Little Questions about BIG Things

Six Deadly Sins

 The 7 Deadly Sins are:

Envy

Greed

Sloth

Lust

Gluttony

Pride

Wrath

If you could destroy one of these forever, as in remove it from the consciousness of every human being for all time, which sin would you choose?

*

180 Degrees

 Suppose a man dedicated the first twenty years of his life to being a vicious criminal.

He was a thief, a thug, an arsonist, a kidnapper, and even a murderer.

But then, for the next 50 years, he turned his life around.

He gave millions to charity. He found homes for orphans. He fed the poor. He traveled to war-torn nations and helped innocent people evacuate.

What is the value of this man’s life?

In your eyes, has he found redemption?

*

Generations of Evil

 In certain cultures around the world, different generations are referred to separately.

For example, in America there exist such divisions as Gen-X, Baby Boomers, and The Greatest Generation.

It’s a common theme for older generations to criticize those who are younger, often with cries of, “Kids these days don’t know a damn thing!”

Is it true that previous generations contain people who are wiser, harder working, and more moral?

 Or has every generation that has ever existed contained similar percentages of stupid, lazy, and immoral people?

*

The Conjecture Clock

First, here’s a few interesting measurements of time:

Attosecond – Currently the smallest division of time. Approx 10−18  seconds.

Megasecond – Approx 11.6 days

Galactic Year – The time it takes for the Sun to orbit once around the Milky Way’s center. Approx 230 million years.

Exasecond – Approx 31.7 x 10years. (more than twice the age of the universe.)

Now, the real question:

Does time exist?

Or is it simply a human construct?

When answering, take your time.

*

The Sun will Rise Tomorrow. Won’t It?

 If you can, name three things or phenomena it’s acceptable to believe in without having actual objective proof of that thing or phenomenon’s existence.

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Con Life: ChattaCon and The Read House

I’ve only been home from ChattaCon a few days. Those first two days were spent catching up on emails and sleep. I’m still working my way through my inbox but I’m nearly caught up. One of the challenges of attending conventions is keeping up with obligations that don’t go away just because you’re out of town. As many artists do, I have numerous responsibilities I juggle beyond my own art. Wednesday was posting day for the Bird Whisperer Project. I had to create the banner for the next Changeling Artist Collective auction and begin enticing our artists to participate. Plus, I’m running a Kickstarter for a limited edition enamel pin! Now, I’m taking a moment to look back at what was a fantastic start to the new year.

Last weekend was the 44th ChattaCon in Chattanooga, TN. My friend, artist Charles Urbach was the Artist Guest of Honor, alongside Timothy Zahn, the Author Guest of Honor. Can you guess the theme of this year’s con? That was no moon in the skies over Chattanooga last weekend!

The Read House

Wow… The 1926 building recently underwent extensive restoration (parts are still unfinished). Staying here is an experience whether you’re attending a convention or just getting away for the weekend.

You can read more about the history here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Read_House_Hotel

Every inch of the hotel was stunning, a work of art on its own. Sunday they did have a small hiccup with the elevators, but this only added to the experience. I ended up needing to take stairs down from the hotel room and ended up in an unfinished part of the hotel. It was tempting to explore, but I needed to get to a panel.

I also may or may not have seen a supernatural occurrence…

The Art Show

I won 2 awards this year!! Forest Scouts won 3rd Place for Professional Fantasy and Remnants won 2nd Place for Professional Science Fiction.

Ironically, I wasn’t originally planning to bring Remnants to the Art Show. It ended up being a backup piece when another sold. At the time, I was disappointed. Now? Not so much! If I could have done anything different with this show, it would have been to bring more art. I was caught a bit off guard this winter when I realized how much I’d sold at my last two shows (IlluxCon and DragonCon). Sometimes that’s unavoidable. Selling art is a good thing! I sold a few more pieces at this show, so I have my work cut out for me in February.

Next month I’ll be preparing for two March events. Maybe I’ll share a few photos from the chaos of con prep. I’ll also share some of my personal tips for running a vendor table at a convention, which is what I’ll be doing at both events.

Atlanta SciFi & Fantasy Expo – Decatur, GA

MidSouthCon 37 – Memphis, TN

Convention Schedule Updates

I’ve added two new events since I last posted. I’ll be returning to the IlluxCon Showcase in Reading, PA (October 25th & 26th). Brand new to my calendar is Conjuration, November 15th-17th in Atlanta, GA. I’ll be sharing more on these in the future.

 

Till next time…

Music Lives in Moments

What are the songs which mean the most to you?

The ones to which you bob your head while listening to a random radio station in traffic?

Or the song you listened to on repeat during your last breakup?

Which album is your favorite?

The one you downloaded on iTunes because your friend told you it was the new hotness?

Or the sleek vinyl record you discovered in a run-down music shop after months of searching?

I can’t speak for you. But the answer feels obvious.

The music we love most is tied to our most powerful life experiences.

*I remember:

I was thirteen-years old. I lived with my grandparents and their youngest daughter, my Aunt Patty. Every day when I came home from school (I usually walked through a giant cornfield to get there) the house was empty except for me and Patty. Little did my grandparents know, the house would also be full of music. Patty liked to jam, you see, and she liked to jam loud.  I remember walking in the back door (I never used the front door…because really, who does?) and immediately begin to vibrate to the sounds of late 80’s melancholy music. At the time, the sacredness of those moments didn’t register in my mind. All I knew was that I felt suddenly alive, free to shut down all the stresses of the day, free to lose myself in the music.

I didn’t even know the bands’ names at the time. I didn’t care.

But to this day, I can still picture myself walking through the back door.

And if I close my eyes, I can still hear Depeche Mode thrumming in my head.

*

I remember:

I was sixteen-years old. I lived in the deep south with my father. Because he worked two, sometimes even three jobs, I almost never saw the man. Essentially I lived alone, pretty much the freest teenager in the entire world. During those hot, humid, lonely nights, I didn’t have much to do. We were poor. I didn’t have many friends, and the few I did have lived miles away in their normal, secure households. I didn’t watch TV, and my video game system (the original NES, what else?) sat unused in my grandparents’ house seven-hundred miles away.

But the one thing we did have?

A killer sound system. Doubtless the best in the neighborhood, possibly the whole city.

And during the long afternoons and even longer nights, while I sat in the shadows, reading pulpy fantasy books, contemplating the smallness of myself, I listened to music at all times. Loud music. Powerful heavy metal music. Slayer. Danzig. Metallica. And a hundred other bands whose guttural roars and swollen guitar riffs filled my little house…and more than once brought the police to the door.

To this day, I remember every lyric of every one of those albums. They were my salvation in many ways. With them, my isolation became bearable.

*

I remember:

I was a little boy. Exactly how old, I can’t really recall Living part-time with my father and part-time with my grandparents, my life was always in flux. But what did I know? Everyone seemed to love me…or at least tolerate me. I suppose maybe I was a pretty obnoxious little guy. Somehow both spoiled and ignored. Loud but quiet. Affable, yet prone to bouts of running outside and not coming back inside until well after dark. Oh, how the mosquitoes loved me.

But sometimes, on certain weekend nights, when the mood was right and everyone in my grandparents’ house was getting along (our house was really, really small, you see) my grandfather would turn off the TV, set aside his bourbon, and pop a few vinyls on the record player. And suddenly the walls came alive with the sounds of Frank Sinatra, crooning Summer Wind or my personal favorite (to this day) One More for my Baby (And One More for the Road.) And then maybe he’d play some old, soft Elvis, to which I’d often drift asleep on the couch.

But while I was awake, I would dance. Me, the guy who hasn’t ever danced in his adult life, bouncing around the living room. And those were happy moments, just me, my loved ones, and the music.

My grandparents are gone now, but they’re alive and well in my heart.

And the moments I can see clearest?

Our warm, musical nights.

*

I remember:

I was seventeen, cruising down the road with my very first girlfriend. The hour was late, and we were headed to a lakeside cabin way out in the countryside. During the long, long drive on dark roads, while the trees watched over us and the white lines on the highway sped past, we listened to the same album over and over again.

We didn’t talk. We just listened. And it was perfect.

I’m sure the girl has long forgotten the album. Actually, I’m sure the girl has forgotten me.

But I remember that night. How could I forget? It was the music, you see. It’s forever wrapped up in a memory that warm summer night.

*

I remember:

Driving away from home (for the last time) to the sounds of Phil Collins.

Drowning my sorrows after a breakup in a dark basement to the booming dirges of Type O Negative.

Journeying out to the countryside while totally absorbed in Hans Zimmer instrumentals.

Soaring up to Chicago listening to silly, mid-90’s hip-hop.

Painting on Friday nights until 3AM to the slow, serene ballads of Olafur Arnalds.

*

All of these, I won’t forget.

**

Plenty of music crosses our paths between the rarest and most memorable instants of our lives. Songs, albums, and artists, perfectly good, drift into our consciousness while we’re driving to work, eating dinners out on the town, or wandering through shopping malls in search of stuff to buy. Some of the music is great, and some really, really bad. But somehow, most of what we remember arises not from these casual, everyday moments, but from the times in our lives when we needed it. When we were ready for it. When the timing was perfect and the moments couldn’t have been what they were without an accompanying soundtrack.

Chances are, you’re a lot like me.

Your favorite music is tied to places, people, moments, and feelings.

The smash new single by ________ isn’t what you remember five years down the road.

The unexpected song by the artist you didn’t know…timed just right…that’s the one that sticks with you.

Because music lives in moments.

50 Observations of Humanity


*

Fifty Observations of Humanity


When people create more than they consume, things tend to work out.

In twenty years it’s possible ALL government will take place via Twitter.

99% of texted ‘lols’ are a lie.

Speed limits are also a lie. Until they’re not.

Hard work almost always trumps raw talent, except in the dating scene.

There’s probably a biological reason nice guys always finish last.

Success can often be measured by the number of trolls one accumulates.

Combined, humans have spent billions of years sitting in front of televisions.

Home isn’t a place. It’s a state of mind.

Don’t SAY you’re sorry. BE sorry. It’s better in the long run.

Complaining about other people’s generation (be they older or younger) is a useless gesture.

Complaining about anything on the internet is also useless.

…unless you post the complaint to Yelp.

…and Amazon.

The ideal length of time to carry a grudge is thirty seconds.

If you haven’t yet been ghosted, you’re in the minority.

The difference between country music and heavy metal is one fret and a few fashion choices.

You can’t count on Karma to bring your enemies to justice.

…but you can probably count on your personal misdeeds to come back to you one way or another.

Paid dating sites don’t really want you to find love. Think about it.

You don’t know most of the people on your Facebook page.

…and they certainly don’t know you.

At any given moment, 50% of the modern world is looking at their phone.

Chasing looks over personality usually ends the same way every time.

It’s easier for cat owners to take vacations than dog owners.

But far easier to land a date with a puppy than a kitten.

The worst kind of judgments are ALL of them.

Almost everyone is special to someone, but no one is special to everyone.

Most of us want the same things out of our lives (peace, love, dinner) and yet we start new battles every day.

Dogs’ greatest wish is to ride in cars with open windows – we should all be so lucky.

People’s favorite songs are usually entangled with people’s favorite memories.

If Google Maps went down tomorrow, 80% of modern society would forever wander the earth.

 Nintendo has made a massive fortune re-publishing the same five video games for thirty years.

Taking other people’s word for things is like playing Russian Roulette. If it’s so important, find out the truth for yourself.

Losing sucks, but it’s also highly educational.

The worst lie to tell is one told to oneself.

Everything is derivative, and it’s okay.

No one owes you anything. Not your spouse. Not the person you’re dating. Not your kids. Not your parents. Not the government. No one. Remember this, and be free.

…ok…well…you might owe the bank something. But that’s a different matter.

Morality is a useful, yet completely subjective concept.

The most powerful weapon in the battle for a happy life is the word, ‘No.’

It’s probable the only people who will forever love you are your children and your grandmother.

Vengeance usually injures the vengeful more than the target.

Based on the number of people who announce they’re quitting social media only to return the very next day, social media is harder to give up than cigarettes.

…meaning someone should probably make a new drug to help people kick the habit.

…and they should call this drug Cantclix.

The surest destroyer of happiness is insecurity.

…and the surest destroyer of red wine is refrigeration.

Complaining about the state of society from the comfort of a couch is pointless.

1,000 years ago you probably would’ve been dead at your age. Enjoy stuff while you can.

 

* * *

Fifty observations aren’t nearly enough.

Here’s 101 more.

Resolutions, 2019

 

What did I accomplish this last year?

What am I going to accomplish this coming up year?

Two questions everyone asks themselves. Two questions I ask myself every year in regards to my writing.

Sadly, I always put more on my plate than I realistically seem to have time for… which at the beginning of the year, seems near impossible. I start doing calculations on how many words I might (should) be able to write over the course of the year, and I always fall short. Which is both a good thing and a bad thing. I feel like I should shoot for the moon. I mean, why not try and get projects out there? Why not try and push myself to do a little more than the previous year.  If I just put that I was going to accomplish one writing task over 365 days… ugh. So, I’m going to continue to put lofty goals for myself and probably come up short… but that will also drive me.

 

2018

Gilded Age

The biggest success of 2017 was getting the Gilded Age Kickstarter funded. The biggest success of 2018 was fulfilling the Kickstarter.

Something as simple as waiting for books to arrive becomes a very stressful experience as your target date continues to loom closer and closer. But the books arrived, they looked great, and people who have read the graphic novel seem to like it. The most important thing was to get it in people’s hands and for them to enjoy it. So that’s a huge success!

 

SOUL Mate

I have written half of this book, but it is currently on the backburner due to an event I participated in during the summer that changed my time and writing priorities. I still love the story, and if I didn’t have that pesky need to go to a job and provide for my family, this would have been finished at this point.

 

Noir Super-Hero Short Story

I did submit to a Noir-Superhero anthology late in the year. It was one of those ideas that hit me on my drive home from work one day, and I probably wrote the majority of it that night. I’m hopeful that will see the light of day in 2019!

Untitled Clocking Out Project

I attended an online two-day workshop with the Self-Publishing Podcast guys at the beginning of July. It wasn’t so much about how to write, and more about how to position yourself as an independent writer. Most of my time I’ve been bad about having ideas for novels that have NOTHING to do with the previous one. And while that is a good way to scratch a ton of itches (oooh, I’ll do a Horror novel next!), it puts the author in an uphill battle to get readers.

So I went into the workshop with an open mind and a kernel of an idea… and afterward, I was inspired to start outlining this book which would be a part of a larger series. The initial goal was to have a rough draft done by the end of 2018, which I accomplished on December 29. There is still a ton left to do, but it was one of the bigger accomplishments for the year!

 

Blogging

I continued to get a blog a week done for another 52 weeks. Sadly, due to other writing projects and life events, I had to stop doing the Steampunk Fridays posts. I’m hoping to maybe revisit those this year (perhaps not every week though).

 

2019

Gilded Age

Now that I have books I really need to figure out how to get them to the readers. Which means conventions. Which means I need to figure out which conventions I’d like to go to and schedule them out.

Of course, you can still get a copy online as well, here!

Untitled Clocking Out Project

Finish a second Draft of the first book. Work on Books 2 and 3. My impossible goal would be to have both of those done by the end of 2019 so that I can begin releasing the series in 2020.

 

Hollow Empire 2

Mr. Neill has completed two additional chapters of our world here and here. The gauntlet has been thrown down, so I have been working on my next chapter in spare minutes here and there.

 

Ravensgate

An idea based on a D&D campaign that Egg Embry and I participated in mixed with a desire to have a weekly/bi-weekly/monthly fiction series running on the site. I’m looking forward to reviving that one. Six chapters have been written at this point…

 

Unknown

Because I just don’t know when that next idea will need to be jotted down. I’d think it would be more of the short story flavor rather than anything longer (I certainly have no extra time!).

***

Again, shooting for the stars. We’ll see how close I get this year!

***

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

 

Con Life: A Look Ahead for 2019

Hello! I know it’s been a while, but I’m back with a new monthly blog series called Con Life. No, I’m not talking about the art of swindling people. Each month I’ll be sharing the in’s and out’s of being a convention artist. I personally characterize a convention artist as someone who has more than five conventions on their calendar for the year. Conventions are a big commitment and sometimes a big investment too. They are hard work, but if you love them like I do, they are worth the effort! For that matter, anything worth your time and passion will be a challenge and involve hard work, determination, and persistence. Before I begin diving into all of that, here’s a look back at where my journey began.

This year will mark 5 years since I began my journey as a convention artist. When I think back, I’m still amazed I was accepted into the DragonCon 2014 Art Show. Since then it’s been like a cascade of dominoes. I followed that with JordanCon in 2015, where I won Judge’s Choice in the Art Show. By 2017, I was hooked on attending conventions as a Professional Artist. That was also the year I won my first award at DragonCon for Best Space Scene. This year I won 3 awards, including Best Space Scene again, and I attended 7 events (plus mail-in to one convention). I’ve branched out to conventions in Tennessee and even one in Pennsylvania.

What is the 2019 forecast?

I have six shows confirmed on my calendar, plus one mail-in convention. There are a couple shows I won’t know about till later, so these numbers could go up. Regardless, it’s going to be a busy year! You can keep track of my convention schedule via my website’s Event Calendar. I’ll be updating it throughout the year.

Right now, I’m preparing for ChattaCon in Chattanooga, TN,  January 25-27. What does that entail?

  • Deciding on the art I’ll hang in the Art Show
  • Print/Frame any new art
  • Check my print inventory–restock if needed
  • Prepare for any panels I might be hosting

I’ll share some tidbits from the convention, and any new convention news, in my next post in late January.

A Love For Everyday – 2

Two years ago, I created a homemade book for my wife with all these quotes about Love from our favorite TV Shows and movies and books and then I added to it great quotes about love from history or just great quotes about love from anyone. Last year I shared a few from the book around the holidays and thought that would be a good one to revisit (the original is here).

January 29

If I had the choice of hanging out with anyone in the entire world or sitting at home with you eating pizza watching a crappy TV show, I’d choose you every time.

Scrubs

February 5

For she had eyes and chose me.

William Shakespeare, Othello

March 1

I want a soul mate who can sit me down, shut me up, tell me ten things I don’t already know, and make me laugh. I don’t care what you look like, just turn me on.

Henry Rollins

April 12

One word frees us of all the weight and pain of life: That word is love.

Sophocles

 

May 8

You don’t love a girl because of beauty. You love her because she sings a song only you can understand.

L. J. Smith, Secret Vampire

June 23

Heaven would never be heaven without you.

Richard Matheson, What Dreams May Come

July 7

Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.

Robert A. Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land

August 25

I can’t say how every time I ever put my arms around you I felt that I was home.

Ernest Hemingway

September 3

It was a great kiss. If one of us had been a frog, it would have had some seriously impressive consequences.

Gilmore Girls

October 13

Every lover is, in his heart, a madman, and, in his head, a minstrel.

Neil Gaiman, Stardust

 

November 1

Face it, Tiger, you just hit the jackpot.

Mary Jane Watson

December 29

They say when you meet the love of your life, time stops, and that’s true.

Big Fish

 

***

Hope you have some great holidays with those you love.

***

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

An Artist Nerd Dad’s Christmas Wish List

Grown-ups aren’t supposed to make Christmas lists…

…right?

Having hit middle-age, being a single dad, having a house already stuffed full of Legos, action figures, and foam swords, I’m not sure I could fit anything new between my bachelor pad’s four little walls.

But a guy can dream.

And so I shall…

Behold…

A Christmas List for a Nerd-Geek-Jock-Artsy-Fartsy Dad Guy


 

 

A new Alienware Desktop Computer

My gaming days (at least my PC gaming days) are long, long dead. That said, I use my computer daily, hourly, by the minute. And to maximize time, I need max efficiency paired with high-rez graphics to support my work. My current computer is…ohhhh…roughly twelve years old. It still works, but it’s slow and clunky.

Gosh…sure would be nice to unbox this baby on Christmas morning.

To sleep…perchance to dream.

 

 

 

*

 

An Art Table fit for the Gods

Anymore, all I do is draw, draw, draw, and paint, paint, paint. I hunch over my kitchen counter for hours (sometimes days) on end, creating whatever comes to mind.

And ohhhhhhhhhh, my aching back. My strained neck. My forty-something bones.

An artist needs an art table. Preferably something adjustable. Preferably not two wooden crates stacked atop one another.

Santa, please?

 

*

A Bose Bluetooth Speaker System

At my house, we don’t watch TV. Ever. No cable. No satellite. No sitcoms.

What do we do to fill the void? Music. At all times.

Now…I love my itty bitty Bluetooth sound box, but it’s a decade old and made for a much smaller space. It lacks the power to pump out heavy metal and the mid-range sharpness to make melancholy cello solos flow through the house.

This should probably be the top item on my list to Santa. Music is my god, and I’d like to worship harder.

*

 

Canon Eos Rebel T6 Camera

What’s the hardest part of being an artist? Is it learning to draw hands? Mastering the human eye? Blending abstract and realistic elements to create the perfect painting?

Nope. It’s photographing the art afterward.

I’m exaggerating, of course, but only a little. My greatest art struggles begin after a painting is finished. Seems my little compact camera never quite does the job of snapping a decent picture without subtle flaws.

Maybe I’m a crappy photographer. (Ok, probably.)  But I figure an awesome camera could only help the situation.

*

 

A Case of Balvenie Scotch

Anyone who knows me knows I might have a little problem.

Anyways, artists (and dads) require lubrication now and then. Balvenie scotch is just the thing. It hits the spot without dulling the wits, and comes in a variety of flavors. With one or two glasses, the day’s worries melt away and the paint flows freely.

All I ask is that Santa mix it up and surprise me.

Also that he includes a set of these. And a whiskey cabinet made by these guys.

Thanks, Santa. It’s not too much to ask, is it?

*

A Viking Sword

Because…ummmmmm…

I need it for research?

As a painting reference?

To keep my unruly fan-base out of my yard?

Whatever. It looks cool. And it’s real. And it could join the other swords on my already cluttered wall.

*

*

*

*

*

 

 

Klask – the Magnetic Board Game

Rather than asking me to explain, just check it out here. 

Looks cool, right?

I’ll also need a friend with which to play. It’d be best if the friend wasn’t gift-wrapped.

*

*

*

*

Giant Stretched Canvasses

Small paintings are nice. Medium paintings are neat-o.

But I want BIG. I want to paint gods and goddesses so huge they eat the room in which they hang.

These are hard to find, and Santa will probably be challenged to fit them down the chimney (might want to use the garage.)

Whatever. I don’t just want these. I need them.

Thanks.

*

A Trip to the H.R. Giger Museum in Switzerland

Where better to worship the gods than in Valhalla?

Ok, so it’s not in Norway, but it’s still home to my favorite artist of all time.

Just look at this room and tell me you don’t want to sleep there.

Right?

RIGHT?

Who’s coming with me?

 

Stocking Stuffers

A Viking Long Table 

At least 17 of these hoodies. (Because it gets cold in winter writing dark fantasy novels.)

Two sets of these things.

A Playstation 4 Pro (I’m still playing my ancient XBox 360.)

My Facebook feed to suddenly become politics-free.

 

Until next time,

J Edward Neill

Author, Artist, & Dad

 

 

A Southern Boy Returns to the Midwest

On a blustery Tuesday morning late in November, not moments after the sun peeked over the Atlanta skyline, my seven-year old son and I hopped in the truck…

…and began our long voyage to northern Illinois.

The November chill had already conquered much of the southeast. The still-green leaves in Atlanta belied the fact temperatures had already scraped the bottom of the low-30’s barrel just one night earlier. Ill-prepared citizens hurried in hoodies and cargo shorts into their cars. Everyone had expected the usual late-year heatwave to hit.

And yet…

No such luck.

It didn’t much matter to me and the G Man. With a fistful of snacks and a fully-charged Nintendo Switch, my son climbed in the backseat, buried his knees beneath a winter blanket, and settled in for the long haul without complaint. His was the best spot from which to enjoy a road-trip, and he knew it. As for me, I began our little adventure steeping in the fumes of two hours’ sleep, no dinner the night before, and a headache straight out of Hades.

No matter. I was as ready as I was ever going to be.

And so we began.

Like a stone shot from a cannon, we tore up the highway.

We were flying, making great time towards…

…a huge traffic wreck just ten minutes removed from our starting point.

“Dad, what’s that?” the G Man looked up from his game.

“An upside-down tractor-trailer on fire beneath a bridge.” I stared at the awful accident.

“Oh. Neat.” G Man returned to playing Mega Man 11 (or 11-million, whichever.)

Well. I figured if he could be nonchalant about spending the next hour sitting in a huge traffic jam, so could I.

Traffic cleared. Cars moved. And after a long wait, again we flew.

  • Toward Chattanooga, TN, home of the best aquarium in the south (sorry, Atlanta.)
  • Toward Nashville, in whose Cracker Barrel my son proudly declared his disdain for country music
  • Toward Louisville, whose skyline looked stunning in the crispy cold sunset
  • In the dark toward Indianapolis, where the highways have no apparent traffic during rush hour
  • Up the dark roads to Chicago, whose mighty towers were invisible behind the high walls of Hwy 80
  • And finally to a little country town known as Minooka, only about ten minutes away from the very spot I was born

Twelve hours, we drove. Two pit stops. Two gas refills. One bag of Twizzlers. A giant orange Fanta. Thousands of slow cars passed in the pitch-black of the Indiana expressways.

And there we slept, in a neat, new Hampton Inn tucked away in the modest commercial heart of Minooka, IL.

Side-note: it’s only fair to mention that while I had mighty plans for the G Man and I to collide with family, friends, and entirely too much Thanksgiving food, I actually had a secret side-agenda in mind upon traveling to the north. We’ll get to that later. (This is what we call ‘a tease.’)

Day 1 Begins…

The G Man and I awoke late in the morning, feeling almost jet-lagged by the long drive. Sure, we’d gained an hour by crossing into the Central Time Zone, but who knew how exhausting sitting in the car for seven-hundred fifty miles would make us? A little spacey, a lot hungry, we jetted over to meet our much-beloved Aunt Patty for breakfast at a little diner known as The Crispy Waffle.

Ah, Aunt Patty. My favorite person in the-

But wait. What’s this? As we set off into the morning, it hit me. We weren’t in the south any longer. No, it wasn’t particularly cold. No, the wind wasn’t as vicious as we’d expected. It was something else entirely. It was the sky, slate grey forever in each direction. It was the stillness of everything, the endless fallow cornfields, the trees looking far more brittle than any southern boy could comprehend. It was…home. In the town in which I grew up (Joliet, a few minutes southwest of Chicago) entire autumns and winters passed in this cold, grey atmosphere. I took one skyward glance on our first morning, and I remembered.

At night in the Midwest, you can gaze across the fields and see lights from houses many miles away.

During late autumn afternoons, the world always feels five minutes from dusk. Whether it’s 1PM or 5PM, twilight is just around the corner.

And sometimes, if you step outside alone at night, you hear nothing. Not the wind. Nor a stray cricket. Nor the everlasting rustles of southern wildlife. You hear nothing. It’s both eerie and invigorating.

Minooka in winter. Actually, everywhere in Illinois in winter.

So…The Crispy Waffle. Five-thousand pancakes. Two-billion strips of bacon. Many hugs with Aunt Patty. It was G Man’s first encounter with this part of our family, and his usual shyness was absent. Our first reunion…a success. Aunts are wonderful creatures to be loved and cherished. And Aunts named Patty? Solid. Friggin’. Gold.

Our first afternoon, with bellies full of food, we drove through the cold. It seemed to get colder as the day aged. The wind picked up and the clouds gathered into great grey masses. Every moment we spent outside, I continued to recall the long days of my youth. I went back in time, so to speak.

But wait…where was I?

Oh…right.

After our pleasant-to-the-bone breakfast, the G Man and I treated ourselves to a movie – Ralph Breaks the Internet. To be fair, it wasn’t as epic as the original. But somehow, watching a movie with a laughing, smiling seven-year old makes ALL movies good. And that’s all I have to say about that.

Despite the near-freezing temps, we next visited a park. We were the only ones outside. Absolutely, the only souls in sight. Another silent moment hit us. Even Garrett felt it, standing there in the soundless dirt, hiding from me atop a four-story high slide…he knew it. I saw him understand the difference between Atlanta and Chicago.

Cool.

We left the park behind. And next came a truly heart-rending experience. See, not far from yon park lay a street – Lilac Lane. And it’s there on Lilac Lane I had once (thirty-five years ago) spent the most glorious days of my youth. I could write whole volumes of my love for that little street. (If you really want to read about it, go here.) I just had to take G Man for a drive-by, however brief, and look upon the house between whose walls I lived for many a perfect season. We drove slowly up Lilac Lane and crawled to a stop not twenty feet from the driveway I’d run up and down a thousand times.

But…

I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t stop and get out to look at the house. I couldn’t look upon it for longer than one fleeting moment. The G Man must’ve wondered what was wrong when I tapped the gas pedal and announced we were going back to the hotel ‘for a break.’ It was a moment…and then it was gone.

I can’t say more about that part of the trip except to note the house on Lilac Lane was once my grandparents’, both of whom are gone now, and both of whom I loved to pieces. It was a hard thing to do, stopping by for a look, and most unexpectedly it hurt.

So then…

Our first night was quite a bit less somber than the afternoon. We headed to an old, old friend’s house, the best of friends, and we sipped scotch, ate Italian food, and sat before a sizzling fireplace. At one point, my friend’s wife snatched up a glass of unattended (and powerful) 14-year scotch, and simply destroyed it. The world felt right.

And yes…it was good to be among friends again.

Day 2…

The plan was simple: Wake up late. Eat no breakfast. Head to Aunt Patty’s house for about ten hours of football, whiskey, laughter, and food.

And boy did we live it up. Despite the G Man waking up a bit groggy, we headed once more across the grey-shrouded lands and arrived at a house I hadn’t set foot in for decades. The G Man arrived to a box full of gifts (because that’s what family does to kids – spoil them) and I arrived to such hospitality I’d rarely experienced.

Scotch (which I love)

Mounds of turkey, dressing, buttered peas, ham-stuffed biscuits, pies, cakes, cranberry sauce…

Let’s be honest. Day 2 was a blur from which our stomachs will likely never quite recover. We were again reminded what it’s like to be among family. And while some families may war and bicker, on this day ours was at peace.

…except for that one time my uncle sucker punched me in the back of the head.

But whatever.

Day 3…

We knew as we awoke this would be our final day in the north.

And so we knew we had to enjoy it.

And yet…as I awoke, something felt off. See, long before hatching the plan to come north, I’d been thinking of a way to encounter…a girl.

Yes. A girl. My secret reason for driving so far in the cold.

A girl from the north.

A girl who happened to live in Minooka…not five minutes from our hotel.

I hadn’t told the G Man. In fact, I hadn’t told anyone. It was a long-shot from the beginning, a heart-achy plan half-baked over the course of what felt like centuries.

So…

Even as I dressed for our third night of trouble-making, I must’ve looked distracted. Torn. Absent from thought. And yet, it so happened my plans to collide with the heartache-inducing lady completely collapsed. Died on the vine. She either didn’t want to see me…or couldn’t. This is how it went, how it always goes, and how I knew all along it would go.

But as I stood there in the hotel room, padding myself in clothes to ward off the increasing feel of Midwestern cold, I made a choice:

Have fun tonight. It’s your last night here. Be present. 

And for the most part, I was.

Another Midwestern field. Wintered trees. Dry, brittle grass. Grey clouds in every direction.

And so, in a rare mood, we drove out to another friends’ house. It was a short journey, only minutes from our hotel.

A log cabin surrounded by fields.

A warm living room filled with laughter, bottles of wine (and juice boxes for the kids.)

Several friends I hadn’t seen in eons.

What a night it was. The finest fried chicken chef in the north stood not ten feet away, preparing buckets of chicken, mashed potatoes, sweet corn, rolls…and more. Someone kept topping off my wine. Someone else brought me a shot of bourbon…and delivered unto the G Man a fistful of sweets.

I ate more food than I’d ever eaten in one sitting. Afterward, with a beard tainted by pumpkin pie, I visited my friend’s father’s workshop. I discussed heartbreak with the ladies. I topped off one final glass of wine. And I distributed a few small gifts to the warmest crowd the world has ever known.

Sometimes, home isn’t home because of the place. It’s the people. And for one night, I thought nothing of grey skies, fallow fields, and daydreams of romance. I sat among my life’s best companions and remembered for one small moment what it felt like to be loved.

Day 4…the trip home…

We woke early. Too early. We wanted to drive fast and make it home in time for relaxation.

And so we did, blazing back down to the south using the exact same roads we’d used just a few days earlier.

We saw giant wind farms. Empty stretches of nothing. Old barns. Older churches. And cows…lots of cows.

Notes of our return trip:

In the Deep South, especially southern Georgia, there exist billboards by the hundred. Billboards for Jesus. Billboards for the Lion’s Den (a creepy truck stop with naked girls…we think.) Billboards for peanuts, pecans, and the end of the world.

Well…

In the Midwest, the billboards are much, much fewer. And so I think the journey though the north, while not exactly stuffed with exciting views, is better for it. Because really…who needs to see one-hundred consecutive billboards regarding humanity’s descent into Hell?

A few Southern billboard examples:

Thankfully the Midwest has fewer of these.

…though I’m not exactly sure why.

And so our Midwestern adventure came to a quiet end. At 8PM Saturday night, we rolled into our familiar driveway. The leaves had browned and fallen in great number during our brief absence, and the cold had moved in.

Our cats were happy to see us.

Our house was clean and warm.

The G Man, having never once asked ‘Are we there yet’ during twenty-two hours of driving, was rewarded with a movie.

As for me, I suppose I must’ve sat quietly for nearly an hour after arriving. The Midwest was gone again, and the skies were back to their familiar southern haze. I missed the girl, but I’ll always remember the family and friends.

Perhaps we’ll go back again soon.

And maybe it won’t be as huge a culture shock to return to the land I once knew and loved.


*

I write plenty of stories that aren’t about cornfields, clouds, and overeating.

Find them here. 

19 Questions for Humanity

19 Questions for Humanity


 

THE SECRETS OF THE UNIVERSE

If revealed to you, and if they challenged everything you thought you knew, could you discard all of your previous beliefs?

*

 IN THE STRUGGLE BETWEEN HAPPINESS AND MEANINGFULNESS

Is it better to participate in the grand human social machine or seek contentment alone?

*

IMMORTALITY

If and when scientists perfect a method to extend life indefinitely, would you take the plunge?

*

IN THE REALM OF CURRENT EVENTS

Beyond money, why do people choose to be Police Officers? Attorneys? Politicians?

*

THAT THING CALLED LOVE

Purely bio-chemical? A genuine spiritual event? Or a survival mechanism to overcome the perils of being utterly alone?

*

WHERE WE’RE GOING, WE DON’T NEED ROADS

If, long from now, the world is completely mechanized, thus eliminating the need for most people to work, what will we do with our lives?

*

EVERYONE HAS ONE

Which one rules the roost: Opinions? Or facts?

*

 THINK HARD ON THIS ONE

Does every single human life…have value?

*

A MOMENT OF OMNISCIENCE

If you could ask ONE question of the universe and have it answered utterly and completely, what would it be?

*

THIS ONE’S RHETORICAL

Why do so many people get so angry about politics?

*

NO JUDGMENTS, I PROMISE

From the following, choose the worst thing you could possibly be addicted to: Alcohol, Drugs, Sex, Gambling…or TV…

*

 UFC 666: JESUS VERSUS SUPERMAN

If you could lock any two historical figures (dead or alive) in a cage for a fight to the death, which two would you pick?

*

 THAT SONG BY THE CLASH

A fascinating new planet is discovered far from Earth. You can journey there safely and live out your life, but it’s a one-way ticket for you and whomever you take. Do you stay or go?

*

STEPFORD WIVES (AND HUSBANDS)

Let’s say science perfects an absolutely lifelike robot for use as a spouse. And let’s say this beautiful, intelligent, customized-to-you robot will do anything and everything you ask. You buying one?

*

CONTINUING THE SHALLOW THEME

Perfect body? Perfect face? Or perfect intellect?

*

CRIMES AGAINST OURSELVES

Considering everything, does humanity deserve to exist?

*

IN THE BATTLE BETWEEN

Is there any such thing as absolute good or evil?

*

BACK TO THE FUTURE

You’ve built a time machine. It only goes one direction in time. Do you want to see how it all began? Or how it all will end?

*

AND A BONUS QUESTION (WHEN SOMEONE ASKS YOU IF YOU’RE A GOD, YOU SAY ____)

Pretend you’re a deity for a day. What’s the first thing you do to the world?


*

Want to argue about the answers? Good. Try this. 

Or for something smarter, go here. 

Stan Lee

I thought I’d sit down and pour out the words about Stan Lee passing. I thought that it’d be easy to put into words what his creations have meant to me for pretty much my whole life. But it turns out that it isn’t an easy task to figure out what someone you’ve never met dying actually means to you.

There was a point in my life that I didn’t read anything other than comic books. If you’d asked I would have told you that books were boring.  Not comics though and specifically the Marvel superheroes. They kept me comfort on rainy days with their adventures. They inspired me to fill a tattered blue notebook with my very first (terrible) stories about a super team called the Threats.

Back when I started collecting comics, Stan Lee wasn’t writing them anymore (aside from the Spider-Man comic strip, I believe). But there was a comic series called Marvel Saga coming out at that time. It was effectively a “history” of the early (1960s) comic stories. And I might not have known it, but Stan Lee had a hand in many of those stories during the founding of the Marvel Universe. For a ten-year-old, it was like having a crash course in comic books. Characters I was slowly becoming familiar with… now I got to read their origins. At the time, I don’t think I would have understood that they had a nearly 25-year lifespan already.

The fun was built in. Lots of articles will talk about how he made characters who had problems just like the readers had. Or that he gave them flaws. Made them more human. And he did do that. But for me, he’d created fun characters I enjoyed reading.

This hobby has gone from niche to people buying 10 copies of an issue #1 in hopes of funding their retirement to bankruptcy and now movies. What’s even more amazing is that I’ve been collecting long enough where the rest of the world has only now caught up to what us funny-book readers always knew: this stuff was never just for kids. It was always for everyone.

It is possible I could have discovered comic books without Stan Lee’s creations. I wonder if my love for the format would have been possible without his influence. Would the medium be something that I have not only dedicated 30 plus years to supporting, but also in creating my own comic books… my own characters.

I’m glad I don’t have to figure that out.

Throughout our lives, there are people who have influence over us that we will never meet in real life. Those people can create things which leave the world in a far better place than it was prior to their existence. Those items floating out there waiting for you to stumble upon them somehow. And others are touched by these things leading them to create and those things only add to a person’s legacy. Like a family tree which grows stronger and stronger with each passing year. It stretches out and up to inspire others.

Stan Lee was one of those people for me. And now he’s gone. But I can’t feel empty because he’s filled my mind and heart with so many stories and ideas.

Thank you, Stan… for everything.

***

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

7 Questions Guaranteed to Start a Fight Among Friends

Take these to your next family gathering.

Or to the bar.

Or to lunch with friends.

I dare you.

*

7 Questions to Start a Fight Among Friends

 


Awesome! Malevolent! Superfluous!

Preferably in the company of at least one other person, use exactly three words to describe the current Congress (or Parliament) which exists in your country.

*

Up a Creek…

 There’s been a terrible war overseas.

Your nation isn’t directly involved.

But…

Two-hundred thousand refugees have fled this war.

They speak no English.

Their skill sets are unknown.

They need a place to live, or else most of them will die of starvation and disease.

What percentage of these refugees would you invite to live in your nation?

*

Simplicity

In ten words or fewer, state what you want your government to do for you.

*

The Right to Arm Bears

 You’ve been selected by your government to create a brand-new modern-day Bill of Rights.

In this bill, you’ll decide what basic rights are legally granted to each and every citizen of your nation.

What are the first three items you’ll add to the bill?

*

Juggle Three Flags while Kissing a Baby

 List the top five things every potential immigrant should have to know or do in order to be granted full citizenship in your nation.

*

Word Smack

 For each of the items below, say the first word that comes to your mind upon reading it:

Libtard

Fake News

Republitard

Snowflake

Communist

Leftist

Nazi

White Power

Black Lives Matter

*

The Wage Gauge

 The national minimum-wage for full-time workers should be:

$ ______________

*


If you feel like arguing even more, go here.

If you prefer to keep the peace, go here.

 

All the Stupid Things I Used to Believe When I was a Kid

Kids are like sponges.

They soak up every imaginable piece of information.

And we all know how smart sponges are, right?

Growing up in rural Illinois had its benefits. The whole world was my playground. In winters, I had endless fields in which to stomp, sled, and build snowmen armies. In the summer, the entire state served as my personal baseball diamond.

But…

For all the fun I had, and for all the places my imagination took me, I was an idiot.

How big of an idiot?

Let’s find out…

*


*

I used to believe animals could never make mistakes. I guess I probably watched too many National Geographic nature shows, because for many years I thought it was impossible for any creature other than a human to fall down, trip, stumble, or make any slight error in movement. Then one day I saw my cat jump for…and miss…the stairs. And a light bulb flickered on inside my head.

I assumed women’s breasts were for amusement purposes only. I mean, I guess they kind of are. Babies seem pretty happy to encounter them. I didn’t figure out the whole milk thing until I hit about ten years old.

I knew Santa was fake (sorry, kids.)  But I believed in the tooth fairy. And the Easter Bunny. Not really sure how I didn’t connect the dots.

My grandfather (dude was mean sometimes) explained to me the pizza delivery guy didn’t need tips because he got paid too much already. Don’t worry, I got over this one rather quickly. I overtip now.

One of my family members convinced me that because I hadn’t been baptized, touching holy water in church would burn me. Actually, now that I think about it, they might be right. I’m not brave enough to test the theory.

I believed cicadas were pretty much the deadliest creature alive.

But I happily chased bees with reckless abandon.

A cousin once convinced me that baseball pitchers threw the ball so hard, the ball would literally pass through the hitter’s bat if they didn’t swing hard enough.

I was pretty sure that if I couldn’t see the bottom of a particular body of water (even if it was only a few feet deep) the water’s depth was thousands of feet.

Also, I believed sharks lurked in the freshwater quarry in which we used to swim.

And Jaws definitely lived in the swimming pool’s deep end.

Once, I tried to dig to China. With a plastic yellow shovel. Literally. I got about three feet down before I gave up and went inside for lemonade.

I thought holding my breath made me harder to see while playing hide & seek.

And I still kind of believe turning the music down while driving helps me when I’m driving downtown.

For a brief time in second grade, I thought kissing girls was enough to get them pregnant. So naturally I chased every girl down on the playground and kissed them. Sadly, no one got pregnant, but I did earn a week’s after-school study (Detention for little kids.)

 

Someone convinced me squirrels were carnivorous.

Alligators definitely came from toilets.

Quicksand was something to be feared. It could’ve happened anywhere.

King Cobra snakes littered the cornfields of northern Illinois.

And Eagles only lived on the tops of the highest mountains in the world.

I really didn’t understand how the chain-reaction caused by dropping atomic weapons didn’t destroy the entire planet. When we had nuke drills in the early 80’s, the teachers would make us hide under our desks. As if THAT would help.

Root beer definitely contained real beer.

I was absolutely sure girls could never smell bad in any way.

My worst fear was throwing up so much my entire stomach might come out.

I believed people could be resurrected. As in, raised from the dead. I didn’t quite grasp the concept of permanent death. Oops.

And…while going through her New Age phase, my aunt briefly convinced me reincarnation was real. C’mon, auntie.

One of my earliest childhood memories? A week or two during which I tried to run faster than light. At dawn at my grandparents’ house, I sprinted outside and tried to run fast enough to catch up to the night again. I’m pretty sure I got close. Or not.

And finally…

Until just before high school, I believed women gave birth to babies via their butt. No one had bothered to explain proper anatomy to me, and so I worried that if a mom-to-be was using the bathroom, she stood a reasonable chance of ejecting the baby into the toilet, where it would drown.

See?

I told you.

I was an idiot.


*

Be smarter than me. Read this.

J Edward Neill

 

Power of Positivity?

Power of Positivity?

It’s a question, not a statement. Because along with the statement comes a myriad of questions:

Is this even a real thing? Who is this for? How would you know if it was working in the first place? What good does it do?

Have you ever noticed the various memes online about being positive or being happy or choosing to be a better person? Most of the time I think the people posting them are really trying to tell their friends a deeper secret about themselves. 4/5 times those people who say they have to cut loose the people who are dragging them down are normally the actual culprit. They are the leech for their friends. The same people who talk about all the negativity everywhere are most likely the same one spewing it offline (and online).

Look, you posting some meme isn’t changing anyone’s life/opinion/habits/nothing. It’s not like they are going to wake up today and then log onto Twitter/Facebook/Instagram/Etc. see your meme which reminds them that they have been a shitty friend in the past and suddenly change their ways. That’s not how the world works.

We don’t really talk about religion or politics on this site because all it does is degenerate into a fight. But really, I think the reason it’s probably for the best is that you can’t change people’s mind about things. If they love the current situation(s) or hate them, your post doesn’t change anything for them except maybe to remind them they agree with you or to remind them that they might need to move you up on the old “Block” list.

I think we’re all too quick to jump to tear down others. Whether it is the people or the ideas or the actions or whatever. And it isn’t in politics only, it’s in pop culture. I guess it is much more fun to trash talk some movie or book or whatever than just focus on the things you really like. You can pat yourself on the back for all the things you got right about the latest movie that flopped or maybe you can take the time to build up something else. Especially those little bits and pieces others may not even know exist.

I mean, as much fun as it is to tear down things with other people, there is something special about sharing in the things you love with others who love it as well. Instead of a club that works to undermine others, you are constantly building on the bits you enjoy. It doesn’t mean you don’t get to hate things. It only means it stops becoming your only focus. I know I don’t always do a great job with this. Many times I have to be dragged into those moments. Maybe it doesn’t have to be big things either. It can be as simple as sharing something with one other person. Providing a bit of your time to help them make something better. Those people who give of themselves with no worry about repayment. They are doing it because of the sheer joy of the craft or the idea or…

When you’re not looking for the flaws; you get to focus on the brilliance contained within.

Even this blog, in which I hate upon those who are hating on things is making me a bit of a hypocrite.

Hopefully, you can see it comes from a good place. A place where we use our powers for good instead of evil.

***

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

The 100 Most Important Definitions in the English Language

The 100 Most Important Definitions in the English Language


RBF – (Resting B***h Face) The expression on a woman’s face when she’s looking at anything other than her puppy.

Uber – A transportation system designed to rescue alcoholics.

LyftDefinition unknown. 

Meme – A limited-scope comedic device employed to populate 97.6% of every social media feed.

Ghosting – Abandoning your toothbrush in order to avoid a narcissist.

Social Media – Where happiness goes to die.

Internet Dating – What people do when they’re in the mood to rapidly judge strangers.

Creepy – When someone to whom you’re not attracted tries to flirt with you.

“I know, right?” – A reply meaning, “Can we talk about something else now?”

Catfishing – Subtracting 30 lbs. while adding 2 inches.

Sale – The same price as before, but with a ‘Sale’ sign affixed above the product.

Clearance Sale – “No one wanted to buy this s**t.”

Salt Life – A sticker adhered to the vehicle of a person who has visited the ocean once.

13.1 – The distance between narcissism and a mediocre level of fitness.

Millennial – A person born between 1980-2000 who simultaneously possesses more luxuries and fewer opportunities than any other generation in the world’s history. (This word’s definition subject to change based on the age of the person defining it.)

BFF (Best friends forever) – An acronym used to define a friendship that will last 2-6 months before abruptly ending.

Diet Soda – A beverage consumed by people pretending to be on a diet. Usually paired with large fries and a double cheeseburger.

Kale – A solid form of diet soda.

Skinny Margarita – A drink created by combining water and crushed ice.

Vegetarian – A word spoken to make waitresses cry.

Vegan – A word spoken to make waitresses commit suicide.

Crossfit – Intentionally blowing out your joints for the purpose of looking good in a bathing suit.

Politics – A cultural phenomena in which citizens argue vehemently about which sociopathic millionaire is most fit to rule a given nation.

Climate Change – The act of intentionally increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide levels in order to generate cash.

Capital Punishment – The moment one realizes they accidentally used all-caps in a message, email, or Facebook post, and now their friends are all upset about it.

Passive-Aggressive – When your wife says, “Oh, nothing.”

Gun Control – The act of pretending it’s physically possible to disarm three-hundred million people.

Terrorism – The act of fighting a war while not in possession of tanks, planes, and nuclear weapons.

“It is what it is.” – A phrase uttered by someone who no longer wants to participate in meaningful conversation.

“You do you.” – A phrase said by someone who strongly dislikes the person to whom they say it. (e.g. “I heard you don’t like bacon. That’s okay. You do you.“)

“Off the chain.” – A phrase spoken by white people while sipping champagne at a yacht club.

Unicorn – A reasonably attractive woman who allows her boyfriend or husband to enjoy more than one beer.

Triggering – Purposely antagonizing stupid people.

Gentrification – The act of raising property taxes to bleach neighborhoods.

Feminism – Depends on whom you ask.

News Media – A large gathering of opinions.

Fake News – Possibly real news.

Homophobia – A powerful fear of penises.

Bae – The name one assigns to their future ex.

Fitbit – A device worn to trick onlookers into assuming its wearer possesses an interest in physical fitness.

Jealousy – Becoming angry in the belief that another person is not in fact a real person, but a piece of property.

‘Self-Made’ – A claim made by a ‘successful’ person when no one else is aware of their privileged upbringing.

DUI – The act of plucking one tipsy driver from an ocean of thousands.

Lactose Intolerance – The act of avoiding milk and cheese on date nights.

Monday Night Football – A television show capable of stretching a 60-minute game to 4 hours.

Soccer – Faking injuries with the intent of winning on penalty kicks.

NBA Basketball – A league of thirty teams in which only three teams have any chance of competing for a championship.

MLB Baseball – A sporting event people attend when they want to pay $400 for two hot dogs & two beers, and then watch the game on the jumbo-tron.

Golf – Long-distance beer pong.

Pornhub – Where married people go for sex.

Politician – A wealthy, elderly white person participating in a system in which popularity determines the right to make extremely important societal decisions.

Immigration – One or more people crossing an imaginary line while in possession of paperwork.

Illegal Immigration – Like immigration, but without paperwork.

Marriage – The act of sacrificing one’s long-term financial future in order to secure 3-5 years of consistent sex.

Gay Marriage – Marriage.

Divorce – The act of giving away most of one’s money.

Hipster – A person who sneers while mocking mainstream music.

Facebook – A place one goes to view advertisements for something they purchased yesterday.

Music – A cultural phenomenon beginning in roughly 4000 B.C. and ending in 2000 A.D.

Government – A large gathering of wealthy lunatics.

Tariffs – A method of fighting wars using cash instead of bullets.

Tweeting – A recently-developed method of governing.

Electoral College – A political point-keeping system designed to empower flyover states.

Public Schools – A 12-year program designed to babysit children and teenagers until they’re old enough to hate their lives.

White Privilege – Not having to explain why you’re dating a white girl.

Anti-Vaxxer – A person refusing to immunize their children due to a misguided love of Jenny McCarthy.

RDF (Resting Dad Face) – The look a father gives his son to make him stop jumping on the couch.

Twerking – A swift method of securing single-motherhood.

Snapchat – Where fake dog-ear selfies and loneliness collide.

Cosplaying – The act of hyper-sexualizing an underage comic book or cartoon character.

Instagram – Where people go to obsess over cosplayers.

AirBNB – A super-convenient way to find a bed on which someone else had sex yesterday.

Introvert – A descriptive term for a person who dislikes everyone besides their cat, their dog, and their one friend who’s fine with hanging out just once per month.

Extrovert – A descriptive term for a somewhat likable asshole.

Gaslighting – A phrase uttered when highly emotional people become angry about colliding with rational thought.

Human Trafficking – A clogged interstate at 7:55 on a Monday morning.

Protest – A form of peaceful social criticism allowed only when it doesn’t interrupt flag-worship.

Children – What people create when they desire expensive, needy, emotionally-draining pets.

Social Justice Warrior (SJW) – A person who fights to change society via capitalized social media posts.

Cultural Appropriation – The act of pretending Taco Bell is real Mexican food.

‘Protect and Serve’ – It sounds way better than ‘Harass and Intimidate.’

Hashtag – A word or phrase preceded by the # symbol. Typically used to divide angry humans into separate (but equally angry) camps or by housewives to boast about their children.

Income Inequality – The act of owning three mansions and seventeen cars without any sense of irony.

LOL – An acronym used to deceive someone else into believing they might actually be funny.

Church – A building one visits to judge his or her fellow humans.

Religion – The large-scale rejection of science.

Socialism – A system of government which includes the pooling of resources to provide infrastructure, essential public services, joint armed-forces, and basic welfare for all people living in a given nation.

Communism – The same as socialism, but evil because it’s used in non-Western nations.

Helicopter Parenting – The act of imprisoning a child within an imaginary ten-foot diameter sphere.

THICC – Someone in possession of a giant ass. (e.g. “My cat is THICC.”)

Voting – A mass cultural event in which people click buttons in a booth, receive a sticker for a prize, and brag about it on the internet.

Lobbying – Investing large sums of money in political contests for the purpose of acquiring large sums of taxpayer dollars.

“Keep calm and…” – …shut the f**k up.

“Literally.” – Probably uttered regarding something not at all literal.

Craft BeerBeer.

Reverse RacismRacism. 

GMO Food (Genetically-modified food.) – Food.

Organic FoodFood.

Gluten-Free – Lacking in flavor.

Satire – The act of intentionally triggering sensitive people.


*

Did this make you mad?

Good. Get even angrier while reading this.

Or take a deep breath and try this. 

Dragon Con 2018 – Wish You Were There

 

It’s been a while. No, not just the 365ish days since the last Dragon Con. No, it’s been over a decade since the last time I missed a Dragon Con.

(Duty calls with a family wedding in Dallas this weekend.)

It’s a weird feeling to be only a day or so away from it and not be prepping to go. You know, looking over the schedule, picking literally every panel I might possibly want to go to no matter if it interfere’s with 3 other ones.

The last time I missed the convention was a very different time. I wrote a bit about it here, but it was during a time when I think I went to Dragon Con because to not go to Dragon Con wasn’t an option in my mind. Most of my friends had long since stopped going. And while I would run into the occasional person I knew, it just wasn’t the same. You know, it’s not as much fun (for me at least) if you don’t have that person you can tap on the shoulder and show them the coolest costume or talk about the panel you both had just gotten out of. Or even listen to someone else’s Con experience over Lunch or Dinner.

So when I missed that one (about 15 years ago due to another family wedding), it was a bummer, but at the same time, it felt like less of a sacrifice than it had in like year 2 or 3 of trying to go.

So I thought I would offer a few Hacks for Dragon Con. Most people who have gone in the past probably know these things. But it is never bad to have a reminder.

This will feel like it is 2 feet from your head!

***

Dragon Con Hack #1 – The secret is – you’re going to get tired. It’s hot in Atlanta over Labor Day weekend. Dragon Con isn’t like other conventions that might be more centrally located. It is spread out over a few blocks at a myriad of hotels. So you get out of one panel and suddenly realize that the next one is on the other side of the world and you need to grab a snack and… what do you do?

Well, if you had planned some backup panels you could do everything you need to and maybe not be a sweaty mess when you get there.

***

Dragon Con Hack #2 – Make solid plans with people. If you leave things up to Fate then you are just asking to eat your sandwich by yourself.

So many people have so many things pulling their attention. So if you are able, get that stuff locked in early.

***

Dragon Con Hack #3 – Do not go to the Dealer’s Room on Saturday.

Seriously, you are just asking for trouble. You won’t be able to move, and if you are anything like me, you will feel like you’re stopping up the entire aisle if you look at a booth. Go on Friday if you can or Monday if you are able as those are the slower of the two days (or, possibly during the parade, you might beat the rush for the day).

The Dealers Room on Saturday.

***

Dragon Con Hack #4 – The map is your friend.

Whether it is on the app or the paper version, refer to the damn thing. I swear it feels like they move everything around every couple of years. So if you are wondering where the Walk of Fame is, it might not be your memory… it might have just moved.

***

Dragon Con Hack #5 – The skywalks on Saturday and Sunday are going to be full… they are not the quicker ways anymore.

While you do get hotter and will sweat more, use the outside sidewalks to go between the hotels. Too many times I’ve tried to take a Skywalk from one hotel to the next only to have to wait because of capacity or because people have forgotten how to actually walk or… I honestly don’t know. Spare yourself a headache.

***

I hope everyone has a great time this year. I’ll miss you, but look forward to seeing you again next year! And make sure you check out Jeremy Neill and Amanda Makepeace’s work at the Art Show!

***

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Bouncing Between Bottles – Memoirs of a Tipsy Author

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

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

*

*

Now available for every e-device worldwide. 

7 Questions for Single Parents

7 Questions

For Single Parents

…or really any Parent

* * *

*

*

Timing is Everything

 You’re a single parent, right?

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

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

*

Think Fast!

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

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

*

The Answer is 84

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

*

Mecha-Ninja Tech-Savvy Godzilla Mom

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

Tiger (High discipline, emphasis on structure and academics)

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

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

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

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

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

*

*

Fight Club!

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

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

Your ex-spouse isn’t helping.

How do you handle their disputes?

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

*

All Fridays become National Holidays for Grocery Shopping and Mario Kart

Here’s your chance.

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

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

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

*

Bragging Rights

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


*

So…

You like answering these kinds of questions? Go here.

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

*

Unprepared

At some point today, I’ll be in a car driving up to Indianapolis on my way to Gen Con for the second year in a row. And even though I’ve known the dates involved or had my badge arrive and signed up for the various gaming sessions and paid for a hotel and all of it…

This kind of snuck up on me.

I guess as much as anything can sneak up on a person. But like anything you might have circled the calendar for or things you’ve been looking forward to, sometimes life throws you for a bit of a loop and decides that the best time to do a whole bunch of things is at the same time. That’s where I’m at right now, waiting until the night before to actually pack my stuff up and hoping I don’t forget anything. Deciding to write the blog two days before as opposed to the night before – nah, that wouldn’t be my style.

In my day job, where I’m a mild-mannered civil engineer, we’ve talked about organization and making sure to spin multiple plates in the air. And I do a decent job of it, but sometimes… just sometimes you need time in order to free up other time. Like in order to get your life in some kind of order, you must first throw everything into chaos because you must have the room to just stretch out.

It’s a bit like that with the writing I’ve been doing. I took a writing course a month ago and have been really, really trying to follow the steps in creating an outline for the next project. And it’s been a fun time trying to be in total brainstorm mode for this long. Compiling notes here and there. Basically trying to make sense of a bunch of chaos in my head. I’m trying to sift through the bad stuff to get into the good – sometimes with success and sometimes not. It has been a struggle to hold off on just diving into the story immediately. That’s what my creative (unrestrained side) wants to do. Jump in and figure it out as you go along. I’m fighting that urge.

I need to be organized for this to work the way I want to.

Which is a long way of saying that the last few weeks have been hectic and I’ve still managed to write about 5000 words of an outline for a book. I gave myself the month of July to really get into it, and tomorrow is August and somehow…

It snuck up on me.

Luckily, I have a long drive with some friends who are going to have to be my 1st outline beta listeners.

As schools start back, and life begins to speed up from the summer days, no matter what you are doing – every little step gets you a tiny bit closer to your goal.

 

***

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

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Imagine a World Without ________

Reach deep.

And imagine…

 

You’re walking down a city street. All the cars speeding past you are grey and boxlike. They’re all the same, featureless, colorless, and they make no sound as they sweep down the streets.

You walk into a clothing store. There are no sections for men, women, and children. On every rack hang beige shirts, pants, and coats. The styles are drab and shapeless. There are no dressing rooms. There is no color. Other shoppers…even the cashier…are dressed in the same exact clothing. Everyone looks identical. You slap down your money and walk out with a grey bag full of the same clothes everyone else wears.

You’re hungry. Starving, actually. You walk into a restaurant without a name, a logo, or a menu. You step up to the counter and order the same thing everyone else is having. This is the city’s best place to eat, but you’re not impressed. All they offer are tasteless, watery noodles and flavorless bread. Everyone sits quietly and eats at grey tables. You can’t even remember why you picked this place.

Mmmmmm…watery noodles.

At home, you’re ready to relax after a long day at work. Your house looks exactly like everyone else’s, but luckily you remember which one is yours. After all, it’s got a number. You park your grey car inside your grey garage, and you walk through grey doors into a grey room. Your walls are barren. No photos of loved ones. No paintings. No color. You sit on your couch and turn on your TV. There’s only one station. It’s the same two people wearing the same two suits talking about the same thing they did yesterday. There’s no Food Network, SyFy Channel, Game of Thrones, or Discovery Channel. It’s just two people discussing the value of nothing. What else is there to watch?

Nothing.

You’d like to go to the movies. But there’s no such thing.

You’re thinking of taking a stroll through a museum. But no one’s ever thought to build one.

You’re hungry for a gourmet pizza, a scrumptious slice of cake, and a nice cocktail. But there’s no chefs, no bakeries, and certainly no bartenders.

Perhaps I’ll just lie in bed and read a book, you think. It’s not like there’s anything else to do. 

But there are no books. Because there are no authors. And even if there were, all the covers would look the same…grey and black. You wouldn’t know which one to read. It’d be impossible to choose. At this point, you’d settle for a magazine, a newspaper, or a funny website with cute comics on the internet. It sucks, because these things don’t exist. You’ve never heard of them. You can’t even want to want them.

You’re bored. You’re distraught. You step outside for a walk. It’s strange walking through your town. The houses, buildings, shops, and stores are all white boxes. No one bothers with windows…there’s nothing to see. You can’t tell the difference between the car repair shop and the bank. They look exactly the same. No one ever bothered to be an architect. No one knew it was possible.

There’s one thing left that’ll save you. You run back to your trusty radio. It’s a grey box like all the others. You flip the switch and turn the dial to your favorite station. The sound greeting your ears? Static. Dead, dry noise. There’s no rhythm in it. There’s no beat, no catchy hook. It’s just static.

Always crackling. Always the same.

And you’re emptier still.

That evening, your kid comes home from school.

“What did you do today?” you ask. “Learn anything interesting?”

He shrugs. He doesn’t care much about school. He learns the same things every day: math, chemistry, and science. That’s all well and good. But he never has any good stories. It’s because there aren’t any. He’s happy because he doesn’t have to write book reports, but sad because he’s never read a book. There’s not much going on at his school. No sports. No chess club. No band camp. Why have extracurricular activities if there’s no such thing?

He doesn’t even know what a crayon is.

Actually, neither do you.

You’re walking down a hall.

The walls are barren. Everyone you pass is wearing pale sackcloth. Everyone looks the same.

It’s silent in this place. The only sounds you hear are footsteps and your own breathing. They haven’t even bothered to pipe lame elevator music into this place. Why would they? There’s no such thing.

There’s no color here. There’s nothing to do but eat your noodles, sleep in your white bed, and drive to work in your simple grey box.

What is this place?

Where am I? you wonder.

It’s simple.

This is a world without art. Without color. Without chefs, architects, or artisans. Without painters, writers, or musicians. Without photographers, sculptors, or comedians. Without gardeners. Without dance. Without movies.

Without meaning.

Support an artist today.

Without them, we are nothing.

J Edward Neill

Peacebuilders and Comics

This past Friday, Robert Jeffrey and I journeyed down to south Georgia in order to participate with the campers at the Peacebuilders Camp at Koinonia Farm. From the website:

Peacebuilders Camp at Koinonia Farm is a unique overnight summer camp in rural south Georgia where youth ages 11 to 15 spend a week together learning how to work toward peace and justice. Campers enjoy games and sports, laugh with new friends from diverse backgrounds, go on field trips, learn about human rights, make a difference for others through service projects, and explore the stories of peacemakers past and present.

Our task for the day was a pair of workshop sessions with the kids to talk about How to Make a Comic. This was a part of the concept of being able to Express yourself. The kids got to sit down with C-Grimey, a DJ from Chattanooga, TN for a chance to make a rap song or sit with us talking comics.

While we have a Powerpoint Presentation which breaks down the different aspects of a comic book: from developing characters and a script to working with artists, inkers, colorists, and letterers. We talk about how the medium is great because it is so collaborative. And that same fun you get from just talking to your friends about ideas or artwork you’ve done makes it very much a shared experience.

After that, we provide the campers with some blank pages with blank panels already drawn on them. When we did the Workshop for the first time this past December we provided the kids some example one page scripts so they could practice drawing that way, but as that session rolled along, we realized the better ideas just flow out from them as they want to tell their own stories. So this time we told them that while we had some examples, they should feel free to just wing it.

From the two sessions we got:

A lesson about what to do if your friend trips over a rock (the answer is to ask the rock for help!).

A cover piece of The Green Lantern: John Stewart.

A breakdown of the helicopter scene in Suicide Squad between Harlequin and Joker.

The best tagline ever – “It’s so stupid, it might just work.”

Learning that one of the kid’s favorite movies was the Purge (remember, he’s between 11 and 12 years old)!

Deadpool was another favorite.

In addition, we had a couple of copies of Route 3 and The Gilded Age trades on hand, and it definitely warmed my heart when I saw the kids reading through during the lunch break. We ended up leaving the copies so hopefully not just the campers last week, but the others this week and next could enjoy them.

Really though, my hope is that a couple of the kids will end up pursuing their comic dreams. We told them to practice every day because a year from now they will be better than they were. Who knows, maybe I’ll be buying one of their comics before too long!

***

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

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

When In Doubt, Learn Something New

The Grind. Day in and day out the same things. Days blurring together to the point that you legitimately might not know what day of the week it is. The 4th this year, while coming in the middle of the week is very weird, also allows for some grounding and rest and recharging.

But it is not the only way.

Over the weekend, I attended a two-day, online writing course. And by attended, I mean I stumbled out into the room where we have our computer set up and watched and listened and took notes. After the two days were over, I was so jazzed about the ideas I had for my next project that every free moment has been me jotting down ideas on spare scrap paper and spending the last two nights up way too late trying to get every crazy idea out of my head as best I can.

Which I’m only realizing this now, but sometimes we just need to go back to the beginning and remember that while we may know a lot of things, we can still learn brand new things.

As an indy writer, there are so many little bits and the piece you pick up along the way that it very much becomes the bright and shiny thing. And even if you know how to do something, it never hurts to take those steps back and reevaluate your approach.

And really, that’s what can recharge you the easiest and best overall. The daily grind of work, home, work, home and fitting in some sleep somewhere in there can weigh on you.

Years ago, as Terminus Media was beginning to get off the ground we had weekly meetings in the back of a comic store. I’d show up at 5 or 6 and we’d go until 9 or 10 talking, swapping ideas, looking at new artwork. All of it got you pumped. It inspired you to create new things, and it challenged you to try to one-up the previous week’s notable stories. Yeah, there was plenty of times where we didn’t know what we were doing and yet those days, even when an outsider might think that nothing was learned by the people in the room… if you really paid attention, you’d find one thing.

Those are the invaluable moments. And as much as this day off from work to hang out with friends and family is welcomed… it is not the only recharge you should allow yourself to enjoy.

***

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

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

10 WAYS TO EXERCISE WHILE DOING EVERYDAY ACTIVITIES

You’re busy, right? Really busy.

Aren’t we all?

What you need are ways to squeeze in a little exercise into the gaps of ordinary life.

Here’s ten simple exercise solutions. Try a few or do them all.


1. Park in the Farthest Spot Available

It’s funny how people operate. The fittest guy or gal, even when driving to the gym for a vigorous workout, will usually pick the closest, most convenient parking spot. It makes zero sense when you think about it. Forget about driving around the mall or the airport trying to find the best spot. Park way, way out there, and burn some calories on your way in/out of wherever you’re going.

Another bonus to this tactic: never having to fight with other drivers over parking spots.

 

Look at all that exercise waiting to be had. 

*

2. Take the Stairs Instead of the Elevator

Three floors up? What’s the problem? Bypass the herd waiting outside the elevator doors and sprint for the stairs. As far as time spent, taking the stairs will cost you…what? An extra 5 seconds per floor?  Instead of standing idly inside a big metal box, you can stretch your legs out nicely.

Bonus: Carrying luggage while scaling the stairs.

*

3. Take the Stairs Two at a Time

Ever notice how close stairs are to one another? It’s almost like they were built to accommodate children and octogenarians. So why are you, a robust thirty or forty-something, taking them one at a time? Come on, man! Move those legs and climb at twice the speed!

Bonus: Taking stairs two at a time…while on an escalator

I’d climb stairs with her ANY day.

*

4. Do One Set of Pushups Every 20 Minutes (while doing household chores)

Stop. Drop. Give me twenty.

You’re doing laundry? Do a set of pushups after hitting ‘Wash’ on the machine. You’re waiting for pasta to boil on the stove? Do another set. You’re waiting for your computer to boot up? Drop to the floor and knock yet another set out. I’ve been doing this for years, and sometimes at day’s end I look back and realize I’ve banged out 500 pushups. You don’t have to do 500. Just do what suits you…while setting aside only a fraction of the time you would have for an actual trip to the gym.

Bonus: Set weekly pushup goals. Then shatter your own records.

*

5. Buy a Push Mower

Sometimes I peek out my front door and see my neighbor (who’s twenty years younger) riding around his tiny little yard on a $1,500 John Deere mower. And sometimes I see my other neighbor, a former marine, striding slowly behind his self-propelled mower. First of all, these machines cost way more than a typical walk-behind mower. And second of all, these guys are mowing outside on a beautiful summer day…somehow getting no exercise at all. You can get a push mower for $150-$300. Slap on a mulcher (bagging your grass will slow you down) and get going! Studies show that with a medium-sized lawn, you can walk 1-2 miles while mowing.

We have another word for all that walking: exercise

Mow your way to fitness.

*

6. While Playing Video Games, Ride a Stationary Bike

This one is among my favorites. I’m a video game nut (see this and this) and yet there’s possibly no activity in the world that’ll kill fitness quite like plopping on the sofa and not moving for hours on end. Solution? Buy a stationary bike and pump out the miles…while crushing your favorite games. I’ve found that the higher energy level the game requires, the faster you’ll tend to bike. Once, while playing Zelda – Breath of the Wild, I biked for two-and-a-half hours without really even noticing.

And afterward, I’d gotten both a gaming fix and a really satisfying workout.

Bonus: Play Mario Kart while on a bike and pretend you’re racing along with the game. Seriously. It works.

*

7. Take the Printer out of your Office

Humans are always striving to increase their level of convenience. But at what cost? This suggestion isn’t just about printers or other office hardware. It’s about purposely not obsessing about convenience. So you’ll have to get up and walk thirty steps every time you print something? Big deal. Just do it. So you’ll have to carry your laundry upstairs? I’m not sure I see the problem.

Force yourself to move. Get out of your chair. Savor every step you have to take.

*

8. Carry Hand-Baskets in the Store instead of using Shopping Carts

What’s that you say? A shopping cart with just six things inside? Nope. That’s hand-basket territory. You know what a hand-basket is, right? The little things with handles stacked just inside the grocery store entrance.

Bonus: If you must use a shopping cart, push it all the way back into the store rather than into the cart corral

This woman makes me proud.

*

9. Install a Chin-Up Bar in a Household Doorway

They don’t cost much. They’re surprisingly safe. And chin-ups are an awesome way to tone your shoulders and boost your core strength. My suggestion is this: install a bar in a doorway you pass through 5-6 times every day. And then…every single time you pass through that doorway…pump out 5-10 (or more, if you’re buff) chin-ups. Even if you can only do 1-2 chin-ups per pass, it’s fine. They’re quick, and it’s a fantastic exercise.

Hrrrrnnnnggggg!!

*

10. Walk Faster

No, don’t be a fast-walking robot. Just be swift. While taking a stroll at the park, pick up the pace a little. While watching the kids play at the park, walk brisk circuits around the playground. Slogging along through grocery stores, parks, and parking lots is the same as sitting in traffic. Get off the surface roads and onto the highway. Move those feet and get your heart-rate rising!

Bonus: On moving sidewalks, actually walk. (Most people just stand there and let the sidewalk float them into oblivion.)

*

You’ve started exercising your mind.

Now click here and pump some iron with your brain.

 

Wait…why exactly do authors need reviews?

Let’s turn back the clock a few years.

…just for fun.

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

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

What a year, 1999.

Feels like centuries ago.

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

Nope.

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

Guaranteed to succeed….despite the wonky cover art.

Here we are, two decades later.

Everything is different.

Why?

It’s simple…

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

…to everyone in the world.

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

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

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

So…

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

Well…yes.

And no.

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

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

Poorly edited books.

Books with misleading descriptions.

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

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

The answer lies in the stars…

No, no, no. Not THOSE stars.

THESE stars.

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

But it’s not 1999 any longer.

It’s not even 2007.

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

No one cares.

So why should you?

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

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Here’s why:

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

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

Which is what we all want, right?

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

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

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

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

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It’s simple, really.

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

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

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

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

And I’m doing it today.

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

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

Sincerely,

J Edward Neill

 

 

 

 

The Day I Decided to Start Running

I remember one Friday.

A smoking hot Friday in the dead of July.

A hazy Friday.  A humid southeastern US Friday.  A Friday that promised to be hotter than Lucifer’s jockstrap.

Most Fridays like this one, I’d have been busy in my workshop painting. Or writing. Or mashing buttons on my Xbox controller.

But this Friday was my first truly free day in a long time. My son was away at summer camp. I didn’t have any plans. Any lunch dates. Any ideas. Somehow, someway, none of my borderline-alcoholic buddies had rung me up for a long afternoon of pounding scotch and making fun of my non-existent dating life.

In short, I had no effing idea what to do.

I guess maybe I should’ve known it was going to be a different sort of day.  I’d woken early – long before the crack of dawn. And I never wake up early. Bright-eyed and bursting with directionless energy, I’d trotted outside my tiny apartment and breathed the already-warm air.

I’ve been locked up in here too long, I thought.

It’s time for something different.

Flashback to a few years prior. A ex-girl of mine, a marathon runner, had mentioned a trail she liked to run. “In Suwanee,” she’d said. “Beautiful, wooded trail. Eight miles one way.” Back then I’d never cared much about running. I mean, I worked out and all, but usually in my garage. Or my attic. Or in an overpriced, sweat-scented gym. It’s not that I didn’t like the outdoors, just that I’d never much cared for sprinting along smoking hot sidewalks in the brutal Atlanta heat.

It hit me then.

I’d no idea why, but the idea of running bounced into my thoughts.

I remembered what my ex-girl had said. No, not that time she said I was an ‘real sh*thead.’ I remembered something else. The trail she’d talked about. The Suwanee Greenway. The place runners go to run when they don’t want to pound pavement.

And I realized I lived in Suwanee now. I’d just moved there. Not two weeks prior.

I gotta find this trail.

Today.

When I get ideas into my head, I go overboard. It’s either a fault, a virtue, or maybe both. Like that time I started a foam-sword fight club behind my house. Or joined an MMA gym and pounded my hands against heavy bags every day until they bled. So now, as I realized I might live near this fabled Suwanee running trail, a new idea took shape:

I want to run.

A lot.

I crashed into my computer like a breaking Pacific wave. My fingers moved like the wind, my search terms as sharp as seagulls’ beaks. ‘Suwanee Greenway running trail’ I hammered into the keyboard.

“0.1 miles away” said Google Maps.

I’d had no idea. I was pretty much an idiot. Sitting outside my apartment door, not a hundred meters beyond the stand of pine trees behind my parking lot, sat the Suwanee Greenway trail. It’d been there all along.

In a flurry, I popped into my ugly orange sneakers, slid into an even uglier tank top and shorts, and sped out the door.

I’d never been a runner before. I liked to keep active, don’t get me wrong, but I’d never felt the urge to run. Not in the summer heat. Not in the woods. Not alone. There seemed no reason to run other than to feel my heart hammer against my ribs. To get shin splints. To hurt.

And then I found it. I found the Greenway. The fabled land of trees, creeks, and north Georgia swamps.

The Greenway. A few hundred yards beyond my door.

You know those disclaimers? The ones saying ‘Consult a doctor before beginning any new exercise routine?’ Nah. I don’t listen to ’em, either. My feet hit the trail and within moments I’d forgotten everything else about my week. About my plans. About my life.

Yeah, it was hot. And yeah, the humidity made me feel like I was a macaroni noodle tumbling in about-to-boil water. But I didn’t care. Suddenly, as if my sneakers had worked some strange magic, I felt the pendulum move inside me.

I’m going to run.

I want to be a runner.

Forever.

I overdid it on that first fateful day. I ran six brutal miles in one direction, and walked six miles back. By the end, my breaths were ragged, tortured things. My calves were knotted up like old oak trees. My skin, which I’d forgotten to cover in sunscreen, sizzled the same as bacon in a cast iron skillet.

But I felt good.

No, not just good.

Trans-effin-cendent.

Let’s talk about the Greenway. It’s a place I wished I’d found a decade earlier, but was happy to discover when I did. They call it the Greenway because all eight miles hunker beneath the trees. In some spots, in the heavy shade beneath birch trees, the air is a full ten degrees cooler than in the sun. In others, the trail is almost dark even during midday, and the leaves so dense as to blot out the sun entirely. Parts of the trail are paved in wooden planks, and others with a softer-than-concrete asphalt/rubber hybrid. And in many places, the Greenway runs alongside creeks, small rivers, and a sopping wet marshland stocked with geese, ducks, bluegill, herons, and even the occasional beaver.

The Greenway – flanked by marshland on both sides.

Twelve miles later, I spilled back into my apartment. My body ached. I was cramped, hungry, thirsty, and tired. But I also felt sublime.  The ‘runner’s high’ my ex had talked about turned out to be a real thing. I felt as if I were floating among the clouds, my sneakers like Hermes’ winged shoes, my muscles singing with pain and pleasure.

Sure enough, not long after I finished my first run, a buddy called me. I rehydrated…and then spent the rest of the evening out on the town committing treason against my liver. I’m sure I didn’t once shut up about my experience on the trail. To my buddy’s credit, he just smiled and nodded.

He understood.

On that day, something had changed.

It was as if I’d reached back into my childhood and stolen some of the freedom my ten-year old self once experienced.

Out there on the Greenway, I’d been in heaven. No phone. No bills to pay. Not a care in the world beyond the next place my ugly orange sneakers landed.

Since that day, and for the last four years, I’ve been out there running. I use the Greenway most days, but also a number of other nature trails. In autumn, when leaves blanket the ground and the wind begins to bite, I’m alone in a season of my own. In spring, when every bird in the universe descends onto the marshes, I run to their raucous music of their honks, quacks, and cheeps. Most times I keep moving fast. But some days I stroll along without a care. Some evenings, I’ve only got enough daylight for three little miles, while others I head out early to conquer the entire trail. I prefer to run when I’m alone, but on particularly pleasant days I’ll find other people running with me, walking their dogs, or wheeling their twin babies along in awesome bicycle/stroller hybrids (here’s to you, bicycle/stroller guy.)

The absolute best days are the first days of the Atlanta winter…just before twilight…when crickets, owls, and leaf-stomping squirrels surround me. No one else is on my trail. No one else exists in the entire world. It’s just me and the road ahead.

And I’m as close to Heaven as I’ll ever be.


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I run, and I also drink wine.

Join me on my bounce between bottles right HERE.

 

 

 

Ode to Free Comic Book Day

I’ll be at Challenges this Saturday with brand new copies of the Gilded Age Graphic Novel!

This Saturday is the annual Free Comic Book Day event. It’s a time where the comics industry hopes to bring energy and excitement into the comic book stores by coordinating and putting out free comic books (hence the name). Whether you read comics back in the day, never read comics before, or have been reading them for over 30 years there is apt to be a comic being given away that might interest you (yours truly).

I always try to snag a couple of the kiddie comics to give to either my niece or nephews or kids of friends. As someone who’s been reading for so long and as someone who creates comics, I think it is my job/duty to try and pass along that same love to the next generation. And the thing is I don’t know if it will work at all. I figure it might take doing this every year and still not have any luck swaying the next generation. I’m still not sure why it clicked in my own head all those years ago. Technically it took four tries before I actually began picking up comics on a monthly basis.

The first time I remember even seeing a comic book had to have been when I was 4 or 5. I would sometimes get babysat by a woman whose husband had a bin in one of the rooms filled with comic books. They were neatly stacked up and I can recall seeing some of the crazier comics that existed back in the 70s: Ghost Rider and Man-Thing come to mind. I didn’t try to look through them… maybe I wasn’t supposed to touch them, but I did stand there at the edge and look at the covers with some wonder and awe not knowing exactly what it was these magazines represented.

The second time was when I picked up an issue of Transformers from the hospital gift shop (my mother was a nurse there). I was pretty much locked in on Transformers, constantly watching the show after school. Always conspiring on what I might be able to get when Christmas came around (sadly relatives thought Go-Bots were the same thing – I’m surprised I didn’t yell at them to try to get them to understand the difference!). I read that comic over and over again. Maybe it was because the cover said it was the last issue of a 4 issue limited series, but it never occurred to me to even seek out more issues. This really should have locked me in but it didn’t.

The third time was my elementary school’s book fair. Armed with a little bit of money, I stumbled across a collection of comic books. Again, not knowing the characters, I grabbed one that looked interesting – Fantastic Four. The story was in the middle of a story-arc about a little boy and what only could be the devil and these heroes who had to fight… demons? Again, it never occurred to me to seek out more issues.

And maybe that would have been it. I would have had 2 comics to my name and a bunch of money in my pockets from then on. I watched the Spiderman and His Amazing Friends comics, fascinated whenever some new hero might show up on-screen. In later years I would come to realize how many members of the Marvel Universe made little appearances on the show. After Spiderman, the Hulk cartoon came on and I watched that. I’d seen the Superman movies, watched episodes of the live-action Hulk, the 60s Batman and Robin, and the Wonder-Woman live-action shows.

Still, I didn’t seek them out. Maybe I didn’t know where you’d buy them?

On top of all of this, my dad read comics when he was a kid, but before I started collecting I don’t think we ever talked about it.

Then one day it happened. My step-father dropped me off to get my hair cut while he ran some errands and left me with $5 to go next door and get a snack and a drink. Next door was a 7-11. Needing to kill time, I wandered through the aisles trying to figure out what kind of candy I was going to get (I’m sorry… candies… plural). I wondered to the magazine rack and began looking when I saw a Spiderman comic book. Picking it up, I flipped through it amazed (pun intended) that Spiderman wasn’t wearing his traditional red and blues, but had a black and white costume that looked really cool.

Hmm… $0.75? OK. Sold! Wait, there are other comics? Who are the X-Men? And why are there two Avengers comics?

I bought all 4 and waited outside with my comics, soda, and maybe a candy bar (just one).

And it was over. I was hooked. It took 4 opportunities for the universe (maybe?) to ensure I went down that path.

Without comics, I don’t know if I would have read very much prior to 6th grade and meeting one of my best friends. Without comics, I wonder if I would have formed the same friendships which have lasted to this day. Without comics, I don’t know if I would be a writer of anything (the first thing I ever wrote was basically a comic).

So I’ll be out there on Saturday watching new faces light up to their first comic book and other faces light up to their 10-thousandth. You just never know when the magic is going to happen.

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

The 7 Instagram Personality Types

I recently decided to join the modern world.

And *gasp*  create an Instagram account.

I use it mostly to promote my art and post pics of my obese cat.

The longer I scroll through the thousands of daily photographs, the more I learn.

For instance, did you know nearly every Instagram user can be dropped into one of seven categories?

Yeah.

You’re welcome.

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The 7 Instagram Personality Types



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THE FOODIE – Pretty normal, I guess. I mean, most people like to eat their dinners. But some people, I’m assuming gourmet chefs mostly, prefer to dress up their food to look better than most supermodels. The Foodie type of Instagram user makes a pretty compelling argument. When faced with the choice of eating a brick-oven pizza or simply photographing a brick-oven pizza, I always…  Wait. No. I think I’ll just EAT it. Thanks.

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THE ANIMAL LOVER – This archetype of social media user is without a doubt the most common. In fact, most Instagram users are Animal Lover types in addition to whatever other type of user they might be. Whether it’s dogs, cats, sleeping dogs, sleeping cats, gifs of dogs and cats, funny-faced dogs and cats…the variety is almost endless. My day definitely isn’t complete unless I scroll through Facebook and Twitter and Instagram to find at least a 50% ratio of dogs & cats compared to every other type of post. Hey, I get it. My cat’s cute, too. Only she’s too fat to fit in a single photo frame, so I’ll make a nine-part Instagram photo series to encompass her beautiful body. K?

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THE SCRIBBLER – The number of artists (and photographers) who flock to Instagram is staggering. It’s what drew me to the site, and what keeps me there. Every day, I find dozens of amazing drawings, paintings, tattoo art, and sculpture to die for. But…and this is a BIG but…to get to the good stuff, one must pass through legions of Scribblers. Yeah, you got it. We’re talking hundreds and hundreds of actual third-grade pencil pieces. For my own protection, whenever posting art of dubious quality, I always tag it with #WIP (work in-progress) so my followers won’t know just how much I really suck.

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THE SEIZURE-INDUCING GIF MAKER – Oh boy. Now we’re getting somewhere. I’m not sure what compels people (mostly ladies, sorry) to make half-second long repeating gifs of themselves gesturing aimlessly into the void. I’m not sure I wanna know. If you stare at the wrong gif too long, I’m convinced you’ll catch cancer. Or Ebola. Or maybe you’ll just die a little bit inside. Whenever surfing Insta videos, I always make sure to keep a bottle of Ibuprofen handy. Because I’m going to get a headache. It’s only a matter of time.

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THE MODEL – Yes, you’re beautiful (or so heavily filtered no one can tell the difference.) I get it. We ALL get it. It doesn’t matter where I tumble on Instagram, I see you there in my feed, looking hot, wearing almost nothing, covered in tattoos, doing something funny with your mouth. Look, I’m not complaining. NO one is complaining. But the philosophical part of me wonders what you (yes YOU, model girls) get out of posting dozens of hot selfies every day. Is it validation? Cash? An unending stream of creepy dudes DM’ing you for sex? I’m assuming you get all three. I’m just wondering if it’s worth the effort. Maybe the old saying is true – if a hot girl bounces through the forest and no one’s there to see it, did she really happen?

 

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THE WANNABE MODEL – For every one person willing to put in maximum hours working out, tanning, dressing up in uncomfortable-looking bikinis, and applying the best possible filters, there’s ninety-nine more people who say, “F it. I’m doing this my way.” I’m talking about you, girl who just woke up and took a 6AM selfie. And you, guy in the gym who’s obviously on steroids. And yes, you too, single mom of three kids who’s just fishing for a compliment (or twenty.) Look, we can’t all be beautiful. Despite the hashtags #everyoneisbeautiful #plussize #bringingunibrowsback and #Igaveupworkingouttenyearsago, perhaps it’s best if we leave the modeling to the most willing to sell their souls for cash most beautiful people out there.

 

 

 

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THE PERFORMANCE ARTIST – You’ve seen them. They perform glorious physical feats, leap to incredible heights, and paint themselves with peanut butter and hot dogs. I admit I’ve watched some pretty cool ones. Like the guy who stood on his motorcycle seat while going 100 mph, or the other guy who fell off his motorcycle while going 100 mph. I’ve seen a girl beat a tree to death, a dude somersault over two cars, and a woman bounce her boobs to the beat of Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller.’ Narcissism, man. It’s a beautiful thing sometimes.

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RUNNERS UP:

THE MUSICIAN  Usually a DJ for some crappy downtown club, he really, really, really wants you to check out his mixtape.

THE LONELY MOM – “Hey, guys! I’m stuck at home with seven children. And I’m going to Snapchat bunny ears onto ALL of them!”

THE CAPTION QUEEN – Usually…and I’m only being honest here…it’s a teenage girl posting a pic of herself looking sad while complaining about tomorrow’s math test.



For more fun, here’s my list of Top 7 Facebook personalities.

And I did one for Twitter, too.

Stay tuned for next week’s HUGE article, ‘The Zero Types of Linked-In Users’

J Edward Neill

 

Things I want my son to know

Being a dad isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

It’s much, much better.

Long ago, in the months before my son rocketed into this world, I dreamed of all the challenges I would surely face. I was younger then, and full of doubt. Let’s be honest…I was frightened. I thought to myself, ‘Raising a kid is going to be the hardest thing I ever do. How can I possibly be a guide for another human being? Everything will change. And it’ll happen in ways for which I can never prepare myself.’

Well…

I was wrong. And right. And everything in-between.

Not long after my one and only son (the G Man) arrived, I realized three things:

  1. I’m not frightened to be a dad – I’m thrilled
  2. This is going to be far more exciting than I’d expected
  3. Also…I’m about to be a single dad

Just like that, it happened. The G Man was only two-years old when he and I found ourselves thrust out of our suburban paradise and into a tiny apartment. Suddenly, his life completely changed, and all my expectations for child-rearing flew right out the window. It wasn’t as terrifying as it sounds. The word I use to describe it: spectacular.   We were broke. We were cramped into a tiny space. We lost all our previous friends and family.  We were two dudes on a tiny island.

And it was mostly awesome.

Somehow, we survived. Three-thousand trips to the local park. A million-and-a-half hours spent poolside. Strep throat. The flu. A few hundred band-aids. A rescued Japanese maple tree. Four-hundred thousand fish sticks. And several Christmases, just me and him, waking to our annual two-man treasure trove of gifts.

And then there was the day he decided he wanted to grow a ‘Devil lock.’ Thank you, Glenn Danzig & The Misfits…

Here we are, five years later. We’ve left our tiny apartment and moved into a slightly-bigger-than-tiny-house. We have cats. Most weeks, we treat ourselves to Taco Tuesdays and breakfast-for-dinner Thursdays. We do all the ordinary dad/kid stuff, only we do it alone instead of within a typical family unit.

This is our life.

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It’s a Tuesday night, and the G Man is relaxing on the couch. He’s in the middle of reading literary classic, Calvin & Hobbes – Attack of the Deranged Mutant Killer Monster Snow Goons. Meanwhile, I’m in the background painting something on a canvas. It’s a pretty typical evening for us. We skipped Taco Tuesday in favor of our latest dinner invention, a little something G Man calls, ‘Chicken with onions in its butt,’ which tastes even better than it sounds.

During a lull in my painting progress, I lean back in my chair and consider the night. As far as weekday evenings, it might not get any better than this. Our bellies are full. We’re listening to an uber-relaxing album – Slayer’s Seasons in the Abyss. It’s almost bedtime. But not quite.

What’s next? I wonder.

The G Man is at his most impressionable age. I remember being his age (seven) and it was the same for me. Everything my friends told me, I tended to believe. Everything I saw on TV, I absorbed as if it were utter truth. As I look upon him now, I understand his vulnerability. The things he learns during his next few years, he’ll carry with him for the rest of his life.

This is the task for which I was born, I think. I must become both teacher…and student.

The G Man looks up at me. He sees me staring in his direction, and he’s annoyed.

“What?” he asks.

“Nothing,” I reply. “Just thinking.”

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And it’s true. I think too much.

Some of the things I worry about:

  • Will the G Man get bullied?
  • Will he be a bully?
  • Will he like sports?
  • Or science?
  • Or both?
  • Will he continue to be hard on himself?
  • Or will he find the same confidence I did?
  • Will he keep reading books?
  • Or will he become an iPhone zombie – addicted to social media, selfies, and rabbit-eared Snapchat filters?
  • Will he think critically? Will he study every situation based on its own merits?
  • Or will he see something on the internet and automatically believe it’s true?

These, and a thousand other questions stew inside me. But like all things, they quickly pass. I can’t yet answer these questions. And ultimately, no matter the subtle lessons I try to instill in my son, he might very well do the opposite of what I teach.

And it’s ok.

When I look around myself, I realize we’re in a tough world. Actually, it’s always been tough. As a whole, humanity has a tendency to group-think, to segregate into specific herds, and to compel each other to believe what the rest of their chosen herd believes. It’s not particularly healthy. To be honest, it’s poisonous. The worst part of this isn’t what the adults decide is truth. It’s that the adults tend to pass the herd-mentality on to their children. They don’t teach their children how to think – rather they teach them what to think.

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Believe what mommy and daddy believe.

Go about life the same way.

Love the same things.

HATE the same things.

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As I look upon my son, I understand something. All the small lessons I worry about on a day-to-day basis…they’re just that – they’re small. The real lesson is singularly large.

It’s this:

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BE WHAT YOU WANT TO BE

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You want to be Link? Fine. But you might want to wear shoes. Hyrule isn’t always the softest place to walk.

Be what you want to be. Easy to say. Sometimes hard for parents to accept, and often even harder for kids to comprehend. For me, what this means is my son doesn’t have to live up to my expectations. He doesn’t have to follow in my footsteps. If he doesn’t want to go to college, fine. If he decides he wants to become a god-fearing, bible thumping preacher, ok. Go for it. If he looks at his life and decides what he really wants is to be a beach bum who smokes weed all day and kicks sand in society’s eyeballs, I’ll shut up and deal with it.

It’s not a parent’s job to mold children into perfect little statues. Quite the opposite.

It’s not even our job to prepare them to become a integral part of society. Society doesn’t care about people. Only people care about people.

It’s our job to open our children’s minds to possibility, to teach them to adapt, to accept risk and reward, and to know the difference between belief and truth. Above all these, it’s important to teach them how to think critically, especially when dealing with us. We aren’t the unfailing gods and goddesses our children think we are. It’s ok to let them see us fail. Actually, it’s essential.

And sometimes the best way to teach these lessons isn’t with ‘we need to talk’ conversations, but instead through subtle everyday interactions:

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He asks a question? I ask my son the question right back.

He wants to discuss a topic about which I know very little? I admit I don’t know and we research the facts as a team.

He asks for my help with something? I challenge him to resolve the problem by himself.

He asks for a tough answer regarding religion, politics, or sex? I don’t surround him with my own biases, but instead open the door for him to decide on his own.

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I realize this thinking is in the minority. A quick observation of other parents reveals a wide spectrum of techniques, many of which include healthy doses of indoctrination. That’s fine. It’s the way it always has been and always will be.

As for the G Man and I…we’ll be doing it our way.

We’ll have plenty of questions. But not always the answers.

We’ll be individuals, not clones.

And we’ll definitely invade Hyrule while wearing shoes.

Our new heavy metal album cover…

For more stories about me and the G Man, go here.

J Edward Neill

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Define “Fine”

THE GOOD PLACE — “Everything Is Fine” Episode 101– Pictured: Kristen Bell as Eleanor — (Photo by: Justin Lubin/NBC)

Fine – adjective – Of high quality

Fine – adverb – in a satisfactory or pleasing manner; very well

Both of these definitions lead me to believe that if you were to say that something was “fine” or that you thought the food was “fine” you would be paying it a compliment.

However, in my house there are two other definitions:

Fine – adverb – Adequate. Not great, but not bad. Ok.

That is my usage of Fine most of the time (pardon the rhyme). It is how I let someone know that the thing is pretty much average.

Fine – 4-letter word – See $#$%$ and @#$$#

That is how my wife hears the word. To her, it has become synonymous with terrible, bad, unfortunate, and about 100 other things which convey “BAD”. And no matter how much I’ve tried to explain myself – that I’m merely using it in lieu of saying things are OK – she doesn’t really believe it.

But here’s the thing: most things are just Fine to me.

When I go to a restaurant I can think of about 2-3 times where I was so blown away by the food I thought to myself that “this is the greatest X thing I’ve ever eaten”. I hear other people talk about restaurants and a particular cut of meat or a certain dish that they all say is the best in the city, the best in the state, oh, you have no idea how good it tastes.

It’s fine. It’s never as good as all of that. It’s decent enough. Never bad, but never mind-blowing. Just Fine.

(Maybe it is my taste buds. I don’t ever season things… I like fairly bland food.)

Or even when things turn the other way – maybe they food quality has decreased… eh, I bet it is still Fine, but you’ve convinced yourself it is the worst horrible really bad thing you could have encountered.

Most days of work are like that too. I try not to get too up or too down about the day job. I come in, do my work, and then I leave it all behind me as soon as I get to the car. And while there are certainly days I want to pull out my hair or days where I’m just not in the mood to work… most of the time it is just Fine.

Movies/TV Shows – Tons of them fall into this category. Books, too. Many times I’ve walked out of a movie and liked it enough, but if I wouldn’t tell you to rush out to see it… it’s probably just Fine, too.

Writing… my writing… I don’t want it to be fine. It doesn’t have to be spectacular or the next great American novel or any of that. I am by no means a perfectionist (or at least that is what I tell myself), but I need it to be better than OK. I think if you create anything you have to want it to be “More”. More than the previous book they read. More than the last meal they had. Just More.

So I struggle with word choice and sentences and read and reread things I’ve written and sometimes there is a passage or a chapter or even a couple of chapters where I recognize that the piece is better than Fine. That’s where, I think, you have to push yourself. You have to try to limit the number of Fine sections. You can’t be just “adequate”. You want to aspire to the very first definition… “Of High Quality”.

That is something worth aspiring to.

***

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

My Review of 75 Random Things – Part 2

My Review of 75 Random Things – Part 2

(Every item on this list was suggested by friends and strangers on the internet.)


Season 1 of the TV series ‘Fortitude’ Great acting. Super interesting buildup. Vastly disappointing ending.

Jack Daniel Honey – Not bad for a party drink. It’s mildly palatable and inexpensive. But once you try higher end whiskey, you’ll never want to drink Jack Daniel anything again.

The city of Chicago – I miss living there, but only during non-winter seasons, which means pretty much only half the year. I have a feeling I’ll end up returning there one day.

The Song ‘Too Many Dicks on the Dance Floor’ by Flight of the Conchords – Hilariously sums up trying to land a date by going clubbing.

Washing Dishes by Hand Instead of using a Dishwasher – Dishes get cleaner. Not much more work. Saves money. Ends arguments about how to stack dirty dishes. Sign me up.

Peeps – As a child, I loved Easter for the sole reason of devouring entire boxes of sugar-coated marshmallows. As an adult, same.

Putting Peeps into Burritos – No. Just no. Stop.

The TV Nature Series, Blue Planet – You think outer space is fascinating? Wait ’til you watch this series and see what lives on the ocean floor. Awesome, awesome show.

Russia’s Influence over the U.S. Election – I don’t know what they did. I don’t care. The kind of people influenced by stuff they read on Facebook? They were going to vote the same way regardless.

Dreadlocks – They look cool, but smell kinda like mildew.

Seat Warmers in Cars – For the ladies, I hear they’re great. But for guys, they burn warm all the wrong parts.

My New Cat ‘Bacon’ – Athletic. Mean. Bitey. Adorable.

Bacon, the bitey cat

My Recently Departed Cat, Sticky – Athletic. Scratchy. Sweet. Blind. And now she’s planted beneath a Japanese Maple tree.

Sticky laser eyes, fire!!

Text Messaging w/ Old People – Pretty much the most painful thing ever. Hurts my eyes to read the awkward things my dad types into his phone.

The Movie ‘Game Night’ starring Jason Bateman & Rachel McAdams – Pretty damn funny. I’ve come to realize anything with Jason Bateman will be good. Ditto Rachel McAdams.

Twizzlers – Yes. The perfect candy for…everything.

Aussie Licorice – It’s sticky like honey and tastes like engine oil. No thanks.

Sting (the musician) and his latest tour – Did you know tickets are $600? Nope.

Small Talk – Does anyone really want to talk about the weather? Or the latest TV show? Or how your cousin’s mom’s former roommate is doing? No. Let’s skip to something deeper, kay?

The Book ‘The Wise Man’s Fear’ by Patrick Rothfuss – I loved book one in the series ‘The Name of the Wind.’ But book two? Dreadfully slow. Wanders to strange places while making the main character utterly unlikeable.

DYI Plumbing – You might save thousands. Or you might end up doing your laundry in the backyard and taking showers using a teaspoon.

Robert Mueller – FBI Special Counsel – Sounds like the most difficult job in America. Dude gets slandered on a daily basis.

Ménage a Trois Wine – The California Red is good. The Rose is even better. The Silk and Dark varieties are pretty bad, kind of like drinking wine-drenched cotton balls.

The Introvert vs. Extrovert Discussion – It sometimes feels like an excuse for people to talk about themselves at length on the internet. It’s ok to be either or even both. Most people really don’t seem to care.

Cracker Barrel Pancakes – Too dry. Also, they’re super stingy with the syrup. Bring the whole bottle, baby.

The video series ‘The Lion’s Blaze’ – I will never be as flexible as the skinny dude. Never.

What. The. Fuck?

The Kids’ Movie ‘Early Man’ – Pretty funny. A bit sentimental, but refreshingly devoid of cynicism.

Drinking Organic Milk in place of Ordinary Milk – Prepare to spend a TON more on milk. But the flavor difference is worth every penny.

The Restaurant ‘Outback Steakhouse’ – Terrible, dry cuts of beef. You’d eat better steaks and save money just by pan-searing them at home.

James Veitch’s ‘This is what happens when you reply to spam’ comedy sketch – Freaking hilarious. We all want to do this, right?

Men Peeing While Sitting Down – Why would anyone want to sit on a toilet unless they absolutely had to?

The Art of Allen Williams – Dark and beautiful. He’s a wizard with graphite and a master of artistic anatomy. Just go here.

Fake Fingernails – Ladies, I have just one question. Why?

Beards – Love ’em. But had to shave mine off for the summer. Too warm for muggy days in the Georgia heat.

The Movie ‘Sicario’ starring Emily Blunt & Benicio del Toro – Probably the most intense movie I’ve ever seen. That ending…wow. You owe it to yourself to watch this late at night with zero distractions.

Angry Orchard Hard Cider – Good when on draft. Not particularly tasty out of a bottle.

The #_____LivesMatter Movements – My position is that no lives matter. Yes, really. None of us have any real value to the universe, so technically we should all treat each other equally. (But we never will.)

The Album ‘Kingdoms Disdained’ by Morbid Angel – Thumpy, ferocious, and superior to most metal albums of the modern era. Even so, not much variety within the album. Basically eleven very similar tracks.

The Theremin, a musical instrument – Weird and haunting. Search for ‘Armen Ra Theremin’ on Spotify and see where it takes you.

Clara Rockmore playing the theremin, publicity shot c. 1930

Finding Stray Girlfriend Hairs all over the House – Women shed more than cats. Or dogs. Or any mammal on Earth. I need a scientist to explain this phenomenon.

The Movie ‘Cloverfield Paradox’ – Not bad at all. Interesting premise, good actors, sharply suspenseful. But somehow in the end a bit unsatisfying. The whole experience feels like one big cliffhanger.

The Album ‘Sleep’ by Max Richter – Soft, serene music meant to help people relax and sleep. The tracks are repetitive and atmospheric, and yet soothing. I use this album for writing epic fantasy and sci-fi books, but if you’re an insomniac, you might want to try it for yourself.

Bras – If I were a woman, I’d like to let my ‘girls’ fly free. Ladies, you have my sympathies.

Aberlour Scotch – One of the smoothest, brightest, and flavorful scotches you’ll ever drink. Try the 16-year and live happily ever after. Here’s my complete rundown of the best scotches on the market.

The Movie ‘Swiss Army Man’ w/ Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe – It goes strange places right from the beginning and never truly comes back to something meaningful. That said, it has some pretty hilarious moments.

7-String Guitars – I don’t like playing on any other kind. Saves me the trouble of re-tuning my strings.

Bing (the search engine) – Sometimes I end up on Bing accidentally. I shudder and click right back to Google.

Homewood Suites Hotels – You’d be surprised by the number of active prostitute rings thriving in various Homewood Suites’ rooms. Yes, really.

Being an AuthorDon’t do it. Seriously. It’s not a path to happiness.

The Video Game ‘Super Mario Odyssey’ for the Nintendo Switch – My kid was alllll kinds of hyped up to play this. But after an hour or two, he came to the same conclusion I did while watching him play. Boring. Same old, same old. Everyone else loves this game. We don’t get it.

Yep. More of these guys.

The Renaissance Festival – Good, cheesy fun. Nightmarish parking. If you go, go when it’s cool outside.

Match.com – Boring

Plenty of Fish – Same as Match, but even duller

Bumble – Pretty damn good

Tinder – Gross

The Album ‘Thinking in Textures’ by Chet Faker – Smooth. Relaxing. Although not particularly inspiring.

Magic, the Gathering – The best game ever created. Great art. Great rules. Constantly evolving. Better to play face-to-face than over the internet, however.

Ketchup – Hey, if you like it, that’s ok. Some people get too uptight about other people’s condiments.

Teachers Carrying Guns in Schools – Do it if you want. Turn every school into the Wild West. My kid won’t be attending.

The Video Game ‘Ghost Recon Wildlands’ – Quietly one of the best shooting games ever made. Realistic, balanced, and addictive.

Bartenders Who Know Everything About Their Customers – A wise policy on the bartenders’ behalf to maximize tips. But I once knew a woman who told her bartender too much (she was cheating) while not realizing the bartender was BFF’s with her husband. Be careful what you talk about, people.

Anal Bleaching (Special thanks to the person who suggested this) – I get it for porn stars…sort of. I just want to know who came up with the idea in the first place. Sasha Grey?

The City of Deerfield Beach, Florida – If you like volleyball, sand, drinking, and pretty girls, you’ll love this neat little beach community.  If not, try Naples.

Deerfield Beach – See you on the sand!

Bangs – Easy hairstyle to maintain. But at what cost? 🙂

The Restaurant ‘PF Chang’s’ – The food is really good. The drinks are amazing. The wait-staff is bad. Really bad. And I’m the most merciful diner ever. The lesson? Don’t hire and underpay teenagers if you want to appear upscale.

School Shootings – They will continue ad infinitum. It’s who we are as Americans now. Knowing this, I won’t be sending my kid to public school. I suggest you rethink your kids’ education, as well.

Nude Body-Painting – It can be pretty cool, maybe even sexy. But definitely not in overheated rooms. And an age limit is advisable.

The #MeToo Movement – Every single woman I know has a horror story of sexual abuse. Every. Single. One. Which means a huge number of guys are involved. Scary, right?

The Album ‘Seasons in the Abyss’ by Slayer – The best heavy metal album ever made. Try not to bob your head during ‘Skeletons of Society.’

Melania Trump – She signed up to ride the Tilt-a-Whirl and ended up on the mother of all roller coasters.

Bagpipes – Well-played, they make beautiful, mournful music. Poorly-played, they seriously injure eardrums.

Kids Using Foul Language at Home – I’m cool with it. Sometimes. Words are just words. They’re harmless if you want them to be.

Ren & Stimpy – I’d like to personally thank this show’s creator John K. for guiding me through my early childhood. Here’s the complete collection. Worth every penny.

Cream of Wheat – Totally devoid of nutrition. Totally amazing when served with milk and honey.

Next Door Neighbors Who Walk Around Topless – If he can do it, so can I.

 



For the original ‘My Review of 75 Different Things,’ go here.

For my review of life and humanity in general, try this.

J Edward Neill