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.

burn

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.)

mlbatbatxfinity-mlb-network-large-5

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

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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.

—–

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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).

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I try to take her to this type of movie…

 

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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.

Chad’s (Insignificant) Hollywood Tales : Deutschland, Deutschland!

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As this post goes up, I am in the air, flying from San Francisco to Atlanta for the holidays. I will also be flying with an infant in my arms, so, if you never hear from me again, it won’t be because of anything tragic other than a complete and utter mental breakdown.

So this week’s post has to be fast. I’m going to tell a quick story about the weirdest 90 minutes of my life.

Is this Christmas related in any way? Sort of, only because it involves air travel and that this story really started at Christmastime 5 years ago.

In 2008, Dakota Skye won Best Picture at the Charlotte Film Festival. They tell you this ahead of time, these smaller festivals, to entice the production to send a representative. There were two other festivals going on at the same time, all of which we were invited to, so we had to split up. Director John Humber and actress Eileen Boylan went to Canada. Producer Shaun O’Banion and actor Ian Nelson went to Michigan. Me, having grown up in the South, volunteered for / was assigned to North Carolina on my lonesome.

I really wanted to go to Charlotte mostly because my friends and family in Atlanta, if they wanted to, could easily make the drive to see the film with an audience. This was especially important for my parents and brother. They had all seen in on DVD, but I wanted them to experience a screening, along with my Q&A after. I spent a few days with my family in the ATL then, with my brother in tow as my “assistant” drive up to Charlotte.

Schwerin, Germany

Schwerin, Germany

The festival was fun. Small, but fun. Saw a really great documentary called Immokalee, USA that you should check out if you can find it. After the first of two Dakota Skye screenings, which went well, I was approached by two German men. They informed me that they worked for the Filmkunstfest Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, a film festival in Schwerin, Germany, which is a quaint city of 100,000 or so, north of Berlin, close to the Baltic and on the way to Denmark. It wasn’t quite the Berlin film festival, but very few fests are.

These two men explained to me that their filmkunstfest was a sister festival with Charlotte and that they had a best-picture exchange program. That whatever won best picture at Charlotte played in Schwerin the next year, and vice-versa. Dakota Skye, as that winner, was invited to play in Germany.

I thought little of it. Just because it seemed unlikely to happen. So I took their info and passed on the director’s, for he was the one that handled that stuff.

That Christmas, I was home in Atlanta when John called me. We’d been invited to Germany. It wasn’t a 100% free ride, but they were willing to pay enough of it to make it worth considering. He was definitely going, and I was also invited. The question is, did I want to?

You see, for the first 30+ years of my life, I was a scaredy-cat flyer. My brain knew it was safe, but it had a hard time communicating that to my gut. And I had never been to Europe. The only time I had spent outside of the country was a half-day trip down to Rosarito I took once with my friends Colleen and Matt. I really wanted to go, but the flight a flight from Los Angeles to Berlin scared the ever-loving shit out of me.

But when these types of opportunities pop up, you can’t say no. You just can’t. So I agreed to fly to Germany to show our movie.

Cool enough, right? But this is where it starts to get weird.

tumblr_mumheh8g0D1rd1x99o1_500For those of you unfamiliar with Dakota Skye, all you need to know in the moment is that the film is full of subtitles. Not subtitles in another language, but in English. They are burned into the film. They are an integral part of the story. Which pretty much makes Dakota Skye un-subtitle-able for foreign audiences. Because at any given time there could be three sets of titles on screen: one interpreting the spoken English, one English-language story-based one, and then another to translate the English-language subtitle itself. Just imagine all that text on the screen. Untenable. Unwatchable.

So the only way for Dakota Skye to play in another language is to dub it. That at least gets rid of one set of subtitles. But being a tiny, tiny film, we had no ability to put together a German-language version of the film. But the festival organizers told us that they would take care of that. All we had to do was show up.

Okee-dokee.

So in early 2009 John and I flew to Germany. And I did pretty well for my first trans-Atlantic flight. In fact, ever since then, my fear of flying had reduced greatly. What’s a four hour trip to the East Coast when you’ve sat through 14 hours to get to Europe?

4526_80751054924_3806585_nWe landed in Berlin, got our passports stamped, and I was officially a world traveler. After spending the night in a hotel by the airport, we were met next day by one of the two men I had met in Charlotte. He would be driving us up to Schwerin (maybe a two hour drive). He was late in meeting us, which I told him destroyed my perceptions of German punctuality, but he explained to me that he was actually Bavarian, and, from what I could gather, Bavarians are to Germans as West Virginians are to Ohioans.

On the drive up to the festival, the weirdness began. The festival rep, riding shotgun while another man drove us, broke out a document. It was the English to German translation of Dakota Skye. Being the writer of the film, I was intrigued. He started asking me questions to make sure he had things right. Certain cultural references, even things as simple as bowling lingo, wouldn’t translate, he said, so he needed my help finding alternative ways to say things.

Wait a minute, I thought. The first screening is tomorrow. In fact, we discovered, we were the OPENING NIGHT FILM. And the dubbing hadn’t been done yet? They were still tinkering with the script. Then we found out the bizarre and terrifying truth:

They would be doing a live dub.

A live dub involves a person standing in the projection booth with a microphone who then talks over the film’s natural audio (which is also audible), reading from a German script. One person doing every voice, just reciting the translation in a monotone. It’s like what you see in movies about the United Nations, except in this case it’s for a dramatic (and more dangerously, comedic) piece with several distinct character voices, both male and female.

And the man who would be doing it was like 40 years old.

A man.

Dakota Skye stars a 19 year old woman playing a SEVENTEEN YEAR OLD GIRL. So you’re telling me, Mr. Bavarian, that my teenage female protagonist is going to be dubbed by a full-grown man?

“Trust us. We do this all the time.”

3349_1163286039552_6122236_nSo we were swept into the film festival as American celebrities. We did a press conference, in which we said maybe two sentences between both me and John, went to the reception, saw an art show, and were interviewed by two German teens for the festival newsletter. They were good kids who two days later we found ourselves drunk with, another bit of culture shock. They were full of questions about how Americans see Germans. I’ll never forget when one of them said to me, “World War I started because someone killed an Austrian; World War II started because someone didn’t.”

Very true.

 

 

So, opening night of the festival. The theater is filled with donors and older folks and people and suits and here we were about to present our little American romantic comedy filled with masturbation and marijuana jokes. I mean, this was our crowd:

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You can understand why we were nervous.

But nothing could prepare us for what came next:

The weirdest 90 minutes of my life.

I very rarely sat through a Dakota Skye screening. Add my natural anxiety to my filmmakers’ anxiety to the fact that I’ve seen the damn movie a thousand million times, but there was no way John and I were going to miss what we were sure was going to be a train wreck. We sunk down into our seats before it even started.

And then it started.

Whoa boy.

During Dakota’s festival run, we had screenings that were good, great, and mediocre. But there were certain moments, and definitely certain laughs, that always landed.

Not so much in Germany that night.

So the movie starts and the moment our heroine begins to speak, this deep, male German voice comes over the speakers, talking over everything in an attempt to German it up. And wow was it awkward. The laughs definitely did not come when they were supposed to and did when they weren’t. Sometimes the scene would move too fast for the translator, and he would just give up on it. I didn’t know what he was saying, but I definitely heard him stumble and stutter a dozen times. A handful of people walked out. We weren’t sure what everybody else was thinking, but from our point of view it was a disaster.

And it was the most fun I had at a Dakota Skye screening.

Because there was no pressure. Because it wasn’t our fault. The audience understood what was happening. They were seeing the movie, which is great looking for a 100k film, but is still a 100k film, but they weren’t hearing it, and it’s a fairly wordy piece. They had no idea what was going on. At moments, neither did I.

It was kind of hilarious.

It was without a doubt the longest, strangest, most surreal, blissfully uncomfortable hour and a half I have ever experienced.

So after the polite applause, John and I were brought up, with a translator, to answer questions. The first question I was asked, by the moderator, was “How was it seeing your film in German?”

“That was the weirdest 90 minutes of my life,” I said. And, before the translator got out a word…

THE WHOLE FUCKING THEATER FUCKING LAUGHED.

At my joke.

IN ENGLISH.

Son of a bitch…

Turns out a lot of folks in Germany speak English; you’d think the Germans running the festival would have known that.

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The next day we had a screening of the film in a much smaller theater and without the dubbing, just in the original English. And it played very well. Got laughs. Got good questions after. It was a typical, fun Dakota Skye screening. Go figure.

3349_1163285399536_6501020_nA lot of awesome things came of that trip. I got over my fear of flying long distances, paving the way for subsequent trips to Italy, France, Italy, England, and Italy. Got the first stamp in my passport. I spent a day in the gorgeous city of Berlin, going to the Pergamon Museum and the Brandenburg Gate and a near-secret bar that didn’t open until after 11:00. John and I met legendary cinematographer Michael Ballhaus, who shot many films for Martin Scorsese, including Goodfellas, one of the greatest films ever made. Discovering currywurst. Finding a section in the record store called ‘Black Music’. Legally getting drunk with 19 year-olds. Seeing London, kind of, while landing and taking off from Heathrow while making connections. It was all-in-all fantastic.

But the highlight to me, which would be the lowlight to some I guess, was watching my movie, hearing my words, badly dubbed in German in a room full of people. Watching romantic scenes between Dakota and Jonah with the same man playing both parts. The utter silence during the film’s biggest laughs. Looking at John with complete and utter amazement at what was happening. Disappointing the sold-out opening night crowd. Experiencing something so crazy and wrong and embarrassing and so out of our control that all we could do was laugh and take some video to show people later. I wish I had that video now; I’d totally post it here.

It was glorious.

To me, at least.

Anyway. That’s today’s sort-of-Hollywood tale. I won’t be posting Christmas Eve, which is my next turn, so Happy Holidays and stuff.

Chad

Sincerely Yours, The Breakfast Club

I mostly recall fighting with my sister as we grew up.

Oh, sure, there were those times where we hung out and acted civilized to one another. Obviously, we loved each other, but more times than not my memories are of her chasing me around the house with a knife (this happened on more than one occasion) or me throwing a bouncy ball at her and her friends (“just leave me alone!”). Fights over whose night it was to do the dishes, and somehow her twisting things so that it was miraculously my night more times than not (you would think that I would have marked it on the calendar, but I didn’t). Heck, fights over trying to get her to “play Transformers right” (“No, they aren’t going to play friends!”).

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These guys don’t want to be friends. They are dinosaurs! This isn’t the Land Before Time!

So when I went away for college (or actually more to the point, my parents moved from Georgia up to Richmond, Virginia… the joke being that since I didn’t go far enough away to school, they needed to put some distance between us), I did not expect that to change very much. That first quarter I’m not sure how much, if at all, we really talked on the phone. I was trying to get accustomed to a whole new experience, living on my own, etc. And she was in the process of starting high school in a brand new school, in a state she had lived a total of about 3 months. Sufficed to say, we were busy.

Then Christmas Break was upon me, and I made the trek northward, not exactly sure how that would be (I lived in that house a total of 2 weeks before moving into the dorm, so it wasn’t like I was going “home”… I was going to the house where my family resided – a huge difference). My sister’s room was over the garage, which really meant that she had the largest room in the house. At the opposite end of the top floor from the parents, she could pretty much listen to music as loud as she wanted, stay up as late as she cared to, and so on. Somehow, during one of those first nights I decided (or maybe she suggested it) hanging out with her up there. After some talking, she popped in The Breakfast Club for us to watch.

breakfastclub

And we bonded.

Thus began a tradition we maintained for probably 6-8 years. Every quarter break I would return home and at some point we would sit down, normally around midnight, and watch that movie.

We expanded to various other 80’s movies Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Princess Bride, Adventures in Babysitting, The Goonies,  insert your favorite, we probably watched it. But not Ghostbusters 2 or Who Framed Roger Rabbit. I love both of those movies  but those are two we watched with my brother far too many times over the course of about 3 summers when he was 2 to about 5, so we had that one memorized. We recorded both of those from HBO on one VHS tape and in an effort to make sure he didn’t disturb our mother (who worked nights) would put that tape in and he’d sit content as could be. It got to the point that we were so sick of watching those two that my sister tore the name tag/tape off of it and he still knew which one it was.

S-VHS-cassette-tape

But I digress.

Those movies somehow became a part of us and our relationship. A chance to finally connect over common interests, which had eluded us for so very long when we were younger. Maybe we saw something within that one movie that spoke to each of us. Her just starting high school and me just starting college. That awkwardness of not knowing what the future will hold. Worried about how others perceived each of us. How those characters on the screen summed up much of each of us.

Perhaps it also was this place where our differences could be represented within these characters. The beautiful thing about that movie is that every single one of us is not just one aspect of the nerd or the criminal or the jock or the basket case or the princess, but made up of multiple ones. As they became friends on screen, I’d like to think that my sister and I became friends beyond just being family. That we could see our differences and embraced those things which formally put us at odds.  In those moments, I think we felt like it was us against the rest of them (whomever “them” may be on any particular day). Not quite kids, not yet adults, at times feeling like outsiders to the greater world.

It seems weird that this movie, which came out when I was 9 and my sister was 4 has come to mean so much to our relationship. A movie that when it is on TV I’ll end up watching, wading through commercials (even though I own the DVD).

Or how the lines still creep into my everyday talk (for better or worse):

bull and horns

“You mess with the bull, you get the horns.”

“Don’t talk, don’t talk, you’ll make it crawl back up.” (I use this one far more than I probably should)

“Impossible sir, they’re in Johnson’s underpants.”

Nothing wrong with having a little John Hughes dialogue running through my brain.

So thank you, Breakfast Club, for showing me how to get along with my sister and her with me.

 

***

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.

Brought to you by Yellow #5

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

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

finalsweek-kitty-photo

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

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

mountain_dew

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

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

Until right then.

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

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

“Sure.”

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

And it was now late March/early April.

And the tag still hadn’t been changed.

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

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

cop_car_crop380w

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

Damn.

I pull the car over on the next sideroad. Annoyed. Nervous.

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

“Do you know why I pulled you over?”

I did.

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

“Yes.”

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

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

Shaking.

“Why is your hand shaking son?”

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

I did not say any of those things.

“I don’t know.”

“Please step out of the car, son.”

A second police car pulls up at this point.

“May I search your vehicle?”

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

“Sure”.

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

Well, too late now.

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

Loose-Pills

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

These guys don’t know her.

“What are these?”

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

“Those are herbal diet supplements my mom sells.”

“Those are my girlfriend’s epilepsy medicine.”

Those I have no idea what they are.

“I think those are more epilepsy medicine.”

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

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

What!?! But I am… I don’t… WHAT!?!

“Are you on something? Speed?”

“No, sir. I don’t do drugs.”

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

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

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

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

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

A couple of observations:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Get out.”

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

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

“Yes, sir.”

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

Georgia_2007_license_plate

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

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

I guess I still owe her for that fun experience.

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

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Movie Makes the Man (Sometimes)

Once upon a time, I contended for the title of the world’s biggest movie buff.

Every week between 1990 and 2008, I’d scan the roster of movies coming out that Friday (or Thursday night, if I felt like wrecking my sleep patterns). Typically between 5-8 new movies would pop up on my radar. Honestly, I wanted to see almost all of them. I’d set aside a large portion of my paycheck to see the ones that excited me first, but early in the next week I’d shell out more cash to see the ones I felt only ‘meh’ about. The quality of the movies became less important than the quantity. I found things to like about ALL of them, no matter how terrible, boring, or absurd.

You're right, Arnie. I will be.

You’re right, Arnie. You will be. And so will I.

And then…

After I cleaned out the theaters of anything even remotely watchable, I’d rent VHS tapes (remember those?) and later DVDs from Blockbuster. I went back and watched movies I’d already seen a hundred times (I’m looking at you, Terminator, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and Braveheart). I’d rent foreign films whose characters’ names I couldn’t pronounce and whose titles have largely leaked out of my mind, but whose subtle lessons stuck like super glue. I’d watch and watch and watch. I’d go to work and quote, quote, quote. I’d try to help all my friends by telling them which movies were awesome and which ones sucked and which ones, “…just aren’t for you, Russell.”

At some point in 2009, I fell off the wagon. Real life began to shove my movie obsession aside, and the urge to write novels late into each night defeated my lust to consume endless film. I went from ‘…watches 4-7 flicks per week’ to my current state of ‘…has only been to the theater twice in three years’ and ‘…hasn’t sat on the couch and watched a good movie in eons.’

And yet…

To this day, some of those movies, however random, stick with me. Some have influenced my tastes, others contain quotes I can’t let go of, and still others I’ve absorbed parts of for use in daily life. Yes, I know that’s weird. Eating movies and find them nutritious. Copying fictional characters’ behaviors. What the f@#$(? .

So here are some of the ones that really stuck. Go ahead and laugh, roll your eyes, and maybe reminisce a little bit. But mostly, enjoy:

Office Space. Milton. You remember him. To this day, I hide my stapler. Admit it; some of you do, too.

Office Space. Milton. You remember him. To this day, I hide my stapler. Admit it; some of you do, too. Come to think of it, I hide everything at my desk. Ask me to borrow a pen, and I’ll deny I ever had one.

Arizona

Everything about this movie. All of it.

 

Everyone else in the theater (about twenty people) fled within the first hour. I stayed. And then I watched it twice more that week. In the same theater. What the hell was wrong with me?

Baseketball: Everyone else in the theater (about twenty people) fled within the first hour. I stayed. And then I watched it twice more that week. In the same theater. And this wasn’t even the worst movie I did this for. What the hell was wrong with me??

 

Look I washed

The not-so-famous ‘Look, I washed for supper!’ scene from Saving Private Ryan. Even today, I sometimes quote this line and mimic the Germans’ hand waving. And people get all like, ‘What the F is wrong with J?’

  • I try to wear shades resembling the Terminator’s. Yes, really. And no, I don’t (…look like the Terminator. Sadly…)
  • Whenever it rains, I quote Braveheart’s, “Oh it’s fine Scottish weather, madam. The rain’s falling straight down. Well, slightly to the side-like.”
  • I keep three naked female vampires in my castle’s basement, a la Gary Oldman in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and I feed them babies (ok, that’s not actually true)
weather

In 2005’s The Weather Man, Nic Cage runs out of cash in his wallet after buying a single cup of coffee. His dad, the mighty Michael Caine, asks, “”You had enough money to buy a coffee, but not a paper?” Ever since I watched this seemingly innocuous scene, I’ve been a little OCD about having at least $20 in cash in my wallet…at all times. I’m completely serious. Mostly.

Willow

In 1988’s Willow, the High Aldwin asks Willow which finger contains the power to control the universe. Willow almost chooses the correct answer, which is to pick his own finger. No lies; ever since watching that scene 487 times, I force myself to look inward when solving any problem. (Plus I developed a brief crush on Sorsha, quickly dispelled when she later showed up in that movie with Bill Murray)

Fight club

Fight Club is top ten for me. One of my fav quotes (besides ALL of them) was and is: “You’re not your job. You’re not how much money you have in the bank. You’re not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You’re not your fucking khakis. You’re the all-singing, all-dancing crap of the world.”
Modern day philosphy at its finest…

Speaking of movies, I hear this will one day make for a great one.

This too.

Love,

J Edward Neill

 

 

 

Calling all Bloggers!

imagesCACU84DE Happy Halloween hangover, everyone. Alas, the best non-holiday holiday of the year has come and gone.

Typically, Fridays are somewhat slim here at Tessera. That’s because, at least for the moment, we’ve got five days to fill, but only four artists. Much as we’d love to blog 24/7/365, we’re spread out over our many projects like cream cheese on a box of bagels.  We’re delicious, but there’s only so much of us to go around.  

That’s where you might come in.

We’re currently seeking talented guest bloggers to help us make our Fridays more exciting. We’re interested in anyone with something interesting to say. Got a unique perspective you’d like to share? Got a crazy story you’re dying to tell? Got a comic book, a novel, a painting, or a photo album of your latest cosplay event in Tijuana you’d like to show off? Maybe you’re the one we’re looking for.

BestWrite

The pen is mightier than the sword. The keyboard is stronger still.

So if you’re interested and willing to submit to our terrifying gantlet of questions (usually we’ll just ask for a small sample of your writing/storytelling skills) send us an email HERE. We’ll check you out. If you’re qualified, we’ll find room for you on one of many, many Fridays to come.

Much love,

J Edward Neill

I should have paid more attention to C. Thomas Howell

In honor of tomorrow being Halloween (and my brother’s birthday – Happy Birthday Mark!), I present the stupidest thing I have ever done.

dunce-cap

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

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

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

I felt sad for her immediately.

“Can I help you with something?”

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

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

I braced myself for the question.

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

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

Not this time.

“Uh, yea, I guess I could do that.”

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

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

“I’m right over here.”

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

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

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

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

Behind me.

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

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

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

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

urban-legend-killer-backseat

“So, where is it I’m taking you?”

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

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

“Oh, then just continue on North.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Base Map 285

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

dark road

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hmm.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You sure?”

“Yeah. Have a good night.”

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

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

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

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

Just gun it!

“You know how to get back?”

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

“Alright. Take care.”

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

Somehow still alive.

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

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

John McGuire

Dear _ _ _ ,

writing-letter

Dear _ _ _ ,

I hate writing you this letter. A decade ago, five years ago, it would have been unthinkable. I would have never thought I’d be writing these words. But the last few years have been hard for me, and I can no longer deny it:

I’m not in love with you anymore.

It happens. To everyone at some point. You fall in love. Hard. The object of your affection becomes the only thing you can think about. You can’t sleep. You can’t eat. You want to know absolutely everything about your love, inside and out. The time you spend together, well, it’s electrifying. Comforting. Glorious. You invest your emotions so wholly that if anything goes wrong, you feel it for a week.

Because for every cheer there is a rolling tear; for every pleasure, there is lingering pain.

But without the droughts, the showers wouldn’t be nearly as sweet.

You and I have been in this relationship for a very long time. To be honest, it’s been hard on me. You have not been kind. Sometimes you’ve been flat-out mean. There have of course been some amazing times, but more than anything you have been a cruel tease: every time I felt as if magic was going to happen, you yanked it away from me.

snoopy

But it’s not the pain that brings me to write this letter. As a wise and dashing dread pirate once told us: “Life is pain…anyone who says differently is selling something.”

No, the reason this long-overdue letter is being written now is simple.

We’ve changed.

It’s not you.

It’s not me.

It’s us.

I’m a guy that likes to arrange my thoughts in bullet points. I know that seems rather formal and cold given the delicate nature of this communication, but it’s the best way to explain how I feel. So the following is an itemized list of why we cannot be an…item…anymore.

1) You are both too violent and not violent enough.

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You are by your very nature a brute. A rampaging, violent freak that smells of blood and sweat. You thrive on carnage,  and whether it’s broken bones or crushing blows to the head, you know how to throw down. And every year you get stronger and you get faster and you get more intense and every time I watch you I’m afraid someone is going to get killed.

That shit used to turn me on.

But you’re starting to change your behavior. And I appreciate that. You’re doing things to curb this facet of your personality. You will never be a pacifist, but at least you are trying to be safe. More responsbile. You don’t want anyone to get seriously hurt.

It’s happened before. Remember Joe? You hurt him bad. Sterling, too. Poor Mike from Detroit was never the same. And what about Bo? Everybody knows about Bo. Especially Bo.

You are going to hurt people; that is unavoidable. But you are making great strides in stemming that tide. There’s only one problem…

It makes me less attracted to you.

I never thought I was into bad boys, but I guess I am. The less dangerous you get, the less interesting. Less fun. That edge was such a thrill and now you’re doing everything you can to blunt it.

And I hate myself for thinking that. You’re not doing anything wrong. You are being responsible. My brain knows that. But my heart…

My heart wants what it wants.

And, to my shame, it wants blood.

This one’s on me.

2) You’re kind of a thug.

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I’m no saint but I’ve never been arrested. A few traffic tickets but the only time I’ve ever been detained was in elementary school for talking in class.

But you, you’re trouble. Way badder of a boy even for the likes of me.

Theft. Drunk driving. Drugs. Domestic assault. Rape. Murder.

Remember that time you put a gun in your sweatpants and went to a club and accidently shot yourself? So, so, stupid. Who wears sweatpants to a club?

And the dogs? Really, man? Those poor dogs.

It’s hard to keep making excuses for you. To defend you to my friends. I have to accept it.

You’re a fucking thug. And I don’t think that’s going to change.

3) The Man upstairs.

Denver Broncos v Oakland Raiders121202_wk13strickly_inside

This may not seem fair, but your religious views bother me. Not the fact that you have them, but that you display them so ostentatiously. How you thank the Lord for everything that goes right but never curse His name when things go wrong.

If there is a God, do you really think He’s your personal good luck charm, your magic genie you can rub for wishes? Do you think He gives a He-damn about these trivial things you pray about?

You probably do. Humility has never been one of your strong suits.

4) You’re kind of a racist.

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5) You’re such a cheat I can’t believe Miranda Lambert hasn’t killed you in a song yet.

Posted by Mike Florio on May 1, 2013, 7:02 AM EDT

The NFL bans HGH use.  The NFL still has no test in place to determine whether players are complying with this rule.  Not surprisingly, players still ignore the rule.

Dan Patrick mentions from time to time that a starting NFL quarterback privately told Patrick within the past two or three years that 60 percent of the league uses HGH.  Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that HGH use is “rampant.”

 

Everybody knows it but no one wants to talk about it. We all look the other way, myself included.

Sure, other guys cheat. Barry, Alex, that dude Lance. But while we’ve condemned them, no one ever accuses you, even though, by all accounts, you’re the worst of the bunch.

You’ll do anything to get what you want. The law, honor, and your health be damned.

It’s become obvious that you can’t even function without cheating. And no one seems to care. It’s disgusting and I can’t just sit idly by and perpetuate the illusion.

As someone who loves you, it has hurt so much to learn about how chronic your cheating has been. I feel betrayed. It’s almost enough for me to take a Louisville Slugger to both of your headlights.

 

 

 

6) You’re stuck in a fantasy world.

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I played Dungeons & Dragons in high school. I have logged over a 100 hours on my copy of Skyrim and have started over so I can log another 100. I know what an owlbear is.

I know fantasy.

But your entire life has been taken over by fantasy, like a guy who just discovered Game of Thrones and now runs around draped in furs calling himself ‘King of the North’ (I do kind of wish I had named my Siberian Husky ‘Ghost’). You’ve built this alternate self that may resemble you, but it’s not you. It’s a twisted, Bizzaro version where it doesn’t matter what you do but how you do it. In this world, the means are king and the ends don’t mean a thing.

I used to visit this fantasy universe with you and I have to admit I enjoyed it for a while. But it really started affecting the actual time we spent together. I couldn’t tell which one of you I was with at any given time and you became a lot less enjoyable to be around. When I was playing in this fantasy, I did things, said things, thought things, cheered for things that I never would have in real life. It changed me. And I didn’t like it.

Some people only like the fantasy you. Don’t you get that? They don’t care who you really are, not in your heart. They only care about your measurements, reducing you to a set of sexy numbers. Do you really like being objectified like that?

I guess you do, because you have so embraced it as part of your personality that every year the line between fantasy and reality blurs a little more. Who cares why they love you? You’ll take any attention you can get. It doesn’t matter to you how you get it, does it?

Whore.

7) You drive people crazy.

 Junior-Seau-2012-Cover-of-Sports-IllustratedDave Duerson

And I don’t mean in a Fine Young Cannibals sort of way.

I mean in a life-destroying, brain-swelling, personality-changing, driving people to suicide sort of way.

I don’t have any jokes about this.

You know what you’ve done.

8) THIS.

21st Century Fox, Inc And FOX Sports 1 Rings The NASDAQ Stock Market Opening Bell

I mean, what the fuck?

9) There’s someone else.

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I have a confession. This whole time I’ve been with you, I’ve also been in love with someone else. A friend of yours, actually. Well, more of a rival. And while my love for you has waned over the years, my passion for the other has grown and grown to the point of eclipsing you entirely.

Look, me and this other guy, we’re just a better fit. He’s more laid back. Takes his time. He brings me the same ups and downs as you, but, while every bad day with you seems like a catastrophe, with him you just brush it off and try to be better the next day. He is a marathon and not a sprint and you know, deep down, I’m not a sprinter.

I just love him more than you. When he’s around, I don’t pay one lick of attention to you.

I know that must hurt to hear, but it’s the truth.

I’m sorry. It’s not me. It’s not you.

It’s us.

————

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Don’t be so sad. Look, we can still be friends. We can still hang out on Sundays, but I can’t promise you the whole day. Our Monday night date will stand, but I probably won’t wake up looking forward to it. I don’t want you out of my life. I’ll still come to your party in February, but I won’t be on your arm. I just don’t feel that way about you anymore.

And don’t worry. There are literally tens of millions of people out there who will love you more than I ever could or did. You will never be alone.

This is not good-bye, but I am sorry.

I just don’t love you anymore.

Best wishes,

Chad

P.S. If you’re worried I’m going to hook up with your little brother, don’t worry. He’s more screwed up than you. At least all of your bullshit is above-board. Who knows what’s going on with him behind closed doors? Well, we all know. We just don’t talk about it.

Clearwater Chronicle

Clearwater 2013 View from WindowI recently made the long drive to Clearwater, Fl.  And no, it doesn’t mean I love George Zimmerman.

I made this little journey with two goals in mind. The first: to see an old friend who’d arrived in the States from Denmark. The second: to carve a few days out of my routine life and recapture some mojo for writing. Both, I think, proved successful.

Beach at twilight

I wish the water looked just like this for far longer than three minutes each night…

While walking the beach each morning, day, and night, I tried to pay better attention than during previous vacations. I picked my gaze up out of the water (which was too cold for swimming anyhow) and observed my surroundings. And wow, the things I saw:

  • On the first day, after a grueling round of sand 2v2 volleyball, I watched as a British family near the water argued. Ah, the Brits. Their colorful language attracted the attention of everyone within a half-mile. But the real action started when the mother walked right up to her foul-mouthed daughter and punched (not slapped) her right in the chops! No one could believe what had happened. The daughter howled. The dad…laughed. The mom unleashed a stream of profanities I haven’t heard since the last time I watched Snatch. It…was…awesome… More importantly, I can’t get enough of the way the Brits drop the F bomb
  • That night, I saw The Counselor. Now, without getting too deep in spoilers, I’ll just say I love it when the bad guys win. It’s rare in movies, but utterly realistic. The monologues delivered by several characters were deeply philosophical. No one would ever talk like that in real life, but it didn’t matter. Truth is truth, especially grim, hard truth. Movie Review – A
  • On the first night in my hotel, I arrived in my room on the top floor. I had an ocean view, just as requested. The dark water was spread out beneath my window, roiling beneath the stars. I thought to myself, “This is perfect. I’ll get tons of writing done tonight.” But…just as I sat down by the window, the hotel’s elephantine AC system kicked on atop the roof, making my room shake as though a helicopter were landing three feet above my head. I’m all for white noise, but this was absurd. “My night’s ruined,” I feared. “And besides, the concierge is a dead man.” And yet, as it turned out, I was able to tune out the sound of my room shaking and write an entire chapter for Hollow Empire, my joint venture with John McGuire. Strange indeed
Dark Water

The ocean. At night. What else do you need?

Falling Star over ClearwaterOther random events I observed while walking the city:

  • A homeless guy pretending to be a broke tourist. I’d seen him try his little game the previous day, so when he walked up to a young woman and said, “My wife and I are in town for the weekend, but we lost our credit cards. Do you think you could spare me some cash? She really needs her coffee,” I laughed a little bit inside. Sorry, homeless guy, you need to work on your approach. Begging for coffee money isn’t going to cut it
  • A woman with a giant (I mean enormous) tramp stamp of a volleyball. I’ve seen bad tattoos, and then I saw this. It was huge, as in actual-size huge. Just…no…
  • A dude at a Halloween (Best non-holiday holiday ever, btw) party dressed as Christian Grey. His costume: 50 grey-shaded sample paint cards from Home Depot duct-taped to an otherwise unremarkable shirt. While he didn’t win the best costume prize, he won the admiration of every woman at the party
  • Jesus playing Sweet Home Alabama on guitar…with an actual crown of thorns worn over a head full of dreadlocks…drinking Fruit Loop flavored vodka. Yes, really

What does any of this have to do with regaining  mojo for writing? In a nutshell: people-watching. Observe the interesting things people do, listen to the crazy things they say, and add the experience to the card catalogue in your brain. Or, if people-watching doesn’t inspire you, try walking along the ocean at night. If that doesn’t bring you peace, you may want to try vicodin.

Next week I get serious, delivering an excerpt from Dark Moon Daughter, Book II in the Tyrants of the Dead trilogy.

Much love,

J Edward Neill

 

Makepeace Really is my Name

Hi there. Welcome to Tessera! I’m the artist of this creative guild, the one with the really cool last name. Makepeace isn’t my birth name, but it is by far the best surname I’ve ever had and let’s face it, I should have been born with this name. A week doesn’t go by when I haven’t received a comment about it’s validity or origin. I’ve almost got the spiel down: “Yes, that really is my name. It’s great isn’t it? I can’t take credit though, it was my ex’s name. It’s an old Quaker name. No, I’d never change it!” In all seriousness, it does suit me. I’ve had a passion for art and nature for as long as I can remember. Many of my fondest memories involve the outdoors–one of them is the photo to the right. You can still find me wandering the woods today, collecting feathers, stones and other odd bits of nature. My studio is full of a my collection.

Quite often, bits of my collection end up in my art, but once my imagination has a say you never know what you’re going to get. I am an avid reader of Science Fiction and Fantasy, with some horror on the side. Movies? Same genres. Television? Same genres. I do read (and watch) outside of those realms, but anything from the Avengers to Middle Earth will take precedent over a thriller. Don’t get me started on music. You probably wouldn’t believe how far my tastes swing (Classical to Linkin Park).

I’m also, as was pointed out earlier in the week, a Web-Warrior Princess. Technology doesn’t scare me. If you were to look at the testing they do in schools, my highest ranked subjects were the Humanities and Science. My favorite courses at university were Comparative Literature and Human Osteology. I love both, just another example of my broad interests and skills. I can create with a paint brush (both digital and physical) and I can create with HTML, CSS, and PHP.

I guess all of this combined makes me a tree-hugging geek with a wild imagination. I’m cool with that.

What does this mean for you readers of Tessera? Well. I’ll be sharing a lot of art, some of my process as it applies to creating art for a story, things that inspire me, photos from conventions (I’m going to one this weekend!), books on my nightstand (and comics too), and so much more. I’ll even share a story or two of my own. I don’t think of myself as a writer–I think about art and painting far more–but I do write the occasional piece of flash fiction. I might also occasionally share a flashback from the movies, stories, images and events of my childhood that shaped who I am today. The possibilities are endless.

 

Five Random Facts

1. My favorite things to draw as a young teen? Horses and Xenomorphs. Not together, but that would have been cool too!

2. My favorite things to paint nowadays? Birds and Faces.

Xenomorph by Amanda MakepeaceFirst Light Detail by Amanda Makepeace

3. Artists I listen to the most on my iPod? Bon Iver, Florence + The Machine, The Glitch Mob, Cry Monster Cry, Imagine Dragons, Of Monsters and Men and Lindsey Stirling.

4. What did I want to be when I grew up? It changed quite a few times. High on the list: Geologist, Marine Biologist, Forensic Anthropologist, and of course an artist and writer.

5. First and last comic I bought? First was Aliens: Earth War (Dark Horse) and the last I bought was Infinity: Part Three (Marvel).

Follow me on the web:

deviantART Facebook Twitter

amandamakepeace.com

makepeacestudios.etsy.com

Because I Had To

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For our first posts, we’re supposed to introduce ourselves. So here goes nothing.

My name is Chad and I write stuff. As of this very moment in time, I have written one (produced) feature film and one (self-) published novel. That would qualify me as a writer, for sure, but, at my age, not an especially successful or prolific one. (Although, to be fair, I only decided to try writing novels last year.)

Do I wish I had more movies under my belt? I believe that I will, even if it takes a while longer. And I know there will be more novels coming, because that’s 100% up to me, not producers and executives and financiers.

So has everything gone the way I’ve wanted in my writing career? Not even close. So many rejections, disappointments. So much time wasted on my part, waiting for something to happen as opposed to making it happen, hoping my talent could take care of things while ignoring the hard work it really takes. A ton of close calls. Films that almost had the money, then didn’t. Pitch meetings at major cable networks that went well, but not well enough. A movie that went to several film festivals, but not the right film festivals to get any kind of traction.

I’ve beat my head against the wall. I’ve cried. I’ve distracted myself with things like video games and politics and alcohol. I’ve fallen into several all-encompassing, crippling depressions, each of which threatened to cost me everything.

I’ve also quit. Flat-out quit. “Fuck this. I’m done. Kaput. Blowing this popsicle stand. This is a fool’s errand and I am not a fool.”

And then I would get up the next morning and continue on my errand.

Writing_Quote_20Like a fool.

Why?

Because I had to.

Third grade. (MUMBLE) years ago.

I missed a day of school. Sick. The first time I remember that happening. Don’t know what it was. Sore throat. 24 hour bug. Whatever. I missed a day of school.

I remember the odd feeling of coming back the next day and realizing the harsh truth that my teacher and classmates had had the nerve, the nerve, to go about the school day while I was gone. I know, right? They had gone to recess, done math problems, eaten sloppy joes, ALL WITHOUT ME!!!

Everyone has this feeling, right? This bizarre moment where you realize that life goes on without you? Just like before you were born. Just like after you die. Doesn’t matter who you are or what you do or how much money you make or how many children you sire, wars you wage, diseases you cure, or eternally beloved works of art you create, people will still play kickball when you’re gone.

Everyone, right? Or was this just an early warning sign of my adult onset egomania?

Anyway.

One thing that I should have been glad to miss while home sick was homework. But not that day. Because one of the assignments, I found out, was this:

Write a story about a monster coming to the classroom.

“But don’t worry about it, Chad,” my teacher, Mrs. Harrison, said. “It was just for fun. No one’s being graded on it. You can just sit and listen as I read all of the other kids’ stories.”

Mrs. Harrison then proceeded to read through my fellow students’ tales. I cannot testify as to the quality of their prose (although I’m sure it was lacking) because it was (MUMBLE) years ago, yes, but also because I wasn’t listening.

I was too busy furiously scribbling my own story, trying to get it done before the teacher finished reading the others.

Why?

Because I had to.

faulknerWhen Mrs. Harrison put down the last (I’m assuming) terrible attempt at fiction, I raised my hand, nearly pulling it out of the socket, two pieces of wide-ruled paper in my hand.

Instead of being angry at me for not listening to the other stories, she took mine and read it.

I won’t claim to recall the details of it. But I do know it involved some sort of bipedal beast that breathed fire and that he burned a hole in the ceiling of our classroom, through which fell the desk and body of the fifth grade teacher right above us, a woman who would, in two years, become my mortal enemy. That’s all I remember. Hole in ceiling. Teacher crashing down. I’m sure there was other stuff in there, too.

All I know is that it killed.

It got laughs. Genuine laughs. I had used names of other kids in the class. Killed my teacher, the teacher above, and the principal, I think, who came in to save us. It went over so well that my teacher had the fifth grade class above us, the one I had partially destroyed in my story, come down to our room so she could read the story to them.

And, that day, at an age far too young to decide on a career path, I did just that. I had never written for fun before but now I knew I would be doing it for the rest of my life.

Because I had to.

Throughout school, I kept writing. Proxy isn’t actually my first book. In elementary school, on another ‘writing for fun’ assignment, I got out my mom’s typewriter and wrote ten chapters (one page per chapter…barely), drew a cover (poorly), stapled it all together, and handed it to my teacher to read. It was about an alien invasion, I think.

But it is lost to the ages, like Sulla’s memoirs, Love’s Labour’s Won, Hemmingway’s suitcase, and Orson Welles’s cut of The Magnificent Ambersons.

I think it was called “Zap!”.

Through high school I wrote fantasy short stories, bad poetry (including a Gilgamesh by way of Poe epic), and even some Star Wars fan fiction before I knew there was such a thing as fan fiction. Some of that I still have and no one will ever read it.

In college I decided I wanted to write movies. So my attention shifted away from prose to screenwriting, although I did take some creative writing classes. But mostly I was trying to master (like anyone actually does that) the art of writing for the movies.

Then I moved to L.A.

I did all of this, never looking back, never getting a ‘fall-back’ degree, never considering failure to be an option, because, well…

Because I had to.

And why do I ‘have to’?

tumblr_mi884kaOEf1s07stbo1_400Because my mind is a chaotic slurry of words and ideas and philosophies and characters and voices and chemical imbalances and insecurities and useful knowledge and even more useless knowledge and writing is the only way to keep it at all under control. The only way to keep me sane. I can’t sleep at night if I don’t feel like I expelled enough words that day. The depressions I mentioned before? Guess what I wasn’t doing when those happened. Sometimes I’m not super-pleasant to be around when I’m writing, like most writers, but you should see me when I’m not. When I’m not writing I don’t feel whole and my brain, the loud, non-stop, schizophrenic motherfucker that he is, takes over. And that’s never pretty.

I write because I want to tell stories. To communicate with others. To say things. To make people laugh. To make them cry. And think. To reach for some sort of renown and success. To try to live forever.

Mostly, though, I have to write so that I can sleep at night.

So here I am, introducing myself to you on this new website, this new project I have embarked upon with some friends I have known for over 20 years, some of the only people who have read those high school stories that shall remain locked in the vault that is my hard drive. And every week I’ll be writing a blog post. Some will be short, some long. Some will be interesting, some maybe not so much. Some will be about writing. Some will be about sports, cinema, or television. I have many Hollywood stories, some of which I may share. I’ll be recommending double-bills of films that you may not have heard of, or at least have never seen the connection between. And a whole bunch of other stuff, I’m sure.

I will not be writing about politics or religion. I may do that on my own blog, at some point, or on Twitter, but we’ve decided to avoid that here at Téssera. Which is a good call.

Next week I’ll talk about something, although I’m not sure what. Quite possibly an old man’s rant about the state of Hollywood. I’ll also hopefully be putting up some short stories, screenplays, and other goodies in the weeks and months and years to come.

Writing_Quote_298My relationship with writing has evolved over the years. Vince Gilligan, genius creator of the dearly departed “Breaking Bad”, has often said, when asked if he enjoys writing, “No, but I enjoy having written.” I get that. I really do. Most of the time writing feels like work, because it is. But there are moments in it, when magic strikes, when you hit a zone and hours have passed and thousands of words have been belched out and you don’t even remember typing half of them, when it is still a lot of fun.

I still love it. I just love it in a different way these days. And I’m okay with that.

So in between raising my daughter, taking care of my dogs, maintaining my relationships with my friends and family, tearing my hair out over the Cincinnati Reds, trying to stay healthy, buying records, watching movies, reading history, and everything else that makes up my life, I will also be writing. Novels. Screenplays. Stories. Comics. Blog posts.

Writing. One way or another. For the rest of my life.

Because I–

Well, you know.

Chad J. Shonk
October 2013

PS – I’m also a stubborn, opinionated, and sometimes pretentious prick when it comes to film and writing and art in general. That will be apparent with next week’s blog post. I would apologize in advance, but I stand by every word, so… No apologies.