larry Winslett, an award-winning nature photographer and teacher, and his wife Julie capture hundreds of beautiful flowers in their book – Wildflowers of Stone Mountain.

In gorgeous photographs on high quality paper, Wildflowers of Stone Mountain showcases over a hundred flowers. It’s a field guide for nature enthusiasts as well as casual lovers of beautiful photography.

Just a tiny sample of the beautiful photography you’ll find.

Wildflowers of Stone Mountain is available online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and www.larrywinslettphotography.com.

Its convenient pocket size makes it an excellent trail companion, not only for Stone Mountain, but also for trails throughout north Georgia.

Steampunk Fridays – Looking Forward Back

 

I started doing this series of blog posts at the beginning of July. My thinking was two-fold:

1 – Check out who might be producing Steampunk comics.

Obviously, I write a Steampunk comic (The Gilded Age), so I’m already interested in the genre. However, aside from the DC covers they did that one month or something else random to come out which might mimic the ascetics, I really didn’t know what other indy creators might be doing within the genre.

2 – Help potentially spread the word for those creators.

Comics should be this thing where we are always helping each other up. And if I like something why wouldn’t I try to get another person to like it?

3 – Content for the blog.

Some weeks are easier than others to figure out a topic. This really gave me a direction that the Wednesday blog sometimes doesn’t have (which I like the free-form, but this is focused – or as focused as I’m going to get).

4 – See what was successful for other Kickstarters (especially those in the Steampunk realm).

As I was pretty sure I’d be kicking off a Kickstarter sometime in the Fall, this was an excuse to start to drill down and see what might be working and what wasn’t. Looking at the pages for how they were laid out, the various Reward levels, and just the level of artwork on the page. I took notes of what I liked and what I didn’t like.

So if you missed any of the weeks, here’s a handy recap of 2017!

Interviews

Interview with Ken Reynolds

Ken Reynolds is the creator of the comic Cognition: a comic where the lead characters are a clockwork and an evil rat who stop supernatural entities.

And if your brain didn’t begin dripping from your ears, you need to check this out.

Seriously, the comic is all sorts of cool.

Interview with the Creators of Arcane Sally & Mr Steam

The team over at the Arcane Sally & Mr. Steam comic are clearly doing something with their Steampunk… Ghost Story… Victorian supernatural action-adventure… Love Story?

Interview with the Creator of Hinges

What I wrote in the introduction still holds true:

There are moments when you start reading a comic and you just know there is something about it which speaks to you. And maybe you don’t understand every little thing which has been set out in front of you… maybe those are the things you’ll figure out on a reread. But when you lock in, that’s all it takes.

When I sat down to check out some Steampunkish comics a couple of weeks ago and came across Hinges by Meredith McClaren, I thought I’d read a few pages and move on with my life.Bauble and Orio had other plans for me.

Bauble and Orio had other plans for me.

Interview with the Creator of The Legend of Everett Forge

Everett Forge is in the mold of many of those same Westerns. He’s clearly a man on a mission to destroy Omega’s entire livelihood. He’s a myth, a ghost story the Robots tell each other at night – make sure you lube all your joints of Everett Forge will get you.

Interview with the Creator of Boston Metaphysical Society

Take the X-Files, set it in an alternate history of Boston, and force the characters to have to deal with a different set of social mores and expectation than we deal with today. BMS has run a handful of successful Kickstarters (and have 6 issues collected in their trade), so you are going to get your full story.

The Gilded Age Interviews

As part of my month-long Gilded Age Kickstarter campaign, I collected the various interviews I’d conducted with much of the team over the previous year. There are still a couple of people left to talk to… it’s on the to do list.

Interview with the Creator of Monstrous

Monstrous stems from a lifelong fascination with monster movies and their misunderstood heroes.  Even when they’re completing evil, monsters are always the most compelling thing about the stories they occupy.  I’ve always loved the Universal Studios monsters and Ghostbusters and the Hammer Studios movies.  I threw all of those influences together with plots from John Wayne westerns in this strange steampunk hybrid. Monstrous is like all of these things I’ve loved for years having a party together.

Interview with one of the Creators of The Jekyll Island Chronicles

The Jekyll Island Chronicles is a graphic novel adventure series blending historical fact with heavy doses of alternate history and adventure. Book One, The Machine Age War, opens the story in the days following The Great War – a time when a brief glimmer of peace and hope quickly fades as a cryptic organization moves to threaten fragile governments and their people with a campaign of chaos and terror. 

 

 

Kickstart the Comic

Word Smith

This was the first of the series, focusing on Victoria who crafts words. Through the use of this magic, she is able to affect the world around her. This Kickstarter ended up funding, and I have my digital copy!

Imaginary Voyages of Edgar Allan Poer #1 KS Exclusive

Edgar Allan Poe has lost everyone he ever loved and now he is losing his mind. Haunted by his wife’s ghost and his many literary failures, the poet tumbles into a fantastical world created by his genius…and his madness. This world called Terra Somnium is a nightmare region that merges his macabre literary creations and mythological gods and monsters of old, all hell-bent on stopping him from escaping the land of dreams.

This Kickstarter funded and I believe the second issue was funded as well, so if you missed them, keep an eye out for issue 3.

The Invention of EJ. Whitaker

This was a case where the Kickstarter was long over, but I still wanted to shine a little light on the project. In fact, I need to reach out to the creators about an interview I’ve been promised!

When Ada Turner, a young Inventor’s apprentice, creates a flying machine in 1901, she’s introduced to the dangerous side of the Industrial Age.

Blood & Dust Volume 2

The Old West is really that last bastion before the industrial revolution kicks into high gear. But there is plenty of bleed between the two areas, the same as Steampunk and Weird West style stories. That Gothic Horror feel of monsters being in a place where, by all rights, they should not be. And whether it is a Steampowered invention needing to put the darkness back in its place or the sidearm of a cowboy – it feels all connected even if it isn’t a 100% match of genres all the time.

The Death Defying #1

Arthur Conan Doyle & Harry Houdini.

The writer and the magician.

They were once the best of Friends.

When their friendship went to hell, 

The world wasn’t very far behind.

Stoker and Wells – The Graphic Novel

In 1894 London, a 20-something H.G. Wells and a 40-something Bram Stoker meet and have a very unexpected 48-hour adventure that leads to the creative inspiration for both writer’s first great success – THE TIME MACHINE for Wells and DRACULA for Stoker.  It is not only a thrilling, scary, fun, and beautifully drawn adventure tale, but also a story about putting aside fear and insecurity and stepping into your true identity.

Kickstart the Game

1879 London Adventure and Sourcebook

1879 is FASA’s steamweird roleplaying game, that takes the place of Shadowrun in our cosmology. Due to a weird science experiment that opens a stable wormhole, Earth’s magic cycle gets jumpstarted in the late Victorian era, leading to a Gilded Age with elves, dwarves, snarks, and trolls. As the world adjusts to its new races, technological progress races forward, as the Age of Steam begins to give way to the Age of Electricity. Clockwork computers exchange data over telegraph wires, steam-powered airships chug through the sky, and industrial applications of magic churn out new wonders daily.

Westbound: Revolvers and Rituals

Westbound is a game of adventure on the frontier. You’ll explore the magical wild west, encounter other frontiersmen, fight strange new creatures, and strike gold or die trying. Robbing trains, shooting up saloons, and rescuing damsels is all apart of a days work for a Westbounder.

When the soil’s turned sour,

And the well all dried up.

When men in suits put a gun in your hand

And send you to war.

When there’s nothing left of your home,

But ash and regret.

It’s time to turn Westbound.

Game Reviews

Space: 1889

As I said in the breakdown of the RPG Quickstart rules: Take the best parts of John Carter, Warlord of Mars, a mix of the crazy-fun science fiction of Jules Verne and HG Wells, and top it off with some of the pulp stories from the 30’s and 40’s about adventures on other planets (before pesky real science ruined it for everyone). The Imperial nations of Europe decided to look to the stars to appease their appetites for materials for Queen and Country (or Kaiser and Country as the case may be).

Other

5 Steampunk Movies You Should Watch

As I was coming up with this list of 5 Steampunk movies, I had to admit that there aren’t as many as you might think there are considering the number of costumes I see posted all over the web (or at conventions like Dragon Con). The following aren’t necessarily the best, but these are ones who contribute in their own way to the genre.

Short Film – Eye of the Storm

This is a music video. This is a short film. This is amazing looking.

The story centers around a sky captain making his way across the sky, making peace with what came before and steadying himself on what may come next. Accompanied by a large dog-sized dragon, he sees the green glow just past an oncoming storm and must make his decision on how to deal with it. Whether he should avoid it or push through to the other side.

Batman: Gotham by Gaslight

With the trailer for the animated movie debuting, I thought it was more than time to give a little focus on a Batman related Steampunk story… that I have not read as of yet. Share in the story of my failure…

Gears and Cogs

A few of the things that had caught my eye over that week: Draw with Jazza, They are Billions (video game), and Brass Empire (card game).

***

I’m looking forward to even more this next year!

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

In the Future, Retread the Past

We come to the beginning of the year and with it a chance to reflect on the previous year’s accomplishments and failures and set those goals for the following year. Every year I set out goals, but manage to only hit a small portion of what I had planned for the coming year. Sometimes the reasons are other projects which suddenly demanded my attention and other times it is a time squeeze or not managing my time just right or perhaps I’m setting my goals too high?

The thing is that each of these projects are like open boxes in my mind. If I’m not careful I’ll continue to open new boxes… which is great! However, if you never close any of the boxes, that can be worse than not having them in the first place.

2018 has to be about closing boxes so that new boxes can be worked on. And a big piece of that puzzle was actually accomplished late last year with the Gilded Age Kickstarter funding. Shutting the box (completing the graphic novel) doesn’t mean I’m finished with the Gilded Age, but instead means I have something I can point at and feel that sense of accomplishment we all get when we complete those large tasks.

The Look Back – 2017

Reviewing my previous to-do list is a little depressing because I can feel the frustration of my previous self. 2017 was to be the end of this “5-year plan” where… well I don’t exactly know what it is I was expecting.

The White Effect

I have one more path for this book before I do self-publish it. I entered it into the Angry Robot open submissions during the holidays. One way or another this must become a box that gets closed.

Edge of the World

Not much movement here. I still need to finish my self-edit. I would still like to send out query letters.

S.O.U.L. Mate

Above, I mentioned that having too many open boxes is better than the alternative, but in this case, the old Writer’s Block came to visit me. It was surprising considering I had the book outlined out… until I realized I didn’t have parts of it outlined out… and that brought me to a screeching halt.

The Gilded Age

This is where I can pat myself (and all those who supported the Kickstarter) on our collective backs. After helping out on the Route 3 Kickstarter, I was both excited and worried about launching my own. But when I finally pulled the trigger… it was even more nerve-wracking than I would have thought!

Regardless, this is a big success, and I’m looking forward to holding the trade in my hands.

Veronica Mars Novella 2

This was published earlier in the year and somewhat showed me that everything is timing. When the Kindle Worlds had just launched, we were pretty much ready with the 1st novella… and while it didn’t break the bank, it was a consistent seller, a handful here or there every month. This novella was released a couple of years later. There wasn’t a new book or movie or really much in the way of Veronica Mars news, and the sales of both books prove that out.

I’m still extremely happy to have published the story.

Short Stories

This was a very nebulous one and I did finish up a couple of stories, but they are still on the hard drive, so maybe I’ll give myself half credit.

Blogging

Another success story in that I still didn’t miss a week (though I came close a couple of times), but the other aspect was to be a little more focused with the Kickstart the Comic series or the Behind the Comic series… and I think I did a better job of it. My blog is probably still a little too scattered, but I like that.

Plus, I also launched a second blog over the summer in Steampunk Fridays… and let me tell you it is both a blessing and a curse to have a focused blog. Sometimes it means you have plenty of things to write about, interviews to run, reviews, or Kickstarters, and other times there is next to nothing happening. Very feast or famine.

I took the last couple of weeks off for the holidays, but I’m hoping to keep at it in the coming year.

Looking Ahead to 2018

What are my goals this year? How about forward motion on closing those open boxes? How about opening new boxes? How about publishing another book? How about selling books at conventions?

How about a little of all those bits and pieces? Things I’d like to work on in the coming year:

The Gilded Age

The White Effect

The Edge of the World

S.O.U.L. Mate

The Crossing

Ravensgate

Short Stories

The Next Big Idea for a Novel Series

Hollow Empire Season 2

You Must Be This Tall To Ride

Entropy

Lightning

The blog(s)

Something I didn’t even have an idea was on the horizon

I want to be excited by the paths I choose. I want to have some success. I want to get the books into people’s hands and have them love the ride.

So what are you doing this year?

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

The First Immortal

The First Immortal

 

I walked the streets of a city I hadn’t seen in two-hundred years.

And I felt thousands of people watching me.

If Sumer’s crowds were passionate, it felt easy to forgive them. They knew me only from the stories they’d read, the outlandish tales their parents had told, and the exaggerations their schools had taught. In their eyes, I was something well beyond human.

‘Callista – Bringer of Light,’ the banners at the light-train station had blazed.

‘Callista – the Savior.’

I’d learned long ago to ignore such things.

Behind glass partitions, amid lush gardens, and atop silver towers, the people cheered me. An entourage of black-suited men led my way, pushing through the crowds as we neared Arcadia’s tallest tower – the Gran Spire. The people wanted more than my fragile half-smile.

But then, they knew nothing of the horrors I’d faced.

I crossed white streets and meandered through a courtyard made of glass. At the bottom of the Gran Spire’s white-marble stairs, I halted. High above, a long line of glass doors remained shut.

“Is all this necessary?” I asked the man beside me. He was young – at most twenty-five years. He’d never left the planet of Sumer. I knew it at a glance.

He’s never even left Arcadia.

“Pardon, m’lady.” He looked nervous despite his black suit and dark sunglasses. “It’s protocol. President Hephast and the Congressional Court want to welcome you in style.”

I sighed.

I’d known his answer before he’d said it.

But I’d been hopeful for something other than cheering crowds beneath the midday suns.

I stood in the entourage’s center, tugging at the collar of my deep blue dress. I hadn’t wanted to wear the sleek, ridiculous Arcadian fashion, but I’d allowed the heralds who’d greeted my landing to convince me otherwise.

“The people will love you,” they’d promised.

“It’s best to look as though you’re one of us.”

I miss the war already, I thought.

And I forgot how warm this planet is.

A dozen times since last I’d stood beneath Sumer’s two suns. I’d died and been reborn. My newest body had only ever known the cold of interstellar Rings and the deep dark of planets long ago murdered by the Strigoi.

And now the light hurts me almost as much as my enemy.

I glanced at the bronze-skinned Arcadians surrounding me. To them, my discomfort must’ve seemed strange.

“M’lady, are you well?” the young man in sunglasses asked me.

“I am. And please don’t call me m’lady.”

“As you wish, m’la— Madame Callista,” he stammered. “What shall I call you?”

Cal,” I said. “I prefer Cal.”

The glass doors at the Gran Spire’s bottom swung open. Out stepped President Hephast and seventeen members of Arcadia’s Congressional Court, all of them decked in garish Arcadian suits. They were old, many well over a hundred years. To them, standing at the stairwell’s bottom, I must’ve looked childlike.

Yet I’m far older than anyone here.

“Callista Lightbringer.” President Hephast boomed across the courtyard. The amplifiers on his collar projected his voice loud enough for everyone within a half-kilometer to hear.

The crowds fell into reverent silence. The entourage of black-suited men knelt all around me. I stood alone among them, the only soul in Arcadia gazing up at Hephast and his assembly.

“Please, Lady Lightbringer,” Hephast called to me, “come forth.”

With a sigh, I climbed the stairs. My heeled shoes clicked on the glass, and my dress’s train dragged behind me.

Why all this in the middle of the day? I winced against the light. Why not at night?

Symbolic. Must be.  

I arrived at Hephast. Standing just one step above me, he looked older than I’d expected. His bald scalp was tanned to a golden shine by Sumer’s suns. His shoulders were narrow, his fingers long and thin, and his eyes hanging in his sockets, busy yet so very tired.

Humanity had found many ways to extend their lives.

But only I had managed immortality.

“The light, it bothers you?” Hephast saw me wincing.

“It’s been so long,” I said. “And this new body…it’s never been to a sunlit world. It hasn’t yet adapted.”

The old man peered beyond me. I followed his gaze, and found the crowds still kneeling, their eyes averted.

“Wave to them,” said Hephast. “Wave and then join me in my tower. The people have waited so long for you to come. They want to see you happy.”

Happy?

I can’t remember happy.

I faced the crowds and waved to them. A few dared to look up at me, and within moments they all stood and roared with applause. I’d never heard such a noise before. The sound of such overwhelming humanity felt powerful, but empty.

I waved for a full thirty seconds, and then faced Hephast again. All at once, I felt the Congressional Court’s eyes fall upon me. The line of elderly men and women smiled down at me, but not because they loved me.

They smiled because they needed me.

Soldiers clad in powered white armor emerged from the Gran Spire and held open the giant glass doors. Hephast beckoned for me to lead the way, and so I did. Behind me, Arcadia trembled with the cheers of thousands, and then I vanished into the tallest tower humanity had ever built.

Inside, I breathed. The midday heat fell away, and the crowd’s roars went silent. I stood beneath a spinning silver fan whose blades ushered cold air across my face. I closed my eyes and pretended I was still aboard the Sabre, still gliding through the deep darkness between the stars.

If only…

The soldiers stepped aside. Hephast and the seventeen Court members swept toward the Gran Spire’s central hall.

“Come,” Hephast called to me.

I followed.

In a vast white chamber with pale carpets and sharp lights, I settled into the chair they offered me. They put me in the second highest seat, just a half-step below Hephast’s colorless throne. Below us, some hundred chairs sat in a great ring around a table carved of glass.

Every seat was filled.

All eyes were on me.

As I looked into the room, I considered my audience.

These people have never seen me before. They know my stories, but not the truth.

The lights dimmed. Only two still shined.

One above Hephast.

And one above me.

“Welcome to Sumer’s high assembly, Lady Lightbringer,” announced Hephast. With his amplifier still active, his voice spread throughout the room like thunder.

“Thank you.” I gazed forward without expression.

“Before you sits the Arcadian Congressional Court.” He waved his skinny arm. “Also here are delegates from the city of Mercuria, emissaries from Iona and Venya, and members of the Far Court from distant Plutari. They come from all corners of Sumer to hear you speak.”

I gazed at my audience. Their faces, shrouded in shadow, looked shapeless in the dark.

“Forgive me,” I said, “but most of these places…I’ve never heard their names. When I left Sumer more than two centuries ago, the planet hadn’t been fully colonized. Now it seems—”

“We’ve come a long way, Lady Lightbringer,” said someone in the darkness.

Callista,” I corrected him.

“Pardon?” He sounded confused.

“My name – Callista,” I replied. “No one in the fleet calls me Lightbringer. I am…I always have been…Callista.”

Murmurs spread throughout the chamber. The Court’s discomfort hung heavy in the air.

“Callista,” Hephast said my name. “So be it. We’re told you have a full report. If it pleases you, we will hear it now.”

My report arrived years before I did, I wanted to say. You already know everything.

“As you wish.” I nodded.

I reached into my bodice and withdrew a slender silver capsule. I motioned for the nearest attendant, and the nervous young woman took the capsule from my fingers.

“Slide it into your holo-viewer,” I said loud enough for everyone to hear. “You will see what I last witnessed.”

“Wait…” said someone in the dark, “is it—”

“Yes. It’s a vid-capture from Strigoi hive XV Prime,” I said. “From their home-world. Or should I say — the home-world that is no more.”

The Court drowned in a sea of whispers. I heard their voices, faint and full of disbelief, and I allowed myself a smirk.

“…it’s true after all,” one woman said.

“…XV Prime? Their last stronghold in the Milky Way?” uttered a man in the seats below me.

“…she has a vid-capture? We’ll get to see the dark planet?”

The attendant girl looked to Hephast for guidance. He nodded, and the young woman scurried to the projector machine beside his throne.

She slid the silver capsule into the machine.

And we watched the battle unfold:

* * *

“They’ve nowhere to escape,” the young pilot beside me shouted.

“Which means they’ll fight all the harder.” I shook my head.

From the cockpit of my scythe-winged warship – the Sabre, I saw everything:

To the left, the star we’d just created blazed with brilliant yellow light. Even at ten-million kilometers away, the infant sun hurt my eyes to see.

To the right, the bloated Strigoi world XV Prime shuddered beneath the impact of the two-thousand string reprogrammers our fleet had just dropped on its surface. We’d sequenced the string reprogrammers, or S.R.’s, to turn the black substance composing XV Prime’s surface into glass.

If the new star we’d made didn’t kill the dark planet, we’d shatter it instead.

We knew most the S.R.’s would be overwhelmed and reversed by Strigoi death-bots.

“…but they can’t stop every last one.” I grinned in my cockpit. “And when the chain-reaction starts, we’ll break this planet. You’ll see.”

The young pilot stared at XV Prime. The planet’s coal-black surface teemed with Strigoi death-machines, its dark towers housing billions of our enemy.

The poor kid shivered.

He sees them.

They’re coming.  

 I ignited the Sabre’s quantum engine. I felt my chair vibrate and the universe move around me. XV Prime and the infant star became blurs as we accelerated to twenty-thousand kilometers per second. Anything slower, and the Strigoi warships would’ve carved us to tatters. Anything faster, and we’d have moved too far from XV Prime to fight.

“Joff would’ve gone faster.” I grinned.

“Who’s Joff?” my co-pilot asked.

That’s right, I thought, he doesn’t know.

I seized the cockpit control stick, guiding the Sabre between webs of Strigoi death-beams. They weren’t firing at us, but instead at the bigger, more powerful ships in our attack fleet. Red lights flared on the vid-screens, each one indicating a friendly ship’s extermination.

“God, they’re killing us!” the pilot screamed.

Should’ve left him on his home-ship.

No. I saw another twenty red lights illuminate the vid-screen.

If I had, he’d already be dead.

After many hundred years and countless attacks on Strigoi worlds, I’d become a far better pilot than anyone else in the fleet.

And yet…

I’m still not as good as Joff.

I pulled, pushed, and spun the Sabre’s control stick. We weren’t moving through space so much as space spun around us. Whenever I pulled the trigger, streams of missiles tore into the darkness. The Strigoi scythe-ships, their hulls like black, cadaverous bone, dove out of the missiles’ paths.

Not one missile hit its target.

Not that it mattered.

I pulled a second trigger, and all at once the missiles erupted into orbs of light. Spanning a few hundred kilometers each, the orbs burned only a few seconds before collapsing back into shadow.

The Strigoi were made of nightmares, but they’d yet to find a way to survive our newest weapons.

Darkness overwhelms light, our enemy believed.

No.

Light destroys the dark. 

“They’re almost out of ships,” I said to my co-pilot. I looked at him, and I saw the sweat on his forehead, the color drained out of his skin. He looked like a Strigoi had touched him.

But it was only fear that paled my young friend.

“We have to get closer,” I said. “Fire the beacons above their largest city. We’re going in.”

“We’re going down there?” he gasped.

“It’s the same as every other world we’ve destroyed,” I told him. “Now fire the beacons before it’s too late.”

“How many?”

“All of them.”

He hammered a sequence into his half of the Sabre’s console. Nervous wreck though he seemed, he pulled himself together long enough to launch a wave of nearly a thousand light beacons from the compartments beneath our wing.

The tiny spheres ejected themselves into space. Soaring through the darkness behind them, I cut our speed to a few hundred kilometers per second.

XV Prime awaited.

On its surface, seas of black towers stretched to the end of all sights.

The Strigoi swarmed.

Having slain hundreds of their worlds and dozens of their interstellar death-spheres, I was their nemesis. They knew I was coming.

But they can’t stop me.

Can you see, Joff?

Are you watching?

The beacons formed a web a few hundred kilometers above XV Prime’s hugest, blackest city. All at once, they ignited. Strigoi death-beams died in the beacons’ light-storm. Swarms of death-bots soaked up the blinding radiance and disintegrated.

I blinked and saw clouds of ashes.

My eyes hurt in the aftermath.

The dark city had never seen such light before. Thousands of years ago, the Strigoi had stopped the planet’s rotation, cutting it off from the star blazing on its opposite side.

And then they’d killed the star.

And thrived in the shadows remaining.

“No death-bots survived,” I said to the young pilot. “Nothing to stop our Primary S.R.”

“Then can’t we turn around?” He shivered. “The other S.R.’s should be enough, right?”

“No,” I grimaced. “We have to be sure.”

I keyed a quick sequence into the Sabre’s console. A last few death-beams smoked and curled upward from the Strigoi city, but I seized the control stick and swerved just in time.

“Release the Primary S.R.,” I commanded the Sabre.

And she did.

Somewhere in the Sabre’s underbelly, a door slid open. A slender silver projectile, no taller than me and only half as heavy, leapt into the planet’s orbit at quantum speeds. I couldn’t see it, but I felt it in my bones. It was the most powerful weapon we’d ever created.

“…strong enough to turn a half a planet into whatever molecule we want,” the scientist had told me.

“…hydrogen, helium, anything…”

No. None of those, I thought.

Glass.

I want the Strigoi to be glass.

And so it was.

At the moment the S.R. hit, we were already on our way out of XV’s atmosphere. The last of the beacons’ glimmers shielded us from the death-beams, and we soared out into far orbit.

A graveyard awaited us.

Clouds of dark powder floated in the void, the remains of thousands of Strigoi scythe-ships.

Metal spun through the emptiness, sprinkled with the remains of the humans who’d died.

“Look,” I said to the young pilot. “No, not at the dead ships. At the vid screen. See XV Prime? The S.R….it’s working.”

Together, we gazed at the screen. XV Prime’s surface, already cratered from the other, weaker S.R.’s, began to change color. From black to translucent silver, it went, and from hard, inflexible bone to brittle glass. Towers once black and mighty collapsed under their own weight. A full quarter of the planet shattered all at once.

I tried to imagine the sound, but I couldn’t.

God,” the young pilot exhaled.

“They’re finished,” I said. “The new star we made of its sister planet…the smaller S.R.’s burning…the Primary S.R. turning everything to glass. We don’t have anything capable of detecting Strigoi life-signs, but they’re all dead. I can feel it. Can’t you?”

He looked at me with his mouth hanging open.

“Weren’t they already dead?”

“Yeah…well…now they’re dead-dead.” I smiled. “And this was their last world in our galaxy.”

* * *

The hologram in the Gran Spire’s heart flickered and went out.

Having witnessed the spectacular end of XV Prime, Hephast and all the others fell into a deep, satisfying silence.

I wanted it to last forever.

But soon enough, Hephast spoke.

“It’s done,” he shouted. “It’s finished. The Strigoi are dead.”

I opened my mouth to interject, but the Congressional Court erupted into applause. Their raucous cries washed over me, hurting my ears. My new body hadn’t been conditioned for such noise.

“Lightbringer. Lightbringer. Lightbringer,” they chanted.

“The war is over,” they bellowed.

I waited.

And I let them come back to calm.

After five minutes, the clamor died. Hephast called for order, and most of the assembly returned to their seats.

“Lady Lightbringer,” Hephast said to me. “You have done a great deed. For hundreds of years, we have lived in the Strigoi shadow. Many of us never thought it would end. We assumed…no…we knew we would make weapons and send fighters to their doom until the end of all days. And now—”

“All hail Lady Lightbringer,” someone in the assembly cried.

“Our champion,” said another.

“Give her whatever she desires,” shouted still another.

With a wave of his fragile fingers, Hephast quieted the room.

“And so we shall,” he said. “Lady Lightbringer – or Lady Callista, as you like – we shall restore your full citizenship upon Sumer. You shall be given a tower, upon which your name will shine until the end of time. When our people look to the sky and fear no death at Strigoi hands, it is your name which will linger in their minds, and your victory for which monuments numbering in the thousands shall be hewn.”

“President Hephast…” My voice sounded small. “If I may speak…”

“You may,” he said.

“The Strigoi menace in our galaxy is destroyed,” I began. “It’s true. We’ve spent nearly a thousand years making it so. When he – when Joff Armstrong slew the very first Strigoi installation, I never thought it would be possible.”

“And yet here we are,” Hephast raised his slender arms, igniting fresh cheers from the crowd.

“Yes. Here we are.” I raised my voice. “But our galaxy isn’t the only one in which our enemy thrives. We know them to exist in Andromeda.”

Andromeda.” Hephast scoffed. “This too, we have heard. And yet even the Strigoi must know they can never overtake us now. Our scientists have said it will be a hundred-thousand years before our enemy can again marshal enough power to threaten our galaxy. A hundred-thousand years…might as well be a million.”

“Are you saying the war effort will end?” I asked.

The room quieted. I heard only the beating of my own heart.

“There is no war.” Hephast looked down at me. “This very day, we shall send word to the other planets. It is confirmed – the Strigoi are defeated.”

I hung my head. I’d always known what his answer would be, and yet I’d dared to hope otherwise. For all my centuries of wisdom, I often forgot the simplest lesson I’d ever learned:

Hope is a mistake.

* * *

The First Immortal is the opening chapter of upcoming novel – Eaters of the Light.

Eaters of the Light is the sequel to novels, Darkness Between the Stars and Shadow of Forever.

Look for it to hit stores in early 2018.

J Edward Neill

A Love For Every Day

 

Last year 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, and as she begins reading the entries for the last few days of the year, 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.

Serenity

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 creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com