Half Way There

At the beginning of the year I wrote a blog post talking about my goals for the year. We’re just over half way through 2014, so I thought it would be a good time to check in on this year’s goals and note any other happy writing things.

To-Do-List_604

Comics – This was a big section of the blog mentioning future issues of Gilded Age, Tiger Style, and Entropy. Sadly there has been little to no movement on these (not my fault, I promise!). Some of it has to do with funding, some to artist timing, and others to the grand thing that is life. I still have some hopes to see a Gilded Age #2 at some point in the Fall, and that Entropy #1 could get underway as well.

This is going to have to fall under the old “fingers crossed” bit.

NovelsThe White Effect – It is my goal to have this book out this year. I believe that will still happen, though again, the year is speeding by. As soon as I finish my current project, this will become my all-consuming focus. I’ve been looking for editors for this tale, so I should have one lined up by the time I’m done with the 3rd draft.

Hollow Empire – Life has intruded on this one more than anything else on this list. I still need a last editor eye on my portion of it, but that had to be delayed while I was out of work (not expecting that one – hard to pay for editing when you have no job). Now that I am returned to the path of the employed, this is getting done and soon.

SONY DSC

That’s a whole lot of incomplete. So what things have I been doing, if not the above?

Edge of the World – The current Work In Progress. This is what I’m happiest about. I just passed the 1/2 point in the novel and I’m very much digging the story. I’m liking it so much that I keep finding new things and avenues to explore within the world. New characters have made themselves known and demand to have some page time. And I’ve experienced that magic moment when you write something and then have it tie into something else you weren’t entirely expecting… like magic.

Blogging – Still haven’t missed a week. This is on track for 27  weeks (now 28).

Website -I have a website now. And while I didn’t do the heavy lifting (a heap of thanks to Tanya Woods for that), I have been trying to keep it updated. This should have been on the list, but wasn’t, but I’ll count it as a win.

4 Shorts to online magazines – I haven’t submitted anything, but I did complete a short story (Piece by Piece) and posted it on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords (and at the latter 2 it is completely free – and you can also find it here and here for download). So another positive step forward.

Kindle Worlds Novella – When I capped off the Jan 1 blog, I said there probably will be something that pops up that wasn’t even on my radar back in January. This Veronica Mars novella was definitely one of those. With my lovely wife as co-writer, we got this out there at the end of April. So that was another one in the win column.

The Dark That Follows – Lastly, my debut novel finally exists in PRINT (here)! Another one that should have been on the list. Regardless, this was a cool day.

2010-Biodiversity_countdown (1)

So that’s it, as far as I can tell. 6 months in and the one thing I’ve really learned is that I need to get my butt in gear. There’s plenty of time left to do what I set out to do, but that time is going to speed by if I’m not careful.

 

***

John McGuire

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

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

 

Lemonade on the porch

Lemonade on the porch

Noun

1. A state of contentment.

2. A time in one’s life during which a person reflects upon all they done in life and finds satisfaction.

3. The whole point of it all.

LemonadeOnThePorch

This guy has the right idea. I’ll see ya in a few years, buddy.

 

Used to be, I thought happiness meant something entirely different. Perhaps I was entranced with the American ideals: money, a big house, a beautiful wife, long vacations on the beach, etc. I wouldn’t say I was obsessed with materialism, but certainly I was clueless about the truth of what happiness really is. Lemonade on the porch isn’t a thing, a place, or a person. It isn’t something you hope for, dream of, or want for tomorrow.  It’s something you have to make for yourself. It’s something you have to try to earn today, because tomorrow will be different. Or it might never come at all.

And so, once again, I’ll turn to books. Books will be my lemonade, and the porch my castle in the sky. Hell, I don’t even own a porch right now, but no matter. I’ll pretend I do. I’ll sit somewhere and pretend the stars are wheeling over my head. I’ll wander vagabond-like to every park bench and gazebo in Georgia. I’ll invade your porch when you’re not looking. Because, you know, there’s something special about the written word. A good book can provide instant serenity, while two hours spent writing can satisfy the mind in rare fashion. When life gives you lemons, grab a book and find a porch. You’re welcome.

Here’s the part where I’d normally get all long-winded about life, death, love, and darkness. Nah. I’m done. Instead I think I’ll jot down the top ten books I want to sit and read in a comfy chair with an icy beverage at my side. Think of it as a bucket list, but for books. Because no matter what horrors real life might bring, one can always escape. Simply crack a cover, wet your thumb, (or turn on your Kindle) and start reading. Peace will find you.

Book Bucket List:

Sideways – Rex Pickett – Because it’s about two dudes looking for lemonade on the porch. I mean…c’mon. And because it’s sitting on my bookshelf…on its side.

Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte – The Tom Hardy movie turned me on to this one. Enough tragedy to make anyone feel better about their life.

The Chronicles of Narnia series – C.S. Lewis – I read these as a kid. Time for a re-read. Odds are an adult read will make them feel completely different.

Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger – I can’t believe I haven’t done this one yet. Time to see what all the fuss is about.

The Hunger Games trilogy – Suzanne Collins – I’ll pass on Twilight, Harry Potter, and Divergent, but something tells me I’ll find value here. And yes, I know. I’m sorry.

War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy – I fancy myself an epic novel writer, but I’ve got nothing on Leo.

Les Miserables – Victor Hugo – Another one the movie sold me on. If the book is even half as good…

Dracula – Bram Stoker – If only because everyone tells me it’s about as grim a novel as is possible to write.

Atlas Shrugged – Ayn Rand – I know the premise. I know the controversy. I’ll consume this for the same reason I read the Bible.

The Silmarillion – J.R.R. Tolkien – Already read it several times. Doesn’t matter. Gonna do it again.

So anyway, what’s on your bucket list? Wanna make a million dollars? Climb a mountain? Live to be a thousand? I recommend none of these. Go for lemonade on the porch, whatever it means to you. And go for it today.

Next week, the What if? series returns.  I’ll adapt the original animated Sleeping Beauty and Angelina Jolie’s recent Maleficent into a dark fantasy novel. It’ll be fun. I promise.

 J Edward Neill

Author of the Tyrants of the Dead dark fantasy trilogy

Author of The Sleepers and Old Man of Tessera

Down the Dark Path

 

Summer sucks for writing

SkullMelt

North Georgia. Circa the dead of summer 2014.

It’s hot out there. It’s sunny, muggy, steamy. The 4th of July is right around the corner. My skull is melting…

I’m more or less taking a vacation from writing this weekend, but before I dump ice over my head, shut my laptop down, and take my long-awaited rum runner/margarita bath, I have a few things I’d like to say:

Summer is terrible for writing. Especially writing horror and dark fantasy. Especially for me.

During early spring, late autumn, and winter’s dregs, it’s easy. I look out my window and see clouds. I open my door and feel the wind and rain wash over me. I hear the leaves crunching beneath my boots, the sound so very like bones breaking. It’s easy for me to get in a writing mood. The night comes sooner. My phone is quieter. My kid, bless his wee fiery heart, can walk outside and play without turning into hot, crispy bacon. Mmmm…bacon.

But in summer, it’s pure chaos. Everyone wants to party. There’s always a pool needing invading, a cool drink requiring sipping, and a friend whose barbeque needs to find its way into my belly. Summer is a big, loud, hot, sweaty mess. I love everything about it, except that it makes sitting in the dark, alone with my imagination, a little trickier. I could probably wage war against all the distractions and max out on my silent time, but…nah. I’ll just play both sides. I’ll bake all day and write all night. Instead of a haunting Hans Zimmer soundtrack, I’ll crank up Danzig’s Dirty Black Summer. Instead of candles, I’ll open the windows at midnight and let the white hot starlight in. I’ll party and I’ll write. Sleep is for dead men.

Mmmm…bacon.

Since I’m shorting Tessera several hundred words this week, I’ll make it up to you with a few links. These are my favorite Tessera Guild articles of all time. Some are mine; some belong to my guildmates. We’ve been around long enough now that even if you’ve already read these, you might enjoy a recap. I know I did:

Top Ten Villains of All Time

John R McGuire’s Grab Bag

Amanda Makepeace’s Zen Time

Longing For Rain

Chad J Shonk’s Summer is Coming. Baseball is Here.

Now I just need to find a way to get back to the beach, if only for a day or two.

See you on the flip side,

J Edward Neill

 

 

 

New Studio Assistant

 

These week I hired a new studio assistant. She knows nothing about brushes, paints or Photoshop but I’m sure she’ll be a quick study. Drusilla is eager and full of creative drive. I met her at the dog groomers over the weekend and I knew then she’d make a perfect edition to the creative family. She’s already begun learning about colored pencils and of course, brushes. I’m going to have to watch her with those–she keeps trying to munch on them.

Drusilla MakepeaceDid I fool you?! Probably not. If you follow me on the web anywhere I’ve been posting photos of this little angel almost non-stop. She’s just too precious!

And, she looks just like Shadow. It was a little surreal when I walked into the dog groomers Saturday morning and saw her sitting near the door. My heart clenched and I tried not to look at her. It must have been fate. She’d been found inside a car engine and she has the scars on her nose to prove it. The small, very friendly kitten, was also severely underweight. I brought her home and within days she was gaining weight and running around the studio.

Up until yesterday, we were not positive on whether she was actually a she and that was partly due to her weight and overall scruffiness. The Veterinarian confirmed yesterday we indeed have a little girl and except for some tummy bugs, she was in good health.

I can’t take credit for the name, but I also didn’t need any convincing. Drusilla was my mother’s suggestions. And yes, she is named after that Drusilla. 😀

Drusilla is already taking after Shadow. She likes to sleep right up near my face and she lunged and hissed at the dog yesterday. She’s a fighter and a survivor, but also incredibly loving. I still miss Shadow terribly but this little look-a-like warms my heart. Before long she’ll be sitting in my lap, snoozing as I paint.

Drusilla

For fellow Buffy the Vampire Slayer Fans, you may be interested in my videos from Dragon*Con 2012. I have two videos from a panel with actors Juliet Landau (Drusilla) and Spike (James Marsters). Here’s Part 1, check my profile for Part 2.

Time to Put the Brush Down

Follow the smell of oil paints, the trail of art frames and pencil shavings–that’s where you’ll find me. It’s non-stop right now. I’ve been busy embellishing prints for Dragon*Con, working on a oil painting (what was I thinking??), and amassing a collection of frames for the art show. I love it! But every artist must venture forth from the studio to the real world. What keeps me sane amidst the rush of creativity?

1. Walking – I started a new routine of walking the circle of our neighborhood. It’s just shy of 2 miles. Unfortunately, I had to put that on hold when I took a small tumble down our stairs. No broken bones, but I do have a bruised tailbone that is still causing me pain two weeks later. I’m hoping to get back to my walking routine next week.

2. Longmire is back. – Wait. Did you think I only watched Science Fiction/Fantasy type shows? I do have other loves and this is one of them. You can’t go wrong with me if you put together a crime show, set in the west, with a strong Native American cast (not that you can tell from the photo below). Katee Sackhoff is in the show too. She’s been a favorite since BSG. The big guy there, who plays Walt Longmire, he was an agent in the first Matrix film. Seriously! And of course there’s Lou Diamond Philips. When Longmire isn’t on I’ve been re-watching Fringe from the beginning. How I miss that show!

Longmire Cast

3. Comics – I’ve been devouring them lately. It’s what I find most relaxing before I shut my eyes at night. Here’s a peek at what I’ve read and what I’m still reading. I’ve read so much lately that I couldn’t easily post them all.

Digital:

The Gilded Age by John McGuire  Saga Vol 1  Latverian Prometheus

Paper:

 

 

Journey into Mystery: The Complete Collection Vol 1  Loki: Agent of Asgard  Trees  The Wicked + The Divine

 

Walking, a little TV, reading comics and of course studio time–that’s my life right now. 🙂

A New Chapter (sticks and bones)

Realms_Art_Pile_of_Human_Bones_Vue_25_0_imgM

 

 

 

I’ve missed ye, old bones.

I’ve been so busy of late, I’ve neglected you.

Never again. I promise.

Now that my whirlwind of new releases is over, and now that this and this are darkening the internets, life is somewhat back to normal.

Check that. Life is completely not normal at all.

For so many reasons: personal, professional, diabolical, the corners I’ve turned have led me to a new realm of space and time. My old comfort zone of sit back and write is lost…and a new zone being born. I have less than half the amount of time to write as I used to. My hours of peace and quiet have turned to minutes. Life tugs at me from all directions, popping my arms and legs from their sockets, stretching my creativity to its limit. I have marketing to do…endless marketing. I have a kid to raise, a home to inhabit, and little wars everywhere to win.

My response to this challenge? Do better. Write more. Logic be damned, I will become the machine my inner artist wants me to be. I’ll scrape off life’s barnacles and sail faster than ever. I will, I will, I will.

So then, my two weeks of self-imposed writing vacation are over. Books one and two of Tyrants of the Dead are published. It’s time now for my penultimate project, my coup de fantasy gras. I’ve decided that once I’m finished with book three, I’ll never again write an epic fantasy series. I’ll stick to traditional length fantasy, and I’ll continue branching off into sci-fi and horror…and maybe even *gasp* erotica (though I still need a model to shoot the cover art for that whole idea) but my days of writing 400k word-count epics need to end. For sanity’s sake.

Which leads me to book three: Nether Kingdom. With Nether Kingdom, I expect to knock all my previous efforts off of their darkest novel of all time pedestals. I’m aiming high (and not just word-count wise). I don’t want a nice, clean wrap-up to the series. I don’t plan to mail it in. Just because NK is my last planned epic doesn’t mean I’m not gearing up for it to be my best work ever. I’m trying to redefine the genre, punch every expectation in the mouth, and give Tolkien himself a run for his money. I want my villains to make my readers sick to their stomachs, my heroine to scrape rock bottom, and every character in-between to love and hate as hard as any real-life human could ever dream of. I want to plunk fantasy, sci-fi, literary fiction, and horror into a blender and spin out a liquor so frosty and delicious the patrons at chateau d’ J Edward will never want to return to their dreary days of Twilight, 50 Shades, and the 700,000 varieties of sexy gay vampire steampunk currently drowning the market.

Ur Shadow Black and White

Eileen Herron’s Ur sketch. Aka; a glimpse of the world’s end.

Thus it begins. As of tonight, I’m sitting down to carve up NK‘s 300k words into something less…paper weight-ish. I’ll cast some long shadows, sprinkle some grave-ash, and light some violet Ur fires. I’ll do the same every night for the next six months or until all that’s left of me are bones. I’ll still write for Tessera and over here, and maybe I’ll fire off a short story sequel to this, but otherwise I’ll not be side-tracked. No booze, no sex, no fist fights with hobos or long, slow trips to the beach. I’ll be a machine. I’ll date my characters. I’ll get drunk off the words.

Because…in the end…this is what makes me happy.

Love,

J Edward Neill

Update {March 3rd, 2017} – Nether Kingdom, the final book in the Tyrants of the Dead series, is complete. Read it here.

Taking the Next Step

“Seize The Moment because you never know if that moment will ever come your way again. I know that when I look back at my life, I will see the memories of all the little adventures that I didn’t let pass me by.” – Cody Atencio

Sometimes, even when we don’t think we’re ready, we have to take the next step. That was me four months ago when I finally decided to take the plunge and apply to the Dragon*Con Art Show. The idea, the seed, was planted when I met artist Charles Urbach during the last year’s convention. I’ve talked about our conversation and the encouragement he offered at length, but I was still on the fence as to whether I should apply or not. I decided to take a leap and wouldn’t you know it, it was one of the best things I’ve ever done.

Dragon*Con is a Juried Art Show. It’s not an Artists Alley you see at some typical Fantasy/SciFi conventions. This year’s jurors were Michael C. HayesPatrick J. Jones and Thomas Kuebler. Wow. Wow. Wow. That made me even more nervous but I’d already decided to ‘seize the moment.’ After an excruciating month of waiting, where I’d told only a handful of people what I’d done, I received notification that I’d passed the jury selection. I was in shock. I think a part of me is still in shock. I celebrated with my family two weeks later when I received notice again that I was to be placed on the Art Show Floor.

To think. . . I almost didn’t even apply.

Let’s be honest now. As much as my friends and family lather me with compliments, I know I’m in the infancy of my digital painting skills. Some things I have a strong grasp of and others I’m not quite there yet.

One painting from February 2013 and one from November of the same year.

But I’m learning and I like to think I’m improving, but the message here is stop waiting for your dreams to come true. If you want something, ‘seize the moment,’ go after it with a passion. When I stopped by Charles’ table last year he took a look at a few of my paintings, and asked me, ‘Why aren’t you here?” (Or something close to that.) I’m sure at the time I looked like a deer in headlights. He said, even if you don’t make the cut the experience is valuable. It’s a process all artists have to go through as they are trying to make their way in the world. I know this but I was stuck in thinking I needed to hone my skills more–I was convinced I wasn’t ready. I kept telling myself I needed another year. I was wrong. Even if I had not passed the jury, the experience has helped me grow. The juror comments have helped me grow.

Comment #1:  Nice work! Keep working on your anatomy and you will go far.

Comment #2:  Human facial anatomy needs work. More expression. Even if the subject is in repose more facial definition and distinction would be helpful.

Her Domain by Amanda Makepeace

Her Domain, 2013

So what is the next step?

I’ve made the cut. I’m in the Dragon*Con 2014 Art Show and now that I am, I am pre-approved for future Art Shows. Next year I’m going to have a bazaar table in the Art Show room. That’s my goal. From now until then I’m going to ‘seize the moment’ again and work to improve my human anatomy. I’m going to do whatever it takes, legally, to keep growing.

As for this year’s Art Show. . . I will be attending Dragon*Con all four days. I will be lurking around the show and I will be available to talk art, illustration, Fantasy, etc. To keep up with where I’ll be and when I suggest following me on Twitter. I’m not always super active there but I will be during the convention.

Don’t Fall for the Trap

Charles de Lint quoteIt’s easy to lose sight of our path. It’s easy to paint what everyone else is painting. It’s easy to think I’ll never be as good as “them.” It’s easy to fall into the trap.

If you aren’t painting for you, you’re stifling your own creative voice. This makes you unique, what sets you apart from other artists. There are dozens of artist/illustrators I admire, and there is a small part of me that hopes and wishes I might be as great as them one day. But focusing on that won’t get me anywhere. As much as I admire Todd Lockwood, Cynthia Sheppard, Dan Dos Santos, and Cory Godbey (to name only a few), trying to be them is a trap. Read more

Spider-Man, Spider-Man, Does Whatever A Spider Can

With the release of the Amazing Spider-man 2 I feel like there is something I should say. I have a confession to make. Well, maybe not a confession, but more like a moment of truth. Spider-Man is my favorite comic book character.

That’s not the confession.

This revelation does not make me unique or anything. Plenty of people love Spider-Man (as evidenced by the sheer amount of money the movies alone have made). The fact that any kid might have something Spider-Man themed in his closet. Or that dozens of figures of the guy are released every year.

No, the confession is that I have not read a Spider-Man comic in quite some time (5+ years).

Now if Spider-Man is my favorite character why would I forsake him in the very media that I profess to love beyond probably even my wife’s understanding?

One name: Mary Jane Watson Parker.

Many of you will know the name Mary Jane Watson from the Sam Rami movies of the 00s as she was played by Kirsten Dunst. As you can tell from the movies, she is an important cog in Peter Parker’s life.

I personally think she’s the true love of his life, not Gwen Stacy, but that’s mostly because I don’t know Gwen. She had been dead for a decade before I picked up my first issue of Amazing Spider-Man. I only have the occasional flashback to let me know who she was.

Though, one of my favorite stories came from a “Gwen” moment. Spider-Man Blue by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale tell a story where on Valentine’s Day Peter is feeling reflective about how much he misses Gwen, and proceeds to talk into a tape recorder about the two of them falling in love. He talks to her about how her death messed him up for a long time, but through Mary Jane he learned to love again. And then this happens…

Spidey Blue 1

 

Spidey Blue 2

 

And if you were to pick up a Spider-Man comic from around 1987/1988 until about 2008 you would have probably seen Mrs. Parker in the comics. As Peter’s wife she’s been with him through think and thin.

However, if you picked up a Spider-Man comic today you might notice that Peter is no longer married.

More on that in a second…

Spider-Man appeared in Amazing Fantasy #15 in 1962. By the time I started reading the comic was approximately 25 years old. During that entire time Spider-Man was a single guy. Yeah, there were girlfriends: Betty Brant, Felicia Hardy, Gwen Stacy, and Mary Jane, but he was a single guy. For 25 years those writers got to weave stories featuring a single Spidey. But that changed in 1987 (Amazing Spider-Man Annual #21) when the two of them tied the knot.

the-amazing-spider-man-the-wedding-issue

I was 11 at the time this happened. I think I had read about 6 issues of Spider-Man before he got married. Spider-Man getting married did not change how I saw the character. It did not make him my “Dad” all of a sudden. It didn’t make him the “winner” of life because he married this gorgeous model (these were some of the reasons for getting rid of the marriage, but more on that later).

Growing up I never saw myself as a good-looking kid. I was taller than all the other kids, maybe a little clumsy, and shy around girls. There were plenty of times I would think about the fact that I would never find a girlfriend.

Comics are a great escape from life. When you get down on yourself, get depressed about something that’s happened to you, they are there waiting for you, month in and month out. Ready to take on the worst of the worst bad guys.

So how did it make me feel when Spidey got married?

It actually made me feel like, maybe, just maybe, there was a girl out there for me. That even if I felt awkward and ugly that it wouldn’t matter. I’d find that person who I was meant to be with. Maybe that girl next door might take a shine to me.

It’s probably silly to think that way. These weren’t real people. And yet… because Mary Jane and Peter weren’t just two people who started dating and decided to get married. These were two friends from way back. They’d suffered through tragedy on both sides. And where he had never confided in Gwen about his alter-ego, Mary Jane knew (she figured it out – girl is smart). Because she was his best friend. Moreso than Harry Osborn (when he wasn’t the Green Goblin) or Flash Thompson (in the later years), MJ was the one that he could always turn to.

So, no, it wasn’t a bad thing that this happened. Not for me at least.

And so it went that from 1987 to early in 2008 Spider-man was a married character.

But apparently this was a problem for the people in charge. Apparently having Spider-Man married meant that they couldn’t have Peter date the Black Cat or whomever they wanted him to. Apparently being married… wait for it…

Made Spider-Man OLD.

They felt like the truest form of the character was that of a single guy. That him finding love with his best friend meant he’d won and was no longer the loveable loser everyone thought he was.

They (the writers) felt like they were hamstrung on stories because he was married.

Counselor, I present Matt Fraction’s take:

fraction annual

 

During J. Michael Straczynski’s run on the book I told my wife that I could have read 22 pages of just the two of them talking. But more than that, I think JMS understood how to approach the relationship. Mary Jane being married to Spidey is the life many women (and some men) live when their spouse is a police officer (or firefighter or in the military). There is always that chance that they may not come home that night. I don’t think that means they love them less, though. I think that means they try to fight for every moment they get.

But the powers that be didn’t like the marriage. And I’d heard the same argument about Superman and Lois Lane. And I think it is complete crap. It’s lazy writing to say you can’t come up with a story for the character because his connection to another person is marriage. Because, let’s face it, Peter Parker, single, was not going to be running around banging every chick that he meets. He’s not that character and never will be. So if he had a girlfriend he’s not going to cheat. So what the heck is the real difference there?

There isn’t one.

One other point about this that I’m not sure people really thought about. 25 years as a bachelor and 21 years married. That’s effectively the same amount of time, and one could argue that there were far more actual comics with him married than single (more titles in the 90s, etc.). But it wasn’t like this marriage had been around for only a couple of years. For all intents and purposes Spidey was a married man (or at least a committed man).

But the decision had been made. They came up with a story line that had Aunt May on the brink of death (yes, that old chestnut of a story – never used that one before!), and the only way to save her was to make a DEAL WITH THE DEVIL.

And the Devil wanted their (Peter and Mark Jane’s love).

Wait, that’s not right. He wanted their marriage.

Let’s toss aside the fact that Spidey lives in a Universe where superheroes come back to life on an almost daily basis. Let’s ignore the fact that there are mutants who have the ability to HEAL other people, and even if he doesn’t specifically know those people, he knows people who know those people (confused yet?). And let’s even forget about the fact that Aunt May is OLD and has lived the good life, and would NEVER want her nephew to make a DEAL WITH THE DEVIL.

The fundamental problem with this is that Peter and Mary Jane would never make such a deal. They just wouldn’t. Peter would find another way. He’d triumph through some angle we hadn’t thought of.

But no, he made the deal and the marriage was undone.

Amazing_Spider-Man_545

The last issue of Amazing Spider-Man I own.

And I haven’t picked up an issue of Spider-Man since.

The place I now get to read about my favorite character is in the pages of the Avengers when he happens to be on the team, or when he makes a guest appearance in a comic I read.

Now we’re 6 years into my “strike” on reading the character. They just finished a 30+ issue story where Doc Ock swapped bodies with Peter and then tried to use the powers for good. There’s a new story (that could have been told with him being married I’m sure), and one I would like to read.

But I can’t. Stupid principles.

So now I have to be content with watching Amazing Spider-Man 2 this weekend to get my fix. Fingers crossed its a good one.

 

***

John McGuire

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

 

Why Digital?

There are quite a few misconceptions about digital art. I honestly don’t hold that against anyone. It can be confusing. Digital Art is a broad term to describe anything created via a computer. Just as with Traditional Art, you can then break that down into subcategories: Photomanipulation, Digital Painting, Vector Art, Pixel Art, Fractal Generation, 3D Art and more. Digital Painting is what I do. Illustrator Kelley McMorris has a comic to help explain it a little better:

How Digital Painting Works by Kelley McMorris

 

This is incredibly accurate, even the second half. Over the holidays I was showing some family members my digital paintings, specifically my Jackalope. One person asked me, “So the computer does this for you?” I was polite. I tried to explain in simple terms, that no, a digital painting is not that different than a traditional painting.

If a computer were able to spit this out:

Gatsoh Elder by Amanda Makepeace

Or this:

Stone of Knowing by Amanda Makepeace

Then I’d have far more paintings in my portfolio already. Paintings, whether they are digital or traditional, take time and planning. With that said, there are a myriad of shortcuts to the process when you are painting in Photoshop. Custom brushes that look like leaves or trees is one example. Not everyone utilizes these shortcuts. I have on occasion, but more often than not, I paint everything in my paintings by hand. There are no shortcuts. See the little tablet in the comic above? I have one of those too:

Wacom Intuos 4

It’s called a Wacom Intuos 4 (Medium). When I use the stylus to draw on the tablet, it translates that into Photoshop–precisely and accurately. No, it doesn’t feel the same as drawing on paper or painting on canvas, but it basically does the same thing. The outcome is the same. Anything I can draw on paper, I can draw the same in Photoshop via my tablet. It’s  not magic. I use all the same skills I’ve learned with traditional art.

There’s one of those misconceptions. Many people think that using the tablet is somehow like cheating or it will make it easier to draw and paint. Sorry, but, no. I’m not saying it’s impossible, because I always believe in exceptions, but if you struggle with traditional drawing you will have an even harder time trying to use a Wacom Intuos. It’s not easy and it’s not for everyone. Many artists find it cumbersome to draw with the tablet. So they draw on paper first and then scan it into the computer. There’s nothing wrong with that. It took several months of retraining my brain before it became second nature.

Still, your asking, how is it the same as a traditional painting? Let’s look at the definition of the word.

Cambridge Dictionary:

the skill or activity of making a picture

Dictionary.com:

the act, artor work of a person who paints

Merriam Webster:

a product of painting; especially :  a work produced through the art of painting

A painting is a painting, whether it’s painted with oils or computer brush strokes. The outcome is the same. When I paint in Photoshop, I use a digital brush to apply paint to a digital canvas. Here’s a look at the brushstrokes from a few of my favorite brushes.

My basic brushes

These brushes can be large for painting washes or very small for painting details. Sound familiar?

There will probably always be individuals who refuse to see digital painting as Art. I will probably continue to be asked, “Are you going paint any originals soon?” Which, kinda feels like they are actually asking, “Are you going to create any real art?” I’ll admit, it stings a bit, but only for about a minute. Then I get back to creating. Creating is what it’s all about. That’s why, to answer the title of this blog post. To create. I’ve not been the luckiest person as far as my health goes. I’m not going to go into all the details. Those of you that know me well, know I’m lucky to be alive.

In 2011/12 I began developing another “issue” but this time it was with my hands. It was becoming increasingly difficult to paint and draw without putting myself through a lot of pain. I deal with pain on a daily basis. Most of the time you’d never know it. I’m a fighter. I keep going. But this was proving to be a challenge. My time in the studio slowed to a crawl. I was depressed. All I wanted to do was create.

Artist Amanda MakepeaceThen I bought a Wacom Intuos 4 Small and my world changed. Painting and drawing with the tablet is far less strenuous on my hand. But what I never expected was the effect it would have on my creativity and imagination. It was as if the flood gates had opened. I’m not painting anything now that I couldn’t also paint in oils or watercolors, but something broke free when I changed mediums–something I’d always kept under lock and key. If they found a cure for all my disorders tomorrow, I wouldn’t stop painting digitally. I’m a happier person and a more content artist, for letting go of my insecurities and letting my passion be set free.

Limited Edition Prints can be purchased from my shop:

http://amandamakepeace.com/shop/

Little Things Mean A Lot, Don’t They?

A strange thing happened to me on the way to work this morning. Normally along my route I pass any number of police cars. I’m not sure whether this is due as much to the recent (months ago) change in speed or if it is just good “hunting ground” for all manner of traffic violators. Regardless, I passed one of the 2 today (it is 11 miles to work and I have passed as many as 5 in my trips to and from work so I know better than to speed) and suddenly found myself being pulled over.

cop_car_crop380w

And for the life of me I couldn’t figure out what it could have been for. When he actually got behind me I was at a dead stop… in my old car I’d been pulled over for a faulty taillight, so maybe…

Expired tags. That’s why he pulled me over.

Except, had I the money, I would have bet him tons of money that my tags were not expired (my birthday is in January, so this would be 2 1/2 months overdue). I could see, in my mind’s eye, me placing the new decal onto my plate. No doubt in my mind.

Of course, I might have been in a different kind of trouble had I broached that aspect with him. Still he double checked, and as the ticket in my hand states: Expired Tag.

How in the world did this happen? My wife and I are pretty good about dealing with the various bills that come with the not-so-fun aspects of being an adult. And in this case it’ll cost me probably a couple of hundred dollars to “learn this lesson”.

Not the best way to start your day.

The thing is, there are so many distractions in my (everyone’s lives) that something as “small” as making sure I have the right decal on my car slipped through the cracks. We got so caught up in LIFE that we allowed this mistake to happen.

***

When I’m reading books or comics or watching movies the big bold moments are the things that we all remember and all come back to, but sometimes it is the smaller things, the subtle things that make the bigger difference in a scene.

One of my favorite moments in all of the Christopher Reeve’s Superman movies is a moment where he has made up his mind to tell Lois that he’s Superman (of course, in this second, I can’t recall if it is Superman 1 or 2, but that doesn’t matter as much). She has her back turned to him and he takes off his glasses, stands up straighter, and that awkward Clark Kent is suddenly gone and in his place is Kal-El. But it is only for a couple of beats before he chickens out, puts the glasses back on and BAM, there’s Clark again.

Christopher-Reeve-Superman-1

It’s probably the only moment in the Superman mythos where I bought into the idea that Superman could hide in plain sight right beside Lois and her not realize Clark and Kal were the same being.

And it was one small moment.

***

What if I had gone to work thirty minutes earlier? Would the cop still have been there? Would he have noticed my tag from his position on the side of the road or would it have been blocked by another car? Could I have gone a whole year without paying, maybe not realizing it until it was time to deal with taxes next year (or possibly when I got my 2016 Decal and saw that I only had a 2014 one on my car)?

CHAOS_THEORY_wallpaper_style1_1152x864

Not trying to over analyze via the Butterfly Effect or anything. Really this is going to make this month tighter on the wallet than the wife and I would have liked, but in the grand scheme of things my life isn’t going to be fundamentally changed by this thing.

***

I’m a little scattered today/tonight, dealing with the aftermath of my little moment. Hence this blog feels a little scattered, and yet there is a connection in there somewhere. At least I think there is.

And I know that tomorrow is going to have some other little moment that I may not even notice, but it’ll be there. But what does it take? When do the little things become the big things? How can you tell?

I’m not even sure what answer I’m looking for. Maybe I’m not writing the right question?

We shall see…

***

John McGuire

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

Three Badass TV Shows (From a guy who never watches TV)

CroMagSkull

 

 

 I’ve been slacking. No skulls for several weeks now. I must be losing my touch.

This week’s skull is symbolic. He’s a Cro-Magnon, this guy, and damn handsome if you ask me. He lived tens of thousands of years ago, and in a way I identify with him. Like me, he didn’t catch much TV. He didn’t have cable. He never got to watch his favorite shows. Such was life in the Ice Age. He probably had a wicked DVD collection, but also like me, couldn’t watch it because his Xbox had long since died. Must’ve sucked some days being a prehistoric guy.

Before we get too deep, I’ve a disclaimer: I strongly dislike TV. I haven’t watched a show regularly in decades. I don’t know who’s hot, what’s funny, what awesome new song came out, or who in the business got caught banging who. When my friends talk to me about Breaking Bad or Timothy Olyphant or Doctor Who or Desperate Housewives of Tijuana, I lose all sense of the conversation. I’m Cro-Magnon in my ignorance. I’m an imposter nerd, so desperately out of touch with all things hip culture.  I’m a wolf in sheep’s clothing, wandering in circles infinitely more TV-savvy than I’ll ever be. Thank goodness for that.

That said

 It so happens that even without a clue, I stumble onto the ocassional show. Whether by accident, being at a house party with a tv on in the background, or by virtue of no football, baseball, MMA, or halfway-decent porn occupying the ole’ boob-tube, I’ve chanced onto a few programs. Most lists on the internet are five, ten, or a hundred long, but not this one. Three is all you’re gonna get. I reckon if these three can shake a savage like me off the TV-hating mountain, chances are they’re pretty good.

And so

bigbangtheory

# 3. Big Bang Theory

My first mildly-liked show is probably ancient history for you, but new for me. I don’t care that it’s about nerds who remind me of dudes I knew in high school. It’s not important that Penny is somewhat cutish. The reasons I like Big Bang Theory are its brevity, its punch-and-run brand of funny, and it’s brutal sarcasm (or in Sheldon’s case, the lack thereof). If ever I’m in need of 27 minutes of commercially-interrupted stupid, I watch this show. It’s usually good for a laugh or twenty.

 

 

game-of-thrones-iron-throne

 

#2. Game of Thrones

Ok. Admit it. You saw this one coming. On the low-low, I stopped reading near the end of book four. Mr. Martin’s fiction is a lot too sluggish for me, and that’s saying something for a guy (me) who writes Tolkien-length epic novels. But the show, ah…the show. It’s just long enough, and despite my bitching, tends to hit all the major plot points with a nice, sharp edge. Now, it’s true I haven’t seen any of Season 4 (see the aforementioned lack of cable) but I will, and that says a lot. In the realm of television shows, I seek out almost nothing. But for GOT’s brand of death, murder, and betrayal (all of done with swords instead of guns) I will journey out of my cave long enough to watch. My list of characters I’d like to see dead: Cersei, Sam, Margaery, Jaime, Dany….ok pretty much all of them except Arya and the Others. Did I mention I like bad guys?

 

Cosmos

#1. Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey

First, ever notice how the Cosmos main logo looks a bit Sauron-y? I mean; that’s reason enough to love it right there. But ok, the real reason: Neil deGrasse Tyson is a modern day science rock god. Is it possible someday someone will prove his assertions incorrect? Yes. Entirely. But does he knock home run after home run regarding the truth as we now know it? Yes. Absolutely. I love his use-a-scalpel-not-a-hammer approach to explaining science. Being somewhat a space-dork myself, I’m mostly familiar with much of what Cosmos has to say. Doesn’t matter. It’s all in the presentation. Elegant. Vivid. Gutsy. And most importantly, true! If you haven’t watched this show yet, get on it. Cancel your hot date. Give your kids a sedative (or better yet, make ’em watch it with you). Shows like this remind me just how crappy most other programming is. Thank you, maker of Family Guy, for making something I can actually show my son.

So there. Likely my only television-related post ever. Time to get back to skulls, books, and general gloom and doom. To disavow today’s nerdiness, I’m punishing myself with a few hundred chin-ups, and I’m chasing it with a giant slab of angel food cake. And yes…I’m completely serious.

Until next time,

J Edward Neill

One Artist’s Zen Time

What does an artist, who also loves books, comics, Loki, horror movies, dragons, Game of Thrones, do in their free time? I take a ton of photographs. I call it my zen time. It gets me out of the studio and flips a switch in my brain. My zen time is nearly always the perfect remedy if I’m stuck on a painting. But my crazy brand of photography is not the norm. My specialty, if you can call it that, is what I refer to as Super Macro Photography. I shoot nearly everything with my iPhone and attached Macro lens. It creates a very specific effect. When I’m out taking photographs I’m less concerned with accuracy and more worried about essence. Here are some of my favorite shots from the last few years. The first image is a photograph I took yesterday at the State Botanical Gardens of Georgia.

You can see more at my Flickr account: https://www.flickr.com/photos/makepeaceart/

He’ll See Me On The Flipside

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

I won.

Office-pink-erasers

****

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

****

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

****

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

Then the pain came.

time_travel

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

****

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

****

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

Thru-Truss-Bridge-drawing

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

****

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

****

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

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

****

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

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

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

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

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

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

****

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

“Read this”, he says.

“I don’t read books.”

“Read it.”

On a Pale Horse

****

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

****

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

****

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

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

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

“Write it.”

****

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

****

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

****

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

****

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

It’s a new world.

***

John McGuire

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.

m.

Summer is coming. Baseball is here.

MLB-Logo-90

You know Easter and Vesak and Samhain and Diwalli,
MLK, Purim and Christmas with holly.
But I would trade them all,
For my most favorite holiday of all…

Today is Opening Day.

The first day of the Major League Baseball season.

It is a day of tradition, ritual, excitement, and anxiety.

And, above all else, it is a day of hope.

Every team starts with a blank slate, no wins, no losses, with the World Series open to anyone other than the Mets or the Astros. It is the first day you get to see your team in its entirety, with your best pitcher on the mound and the strongest (healthy) position players in the field. It is the day your faith in your team is renewed, convinced that this is THE year. Every year is THE year.

Until it’s not.

Today is Game #1 of a 162 game season. The marathon begins.

I’m not here to espouse the merits of baseball. Some people don’t love it. That’s okay. I mean, they’re dirty communist ignorant shit-pigs, but it’s still okay. Most baseball fans, at least those of the hardcore variety, feel a deep-seeded love of the game that they themselves struggle to explain. I won’t go so far as to call it a religion, although others have. It certainly feels like it at times. And, if it is, then today is its High Holy Day.

How to I celebrate this most hallowed of days?

Well…

phillips-barehand-grab-tribe-2012-apjpg-6720abb402b918c5logovotto

You see, I have a team. I’m not a believer in rooting for multiple clubs. My family and friends are mostly Atlanta Braves fans and, while I find myself pulling for them for their sakes, I am definitely not a fan. At best I can be called a “Braves sympathizer”.

f893e41452d64ac28729de52e8d79ee0-d5d18510fcf146699a33ce7700ef561b-2My team has been so as long as I can remember. I grew up in eastern Ohio, on the opposite side of the state from the Queen City, but my father and maternal grandfather passed down to me (baseball team loyalty is usually either hereditary or geographical in its cause) an allegiance to the Cincinnati Reds that I will take with me to the grave.

Anyone who knows me in real life knows this. Anyone who follows me on Twitter knows this. During the season, it is the single biggest thing on my mind outside of work and family, although sometimes it does surpass those. It certainly does today.

Because today is Opening Day. I do not work on Opening Day. I do not venture outside of the house. I only leave the couch to get food or go to the bathroom. I don’t answer phone calls. I make no attempt to be productive. I am all-consumed by the return of my favorite sport.

Holy shit. It’s Opening Day.

GABP-117I’m am not what you would call a superstitious man. That implies believing in supernatural forces and I really don’t do that. But baseball players and fans are very superstitious and I am more than happy to play along. Therefore, I do have Opening Day traditions that I follow every year. Like hiding dyed eggs or lighting the menorah, my holiday isn’t complete without the following:

 hatlacesshirt

GEAR. Before the beginning of every season I buy a new Reds hat. I wear it for the first time on Opening Day. I usually go for a throwback cap, something from the Cooperstown Collection, a replica based on what teams wore in the past. I’ve worn caps originating anywhere from the 1860’s to the 1970’s. This year, though, I’ve gone with a 2014 On-Field Road Cap (size 7 3/8). It’s the same hat the players will be wearing when they travel. Some of my friends have their “lucky cap” that they wear every year, no matter what disgusting state it is in, but to me each year brings with it a new team and deserves a new cap. Until, of course, the Reds when the World Series, then that year’s cap will become my lucky cap for life. I try to ride out each hat for the full season but have been known to switch at the All-Star Break if I don’t like the way my team played the first half.

Also on Opening Day, I string up my best pair of Chucks with bright red laces from Journeys. I only wear them during the season, returning to boring old white after the Reds are no longer in contention.

The shirt above is not new; I got it last year. But it is of my all-time favorite Red, the great Eric Davis, who, if it weren’t for multiple injuries that sidetracked his career, would almost certainly be in the Hall of Fame. I love this shirt. And I refuse to think it brings bad luck.

Not pictured: my socks and boxer briefs. You can probably guess what color they are, too.

 franks bunsjacks

FOOD. I don’t really like hot dogs. They’re pretty gross. Deformed little imitators of their much grander cousin, the sausage. I avoid them at all costs, except for 5-6 days a year: The Fourth of July, the 3-4 Reds games I get to see live every season living out here on the West Coast, and Opening Day. Last night I went to Safeway and got a pack of hot dogs, a pack of buns, a white onion, a jar of relish, and made sure I was stocked up on ketchup and plain yellow mustard. Throughout the day, I will throw hotdogs on the Foreman, dress them up, and devour them. They will be my breakfast, lunch, and probably dinner. At the end of the day I will feel gross and bloated. But the smell of them in the air, the combination of mustard and onions and bread and relish and nitrates in my mouth, it all makes me feel very baseball-y.

Crackerjacks, despite being sung about during every Seventh Inning Stretch, aren’t as easy to find as you’d think. Which is okay because I’m not sure I like them either. If I can get hold of a box, I do. If not, I’m more than satisfied to rely on a big bag of whole peanuts to snack on between dogs.

figuresjunkcards

TOTEMS. Think of this as my nativity scene. I bring out my figures of Reds greats Joe Morgan and Johnny Bench as well as current-Red superstar Joey Votto, alongside a few other useless trinkets. My printed-autograph ball from the mid-eighties team. A Votto bobblehead. Pez dispenser. Mr. Potato Red. And a jar of home plate dirt from last year’s season opener that my cousin Phil sent me. I lay these things out on my entertainment center, my coffee table. Just for the day. Then they go back to where they belong, displayed in my office.

I also buy baseball cards. I’m not a collector of them, at least not anymore, but before and throughout the season I buy a pack here and there, hoping to find a Red or two in them. This year so far I’ve gotten really lucky with my haul: seven Reds before the season has even started. I’ll still grab a few more packs, though, before the year is done. I use the non-Reds cards as bookmarks and other sundry things, unless they are members of the St. Louis Cardinals. In that case, they must be destroyed.

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Did you think I was kidding?

(If anyone has a Topps 2014 Aroldis Chapman, Brandon Phillips, or Mat Latos, I’ll gladly take them off your hands.)

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INPUT. (JOHNNY-5 VOICE:) IN-PUUUUUT. This is not really an Opening Day thing but a Whole Season Thing. The ways I prefer to experience baseball are ranked as followed: 1) At the Ballpark 2) On the Radio 3) On TV 4) Digital Play-by-Play. The MLB At Bat app for iOS and Android is my best friend during the season. Twenty bucks for the whole season, both regular and post, it’s a one-stop location for everything MLB. News, scores, standing, stats, schedules, video highlights, a graphical pitch-by-pitch tracker that takes you through every play of the game in real-time. But far and away my favorite function of At Bat is the ability to listen to the radio broadcast of every game, every day, using either the home or away broadcasts.

This is huge for me. I live over 2000 miles away from my team’s home ballpark. I only get to see them in person when they come to California (I’ve seen them at San Diego, Los Angeles, Oakland, and San Francisco). I rarely get them on television and I obviously don’t get the local radio broadcasts. But with At Bat, I do. I can hear Cincinnati broadcasters Marty Brennaman and Jeff Brantley call all 162 games of the year; I listen to 120 of them at least. It makes me feel like I’m there. Part of the fan base. And, like I said above, I’d rather listen to a baseball game than watch it on TV. I’m not sure why that is but it just is. Maybe it’s the purist in me. Faux nostalgia for a time in which I never lived. I don’t know. But it really is the best.

Not to say I don’t want to see video. The MLB app provides video highlights as the game is being played and I do watch the Reds on the rare occasion they’re on national TV (although I usually mute the game and listen to Cincinnati radio instead). And then there’s the MLB Network. There are three channels in my cable package that I consciously pay more money to have: HBO, Showtime, and the MLB Network. I generally dislike sports media these days, “The Dan Patrick Show” excluded, and sometimes the MLB Network flirts dangerously close to the ‘men yelling at each other about useless shit’ model that has made ESPN unwatchable. But during “MLB Tonight”, their biggest show that runs in prime time nearly every evening, it’s pure baseball bliss. A combination of journalists and former ballplayers talk you through the day’s slate of games. Not entirely in retrospective highlights, but with live look-ins to all of the games currently being played. I may only have one team that I cheer for, but I am interested in all of them. I don’t just love Reds baseball; I love all baseball. I’m addicted to it. And “MLB Tonight” mainlines it into my veins every night to feed the monkey.

*****

I don’t think any of these things -the clothes, the food, the totems- actually help the Reds win games. Again, I’m only pretending to be superstitious. But it’s fun to pretend and imagine that I actually have a spiritual hand in the fate of my team. Either way, like the traditions and rituals of most holidays, I find comfort and peace in the familiarity. Buying a new cap means BASEBALL IS COMING. Downloading the MLB app onto my phone means BASEBALL IS COMING. Biting into a gross but full-loaded hotdog means BASEBALL IS BACK.

If you don’t share my love of baseball, I’m sure this all seems utterly ridiculous.

But I know a few friends of mine will understand completely.

bruceSo at the very moment this is posting, Monday March 31st, at 1:10 pm, PST, the first pitch of the Reds’ season is being thrown in their home, Great American Ballpark, against the evil, foul, disgusting, dirty baby-eaters known as the St. Louis Cardinals. Will the Redlegs make it to the Series this year? Just like with every team, the odds are against it. Will they run away with their division or will they be out of it by the All Star Break? Or are we in for a crazy last couple weeks where every game, every out, every pitch is a factor in their survival? Who will break out as a star? Whose skills will start to decline? Will the pitching staff stay healthy? Does our new manager have what it takes?

Outside of the Reds, what other drama will the season bring?  Will the Sox return strong after their World Series win? Will the Yankees rise to the challenge and send their Captain off with one last ring? Will teams like Washington, Anaheim and, yes, Cincinnati, bounce back after disappointing years and play like the contenders that so many think they should be? How many no-hitters will we see? Will there be a perfect game?

I have no damn idea.

Some things are about the journey. Some things are about the destination.

For me, the epic marathon that is the Major League Baseball season is equally both.

And I can’t believe it’s finally here.

Now. Let’s play some fucking ball.

Amanda’s Top Six Video Games of All Time

Skyrim Aurora

I’ve never been what you’d call a gamer, but I’ve been playing video games since the days of Atari, back before Nintendo shook up the market. I have my favorites, but I’m not obsessed. This week marked my 38th birthday and I’m still playing games when I have the time (Steam and Xbox360). After reading J Edward‘s post on his Top 6 Video Games, I felt compelled to take a walk down memory lane with my own top six list. The games on my list are those that turned me into a follower, buying up version after version.

Wizardry for NES

#6 Wizardry

Have you ever played a game that annoyed you so much you became obsessed with it’s annihilation? For reasons I cannot fully fathom I played this game until our system kicked the bucket. It had a tendency to freeze up right in the middle of my progress too, but I kept playing.

After the NES left us, I went on to play Wizardry on our computer. MS-DOS. The days of Wizardry are long gone, but there’s a newish game on Steam that has the feel of the old dungeon crawlers but with updated graphics–The Legend of Grimrock. Yes, I play it too.

 


Knights of the Old Republic#5 Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

I do have a soft spot for games where your character’s evolution is guided by the choices you make in game. But let’s be honest, I have a soft spot for Star Wars in general. Star Wars was a massive influence on my childhood. I don’t think I knew any other girls with as many Star Wars toys as I had. I’ve been replaying this game on Steam, but I’ve also played other Star Wars games on the first Xbox and the Xbox 360. I’m currently in the middle of The Force Unleashed II.


Doom#4 Doom

I’ve been playing Doom since the days of DOS. I’m sure someone introduced me to the game, but the memory escapes me. This was (and is) a game I can play for hours. I’ve played Doom, Doom 2, Final Doom, Doom 64, Doom 3 and now I own Doom 3 BFG Edition for Xbox 360 (includes Doom and Doom 2). For some it might be embarrassing, but I have zero issue revealing that I also played mobile editions of the game. Yeah. I love this game.

There’s been some rumors/announcements about a Doom 4, but I have yet to see any promotional material from id Software. Before anyone asks, no I haven’t played Rage but it’s on my wishlist.


Resident Evil 5#3 Resident Evil

Here’s another game I’ve been playing for ages. I can’t even recall which game I started with (before Resident Evil 4) but I can tell you how unbelievably terrified I was of this game. I’ve always been a horror fan, but this game took it to a new level. Mindless zombies are one thing, but zombies with wits, biological experiments, monsters, abominations… You can’t reload your gun fast enough.

 


Skyrim Nightingale Armor#2 Skyrim

Skyrim made it to my top list, partly because I’m an Elder Scrolls fan and partly just for the amazing beauty of the world. I agree with J Edward on the characters (Too epic not to be included, but damn so many of its characters for being cardboard.) but I just don’t care. I still laugh when I hear the sweetroll comment or the arrow in the knee comment, because all I can focus on is the amazing scenery. The auroras alone. Wow. Riding my horse across the Giant lands. Slaying dragons.

Dovah Kiin!

It also doesn’t hurt that Skyim is inspired by the Vikings. My character is a Nord named Brynn. My daughter, playing the Dark Elf Alythrae, thinks that’s boring.


Zelda#1 Zelda

On this, J Edward and I are on the same page. I have played every single incarnation of this game, even the Gameboy and DS versions. All, except Zelda: A Link Between Worlds. My daughter is playing it first on her 2DS. Without a doubt, Twilight Princess was extraordinary but The Ocarina of Time for Nintendo 64 will always have a special place in my heart.

Before the Nintendo 64 version (1998) we had Link’s Awakening in 1993 (Gameboy) and A Link to the Past in 1991 (Super Nintendo). When I first saw The Ocarina of Time I was dumbfounded by the leap in graphics and storytelling. It blew my mind. No other Zelda game has done that. Yes, Twilight Princess was beautiful–but expected.

Honorable Mentions and Forthcoming:

All of the Lego games. They are just too much fun. I especially love the Star Wars collection.

Tomb Raider — the newest game by Square Enix. I’ve only played this game a bit. It’s my daughter’s game and I’ve watched her play it from start to finish. Amazing! Another extraordinary achievement. You feel as if you’re part of the game. Stunning graphics and story.

Alien Isolation — This game isn’t out yet, but I have a feeling it will make this list a year from now. I’ve been waiting my entire life for an Alien game of this caliber. I’m so excited!! I’ve been having everyone watch the trailer….

And the character’s name is Amanda. This game was made for me.

High School Never Ends…

“This is what husbands gear up for.”

Those are the words I said to my wife after she relayed the news of her Dad’s sudden passing over the weekend. I don’t say those words glibly as I fully believe that I have one important task in the days and weeks to come:

To let her know that it is going to be ok.

And that’s why I want to share this little story about how no matter how old you are or think you are some things never change…

Flashback to about 6 or 7 years ago. My wife, Courtney, loves softball (I do as well) and had been recruited by one of our friends to play on their coed team. And it just so happened that Court’s Dad was in town staying with us for a couple of nights. So we all piled into the car and off we went to the softball fields.

Courtney went out onto the field to assume her normal position (catcher), and her Dad and I journeyed over to the bleachers to find a seat.

Well, I went to find a seat. He already had his seat. You see, a few years prior he had gotten hurt in an auto accident and so used a wheelchair and walker to move around the house. But when it was time to venture into the bigger world his weapon of choice was a scooter.

Scooter

No, not that Scooter.

Professor X wishes he had it so good!

So there we were, the two of us, me on the edge of the bleachers and him right beside me getting ready to watch Courtney hopefully kick some ass on the ball field and have a nice Summer night in Georgia.

The game got started, but after a few moments the pitcher got a weird look on his face. Like maybe he’d seen something that was distracting him. I craned my neck looking behind me, trying to follow his eye-line to see if I could figure out whatever it was. I didn’t see anything and he must have been able to block it as he went back to pitching.

Another minute or so passed, and suddenly the 2nd base umpire threw his hands up (signaling time-out) and pointed towards the fence and the bleachers where we were sitting.

“What in the world is going on?” I kept looking around to try and figure out what was distracting (annoying?) them. The home plate ump took a few steps towards him and conferred for the briefest of meetings. He then walked over to the fence, just opposite of where Court’s Dad and I were sitting.

“Sir, could you please turn off your hazard and front lights? It is distracting for the players on the field.”

Everything moved in slow motion. I rotated in my spot and looked down at my Father-in-law and saw that, yes, his lights were on. How did I miss that? As he turned knobs and flicked levers to try and get everything powered down I started to look around…

And saw that everyone was staring at us.

And in that instant I was 15 years old again. It’s that age-old feeling that every single person who has been in a public place with their parents where they secretly (or not so secretly in some cases) prayed that none of their friends saw them “hanging out with their parent”. It is a silly feeling to be sure; though being silly doesn’t lessen its effect. But I was sure, certain even, that with my own high school years long behind me, this feeling could be placed in the deep recesses of my mind never to be heard from again.

And suddenly it was back with a vengeance.

I believe it may be a moral imperative of parents to do this to their kids from time to time to teach them lessons about life. I like the thought that somewhere in their primal brains that a parent has that natural ability to take their own awkward moments and include their children in them.

far side

With this one, I’m not sure if my Father-in-law felt any of the embarrassment. I actually hope he didn’t. He just went about fixing the problem and let the game continue onward.

Lucky for me, the difference between me at 15 and me at 32 was that the 32 year old’s embarrassment lasted all of 10 seconds while the the 15 year old might have needed counselling (ok, maybe not that). Now it has become one of those funny stories Courtney and I joke about.

And maybe, just maybe, it brought a smile to her face during a tough time.

 

***

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 little something happened on the way to the Convention

This week’s blog was going to be a convention report on Anachrocon, the steampunk con I went to over the weekend. The same con where I was to sit in as a speaker on my first panels ever. I could talk about how the panels went (really well, I actually got invited to sit in on another one, but had to decline due to day job commitments). Or talk about the people I met and talked to. Or even about the other guys and gals on the panels I sat in on.

Yes, it was all planned out and would be the easiest blog post of all time. The words would flow like… well like wine or water or soda or whatever you might drink.

Then this happened…

window smashed

 

Apparently a book bag sitting in the back seat is too much of an inviting target for some people… though they left the comic box also sitting back there. I was annoyed, mostly because I felt put out because my day at the con was now over. Suddenly I get to deal with some real world problems as opposed to trying to have conversations with people. However, what they got was a couple of comics, a Square card reader, some pens for signing comics, and some laptop power cords (though the laptop was not inside the book bag). As I thought about it more it seemed that the bag probably was worth more than anything within it.

Today it occurred to me that there was one other item in the bag which I had forgotten about. There would be no reason to contact the officer to add this thing to the police report, but it is priceless to me.

I had placed my notebook in the bag before I left the house.

My notebook that I use to jot down any number of wild and crazy ideas. The notebook that houses many a random line of dialogue that I might overhear as I got about my life. When inspiration strikes, it gets written down in that notebook.

And it is gone.

On Sunday, while I was talking on one of the panels, a question arose from the crowd asking about ideas and what you do with them, how do you ensure that you don’t forget that random idea at either 3 in the morning or 1 in the afternoon. I talked about writing it on scratch paper and then compiling all of them at the end of the week.

messy-desk_final

This is a what my wife has to deal with taking over the desk every week.

But I also mentioned the notebook. I never know when a moment of inspiration might strike me. Half the time I hear some scenario on the radio and I take it one step further and suddenly an idea appears. And I have to write them down. Far too many of those moments get lost in the Ether way too much during the course of a day. And while I didn’t have the notebook with me at all times, it traveled with me just enough to get some decent stuff.

Luckily I tend to be one of those people who constantly hits the save button, and the best way to do this with those scraps of paper is to put it into the notebook or type it into the computer. So probably about 1/2 of the notebook exists on my computer in half-finished ideas.

But there are still some of them that are now lost forever.

Now I’m saying that any of them are Steven King/ JK Rowling ideas which will cause me to start a book empire, but there are things in there that my brain came up with… no one else could have invented those words in just that way. And you/me/whomever never knows exactly what might or might not work. Maybe some of them need a little more seasoning.

But they are mine, and now…

Gone. Lost.

 

400px-Lost_main_title.svg

Not this type of Lost.

I wish I had some kind of nice ribbon to put on top of this story, and maybe one day someone will return it to me (I believe it has my address/email/phone number inside it). I’m not holding my breath exactly, but I will hope a little bit for that day where I’ll hold it in my hands like I’m Indiana Jones just before the Rock Trap is triggered. My fingers will tingle and I’ll be able to, for a moment at least, travel backwards in time to see what a younger version of me wrote down.

And say “This guy can’t even write!” 🙂

Hey, a guy can dream.

 

Longing for Rain

Rain

 

 

 

 There’s a place I want to be.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

J Edward Neill

 

Romantic Movies That Won’t Rot Your Teeth

eternal2

Are you one of those dicks who hates Valentine’s Day? Do you recoil in horror the moment Walgreens’ seasonal aisle explodes in an inescapable barrage of red and pink? Do you scoff and say “You should express your love 365 days a year!”? Do you refuse to be a slave to the greeting card-candy-flowers industrial complex that Eisenhower warned us about? Do you think it’s a dumb celebration made up by the evil empire known as Hallmark?

Yeah, me too.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t like romance and I most definitely love a good romantic film. And, since V-Day falls on a Friday this year (this Friday in fact. what fortuitous timing!) I figure that between dinner and gifts and romantic walks and… you know… that some folks may also want to snuggle under the covers this year and watch a movie, especially if you’re trapped in one of the forty million snowstorms that are blanketing the US right now.

So I’m going to recommend some modern romantic films that should appeal to both the cynic and the romantic in your relationship. They are not “everything is shiny and cute and funny” romantic comedies, nor are they “sap disguising itself as sentimental sincerity” dramas. None of them are based on Nicholas Sparks novels. Reese Witherspoon, Ryan Gosling, Sandra Bullock, Julia Roberts: nowhere to be seen.

I find the films listed below much more in touch with the idea of love and relationships than the fantasies created by so many “romantic” films. But they are also not “fuck love” films. No Blue Valentines or Revolutionary Roads here. If I had to settle on a single word to tie them all together, I think that word would be “bittersweet”. Which is not only a type of chocolate but also the adjective that best describes many of the most romantic storylines in my life.

If you’ve seen these movies, then cool. If not, check them out. Hell, at the very least, maybe it will keep you from having to watch The Notebook, Notting Hill, The Empire Strikes Back (very romantic to some), Titanic, or the 85 hour Colin-Firth-porn-disguised-as-miniseries version of Pride & Prejudice.

(And, since I am recommending these films for you to watch, I will do my best not to spoil anything. But be warned: setting up the premise, mentioning something that takes place in the first 15 minutes of a film, is not a spoiler. It’s simply a description.)

Let’s start off with an easy one:

eternal

ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND (Michel Gondry, 2004)

Eternal Sunshine is already regarded as a classic. And rightly so. Charlie Kaufman, the most original screenwriting voice of perhaps all time, coupled with Michel Gondry, visually gifted French auteur. Jim Carrey in his greatest performance. Kate Winslet in one of hers (but honestly she has so many it’s impossible to rank them). A great supporting cast. It call comes together in what is the first of three films on this list that I consider true “21st Century” romances.

The IMDB logline: “A couple undergo a procedure to erase each other from their memories when their relationship turns sour, but it is only through the process of loss that they discover what they had to begin with.”

This beautiful piece is, like the last film on this list, a work of science-fiction, but that element is only used as a device that Kaufman uses to navigate through the story he wants to tell. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a heartbreaking masterpiece about love, loss, memory, sex, relationships, and fate, all wrapped up in a story and mood and style uniquely its own.

I’d probably be wasting words dishing out praise here. You’ve most likely already seen Eternal Sunshine. But if you haven’t, do. If you have, watch it again. I just gets more and more rewarding.

Now, on to something you maybe haven’t seen:

—–

mood

IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE (Wong Kar-Wai, 2000)

Hong Kong’s Wong Kar-Wai is my favorite living director. I toyed with recommending 1994’s Chungking Express, but I think In the Mood for Love, which many consider his best film (a point hard to argue), better fits the theme of this list.

The IMDB logline: “A man and a woman move in to neighboring Hong Kong apartments and form a bond when they both suspect their spouses of extramarital activities.”

An accurate description, yes, but there are words missing: sumptuous, gorgeous, moody, atmospheric, mesmerizing, elegant, transcendent. A million more. This period piece, set in 1960’s Hong Kong, is a buffet of unbelievable costumes (especially the cheongsam dresses that will make Maggie Cheung haunt your dreams, no matter which sex you fancy), pitch-perfect production design, and masterful cinematorgraphy by Christopher Doyle.

At the center of it, though, are the performances by two actors who are as talented as they are easy on the eyes, Tony Leung Chiu Wai and Maggie Cheung, as the wronged spouses, whose unique ways of dealing with their common problem will break your heart. After watching this film, you will want to find more work by these actors. And you should. They are phenomenal and have made a lot of great movies. But they are never better, as beautiful, or as perfect as they are here.

If you like In the Mood for Love, check out the film’s predecessor, Days of Being Wild, and its sequel, 2046. I would also recommend David Lean’s Brief Encounter, a film I believe was an inspiration for Kar-Wai’s.

—–

before-sunset-boat

THE “BEFORE” SERIES (Richard Linklater, 1995, 2004, 2013… 2022, 2029, 2038, 2047?)

We first met Jesse and Celine in 1995′s Before Sunrise and have now checked in on them twice since, with Before Sunset in 2004 and again in this year with Before Midnight. I love these films so much. I have grown up with these two characters and, while they are smidge older than me, every time I feel like what they’re going through (Jesse in particular) reflects what’s going on in my life.

Hawke and Delpy bring their own lives with them when they shoot these films, and it shows. In the first film they were young and brash (no woman in their thirties would get off a train with a stranger like that; no man in his thirties would ask), so full of bullshit “deep” ideas and naïve passion. When we catch up to them in the second, they are wiser, less idealistic, and we see how their lives have been affected by their first meeting. It also features one of the best endings of a film I’ve ever seen. In part three we check in with them after another nine years. They have known each other for nearly two decades now. They are a touch more weary, more resigned, disappointed, but on the brink, perhaps, of coming to terms with life the way it really is.

These films are short and could easily be consumed in one night. But be warned, they are each just 90 minutes of people talking while walking around European cities. And talking. And talking.

But for me, I hope they keep talking forever. I love Jesse and Celine. I can’t wait to see where they are in another nine years.

—–

lost3

LOST IN TRANSLATION (Sophia Coppola, 2003)

The second film on here I consider a pure 21st Century Romance.

The IMDB logline: “A faded movie star and a neglected young woman form an unlikely bond after crossing paths in Tokyo.”

Sophia Coppola’s first film, The Virgin Diaries, was a gem that not a whole lot of people saw. But that changed with her second, the Academy Award winning Lost in Translation. Coppola is the poet laureate of bored girls and women. Every one of her films to date feature a protagonist who is bored (some would say “spoiled”) with her (or in the case of Somewhere, his) current situation, whether it’s being queen of France or trapped under the thumb of oppressive parents or stuck in a hotel in Tokyo. And each chooses to alleviate that boredom in different ways: robbing the homes of the rich and famous, throwing parties so elaborate that they foment revolution, or striking up a flirtatious relationship with an aging movie star.

What really makes this film is the mood, the music, and the chemistry between the two leads. This is the first of two times Scarlet Johansson will be mentioned here, but the only time for Bill Murray. Damn is he great in this film. Torn between being this beautiful and fascinating young woman’s friend, father, or lover, he is just so… sad. But touching and real as well. It’s my favorite non-Ghostbusters version of Bill Murray.

Anyway. Watch this movie. I guarantee the end will give you chills.

—–

dead2

WAKING THE DEAD (Keith Gordon, 2000)

The least-known film on this list is also one of my most cherished.

The IMDB logline: “A congressional candidate questions his sanity after seeing the love of his life, presumed dead, suddenly emerge.”

The description makes it sound like a ghost story, but it’s not. Except that it is. A small film that nobody but me saw when it briefly hit theaters, it’s one that I pushed on people for years. Told with a fractured narrative, this tragic story of love, grief, politics, and hope, is a movingly flawed film by director Keith Gordon, who I wish would make more movies.

Not wanting to give away much of the story, I will discuss the real reason to see this film: the actors. At the time this film was made, Billy Crudup was unknown and Almost Famous had yet to come out. From the first shot of Waking the Dead, I was a fan. I was so sure watching this that he would become a major movie star and a world-class actor, but that never really happened. I have some inklings why, and they have nothing to do with what he can do on screen. Either way, his performance as Sterling in this movie moves me to tears every time.

This was also the film where Jennifer Connelly, the, let’s face it, most beautiful woman who ever lived, showed me she could act. This was a few years before she won the Academy Award for A Beautiful Mind and everyone else realized the same. I love her in this movie. So, so much. It’s a complicated character, one that I wasn’t sure the girl from Career Opportunities was up for playing, but boy was I wrong. Simply stunning.

Warning: this may be the film on this list most likely to make you weep.

—–

HER

HER (Spike Jonez, 2013)

The last film I’ll mention is also the most recent. In fact, it’s still in theaters and would make a great date this coming Friday. It is also the last of my so-called “21st Century” romances.

The IMDB logline: “A lonely writer develops an unlikely relationship with his newly purchased operating system that’s designed to meet his every need.”

Her was my favorite film of 2013. For the purpose of laziness, I will copy/paste what I wrote on my “Best of the Year” post:

“Not only does Her rank as one of the very best films of the year, it is also the 2013 film I most wish I had made. Every year there’s one: a film I would be most proud of to have on my resume, something that aligns with my sensibilities, says what I want to say, is made the way I would want to make it. The film I love the most and am also the most jealous of. This year, it’s Spike Jonez’s amazing 21st Century romance.

Yes, it’s a film about a guy who falls in love with his computer. But it’s actually not a film about a guy who falls in love with his computer. It’s so much more than that. It’s a great romance. It’s great science-fiction. It’s a great allegory for love and relationships today, about how technology has altered that landscape forever. I mean, really, in a world of text messages and online dating and everything, is it even necessary to have a body in order to love? People are forming relationships all the time based on words on a screen; Her just takes that a step further. It is a gorgeous, sexy, smart, and thought-provoking treatise on love and loneliness and humanity that I can’t recommend enough. It is the best film of Jonez’s career, and I’ve loved all of his films.

Oh, and I’m one of those people who thought Andy Serkis should have been nominated for an Oscar for The Two Towers, and I am even more so convinced that Scarlett Johansson deserves to be as well, despite never appearing on screen. It’s not going to happen, but it should.”

Addendum: Scarlett was NOT nominated for an Oscar. Neither was Phoenix. Those are both miscarriages of fake, meaningless justice. But still.

—–

LINUS, SNOOPY, CHARLIE BROWN

Anyway. That’s my list of films for those who plan on watching something this coming Valentine’s Day but who don’t want to sit through something unbearable like the actual film Valentine’s Day.

And if you don’t watch any of these Friday, watch them some other time. A good romance film is good 365 days a year, not just on that commercially motivated fake-ass exploitative sexist ridiculous so-called holiday that we call–

Shit. Doing it again. Sorry.

later

chad

PS. I would be remiss to not also recommend, especially to folks between, say, 16 and 25, the wonderful indie romance Dakota Skye. It features great performances, awesome music, and a screenplay that feels like it was penned by God. Buy the DVD on Amazon here.*

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*PPS: I feel dirty now. Forgive me.

Life Outside the Studio

Break the MonotonyBefore begin, I should apologize to those few friends I have. This is why you rarely see me. I love my friends, but I’ll admit I’m not very good at staying in touch. I do try though, believe me!

Given the choice, I’d be a recluse, an artist voluntarily confined to the studio. I don’t watch a lot of television. I’m not on the PTA of my daughter’s school. I’m not into most sports. I don’t go to church. I don’t like talking on the phone. I can only handle socializing for so long. I cherish my solitude. I’d be fine with letting my own birthday pass me by if I could be left alone in my studio to paint.

Yes. I’m an introvert. But it’s a misnomer to say introverts are shy, antisocial creatures. True, once upon a time I was paralyzingly shy, but I grew past it. Nowadays my solitude and silence is by choice, but I wouldn’t underestimate my quiet demeanor. I am anything but quiet on the inside. Painting quells that inner fire and colors are a feast I devour daily. But every artist, whether they are introverted or not, has a life outside the studio. As much as I love my peace and quiet there are times I crave interaction, and while Read more

Hasa Diga Eebowai

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Ugh.

Ugh. Not you again.

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I don’t feel like writing. Not this, not anything. Sometimes it happens. There isn’t one part of me that wants to be in front of this keyboard. My eyes hurt; I’m tired. I just got my daughter down for a nap: we’ll see how long that lasts. I’m just not feeling it right now and the monitor of my laptop is staring at me like an asshole I want to punch in its stupid face.

I am writing to fulfill my obligation to my friends/guildmates and nothing more.

As I type this sentence I have no idea what the next one is going to be. I started working on a post about the time I worked for Quentin Tarantino and about his recent controversy but it’s not done and it’s not going to be done today. I’ll do it next week. Man, I don’t want to be writing right now at the moment.

(I didn’t like the internal ‘write’/’right’ rhyme.)

So, because I don’t want to write, I will write.

Come on. Words words words. Mary had a little lamb. Little lamb. The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain. Soylent Green is people. Darkness. Imprisoning me. All that I see. Absolute horror. I cannot live. I cannot die. Trapped in myself. Body my holding cell. Yeah-uh!

(Editor’s Note from the future: There does end up being a point to this. So bear with me.)

Let’s see. Come on…

Peyton ManningThat Super Bowl sucked, didn’t it? I was about 50-50 on who was going to win and despite my hatred of the Broncos (any fellow Browns fan will understand) I sort of wanted Peyton Manning to get another ring. Apparently, he didn’t want to. Holy cow. Any sporting event is boring if one of the teams doesn’t bother to show up. I bet even some Seahawks fans were somewhat disappointed. That was plain awful.

The game being yesterday did stir up some frustration for me. Geeks have spent their whole life defending what they love, protesting that they shouldn’t be looked down up on and shit on for loving comic books or video games or science-fiction. And we’ve pretty much won that war. If the geeks have not inherited the Earth, we sure as hell, for better or worse, inherited popular entertainment.

But there’s a trend amongst geekdom that is such hypocritical nonsense. It’s okay to dislike sports. It’s okay to not watch sports. It’s okay to say “I don’t watch sports” when someone brings it up. But there are so many who cannot WAIT to tell you how much they hate sports and how stupid the people who like them are. They cannot WAIT to tell you what they’re doing instead of watching the Super Bowl. They cannot WAIT to make sure you know they are only watching it for the commercials. They cannot WAIT to Tweet about the fucking Puppy Bowl. They cannot WAIT to make their “Go Sports! Kick that ball through the hoop for a goal!” jokes that are hacky and lame.

So a group whose entire plight (and I use that term relatively. this is largely a group of privledged white boys and girls) was being derided for liking the things they like are now using any occasion to deride the things other people like. Part of me gets it. I was picked on by jocks in high school, too. But guess what? That jock who beat me up? I’m damn sure he went and saw The Avengers. Your teenage years are a fucked up time and I’m way too old to worry about how people acted towards me when we were kids. I was a dick as a kid. So were you. Ask the other three members of this site if I was a perfect person, a beacon of kindness and friendship and caring, when I was sixteen. They would laugh in your face. We were all fuckwads in high school. We were just all different types of fuckwads.

Like sports. Don’t like sports. Fine. But you are a damn hypocrite when the first thing you do on Super Bowl Sunday is run to your Twitter and Facebook and Tumblr and tell EVERYONE how dumb they are for liking sports. Bite me. You are traitors to the principles of geek culture, nerdy little Fidel Castros, overthrowing a dictator only to become dictators yourselves. (Okay that’s real dumb and hyperbolic but hypocrisy is something that infuriates me. Especially in myself. It’s part of me like it’s part of everybody.)

Inclusion works both ways. Other people can enjoy what they want to enjoy and it doesn’t affect you one iota. Let it be. Don’t watch the game, but don’t make fun of people who do. You are no longer geeks. You are hipsters. That’s what hipsters do. Do you really want to be a hipster? While you’re at it, stop watching shows you know you hate just so you can hate on them more accurately. I stopped watching “Heroes” midway through the second season and never looked back, not even ironically. Don’t like “Game of Thrones”? Just dandy. Don’t tune in every week just so you can tell me what you hate about it. That makes you a giant dick.

(The funny thing is so many of them absolutely love MMA and UFC and fill up my Twitter stream every Saturday with accounts of thugs beating the shit out of each other for their enjoyment. And then turn around and complain that everyone is talking about football on Sundays. MMA’s a sport, idiots. YOU LIKE SPORTS.)

I’ll end this dumb rant with a Tweet I sent out a few days ago that is my final word:

“I enjoy both the Super Bowl and the Oscars, but am neither a date rapist nor a homosexual.”

We’ve taken a rejection of ‘us and them’ and turned it into ‘them and us’.

I’m this close to turning in my geek card. Traitors.

What else?

So, speaking of Oscars, Phil Hoffman died. Fucking tragedy. Really. I was devastated. Had to leave the house and walk around the block to dry my tears (although it was raining and it didn’t do much good). He was easily one of the two or three best actors working in film today. He wasn’t even 50. Just a shame.

Quick note: several people yesterday claimed the opinion of  “He was using heroin. Fuck him. He should know better. I mean, he has kids!”. Chemical dependency is not a choice, not something people can be reasoned out of. I am lucky enough to have never gone through it, except for maybe caffeine, but have been touched by friends who have and I tell you it’s not something you can chalk up to a “bad life decision”. Addiction never leaves you and can come back to destroy you at any moment. It is a constant battle.

You never beat addiction; the best case scenario is that you play it to a draw.

Philip-SeymourMy favorite Phil Hoffman performance, and I think every one is worth watching, is as Phil the Nurse in Magnolia. In a film chock full of crazy, conflicted, selfish, distraught, sad characters, Phil is a beacon of good and love. He radiates caring in a way I’ve never seen on screen. His quest to find a dying man’s estranged son is pure selflessness and the way Hoffman portrays it is heartbreakingly genuine and beautiful. I know Tom Cruise got all the attention (and nominations) for that film but the true masterstroke in P.T. Anderson’s epic of anxiety and helplessness is Hoffman’s nurse, who Anderson named “Phil” because he knew exactly who he would be casting in the role.

If I were to hold a Phillip Seymour Hoffman memorial film festival, I would watch the following:

Magnolia
The Talented Mr. Ripley
Synecdoche, New York
Charlie Wilson’s War
Capote
and Almost Famous, where he plays the legendary Lester Bangs and steals every moment he is on screen.

And nearly every other film that he made. Although I thought that DeNiro one was pretty bad. And Savages was garbage.

Rest in Peace, Phil. A peace it seems you had a hard time finding in life. I didn’t know you, so I can’t mourn like your family and friends. I can only mourn the passing of a legend and bemoan the fact that there won’t be any more Phillip Seymour Hoffman performances (after the last Hunger Games comes out). A damn, damn shame.

So I didn’t want to write anything and here I am coming up on 1500 words.

Hey! Maybe I found a point.

A writer should write every day. If it’s ten words or three thousand, you should put something down. If it’s nonsense or if it’s gold. If it’s a useless blog post or the final touches on your masterpiece. I truly did not want to sit down and do this. I had nothing to say. I still don’t, really. But I did it anyway. I typed and typed and typed and typed.

I forced my brain to expel letters, form words, construct sentences, build paragraphs, express thoughts. It didn’t matter about what: I rambled about the Super Bowl and a dead movie star. But I got it down, got through it. Broke through that wall.

And you know what?

I think now I’m going to be able to get some work done on Chapter 6 of my book.

I wouldn’t have said that an hour ago. All I wanted to do today was sit my fat ass in front of the TV and see if that new “Black Sails” show is any good, catch up on “Brooklyn Nine Nine”, and maybe dive into the new Blu-ray of my favorite silent film, FW Murnau’s Sunrise: A Tale of Two Humans.

But now my fingers are limber. My brain is a little more awake. I realize I am capable of forming thoughts today. Maybe not great ones, but one doesn’t need greatness to work on a first draft. You only need the will and the time.

So I guess this post will go down under the category of ‘writing advice’, although in sort of a meta way. This has been a document of me writing myself out of my not-wanting-to-write mood. When the last thing you want to do in the world is write, get writing.

I promise I’ll be back next week with an actual post. Most likely that piece about Quentin Tarantino: the man, the filmmaker, and the lightning rod.

Now, onto Chapter Six.

Shit. The baby’s waking up.

Chapter Six will have to wait until the afternoon nap.

-chad

PS – If you don’t understand the title of this post, look it up. It was the first thought I had when I learned about the passing of Mr. Hoffman.

And Now For Something Completely Different

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

Now for something completely different

 

I want to talk about pizza.

Yes, that pizza.

Look tasty? Think again!

Look tasty? Think again!

But first a bit of background…

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

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

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

But…

I…

just…

don’t…

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

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

Wow. That’s it. That’s all.

Oh?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What was so wrong with plain old bread?

What was so wrong with plain old bread?

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

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

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

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

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

***

John McGuire

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.

Livin’ Small

Above is a song by my friend and role model Jonah Matranga. Listen to it. I’ll wait.

Okay. More on him in a bit

As child I had the usual dreams about what I wanted to do when I grew up. Police officer. Fighter Pilot. Archeologist.

Then I learned the police academy wasn’t nearly as much fun as the movies that bore its name, that my nearsightedness meant I could never be Maverick, and that real archeologists don’t carry whips and fight Nazis.

In the third grade, my teacher told me I was going to be a writer. That ended up being the one that stuck. That piece of advice given to an 8 or 9 year old boy set the course for the next 30 years of his life. For a decade I wanted to be a novelist; after that, a screenwriter and filmmaker. I never considered studying anything else but writing and movies. I never had a fall back. I didn’t go get a safety degree that I could use to pay the bills while I tried get my writing career off the ground. I, naively and some would say foolishly, went all in on this dream. Sometimes I wonder if I should have taken the route some of my friends took: getting an advanced degree that assured them a job and attempt to launch a writing career in concert with their 9 to 5 obligations.

I admire them for doing that. But that’s not me. I have no other skills. Even if I had gotten into Georgia Tech like so many of my friends, which I did not, I don’t have any feel for things like engineering and science. John McGuire builds roads and plans cities. Another friend makes robots; one has risen through the ranks of one of the world’s biggest and most important companies. They have real jobs, like real men, and while I respect and sometimes envy them, I wouldn’t trade for anything.

I married a brilliant woman who is a bio-organic chemist. She loves chemistry and is very good at her job, but still, even after going through enough school to acquire a PHD, her profession is not what defines her. When she gets home she does her best to leave her work at work. It took me years to understand that. I am a writer 24/7. It’s who I am. It is my profession and my hobby and my identity.

I had big dreams. Still have them. I still want to write and direct major motion pictures. A few best-selling novels. I want to be admired and accepted by others. I want to be known: not famous, but known. I want kids, 22 year old writers or film geeks, running up to me like I once ran up to Wes Anderson and Steven Soderbergh. I want to run my own TV show. I want to win an Oscar, a Hugo, an Emmy, and eventually a lifetime achievement award from the Academy.

I want to be great.

None of that has happened yet, but I haven’t given up. But a recent piece of news (which I will not get into) has made me doubt. Made me think about giving up, walking away. Part of me knows I’m never going to reach the heights I dream about. Part of me knows I’m not going to be Martin Scorsese or George R.R. Martin. I look at things happening today, to people in my age group, and think I missed my chance. Drew Goddard is writing a Daredevil series for Netflix: that should have been me. JJ Abrahms shouldn’t be doing the new Star Wars, I should. They’re making a movie about hip-hop legends N.W.A.; I’ve had that idea for years, just ask any of my friends. Joe Wright is making yet another live-action Peter Pan movie, which was for a long time my dream project. Bill Hader, who was the first friend I made upon moving to Los Angeles 15 years ago, is now a TV and movie star. I used to get drunk with him and watch Evil Dead movies all night and now he’s in movies with Tom Cruise and Larry David.

Sometimes thinking about this stuff really gets to me. Fucks with my head. Makes me feel like a loser, a failure.

And then something like this happens:

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Or this:

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Or this:

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And it buoys me. Takes my head out my ass. Because all I really want to do is reach people, talk to them, move them. And here are these young people (this is just a small sample) proving that I have done that with the one tiny movie I wrote. It is not a large group of people, although it feels like it to me, given the fact that Dakota Skye never had a theatrical release, never got any press, and has had to rely simply on word-of-mouth to get anyone to watch it. But to the people (mostly young women, to be completely honest) who have found it and embraced it, it is very important. It is a big deal. They see Ian and Eileen as movie stars. They seek out the music. And they do things like this, which brings me back to Jonah Matranga and the idea of Living Small:

Jonah MatrangaJonah Matranga is a rock star. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, even him. Especially him. He was (and sometimes still is) the lead singer and songwriter of the band Far. Far is one of my favorite bands to ever put music to tape. When they were around, I never missed a chance to see them live and they never disappointed. Their two major albums, Tin Cans with Strings to You and Water & Solutions are legendary pieces of Sacramento emo or screamo or whatever-o rock ‘n’ roll. I don’t define them. They’re just Far. They are two of my most beloved records, those go-to-anytime pieces of music that never cease to entertain, stir, rock, and inspire me.

But Far never reached full-blown mainstream success. I don’t know if they really came even close. But for those of us who knew them, loved them, followed them, Jonah, Shaun, John, and Chris may as well have been John, Paul, George, and Ringo.

After Far broke up, Jonah began recording solo work under the name Onelinedrawing, had two brief stints with the bands New End Original and Gratitude, and then went back to solo work, this time recording under his name. It was at a Onelinedrawing show that the story for Dakota Skye came to me. The whole thing. In a rush. Three songs in particular are responsible for me writing the screenplay:

1) Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away) – my favorite song by my favorite band, Deftones, who are friends of Jonah and Far. Early in the show Jonah played a stripped down cover of it and it send my mind aflutter. The song doesn’t really have a traditional chorus, but it ends with the repeated line “Drive. I don’t care where. Just far away.” If you go back and watch the movie, look for those exact words. I totally stole them. “Be Quiet and Drive” is the unofficial theme song of Dakota Skye and would have been in the film if we could have afforded it.

2) Crush on Everyone – A Onelinedrawing song that is one of the most beautiful, simple expressions of infatuation I have ever heard.

3) My List – A song written by punk legend Kevin Seconds (who was also on the bill that night) that Jonah turned into a beautiful ballad (as opposed to the awesome two-minute original punk version), with backing vocals by Kevin’s wife Allyson.

It’s hard to explain, but I was both fully immersed in the concert AND writing a movie in my head at the same time. So many things from that night ended up informing the film: the character names of Kevin and Jonah (fictional Jonah’s last name, Moreno, is taken from Chino Moreno, lead singer of Deftones and my #1 man crush), the feeling I had that night, the fact that the original title of the film was Far, and, obviously, the music. It thrills me to no end that two of the three songs listed above ended up in the final film. I always hoped they would be, but never thought we could make it happen.

The thing I admire most about Jonah Matranga is his attitude about making things. He has run the gamut in music, from releasing albums on a major label to recording songs alone in his house on his computer, from playing big(ish) rock shows to playing quiet, intimate shows in fans’ homes. His post-Far DIY spirit has been a wonder to me. I’m sure he gets frustrated at times. I’m sure he gets angry. I know he does. I’m sure sometimes he wishes he was Mick Jagger or Bono. He loves making music and loves playing music for people and why wouldn’t he want as many people as possible to hear him? But he seems to understand something that has taken me a long time to come to:

If your art touches just one person, it was worth it. Maybe not financially, maybe not by society’s benchmarks for success, but because it did what you wanted it to. If you get into art to make money, you made the wrong choice. It’s very very hard to get anyone to pay you to write or paint or play music. If those things come, great. You’re one of the lucky ones. And while I still strive for and need to make money creating things, that is not where the joy or motivation comes from. It comes from touching that one person.

Every time I’ve spoken to Jonah, he’s been nothing but kind to me. Early on as a sweaty fanboy after a Far show. Later, as some guy coming and asking to use some of his music in a little movie…for no money. And more recently as a peer, if not a friend, who now lives only about fifteen minutes from me. He is a good man. Sometimes I feel a little conflict in him, but show me a man who isn’t conflicted about something and I’ll show you a dullard without curiosity or passion.

Chances are, unless your name is John or Egg or had something to do with Dakota Skye, you’ve never heard of Far or Jonah Matranga. But believe me when I say he’s touched a lot of people with his music and spirit and will continue to do so. And to me, he will always be one of the biggest rock stars that ever lived.

If this sounds like a love letter, then I guess it is.

“But Chad,” you’re thinking, “When are you going to turn this back into something about you, because that’s what you do, you egomaniac?”

Very true. Sorry. I almost forgot.

Wil Wheaton recently put up a blog post on this subject that I connected with in a major way. I urge you to check it out HERE.

I’m writing novels now, but haven’t given up on movies. I still want to be on the Dead Guy montage on the Academy Awards. I still want to direct Daniel Day-Lewis. I still think I’d write a better Star Wars film than JJ. I still want to make a good living doing what I love. I want to reach as many people as I can.

I still want all those things. But I may never have them. And that’s okay. Sometimes it doesn’t feel that way, but it really is. All I can do is do my work and create things I want to create and hope people find and connect with them. On whatever scale. Ten or ten million people. One person. I mean, I moved a person to do this:

Photo Oct 11, 4 53 43 PM

I’m not saying I endorse it, but someone thought enough of words that I wrote to have them permanently inked onto their body. That has to count for something. That may be the only Dakota Skye tattoo in the world, but that’s more than a lot of people get. I have to remind myself that. And every day on Twitter and Tumblr I have people reaching out to me about how much the film meant to them.

And I know I’m talking a lot about Dakota, even though it came out five years ago. It’s just at this point the only thing I have out in the world that I’ve gotten a reaction to. Proxy is just an infant and I don’t think my fiction is going to get any attention until I have a few more books on the (virtual) shelves. So the film is the only example I have. At the moment. But I am confident there will be more. I have so many more stories to tell; so many more characters to introduce you to; so many more ideas rolling around in this chaotic shitstorm I call a brain.

But success? I’ve chosen to redefine success for myself. I think for the time being, and maybe forever, I’ll try to be happy livin’ small. Anyway, at this moment in my life, this is what success looks like to me:

(I don’t post these to brag. I post these because they are people being touched by our little movie. They are currency to me. Worth more than any paycheck.)

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dakota outfit

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Please check out jonahmatranga.com and listen to and buy some music.

I’ll leave you with another song, one from Jonah’s short-lived band New End Original, that is the best song for getting me out of bed when my brain and body refuse to do so. I listen to it once a week at least. I don’t always live up to it, but I try. I’ll keep trying.

A Carnival Affair

Juggle Death

 

Life’s a carnival. Life as a writer…doubly so.

Long ago, I made myself learn to juggle. I was nine, and my uncle dropped a musty old book titled Learn How to Juggle in One Day into my lap. I remember it well. During a hot summer day, when I should’ve been out playing baseball, creeping through the cornfields, or tormenting the cute girls down the street, I sat in my grandma’s room from dawn ’til dusk, three tennis balls in hand, bumbling and stumbling my way through learning a new skill.

 

And sure enough, I learned in one day. Juggling was a useless skill, to be certain, but hell, I’d put my mind to the millstone and figured it out. I was proud of myself. I’d managed to shut out a thousand distractions and learn something neat-o. “Wow!” I remember thinking. “I’ll do this every day, and before I know it I’ll be a master of everything!”

Yeah right.

Here’s a little game for you: I want you to take a deep breath, close your eyes, and daydream. It shouldn’t take long. I’m merely asking you to imagine what your life would be like if every single day you could do whatever you wanted. No shackles. No job. No kids. No debt. Your time is yours. You spend it however you want. Think about it. Climb down to the bottom of your desire. What would you do? What would you teach yourself? If you’re up to it, add your daydream to the comments section. I’m interested, as ever.

I’m nothing if not a daydreamer. A hundred times a day, I float through the scenario above. One the hardest parts about this whole writing epic novels thing is the lack of utter freedom. There’s a juggling act to be done, every day, every hour, every waking moment. You know what I’m talking about. We all juggle our lives, and we’re dealing with waaaaaay more than three little tennis balls. We’ve jobs, kids, families, and friends. We’ve lives to live. We’ve unexpected hurdles to jump, and of course we’re all waging war with the inevitability of time and the fact that it’s not in unlimited supply. I suppose if we were vampires, immortal and invincible, we might eventually accomplish every last one of our dreams. But we’re not. We’ve a small window in which to kick life’s ass.

I try to fight the good fight. Before I dare sit down in the darkness to write, I raise my kid, crush my day job, sweat and bleed in the gym, sleep my six, and (big shocker) waste hours every weekend watching football. Hell, it’s not like I can shove everything aside and live in a bubble. Life’s routines consume me, and before I know it, months…even years slip through my fingers. It’s a giant m F’er of a carnival act. Looking back at every day I’ve lived, it’s a miracle I’ve managed to write as much as I have. A million and a half words, dozens of outlines, short stories, blogs, social media posts…how in the hell? Forget what I’ve done. What about writers who churn out dozens of novels? It doesn’t feel possible. Maybe I’m daydreaming even now. If life’s a circus, I’m the clown.

And so my challenge to you (and to myself) in 2014: find more time for ourselves. Turn off the tv, order Chinese delivery, put the kids to bed early, and tell our significant others, “Don’t wait up.” If we can get after our dreams 5% harder than we did last year, we’ll love ourselves more for it. I’m not telling us to shove life aside. Far from it. I’m asking us to carve off the fat, slap distraction in the face, and make sweet love to whatever project is sacred to us.

Yoda

Yeah. What HE said.

So don’t be the clown; be the ringmaster. Work. Sacrifice. Get after it. One day, reap the rewards.

J Edward Neill

 

 

 

 

My Top Seven Words of 2013

HaBones

 

 

 

 

Ignore the skull. It doesn’t have much to do with today’s blog. I’ve no real excuse for using it except that I liked it.

So anyway…

 As I’ve lain awake each night for the last four months, chiseling away at the final edits of Dark Moon Daughter, I’ve found my mind roaming into realms both strange and eerie. I’m sleep deprived. I’m locked in my man-cave. I’m in an abyss, starved for meaningful human contact, yet utterly in love with the loneliness of writing in the dark. I’ve always believed there’s a certain amount of lunacy/mild sociopathy required to be a writer, and I’m no exception. Whenever I’m locked in obsessive write-mode, I travel to places downright terrifying and weird. I dream of things that could never exist. I create sentences, destroy them, and resurrect them again and again in the wild hopes of giving my readers just a glimpse of the galactic-scale warfare taking place between my synapses.

And in doing so, I have to use words

So let’s cut to the chase. I’ve got seven of my favorite words on the tip of my tongue. I want to share them with you. I hope, after you’ve consumed my list, you’ll stuff the comments section with your favorites. I’d love to see them.

Without further ado, I present:

1. Crenellation – a rampart built around the top of a castle with regular gaps for firing arrows or guns

CrenelsCrenels

It’s no secret. I love writing about spiraling towers, vast fortresses, and cloud-penetrating, sky-wounding, bad-guy battlestations. I’m also a nut for medieval architecture. The image of a castle’s last surviving archer squatting behind a crenel and firing off arrows at the hordes below sits right with me. If you were guarding a castle, you’d want a crenellation, too. 

2. Annihilate –  destroy utterly; obliterate

What do antagonists (and just as often protagonists) desire for their enemies? Do they want to maul them, hurt them, punish them? No. What they really want is to annihilate them. They desire dust and ash, powder and bonemeal. Admit it; you’ve felt this way about someone or something. Or am I the only one?

3. Moldering – slowly decay or disintegrate, esp. because of neglect

Molder

Rot is tired. Ruin is on sick leave. Decay just took a vacation. When it absolutely, positively must be reduced to the latter stages of disintegration, it must molder. It works for houses, castles, bodies, cities, or in the case of one of my books, entire worlds.

4. Exile – expulsion from one’s native land by authoritative decree.

Exile, in a way, is worse than death. We’re not talking about the prince sent to a neighboring kingdom or a lord sent away to a posh, thousand-pillowed prison. We’re talking about total expulsion, the removal of everything a character holds sacred. We’re talking permanent banishment into a realm at the edge of civilization. “Here’s a desert, my friend, scorched by the sun during the day, stalked by three-thousand year-old wights after twilight. Enjoy…”

5. Profane – characterized by irreverence or contempt for God or sacred principles or things; irreligious.

In a close tie with blapheme and desecrate, I’ve an image in mind for profane, but I can’t put it here. No way. Not happening. Simply put, when something is profaned in a book (or real life) someone’s going to be angry…very angry. Thus vengeance is conceived.

6. Phial -a small bottle for liquids; vial

Phial

Slender. Delicate. Glass. But in these small relics might slosh the venom to lay a king in his grave, the potion to restore a lost companion to life, or the foul brew which living men dare not ingest, fearing their skins might slough off and their minds turn to porridge. ($2 to whoever guesses which concoction I’m most likely to use)    

7. Bones – The dense, semirigid, porous, calcified connective tissue forming the major portion of the skeleton of most vertebrates

This one was obvious. Maybe the skull up top belonged after all. In writing Down the Dark Path, Dark Moon Daughter, Nether Kingdom, Hollow Empire, and even Old Man of Tessera, bones played a role. We’re not limiting ourselves to human bones. We’re talking the bones of a long-sunken ship, the bones of an empire, the bones of an ancient civilization mortared to the walls of a cavern ten miles deep. Almost everything alive has a skeleton of sorts. More importantly, so does almost everything dead. My next twenty books had better be about fluffy unicorns and romantic nights on the beach, else people might start to worry.

Now it’s your turn. I want your favorite words, and why.

Love,

J Edward Neill

Illinois Corn, Comics, & Sound Direction

A few years ago (maybe 2006, 2007) my mom’s side of the family, the mostly Chicago based Stephenson clan, decided to hold a family reunion in Monticello, Indiana. Monticello has great vacation spots/ campsites in the area, including a hallmark of Midwest fun times, Indiana Beach, a local amusement park/ waterpark.

Now if you could ignore the various “Anti-Meth dealing” warning signs we saw on various back roads, this place is one to visit.

Emmy-winning meth.

Emmy-winning meth.

In the surrounding area you’ll find picturesque woodlands, replete with nice lakes, small towns, and great places to just barbeque, and while away the day. We were able to snatch up a set of cabins for the entire family, and spent a five day vacation just catching up and having fun.

Our folks had come from all over to commiserate: Atlanta, Sacramento, San Francisco, Jackson (MS), Los Angeles, Chicago.

Heck, there was some family I hadn’t seen since the second Rodney King trial verdict.

Basically, it’d been a while since I’d seen half of these people.

So being Atlanta based my brother (Brandon) and I decided to forgo the sensible option of getting plane tickets to Chicago, and catching a ride with the family to Monticello which was just a few hours away.

Nope, being the guys that we were (and wanting to have some wheels while on vacation), we’d come up with a decision to load up in my 2001 Nissan Altima, and take the 9-10 hour drive to the reunion. Added to this, with the work schedule that I had at the time, we had two options on when to leave: exactly after I got off of work, which would have been around 9 or 11 pm, or wait until the next day.

roadTrip_night_news

Road tripping how it should be done. At least for insomniac’s.

Needless to say, we decided to tap into our inner insomniac and hit the road, caffeine/ Red Bulled up to the gills.

For me night driving is fun, and a bit relaxing. I enjoy being able to see the world when it’s basically asleep, and just catch the sights as most folks are winding down for the day. Our nocturne route took us through Georgia, Tennessee, Illinois, and then Indiana.

Alternating between blasting OutKast, Kanye West, Esperanza Spalding, and Red Hot Chili Peppers, my brother and I took turns with the driving duties.

It was when we hit mid Illinois that things got interesting.

At the time, I was driving, rolling through moon drenched rows upon rows of corn.

Endless-rows-of-corn.

Though I’d gotten use to this from previous road trips to Chicago, to say that endless rows of flat farmland can lull you into a chillastic state is an understatement.

So guess what I had to break me from this stupor?

Police lights ahead of us. A lot of them. Blocking the whole two-lane interstate.

You would’ve thought that damn Dr. Richard Kimble was on the loose with all the lights that I saw.

No caption needed. This scene was just all sorts of awesome.

No caption needed. This scene was just all sorts of awesome.

First thought I had: Damn.

Second thought I had: Damn, damn.

Third thought I had: Our current situation playing out like the one from “The Five Heartbeats” when the cops pull the main characters over on a lonely country road

Check the movie out and you’ll catch my drift.

So I wake my brother up, who’s a much cooler dude than I am. He tells me to just chill, and we hit the roadblock.

I rolled down the window and the officer asks for my license and registration. As I’m handing it over I decide to ask why the whole freeway is closed down at the latest hour known to man.

The cop hands back my information and doesn’t give a reason. At all. Just hands it back. Then asks where we’re headed.

Yeah....our cop wasn't Mr. Smiley.

Yeah….our cop wasn’t Mr. Smiley.

I told him Monticello, and then ask is there an alternate route we can take to get back on the highway we were on.

The cop mumbles something about taking a nearby exit, follows up with something else unintelligible, and then backs away ready to direct the next car in line.

So as I prepared to barrage the officer with more questions, my brother, sensing that this dude wasn’t going to be too forthcoming, instructs me to keep rolling.

So we follow the officer’s “directions”, and all we see are rows of corn.

We drive in another direction, and see rows of corn.

No indication of how to get back on the freeway. None at all.

So this goes on for maybe, 30, 35 minutes max. As far as gas, we’re doing alright, but not spectacular.

I started imagining thoughts of my mom getting a call from the Illinois State Patrol:

ISP: Ma’am, we’re sorry to have to inform you that, well…., ma’am, your son’s got lost and gorged themselves to death on corn.

Ma: Oh….. God….No….

ISP: The truly tragic thing about it miss, is, well…. there was a McDonald’s not but a step or two around the corner from where their bodies were found.

Ma: Noooooo!

So as we’re driving my brother points into the distance.

“BJ (my nickname), look.”

I look in the direction he’s pointing and see a convoy of taillights. A semi-truck convoy.

“Who would you figure might have the best idea on how to get back to the interstate?” Brandon asked.

I figured, heck, we’re not having any success so why not follow them?

Keep on truckin'.

Keep on truckin’.

Relying on faith, and the sound judgment of Brandon, we struck pay dirt. Following the truckers lead we rolled through a small town, sleeping neighborhoods, took a bunch of side roads, and within a bit of time, we were back on the freeway.

After hitting the interstate, we were good to go. Heck we even got to the vacation spot before anyone else in the family.

One thing I learned from that situation and in countless one’s before and since, is it’s sometimes good to follow the lead of others. Not those folks who don’t have your best interest at heart, but those who care enough about you to set you on the right path.

On the nerdy/creative front it’s happened a number of times.

Some of Ms. Butler's most awesome sci-fi works.

Some of Ms. Butler’s most celebrated sci-fi works.

My Dad introduces me to the awesome work of Octavia Butler, a talented sci-fi novelist to whom I now look for inspiration on the writing front.

One of my closest friends Oscar gives me a copy of Alan Moore’s seminal work, Watchmen, and this writer’s mind is blown. An awesome friend, Patrick, loans me his entire of collection of Preacher to read, and I devour the books in the span of a weekend.

 

 

 

A man of many talents.

A man of many talents.

One Saturday afternoon I get a package from my Dad in Atlanta, and was introduced to the mind-blowing universe of Milestone Media, and another writing inspiration, Dwayne McDuffie.

My mom picks up a copy of “The Amazing Spiderman” from the drugstore (remember those days folks?), and my world is forever rocked by the exploits of a certain web slinger who often had problems paying the rent on time.

 

 

 

 

 

I meet up with the folks of Terminus Media, who teach me the ins and outs of writing/ creating comics, and I’m now a published comic book writer.

A little comic I created.

A little comic I created.

Through the instruction, and direction of my editor/ brother from another mother, Dennis, I got a firsthand instruction on what it took to be a successful freelance journalist.

Heck, the often maligned Wizard Magazine got me pushed in the right direction of another writing inspiration, Greg Rucka.

Tara Chace. Her Majesty's Bad Ass.

Tara Chace. Her Majesty’s Bad Ass.

So if you get the gumption, take a chance, and follow the direction of those folks willing to offer a helping or a guiding hand. Makes things fun, heck even easy in some cases.

I’m still doing it, and think I’m all the better for it.

If you don’t you might find yourself stuck in endless rows of corn.

 

Forget Me Not

People seem to ask writers one common question: “Where do your ideas come from?”

writing-letter

And while I’m still in my early writing career it is a very easy question for me to answer. It comes from answering what drives me as a person.

I’m obsessed with perception, memory, how time can distort both things, and what that means for a person (I am obsessed with other subjects as well: Time Travel, the future, alternate timelines, the supernatural, but I digress).

One of the things I’ve noticed over the years is how my own memory contorts and changes as I get further and further from an event. Now, I assume that for most people this is the case. Especially if it is not the most important of events it is very easily forgotten (though I seem to retain the most useless of knowledge, a gift from my Father I think). Perhaps it remains in some recess of our minds, waiting for a trigger to allow it to rush back to the surface of our mind, but mostly I think our brain just deletes that old, unused data. Kinda like my wife’s pack rat solution she (attempts to) employs upon me. “If you haven’t touched it in 6 months, then you can throw it out.”

Here’s the problem, there are moments in my own life that I have a different memory than those of my friends and family. Sometimes they have been instants where I wish it had been me there because the person feels like we’ve shared this moment and are closer because of it. So I typically go along with it, hoping that at some point it does loosen the old memory and then… but it doesn’t happen.

I can never figure out if it is a ME problem or a THEM problem.

And unless there is audio or video recordings of the event, who is to say that they are right or wrong about these things. If someone tells a story that features you in it, you have already bent in their minds to fit their version of events. Given enough time and enough retelling of that story, why wouldn’t you suddenly adopt it as a part of your own narrative? At what point would you no longer be able to know your own truths compared to those of the story-tellers around you?

Is it gaps in my memory or is he just remembering the event wrong? What do I not understand about my own self? Which is the better outcome for the both of us?

In the mouth of madness

One of my favorite horror movies of all time is In The Mouth of Madness (really, ask my friends Lee and Egg about watching this movie late on a Sunday night and Egg refusing to drive home to north Georgia because of the “guy on the bike”) (I also did not go home that night – dude on the bike is waaay creepy).

For those that don’t know, aside from being a John Carpenter flick (he of The Thing and Halloween to name only 2 classics), the main reason I love this movie, though, is that it postulates a very important question: If the majority of the world suddenly went mad, what would that mean for those of us who still had our sanity? Or, to put it another way, if reality is only this thing that we all have agreed upon, and then a large group no longer shares our same perspective… what happens then? When the inmates run the asylum, then are the remainder of us really the insane ones?

So does that mean that my reality is shaped by others because they remember things about me that I don’t? Should I take in their ideas of me and… and… what? What would I do with them?

These kind of thoughts keep me up at night, furiously typing away on the keyboard, trying to make some sense of my own world through the creation of new ones. Worlds populated with people that I can create and mold. Maybe through them I can try and work some of my own angst about this concept so that perhaps, somehow, I can find a small amount of solace in my own reflection of reality.

winter-reflection-mirror

So yeah, that’s where I get my ideas from, rantings and ravings from the inmates within my own brain.

***

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.

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At the End… At the Beginning

New Years is supposed to be that time of year for looking forward, setting goals for oneself, and then taking measure in those things from the previous year. So I’m doing that for my writing career. My hope is that the things I write below all come to fruition plus some other things that I might not possibly even know. There were a couple of surprises from 2013…

First a look back at 2013 with the major accomplishments. This marks the end of Year 1 of my mental 5-year plan to take over the world.

Amazon Breakthrough

February/March – Made it through the first round of cut-offs in the Amazon Breakthrough Novelist Contest last February with The White Effect. I actually entered this contest with The Dark That Follows the previous year, but didn’t get out of the pitch stage (I found out about the contest the night before it was due, not a lot of time to revise and really think about every detail). This time I knew it was coming and really worked on the pitch to the point where something must have clicked as I made it to the 5000 word submission round. And while I did not make it past that point, I learned a little bit about how things work (or didn’t work) in that beginning.

GildedAge_Front Cover-tessera

May – The Gilded Age #1 – First full length comic book I wrote and created debuted at Free Comic Book Day. Prior to this my comic work was limited to anthologies, but with this I feel like I’m moving up a step (8 pages to 22 pages!). What started as a bit of inspiration based off a pin-up by an artist (who I never actually got to work with) morphed into this concept of doing a series of complete stories about the various members of a Steampunk era carnival. I’m extremely proud of this comic and cannot wait until the next couple of issues come out. And though I might be a bit biased, I really feel like each issue is better than the previous one (available at Amazon and Comics Plus).

tigerstyle-tessera

June – Tiger Style #1 – Technically written before Gilded Age, but comics is, at times, a slow moving field, and this book came out at Heroes Con in Charlotte. Up until this convention I had only traveled to cons as a spectator (there is little need for a table when you don’t have wares), but for that Saturday and Sunday I was on the other side of the table (technically I had done Dragon Con as a creator a number of years ago (back in the Dark Ages), so we’ll call this my Modern Age debut!).

June – Hired an editor for The Dark That Follows. In order to get the manuscript ready for publishing, I shelled out some funds and hired Will Flannigan to help me in that final process. It’s been a learning experience on my end to see the various things that someone outside my circle notices after reading through things. It is a weird position to be in as technically I have the final word on whether or not I agree with one of his suggestions, but I probably did about 95% of the recommended tweaks, changes, expansions, and I’m positive that the work is better for it.

June – Began the serialized novel, Hollow Empire, with J. Edward Neill. This idea formed from a conversation over cards one night where I was talking about a podcast I had been listening to and how they wrote serial novels (Self Publishing Podcast). A couple of days later I had an email waiting for me from Mr. Neill, which basically said: “I’m down with doing something if you are.” Through the next couple of weeks we fired emails back and forth about a potential setting and how exactly we were going to try and conquer this strange format (the goal is to release it in Episodes, like little novellas, on a bi-weekly basis before eventually collecting the 6 parts into a book – Season 1). Writing Hollow Empire has made me a better writer because I have had to turn in something to Mr. Neill pretty much every 3 weeks. I’ve learned as much on this project as maybe my other two novels combined.

July – Finished the 2nd draft of The White Effect, my sci-fi novel. Not only am I excited about that book (and getting it finished up in 2014, but more on that below), but it is the longest work of mine to date (90,000+ words) (nothing compared to the esteemed J. Edward Neill, but he’s crazy with his epic fantasy word counts!). Probably the single biggest thing about this project was that I proved to myself that I could finish another book.

October – Terminus Team-up #2 debuts at New York Comic Con. My 3rd comic of the year is still only available in print (that should change in the new year). It is an attempt at trying to tell a story combining a Terminus Media character into the world of The Gilded Age. So I structured it the same (a complete story in 1 issue). It’s a cool book with some heart in there (and dinosaurs… and flying carpets… and clockwork men… and adventures… escapes… true love…). An example of what happens when I convince myself that I cannot possibly write a story given certain parameters… and then go on to find that story in the deep crevasses of my mind.

Tessera - A Creative Guild

October – This here site: TesseraGuild.com. It launched during that month and I’ve managed a blog every week since. Another idea pushed to fruition by Mr. Neill, I believe he chose his Guild wisely with Amanda and Chad (and hopefully me too). I think we are still discovering what this site can be and in the coming months I believe we will only get better.

December – Finished the first draft of Hollow Empire. Technically, I’m in the process of writing the last thousand words on my portion of the first draft (got a little distracted by The Dark That Follows being released)…  While there is still editing to be done, I’m extremely happy with the stories we’ve managed to read. This is one of the biggest surprises of the year as this thing didn’t exist at all before June.

December – Finished scripting duties for a CDC project (actually my second batch of scripts). Can’t say much more about it until it debuts (hopefully next year sometime, fingers crossed). Once it does, I will definitely blog a little about the experience.

The Dark That Follows_Ebook

December – Publishing The Dark That Follows with all the nervousness that such an endeavor entails. When I pressed publish it ended a portion of my life that began 3 1/2 years ago when I was laid off from work for 4 months. After pitching the barest of ideas to my wife over dinner one night: “What if there was a fortune teller who could really see the future? And then what if someone came in who he saw was going to die? What would he do?” – she said “You should write it; you’ve got the time”. So I did. I finished the 1st draft the night before I began at my new job, and as per my last post, pushed Publish on December, 23, 2013 (it too is available at Amazon… maybe you need something to read during this winter?).

Since then it has gone through beta readers, wife readings, personal editing, and outside editing. I’m sure it is not perfect (nothing ever is), but I am proud of my work on the book.

I think that’s the majority of it. So long 2013.

Hello 2014. Goals for the year:

Publish Issue 2 & 3 of The Gilded Age. I’m hopeful for more than that, but given the speed of things and the money involved, I’d rather be a little conservative in my estimate here. Issue 2 is being inked right now, and Issue 3’s script is needing 1 more pass after going over editing comments.

Publish Issue 2 of Tiger Style. I believe this one is all but done. Maybe we might get issue #3 as well, Arena Comics?

Publish Issue 1 of Entropy. This is a comic book from myself and Robert Jeffrey II about what happens at the edge of the universe after the wars and the plagues and all the other bad stuff has happened. What do you do when all you can trust is yourself and your ship? Kinda a Mad Max in space is what we’re going for.  I’m so excited about this comic. I think that Robert and I have created a world that has so much potential.

Finish Scripts for Issues 4 & 5 of The Gilded Age – The first set of stories ends with issue 5 and the eventual goal is to collect them all into a graphic novel and then publish them and get them distributed through Diamond. I’m of the opinion that in the comic book process things cannot afford to wait on the writer. He (or she) should never be the thing holding up the penciler. So, I need to make sure to have the last 2 in the bank ready to go when they are called upon.

Finish 3rd Draft of The White Effect. I’m hopeful for a few more beta reader comments. I’m targeting late February for the next draft.

Hire an editor for The White Effect.

Publish The White Effect. This is something that is more than doable, barring something strange happening, it will happen.

Hire an editor for Hollow Empire.

Publish Hollow Empire. Again, this is going to happen. Saying that aloud is crazy as that would mean I would be publishing 2 books this year.

Begin Hollow Empire Season 2. I’m not sure how Season 1 is going to go from editing to getting out there, but I know the story of the world is far from over. Even if it was just getting those first drafts done, that would be a major accomplishment.

Finish 1st Draft of The Edge of the World. This is one that my wife has been after me to write for about 2 years now. The story about a young woman, her missing uncle, and the secret of what lies at the end of the Earth. I have it fully outlined and is just waiting for a block of time to get it on the computer. I’m going to try to start this one very soon.

Finish at least 4 short stories and send them off to various online magazines. I have a folder on my computer filled to the brim with about 20 story ideas. Some are just a title and a couple of sentences, some have a couple of thousand words written in them, and still others are not sure what they are going to be when they grow up. Regardless, I want to take my shot with a few of them as they each burn a tiny hole in my brain telling me to finish them.

Continue blogging for a full 52 weeks. My goal is to not miss a week. We shall see how that goes.

So there it is, the plan for 2014. I can’t wait to see what things I accomplished when I check back in at the end of the year. There may (probably will be) something that isn’t anywhere in my brain right now, and that is even more exciting.

Happy New Year!

John

My Muse

Today is my wife’s birthday.

Courtney puts up with a fair amount from me. She has endured the loss of an entire closet to a boatload of comic long boxes. But it doesn’t end there. Comic books are normally lying all over the house, and she just takes it in stride… though her favorite line may be “do you need to go buy another long box to put these comics in?” (meaning, maybe these need to go upstairs in the comic room).

longboxes

Now, we’ve been together since high school, so she did not enter into this situation unaware. MAYBE she didn’t quite understand the extent of how many comics I had or how deep my love is for the format, but she had a preexisting knowledge of some aspect of it.

Over the years I even managed to get her to read a Bone comic. She has a Superman t-shirt and a Wonder Woman t-shirt.

She journeys to all the latest comic related movies. She knows not only who Mary Jane Watson is, but knows that her husband hasn’t read a Spiderman comic since their marriage was done away with (even if she doesn’t know how that bit of strangeness happened in the first place).

avengers-movie-poster-1

I try to take her to this type of movie…

 

batman_and_robin_movie_001

Not this type of Superhero movie!

But that’s not all. I’m not sure she knows this (I don’t know that I’ve said it to her), but she’s my Muse.

She’s the person that has to endure my random story-ideas as we are driving around, running errands, or perhaps even worse for her, when we have a longer trip planned. I can only imagine what she thinks of some of the things which roll past my lips. Yet, somehow, someway, she not only spares my feelings when perhaps the idea is not one of the better ones, but she helps to flesh out some aspects of these tales. There has been many a time where my side of the conversation began with:

“So I have this idea about a guy who does this X thing… and that’s all I have really.”

She takes this in stride and knows to ask questions that may or may not prompt me into some kind of discovery.

This is how The Dark That Follows came to be. I literally had the barest spark of an idea for a story (I didn’t know what it would be or the length even): What if a fortune teller could actually see the future? And then what if he came across a person who no longer had any kind of future? What then?

That’s all I had, just the barest of a thought. She was the one who encouraged me to begin writing that book. And then she assumed her next role… that of my Alpha reader.

Through this entire adventure through my writing those first couple of short comic stories for the Terminus anthologies to my first novel (extremely soon to be released), she has been the rock that not only supports my dreams, but shares in them. I’m in the final phase of editing/formatting The Dark That Follows, and I think she is happier about it than I am (that’s not to say I’m not happy, but it is mixed with a sense of relief that I can finally release this thing I’ve worked on for the last 3 years into the world). She’s bouncing up and down thinking about various ways of letting people know, her hand on the trigger to call all the friends and relatives as soon as the book goes live on Amazon.

And that feeling, knowing that she is proud of the work I’ve done, proud of OUR accomplishment in all of this, is better than the finishing of the book. Because this book is as much hers as it is mine. Without her constant support, I’m not sure I would have gotten this far… perhaps video games or some other shiny object might have occupied my attention.

In the new year, I want to repay her for a little of this support by writing the book she’s been wanting me to write for about a year and a half (currently titled The Edge of the World). Again, I hit her up with a bare-bones idea, but she latched onto it. I keep teasing her with it, telling her that it is next on the docket as soon as I get some free time, as soon as the writing schedule frees up. And in January I should have a little time, maybe a bit more in February, so I’m putting it out there in writing for all to see. It’s not quite wrapped in birthday paper, but it will be my gift to her.

And who knows, maybe a year from now I’ll be talking about publishing that one.

birthday

Happy Birthday, Courtney McGuire!

Thank you for everything you do… I literally couldn’t do it without you.