Parallels…

I was thinking about what I’m really doing when I’m writing a story. Obviously I’m putting pieces of a larger narrative together in what will hopefully be not only coherent, but also readable. But really I’m trying to do something else with the stories… I’m trying to answer a question for myself.

Why am I here?

What is my purpose?

What if I could change a decision I made long ago?

If I knew something terrible was going to happen, would I try to stop it… even if that meant putting myself through pain and heartache?

How much free will do we really have?

The big questions, the ones that philosophers have been asking in a much better fashion than I could ever try to do. They are trying to form an answer and so am I. My hope is that as I proceed I manage to gain those moments of discovery about the story but also about myself.

***

What if?

We all play this game in some way or another. We are caught in an endless thought experiment of what would happen if I had handled a situation differently. What if I had asked that person out? What if I’d gone to college in a different state? What if my parents never divorced? What if I never moved? Switched jobs? Fought for a relationship?

What type of person would I be if some of those things changed? Are we determined by our environment or are we predestined to act a certain way? What about the persons whose lives were are impacting? How do their lives change without us in them?

Image by John Hain from Pixabay

***

I think from the very first time I watched Groundhog Day, I was fascinated by a movie where so many of my questions were trying to be answered by the film. Where by the end of the film, Bill Murray has changed how he perceives the world and his place within it. He’s made himself a better version of what he was.

When I watched something like Mr. Destiny (look it up), we get to see a parallel world where Jim Belousi hit the big home run and his life changed completely.

He changed completely.  And not for the better. He learns that his old life is just fine for him.

When I watch It’s a Wonderful Life, we live Jimmy Stewart’s pain and joy only to see his life spiral out of control because of his good heart. As much as anything, the world around him is less for his absence.

***

Do you ever wake up to go about your day and feel something is off? It’s never anything you can put your finger on – something is just different. Your house, your car, the world?

Yourself?

Have your friends ever commented about an event as if you were there (when you clearly were not)? And then get mad at you when you say as much? Even going so far as to recruit others to inform you that you had indeed been there, whether you remember it or not.

<And since I don’t drink, that can’t be my excuse.>

Placed your keys in one place only to find them in another place later that day?

What if everyone else was wrong? What if you had fallen, passed through the fabric between parallel worlds? Could that happen?

What is the difference between some level of madness and a truth that is more insane than fiction?

***

What happens if you could relive your life?

What happens when the people you love no longer know who you are?

Who are you when you have memories of so many other versions of yourself?

I’ll be releasing The Echo Effect on September 30, 2020. It’s my attempt to answer that question of What If. It’s my attempt to see if things are really better in a different life. It’s my attempt to try and understand my own effect on the people around me.

I’m hoping you’ll join me on the ride.

***

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Giving Meaning to my Art

Hi there, everyone.

It’s been one hell of a year so far.

I’m not talking about the ‘Rona, the fires, the hurricanes, the end of the world.

I’m sticking to art, with which I’ve been obsessed for many years, but none so much as this one. While the world has been busy destroying itself, I’ve been locked away in my house, making a mess of things.

So today I want to share with you five of my favorite pieces. And with each piece, I want to talk about how it came into being and what the painting means to me.

It’s true…for some of the things I create, I don’t assign any specific meaning or purpose. I paint them as experiments, as challenges, or sometimes simply to keep my brush busy as I wait for true inspiration to strike me.

But for these five I’m sharing today, I really felt them. To me, these five are anything but meaningless. They define the last year of my life.

So then…

Let’s begin…


*

Painting # 1 – The Unheaven

*

It was a dark and stormy night. No really, it was. I’d just finished a long week of painting huge, complex pieces, and frankly I was worn out. You know that place your mind goes when you’ve hit a creative wall? Or really, a wall of any kind? Yeah. That’s where I was at. I was tired. I was dead.

The plan?

To take a few days off, regroup, and come back to the canvas with a refreshed sense of inspiration.

But it’s funny how the universe works. Sometimes, while wandering the shadowed realm between exhaustion and furious self-examination, we stumble upon rare moments of insight. It happened to me that night. The windows and doors to my little house were wide-open, and the sounds of the night pouring in. My young son was fast asleep, and I, weary and wanting to rest, wandered blearily to my painting cabinet.

It was then a question struck me. What if…all our preconceptions set aside…the idea of Heaven isn’t what we think? What if Heaven is not what we want it to be? What if, instead of angels and sunshine, feasts and Valkyries, the afterlife is something else entirely?

Out came the reds, the bronzes, the blacks, the golds, and the muted ivories. Within a few hours, well past midnight, I’d manifested an alternate view of Heaven. It was a lonely place. A place of eternal waiting. A place in which the souls of the departed rested alone, longing for the Heaven they’d been promised in life.

It might be that you look at this piece and see nothing so deep. You might see just a tree, some curtains, a stony floor, and a horseshoe crab-looking moon thing. That’s fine by me.

But personally, I dreamed of a place in the afterlife none of us would ever dare anticipate.

And so it was – The Unheaven.

 


*

Painting # 2 – Grove of Many Moons

*

It was the opposite of a dark and stormy night… 🙂

Long after finishing The Unheaven, I awoke on a pleasant summertime Saturday. Again, the windows were open and the air flowing in, but this time the sunshine was glorious, and the rain entirely absent. It was the kind of morning everyone enjoys, even me, the dark Bob Ross. (Credit to Twitter for the cute nickname.)

For Grove of Many Moons, I created a background of greens and blacks, empty but for a few distant trees. The process took several hours, many of which were me waiting for the acrylic layers to dry in the sun. While soaking up the warm air wafting into my kitchen, I started thinking about the many phases of life, the many places we go not physically, but in our minds. And I pondered how, even though we may wander far and wide of where we intended to go, we always tend to return home. Home being our personal center, our individual sanctuary of thought and imagination.

We move in phases, we humans. We roam in our dreams. We change even as we remain the same. Our roots are our bodies, but our minds are as free as the wind, as limitless as the night sky.

In a way, we’re like the moon.

I finished this one late at night the next Sunday, but the weather never changed. It stayed warm and glorious until I was done. And then the rain arrived.


 

*

Painting # 3 – Furnace of the Fallen

*

Now let’s get dark again.

People who know me know I’m not a political or religious human. At all. What goes on in the larger world largely generally doesn’t concern me. If we as a people are going to thrive, destroy ourselves, or something in-between, it’s ultimately not up to me (or any one person.) That’s not to say I don’t care, just that I acknowledge my smallness. Like Carl Sagan said of humanity on Earth, the pale blue dot… ‘That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives … on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.’

But…

That said…

Not being involved doesn’t mean I don’t notice things. And naturally, how I express and process the workings of the larger world is done on canvas. With paints. Usually dark colors.

And so arrived Furnace of the Fallen. This piece is how, for at least the space of one weekend, I imagined our future. The great dark towers of our vast, powerful cities, hollowed out and left to decay in shadow. The fumes of our manufactured world, choking out the sun. The blues and greens of nature, muted and turned to metal.

You get the point.

I’m not always a nihilist, but when I am, I paint it.

🙂


*

Painting # 4 – Moonbringer 

*

What if we could close our eyes and go anywhere? Not just in our minds, but literally.

Where would you go?

What would you do?

Moonbringer came to life one evening when I was completely alone. My son was away, the music was softly playing (no midnight death metal-a-thon this time) and the ideas flowed like wine. I tried to think of a place I’d want to go, and of a means to get there. The idea of a portal and a fantastical forest immediately came to mind.

From the start, this large piece felt utterly fantastical. The color scheme, the twisty trees, the totems with runic writing…it all felt otherworldly. And on that night, otherworldly was exactly what I wanted.

Where would I go? Probably another planet.

What would I do? Probably wander the forest and look for food.

Of all the paintings from this year, Moonbringer was probably the one during whose creation I had the most fun. I really let my brush do as it willed. No rules. No structured plan. I really imagined myself leaping through the portal and into a world that hasn’t yet been discovered.


*

Painting # 5 – Seizing Heaven

*

What if every plant, tree, and blade of grass on earth reached not for the sun, but for something much higher?

This was the question I asked myself while creating one of my biggest ever pieces, Seizing Heaven. My state of mind on the morning I began work on it was focused. Typically, I’ll let the brush do what it wants, but with this painting I hunkered over the canvas for endless hours, obsessing over every detail, every pinprick of light, every shadow.

These trees aren’t just reaching for the light. They want to conquer it. Earthbound for millennia, they’re grasping skyward with glorious aim. They’re impeded by the wind, the clouds, and the sheer magnitude of the vast power for which they hunger.

But no matter. They, like so many living, breathing people, have a desire that is unquenchable.

The trees are us.

The great light in the sky? It’s the thing for which we all reach, whether a goal, a place, or a state of thought. It’s different for every one of us.

* * *

Hopefully you enjoyed this sliver of insight. I don’t always feel deeper meaning when I touch brush to canvas, but sometimes I do…and it overtakes me until I finish.

Until next time…

J Edward Neill

*

 

 

The Push

Sometimes we need that little something extra to get us through the hard times. For so many of us that’s what this year has been. It is both the slowest year I’ve ever been through and weirdly at other times it has gone by in a flash.

Now we’re into the back half, and almost to the back third. All those things each and every one of us said we were going to get done over the course of this year way back in January… we’ll, we’re running out of time. And in these last 4 months we can’t feel like we have to do every single thing on the list. That’s probably not the way to handle things. Aside from being impossible to fit in 12 months into 4, we have to allow for the craziness to be there still.

I’m going to release a book in a few weeks… one that the first draft was done almost 6 years ago. I have taken multiple passes on it. It’s the second solo thing I,be written and while I’m very happy to put it out into the world there is something that is strange about releasing anything.

there is a fear that no one will like it.

Hence the Push.

I was going to release this back in April… that was The plan. Then the world went nuts and now I have to have a new plan. And that’s good. I have to keep moving forward. And it is time for people to see this latest thing.

Sometimes we need to push and sometimes we get pushed… but we have to strive to improve and to move on with what is important to us.
At least, that’s what I believe.

 

So I get to be excited and scared and everything else. And maybe that won’t always be the case but for now it is.

In the coming weeks, I’ll have stories about writing the book, things I learned, and just general thoughts on everything. I’m looking forward to sharing all of that with you.

***

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

How To Get Published Panels

I was looking at my list of blogs I’d sketched out back in December. I don’t normally do that, but sometimes it’s not so easy to figure out what a particular week’s blog may end up being about. So I decided to plan some out. I glanced at it today and realized that there were supposed to be a few convention reviews on there, but seeing as conventions have all pretty much been canceled, that’s not going to happen

But then I realized that even not going to a convention, there are similar things that I’ve heard at the How to Get Published In Comics style panels over the years.

Here’s the thing, I’ve been reading comics since I was 11. I started writing adventures of some of my own characters around this very same time in a blue notebook that I still have. Yeah, they were highly influenced by the Marvel comics I read at the time, and looking back there is very little in the way of story. More of this guy fights this guy and then stuff happens.

But wanting to write comics has been in my blood since back then. In high school, I wrote up an Image Comics style pitch and full script (even if I didn’t know what that was supposed to really be) for a character called Knightmare (see, he was a Knight, but also would deal with supernatural things… things that go bump in the “Night” – I’m so clever). Another time I entered a Wizard Magazine contest to write a Captain America story… I never even got a rejection letter for that one.

It all seemed like this nebulous idea. How do you get into comics? How do you break-in, especially when you can’t even draw stick figures? So when I really started going to conventions, I pretty much would always go to the panels that talked about Breaking In. Finally! Here was the secret formula for getting my big toe in the door. Yet, they typically didn’t have that “How to guide” that I was hoping for.

Heck, one of them once said (I can’t remember which writer said it) “The joke in the industry is that once someone breaks into comics, they close that door so no one else can get in the same way.

Most of them seemed to be summed up in a couple of sentences:

  • Time is the hardest thing to come by.
  • You learn by doing it.
  • Finish the dang thing.

And then? Who knows? Some people got in because they lived in New York. Some got in because they knew someone. And one writer got in because he worked in a coffee shop and a comic writer was one of his customers and they hit it off.

None of these things are very helpful (well, the first three are helpful in getting better).

Other panels at times were much more South Parkian:

  • Draw something
  • ???
  • Profit

There was a lot fo talk (in some of the Indy comic panels as well) where they brought up social media, but even that wasn’t overly helpful:

  • It’s important.
  • You need to do it.
  • Just do it.
  • It’s important.

All of these suffer from the same problem: there is never much in the way of details. Like what exactly are we supposed to be doing? One person mentions Twitter and then three others say they never use it. One person mentions Instagram and 2 others say you need to be an artist for that to work. Others say Facebook and then a bunch mention that is only for “real” friends.

Where are the examples? The helpful guides? What are the steps that you took? What are the postings you did that made ripples? What times did you post where it was better than other times?

Of course, then they shrug and say “just keep at it” and you’ll see!

Details are what is lacking. We speak in generalities about things that aren’t ethereal, plucked from when the world was new. Give me a step by step. What did you do?

And yes, not everything is going to work for everyone, but there is a roadmap you could at least give people, even if the edges are filled in completely and the scale is wrong.

A couple of Dragon Cons ago there was a panel on publishing through one of the Indy comics. In it, I learned that the best way to get an Indy book is to work for Marvel and DC first.

Blink… blink…

So get into the places that NO ONE can tell me how to get into, just so I can potentially work with one of the Indies? How does that make sense?

Here’s the thing, I don’t know the answers. I know there are things I should have done (probably), but who knows? Really, who knows? So my own answers based on nothing but feeling a little better about my own efforts:

  • Write something.
  • Finish that something.
  • Say f-it and figure out a way to publish it yourself.

At this point, with Kickstarter, you can potentially do it. Save money to hire an artist if you are a writer. If you are an artist, maybe befriend one of us writers to have an extra set of eyes. But put it out there. You sitting on your product isn’t going to do anything for you. And it is hard to push the publish button. It’s hard to be out there in front of people potentially having them hate what you’re doing. But it’s better than the alternative of not doing something.

As to dreams of writing for the Big 2… yeah, maybe, but at the very least I’m doing something. That’s a start.

***

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

COVID Through the Eyes of A Cat

I wonder if my cats think that I’ve lost my wits (and writing the following blog only cements that idea).

Over the weekend, we visited with the in-laws and my step-father in-law mentioned that our cats didn’t like him. I replied, they slept with you while you napped in the chair! He shook this statement off, so I ended it with “Well, they like us!”

Overall, though, both Westley and Inigo are very friendly cats. Now over ten years old, they are the type who will initially hide when guests come over but shortly thereafter are in the middle of the room demanding some level of attention from the trespassers.

When it comes to my wife and me, it goes to another level. Most nights when I sit at the computer I am offered company by one of them. Sometimes they tag team, allowing a brief respite from entertaining the big guy for a little while. My wife has worked from home for over two years now, so I think they’ve gotten used to her being here. Typically they hang out upstairs (where her desk sits) trying to find a sunbeam in one of the bedrooms.

During this pandemic, I’m now home pretty much all the time. And on top of this fact, I don’t bore very easily. My problem has always been that there is never enough time to do everything I’d like to do. I want to write and read and play games and watch movies and tv and have time with the wife and… so being at home isn’t the prison sentence more extroverted people are dealing with.

Funny Cat Work From Home Office Meme

But the cats clearly don’t know what to do because I’m here all the time. I’ve been working from home for two months now, and the pair of them have adapted to my being home treating it as a now foregone conclusion that I am always home with them. The old world is shattered and this new one is all there is/was/ever will be. If I leave to go outside for a walk I am scolded by Westley upon my return. A series of meows which signify “How dare you leave this house!?! I did not give you permission for such things!” Days meld together so that every day must be the weekend in their eyes.

I can only imagine that they think I am just changing the time from when I normally sit at the desk from night-time to literally all day. I wonder if they wonder whether I still have a day job. Will there still be food in their bowl in the morning? Is he ever going to get up and give me more treats? Can’t he see I’ve been good all day? Heck, he’s been here all day!

Yet, even after spending all that time during the day, I’m sitting here typing up this blog, and Westley is resting on the desk beside me. Inigo visited me a little while ago before going into the bedroom with my wife and curling up on the bed.

Now I can only imagine what they’ll think when it is time for me to go back into the office on a regular basis.

***

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

Why Dwell on the Bad?

My wife and I are avid Survivor fans. Enough so that a couple of years ago I wrote a breakdown of how I saw ways to play the game. Last week was the season finale of their 40th season which saw 20 past winners come back to play the game against each other. To say it was a great season was an understatement. While the regular games with all new players tend to play out in somewhat similar fashion at the beginning (get to know each other, build a shelter, try hard as hell not to lose the first challenge, etc.) there is still that unknown ahead of each of them. No one knows who the others are so you have to feel things out. Maybe you immediately click with another person only to find out they’ve already rubbed people the wrong way. What do you do? Are you going to risk your game on a relative stranger?

But with previous players and especially former winners, you have a different dynamic unfolding. Each of them kinda knows each other. Sure, some of the early players may not really know the newer players, but all of them know exactly what it took for each of them to get a win in the game. They know how important certain alliances were to their well-being and how sometimes one mistake can completely sink your game.

And that was very interesting to see play out on our television. The idea of a mistake being made where you want to shout at the screen: “No! Stop! You aren’t going to come back from this!”

This has existed in the game since the beginning and is pretty much in most other games you may play. Had that been the only thing that I noticed through this watch, then I would have maybe filed it away and moved on, but during the finale there was something said that really spoke to me as a human and definitely as a writer:

One of the players made mention that she dwelt on the bad things for far too long, but that she didn’t have to. She shouldn’t do that. It’s baggage around her neck that she’s carried around throughout her life for the last few years.

But that idea of dwelling on the bad things is exactly what so many of us do in our daily lives. We never give ourselves permission to dwell on the GOOD that might have occurred.

***

Courtney and I, prior to the pandemic, played poker pretty much every week. Occasionally we’d win the night and those were things we did celebrate. But on a regular night where maybe we finished 3rd out of 50 people are we normally happy that we did so well? Or is the ride back thinking about that one or two hands that we could have/ should have played completely differently?

“Why didn’t I make that call? I’d won a huge pot!”

“Why did I make that call? It was so stupid. What else could they have had but the nuts?

“Why did I bet so much? It scared them.

“Why didn’t I bet more? They stuck around and sucked out on me.

And so on.

***

In writing, sometimes it is all about the next accomplishment. So much of what you might be doing is on a fairly long timeline. It could be weeks, months, or years (or decades even) where you are tolling away. Chapter by chapter passes by and you think very little of it. Maybe you set your mini-goals at word counts and when you finally hit 25%, 50%, or 75% of the book being done it is a small fist pump or maybe a slight mention to the wife. But then there is the next milestone to hit and so we can’t dwell on that.

However, if you haven’t been able to get inspired or the words are a little slower coming or maybe you’ve just worked too much over the last few weeks so your word count is in the gutter… well, you live in that world where you are behind.

“I haven’t written that much.”

“I am so far behind my goals.”

“Did you see how much that other person has written in the last months. What the hell is wrong with me?”

DWELLING in the BAD.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

***

Celebrate the wins.

You wrote 200 words last night. Great! You are 1% closer to your book being done. You finished a chapter! Great! Take that moment. You finished the book! Don’t think about all the other things you still have to do (edits, writing the sequels, what if no one buys the damn thing, and so on).

No. Celebrate the wins. Wallow in them for a little while longer. Because there will always be something to dwell on if you want. Those little mistakes or the big ones… they are going to happen regardless. Instead, give yourself permission to be happy for a change.

Celebrate the wins.

***

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

Repost – Brought to you by Yellow #5

Occasionally, I like to reach back into the archives to repost something from waaay back when. That time after Tessera had just started, and I was blogging about anything I could think of. The following was one of my very first blogs (maybe a month into blogging at this point). It’s all about how sometimes you are just in for a very bad day.

***

With it being Thanksgiving Week, I figured this was a good time for me to reflect on what I’m thankful for. However, this particular thing is not a person or a place, but a moment in time that could have gone all sorts of sideways on me. So, sit back on this pre-turkey day and take a stroll to March/April 1999.

It was during my last year at Georgia Tech, at the end of Winter Quarter… finals week. I don’t know how many finals I had that quarter, I believe 4, and of course, I had 2 scheduled on that Friday.

finalsweek-kitty-photo

Which wasn’t supposed to happen. The policy at Tech was that you only should have 1 final per day. They figured, smartly, that you were under enough stress studying for a test that would pretty much make or break your grade, so why complicate things with trying to study for 2 at once. And let me tell you, I tried to get one of them rescheduled for earlier in the week. I begged and pleaded, and each of the professors told me that I needed to talk with the other one as “Their class took precedence”. After banging my head against that wall, I sucked it up and took my medicine like a good boy.

I don’t remember what the classes were, nor do I remember how long I was up the night before (heck, the week before). What I do remember is that feeling of relief as soon as I finished that second test. I walked out of the classroom feeling both the extreme fatigue, but also filled with a warm feeling knowing that I was that much closer to being done with school (I would graduate at the end of the year). The Mountain Dew surging through my veins had managed to keep me awake long enough. So, I begin driving back to my apartment in Decatur, Georgia.

mountain_dew

Again, I don’t recall much of the drive until I got into the city limits. Only 1 mile away from my place I come to a stop at a red light. All I want at this point is to go and take a nap and not wake up until sometime on Sunday. My body ached, my brain ached, and my eyes ached. The light seemed to go on forever, but with the free time afforded to me suddenly, I took a glance into my rearview mirror…

And saw one of Decatur Police’s finest behind me. Now I pass the Police Station almost on a daily basis. Never worried about it…

Until right then.

What’s the problem you ask? Well, there was one other thing that happened to me prior to my double finals. My poor Pontiac Sunbird was in the shop (I was just hoping to get through school with it, figuring once I got a job I could get a new car). Courtney, my girlfriend at the time (and my wife now) was going to Cancun on Spring Break. She made me a deal (she loves to make deals, her nickname is Monty Haul): I can use her car for the week if I take her to the airport (or perhaps it was to MARTA) at some ungodly hour in the morning. Not having much of a choice, I agreed. As I dropped her off she said these fateful words:

“Hey, if you get a chance, could you swap out my tag, I haven’t done that yet.” (She placed the physical tag in the passenger seat so I wouldn’t forget.)

“Sure.”

Oh, and if you don’t know, her birthday is in December…

And it was now late March/early April.

And the tag still hadn’t been changed.

Anyway! Flashback to me in the car with the cop behind me.

Please don’t notice, please don’t notice…

cop_car_crop380w

The light turns green. I press on the gas and the red lights flicker on behind me.

Damn.

I pull the car over on the next side road. Annoyed. Nervous.

Oh, and the window on her car did not work (did I mention that this Honda Civic from the stone ages was effectively a lemon?). So I have to open the door when he approaches. I’m sure that got his Spidey Sense tingling.

“Do you know why I pulled you over?”

I did.

“I’m assuming it is due to the expired tag?”

“Yes.”

“Look, it is right here. This is my girlfriend’s car. I’m on my way home and I was going to change it.”

When I handed him my license and insurance card my hand was shaking. Visibly shaking. The kind of shaking where you realize that it is shaking and the more you try to stop it from doing it, the more it continues…

Shaking.

“Why is your hand shaking son?”

Because I’m running on about 4 hours of sleep for the week. Because I have enough Mountain Dew in me that my blood is yellow and not red. Because my brain is fried from taking two finals in one day.

I did not say any of those things.

“I don’t know.”

“Please step out of the car, son.”

A second police car pulls up at this point.

“May I search your vehicle?”

Yeah, I’ve got nothing to hide. I’ve never done drugs. I’m not drunk.

“Sure”.

NOOOOOO! What are you thinking? This isn’t your car. You don’t know who Courtney might have had in the car. Yeah, you trust her, but what if they stuffed something under the seats?

Well, too late now.

The second cop pulls me aside while the first begins to go through the car, my backpack, glove compartment, trunk, etc. I joke that Courtney is going to get an earful after this. A few minutes later, the first cop calls me back over. Stacked in a nice row on top of the car are pills of various shapes and sizes.

Loose-Pills

Courtney was notorious for opening her pill bottle and having them go flying about the car. She never cleaned them up, so the floorboards were littered with various pills. If you knew her, it was no big deal.

These guys don’t know her.

“What are these?”

I looked at them, fear in the pit of my stomach.

“Those are herbal diet supplements my mom sells.”

“Those are my girlfriend’s epilepsy medicine.”

Those I have no idea what they are.

“I think those are more epilepsy medicine.”

And then came the words I never hope to hear again…

“This will go a lot easier on you if you just tell the truth.”

What!?! But I am… I don’t… WHAT!?!

“Are you on something? Speed?”

“No, sir. I don’t do drugs.”

“And this diet pill, if we call your mom and she comes down to the station she’d confirm that?”

I don’t think I was trying to be a smart-ass, but…

“Well sir, she’s in Richmond, Virginia.”

A third cop pulled up (I am not kidding). Apparently it was a slow day in the City of Decatur. That or I was Walter White 10 years before Breaking Bad… or would that make me Jessie?

At this point, I was led to the first officer’s police car and placed in the back seat.

A couple of observations:

Not a ton of legroom. Guess they shouldn’t be all that concerned about whether the criminals are comfortable. Still, I’m 6’5″ and I was kissing my knees.

This was the first and only time I’m ever been in the back of a police vehicle (I’m hopeful that this remains true for a very long time). I missed that opportunity earlier in my life by 15 minutes back in high school (another story for another holiday).

While the 3 officers searched the car, ran my information, and made me sweat, three songs played on the radio. I wish I could say that I remember them (my guess is that there was a Red Hot Chili Pepper’s song since they are the bane of my existence and 99x played them about every 5th song), but my brain focused on the various scenarios where my future mother and father-in-law would have to come bail me out of jail.

My friend Egg’s voice popped into my ear, “John, they’re cops. They can do anything they want.”

Later, when I relayed this story to my sister, she said, “You do realize that there was probably a drug deal going on within 100 yards of you and yet they are harassing you.”

My Dad said, “Well, you did fit the profile. 20-something, expired tags, beat-up car.”

So about 10 minutes pass and the first cop comes around to the door and opens it up.

“Get out.”

I stood up as he handed me my information (along with the tag).

“We’re done, for now. Get that tag changed.”

“Yes, sir.”

Drive that last mile home. Go upstairs and grab my tools and CHANGE THE DAMN TAG.

Georgia_2007_license_plate

It was only at that point did my pounding heart begin to slow down.

A small postscript to this story. That night, Courtney called me to tell me she was in Cancun. By this point, I’d relayed the story to my roommate and to another friend, so it was becoming something funny (Comedy is just tragedy from a distance). So I started telling her about it. I was about 1/3 of the way into the story when I heard her start balling on the other end of the phone. “I’m so sorry!” over and over. I felt so bad about making her cry I don’t think I ever really gave her the business about the incident in the first place.

I guess I still owe her for that fun experience.

But, yeah, I’m (very, extremely, beyond, etc.) thankful that I didn’t go to jail that day.

Happy Thanksgiving!

***

While Thanksgiving is a while off, I hope you and yours are staying safe. Thanks for reading!

***

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

 

Puzzles

This writing thing… is a bit of a guessing game. I don’t mean guessing what will work or what won’t work. I don’t mean trying to figure out what someone else might want from a novel. I don’t even mean trying to figure out how to actually sell the thing you’ve crafted.

(Yes, all of that is both a guessing game and potentially something you can influence with the right pushes in various directions.)

I mean trying to figure out when your brain may be ready to actually get down and do some writing on a project. Or potentially guessing whether the current story is going to be replaced in your mind by the shiny object over in the corner… you know, that story you aren’t actively writing? Yeah, it is 100x more exciting that what you are currently doing. Even the act of sitting down and plotting out a story, you just never know if and where the inspiration is going to come from.

If you were to put me in a time machine and go back 20 years before I’d ever really gotten serious about any writing endeavors, none of the ideas I’m currently working on would have been in my brain at that point in time. Not a one.

Now I have ideas that have sat around from those just out of college days, but other things have excited me more. Other things that represent some level of a challenge.

See, the thing is, it is all like a big puzzle.

***

During the Shelter in Place, I finally went up into my comic book closet and brought down a puzzle that we’ve had for years (at least 2 or 3 but maybe as many as 10 years). The box had sat in a closet, sealed, and really was something that disappeared from my mind until I started seeing these other people on social media sites show off the puzzles they were building. So we broke it out and began working.

My wife was there for the start. She did a bunch on the first couple of days, but as things progressed (or didn’t progress on some days) her attention span and desire faded.

Me, I’m stubborn. And we had 200 pieces of a 750 piece puzzle (which those who do 1000 piece works… that may be out of my reach after this one). I would sit down and work on it some evenings. I started to bring the iPad over to play movies while I worked.

Until… finally… last night I finished.

***

Puzzles have these pieces that can seem like they are a lock to go into one area only to have you realize that you were looking at the wrong part of the picture and it really fits perfectly into this other spot.

Stories are the exact same. You have an idea and you’re excited to figure out where it is going to lead you. You make notes, you grab pictures from the internet to help inspire you, you see some patterns, and force others… but the edges never quite fit right.

You can leave those rough ones in there, but part of the job is figuring out when something just isn’t a fit for what you’re doing.

And it is a true guessing game… a feel for what may or may not be the correct answer.

***

There are other pieces to figure out. How to release a book/story/comic into the world. How to get people to pay attention to it. How to get people to read what you’ve written.

Always more edges to smooth out to make sure the picture comes into focus.

***

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

My Multifarious Take on Coronavirus and Artistic Isolation

*

*

See that guy in the desert?

That’s me.

Sort of.

Ok. Not really. I honestly just liked the image.

My calendar, the one in my kitchen with the Hubble photos, the stars, and the big, red, fiery galaxy, says today is April something or other. The year 2020. It suggests today rests in the heart of spring. That, today being a weekday, I should be off at my corporate day-job, and that instead of sitting in the quiet gloom of my peaceful little house, I should be pounding my life away in a turbulent office, selling machines to men I’ve never met.

But no.

I’m here. At home. Working. Writing. Painting. Listening to the birds. Watching my cat, Bacon, scale the woodshed. Waiting for my son to thump down the stairs and ask for his morning breakfast of apples and Cocoa Pebbles.

I gotta say…

This isn’t how I expected this year to begin.

And honestly, I’m torn about how it’s going. Like a piece of paper. Right down the middle. Half a sheet wants the quarantine to end tomorrow (but not for life to return to normal.) The other half wants this situation, this peace, to last…forever.

I should probably explain.

*

Part I – The Day Job

You see…it’s like this. The corporate life I described, the selling of industrial machines…it’s been my life for twenty years now. Every day, I abandon (I mean, used to abandon) the comforts of my little house to journey across a major city, drop my son off at school, snare meals when I could, and park my butt in the same chair in the same office, doing the exact same work I’ve always done.

Soulless work, as it happens.

Machines. Metal. Money.

Profitable? Yes.

Stressful? Extremely.

Easily performed from the comfort of my kitchen? Absolutely.

And so now I ponder…

All the years I’ve put in, all the hours in traffic, all the money thrown toward fuel, meals on the go, daycare, school…

All the time lost, the driving, the wear and tear on my trusty car, the exhaustion, the working all day just to collapse in a heap and do it all over the next day…

Because of Coronavirus, because of a disease which has disrupted the flow of everything, suddenly I’m awake. I’m alive. I’m breathing. I’m at home, doing my work in a pool of sunshine, dressed comfortably, glancing out the window at a car I haven’t had to refuel in a month, peering over at my son as he merrily reads his first Tolkien novel – The Hobbit.

Again…this is not what I expected.

As I sit here, basking in soft music, I ask myself – what have I been doing all these years? Why, if I could’ve been doing this work at home (I could have…and been far more productive than while in a distant office) have I garbage-canned two decades of life? Why have any of us, with our wifi, laptop computers, and cell phones, played this absurd game?

I don’t have the answers.

But I do know this:

Now, instead of arriving home after dark every night, a hungry child in tow, an empty bank account, my gas tank on ‘E’, and my shoulders sagging…

…I paint.

To be fair, I’ve always painted. Always. On weekends. During holidays. I took entire vacation weeks, not to leave the house for a sandy beach, but to lock myself indoors and make art. Or write books. Or both.

And now, I paint every day. Without losing hours to a daily commute, I’m free to step away from my corporate work at day’s end and immediately begin creating. Suddenly, what was once weekend adventuring has become my primary source of everything. Income. Happiness. Stress relief. Freedom. I’ve regained a huge chunk of my life. I feel alive.

…because of Coronavirus.

Yes, that same thing which has killed tens of thousands, that disease which fills the supermarkets with Coronazombies, has somehow become a boon to me. And that’s a little messed up, isn’t it? That I should experience a renaissance while thousands of others are struggling. That I should be at peace while my neighbors just up the street can’t pay their mortgage.

A better man might feel guilty. He might look at himself in the mirror and say, “Your peace of mind comes at the price of others’ pain.”

But I don’t have it in me. I can’t feel guilt for no longer wanting to participate in the corporate merry-go-round of work-sleep-work. If I could (and I may yet find a way) I would give a portion of my pay to those who actually need to go into work. To the builders. The makers. The laborers. They should make more. And maybe when this is over, they will. But for me, who can literally do my work while loincloth-clad and sitting atop a grassy hill in the middle of nowhere, I question the whole point of offices. Of cubicles. Of traffic. Of executives flying across the world every day…when the meeting could’ve just been an email.

It’s madness.

And I’m grateful to, at least for the moment, have escaped it.

I’m just sorry it took a pandemic to make this possible.

*

Part II – Love Distance Love

In case I made it seem like it’s all strawberries and cream, allow me to elucidate.

It isn’t.

There’s a girl, you see.

And she lives 770 miles away.

It’s how life goes, isn’t it? For every see there’s a saw. For every up, a down. In this case, for as fortunate as I’ve been to awaken to a better life because of the quarantine, I’ve been unlucky in this crucial way.

I have no way of seeing the love of my life.

For many reasons, it’s impossible right now. Her city and mine have enforced rigorous lockdowns. We both have children who need us to stay put. While I’m locked away in artistic hermitude with my one son, she’s virtually imprisoned with her entire family, seven people, in a small rural household.

In the best of times, long-distance love is hard. Actually, hard isn’t the word. I prefer the term ‘routinely heartbreaking.’ The one person I want to see more than any other (my son notwithstanding) is the one person I can’t get to. Folks online wisecrack that their marriages might not endure the quarantine, that they might go insane spending all day with their spouse, their kids, their domestic life…and here I am, wishing I could just have a few hours, a few days, a quick break in the fabric of Corona-tude in which to hold hands with my love.

So for all my pontificating about how legendarily wonderful it is to have escaped corporate servitude, I’m torn. Like paper. In half.

With the pandemic, I’m free to live, to breathe, to exist outside the wasteful and traffic-riddled rituals of office life.

But with the quarantine, I can’t do the one thing I most desire.

I can’t look her in the eyes. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not likely for a long, long while.

I used to joke with her that we were like a military couple. One of us would get a moment’s leave from our batallion and use it to spend a few days with the other. But now it feels like a war has broken out, and that the best we can do is to write each other letters from distant battlefields. Words on a page, photos on a phone…they’re quite lovely, yet hardly a substitute for a moonlit walk, a kiss, or a shared meal.

First-world problems, right? That’s what I tell myself. People are out there struggling to pay their bills, mourning the loss of loved ones, and dying…and I’m sitting here in shorts, working from the most pleasant office in the world, soaking up the morning sun.

But even so…

…this strange balance of good fortune and heart-rending separation…

…I won’t say it’s easy.

*

Part III – Artistic Liberation

Ultimately, all this time alone might be accidentally ideal.

If I can’t yet see my girl, and if corporate life doesn’t have to be its typically grueling thing for the moment, I have but one choice…

Create.

More than ever before.

It’s been three weeks so far. Three weeks of isolation from everyone in the world except an eight-year old boy (who, much to my amazement, is a quiet, thoughtful bookworm.)

Three weeks of artistic hermitude.

And it promises to last a while longer.

While the world ruminates, and while everyone who’s not me craves a swift return to normal societal life (‘Why?’ I would ask) I’ve essentially started an art commune. In my kitchen and garage. For one. Paintings are flying off my brush, and flying off my walls. Thank goodness for art-lovers, collectors, and people who support local business. With their support, I’ve reached a joyous place.

I get to create.

I get to support myself with my creations.

I get to improve my craft, and enjoy the sort of peace I haven’t felt since…ever.

When corporate life reboots (And being the capitalistic nature of America, it will) I won’t have to go back. I’ll have a choice. With the strange set of circumstances surrounding Coronavirus, and the partial crumbling of yesteryear’s surprisingly fragile economy, I’ve been impossibly fortunate. I’m as grateful as one human can be. I also feel a sense of great responsibility, not to rest on my laurels and soak up the freedom, but to work harder than ever. To paint more. To write better books. To educate my son without indoctrinating him. To make no waste. To leave a tiny footprint (carbon or otherwise) on the world.

To both thrive and honor this existence.

So…

Yes, maybe I am the guy in the desert. Maybe I really am striding alone atop a sandy dune.

But it’s ok.

Despite everything, I count myself as one of the luckiest guys in the universe.

However, if anyone wants to kidnap my girl and bring her to me, the first ten paintings are free…

*

*

*

Stay safe out there.

*

J Edward

*

Join my one-man art commune here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little Moments

In times of craziness, where none of us knows where things will be in a month or six or a year, it’s been interesting/difficult/weird/fucked up/all of the above plus a thousand other things. I hope that each of you are staying safe the best you can.

***

I’m supposed to be writing, but I’m not. I’ve distracted myself again with some various Youtubers talking about anything and everything from Magic the Gathering to Comic Book Stores and the Virus (and how are they going to survive) to Pitch Meeting videos. I’m supposed to be putting words onto the screen, but I can’t stay focused. Too much real life.

I saw a meme at the beginning (or at least nearish the beginning of all of this) where it said that… well, let’s just go and find it… ok, I apparently can’t find it. Anyway, it said that you should be using this time to learn a new skill, a language, etc. And I saw it and thought – yeah, that’s a great idea. People will have a ton of time on their hands and they could use it constructively. Heck, even though I’m still working (thankfully) from home, I should have a little bit more time in the day where I’m not driving into the office to get some additional words on the screen.

But… it… is… hard…

My brain reads too much of the stuff online. It sees too much of the world “stuff” and suddenly I only want to be distracted from all that “stuff”. So I turn to familiar things – I watch Firefly and Community episodes to put me in a good mood.

How do you write something that is supposed to be any good when your brain wants to play squirrel all day?

And this isn’t Writer’s Block – for me, that’s where the words won’t come just because. These are external forces playing with everyone’s emotions.

***

I get some words on a novel I’m working on… have been working on, off and on for a couple of years. I’m getting closer. I feel good about the project. But it is never enough words. Not for what I want to do with the writings.

And that attitude makes it hard to celebrate the things us writers should be celebrating. Even if it is only a few hundred words that night. It doesn’t mean you failed in your goal. It means you are a couple of hundred words closer to finishing the draft.

***

So a week or two goes by and I see that Meme again but someone has added to it saying that it’s ok if you don’t accomplish all of those things… those goals. That we’re all going through something that none of us have ever experienced before and we’re reacting and acting in whatever way we can.

And that’s OK.

***

Last night I finished the edits for a novel (a different one than the one above – what can I say, I have been writing words prior to all of this “stuff”). This novel has been in my folder for a couple of years. I tried to get it in with an agent but received a stack of rejection letters instead. And maybe I haven’t pushed hard on it prior to this year because I was worried about putting it out there. It’s always scary to push the publish button.

But I hit a major milestone. And I didn’t celebrate in a loud way. I just exhaled. When my wife woke up I told her, and she’s the one who sees through all the other stuff and realizes these are the little moments to savor.

So I savored.

***

In the next couple of weeks, I’ll start revealing somethings about the upcoming novel. Until then, stay safe.

***

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

 

Why I Never Sign My Paintings

Hi there.

I’m J Edward.

I paint. A lot. Maybe too much. Honestly, these days, it’s all I do. If I’m not painting, I’m preparing canvasses. If I’m not prepping, I’m conceptualizing new trees, new landscapes, new ways to end the world.

All day. Every day. And most of the nights, too.

Yes. It’s true. I have no social life. I live in a colorful hole, and I’m fine with it.

For the last two years, life has been good to me. I’ve found myself able to make a living almost purely via art. It’s a dreamlike state, and surely one I never thought I’d reach. Yet here I am, up to my elbows in Mars Black and Unbleached Titanium, knee-deep in stacks of pristine canvasses gleaned from the shelves of the local Michael’s craft store. My house is a museum, almost every square inch of my walls covered up by images of trees, ships, towers, and strange, surrealistic objects.

It’s a good life.

But there is one thing.

One little dilemma.

A small something about which my collectors have reached out and tapped me on my shoulder.

I never sign my work.

Sorry…I didn’t sign these. Don’t be mad.

*

The other day, a nice lady who’d just purchased several originals and prints sent me a message. She was very polite. Very reasonable. “I was disappointed,” she said. “None of the pieces were signed.”

She explained her distress at length, and I tried (and hopefully succeeded) in politely and honestly explaining myself.

“I never sign them,” I said. “It’s about the art, not the artist.”

“It’s just a thing with me.”

She never did reply. As of today, I’m not sure whether she understood. Or appreciated my view. Or whether she quietly fumed and plotted never again to buy from me.

Frankly, I get it.

Truth is…original art isn’t quite like any other consumer purchase. It’s just not. Sure, a signed Spiderman # 1 comic might fetch a high price, but it’s not the only Spiderman # 1, and it’s probably not the only signed one, either. Paintings, especially canvas paintings properly varnished and cared for, have a long, long shelf (or wall) life, and tend to endure the ages better than other items, given that they are rarely touched, typically only viewed.

What I’m really getting at is…

…what my point is…

…my art will outlive me.

Being of only modest talent and ambition, I’m never going to be the next Van Gogh or H.R. Giger or Zdzislaw Beksinki. And yet, I’ve still created things, unique things, in which my beloved patrons have placed much faith. These objects, well cared for, might sit upon their walls, their children’s walls, for many decades to come. With any luck, I’ll be long gone before they start to decay, and the slow entropy of the years wears down their color.

And finally, on that day, the person who created them (me) will no longer be recognized as their creator. These creations will become creator-less. Orphans, if you will, haunting the walls of people who haven’t the faintest idea who I am…or who I was. They’ll become free, in a way. Unbound to me.

If I sit on my couch and dwell on it, I realize something:

Most artists are not okay with this arrangement.

I suppose, not signing a painting (or a sculpture, or any hand-crafted item) is a little like having a child and giving it no last name. It’s maybe a bit like having a favorite pet, then forgetting it once it passes on. To some collectors and artists, it might even be considered arrogant. I’ve been called as much by a few buyers. And on the same subject, I’ve been asked, “Why? Why don’t you sign them? Don’t you want to be remembered?”

The short answer is…

…way deep down…

No.

I don’t care about being remembered.

And while it may challenge the prevailing wisdom of signing one’s art with a flourish (or at least subtly inking the back of the canvas) I know I’m not the only one. To me, the art really is all about the art. My part, creating it, is my joy, my passion, and oftentimes my suffering. But after I’m done, after each piece ends up on someone else’s wall, it becomes no longer mine to claim. My part in the story ends with each painting that leaves my walls, and a fresh story begins in the dwelling of its new owner.

Graveyard of the Gods (Artist Unknown)

*

To me, my reasoning feels genuine. Simple. Honest.

These created things spend mere moments in my hands, and possibly lifetimes in the presence of others.

And truly, art belongs to everyone. What I see and feel as I create in each piece has no bearing on what its owner will feel.

So perhaps, in the end, my true signature is…

…no signature at all.

We’ll leave it at that.

*

Sincerely,

*

J Edward

 

Repost – And Now For Something Completely Different

I wrote this blog post during my very first year blogging on the site, but I think I mis-timed it. You see, I wrote it in light of the upcoming Superbowl where I thought the topic was completely appropriate. However, after I got a few people who raised eyebrows at me for the subject matter, I realized I should have timed it for April Fools Day. Not because I’m kidding about my Pizza Theory (oh, yes, there is a Pizza Theory below), but people expect weird and wild stuff on April 1.

So today I set a wrong thing right.

***

Please excuse the following. It is mostly a rant about something of extreme importance. You might laugh at it. You might question my sanity in bringing it up. Up until this moment I have written about things like writing books and comics, stories about almost getting killed by hitchhikers, and even about one of my favorite sports teams. However, I must recall Monty Python this week…

Now for something completely different

 

I want to talk about pizza.

Yes, that pizza.

Look tasty? Think again!

Look tasty? Think again!

But first a bit of background…

I am an EXTREMELY picky eater. Wait, no, that’s not entirely true. It’s not like I am one of those people who can only eat chicken nuggets and mac and cheese. There are plenty of foods that I do like. I mean, most meats I really enjoy (save for tuna and salmon and liver and sushi in general). And fruits I do like (save for coconut and grapefruit). But veggies are my nemesis. It would take far too long for me to detail all the vegetables I do not like, so I’m not going to bother.

So I guess I should say I am a picky eater, without the EXTREME in there (maybe – my Mother-in-law may disagree).

I’m not proud. I’m not trying to win a contest. I want to like various foods. No, really I do.

But…

I…

just…

don’t…

BUT I have noticed something due to that very behavior. Over the years of watching the habits of people when it comes to ordering pizza I have hit upon a theory. And with it being Superbowl week this is probably the most timely blog post I could have ever dreamed of writing. I am going to save you a lot of heartache.

You should be ordering more pepperoni and plain cheese pizzas at your parties.

Wow. That’s it. That’s all.

Oh?

You want more details as to why I just blew your mind? O.K.

Say you need to order 5 pizzas for your party, lots of people end up doing the following: 2 Pepperoni, 2 Cheese, and 1 Supreme (like the one above).

And there is your mistake. Only you like everything on the Supreme. Sure, you did the call-out about the Supreme. You covered your bases. Two or three hands popped up for the Supreme. You’re set. What could go wrong?

So what happens is that the pizza arrives and you grab a couple of pieces of Supreme, no big deal. Those others start to get scarfed down because of the one guy who doesn’t like onions, and the girl who hates olives, and so on and so on. Those people who said they liked Supreme? Yeah, they ended up grabbing Cheese because they forgot about one of the toppings.

If I have seen it once, then I have seen it a thousand times.

Then at the end of the night everything is gone save for whatever bits of the Supreme that you didn’t eat. Now maybe this isn’t a problem for you… left-over pizza rules. But what happens when this guy shows up a little late and all you have is 6 pieces of Supreme? And he hates green peppers?

Last time he didn't get a piece, he burned the building down.

Last time he didn’t get a piece, he burned the building down.

And to be sure that I’m not just picking on my vegetable lovers out there, it also applies to the meat lovers. The solution is to be bland. Be boring. People will eat some cheese pizza. People will eat Pepperoni. Just Keep the pizza simple (KPS for short… Trademark Pending).

Plus, it is not a pizza only problem. This is something that is out of control in society confounding me at every turn. And just then, when I think it isn’t going to show its ugly head, my company has a lunch meeting and the premade sandwiches have their DEFAULT ham and cheese sandwiches in RYE bread? Why? Why? Why?

What was so wrong with plain old bread?

What was so wrong with plain old bread?

Yes, you in the back… I understand you don’t see a problem with that… but what happened to the staples: White and Wheat? What were wrong with those two? Why is the default setting so bad? Or maybe, if you are going to have a few RYE bread versions… LABEL THEM!

Though I can guarantee that they will be the last ones taken (KPS in effect).

Now, normally this would be the portion of the blog where I would tie things back into something I’ve learned about writing. Maybe even something I learned while writing The Dark That Follows (available at Amazon). Like sometimes being complex for complex sake is not good. That when you build a maze for people to comprehend it might just cause them to turn the Kindle off or put the book down. Sometimes you can be too clever for your own good.

But, this is too important a subject to be bogged down in such discussion.

This weekend don’t let a good pizza go to waste!

***

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

A Love For Every Day – 4

 

Three years ago, I created a homemade book for my wife with all these quotes about Love from our favorite TV Shows and movies and books and then I added to it great quotes about love from history or just great quotes about love from anyone. The past two years, I’ve shared a few from the book around the holidays, but it occurred to me this week might be fitting as well considering Valentine’s Day is this Friday.

Part 1 is here.

Part 2 is here.

Part 3 is here.

 

January 11

 

February 3

 

I love you. Very, very simple, very truly. You are the-

The epitome of everything I have ever looked for in another human being.

Chasing Amy

 

March 5

 

To love a person is to see all of their magic, and to remind them of it when they have forgotten.

Anonymous

April 3

 

Did I say that I need you?

Did I say that I want you?

Oh, if I didn’t I’m a fool you see

No one knows this more than me.

Pearl Jam, Just Breathe

May 10

The beauty of a woman is not in the clothes she wears, the figure that she carries, or the way she combs her hair. The beauty of a woman is seen in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heat, the place where love resides. True beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It’s the caring that she lovingly gives, the passion that she shows, and the beauty of a woman only grows with passing years.

Audrey Hepburn

 

June 4

 

All our young lives we search for someone to love, someone who makes us complete. We chose partners and change partners. We dance to a song of heartbreak and hope all the while wondering if somewhere and somehow there is someone searching for us.

The Wonder Years

July 3

 

I’m your density. I mean… your destiny.

Back to the Future

 

August 9

 

The truth is, we are not afraid of being in love. We are only afraid of not being loved in return.

Anna Kendrick

September 4

 

Remember, we’re madly in love, so it’s all right to kiss me anytime you feel like it.

Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games

 

October 29

You’re my favorite, favorite thing

Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World

November 16

December 30

I wish you to know that you have been the last dream of my soul.

Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

 

***

Here’s hoping you have the right words this week.

***

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

From A to Z – Resolutions

Image by Jeff Jacobs from Pixabay

With the new year comes the dreaded resolutions. They say that anything you start, if you keep it going for 4 weeks, then you have created a habit for the long haul. We just passed the 4-week mark in the new year, so the question that comes to mind is how well are you/me/everyone doing on those resolutions?

I always start off the year with a blueprint of what projects I want to work on, which items I would like to have finished, and other things I would like to start. And I’m always very aggressive in the scheduling. In fact, most of the time just with the act of living your life, the goals are too much.

This year was no different, and a lot of times by this point in January I’m already thinking “Oh god, I’m so far behind. I wanted to have 50,000 words written by this point!”

(OK, I’m never that crazy. I have a day job and a wife I like to see from time to time, but you get the point.)

So here it is, 28 days in, and I feel pretty good about my progress this month so far. It’s not 100% what I was hoping for in the pie-in-the-sky scenario, but I’ve written more than 13,000 words thus far and I still have a couple of days to go to try for 15,000 for January.

So, what I’ve decided to do for my Resolutions post is instead list out some projects. Some are goals for this year. Some are literally goals that will happen in the next month. All of which should help remind me of the work I have done and what still is to come.

***

A – Anonymous Short Story – I wrote a short story last year for the upcoming Tales from Vigilante City Anthology that should be coming out sometime in 2020. It’s the story about the villain you never heard of… and how he likes it that way.

B – My Blog – A random hodge-podge of ideas and rantings and reviews and whatever else I happen upon at 2 in the morning. This blog will be the 401st entry on this website. Crazy.

C – The Crossing – A new comic book coming to Kickstarter in late February by Robert Jeffrey II, Sean Hill, and myself from 133art. A love-letter to parallel worlds and how tragedy can make us a hero or a villain.

D – The Dark That Follows – My first novel… I’m planning on putting it on sale soon to get more eyes on it.

E – The Echo Effect – My next novel, due out this Spring. A man finds that he is reborn into a new world whenever the calendar reaches 2024. Things have changed, but he has not. And he might not be the only one.

F – Forgotten Lives – I completed the first draft of this novel and if things go well this year, I’ll be releasing not only this novel but books 1 through 3 in early 2021. It’s my story about why we’re here… and how much control over our fates do we really have.

G – Gilded Age – I have ideas, but I also have a stack of graphic novels that I need to get into more people’s hands. So I’m hoping to do some conventions this year for that very purpose.

H – Hollow Empire – While Jeremy has come out with two additional chapters, my side has been quiet. However, that’s going to change with the 9th chapter of the serial we started about life in a medieval post-apocalyptic world.

I – Indiegogo – A reminder that The Gilded Age is available on Indiegogo here!

J – Journal of Impossible Things – Title was stolen from Doctor Who, but it is the folder where I put all my short stories currently in progress. I want to move 4 of them to the completed side this year.

K – Be a part of and fulfill at least 2 Kickstarters this year.

L – Lightning – A long-term horror novel project.

M – Marketing – For all of this stuff, I’ve got to find a way to get it in front of people which means figuring out Amazon and Facebook ads. Not looking forward to stumbling through all of that!

N – Newsletter – My goal is to send out at least 12 this year. With so many projects coming to fruition, I’d be dumb not to use it (heck, I’ve been dumb about it up until now).

O – Opportunities – Be open to any additional opportunities that may come my way. There always seems to be a random thing out there that I could never forsee.

P – Premade book covers – I’ve been lucky enough to find a couple that work perfectly for both The Echo Effect and SOULmate. Plus, in my wanderings around the internet, I found a collection of covers that have inspired some ideas that I’d love to write set in the world I can see.

Q – Query – I haven’t given up on traditional publishing, but right now I’m not sure how to break through that barrier.

R – I have promised to help my step-father-in-law collect his poetry and put it into book form. I’m looking forward to seeing how it will end up (his name is Robert, hence the “R”).

S – SOULMate – The second novel I’m going to release this year. It’s a story about a world where Soulmates are not only real but a status symbol.

T – Time – Whether I’m using it well or potentially misusing it, it is often the cause for any bottleneck. I need to manage my time better.

U – Untold Series – The series of books that Forgotten Lives belongs to. Coming in 2021, but written in 2020!

V – Vacation – In between all the words, I still need to get away to recharge the batteries. I’m not sure when or where this will take us this year.

W – Edge of the World – A novel that needs a thorough edit. It’s the story of a woman who travels to the ends of the earth to find and save her uncle.

X – eXtra work-  Be willing to hit my goals, even when I’m tired and want to just goof off. Be focused.

Y – You Must Be This Tall To Ride – A comic idea I have focused on a slightly younger crowd. This is more of a long-term project.

Z – Zine – Last year, Egg Embry, Lee Beauchamp, and I ran a Kickstarter as part of their Zine promotion. We had hoped it would be done last year, but it has stretched into this year. We are closing in on completing it though (hopefully by Valentine’s Day – It is focused on Love, so that seems fitting).

***

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

Twin Flames – A Brief Definition

Prior to 2018, I’d heard only faint glimmers of the term, ‘Twin Flames.’

It was a far-off concept, something I’d heard my Aunt Sue and her patrons banter of. It was an airy thing, difficult to catch, hard to hold onto, and nebulous.

I heard these glimmers and paid them no mind. A curiosity, it seemed. Nothing more. Nothing real. Certainly nothing I’d ever encounter.

It’s good to be wrong.

Today I know better.

If I had to describe twin flameage briefly, I’d use two words:

Gravity. And Inexorable.

Gravity, because it is an essential universal force.

Inexorable, because there’s nothing one can do to stop it.

Now, if I had to describe it at length, well…then…

Being one half of twin flame scenario is a life event without equal. It’s like winning the lottery and giving up half of one’s soul (willingly) all in the same five-minute span. It’s like being hit by a spiritual train, which, as it passes through one’s body, rearranges all things therein. You thought you knew your heart? You were wrong. You believed you were in total control of your life? Think again. You’ve been trucked by the universe, and now you are awake.

Twin flameage is the gravity between two souls, impossible to resist, which, with its power, can either create one complete (and possibly utterly joyous) entity, or two very much changed individuals. Actually, both are possible. To call it love is inaccurate, for even though love is a part of the inferno, there are other parts. A physical, sexual, intellectual, spiritual, emotional collision, not unlike two massive celestial bodies impacting each other with nuclear force…this is twin flameage. It promises nothing, changes everything.

Is it fate? No. Because although it may feel as if the two people involved in a twin flame collision are destined to be together, being half of the flame guarantees nothing beyond forceful change. The event tends to burn away most (if not all) of each person’s previous concepts of self. Personally, I find myself asking not ‘what have I become?’ or ‘how did I get here?’ but instead, ‘who was I before this?’ and ‘what do we do now?’

But there are no real answers. Like almost all genuine things in life, being part of a twin flame is not a question waiting to be answered or an objective at the end of some long road. It’s a force of nature. It’s a powerful, amazing, terrifying union of two people. It happens on what feels like an atomic level, as if both parties had once been born in the heart of the same star, and are just now remembering one another.

It’s likely all twin flame scenarios are subtly different, and yet equally unquenchable. Some flames might never recognize one another. Others might enfold each other in a spiraling, hot embrace which lasts their entire lives. Some might reject it. Some might flee. Some might dance around it, only to be slowly consumed. A thousand possibilities, all of which will change each person whether they like it or not.

If it happens to you, I won’t say to prepare yourself. You can’t. You’re not really in control anymore. All you can do is, when the gravity gets you and you catch fire with another, look it in the eyes and acknowledge it for what it is.

…a once in a lifetime chance.

 

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J Edward Neill is an author and (newly-awakened) romantic.
Learn more about him here.

A Love For Every Day – 3

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

Part 1 is here.

Part 2 is here.

 

January 2

I love her and that’s the beginning and end of everything.

F Scott Fitzgerald

February 4

March 12

 

You’re my favorite reason to lose sleep.

Anonymous

April 1

 

She doesn’t say “I love you” like a normal person.

Instead, she’ll laugh, shake her head, give you a smile, and say, “You’re an idiot.”

If she tells you you’re an idiot, you’re a lucky man.

How I Met Your Mother

May 9

“Maybe… you’ll fall in love with me all over again.”

“Hell,” I said, “I love you enough now. What do you want to do? Ruin me?”

“Yes. I want to ruin you.”

“Good,” I said. “That’s what I want too.”

Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell To Arms

June 1

There is never a time or place for true love. It happens accidentally, in a heartbeat, in a single flashing, throbbing moment.

Sarah Dessen, The Truth About Forever

July 4

August 8

My most brilliant achievement was my ability to be able to persuade my wife to marry me.

Winston Churchill

September 21

There is no shame in loving.

George R. R. Martin, A Feast For Crows

October 9

A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.

John Lennon

 

November 12

I just love to see you smile

So put it up on your face

Hallelujah

And these days will all go by

Anything I can do to you to help you through it

I just love to see you smile

Jonah Matranga, Smile

December 17

The words I, ME, and YOU ceased to matter when life became about US.

Anonymous

***

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

The Darkest Timeline?

In the episode of Community “Remedial Chaos Theory”, they use dice to simulate 6 different outcomes according to who had to go pay the pizza guy. It was a funny play on the multiple timelines idea. What struck me the other day was that in one of their timelines, everything went horribly wrong. People got hurt or died. All from one random roll of the dice. And while I’m fascinated by multiple timelines and parallel worlds and whatnot, that idea of a Darkest Timeline resonates even more.

And then there are sports.

If you follow any sport, you might have a superstition about your favorite team or player (or driver or…) and how you might watch. Maybe you have to sit in the same spot on the couch every game. Maybe you have to wear the same shirt. Maybe you have something more elaborate that involves turning around multiple times when the other team scores.

It’s a crazy idea that one thing that we do while watching things will have any real tangible impact on the contest we’re observing.

Right.

Right?

However, what if it only didn’t work because you were already in the wrong timeline? What if the reason your teams never win is just a simple thing:

You’re living in the Darkest Timeline.

***

1991

It’s game 7 of the World Series. Both the Minnesota Twins and the Atlanta Braves have gone Worst to First and find themselves tasked with trying to win a final, winner take all baseball game. John Smoltz is pitching a masterful game and there is a chance within the game where Braves outfielder Lonnie Smith could possibly put himself in scoring position (or perhaps even score). Instead, he inexplicably holds up. Never scores.

The Twins win in extra innings.

1996

After coming back from 3 games to 1 deficit in the NLCS, the Atlanta Braves find themselves up 2 games to 1 over the hated New York Yankees. In Game 4, they lead 6-3 and are ready to put a complete stranglehold on the Series and give the city of Atlanta back to back World Titles.

In steps Jim Lehritz…

The Braves won’t win another World Series Game in this Series or in any since.

1997

Game 5 of the NLCS.

Eric Gregg is behind the plate calling balls and strikes. And honestly, he pretty much calls the worst game anyone has ever seen. And it is all one-sided. Florida Marlin’s pitcher Livan Hernadez has the greatest game of his career when balls are strikes and strikes are strikes. Florida will go on to win the World Series.

1991 to 2005

The Braves will win 14 straight division titles. From 1991 to 1999 they will appear in 5 World Series and only win 1 time (for comparison, the Boston Red Sox have appeared in 4 World Series since 2004 and have won each time.

Since 2001 to Current, the Braves have not won a playoff series.

2011

The Atlanta Braves have an 8.5 game lead over the St Louis Cardinals on September 6. They lose their lead and the playoffs spot on the last day of the season in one of the worst September Collapses by a Baseball team… ever.

2013

Trailing 2 games to 1 in the Divisional Series, the Braves hold a slim 1 one lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 8th inning. They have arguably the best closer in the game. With 5 outs left to get to send the Series back to Atlanta, our Manager decides NOT to bring Kimbrel in so that he can watch with the rest of us as the next batter puts the ball into the stands… and the Braves lose another series.

2019

Game 5 of the Divisional Series, the Cardinals score 1 million runs in the first inning (it was 10, but same difference)… something that almost never happens in the history of baseball.

***

And that’s just my Atlanta Braves (the fun we could have with the Miami Dolphins, I’m sure).

Is it a curse? Curses are sexy. Curses are something “out of your control”. Curses can bring a city together in their misery. When the explanation for something improbable happens, we think that the gods/God/karma/etc must be against us.

But I don’t believe it is a curse. What could be the instigating moment? What spun things out of control? We don’t have a mysterious goat in our past. We don’t have one of the greatest players in the history of the game get traded. So what could it be?

Not, it’s not a curse… we just are in the Darkest Timeline.

***

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

Retro Post – Hitchhikers

We started this blog thing about 6 years ago now, and I was thinking there were probably a handful of posts from those early days that might be worth another post. This will go down as possibly the single dumbest thing I’ve ever done. But it is certainly appropriate for Halloween.

I originally entitled this “I should have paid more attention to C. Thomas Howell”… if you’ve ever seen the Hitcher, you’ll understand.

***

The year was either 1997 or 1998. Now a Junior in college, I had driven up to the Georgia Tech Student Center to pick up my mail and was on my way back to my car (and then my dorm room) when I heard a woman’s voice call out to me from the dark Atlanta summer night.

“Excuse me, sir? I was wondering if I could ask a favor of you?”

I turned around and saw an older woman, maybe late forties, but most likely in her early fifties. Regardless of her actual age, she was someone who had that look where life had never really cut her a true break. Through cigarettes and alcohol, she might be able to numb the pain of existence, but she was destined to be one who, from cradle to grave, would work until her fingers became little more than nubs. Stick thin, her leathery flesh hung off her bones.

I felt sad for her immediately.

“Can I help you with something?”

She moved a little closer to me and nodded, fully emerging into the parking lot’s light. “I hope so. You see, I’m supposed to go and get my younger son from the baby sitter. And my older son was supposed to give me a ride, but he’s not in his dorm room. I can’t seem to get a hold of him.” She glanced down at the watch on her wrist. “And the sitter is done at nine and it’s already eight-thirty.”

I didn’t immediately respond, even though I could tell where this was going. When you live in downtown Atlanta, you get used to people coming up and asking you for spare change or various other favors. In my first year living downtown, I probably (read: definitely) ended up giving too much money to the random homeless who crossed my path. But that bit of humanity had been stamped out by the bank account of a college student living a few years on his own.

I braced myself for the question.

“She’s only a couple of miles down the road. If you could give me a lift,  I’d be forever grateful.”

Now my mind and mouth normally do things in agreement. Mostly the mouth waits until the brain has finished its various calculations or what-have-you and then when it gets the proper instructions it spits out the correct sequence of words.

Not this time.

“Uh, yea, I guess I could do that.”

Immediately my brain rebelled. Why had I said that? I don’t want to give her a ride. What the hell am I thinking?

Her face lit up, and I was suddenly glad that I had said yes. This would be my good deed for the year. Heck, for the century possibly.

“I’m right over here.”

As I moved over towards my 1990 red Pontiac Sunbird, I didn’t notice her wave to another person. Another beaten down by life person, but male. Same tanned leathery skin… in his late forties, early fifties as well. He wasn’t rail thin like his wife, but there was only the slightest beginning of a beer belly hiding under his shirt.

“This young man is  going to take us to the sitter’s.”

Now this is the point I should have said something like “no” or even “hey I’ve got something else I need to get to that I just remembered”, because now the numbers were not in my favor. With just her in the car she’d be in the passenger seat beside me. I’m 6’5″ 275 lbs and all of 21-22 years old. I could take on the world with the side benefit that being that size, no one typically bothered me in the first place.

Yet, with him along for the ride that meant someone would be in the back seat.

Behind me.

Where I couldn’t see what he was doing. Not a good idea.

I think my brain was on strike that night because it only barely fazed me. My southern hospitality was going to get me killed. And there is even a saying for a situation like this. Don’t pick up hitchhikers. I mean that is the number one thing right up there with “Don’t take candy from strangers.”

What is wrong with me? My parents taught me better than this!

Sure enough she moved into the front passenger seat, and he sat in the back, straddling the middle so that I could see him in the rear view. But not really see what he was doing back there. I turned out onto North Avenue going West. My eyes darted from her to my rearview mirror to see him and then back to her. I barely remember the road, driving on instinct.

urban-legend-killer-backseat

“So, where is it I’m taking you?”

The woman answered quickly. “It’s only a couple of miles up the road.”

“Actually, we don’t need to go to the sitter’s. She’s taking the baby back to the house.” The smoker voice from the back jarred  me to the core. What the hell? Now I’m taking them home?

“Oh, then just continue on North.”

Again, I should have found a way to get them out of the car. But I was stuck taking them home. Somewhere my screams wouldn’t be heard by anyone.

I’ve been in three fights in my entire life. Two of them were won pretty quickly. The other was a losing battle, one of the few times where the other kid had been a little older and a little stronger. Mostly I observed what my grandfather had always told me: I better not ever start a fight, but I damn well better finish one that someone else started.

Those thoughts drifted into my mind while I tried to determine my best course of action. If they had a knife or something similar I might be able to put a hurt on one or both of them… if she had the blade. If he had the weapon, then I was going to need something of my own. But what else was there? A passing car’s lights illuminated the interior of the car and my eyes flashed to the keys dangling from the ignition. Rough edges of a weapon. It wasn’t much, but it might be better than naked fists.

Still I tried to think things through. I figured as long as I don’t do anything to set them off, or show that I know I am in trouble, it has to be in their best interest to wait until I get them to wherever their true destination was. Otherwise they might risk the chance that I drive the car off the road and try something now.

They made idle chat with me. A decade later, I couldn’t tell you what we talked about. I’m pretty sure that the most that escaped my lips was Yes, No, or I don’t know. I was too busy putting that math side of my brain to work trying to analyze the angles of this situation I’d gotten myself into. Plus it was hard to hear what either of them were saying due to my heart echoing throughout my body.

We drove and drove and drove, more and more minutes piling up on the odometer. Now I’ve taken North Avenue east many times on my journeys to hang out with friends, but I had never gone this far west on the road. Everything had long since become unfamiliar and I kept waiting for them to say something, to have me turn off, but more time passed and nothing. I had no idea how far we needed to go before I got them “home”, but I kept on, sure that terrible things awaited me.

Finally, at some point we turned off North and then worked our way onto some of the more back roads.

For those unfamiliar with the layout of Atlanta, if you are in downtown and you drive more than about 20 minutes in any direction you will run into an interstate. Worst case you’ll hit the perimeter I-285. This is a road that loops around the city, encircling it.

Base Map 285

Yet, we had driven far enough and still, I didn’t see a sign for the highway, nothing. Somehow I was in the backwoods of Georgia while still being in the city. It was as if they had managed to take me to a part of town where street lights were only a suggestion and not required. Long stretches went by with only my Sunbird’s headlights to show that the world outside the car even still existed. And I was driving these two random people up these roads I didn’t know existed.  And these roads were the type where I don’t even know how there was nothing on them. Very few houses. No restaurants or gas stations. It was like I’d crossed over into the Twilight Zone. Nothing made sense in my head. My heart pounded in my chest, threatening to explode.

dark road

What was I supposed to do? Call their bluff? Point out, ever so nicely, that I had only agreed to take one of them “a couple of miles” to their younger son?

I spotted a small cluster of lights in the distance. As we got closer I could see it was a convenience store, and then the night took a turn.

“Do you think we could stop up here? I need to get some cigarettes.” The way the man said the words and the paranoia in my brain combined to make me wonder whether it was a question or an order. So I pulled over.

“Would you like anything? A drink or something?”

Yeah, that’s what I’m going to do, let you get me a drink and somehow put a drug into it and then I’m missing a kidney or I’m dead or something.

I locked eyes with him in the rearview mirror. “No, thank you.”

The man exited the car, and I held my breath that the woman would follow. I slid my hand very casually so that it was resting on the gear shift.

They both get out of the car and I’m gunning it.

She didn’t budge. “Hey honey, get me a pack of smokes too while you’re in there.”

They were just playing with me now. I know it.

He returned a few minutes later and I wondered if the old guy had gone in and robbed the store (sometimes I still wonder this). They might already be ready to kill and eat me, but there was no telling how far they might go.

Hmm.

We journeyed for a bit longer. Again, I would say the exact amount, but I lost track. I think I’d been gone from Georgia Tech about 40 minutes by this point.

They both pointed out a side road to turn down… it was dirt. “Ours is the one on the end.”

Of course, it is. Where else would you live but off a dirt road within the Atlanta city limits.

I stared out into the darkness, but couldn’t really find the beginnings of a structure to know where I might be going or for how far. My car’s shocks protested the potholes and each bump caused my two passengers to shift in their seats. We began to climb a fairly steep hill, and when we finally came over the crest I caught site of their double-wide home.

This thing might have been nice looking once upon a time, but now, through either the elements or lack of caring about what the shit-hole looked like, it could only remind me of something that should be condemned. Various bits of junk littered the yard and every redneck stereotype crept into my thoughts.

“Home.” My voice may have cracked with the hope that this was the end of our voyage. My own fight or flight on high alert.

The old man shifted in the backseat. “I just feel awful about making you drive all this way. I have some money in the house. If you could wait a minute I’ll run in and grab it for you.”

I shook my head. “That’s OK. I’m just glad I could get the two of you home.”

Liar! Just get the hell out of the car and let me go!

“You sure?”

“Yeah. Have a good night.”

They seemed to pause at that. And to this day I’m not sure about what they were thinking. Maybe this whole thing was just them trying to get home without needing to take the bus. Maybe they really had a son at Tech who they’d come to see. Maybe they had a younger son who they needed to get to, but then the sitter decided to bring him home instead of waiting for them to arrive.

Or maybe they had been planning on killing me the whole damn time.

Until I told them to have a good night. And that was the point they had a change of heart.

The two of them got out of the car, but before the wife could shut the door the man held it open and stuck his head back into the car.

Just gun it!

“You know how to get back?”

I nodded in the darkness even if he couldn’t see my action. “I’ll figure it out.”

“Alright. Take care.”

And with that, he shut the door and I turned my car around and headed back to the paved streets. It was only then that I saw a sign for I-285. I may have taken it to just get my bearings (I honestly don’t remember). My body began shaking, the adrenaline pumping through my system for the better portion of an hour finally began to wear off. In a daze, I somehow managed to guide my car back to more familiar streets and then back to the dorm.

Somehow still alive.

I may not have slept well that night… or the next few.

So there you have it, The Stupidest thing I have ever done. My last good deed, ever.

***

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

I Remember Halloween

Image by Myriam Zilles from Pixabay

Halloween is one of my favorite times of the year. I love how the weather (normally, just not this year in Georgia) cools off and Autumn greets us. I love that for a month we allow ourselves to get scared… just a little bit. A month where adults are allowed to act a little like the children we used to be.

But I also have a weird time with the holiday.

You see, I was raised Jehovah Witness, so the number of Trick or Treat nights I got to go on was about 2 that I remember. As a teenager, it was too late to make such trips along the neighborhood and apparently I must have been “too cool” to actually use my younger siblings to gather up some excess candy.

But I do have some good October memories:

1 – I remember being about 10 and spending the night at a friend’s house and somehow getting permission to watch A Nightmare on Elm Street. I’m not sure if I actually had nightmares, but I knew that if I did I needed to keep such things to myself, otherwise Mom might not allow me to watch those types of movies anymore.

2 – I remember watching the old creature feature style horror movies on late night. The Creature from the Black Lagoon probably scared me the most even while I still felt bad for him.

3 – As a teenager, three of us sat in the front row of Nightmare on Elm Street 6: Freddy’s Dead. At the end of the movie, we stood up and chastised the audience by saying that they needed to give Freddy a moment of silence.

Image by Simon Wijers from Pixabay

4 – The multiple times over the years of going to my friend Lee’s house to watch any sort of horror movie. They range from some classics like Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Fly to Dead Snow and Teeth.

5 – I brought Teeth to the party. I actually thought there was some good there. I was clearly the only one who appreciated it.

6 – I may still be mocked today.

7 – Those nights were how Courtney and I watched the first 3 Paranormal Activities. Back to back to back.

8 – I did get to dress up as both Batman and Darth Vader over the course of 2 years.

9 – During one of those years, I split my pants and had to hide my issue with the cape included with the costume.

10 – I went to a costume gathering/party as Bruce Willis in Die Hard. Basically a white t-shirt with the words “ho ho ho, now I have a machine gun”. Mostly because it was last minute… and I’m lazy.

11 – The last time I dressed up was as Fry from Futurama (complete with the pizza box!) probably 4 years ago.

12 – I do have a “scary” mask upstairs that flashes a glowing light. I may have worn it once for about 10 minutes (it is not comfortable).

13 – But I think my favorite memory is that one October night where my mom made pigs-in-a-blanket and we watched Disney’s The Headless Horseman on tv. A story which is still one of my all-time favorites.

***

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

 

I’m the Problem

Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay

I’m the problem.

I’m supposed to be out there, trying new things.

Sampling the comic books that are worth sampling.

And I do.

Sometimes.

***

Except there is Comixology.

Did you know that pretty much any comic book that you buy in print for $3.99 is very shortly thereafter going to be about $1.99 for the digital copy? Oh, I don’t know the exact timeline on such things. You see, $1.99 is still far too much for me to pay for that thing I want to read. So I wait for better sales. Hey maybe when it gets down to $0.99 an issue, THEN I’ll give your book a try.

What’s that? You are about to package the first 6 issues together in a trade and offer it for $3.99? Well, that sounds like a deal.

***

Your new independent comic is coming out through Image or Ahoy or Aftermath or Boom or…

So you need those early issue sales, right? I mean, if I want to REALLY help you out I should get my local comic book shop to order me a copy of issues 1 through however many you are going to print. That’s where you are going to make your money and show the big wigs that your comic is the one they should bet on to go far.

Because the way comics work for as long as I can remember, is that you have to have good orders on Issue 1 so that when you get to the dip that happens with issues 2 and 3 and 4… you can survive the fall. Survive that for long enough to get to issue 6 and the 1st trade. Which might buy you another 6 issues.

Might.

***

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Except there is waiting for the Trade.

Because I don’t know if you really are going to make it. I have a couple of long boxes full of the NEXT BIG THING that sputtered out. Plus, I don’t know how you are going to tell your story. What if you really want me to read it over the course of 1 sitting… why would I get those individual issues when I can have them on my shelf as a trade? If I want to potentially read them all together, it would be nuts to buy them in any other format.

Right?

***

It is the best time to be a creator. You can do anything right now. You can build new worlds. You can show us what is inside your mind. There are no limitations.

That’s what is happening out there. Kickstarters are firing up at an awesome clip. People offering their ideas to a world and you don’t need any of the other companies. You can be your own company. You get to effectively do a pre-order of your comic. Hey, buy my issue one and hopefully, I raise just enough to find issue 2 and slowly this thing will grow to the point where they can continue forever.

I even got in on the Kickstarter (and now Indiegogo thing) with Gilded Age.

So all I need to do is help you on this issue 1 and HOPE you come out with an issue 2. But without my support, you may not even get that much. Well, sign me up!

***

Except, maybe I should only get your digital stuff at first. Or, maybe I’ll WAIT FOR THE TRADE… something even more suspect that the more traditional way we get our comics at the store.

***

But I’m the problem. I have the core books I want to read. Those Batman or Flash or Avengers comics (Walking Dead, RIP). You know, those books that will definitely, absolutely make it to a trade. But then I see something like The Wrong Earth (from Ahoy Comics), it about superheroes in parallel worlds and Tom Peyer was a great writer on the 90s Legion of Superhero books. This is a comic I need to support.

And I say – “I want that in a trade format.”

What is wrong with me?

***

I’ve convinced myself that it is two things:

Space & Money

***

The Space issue. My house is only sooooo big. The life of a part-time author doesn’t pay enough to do that add-on basement. So I think about whether adding another longbox a year is the way to go, or… perhaps, the better way is to make use of bookshelves for the comics?

Again, I don’t know if that solves any kind of problems or not.

***

You see, the price of comics continues to rise. When I was 16 and had a job at Kroger making $4.25 an hour, I could buy an infinite number of comics at $1.00 each.

And I did.

I probably got 90% of what Marvel offered at the time. The longboxes upstairs share that reality very well. Today, even though I don’t make $4.25 an hour, I probably spend double on comics for a quarter the titles. As things move to $3.99 and then $4.99, I’ve found that I stick with what I like and I try the occasional thing… once in a while. So the way I can try more and stretch my dollars is to find the sales and the trades instead of the brand new stuff the moment it comes out.

I’ve convinced myself that maybe supporting things a little bit is better than not supporting things at all.

I don’t know if that is true or not.

***

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

Let’s All Have Sex – 101 Sex Questions

A deeper, sweatier take on philosophy.

Meant for hot nights with your partner, candid conversations with a lover, and parties during which (almost) everything goes.

Includes questions on relationships, love, and of course, TONS of smoldering sex.

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101 Sex Questions

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The Top 6 Dating Personalities for Men & Women

What would happen if one girl and one guy sat down and determined the top six dating personalities for both men and women?
This list.
Right here.
How sarcastic are we? You decide.
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The Top 6 Dating Personalities for Men & Women


First, the guys…

Man #1: The Alpha Guy. This dude is fearless. He approaches any woman, at any time, in any location. This guy is by far the most likely to use cheesy lines in order to land a date. Rejection doesn’t bother him because he knows he’ll eventually hit the jackpot. This guy is easy to spot. He might be a great dude: confident, handsome, self-assured…or he might be an aggressive blowhard. Look for him at your local club scene.

Man #2: The No-Line Guy. This guy is quieter than the Alpha Guy, but usually has an Alpha Guy as his buddy. However, the No-Line Guy can also be a loner. This guy waits for the Alpha to strike out (which is what usually happens) before casually swooping in to mention how ridiculous Alpha Guy’s pick-up lines were. Not having a line is the Non-Line Guy’s line. He may or may not be a chameleon, meaning he can fit into any social scene…at any time. He’s quiet, patient, and usually prefers quality over quantity. Usually.
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Man #3: The Pitiful Guy. Sweaty, nervous guy. Almost always too afraid to approach any woman, no matter how much he desires her. His only chance of getting laid is to arouse pity in the opposite sex. Most often seen at strip clubs or at home alone crying in his bathtub. If a woman gives this guy one tiny little confidence boost, chances are he’ll love her forever.
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Man #4: Awkward but Endearing Guy. This guys tends to be (but isn’t always) a genuinely decent dude. If he’s older, he’s usually recently divorced or just out of a long relationship. If he’s younger, he’s usually inexperienced in the dating game. He might wait for an Alpha Guy to introduce him to a woman. Or…he might work up the nerve to approach one himself. He tends to be honest, funny, quirky, and interesting. He could be the unicorn girls are looking for, or he could be the nice guy who gets cheated on with Man #1 or #2. He’s usually laid-back. However, if he gets too awkward, then he might end up being…
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Man #5: The Needs to be Funny Guy. This guy is hilarious…in small doses. He’s intense. He’s loud. He’s fearless (like Alpha Guy) but not quite as confident. He’s easily spotted (or overheard) due to his need to be always on. His jokes might be epic-level funny, or fall-flat-on-his-face lame, or possibly (probably) both. He tends to be the life of the party. Or the death of it. If his never-ending stream of jokes turns dark or too sarcastic, beware. After the laughter, the tears will emerge.
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Man #6: The Creeper. You know this guy. We ALL know this guy. He’s sitting at the corner of the bar, staring but not talking. He’s sitting next to you, and he’s getting handsy. He interrupts conversations in which he’s not involved…either by talking or simply leering. He might just be socially awkward. Or he might want to tie women up in his closet. He might be secretly awesome, or he might be your cousin, who insists that a few degrees of family separation ‘makes it ok.’ He’ll rarely approach a woman early in the game. He’ll probably wait for everyone else to strike out (except Pitiful Guy.) Remember, ladies – alcohol and Creepers don’t mix.
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Let’s face it. Hodor’s probably the best catch of the four.

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Now, the girls…
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Girl #1. The Traditionalist. This girl, whether with friends or alone, expects men to approach her. Never the other way around. Even if she likes a guy, even if she secretly plans to marry him and make babies with him, she’s not going to make the first move. “It’s a man’s job to approach,’ is her motto. Gents, you’d better buy her a drink, send her flowers, and step up your wooing game, otherwise you’ve got no shot. The Traditionalist has rules, and you’d better follow them.
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Girl #2. The Quiet Girl. This type of woman, whether due to her quiet nature, her shyness, or perhaps just a general disinterest in romance, is almost as unlikely to approach a guy she’s interested in as a Traditionalist, but for different reasons entirely. She’s often a wing-woman, possibly (but not automatically) an introvert. She’s unlikely to put herself in positions to even land a date in the first place. That said, to a man who pays attention, she will give off subtle signs of interest. He’ll have to get creative to crack her shell.
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Girl #3. The…ummmm…Not so Shy Girl. This gal likes dating, sex, and the pursuit of love (and lust) at least as much as her male counterparts. She’ll churn through guys like a hot knife through partially-melted butter. She’s not shy. She’ll make the first move whenever she likes. If her partner doesn’t please her, she’ll move right on without a second thought. She’ll come off as the alpha whenever girls go out on the prowl (or just to go dancing in groups.) Certain guys will love this type of girl, because it means they don’t always have to make the first move. Other guys will be repulsed because they’ll assume (usually unfairly) that this type of girl is easy. She might be a gem. Or she might be crazy. Or both. Good luck.
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Girl #4. The Genuine/Earnest girl. This type of woman is somewhat rare. She doesn’t have a real dating plan. She doesn’t have a fixed approach. One night, she might see a guy she desires and do nothing about it except glance in his direction. Another night, she might be brave and take the initiative (even if subtly) to get his attention. She’s sometimes reserved, sometimes bold. Her primary characteristic is patience. If she really, really likes a guy, she’ll take her time (weeks, months, years) to finally gain his true attention.
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Girl #5. Sad/Angry/Emo girl. This type of girl will publicly begrudge all her previous relationships (if she’s had any meaningful ones.) She might come off as a Traditionalist or a Quiet Girl, but only at first. Her negativity about men (or life in general) will eventually rise to the surface. She’ll most likely date the man who gives her the most attention or sympathy, but not because she actually likes him. To her, love isn’t a two-way street. It’s one-directional, as in, the guy loves her, and that’s that.
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Girl #6. Quick to Fall Girl. Tends to declare her love (or something close to it) within the first three dates. Will sometimes appear desperate, but only at the time of her choosing. She really just wants to be loved. She has no defined approach. Typically guys will have to make the first move, but after that, she’ll usually take control (via her emotions) of the situation. Approach with caution. If a guy decides this is his type of girl, he should be honest with himself about whether he really likes her, or whether he likes her because of her extreme vulnerability/accessibility. Break up with this girl at your own risk. Your car’s tires are in jeopardy.

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We wrote a book.
It’s about dating while being a single parent.
And it’s right here.

What’s My Brand?

 

This past summer I spent a weekend glued to my computer during an online writing course. It wasn’t so much about the act of stringing words together, but more about the mindset of writing. It was about an idea that perhaps you could Clock Out at your day job if you made enough money from your writings. And it was about some (many steps) which could lead you into that direction.

As a part of this process, I had the opportunity to speak with one of the guys who ran the class. Basically, a way to pick his brain.

You see, so many times you end up in this little world within your own brain where you can get to the point that you’re no longer sure what the best course of action may or may not be. I’m lucky enough that I have a few friends and family to bounce ideas off of, but to get a little perspective from an outside person seemed like a great idea.

So I told him everything I could in the short amount of time we had (20-minute video call). I talked about what things I have done: the comic book work, the Kickstarter for the Gilded Age, the pair of novels, short stories, and the weekly blog. I talked about the idea that I was an extreme “Genre Hopper”.

You see, most smart authors pick a genre (sci-fi or romance or post-apocalyptic or…). You try an write all your books within that box because that way you know someone who liked one of your books is more likely to pick up your next one if it is the same type of idea. People like what they like and unless you are some kind of generational talent (Stephen King), you may only confuse the issue if you keep changing what types of books you write.

Such as writing steampunk comics, an urban fantasy novel, and a dark medieval fantasy… just a great idea all around. Now only if you’d follow that up with a sort of steampunk and a science fiction pair of novels… then you’d be living the dream.

 

I told him all about this, and the current idea I’m working on (that would be a series of same genre works – he says, finally realizing his mistakes). But how do I make sure not to push aside the stuff that is already out there. How do I leverage the pair of unpublished novels on my hard drive?  How do I put myself in the best situation where my work just pays for itself. Maybe even get to only work 4 days a week at the day job?

His answer was to figure out what was my BRAND.

What is it that connects me with all the things I write? Is there one connective force that seems to flow through them? Is there something I’m trying to answer with all my works?

If I can answer that question, it will help me find those readers for all of my products.

So I’ve been wrapping my brain around the question, but I’m not entirely sure. I write things I’d like to read. I write about characters who are trying to rise to the occasion. Those characters who may be flawed, but have some kind of hero within them that may need to be coaxed out. I write about ideas that interest me. What if you could do it all over again? What if you had the opportunity to take the easy way out, would you do it? Why are we here?

Yet, I’m not sure what the right answer is just yet. Maybe there isn’t a grand unifying theory for my brain. But I believe it is time to look and see.

I’ll let you know when I figure it all out.

***

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

Longing for Rain

Rain

 

 

 

 There’s a place I want to be.

Let me try that again. There’s a place I intend to go.

As I gaze from my office window on this cold, grey winter morning, I am compelled by what I feel. My door is shut. A melancholic soundtrack thrums against my walls. The sky is the color of slate, the clouds are seamless, the skeletal trees swaying, and the branches shivering in the wind. I am almost alone. If such a thing as genetic memory exists, this is the kind of day my ancestors must have walked beneath. My blood lived on the smallest island off the northeastern coast of Ireland, and I have to imagine this is what the sky looked like so much more often than here in north Georgia.

If I close my eyes, I can almost go there. Not northern Ireland. Out there. Beyond my window. Beneath the clouds.

I long for the rain. However strange it might sound, the clouds, the trees, the wind, and the rain shape my most powerful memories. Not only the memories of childhood, but all the way to this very morning. I remember an early spring day during the second grade. I walked home through a cornfield having forgotten my little blue umbrella. The sky looked the same as it does today, only gloomier. The rain made a mess of me, and I loved it. I remember my first season in Georgia. In the dead of summer, for what felt like a fortnight, the clouds never departed. Storms roamed the sky at all hours, and the rain tore the earth ragged. Back then, I lived virtually alone in my house. After breakfast each morn, I wandered into the forest beyond the backyard and didn’t return until the rain had soaked me to my bones. The streams in the forest were swollen. The trees wept. The world had no colors beyond green and brown and grey. I was utterly alone, and I loved it.

A large part of me never returned from the woods, the cornfield, or the myriad grey skies I walked beneath. When I dream, and especially when I’m awake, most of me is still out there, still shadowed by the trees, still alone, and still happy.

This is the place I long for. I’d give up almost everything to return to it. I’d forsake football, tv, video games, movies, computers, and cell phones for it. I’d trade in my truck for a dinghy. I’d turn over my neatly-trimmed lawn to the wilderness. I’d set aside dinners at fancy restaurants, slugs of ancient scotch, and long stretches of hot, sunny, beautiful Georgia weather. It’s not a specific location I desire, nor a vague, fantastical, unrealistic dream. The rain is a state of mind I need. I need it. I need the clouds. I need the thunder. SAD (seasonal affective disorder) isn’t something I suffer from. Give me long stretches of sunless sky, and you’ll see a happier J Edward than ever you knew. Actually, you probably won’t see me at all, but you can rest assured what my state of mind will be.

I know I’m not alone in this. Perhaps my waking dream is somewhat more all-consuming than yours, but no matter. Close your eyes and dwell in silence for a short while, and maybe you’ll see the forest, the house, the sandy shore, the mountains, or the people you wish you could return to. Where your desire lives is not nearly as important as how you intend to get back to it. It’s a feeling more than a place, an emotion more than a fixed point in time.

There’s a place I intend to go. Perhaps not today or tomorrow. I’ve a child to raise and bills to pay. I’ve resources to gather, plans to perfect, books to finish, and research to do. But no matter how long it takes, I’ll get there. It’s a bucket list of one. It’s more sacred to me than writing or possessions. Honestly, if I get where I want to be, I won’t need half of what I have now, and my writing will likely improve tenfold. Who needs entertainment when one has imagination? All I want to do is look out my window across a vast, grey, rainswept woodland, and then walk out my door.

Maybe next week we’ll get back to skulls, medieval warfare, and world-burning warlocks. For now I think I’ll kick back and look out the window for a while. Out there lies inspiration. Out there is the rain. It’s near. I can smell it.

J Edward Neill

 

What Happened to the Days?

When I was a kid, life wasn’t like it is now.

Everything was different. So very, very different.

It all started on Saturday morning. Or was it Sunday? Hell if I know.

Back then, I lived at my grandparents’ house. Joliet, Illinois. Corn capital of the world. I didn’t have any bills. I didn’t care about mortgages, cars, money, or girls. I didn’t care about anything, really. Well, I mean…other than my grandparents.

I was seven-years old. Life was good.

No, not just good. Life was f**king idyllic.

Back then, unlike now, I was happy as a clam to wake up at 5AM. Before sunrise? Yeah, I was up. Before everyone else in the entire city? Yep. You bet. It’s not like I had to commute to work. Or commute to anywhere. I had absolutely no plans for my life.

None. Zero. Zip.

F**king idyllic.

What about school? Well, what about it? I didn’t dread school back then. I mean, we had hour-and-a-half recesses back then! And long lunches. And small classrooms. And kickball, lots of kickball.

And you know what?

The world felt right. Life was easy. My deepest worries were which brand of cereal I would eat, what kind of candy my grandma kept hidden in the dresser, and whether or not we had lemonade in the fridge. In hindsight, I think I could’ve lived ten centuries in that life and never questioned it.

It wasn’t just that I was having fun. Or that I had the truest form of freedom. Or that my grandma made pancakes every morning for breakfast.

No. It was something else.

It was in the air. In the water. In the clouds, the trees, and the giant stalks of corn blowing in the field behind our house.

It was in the snow. It was hidden in our spooky garage. It lived in the cracks in the sidewalks which ran between our house and playground at the street’s end.

It was pure f**king joy.

Sometimes, when I’m lying in my bed just after waking in the morning…

Or when I’m out walking in the woods with no one else near…

Or when I’m driving at night, no music playing, nothing but me, the lines on the highway, and the stars wheeling…

I can still remember.

I can remember being in elementary school. Sometimes, just sometimes, my grandfather or my dad would show up in the middle of class. To the other kids and to the teachers, it must’ve seemed bizarre. But my grandpa or my dad would say something like, ‘Jeremy’s leaving school for the day.’ The teacher would protest, but moments later, much to everyone’s shock, I’d be sitting in the car, windows down, the world rushing past. Why’d I get to leave early? Sometimes it was to drive up to Chicago to see a Cubs’ game. Other times we’d ride out to the countryside, out in the spaces between cities (back when such things existed) and we’d just drive. Just ride toward freedom.

No goals.

No needs.

Just us and the wind.

And I swear, every once in a while, I can close my eyes and feel that same wind on my face. It doesn’t feel like adult wind. It’s kid-wind. It’s otherworldly. It’s f**king sorcery. Know what I mean?

But it wasn’t just the wind. See, back then I played baseball. Not the super-competitive, worried-about-my-fastball-velocity stuff I worried about when playing semi-pro ball as an adult. No, not at all. On Saturday mornings (usually cloudy, misty, and cool in the Midwestern springs) my grandma would drive me out to the ballpark. I’d meet a few coaches and plenty of kids, and we’d play ball under the racing clouds. Sometimes it would rain. Sometimes it’d even storm. But most of the time we’d run around out there on those green, green fields for what felt like days. How long did it really last? I don’t know…maybe a few hours every Saturday. But it felt like forever to us kids.

Forever.

And if I close my eyes, I can still smell the grass. I can still see those clouds. I’m almost there. God, how free we were. How I miss being so free of worldly care.

In remembering it, in traveling backward through my modern adult mind, these things are just not the same. Not quite. The grass back then was kid-grass. The clouds were magic. I try to go back there in my heart, but I can’t. It’s too far away. Those days lie across an ocean of time. And if I think about it too long, it feels tragic. I could almost curl into a ball and weep with my full-grown eyes until they’re empty.

How many of these moments can I remember?

Almost all of them.

The whir of my grandparents air-conditioning (one of those in-window metal boxes which blasted frigid air into our kitchen.)

The roar of my grandfather’s lawnmower, a beastly thing which terrified me.

My grandmother’s voice lulling me to sleep.

The sound of wiffle balls flying off my plastic bat and landing in the cornfield.

The mournful, but achingly soulful winter wind buffeting our tiny house.

The time I was sick for seven days on the couch.

The way Halloween seemed to last hours and hours…and hours.

The thousand times I woke up early, treated myself to two bowls of Captain Crunch, and watched cartoons while nestled on the floor in front of the TV…all before the sun had even dared to think of rising.

It never ends, this spiral of memories. I’m betting it’s the same for most of you.

When I think back to these moments, they are far, far away. Not thirty years, but thirty centuries in my weary adult heart. And that’s the tough part. It doesn’t matter how hard I ache for them, they escape me. They existed in a world before bills, before jobs, before assignments, grades, and homework. They were king long before late fees, back taxes, damaged friendships, and shattered hearts.

These things were pure.

No, not just pure. Sacred.

And how many things are sacred? Really and truly? So, so few.

We live under great burden these days, don’t we? Isn’t that what life is? Heavy. Hard. Expensive. Go ahead. Count the cost of all your pain, all your loneliness, and all your struggles. You’ve survived, obviously, since you’re reading this, but you’re far, far removed from your freedom as a child. Aren’t you?

The price of our great technological advancement? The cost of convenience? It’s greater than we know. I can see it in my son. He’s seven now (God, how quickly they grow up!) but his childhood is nothing like mine. He carries weight…already. He knows things of which I was ignorant at his age. So many things.

He knows about bills. About politics. And divorce. About broken hearts.

And for as much as I’d like to shield him, my effort would be useless. I can no more stifle his knowledge than I can stop the sun from rising tomorrow.

The loss of innocence is a quick thing. Quick…and silent…and irreversible. And perhaps even tragic.

And so I hope, hope beyond hope, actually, that when you close your eyes and dream of your faraway days, the green grasses of your childhood, and of your grandma’s pancakes (hopefully she made them) your memories are sharp. I hope, if only for a moment, you can go there. That you can forget what it’s like being an adult.

And that for one moment in your mind, every so often, you can be a kid again, and your heart is whole…

…and unbreakable.


*

J Edward Neill writes fiction and philosophy books, and he usually makes them tragic.

 

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