Ten Eccentric Movies Everyone Should See

There are Hollywood smash hits.

And there are bombs.

There are formulaic rom-coms, predictable horror cheese-fare, and various deadly serious films starring Matt Damon.

But as most of us know…

There are films that defy convention, break from the mold, and flip movie-goers’ expectations upside down. Many of these, you might not have watched or even heard of. They’re not quite mainstream, but not quite indie either.

Please enjoy my list of ten eccentric movies, all of which are worth viewing:

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Perfume – Story of a Murderer

It’s possible I’m starting this list with the best movie of the ten. Perfume – Story of a Murderer is among the most eccentric, most gripping movies ever to hit the screen. It goes like this: a young man with a gifted sense of smell decides he wants to capture the scent of all things. Only…that’s impossible. So rather than continue trying to capture the odors of copper, glass, and dead cats, he steps up his game and makes it his life mission to make the most powerful perfume the world has ever known.

I won’t spoil it more than that.

Featuring Ben Whishaw, the late, great Alan Rickman, Dustin Hoffman, and narrated by John Hurt, Perfume is a powerful tale of the dark places obsessions can go.

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Moon

One must be careful when describing Moon, lest one reveal spoilers.

So I’ll say only this:

A lonely, lonely man named Sam (played by Sam Rockwell) exists on the far side of the Moon with the sole purpose of mining Helium-3. Sam’s only companion is an AI named GERTY. His journey is haunting, sometimes grim, and always mysterious.

Moon’s atmosphere (no pun intended) is different than any movie I’ve ever seen, while the soundtrack is flat out beautiful and chilling.

Just see it.

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My Blue Heaven

Let’s go old school for a minute.

My Blue Heaven is my personal favorite Rick Moranis movie (other than mayyyyyyyyybe Ghostbusters.) And Steve Martin definitely has the best hairdo of any dude ever.

So…when Vinnie (Steve Martin) falls into a semi-ridiculous witness protection program, it becomes Barney’s (Rick Moranis) job to protect him. As expected, Steve Martin’s performance is over-the-top absurd, and Moranis plays it pretty deadpan throughout.

Plenty of critics will say My Blue Heaven’s premise is way better than its execution. To them I say, “Pfffffffft.” My Blue Heaven is good, silly fun.

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What We Do in the Shadows

Speaking of fun movies, What We Do in the Shadows is among the best of them.

The setup: four vampires living in New Zealand must cope with the everyday challenges of the modern world. This includes: wrangling new victims via a third-party, dealing with dirty dishes, bickering over whose turn it is to clean the house, etc. Each of the vampires is from a different era of history, meaning their interactions are flat-out bizarre and hilarious. It’s shot in a reality TV/documentary format, and it’s insane.

See it now.

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Ex Machina

Everything you need to know about this movie appears in my thorough review – right here.

But seriously, most people I know still haven’t seen this instant sci-fi classic, which baffles me. It’s probably among the best sci-fi movies ever made. It’s that good.

The quick and dirty premise: a megalomaniac scientist creates a powerful AI, which he lures an unwitting young man to perform a Turing Test on.

Big mistake.

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RockNRolla

Ever seen Snatch? What about Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels? Or…ever seen any Guy Ritchie movie ever?

If so, you’ll love RockNRolla. The plot is too complex to explain in just a few sentences, but I’ll try anyway:

When a Russian real estate magnate pursues big-time property in London, the worst of the city’s criminals close in for a piece of the pie. Meanwhile, the mobster’s son, a drugged-out rocker named Johnny Quid, is the key to the whole deal working out or completely unraveling. And meanwhile, meanwhile, a gang of thieves (played by Gerard Butler, Idris Elba, and Tom Hardy, to name a few) gets in wayyyy too deep.

I’ll just leave it at this – RockNRolla is top-notch Brit crime comedy.

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Pan’s Labyrinth

Guillermo del Toro, fantasy and horror genius, sets the stage for something truly beautiful in Pan’s Labyrinth.

In it, a little girl seeking refuge from a horrific civil war stumbles into a web of dark secrets surrounding her (sadistic) stepfather’s mansion. In typical del Toro fashion, we’re sucked out of the usual Hollywood fantasy tropes and thrust into something eerier, crawlier, and more visceral.

It’s not really a fantasy movie in the typical sense. Nor is it quite horror. It’s about a little girl trying to escape her awful reality, meaning it’s a step above most of the fiction fare you’ll ever see on the big screen.

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The Big Lebowski

You’ve maybe/probably heard of The Dude. At least, I hope you have.

Mashing up Jeff Bridges (mellow) John Goodman (insane) and Steve Buscemi (obnoxious) to star in a movie about a missing rug, a cheating wife, mistaken identity, and bowling, was pure genius from the start. And to call it a cult classic is easily an understatement.

My favorite parts: when John Goodman goes off on John Turturro’s (playing Jesus the bowler) teammate. And then of course the big fight with the nihilists (one of them is played by Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea) at the end.

It’s a total mess. It’s weird. It’s almost without a tangible plot. And it’s awesome.

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The Prestige

“Are you watching closely?”

The Prestige (Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman, Scarlett Johansson, Michael Caine) is among my all-time favorites.

The plot: when a stage magician’s wife (Piper Perabo) is accidentally killed during a dangerous trick, a cold war begins between her husband (Jackman) and the man (Bale) who may or may not have been responsible for her death.

Everything about The Prestige is a bit dark, a bit tragic, and shadowed by questions about what’s really going on. It’s not really about the stage tricks the two warring magicians pull off. It’s about the rivalry between them, and how much damage the whole concept of revenge can do to everyone involved.

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Kubo and the Two Strings

I figured I’d tie in a kids movie, because…well…so many of us have kids, and kids love movies, too.

Kubo was one of those films I didn’t know anything about when I sat down in the theater to watch with my son. We’d seen exactly half of one preview, and we didn’t really know what we were getting into.

What we didn’t know – Kubo and the Two Strings is an elegant tale about a little boy, a monkey, a giant beetle, and a tiny paper man…and all their adventures as they try to escape the boy’s dreaded (and all-powerful) grandfather. The fight scenes are somehow bloodless AND intense. The subject matter is full of quiet wisdom. And the movie itself is beautiful. My son was riveted during the action, and full of sharp questions about life, death, and love afterward.

What more can you ask for in a kids’ movie?

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Honorable mentions:

Dragonslayer – The coolest old school fantasy film you’ve never heard of

Strange Brew – Max von Sydow versus Rick Moranis? Count me in

Memento – A classic head f**k

The Machinist – Christian Bale lost a million lbs. for the lead role

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If I were to make one of my novels into a movie, I’d choose this one.

…and this one, too.

Until next time,

J Edward Neill

A Thought for every Thursday – So Many Opinions

Welcome to the latest installment of A Thought for Every Thursday.

Every Thursday at Tessera Guild I’ll pose a question (or several) regarding a specific current event, a modern moral issue, or a philosophical conundrum. Instead of answering it myself, I’ll look to you for the resolution.

It’s all in good fun.

Here we go…

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But Are We Really?

The old saying goes, “Everyone is entitled to their opinion.”

Let’s explore that a little deeper.

When people talk about opinions, they’re not really talking about truth. They’re talking about their personal feelings as they relate to various topics. They’re talking about emotions, instincts, and impressions. But most importantly, they’re talking about themselves.

Perhaps they don’t like a certain kind of food.

Or the way a car looks.

Or maybe it’s more serious, and the person really dislikes something going on in our society, sometimes to the point of being enraged by it.

Generally speaking, opinions are emotionally driven. They’re often formed when a person achieves a limited understanding of something and associates a positive or negative emotion in regards to it. Typically, though not always, the person with the opinion (regarding something important, not something frivolous) feels the need to express the opinion.

Loudly.

To anyone willing to listen.

And sometimes to people who aren’t so willing.

So now let’s talk about that saying again. When we talk about entitlement, we’re talking about something that a person has an inherent right to possess. And when we talk about opinions, we’re talking about feelings and emotions, something that doesn’t always mix well with truth and reality.

So…

Is a person truly entitled to their opinion?

Always?

What if it’s ignorant or based on misinformation?

And are people who possess a wide variety of powerful opinions narcissistic?

Or are opinions inalienable no matter what the circumstances might be?

And when someone says, “I respect someone else’s opinion,” regarding something they strongly disagree with, are they really telling the truth?

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Past ATFET’s are right here.

If you like these kinds of questions, try these on for size.

If you prefer something gentler, go here.

See you next Thursday!

J Edward Neill

How Playing D&D Reshaped My Entire Life

Christmas Eve 1987.

I was eleven years old.

As far as gift-hauls go, 1987 was a reasonable year. I raked in some fresh NES games, unwrapped a new pile of GI Joe action figures, and rolled my eyes at the requisite stack of clothes for school. I would’ve been satisfied if that’s all it had been. Toys, games, and clothes…what more could an eleven-year old want?

And then my Uncle John rolled into town.

You see, I lived in Chicago with my grandparents at the time, and the snows that winter were brutal, particularly that night. We’re talking piles of white powder in the yard and dirty grey slush on every road. We’re talking fifteen hours of night, and no real breaks in the clouds for weeks. Uncle John had to commute all the way from downstate, which normally takes two hours, but that night it took him pretty much triple the time. Either it was the snow’s fault, or he dreaded Christmas Eve at my grandparents’ house.  I guess I’ll never really know for sure.

The hour was late. Ok, maybe not that late, but late for an eleven-year old who’d just spent the entire day begging his grandparents, aunts, and uncles to unwrap a few of all his gifts early. Having succeeded at tormenting them into a massive gift-release, I sat in my bedroom, surrounded by wrapping paper and happiness, content with my life. I could’ve died a happy child right then and there, drowning in a sea of blue inter-connectable racetracks, NES cartridges, tiny plastic rocket launchers, and socks.

But I didn’t die. I heard a summons from the living room, and out I shambled. If I was slow, it’s because my belly was stuffed with Circus Peanuts and Orange Crush. I was sleepy. I was dragging. I just wanted to be left alone for the next three months to fully soak up my gift-haul.

“Jeremy, your Uncle John has one last gift for you. Do you want to open it tonight?” I remember someone asking me.

I halted. Of course I do! I screamed in my head-movie.

“Yeah ok,” I grunted in real life.

Uncle John handed me a wide, flat box. You know the ones. I think it was from Macy’s, and it had all the hallmark signs of being another box full of clothes. It wasn’t gift-wrapped, but it did have a single red bow on top. One. Red. Bow. Uncle John wasn’t a sentimental dude, which I could (and still do) understand.

When I took the box, I had the same sinking feeling every kid does when he sees a box like that.

Great. More clothes.

I thanked him and padded back into the hallway. No one thought much of my departure. I wasn’t two steps away before all the adults (I was the only kid in the house) started talking politics again. Not even Uncle John seemed fazed by my apparent disinterest. Untended to, I plunked down in my bedroom doorway, sighed with all the weight an eleven-year old could muster, and pried the top off the box.

I guess I should’ve realized the box was too heavy to be full of clothes.

And I should’ve known my Uncle John was too cool for sweaters and school shirts.

What was inside?

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Mind. Blown.

Before that instant, I’d never heard of Dungeons & Dragons. I’d never heard about role-playing, tabletop gaming, or rolling dice to kill undead lich lords. As I picked up the first tome (the Dungeon Master’s guide was my favorite) I felt as if a sharp breeze blew away the memory of all my other gifts. It stunned me, and made me shiver both literally and figuratively. Also in the box: a set of sparkly green polyhedral dice (which my players would learn to hate) and a stack of PC stat sheets, but I didn’t yet comprehend their meaning. I couldn’t see it yet.

I was lost, but in a good way.

Winter deepened. Chicago frosted over for most of the next three months. I didn’t care. Even though I lacked local friends to game with or a real understanding of what I was getting into, I consumed the books Uncle John had bought me. When I say ‘consumed’ I don’t mean to imply I merely read them a few times. No…I memorized them. I gobbled up the D&D dialect, became a master at its mechanics, and plotted for the day I’d actually be able to run a campaign.

But more than this, more than just learning the game, I felt a door open inside my mind. I’d always had a vivid imagination, but this was something different. It changed my perspective about what creativity could be.

And in doing so, it changed the course of my life in a very real way.

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Let’s fast forward a few years.

Far removed from frosty Chicago, I found myself in a hot, heavily-wooded part of North Georgia. My parental unit had remarried and shipped us to the deep south, where summers were forever and winters were but a few weeks of rain in late January. I missed the frozen wastes, but thawing out felt nice. And more than the weather were the chances to meet new friends.

Friends who would game with me.

Friends who shared my passion for deep, dark storytelling.

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…friends who would fight this guy with me.

And so it began. In eight grade, I met The Kube, a friend who was willing to spend endless hours rolling dice with me. He created the legendary characters Silverleaf, Black Dragon, and the wizard who became a prime character in my epic fantasy series, Dank. Then in my freshman year in high school, I met Egg, John McGuire, and the devious Chris Griner.

And it was ON.

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I was a dedicated DM, going so far as to create my own 200-page hardcover campaign setting…

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We spent thousands of hours role-playing.

We downed hundreds of pizzas, killed barrels of Mountain Dew, and endured sessions lasting upwards of 15 hours.

My players learned to hate my dice, but I like to think (in my head-movie) they enjoyed the fact our games were about more than slaughtering imaginary monsters. We told stories. Deep stories about sacrifice and suffering. Legendary stuff that no video game can capture, that not even the longest, most profound novel can duplicate. If you’ve ever played our style of ‘storytelling’ D&D, you know what I mean. The players are a part of an epic tale, not just dice-rolling treasure fiends. The dungeon master is merely a blank page, ready to turn whichever direction the players want to go.

But the best part?

It didn’t stop there.

It began

Many years after my last epic session, sometime in the early 2000’s, all the storytelling lessons I’d learned flashed back into my mind. I missed (desperately) the feeling of sitting down with friends to weave a deep, dark tale, but I knew at the same time I probably wasn’t ever going to recapture it. We’d all moved apart and built our own lives. Some of us were married, and others were exploring new careers. Lacking a way to play the game I loved, I had to find a new outlet for my unbridled creativity.

And so I started my writing journey.

I sat down in the dark, my brain brimming with an entire childhood’s worth of ideas.

And the stories, many of them birthed a decade or more earlier, began to pour out of my fingertips.

Over the next fifteen years, I wrote fantasy novels, sci-fi tales, spooky novellas, and other fictional fare. I couldn’t stop. I was (and still am) a man possessed. Looking back at all of it, I know I never would’ve done it if not for those endless nights of dice-rolling and gold piece counting. I might’ve done other creative stuff, but the depth wouldn’t have been there. The story-telling skills I learned during a decade of D&D’ing were irreplaceable stuff. The seed had been planted on Christmas Eve 1987, and had grown into something I never could’ve anticipated.

Those three little books changed the way I thought. The way I imagined. The way I wanted to create. And after thousands of dice rolls, hundreds of hours spent preparing stories for my players, and countless nights at the gaming table, I wasn’t the same person I’d been. I’d grown to appreciate the art of a story without an end, and I’d learned to love all the crazy thought-collisions that happened while playing this simple little game.

There are those who will mock D&D. They’ll say it’s a game for nerds, introverts, maybe even losers. Some will even claim it supports anti-social, anti-religious behavior. Nonsense…all of it. Done right, D&D is a vehicle for allowing people to take part in a story. It’s better than TV, which isn’t interactive. It’s better than video games, which confines players to a controller and some pixels. In many ways, it’s the most imaginative game ever created. It was for me. And I’m willing to bet, it was for many, many others.

So here’s to The Kube, Egg, Griner, Nicky P, Jeremy II, John, and all the rest. These fine friends were inspirers of more characters than I can recollect. AD&D First Edition forever!

And here’s to Uncle John. He gave me three little books that rocked my world.

…and inspired twenty-four books of my own…and counting.

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Published in 2015….conceived in 1992.

If I had any advice to modern parents, it’d be something like this:

Take your kids’ phones away. Give them a D&D book. And walk away.

🙂

J Edward Neill

Author and Artist

DownTheDarkPath

 

 

 

A Thought for Every Thursday – What’s in a Heart?

Welcome to the latest installment of my new weekly series, A Thought for Every Thursday.

Every Thursday at Tessera Guild I’ll pose a question (or several) regarding a specific current event, a modern moral issue, or a philosophical conundrum. Instead of answering it myself, I’ll look to you for the resolution.

It’s all in good fun.

Here we go…

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What’s in a Heart?

What’s a gesture worth?

What’s the value of symbol, an image, or an idol?

If you think about it, we’re surrounded by symbols. They’re on our cars, on our sports team logos, on businesses, roads, and flags.

Some of these symbols appear to be of more importance than others.

Like how the McDonalds arches are more widely known than the Maserati ‘M’.

Or how the US flag is always hoisted higher on the pole than the others.

Human gestures can also be symbolic. Like remaining silent during a somber moment, flipping someone a middle finger, or standing (or not) during a ceremonial moment.

These symbols and gestures are obviously important to many people, otherwise no one would be up in arms whenever someone else didn’t observe the popular protocol.

Let’s talk about that.

If a person remains silent during a somber moment, does it really, truly imply their respect for the moment? Given how our thoughts are our best-kept secret, is it possible many (or even most) people are thinking about something completely unrelated to the moment at hand?

What about symbols such as military standards, sacred buildings, and flags? If a person stands at attention (or otherwise appears to pay their respects) does it really reflect what’s in their heart?

Is it possible that many of the people giving apparent respect don’t actually give a damn? Is it probable?

And if it were true that some of the people who appear to give respect don’t actually care much about whatever’s happening in the moment, does that mean we’re kidding ourselves when we praise the appearance of respect and turn our noses up at the apparent lack of it?

Because it’s what lies in the heart that really matters, right?

Gestures and symbols are nice things to have, but do they really have the meaning we think they do?

Also…when’s the last time you stood at attention before a symbol (a building, a flag, etc) when no one else was looking?

I don’t know the answers.

Which is why I’m asking you.

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I’m willing to bet a LOT of people worship this symbol…

Past ATFET’s are right here.

If you like these kinds of questions, try these on for size.

If you prefer something gentler, go here.

See you next Thursday!

J Edward Neill

Dragoncon 2016 – The Good and Other Thoughts

Last week I talked a lot about the bad stuff that went down at Dragon Con this year. These are obviously not crazy problems, and I completely understand that. More it was as much about having that moment where you just say “this is going to be one of those weekends” and it happened to be this particular one.

That said, I do have some thoughts about the convention below that occurred to me as I was waiting in the fabulous Line Ride(s).

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But first, The Good

On Saturday we saw the Legends of Tomorrow panel where I got to see a man dance like he might have been Michael Jackson in a previous life. Considering he plays Hawkman, a character whose whole gimmick is reincarnation, it was somewhat fitting. I discovered that the man who plays Vandal Savage (Casper Crump) might actually be Vandal Savage in real life (or more to the point, just frickin’ owns the role!). I realized that the cast realized they might have a drinking game on their hands with the number of times Kendra (Hawkgirl) says “But I was a barista only 3 weeks ago!” Something Robert had brought up the day before (that I hadn’t really noticed).

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Oh, and the complaint about not getting the line in quick enough from last week? Apparently that was not a problem for this panel as we got moving 15 minutes before the panel started and were seated by the time things got started.

Maybe it is a hotel thing?

I sat in a number of writing panels where I either learned something or it helped to reinforce some things I knew, but haven’t yet put into proper practice. I like to think of those panels as a nice way to get recharged for the rest of the year. You have all these people who just want to get their ideas out there, tell their stories, and hope someone enjoys them.

It’s refreshing.

Even on Sunday, we had no problems getting into the vendor’s room, and the extra floor really helped to let things breathe a little bit more. That’s probably the single best thing from the convention expanding into the America’s Mart buildings these last couple of years.

Like I said before, while it might have started out rough, we came home on Sunday with smiles on our faces, already looking forward to next year.

The OTHER

I do have a couple of thoughts about Dragon Con and where it might need to go eventually. Again, I’ve been going to Dragon Con virtually every year since 1993. And I know I’m probably in the minority on this, but during those moments when you can’t move due to the sheer amount of bodies in a building, where you can’t get into a panel without having to wait an hour plus in a line, and where there is even discussion about what a Fire Marshall might require.. it might be that Dragon Con is TOO BIG.

Dragon Con 2016

I’m not sure of the attendance numbers, I do feel that Dragon Con has gotten bigger and bigger over the last 4 or 5 years. When it gets unpleasant for people to be there, that’s not really the goal, is it?

Maybe they should consider a couple of things:

Capping attendance. Not sure if that is through only having pre-sale 4 day passes or something. I know they want to be able to serve everyone who wants to come, but enough is enough.

Or maybe this Con needs to move to a bigger venue. Yes, we all love that it’s in the hotels. It means that when you are sore and tired (and have a room), you can go upstairs and take a rest. But one of the things hotels create are choke-points. The sky bridges are natural choke points. Everyone is in costume, and it’s awesome, but I can’t move from one building to another because there is no flow. So many times it becomes salmon swimming upstream.

This year we were lucky to not have rain most of the weekend. When it rains no one walks the streets and the hotels cannot handle it. It becomes a complete mess.

Now used to be, before the Chick-fil-a Kickoff game didn’t exist, I thought “Hey, move to the World Congress Center, we’d have the space and everything would be in ONE BUILDING (effectively)”. Currently the Con is now in 6 buildings over like 5-6 blocks.

SIX BUILDINGS!

Come on. That is far too many.

Now that the football game exists, I don’t think being over there would be the best idea. We’d be on top of the football tailgaters. And while I love the looks on the people from out-of-town as they gawk at the cosplayers, we’d just be over crowed somewhere else.

So my solution, assuming the World Congress Center would work otherwise, is to move the date of Dragon Con. It’s not unprecedented. Used to be it was in mid-July. If you moved it, you’d be asking people to take that Monday off (instead of having the built-in holiday), but I’m not sure that would really be the issue. Monday is kind of hit or miss most years (we normally use that day to recover, but maybe we’re in the minority). Find that weekend where you are the only BIG THING in town.

Now maybe that would mean a slight dip in attendance, but I’m saying that may not be a bad thing. If there were 5-10% fewer people there… just something to think about.

And there is another benefit, more hotels available for the con goers. You wouldn’t be competing with the football people for rooms. Heck, could it be possible the prices might drop slightly (probably not, but I can dream).

Note, this is not me dreaming of the “good old days”, just trying to make it a little better before it becomes too big (an odd statement to be sure).

Again, maybe I’m just being grumpy. It’s always possible.

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John McGuire

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

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

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

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

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

Three Little Sunsets in Florida

Recently I took a little vacation to the Gulf Coast of Florida.

In contrast to some of my lavish vacations of yesteryear, I did this one quick and cheap.

Which turned out just perfect.

This is my journal for four days and three nights in Palm Harbor, Florida.

Please enjoy.

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Tuesday, Sept 6th – Morning and Early Afternoon

On a sunny, warm morning, I drove my kid (the G Man) to his school. After releasing his groggy, five-year old self into the waiting arms of his cranky teacher (she always gives me stink-eye) I wandered back to my car. Decisions, decisions… I knew a 7-hour solo drive awaited me, and that if I didn’t get some exercise, I’d regret it. You see, my body rebels at long car drives. Without space to move around, my muscles tense up and everything starts to hurt. It’s pretty much the worst feeling ever. So instead of immediately settling in for the long drive to Florida, I went on a four-mile run.

It’s probably worth mentioning I never get to run in the mornings. And after Tuesday’s little sprint, I remembered why I love early running so much. It’s cool outside, usually mildly breezy, and in the deep woods of the Suwanee Greenway, I get to be alone under the trees. This particular run was especially wonderful. I mean…not having to instantly go to work afterward meant I got to stand under the leaves and breathe deep.

…and then drive seven eight-and-a-half hours to Palm Harbor.

Some of the billboards seen on the way:

“Only Jesus can stop the Zombie Apocalypse!”

“Wind Turbines kill Millions of Birds Every Year!”

and my favorite pairing:

“Jesus is the Only Answer!” ….right next to…. “Strippers! We Bare All!”

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Wow. Just wow.

Tuesday Mid-Afternoon

After a loooooong drive, during which I listened to the Mad Max – Fury Road soundtrack at least twice, I arrived in Palm Harbor at about 5:30 PM. I was half-starved, having consumed only a Muscle Milk and a Babe Ruth bar since breakfast. 🙁 Luckily, my buddy Danish Mike (more on him later) arrived from Fort Lauderdale at nearly the same time. We met for an early dinner, and the eating was on.

Now, the thing about restaurants in Florida is this: if they’re anywhere near the beach, they’re all the same. They look the same (weathered pastel paint and crumbling roof) their clientele is the same (tanned seniors) and the menu is pretty much the same (crab cakes and rum runners.) The place we chose was exactly like any other place we could’ve chosen. The food was cheap and hot, and the drinks were cheaper and cold.

I sat down with Danish Mike (think Arnold Schwarzenegger with a tan and long hair) and our buddy Greg (local musician and philosopher.) We slurped down about 4,000 calories each while catching up and planning a three-evening destruction of Palm Harbor. It was the perfect way to start a relaxing trip.

Oh, in case you wondered, Palm Harbor is a mostly residential town wedged between Tampa and Clearwater. It’s flat, crisscrossed with narrow waterways, and quiet. Not sure any of this matters. Just thought you should know.

Tuesday Evening

I wish I could tell you we immediately leapt into scuba diving, deep-sea fishing, or massive senior citizen orgies. Nope. Didn’t happen. My long-haired European friend and I simply skipped to another bar, where we ate again, sipped some really mediocre beverages, and enjoyed a three-hour conversation about the meaning of life. If you know me, you know I love philosophy. And so it went: deep drinks and deeper talks. Niiiiiiiice.

Wednesday, Sept 7th – Morning

So there’s this restaurant on the Gulf Coast of Florida. It’s in Clearwater, about 100 yards from the shore. Clear Sky Café – not quite a dive bar, not quite high end. It’s pretty much a mandatory go-to spot every time I’m in town. After rising early, Mike and I hopped in my truck, turned up some realllllly loud, obnoxious death metal, and sprinted down to grab some breakfast. We planned on a quick meal and then whatever, but naturally, as it always happens, we stayed at Clear Sky for about two hours. Nope, not chasing local girls. Nah, not drinking. Somehow we started talking politics.

And it turned out we did so in an ocean of hardcore Trump fans. Yay!

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Clear Sky Café – home of amazing mojitos, top-notch food, and vigorous political fury.

Wednesday Late Morning through Early Evening

I suppose some people’s idea of relaxation is different than mine. Most of the people I know would define relaxation on the beach as: lying in the sand, wading in the ocean, reading by the pool, and generally chilling completely out.

Me and Danish Mike…not so much.

For about nine hours on Wednesday, we played volleyball, swam in the ocean, ate more food than an entire third-world nation, and…played more volleyball. Now, when I say we played volleyball all day, I don’t mean to imply we found eight random people to play five versus five. Nah. Not our style. We scoured four different beaches (and four different bars) to find some hardcore competition. We found and played against: an Italian woman and her Andre the Giant-sized Brazilian husband.  A group of super friendly weekend warriors. A beautiful South American girl and the overbearing guy trying to impress her. And a bunch of young dudes eager to destroy us. We played them all, and for the most part, we won….despite being sauced with rum & beer and playing with full bellies.

It’s true. We’re addicted to volleyball.

vball

The Gulf Shore is home to (not kidding) thousands and thousands of volleyball courts.

Wednesday Evening

Exhausted and covered in a pretty gross sunscreen/sand lather, we drove back into town, ate our sixth meal of the day, and collapsed. What a day!

Thursday, Sept 8th – Morning

It’s turns out Clear Sky Café isn’t the only good spot to get breakfast on the Gulf Coast. There’s also another chain called First Watch, a little family-friendly spot with tons of offbeat breakfast and brunch fare. After Wednesday’s high level of exercise and consumption, we decided to play it healthy. If you’re ever in the Palm Harbor, Tampa, or Clearwater area, I suggest First Watch. While it’s true most of the wait-staff is either high or realllly high, the food is fantastic.

Plus, I really like pancakes. Sue me. But theirs were amazing.

Thursday Late Morning – Midafternoon

Our musician/philosopher friend, Greg West, had the perfect solution for our mid-Wednesday malaise. He suggested ocean kayaking, which…if you’ve never done it, is really a transcendent way to spend an afternoon. So it’s kayaking we went. We loaded up between three little islands (Holiday, Caladesi, and some other island I can’t remember.) It was just three dudes and a buttload of sunscreen out in the relatively shallow water between islands.

What’d we find out there in the beautiful blue water?

We came across a ship marooned on a sandbar. We speculated the ship’s captain must’ve been drunk as hell. The boat was pretty big, and yet somehow Cap’n Genius McIdiot managed to pilot it into two-feet deep water, where it’s been stuck ever since. The cool part: some pretty cool fish made a little reef out of the ship’s far side, and it’s there I plucked out a handful of beautiful shells to bring home to my kid.

We saw a shark (black – about 5′ – 7′ long) feasting on fish near a patch of stumpy mangroves.

We rowed within five feet of a dolphin pod. They didn’t mind us at all. We approached them calmly on our little kayaks and watched them jet through the shallows. Meanwhile, everyone on shore lost their minds. Based on their over-the-top screaming, I’m not sure any of the screaming teenage girls or drunken frat dudes had ever actually seen a dolphin before…or any wild animal…ever.

We spotted two manatees. They’re faster than you think.

Greg stepped on a crab, which bowed up at him as if to challenge him to a claw fight. Lacking claws, Greg backed down. A wise decision, we all agreed.

And then the tide rolled in. Somewhat reluctantly, we rode the rising waters back to shore and treated ourselves to beers and snowcones. Honestly, kayaking in the ocean was the most fun we’d had all trip. After proposing to our server, eating a buttload of fresh shrimp, and trying to force feed Greg in order to make him gain weight, we fled the islands and crept back onto the mainland.

Thursday Evening

So it’s true. A while back I committed to not watching any NFL football all season long. And yet…on Thursday, game one of the season (Panthers vs Broncos) happened to be playing on every TV everywhere. “Fine,” I thought. “We’ll watch it. Let’s go. Just don’t tell anyone.”

And so it went. A group of us (our clan had somehow swollen to five people) shambled over to a local Taco Mac-like spot to listen to Greg jam and to torment the waitresses. We watched Serena Williams lose badly, the US hockey team spank the EU team, and the Panthers blow a 10-point lead. Somehow we did this while barely drinking or spending any money. I think, being a local celebrity, Greg’s presence allowed us to camp out without emptying our wallets. It’s good to have friends, people. It’s even better to have friends who play guitar. Remember this.

In the middle of the football game, the bar fired up some trivia. We didn’t play (we should’ve; we’d have won easily) but we did witness one table cheat over and over again. You see, there were these five meatheads who busted out their phones for every question, and yet…somehow…didn’t win the trivia tourney. My theory is that if you’re gonna cheat, you’d better win. Just my two cents. Mediocre, meatheads. Mediocre.

Exhausted from rowing, waitress-tormenting, and talking about the end of the world, we retreated to sleep once again.

Friday, Sept 9th – Morning

I suppose the hardest part of any vacation is dealing with the fact that at some point, it must end. This is doubly true for short trips, and triply true when a looooooong drive awaits at trip’s end. When I awoke Friday morning, I let out the world’s longest sigh. I wanted to go kayaking again, to play volleyball all day, and to go back to the bar with the rubber ducky racing lagoon. Yes, I’m serious. And yes, I’d picked the purple duck to win. And yes, he lost.

So after a quick breakfast, Danish Mike and I headed down to Clearwater Beach to fit in some last-minute volleyball. But it turned out our hearts just weren’t in it. We knew we couldn’t commit to a full day of fun, and so, much like pouty kids, we just lounged in the ocean and judged all the people walking by. It was pretty relaxing, at least until Captain Blonde Dude McWhatever hopped on his waverunner and tore off into the deeps at 500mph. I’m not afraid to admit we both wished his waverunner would explode.

But it didn’t.

We crawled out of the water. We listened to Greg play a few songs at the Rockaway (another bar filled with tanner-than-everyone seniors.) And we drank the nastiest pineapple juice ever.

And then, after a hug and a fist bump, we got in our vehicles and drove away.

Friday Evening – The Drive Home

There’s something about driving solo over long distances. After a while, it becomes a meditative experience. To pass the time, one tends to fall into one’s thoughts. For the first few hours, I listened to loud music and drove wayyyy too fast, but after a while I slowed it down. I dreamed up a few offbeat book plots, not unlike this and this.

But then I started thinking about new marketing strategies. You see, on the long stretch of road between Palm Harbor and Atlanta lies a string of quiet (and mostly dead) towns. And clustered around these towns are some of the most entertaining billboards I’ve ever seen. They range from simple and poorly-worded to straight-up weird.

I seriously need to invest in some of these billboards. Can you imagine, sitting between a thousand signs for pecans, adult toy shops, and Jesus, a huge banner for a crazy dark fantasy novel?

I can.

Here. Enjoy a small sample of awesome billboards:

untitled5 untitled2 imagesw780mazv screen_shot_2014-05-02_at_2_06_06_pm

Pure, raw entertainment right there…

Exactly how a vacation should end.

* * *

I’m back home now. I’m listening to music on my couch and contemplating what flavor Ramen noodles to eat. As for my time in Florida, I loved it. I’ll not soon forget kayaking on the clear blue water, eating pancakes while discussing the end of humanity, and zombie-Jesus billboards.

These are the things vacations are made of.

J Edward Neill

Author and Artist

The search for badass bloggers!

artists%20wanted

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Or maybe you want a weekly platform from which to write or podcast about art, life, and the end of the world? Yeah. We can help with that.

Tessera Guild is looking to grow its readership and help fresh new artists and wordsmiths get the exposure they need. We have primary openings on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and weekends.

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See you soon,

Team Tessera

Dragoncon 2016 – The Bad

This year I think I’m playing the Grumpy Old Man.

That’s how I felt on Friday of Dragon Con. The little things adding up to just annoy and bother me. I’d like to think it was just a combination of things, but regardless of the individual pieces there was still enough there to last me until about 4:30 on Saturday. Luckily it all turned around shortly after that, and I was left with a positive taste in my mouth after the weekend was done.

But let’s start from the beginning…

Actually, let’s start about two week’s earlier, because that’s when I tweaked my ankle, aggravating an old Achilles strain. Come Dragon Con, it was still hurting. Good thing I wasn’t going to have to do much walking or anything!

But, I digress…

Friday morning we gathered the last of what we’d need for the trip to downtown Atlanta for the day. I had a couple of copies of my books and comics just in case (in case of exactly what, who knows, but I need to have them on hand more than I normally do). I go to the drawer in our desk where every other year I’ve placed the postcards Dragon Con mails out (effectively your ticket).

Not there.

I checked another drawer and then another and then another. At some point I could only say, “I’m starting to panic here, Courtney.”

After another 30 minutes of looking with no luck, I checked the web to see what the procedure was, and while it wasn’t on the FAQ, it was on a Reddit thread from like two years ago (just present your Driver’s Licence and you’re good to go). So we drive down, find a parking spot, and then go over to Registration… where they can’t find that we’ve paid.

Eh?

So now we have to go to the far side of the room where it seems one of the places didn’t turn in their registration forms last year. We don’t have a receipt because we’ve never needed to have a receipt. And I’m starting to wonder if maybe we didn’t preregister last year…

A minute later we have our badges and it is off to the Vendor’s hall.

Except, we get stopped about 8 people from being able to get in. It seems that they were already experiencing, at 2:30 on Friday afternoon, capacity issues and don’t want the Fire Marshall to shut them down, so we have to wait. Now this isn’t a big deal except that the Vendor’s room has been open for only 1 1/2 hours and they are having this issue. On Friday.

We make the pack not to bother to come this way on Saturday as I could only imagine how long the line to get in might have been.

30 minutes later we get in, do a quick walk through of one floor of the vendor’s room, before we have to go upstairs to the CDC Panel that I’m actually a part of (second time I’ve been on any kind of Dragon Con panel!). The panel was focused on the motion comic web series I helped write KABI Chronicles (check out all 7 episodes!).

(I plan on doing a full post about that whole experience soon.)

As to the panel, other than wishing more people had turned out, it went well enough. And afterwards we did another pass of the vendor’s room before heading out to eat.

All these people coming to Atlanta during Labor Day Weekend!

Now, here’s the thing. In Atlanta on Labor Day weekend, you have tens of thousands of people descending on downtown due to Dragon Con, the Chick-fil-a Kickoff Football game, AC-DC had played on Thursday night, and probably a bunch of other things I’m forgetting at the moment. So normally getting into a restaurant can be a bit of a pain. But not this night. Somewhere, the convention gods smiled down on us and said that Hooters would get us seated in about 15 minutes.

And then 45 minutes later we had to inform a manager type person that we still hadn’t gotten our food.

Why didn’t we tell the waitress? Oh, that could be because she’d disappeared for most of that time. And then, after the manager offered us free deserts to smooth things over, she tried to charge us for those as well!

That was enough for us, so Court and headed home, where I began to realize that I wished we’d actually had a room downtown so that I didn’t have to make that 40 minute drive again.

Saturday started fine, but nearly the last straw was trying to get into the Flash/Arrow panel. We decided not to try to play the epic game of “where does this line actually begin” but instead just wait until those people got inside, and then if there was room we’d go in (not wanting to screw anyone over here).

Dragon Con 2016

The problem is that Dragon Con puts these panels 30 minutes apart. But instead of loading the room as soon as the previous one is cleared, they waited until 5 minutes before the panel’s start time to start letting people in. By minute 20 of the panel people in that line still hadn’t finished entering.

What the fuck!?!

Had I actually been in the line and missed a third of the panel because of incompetence, I might have lost it on someone. As it was, we opted to go and check out something else for a little while.

Oh, and to the lady who was taking her time walking in the line… not hobbled or anything, just acting like she’s got all the time in the world – you’re not only holding up the rest of the line, but you are going to see a panel featuring stars from the FLASH, not slow-poke Magoo! Pick up the pace!

Then things took a turn for the better…

But that is a story for next week.

***

John McGuire

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

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

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

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

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

 

I’m awful at relationships (and it’s ok)

Hi there,

I’m J, possibly the worst person at relationships in the world.

A while back, I wrote about how modern love is a battlefield. I talked about how dating is harder than ever  because it’s actually too easy. And I figured (out loud) that finding love and relationships will never be the same as just fifteen years ago.

My article probably came across a little grim. But honestly, I don’t feel mine is a ‘glass half-empty’ viewpoint. It’s just the way things are. At least in my experience.

So after my original ‘love’ article, I decided to write tons more about modern dating. I can’t explain why I did it, especially since relationships aren’t exactly my strong point. Even so, I penned two books on the topic and published sarcastic blogs like this and this. I was pretty harsh, essentially mocking the entire process of dating and relationships. The whole thing felt funny to me. Not just funny, but laughable. I’m not really sure why.

But then I got to thinking. What if, instead of taking enjoyment in deconstructing everyone else’s love lives, I actually tried to forge something meaningful for myself. As in, a real relationship. Or at least a thriving presence in the dating underworld. What if I crawled out of my subterranean writing lair and began a legitimate search for love? At the very least, it’d be a fun experiment. At the worst…

Well…

Before I set out into the dating wilderness, I stopped to reflect on my life up to that point. It wasn’t a pretty picture. I’d been married, and I’d been pretty awful at it. I’d had girlfriends, but I’d carved my way through their lives, always finding some tiny reason to justify an instantaneous breakup. I’d worked way too hard to forge a persona that was cold, indifferent, and to be honest, pretty damn selfish. I sucked at relationships, and I knew it.

untitled

Ok. I’m bad, but maybe not THAT bad.

It was then I realized, even if my destiny was to be a lifelong bachelor, I had to change things up. Being a perma-jerk really wasn’t a good life plan, even if I confined it to dating. If I was gonna bother to meet new people and light some fresh romantic fires, I had to take it seriously. I had to be *gasp* a nicer human being.

So out I went into the wide, wild world. I had a dating plan, and I tried…really tried…to embrace it. I dressed better than in previous years. I hit the gym hard. I made a conscious effort to be extra polite, to smile more than once a day, and to compliment people without being sarcastic. I even tried not to laugh if a woman said she liked country music. That last one was particularly hard for me. Actually, it still is.

And so…dating, real dating instead of just crazy, midnight, one-evening collisions, started happening…

…and let’s be honest. I continued to suck at it.

I remember one night in the dead of winter.  My date, already tipsy from several glasses of wine, started kissing my face while we were in the middle of a restaurant. I don’t mind PDA, and certainly not from a good-looking girl, but I probably didn’t handle my reaction too well. I sat there, dead as a fish, and made a face like I was being murdered. Fail.

After a few weeks of steadily seeing a beautiful girl I genuinely liked, I randomly decided to blow off our (always awesome) Friday date-night to party with friends. The party wasn’t much fun. Naturally, we broke up a few days later. Fail.

While dating a smart, funny, and possibly out of my league younger woman, I flubbed every major conversation. I was too sarcastic, too blunt, and too indifferent. When, despite my idiocy, she came to me with the big ‘L’ word, I looked her in the eyes and said…nothing. Absolutely nothing. It was like someone had hit me in the head with a shovel. We dated for a little while afterward, but what human wants their big ‘L’ revelation to be greeted with silence? The answer: no one. Anything would’ve been better than nothing. Fail.

The stories gathered. The fails piled up. My effort waned. And within a few months, I was right back where I started. Single. A bachelor. A perpetual third wheel.

The weird part was – I didn’t really mind.

I like to think of myself as a pretty introspective person. When I eff up, which is often, I tend to look inward to find out what I did wrong, why I did it, and what I can do better the next time.

So inward I looked. And here’s what I came up with:

If you go into a relationship expecting it to be dull, crappy, or short-lived, it will be. Trust me. I know from personal experience.

But if you go in with sky-high expectations, you’ll be disappointed just the same.

If your favorite thing to do in life involves locking yourself in a dark room for long hours every night to write novels, relationships will be hard.

And if, when you finally come out of the room, you find yourself wanting to either: A. Go back in …or B. Hit the town hard to expel all your pent-up energy, relationships will be extra hard.

If you’re a guy, and your favorite things in life are attending death metal concerts, painting deathy landscapes, cooking huge piles of meat, playing tons of sports, and basically doing whatever you want whenever you want to, you might have trouble finding a girl with similar interests.

Especially if you have a young kid who’s exactly like you.

And double especially if you’re rapidly approaching 40.

* * *

I could go on. I really could. I have all kinds of stories about my relationship suck-itude. I mean, did you know RBF (Resting Bitch Face) is also a guy thing? Yep. I have it. Have you ever looked up the meaning of ‘aloof?’ Yep, I am it. Have you ever had a date or a significant other tell you they thought you had a terrible, dreadful night when you actually had a blast? Yep, happens to me every time. Apparently I suck even when things aren’t sucking.

Now, let’s be clear about something. I’m not writing this to earn sympathy. I’m not bemoaning my life story as a lousy relationship-er. I’m all about the facts, and I’m completely at peace with my suck-itude. I’m just here to tell you that if and when you start to think you suck at finding love and meaningful companionship, rest assured someone sucks worse than you.

Me.

🙂

J Edward Neill

Author of all kinds of relationship-y books:

101 Qs for Couples Front Cover

101 xxxy Questions Front Cover

101QSP

 

 

 

 

Why I’m taking the year off from watching NFL Football

It’s kind of a thing.

You might’ve heard of it.

NFL football. The world’s most lucrative sport. Bone-crunching hits. Last-second touchdowns. An all-consuming war between twenty-two men on the gridiron.

Also…

Hugely addictive.

Also also…

A massive devourer of time.

Crunch

Not sure your helmet helped you much, buddy.

For the last 3,000 or so NFL seasons, I’ve had a little ritual. Ok…fine. It was a big ritual. It went a little something like this:

  • I reserved a nine-hour block of every Sunday to watch football
  • I reserved every Monday night, no matter which crappy teams were playing, to watch Monday Night Football
  • When Thursday night football started being a thing, I caught every game
  • On Saturdays, to get in the mood for Sundays, I watched college football for several hours
  • I watched every single minute of every single playoff game

If I do some conservative math, I calculate that over the last ten NFL seasons, I’ve committed to watching approx. 300 hours of football per season. That’s 3,000 hours over ten years. That’s one-hundred twenty-five days of nothing but football.

Holy crap.

Even though I watched pretty much no other television during that span, 125 days was still a huge chunk of my life. It’s especially huge if I consider all the wings eaten, alcohol consumed, and money spent on obnoxious NFL TV packages. Not to be forgotten is the fact that my team, the Chicago Bears, pretty much wallowed in mediocrity the entire time. It’s not like I sat down to greatness every game. Most of the time, my team lost. Badly.

43910-Cutler1-f4266d20

A metaphor for my every football Sunday since 1985.

So here we are. Another NFL season beckons. My friends are nipping at my heels to join a fantasy league (never gonna happen) and my television just sits there in the dark, waiting for football to explode.

Only this year, it won’t. Not for me.

I’m taking an oath this year. I’m not going to purposely sit down to watch a single regular season football game. Not NFL. Not college. I might allow myself to watch the playoffs, but then again I might not. How is this even possible, you ask? Will I really be able to resist flipping the TV on? The answer is a resounding YES. I don’t have cable or satellite this year. So unless I’m at someone else’s house with the sole purpose of watching the NFL, this part of the oath should be easy. Right?

Why? Why would a football-loving lunatic deny himself a beautiful season of pigskin?

It’s simple. I want my time back. I want my 300+ hours refunded, and I want to do other stuff in place of sitting on my backside for a large portion of my free time. Do I know exactly what I’ll do with the time? No. Not really. I might write books, paint huge canvasses, or go running in the rain. Then again, I might take my kid outside, spend all day BBQ’ing and sipping scotch, go jogging in the deep woods, or play a ton of fantastic video games.

I don’t know. And I guess I don’t really care. It’s an oath I’m making. No football. No fantasy football. No obsessing over statistics. And no, I’m not turning into one of these people. I don’t hate the game. I haven’t lost my love of competition. I’m just done for one year, maybe more, of planting my bottom in a chair to watch other people take the field.

If I think about it, and if I’m really honest with myself about the effects of having watched so many thousands of hours of sports in my life, I have to consider the things I’ve probably missed out on. Because football’s not the only game I’ve been obsessed with. There’s also baseball, basketball, and volleyball, which no doubt I’ve lost thousands more hours to. And if I add them all up, I start to think maybe…

  • I could’ve spent more time outdoors with my son
  • I could’ve written twice as many books
  • I could’ve mastered the guitar instead of just toying with it
  • I might’ve been wayyyyyyy better at relationships (nah, probably not 🙂 )
  • I’d have gotten even more exercise. And consumed less scotch
  • I’d have made more friends. And maybe had a few thousand more awesome conversations
  • And I’d have definitely spent more time out in the autumn air, which is something I’ve always loved

I’ve talked about this year’s non-football oath with my friends. They don’t really understand. They think I’m kidding, that I’m just playing a game of chicken with the football season. Nah. It’s not like that. And I’m definitely not judging people who still plan to watch a ton of games. If that’s still what they love, more power to ’em. Maybe I’ll hang with them next year.

But as for this year, I’ve got other things in mind.

No football. No TV. No texting, web-surfing, or couching the days away.

It’s time for a change.

Let’s do this.

J Edward Neill

Author of tons of stuff, such as:

WebImageFront DDP 1 The Little Book Front Cover

 

 

 

 

 

Letters to You

I found a letter I wrote over twenty years ago mixed in with my various electronic files I thought enough of to try and keep them for the pack rat in me (at least the digital versions of these things don’t cost as much space these days). What’s interesting is how that 17 year old was so angry at how things were turning out. You see, I think the lie that we all like to hear is that as you get older it gets easier, but as time goes on I’m not sure that’s the truth of it. I think we’ve just had more experiences that we no longer react as extreme to some of the bad things.

old-letters

Maybe.

And of course, when you’re 17 the “bad stuff” is not always as bad as you think it is. But even that’s unfair to say. If something is affecting you negatively it doesn’t matter how big or small the “thing”might be… right?

In the letter though, is a line that stuck out to me more than anything else: “Maybe one day someone will find this, and understand me a little more than before.”

That line is a bit ominous. Anger, sadness, teen angst… I read it and I’m not sure I understand that person, but I remember those same feelings.

You see, when you get to be a junior in high school, that’s when it is all supposed to change. You can drive by that point so there is a fair amount of freedom you’ve never had before. And with that are potential dates… and yet none of that had happened by the end of April. It’s my own fault for inaction mixed with a crippling sense of “what if she says no”. And I’m fairly sure I missed any number of signs that might have come my way… oblivious to the flirting. Always looking for the explanation where the girl in question was just being nice and there was nothing more than that.

anger

Junior year was supposed to be “the year”. But it had started with some body blows to the old self-confidence and then shifted to ensure that confidence would be diminished later in the late fall. After playing 2 years of high school basketball, it came time for Varsity try-outs, and I just wasn’t good enough. I’d be lying if I said it was a complete shock. I was never a starter on the Freshman or JV teams, but I would be lying if I didn’t say it was still a kick to the gut. I remember later that year talking to some others in my classes and one of the guys mentioned that I should have went out for varsity as I was a shoo-in to make the team.

Yeah, not so much.

The second “big bad” was getting pink eye and having to wear those dorky/nerdy glasses again over my contacts. Glasses had always been that thing growing up that made me see myself as ugly – so when it was that I got contact lenses it immediately took my confidence from a negative 100 to around a solid 0. Suddenly to go backwards for the better part of a month… just a nightmare.

My week days were a mixture of working at Kroger from the time I left school until 9 or 9:30 at night. I’d eat dinner, do any homework I had left, and then maybe watch some TV or play video games or listen to music in my room. On my off days I’d roleplay with friends or play basketball.

This version of me in the letter… he lays awake at night and seriously wonders if there is someone out there for him. He’s a dreamer who wishes he was a realist. Maybe he’s read too many fantasy stories where the guy gets the girl. I’m not sure. And again, at this point in April High School is closer to being completely over than it is to starting. Of course, the problem is he’s in the midst of it. He’s too close to acknowledge something like that.

board-Welcome to the future

He’s made it almost to the finish line. I want to find someway to reach through and let him know that while Junior year sucked, Senior year will more than make up for it. That he only has a few more weeks of school and then summer vacation will begin. I want to mention that the girl he’s been waiting for is someone he already knows. That he is still 3 months, almost to the day, from going out with her.

That he needs to take a moment and just be patient. It is going to get better. No lie…

***

John McGuire

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

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

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

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

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

All the things I don’t understand about the world

A while back, I created a giant list of things I didn’t understand about life, society, and humanity. I felt like Jon Snow, in that I realized I knew nothing about the world or anything in it. I almost took pride in my ignorance, except not really.

In my original list, I thought I covered most of the things on Earth that made no sense to me.

And yet…

The more I dwelled on it, the bigger my sense of ‘WTF?’ became.

Huh

I was like, “Durrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.”

Turns out I know even less than I thought I did.

So here’s another pile of things I don’t think I’ll ever understand:

 * * *

I don’t understand chasing Pokémon monsters, but nor do I get taking to social media in droves to blast it.

I can’t figure out why bottomless mimosas aren’t actually bottomless.

I’m not sure why anyone would ever eat at McDonalds.

Or why people drink diet soda.

I don’t understand most wars. I mean…I get the government’s financial motivations…but I’ve yet to figure out how murdering huge groups of people changes anything for the better.

I don’t understand people’s aversion to nudity.

…coupled with a (statistically proven) love of porn.

Instead of giving workers sick days, why don’t they just give out a handful of additional vacation days? Wouldn’t that negate the need for workers to fake being sick?

I don’t get wanting a big, aggressive dog.

Or a small, angry cat. 🙂

I haven’t yet come to terms with the word ‘gaslighting.’ Can’t we find something better to call it? Like ‘crazinating‘ or simply ‘f__king with.’

I don’t quite grasp craft beer.

Or craft anything.

Isn’t it still just beer?

Is anything I create ‘craft?’ Even my kid?

I don’t know why one of my dentists hates me.

But the other one pushes her breasts on my face during every visit.

My grasp of the US taxation system is tenuous at best.

Political conventions make no sense to me. Aren’t they populated entirely by people who have already made up their mind whom to vote for?

Also, I can’t understand why anyone would run for political office. I mean…I get it, but I don’t.

I don’t get bad tippers.

Or double parkers.

Or Uber drivers who try to sell me weed.

In the modern world, I can’t wrap my head around why anyone would want to be a police officer. For several reasons.

I don’t get how baggers at the grocery store manage to use 23 bags to carry 22 items.

I can’t understand why perfectly intelligent people become raving lunatics when discussing religion or politics.

I don’t know why anyone would ever want to watch the nightly news.

Or the NFL Pro Bowl.

Or the new Star Wars (Part VII) movie.

I can’t grasp why only certain things make some people extremely angry.

Like the pizza delivery guy being late.

Or who got killed on GOT.

Or legal immigration.

I definitely don’t get motivational memes.

Especially the misspelled ones. Which is almost all of them.

Why is it that football and baseball commercials on TV are usually for beer?

But basketball commercials are for hard liquor.

Are the advertisers trying to say something?

Speaking of sports, I don’t understand why every athlete busted for steroids says he didn’t do it. Especially when he pretty much always did do it.

Why did Papa John’s discontinue the Cinnapie? I don’t get it.

I’m not sure why the guy driving 5 mph over the speed limit gets busted, but the dude weaving in and out of traffic at 100 mph never does.

I can’t comprehend the over-the-top tabloid magazines at grocery store check-out lanes. Who reads these?

I’ll never understand the term ‘indie.’

I don’t get movie franchise reboots. How many Batmen can there be?

I can’t wrap my head around why no one builds new homes for less than $300,000.

I’m not sure why all French fries ever aren’t like Chik Fil A waffle fries.

Ditto for their lemonade.

And lastly, I wish I knew why it is I can’t pretend I live in the 50’s…

…and have a bottle of bourbon with two crystal glasses in my office.

* * *

So…

Anyway…

Thanks for listening.

Want something a little deeper?

Or how about something way darker?

J Edward Neill

Again and Again

Wake up. Look at the alarm clock. Decide begrudgingly to not hit the snooze alarm (again). Stumble out of bed, somehow weaving through your house to find clothes for the new day. At some point decide not to call in sick to work so as to take a hooky day.

Go out to lunch, bring my lunch?

Tackle Task 1 on the To Do List or tackle Task 747 (the Goddess must be appeased!)

Take the interstate home? Take the back roads?

Go to the gym?

Watch TV when I get home? Write? Play a game? Go to bed?

Start all over again.

***

alarm-clock

This is your life through your eyes. This is your world, shaped by your decisions and desires.

Time and decisions and more time and less time…

***

Why does the Old Guy speak his mind so readily when the rest of us struggle to say what we actually mean? Could it be he doesn’t have the time left in front of him to pussy-foot around or spare your feelings? Could it be he has shit to do, and more than anything else, you are actually killing him very slowly?

***

More than money, more than love, more than hate, more than anything – Time is that thing you, me, everyone just doesn’t have enough of. Even if we had more of it, what good would it do me? I still perceive the world through these same eyes. Through the colored lens of my own experiences and memories. I might chose to do something different the next time a similar situation comes up, but only because I know more about what the outcomes are.

***

Maybe that’s why time travel fascinates me so much. Those long forgotten decisions shaping today. What would it be like to take a glimpse at some event from our past as an outside bystander? What would we see that we couldn’t see in the moment?

But so many of the books and movies and tv shows (because they need to sell you on the storyline) make it where they are going to change things that went wrong. Or maybe they are going to right something and save lives.

Or they are probably going to try and kill Hitler at some point.

Probably.

***

Today as I left the gym I saw the front desk girl talking with some guy, and she was clearly into the guy. And maybe, maybe he knows. Maybe they are already dating. Or maybe they’re still in that dance where she’s putting out the signals, and he’s hoping she’s into him, but he doesn’t want to put himself out there?

But the point is, as the outsider, I could see some aspect of what’s going on. I was the time traveler of their moment that is already gone as I type these words.

If I was the Old Guy, I might have gone up to them and said, “Look, she likes you. You like her. Get together and see what happens.

(Well if I were the Old Guy and also very ballsy.)

***

book-school

School is starting/has started/or is about to start for kids everywhere. And much like the graduation signs in the Spring, this time of year has me looking back to my own high school days. Days when I was completely clueless about everything and everyone. How I was convinced no girl would ever want to go out with me.

The standard types of things.

But it makes me wonder, if I could go back in time to those moments and just observe. And see if the world was actually the way I perceived it, or maybe it wasn’t quite as big and scary. Maybe things were much more apparent than even I was seeing, but I lacked the 4th dimensional view of things.

This isn’t that old standard of “if I only knew then, what I know now”. This is more being able to actually get outside of yourself for a little while. Take in your surroundings. Understand why the events are happening.

Because…

Those days where going to school meant that you somehow had to force yourself through the door. Force yourself to smile when all you might have wanted to do was scream. Maybe the highlight of your days were in 5 minute doses, talking with the few friends who seemed to instinctively understand… IT.

***

They say that those who do not know their history are destined to repeat it.

They also say that history repeats itself.

But I like Mark Twain’s quote:

history rhymes

 

Never the exact same, but enough of the same sounds to maybe let us understand things a bit better?

***

High School never ends…

We still have to do things we don’t want to do. And there will be days that you can’t get out bed. But… just maybe we can hear that old song in a new way?

Maybe we can find a way to make that new rhyme…

***

John McGuire

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

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

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

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

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

The Top Three Video Games of Every Decade

Ok. So. Let’s get this started.

First, a few disclaimers:

1. This list doesn’t include sports games, indie titles, fighting games, or sandbox games. And it’s not because I don’t love those kinds of games (a few favorites are Limbo, Inside, Killer Instinct, Crackdown, and Tecmo Bowl) but more because I’m focusing on the big guns. The literal game-changers. The kinds of games one can sit with in a dark room and lose oneself for days.

2. Also, this list represents my personal favorites. These might not always align with popular opinion…I get it. Rather, these are the games I grew up with and love as part of my life experience. In other words, don’t get butthurt if you don’t see Madden 7,000, Halo, or Grand Theft Auto on here. These games are all cool in their own right, but didn’t impact me as much.

Enough.

Here are my top three video games for each decade, starting with the 70’s.

*

1970’s

In 1978, I was just two years old. I didn’t have a game system. My only real exposure to the medium was during my dad’s trips to the local tavern, during which he’d plunk me down beside him while he played Asteroids. So…in other words…I played these games a decade after they came out, which serves only to illustrate just how awesome they were and still are.

Combat

 

Combat (1977)

Combat was one of the first games I ever handled. Featuring two-person, head-to-head matchups between tanks and planes, this bad boy was awesome. I consumed 100’s of hours with friends and family blasting and getting blasted to smithereens. After everyone else got tired of the action, I’d sit down by myself and practice shooting from angles and while moving. My dedication to Combat was a sure sign of an addiction soon to come.

*

Breakout2600

 

Breakout (1976)

Beautiful simplicity is how I describe Breakout. You’re a paddle hitting a ball and blowing up bricks. Much like other games at the time, the difficulty was ever rising. The ball moved faster…your paddle got smaller. This game was hard in a way modern games don’t really embrace anymore. You were going to lose. It was only a matter of time.

*

adventure

 

Adventure (1979)

Not just among my faves from the 70’s, but definitely an all-time favorite, Adventure was pretty much the industry’s first attempt at building a role-playing game. You’re a dot, and your only mission is to return the holy grail to the golden castle. Only trouble is, the dragons are after you. Somehow, as a little kid, this game terrified and enthralled me. I must’ve played it a thousand times. And again, unlike modern games, victory was not assured. If the dragons get you, it’s game over.

*

1980’s

The 80’s for me were a fun, fun time. I had three game systems: Intellivision (with the little slip-on gamepad covers) an Atari 2600, and the original NES console. For a kid growing up in a place where winter reigned for 5-6 months a year, video games were key to my not becoming a career criminal. I’m kidding….mostly.

Tarmin

 

Treasure of Tarmin (1983)

Without a doubt, ToT was my most beloved game on the old school Intellivision. It was difficult, engrossing, and scary (to an eight-year old.) The theme was more complex than 70’s games, but still direct. You’re a guy in a vast labyrinth looking for a fabled treasure. An army of monsters and traps lies in your way. You will die…a lot (much like a retro Dark Souls.) The scariest part of the game still resonates with me. I remember the noises the monsters would make when they cornered you. Played in the dark, it was enough to capture my imagination for many years to come.

*

legend-of-zelda__banner-auto-cropping

 

The Legend of Zelda (1986)

Do I really have to tell you how awesome the original Zelda is? In an era of arcade style clones, Zelda broke away from the pack. As one of the first games allowing players to save games (without a clunky, 30-digit password) it broke every mold. I can still remember sitting in my dark bedroom during winter. Everyone else was asleep. I didn’t have a game guide or a map. I played Zelda hardcore…and still do sometimes.

*

metroid-4

Metroid (1986)

1986 was a good year for games, and a great year for a game geek like me. When Metroid came out, the first I glimpsed of it was at a friend’s house. He let me play it for all of fifteen minutes before (justifiably) taking his controller back. I was hooked. Completely and utterly.  The only hard part: I didn’t get to play it again until a year later. And then, after I stepped into Samus’s boots, I didn’t play anything else for months.

*

1990’s

The 90’s were a strange time for me. I skipped several years of game-playing entirely, but also spent months at a time locked in my room at night, playing until my head hurt. The raw brilliance of the 80’s was over, and a new era of polished titles hit the market. Moreover, I hooked up my first PC computer, which opened up an entirely new world of entertainment for me (and the rest of the world) to consume.

Civ

 

Sid Meier’s Civilization (1991)

In 1991, I got my first real job. I was in lawncare in the deep south, which meant days and days of grinding away at grass in 95+ temperatures. I loved it. But what I loved more is that before each workday began, I drove to my coworker’s house and played a few hours of Civilization while waiting for the rest of the crew to show up. If you’ve played Civ, you know about the addiction. One more turn, people. Just…one…more…turn.

*

Baldurs

 

Baldur’s Gate (1998)

This was the first game I played on my very own PC. As a diehard role-playing guy (dungeon mastering inspired my epic fantasy book series) Baldur’s Gate put into pixels everything I needed. Build a party, gather weapons, master spells, and go forth to battle a powerful evil. I mean c’mon…who didn’t love this game? Right?

*

Diablo

 

Diablo (1996)

It’s true Diablo came out before Baldur’s Gate, and also true I didn’t discover it until nearly the turn of the century. But ohhhhh, when I sat down to play it for the first time… The dark themes and unbelievably good music sold me immediately. It was creepy. It was engrossing. And truthfully, it was one of the first action games allowing players to win using such a vast variety of tactics. I always played as a wizard…because I like dying a lot apparently.

*

2000’s

By the time Y2K rolled around, video games had become mainstream. Everyone I knew had at least one system. It was no longer something only nerds did in their basements. It was a part of daily life, a stress reliever far more powerful than regular television. I was extra lucky in that I had a girlfriend willing to let me play for hours every day (before shoving me aside and taking the controller for herself.) In other words, the 2000’s were a beautiful time.

beyond-good-and-evil-hd-7

 

Beyond Good and Evil (2003)

Before playing it, I had no idea games could be this absurdly fun. I’d always played top-down isometric games or standard platformers, but this game took a newer, crazier, more beautiful take on things. If you’ve never played BG&E, you owe it to yourself to pick up the remastered version. I honestly can’t even remember the complete plot (because it was pretty out there) but I can definitely recall how much fun I had playing it.

*

Half Life 2

Half-Life 2 (2004)

When I picked this game up (as part of the Orange Box) I’d never before touched the Half-Life universe. But by the time I was done fighting headcrabs, using grav-guns, and scaling giant alien towers, I’d played it through three times without touching any other game. Half-Life took storytelling to a new level. It was also serious in a way other games hadn’t quite mastered yet, embracing its dark, futuristic subject matter without the need for laughs. Just writing about it makes me want to go back and play it again…because seriously it’s still better than most modern titles.

*

Dragon Age Origins

Dragon Age Origins (2009)

I didn’t care about the two sequels. I never minded the kooky combat controls. I liked the original Dragon Age so much, I wanted it to last forever. Maybe it’s because I’ve always wanted to date a girl like Morrigan (ha) or because Alistair is pretty much every doofus I’ve ever befriended. Whatever. I’d never before had a game make me agonize over which dialogue option to choose.  And I’m not sure I ever will again.

*

 The 2010’s

Is that what we call ’em? The 2010’s? Hell if I know. What I can say is that the modern era is the greatest time ever to be a gamer. Retro games, indie titles, and unbelievably realistic graphics are all a thing now. It’s true games are getting a bit ridiculous to pay for ($60 for a typical modern title) but it’s the price we pay for quality. And usually…it’s worth every penny. Also note, it’s possible or even probable that new games will come out before 2020 that are good enough to make this list. Technically that means this part of the list is 2010-2016…and therefore somewhat incomplete. Probably. Maybe.

mass-effect-3-159380

Mass Effect 3 (2012)

Let’s forget about the kickass action. Let’s pay no attention to the amazing cutscenes. Let’s not even discuss the unreal amount of customization. ME3 is all about decisions…decisions. With one slip of dialogue, your characters can be lost or changed forever. Which in a way makes this the ultimate thinker’s game. Who gets to live? Who gets to die? I loved the entire Mass Effect series. It probably helped to inspire this novella. And it definitely pulled me into the story without any resistance on my part.  I hear there’s a new Mass Effect coming out someday soon. I’m there.

*

witcher3

The Witcher III – Wild Hunt (2015)

It’s true I’ve gushed over The Witcher before. What can I say? It’s probably my favorite game of all time. Heartstopping action. Smokin’ good graphics. An absolutely killer story. I’m not gonna apologize for all the superlatives. The tale of Geralt, Siri, and the world-swallowing war they fall into is among the best in gaming history. I liked games like The Elder Scrolls, Fallout, and Far Cry, but really they don’t even sniff the same league as The Witcher.

*

Doom 2016

Doom (2016)

Twenty years ago, I remember the original Doom. I played it after high school. I played it during high school. I got fired from a job for playing it. I lost countless hours death-matching friends and even girlfriends. And now in 2016, the heavens have opened and delivered unto me a gift I’ll not soon forget. Doom 2016 is fast-paced to the extreme, gory to the max, and fun as HELL. It taps into all the retro glory of the original while bringing a whole new level of intensity to the mix. I mean…have you fired the BFG yet? Have you?? Please…make more Doom games like this. Thanks.

*

Honorable mentions:

Utopia (1981)

Burgertime (yes seriously) (1982)

Super Mario Bros (1985)

Metroid Prime (2002)

Halo 2 (2004)

Zelda – Twilight Princess (2006) Gamecube version

Crackdown (2007)

Deus Ex – Human Revolution (2011)

And many, many more…

*

Test your own video game knowledge right here.

For a different brand of entertainment, try this.

J Edward Neill

 

For My Fellow Creators Who Stay On The Grind

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

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

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

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

But I want more. 🙂

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Benjamin_Sisko_toasts_the_good_guys_zps274bf4dc

Captain Benjamin Sisko approves this message

You’ve Got the Touch!

Transformers the Movie turned 30 years old on Monday. I want to write something about the Transformers to celebrate that idea. But then I realized that I’ve already written a bunch of things about the Transformers already:

Transformers-movieposter-west

How when the movie originally came out, I couldn’t go during opening weekend. And it disappeared from our theater before the next weekend (stupid small town theater!).

Or how issue #4 of the comic was the first comic I ever bought.

Or how Michael Bay won’t get me to watch another of his movies, even if they have Dinobots in them!

Or even discussing the proper way to “play transformers” (and no, they don’t play “Friends”).

The thing about Transformers is that it kind of replaced Star Wars for me after Jedi had come and gone. Maybe there was some aspect of the engineer in me wanting to come out as I transformed certain characters from car to robot and back to car again. But when there was really no other outlet to interact with Star Wars anymore (remember, this is still the better part of a decade before the Zahn books even show up).

This was crazy space battles. And crazy Earth battles. And planets which could destroy other planets (granted it wasn’t a laser beam from a Death Star, but by being eaten by Unicron).

Good and evil fighting things out until the end of everything.

But here’s the thing, without the movie I would have still loved the show. Heck, it took years for me to even see the movie. However, there was something about the idea there could even be a theatrical release of a children’s cartoon. GI Joe didn’t manage that. He Man did, but it was a live action. The less we talk about that, the better things will be for all of us.

My show got a movie. Not only that, but it advanced the storyline. Characters lived and died and underwent complete changes. After the movie, I remember the GI Joe TV movie where some things changed, and we got Surpentor. Or the Thundercats “movie” where they introduced other villains and other survivors for the characters to interact with.

And maybe all those things were in the works for a long time previous. To my 10 year old self, it meant that Transformers was pushing the envelop in story-telling. That thing we all kind of take for granted from television today: serialization.

dinobots

But it didn’t just start with the movie, the show had done some of that kind of thing before. Obviously it was to sell toys, but they’d introduce the Dinobots, then many episodes later there would be two more Dinobots, and then maybe they got their own episode. The characters might not change at all from episode to episode, but the world was definitely getting a little bigger than it had been before.

When one season ended and the next began, so it meant we’d be seeing newer Transformers. We’d have new favorites to cheer for and against.

What the movie really did was super-charge things. Where the transition from season 1 to season 2 might have meant less screen time for your old favorites, they were still there. After the movie, the slate had been cleared for a whole new generation of Autobots and Decepticons to continue fighting this never-ending war. Again the world got bigger (suddenly we had a whole universe to fight over rather than simply remaining on Earth).

Death had come to the Transformers.

Generation 1 Box Art 2 1280 x 1024

It was a big deal to me. As big a deal as Vader’s revelation to Luke at the end of Empire. Optimus Prime was dead (and again, realize I had to have friends describe exactly what happened since I couldn’t see the movie. It would be like trying to dissect the Zapruder Film with only someone else’s word to let you know exactly what had happened). Someone else was the leader (who the heck does this Rodimus Prime think he is anyway?). Starscream was gone (and thought dead as well – say it ain’t so!).

Lil’ John McGuire’s world was sufficiently rocked by all of this. And then I bought the soundtrack, and Stan Bush rocked me a little more.

Now, I have to admit, I haven’t seen the movie in a long time. I have no doubt it won’t necessarily hold up to my standards today. It is sitting over there on the shelf… and my nephew is coming to town this weekend. I wonder what he’d think of it…

***

John McGuire

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

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

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

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

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

Alaska-Part 3

Forgive my indulgence in the trip for one more week. I write these blogs for myself as much as anyone else so as to not forget some of the little things. Memory has a way of distorting or disappearing when we least expect it to.

“Paper is less perishable than gray matter, and lead pencil markings endure longer than memory.” – Jack London

For our purposes, the digital screen is a good enough stand-in for paper in the 21st century.

Anyway, Parts 1 & 2 and now for part 3, also known as the DVD Extra Bits.

Day 0 (Seattle) – My wife is a morning person while I am the exact opposite of her. So she awoke bright and early on our first morning in Seattle and decided to go on a little walk, maybe get to see that quite part of the city when very few people are milling around. Like almost every other morning person I know, she also thought that this would be a good time to get that first cup of coffee out in the city known for that very beverage. So she walked down one street for a couple of blocks… no Starbucks. Turned down another street… no Starbucks. Then another one, with the same amount of luck.

When she later replayed the story for me I could only think that she’d fallen into the Twilight Zone or some weird Bermuda-Seattle Triangle where no coffee can be served lest some horrible fate might befall the city.

“To the lover of wilderness, Alaska is one of the most wonderful countries in the world.” – John Muir

sea lions

Day 3 (Juneau) – When we arrived at our first “stop” on the tour boat, we were treated to a baby humpback testing its limits – slapping its tail again and again against the surface of the water. The whole time the mom was close enough if she was needed, but mostly seemed content to let him “do his thing”.

The whales weren’t the only things we saw though. There is a whole sea lion area nearby, and the captain took us out to see those guys. For some reason it never occurred to me why they might have gotten the name sea “lion”. When we approached the little island, it was readily apparent. They growl.

Day All of them (At Sea) – Mostly due to wanting to avoid any craziness with motion sickness, we were in a middle room, no windows, not too much around us, etc. But I think no matter what, there is only so long you can stay in your room when you aren’t asleep, so you have to find your spots on the ship. Those quiet places where you can watch the ocean and land drift by you while you relax a little bit (it is a vacation after all). Courtney ended up discovering the quiet spot at the bow of the ship in the lounge area. Plenty of chairs, plenty of windows, and aside from the dance classes or the later night activities, it mostly stayed silent.

Day 4 (Skagway) – One of the things I mentally tried to think of when we went on this trip was what animals might we encounter. However, the two goats in Canada were not even a blip on my list. As our bus pulled into Caribou Crossing for lunch and to see the sled dogs, I saw that just up on the hill behind the “town” was two white specks. Pulling out my binoculars, I was surprised to see two mountain goats hanging out on the side of the mountain. Quickly snapping a couple of pictures, I pointed them out to Courtney.

Fast forward to an hour or so later as we are leaving the area. I take a second to glance back to see if they’re still up there. Sure enough they are. Not only that, they haven’t moved from their spots.

At all.

Hmm…

Yeah, they were fakes. Not sure why they needed to get my hopes up (not huge hopes, these are goats we’re talking about here), but they definitely “got me”.

skagway

Day 4 (Skagway) – I’d say that Skagway had the look of what I thought Alaska was going to be. Much more mountainous, snow caps, rainy and a little cold. We also saw these odd-looking things above the road we were taking. A pole with a bit of red on one end. However, the tour guide was quick to inform us of the true use of such things. You see, in the winter, they still need to have use of the roads. Snow plows have to go out and clear as best they can. But, with all the snow, the road can get a little (a lot) obscured, so in an effort to keep you “on the road” you best stay on the good side of “the red”.

Yes, apparently Alaska has all sorts of way to kill you!

skagway-avalanche

Day 6 (Ketchican) – Quick note. When the tour guide tells you to meet the van at the “Rainfall Gauge”, this is what they mean:

rainfall

 

***

John McGuire

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

My Life Without the Internet

For most of the last three and a half years, I’ve been internet-free.

No wifi.

No Netflix.

No television.

No Xbox Live.

No anything.

I’ve pretty much lived like Meaghan Trainor’s dating life. No. No. And no.

But…

That all changed recently when I picked up the cheapest (and slowest) possible internet package ever. It’s slow…as in realllllllllly slow. Hell I’ll be lucky if this article makes it onto the web, considering I’m plugged into a 1994-era beepy modem, green-screen bulletin board internet experience. And that’s only a slight exaggeration. But I’m finally in the 20th Century, and that’s something, right?

images

Watching porn…still NOT an option.

So…

All these years of non-internet having and slow-internet having got me thinking. What’s it been like living without much web access? How did I survive? How did I manage to operate not one, but two websites…along with a hefty daily helping of web marketing my books?

The short answer: I have no idea

The long answer: A willingness to work a little harder just to be disconnected most of the time

Tempting as it is to explain the minutiae of how I worked around having no internet using a crappy phone with only 3 gigs of data per month, a laptop with broken shift keys (misery) and the most unreliable flash drive ever, I won’t subject you to it. My net-free lifestyle saved me a crapload of money, but it wasn’t always efficient. It was hard work. I don’t recommend living without the net to anyone.

Actually…wait…

Yes I do.

Let me be completely honest with you. If not for a nagging desire to not have to haul my Xbox into hotel rooms in order to update it and if not for having the whole writing/web-marketing career thing, I wouldn’t have signed up to get the net streamed throughout my tiny apartment. I’m serious. I wouldn’t be on Facebook. I wouldn’t have a Twitter account. I wouldn’t read articles or search for videos online. I’d be under a rock, ignorant to the world’s issues, and probably even happier than I already am. (Which, by the way, is pretty effing happy.) Since I’ve already lived more than half my adult life without access to any kind of television programming, the internet would’ve been easy to continue avoiding. Hell, I feel like a traitor for having it now.

Look, I like to think most of us agree that the web is sometimes a wasteful, hollow experience. Maybe you don’t…but maybe you do. It reeks of politics, crime stories, spam, clickbait, and stalker-esque creepers. That said, the web also has its good points. A few of them, anyway.

And since I do have several web obligations for the next few months (while I build my book-selling empire) I’ll suck it up and use my newfound wifi connection…slow as it is…to be a bigger part of the internet community than ever before.

And I’m not sure how I feel about that.

A little guilty, maybe?

A little bothered?

Because I don’t really want to check my email. Or pay my bills. Or find out what’s up with the Kardiashians and Donald Trump’s hairpiece. I want the minimal web experience. Get in…get out.

Mostly.

Ok. Here are few pros and cons to the web experience. Keep in mind this is from the viewpoint of a guy whose sole window into the net has been his four-years-out-of-date phone and occasional access to the internet in a high-security office setting.

Pros to having internet:

I can upload articles like this and this to the web without having to save them on a flash drive.

I can download 1 or 2 games per year (yeah, that’s my pace) onto my Xbox One.

I can post obnoxious pictures of myself on Facebook.

I can check my book sales slightly faster than on my garbage phone.

That’s it.

*

Cons to having internet:

It’s liable to infiltrate my life in ways I don’t expect.

Memes. And the whole ‘seeing them more often’ thing.

People wanting to use it in my apartment…before realizing how slow it is. And then leaving.

It costs money.

The temptation to Google awful things will might one day eat away at my writing time.

I might accidentally see someone post a political rant.

I might accidentally read something on CNN or Fox.

Did I mention memes?

*

In hindsight, I realize being web-free wasn’t a long-term life strategy. My kid will probably need access to do school-related stuff. I’ll spend less time ferrying my magic flash drive between computers. I’ll be able to research stuff at a far faster rate than before. The trouble is; I kinda miss being disconnected. I actually liked being the last person to find out whatever horrific things took place in the world. I savored my opportunity to never have to hear about celebrities’ lives…ever.

I know my desire to be unplugged won’t resonate with many of you. I get it, and I accept it. But for me living net-free felt a bit like being Braveheart. I could just roam through the Highlands, sword in hand, free as the wind.

I’ll miss that feeling.

Because in a way I know having wifi bubbling through my living space will eventually lure me in.

And a part of me rebels against it.

Love,

J Edward Neill

Author of these killer books:

WebImageFront DDP 1 101 Questions for Humanity 415+yIHxswL__SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

 

 

Two Years Later

Dragon Con 2016Two years ago, around this same time, I was preparing for my first convention as an artist. I’m doing the same now, for the same convention–Dragon Con. Genre art (fantasy, science fiction, horror) for me at the time was still a relatively new venture. I grew up on late 70’s and 80’s genre films. As a teenager I was consumed by Stephen King and other speculative fiction authors. You’d think this would be reflected in my art, but it wasn’t until 2012 that I began letting myself explore. A wall in my psyche came down and my art evolved. Two years later I was at Dragon Con and now another two years later I’m returning. In that time, I’ve continued to explore, evolve and learn.

I began thinking about what I truly wanted. What did I want to create with my art? What did I want to say? Did I need to say anything? That introspection gave birth to Renascentia. She is the first painting I felt connected to on a deeper level and I realized I need that connection. It reminds me of this quote I heard recently:

If you don’t feel anything for the painting your working on, your viewers won’t either.

When I brought Renascentia to Jordan Con in 2015, I realized the truth of these words. However, I still hadn’t figured out what I wanted. The vision in my head was still veiled in mist. It took nearly another year for me to begin piecing together what I now call Earth Rituals. I’m creating a body of work around this idea of connecting with the earth, but it’s not the only art I plan to make. I will continue to make purely nature art, delve into Sci-Fi, and whatever else catches my fancy.

Dusk OwlBut what have I done and learned over the last two years?

  1. I learned how to create art from direction.
  2. I ran a successful kickstarter and printed a book.
  3. I won Judge’s Choice from Todd Lockwood. O_O
  4. I signed my first contract with a small games publisher.
  5. I knew this already, but it was reaffirmed–true friends are invaluable.
  6. I will break my no dancing rule if you give me mixed drinks.
  7. I learned I don’t really enjoy game illustration.
  8. I learned you can be a part of a large community and still feel utterly alone.
  9. I learned there’s an art to using Instagram.
  10. I enjoy licensing art for book covers more than custom commissions.
  11. I learned I just want to create my own art, on my own terms.
  12. I guided my daughter through her last year of high school and into her first year of college.
  13. I was invited to be a member of Changeling Artist Collective.
  14. I launched a Patreon campaign that’s still going.
  15. I rediscovered my love of graphite and drawing.
  16. I’ve had a taste of being an art director (large project in progress now).

Ultimately, I’ve realized I’m not an illustrator, nor do I really want to be. Sure, there may be some overlap occasionally. If a project fits my vision and my style I might jump on board. But at the end of the day, I’m an artist. I think my art will always hover between fine art and the fantastic. In some cases it will sway back and forth between the two. That’s okay.

Forest Dreams WIP

From my current work in progress, Forest Dreams.

Alaska – Part 2

For Part 1, click here.

When last we left our intrepid heroes, they were cruising away from Juneau onto their next port of call with a mind full of dancing humpback whales and bald eagles everywhere.

Day 4 (Skagway) – This was the longest day at any port. Took a tour bus into the Yukon which meant going through the Canadian Border Patrol at Fraser, Canada. Now I say Fraser and you think “town” (well, maybe you think Cheers or even his spinoff), but what you should envision is about 3-4 houses, a border patrol building, and the train station where you can ride the train back into Skagway (which is what we did). Apparently you should not run to the bathroom on the bus when you are about to go through the passport check, the Canadians and Americans don’t seem to like this very much (luckily I did not have to experience any issues like that).

But we were warned both coming and going. And here I thought we were all hugs and kisses with our friends to the north.

In the Yukon (this is back in the 19th Century), listen I understand that there was a gold rush and all, but they had to institute a rule (the Canadian government did this) that in order to pass by the border to look for gold you had to have 1 TON of supplies with you (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chilkoot_Pass) because people just didn’t realize they had a good chance of just out-and-out dying. You know, no big deal.

I actually have a picture of the full list…

Supplies

Sorry for the glare at the top.

 

The train ride back was very cool, but there is only 10 ft of “road” up there, so you really are on the edge of the cliff. Literally. The rail line was finished right after the gold rush was basically over, so it ended up not doing much good. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_Pass_and_Yukon_Route) We also went to Carcross and Caribou Crossing in Canada which were effectively glorified touristy places, but definitely had that whole “in the middle of nowhere vibe going on. Even got to pet some sled dog puppies which was cool. I thought about the myriad of ways I could possibly stick one of those dogs under my jacket and get him back to the ship. And name him Buck.

Sadly, I did not go through with my plans.

Day 5 (Glacier Bay) – Woke up to a huge sheet of ice. It is amazing how big it is, how far it used to be only 100 years ago (noted from the explorers maps from that time). We hung out for over an hour taking pictures and just experiencing being there.

Gacier Bay

This along with portions of Skagway were what my mind had built up as Alaska, not the rainforests (how naive of me).

The rest of this day was really spent hanging out with my parents. It was effectively an “at sea” day, so you really have make sure to fit in Breakfast, 2nd Breakfast, Lunch, snack, dinner, and some late night 4th meal. It’s hard work.

Day 6 (Ketchican) – The rain capital of North America or something like that (I thought that’s what I read or heard). The town is right next to the port, and again is somewhat contained by roads that don’t lead to other places. We did a rainforest sanctuary and totem pole excursion, which helped to answer the age-old question:

Does a bear s$#@ in the woods?

The answer is yes, by the way. And they apparently like to do their business on the trail paths as well. You know, just to let you know they were out there (I did not take any pictures of those piles… you can use your imagination).

We didn’t see any of the black bears, but we were told by our tour guide that “they were more curious this year than normal”, which I’m not 100% on, but I’m pretty sure you don’t want to hear those words… ever.

Probably the highlight of this trip was when we got to see a bald eagle as up close as you could ask for (like 2 feet away) because he has an injured wing and is a permanent resident of their sanctuary. He just hung out, very much the superstar, probably thinking about freedom and how he’s so glad that the turkey didn’t get to be our national bird.

eagle

 

Day 7 (Victoria, British Columbia) – Very beautiful. From what the tour guide told us it effectively has a Mediterranean climate. Approximately 10 days of winter a year, but only about 10 days of summer as well. Sadly, we arrived at 6 PM and only had 5+ hours before the boat left, so while we opted for the city tour bus there was only so much time to see what we might have wanted to see (the bus tour is the way to go, but after 6 PM they don’t do the get on/get off aspect they do during the day). There is a castle in the middle of town (like in the middle of the neighborhoods) (https://thecastle.ca/).

And the history of that castle was crazy in that after it was build the Dad died and the children didn’t want to pay the land taxes on the place, so they tried to sell it, but NO ONE wanted to buy it. So they came up with a scheme where they’d put all the resident’s names in a hat and the winner would “get” the castle. And that person didn’t want it either.

At some point the City of Victoria bought it.

It was cold on the tour bus… might have been the coldest we’d been on the entire trip (temps were high 50s/low 60s for everywhere). By the way, packing for this kind of trip is not the easiest. You need a jacket or two (but not FIVE like my wife), but there were days that a hoodie was all I really needed. However, the reason Victoria was the coldest had less to do with the temperature and more to do with the fact we were on a double-decker bus, on the top-level, and it had rained earlier that day.

My wife opted not to sit in a wet seat and put her coat down. A few minutes into the drive she was freezing, but waited almost 30 minutes to put on the jacket due to not wanting to stand up while we were in motion.

Of all the times not to bring the heavy jacket…

victoria

Parliament Building

 

Day 8 (Seattle) – Back to Seattle, get off the boat, taxi to the airport (since the subway station was a hike from the Port). Got to the airport legitimately 4 1/2 hours early. One of the things we kept reading was if the ship gets in before noon then DO NOT book a ticket home earlier than noon… that’s a kind of stress no one wants or needs in their lives. Of course, being in the airport for that long was a bit longer than I might have wanted, but I’d rather that than end up running through the airport because the ship was delayed by storms or something. Plus, it kind of worked out as our flight ended up being 30 minutes shorter than the estimated arrival time (gotta love those tailwinds).

Home by midnight.

Day 9 (Georgia) – Veg all day. Laundry all day. One thing you realize about packing for this long of a trip, you start to run out of clothes, and then when you get home it takes all day to clean everything. And you’re a little jet lagged. And you realize your dad had it right all those years when he took 2 weeks off for vacation. The first for the actual vacation and the second week to recover from said vacation.

I don’t have that kind of time, so I took one extra day (Monday being Memorial Day and all), and did my best to get into work for a shortened Wednesday to Friday week.

Thus ends our trip. Most of the time on vacation I’m always amazed at how quick the time went, but this trip wasn’t like that. Maybe I managed to stay “in the moment” more than a normal vacation. I’m not sure that makes a lot of sense. Regardless, I felt like I experienced it, and it was the exact correct length.

***

John McGuire

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

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

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

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

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

Seven Science & Philosophy Questions

Seven Science & Philosophy Questions for Everyone

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Butterflies

 The Butterfly Effect is defined as:

The phenomenon whereby a small change within a complex system can have large effects elsewhere.

In other words, a butterfly making the smallest alteration in the wind might set off a chain reaction causing a hurricane two weeks later on the opposite side of the world.

Or something like that.

Think of an important event that has taken place during your life or the life of someone you know.

Now think about how that event came to be.

What was the butterfly?

*

No Accidents?

 Scientifically speaking, everything happens for a reason.

Literally.

Meaning on a physical level every interaction in the universe has a definitive physical cause, no matter how obscure.

And thus, universally speaking, there are no accidents.

No luck.

No true randomization.

But…

Things like human emotions, impulses, and ideas don’t necessarily fit into any standard scientific construct.

Meaning the reasons behind several of humanity’s physical actions aren’t exactly known.

Meaning human activity can disrupt the universe’s interactions.

So are there accidents after all?

*

The Doctrine of Double Effect

 There’s a runaway train.

Aboard it are five people.

Thing is: you’re standing at a lever which, if you pull it, will switch the tracks and save the five people.

But…

If you pull the lever, you’ll redirect the train to a portion of the tracks where a woman and her baby are standing, totally unaware of what’s about to happen.

If you don’t pull the lever, five people will die through your inaction.

If you do pull the lever, two people will die due to your direct action.

Which choice is correct?

*

Worth More

For purposes of this exercise, we’re making up a point scale.

We’ll call it the Universal Point System.

The system goes from 0-10. A zero means no value at all to the universe. A ten means the highest possible universal value. A five is somewhere in the middle.

For each of the following, assign a value based on the Universal Point System:

A drop of water

The planet Mars

A single human being

A blue whale

Earth

A star

A galaxy

Gravity

*

Game of Thrones

Choose which king you would prefer to rule the kingdom in which you live:

The Sword: Strong, decisive, militarily powerful, yet prone to rash judgment

The Peacemaker: Calm, benevolent, generous, yet unwilling to take risks

The Lawyer: Highly intelligent, even-handed, able to solve complex problems, yet entirely non-emotional

The Philosopher: Visionary, wise, deeply thoughtful, yet not at all concerned with tradition or religion

And which king would you least want on the throne?

*

Quotable

Which of the following do you believe?

Words exist because of meaning. Once you’ve found the meaning, you can forget the words.” ~ Chuang Tzu

Man is the only animal who enjoys the consolation of believing in a next life. All other animals enjoy the consolation of not worrying about it.” ~ Robert Brault

The tighter you squeeze, the less you have.”

The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth.” ~ Niels Bohr

You have to do it by yourself. And you can’t do it alone.” ~ Martin Rutte

*

If it Hasn’t Happened by Now…

 If, in the entire history of humanity, no one has yet been visited by someone from the future, does that mean time travel won’t ever be invented?

*

* * *

These questions and many, many more appear in my book, 101 Questions for the End of the World.

101 Qs for the End of the World Front Cover

J Edward Neill

Creator of Coffee Table Philosophy

Alaska – Part 1

First an one-sentence overview of Alaska:

Good lord that is some amazing country.

Alaska - View from Ship

Between the rainforest (yeah, that’s right, they have a rainforest up there – didn’t know that) and the mountain peaks, and the isolated towns – Skagway’s population goes to about 300 people during the winter months (from around 2500 people during the summer) – to entering Canada and having to produce my passport while on a tour bus (we all did) – to riding a train that at times felt like you were hanging off the edge of the “road”…

My lovely bride presented me this idea of an Alaskan Cruise back at Christmas catching me totally off-guard. We’d been talking about what we could do for my 40th birthday… and well, she made it so we don’t have to worry about a present for my birthday, or her birthday, or our anniversary, or our other anniversary, or Christmas, or next Christmas…

It’s not cheap, but I’d recommend it to anyone who might be on the fence about it.

It’s been just over a month since we went, and I’ve had parts of this post(s) ready pretty much the week we got back, but I wanted to make sure I didn’t short change anything, though that would be impossible on a trip like this. There was so much to see that I felt like I wanted to open my eyes wider in an effort to get as much of the scenery into my brain, my body, my soul.

Day 0 (Saturday) – Seattle – We got into Seattle late on Friday night. Basically got off the plane, and then tried to figure out the best way to get to the hotel. A taxi would have been $50 (to give an idea of distance from airport to downtown Seattle – it was a solid 30+ minutes on their light rail. However, the Light rail (honestly it was basically their subway system) only cost $3 per person, so I felt that was a win right out of the gate.

But there was a catch… the Light Rail station was FOREVER away from our bags. It became this joke as we hauled our luggage out into the parking deck area. Signs telling us that we were on the correct path gave us reassurance that it would only be around the next corner, or possibly the one after that, or finally down this even longer walkway.

Maybe the actual city is even further away, but we just walked the first part?

On Saturday we met up with my parents (who were accompanying us on the journey) and then my former roommate Andy Hickson and his wife Jamie acted as our tour guides the rest of the day (given that they’ve lived in Seattle for the better part of 15 years now… I think that’s right). We did Pike’s Market and watched them throw fish (and almost hit a bystander which would have made for a better story), we went on the Underground tour and learned about the history of the city – apparently Seattle burned to the ground and they decided to raise the city up about 15 feet, so they created a series of of retaining walls and then filled the streets in (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seattle_Underground)... I’m not trying to get into the weeds with it, but it was definitely a clever way to fix their potential flooding problems at the time. And as a guy who designs roads during the day, it scratched that engineer itch.

They even got me to ride the Ferris Wheel (I’m not big on heights).

Leaving Seattle

Day 1 (Sunday) – Got to the ship. For some reason we didn’t leave the port on time… technically they did come over the loud-speaker to say why… but the Captain was the most mono-tone person I’ve ever heard. And the way he talked, well the only way I know how to describe it is that he spoke as if sentences did not have spaces between words. It wasn’t quick talk, but somehow I couldn’t tell where one word began and the next one ended. All I could figure out was they would have to burn a little more fuel (go faster) to ensure we got to Juneau on time come Tuesday).

An aside – I get motion sick, not nausea but bad headaches mostly. So I got the Patch you put behind your ear for this trip even though EVERYONE who had gone on this cruise before that we talked to mentioned how smooth the seas were for them and whatnot. But I also know that it’s better to have it and not need it than…

All I have to say is for Sunday night and almost all day Monday the boat was rocking. Not sure if it was because of that delay in leaving Seattle or if there were bad storms somewhere just over the horizon (and that’s why we delayed in the first place). What I do know is that if I hadn’t had the patch I would have been screwed. As it was there was a couple of times that I had to kind of refocus due to the up and down of the ship. And many times walking had you doing that half-drunk thing of needing to recenter yourself. Otherwise you’d end up like more than one person I saw who used both the right and the left walls to try and steady themselves as they moved down the hallways.

I don’t want to make it seem like we were in 20 ft swales or anything, just that those two days were not “smooth sailing” by any means.

Day 2 (Monday) – At Sea – So it was mostly eating various meals, getting a low-down on where everything was on the ship, going to a show that night, and hitting the casino to play some Blackjack and Poker. Sadly I don’t have any tales of how I paid for the trip or anything. The House took my money and my wife’s money throughout the course of the week.

Day 3 (Tuesday) – Juneau – Found out that the only way into Juneau is by air or by boat due to the fact that there is a huge sheet of ice preventing any rail or roads from reaching the place. Coming from Atlanta where we live on our interstates, that is a weird one to be sure.

We went on a wilderness (there’s that rainforest word again) hike. Then went on a whale-watching boat tour. Saw so many bald eagles. So cool. Saw humpbacks not 25 ft from the boat. And there was that cool moment/thought that both our guide and the Boat Captain had genuine excitement when the humpbacks would pop up. Especially when you consider that they’ve probably seen hundreds if not thousands over the years, but I have some video where the whale comes up and the tour guide’s voice can be heard above most of the other passengers.

Whale

Aside – All of our tour guides were from other places and spent the summers up in Alaska doing the tour guide thing or whatever… you know, it never occurred to me that such an option was out there while I was in college (not saying I would have done it, but more that it never passed through my brain). This particular guide basically followed the whales from Hawaii in the winter to Alaska in the summer.

That’s not too bad a life.

***

There is much, much more, but I’ll save that for next week.

***

John McGuire

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

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

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

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

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

My Sliding Doors Story

First things first… Sliding Doors was a movie starring Gwyneth Paltrow where we see her character along two different timelines. One where she catches a subway train and one where she does not. And then the movie shows us how different that one moment has made her lives from each other.

It is very much a Butterfly Effect style of movie where changing the one incident causes more and more ripples until things are not anything like what they “should have been”.

Slidingdoors

The thing is, you never know if something is going to be that defining moment of your life. No one knows when it is coming, what it is going to look like… heck, it could be a very minor thing like missing a train or it could be a major thing like getting arrested by the police…

***

Anywhere the foliage above didn’t completely cover the area, the sun found its way and broke through in a patchwork of light. I crept along, trying to keep the amount of noise I made a small as possible. Not an easy task when every step you take is through broken tree leaves and limbs. Not the best thing when it is Autumn and everything takes on that extra bit of crunchiness.

About ten feet to my right I see one of the others, the barrel of his gun protruding slowly from where he was hiding behind his tree for some cover and possibly surprise.

He hasn’t spotted me yet.

I could try and sneak up on him, but the floor of the woods would give away my position quicker than anything else. I don’t have any kind of clean shot from here. And I don’t know where the rest of his family might be waiting. They hear the shot, and maybe I’m down before I even have time to think about finding another target.

In fact, they might have already seen me and are just waiting for me to shift, to move into their sights. To be easy prey for them.

I glance down at my watch and realize the time. I only have about thirty minutes before I have to be at Kroger to begin my shift. An odd time for it to begin: 5:00 where normally I either have to be in at 3:00 or not at all during the week. It’s alright though, they really just needed some extra warm bodies for this school project. Something about the family feuds from Huckleberry Finn… at least I think that’s what it’s for. I film one more scene – my death scene, and then wish them good luck for the rest of the afternoon.

What I don’t know… what I’ll find out later is about 15 minutes after I leave the cops will arrive to investigate some kids running around the woods with BB guns. Somewhere during that there will be word that an neighbor’s dog might have gotten shot by one of the guns (I never did find out whether anyone of our group had accidentally done this or not, but since I don’t believe anything came of their trip to the station… I’m guessing not).

cops

A number of my friends will get to experience something that it’ll be another 4 or 5 years before I get around to it: being put into the back of a police car.

***

I’m going to be late. I’m always late. I could leave twenty minutes early for something and still be ten minutes late. At Kroger, I’ve become a master of the clock in by 5 after so I don’t get docked the quarter-hour pay. And when you’re only making $4.25/hour, that’s a significant chunk.

They’ve only talked to me about it a couple of times at this point. In my defense though, I told them that I could start my shifts at 3:30 since I get out of high school at 2:15. That would give me just enough time to head home, change, maybe grab a snack, and then get to work… and not feel rushed.

In all my time working there I never had a 3:30 start time.It’s always be in at 3:00.

Of course, I also mentioned that 9:00 was as late as I could work. You know, so that I could get home by 9:15, eat dinner, and then actually do any of the homework which might be waiting for me in my book bag.

I always worked until 9:30.

They must have had something in their ears. I probably could have complained more, but when you’re 16 and me, you just roll with it.

This day though, this day was some rare thing. I’m not entirely sure, looking back now, that I ever had another 5:00 start time.

The thing is, I never complained. Never bitched about these things. I just came in when they scheduled me.

That day I sped into the parking lot, the time on my dash telling me I might not make it by even the 5 minute after cut-off. I grabbed a parking spot far enough away not to steal any potential customer’s spots… and only then did I realize there were a number of cop cars all around.

frog and cop

When I entered I saw more, mostly huddled around the bank, but a couple talking to the floor manager. And it is only then that I find out I missed the incident by ten minutes… tops.

In the same day I missed getting picked up by the police (and all the fun that would have been for my parents) by about 10 minutes and then additionally miss the bank robbery by the same amount of time. Had I left a few minutes early or a few minutes later my day could have been completely different. Somewhere in that drive to work was a pivot point in my teenage life. Now that’s not to say anything sinister would have come of either things had I been there, but considering I worked at Kroger for 2 1/2 years and never heard of this happening again. And I worked on plenty of school projects and never had the cops called on me…

I don’t know. I didn’t end up getting a different haircut. I didn’t have an alternate reality open up for me, but… something was in the air that day. Something strange, something weird… a day of close calls to be sure.

***

John McGuire

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

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

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

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

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

A Tale of Sliders and Tow Trucks

Life has a way of repeatedly kicking you in the nether regions at times.

Like, repeatedly.

Case in point: about a couple of weeks ago the head gasket on my car went caput, with a giant C. Smoke and/or steam began spewing from the hood, my car began making a weird sucking/ popping sound, and only by the skin of my teeth was I able to make it out of rush hour traffic to an empty driveway to wait for a tow.

A reenactment of Robert's descent into madness

A reenactment of Robert’s descent into madness

Car was taken to a shop, shop said it would take 5 days, maybe 7 max to repair.

Cool.

7 turned into 8, 8 turned into something else, new days of completion were provided, patience was provided by yours truly, and then those days were missed.

Patience began wearing thin, other missed days were promised, terse conversations followed, and FINALLY the car was repaired. Head gasket was said to be in tip top shape, and I was back on the road.

So fast forward to 6/30 (remember, this whole thing began on 6/15) I’m driving along, listening to Collider Heroes Podcast, maxin’ and relaxin’, enjoying the AC, and then I notice my temperature gauge is running hot.

And then guess what happens?

Smoke and/or steam began spewing from the hood, my car began making a weird sucking/ popping sound, and only by the skin of my teeth was I able to make it out of rush hour traffic to the side of the road to wait for a tow truck.

So there I am, sitting in the car, ticked beyond comprehension after getting off the phone with the repair shop. Told them I wasn’t paying for a repair that should’ve been handled correctly before to which they agreed, and they said to have my car towed to the shop again to be checked out.

Another reenactment of Robert losing it on the phone. Note: notice that my cell phone appears to be modeled after an old landline phone. That's so retro!

Another reenactment of Robert losing it on the phone. Side note: notice that my cell phone appears to be modeled after an old landline phone.
That’s so retro!

What to do? Stew in my anger as traffic whizzed past my immobile vehicle?

Heck no!

This situation called for something epic, something that would get my mind off of the fact that I was slowly roasting even with the windows down:

A live reaction session via FB for the first episode of that 90’s cross dimensional hopping sci-fi adventure, Sliders, through the Netflix app on my phone.

Below is the insanity that flowed from my fingers as I waited for rescue.

Enjoy.

 

sliderscommentary

The OG’s of Cross Dimensional Travel, a.k.a The Fab Four

Screenshot_20160630-204818 Screenshot_20160630-204832 Screenshot_20160630-204839 Screenshot_20160630-204847 Screenshot_20160630-204852 Screenshot_20160630-204900 Screenshot_20160630-204910 Screenshot_20160630-204919 Screenshot_20160630-204924 Screenshot_20160630-204929 Screenshot_20160630-204933 Screenshot_20160630-204937 Screenshot_20160630-204941 Screenshot_20160630-204946 Screenshot_20160630-204957 Screenshot_20160630-205000 Screenshot_20160630-205007 Screenshot_20160630-205016 Screenshot_20160630-205022 Screenshot_20160630-205031 Screenshot_20160630-205037 Screenshot_20160630-205049

 

Epilogue: The car got repaired the next day and is rolling along a bit better.

Thanks Sliders for getting me through it all.

Bonus: Here’s a little diddy from the Crying Man himself, Mr. Rembrandt Brown.

 

Anti-Meme Fridays!

Welcome to my smartass new series, Anti-Meme Fridays.

In a sad, hollow effort to spread my loathing of motivational memes, every Friday I’ll be posting some new meme-hate. Forever.

I’ll post two memes every week. The first one, I’ll put up an actual meme I pulled from Facebook or Twitter, and I’ll deconstruct its logic in the most sarcastic way possible. For the second one, I’ll post something anti-motivational and/or funny. Because…really…that’s all a good meme should aspire to be.

Enjoy! Oh, and please be assured this is all in good fun. I’m doing this to combat the stress of writing extremely dark fiction all day long.

*

Meme 1

13580404_259607561082281_5715713492197185871_o

As an author, I have a lot of bookish friends on FB and Twitter. Meaning pretty much 75% of my feed at any given time is made up of memes about writing, reading, and overdosing on coffee. This one has a nice little picture of some guy staring into the woods…and then some completely bullshit line about gardens and libraries. Did Marcus never get cold and think, “Maybe I also need shelter?” Did Marcus sleep in the dirt, alone and unwashed, but happy because he had a copy of Stephen King’s It? Considering that every single person who ever posted a meme on the internet used an electronic device to do so, it feels like maybe we need to revise Marcus’s saying to, “If you have a garden, a library, a latte, and an iPhone, you have everything you need. Except shelter, companionship, a jacket, and a spear to keep coyotes away.”

*

Meme 2

32994441

Now that’s more like it.

* * *

Join me in destroying motivational memes worldwide.

Or at least check out my stuff.

J Edward Neill

Author of:

WebImageFront DDP 1 101 Questions for Humanity

 

June Grab Bag

Sometimes I only have the barest nuggets of ideas for the blog. Things which wouldn’t fill a full post, but maybe have passed through my mind in, and I need to get them out of there so that new ideas will take their place.

***

I’m just tired of the lie. Not a month goes by without me hearing the lie, and it has now gotten to the point that I don’t know if anyone realizes they are lying anymore. But I have to call BS on them all.

Stop saying when you were young people didn’t get participation trophies.

Just stop it! Stop lying to the world or to yourself for whatever reasons you think you might have. I grew up in the 1980s and had a handful of baseball and basketball trophies for… that’s right: PARTICIPATION!

trophy

And unless you are in your 50s or older I’m guessing you did too. But somewhere alone the way you’ve forgotten. Or perhaps you haven’t forgotten and need to make some point or another and it fits your narrative.

Just stop it! Enough is enough!

***

Why is “sleeping in” considered lazy but going to bed early is considered the “thing to do” by society? If I’m up until 3 in the morning writing or even if I’m goofing, and then sleep to noon it’s something that people might talk about. However, you getting up at 6 in the morning – read the paper, watch the morning news – effectively “goofing”, but going to bed at 9 at night is awesome? By my count we’re awake the same amount of hours.

alarm-clock

The only thing I can come up with is staying up all night is associated with the young and carefree days of your teenage years or your twenties, but waking up early is something adults do because they must go to work.

You’re not more responsible, and I’m not less responsible (well at least not because I stay up late at least).

***

After going to Heroes Con in Charlotte, NC this year, I’m amazed that Atlanta doesn’t have a Comic Book Convention of comparable size. And no, Dragon Con is not it. It might have been twenty years ago, but it has morphed into more of a Geek/Nerd Culture Con (and I go every year, so I’m good with it). I’ve watched as Heroes has slowly expanded over the years, but it still seems to have an impressive turnout not only from dealers but from the artists and writers themselves. So many Independent creators are there. It is always nice to be surrounded by such a room full of talent.

 

But every time someone seems to get the idea of doing a dedicated Comic Con here it lasts for maybe two years before disappearing into the ether once more. Some kind of Halley’s Comet of Conventions. I just don’t understand.

***

Editing is for suckers. That’s my thinking. It sucks, and I don’t want to do it anymore. It is soul crushing and never ends, and I don’t want to do it anymore.

Crap. I have two books still to edit, and now I’m starting another.

What is wrong with me?

writing

***

Character names. Like many things they are either there, fully formed in my head before I put one letter onto the page or they simply don’t exist. In the later’s case, I find myself searching through various name databases in order to squeeze something so that I can start calling the characters in my new book by something other than XXX, YYY, & ZZZ (and that XXX is a spitfire, let me tell you).

Of course, it can’t just be any old name, but it has to be one which fits the character… that many times I haven’t quite figured out myself. I mean, this is the thing that I’m going to saddle XXX with, I need to make sure that it represents what I want it to represent… that’s a lot of pressure on something which could be picked willy nilly.

But, yeah, the current book doesn’t have ONE named character yet. Luckily I’m only a chapter in. Unluckily I am a chapter in and no one has a name yet.

Well, at least I know what they look like and how they act.

***

Rants done. Random thoughts registered. Brain cleared.

***

John McGuire

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

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

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

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

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

Skull Buckets and Big Old Bucket Lists

Ages ago, I published my personal mega-bucket list.

It included 50 things I wanted to do before I die. Some were realistic. Others…not so much.

So here we are, centuries (ok, only 18 months) removed. I’ve completed a few of my self-challenges and completely whiffed on many more.

Here’s my bucket update:

* * *

50 Hard-as-Hell Bucket Stuffers

1. Go caving in Kentucky. As in way deep in the earth. As in if I get lost, the rest of the bucket list is screwed. (I haven’t even seen a cave since making this a bucket list item.)

2. Write a book twenty books. Yes seriously.   (Done. Actually it’s 23 now. My next goal is 100. Realistic? Who cares?)

3. Hold a four-minute plank. (Kinda stuck on two minutes right now) (Did several five-minute planks. And then…promptly was hospitalized with costochondritis. For real. Google it.)

4. Read the entire LOTR trilogy to my kid. As a bedtime story. Because bedtime stories should be epic. (We got about two chapters in. Tolkien puts kids to sleep.)

5. Perform a meaningful charitable act. As in a weekend at a soup kitchen. Or ten weekends. Whichever. (Not yet. I’m a bad person.)

6. Escape office life before it kills me. The dude from Office Space had it right. We weren’t meant to live like this. (Nope.)

7. Spend the night in a haunted house. Or a sanitarium. If only to know whether all the Ghost Hunter-type shows hold water. (Nope.)

8. Climb a mountain. A real mountain. Preferably something volcanic. (I climbed a giant f’n waterfall. Does that count?)

9. Be an extra in a movie. (Free food!) (Nope.)

10. Plant at least ten trees that will outlive me. (And then promptly had to sell the land I planted them on. 😐 )

11. Make one of my books into a movie. Even if it’s a pitiful ten minute-long Youtube flick. (Nope. Though I did make a four-minute Youtube clip.)

12. Wander the Scottish Highlands. Confound the locals with an over-the-top William Wallace accent. (Nope.)

13. Teach my grandkid(s) things to annoy their parents. (Need you on this one, G Man.) (Update. He’s only five-years old.)

14. Live long enough to see the Cubs play in (they don’t even have to win) the World Series. (Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!!!!!!!)

15. Play lead guitar in a band. Even if for just one night. (Turns out no one I know really likes death metal.)

16. Paint something stunning. (For me, this is as close to stunning as it’ll get.)

17. Eat Maine lobster. While in Maine. And on the same trip, eat Maryland crab. While in Maryland. (Nope.)

18. Try my hand as a quarterback coach. For kids. (Nope.)

19. Road trip through Sonoma, CA. (Closest I’ve come is touring the wineries of North GA.)

20. Be ripped when I’m 50. Wait. Forget 50. Be ripped when I’m 60. (I’m pretty shredded now, but I’m still a looooong ways from 50.)

21. Try every food I hated as a kid to see if I still hate them. (Yep. Turns out I liked most of ’em. Who knew? Except beets. I still hate beets.) 

22. Win a costume contest. While wearing something truly terrifying. (Win! Some creepy monster mask is all it took.)

SkullBucketReal

23. Go to a Super Bowl (as long as the Packers aren’t in it.) (Alas, I’m considering giving up my love of football.)

 24. Buy a dinghy. Wake up at the ass-crack of dawn. Take my son fishing. Return home at dusk. (Soon!)

25. Live tech-free for 30 days straight. No cell phone. No laptop. No tablet. No TV. (I wish….)

26. If space travel to Mars is perfected, I’m there. I want to be the first person to write a book about the Red Planet while on the Red Planet. If space travel isn’t perfected, change this bucket item to: drink a Texas margarita while in Texas. Those are equal, right? (Nope.)

27. Drink a bottle of absinthe. With friends. In Europe. Preferably in Copenhagen. (Planning this one soon.)

28. Completely overhaul my wardrobe. Because if Joan Rivers were still alive, I’d be on her worst-dressed list. Seriously. I’m like a twelve year-old up in here. (I have mostly new clothes. I still dress like a teenager. Whatever.)

29. Live in London. For a week. A month. However long it takes. (Nah. Not yet.)

30. Tour every major pub in Dublin, Ireland. Alone. No friends for this trip. (Ditto.)

31. While we’re on the subject of pubs, build a ‘pub room’ in my house. Neon signs, futbol banners, stools, pool table, low lights, cute bartender. The works. (I was in the midst of doing this when I sold my house. I suck.)

32. Start an herb garden. No, not that kind of herb. (See # 31.)

33. Grow a Mephistopheles beard. Pointy and black. (Partial credit. I did the beard. Didn’t dye it black.)

SkullBucket

34. Learn how to make wine. (Gonna need something to drink after the Ebola-pocalypse.) (I’ll need a house and a yard.)

35. Learn to play the cello. (Nope.)

36. Help someone else fulfill their own bucket list. (My friends don’t like to take risks.)

37. Shave my cats to look like lions. (Ha. Nope.)

38. Spend an entire summer living on the beach. (Does five days in Ft Lauderdale count? No? Boooooo.)

39. Teach my kid to beat me at chess. Bow humbly when he does. (Halfway there. He knows how to move the pieces.)

40. Rescue a turtle. (You know…the ones who try to cross the expressway.) (Lucked out and did this one with a pretty girl!)

SkullBuck

41. Leaving this space blank _________________________ for someone else to suggest a bucket list item. (All the suggestions have been…ahem…adult film related. Thanks, guys.)

42. Find a clear night and a place from which I can see the Milky Way. Marvel hopelessly at the sky and wonder it’s all about. (Sigh…)

43. Find the recipe for my dearly departed grandmother’s homemade stew. Cook it for a big group of friends and family. (Did it! And for double points, I used the same mixing bowl she used when I was a kid.)

44. Kiss a beautiful woman in Paris. Corny, I know. Don’t care. (There’s a shortage of beautiful women in Duluth, GA.)

45. Make myself useful. Save someone’s life. (Half credit. Saved my kid another hundred times.)

46. Invent a new board game. Nothing complicated. Something like checkers or othello. (Nope.)

47. Remain apolitical. Even if I make it long enough to be a crotchety old wizard. (Yeah. I’m claiming this one. In the most vicious political season yet, I still DGAF.)

48. Start the tradition of giving gifts on my birthday. (Maybe next year when I’m not so broke.)

49. Try sushi. (Tried it. Didn’t like it. Oh well.)

50. Pay for all this stuff with a thriving writing career. (Working on it!)

 ***

Next update: December 2017!

 J Edward Neill

Author of the Tyrants of the Dead dark fantasy trilogy

Co -Author of Hollow Empire – Night of Knives

Ideas and (the lack of) Time

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

The Mystics

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

Rings of Magic

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

The White Crow

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

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


www.amandamakepeace.com

Run and Jump, Never Slowing Down

Not one person hasn’t experienced a moment in their life where they didn’t have a near miss, close call, “there but for the grace of God go I”. Instead we want to place the blame immediately, thinking ourselves to be all-knowing, all-correct in our assessment of whatever situation. Through all of it we forget all the previous times we escaped some kind of disaster.

jump-to-conclusions-mat

It would be baffling if I didn’t read about it once a week. And whether it is a kid falling into a zoo exhibit or falling off the jungle gym there are always those people who KNOW BETTER. The same people who effectively say “it wouldn’t have gone down like that” when they have no idea.

Look, I’m not saying I know any better either. But I just think these people must have the shortest memories of all time. They are like the guy from Memento who can only remember a few minutes of his life at a time and everything else just disappears into the ether. All those bits of stupid they just fail to remember not only that they did them, but that they escaped something horrific.

Memento_poster

Some of the stupid I’ve been connected to:

The biggest one I’ve done a whole post on, but it probably goes down as the single dumbest moment I’ve ever had. And even though it makes for a good story now – if my passengers had meant me any harm I might not be writing this post right now. Check it out, my dumbest moment.

***

It was a funeral for a relative, and at some point a 12 or 13 year old version of me was supposed to watch my 2 year old brother. So we went out back to the pool to dangle our (his) feet in the water. Somewhere in this process it turned into him trying to get up, slipping, and falling into the deep end of the pool. Not because I wasn’t watching him, but because he’s a 2 YEAR OLD and shit happens. I jumped in, suit and tie and all, grabbed him up and while there was a little crying – everyone was good afterwards.

water-103817_1280

***

My parents live in the backwoods of Virginia just outside of Richmond. They have a long dirt/rock driveway which connects them to the main street where larger trucks are certainly known to travel down from time to time.  My nephew (another 2 year old) decides while in view of multiple adults who are outside as well, that it would be an excellent idea to take off down the driveway towards this street.

Now to hear my mom tell the story it was a case of the old 1 second he’s there beside you and the next he’s running. And now all the adults are either running or yelling or both because there is a truck coming…

Luckily adults have much longer legs than a 2 year old and they scooped him up well before something terrible could happen.

***

I was probably 5 years old when I wandered outside and saw my grandfather’s car set up on some kind of blocks. Noticing the driver’s side door was open, I climbed in and started to play every kid’s favorite game “I’m driving!” I start to twist the wheel a little back and forth, making car noises with my mouth. And then I decide to shift gears (even though it is an automatic). Giving it a little force, I click it into reverse and suddenly… I AM driving! Or more to the point the car is rolling off the blocks backward.

What I didn’t know was that my grandfather was UNDER the car working on it. Had the car rolled the other way (as in, had I somehow put it into DRIVE instead of REVERSE, he’d been crushed).

***

When I was 4 or 5 I was playing in the parking lot of our apartment complex with one of the neighbor kids. Probably some kind of “chasing” game. At the same time, one of the other neighbors was working on his car/truck and left a bottle of cleaner out (I think he walked back inside to fetch something. Of course, my friend saw the bottle and decided that it was his laser gun and he should shoot me. Spraying me with what he thought was water right into my eyes… hours later and a trip to the emergency room where they flushed my eyes repetitively, I emerged unscathed (I do wear contacts/glasses, but that is genetic).

spray-24302_1280

But what if he hadn’t diluted his cleaner? What if the kid’s aim was a little better and put a more concentrated dose in my eyes.

***

There’s an old saying “Better lucky than good” which I think holds for all of us. But nobody hsould pat themselves on the back for just being lucky.

One second. That’s it. One second to have something go wrong. The universe gets in the way for one second.

Just be thankful. Just be thankful for all those “seconds”.

***

John McGuire

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

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

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

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

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

 

Humanity, and the loss thereof

Sometimes I’m grateful I don’t watch television.

Life is usually better on the days I don’t listen to the radio, chat about the latest news, or accidentally overhear someone running their mouth about politics.

And when I say ‘sometimes,‘ I’m referring to always. I avoid the media like the plague. Because let’s face it; the 5 ‘o clock news doesn’t make anyone happy. No matter how many splashy stories about puppies and charities they run, CNN, Fox, and all the other outlets are little more than a mushy stew of sadness, conflict, and death. Every day. Every night. Always.

I don’t know why anyone watches it.

So…the Orlando shooting just happened, and it’s about as bad as it gets.

People keep asking me what I think about it. I guess I really don’t know. I’m speechless, sort of. For as long as I’ve been writing, I’ve never really been tempted to talk about any specific world event. People get enough misery already, I figure. When something awful happens, like yet another mass shooting, what can little me add to the dialogue? Another opinion? Opinions are pretty much the weakest ventilation of human dialogue. And odds are, whatever crappy thing just happened probably took place because of…you know…opinions.

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But tonight I have an observation:

When something bad like this happens, as in really bad, here’s how it goes: At some point early in the discussion, someone will ask, “Why? Why did this have to happen? What could we have done to stop it?”

And meanwhile, another question, infinitely more insidious, will creep up behind us and ask, “When will it happen again?”

Why?

How?

When?

No one has the answers. No. One. I certainly have none. I want to, but I don’t. A crap-ton of people on the internet (with the aforementioned opinions) will tell you they have the answers, but they don’t, either. Everyone starts screaming when dark stuff happens. They’ll talk about more guns, fewer guns, walls, immigrants, religion, hate, tolerance, and everything in-between. It’s the same conversation every time. We ask why, and even though deep down none of us know the answer, we talk like we do.

And it sucks.

Truth is: it’s a treacherous place outside our doors (and often inside them, too.) Having answers to the question of ‘why do assholes kill people’ won’t make our lives any safer. It won’t. I’m sorry. And that’s not to say we should all be afraid all the time or limit our excursions into the wide-wide world. But just that we should expect, at some point, for reality to burn us. Because apparently the world is full of crazy people. It feels like they’re everywhere. And maybe they are.

So with all that said, I guess I have one lonely little piece of advice to give everyone:

Stop trying to make sense of horrific things.

It’s an almost automatic response, right? Mass murder happens, people die, buildings explode, and we all want to know why. We ask the question a million times. Our Facebook feeds erupt with countless sentiments, most of them followed up by the admission that we don’t have any clue how something so terrible could happen.

Everyone wants answers.

Almost no one will ever find them.

And even if we did understand why someone did something horrible, so what?

Unless it stops the next horrible thing from happening, it doesn’t matter. Does it?

Now let’s be clear. I’m not suggesting inaction. I’m not saying we shouldn’t try to get to the root of this deadly problem and wipe it out. Of course we should. And while maybe the cynic within me says we’ll never, ever stop the pattern of mass murders and dangerous ideologies, we still have to give it a go. Right?

It’s just that, having seen and heard about all these horrible things happening over and over again, I’m not sure asking why is the right question anymore. I’m not sure there’s a real, tangible reason why some people choose to do awful things. I’m not convinced a mass murderer’s thought process is something we’ll ever really be able to understand. We call these people crazy for a reason. The definition of crazy – mentally deranged, especially as manifested in a wild or aggressive way. You see what I’m saying? Killers, fanatics, and psychopaths can’t be reasoned with. They’re like little Terminators. Somehow, someway, they’ve been reprogrammed (or they reprogrammed themselves) to cause the rest of us pain and suffering…and enjoy it.

Why do they do it?

I don’t think we’ll ever know. And even if we did, I’m not sure we could use that information to stop them.

How do we stop this from ever happening again?

I don’t know that we can.  I’m eager to try. But for the moment, I have no answers. I don’t know why. I don’t know how. Maybe, just maybe, it’s time to try something else other than asking questions. Trouble is, I don’t know what that something else is.

I guess what I’m saying is…

It’s hard sometimes being human.

Often, to find some small contentment in this world also means the acceptance of our own powerlessness.

Which sucks sometimes. A lot. Especially on days like this.

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J Edward Neill

Author of the Coffee Table Philosophy series