Tessera Guild at the Atlanta Sci-Fi and Fantasy Expo 2017 – March 11 and 12

Come meet the members of the Tessera Guild at the third annual Atlanta Sci-Fi and Fantasy Expo on March 11th and 12th, 2017.

North DeKalb Mall in Decatur, GA. Admission is free.

Robert Jeffrey IIJohn McGuire, and Egg Embry, along with Sir Leland Beauchamp, will host four panels over the two days:

 

I AM BlackSci-Fi.com
Saturday, March 11th from 3:00 to 3:50 EST

Hosted by Robert Jeffrey II as well as William Satterwhite

“Since its inception BlackSci-Fi.com’s goal has been to be “the premier site for the latest updates on Sci-Fi, Sci-Fact and Fantasy entertainment, news, people, places, and events and the measure of their impact on the African-American community, while also seeking to inform and inspire the imagination of individuals who aspire to live beyond the boundaries of everyday life”

Join Editor-in-Chief Robert Jeffrey II, and contributing writer William Satterwhite as they discuss the in’s and out’s of working for BlackSci-Fi.com, the websites goals and future plans, while touching on the general state of Black speculative fiction.”

 

You wrote something. Now what?
Saturday, March 11th from 5:00 to 5:50 EST

Hosted by Robert Jeffrey II as well as Bobby Nash and Milton Davis

“Join writers Bobby Nash, Milton Davis, and Robert Jeffrey as they discuss what happens after (or during) writing a book (novel, comic, short story, etc). Enjoy this insightful look into each writers path to becoming a published author followed by a Q&A session.”

 

John McGuire co-hosting: Freelance Writing and the 9 to 5

Freelance Writing and the 9 to 5
Sunday, March 12th from 3:00 to 3:50 EST

Hosted by John McGuire, Robert Jeffrey II as well as Nicole Kurtz, and William Satterwhite

“The Ups, the Downs, and Everything Between
By day, mild-mannered 9 to 5-er, but by night they create worlds! Join freelance writers as they discuss keeping a balance between the daily rigors of their 9-5s and writing careers.”

 

Sir Leland Beauchamp co-hosting: Dice, Kickstarter, Cash-in

Dice, Kickstarter, Cash-in
Sunday, March 12th from 12:00 to 12:50 EST

Hosted by Egg Embry and Sir Leland Beauchamp

“Role-play, write-up, and crowdfund your RPG adventures!
Have an original adventure, series of monsters, or tabletop game? Interested in crowdfunding its publication? Join Egg Embry and Leland Beauchamp for a a beginner’s guide to monetizing your tabletop RPG products. We’ll create a D&D creature to take through a hypothetical Kickstarter (idea to pitch to funding to production to delivery to what comes next).”

 

Egg Embry co-hosting: Dice, Kickstarter, Cash-in

For directions to North DeKalb Mall and this free convention, visit the ASFE website here.

 

* * *

 

Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer

Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press. His purchases have been published by:

  • Sasquatch Game Studio’s Primeval Thule for 5e (2015) available at DriveThruRPG.com – Writer
  • Ember Design Studios’ Yrisa’s Nightmare for 5e and Pathfinder available at DriveThurRPG.com – Writer
  • Ember Design Studios’ Rats in the Street for 5e and Pathfinder available at DriveThurRPG.com – Writer & Artist
  • Kobold Press’ Tome of Beasts for 5e available at KoboldPress.com – Playtester

My Top TV Moments of 2016

Atlanta, Legends of Tomorrow, and House of Cards

Atlanta, Legends of Tomorrow, and House of Cards

I love watching television. It started with  Batman: The Animated Series, progressed into my teenage years spent watching Homicide: Life on The Streets, and has coalesced now into me now having no shortage of quality programming to choose from, in between my writing.

I’m a firm believer in the saying that we’re currently living a golden age of television. A time where whatever your tastes are, you’ll find at least a couple of television programs that will fill your palate.

Netflix. Hulu. Amazon. Crackle. Heck even You Tube. All of these streaming providers, and more offer a great staple of original programming. Add to that such cable networks as Starz, USA, FX, HBO, Cinemax, Showtime, and you’ve got an infinite amount of things to watch.

So with everyone doing their own “Top TV List of 2016” list, combined with my television watching enjoyment, I thought I’d put together a short list of some stand out moments from TV land. These are the moments that held the most impact for me, ranging from mouth open in an “ohmigoddidthatjusthappen” reaction, to getting a little choked up at a particular moment.

And can I say as a writer, I also enjoyed the superb craftsmanship that was on display with each of the below moments. This guy was taken to class in a few instances, while also enjoying the work as a fan.

ALSO BE WARNED:

spoiler_alert_300_w2

 

My “Laughed Out Loud Throughout The Entire Episode Like A Madman” Moment:

Atlanta/ FX/ Season 1, Episode 7, B.A.N

I’m going to start by saying this: WATCH THIS SHOW.

Now.

Next to Stranger Things, this series was my favorite new series of the year, and every episode is solid.

Basic premise: two cousins try to make their way up in the Atlanta rap scene and hilarity ensues. Believe me when I say, my weak description does nothing in the way to prepare you for how solid Atlanta is.

The writing on this series is sharp as hell, the satire is extremely on point, and just watching Earn (Donald Glover), Paper Boi (Brian Tyree Heny), and Darius (Keith Stanfield) just trying to make it within the Atlanta music scene is great to watch.

One particular episode that stood out for me for how against the grain that this show is would be episode 7 titled “B.A.N.”. Paper Boi appears on an Atlanta talk show called Montague, and finds himself subjected to an interview that’s going nowhere fast.

What works extremely well about this in addition to Paper Boi’s deadpan reaction to all of the ridiculousness that’s taking place around him via the host and other guest, is how the episode is formatted.

As you’re watching B.A.N there are fake commercials mixed in with the actual Montague episode, creating this weird cross section of fake narrative and real life. Mixed into the talk show are some really creative news spots (the Trans-Racial segment deserves an Emmy nod on its own) that are hilarious and had me rolling.


My “No Honey, I’m Not Crying. There’s Something In My Eye Excuse” Moment

Game Of Thrones/ HBO/ Season 6, Episode 5, Door

In a season of Game of Thrones that had no shortage of great moments, this one stole the show for me.

In the most heart-wrenching, gut punch, kick in the nether region way possible.

Hodor (Kristian Nairn) has been the Bran Stark’s lovable big guy protector for all 6 seasons that we’ve watched Game of Thrones, and to see him taken out by the White Walkers was hard to watch.

When the famous catch phrase “Hodor” was explained, as a fan I was hit pretty hard. As a writer/ creator I silently stood up and did a slow clap for the creators of this show.

Masterful and impactful storytelling at its best.


My “I Was Smiling and Feeling All Types of Hyped” Moment

Legends of Tomorrow/ CW/ Season 2, Episode 7, Invasion

The CW Arrow-verse (Supergirl, Arrow, Legends of Tomorrow, The Flash) is like getting a fanboy Christmas every Monday through Thursday night.

You get a great helping of all of the DC characters that you know and love, and its not just pandering special effects laden theatrics being presented. Sure there have been some weak episodes and seasons for a few of the shows, but speaking from the perspective of a guy whose watched this universe grow from the earliest days of Arrow, these shows are fun and deserve to be checked out.

In the seasons before we’ve had small crossovers involving the crews from Arrow, The Flash, and Legends of Tommorrow. With this being the first year of having Supergirl at its proper home on the CW network, the creators of the universe decided that an ultimate crossover was in order.

If you’re a fan of comic books crossovers are a regular thing. Its nothing to see Spidey web-slinging across the Manhattan skyline with Iron Man skyrocketing pass him, or to see Batman doing his ole’ scowly face routine as he, Wonder Woman, and Superman team up to take on a world destroying despot.

For casual fans of the recent glut of super hero movies/ television shows, crossovers such as these are something new, as presented in the growing cinematic universes of Marvel Studios and DC Comics/ Warner Bros.

The same applies for the Arrow-verse. So after a 4 night crossover event,  for casual and long time fans of these DC properties, seeing the rooftop battle against the DC heroes and the invading alien Dominators was awesome to watch.

Some folks are definitely right to draw comparisons between this and the epic airport battle in this years Captain America: Civil War, but it was still fun to watch nonetheless. And I’ll also admit the Dominators were kind of on the cannon-fodder status for the heroes.

But dammit, what we got was an epic/fun scene of kick butt action, with a little bit of saving the day thrown in.


My “WTF. Did That Just Happen?” Moment

House of Cards/ Netflix/ Season 4, Episode 13, Chapter 52

The Underwood’s (Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright) are probably some of the worst people on Earth. They lie, they cheat, they manipulate, and they kill to get what the want.

And like Vic Mackie (Michael Chiklis) in The Shield and Walter White (Bryan Cranston) in Breaking Bad, the audience loves to root for them. In Mackie’s case I wanted him to get caught for the entirety of the series, but watching him duck and dodge the system was fun to watch, in a twisted sort of way.

In the final few minutes of Chapter 52 the Underwoods have taken their viciousness to a new level, having found themselves backed into a corner where there is no escape.

As result they decide to use their power as President and First Lady to set the country on a path of “fighting terror” in a total war type of fashion to deflect attention away from their troubles. The fact that it begins with a “sacrificial lamb” moment, with the death of an unfortunate character makes it all the more worse.

I don’t want to give away the whole story here of how things have led to this point, because the season deserves to be watched. This moment stands out as this year’s WTF moment for me.

Why I’m Staying My A%# out of The Woods

With Halloween around the corner I thought I’d dig into my box of what creeps yours truly out.

A gateway to the nether reaches of the soul........

A gateway to the nether reaches of the soul……..

Putting aside such horrors as flying cockroaches (Also known as the spawn of Satan.), and Jules Verne sized squids (It’s the eyes. They bore holes into your soul.) I’m going to focus on one particular thing that keeps me kind of weirded out to a small degree.

The wooded area behind my apartment complex creeps me out.  I’m a grown man, and I’m not afraid to admit that.  Laugh if you want, but for some reason the forested area behind my home can be a creep fest at times.

I grew up camping in Boy Scouts. I love a great hike through the forest, or on a park trail through the woods. Heck, after years of camping in upstate New York, my Dad taught my brother and I how to camp. So I say all this to say I enjoy getting lost (not literally) on a trip or two to the woods.

img_20161028_201149

There’s just something about the woods behind the apartment complex that’s just plain ‘ole creepy. Maybe its because of how my mind works with the writing, I’m always thinking of various scenarios that are playing out in the densely packed area behind my back porch. For instance, the first few weeks after we moved out here a couple of years ago, I remember my wife pointing out a set of sounds coming from the area behind our place.

I’m used to hearing dogs, cats, birds, maybe a raccoon or two. The normal animal sounds you’d associate with a forest that was adjacent to an apartment complex.

What we heard that night was just plain strange. I remember standing on the porch and listening to something that sounded like a cacophony of guttural, low moaning animal sounds. Or as my wife would put it “pure scariness”.

img_20161030_123536

Usually with most animal sounds that you might hear at the same time, you can discern one from the other. An owl sounds like an owl. A dog sounds like a dog. A raccoon sounds like a raccoon.

What I remember hearing that night, and  subsequent nights afterwards, was nothing I’d ever heard before or since. With my writers mind being as crazy as it is, I began to think that maybe a hellish portal had opened behind my house to release some other worldly creatures into our neck of the woods.

Damn you Stranger Things for getting that idea on screen first. 🙂

All I know is that when I’m walking my dog at night, we don’t head towards to the treeline where the woods meet the apartments. Outside of the concern that my pet will run after some random rodent that might pop out of the woods, I’m not chancing being snatched up by any of these creepy sounding creatures.

Now maybe what we’re hearing is just a regular ‘ole run of the mill forest dweller. I just know that I sure as heck am not going to try and confirm or deny that, by taking a field trip to the woods.

img_20161030_123200

Lastly, my apartment complex has done a piss poor job of keeping up the trail that runs through this area. Trash is strewn about, bridges have fallen into disrepair, small ponds are completely dry, leaves cover the path, and it just looks creepily abandoned by society.

I’m a geek when it comes to learning about abandoned areas like The Maunsell Sea Forts of England, Pripyat in Ukraine, or Hashima Island of Japan. Though I think the area where I live is far from getting to the “ghost town” status of these notable landmarks, I feel that the jogging/ walking path behind the complex is slowly but surely getting there.

img_20161030_123515

I’ve walked this path a few times (during day time of course) and each time I find myself with a general sense of unease. Not full on fright, or panic, but more so “yeah, I probably need to get the heck out of here soon”.

Maybe if our complex hadn’t seemingly just wrote off the area, and tried to keep it up, I’d feel differently. Until then, I’ll stay away from the abandoned looking path that winds behind our apartment.

Check out some pics from the above mentioned area, and enjoy.

Have a safe and Happy Halloween folks.

Tapping Into My Inner Harley Quinn

Tapping Into My Inner Harley Quinn

By Rebecca J. Bozarth

 

Cosplay….if you’ve ever attended any sort of Con, you’ve heard this word.  If you know what it is, you most likely have your opinions on it and especially on those who throw themselves into the cosplay world.   What is cosplay?  Basically they took the words “costume” and “play” and turned it into a subgenre.  Folks who like to dress as specific characters that inspire them in some way, or make others laugh.  One of my favorite forms of cosplay is when someone takes two different characters and meshes them into one well-combined antithesis.  This photo I took at Dragoncon last year is one of my favorite examples.

d-con1

I’ve never really thought of myself as one of “those people,” someone who spend copious amounts of time crafting and putting together the perfect recreation.  But recently, I’ve decided to look at things in a new way, and change a lot of who I am.

In Atlanta, which is where I live, every Labor Day, close to 80,000 people descend on our already crowded streets to participate in Dragoncon.  Dragoncon is the second largest sci-fi convention in the US.  Every fan boy/girl can pay $80 for four days of hot sweaty geekiness.  During this time, you will be crowded into a hotel room – if you were so lucky to win that lottery.  Walk the hot Atlanta streets with wings hitting you in the face and swords poking into every orifice of your being.  Wait in line for hours to possibly make it into a room that is holding a panel of your favorite tv show.  Eat overpriced bad food.  Take in a drum circle.  Then party all night to roughly six am if you’re so inclined, get a couple of hours of sleep, and wake up to do it all over again the next day.  It is four days of geeky magic and I absolutely love it.

reb-1

This year, I did things a little differently.  I actually cosplayed.  Now, I love to dress up for Halloween and have done so since birth, but I have never cosplayed before.  I belong to Metro Atlanta Geeks, and was going to be attending the con with my fellow MAG friends.  They cosplay and love it.

The last couple of months have been about doing things different from my norm, so I decided I’m going all in and have the full Dragoncon cosplay experience.

reb-2

I’m blonde, and one of the major deciding factors for me with Halloween costumes is choosing a “blonde” character.  I HATE wearing wigs and refuse to do so.  So this past Halloween, I wanted to be Harley Quinn before the movie came out.  Of course there are many versions of Harley.  I’m a gamer, so when I saw the Harley from Arkham costume, I ordered it.  Some context about me, I’d been working on my weight for the past year, and though I had lost a lot at this point, when I got the costume, it was not enough.  So plan b.  Harley harlequin costume I found online that looked larger.  It came – same problem.  Plan c – purchase items and put together Harley from Suicide Squad.  This worked.  I found the shirt, chose a sexy skirt instead of her little red and blue hot pants, and no costume I wear is complete without my hooker boots.  Cool Halloween costume overall.  Sprayed the hair red and blue, made the “Goodnight” bat – the whole nine.  But it wasn’t perfect.

reb-harley-1

So skip ahead – Dragon Con.  Still working out almost daily.  I’m in process of moving to a new apartment (week before Dragon Con cause that’s smart) and I found my old costumes.  Not thinking they would fit, I tried them on – both fit perfectly!  I was very excited.  So I decided to ramp up my Halloween Suicide Squad Harley and get the hot pants and Puddin’ choker.  I was ready.  Each night, I would be a different Harley.

reb-harley-2

I arrived on Thursday night – which actually turns out to be one of the best Dragoncon nights.  Everyone is over the top excited and it’s not over crowded.  I had purchased a R2D2 dress from Amazon and handcrafted an R2D2 headpiece.  That’s the beauty of it – if you can build it save your money for other fun!  So I drew my headpiece on very heavy card stock I had left over from art school, wove a ribbon through it, and wa-la I had Thursday night’s costume covered.

 

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday were my Harley costumes.  Friday: Arkham Harley, Saturday: Suicide Squad, and Sunday: Sexy Harlequin Harley.   For each, I had my hair in pigtails, two nights with the black and red, and Suicide Squad with the blue and red.  I whitened my face, put on heavy dark black eye makeup, and of course, blood-red lipstick.  It was surreal.  People were coming up (guys mostly) and asking to take pictures – of me!  I posed with a million Jokers it seemed.  Deadpools seemed to really like me – we’ll look past the whole different franchise thing….  The best was the little kids that wanted to pose with me.  Adorable!  I have never experienced something like that before in my life.  It was fantastic.  I got to be a sexy villain and pose like I was a celebrity.  I don’t know that I’ve ever had that much fun.  Walking along the Atlanta streets decked out, swinging my “Goodnight” bat.  For a moment, you really are your character.  Thankfully, there were no store windows with any shiny purses that caught my eye!

reb-harley-3

And yes, cosplay world, you won.  You got me.  Though I made fun of many of you who took it so seriously in the past, I am now addicted, and already trying to decide what blonde sexy characters I’m going to create for next Dragoncon.  I’ll keep ya posted!

***

Rebecca J. Bozarth is a the owner of Fotografia Film & Design in Atlanta, Georgia, where she is a web and graphic designer and photographer. She’s an artist, gamer, and film nerd, and loves fantasy, scoff, and horror.

Painting Soundtracks

I can be a bit obsessive when it comes to music. I frequently listen to albums on repeat, especially when I’m working on art. Music helps me stay focused and inspired. Here’s a little taste of what I listen to in the studio…

If I’m working on something a little dark or Sci-Fi, I will often listen to the album Drink the Sea by The Glitch Mob.

I have several albums I love listening to while I’m painting a fantasy piece. If it has a mystical aspect to it I’m guaranteed to listen to Seven Lions.

If the piece is more nature based I might listen to Of Monsters and Men.

Then sometimes, I just listen to whatever is calling to me, like Masterplan, Bon Iver, Florence + The Machine, Placebo, M83, Blackmill, Metallica, Evanescence and many more.

 

Let’s Escape

Escapism:  the tendency to seek distraction and relief from unpleasant realities, especially by seeking entertainment or engaging in fantasy.”

I’m finding myself escaping a bit more nowadays.

Let me flesh that out a little better.

For the past year, things have been a bit hectic. Sometimes stressful. Many times head scratchingly so. On a variety of fronts.

Though there’s also been a great helping of good, I find often, I need a break from the other zany/ taxing stuff we call life.

Not to the point of just completely checking out. Just a way to get away for a minute or two. Let the ‘ole brain unwind for a while.

So whether it’s writing, reading, catching a movie/ tv show, or just hanging with friends and fam’, I just wanted to share some of the ways that I’m finding that release of sorts.

1. Food Paradise/ Travel Channel

Ok, bear with me here. 🙂

I like to eat. Now if only I balanced that out with a healthy dose of working out, I’d be Kool and The Gang. That’s another story for another day.

What I love about this show though is it unabashedly celebrates the many  varieties of food that these 50 states has to offer. You want to find the best seafood spots, fried chicken eateries, ice cream parlors, pizzerias, steakhouses that are spread all across this country? This show has it all.

Maybe I’m a food connoisseur. Who knows. All I can say is watching this show gets me in a chilaxin’ mood come Sunday evening when it airs.

 

2.Bob’s Burgers/ Netflix

Bob’s Burgers gives me so much life, it probably needs to be bottled up and prescribed. I’ve gone through all of the seasons on Netflix, and it’s become sort of a daily ritual for my wife and I to watch an episode every night during dinner.

In my opinion, this is the best animated sitcom that network television has to offer, and after a long day of work (plus a hour and a half commute home to work) Bob’s  Burgers provides a hilarious wind down.

 

3. Deep Space Nine (DS9)/ Netflix

One of these days I’m going to put together a post about why this show kicks show much a#$. Until then I’ll just lay out a few points about why I’m going through this series a second time.

Star Trek represents hope for me. Hope that we as human beings can stop with the B.S. and just aspire for something better. As has been shown in the numerous Star Trek series’ that have come since STOS (Star Trek: The Original Series), a sort of Utopian society is created as the end result of years upon years of just mucking ‘ish up.

The funny thing is Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (DS9) kind of flips this Utopian ideal on its head, and I enjoy it all the more. What I find heartening about DS9 (sometimes known as the “dark Trek series”) is the fact that through the constant butting of heads that occurs between the differing groups of characters on this series, this show, better than any other Star Trek series, shows how we can get to that place of understanding even in the face of our differences and insurmountable odds. To a spot where we can possibly create something better.

Though it doesn’t always work out this way (as we see daily in the “real” world), when it does, it’s a beautiful sight to behold.

So yeah, in a strange way what acts as a stress reliever, and a sort of beacon of hope that things can get better, is the conflict/ differing views of characters on this series. I guess I like seeing that the process works sometimes, albeit on a fictional space station in this case.

 

4. Any fight scene from Daredevil Season 1 & 2/ Netflix

Sometimes just seeing folks beat the heck out of each other can be therapeutic.

 

5. Mistborn

I’m still rolling through this book and really enjoying it. As I said before in a recent Tessera post, “Ocean’s 11 meets Magic: The Gathering, with a smidgen of steampunk.”

A great place to escape to.

mistbornfinalempire

 

6. Writing The Okun & Untitled Anthology Project

I recently finished up an additional 5 pages of script for The Okun, a story/ potential series in the making (publishers, we’re coming for ya) co-created by myself and artist extraordinaire Takeia Marie. This is the space epic that I’ve wanted to write for a while, and to have a chance to play around in a war torn cosmos has been fun.

Add to this, I’m in the early stages of working on an anthology project with the aforementioned Ms. Marie. Anytime numerous story ideas keep you up to the wee hours of the night jotting down story ideas, a good time is had.

That’s about all of the escaping I’ve got this go around.  🙂

theokunpic

 

Honorable Mention:

7. Ghost Adventures/ Travel Channel

Okay, so if you’re looking for a ghost investigation series that takes itself ultra seriously, and doesn’t have paranormal investigators saying “Whoa!” and “Dude” every five seconds, this isn’t the show for you.

Ghost Adventures is a guilty pleasure for me. Following the exploits of a group of paranormal investigators on their weekly ghost hunting escapades, this show never fails to please in all the wrong ways. I definitely appreciate the professionalism and respect that the crew brings to all of their investigations and the field of paranormal science, but what I love the most is that this show is essentially “Ghostbusters: Dude Bros Edition”.

Not in the obnoxious, preppy/ entitled frat boy/ full of themselves being a-holes type of Dude Bros. More of the Keanu Reeves/ Dazed and Confused slacker/ rocker types that yell “Whoa!” and “Dude” with some random door closing by itself during an episode, or with unexplained creak that happens off camera.

As with Bob’s Burgers, the show keeps me laughing a lot.

 

For My Fellow Creators Who Stay On The Grind

I’ve been a freelance writer for 10 years. I started out working for The Atlanta Voice Newspaper back in 2006, and I’ve been able to build a pretty decent career as a “hired gunslinger” when it comes to the written word. With the guidance of awesome folks like Maurice Waters, Tony Cade, Mark Stancil, and Dennis Malcolm Byron, I’ve been able to grow in this freelance world of journalism and comics.

The freelancing has provided me with some awesome opportunities, and put me in front of people that I never thought I’d ever be in the same room with. I’ve had a chance to interview such hip hop icons as Ludacris, Chuck D, and Andre 3000. I’ve had a chance to do client work on such award nominated/ critically acclaimed series like the CDC’s Kabi Chronicles: The Edge, Barron Robert Bell’s Radio Free Amerika and William Satterwhite’s Stealth: The Life and Times of Allen White.

Heck I even parlayed my love of comic books into doing a phone interview with one of my writing inspirations, the late great Dwayne McDuffie, for a story I did on black comic book creators with The Atlanta Voice Newspaper.

So when I say I’ve been blessed/ fortunate to have the career that I’ve had, that’s an understatement. I’m extremely grateful for every opportunity that has graced my pallet, not even including the creator owned comic book work that I’ve done.

But I want more. 🙂

This is what I'd love my 9-5 to be: writing full time, or something close to it. :-)

This is what I’d love my 9-5 to be: writing full time, or something close to it. 🙂

I want to do this full time, or at least close to it. I want to be able to provide for my family, and still parlay this love of the written word into my primary 9-5.

Is that greedy? Is that unrealistic? Maybe so, in today’s economic climate. But I’d be damned if I didn’t say I didn’t want more.

And you know what? I don’t just want it for myself, I want it for my fellow Tessara Guild members John McGuire, Amanda Makepeace, Chad Snok, J Edward Neill. For the kick ass poet/ rapper I know as I my little brother, Brandon Jeffrey, a.k.a OB. For my director/ writer/ Jane of all Trades cuzzo Gabrielle Hawkins. I want it for my ride or die brother in arms Sean Hill. For Barron Robert Bell. For Tony Cade. For Mark Stancil. For Takeia Marie. For Tanya Woods. For Maurice Waters. For Nicole Kurtz. For Deon Brown, William Satterwhite, Vincent Christie, Bobby NashAshton James Mason, and heck, everyone else I know I’ve missed because I’m apparently suffering early onset memory loss.

I want our collective love and passion for the fields of writing, art, comics, filmmaking, etc., combined with our strong worth ethic to parlay into something where we can do this for our 9-5’s. Because, hell we deserve it, and we are constantly putting in the work and drive to get there.

What I wanted to do with this post was give a shout out to my folks who grind at the 9-5’s that they have to work, to get to where they want to work (or at least closer to where both career’s bring in equal amounts of income).

Two songs that I love that I feel capture this idea of a creator doing what they have to do, to do what they love, are Lupe Fiasco’s Hip-Hop Saved My Life (feat. Nikki Jean), and Ace Hood’s Hustle Hard. I’m a hip hop/ rap fan so both speak personally to such a drive to find a way to do what you love, so you can take care of those you love, and still enjoy what you’re doing.

This post is for those folks like myself who would rush out at 5:00  pm on the dot to do an interview with someone halfway across the country. For those people who stay up to 1:00 am in the morning to knock out final edits on a personal project, or client work, knowing you have to be up at 6:00 am that day for your other job. Or for those who become true weekend warriors to put the final touches on an awesome piece of art, realizing that Monday brings yet another day of the main job that puts food on the table, and a roof over your families’ head.

And hey, reaching such a level can be done. I look at those creators who are doing what they love full time, 24/7 and feel driven to get to where they are, while also being extremely happy for them. Not for the reason of making a crazy amount of money. Nope, I simply want to get to a point where I actually love what I’m doing full time.

Heck, at least close to full time would be great, so I’m not choosy.

So to all my fellow “after 5:00 pm/ weekend/ up to all hours of the night/ holiday warriors-creators” I salute you with a Captain Benjamin Sisko toast. You, and all of your work is mad’ appreciated yo’.

Now get back to creating so we make these dreams a reality.

Benjamin_Sisko_toasts_the_good_guys_zps274bf4dc

Captain Benjamin Sisko approves this message

Convention Announcement/ Urban Axis Indy Con

Hey guys and gals! Just wanted to give a heads up that yours truly will be a guest/ panelist at this years 2016 Urban Axis Indy Con on July 23-24!

Here’s a rundown of the event: Urban Axis IndyCon is an event formed by the minds of Urbangod Ink Studios and Infinite Axis Comix. The first Urban Axis IndyCon was held October 10th and 11th, 2015 in Stone Mountain, Georgia at The Venue at Redan. Urban Axis Indy Con showcases vending from independent comic artists, authors, illustrators and other creators. UAIC also feature events such as musical performances, gaming, cosplay, independent film, spoken word, and workshops!

I’ll have copies of the Route 3: Vol 1 graphic novel…..

r3graphicnovelcover

Copies of the Radio Free Amerika Season 1 graphic novel….

rfagn

And other awesome titles like The Gilded Age (written/ created by the esteemed John R. McGuire), Terminus Team Up, and Platypus Vs. Monkey!

We’ll also be showing Terminus Media related animation, along with the first episode from our recent CDC/ Terminus Media collaboration/ animated motion comic.

I’ll even be hosting panels/ workshops, juggling oranges, and pop-locking to save a community center.

Ok, maybe not the juggling, and pop-locking, but I’ll defintely be hosting some panels/workshops. Check out the schedule below:

Saturday July 23, 2016- Day 1

2:30 PM: Platypus Vs. Monkey/ RFA Video presentation followed by a Q & A and lecture

4:30 PM: Terminus Media Panel

Sunday July 24, 2016- Day 2

2:00 PM: Robert Jeffrey Lecture/ Workshop; “The Basics for Writing A Comic Book Script”

Head to http://www.urbanaxisindycon.com/ for more information and see ya there.

 

Ten Things Not to Do at a Literary Reading

Ten Things Not to Do at a Literary Reading

I’ve noticed that literary readings, like any live performance, are bound to have some glitches here and there. There are some very common glitches, though, in readings by professionals and amateurs alike, and I think they should be easily avoided.

If you’ve ever been to an open-mic, spoken word, or poetry event, then you’ll know what I’m talking about here. If you’ve never been, perhaps you can use this list to explain why you haven’t. If you’re ever behind that open microphone or featured on that stage, please don’t do any of the following things.

  1. Don’t Mention Your Rehearsal

Whether you did or did not remember to rehearse your reading beforehand, just don’t talk about it. Your audience would like to think that you are experienced, or at least competent. If you did rehearse, that’s great but it should be evident by the quality of your reading. If you skipped over a badly-needed rehearsal then there will be no need to restate the obvious. Maybe you don’t actually need to rehearse. This is unlikely but in any case, just don’t mention rehearsing. Instead, get on with the reading.

  1. Don’t Say, “I Just Wrote This”

This tip is mostly intended for the reader who wrote something in the moments leading up the performance. At an open mic event, this happens frequently, but it isn’t very polite. Taking notes while someone else is reading is one thing, but don’t completely ignore the other readers, just so you can scratch off something you “just wrote” and then read it immediately, unedited, to a live audience. There’s a way to present new, timely work, but this isn’t it. (An exception to this rule may be required, for example, if yesterday was a major historical event, or if an important  chapter in your life ended or began last night.)

  1. Don’t Riffle Through Your Papers

If you haven’t decided what to read and in which order, you’re not ready to read. Have a plan. Stick to it. Small deviations from the plan are probably inevitable at a live event but please don’t make the audience watch you thumb through your ratty notebook while you mutter to yourself about what you might or might not read.

  1. No Spoilers

Don’t explain each and every piece before you read it. If some initial context is needed, keep it to a minimum, providing only the very essentials. You should let your work speak for itself as much as possible.

  1. Don’t Diss Your Own Work

Believe or not, some writers actually announce to the audience that they don’t care for a work, and then proceed to read it to a live audience! This may seem to the writer like a kind of humility, but it has a very different effect on the audience. If you don’t even like the work, then an audience might think, ‘Why should anybody else bother to give a damn?‘ Similarly, you shouldn’t mention whether anybody else does or does not like the work, unless it’s a celebrity or a mutually despised tyrant. Just read the work, and allow the audience to make up their own minds in their own way.

  1. Don’t Speak Too Quickly

Especially where poetry is concerned, it is very important to give the words some room to breathe. If you have a time limit for your reading, it would be better to fill the time well than to fill it completely. Don’t try to cram too much work into your reading. Instead, choose the right number of quality words and read them slowly and clearly.

  1. Don’t Speak Too Quietly

Before speaking in public, take a deep breath and imagine you are speaking to the person who is furthest away from you. That person will appreciate being able to hear you. This rule applies with and without the use of a microphone.

  1. Don’t Sound Like You’re Reading

This one is difficult to define and to avoid, but it is the critical difference between a “reading” and a “performance”. To break this habit, it helps to make some audio recordings. Record yourself speaking naturally, and in conversation. Then record yourself reading a difficult text you have never read before. We’ve all had to suffer through difficult readings: at school, political and religious events, meetings at work. It’s not fun, so your performance should not sound like a “difficult” reading. It should sound natural, like conversation.

  1. Don’t Ignore the Audience

Look up from the page. Look out at the audience. Remember, this is a live event. You may be nervous, and afraid of the audience, but please don’t ignore them. They’re people, too, and you just might notice that they’re smiling, thinking about, or otherwise responding to your work. It is important to be aware of these things.

  1. Don’t Forget to Stop Between Pieces

The audience needs some time to move from one idea to the next, and you probably do too. Besides, if you pause for a moment, you might get some applause.

* * *

This concludes my list of ten things not to do at a literary reading. For some tips on what you should do instead, try Adam Robinson’s article How to Deliver a Poetry Reading. For musicians, there’s a similar list: advice for musical performances by Thelonious Monk, in his own handwriting.

If you’ve got anything to add to the do and don’t list, please post in the comments!

* * *

Dylan Pic

Dylan Kinnett is a writer, spoken word performance artist, and the founding editor of Infinity’s Kitchen. His writing seeks to alter traditional literary forms with the use of media, hypertext, and performance. He lives in Baltimore, Maryland.

His home base is http://infinityskitchen.com/

 

Ideas and (the lack of) Time

We’ve probably all wished at some point in our lives for a double of ourselves, to help us with our mounting To-Do list or just to be in two places at one time. There never seems to be enough time for everything. I’m continually blessed and plagued by ideas that I then have to prioritize. Do I have time for this? Is this more an experiment or is it part of my main vision? Sometimes side projects get put on hold, because I have to feed my soul and creative vision. That vision is the core idea of what I’ve been moving towards over the last ten years and it’s the heart of my art. Regardless, I’m still pulled toward these other ideas. Sometimes I jot them down in my sketchbook of ideas and that’s end of it. I can always return to them later. While others I start and then push to the side, hoping I can return to them later. Here are a few…

The Mystics

Yes, the steampunk fox everyone adores is part of a series of paintings. The Mystics are a fictional council, tasked with protecting the animal kingdom from human encroachment. I still want to continue with this series. I even have the fourth member sketched out, but… Time…

Rings of Magic

These are the pencil drawings for two of four small paintings I have planned. I even have the frames for these. Each ring has a story and a power someone has abused.

The White Crow

Remember these from Inktober 2015?! I said I was going to publish a book titled The White Crow. I’m still planning to publish this book. I promise.

I wouldn’t mind having a clone of myself–one connected to myself, so I was conscious of everything happening and also part of the decision making process. Science fiction, I know…


www.amandamakepeace.com

Painting with Darkness – Part X

After a short layoff, I’m back to doing terrible things with my paintbrush.

Dark cities, twisted terrains, and this time around, an eerie, abstract tree.

I call this one, ‘The Last Autumn.’  The original is for sale here, if you’re interested.

Now let’s talk about how The Last Autumn came to be:

Last Autumn 1

It all started with a 24″x 24″ super-thick white canvas. I used a straightedge, a level, and a twenty-year old pencil (yes, really) to divide the canvas into perfect halves. With my little wooden palette, I paired up acrylic golds, blacks, reds, yellows, and whites. I mixed them at random, and when I was done with the first coat, I poked golden dots all over the right side of the canvas. Voila. What you see above.

Last Autumn 2

For the left side, life got a little easier. I mixed gold, black, and umber, and went nuts with fast, broad strokes. Before it dried, I poked little white ‘leaves’ into the background. The difference between the two halves was stark. I loved what I was seeing.

Last Autumn 3

About 0.0003 seconds before starting with the right-side tree, I had a revelation. A. I wanted to flip the painting over so the darker half would be on the right and the red/gold half on the left. I have no idea why. It just felt right. B. I pulled out a sand-based gel with which to paint the tree. For those not familiar, the gel adds a texture you can see and feel when you’re up close to the painting. It’s so ridiculously fun to paint with; I suggest everyone try it.

Last Autumn 4

For the left side of the painting, I mixed pure black with more sand gel. I used four different brushes, starting big and working down to the tiniest branches using pretty much the smallest acrylic brush you can buy. It was tedious, but I loved it. Each flick of my wrist gave life to a new branch. The picture here is pre-varnishing; the sand gel takes forever to dry. The plan for this painting is to use a heavy gloss, which will make the colors pop and allow The Last Autumn to be a centerpiece for any room.

* * *

Thanks for reading!!

For previous Painting with Darkness entries: Part I, II, III, IV, V, VIVIII, IX.

To buy The Last Autumn, go here.

J Edward Neill

Author of Matrix-like A Door Never Dreamed Of.

And creator of the Coffee Table Philosophy series.

 

Where do you get your Ideas?

Signs and Symbols by Amanda MakepeaceWhere do you get your ideas?

If you’re an artist, writer, musician or anyone working in a creative field you’re bound to be asked. However, the question is a disguise for another. What they are really asking is how did you come up with this final work of art. The question implies there is some secret formula for making art–all it takes is that spark of inspiration. If that were true, we’d all be artists! Having ideas is only one part of the equation. The other half is a ton of hard work. Ideas are important though…and passion. Without either you don’t have anything to fuel the hard work. I’m always a little shocked when I hear an artist say they are struggling to come up with ideas. Maybe it’s just a foreign concept to me. I always seem to be brimming with ideas, so many that I must reign myself in so I stay focused. The well I draw from is all around me and inside me.

Are they struggling to find ideas or are they struggling to find that BIG painting idea? Are they too focused on the end result? When I think of ideas, I think of all the scribbles in my sketchbook and the notes that eventually lead to a painting. It’s a process. Even when I think I have a core idea for a painting, it always continues to evolve before I have the final artwork. I think some artists are looking for that stroke of genius, that masterpiece. This quote from Chuck Close sums it up well…

“The advice I like to give young artists, or really anybody who’ll listen to me, is not to wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work.”

“All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself. Things occur to you. If you’re sitting around trying to dream up a great art idea, you can sit there a long time before anything happens. But if you just get to work, something will occur to you and something else will occur to you and something else that you reject will push you in another direction. Inspiration is absolutely unnecessary and somehow deceptive. You feel like you need this great idea before you can get down to work, and I find that’s almost never the case.”

Just get to work.

Start by sketching something you love. What are you passionate about? Make list. I love nature, fantasy and myth. I also love horror movies, owls, crows and bones. I love taking hikes in the woods. My imagination is fond of mixing all of these together.

Sketches and Ideas

Spirit Owls by Amanda Makepeace

When I’m sketching the things I’m passionate about or getting out of the studio to embrace what I love, I can’t stop the ideas from forming. So if you’re struggling, stop sitting around. Take your sketchbook outside, or to a museum, or a busy town center or a cafe… Explore a new medium or tackle something you’ve never drawn before. Challenge yourself but remember, there’s nothing wrong with returning to things you’ve drawn or painted hundreds of times. You just might think of a new way to express that object or idea.

*****

Follow me online:

Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Patreon

amandamakepeace.com

Sequels That Never Were – The Crow

The Crow: The Devil’s Mask

Setting: Washington, D.C.

Time: The Near Future

 kuala-lumpur-398792_1280

Night. A crow soars through the city streets of Washington, D.C. In the distance there are fires burning, the results of the latest riots. While the crow continues its flight, the narrator, a woman’s voice, speaks.

“Sometimes, when a person has died a horrible death their soul is too sad to cross over to the other side.  Then sometimes a crow comes to guide the spirit back to right the wrongs that had been done to it.”

The crow lands on a rooftop and scans the surroundings until its gaze rests upon the White House.  The building is only half standing. Only a few of its flags remain waving in the night breeze, and those are dirty and tattered. The crow continues on to the White House.

Interior of the White House.  A large black man sits at the head of the long hall. Beneath him is his throne, a patchwork of various pieces raided from the old seat of the Republic. Beside him, one to either side, are two women in various states of undress. Throughout the hall are an assortment of thugs and hired guns ensuring that their “King” is in no danger. Above the leader rests lays a rifle with a scope. And around the leader’s neck is a Yin-Yang necklace.

dragon-34167_1280

The front door to the hall opens (slow motion style) and some measure of slower techno/metal song begins to play (only slow at first and then building throughout the scene. Through the entrance stalks our hero, The Crow, with his bird flying in just above him.

The music is in full swing as the Crow lays into the men.  Throughout the fight we cut back to the leader who merely looks at the rifle above him as if he is trying to decide something. Eventually he takes it down, raises it, puts his eye to the scope, and sets the cross-hairs targeting the crow (the bird).  The Crow (the guy) is about to pummel the last of the King’s men when the gun is fired (this coincides with the stoppage of music).

Bird and man fall as the bullet impacts.

The King brings his weapon down to his side and makes his way over to the would-be hero. “Very good.  One, two … nine of my men total you were able to get to.  I think that is well beyond the record.”

As the Crow begins to stand the King raises his weapon again and shoots the Crow’s kneecap.

Screams of pain fill the room.

Over The Crow’s shoulder, the two women walk up beside their leader.  The one on his right holds a revolver, and the one on his left holds a red mask in her hands.  The each hand their items to the Leader. He slowly places the red devil mask on.

death-161695_1280

The Crow whispers, “I’m sorry Laura.”

The King cocks his head to one side and raises the gun to the mask’s lips.

“No, no, no.  Tell Laura that you’ll be with her in a moment.  Tell her that I sent you home.”

At that moment a crow flies up from behind the King and lands upon his shoulder.

Wide-eyed, the Crow mutters out, “You’re…”

The King merely nods and levels the revolver at the Crow.

“Tell everyone ‘Hi’ for me.”

The chamber echoes with gun fire.

Fade to black – Narrator’s voice

“And sometimes the person doesn’t want to go back.”

the crow fire

***

Years ago, after being disappointed in the second Crow movie (after loving the original so much), Chad wrote up a pitch for a sequel to the Crow. And like many things when you get writers to start riffing on a subject, a story appeared to me. I jotted down the notes I had for it while at work, typed it up, and sent it out that next night.

But because I’m a pack rat and never throw anything out (idea or otherwise), this is one of those bits of story I keep trying to reuse in other forms… sometimes it seems like a decent fit, and sometimes it just doesn’t work and the story goes into the folder on the computer not to be looked at again…

But I was looking through that folder this evening and came across the document again, so I thought I’d share it. Not that this is all of it, just what would be in a movie right before the credits kicked in…

***

John McGuire

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

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

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

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

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

Inside one Artist’s Mind

Warning!

This blog post may disturb you or in the very least make you question the author’s sanity.

 

On any given day there are a multitude of random thoughts and questions that pass through my mind. This is but a glimpse.

  • Is that a hawk or a vulture? Vulture.
  • I want one of those for the studio.
  • I NEED that for my studio.
  • What would people think if I started collecting roadkill?
  • Coffee. Coffee. Coffee.
  • Ugh, this painting sucks.
  • I need to draw more skulls.
Not roadkill--found under my bushes.

Not roadkill–found under my bushes.

  • I should paint a skull.
  • I need to find more bones.
  • Will I ever find a shed antler?
  • Tea. Tea. Tea.
  • This painting isn’t looking so bad now.

Some of my collection

  • I really want to find a crow feather.
  • I love this painting. I bet everyone will hate it.
  • Should I cover my gray hair? Who cares!
  • Is this a coyote track?
  • I wish I could take this mini skeleton home with me.
Mini Skeleton

3 ft. Skeleton seen in my Rhuematologist’s Office

 

  • I should organize my _____ .
  • I love this paper. I need to buy it all.
  • I wish I could back this Kickstarter.
  • I wish I could attend _____ convention.
  • I should save this small scrap of paper. I might use it for something.
  • I should save ______, I might use it for something.

These aren’t the only things that cross my mind, but they are some of the most reoccurring thoughts I have. I have folders on my computer filled with photos of bones. Not long ago I was keeping some bones in my jewelry box. Okay. I’m going to go refill my coffee now.

www.amandamakepeace.com

New Myths and Legends

In ancient times we made up stories about the gods and goddesses in order to explain the craziness of the world we lived in. Instead of science we had myth in order to understand the phenomenon we encounter every day. From those stories the legends that were the gods began to take shape. Our very thoughts brought them to life.

Yet as time went on the need for these pantheon of beings more powerful than ourselves went away. They were replaced by our modern religions until now they are taught in schools for their stories. They are called myths and we chuckle that we might have been so primitive enough in our reasoning to think that was how the world worked.

real-underground

What people don’t realize… what I didn’t realize until this last year or so, is that there are new gods being created every day. And while they don’t have the coolness of names like Zeus or Set, I’m sure somewhere the Selfie god is enjoying the creation of more duck lips (that’s how he knows you truly love him – it’s like a secret language). The Social Media goddess is one of many faces, all of them engaged with someone else in an attempt to make as many friends as possible and “win” the internet. And let’s not forget about the modern-day David and Goliath, cousin gods forever locked in a deadly combat: Windows and Apple. One forgetful and moody, and the other smug and full of itself and its power.

However, I did not come to talk about those, but about another one I have learned about. I know my wife is one of her high priestesses as she invokes her name every day and most days she does so many times over.

chalkboard-to do list

The Bucket List, one of her favorites

 

The Great To Do List.

She will guilt you until you have appeased her. Don’t add something just to be able to cross it off, for this will anger her in ways you cannot possibly fathom. And as your lists grow and diminish, you will find it has a heart beat of its own. In your hands, notebook, laptop, tablet, phone, whatever is something to which you much feed, else you will surely be crushed under its weight.

You will know her by her appearance. Bullet points lining a page becomes the Mona Lisa in the hands of one of her worshipers. Forget understanding why the item needs to be completed, the only thing that matters is doing the latest task.

And the guilt at not doing your fair share of the list? Unbearable. You will toss in your bed at night, unable to greet the sweet release of sleep as every item weighs down on you like a stone pressed to your chest.

shame-guilt

In order to stave off the insanity, you will begin to add more and more mundane tasks to the List. Cleaning up the kitchen suddenly gets broken into different appliances, because why only mark off ONE thing when I can mark off FOUR.

Need to call a friend, better write it down. Remember, if you don’t do it now then you will have only yourself to blame when she extracts her vengeance on you. The pit in your stomach, that’s her. Always watching, always demanding of more and more in tribute.

And you will claim to no longer need such things. You will delete the files and throw out her stationary (post-it notes), but she will linger, trying to explain how great and wonderful she can make you if only you’d mark one thing off today. Just one thing.

Perhaps you need to get a blog done? Better finish it before your deadline. Better to let the world know of her existence than suffer for one more day under her watchful eye.

And now that you are done, strike the item from the list.

That’s a good boy.

 

***

John McGuire

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

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

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

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

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

 

Cats in the Studio – Revisited

Life is never boring with cats in the studio…

Drusilla is a very paws on cat in the studio. She likes to be involved in my creative process every step of the way.

It’s not all mischief and mayhem though, there’s plenty of quiet moments too. This may look like adoration, but she could easily be taking a moment to ponder her next move.

Adoration or Plotting?

What should I do next?

Hunter is more reserved, a silent stalker type. Thus, there’s less photographic evidence… But he’s here. Watching. Waiting. Always.

Take a look at the first installment of Cats in the Studio.

Interview with Brandon Easton, screenwriter for Marvel’s Agent Carter, Part 1

In an exclusive collaboration with TesseraGuild.com, BlackSci-Fi.com presents the first part of a 2-part interview with screenwriter, and comic book writer Brandon Easton on his work on “Marvel’s Agent Carter” upcoming season 2 episode, “Monsters”.

Since the creation of Iron Man in 2008 Marvel Studios has continued to grow their shared cinematic universe through film and television. Pulling from a wide array of licensed characters found within the pages of Marvel Comics, they’ve stretched from the farthest reaches of the galaxy (Guardians of the Galaxy), to the seedy streets of Hell’s Kitchen, New York (Daredevil).

agent-carter_612x816

Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter, Image Credit: ABC/Marvel TV

On both film and television the studio has found critical and commercial success, and shows no sign of stopping. This is further exemplified by such television series as ABC network’s, Marvel’s Agent Carter.  The television show follows the story of the Strategic Scientific Reserve’s (SSR) finest and most brilliant secret agent, Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell). Introduced in Captain America: First Avenger, Peggy Carter has become one of the MCU’s (Marvel Cinematic Universe) most prominent characters, fighting evil in World War II ravaged Europe, and now in late 1940’s Hollywood, CA.

The show is in its second season, and this coming week will air two episodes on 2/16/16: Life of The Party (Episode 6), and Monsters (Episode 7).

Adding another notch to his ever growing portfolio of work, Brandon Easton joined the writing staff of Agent Carter in 2015, on the heels of his acceptance into the 2015 Disney/ ABC Writing Program. This has culminated in the upcoming 2/16/16 premiere of his addition to the MCU, with an episode that he wrote, the aforementioned Monsters.

Easton’s body of work continues to grow in the arenas of comics, animation, and now live action television with such standouts as his creator owned Shadowlaw comic book series, his documentary Brave New Souls: Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Writers of the 21st Century, his work on the Glyph Comics Award winning/ Eisner nominated Watson and Holmes, WB Animations ThunderCats, and the recent Dwayne McDuffie Award for Diversity in Comics nominated Andre the Giant: Closer to Heaven.

In an interview with BlackSci-Fi.com, Easton spoke about his time spent in the Disney/ ABC Writing program, his work on Agent Carter, his writing career, what he’s learned during his time in Hollywood, along with other topics in this two part interview.

“It’s a really long story, to really get into it. I had a really up and down 2014, between family stuff, and career stuff,” Easton said speaking about his acceptance into the Disney/ ABC Writing program. “I was nominated for an Eisner in 2014 that I didn’t win. But the very week that I didn’t win the Eisner I’d also lost out on two really important jobs. Well maybe not important, but two lucrative jobs that would’ve kept me alive throughout the end of 2014. Things got really bad.”

BrandonEasterheadshot

Brandon Easton

“If I didn’t get into the ABC/Disney Writing Program I honestly don’t know what this past year would’ve been like for me. I had no idea what would’ve happened to me. So to make a long story short it was an incredible feeling.”

“I was one of 8 people selected in the program. Halfway through the program they try to get you staffed on any show in the ABC family, and the ABC Family networks. First, getting into the ABC/Disney Writing Program which is damn near impossible, that was amazing. Then when they said “we have an opening on Agent Carter and a couple of other shows”, and they sent me out, it just happened that Agent Carter really was the best fit.”

Gaining an inside track of sorts into the inner workings of the executive side and development branch of the ABC network, Easton was able to utilize his time spent with the ABC/ Disney Writing Program to expand on his knowledge of what it truly takes to put together a television program.

“The program puts you in a very unique position. You get to meet with development executives within ABC the studio, and the network, which are two different things as I found out.  You get to spend time with people that you would never get a chance to meet in any other capacity,” Easton explained.

“And you learn things about the business that don’t get reported anywhere. You learn things like who’s actually in charge. You learn about the people that actually make the decisions.  There’s no class in the world that will tell you that. So the ABC program puts you in the unique position to really understand the business side of it, because all the people who complain 24/7 every single day, whining and complaining about this and that, very few people understand the business side of it.”

“I learned so much about how things actually work that it changed the way I thought as a creator.”

Easton provided an example of such insight which involved a scene that he wrote for his upcoming Agent Carter episode. It was here where he found how the business of the network can affect the scripting process, while also informing how he’d write future scripts.

“To give you an example, I wrote a couple of night scenes. I also wrote a scene in the desert. When you’re shooting a night scene you’re actually going to be outside. A typical TV recording/ shooting day is anywhere between 12-15 hours. That’s typical. Sometimes you’ll go onto 20 hours. I didn’t know that,” Easton explained.

“So I was writing a bunch of night scenes and I wrote some scenes in the desert. Next thing you know we start shooting at 6pm, we’re out all night until 6 am. We were shooting in the desert and I’d never spent any time in the desert.  I’m from the East Coast, from Baltimore, what the fuck do I know about a desert (laughter)?”

“We go out in the desert, and it’s like, did you see The Martian by any chance? There’s a scene in The Martian where the red dust of Mars is blowing across the landscape, and you can’t see shit. The spaceship is falling over. I felt like I was in that position. We were in the desert at 5 am the wind is like 90 mph, sand is cutting through everything, and I realize in the future I’m no longer going to write any scenes in the desert.”

“I’m going to make sure I don’t write too many night scenes either because you have to realize everything you write that they can physically achieve, you’re actually going to have to be there for the entire shoot. And that’s something I didn’t really know and nobody can prepare you for that.”

BEBANNER2

Brandon Easton’s comic book work including Shadowlaw, Watson and Holmes, and Andre the Giant: Closer To Heaven

As the new recruit on the Agent Carter writing team, Easton explained that though the experience was an irreplaceable one, being the new kid on the block wasn’t necessarily the best feeling.

“It didn’t feel great,” Easton explained. “And this is nothing against the people that I worked with because they are really good people, and I learned a lot from every single one of them. But I came in on a show that had already had a season.”

“It’s sort of like transferring from one school to another as a sophomore. You come in and the relationships are already made. You weren’t there for the freshman year to build those relationships. I often felt like the odd man out, I was the only black person there, and that wasn’t always fun, but that’s the reality of the business.”

“So at the same time you’re also there to learn because you’re new. And you try to find a way to make yourself useful to the people. You don’t want to make your bosses’ day harder than it already is going to be. I learned a lot, I had some good teachers, so I really can’t complain.”

WYNN EVERETT

Wynn Everett as Whitney Frost, Image Credit: ABC/Marvel TV

Easton’s work in the writers room, his years of screenwriting, and the ABC/ Disney writing program culminated in an episode which he’s called “The Empire Strikes Back” of this season. The writer explained that the episode focuses on this seasons’ archenemy, Whitney Frost (played by Wynn Everett), who deals a major blow to Carter and her team. Throughout the season, Carter and Frost’s struggle has risen in a tense and exhilarating fashion, and it seems that Monsters will possibly bring this conflict to its climatic and destructive head. Adding to the growing pantheon of complex MCU villains, Frost seems to be on a path to test Carter in a way that she hasn’t encountered before.

“I can’t wait for people to see her performance (Wynn Everett). She really brings it. She brings it hard,” Easton said.

“It was fun (writing an episode featuring a villain). My episode is a Whitney Frost episode in a way. A lot of the episode is dealing with something that Whitney Frost is working on. The way that the episode works you have to have some bad things happen in order for the heroes to come back. My episode is sort of like the Empire Strikes Back episode of Agent Carter.”

Easton further explained that he was able to have a hands on experience with the filming of his episode. Being able to be on set when Monsters was filmed, Easton explained was an invaluable experience, as he gleaned more information into the development of his story from script to screen. In addition to gaining this experience, Easton found another perk of being a screenwriter on a major network series: you become a go-to person for those in front of and behind the camera.

“In TV the writer is basically number one. On set, the director knew I was new, the producer who was with me on set knew I was new. So I was really observing and learning how it goes.  Also, no matter how good you think what you wrote is, some actor somewhere is going to say there’s a problem with it, and ask “can I say it this way?”, Easton said.

“Whatever you’ve got to get (in terms of filming) that day you’ve got to get. So a lot of times actors will have ideas, the directors have ideas, and sometimes you listen and sometimes you don’t. More often than not there are good suggestions but you don’t always get the flexibility to make changes.”

“I was on set, I was participating, I had a say in things, and if I didn’t like something I’d let them know, but more often than not I liked it. You don’t want to be saying shit to just say stuff. You want to make sure that if you’re saying something it actually makes sense.”

Marvel-Television-SeriesAt the end of the day Easton explained that his experience writing the Agent Carter episode was an important one, that he appreciates on both a writing/ creative front, and as a fan of the MCU.

“As a fan, that’s a good question. I can’t even figure out where to begin,” Brandon said.

“I was working with some ridiculously creative, talented people. And knowing that every word I write is a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, because Agent Carter is in the Captain America films, she was even in Ant Man at the beginning. So she’s a part of that world, so everything that happens in any episode of Agent Carter also occurs at some point in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.”

“It hasn’t hit me yet because it hasn’t aired. But trust me when I say once it airs, and particularly with the type of stuff that I deal with in my episode, its really going to hit me hard then.”

Stay tuned for Part 2 of BlackSci-Fi.com’s interview with Brandon Easton which will be available with the 2/27/16 relaunch of www.blacksci-fi.com.

bsflogo2


Episode 7 of season 2 of Agent Carter,”Monsters”, premieres  2/16/16 on the ABC Network, at 10 pm EST. Check your local listings for exact times.

Many thanks to the fine folks of www.tesseraguild.com for this great collaboration opportunity.

 

 

Best Works Featuring “Regular Folks with Super Abilities”: Part 1

2016 is going to bring no shortage of superheroes and super-villains on both the large and small screens. We’ve got Batman vs. Superman, Daredevil: Season 2, The Suicide Squad, Luke Cage, Agent Carter: Season 2, Captain America: Civil War, and the list goes on and on.

I’m personally a huge fan of such stories, in all mediums, and as a geek/ fan of pop culture I think that we’re living in a golden age of comic book storytelling, both on and off the pages of comics.

What I’m also a huge fan of are those stories of everyday people blessed/ cursed with awe inspiring abilities who don’t necessarily decide to put on a cape and tights to save the day. Folks who find themselves caught up in a set of crazy circumstances, while trying to continue to live their lives.

Pay the bills. Deal with relationship issues. Keep a job.

Now I’m not saying that these stories don’t eventually go the way of your typical tale of super heroics, but most of the one’s that I’ve become a fan of haven’t necessarily gone this route. As in the case of comic books, there’s a huge amount of action and adventure, with a smattering of some of the best elements of great science fiction.

Sometimes some of these examples start off as solid science fiction, but wind up playing within the spectrum of  the “regular folks with powers” sub-genre.

At the root of most of these works is a focus on how the characters involved decides to work with the abilities they’ve been either blessed or cursed with. There’s no immediate call to save the day, though we eventually get there in some of these cases.

For a while there have been a number of really notable examples of movies, novels, television programs, and comics that have played within this arena. There have also been some that have been not so stellar.

This will be the start of a list that I’ll try to add on to as I come across more examples of what I think is a pretty interesting sub genre of the tights and fights area of fiction.

4400

The 4400 (Television Series)

The USA Network for me was always the home of comedies like Psych and marathon broadcast sessions of dramas like Law and Order: Criminal Intent. It wasn’t a network that delved too much in the fantastical, at least at the points where I had cable.

So color me surprised when The 4400 dropped. I’m planning on doing another post that will go into detail on the awesomeness of the television series. Needless to say USA surprised me in a very good way.

The 4400 told the story of a group of 4400 individuals who disappeared worldwide over the years, beginning in 1946. In 2004 they are brought back to a Seattle, Washington beach and a division of US government agents are tasked with figuring out what happened to them, why they’ve been brought back, and to basically watch over them.

What is soon revealed is that a large amount of these individuals have abilities, and the show then becomes a mixture of X-Files meets X-Men. For the first season we follow a pair of agents, Agent Diana Skouris and Agent Tom Baldwin who tackle a sort of “ability” of the week story line, while we also watch how this plays out on the larger story being told.

The show ran for 4 seasons, with an abrupt cancellation in the last season. There have been four novels set within the continuity of the TV show which builds the world even further that should also be checked out.

Though the show focused on the concept of people with abilities, as mentioned before, these individuals weren’t trying to be superheroes. You have people who abused their abilities for selfish gain, saw the abilities as a blessing, or even tried to use them for committing disturbing acts.

44402

For example there was one episode during the first season where one returnee attempted to use his ability to simply save his neighborhood, after seeing the state of decay it had experienced in the years that he’d been away. But even then, you see the effects of what happens to an untrained individual who, though they had a set of “super” abilities, paid the consequences of the harsh reality he’d attempted to change, good intentions be damned.

The story grows in scope over the later seasons as we see the true purpose for these individuals being brought back, and definitely throws in a large amount of sci-fi elements. But at the core of this larger story we always come back to how these abilities are affecting these normal, everyday folks who are in essence caught out of time.

Chronicle (Film)

chronicle1

Simple synopsis of Chronicle: A group of teens at a party find a glowing rock, investigate, experience nose bleeds, black outs, and develop telekinetic abilities.

And everything else afterwards is f&^%$ing awesome.

What works about this movie is this simple synopsis. Only towards the end of the flick do we get some obligatory, grandiose hero vs. villain fight. Don’t get me wrong, it’s awesome, but that’s not the strongest part of the flick.

No, before then we simply get a tale of kids gaining super abilities, and just being kids.

They get a handheld camera, and just do what teens nowadays would do: show off, and have fun with these new found abilities. Whether it’s pulling pranks at a grocery store, or just flying through the Washington state skies, the teens are just enjoying these awesome abilities.

chronicle2

We have the popular nice/ intelligent dude (Steve/ Michael B. Jordan), the middle of the road likeable guy (Matt/ Alex Russell), and the sympathetic outcast (Andrew/ Dane DeHaan). Through the gifting of these abilities an unexpected friendship organically grows between the three, and makes you enjoy these characters even more.

In addition to this focusing on the budding friendship between the trio, we also get a really good example of something that I’ll tackle in Jumper: a focus on what a person who has been physically/ mentally abused might do with such a set of abilities.

One of the strongest, and depressing character arcs that we see in this movie is Andrew’s, played masterfully by DeHann. He’s the butt of everyone’s joke at high school, he’s the kid with the alcoholic father who verbally and physically beats him down it seems with every single day.

Imagine what a kid like that might do if granted god like abilities? Put on an outfit and fight crime?

chronicle3

Nope, he’d be more inclined to probably F’ ‘ish up, as he lashes out with a huge well of pent up pain and frustration that’s been building over the years.

Andrew probably should’ve seen a counselor in the years before the events that play out in Chronicle, but that’s not the case. Even as his new friends try to intervene and help him to see the awesome guy that they see, it’s too late.

That’s why this story works extremely well for me. You have a kid who doesn’t go the typical route that teenagers endowed with abilities might go in the world of super heroic tales of do gooders.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit the dude gets a bit too super villain-esque at the end, but the build up to that, and even the final fight make up for this.

Chronicle is a great movie, featuring a believable take on teens gaining super abilities that shouldn’t be missed.

Jumper1

 Jumper by Steven Gould (Novel)

First, let’s start with this: get that movie out of your head. The one featuring that guy who played the whiny Anakin Skywalker, and Samuel L. Jackson with yet another weird wig.

The movie was fun in spots, bad in others, but got too convoluted and grandiose in the story that it was trying to tell. Nice special effects, but kind of “blah” at the middle.

Jumper, the novel was much, much, much more in terms of a sci-fi story about a kid who discovers he has the ability to “jump”, or teleport. But David Rice, the stories protagonist, doesn’t do this for the sake of fighting crime, or saving lives (at first). For a large chunk of the book this kid is running from an abusive relationship.

David’s mother left him when he was a kid, fleeing the abuse that her husband was tossing out. Rather than eventually be continually hurt by him, or worse, she decides to leave the household, unfortunately leaving David to be the sole receiver of David’s ass-hat of a father’s abuse.

So when David discovers that he can teleport, he becomes the ultimate runaway kid. And you do nothing but root for him the whole time that he does this. Imagine being able to wondrously get away from a person who does nothing but berate you, hit you, psychologically just break you down to the point where you just want to die.

That’s where David is at in the book, and we see his growth into a stronger individual as the story plays out, the further away he gets away from his father.

Later on in the story David does use his abilities for good, but this is only after he suffers a personal tragedy of sorts. Throughout the book he’s constantly escaping the crappiness that life had heaped on him, and it makes for a compelling story.

Just as Jessica Jones focused on what someone with super abilities who had been psychologically and physically abused might deal with that, I think Jumper does the same in telling a science fiction based story of a runaway who is trying to simply escape a set of crappy circumstances.


 

That’s it for this round. I’ll add more in upcoming weeks to this list. Thanks for checking it out and happy viewing/ reading.

Grab Bag: December Edition

I’m still in a bit of a movie high after watching The Force Awakens. My brain is scrambled by thoughts and ideas about where the next movie(s) will end up going. The comic books that I suddenly feel like I should jump back into after spending much of the year in silent protest at them rebooting the old continuity.

So given the jumbled state of my brain, and the fact that Christmas is literally right around the corner, I figured it was alright to turn this one into more of a Grab Bag than anything else.

***

In dealing with all the emojis and reflecting on everyone’s abundant use of shorthand for virtually everything else, I am convinced that we’ve become so advanced in our communication skills that we’ve completed the circle started by the Egyptians so very long ago. They used hieroglyphics to tell their stories, and now we’ve increasingly decided to do the very same.

And this isn’t a commentary from a “you kids, get off my lawn” type thing, but more of a curious nature: if we were to look a few hundred years in the future will they wonder why we seemed to abandon our normal written language?

Or will they be able to read what we have set down at all?

Someone needs to develop that Rosetta Stone for the 21st Century quick!

***

language-758589_1280

Language is a weird and dangerous and sticky and annoying and about a million other things. It should be a living and breathing thing were words should be allowed to evolve from older meanings and new words get let into the lexicon.

But if I have to read one more internet meme where someone is telling me that “irregardless” is not a word and doesn’t mean what you think it means… I might just lose it.

Look, it is all fine and good that you want to hold those old traditions close, but if we were to let “irregardless” into the Real Word Club it wouldn’t be the end of western civilization. There are plenty of words in English language that follow weird rules or seem to not make sense:

Underwhelmed

Inflammable

Literally

Let’s allow somethings to happen and stop telling me how to use or not use the words.

***

Inspired by one of the million car commercials where the guy gets a new car as a gift and then keeps reliving the same day…

If you could Groundhog Day one day over and over which day in your life would you pick? (I just know I’m not going to go driving everyday… that novelty will wear off soon enough).

What’s funny is that I think the day to choose for this is a day where you have very little pre-planned. It would allow flexibility to actually be able to do anything you wanted on that day.

***

time_travel

 

And then to (apparently) further steal from my Guild-Mate’s question books:

If you could relive one day, but the changes you made would ripple back through the present, what day would you pick?

This gets a lot into the whole What If questions that we all deal with and that I’ve written about before. And it could be a very small thing as opposed to some earth-shattering ideal or issue which came up. Sometimes thing/days/changes hinge on the barest of moments… and sometimes we are wrong about what those moments would be in the first place.

***

Went to a friend’s 40th birthday party over the weekend. Realized how strange and wonderful that I still have so many connections and friendships with people from middle school and high school. These are the people who know most (if not all of my baggage), who are a part of my stories and vice versa, and sometimes I think when we are able to get together and catch up, all the years disappear and we’re 14 again sitting in someone’s basement arguing about some video game or playing D&D or talking comics or whatever.

And sometimes I think those are the best trips to the past we can ask for.

 

***

John McGuire

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

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

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

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

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

It’s the End of the World…

Monday. Another small step in an effort to blanket the electronic devices of young and old was released for consumption. 9 authors contributing a variety of short tales or excerpts from their own worlds appeared in a collection called:

Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows (Get it on your Kindle right now!)

Machina Front Cover

In which, I have three pieces of the overall collection. Two shorts and an excerpt from my very first novel The Dark That Follows.

You can get it here. For FREE! (Our gift to you.)

As I’ve only read one of the other stories in the book, I’m looking forward to seeing what sort of tales they’ve managed to spin.

Mine?

Well, I like to consider the two stories I’ve submitted: Til the Last Candle Flickers & And I Feel Fine as 2 parts of my Apocalyptic Trilogy. They are siblings of a sort to be sure (not the actual characters) in the themes of love and loss at the end of everything. And yet they represent very different things about that end. They are Alpha and Omega.

candle-579580_1920

Till the Last Candle Flickers came about from the idea of Preppers. You know, those guys and gals who are so sure we are on our way to some kind of apocalypse that their hobby is to be as prepared as possible. In some ways I think they have to be spiritual ancestors of those Cold War survivors with their fallout shelters.

But with this short I wanted to look at what can happen on the front end to someone who is so sure that all of our world will be gone soon. How would other people treat him? Do you close yourself off to everyone just so that you don’t have to lose them when it goes down?

How long can you go on like that?

Comet

And I Feel Fine is the other end of things. The Bad Things have come and gone and then more Bad Things have taken their place. And when it seems like there is no good left for you… when the world is surely trying to kill you on a daily basis… maybe that is the time to ensure there is a record left. A small snippet of how things were in those days, so that if there are survivors they might know a little bit more about this generation of people.

I call these two pieces of a trilogy, which would beg the question: “where’s the 3rd piece?”

Good question. I don’t know. I have ideas about it, but these two demanded to be written down. The words flowed in a way that let me know I was onto something worth finishing.

Hopefully you feel the same when you read them.

 

***

John McGuire

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

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

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

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

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

Sleep, Perchance…

Alarm off. A slow glance at the clock. The time flickers a thought in my head.

That can’t be right. Close my eyes again as if the sheer act of doing so will change what they witnessed. A slow peek before I’m careening out of bed. A mad scramble of clothes and contacts and “did I shower last night?” and deodorant and shaving and finding a shirt and…

Dragon Clock

It’s already past the countdown clock moment. Now it becomes the beginnings of a true decision. Formulas scream through my brain.

How long is the trip?

When is it too late?

Damn… missed class again…

***

Many years ago Chad told me that he preferred nightmares to pleasant dreams. The very concept made little sense to me at the time.

“Why?”

“Because when I wake up from a “great” dream, I’m back in the real world where things are inevitably worse than the worlds I had just visited. But with a nightmare, I have absolute and utter relief, because my waking life is so much better then any nightmare.

“Suddenly I’m happy to be awake!”

***

I struggle to fall asleep. Not stay asleep… oh, no. That is well taken care of. I tend to stay up too late and want more than my allotted eight hours the next day.

***

Henry Rollins said that you either sleep or you don’t – but you can’t catch up.

***

I respectfully disagree with that sentiment.

***

Your body knows when enough is enough. When you’ve pushed yourself. When you have burned that candle down to nothing but a pool of wax and a long-forgotten wick.

That’s when you need to let yourself catch up.

candle-579580_1920

***

Tonight, I don’t want to sleep. I want to stay up, looking down the internet rabbit hole – wondering where it will take me. I wonder if ancient scholars had the same feeling reading the same obscure text.

Sadly I’m reading about football or baseball or something else not quite so grand.

My nightly ritual where I put it off as long as possible. One more minute. Five more. Let me just finish this article. Where is that link going to take me? What about this video on something from 1 year ago. Five years ago. 100 years ago.

Yeah, I could wait until the next day, but then the information couldn’t swim through my head waiting to greet me in my dreams.

I need to know RIGHT NOW!

***

Reality vs. Dreams? What is the difference really? What if the world ceased to exist when we closed our eyes? And then the very act of opening them created a whole new world?

city in the sky

***

In dreams we are the creator, not always in control, true, but building.

Yet, I have to wonder. Is that actually a truth or just something I believe without real proof?

If that was true, why would I set the clock to a point where I’m late for class? Why torture myself when it is nothing but mental 1s and 0s of my own personal Matrix? What good does it do my body to send that familiar rush of fear and anxiety through my body?

***

What if it were the opposite? What if we are only the creators when we are awake? What if when we shut our eyes that was the real world(s)? That’s why we don’t have control over it. That’s why we can’t get off the railroaded path provided to us.

As strange as that reality might be where physics no longer works the way you think it should. Where people you’ve not seen in years suddenly have different personalities than you are used to. Your wife recognizes you, but she’s different and the same and…

***

We have to follow Alice down that damn rabbit hole no matter what.

***

Another friend in high school once commented that he woke up early (most weekends) because he was afraid of missing something. Better to be awake for whatever exciting/important/whatever thing than to not be.

As if the world ceased to exist when we shut our eyes.

***

The world continues to exist when we shut our eyes.

***

Doesn’t it?

 

***

John McGuire

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

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

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

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

Dragon Con/ Labor Day Weekend: Seen Through New Eyes

dragoncon

A couple of weeks ago I made my annual pilgrimage to Dragon Con. Heading to the Southeast’s foremost sci-fi/ fantasy/ cosplay/ comic book/ art expo/ geek party convention is a trip that I always require myself to take.

It’s a release of sorts for me as it allows my inner geek to chill and unwind. It’s like Christmas and Mardi Gras for nerds, and it’s fun as heck.

A place which has created a ton of fun memories including hanging with friends and now family, meeting celebrities, watching my friends run away from said celebrities (a story for another time), spending long hours in ticket lines discussing a host of nerdy topics, finding awesome deals with vendors, and getting my first shot in comics.

So to introduce this fun and crazy world to a newbie was a fulfilling experience, one I found myself enjoying a bit more than I’d expected.

My wife and I invited our nephew to spend the Labor Day weekend with us, which included taking him to his first convention, his first comic book store, and him handing my butt to me several times over in video games.

A quick rundown of the weekend:

Day One: After starting the morning with me getting my butt handed to me in the DC Comics fighting game Injustice: Gods Among Us (the less said the better) my wife, nephew, and I headed down to the greatest convention on Earth.

Yeah, I said it. It’s fact.

Researched by scientists everywhere. 🙂

Most regular attendee’s to the event understand if you wait until the day of to buy tickets for the event, then you’re sort of S.O.L in terms of having to wait in a long line. No biggie, but it just requires you to be extremely patient.

But if you’re my nephew, possible frustration is trumped by excitement as a result of the unofficial parade of cosplay that’s on display. This kid was constantly picking out favorite characters from such animated offerings as RWBY and  Steven Universe. Taking pictures, pointing them out to my wife, and just having a great time in line.

0-steven-universe

This excitement carried on into the day, as he continued to take pictures galore of the event, and had his mind blown when we hit up the vendors area where he bought a Steven Universe sword, and a set of customizable Lego’s.

He was so hyped that we wound up taking him home halfway through the day, as he was filled to the brim with geekery.

Day Two: After breakfast at Golden Corral (where you can find a breakfast of champions for folks like myself who love to chow down) my wife and I decided to take my nephew to the local comic book store in our area. Here was another first as he’d never been to a comic book store.

Are we an awesome aunt/ uncle pair, or what?

This kid’s mind once again was blown as he walked around the shop, taking in all of the superhero related merchandise adorning the store. When I showed him an Avatar: The Last Airbender trade paperback he was extremely excited, as this series and The Legend of Korra are personal favorites of his. The smile that stayed on his face when we bought the book for him will be an image that’ll stay in this ‘ole noggin for a while.

avatarcvr

I tried to keep that  smile in my head as he continued to kick my butt later on in Injustice. Seriously, no one should be that dang good when it comes to that game.

It’s not natural.

Injustice-Gods-Among-Us

Present: Fast forward to a family get together we had last weekend, and my wife calls me into the room to see something my nephew has.

He hands me a Manga that he’s drawing/writing, and as I flip through it I’m getting extremely proud of this kid. Not that I wasn’t before, but this just added like 10K more cool points for him in my book.

So to the organizers of Dragon Con, and our local comic book store: thanks. Looks like you might’ve inspired a future creator to take his first steps into creating comics.

And that’s never a bad thing.

So What’s He Going To Buy With All That Gold?

Currently in rotation on HBO are all the Hobbit films. And while I’m not the biggest fan of the book, I find I’m watching bits and pieces of the movies here and there as I flip through the channels. However, there is one scene that I must turn to and watch in its entirety every opportunity I get:

Weta-Smaug-Breakdown-1

Smaug.

Smaug slowly revealing himself from under a treasure trove that would invoke Dragon Sickness on Thorin. Smaug talking with Bilbo, toying with him, showing him exactly how impressive he might be. And the extremes he goes to prove that the dwarves will never retake the mountain.

I love every minute of it.

Yet, the other night I was watching these sequences and a strange thought popped into my head:

Why does Smaug (or any dragon) need all that gold? And it isn’t just him – so many of these creatures throughout our myths are guarding a treasure horde. It is a staple such that in Dungeons and Dragons it is not questioned. The only questions anyone has any real concern to answer are: how much is the horde worth? Are we powerful enough to kill the beast guarding it?

But I feel like there is more to this idea.

***

The cavern shone whenever the tiniest glint of light broke through. In those instances, the gleam would bounce from coin to coin, making them sparkle. It would illuminate the lighter colored gems so they became tiny lanterns dotting the golden mound. Under this light the true spectacle could be seen. Appreciated. Gold and diamonds and coins and gems and… a myriad of skeletal forms cooked to a crisp inside their metal armor.

That same treasure acted as a beacon to some. Bands of adventurers who wove odd stories about how the dragon claimed their birthrights… their home. How every coin buried there was theirs to recover. Indeed, all of it would be restored to its rightful owners.

Yes, the cavern might have once belonged to dwarves or mountain men or even an orc herd, but it was the dragon’s now and had been for decades. It was his home. And more importantly, so were the riches it used as a bed.

For while the previous owners certainly contributed to its girth, not everything was from a singular conquest.

***

Krench moved into the cavern. Ever a creature of habit, he made sure to bring along a lantern, even if the act was worthless. At the outer chamber a familiar warmth ran down his leg. Long gone were the days he might have made excuses for such an action. How it could have been explained away as an involuntary response to the immense fear coursing throughout his body.

If his nephew smelled the urine, he did not show it. For that, Krench was grateful. There was far too much left to teach the lowly creature for them to become bogged down in such a trivial thing.

“The thing that no one understands is exactly what the Great Wyrm does with all his riches. The outsiders believe he simply slumbers on them. They make up superstitions where he extracts some form of nourishment from the metals in the coin allowing him to generate his awesome flame. They suppose he is vain and loves the way the gold and silver flicker in the darkness.

“Does that even make any kind of sense? It is up there with those who claim he stole the entire amount.

book-316391_1280

“Lies! And I have the numbers to prove it.” Krench patted the large book tucked under other arm. “A quick reading of this would inform everyone that of his original horde, only thirty percent was from what the dwarves possessed. Then there was the twenty-five percent in tribute from the lizard men. Another ten percent from random caravans he assaulted when bored. The last thirty-five percent an investment with the orcs that paid him quite well upon their successful campaign against the elves.”

The tunnel tightened enough that they both were forced to duck. His nephew passed through the narrow opening first and took the lantern and book from him while he made his way. Holding the items, the younglings resembled him decades earlier. His mind would be a swirl, a jumble mass of expectations, questions, theories, and who knows what else. To his credit, no questions were posed, but Ketch knew the sermon was far from finished. There was just too much to prepare him for. To explain how the world really worked.

“Once a week the Dragon’s Accountant must journey here to give a full account on all his holdings.” That got the boy’s attention. “I know your question: how would his horde ever change? He’s sleeping on the lot of it.

“And that’s the secret. He’s not. That’s small level thinking. For a creature such as this, who counts his life in decades or even centuries, you must expand on all of that. And this one has holdings as far east as Silverpool, as far north as the great seas… where ever money might exchange hands the likelihood is very high some of the coin originated here.”

“That inn located at the crossroads of Madras and Danan. Where all the caravans stop. Where lords and ladies and even princes have stayed… he owns a fifty percent stake. The blacksmith shop in Butte has worked out a nice living for himself because of a certain anonymous investor.

“A fleet of ships supporting the Merchant Guild in Silverpool.

“And the latest Duke of Parthan, who somehow found enough of a foreign inheritance to afford the new title and the lands which come with it.”

Krench let it all sink in.Watching his nephew’s eyes dart back and forth, a mind at work. After a few moments, a toothy grin emerged.

“Not to mention the coinage itself. Think about it, most of the coinage will be old. Then after a time it will be very old. Then ancient. Kingdoms and empires rise and fall in the blink of an eye (well, from His point of view). They mint new coins, phase out the old ones… and no one wants to have worthless coins. So periodic exchanges have to occur. In small enough amounts not to arouse suspicion, but in enough transactions so that you actually gain some ability to pay for what you want to invest in.”

The first of the outer doors appeared at the end of the tunnel. Remnants of the previous owners. A loose stone along the right side of the door, halfway down, provided the opening mechanism. Krench pushed until he heard the click and the engraved doors shifted open.

“What people don’t understand is dragons are ancient creatures. On a long enough timeline, barring random adventurers stumbling in and murdering them in their homes, they might well live forever. Even the ancient elves appear to wither in the eyes of dragons.

“But forever is a long time. And while they may share more in common with cats in their sleeping habits- they still wish to be entertained. And with the level of money they possess… well, pulling the strings on some of the humanoid peoples is a pleasant distraction.

“More than anything else, he knows history will repeat itself if you let it. So he can push and pull. Nudge things along for the better. Well, for his better.

“You see, dragons have gotten a horrible reputation as being evil. But what no one will tell you is the word is made up. They simply don’t realize have the perspective to appreciate everything as it moves and twists and turns. The elves… yes, they might, but the lower races, the dwarves and humans and halflings and gnomes and orcs… the lot of them just don’t live long enough. So they make up new stories to explain the world around them. And more often than not they only have the vaguest of memories as to what came before. The devastation, the wars, the armies… evil.”

They were getting lower now, the tunnel’s slope increased to the point Krench had to hand the lantern over to his nephew. They both stumbled a bit, but neither lost their footing. A hundred feet or so later things flattened out once more, and he took the burden back.

“Of course, they don’t know about the art. Creatives need funding as well. Ancient dragons need songs and maybe stories to be written about them. To be retold for the next generation. And who’s going to pay those bards to make such beautiful art? He is.

“Exotic animals? Seems strange, but my father explained it to me. Some days you want beef and some days you want Minotaur. Nothing wrong with either. And when you exist at the top of the food chain and have this level of wealth…”

Richard_Caton_Woodvilles_The_Battle_of_Towton

Richard Caton Woodville, Jr. [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

“My great-grandfather realized one undeniable truth: wars cost money. Conquests. Paying armies to conquer the world. It’s a terrible business plan. First you outlay all of that money on the mercenaries. You pay to feed them. To forge weapons for them. To build the forges. To build the siege equipment. And all of that work and gold guarantees absolutely nothing.

“Up to that revelation, the Dragon’s Accountant merely handed out the sacks of gold to the mercenaries and kept a log of it all in the book. But it was a drain on the coffers, and no amount of caravans would cover the loss. That pile he sleeps on will surely drain until he’s sleeping on stone like some commoner. No! That would not stand! So he dared to pose a single idea: if the Great Wyrm really wished to take over the kingdom, then why not buy it instead?”

Careful to turn the key two times to the left and then once to the right (no one wanted a face sprayed with acid from a trap set to keep the undesirables out), Krench led them into the cavern proper. Pausing to let the younger of them take the sight in, he pushed his spectacles back up his long snout. Long ago the glitter was enough to nearly blind him. Too many restless nights were spent trying to determine exactly how one might extract such a mass from the mountain. When his own father passed the Book onto him, he spent more than enough time to understand how moving even one coin was as important as the whole of it.

Later, when he took a full account of the book, Krench realized some of the investments had gone sideways. A small war between human kingdoms, a great flood, and suddenly there was a loss to report for the fifth year in a row. Such a glorious day filled with fire to signify the passing of duties to the next Accountant.

“Krench…” The Great Wyrm stretched out his name so that it appeared to come from everywhere and nowhere all at once.

The two of them moved over to the large platform where he would deliver the latest news. As they climbed the steps, crafted so long ago by rough dwarvish hands, he pushed the book into his nephew’s arms. There was no need for it anymore.

Dragons were patient creatures, but above everything else they did not like to lose money.

 

***

John McGuire

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

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

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

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

Creating for the Future

Creating for the future, or the long-term, is what I’m doing right now. I recently finished a large commission and I won’t be taking anymore for at least a year. That’s kind of scary! Commissions have not made me rich, but they have been a nice cushion. So why on earth would I do this? I’m thinking about the future. I have a list of paintings I want to create and while I love the commissions I’ve tackled they aren’t MY creative vision. I’m also in dire need a cohesive portfolio, one that represents ME, for next year’s DragonCon jury process.

The last few years have been a journey to reinvent myself, my art, and find my true passion. I feel I’ve finally breached a wall in my psyche and now I want to create art where my vision and heart collide. That first glimpse over the wall was of course, Renascentia, which is also quite apropos since the name means rebirth in Latin.

Renascentia by Amanda Makepeace

If you want to follow me over the wall and pitch in $1 a month, take a look at my campaign on Patreon. Seriously. I’m only asking for $1 a month. Crazy!! But that $1 will add up and you’ll get an inside look at my creative process and a nifty little reward each month too. I’ll be sharing sketches, progress shots, tips and how’s to articles and videos on a weekly basis. Basically, double what I share on Instagram. Patrons will also get to see the creation of my next sketchbook volume before anyone else.

My Patreon campaign will help keep me accountable, keep me pushing ahead with the art I need and want to create over the next six months. If it does well, then it will also help me with funds for art supplies and maybe further down the line, funds for more conventions. I hope you’ll consider pitching in $1.00 a month while I go crazy making art!

Support me on Patreon

Route 3: Sean’s Playlist

I like music. I like it a lot.

When I’m in my car I’ve got my Cake, Chance The Rapper, The Roots, Red Hot Chili Pepper, Kanye West, or Tito Puente Pandora stations on constant rotation. Music helps get me through the day, long writing sessions, and just Sean-3allows me to unwind.

So when writing Route 3 I’ve created a mix-tape of sorts that our protagonist, Sean Anderson, would have queued up on his MP3 player.

I’ll admit a lot of my tastes influence what Sean probably listen’s too, so hey, sue me. We both like good music.

Below is a small sampling of what Sean rocks out to when heading to school, or saving the day.

 

 

 

LOGIC

Logic – Under Pressure (Album): This guy has me constantly thanking Pandora for mixing him into my Chance The Rapper rotation. With a laid back flow, the Maryland born and bred Sir Robert Bryson Hall II, a.k.a Logic would be a constant fixture in Sean’s ears. Logic’s masterful rapping, including insightful lyrics speaking about his newfound success and struggles could form a great reflection to Sean’s own triumphs and trials.

Added to this, Sean would more than likely keep his head bobbing on his “road trip from hell” to the awesome beats/ production being laid down by legendary producer No ID.

KANYE

Kanye West- College Dropout/ Late Registration/ Graduation (Albums): Ok, ok hear me out. Mr. West has become a sort of polarizing figure for a lot of folks. To be honest with you, I don’t focus on anything with him outside of the music. I’m not big into celebrity news/ gossip, and when it comes to Mr. West, for me, all that matters is the music.

The Kanye that Sean would be rocking out to would be what I’ve deemed “The Backpack-Polo Trilogy” (College Dropout/ Late Registration/ Graduation). Not saying that I haven’t enjoyed any of his work that’s dropped after these three album’s, but for me, and Sean by extension, this is classic Kanye, and includes some of his greatest work.

This was the bashful braggart. The socially conscious/ fun rapper, who could belt slick lyrics laced with lines that would make you think and want to dance at the same time. The backpack carrying, polo shirt wearing, rapper/ producer. For Sean this would be a guy who would tap into the smart swagger that he himeself feels he embodies, but which has taken a hit due to death of his own mother.

Dave-Brubeck-Take-Five-EP-565413

Dave Brubeck-Take Five (Single): Gonna cheat here a little, as this would be
a song that would be suggested to Sean. This would be a track that Charles has slipped into the car radio while he and Sean are fleeing across the country. Charles is a bit of a “old head”, as the young folks say, and his musical tastes represents that somewhat.

So he’s a bit of an aficionado of all forms of music. Ranging from classic hip hop, to bluegrass music, Charles likes a little bit of everything, and this includes jazz. After a few conversations where he’s been able to pick Sean’s brain a bit, Charles decides to pull up Dave Brubeck’s seminal work, “Take Five”. It’d be a track that would keep Sean cool, calm, and collected as hell continues to rain down around him, while also opening new doors of music for our young protragonist.

IZ-WonderfulWorld

Israel “Iz” Kaʻanoʻi Kamakawiwoʻole- Somewhere over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World Medley (Single)- Even writing about this song gets me all misty eyed and what not.

I can get sappy sometimes.

This for me is the track that I picture Sean’s mother playing for him when he was younger. This was the song that Sean played every night on a portable CD player by his mother’s bedside at the hospital, as she battled cancer. This was their song. This track by the Hawaiian born and raised Israel “Iz” Kaʻanoʻi Kamakawiwoʻole is the type of song that just leaves you feeling good and happy with life.

The song has a melancholy feel, but at points uplifts you. In my opinion, it’s the best rendition of both Somewhere Over The Rainbow and What A Wonderful World that I’ve heard in a while. So, to just find a moment of peace in the tumultuous events that play out in Route 3, and reminisce on his mother, Sean would have this on repeat on his playlist.

———————————————————————-

Hope you enjoyed this trip down Sean’s musical lane.

One question for my fellow writers/ creators: what artists/songs do your characters listen to?

Return of the Whatnot

Yes. The whatnot post has returned. I know you’ve been lost without it, adrift in a sea of the unknown. Never fear. I’m back with all the little things you’ve missed and new ones you never knew existed.

The Bone Oracle Drawing1. DragonCon – Over the last two weeks I’ve had numerous comments and questions about the convention. No, I’m not going this year. Since I’m not in the art show this time around, I couldn’t justify the expense. This happens to be my daughter’s senior year in high school. Other expenses I have right now include: SAT and ACT exam fees, 2 AP exam fees, Senior Dues, Senior Portraits, Yearbook, College Application fees, and more. That’s a lot of money. I’ve also just begun a two month subscription to Schoolism (purchased during their Kickstarter). In the end, it just didn’t make any sense to attend DragonCon. Fingers crossed for next year!

2. Bone Oracle Prints Prints are now available in my shop, but for a limited time. The graphite drawing is going to be the starting point for a painting of the same name. When I finish the painting the print of the drawing will no longer be available. Any prints purchased will have a number on the back, bottom right corner. The original drawing will be coming with me to JordanCon in April 2016.

3. Secret Shop – I bet you didn’t know I had a secret shop. You can find it on my website by clicking Five Dollars in the menu.

4. Creative BloqYou may have heard about a recent Kickstarter lawsuit. If not, you can learn more about it today at Creative Bloq (the blog for ImagineFX and other creative magazines) and you may run across a familiar name and image. 😉

The Dracula Dossier: Directors Handbook5. Books – Usually, I read about 2-3 books a summer. It’s a busy time of year. But for whatever reason, I managed to read 10 books this summer and I’m in the middle of my eleventh. Some of them have been re-reads and others brand new. I enjoyed John Scalzi’s Lock In so much I bought a hardback copy after reading it on Kindle. Books… NomNomNom…

6. Biter Bash 2015I’ve reserved a table for the small event, December 5-6 in Roswell, Georgia. I will be selling art prints, sketch cards, and whatnot. I’ll also be bringing along some copies of my sketchbook Daydreams & Wanderings.

7. The Dracula Dossier – Myself and many others created art for this book. I’m thrilled I could contribute. I can’t share the art yet, but it won’t be long now! The book is available for pre-order from Pelgrane Press.

Never Happy

We’re never happy. I read this article today and now am resigned to actively root against my favorite books, favorite comics, old movies, old novels – because I’m contributing to the downfall of my way of life…

Or something like that.

Instead I’m here to say: enjoy it while it lasts. Instead of looking forward to a time when superhero movies don’t make billions at the box office, just find a way to be happy. I waited twenty years to see Spider-man actually look good on the big screen. I read Avengers comics and never thought I’d ever see any of those characters up there. That the gifts from my youth would become things that could bridge the generations of old fans to new ones.

Nostalgia is not seen as a good thing. That’s the refrain of many. The proliferation of it means that it makes money… that it is no longer done for the “love of the game” so to speak.

records-143468_1280

But it doesn’t have to be.

We’re nostalgic for the old things. Yet we forget the bad in there, when we were called names because of what we liked.

Woo hoo! Good times!

Yeah, I don’t think so.

We want to be nostalgic and then get angry when someone co-ops that passion. We want to stand off to the side and be apart and talk about how you liked something more BEFORE.. back in the day.

Why?

Hey man, movies used to mean something. Movies used to make you think. Hey man, books used to mean something. Hey man, music used to mean something.

Hey man…

Shut up. Stop whining.

Yes, money helps to trigger all of this. If Iron Man flopped we probably don’t get the Avengers movie (and we definitely don’t ever see a Guardians of the Galaxy grace our screens). For every Pixels which feats on those old ideas (video games) we love, but apparently fails to connect with an audience – we also get a novel like Ready Player One which embraces it and forces you to embrace it and remember how much you loved the same things.

How many comic TV shows are too many?

I don’t know, but let’s f-ing find out!

How many video game related items from the 80s can be referenced in something. Who cares? I love them all?

footloose

Hey, let’s redo Footloose!

Ok, maybe they’ve gone too far.

A friend of mine and I lament that Game of Thrones hasn’t launched a thousand fantasy things (comics, movies, tv shows, etc.). We both cut our teeth on Dungeons and Dragons so we enjoy those type things, but so far it hasn’t penetrated as far as I would like. However, if in 5 years everyone is doing THEIR fantasy story… well, that will be great. Why should I be upset with that? The bad ones will get weeded out, and the good ones will be consumed and enjoyed.

I think we trick ourselves into believing that things were always better “back when”. Oh yeah, it was awesome to go to the library and stumble through pages upon pages of text before finding that nugget of information for that report I’m doing. Yeah, that’s ole’ internet just is garbage compared to that, eh?

Everything is cyclical. You need to enjoy it while it lasts. Hollywood knows that better than most. And while today it’s superheroes or geek culture, but before that were the musicals and the westerns and the war movies and gangster movies and the epics and the 80’s action movies and the slasher films and the…

You see what I mean?

And I’m not without my own biases. I wish there was more rock out there that I liked. I wish MTV hadn’t strayed so far from it over the last twenty years. But I also know that if I tried hard enough, I could still find a thing or two to like.

Much hand wring and teeth gnashing is done because we are only seeing things that have been done before. People cry out “where are the new ideas?” But we forget about all the good things which do make it to the screen (or to the bookstore or to the… you get the point). Straight out of Compton. Ex Machina. It Follows. And hopefully The Martian (a movie based on an “Indy” book). We only want to lament that… “ugh, everyone likes everything I like. It’s not mine anymore to enjoy.”

Isn’t that what we wanted? Isn’t this thing we like becoming more popular (which means MORE of it) what we’ve been waiting for?

Dragon Con 2014

This weekend thousands of people will descend upon Atlanta, Georgia for Dragon Con (and others will be here for the start of college football and have really odd looks on their faces at those of us at Dragon Con). While I’m certainly not a fan of long lines and fighting people to get a look at dealer’s booths this is the price I pay for OUR geek stuff finally getting its due. Yes, we could crawl back into the basement spending our time organizing our comics and watching thrice-dubbed imports or we can embrace the idea that while we will need to feed the machine, we also will get more voices out there to help make up the slack. The other refrain is that it has never before been easier to “Create”. Anything you want: movies, tv shows, podcasts, books, comics, stand-up, music, poetry.

bunker-554239_1280

Do you want to go back into the darkness? Really?

 

It was the best of times and it was the worst of times.

Except, it doesn’t need to be the worst.

Stop focusing on the BAD… ALL OF THE TIME.

Just stop!

Things change. Eventually the times will change and all the Eyores will wonder – “why don’t people like X thing? Remember when everyone liked that thing? It was awesome. I wish we could go back to then.”

This is THEN. This is NOW. Embrace it. Love it.

 

***

John McGuire

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

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

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

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

Second Star to the Right and Straight on ’til Compton

StraightOuttaSomewhere (3)I think every young filmmaker has a handful of dream projects in their back pocket. Not only dozens of original ideas but also ones based on preexisting content: an adaptation of a novel or comic book, someone’s life story, a sequel to a beloved franchise, a tale from history, a (gasp) remake of a classic film. Projects filed away under the “When I make it big, I’ll use that clout to get one of these things made” category. Some of these projects you are sure will rock the box office; others, that you don’t really think will make any money but, if all goes well, will net you some critical acclaim.

The two big dream projects for me could not have been more different in tone and subject matter:

I wanted to do a live-action, semi-serious, sticking-to-the-book version of JM Barrie’s Peter and Wendy

…and a biopic about Eazy-E and the creation and dissolution of legendary hip-hop group N.W.A.

And they both got made.

But not by me.

It’s weird seeing these films come to fruition; it’s even weirder watching them. You can’t help but think about what you would have done differently, what they did better than you, what they fucked up entirely. It’s not a crushing feeling; I never got close to making either one a reality. But it’s… strange.

peter-pan-wendy-03What attracted me to JM Barrie’s 1911 novel Peter and Wendy was that it was a version of Peter Pan I had never seen, knowing only the Disney interpretation. The book was darker than the animated film. More violent. More powerful. With a bittersweet message about childhood, both celebrating it and recognizing our need to shed it. Peter himself was full of contradictions: he was charming, fun-loving, sometimes feminist (“Wendy, one girl is more use than twenty boys.”) optimistic and brave, but also selfish, mean, forgetful, and super-duper violent.

Which all made sense to me. Little boys are terrors. When I was a child, I may have used a stick or wooden sword to fight pirates (or Darth Vader. Let’s be honest here.) but I was imagining a real blade. I wasn’t knocking people over. I was running them through. Cutting off their heads. Killing bad guys. In Barrie’s novel, that’s what Peter does. He kills bad guys. It’s not the bloodless, G-rated action of the Disney film.

The novel has several other dark tropes that few Peter Pan adaptations have yet to explore. Peter’s role as an Angel of Death, tasked with holding children’s hands on their way to heaven. His hatred of adults, parents especially, and how he genuinely wanted them dead. The slaughter of the Indians, an aspect of the story that I admit feels racist here in the 21st Century. And the famous Peter Pan quote, when stranded on an island left to die, a line that has forever stuck with me as probably the most positive outlook on death I’ve ever heard:

to-die-would-be-an-awfully-big-adventureAnd then there’s the end. I’m not going to get into it, but the last chapter of Peter and Wendy is sad and beautiful and a real reminder that Pan is a boy who will NEVER grow up. Which is the main reason why I hate Spielberg’s Hook. I know it’s beloved by the generation after me, and that’s fine, but it’s a bad film, hands down, my Peter Pan purist proclivities aside. But more than anything: Pan doesn’t grow up. He isn’t a child. He’s a demigod, an angel, an imp, maybe even a devil. He will live forever, as the final lines of the novel tell us:

“When Margaret grows up she will have a daughter, who is to be Peter’s mother in turn; and thus it will go on, so long as children are gay and innocent and heartless.”

Gay and innocent and heartless. That is Peter Pan to me. I have yet to see him on screen.

30521196_1300x1733I’m not going to offer a full review of PJ Hogan’s 2003 adaptation, Peter Pan. I have only seen it once and did not care for it. It got a lot right, especially in the first half hour or so. But then it fell apart for me. And, while it did incorporate a little bit of the adult edge I was looking for, it didn’t go far enough. But when that film came out, I knew my chances of making a film out of Peter and Wendy had just been cut drastically. And then when it failed at the box office, it showed that maybe a big-budget Peter Pan movie wasn’t commercially viable.

We’ll see if Joe Wright’s film, simply called Pan, will be different when it comes out this year. It’s apparently a prequel or something which we know ALWAYS bodes well, right? (see: Prometheus, The Thing, Star Wars, Hannibal Rising). But I doubt it’s the film I would have made.

And, man, the film I would have made is so good. It’s still there, in my head, scene by scene. I could still write it, legally. In 2007 the rights to the novel basically became public domain, leading to a series of disparate book series’ that I have not read. And maybe one day I will. Or maybe one day I’ll come up with a different take on one of my favorite stories, a new way to bring it to life.

Straight_Outta_Compton

“You are now about to witness the strength of street knowledge.”

In the late 80’s, when I was 13 years old, I got hold of a cassette tape I shouldn’t have. It was called Straight Outta Compton, by a band called N.W.A., which I soon learned stood for “Niggaz wit’ Attitude”. It scandalized me, excited me, educated me, and, quite frankly, scared the shit out of me. Especially the song “Fuck tha Police” and the shit storm that came with it.

The group’s frank and often gratuitous depictions of life on the street in a city I had never heard of called Compton, a place so far removed from suburban Atlanta that I couldn’t imagine ever going there, was eye-opening, sure, but it was also dirty. The non-stop assault of profanity, violence, and sex was exceptionally titillating to my white, sheltered, adolescent mind.

Just the use of the word “nigger” (or “nigga” or “niggaz”, technically), which my parents had raised me to strike from my vocabulary forever (“Forever. Forever? Forever ever. Forever ever?”), was scandalous. And, I admit, intriguing. This was a bad word used to describe black people. Why would these guys talk about themselves that way? I sort of understood it, but not really. Not for a long time. But I knew it was controversial and adult and, in the back of my brain, powerful. I just couldn’t tell you why.

18280-n-w-a-1680x1050-music-wallpaperO’Shea “Ice Cube” Jackson. Lorenzo “MC Ren” Patterson. Eric “Eazy-E” Wright. Antoine “Yella” Carraby. Andre “Dr. Dre” Young. These are guys whose faces and voices I’ve known since puberty. I can recite all of Straight Outta Compton (the album, not the movie. I guess we have to differentiate now) as well is its companion piece, Eazy-E’s Eazy-Duz-It, word for word. Still, to this day.

"See you at the crossroads."

“See you at the crossroads.”

When (SPOILER) Eric Wright died of AIDS in 1995, it shook me. I was mostly listening to heavy metal and grunge, but I had never forgotten N.W.A. and their 5’ 5” superstar (“Niggaz [his] height don’t fight.”) . I knew the group had broken up and there had been bad blood. If you were alive in the early 90s and remember Dr. Dre’s The Chronic coming out, it was impossible not to know. But Eazy was a part of my adolescence and he was gone.

I wanted to make a movie about Eazy-E and the formation of N.W.A. I did some reading and found that there was a lot of drama to be mined. The music would be center stage, of course, but there were also political, financial, racial, sexual, and societal themes to be explored. Were these men artists pretending to be gangstas or gangstas who stumbled into being artists? I wanted to explore that question.

And, morbidly, films about actual people are more satisfying if they have a definite ending. And by that I mean death. It’s fucked up, I know, but it’s true. And the more tragic that ending, the more drama you can conjure. And (SPOILER) Eazy’s death was tragic, to be sure. He was destroyed by his own reckless behavior, sure, but dying of AIDS made Wright an icon of the 1980s. He not only helped birth a style of music that rules the airwaves over 25 years later, but he was struck down by the 20th Century’s Black Death, just at the point where we were starting to understand it. As Eazy said, from his hospital bed, after being told he had AIDS: “But I ain’t no fag.” That was the attitude then. For a lot of people.

I tried to pitch this movie to anyone who would listen. Every one of my L.A. friends knew about it. But I was never able to get through any doors of consequence. People I did get to talk to weren’t interested. Plus, there was the matter of clearing the music, an incredibly expensive process that meant the film could never be made independently. I still held out hope for 15 years. Just like with Peter and Wendy, I had the whole movie in my head and “damn, that shit was dope!”

maxresdefaultRight now, for the second straight week, F. Gary Gray’s film, Straight Outta Compton, is on top of the box office charts. I was both excited and nervous to go see it. I mean, the subject matter is obviously attractive to me, but, motherfucker, I wanted to make this movie. And I was weary that the film was produced by Dr. Dre and Ice Cube. That meant that rough corners were going to be sanded down. Certain less-than-flattering things would be omitted. I was especially worried about how the film would depict Eazy, who would have been my protagonist.

I really liked the movie.

It’s odd. It’s not at all the movie I would have made but it’s also exactly the movie I would have made. It doesn’t look like the movie in my head. Doesn’t feel or sound or flow like it. But it covers the exact story beats I would have. Its Point A is my Point A and its point Z is my Point Z. It told the story I wanted to tell, just not in the style I wanted to tell it in.

And that’s fine. Because I liked it. And a lot of people seem to feel the same way.

(Especially after the mind-blowing clusterfuck that was the Biggie Smalls “movie”.)

I do wish it had explored a little more of the dark side of things, especially the famous incident involving Dr. Dre and Dee Barnes, an omission that is getting a lot of press over the last week. It should be in the movie. It really should. The first step to atonement is to acknowledge what you’ve done. Dre has done that in the press this week, releasing statements that seem genuine. But it would have been much more powerful to explore these themes in the film. Let it all hang out. Show your ugly side. The movie has to stand on its own and Dre’s history of domestic violence isn’t something that should be discussed in a press release.

osheajacksonjr_withicecubeBut the performances are great, especially by O’Shea Jackson Jr, who not only looks like his father but does a spot-on impression. The music is of course awesome. The cinematography interesting. The script could be better and sometimes the “bio-pic-ness” of the thing hurts it, with its need to make sure you understand who all these people coming in and out of the story are. Hey guys? I’m at a movie about N.W.A. I know that guy is playing Tupac. I am aware of his music. No need to point him out to me.

Surprisingly Eazy, the drug-dealer turned hip-hop mogul and star, comes across as the one of the biggest heart. He’s actually the soul of the movie. This makes me happy. Because that was going to be my way in, too. Through him. And when (SPOILER) Eazy dies, I was shaken, teary, even though I knew it was coming.

The only thing that pisses me off about the success of Straight Outta Compton (the movie) is… its success. It’s making BANK. All those years I was told no one wanted this movie. That it would be too expensive to get the music rights. That who cares about some gangster who died of AIDS? And now it’s ruling the Summer box office. Beating the crap out of more traditional Summer movies. I TOLD YOU, YOU MOTHERFUCKERS.

the-devil-in-the-white-city-by-erik-larson-book-cover-960x1459Do I have more dream projects in my head? Of course. Novels I want to adapt (not telling you which ones). Life stories I want to tell. Historical incidents I’m dying to recreate. And I will hold onto them, along with the countless original ideas I have in my head, until the next one gets knocked down by someone who got to it before me.

One of my favorite books, well, ever, is Erik Larsen’s Devil in the White City. I would love to make it into a movie. Recently, it has been announced that Leonardo DiCaprio will be starring in the adaptation, with our greatest living filmmaker, Martin Scorsese, behind the lens. I will defer and gladly give up that dream. Because while I think one day I could match the talents of PJ Hogan or F. Gary Gray (both accomplished, not taking anything away from them), I will never-ever come close to Mr. Scorsese. So make that movie Marty. I can’t wait to see it.

 

I don’t know how interesting this has been. I just had this gut reaction to seeing Straight Outta Compton (the movie) that made me sit down and write my first blog post in forever. Sitting there, watching a movie I have dreamed about a thousand times, not looking at all like the film I would have made but enjoying it all the same.

Now that I think about it, that’s probably how I’m going to feel about The Force Awakens, too, because I know I have at least 3,263,827 Star Wars movies in me.

And I’m not giving up entirely on Peter and Wendy. Some dreams die harder than others.

The Lord of Infinity – A Creative Interview with Dylan Kinnett

This week’s interview is with Dylan Kinnett. He’s a Baltimore denizen and creative writer extraordinaire, and his visit is special for the Tessera Guild. The reason: Dylan is the taller, younger, and better looking brother to J Edward Neill (yep, that’s me.) I was first introduced to Dylan’s fascinating style of writing in his original release of Infinity’s Kitchen. And now that he’s gone global, he’s up next in our ongoing Creative Interview series.

So let’s get started!

* * *

Hey there, latest Tessera victim. Tell us about yourself, where you’re from, and what you love:

Hi, my name is Dylan Kinnett. I’m from Baltimore, Maryland. I’m not originally from Baltimore, but I wonder: after spending 10 years in a place, do you become “from” that place? What does it really mean to be “from” a place, anyway? Does it just mean that you live there, that you’re proud to live there? In any case, the place where you live is part of who you are. Despite whatever repetitive loop you may have seen on cable TV lately, Baltimore is a charming place to be, and I love it here.

In layman’s terms, describe your unique style of writing:

That’s a difficult question because the layman’s terms aren’t particularly accurate for what I’ve been writing lately. If you ask a layman what “poetry” means, they’ll probably describe rhyme, meter, rhythm, and they may go on to say that it’s supposed to be about romantic themes and imagery. I’m trying to avoid all that, and to write something else, something new. I’ve discovered that the laymen are actually quite open to these new things, so long as I don’t use too many confusing old words for those things. Is it poetry? Sure, but I don’t go out of my way to call it that. In general, I’m just trying to do new things. I also like to write short plays, stories, and I dabble in performance art.

Please describe for us your fascinating new release, Litanies and Reiterations:

Litanies and Reiterations is a chapbook, which is a small book of writings. The works within the chapbook got their start as a collection of commonplace phrases. I’d find the phrases in everyday conversation, in song lyrics, blog comments, and catalogs: all over the place, really. Then, I worked the phrases into some writings that are repetitive, reiterative, or chant-like, and that’s what the title is about. One of the pieces, for example, is about how often politicians talk about the world and their work in four-year increments, and about how arbitrary and absurd it is to think about the world that way. Another one makes fun of how many love songs are on the air. It’s a playfully sarcastic little book.

Talk about Infinity’s Kitchen and the interesting things readers might find therein:

Infinity’s Kitchen is a literary journal that I started a few years ago that has grown into a quarterly reading series as well. As the editor, I’m looking to feature works that are somehow the product of an interesting new recipe. In order to contribute to the publication, its website or reading series, authors and artists are asked to answer a question: what is experimental about your creative work or process? The word “experimental” is a difficult one; some examples might help. Some of the interesting things we’ve published include a film and pirate radio project, poems made with Jello letters, and a reading from gigantic broadsheet printings revived from the 18th century.

th

Do you have an ultimate artistic goal you’re pursuing?

Yes, but I don’t know what it is yet. I’ll create something, it doesn’t reach the goal, so I keep creating.

Creatively speaking, what’s next for you?

I’m on vacation this week, but I do hope to finish writing a ten-minute play that I’m working on. The play is a follow-up to a morbid parody about astronauts that was performed a few years ago, but I’m finding that to be a tough act to follow.

* * *

It’s a real treat to have a talent like Dylan stop by, and it’s especially neat to encounter his awesome style of artistic expression. Here’s a few more Dylan-related tidbits and links for you to devour:

Artistic statement: http://seks-ua.blogspot.com/2013/08/dylan-kinnett-artist-statement.html

His latest release, Litanies and Reiterationsavailable in paperback and in e-book formats from Apple and Amazon.

Infinity’s Kitchen

* * *

Thanks again to Dylan for stopping by!

Everyone stay tuned for the next Creative Interview!

J Edward Neill

Author of the brain-tingling Coffee Table Philosophy series.

There’s no such thing as ‘indie’

The Accolade by Edmund Blair Leighton
Be like this guy…and afterward stand up and take the damn sword.
 The Accolade –
Neo-Gothic – Edmund Blair Leighton

 

Disclaimer: This article was written with artists, authors, and musicians in mind, but I think it applies to everyone

….

Humility – A modest or low view of one’s importance; diffidence

Confidence – The feeling or belief that one can rely on something; especially one’s self

….

There’s a famous saying. It goes something like: “Confidence without humility is better known as arrogance. Yet humility without confidence will ever be viewed as cowardice.”

Ok. That’s not a real famous saying. I just made it up.

But it feels true.

Anymore, seems there are two sorts of people trolling the earth. On one hand you’ve got your Narcissists. Yeah. You know ’em. I’m convinced these folks don’t even know about their self-centeredness. Maybe when they were three years old, mommy and daddy didn’t teach them how to think; they taught the poor kid what to think. And now they’ve got it all figured out. They talk in absolutes, oblivious to the idea that their point-of-view is but one of billions. Narcissists are everywhere. We’ve seen them, heard them, bumped into them, and probably at one point or several during our lives, we’ve been them. It’s ok. No big deal. Kinda the world we live in now.

On the other hand, you’ve got your Humblists (Yeah, made that up, too.) This is the group we should care about. These are well-meaning people. They don’t assume they know everything. In fact, they’re fine with not knowing everything. Odds are, if you’ve read this far, you’re probably a Humblist. You think stuff. You know stuff. You do stuff. And yet somehow you’re pretty positive the world doesn’t revolve around you.

But perhaps, Lord and Lady Humblist, it should.

…once in a while.

And so…

I give you:

The Little List of Artists’ ‘Humble‘ Habits I Want to Stop Seeing Forever:

All uses of the word aspiring. If you’ve written something, you’re not an aspiring writer; you’re a writer. If you’ve painted something, you’re not an aspiring artist; you’re an artist. To call yourself aspiring implies that even though you’ve started to do something, you’re somehow unworthy. That’s nonsense.

Procrastination due to self-doubt. If you’re going to not do something, find a better reason than self-doubt. It’s miniature suicide. Every time you convince yourself you can’t do something, you kill 367 of your own brain cells…and 30 of everyone else’s, too.

Tweeting or Facebooking motivational memes (aka: cat posters.) Let’s face it; no one who’s really gonna create kickass art, write novels, or make beautiful music needs that kind of motivation. Words compel nothing. Passionate, self-lit fires in people’s souls compel everything.

Undervaluing your artistic work. First, I understand if artists want to pitch a one-time sale or freebie offer. That’s part of the bizniz. And I also understand artists who want to do it all for the love and never make a dime. That’s cool, too. But I’m talking about you, starving artist. Yeah…you. If you’re going to sell your stuff, sell it. Charge more than $0.99 for your f’ing awesome fantasy novel. Earn more than $50 on that amazing painting that took you three weeks to finish. If you’re in it to win it, tell discounting to suck your ____.  Charge what it’s worth, and not a penny less.

Posting crap tons of other authors’ quotes. Make up your own quotes. They’ll mean more to you…I promise.

The phrase self-published. Lose it. If you’re published in any form, you’re legit. Whether you blurted out a tiny lil’ book of poems via Amazon or you’re J.K. Rowling blasting our faces with more Harry Potter-ness, you’re the real deal. The words self-published sag beneath the suggestion that if you did it yourself, you’re somehow not legitimate. BS.

And finally…any reference to the word indie. Indie authors, musicians, painters, f’ing flag-football players. You’re not indie. You’re the real deal. If you’ve done anything in life, anything at all, you didn’t do it indie. You didn’t indie mow your lawn, did you? You didn’t indie cook dinner. Your work is just as valid as those getting paid to do it professionally. It might lack the polish or talent of well-marketed artists, but then again, it might be way fucking better.

I don’t know what else to say. I guess I’m done.

* * *

Like treacherous, not-at-all-for-kids fantasy? Check this.

Like fun, quizzy, party books you can leave on your coffee table forever? Check this.

Love,

J Edward Neill