Grab Bag: July Edition

The following will be randomness to the extreme. Much like falling down the internet rabbit hole, this is my brain this day and some of the days before that and on some of the days before even that. You may exit the blog post feeling confused and possibly have a hint of madness now occupying part of your brain. I apologize in advance.

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I got a chance to watch the Kurt Cobain Montage of Heck documentary. My quick review would be to watch until about the point Courtney Love shows up and then turn it off. And that is not because I dislike Courtney Love, but mostly because of the way the documentary is set up. The first half has tons of stuff about Kurt’s early life, tape recordings that they animate, shots of his journals, etc. But once Courtney shows up things get weird. The animated stuff stops being informative, and I think we lose track of who he is (and who he is trying to be).

Maybe the director is making the movie weird because that’s how Kurt’s life suddenly became? It just didn’t work all that well for me.

But my favorite little moment from the film was a shot of his journal which read as follows:

Don’t read my diary when I’m gone

When you wake up, please read my diary

Look through my things

And figure me out.

 

I love this idea that sharing the thoughts you would save for your diary… instead you want people to really know you by reading those strange and maddening and difficult and every other kind of thoughts. We all struggle to be understood by those we love, and sometimes it only takes telling them what our fears and wishes are.

Sometimes.

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I’m obsessed with Pirates right now. I don’t know how it happened or why exactly (well, part of it is Edge of the World that I’m desperately trying to finish up). I’m scouring the web for good pirate movies to watch or rewatch (last week I worked my way through the first 3 Pirates of the Caribbean movies (shut up, I like them) and bought the 4th one, because why not (and Amazon put it on sale for cheap). I need to rewatch Master and Commander, but then I don’t really know if we’ve had any good ones for decades. I also need to watch Black Sail (sadly I don’t have Starz).

Anyone know any other good Pirate related movies or tv shows? Gotta ride this wave for as long as my obsession lasts.

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Edge of the World continues to be this monster of a novel that has forced me to examine how I do things and come up with better options. And while I’ve been doing an editing pass over the first 2/3 of the book – I haven’t done my full 1st pass edit on it. That’s when I basically do a search and destroy for various words that can be removed or replaced. Crutches that I might have when I write. That sort of thing. I have a Word document with my list compiled from the 10% Solution and random other sources.

Then I stumbled onto this and saw many of the words and phrases I try to locate, so hopefully I’ve been on the right track!

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Never hurts to have a second opinion.

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Lastly a link for you to also send you down the Rabbit Hole of the Internet:

What If?

Basically if there is some random question you had about the universe or people or habits or whatever… chances are you aren’t the only one who’s thought of the question and these nice people have decided to do their best in order to answer it.

At the very least it will give all of us more useless knowledge to bust out at parties or at work or when you want to torture someone.

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That’s all I have for now. Go read. Go write. Go explore.

 

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John McGuire

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

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.

Author Interview – PS Syron Jones!

Welcome to the latest in a series of creative interviews at Tessera Guild. We’ll be interviewing creative individuals in the realms of writing, illustration, comics and more. Today we have author Phill (P.S.) Syron-Jones, crime-drama author of Rise of a Phoenix!!

Let’s get started:

Tell us about yourself, Phill. Give up the goods on where you’re from and how you got here.   

PS SyronJonesI was born and raised in the West Midlands (Great Britain) where I had a great childhood (which I still haven’t quite grown out of.) Later, after a small term at College I joined the Army where I served 22 years. I am married to a brilliant young woman and I have one fantastic daughter. After leaving the Army I decided to settle in Germany and in my spare time try to write.
The project I am working on is a crime series set in New York, each story been a stand alone so it doesn’t matter if you miss one. I have tried to make it as twisty as possible but at the same time simple to read. Eventually I hope to span out to fantasy and maybe children’s books. My website is: sjoecable@wordpress.com.

When did you first know you wanted to write? What’s the first thing you remember writing?

When I was at school I was always making up stories in my head (as one does) but when i got to English lit my world was opened to a whole new level. We would be given a word and told to write a story on that word. Unfortunately the two page essay became a novel. I knew then what I wanted to eventually be. I remember one time we were given a word “The wall”; this soon became my first detective story. I even drew a front cover.

Tell us about your creative process. Do you have a strict method or…?

I just have an idea then jot it down. Sorry there is no real science in it, but that’s the way the grey cells work. At home I have lots of notebooks; each one has a title and a rough storyline in it. These are then put away for when I have finished one book so I can move straight away to the other. When I am writing, the story just comes to me; sometimes I am surprised about where the story is going and that’s the fun part. If you (the writer) are shocked, then hopefully so will the reader be.

What kind of stories are your favorite?

 I don’t really have a favorite; that’s like saying what’s your favorite movie. For me personally there are too many out there. Just anything that draws me in really and that’s what I try to do with my books.

Tell us about what’s upcoming for you. Got any new books soon to hit the market? Any fresh blogs or short stories you’d like to share?

In March if all goes well, the second book called ” OPERATION UNITY” will be released. As I am a new author I thought about giving at least six months between books just to see how they go. That said, I am working on book three of the series and after that I hope to start on my first fantasy novel. Any new blogs? By the time this has gone out I am sure there will be (thanks for reminding me.)

What do you find most challenging about being a writer in today’s world?

The challenges are galactic. As a new writer you have to spend so much time on social media; half the time you don’t get a chance to write. You have to sell yourself not just your book. I work full-time so writing as well as working means instead of a book a month it takes up to six. But I guess that makes it feel like more of a hobby than a job. Years ago you would get an agent, then publisher, then the world; now you have to do that yourself as a self-published author. It is hard getting into traditional publishing, there is no doubt about it, but that for me is the end goal. Sure I can say I am a published author but it’s saying I have an agent and publisher that gets me sweaty. Writing is the easy part; selling your book is the hardest part. All I can say to any aspiring author is don’t give up. If it is what you want you will find a way.

Check out Phill’s latest crime-drama book, Rise of a Phoenix, now available on Amazon! 

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It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

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

Shark Week.

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Oh, yea!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Bonus:

Top 5 Shark movies –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program. He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

The Dark That Follows is now available in print here or on Amazon!

A Band Called Death

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In a heartbeat.

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

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

Would that be right?

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

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

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

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And that is terrifying.

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

All on me.

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

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