Repost: He’ll See Me On The Flipside

I’m 7-years old. The kid across from me has issued a challenge to me. We’re both to submit to the Sissy Test. We take our erasers and rub the skin on the back of our hands. Back and forth until the skin is raw. The first one to be in too much pain is the loser.

I won.

Office-pink-erasers

****

I’m 38-years old typing this blog and take a look at the mark on my left hand. The tattoo of my own making. It is the second reward for winning the Sissy Test.

****

I’m 7-years old and my mother is whipping me for being stupid enough to scar myself. This is my first reward.

****

In my defense, the act of rubbing the skin with the eraser never actually hurt. Once the other kid bailed I kept going for a little bit longer, surprised by the lack of pain. It wasn’t until one of the kids surrounding us told me to spit on it.

Then the pain came.

time_travel

It’s a strange thing, the past. The person you were and the person you currently are never get to meet. There is a younger version of you who has made every decision in your life. Every decision that may still affect you now. The so-called dominoes of our lives.

****

I’m 18-years old. In front of me is my acceptance letter to the Georgia Institute of Technology to study Computer Science.

****

I’m 19-years old and after 3 quarters at Ga. Tech I’m finally given authorization to change my major to Civil Engineering. Somewhere in my brain I have decided that my true goal is to design a bridge.

Thru-Truss-Bridge-drawing

Prior to this, Civil Engineering was pretty much an industry that I picked out of thin air. Really. I’m still not sure why exactly that major was the one I went with.

****

I’m 38-years old and I have designed plenty of roads and highways and interstates, but I have never designed a bridge.

****

I’m 24-years old and I have to decide which offer to choose. What job will be my first to set my course by? Maybe this will be a situation where this is the company I’m with until I retire many years from now.

I end up making my choice mostly on the basis of starting salary.

****

These aren’t decisions that I worry about so much. I genuinely like my day job (90% of the time), which makes me one of the lucky ones. But it doesn’t change the fact that a guy, fresh out of high school, made a major life decision for me. Then again, a fresh out of college guy is choosing where I’m going to go to work.  I’m wondering if either were even qualified to make such huge choices…

One of my best friends in the world shared a video with me yesterday from a camping trip a group of us took in 1996. Maybe that’s why my brain has become transfixed with these images of the past. Some key moments, others I just want to dwell in for a little while. I watch and see this 20-year old me with his friends, talking about nothing , but we all seem happy to be there in that moment together.

I wish we had recorded more of that evening. Even if utter nonsense flowed from our mouths, even if the jokes told were not fit for mixed company, every second reminds me of a time before responsibilities of  life crept in. Before friends moved away to pursue their own dreams.

Years later it seems like I’m chasing the weekends, wondering when I might find the time to see a friend, talk on the phone, or just hang out. Some of the people on the video I haven’t talked to face to face in a long time, and it makes me sad. But there is another part of me that is happy to know, to see that time when we were all together. That we have that shared experience with one another, and while memories may fade through time, bits and pieces of that weekend will always bind us.

Time moves fast and it moves slow. It’s like it has a mind of its own. I could say that the last 18 years have passed by in the blink of an eye, but that would be a lie. The memories which make us who we are get compiled day by day. And yet, we put things on a calendar to look forward to them and then forget to enjoy them when we are there, in that moment.

I acknowledge this and I am still guilty as I pen a portion of this blog on scrap pieces of paper at work. I’m counting down the hours, minutes, and seconds until it is time to go home.

****

I’m 11-years old and my new friend Lee has pushed a weird novel across a cluster of desks.

“Read this”, he says.

“I don’t read books.”

“Read it.”

On a Pale Horse

****

I’m 38-years old and tell my wife that all I’d really like to do this weekend is read.

****

I’m 34-years old and the company that I work for has just informed me I’ve been laid off. I stifle the tears while I’m speaking with my boss. Not only would crying be “unmanly”, but probably not the most professional. Though I’m not sure why that would matter in the moment, I try my best to exude a calmness. The peaceful exterior lasts until I make it outside of the building and am alone. I dial the numbers and then breakdown when my wife answers the phone.

****

I’m 34-years old and I’m talking to my wife about story idea 100476.

“You should just write it. You’ve got the time.”

“But I don’t know anything about it other than what I’ve told you.”

“Write it.”

****

I’m 20-years old in the video and see that the girl beside me is the woman who will become my wife in a few years time. I may not remember every thought he had, but I remember knowing that this was the girl I would marry. She was the one.

****

I’m 34-years old and the words pour out of me onto the computer screen filling the white with the black ants under each keystroke. The house is dark and quiet and the words continue to flow.

****

I’m 17-years old and the girl I’ve worked with for over a year at Kroger has agreed to go out with me. I’m nervous beyond belief.

****

I’m 37-years old and my wife’s hand is resting in mine, both our fingers ready to click the publish button on my first book.

It’s a new world.

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also 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 Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

The Van Gogh Experience

Van Gogh – Stary Night Over The Rhone

This past weekend my wife and I headed out to Atlanta to see the Van Hogh Immersive Experience. Prior to going, I could say that I might have known a couple of his paintings (Stary Night obviously being the big one) and maybe knew two things about him (he died young and cut off his ear for some reason). So you could say this was definitely something we were both walking into a bit blind.

The first portion of the exhibit showed many of his paintings along with information about what inspiration he might have drawn from when he was painting. And while the paintings themselves varied from the more mundane subjects (bedrooms and flowers and the countryside), it was still an amazing accomplishment (a true feat of brilliance by one man). Here was someone who did the majority of his oil paintings and artwork in the final two years of his life. To have a creative output of that level is beyond my understanding, but I could definitely appreciate everything I saw and read about a man who seemed to be so troubled by his own brain that perhaps through his painting he was exorcising the demons within himself?

The main portion is in a very large room where his works are projected on all four walls and the floor. The move to music, telling a story of a man’s passion for capturing the beauty he saw within the world. The images move and flow, they warp and change from darkness to light, from self-portraits to a wheatfield where a murder of crows fly into the night. The music they chose to accompany it is remorseful at times before morphing to match the images we can see.

This is the Immersive Experience. To be able to live within his works, even if only for a little bit of time. To be able to peer inside his head in order to gain a small understanding of what he was trying to say to the rest of the world. Sitting there on the floor with my back against the wall, the rest of the world was only what Van Gogh chose to paint. Reality was a series of short and long brush strokes. Life was a collage of images drawn by someone who had no choice but to bear his soul on the canvas.

Van Gogh – Wheatfield with Crows

Finally, we had a VR experience where we could see the world around him for ourselves. They had a digital recreation with frames suspended in the air where the painting would take shape. The idea that perhaps, for a second, we might be able to see the beauty he saw in the world and understand why he was moved to paint it.

Yet, as we left the rooms and ventured back to our own reality, the thing that resonated with me the most wasn’t the paintings. Instead it was the various quotes they had from his numerous letters which struck home with me. He wrote so many letters where he bared his soul in a different way than he could do in his art. Those words hit me in a way I wouldn’t have expected. There was clarity to each thought.

Sometimes because it was a beautiful thought:

“There is nothing more truly artistic than to love people.”

“There is peace even in the storm.”

 

To tragic:

“I put my heart and soul into my work, and I have lost my mind in the process.”

“Art is to console those who are broken by life.”

 

However, two stood out and really hit home. The first because I’ve recently begun to resurrect a project about Dreams so it felt as if Van Gogh was talking about it directly:

“I dream my painting and I paint my dream.”

 

And the second because it is something that I need to remember whenever doubt enters into my mind, for it is a singular truth like no other:

Choose to push through the doubts, the adversity, the days when you don’t want to do anything, the days when you can’t do anything, the days where the blankness of the page is so intimidating that you nearly cry…

“… then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.”

Silence the doubts.

***

To find out more about the Van Gogh Immersive Experience by going to their website.

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also 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 Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

The Dead Don’t Die

Funny Cat Work From Home Office Meme

I have a problem throwing things away. If I’m completely honest, it’s not that I don’t recognize that I don’t currently need “The Thing”, but it is more of the false idea that I will need it at some point. This means if I throw it out, I’m going to hate myself six months, six years, or six decades from now.

But these ideas take up valuable space in our home… in our lives.

I returned to the Office for the first time in 14 months this week. It was and is a surreal experience. I’m lucky that my job of designing roads meant I had the opportunity to work from home, and for that, I am very grateful. However, even if at first I wasn’t sure how or if it was going to work, I believe I not only did a good job day in and day out, I grew to appreciate the lack of “lost time”. You know the Lost time:

The commute. The running out for lunch. The needing to get up hours early so that you are in the office by a certain time. Staying later because a task has to get done.

I think I was nearly as efficient from home as I was the office, but sadly, all things must come to an end. Which brings me to my point: when I returned to the office I took a little bit of time to go through these pieces of paper that littered my office. Oh, they were filed away for the most part or placed in very organized stacks, but it occurred to me that it had been 14 months since I’d laid a finger on any of it. 14 months after I was convinced I needed to have that particular piece of paper for all time sitting on my bookshelf.

Pretty much an actual picture from my office desk.

I hadn’t needed any of it.

I thought hard about it, but at no time during this last year did I miss any of it. At no time was I sitting at my home setup thinking – “crap, I need to run by the office to grab that folder”. Everything I needed I brought with me, and those things I really needed were online anyway.

So, it makes me think that I’d convinced myself of a reality that didn’t really exist in any form. I mean, if I didn’t need that stuff, then what else might I have kept that I don’t need? I threw out a couple of armfuls of things and felt a little better, a little more organized at work. And now I’m starting to think about some items at the house and perhaps, maybe, I don’t need those items anymore either?

It doesn’t mean it isn’t a scary thought for me. It doesn’t mean that I’ll get down to the magical 10 items and live the no material possessions lifestyle. But it might mean that I can get rid of some of these scraps of paper and printouts and videotapes (VHS!) and…

Well, you get the picture.

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also 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 Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

The Reboot

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Normally I take the week between Christmas and New Years’ off and use it to recharge/reboot for the coming year. I take the time to figure out what my goals, both in life and from a writing perspective should be. Formulate a plan and then see how much of it I end up accomplishing. Some years are better than others, to be sure.

However, as this is being published, I will be elsewhere, enjoying my last few moments at a beach. Trying to summon the willpower to leave an island paradise to return again to the real world. I’m hopeful that this retreat will allow me to also have a nice reset on the year and be able to start the next quarter of the year as we make it into summer. I already updated the whiteboard behind me with a list of things that need to be looked at. I have prepared my spreadsheets for what pieces I want to focus on.

I have big plans, but those plans require hard work.

But for now, I’ll rest a little while longer.

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also 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 Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

A Love Renewed?

Many years ago I was betrayed by a comic storyline.

***

When I first started reading comics, Spider-Man was easily my favorite character. Of course, I’d watched his cartoon, could sing the theme song, but reading his monthly adventures connected me to the character in a real way. And much like any kind of entertainment that we absorb in our youth, it becomes “THE” best version of things. You hear it all the time no matter what the generation, they all believe that their music or their movies or their tv or their books or, yes, their comics were the best. That if things just had ended there, it would have been fine, because clearly, it was the pinnacle of the art form.

So, when I read Spider-Man it was literally only a few months later that he was married (to Mary Jane). This was around ’87 or ’88, so never mind that he’d been single for 25ish years up to that point. No, for me it was him and MJ against the world.

I actually laughed over the years at reading various articles about Superman and Lois. It seemed time and time again a new writer lamented that the two had married. That somehow they couldn’t tell the stories they wanted to tell because they were married. Which seemed ludicrous to me.

You see, in Superman’s case there had been 50+ years of him being single. Goofy stories, serious stories, stories where he contorted around a plot that Lois was about to figure out he was Superman… etc. But he’d only been married for less than 10 years and they were already out of ideas? How was that even possible?

But then I began hearing similar things about Spider-Man.

***

I read somewhere that as a writer of a comic (or probably anything you are a temporary custodian for), your job is to leave the “toy box” with more toys than when you got there. It means that you leave the story greater than when you found it.

***

The grumblings were always there. They even launched a whole storyline now referred to as The Clone Saga in an effort to have a single Spider-Man again.

It didn’t stick and eventually, we returned to Peter and MJ as a married couple.

***

Then came One More Day.

Setting aside the actual storyline, the end result was a comic book going forward where Spider-Man and Mary Jane weren’t married… heck, they weren’t together.

It didn’t make sense to me. You had 25 years to tell your single Spidey stories. And at that point, he’d been married as long as he’d been single. They were returning the character to a version from their youths by taking away the version from my youth.

***

I’m one of those people who never quits on a comic (or nearly so). I’ll suffer through some bad artwork and worse storylines for certain comics (Avengers and Flash come to mind). You read a comic and you’re in until they cancel the book. That’s how it works in my head. These characters are my characters.

I’m invested.

***

I stopped reading Spider-Man comics at that moment.

I didn’t go online and complain. I didn’t raise a fuss on some social networks (though I’m sure some of my friends were tired of me talking about it). I figured the only way for me to show my true disapproval was to stop buying the comic. They wouldn’t have my $10 every month.

Chad Shonk (of many articles on this site) told me that it wasn’t right, me not reading Spider-Man.

He wasn’t wrong.

***

Life moves along. The seasons change. More comics are printed and read.

And still, I didn’t buy the comic.

I’d get my fill of Spidey in his guest spots here and there, but I knew very little about what was going on in his book. Considering for 20 years, I’d had a subscription to at least one of his books, there was a true gap.

***

A couple of months ago I enrolled in Comixology Unlimited (think Netflix for comics and you’re pretty close). A couple of weeks ago I noticed one storyline was sitting there to be read: Superior Spider-Man. A story of Doctor Octopus switching bodies with Peter Parker and becoming a better version. The storyline lasted over 30 issues.

I think it took me only a couple of days to get through them.

And weirdly, because it wasn’t my Peter Parker, it allowed me to enjoy the book for what it was – a villain learning how to be a hero. You see, I’m a sucker for the redemption storyline in any medium. And while I understood eventually the real Peter Parker would return and prevail, I enjoyed the ride.

***

Maybe it’s a rationalization. Maybe I’ve given up on my stances from over 13 years ago. Maybe I believe that the amount of money Marvel is getting from me through Comixology is small enough not to matter.

I’m not sure what more I may or may not read. I certainly have plenty of comics to read in my to-be-read pile as is.

Still, it was nice to have a reunion with an old friend. To be able to check in with him and see how he was doing after all this time.

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also 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 Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Car Shopping Blues

Me learning our SUV had been “Totaled”

You think you have so much time. You plan out your trips. You plan out your years ahead. You mark your special occasions where the odometer crossing 50k, 100k, 150k…

And then it’s over. You didn’t even have time to prepare yourself for needing to shop for a new car.

***

That’s where I am this week after the unfortunate news that my wife’s Honda CR-V had some structural damage from a fender bender and the insurance company made the decision to “total” the car out. Suddenly we are a 1 car family.

***

I ran out of gas during my very first test drive.

Seriously, I ran out of gas with my mom in the passenger seat and the salesman in the back. We’d gotten maybe half a mile or so from the dealership when it started sputtering a little bit. I tried to compensate, I mean, clearly, it was my fault that the car was making these weird noises, right? I distinctly remember my mom saying “Just drive. You know how to drive, just drive.”

It wasn’t until the salesman leaned over the seat that he realized the fundamental truth: a car needs gas to run (or at least it did back in those days).

***

Cars are weird. I never have been a “car guy”. I know little more than how to start my car everyday and somedays I struggle to do even that. This is probably a stain on my family since my grandparents owned a junkyard for 40 years or so and worked on and around cars constantly. My dad built his first car.

But I’ve always viewed my cars as a way to get from point A to point B. I have no idea if it has a Z27 1/2 engine in there or not. Does it have 4 wheels? Can it get me where I need to go? OK then!

I can nod along when other people start talking about engine size or horsepower or some classic car, but it is all a defense mechanism. Mostly I want until the conversation turns to sports again where I might be able to contribute to the conversation.

***

Now comes the stressful part. The search to find just the right fit. Too many miles? Too much money?

My current favorite: Find a great-looking deal on a dealer’s site. Write down all the information. Find out when you get to the dealership that particular car is actually at their other location, 40 miles away.

Ugh!

We’re already tired of looking and it’s only been 4 days. We just want to be done, but I’m also obsessed with finding that “perfect” one. You know the car that falls right in the sweet spot of price and miles and accessories and everything else. The one you do a legit double-take on, then ask yourself (out loud) “what’s wrong with this car”

The unicorn of cars.

***

I’m obviously being a bit glib above, but I do think there is something to a car being a part of a family. You make memories in it the same as anywhere else. I live outside of Atlanta, Georgia, which means that many times I feel like I’m living in my car on the weekends (pre-pandemic) running errand after errand.

I traveled back and forth from Richmond, VA to Atlanta, GA during my years at Georgia Tech during the various week breaks. I’d have a stack of CDs sitting in the passenger seat and rotate through them while I made the 8-hour trip. I’ve turned up Pantera as loud as I could, screaming along with the lyrics, that one time I decided to wake up early and get on the road. All to try and stay awake at 11 in the morning. I eventually found a rest stop and napped for about an hour.

So many post-concerts where my shirt was soaked through, trying to figure out the best way not to have it seep into the seats (and never remembering to bring a towel or something for the next show).

***

I held hands for the first time with my future wife while driving back from a Braves game.

***

There are the big memories, but there are all the other memories where we just take it for granted. With this vehicle, I really thought we had 3 more years before we’d need to start going car shopping. With Courtney working from home, assuming some regular maintenance, there was no reason to think that would need to be a pipe dream.

Instead, last week Courtney had to clean her out, turn over the keys, and leave her behind. We only hope that maybe they can use some of her parts in other cars so that she might live on. She served us well. Was a great old gal, and we’ll miss her.

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also 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 Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

A Love For Everyday – 7

Check out Egg, Lee, and John’s Kickstarter until the end of this week as a part of ZineQuest 3!

 

Four 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. For the past three years, I’ve shared a few from the book around the holidays.

Part 1 is here.

Part 2 is here.

Part 3 is here.

Part 4 is here.

Part 5 is here.

Part 6 is here.

 

January 6

 

Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly.

Leo Tolstoy

 

February 1

 

And when one of them meets with his other half,

The actual half of himself,

Whether he be a lover of youth or a lover of another sort,

The pair are lost in an amazement of love and friendship and intimacy.

Plato, The Symposium

 

March 4

 

A great marriage is not when the “perfect couple” comes together. It is when an imperfect couple learns to enjoy their differences.

Dave Meurer

 

April 6

 

There is only one page left to write on. I will fill it with words of only one syllable. I love. I have loved. I will love.

Audrey Niffenegger, The Time Traveler’s Wife

 

May 7

 

People call these things imperfections, but they’re not. That’s the good stuff. Then we get to chose who we let into our weird little worlds… but the question is whether or not you’re perfect for each other. That’s the whole deal. That’s what intimacy is about.

Good Will Hunting

 

June 3

 

You don’t get to choose. You just fall in love. And you get this person who is all wrong and all right at the same time. And you know you love them so much except sometimes they just drive you completely insane and no one can explain it. And the reason it’s so confusing is because it’s love. But if love didn’t have any challenges, what would be the point?

Party of Five

 

July 1

 

Relationships don’t work the way they do on television and in the movies:

Will they, won’t they, and then they finally do and they’re happy forever – gimme a break.

Nine out of ten of them end because they weren’t right for each other to begin with, and half the ones that get married get divorced, anyway. And I’m telling you right now, through all this stuff, I have not become a cynic, I haven’t.

Yes, I do happen to believe that love is mainly about pushing chocolate-covered candies and, you know, in some cultures, a chicken. You can call me a sucker, I don’t care, ‘cause I do… believe in it.

Bottom line… is the couples that are truly right for each other wade through the same crap as everybody else, but, the big difference is, they don’t let it take ‘em down.

Scrubs

 

August 2

 

Age does not protect you from love, but love to some extent protects you from age.

Jeanne Moreau

 

September 12

 

We get old and get used to each other. We think alike. We read each other’s minds. We know what the other one wants without asking. Sometimes we irritate each other a little bit. Maybe sometimes take each other for granted.

But once in a while, like today, I meditate on it and realize how lucky I am to share my life with the greatest woman I ever met. You still fascinate and inspire me. You influence me for the better. You’re the object of my desire, the #1 earthly reason for my existence.

I love you very much.

Johnny Cash

 

October 2

 

I am longing to be with you, and by the sea where we can talk together freely and build our castles in the air.

Bram Stoker’s Dracula

 

November 15

 

Don’t you understand? You mean more to me than anything in this whole world.

Peter Pan

 

December 10

 

Morning without you is a dwindled dawn.

Emily Dickinson

 

***

Squeeze those you love tight this weekend (and on every other day as well)!

***

And if you play Dungeons and Dragons 5e, make sure to check out our Zine focusing on all things Love and Loss currently on Kickstarter!

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also 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 Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

My Life as a College DJ

Image by Michi S from Pixabay

Spinning the black circles. Finding those up and coming bands. Flipping through 30+ years of vinyl to find those forgotten secrets.

I did all of that during my brief time as a DJ at 91.1 WREK at Georgia Tech my freshman year.

The thing is, it’s not like it was even on my radar. That wasn’t something a random college student would do. While I was finding new bands to like/love and music was a passion of sorts, it wasn’t something I’d ever given any thought to. In fact, had my roommate and another friend not found out about the open sign-ups, I would have never had the chance to even bother.

The actual radio station back then (and I’m assuming now, but I don’t know) was right beside the Basketball arena, which meant it was about a ten-minute walk from my dorms. I’m not sure what a college radio station was supposed to look like, but this one didn’t disappoint. A couch that likely was considered used in the late 70s adorned the common area. A beat-up soda machine sat off to the side. Rumor had it if you pressed two of the very worn buttons at the same time when you were making your selection, a can of beer would instead descend from inside. Inside the actual booth where we played music was big enough for a couple of people to sit, with a large desk-like apparatus that held the cd player, the record player, and assorted other buttons and dials. Just behind that was a larger room filled from top to bottom with all the vinyl you could possibly want.

 

From https://www.wrek.org/gallery/historic-wrek-gallery/

So the deal was (I think this is right) 2 or 3-hour shifts where you marked which CDs or vinyl you’d played during your session (think of an old-school notecard inside your library books and it was the same thing). They divided the newer bands they wanted you to play at least once a day. In addition, for an hour you had to play one reggae song and one rap song. Finally, once an hour you could play anything you wanted from the back.

Now here’s the thing about college radio music – a lot of it SUCKS. I legitimately played songs that sounded as if people didn’t have drums but instead had pots and pans they were playing on. And I’m being completely serious. So what happened was you’d find a handful of bands that you liked enough to play during one of your sets, and you just prayed the person working before you hadn’t already played them (because then they were off-limits for the rest of the day). The other thing you discovered were the longer songs. Something maybe 7 to 8 minutes in case you needed to run over to the restroom.

Finally, during your sessions, you’d peruse the back area where there were tons of bands that no one has ever heard of. Oh, they had some things you would know… they had Faith No More’s Epic and The Police Synchronicity, but you had to be very careful with which track you chose.

***

Since I’m a big Police fan, when I found the album sitting back there I decided that I’d delve into one of the more obscure tracks to play. I put it on as my “song of choice” for the hour and within thirty seconds the phone rang and someone growled – “turn that off!” I was so nervous that I’d broken some unwritten rule that I did stop the song in mid-chorus and swapped it with some garage band’s terrible pot banging. The next day when I went to look for that album (thinking that I just chose the wrong song)… it had magically disappeared.

If you worked at the radio station there was an opportunity to sign up to be on the guest lists for various clubs around the city and nearby towns. Which was extremely cool considering I didn’t have a ton of disposable income, to begin with. The problem for a newbie like me was the sign-ups were in order of seniority. So I signed up for a few things here and there that an older DJ then sniped from me. In the 5 months of working there, I managed to get on 1 guest list: Helmet at the 40 Watt in Athens. Considering they were one of my favorite bands at the time, I was just praying no one would snipe my passes, but sure enough, I and a friend got to go.

https://www.wrek.org/gallery/historic-wrek-gallery/ I believe that’s the same couch from my memories.

***

One other thing the radio station did was broadcast the college baseball games. As spring approached, multiple afternoon shifts would butt up directly to the games. Normally, there was a DJ who would cover that shift which mostly meant making sure the initial setup worked and then being on hand for any issues during the game. Except on that one day when the end of my shift approached and the DJ still hadn’t shown up. The clock turned 5 and the baseball guys called in, saying they were ready for the hand-off… and me… the guy who was nervous about screwing something up in the first place, suddenly had to explain to them that the regular guy wasn’t there, and they’d need to walk me through things.

I don’t remember any specifics, but I know I had to go mess with the main “machine” (my brain fails me what it was called), something I didn’t interact with AT ALL. The clock was ticking, I’m cursing the DJ for being late, and I’m sure the broadcasters were wondering if the game was going to make the air.

It did. After about 1/2 an hour the late DJ showed up, thanked me, and then I left hoping to never have to do that again.

***

It is only now, looking back, that I wish I’d stuck with it for a little while longer. After summer, my friends kinda petered out on it, and since that was half the reason to do it… and I was going to be co-oping in the winter quarter anyway (which meant I wouldn’t have time to do it), I stopped signing up for shifts. Before too long it had become a weird thing that I’d done… something neat to put on my resume for a little while as “hobbies” or something interesting about me.

Mostly though, I wish I’d come up with my radio voice back then.

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also 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 Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

New Year’s Resolutions and the Easy Button

A new year and a chance to start over fresh. Make your resolutions on how to be a better you. I know many times this has become the moment to set forth on a new diet. Try to get some of those unwanted pounds off, get into better shape, and maybe eat a little better.

As I’m walking or avoiding the snack foods or any various desserts that may cross my path, I can’t help but wonder how technology and science have failed us. And I’m not even talking about the mystical, magical Diet Pill that actually works and just melts away the excess weight… no. I mean, there have to be some other ways for this to work out. There have to be some ways that science fiction might actually predict science and make all our resolutions thing of the past.

So here are a couple of ideas for how this might work… the Easy Button way to get into shape:

Is it impossible to create a machine that allows someone to temporarily gain control of our bodies? Whether our minds just go into a blissful state or maybe it is a true mind swap. The overweight or out of shape person swaps out of their bodies for maybe an hour a day to allow our trainers the time to whip those same bodies into shape (for a nice fee of course). Of course, an hour a day would show some level of improvement, but if you are really serious, then might I suggest our month-long vacation plan? While you get to live it up with a perfect body, our trainers will take your flabby form and put it through all sorts of exercises. These trainers are used to eating right, living right, and will do for your body what you could only dream about. In the meantime, you will be taken to a resort where for those same days you get to live the way you’ve always wanted, in a specimen of a body.

At the end of the month, you swap minds back, and now you get to have that Hollywood/movie star physique for once in your life… and if you manage to slip up, well, we can always do it again next year!

It’s a win-win!

***

Though, thinking about it, swapping minds is probably a dangerous idea since you would never be sure what someone might do with your face, your fingerprints. You’d effectively be living a different life for that time so there is no end to the trouble your body might get into. Would you need to put a freeze on your accounts? What happens if they die in your body? What happens if you die in theirs? Hmmm… this may take a little more thought.

***

Ok, what about this idea:

Matter cannot be destroyed only transferred, right? What if that was applied to all of those with a little extra weight to give? Say I could give someone a pound of my fat for a fee. It could even be set up on an official exchange where you might get paid a hundred dollars to take a pound from someone. Now you have people who are trainers, who again are used to keeping a low fat percentage and allow them to make a little more money. In fact, technically anyone could suddenly make a few extra bucks if they were willing to exercise and do the dieting for you. You pay your money, they get the weight, and your resolution is a little easier to achieve?

Image by HeungSoon from Pixabay

***

Of course, I could see that one allowing for crazy excesses. I could see people getting into debt and the only way they can pay things off is through taking the weight which would/could mess their own systems up beyond anything they might normally be able to adjust to. I mean, it’s one thing to maybe put on a few pounds in a week, maybe 5-10 pounds in a month. But what if you had to take 20-30 pounds in a matter of minutes. The shock alone…

***

Or maybe, just maybe, I could take another walk around the neighborhood…

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also 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 Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

Once Upon A Time…

Once upon a time, there was a guy who knew what he wanted to do but didn’t know how to go about doing it.

You see, he wanted to be a writer… and really what he wanted to be was a comic book writer. Those funny books had enticed him since he was ten years old. He would talk about ideas for comics with his friends, sometimes even writing up rough outlines for the ideas, but nothing ever came from any of them. Those dreams of youth began to fade as he entered the workforce. He was 24 years old and if it hadn’t happened by that point, then it was never going to happen.

Yet, the universe must work in strange ways because one day a friend introduced him to a fellow aspiring writer and that new friend introduced him to another and another until there was a group of six of them meeting in the back of a comic book store. Now, they didn’t think about writing comics in those first few moments. It’s not like they were literally staring at them for multiple hours every Sunday afternoon or anything (they really were). Instead, they brainstormed movie ideas and when the time came for someone to take the first stab at writing an episode of a tv show (Smallville – which I talked about here in the early days of this blog), this guy threw his hand up to write it.

And reality slammed into him. All those various bits and pieces of stories and comic ideas were little more than bits and pieces. Aside from a couple of assignments in high school, he wasn’t sure if he’d ever actually finished one of these stories before in his life. Plus, he didn’t know the first thing about writing a screenplay and barely could work his way through the software in those first hours.

Fear crept in and stayed a while. The blank page stared back at him, that blasted cursor slowly appearing and then disappearing, attempting to mock him or perhaps intimidate him further. It need not have bothered, as he was sure he’d bit off far more than he ever could have. But there were other people who were looking for the first draft, so he wrote and wrote and wrote. And when they read it, they liked it.

The days went by and he tried his hand at other pieces, other ideas. At the time they were still focused on movies or tv shows, but at some point, someone suggested doing a comic book. In an hour he wrote his story for the anthology (The God That Failed). And then when the pages came in from the artist, his mind was blown. Each one became something more and more magical. Holding the printed version of the anthology in his hands, that 10-year old yelled and cheered. For a moment, he had accomplished something.

That moment, that high, is fleeting in a way for the writer. Because there was now no excuses other than the ones he made for himself. He brainstormed other ideas that would fit into an eight-page format. He collaborated with friends on an impossibly crazy comic book series lasting 60 issues in some cases. The comic world only needed to let him get a big toe in and he’d be able to wow them.

But comics are like that. They depend on a team of people. They can be slow to happen. They can be just like Lucy with the football. The guy has a list of projects which were destined to happen over the years, yet somehow got derailed. He’d learn to temper his excitement for things because he didn’t want the lows of the disappointment each time. More and more everything felt like a “that’s great… if it happens”.

Somehow during all of this, he decided to try his hand at prose. Suddenly unemployed, he had time on his hands. Within four months he’d written the first draft of the book which would be published a few years later (The Dark That Follows). One book turned into a second (Hollow Empire). And all the while he continued working on comics (The Gilded Age) and (The Crossing). Until finally he released another book in 2020 (The Echo Effect).

***

What’s the point of the above? Is it persevere and you get everything you want? Is it hard work pays off? Is it be too stubborn to quit?

As I look forward to 2021, I have found that with every story that gets written, every novel I write, every comic which sees the daylight… I am more hungry than I was before. It doesn’t mean it isn’t a struggle for time or money or effort or finding the right people to work with. It means that there is so much more to create and develop. There are so many blank pages who mock me that I must populate them with strings of words until they beg for that same mercy and find me lacking any.

What’s the point? The point it is time to begin the next story, the next comic, the next idea…

It’s the only way to go forward.

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also 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 Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

A Love For Everyday – 6

 

Four 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 three years, I’ve shared a few from the book around the holidays.

Part 1 is here.

Part 2 is here.

Part 3 is here.

Part 4 is here.

Part 5 is here.

 

January 10

If I could save time in a bottle

The first thing that I’d like to do

Is to save every day

‘Til eternity passes away

Just to spend them with you

Jim Croce, Time In A Bottle

 

February 6

If there’s any kind of magic in this world, it must be in the attempt of understanding someone, sharing something. I know, it’s almost impossible to succeed, but… who cares, really? The answer must be in the attempt.

Before Sunrise

March 14

 

It has made me better loving you… it has made me wiser, and easier, and brighter. I used to want a great many things before, and to be angry that I did not have them. Theoretically, I was satisfied. I flattered myself that I had limited my wants. But I was subject to irritation; I used to have morbid sterile hateful fits of hunger, or desire. Now I really am satisfied, because I can’t think of anything better.

Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady

 

April 8

 

All I have are the choices I make, and I choose her, come what may.

The Adjustment Bureau

 

May 12

 

Sex without love has its place, and it’s pretty cool, but when you have it hand in hand with deep commitment and respect and caring, it’s 9,000 times better.

George Carlin

 

June 8

 

If you loved someone, you loved him, and when you had nothing else to give, you still gave him love.

George Orwell, 1984

 

 

July 5

 

Never close your lips to those whom you have already opened your heart.

Charles Dickens

 

August 20

 

But if I am worthy of it you will always love me;

And if there be anything good and pure in me,

It will be proved by my always loving you.

Nathaniel Hawthorne

 

September 11

 

Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves.

Albert Einstein

 

October 1

 

The best things in life make you sweaty.

Edgar Allen Poe

 

November 7

 

At the touch of love, everyone becomes a poet.

Plato

December 3

 

Nobody really thinks it will work, do they?

You just described every great success story.

Say Anything

***

I hope this holiday is a good one no matter where you are or who you might share it with.

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also 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 Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

Comics Are My Time Machine

Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

There is a scene in the movie Before Sunset, where Ethan Hawke is talking about this idea of a song being able to transport you back to a particular moment in time. That in a way, the song is a time machine because it allows you to experience something from long ago almost as if it is happening in that moment. A bridge between two times.

It is a wonderful idea that I’ve seen mentioned in other places since, and while I agree that music can do that for me as well (and may be a future blog if I remember), I have another way to track time within my own life:

Comics.

Comics are truly my time machine. Much in the same way that a song can take you back to an earlier time in your life, so too, do I see comics performing that task for me.

I remember distinctly the four comics which set me on the path towards readership, fandom, and loss of a closet in my current home (which my wife laments). $10 in my pocket for purposes of snack, drink, and possibly a magazine became a 10 year old looking over the newsstand rack in amazement. Before that moment, I don’t think I really knew “about” comic books or understood them for what they were. Weirdly I owned 2 comics prior to this (an issue of Transformers and an issue of Fantastic Four). To this day I’m not sure why I decided to get those four comics. Why I didn’t grab a Sports Illustrated or maybe even saved the money for a rainy day.

They called to me.

After that, it was over for me. I was hooked completely. In those early days every stray quarter, nickel, dime, and penny was scrapped and saved in order to have enough to buy a couple of books when I rode my bike up to the local convenience store. With no concept of shipping dates or even that comics came in weekly, I would go as many times a week during the summer as I could think of and return with at least one new comic no matter if I had left it on the shelf four times previous.

Now they exist as artifacts of different times. A reminder of what my life might have been when a particular issue or comic came out.

The afternoon I stopped by Chad’s house with my comics and neither he nor Egg would talk to me until I read the latest issue of The Flash so that we could discuss in great detail. This was during Mark Waid’s epic run.

Finding comraderi with a co-worker through a shared love of Moon Knight… even if he loved the original series and loathed the 90s one that was my introduction to the character (and therefore has a special place in my heart).

Those Saturday afternoons (with Egg) that I spent going to used bookstores looking to rummage around in various dollar bins and after seeing a copy of an issue of Firestorm randomly within remembered that I kind of dug that character back when he was on the Challenge of the Superfriends cartoon. Suddenly, I had a goal to get his complete run (and even more reason to visit all those shops).

Being able to hand my dad a stack of Legion comics or The Great Darkness Saga trade so that he could see how his favorite characters from when he was a kid were doing.

Randomly finding out about Valiant Comics being in our backyard (at Dark Adventure Con) and even though I knew very, very little about them or their books traveling to a local con where the number 3 comic company decided to come and roll out some special posters and comics. It made me a fan of those creators and those characters to this very day.

It doesn’t need to be a specific book (though, each of those stories has a particular comic that sparks the memory), but I think the reason I still love to collect and read these stories is because it connects me to myself. A different version of myself throughout 30+ years of reading about these various characters. I may seem silly to those on the outside, but they have become as much of a part of me as anything else has.

Now I find myself trying to create my own comics. There’s a hope I could leave others with a little more than they started with. A chance to expand how and what they perceive comics to be.
For older readers, a return to glimpse that young person who first clutched those comics in their hands and read and reread them on a daily basis.

A true connection to the past and a promise of the future.

***

By the way, The Crossing is now available for sale here!
***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also 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 Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

A Love for Every Day – 5

 

Four 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 three years, I’ve shared a few from the book around the holidays.

Part 1 is here.

Part 2 is here.

Part 3 is here.

Part 4 is here.

 

January 7

 

I see you everywhere, in the stars, in the river; to me you’re everything that exists; the reality of everything.

Virginia Woolf, Night and Day

 

February 8

 

Sometimes your nearness takes my breath away;

And all the things I want to say can find no voice.

Then, in silence, I can only hope my eyes will speak my heart.

Robert Sexton

 

March 3

 

Every girl needs a guy best friend to help her laugh when she thinks she’ll never smile again.

Anonymous

 

April 2

 

All your life, you will be faced with a choice. You can choose love or hate…

I choose love.

Johnny Cash

 

May 13

 

Love isn’t an act, it’s a whole life.

Brian Moore

 

June 2

 

There isn’t time, so brief is life, for bickerings, apologies, heartburnings, callings to account. There is only time for loving, and but an instant, so to speak, for that.

Mark Twain

 

July 9

 

August 14

 

Faith. You give it to the people you love, but the people who really deserve it are the ones who come through even when you don’t love them enough.

Veronica Mars

September 8

 

Never close your lips to those whom you have already opened your heart.

Charles Dickens

 

October 3

 

When a girl is in love,

You can see it in her smile.

When a guy is in love,

You can see it in his eyes.

Anonymous

 

November 2

 

This is true love-

You think this happens every day?

The Princess Bride

 

 

December 3

 

 

***

Here’s to showing your thanks for the loves in your life.

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also 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 Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

The Dark Artist Playlist – All the Songs I Play While Painting

*

Normally, if you asked me what kind of music I listen to, I’d hit you up with the strangest of combinations. “Death metal, classical soundtracks, and more death metal,” I’d say. I might rattle off a list of obscure soundtracks, old school death metal albums, and artists from the early 90’s, and you’d probably roll your eyes.

It’s okay. That’s a normal reaction. Contemporary music just isn’t my thing.

But…

When I get down to painting…

I sometimes get even more obscure.

So let’s dive right in.

These are my top ten music selections, whether artists or individual albums, to which I listen while painting away my days and nights.

Please enjoy…


*

Hildur Guonadottir

Say her name three times fast, I dare you. So, what can one say about Hildur? Most probably know her as the Oscar award-winning creator of the Joker soundtrack. But really, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Hildur has several albums, soundtracks, and collaborative pieces with other European artists, ALL of which are amazing. For melancholic string work, atmospheric vocals, and emotional yet subtle compositions, no one is quite like Hildur.

For starters, try her solo album, Without Sinking. The string work alone is enough to make my paintbrush move without my even touching it.

And then move right along to Saman, whose atmospheres and moods aren’t like anything else on this list.

Late at night, while the rest of the world dreams, there’s a pretty good chance I’m wide awake, painting my heart out, absorbing hours of Hildur’s work.

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Hans Zimmer

Ok. Let’s go a little more mainstream.

Everyone knows Hans Zimmer, right?

The composer behind the Gladiator, Interstellar, and Inception soundtracks?

All credit to the master. I’m sure I’m but one of thousands who are inspired to create based on Hans’ work.

I mean…just listen to this.

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Agalloch

Up until about two years ago, I’d never heard of this band. And then one day I devoured this album, and I knew there was no going back.

Agalloch is a bit louder and more aggressive than most of the sounds on this list. And yet…the depth and length of their albums are enduring enough to inspire plenty of art.

When trying to categorize Agalloch, I sometimes lack the words. They’re not really metal, nor classical, nor contemporary. The way they blend acoustic guitar with slower, chunkier, heavier riffs, and the sheer longevity of most of their songs allows one to fall into a creative ocean…and not need to surface for hours.

I prefer listening to these guys when creating larger paintings. I let the drums set the pace for my background brush strokes, and then I forget what time of night it is.

Sadly, they’re no longer making music. But their catalogue is more than enough to occupy your ears for days.

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Depeche Mode

80’s fans will instantly recognize the name, and no further questions will need to be asked.

For everyone else, I’ll say only this. I don’t generally care for most 80’s bands. They’re much too poppy, too concerned with their hair.

But then there is Depeche Mode, one of few artists from that long ago decade capable of creating a genuine dark mood. Yes, plenty of their songs are about addiction and broken hearts. But I’m not really here for the lyrics, after all. I’ve here for Depeche’s moody beats. Their heavy sense of regret. Their darkness.

And more’s the better for painting.

Here. My personal favorite song, Waiting for the Night.

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Johann Johannsson 

Every once in while, as many of us know, Spotify will deliver us down into a musical rabbit hole.

It was on one such night, while I patiently worked on another of my giant dark tree paintings, Johann emerged onto my playlist.

We’ve talked about Hildur Guanodottir already. Johann Johannsson is quite similar, if darker and more heavily produced. His soundtracks are truly all over the map in terms of depth, mood, and tonal range.

For starters, there’s the super intense Sicario soundtrack. But then there’s this bizarre gem, which I can’t even begin to categorize.

There are nights during which I simply set my music box to ‘Johann’ and never look back. My only grief is that he passed away recently, and thus won’t be able to create more of his wondering, ethereal music.

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Type O Negative

You might ask yourself, “What the hell are these guys doing here?”

Well… Everyone once in a while… I need to add a splash of anger to my art.

And who better than Type O?

I remember being fresh out of high school. And yes, that was ages ago. I heard Peter Steele booming away on albums which seemed to last forever, and I was hooked. As an artist, and as someone who needs to set the mood…and then for it to last a while, I’m not sure there are too many better choices for angst and anger than this here album. Or this one.

Do they truly fit in with the rest of my cello-heavy, moody-acoustic choices? No. Not at all.

And yet here they are.

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Max Richter

Speaking of moody, here’s a little something.

Max Richter is the master of one thing – long, enduring, ethereal soundtracks. Yes, he has shorter works, such as this beautiful piece. But primarily he deals in songs that seem unending, songs with a limited range but a very striking hook. There are no words (literally everything he does is instrumental) to describe some of his albums, one of which, at 8 hours, 24 minutes, he created with a theme and mood so simple, one could put it on in the background and fall into a waking dream for days.

If I want calm, and if I want to paint with slow, serene strokes, Max is my choice.

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Danzig

But then again, if I want raw, dark power, I turn to no other than the evil side of Elvis, Glenn Danzig.

Look, say what you will about Danzig’s newer works (which aren’t very compelling) his older music is unparalleled. Yes, he has the one soundtrack-ish album, Black Aria, but for my deep, dark art nights, I turn to his original four compilations, Danzig 1-4.

If a painting requires fury, sorrow, and perhaps more than a splash of dark passion, I go here, or especially here.

And my paintbrush and I will never look back.

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Robert Rich / Alio Die

Ok, let’s go completely off-grid.

If someone had asked me ten years ago, “Do you like New Age music?” I’d have slapped them in the jaw and shot fire out of my eyes. “New Age, you say? Are you out of your mind?”

Fast forward to today, and I get it now.

There’s something meditative about certain albums I’ve (accidentally) unearthed, and after lengthy experimentation, I’ve decided Robert Rich (and Alio Die, but primarily Robert Rich) is my go-to as far as shadowy, murky, atmospheric music. For example: this. And this. I’ve found myself listening to these and others not only while painting, but while driving long-distance, and finding inspiration whether standing before my easel or riding the long, lonely road.

How far will I follow my New Age curiosity? I suppose time will tell.

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Gregorian Chants

Ok, so…yeah.

At times, I find myself craving the most classical of classical music, the purest, simplest form of human noise-making.

And that, my friends, is chanting.

I don’t have a favorite album for this sort of thing. In fact, other than the Tallis Scholars (whom I adore) I don’t know the names of most of the artists/monks who create this wonderful expression of voice.

But on some afternoons, if the sun is shining just so, and if the mood so strikes me, I’ll put on an hour or five of Gregorian chants and forget I live in the 21st Century.

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If you haven’t guessed by now, pretty much all I do is listen to music and make art.

My art is here.

I hope it makes music for your eyes.

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J Edward Neill

Fifty-Four Road Trips, And How They Changed my Life

I never dreamed of being a traveler.

For many years, for most of my life, the idea of journeying far beyond my comfortable plot of North Georgia land stirred little interest in my heart. Truly, I’d have rather sat on my porch and sipped scotch beneath the evening clouds. I’d have preferred to garden in the sunshine, to build fires and roast marshmallows, to work in my quiet studio well after the rest of the world fell asleep.

No.

It wasn’t the idea of leaving home that troubled me. I’d long ago journeyed to beaches, to deep forests, to faraway Swiss mountains. I’d already been to most of the places I desired.

To be honest…it was getting to these places I didn’t love. It was the long car rides. The planes. The trains. The stretches of sitting, waiting, and sitting again. And always, as is my nature, I did these things alone. Always feeling like a stone slowly sinking into the bottom of some fathomless lake. Until at last I arrived at wherever I was going. Until I could blink away the haze of driving for endless hours and breathe again.

I figured I’d always be likewise. Not exactly a homebody. Not exactly set in my provincial ways. But surely not one of those people you’ve seen. You know the ones. The world travelers. The walkers of every corner of civilization. They’re more exciting than ever I’ll be. They’re probably in Hawaii right now sipping pina coladas from coconuts. And honestly, I’m fine with that.

But…

As all things must do…

Something changed.

It began about twenty months ago. At the brink of summer. Unexpected, but maybe predestined. A chance, a real reason, a need to travel. I won’t tell you what this reason was. You’ll just have to guess. But for me, it was the rarest of opportunities. All I had to do was drive. Fly. Ride a train. Ride a bus. Then drive again. All in one day.

Sounds fun, right?

You’ll have to trust me. It was for the most worthy of causes.

You see, for most of my life, I’ve never been much of an adventurer. The simple things have always defined my existence. A day of wandering around my yard. A wet paintbrush dangling from my fingers. Something simmering on the stove. A hug (and maybe even a sneaky gut punch) from my young son. I’ve never really needed much excitement. Truly, all the adventures I need live inside my imagination. Who needs the great blue beyond when one has a endless ocean of daydreams sloshing in one’s head? I’ve always felt this way. I just close my eyes and I can be anywhere…and anyone…I desire.

But on that summer afternoon, something happened. A journey lay at hand. It was something I had to do. Same as breathing. Same as every other important thing I had to do in my life, only greater.

So I did it.

The first journey was, in hindsight, the hardest. I woke early on a Tuesday morning, hauled my truck (which was perilously low on fuel) down a long stretch of angry Atlanta highway. These were the pre-Covid days, and by the time I reached the airport, it was stuffed with thousands of people. And by thousands of people, I mean thousand of not-nearly-as-enthusiastic-to-be-at-the-airport-as-me human beings. And of course there were lines. And vigorous security checks. And me, the guy who wears more jewels than an Egyptian pharaoh, enjoyed his first (but hardly last) full-body pat-down from the local beefy TSA security dude.

Eerily calm, and still bejeweled, I boarded a plane for a far Midwest city. Chicago, as it happened. To the land of my childhood.

Ninety minutes later, I landed in a world I’d all but forgotten. My first return home in a decade.

It was at that moment, upon landing in Chicago just after sunrise, I felt a sensation unlike anything in my adult life. It was as if my eyes snapped open from a dream of which I hadn’t been fully aware. I stepped off the plane, drove a few miles away from the airport, and then, wandering bleary-eyed out my car, I stood beneath the familiar sky and stared at the clouds, who stared back at me like old friends.

This journey was but the first of many. Twenty-seven, as it happens. Or, as I see it, fifty-four, if we’re counting the return trips home. Little did I realize it at the time, but each of these trips, whether coming or going, became its own existential moment, its own indelible memory weaving things into my heart which I will never forget.

During these journeys, in which I was always alone until reaching my destination, I felt as if I somehow experienced more than in the previous thirty years of life.

Which is of course impossible, but not really.

And I’ll try to tell you why…

If you’ve ever sat on a plane at night, the only wakeful soul among a hundred dozing people, and looked out at the full moon shining atop the clouds, you might know my feeling.

If you’ve ever decided on a whim to drive seven-hundred miles through mountains, valleys, and endless Midwestern fields, you might understand.

And if you’ve ever zipped down a city highway which is normally jammed with cars by day, but is lamplit and empty at midnight, maybe you’ll sense where I’m going with this.

During these fifty-four journeys, I felt contentedly alone, vastly alive.

On a lonely night as the moon rose above the Kentucky hills, I once raced along a black highway. The moon chased me, but I was swifter, and won the race to the dark fields of Illinois at midnight.

On a black, stormy afternoon as my plane made a daring landing on a wet runway, I once sat in the rearmost seat, calm as stone even as my fellows pleaded with the gods not to let us crash.

In the deep haze of a predawn sky, I whipped through the fog in my trusty car, carving my way northward through farming villages whose names I’ll never know.

For twelve hours, I drove through a storm which seemed everlasting, whose clouds broke only when I stepped out of my car, weary and red-eyed, and wandered through the humid air into my silent home.

Dozens of times, I rode beneath the lights of the Chicago highways at night, my heart pumping calm, the crisp evening air washing over my face through the window.

Sometimes I took airplanes, sometimes I drove my trusty car, while at other times I piloted unfamiliar, borrowed vehicles, whose different smells and steering wheels I can remember as if I’d driven them only yesterday. At times I zipped down to the airport on Atlanta’s wobbliest trains. And I’ll never forget the Chicago buses, whose fearless drivers plowed down the streets with abandon. Those, I rode many times, and never once with the same driver or passengers.

In my many journeys, I traveled at night. At dawn. Through rain. Under the sun, the stars, and the moon. Through summer, autumn, winter, and summer again. Through tireless storms lashing the black pavement, down roads with numbers instead of names, between endless miles of cornfields, through the rock-hewn highways of Tennessee, beneath the vast wind turbines of central Illinois and northern Indiana, down Hwy 80 toward a little village an hour west of Chicago, down Hwy 75 in North Georgia, on which no one drives slower than the speed of light.

Always for same purpose, I made these journeys. Always for the same promised end. And yet, no two of my travels were remotely alike. The sights may have been familiar at times, but as you surely know, highways are different by day and by night, by season and by mood of the sky. What is at 2AM a dark stretch of desolate road becomes at 2PM a sunlit river of cars. What is at midnight a black field, seamless to the end of sights, becomes at dawn a grey and green marvel of swaying cornstalks. And of course there are the skies, which as anyone who drives long-distance take on colors and moods of their own.

During these fifty-four journeys, I looked as much inward as I did outward. The clouds, storms, fields, and cities I saw, and the ten-thousand cars I must’ve surely passed…they made impressions on me. Most people would say they prefer to meditate on a soft mat, in comfortable clothes, with calm music playing. But my meditations became born of the highway, of the too-small airplane seats, of the streetlamps at night, of the roaring wind, the slashing rain, the first glimmers of sunlight.

In these moments, I felt resurrected.

There are of course many pleasant things about traveling not alone, but with others. Whether it’s having someone to talk to or having a friend to take the wheel when the hour grows late and your eyes grow tired. But for those of us who have done it alone, who have ridden the black roads at night or stayed awake on an airplane and watched the clouds race by, we perhaps know there is something powerful at work.

Or maybe it’s just me.

Today, after so many adventures, the tides have changed again. I don’t know if there will be a fifty-fifth journey. Perhaps my traveling days are done. Or perhaps this is merely a lull before an entirely new era of travels, which I would welcome back into my life like an old friend.

I know only two things:

Every one of my journeys was worthwhile, no matter how difficult, no matter how long, wearying, and lonely. My travels were valuable not only because of where I was going, but because of the going itself, and all the little things composing the effort of crossing hundreds of miles.

And…

If the chance should again arise, I will be ready. For though the world may change and people may wander, the highway will always be waiting. I know that now.

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Perhaps one day I’ll see you out there. Riding the lonely night. Gazing out the airplane window. Meditating as you go from there to here and back again.

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If so, I hope it’s the same for you as for me.

 

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Farewell for now.

– J Edward Neill

 

 

 

Seven Years and Counting

I totally forgot about the anniversary of this site and this blog last week. As I was sitting here, thinking about what I might blog on tonight, I went looking through my old posts to see if anything needed to be followed up on, and saw that very first one was posted on 10/16/13.

I think I read somewhere that after 7 years all the cells in your body have died and new cells have taken their place… so in a way, you are a completely new person. After 7 years of blogging and writing (more importantly) I feel that to some level and then not so much on other levels. Sometimes the words for the blog come very easy and I get three or four written and put in the bank. Other times I’m reminded that the single most horrific thing in the world is a blank computer screen staring back at you. It’s hard to overcome.

Either way, I like to use these anniversary posts to look back at my posts over the last year and highlight a couple I thought were good… maybe you missed them, maybe you read them, but either way, I like them.

 

The Darkest Timeline?

Weirdly, this one feels very timely as my Atlanta Braves just lost in Game 7 of the NLCS. I’m not sure that it is a complete disaster, but after being up 3 games to 1, it doesn’t feel great. This was my attempt to try and excise some sports demons. If I say it aloud I can take any lingering power it might still have over me and the team… right?

Now, where does this weekend’s game belong on this list?

 

Parallels

I’ve always been fascinated by other paths we might have taken. Movies like Sliding Doors or Run Lola Run are right in my wheelhouse as they both ask and answer all those questions. So when it came time to dip my feet into the Science Fiction world, I knew that the book I wrote would deal with the same kind of ideas. Because, at their core, our decisions are certainly a way to  define us. They create our memories, which in turn inform every decision we make thereafter.

To Become A Supervillain

My feeble attempt to document some of the things we might need to avoid during the pandemic for fear that all this isolation might lead to my wife becoming a supervillain. There are common signs that we should all make ourselves familiar with, lest we be in the presence of the next BIG BAD! A big part of me thinking I should go back to this at some point and flesh these out a little more… maybe even like a miniature survival guide (How Not To Become A Supervillain!).

 

COVID Through the Eyes of a Cat

As I write this, Westley is laying on one of my arms not feeling all that great (his pancreatitis has flared up again, so the fun of giving a cat multiple pills multiple times a day will continue in this house for a couple of weeks! Still, this post is about how my two cats are thinking about their Humans being home all the time.

 

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Also, just a reminder that my newest book, The Echo Effect is newly released and only $2.99 for the remainder of October! Check it out here!
***

John McGuire is writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also 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

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

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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…


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Painting # 1 – The Unheaven

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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.

 


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Painting # 2 – Grove of Many Moons

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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.


 

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Painting # 3 – Furnace of the Fallen

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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.

🙂


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Painting # 4 – Moonbringer 

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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.


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Painting # 5 – Seizing Heaven

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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.

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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

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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 complement that 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