The Many Reasons You DON’T Want to be a Writer

On December 30th, 2001, I made pretty much the worst decision of my life.

I decided I wanted to be a writer.

And not just any writer, but a balls-to-the-wall, grind my fingers to stumps, spend every night alone with a bottle of scotch and a laptop whose battery is ready to die…writer.

And no I don’t regret it.

And yes I do.

These days, everyone has written  a book. Or at least they have a book idea. I’m reluctant to mention my profession anymore, given everyone’s opinion on the matter:

“I want to write a book, too!” people will tell me.

“I have this great idea. I just need to get it on paper,” they’ll say.

“I started something a few months ago. I’ll finish it one day,” my bartender muses.

To these well-meaning folk, I want to say awful things:

“You don’t want to write a book.”

“You’re not gonna finish anything.”

“You have no idea what you’re talking about.”

Usually I just nod and smile. After all, my bartender (who helped inspire this little tome) is a sweet lady. She makes a mean cocktail, and she doesn’t need to hear my negativity. And my friends who like to talk about their works-in-progress, they’re good people, too. It’s best to let them believe writing is something one does part-time, that it’s something everyone can do.

It isn’t.

Actually, it’s something almost no one should do.

If there’s a culprit, it’s the rise of the self-publishing market. I’m looking at you, Amazon, Smashwords, and all the other upstart platforms. No, I’m not upset about it. These outlets are how I pay the bills. But yeah…ok…I’m a little upset about it. Suddenly everyone in the world has the power to publish anything they want. This means the die-hard, out-of-their-goddamn-mind authors like me have to compete with pretty much everyone else on the planet.

It’s fine. I don’t mind a good fight. I just worry about the sanity of my contemporaries. This kind of competition doesn’t happen in other lines of work. Not everyone in the world can be a plumber, a lawyer, a chef, or a porn star. I can’t wake up tomorrow and decide to be a congressman. I can’t paint a big white hand on my face and join the ranks of the Uruk-Hai.

But everyone can be a published author.

You.

Your grandma.

Your dog.

The hacker who lives in your basement and knows how to scam the system.

Everyone.

Immediately.

Fuck this shit. (Just kidding.)

It’s not that I want this to change; I don’t. Writers chasing their dreams is a good thing. It’s far better for people to challenge themselves with the task of writing a book than it is for them to relax and enjoy their lives, maintain good relationships with their loved ones, or kick back and play the latest video game system no one can actually buy.

Am I being sarcastic?

I honestly don’t know anymore.

What do I know? Most people shouldn’t write books. I’m not talking about the quality of writers’ grammar or the sharpness of their prose; those are subjects for a different article entirely. I’m referring to the commitment of life resources required to be an author. It’s not just about the time investment, but a willingness to sacrifice a large portion of one’s ordinary life. Wordsmiths have to write, re-write, edit, and re-edit. Writers must embrace being alone, lost on islands of imagination no one else can perceive, wandering at the edge of the abyss armed only with words.

Few enjoy such things.

And fewer still savor the horror of realizing one’s work is sub-par, that monkeys in cages could write with more emotion, or the sinking feeling that…honestly…no one gives a shit about what one has written.

Writing for money? It’s similar to prostitution, given the punishment one must endure to turn even the mildest profit. I’ve never seen a group so comfortable with self-loathing as the average indie author. The blank page, worst of all enemies, hits harder than a Conor McGregor left hand. A book half-finished has the power of infinite patience, and a novel doesn’t care whether it’s complete. Words, weak or strong, offer no consolation to their creators. We’re selling our minds for pennies, and we get ploughed in the process.

Fact: a writer’s work is never finished. Most other tasks in the universe, save perhaps art and music, are finite in duration. Fix a broken pipe? Done. Go grocery shopping? Ok. Handle Brexit? Gimme a few years. All of these will one day be complete.

But writing? It’s forever. You might finish one book, but you’ll never push every idea out of your head. Go ahead and die trying. I dare you.

Memes are stupid. Unless they’re sarcastic. Then I love ’em.

To the novice writer, the weekend warrior poet, or the new-to-the-industry author, I have just one suggestion:

Quit.

You’ll never find happiness doing this. Even if you do manage to make it big (you won’t) the money won’t make it worthwhile. You’ll get lost in the same swamp with every novel you write. You’ll finish one story only to find it begets three more. Your short story will turn into a trilogy, and your trilogy into a thousand tales you’ll never live long enough to tell.

You want to be happy? Take up MMA fighting. Build your own house. Plant a garden. Sit down and watch a good movie.

Whatever you do, don’t commit to being an author. You’ll find every moment of your life more challenging than the moment before. You’ll fall into a hole out of which you’ll never be able to climb.

And you’ll probably get fat from sitting on your ass every day.

Am I being satirical?

Hell if I know.

Read this.

J Edward Neill

 

When to Walk Away from the Game (And when not to)

I’m standing on a bump of red Georgia clay.

It’s muggy out here. I’m sweating beneath the stadium lights. The baseball feels slick between my fingers.

It’s the ninth inning, and the game is tied 1-1.

For a Thursday night game in northwest Atlanta, we’ve drawn a nice crowd. We’re playing a tight contest against the state champion Cherokees, and the fans have decided to stick it out to the end.

Cherokees’ fans, mostly, I figure.

That’s fine.

Before the first batter struts up to home plate, I scan the seats. Of the hundred or so spectators, I recognize only a handful. I don’t know them, and they don’t know me. My name’s not on my jersey. I’m here for me, not for them.

If there’s one thing that’s been consistent about my stint as a baseball player, it’s my anonymity.

I’ve embraced it.

I prefer it.

Normally I’d tune the crowd out, but it’s the ninth inning and I’m tired. Tonight I notice everything:

Jason’s girlfriend is loud. I smile to myself. Jason’s our catcher tonight, and he’s doing a damn fine job. For the last eight innings, I haven’t had to shake off his pitch selection even once. If anyone deserves cheers, it’s him.

Buster’s wife and kids hunker right behind the first base dugout, waving to him as he takes his spot at second base. Buster’s the only guy on the team older than me. He can’t hit a lick, but he hustles, and so everyone loves him.

I can hear Matt’s fiancé chatting with Ben’s brother and wife. Matt and Ben can’t hear a thing; they’re in the outfield awaiting my first pitch. I’m pretty sure Ben’s wife is still gushing about his first-inning home run.

As well she should.

Every other player on both teams has at least one fan in the crowd. They’ve invited friends, wives, and girlfriends. Several players’ kids zoom around in the bleachers, savoring one of their last free nights before the school year begins.

The whole crowd is a cacophony of support.

And here I am…on an island.

It’s all Jason’s fault, really. Last winter, I’d all but retired from pitching. My body felt great and my competitive fire was still intact, but I’d convinced myself to devote more time to writing and less to pursuing a baseball career that’d never go anywhere.

Because…let’s be honest.

I’ve never hurled a fastball harder than 85 mph.

The most home runs I’ve hit in a season? Three.

Baseball, like everything else in my life, was something I was good at, but never great at.

And then Jason had called me.

“Hey buddy,” he’d said with no shortage of cheer.

“Hey,” I grumbled. “Who’s this?”

“Jason,” he said. “You know…J.J. From the Muckdogs?”

“Oh. Right. Hey, Jason. How’s things?”

“Never been better,” he said. “I’m married now. Life’s great. So listen…I know you said last year was probably it for you, but I’ve gotta ask. One of our guys just went down with a shoulder injury. We need your arm.”

“I haven’t thrown a pitch in six months,” I told him. “You know that, right?”

To which he replied, “Then I guess we’d better get started.”

Jason’s butterfly wings fluttered in the breeze.

And here I was, dishing out a pretty good game against a superior opponent, closing out what was probably the best season in my career.

Go figure.

The inning’s first batter stalks up to the plate, and I shoot him a dirty look he probably can’t see. He’s already homered off me tonight. There’s nothing I hate more than giving up bombs. If this game goes into extra innings, it’s his fault.

And mine.

I strike him out with an impossibly slow curveball. He complains to the ump, then takes his seat with a few choice words in my direction. I’m never one to gloat, but I allow myself the world’s smallest smirk.

The second batter walks up. He’s no doubt the Cherokees’ best player. Standing a monstrous six-foot five, I’m pretty sure his bat is heavier than most of the players on my team. He’s already got two hits tonight.

Focus, I tell myself. I figure if I can somehow get the big guy out, I’ll retire the final batter and give my team a shot in the ninth.

He crushes the first pitch.

The crack of the wooden bat echoes in the night.

But…

He hits it dead-on at our center fielder, who flinches, but snares it in his glove.

Whew.

Two outs.

I breathe the warm night air. I feel comfortable, as at home on the mound as I am anywhere on Earth. I’m no longer aware of the crowd or anyone in it. If they’re cheering, I can’t tell whether it’s for my team or for the Cherokees’ next batter.

I admit to myself – I take a sort of grim pride in having no loved-ones in the crowd. In a strange way, it’s motivating for me to persevere alone. Sure, I have my teammates. But in my mind, in this moment, they could be anyone. I want to secure the last out and win the game, not for them or even for myself.

But because it’s a pitcher’s job.

The inning’s third batter is a stout, muscular, serious-looking guy. I like him already.

It’ll be fun to strike him out, I tell myself.

I get him swinging at a slow changeup for strike one.

He takes a good hack, but fouls off a fastball for strike two.

In theory, I have him where I want him. No balls, two strikes. He’s mine to toy with.

Jason calls for another changeup. The batter wasn’t even close to hitting the first one. A changeup’s the obvious call.

Jason’s an effin’ genius.

But…

In my narrow little mind, I’m just about to do the second dumbest thing in my life. It’s almost as bad as pouting about not getting a new video game.

I shake off Jason’s call for a changeup.

I reject his curveball and slider calls, too.

I want a fastball, I’m thinking.

I want to blow it right past this guy.

Jason looks confused, but he trusts me. I’m supposedly a wily veteran who knows what he’s doing.

I rear back and fire a fastball.

It’s got good velocity, but it’s up in the zone. And it catches too much of the plate.

Boom.

Home run over the center field fence.

I don’t even have to turn and watch it soar out of the park. The crack of the bat tells me everything.

Crap.

I retire the next batter, but it doesn’t matter.

I lead off the next inning with a triple, and it still doesn’t matter.

The Cherokees’ closer strikes out the final three Muckdogs, and we lose the game 2-1.

To rephrase, I lose 2-1.

After the game, my teammates are supportive. They remind me I’ve just pitched nine innings against a tough team and allowed only two runs. Some of the spectators approach me, smiles on their faces.

“Good game, man,” they say.

“That’s a tough team you played tonight.”

“Played your heart out.”

“It was you we were cheering for.”

I shrug it off. In my mind, the only thing worse than receiving a compliment for winning is earning one for losing.

And I’m deaf to anyone who says otherwise.

Later that evening, as I’m trucking home on the silent roads north of Atlanta, reality hits me.

I didn’t play my heart out. In fact, I played with no heart at all. I stood on the mound, arrogant, maybe even selfish, and I blew the game for our team. If not for my pride, we might’ve won a thriller against a tough opponent.

Instead I’m driving home in the dark, tired, alone, and defeated.

The closer I get to home, the more I awaken. I realize as the years have gone on, baseball has become a cerebral game for me. It’s all brains, no passion. All numbers, no excitement. The youthful love I once played with is now a cold, hard, competitive obsession.

I need a new hobby, I conclude. Something exciting. Something to reignite the fire.

Also, I owe Jason a beer.

Somewhere in my house, tucked away in boxes no one has opened in many years, the remnants of my baseball days lie sleeping. My old gloves are tucked away, doubtless in need of a good oiling. My collection of game-used baseballs sits in a musty corner, the seams loose in their decades-old leather. I’ve even saved my old uniforms, three in total, hidden away as keepsakes.

The Muckdogs, the Angels, the Yankees –

all covered in dust.

I wonder if they still fit.

Now and then, I crave to hit the field for one last season. It might be possible. For reasons I can’t fathom, I’ve worked hard to keep my throwing arm in shape. To this day, I leave baseballs at random around the house, which I fidget with and grip as if I’m about to throw curveballs. I even have a trio of game-ready, pine-tarred bats in my garage.

It’s strange, isn’t it?

I wonder what it might feel like to break out my gear and head out onto the mound again.

I sometimes think–

No.

I have to be honest with myself.

Those days are over.

After my game against the Cherokees, I never again took the mound. It’s not as if age caught up to me or the fire died in my heart. It’s just that the time had come. The once beautiful game had turned into an obsession. I spent more time training and keeping my arm in shape than I did paying attention to my life.

And once I discovered writing, the two tasks were at odds.

Most days, I’m at peace with giving up the thing I loved most. I look back at baseball with the same fondness I would an old girlfriend. We had our moments of glory, she and I. I’ll always think fond thoughts of her.

But I can’t go back.

Unlike pitching and writing, some things aren’t at odds with one another.

For example – writing and drinking scotch.

They’re like BFF’s, they are.

It’s a balmy evening, not unlike the fateful night I last took the field. Warm mist rises from the grass beyond my back door. Fireflies float between the trees, putting their lives at risk. The local bat population has realized my backyard is a feasting ground, and they’ve turned out in droves, gobbling up moths, mosquitos, and unlucky lightning bugs by the thousand.

The G Man and I like the bats so much we’re planning on building bat houses for them to inhabit. We’re weary of the mosquitos, and we figure a few friendly neighborhood predators might help.

As it turns out, flying bats are more interactive than wooden ones.

They don’t often swing and miss.

As a toast to the bats, tonight I’m soaking up several glasses of Balvenie 21-year. This scotch is the real deal. It’s another from Speyside, Scotland, aged in casks previously used for port wine. A girl I once knew gifted it to me as a surprise. I’ll savor it to the last drop.

Balvenie 21-year’s color is darker than most scotches, and its flavor unrivaled. As I pop the cork, I’m startled by the scents of rich soil, light smoke, and sun-warmed rain. If one could literally drink the sunset, Balvenie is what it would taste like.

I wish I’d had a glass after my final game.

It might’ve made walking away easier.

It’s a cool, damp night in early November, and I’m sitting in local Atlanta bar Kaleidoscope.

Used to be, I’d come here to chase girls, rare cocktails, and long, lonely evenings at the bar.

Not tonight.

Tonight I’m here for baseball.

Tonight, of all nights, I’m here to watch game seven of the World Series, in which my beloved Chicago Cubs face off against worthy nemesis, the Cleveland Indians.

I almost feel bad for the other people who’ve braved the night to be here with me. Jerry, a Cubs’ fan in his own right, isn’t prepared for my level of emotional commitment. I’m here to watch every pitch, every strike, ball, and tense moment in-between. Jerry likes baseball, maybe even loves it.

But me?

I’m a junkie.

Jerry thinks I’m crazy. And tonight he might be right.

Jerry’s wife Chan sees the look in my eyes. I’ve hardly touched my Long Island ice tea. Before the game’s first pitch is thrown, I’m knotted up into a nervous ball. Me, the guy who has trouble cracking half a smile. Chan’s not seen this side of me.

No one has.

And then there’s my date, who doesn’t know what she’s signed up for. Having flown into town to see me, she’s pretty much signed an oath to spend every moment by my side. I guess I probably should’ve asked her to come the week before.

Nope.

The week before, when we faced the Los Angeles Dodgers, was almost as bad.

Kaleidoscope is packed tonight. I chose this spot in particular because it’s not a sports bar, which means I won’t have to spend all night in deep discussion with fellow fans. I want to be alone with my angst. I want to gaze at the television all night, uninterrupted, unnoticed, and anonymous.

It’s only here I can do it.

…friends and girlfriends notwithstanding.

Play ball.

During the game’s first at-bat, the Cubs’ Dexter Fowler smacks a home run. My heart roars and my blood heats up to volcanic temperatures. I’m pretty sure someone else in the Kaleidoscope masses lets out a cheer, but I pay it little mind.

Cubs lead 1-0.

The second inning arrives, and the Indians tie the game. For as happy as I was fifteen minutes ago, I’m now just as gloomy. I’d hoped the Cubs would win 20-0. And now those dreams are dashed.

My second Long Island arrives.

I don’t remember ordering it.

“You really should relax.” My date smiles.

“Relax?” I say.

“Yeah.” She snuggles close. She’s as supportive as they come, and I love her for it. “Everything’s gonna be ok,” she swears.

“Not me. I’m not gonna be ok.”

And then a few glorious things happen. In the tops of the fourth and fifth innings, the Cubs pile on four runs. They take a 5-1 lead. Every part of my body begins to sing.

But then…

In the bottom of the fifth, the Indians score twice and narrow the margin to 5-3.

My hearts skips twenty beats. My muscles hurt. I’d probably feel better if I were out there pitching for the Cubs. At least then I’d have some control over the game’s fate.

In the sixth, the Cubs score another run on a David ‘Grandpa’ Ross homer. It’s his final at-bat in the major leagues, and he goes out in style.

“A home run in his last at-bat…in the World Series?” I shout to no one in particular. “You have got to be kidding me.”

Cubs lead 6-3.

Life as a baseball fan, hell…life as a human being just got better.

Two scoreless innings pass. The Cubs’ Jon Lester steps into the game and looks just as good as ever. After three solid innings of work, he steps off the mound.

And up steps Aroldis Chapman, he of the 101mph fastball.

I’m feeling good about where we’re at. A 6-3 lead late in the game. A third Long Island. The Kaleidoscope crowd gradually turning over to the Cubs’ side.

And then, with two outs in the eighth inning, disaster strikes. Chapman leaves a slower-than-usual fastball up in the zone, and Rajai Davis of the Indians hits a three-run homer, tying the game at 6-6.

Jerry looks at me, awaiting my implosion.

Chan takes the opportunity to ask for the check. She’s not interested in seeing my heart shatter and spill all over the floor.

My date, luckily not a baseball fan, shrugs it off.

“They’ll still win,” she says. “Just watch.”

“No…” My mouth hangs open. “No, this isn’t happening. One-hundred eight years, and we blow a lead to lose in game seven? No, no, no.”

“Relax, man,” offers Jerry. I’m envious of how tipsy he is. I probably should’ve downed my Long Islands before the ice melted. They’re mostly water now.

It’s then I make the third worst decision of my life. It’s not as bad as talking back to my grandma or throwing a fastball when Jason called for a changeup.

…but it’s close.

“I’m leaving,” I announce.

“What?” Jerry sits up. “You can’t just leave. Game’s still tied. There’s more baseball to play.”

“No.” I push my chair away. “I can’t do it. I can’t sit here and watch the Indians walk off the field with a win. I just can’t.”

I pay my tab and pull the car around. My date hops in, and we’re off. She doesn’t understand the significance of my leaving. She doesn’t know about 1985, when the Cubs had a 2-0 game lead and blew three games in a row. She wasn’t with me in 2003 when the infamous Steve Bartman reached for the ball and undid an almost certain trip to the World Series for my beloved Cubbies.

She doesn’t know and she doesn’t care.

Ignorance is bliss.

We pull into my driveway. It’s late, as in late, late. I’m a thousand-percent sure I’m going to walk into my house, check the score on my phone, and learn the Cubs gave up a run in the bottom of the ninth to lose the series.

But wait…

No…

I check my phone.

No one has scored since I abandoned Kaleidoscope. The game is tied 6-6 in extra innings.

Fuck.

I should’ve stayed. 

My phone rings. It’s Jerry. He’s still at the bar. He’s braver than I am.

“You watching this?” he asks.

“I can’t,” I groan. “I mean literally can’t. No cable here. I can’t— wait…I’ll listen on the radio.”

“Can’t believe you left, man,” he tells me.

“I know,” I say. “I’m sorry.”

I hang up on Jerry and scramble to find a radio feed. I get lucky, and within moments the top of the tenth inning pumps through my living room speakers.

And there I sit, on the floor.

My shoes still on.

My heart pounding again.

My date smiling in the background. She gets it now, at least a little.

I listen to the radio feed as though I were a kid:

Ben Zobrist, a wily veteran with a penchant for big hits, slaps a double down the line. The Cubs go up 7-6. I start vibrating.

Miguel Montero smacks a base-hit to left field, lifting the Cubs to an 8-6 lead. I’m not just vibrating anymore. I’m quaking.

I only wish I could see the action, not just hear it.

And then, clinging to a one-run lead in the bottom of the tenth inning, the Cubs’ Mike Montgomery stands on the mound. I imagine his face as the Cleveland crowd roars all around him. I wonder if he’s as calm as I was.

Anyways…

There’s two outs.

Cubs are up 8-7.

Two men are on base.

The radio announcer goes silent for a split second. Montgomery bends one in, and the hitter rolls a soft ground ball to the Cubs’ third baseman, Kris Bryant.

I’m paralyzed. I can’t see anything. It’s all in my imagination.

Cubs win.

Cubs win.

Cubs win.

* * *

If you like stories like these, go here.

If you prefer red wine over baseball, try this.

J Edward Neill

Dragon Con 2017 Recap

Dragon Con always feels a bit like coming home. Even when the numbers of attendees keep going up and up, even when more hotels are added, and even when we take over more and more of downtown, there is just something about Dragon Con that makes it feel different. Long before Georgia became Hollywood South, this was the place for those actors on the shows and movies we all loved would come by for a visit. They would gather us all around and tell their stories to all who would listen.

And for a little while, the gulf between our lives and their lives disappeared.

I hadn’t thought about it much before Friday night, but I’ve been coming to Dragon Con since 1993 when Chad Shonk’s father dropped us off at the entrance to the hotel and we made our way to see Todd McFarlane.

I still have my signed Amazing Spider-Man 300.

It was my first convention. Heck, it was pretty much my first idea that such things even existed. You mean creators of the Funny Books I love to read are coming to my town? I’m sold.

About 10 years ago I convinced my wife to come to Dragon Con for a day. Serenity either had just come out or was coming out, so virtually the entire cast was going to be there. She went, had a great time, and while it took a couple of years before she would be a regular, it has become our little vacation in the city for Labor Day Weekend.

2017

My big take aways for this year were:

  • Standing in lines is not a lot of fun.
  • Standing in lines and not getting into the panel you wanted is really no fun.
  • Being in the overflow room for a panel and then having the feed cut out is just right out.
  • Avoid the dealer’s room on Saturday if at all possible.
  • There are a lot of people in Downtown Atlanta on Labor Day weekend!
  • It never gets old to see the people coming in for the Chic-fil-a Kickoff Classic (college football game for those who don’t know) have confused looks on their faces at the various costumes running around.
  • The costumes continue to impress me year after year. I stand in awe to those people’s dedication to their craft.
  • I love listening to the actors when they are passionate about their work.
  • Catching up with friends might be the single best part.

This year took a different turn when the day before we were to go downtown, Courtney found a hotel room available within 2 blocks of the Hyatt. And we could get it for only Friday and Saturday night. Since we normally don’t go down until Friday and almost never go on Monday, this worked out perfectly.

Throughout the course of the weekend, we’re always amazed at the level of costumes and the creativity everyone has. Whether it is the Zoltar machine from the movie BIG to a robot controlled Stewie from Family Guy, people continue to push the boundaries for the next cool thing. Which is awesome to see, even if I don’t envy the amount of time it might take them to create.

Friday

Somehow on Friday morning, even after getting there at 9:30 for a 10:00 panel, we were forced to the overflow for Nathan Fillion. No biggie. He’s honestly entertaining enough that after a few minutes I mostly forgot he wasn’t in the room… until the Feed cut out for about 10 minutes, and then when they got the audio back, it was probably another 5 before we got the visual. Not anything crushing, but not the way we want to start things off. After seeing him, I realized we’re not doing our due diligence having not seen Con Men (though it was on this weekend, so I have them recorded).

After an aborted attempt to see Wallace Shawn (Inconceivable!) and a decision not to try to fight my way into the Stan Lee panel (they started lining up 2+ hours early), we decided to venture over to the dealer’s room in an attempt to see the wares before the craziness of the weekend really kicked into gear. Last year there was a line to get in by about 2:30, so we made sure we showed up closer to when it opened at 1.

Here’s the thing about the Dealer’s room that I’ll never understand: why is it people stand in the middle of the aisles and talk to each other? I don’t mean the “hey, let’s go this way” but full conversations. Given how packed the room gets, I’d think you’d want to do such things in an area where you wouldn’t be obstructing traffic.

While Friday’s trip was more about identifying potential buys on Sunday, Egg had put me on the look out for Kevin Hearne‘s Iron Druid Chronicles which my wife pointed out after about 2 minutes in the room. I ended up speaking with Kevin for a few minutes and grabbed a couple of copies of the comic.

The final panel attempt on Friday was one for the Gilmore Girls featuring Sean Gunn. Apparently, a room which holds 350 people is not enough by about 50 people and superfan that my wife is – was shut out.

I feel like this is the second time we’ve missed out on a Gilmore Girls/Sean Gunn panel… but maybe it’s just a false feeling of Deja vu?

We dropped in on TesseraGuild’s own Amanda Makepeace (and daughter) who was busy holding down her table in the art area. Prints were flying off her table and, spoiler alert, she ended up winning the “Best Space Scene” at the Dragon Con Art Show!

War for Jupiter

Saturday

Waking up on Saturday with an extra hour of sleep (due to not having to drive into downtown) was nice. I also realized that the 10 AM panels don’t necessarily fill up (unless you’re Nathan Fillion, I guess). There was no line, the Con could let you right into the room.

John Cusack was interesting as he’d never been to Dragon Con before, but he also wasn’t there to actively promote a project. So it really became a series of questions from the audience about all of his movies. I wasn’t sure if he just wasn’t as comfortable in such a setting or what. You could tell when he was really engaged with a question based solely on the length of his responses. Possibly because he’d answered the question a million time previously, some of his answers ended up being slightly longer Yes/No responses.

Though, I don’t want it to seem like it was a bad panel, far from it. Just that many times on these type question/answer sessions the worry is always “how many questions can we get them to answer?” and this was a bit more like “I’m going to get through all the questions.”

The highlight question was:

“Do you ever get stopped in real life by someone who wants 2 dollars?”

A laugh. “Every day… every day.”

The Flash panel reminded me that it is beyond cool that John Wesley Shipp is a part of the cast. To have that link to the old show and to see how much he respects these actors and the work they put in… it’s amazing. Danielle Panabaker was definitely the star of the panel as the majority of the questions went to her (many with the questions centered around her Killer Frost alter-ego).

The highlight of the evening was supposed to be The Barrowman Show. As soon as we saw such a thing existed we were set ongoing. Apparently, everyone else at Dragon Con had the same idea and it filled up completely. I can only imagine the craziness that went on behind closed doors.

Sunday

On Sunday, we began with another DC Universe panel: Arrow.

One thing about the highly entertaining Arrow panel or as it came to be called: Game of Arrow. Thea (Willa Holland) was/is clearly obsessed with the show. She had theories, she had thoughts about the end of the season. It was hilarious how she’d get going on a rant before the moderator tried to steer things back to Arrow. And then one of the others would push her to keep talking about it.

She says she wants to guest on a podcast to talk about it. I think you could do far worse than her. Plus she clearly knows her stuff. At the very least she’d bring a passion about the show!

Then it was onto a fan run panel about LEGION. If you haven’t seen the show, you can check out my review here. Lots of theories and thoughts were thrown out. I even supplied my own thoughts about the show – how maybe the reason we’re not sure of when exactly takes place is that just like any memories you have – we’re always wrong about when they take place. I mean, how many times have you thought a movie was only 5 years old when it came out over a decade ago?

In what has become a staple at Dragon Con over the last few years, I end up closing out things in the Venture Bros panel. Regardless of whether the show has a season ongoing or about to come out or nowhere near debuting… things are going to be funny and weird. This year the panel was made up of many of the voices from the show (including Dr. Venture and Wide Whale). Sadly, Doc Hammer and Jackson Public weren’t able to be there – apparently hard at work on the next season!

So I suppose I forgive them.

They showed off a book of artwork, sketches, character designs, etc. coming out in late Fall from Dark Horse which looked very cool (and something I need to add to the old wishlist). The trailer is here.

We capped off the evening with dinner with a couple of friends where we occupied that poor server’s table for far too long, but it had been far too long since we’d seen John and Jeane, so we didn’t have much of a choice!

I also attended a writing workshop session (as well as another writing related panel – at this point I couldn’t tell you what days they were actually held!) run by Michael Stackpole: 21 Days to a Novel. I still need to transcribe my notes, but I’m interested in giving the technique a proper try on my next project.

As we made our drive back, a little of the con depression began to creep in, but considering my month of Gen Con and then this convention that might have been exhaustion more than anything else.

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list to learn about the upcoming The Gilded Age Kickstarter.

His prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

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

 

Steampunk Fridays – Interview with the Creator of Boston Metaphysical Society

Check out John McGuire’s The Gilded Age steampunk graphic novel on Kickstarter!

One of my favorite things about Steampunk stories is how the genre lends itself to the use of real world people and places… but with a twist. Monster hunters set on their path by some of the leading scientists of the era (Tesla, Edison, Bell, and Harry Houdini!). An X-Files in a Steampunk world!

I can see why it started its life as a tv show pitch.

***

How long have you been creating/working in comics?

About five years.

At what point did you sit down to become a writer? Do you remember the first thing you wrote?

I was a child, so it’s tough to say when or what exactly. I was always inventing stories in my head then probably by the second grade, I was writing my own.

Who inspires you? Or do you have a favorite artist or creator?

Other indie creators inspire me, but right now Marjorie Liu’s Monstress and Lady Killer by Joelle Jones are my favorites.

How do you manage your daily/family life with your creative work? Is this your 9 to 5 or is this your 10 to 2?

What a question. Hahahaha. Time management is always hard. I work part-time for LA Fitness as an instructor, plus have a husband, two dogs, and house that gets cleaned (by me) on occasion.  I usually write in the afternoons from 2-5 pm and do what I call administrative tasks (expense reports, signing up for cons, travel arrangements, inventory, etc.) for an hour after I get home from the gym. Obviously, laundry and dog walking get squeezed in there somewhere…. And my husband.

It’s often difficult to get word out about independent comics. What do you do to market and promote your books? Anything work really well or really poorly?

I do a blend of social media, exhibiting at cons, reaching out to blogs, reviewers, doing panels and interviews like this! I don’t think you should focus on just one aspect of marketing. However, I do like reaching out at Comic Cons or steampunk conventions because you can develop a relationship with a potential fan.

What’s your process look like when you’re writing? Do you go with the full outline? Or are you a fly by the seat of your pants type?

Most of my stories require some research, then I do character bios, a beat sheet, an outline, then a treatment where I break down the scenes and page count for comics. If I’m doing prose, I pretty much do the same except the treatment is broader in scope, but allows for me to go off in different directions if need be, or if I’m feeling inspired.

What inspired you to create Boston Metaphysical Society?

It was a combination of my love of history, science fiction, and The X-Files. However, the original story was a TV Pilot that I wrote at UCLA School of Theater, Film and TV when I was a graduate student in the MFA Program in Screenwriting. It was suggested I turn it into a six issue mini-series, which I did. And here we are.

Was this a case of coming up with the story first and then the setting or vice versa?

The story and setting came up simultaneously in this case.  I thought it would be cool to have paranormal detectives set in an alternate history of Boston and the United States and have to deal with a different set of social mores and expectations than we deal with today.

Or at least not quite so blatant.

What’s been the reaction to the book?

Excellent. I have what I refer to as a small group of ardent fans. And I love them all.

Are there themes and/or subjects you find yourself drawn to again and again in your work?

Absolutely. I almost always deal with the theme of classism. In the case of Boston Metaphysical Society, I also dealt with racism and sexism.

After running 4 successful Kickstarters for Boston Metaphysical Society, what have you learned about the process of Kickstarter? What do you think has contributed to hitting your goals on Boston Metaphysical Society? Did you worry about “going to the well” too soon after each one?

Soooo many questions….LOL. Once upon a time, back before 2013, you could pretty much throw something up on Kickstarter and get it funded. Not anymore. You have to create a fanbase before you launch and post what is essentially a grant proposal as your Kickstarter page. There is much more professionalism in how projects are presented now.

Many of the reasons we make our goals so quickly is that I have a core email list of people who I’m 99% sure they will back the project. Not only because they like it, but I have delivered on all past rewards in a timely fashion. I don’t like to do more than one campaign a year as it is very time intensive and takes away from my productivity. I do think there is a risk of “going to the well” too much, but I have friends who have no problem with it and have been successful.

Do you view the platform as a testing ground for the concepts?

I don’t view the platform as a testing ground for concepts when it comes to comics. Most comics use Kickstarter as a pre-order mechanism. However, I can see how tech items might use it that way.

You currently have 6 issues (a full trade) of Boston Metaphysical Society. What’s the overall plan with Boston Metaphysical Society?

All stories after the timeline of the original six issue series will be in 32-34 page one shots. I’ve just completed a draft of the first story which will feature Granville Woods and Tesla. These will be complete standalone stories focusing on two or three of the main characters. Anything that occurs before the beginning of the six issue series will be in prose. In fact, I’ve got a first draft of the first novel which begins five years before the start of the comic. Unfortunately, I haven’t had time to go back and rewrite it yet.

Comics is an amazing collaborative medium. Tell me a little about working with artist Emily Hu.

Emily has been a joy to work with. We set up a schedule where she would deliver three pages a week. I would review them, then give her notes while she continued on to the next three.  We worked together for almost four years and she completed the entire series. We hope to work together again in the future if her schedule permits it.

If you could go back in time ten years, what advice might you have for your younger self? Something you wish you knew?

Start reading comics sooner. Let me explain… My brother has probably the largest graded collection of Daredevil comics in the U.S., but I was never interested in superhero comics because I thought that was all that was available. It wasn’t until I decided to adapt the TV Pilot that I took a sequential art class and started reading indie comics. That was such a revelation. I loved them and wondered where they had been all my life.

Do you have any upcoming projects? Anything you’d like to promote? Anything else that you’d like people to know about you (Hobbies? Passions? Favorite TV Show)?

 

Yes! I’m very excited to announce a couple of things. The first is that I was hired to write a four issue mini-series for SFC Comics/Evoluzione Publishing called, Kasai: The Homecoming.  It will be my first time writing a superhero and I loved doing it. It’s set in a world where many superheroes are pro-wrestlers. My series will focus on a young female pro-wrestler from Japan who is half-human and half-fire demon. It will be on Kickstarter in early 2018.

The other project is a short story called, The Scout, which will be in the anthology, The Fourth Monkey. It is an anthology which deals with social and environmental issues and will launch on Kickstarter on Sept. 12, 2017.

I also wrote a short story for The Enyes Anthology called Saturday Night Fever. It contains various stories from indie creators about the Enyes family; a family where each of its members are either monsters or have some sort of relationship with monsters. It will be on Kickstarter in 2018.

And definitely look for us on Kickstarter for the Granville and Tesla standalone story in early 2018. Right now the working title is Boston Metaphysical Society: The Scourge of the Mechanical Men.

Where’s the best place to find out more about Boston Metaphysical Society and the rest of your works?

Website: www.bostonmetaphysicalsociety.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BostonMetaphysicalSocietyComic/

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/mholly

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mcholly1/

Storenvy: http://bostonmetaphysical.storenvy.com/

***

A TV, feature film, and comic book writer, Madeleine is the winner of the Sloan Fellowship  for screenwriting, and the Gold Aurora and Bronze Telly for a PSA produced by Women In Film. She also won numerous awards while completing the UCLA MFA Program in Screenwriting. Having run a number of successful crowdfunding campaigns for her comic, Boston Metaphysical Society, Madeleine now teaches a crowdfunding class for independent creators at Pulp Fiction Books in Culver City as well as guest lecturing at UCLA Professional Program in Theater, Film and TV, Scriptwriters Network, and Dreamworks Animation. She has also published the book, Kickstarter for the Independent Creator.

Boston Metaphysical Society webcomic is the recipient of an HONORABLE MENTION at the 2013 GEEKIE AWARDS and was nominated for BEST COMIC/GRAPHIC NOVEL at the 2014 GEEKIE AWARDS. The comic has also been nominated for a 2012 Airship Award as well as a 2013, 2014 and a 2015 Steampunk Chronicle Reader’s Choice Award. Her novella, Steampunk Rat, was also nominated for a 2013 Steampunk Chronicle Reader’s Choice Award.

She also has an anthology of short stories and novellas called Boston Metaphysical Society: Prelude  (in print as well as eBook) based on the Boston Metaphysical Society universe available at all major online retailers. The Boston Metaphysical Society short story, Here Abide Monsters, is part of the Some Time Later anthology from Thinking Ink Press. She is currently writing the first novel based on the series and was hired by SFC Comics/Evoluzione Publishing to write a four issue mini-series based on the SFC character, Kasai.

Formerly a nationally ranked epee fencer, she has competed nationally and internationally. She is an avid reader of comics, steampunk, science fiction, fantasy, and historical military fiction.

Madeleine lives with her rocket scientist husband, David and two rescue dogs: Ripley and Bishop.

***

I want to thank Madeleine Holly-Rosing for being so gracious with her time!

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list to learn about the upcoming The Gilded Age Kickstarter.

His prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

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

A day in the life of an artist, author, and dad

Part 1 of 2 – The ideal schedule

6:30 AM – Wake up, enjoy a light breakfast, read a few writers’ blogs, look up new art posted by my favorite artists

7:30 AM – Drive to the nearby forest trail, walk briskly for 90 minutes, return home feeling amazing

9:15 AM – Shower. Open all the windows in the house. Fire up a brooding soundtrack to get in the right mood for painting a masterpiece or writing the next great American novel

9:30 AM – Create for the next two hours. Spare not a single glance at fake news, real news, or anything resembling social media

11:30 AM – Drive to my favorite café. Sip a glass of wine while overlooking the vineyards of North GA.

1:00 PM – Return home. Glide through an hour of marketing, blogging, and prepping spirited press releases for my latest book

2:00 PM – Power through an invigorating workout on the back deck. It’ll hurt less because of the wine. The weather will be ideal…not the muggy, no breeze, mosquito-laden climate typical of Atlanta’s suburbs

3:00 PM – A second shower, a snack, and then two hours of writing, editing, and painting a masterful cover piece for my newest short story. The lights will be low, the incense powerful, and the atmosphere serene

5:00 PM – It’s date night. Dress in something light, but not too casual. Splash on a tiny drop of cologne.

5:15 PM – Hop in the car, launch a thrilling playlist of Hans Zimmer, Depeche Mode, and Slayer

5:45 PM – Arrive at one of my favorite spots downtown. It only took 30 minutes to get there. No traffic today!

6:00 PM – Sit down across from my beautiful, confident date. Sip red wine. Discuss anything but politics, religion, or the socio-economic ramifications of another major land war with North Korea

8:00 PM – Dessert at a nearby spot. A sip of scotch. A slice of cheesecake. Candles, music, the thrum of a busy restaurant…

8:30 PM – Arrive home, slip out into the evening with a fully-charged laptop and a glass of Balvenie scotch – minimum 17-year aged.

8:45 PM – While relaxing to the sounds of crickets, owls, and bats fluttering through the night, write for two hours. No mosquitoes tonight, only fireflies

10:00 PM – Relax in the basement with a movie, an enthralling video game, or a while spent strumming the guitar

11:00 PM – Finish a last sketch on which to base tomorrow’s new painting. Enjoy a gentle nightcap. Tumble into a bed with the ceiling fan on and the night’s breeze drifting through the wide-open windows

***

And now…

The real-life schedule

7:30 AM – Stagger out of bed, dress my son while he’s still half-asleep, shuttle him to Montessori school, return home in a daze.

10:00 AM – Stagger out of bed a second time, drink a quart of water to rehydrate after too much scotch last night. What happened between 8-10 this morning? No fucking idea

10:05 AM – No coffee for me. Can’t stand the stuff. Heat up some frozen Eggo waffles and whip up three mimosas. Consume it all within 10 minutes

10:20 AM – Look at Facebook

10:21 AM – Review yesterday’s book sales. Grumble about Amazon’s KU (Kindle Unlimited) pages read algorithms

10:22 AM – Review yesterday’s art sales. Realize I haven’t sold a goddamn thing…and that there’s a reason artists are poor

10:23 AM – Avoid my Twitter account like the fucking plague

10:25 – Write for 90 minutes. It’s shit and I’m still tired. I’m pretty much editing the stuff I wrote last night.

Noon – My laptop powers down unexpectedly. Rather than crush it into powder Office Space style, I throw on some shorts and head to the forest for a run

12:45 PM – The second part of my run hurts like a motherfucker. I drank too many mimosas. I power through it anyway, but I look like haggard hell to other runners on the trail

1:30 PM – Head to the café bar for lunch. Consider the smoked salmon and risotto, but ultimately decide on steak and scotch. Glance around the bar looking for interesting people/beautiful women to chat up, then realize I’m alone

1:45 PM – Check my phone compulsively while eating. Nope…still haven’t sold any art, though someone just reported my latest graphite sketch to Facebook for containing nudity

2:30 PM – Return home. Sit in a stupor for 15 minutes while deciding whether to paint, draw, write, or play nine consecutive hours of Witcher 3

2:45 PM – Paint for an hour. Spill watercolors on the floor. My blind cat wanders between my ankles, causing me to smudge the eyeball which I’ve slaved 30 minutes to perfect. Shout at the cat. She’s pretty much deaf. She wanders off with a self-satisfied meow

4:00 PM – Check Facebook for the 20th time today. Consider posting a grand plea for book reviews, realizing I’d be wealthy as fuck if just a fraction of my readers slapped down a few stars. Decide against the plea. Realize that everyone in the industry is already bitching about the subject without any success

4:01 PM – Sit down to edit. Get distracted by articles in which other authors talk about being distracted

4:30 PM- Realize I have to pick up my son in 30 minutes. Plow through a 15-minute workout, then drive to get junior

5:00 PM – Pick up my son. Ask him if he’d like to paint, draw, play baseball, or take a long walk. He decides on an hour-long discussion about Play-Doh, a commentary regarding Bowser from the Super Mario Bros. series, and a firm but polite request to drink two gallons of chocolate milk

5:30 – Give in. Pour him the chocolate milk. Respond to his inquiries about latest painting. “What is that?” he asks. “A demonic woman ready to wage eternal war on humanity,” I answer. “Cool,” he says. “Why are her boobs so big?”

6:00 PM – Squeeze a 15-minute workout, a shower for me, a bath for junior, 30 minutes of homework, two additional after-school snacks, a play-by-play of every scene from every Zelda game ever made, seven hugs, 3 minutes of backyard baseball, and 4 minutes of painting…all into one hour

7:00 PM – Dinner should take an hour, right? Wrong. It takes two. At least there’s wine.

9:00 PM – Put junior to bed. Ask him if he wants me to read something other than Ul De Rico’s Rainbow Goblins. He doesn’t. We read it again

10:00 PM – Stagger downstairs in the gloom. Turn on the music. Try to sit on the patio, but get eaten alive by mosquitoes. Girl calls. Sorry, no date tonight. Check book sales. Learn that British people read…Americans don’t. Check Facebook. Enjoy the deep discussions of my art…but despair in zero painting sales for the day

10:15 PM – Finish a bottle of cheap scotch. Write for three hours while tipsy. Avoid the internet only because I know I’ll say something stupid if I post during the late, late hour

1:15 AM – Consider wandering up to bed. Decide to write for another hour. Would consider writing while in bed, but junior snores like a motherfucker

2:15 AM – Fall asleep while playing video games

3:00 AM – Who needs sleep, anyway?

* * *

I want to tell you this is all hyperbole.

But it isn’t. Go here if you don’t believe me.

J Edward Neill

Steampunk Fridays – Interview with the Creator of The Legend of Everett Forge

Check out John McGuire’s The Gilded Age steampunk graphic novel on Kickstarter!

Cowboys and Robots.

I’m a sucker for the Western genre. Anytime they cross my tv, I end up stopping on that channel to watch. And Heaven help my poor wife if the word Tombstone is mentioned anywhere in there. She might as well give up on me being productive for the rest of the day (even though I own the DVD).

Everett Forge is in the mold of many of those same Westerns. He’s clearly a man on a mission to destroy Omega’s entire livelihood. He’s a myth, a ghost story the Robots tell each other at night – make sure you lube all your joints of Everett Forge will get you.

***

How long have you been creating/working in comics?

I’ve been working in comics since about 2014, that’s when I officially started work on The Legend of Everett Forge.

At what point did you sit down to become a writer? Do you remember the first thing you drew/wrote?

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. I was super into Goosebumps when I was a kid, so the very first stories I wrote were all lighthearted, scary ones.

Who inspires you? Or do you have a favorite artist or creator?

So many people. Family inspires me to continue pursuing my dreams. And the list of creators out there who inspire me is way too long. I’m just extremely fortunate to be surrounded by so many amazing, loving, and talented people.

How do you manage your daily/family life with your creative work? Is this your 9 to 5 or is this your 10 to 2?

Writing is my 10 to 2 for sure. It’s a tough thing trying to balance family life and my creative work. I don’t want to sacrifice any time with my wife and daughter, so I will write while they’re at the grocery store, visiting family, or when they’re asleep.

It’s often difficult to get word out about independent comics. What do you do to market and promote your books? Anything work really well or really poorly?

With essentially no budget, I stick to the cheap and easy social media methods like Facebook and Instagram. I’m fortunate enough to be friends with a lot of indie creators who help get the word out about my comic as well. Kickstarter, in my opinion, works the best. It’s an amazing platform to get your work out to thousands of people from across the globe. From just two Kickstarters, my readership has expanded over a couple hundred. That is pretty solid for a new indie title.

What’s your process look like when you’re writing? Do you go with the full outline? Or are you a fly by the seat of your pants type?

I always start with a general outline. I don’t get too detailed with it as I’ve come to find that often times the story will tell you how it wants to be told. For example, in the second issue, I wrote and re-wrote a couple pages over and over again because they just weren’t coming out the way I outlined them. Then I realized that the way I was writing them was way more organic than what the outline had. Sometimes, as a writer, you have to give a little of the control over to the story.

What inspired you to create The Legend of Everett Forge?

I always say I wish my inspiration was deeper and more meaningful…but, to be honest, I just wanted a story that had robot cowboys! A college professor once told me that if you can’t find the stories you want to read, write them yourself. So, that’s what I did!

Was this a case of coming up with the story first and then the setting or vice versa?

Well, it all initially began with me wanting to see robot cowboys. Then in high school, I wrote a short story about an unnamed gunslinger who has to fight his way out of an old west town full of robots. The story ended up lost somewhere in my hard drive until I came across it a few years later in college. I was minoring in Film Production, so I decided I wanted to expand on it and turn it into a screenplay. I worked on that for about a year or so, on and off. After I finished it, I shelved it again. It wasn’t until a couple years later, after I attended one of my first Comic Cons, that I decided I wanted to revisit the story again in comic book form. And here we are!

What’s been the reaction to the book?

So far, so good! Reactions from the Steampunk community regarding the comic have been extremely positive. Even those who aren’t big into either Steampunk or Westerns have enjoyed it. But, I think my favorite reactions are from the people who typically aren’t into comics. I have one reader who hadn’t read a comic in over 20 years, but after he saw my first Kickstarter, he decided to pledge and now he’s one of our biggest fans.

Oh, and just a few weeks ago someone shared one of our posts and said they want to cosplay as one of the characters from the story.

That’s amazing!

I don’t think you can get a bigger compliment than that!

Are there themes and/or subjects you find yourself drawn to again and again in your work?

I seem to always be drawn to stories about death, vengeance, or humanity. I love exploring all three. Fortunately, The Legend of Everett Forge focuses heavily on all of those in varying ways.

After running 2 successful Kickstarters for The Legend of Everett Forge, what have you learned about the process of Kickstarter? What do you think has contributed to hitting your goals on The Legend of Everett Forge? Did you worry about “going to the well” too soon after each one? Do you view the platform as a testing ground for the concepts?

Networking and expanding my fan base have proven instrumental in hitting our goals. My very first Kickstarter failed miserably. I only had a few pages of the comic done by that point, I had only started my facebook page maybe three or four months prior, and I knew very few people in the industry. After the Kickstarter flopped, I sat down, licked my wounds, and started to put myself out there more. Within a year I had become close friends with dozens of indie creators and more than doubled my fan base.

You currently have 2 issues of The Legend of Everett Forge. What’s the overall plan with The Legend of Everett Forge?

Yeah, the second issue should be out in about a month or so. The initial story arc for Forge will run seven issues. After that, I have two additional story arcs for him that will close out the entire saga. If I’m lucky, I’ll be able to tell the tale of Everett Forge for the next ten years!

Comics is an amazing collaborative medium. Tell me a little about ClickArt Studios.

They’re the best! Back in 2014 when I was looking for an art team, I posted an ad on DeviantArt. Rai responded almost immediately and showed me their work and stated that he and his wife Ochie were big Steampunk fans. I knew almost instantly that they were the ones I wanted to work with. Then the concept art started coming in, and suddenly these characters that had been in my head for years started to come to life in ways I could have never imagined!

They’re all such amazingly talented and kind people! I love working with them and I just love them in general. I hope to have a very long career with them!

If you could go back in time ten years, what advice might you have for your younger self? Something you wish you knew?

I’d tell my younger self not to wait to pursue his dream. I spent so many years thinking I wasn’t ready or doubting that anyone would even want to read my work. Had I spent all that time actually getting my stuff out there, I’d be light years ahead of where I am now.

Do you have any upcoming projects? Anything you’d like to promote? Anything else that you’d like people to know about you (Hobbies? Passions? Favorite TV Show)?

I’m currently working on a new comic series with Godsend creator, Lee Jiles. It’s called Red Scare. It’s still in its early stages, but so far it is looking great. I’m also working on a pitch for a superhero story. Other than that, I enjoy playing video games and reading comics. I love spending time with my family. My favorite TV Show is Westworld. Shocking, right?! 😛

Where’s the best place to find out more about The Legend of Everett Forge and the rest of your works?

Check us out on Facebook at facebook.com/EverettForge. Otherwise, follow me on Kickstarter and Instagram.

***

I want to thank Scott Wilke for being so gracious with his time!

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list to learn about the upcoming The Gilded Age Kickstarter.

His prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

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

Steampunk Fridays – Interview with the Creator of Hinges

Check out John McGuire’s The Gilded Age steampunk graphic novel on Kickstarter!

 

There are moments when you start reading a comic and you just know there is something about it which speaks to you. And maybe you don’t understand every little thing which has been set out in front of you… maybe those are the things you’ll figure out on a reread. But when you lock in, that’s all it takes.

When I sat down to check out some Steampunkish comics a couple of weeks ago and came across Hinges by Meredith McClaren, I thought I’d read a few pages and move on with my life.Bauble and Orio had other plans for me.

Bauble and Orio had other plans for me.

***

How long have you been creating/working in comics?

Oh gosh.  Maybe nine years now?  It’s all a blur.

At what point did you sit down to become an artist/writer? Do you remember the first thing you drew/wrote?

I don’t know what I started doing first.  But I do remember that my interest developed after a friend gifted me a SAILOR MOON comic.  Once I realized it was an option to make comics, I started seriously contemplating the idea.

Who inspires you? Or do you have a favorite artist or creator?

God.  The list is so long.  Anka always does wonderful work.  So does Bengal, Juan Díaz Canales and Juanjo Guarnido, naniiebim, Nico Delort, Tomer Hanuka…  Pretty much all of Twitter and Tumblr.  There’s just a wealth of beautiful work out there I could not possibly name them all.

How do you manage your daily/family life with your creative work? Is this your 9 to 5 or is this your 10 to 2?

I haven’t really hit a chord with work/life balance.  I don’t have a family or spouse to depend on me, so I can work whatever hours I feel like.  The only thing I really work around right now is sleep.  And it turns out that I need a lot of it.

It’s often difficult to get word out about independent comics. What do you do to market and promote your books? Anything work really well or really poorly?

Going to conventions and talking to people face to face helps.  But it’s far from the only option.

Putting out fan work will get people to pay attention to you. And if you attach links to your creator owned work to those posts, people will share and promote you simply by reblogging the work they originally liked.  I find that works well.

And make yourself a broken record when you really have a campaign going, like Kickstarter.  You really do need to get loud while you’re running those.

What’s your process look like when you’re writing? Do you go with the full outline? Or are you a fly by the seat of your pants type?

When I can get away with it, I usually just work with a bare bones script.  I know what will happen on each page and what points need to be verbalized.  But I won’t have finished dialogue until I’m actually lettering it.

But when working with editors the script definitely needs to be locked down first, and I’m still learning how to meet that need well.

What’s your process look like? Digital or by hand? Do you have a preference?

I’m all digital now that I have a Cintiq.  I was tired of having all the paper around.

While I only had a tablet to work off of I preferred to draw and ink on paper and then color digitally.

But I’m definitely addicted to my Cintiq now.

So, I was late to the Hinges party, but I consumed it in like a day (and I might have gotten a little misty a couple of times 🙂 ). I feel like the relationship between Bauble and Orio reminds me of all my pets. You love them, you get frustrated by them, and you love them again. With the two of them, it just feels like everything is earned as time goes on.

Not sure there was a question in there. 🙂

It’s very nice to say though, regardless.  😉  Thank you.

What inspired you to create Hinges? And why did you go the webcomic route?

I wanted to do a story about dolls for a while because I just liked the aesthetic.  But Orio’s story really started to formulate as I was preparing to come home from college.  There was a lot surrounding the ideas of home, returning, and comfort that came together to form the story.

And then some of my other projects were held up in their developmental stages, so I had time to start really playing with HINGES.

As for the webcomic route.  I wanted to challenge myself and see if I could commit to having a certain amount of work done weekly, and posted consistently, for a long period of time.  Having it on a public forum would help keep me locked into that commitment.

Was this a case of coming up with the story first and then the setting or vice versa?

Probably the other way around.  I had very basic ideas about what kind of stories would be served by the visuals HINGES provided, but the full story didn’t formulate alongside the world until later.

I saw that you put the trades out through Image, how did that come to be?

I ran a successful Kickstarter to print book one.  Faith Erin Hicks made mention of it to IMAGE and the book got into their hands and we worked out the rest.

It means a lot to publishers when you’ve shown that you can complete and print a book, as well as acquire enough support to fund it.

What’s been the reaction to the comic?

Good.  I have my loyal followers.  And I’m happy the story struck a cord for some.

Are there themes and/or subjects you find yourself drawn to again and again in your work?

Working up to confrontation I think.  It takes a long time to go from, ‘this is not good’ to ‘this must be addressed head on and forcefully.’  It’s something I struggle with a lot.

I also seem to be drawn to characters that have something artificial about their ‘humanness.’  Dolls, robots, bodysnatchers.  They all make the question of what makes people, people much more obvious.

It’s something that’s come up several times.

Did you always have a complete story in mind when you started Hinges or was that something you discovered through creating the story?

Yes.  I do not start stories if I don’t know the ending.  I’m flexible about how we get to an ending, and over time I can recognize that the meaning of that ending might have evolved.  But I won’t start anything that doesn’t have a goalpost.

I just don’t want to scramble at the end.  And I also like to know that projects I start HAVE an end.  I don’t like working on things that have an indefinite lifespan.

If you could go back in time ten years, what advice might you have for your younger self? Something you wish you knew?

You’re on the right track.  And you can do all of this by your terms.

Do you have any upcoming projects? Anything you’d like to promote? Anything else that you’d like people to know about you (Hobbies? Passions? Favorite TV Show)?

I’m working on an adult book with LIMERENCE that features the relationships and sexy times of superheroes called SUPER FUN SEXY TIMES.

That won’t be out until 2019 though.  There are a few works that will be coming out much sooner, but unfortunately, none of them have been announced yet.

I will have a sketchbook of mermen called BUBBLY available on my storenvy around October though.

Otherwise, the only things to know about me is:  I make famously coveted caramels. I take politics very seriously.  I watch a metric ton of documentaries.  And I love audio drama horror like NO SLEEP or LORE. (But not horror movies. I really do not like horror movies.  It only works if there are no visuals.)

Where’s the best place to find out more about Hinges and the rest of your works?

HINGES

http://hingescomic.blogspot.com/

ALL WORK

http://meredithmcclaren.tumblr.com/

https://www.patreon.com/meredithmcclaren

https://twitter.com/IniquitousFish

STORENVY

https://meredithmcclaren.storenvy.com/

***

A Meredith McClaren is very dangerous when encountered in the wild.  Place any pizza and Diet Cokes on the ground slowly and then vacate the area.  If appeased, the wild McClaren will produce work, as seen in HOPELESS SAVAGES v4 by Jen Van Meter, HEART IN A BOX by Kelly Thompson, and JEM and the HOLOGRAMS v4 by Kelly Thompson.

If the McClaren finds your offerings wanting, you will know you are doomed when upon hearing the crow caw three times at noon.

***

I want to thank Meredith McClaren for being so gracious with her time!

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list to learn about the upcoming The Gilded Age Kickstarter.

His prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

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

Five More Writing Hacks

We’re all looking for the shortcuts in life. Can we maybe only do 30 minutes on the treadmill vs. 40 minutes on the bike? Can we microwave the dinner rather than bake the lasagna? Maybe I can fast forward through the commercials instead of watching them during the NFL game I’m currently trying to enjoy.

Writing is no different. There might be as many opinions on how to write as there are writers living and dead combined. We all have a way of making the words appear, and we definitely aren’t shy about letting others know about our breakthroughs.

I try to do right. I try to use many of the Writing Hacks I’ve encountered because I’m ultimately hoping they will be the difference between a good manuscript and an excellent one. I fully believe that we have to keep learning in order to get better.

So what follows are a few things I’ve either tried or am actually currently doing.

1 – Using a Timer

Want to add some speed to your writing? There are about 1 billion potential distractions waiting for you if you aren’t careful. Someone sends you an email, maybe you need to check Facebook for something, oh, don’t forget to Tweet something today, and so on and so on.

The timer forces you to forget all of that other stuff for 10 minutes. For 20 minutes. For 30 minutes. You’ll be amazed by the output increase in that stretch. And then, as a reward, maybe you spend 5 minutes doing one of those other things before you set the timer again.

2 – Don’t edit while you write.

Instead, treat that first draft like what it is: the first draft. There is power in reaching a “The End” even if you aren’t done with your edits. When you edit in the middle of creating, all it does is put the finish line that much further away.

3 – Wait to edit.

In On Writing, Stephen King talks about how when he finishes his first pass on a book, he sticks it in a drawer and doesn’t look at it again for 6 weeks. It turns out that by waiting a little while before beginning the editing process, he doesn’t feel as beholden to those words on the page. Instead, he is able to take the knife, the hatchet, and the chain saw to his manuscript if it requires it.

4 – Don’t have your characters’ names start with the same letter.

Think about it. Especially in the first part of your book, story, whatever, we’re still trying to get a handle on who everyone is. Now you go and call one guy Steven and the other one Sean. Yeah, they’re completely different people, but by having that same letter at the start, the reader is going to assume one guy or the other. I’ve done it when reading books, and I know I’m not the only one.

Look, there are 26 letters to choose from. If you have more than 15 major characters, call them whatever you want, because that sounds like the least of your problems…

5 – End your current session in the middle of a thought.

Sometimes the worst thing is to open up the document and be faced with a blank screen day after day. And that’s effectively what happens when you finish the chapter the previous day. So if the hardest thing is to start, wouldn’t it be reasonable to think ending in the middle of a chapter… hell, in the middle of a paragraph or sentence might be the best potential option?

I’ve had mixed results with this one, but when it works it works amazingly. You’ll end up with another thousand words extremely quickly. When it doesn’t work I spent too much time trying to remember what the heck I was thinking during the previous page and things bog right down.

***

What writing hacks work best for you?

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list to learn about the upcoming The Gilded Age Kickstarter.

His prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

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

Two Big Reasons I Don’t Ever Discuss Politics

 

At the time of writing this, the United States is in the sixth month of a new presidency.

Donald Trump, the nation’s forty-fifth president, appears to have everyone in the world riled up. His approval ratings are in the tank, his fact-checking is dubious, and his hair is…well…weird.

But he’s still the president.

Everyone I know has an opinion on Trump. Even people who don’t ordinarily care about politics have put away their umbrellas and stepped into the storm.

The insults are endless.

If such things as sides exist – they really don’t – but if they do, both have reached new lows in terms of communicative ability. People identifying themselves as conservative seem willing to prop their guy up no matter his gaffes. Others who call themselves liberal throw a tantrum at each and every presidential slight, real or perceived.

For lack of a better term, it’s a shit-show.

It’s the kind of thing to make me drink.

And so I shall.

To smother any chance of partisan thought brewing in my mind, I’ve chosen a strong pinot noir tonight. Thor’s Well, they call it. It smells of cherries, blackberries, and deep, dark earth. While sipping on such a thing, I’m not sure anyone could possibly dwell in hostile political thought for longer than a few seconds.

Actually…

I’m wrong.

They can.

I’m on an island. Water on all sides. Deep, dark water filled with congressional sharks and democratically-elected men o’ war. The only living creatures in my bubble uninterested in partisan warfare are my cats, the birds, and maybe the mosquitoes.

Even my son, the G Man, has an opinion of Trump.

He gets it from his mother.

Ever wanted to know how to predict an argument? How to tell when someone’s about to launch a political tirade?

It’s easy. Really easy.

It always starts the same way. It goes a little something like this:

“I never rant about politics, but—”

Six little words. Only the one word matters. ‘But’ – the all-powerful term negating everything uttered before it.

“I used to be married, but—”

“I tried hummus one time, but—”

“I never post political rants online, but—”

Notice how none of these sentences need to be finished.

We know what’s coming next.

The year is…I don’t know.

I’m married. I don’t have a kid yet. I’m somewhere between twenty-nine and thirty-four years old.

It’s a beautiful evening in far northern Georgia. The city’s name is Dahlonega, gold rush capital of the southeast, if such a thing exists. The house I’m at is a handsome log cabin. Deep woods and shallow creeks surround it on all sides. A huge garden sits beside it, emptied out ahead of the coming winter.

I can’t imagine a more pleasant way to spend Thanksgiving Eve.

Well…

While my in-laws, wife, and family friends relax inside in advance of the feast, I’m out walking the dog. She’s a large, powerful German shepherd named Maggie. Everyone who knows me knows I’m not particularly fond of dogs; I’ve been bitten more than I can remember.

But — and there’s that word again – Maggie is somehow fond of me. We sprint up and down the hill behind the house. I hurl tennis balls into the woods, and she retrieves them. It’s great exercise and a ton of fun. I’m pretty sure she won’t murder me.

At least I think I’m sure.

More than anything, playing with Maggie keeps me from being cooped up inside too long.

From getting bored.

From falling down the rabbit hole of conversation that always seems to happen this time of year.

Alas, it’s dinnertime.

I can’t complain. Not even a little. My mother-in-law Julie is an excellent cook. This year she’s whipped up a ham, scalloped potatoes, homemade dressing, and biscuits. She’s also serving champagne and wine, which pretty much perfect the meal.

I help set the table.

I pour a deep glass of wine.

And I dig in.

We’re a lively bunch, if few in number. There’s John, as outrageous a storyteller as any in the world. We’ve got Marc, a bitter divorcee with a sharp wit and excellent sense of humor. Beside me sits Larry, my father-in-law and a professional photographer. And there’s Julie, the night’s host and an elegant conversationalist.

And of course, my wife.

The board is set. The pieces are moving.

We begin with a toast. It’s my responsibility this year, same as every year. The smells of fresh, piping hot ham are almost too much for me to bear, yet somehow I weave my way through several compliments aimed squarely at Julie. Always be kind to the cook, I figure. Always tip your server.

We begin feasting. At first, everyone is too busy lifting forks and draining wine to talk much. I’m pretty sure I overhear Marc protest the unfairness of his divorce settlement. And John definitely tells a few stories, none of which are true, but all of which are entertaining.

It’s not while I’m filling my plate a second time the conversation takes its predictable downward turn.

It’s when I head back for thirds.

It’s like they’ve timed it for when I’m happiest.

Before dinner began, I implored the group to stray far from certain topics:

The war in Afghanistan

Immigration

Who voted for whom

But…

I return to the table. I hear the word ‘president’ escape someone’s lips. I halt before sitting. Are we doing this again? I wonder.

Yes. We are.

I listen. I keep eating. I say nothing.

“…worst president ever,” I hear.

“…so stupid. Terrible policies.”

“…I know a guy who voted for him. We’re not friends anymore.”

“…can you believe what he said the other day?”

“Jeremy? Got anything to add?”

No, I want to shout. I came here to eat and relax in the company of friends and family.

But no one really cares what I want.

And so I’m silent.

They keep going. At some point, Julie serves pie and champagne. I do my best to help, heaping whipped cream atop plates, airlifting dirty dishes to the sink. Despite her participation in the dining room warfare, I can tell Julie is uncomfortable with it all. The conversation has adopted a vicious tone. What began as a few barbs directed toward the commander-in-chief is now a full-scale indictment of every aspect of our government.

She’s a resilient gal, our Julie.

But like all the rest, she’s sucked in.

I trudge back to the table, pie in hand. The hour is late. I peer around the house, searching for Maggie, but she’s asleep on her bed. There won’t be an evening walk for her.

The champagne is sweet and strong.

The pie is magnificent.

The conversation is disgusting.

They’re arguing now. Someone dared to agree offhandedly with one of the prez’s policies. Someone else challenged the mild agreement with an expletive. I’m not even sure who said what any longer. I’m pretending my pie is a wall between me and the rest of the dining room.

No, not that kind of wall.

“…illegal immigrants,” someone blurts. I’m not sure of the context, not that it matters.

“…dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.”

“…fucking rednecks.”

“…you sound like a communist.”

There’s a break in the action. Big John is pissed at my wife, and vice versa. Julie is flustered. Marc has retreated to the fireplace. Larry and I just look at each other as if to say, “We knew this was going to happen.”

I’ve done this dance before.

With precision timing, I guide my wife toward the door. Julie intercepts us with bowls of leftovers, which we shuttle quickly out to the car.

It’s gonna be a brutal drive home.

And one thing’s for certain:

We’re doing it again next year.

Not many people appreciate my view of our country’s government. Of the voting process. Of this thing we call democracy.

That’s ok. The small amount of scorn I’ve endured isn’t nearly equal to the frustration I see expressed by other people my age. Everyone’s angry. Even the people who say they’re not angry betray themselves when posting comments online.

As if typing words into Facebook matters.

If they only knew the power of Thor’s Well. I sip my wine. Maybe they wouldn’t be so upset.

Nah.

They’d probably still rage.

It’s late now. The fireflies wink at me just beyond the glass door. A brooding Hans Zimmer soundtrack thrums in the background.

I close my eyes and consider many things.

In our government, the focus lies primarily on winning and losing. The winner, presumably taking power by virtue of earning more votes, has the power to enact policies with only his supporters in mind. He can effectively ignore the will of everyone who didn’t support him.

Or…

If he desires, he can enact policies with no one’s interests in mind save his own.

What this means is: if a politician so chooses, he can ignore the needs of tens of millions of people. Whether he won the election by a hundred-thousand votes.

Or by two.

And what this means is: a large portion of United States citizens will spend a significant portion of their lives with little to no government representation. These people can protest, challenge in court, and vote until they’re blue in the face. But ultimately, barring a revolution, if their candidate loses, the winning party can ignore them almost completely.

With impunity.

Winner-take-all – it’s not a system designed to be fair.

And it doesn’t matter.

Our government isn’t here to save us. Or feed us. Or protect us.

The person – whoever it is – we just elected to office doesn’t care about every individual. It’s impossible. We only know the contents of our own bubble.

And while politicians’ bubbles might be bigger than most, they’re still limited.

Which means we are, all of us, alone.

That’s what the wine says, anyway.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll be slightly more optimistic.

 I wish I had another deeply personal story for this segment.

As it turns out, avoiding partisanship with such escapist vigor leaves me at a loss to describe much of my political experience.

And so I’ll lean back, sip my wine, and illustrate the modern political scene using my trusty friend, the internet.

The date is June 13th, 2017. I’ve pulled each of the following conversations verbatim from the web. The comments were published today, meaning this is but a small sample of the world we live in.

…and the world we’ve bargained for.

*

Our first example is a conversation regarding the Golden State Warriors – the championship-winning NBA basketball team – and their indecision regarding whether or not to attend a meet-and-greet at the White House.

The flames start early.

And burn hot.

*

Angela says:

“Pass on it. Next year when you win another prez will be in office. Hopefully one that has equal respect for all and does right by the country at all levels.”

Frank replies:

“Shut your stupid fkn mouth.”

Jacqueline replies:

FYI presidents are in office for 4 years so get over it, others put up with your choice for 8 long years.”

Michael replies:

“Yea, like Frank said, what do you think? You’re in America and you have freedoms? All bow to Emperor Frank!”

Richard (a white guy) replies:

“Your license plate should read “In African American Racism We Trust”!

Mary replies:

“Apparently you are not familiar with our legal policies. You actually have to break the law to be impeached. Being rich is not illegal.”

Kym says:

“Getting sick of all these celebrities that are only famous because of something they do and we pay money for. YOU don’t have to like someone, but it’s the White House…it’s an honor…people get denied to tour it all the time. I was there last summer and it was an amazing experience. Stop allowing politics to ruin everyone’s ability to experience things that they would never get to do.”

Dave replies:

“I’m sick of women who don’t know anything about sports commenting on them. Back to the kitchen you go. And who told you to voice your opinion on the internet?”

Peter says:

“The problem is that this is really a non-story. The press will not let it go, and will blow it up just to get people hating each other.”

Jerry replies:

“Well Kym, ask the white house if you can take the Warriors’ place.”

Mike says:

“It’s only an honor if the president and his administration weren’t a gaggle of f**ktards.”

Cody says:

“Getting sick of these celebrities, especially the one who got elected president.”

Gina replies:

“You’re all morons.”

*

Didn’t take long, did it? Dave’s women-in-the-kitchen comment is obvious sarcasm, but everyone else is dead serious.

That said, I tend to agree with Gina.

 *

This next battle broke out immediately after President Trump blocked famed author Stephen King from Twitter, after which Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling rushed to Stephen’s defense.

That’s right. A president has embroiled himself in a Twitter war.

You couldn’t make up better headlines if you tried.

*

Robert begins:

“I put Trump on block 3 years ago, that guy was a dumbass then and is an even bigger dumbass now lol. Fuck his twitter.”

Rodrigo fires back:

“Dumbass that is the POTUS and a billionaire. Whats ur claim to fame? A motorcycle lol.”

Alec replies:

Rodrigo is an idiot. After Trump embezzled millions and yet people are like ‘no he didn’t’ when I can pull up multiple occasions of times he’s been fined 25k for his dad buying millions of dollars in poker chips and not using the chips (which is illegal) to help trump with his failed businesses.”

Alec says:

A man that created ‘Trump University’ gave people fake diplomas and then got shut down after not too long and you still think he’s a genius. Maybe at fucking people like you and I over. Lmao.”

Norma chimes in:

J.K. should shut her damn British mouth and stay out of it.”

Kyle replies:

More and more people are complete jerks online. What ever happened to all that crap about bullying?

Ruth asks:

“When is JK taking refugees into her mansion again?”

Bruce replies:

“Trump is jealous of anyone more successful than him. So sad.”

Michele questions:

Why do they want Trump’s attention so badly?”

Holly replies:

“So immature. Hollywood idiots, let the man do his job.”

Bruce says:

He doesn’t want to do the job. He should do his job and forget about Twitter period. So sad you can’t see the humor in this.”

Harry says:

She’ll get blocked, too. Mark my words.”

Melinda asks ironically:

“Does anyone really care?????”

Mary says:

“Guess anyone can block whomever they want, right?”

And then Mary adds:

Both are whiners.”

WD Hawley brings the pain:

Really who gives a shit, damn libtards.”

Susana fires back:

What a coward.”

And a different Mary finishes it off by asking:

“Are we still in high school?”

*

This thread continued for another three-hundred eighty-seven comments. And it was just one of many conversations in which people sounded off on the Trump vs. King vs. Rowling issue.

Which, by my make-believe math, means approximately five-hundred million people took time out of their days to type meaningless words into a meaningless thread in which zero minds were changed.

Go figure.

I actually played a little game while reading these comments. I counted how many sips of wine I polished off before stumbling across the term, ‘libtard.’

I finished one sip.

Just one.

In the wee hours of the morning, I’m still awake.

Maybe it’s the wine. Or perhaps my rare excursion into the online partisan battlefield lit a hotter fire beneath me than hoped.

The reality is – despite people’s appearance on the internet – we’re all individuals. We have our own needs, our own opinions, and all we really want is to thrive within our separate bubbles.

I know it’s hard to believe. My wine is gone, but I’m not sad for it.

I’m sad for people.

I’m embarrassed.

And so I’ll sleep and say no more about politics.

*

Want to keep talking? Go here.

Prefer to argue about politics? Maybe this will light your fire.

*

J Edward Neill

Why You Should Review Everything

 StarNursery

 

Where are stars born?

Far beyond Earth?

Deep in the heart of the Milky Way?

Amongst the countless nebulae swirling through the void?

Nope. Not today they’re not.

This one’s for the readers. For all the Kindle lovers, trade paperback eaters, and hardcover crushers. It’s a request…well…more of a plea. Like the song says – “I ain’t too proud to beg.” Except the ‘I‘ is really ‘we‘, and the ‘we‘ is every self-respecting author and artist on the planet.

We need you.

It’s a different perspective on this side of the industry. Used to be, after reading a good book or listening to a great album, I’d say, “I don’t need to post a review for this. It’s good enough. It’ll get plenty of love from someone else.” But no more. I’ve seen the light. Reviews, particularly easily-accessible online reviews, are artists’ lifeblood. And not just the ridiculous, fan-boy five-star reviews. All of them. Better to have fifty 4-star reviews than ten at 5 stars. Better to have a hundred with 3 than twenty with 4.

how-to-get-amazon-reviews<—  See these little guys? These are an author’s ticket to success. Without ’em, the modern artist tends to starve. While a few bad reviews won’t break a book or dry up interest in an album, NO reviews at all is a death knell. When a potential customer arrives at a site and sees ‘Be the first to review this item?‘ the result is usually crickets. Cemeteries. Graveyards where creative dreams go to die.

Maybe the customer will take a leap of faith, but not likely. I know I wouldn’t, not unless the artist was a friend.

I think you get the point. This is my plea to you: If you buy a book, an album, or a piece of art, review it. I plan to make it a habit, an honest-to-goodness lifestyle change. The important thing to remember is that the review should be honest. Don’t auto five-star everything. Be genuine. Be legit. Be thorough.

Need help learning how to review stuff on Amazon? No problem.

Check out this little guide.

And this one, too.

*

If you love it? Review it.

Hate it? Review it.

Overcome with crushing indifference? R-e-v-i-e-w it.

And while you’re at it, read and review these. I’ll love you for at least three minutes.

J Edward Neill

9 soundtracks to boost your creative mood

dark treesEver sat down to write, draw, or paint and struggled to restart the movie in your mind?

Ever curled up to read a good book, only to find it hard to withdraw from the rest of your day?

Shutting the real world out and rediscovering the dark corner of your imagination can be challenging.

And yet…

Weapons are available beyond a quiet room, an empty house, or a glass of red wine. I believe music, and more specifically soundtracks, can help artists soar back into the atmospheres of their minds.

Before ever setting pen to paper (or more typically fingers to keyboard) I like to close my eyes, focus on the scene I’m about to write or the tone of the book I’m about to read, and select a song or album from my collection to match the mood. While it’s true I prefer the atmospheres of rain, shadows, clouds, and dark caverns filled with cacaphonies of ringing swords, every book and every chapter therein has its own music.

You need but find your own.

Here are nine of my favorite selections. Whenever I need the rain to fall, the swords to sing, or the bones to rattle in my mind, I call to music. Try these out, and leave the rest of the world behind… (Click the track titles to listen to each song.)

*

matte-painting-atmosphere

The Shadows Betray You – Hans Zimmer – Dark Knight Rises – For building up to an intense scene. The Shadows Betray You thumps and thuds its way to a terrifying crescendo. Use it to build the foundation of something powerful on the page.

*

C.L.U. – Daft Punk – Tron Legacy – For the big reveal. The thrumming beat here is its own journey. Imagine walking down a long road, a dark city on all sides, and arriving at a tower too vast to see the top of. That’s C.L.U.

*

The Prestige (Entire Album) – David Julyan – I can’t say enough about this album. Just put it on repeat and leave it on in the background while you write or read 100,000 words. It’s powerful. It’s atmospheric. You’ll sit up in your bed and feel the rain falling on your shoulders.

*

General Zod – Hans Zimmer – Man of Steel – Dreaming up a fierce battle? Reading that chapter? (you’ll know the one) Zod is the battle and the aftermath, the war and the battlefield, the soldiers and the cities burning behind them. Try it.

*

The Princess Pleads for Wallace’s Life – Braveheart – James Horner & The London Symphony Orchestra – Need sweet? Need soulful? Need your heart to thump a little bit slower behind your ribs? The only thing better would be to have Sophie Marceau show up at your house and weep on your shirt sleeve.

*

Like a Dog Chasing Cars – Hans Zimmer & James Howard – The Dark Knight – This one is for the fleet of alien spacecraft descending on the world, the evil army beating their drums as they march against a hopelessly overmatched castle full of good guys, and for the car racing down the highway at night with the shadows crawling up behind it. The Hans Zimmer theme continues…

*

This is Madness! – Man of Steel – Hans Zimmer & Junkie XL – So you say you’ve got two warriors standing off, eh? They’re the last men standing, and the fate of the world hangs on the outcome of their duel. You need drums, lots of drums. You need ten thuds for every crash of their blades. You need This is Madness!

*

Am I not Merciful? – Gladiator – Hans Zimmer – By far my favorite on the list. If you’ve seen the movie, you know how it ends. This is tragedy refined into one of the finest tracks ever written. It’s for death. It’s for shattered hearts. It”s beautiful.

*

Time – Inception – Hans Zimmer – Time is the triumphant, bittersweet, epic end of everything. Time is the last survivor standing atop the world’s last tower, the wind streaming through her hair as she looks down upon the world she has saved. If you stumble across any track on here, let this be the one.

**

Enjoy these. They’re all great on their own or coupled with the albums they appear on. And yes, I do love Hans Zimmer. When Down the Dark Path becomes a movie, he’s the only soul on the earth who’ll touch the soundtrack.

Here’s something I wrote while listening to these over and over again…

Until next time,

J Edward Neill

 

 

Steampunk Fridays – Interview with the Creators of Arcane Sally & Mr Steam

Check out John McGuire’s The Gilded Age steampunk graphic novel on Kickstarter!

 

Independent comic creators’ biggest problem may be getting the word out about their work. If you aren’t attached to one of the larger companies, there is much more opportunity to have your comics slip through the cracks.

Having recently completed their latest Kickstarter, the team over at the Arcane Sally & Mr. Steam comic are clearly doing something with their Steampunk… Ghost Story… Victorian supernatural action-adventure… Love Story?

But don’t listen to me, check out the Book Trailer they did and then come back for the interview!

***

The Players:

David Alton Hedges – Writer

Jefferson Costa – Art

Shane Amaya – Producer

***

How long have you been creating/working in comics?

David – This is my first comic!

Jefferson – I’ve been working with comics since I was about 21 years old.

At what point did you sit down to become an artist/writer? Do you remember the first thing you drew/wrote?

David – I was an artist first, but in college, I started to realize that the people around me were better artists.  After I turned in one particularly creative art term-paper, my professor pulled me aside and said, “Why are you an art major? You’re a writer.”  That’s when I realized my special purpose was to use words to paint pictures in people’s imaginations.

Jefferson – As far as I can recall, I started drawing around 4 or 5 years old, but I don’t remember what my first drawing was. Drawing was a hobby at first. In my country, for someone of my humble origins, I didn’t see any prospect or path toward a career in illustration, art, or entertainment. But nonetheless, I took a step when I was about 20.

Just before turning to comics, I was studying aircraft maintenance!

Who inspires you? Or do you have a favorite artist or creator?

David – I am in awe of Neal Stephenson, jealous of China Mieville, and still trying to figure out Gene Wolfe.  Jeff VanderMeer is one of my heroes.  But if I had to pick one writer whose career I wish was my own, it would be Dan Simmons.  People scratched their heads over DROOD but I loved it.  It’s one of maybe five books in my lifetime that I read twice.

It’s probably obvious that Alan Moore and Mike Mignola were strong influences for Arcane Sally.

Jefferson – Various artists and creators inspire me in different ways and different media. A few could be Flavio Colin (a famed Brazilian creator), Mignola, Tarkovsky.

How do you manage your daily/family life with your creative work? Is this your 9 to 5 or is this your 10 to 2?

David – I HAVE to get out of the house to get any real work done.  I share an office with another writer – we interrupt each other sometimes but it’s good to have someone on hand to lob an idea at and get an immediate reaction.  We have white boards with indecipherable cave paintings on them that mean something only to us.

Jefferson – I manage it very badly I think, hahaha. I always work more hours than recommended for health, around 15-16 hours a day, or more, and this is crazy. In the past six months, I’ve been trying to manage it better. Nowadays I work 10 hours a day and preserve the weekends for family.

It’s often difficult to get word out about independent comics. What do you do to market and promote your books? Anything work really well or really poorly?

Jefferson – I am personally very bad and selling and promoting myself. I really need help with this.

David – This one’s for Shane!

Shane – Not much! We have the requisite Facebook and Twitter accounts, but we found that neither moves the needle much in terms of getting eyeballs on the comic—or backers to our Kickstarter campaigns.

We have the comics at our local comics store (Avalon in Santa Barbara, CA!). And we post them online on Tapastic and LINE WebToon. Tapastic and Webtoon are great mobile platforms and we have some enthusiastic fans there. But the sites are geared for mostly teen anime type comics, so our readership is relatively low in comparison to the most popular comics (with millions of readers), but all the more appreciated for it!

Now that we have three issues and a collected TPB out, we’re very excited to start hitting the cons in CA (for now). We hope to be at WonderCon and SDCC next year.

Our very first con will be on August 20th at the LA Comic Book and Science Fiction Convention, and then we’ll be at Stan Lee’s LA Comic Con in at the end of October (27-29)!

We’re hoping these cons and others will make all the difference!

What’s your process look like when you’re writing? Do you go with the full outline? Or are you a fly by the seat of your pants type?

David – I’m a screenwriter so I outline.  I don’t really know what would happen if I didn’t – probably a big mess of ideas and cool scenes that don’t really build up to anything until – suddenly – the end!

What’s your process look like? Digital or by hand? Do you have a preference?

David – I mix it up: breaking story by hand (with Blackwing pencils!) and then burning rubber on the keyboard.

Jefferson – Today I’m more adapted to digital, and I prefer it. But it depends on what each work requires.

I was able to get in on your last Kickstarter, so I’m looking forward to being able to read the story so far. What inspired you to create Arcane Sally & Mr. Steam?

David – I’ve always been obsessed with anything Victorian.  I wrote a Jack the Ripper script years ago that I never sold, but I included supernatural overtones and a chase across the London rooftops that I loved.  Arcane Sally was a way to take some of those ideas and just let them morph into something even crazier.

Was this a case of coming up with the story first and then the setting or vice versa?

David – Setting came first – Victorian London!  Then the characters appeared and began to demand to be heard.

What’s been the reaction to the book?

David – The first reaction I got was from a friend who read an early draft and said, “Did you really just write a love story?”I said, “No, it’s a Victorian supernatural action-adventure.”  He said, “Bullshit – this is a love story.”

I said, “No, it’s a Victorian supernatural action-adventure.”He said, “Bullshit – this is a love story.”

He said, “Bullshit – this is a love story.”

Are there themes and/or subjects you find yourself drawn to again and again in your work?

David – Someone much smarter than me who has read a lot of my writing told me:“All of your scripts are formal complaints about Death.”  She was right – everything always comes back to me shaking my fist at the inevitability of dying.

“All of your scripts are formal complaints about Death.”She was right – everything always comes back to me shaking my fist at the inevitability of dying.

She was right – everything always comes back to me shaking my fist at the inevitability of dying.

After running 3 successful Kickstarters for Arcane Sally & Mr. Steam, what have you learned about the process of Kickstarter? What do you think has contributed to hitting your goals on Arcane Sally & Mr. Steam?

David – This one’s for Shane!

Shane – Three successful campaigns–and two failed ones from which we learned plenty. Kickstarter has been the best platform so far in terms of finding our readership. There’s a lot of comics on Kickstarter. And comics readers go to Kickstarter to look for new comics to read. It’s win-win. We have terrifically loyal backers backing us for every issue and encouraging us to continue. And that you can’t put a price on.

Did you worry about “going to the well” too soon after each one?

Shane – We don’t worry about going to the well too often, because our fans are on board, as some have said, for the long haul. It’s a great relief to be able to count on getting enough to produce the rest of the books. But it’s also a challenge to keep producing new rewards and incentives to keep each campaign fresh—but that’s also the fun of it. We don’t take anything for granted, least of all our readership!

We initially attempted to raise money to complete the whole series. And we learned then that the best way to go about it was issue by issue. But we produced the first issue on our own. So we offered #1 as a reward for the campaign to raise money for #2. This way, backers know the book is finished at the get-go: they are guaranteed to get something. And that makes a big difference. Plus, since we only try to fund one book at a time, it’s much easier to meet and exceed the goal. And we always put our minimum at actually lower than we need, because we’ve seen that people are more willing to back a project that looks as if it will succeed.

Do you view the platform as a testing ground for the concepts?

Shane – Is Kickstarter a testing ground for concepts? Sure. But it’s hard to say what the standard is, if there is one at all, in terms of what people will back. There’s always that project you might think is dubious that racks up triple your pledges. It goes to show that Kickstarter is a place where any creator can go to find their audience/readership/consumer and succeed if they can meet their expectations and follow through on delivery.

You currently have 3 issues of Arcane Sally & Mr. Steam. What’s the overall plan with Arcane Sally & Mr. Steam?

Shane – It’s slated for 10 issues. We plan to collect 4-7 and 8-10 in separate TPBs, and then collect the whole run. Ideally, we’d then go to an established publisher who could print and distribute it to the direct comic book market and beyond.

Comics is an amazing collaborative medium. Tell me a little about working with each other (now’s a great time to spill any dirt you might have on them!).

David – Screenwriters must collaborate, so it hasn’t felt too weird to do it on this comic.  Jeff is so cinematic in his layouts and where he positions the reader’s eye, so it’s always a pleasure to see his artwork.  Shane and I have brief, heated arguments about details and then we resolve them and move on and we’re usually both happier with the results.

Jeff lives in Sao Paulo, Brazil so we’ve never had a disagreement!  Pretty hard to argue with someone thousands of miles away – plus he is a super nice guy!

Jefferson – It’s great when everyone is heading for the same place in relation to the project, like this team is.

If you could go back in time ten years, what advice might you have for your younger self? Something you wish you knew?

David – The pursuit of money is a lie.  Creativity is everything, but you must make your work professional.  And all writing is bullshit if the writer doesn’t expose himself and risk being vulnerable.

Jefferson – I would tell myself to plan better, everything, my career choices, and my career path.

Do you have any upcoming projects? Anything you’d like to promote? Anything else that you’d like people to know about you (Hobbies? Passions? Favorite TV Show)?

David – I have a Netflix movie that I wrote that’s going to be shot in South Africa in November: Scorpion King 5!  I loved the original with The Rock because it reminded me of 80’s sword-and-sorcery movies, so was thrilled when Universal told me to take this franchise and bring it back to Egypt.  It’s a pretty low-budget movie by today’s standards so no one was very nervous about it, so they let me invent whatever I wanted.

Where’s the best place to find out more about Arcane Sally & Mr. Steam and the rest of your works?

We are on Tapastic (https://tapas.io/series/arcanesally)

Webtoon (http://www.webtoons.com/en/challenge/arcane-sally-mr-steam/list?title_no=51190)

Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/arcanesally?ref=hl)

Twitter (https://twitter.com/)

Patreon (https://www.patreon.com/dragabok)

www.facebook.com/jcostarm (for Jefferson Costa’s Facebook)

***

DAVID HEDGES is a screenwriter from Los Angeles and a recipient of the Academy Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting. He has written scripts for several major studios. This is his first comic.

JEFFERSON COSTA is an artist and animator from Brazil, and the winner of three HQ Mix trophies, the “Oscar” of Brazilian comics, for Best Anthology and Best Graphic Novel in 2015, and for Best Graphic Adaptation in 2013.

***

I want to thank everyone over at Arcane Sally and Mr. Steam for being so gracious with their time!

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novellas Theft & Therapy and 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.

Push Through The Noise

Head beating itself against the desk.

The words fail to make the leap from fingers to screen.

Blank screen mocks you with it’s flashing cursor.

Still, there is nothing, absolutely nothing to be done about it.

Another glance at the clock shows me only that time continues to tick by, faster and slower at the same time.

I’m tired.

I don’t want to do this tonight.

Why didn’t I start earlier?

I have to go to work tomorrow.

Gotta get something done.

Just need one idea…

Something…

Anything…

Damnit!

Opens one of the notebooks filled with various bits and pieces of ideas or characters or settings or…

None of those will work.

I’m wasting all this time.

Maybe try reading what I’ve already written?

Why is this so hard?

Other people make this look so easy. Ideas flow out and magically appear. None of them have this problem.

So why do I have the problem?

You’ve been here before and managed to find a way around the problem.

Work the problem.

Is it a character issue?

A subject issue.

Ok. So what needs to happen before the words start working for me instead of against me?

Don’t touch that mouse!

No reason to even bother clicking away.

Another ten minutes destroyed by inaction.

***

This is my brain on writer’s block. I know some people will tell you it doesn’t exist. I’ve heard people talk about it like it is a completely foreign concept to them. There are those who really think they’ve got the whole thing figured out.

I don’t buy it. Not one bit.

There have to be those times when other people, other writers just don’t know what it is they are going to write. And not in the good way, where you are on a journey of discovery within your work. No, I’m talking about that blank page, when it locks onto your soul letting you know that you have nothing else you could possibly bring to the table. That if you’re tired, then just do it tomorrow. No one needs to know that you’re having issues. No one needs to know that the words won’t come.

I mean it’s not like you forget how to write, but there has to be something which could streamline the process a little bit. Some magically easy button I can push to just get the initial push.

Something to help me remember how to do it.

***

Another ten minutes lost.

Bedtime was an hour ago.

And still, this stupid monitor glows with a white smile.

Just have to write something, no matter how small. No matter if there are tons of actual good ideas. Something needs to appear on paper.

No more excuses.

Push through the noise.

 

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novellas Theft & Therapy and 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.

Steampunk Fridays – Interview with Ken Reynolds

Check out John McGuire’s The Gilded Age steampunk graphic novel on Kickstarter!

 

Independent comic creators’ biggest problem may be getting the word out about their work. If you aren’t attached to one of the larger companies, there is much more opportunity to have your comics slip through the cracks.

Today we shine a little bit of light in the direction of Cognition’s creator: Ken Reynolds.

***

How long have you been creating/working in comics?

Only about 2 years, ‘properly’. I used to make comic strips for my design blog, but I didn’t really commit to making comics until after my daughter was born… Suddenly I had limited time for my freelance work, and I figured I better use it to make stuff I genuinely enjoyed rather than trying to just make some extra money on stuff that I found frustrating or unfulfilling.

I started out as a letterer for Dave Hailwood on the sci-fi anthology, 100% Biodegradable… 2 years later I’ve written 3 single issues, editing an experimental anthology that is about to release its 7th issue, and I’m about to complete a book I’ve drawn.

Things, kind of, snowballed!

Who inspires you? Or do you have a favorite artist or creator?

The whole small press comic scene inspires me. Everyone is making stuff they are truly passionate about, and they are genuinely interested and supportive of anyone making comics. And everyone SHOULD make comics if you love the form. Go to a con, chat to creators… Everyone will be really keen to give you advice and help you get started. It’s amazing.

As for more mainstream creators… I’ll read anything Jason Aaron writes, and look at anything Dave McKean draws.

How do you manage your daily/family life with your creative work? Is this your 9 to 5 or is this your 10 to 2?

I have a VERY understanding and supportive wife.

I work full time… We have a busy family life… But when my daughter goes to bed, I get to work on the comic stuff. It’s all time management stuff. Early mornings, late nights, working through lunch hours, squeezing in creativity as and when you can.

Everything is a balancing act… I’m sure I ignore a few things I shouldn’t in order to make it happen… Like exercise or leisure (I barely watch TV anymore and I wish I picked up computer games more) but there will be time down the road for that stuff.

Family first, then work… Comic stuff next, everything else for what’s left.

So, it’s difficult… But I can’t do it any other way. I’ve conditioned myself to make stuff, and to break that now would be a silly thing to do.

It’s often difficult to get the word out about independent comics. What do you do to market and promote your books? Anything work really well or really poorly?

I wish I had that golden bullet of an answer, but I don’t.It’s a slog. It’s a constant cycle of shouting into the void of social media and general marketing in the hope someone will take a look.

It’s a slog. It’s a constant cycle of shouting into the void of social media and general marketing in the hope someone will take a look.

Most of my readership found me through Kickstarter, and the rest stems from being an active member of the small press community. Taking an interest in what everyone else is up to, so they might take an interest in you. But it’s got to be a genuine interest… Everyone sniffs out a phony. No way to fake it.

I found it a tough balance. I dislike the hard sell and often worry about ‘bothering’ people. SO I may well be missing out on my full marketing potential.

The easiest way to market a product is to make a really good product. People talk about exceptional things. You can’t buy word of mouth marketing, you have to inspire it with something that’s worth talking about… I strive to make something exceptional.

What’s your process look like when you’re writing? Do you go with the full outline? Or are you a fly by the seat of your pants type?

My process is messy. I start with a notebook full of scribbles. I distil that down onscreen and break it up into chunks before writing a script.

Within that, though, there is a lot of outlining and planning. By the time I get to scripting, I know everything that is going to happen, and all of the beats and pacing.

The joy in writing for me is surprising myself with dialogue within that framework. Sometimes an unexpected idea will crop up… But that’s what editing is for!

I’m a big believer in completing things, even if they are terrible. At least you have something to work with, to improve.You

You can’t make ‘nothing’ any better.

I love the idea of Cognition! What inspired you to write Cognition?

Cognition went through a lot of stages before it got to where it is now…I guess the initial idea came from a ‘Steampunk Pinocchio’ concept. Originally it was a much smaller, slower and quieter story about a robot that came to life in a basement and explored that small place believing it to be the full extent of the universe.

I guess the initial idea came from a ‘Steampunk Pinocchio’ concept. Originally it was a much smaller, slower and quieter story about a robot that came to life in a basement and explored that small place believing it to be the full extent of the universe.Things grow and develop. Ideas come along and fall by the wayside. I still plan on

Things grow and develop. Ideas come along and fall by the wayside. I still plan on reusing that initial idea within the current series. But all in all the messages and ideas behind the book have totally changed. Big concepts for me are the duality on our personalities and how wrapped up in our sense of self is, in our physicality.

You currently have 3 issues of Cognition (issue 0 through issue 2). What’s the overall plan with Cognition?

There are 2 more issues to complete the first arc… I’m writing them at the moment, and I might try complete and print them together… We’ll see.

Sam is taking a break for a while as he works on other exciting projects, but we’re looking to wrap up the first story as soon as we can.

I know where I’m leaving things at the end of the arc… It’s a good stopping point, with plenty of potential to carry on. I have stories for years in my head, but it comes down to a lot of outside factors to keep it going. I’ll attempt to pitch the first arc to wider distribution and see if we can figure out a way to make production a bit ‘easier’… We’ll see.

Basically, as long as Sam wants to draw it, I’ve got stories for us to tell.

Comics is an amazing collaborative medium. Tell me a little about working with Sam Bentley, the artist on Cognition.

Sam is a dream!

Seriously, he has so much to do with how this book as connected with the audience. His art tells so much of the story without me having to overwrite or fill in any blanks.

Getting pages to my inbox is a real treat as he makes my script come alive in ways that are always different… And better than I had in my head when I was writing.

This is the joy of collaboration… People taking your idea and executing it better than you originally imagined.

The more we’ve worked together the better our collaboration has become. There are some sections in the scripts now that I don’t have to fully script. I give Sam the narrative beats and let him have the creative freedom to figure out the best way to join the dots artistically. I have a huge respect and trust in him as an artist and I want to keep the project as fulfilling and interesting as I can for him.

He does sketches, we discuss things, he re-draws and suddenly these miraculous pages appear and I get to add letters and feel bad about covering bits!

After running 3 successful Kickstarters for Cognition (and 4 overall), what have you learned about the process of Kickstarter? What do you think has contributed to hitting your goals on Cognition each time?

Kickstarter is a wonderful platform for self-publishing. I use it in a very particular way though. I only go to KS once I’ve got a complete book. I only use it for printing costs and getting it over the line… This has a few drawbacks and benefits… It means I have to self-fund most of the book, but it means I can fulfill the campaign very quickly after funding. This has resulted in having quite a decent reputation on the KS platform. I dislike the horror stories of people waiting years for what they’ve paid for etc… Plus I’m very conscientious and would dislike an unfulfilled campaign hanging over me!

The wonderful thing about KS is that there is no single way of utilizing it. I run things in a way that they are in my comfort zone, and that zone is defined by my own personal circumstances and set of ethics.

Everyone will be different, but there are a set of rules I set myself and play by… It’s worked thus far.

Did you worry about “going to the well” too soon after each one? 

I don’t worry about going back too much, because I know I’m offering a product that has proven sustained interest at the level I need for it to succeed. As long as there is enough support I’ll keep seeing it as a viable avenue to create the books I want to make.

Do you view the platform as a testing ground for the concepts?

As for a testing ground…. I’m not sure. I see it as a place to take a complete project and make it a reality. I’m uncomfortable with ‘speculative’ campaigns… There is a lot of trust needed, and I, personally, don’t feel comfortable asking that much of people willing to support me.

Ken’s desk where the magic happens… with a smaller desk for his daughter.

If you could go back in time ten years, what advice might you have for your younger self? Something you wish you knew?

Just make stuff!

Why did I wait until I was in my thirties to commit to making comics? Because I didn’t think I could pull it off, because I doubted myself…

Seriously, just make stuff… Find other people that like making the same sort of stuff, talk to them, share your work… Do more work, get better. Fail…. Fail HUGE! But don’t stop. Just use whatever you learn to make the next thing better.

I’m learning with each page, each book each project… The last thing I made is the best thing I ever made. If I don’t feel that way about it, nobody else should.

Do you have any upcoming projects? Anything you’d like to promote? Anything else that you’d like people to know about you (Hobbies? Passions? Favorite TV Show)?

I’m very close to finishing my first solo book. I’ve done everything on the page. Writing, art, lettering… The whole lot. It’s quite a personal story about pregnancy and the end of the world! But I haven’t quite figured out what I’m doing with it yet… So if that sounds interesting follow me on twitter as I’ll be going on and on about it once I decide. (@kenreynoldsdesign)

www.kenreynoldsdesign.co.uk
http://kenreynoldsdesign.deviantart.com/gallery/
http://cognitioncomic.bigcartel.com/
http://slicedquarterly.co.uk/

Ken has lettered for many independent publishers and creators, including Alterna, Markosia, Grayhaven Comics, & Insane Comics. He was proud to be part of the lettering team that completed the 750+ page epic that is ‘The Explorers’ Guild’ by Jon Baird, Kevin Costner and Rick Ross published by Simon & Schuster.

He also writes the supernatural adventure series ‘Cognition’, edits the experimental comic anthology ‘Sliced Quarterly’ and is an assistant editor of the sci-fi anthology 100% biodegradable.

***

I want to thank Ken for taking the time to answer all my questions. If there ever was a doubt to trying to create your art, just fall back on Ken’s own words: “Just make stuff!”.

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novellas Theft & Therapy and 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.

 

Death of Ideas

Check out John McGuire’s The Gilded Age steampunk graphic novel on Kickstarter!

 

There are no original ideas.

This year is the worst box office year for movies in forever.

The only things which make money are sequels.

Now that Marvel has led the way, everyone wants their own universe… whether it’s a good idea or not.

No one makes the comics/books/tv shows/movies/etc I want to consume.

***

This, or something like it, fills my Facebook feed and fills up blogs I frequent and dominates the headlines of various other places on the internet. Complaining about the state of entertainment currently available. Complaining that is it all more of the same and why doesn’t someone do something about it.

Complaining.

Maybe, just maybe, we’re not looking hard enough?

***

Remember when you were a kid? Assuming you were anything like me, you probably were a fan of Star Wars. And when I was 8 or 9, I remember first hearing what became an ever-persistent rumor of a Star Wars saga which would span a total of 9 episodes. Nine! On the playground, during sleepovers and birthday parties we tried to wrap our heads around the very idea of such a thing. What would that even look like? Would they come out every couple of years?

None of us say in the bedroom, stomped our feet, crossed our arms, and held out breath because “Why isn’t anyone doing something new?” It never occurred to us.

Did you imagine what those other 6 episodes might look like?

Later, in my teens, everything was still new enough that even if there was a sequel to something like Batman, it was something to look forward to… not lament its very existence.

***

The entertainment world has certainly changed the way they do things with any action or genre type movie (and some random comedies as well). They are looking for the sequel. The almighty trilogy.

The way we devour movies and tv shows have reached the point where there is enough “stuff” available that it only makes sense to try to serve some existing fan base out there. It’s just flat-out easier to get buy-in on something people already recognize.

And I don’t believe this has to be a bad thing. I don’t worry about whether there are too many Super Hero sequels or that Star Wars Episode VIII is on the horizon. If you’re a Harry Potter fan, how jazzed are you that there are more stories coming from that world.

Why does this have to be a bad thing?

***

And I know what you’re saying. The big production companies only want to make a dollar (or more like many millions of dollars) and so they aren’t investing in the smaller movies. And why would they when the next Avengers movie is going to print money?

I sometimes wonder if back in the 50s and 60s whether people were annoyed by the idea of another John Wayne Western was coming out.

Were you really put out by having all those great/cheesy/insert another adjective here for the horror movies in the 80s? I love some of them in many ways, and even I didn’t bother watching most. It didn’t mean I couldn’t watch something else if I wanted to.

***

I have a friend who talks about his current comic monthly pull list. And every few months he mentions cutting the number of Marvel comics he is reading. And then 3 months later, we’re having a very similar conversation about the exact same comics.

It’s like someone has convinced all of us that the box we live in is all we could possibly see or hear. The same people who are complaining aren’t going to see that independent movie which made $2 million dollars last year. The ones complaining certain comic companies aren’t making comics for “Them” anymore aren’t necessarily searching out more indy comics to fill in those gaps. Instead, they talk about only buying 10 comics a month, down from 30. Or sometimes even worse cuts than that.

***

Here’s the secret: other people feel the same way as you, but they are creating new things. Maybe it is a series of novels from an author you’ve never heard of. Maybe it’s that movie you keep scrolling past on Netflix because you don’t recognize anyone’s name in the description. Maybe there is a comic book which will speak to you again in a way you didn’t think was possible anymore. Maybe around the corner are new horror movies or new sci-fi things or new tv shows which don’t have anything to do with part 17 of the latest craze.

And if you’re really lucky, maybe this new thing you fall in love will spawn its own series of sequels and suddenly you can claim the other thing us nerds love to claim:

“Well, I liked it first!”

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novellas Theft & Therapy and 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.

Just Remember Me When

Sometimes these things take time. And by the time I mean way too long to actually have passed before a story leaves your head and hits the page. And sometimes you can ensure a speedier process by just outlining and sitting butt in chair. But sometimes the finish line is so close that it completely eludes you. There is nothing to do but wait patiently while it all comes together.

That’s what happened yesterday. A couple of years worth of thinking about possibly, maybe we can, no we can’t, what’s it missing, what does it need? When will it be finished?

Yesterday Courtney and I released our second Veronica Mars Amazon Kindle Worlds Novella! You can find it right here!

Because much like Pringle’s, you can’t just write one story in the Veronica Mars universe and be completely satisfied. There are too many possible characters to write about. When our first novella came out, I wrote about it here. In that, the character of Max was not only the easiest choice, but it felt like no one else would immediately use her for their own stores. This time around if you are writing during season 1 or most of season 2, you can’t avoid the character of Duncan Kane. He’s Veronica’s on again/off again boyfriend. Yet, at times you really don’t know what’s going on in his head very much. To both of us that presented an opportunity to maybe see what makes this character work or not.

No biggie, just hanging out with the Ghost of my dead sister.

His parents are controlling. His sister was murdered (and for a while, it looked like he might have been the culprit). He is best friends with the guy is now dating his ex (and rooming with the guy).The reason this one took longer was that the core story came so easily. Duncan’s current girlfriend’s car has gone missing, and he can’t ask Veronica for help (because of the whole – she’s his ex).

There some complex stuff going on in there. Add to that the summer sessions between seasons make for decent fodder in the “I want to know what you did last summer” vibe.The reason this one took longer was that the core story came so easily. Duncan’s current girlfriend’s car has gone missing, and he can’t ask Veronica for help (because of the whole – she’s his ex).

That said, the reason this one took longer was that the core story came so easily. Which seems counter to how this whole thing should work.Duncan’s current girlfriend’s car has gone missing, and he can’t ask Veronica for help (because of the whole – she’s his ex).

“Duncan’s current girlfriend’s car has gone missing, and he can’t ask Veronica for help (because of the whole – she’s his ex).”

Pretty straight forward, right?

What happened was we wrote 90% of it and then couldn’t quite figure out what the missing 10% was. Some of it was massaging what we had, but some were to add in new scenes, try some different kinds of story-telling in the B story with his therapist sessions.

What we have now is something we’re both very happy with. I’m interested to see how it does in comparison with the first one.

An excerpt from the novella:

You’d think she’d care a little bit more about what happened, but the woman is unbreakable. It is always about appearances with her. And right now, she can’t go to any of the dinner parties without the looks of pity from everyone she knows. She can’t spin it, so the next best thing is to remove herself from the equation until enough time has passed that it doesn’t matter anymore. Some new scandal will reveal itself and things will return to her version of normal.

She tries to make it all about me, but truthfully, it’s all about her.

Her image.

Her social class.

Her life.

I can’t take it anymore. Sometimes it’s better to sit there and remain silent. And then there are the other times. “Don’t you think the justice system might look poorly on Dad leaving the country given the obstruction charges?”

Her look is a mixture of astonishment that I‘d even bring up her husband’s temporary incarceration, and her defense mechanism immediately deflects. “Don’t worry about that. That’s why we pay our lawyers the immense fees.” Then, without missing a beat. “Now go pack. I want to leave early in the morning.”

“No.”

“No?”

“No.” I’m sure it won’t matter. She never listens. “I’m staying. I have classes. Finals.”

“Didn’t you hear me; you can do all of that over the computer.”

“No.”

“Duncan. This isn’t a request. You will-“

“I’m tired of being handled. That’s all you do anymore. I’m not sure if it’s because you feel guilty about how Lilly didn’t follow in your footsteps or what? Do you think if you control every little thing I do then nothing bad can ever happen again?”

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novellas Theft & Therapy and 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.

 

Five ways I refuse to market my books

Everyone will agree.

The hardest part about self-publishing isn’t the writing. Long hours of hammering out words are inevitable no matter what avenue an author takes to launch their books into the market.

No…the true challenge lies in an author’s self-presentation to the world. It’s how a writer markets oneself. It’s the image they create, the test of their willingness to engage the rest of humanity.

To truly take the next career step, modern authors have to leap out of their comfort zone. That means shaping a presence on social media, talking to (sometimes unsavory) people, learning all kinds of software, and getting (and appearing) comfortable with all aspects of self-promotion.

That said, for this author, some things cross the line between palatable and icky.

And here’s my list of things I’m just not gonna do:

*

*

No Hashtags

Yes, I know they help people search you out on Twitter and Instagram. And yes, I realize it might help them find my art and books.

But…

I figure just as many (if not more) people will be so annoyed or disgusted by hashtags they’ll choose not to be interested in all things me.

Because really, hashtags are that obnoxious. Am I right?

*

*

*

*

No Review Swaps

Yeah, this is still a thing. People ask me for them all the time. “Hey J Edward, can you review my vampire porn novel and I’ll pretend to read your book about the two dudes who destroy entire cities when they fight?”

“No thanks.”

First of all, I don’t have the time. Second, Amazon cracks down on that kind of thing. And third, other authors don’t handle brutal honesty like I do.

I realize how many reviews this has cost me. And because of the value of reviews, I realize it’s cost me money. Doesn’t matter. I can’t bring myself to do it. Despite the thousands of high-quality self-published authors out there, many thousands more (the majority of the industry) don’t have the fire or commitment to pump out high-quality books.

Meaning more than likely I’d get stuck reading trash.

Nah.

*

*

No Paying to Enter Writing Contests

It’s my personal oath to never enter a writing contest requiring a payment. Writing contests in general are governed by arbitrary rules and judged in a questionable manner. More often than not, the organization holding the contest is more interested in turning a profit and/or getting their own name out there than they are in helping authors earn legit recognition.

Even some of the free-to-enter contests employ some pretty questionable tactics, though at least they’re free.

To other writers, I’d recommend doing some serious research before entering any contest you encounter on the net.

And to readers, I’d cast serious doubt on any author whose bio begins with the phrase, “Award winning…” It probably doesn’t mean what you think it does.

*

No ‘Best-Selling’ BS

If I had a nickel for every time I saw an author boast ‘best-selling’ credentials, I’d have…well…a lot of nickels.

It probably sounds elitist for me to say this (it’s definitely not intended that way) but some authors need to cut the crap. Showing up a few times in Amazon’s top authors lists or having a really big sales day doesn’t qualify as ‘best-selling.’ While it’s true the major literature publications (NY Times, USA Today, etc) aren’t the only people qualified to choose who’s best-selling and who’s not, there’s just too much exaggeration in the industry.

I’ve seen authors boast ‘best-selling’ in bios containing multiple grammatical errors.

I’ve seen authors with one published book and no published reviews declare themselves ‘best-selling.’

I’ve seen…never mind. You get the picture. Until I’m a household name with a fixed place in a steady market, I’ll be the last author alive to shout ‘I’m best-selling’ to the world.

Lies do not become us.

*

*

No Spam

There have been days when I’ve opened up Facebook and Twitter to the usual parade of politics, cat pictures, poorly-lit selfies, and cute babies. And there are other days when I open up my social media to find fifteen consecutive book ads…all posted by the same person.

Look, I love it when another person shares or reposts something of mine. It makes me oh so happy. But…it doesn’t mean instant and incessant reciprocation. Nobody on this earth cares to see an endless timeline of vampire were-hooker book ads in place of actual cool content. Actually, let me rephrase. I don’t want to see it. So I’m careful about what I share, meaning my stuff and my supporters’ stuff. The goal is to inform and entertain, not to drown.

Three Facebook book ads per week from me, max. And that includes sharing other authors’ work. As for Twitter, go nuts. No one reads retweets anyway. 🙂

*

More things I can’t bring myself to do:

 Post memes about writers’ problems (They’re all so bad.)

Demand reviews (Politely ask once, then move on with your life.)

Shave on a regular basis. (Sorry, this guy stays scruffy.)

*

Now you know all my weaknesses. Go forth and exploit them. 🙂

J Edward Neill

Painter of Shadows

Writer of books about star-destroying space vampires

 

The most anonymous memory ever

Quite by accident, I stumbled upon a story written by a young woman.

I remember the woman’s name, but she didn’t sign her story. She left it on a wrinkled piece of paper atop a blank canvas. I probably wasn’t supposed to find it.

The woman is gone. But the story she left behind made me wonder who she really was.

This is what I found:

***

There are many variations to the story.

Even from birth, circumstances surrounding my entrance into this world seem to be a fluid variation of fact. I no longer try to separate out one version from the next. Instead, I allow my mind to melt each version together…overlapping layers of possible realities.

Despite not being born yet, I could see all.

My aerial view of the camper gives me the ability to see everything. Hear all. Feel everything. I don’t exist yet, but I am the collection of memories that will later be told to me…the texture of my own childhood to come. I fill in the blanks with rich color and smell. Disembodied, I float above the bed my mother lies upon. Bright swatches of velvet and satin fabric hang on the walls. The smells of bay leaves and rosewater perfume mix with my mother’s perspiration. 

This is home.

Her cries of childbirth are gently hushed by the mirages of the midwives huddled around her bed. Their phantom limbs carry damp cloths to her head, soothing her discomfort. The conflicting stories of whether my mother was alone during my birth has given these three woman a transparency that allows me to give them life or melt them back into the camper’s upholstery. The story of my father’s reaction to seeing me for the first time is a gentle whisper floating in the air.

“She looks more like a cauliflower than a baby…”

I can detect a hint of garlic cloves and olive oil on his breath. A tabby cat slumbers in a corner of the camper with a dead snake it caught in a strawberry field. Some versions of this memory give life back into the snake, flinging it upon the bed in which my mother cradled me. The cat is filled with pride over the present it’s gifted to the newborn. It flings the snake’s wriggling body across the room by a screaming woman, where it dissipates into the wood…and where it becomes a faint outline in the rough grain.

***

I want to know more, but her story ends here. Perhaps I’ll find her one day and ask her what happened next.

J Edward Neill

Storysmith and Painter of Darkness

 

Tessera Guild at the Atlanta Sci-Fi and Fantasy Expo 2017 – March 11 and 12

Come meet the members of the Tessera Guild at the third annual Atlanta Sci-Fi and Fantasy Expo on March 11th and 12th, 2017.

North DeKalb Mall in Decatur, GA. Admission is free.

Robert Jeffrey IIJohn McGuire, and Egg Embry, along with Sir Leland Beauchamp, will host four panels over the two days:

 

I AM BlackSci-Fi.com
Saturday, March 11th from 3:00 to 3:50 EST

Hosted by Robert Jeffrey II as well as William Satterwhite

“Since its inception BlackSci-Fi.com’s goal has been to be “the premier site for the latest updates on Sci-Fi, Sci-Fact and Fantasy entertainment, news, people, places, and events and the measure of their impact on the African-American community, while also seeking to inform and inspire the imagination of individuals who aspire to live beyond the boundaries of everyday life”

Join Editor-in-Chief Robert Jeffrey II, and contributing writer William Satterwhite as they discuss the in’s and out’s of working for BlackSci-Fi.com, the websites goals and future plans, while touching on the general state of Black speculative fiction.”

 

You wrote something. Now what?
Saturday, March 11th from 5:00 to 5:50 EST

Hosted by Robert Jeffrey II as well as Bobby Nash and Milton Davis

“Join writers Bobby Nash, Milton Davis, and Robert Jeffrey as they discuss what happens after (or during) writing a book (novel, comic, short story, etc). Enjoy this insightful look into each writers path to becoming a published author followed by a Q&A session.”

 

John McGuire co-hosting: Freelance Writing and the 9 to 5

Freelance Writing and the 9 to 5
Sunday, March 12th from 3:00 to 3:50 EST

Hosted by John McGuire, Robert Jeffrey II as well as Nicole Kurtz, and William Satterwhite

“The Ups, the Downs, and Everything Between
By day, mild-mannered 9 to 5-er, but by night they create worlds! Join freelance writers as they discuss keeping a balance between the daily rigors of their 9-5s and writing careers.”

 

Sir Leland Beauchamp co-hosting: Dice, Kickstarter, Cash-in

Dice, Kickstarter, Cash-in
Sunday, March 12th from 12:00 to 12:50 EST

Hosted by Egg Embry and Sir Leland Beauchamp

“Role-play, write-up, and crowdfund your RPG adventures!
Have an original adventure, series of monsters, or tabletop game? Interested in crowdfunding its publication? Join Egg Embry and Leland Beauchamp for a a beginner’s guide to monetizing your tabletop RPG products. We’ll create a D&D creature to take through a hypothetical Kickstarter (idea to pitch to funding to production to delivery to what comes next).”

 

Egg Embry co-hosting: Dice, Kickstarter, Cash-in

For directions to North DeKalb Mall and this free convention, visit the ASFE website here.

 

 

* * *

 

 

Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer™

Wanna-lancer™ Checklist T-shirt available at Cafepress

Missed the show? Interested in being a wanna-lancer? Start with the official Wanna-lancer Checklist t-shirt or wall clock or ice tea glass!

 

 

* * *

 

 

Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press. His purchases have been published by:

Why Collaborate?

Every day that I keep at this – the writing, the editing, the story-telling – I’m hopefully getting a little better. But much like an athlete who trains by themselves, eventually they must turn to others in order to truly gauge how good they are, where their deficiencies might lie, and what things they can do to simply improve overall. They say you can never improve unless you are playing with people who are better than you are.

It’s not that much different on the writing side. Except that writing lends itself more to the solo aspect. You could go days or weeks or months without any feedback on the next project you’re writing. The only comfort you gain is knowing the story is progressing. That, too, can be just as maddening.

I think it is why I not only like to collaborate, but I seem to seek out such opportunities whenever I can.

During the earliest days of Terminus Media, when it was just a group of 5-6 guys trying to figure the whole “writing” thing out. Times where we might not even know what we did not know. Every week was a new potential project, every week was a new idea presented by someone at the table, and we did our best to foster that sharing. You could see where other people were having problems, and hopefully, not make the same mistakes on your own work (you inevitably did, of course).

I started to learn how to accept (constructive) criticism by sharing my words with others. I learned that the best way to learn was to DO the work. If there was a project that needed something written, the following week was spent figuring out how to actually write a short film script, or a TV script, or a comic script.

One week I had no idea and the next, knowledge replaced the nothingness.

Years later, Mr. Neill and I were talking about a serialized possibility. Here we both were trying to finish novels or start new ones, but there was something about getting our heads together and seeing what could happen.

Hollow Empire happened.

The biggest benefit, unseen by me (and probably cursed by Jeremy later) was editing. You effectively add a partner in this realm as well. Hopefully their strengths can fix your weaknesses and vice versa. Perhaps you are a little too sparse in your descriptions and your partner too sparse on the dialogue – now’s the perfect opportunity to learn from each other.

In those first drafts, which Jeremy edited to the bone, my prose got a little tighter. When I got new chapters in from him, it forced me to push to get better. I wanted him to be excited when my emails came rolling in. We all need to be pushed. Having a partner, someone you are accountable to, means that when you aren’t hitting your deadlines then you’re letting someone else down. Building the world through these characters in a way that makes the whole work really about those characters more than about the “Big Events” which may be going on around them.

Getting better with every keystroke.

In the last couple of years, I’ve worked with Robert Jeffrey on a pair of projects. Each of us bringing some ideas to the table and we settled on one idea from each list: The Crossing & Entropy.

The thing is that with another head there, you obviously have double the potential ideas. However, you are really forced to push your own ego aside… for the betterment of the story. When it is only you, it means a singular vision, but it also means you’re pretty much confined to whatever the old brain comes up with. With another person contributing ideas, you have more opportunities to find the best idea. You’re no longer insular… BUT you have to be willing to allow the other person to have that idea. If you are the type of writer who can’t deal with writing “someone else’s story” then you might as well stay a solo act.

To live in someone else’s world where much of the original idea was someone else’s, but you could still be a cog in the machine and help it get further than it could have done on their own. The ability to make something better than one person simply through the ideas being shared and passed back.

But the best part is being able to lean on someone else to help carry a bit of the workload. And when Writer’s Block threatens to show up, you simply give your co-writer a call or email. That way they can talk you off the ledge, getting you back to work all the sooner.

The dirty secret about all of this, whether it is short stories, novels, comics, film, or whatever… it doesn’t have to be such a lonely pursuit. You DON’T HAVE to go it alone. You can help your fellow creators, and they can help you as well.

Hopefully each learning a little bit more through the experience.

 

***

John McGuire

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

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

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

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

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

The death of 2016 – It wasn’t ALL bad

From the staff at Tessera Guild, we’d like to wish you a…

hny

2016 was one helluva ride, right?

Almost everyone famous ever passed away.

A reality TV guy became the U.S. president-elect.

And the best Star Wars film ever came out.

Meanwhile, the team at Tessera Guild punched out hundreds of articles on art, books, creativity, philosophy, and life, some of which you liked…and others you loved. 🙂

Here’s our top seven picks for 2016’s best, most engaging Guild articles:

My Mother – The Horse Diver

circa 1955: A diving horse and her rider disappearing in to a swimming pool with a splash. (Photo by Three Lions/Getty Images)

circa 1955: A diving horse and her rider disappearing in to a swimming pool with a splash. (Photo by Three Lions/Getty Images)

*

Killing Your Darlings or Editing My Overused Words

writing

*

Vanity Press: What Kickstarter RPG Rewards Are Available? – Slaughter at Splinterfang Gorge & Luminous Echo

screen-shot-2016-09-21-at-9_49_58-am-384x500

*

Inside One Artist’s Mind

table2-500x375

*

Three Little Sunsets in Florida

untitled-3

*

Interview with Brandon Easton, screenwriter for Marvel’s Agent Carter, Part 1

agent-carter_612x816-375x500

*

And finally, included because it’s totally ridiculous (and totally true)…

Porn searches leading to our (totally) non-porn website!

pigs

* * *

Here’s to everyone having an amazing 2017!

The Tessera Guild Team

J Edward Neill

John McGuire

Egg Embry

Robert Jeffrey II

 Amanda Makepeace

Chad J Shonk

Resolutions, 2017

It’s gone… just like that. 2016. That bitch of a year that saw so many artists and creatives who touched our lives through various mediums pass on… it’s really only a couple of days left now. And it comes to me that I need to write my look back and then look forward for the new year.

And what I’ve learned is that the old saying “best laid plans” and all of that doesn’t always mean that you actually hit all the goals or even enough of the goals to feel like the year might have been a success.

But I feel like I’ve been creative. I feel like I’ve pushed some projects forward, but the madness of not quite getting to where you want to be, what you wanted to have produced is there as well. I can only blame myself for (most of) the things I haven’t managed to finish. So there while be boxes unchecked for this past year which will slide to 2017.

Writing Dark

The Look Back – 2016

The White Effect

The goal was to send it out. To try to find someone who might take a second or third look. Maybe, possibly, perhaps find a crack in the business.

I spent most of the beginning of the year sending out queries to various agents, and when that failed, looked to contests that might get me in front of editors. The ones who responded decided to pass.

That’s a little bit of a dagger. Death by a thousand cuts as it were. I was mentally prepared for that, but I’m not sure I was emotionally prepared for it.

The Edge of the World

Nope. Didn’t finish a second draft. Didn’t hire an editor. Didn’t do anything…

But I am in a different place with it than a year ago. I want to send it out. I want to see if maybe this one is the one.

Maybe I’m a glutton for punishment.

S.O.U.L. Mate

About 1/3 of the way through the first draft. This is both my big accomplishment and also another failure as I wanted to be done with it as well.

Where the hell did the year go?

The Dark That Follows 2

No update on this one.

The Crossing Comic

No update on this one.

Mystery Comic

Never got off the ground. Such is the way of these things…

Blogging

This is still on-time, every week. I’m not the machine that Mr. Neill is, but my hope is always that I make myself an asset for Tessera Guild.

Mystery Book

I did write a book this year. It was a present for my wife, and it took the majority of December to pull it off, but I got it done. I’m proud of that.

Short Stories

I continued to work on a handful of shorts, but didn’t get any of them to the finished point. Sigh.

blue-five

The Look Ahead – 2017

So in light of a year where not as much writing was done as should have/could have been… what’s the plan for 2017? Do I pull back a bit on the expectations? Do I try to set things up as being more realistic?

Nah. I need to push. I need to push myself.

The White Effect

Hire editor. Get published this year. Enough is enough. Time to polish this one and put it out there.

Edge of the World

Draft 2. Query Letters. It no one bites, find some other options. Worst case… hire editor. Get published by end of the year.

S.O.U.L. Mate

Finish 1st draft. Finish 2nd draft.

That seems realistic.

The Gilded Age

There is talk of a Kickstarter to help with the print costs in the Spring. Talk about maddening… this project shouldn’t have taken as long as it has. Could it be? Can it be? Done?

We shall see.

Short stories

See under blogging, but I need to finish up the few I have which are very close.

Veronica Mars Novella 2

Got delayed and pushed back. We’re soooo close at this point. So close. It will be published.

blogging-image

Blogging

Obviously I want to continue to not miss a week. The best thing about Tessera is that it provides me with an absolute reason to sit my butt in the chair and get the work done. It puts me on a schedule. Yes, the hope is that someone likes what I blog about and maybe checks out a book, but it’s as much for me as it is for anyone else.

This year I’d like to push it a little more. Find a way to have some regular columns. Maybe try to do a Kickstart the Comic once a month. Maybe a Behind the Comic every month.

I’d like to get some of my fiction writing on here. There is no reason not to possibly serialize something for Tessera. Maybe I just need to set my mind to it.

 

As per normal, I’m probably biting off more than I can chew, but… but… you never know. Maybe this is the year that I hit all my goals and some.

 

***

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.

Sadly, There Is No Easy Button For You

Spam has taken on a new meaning for me ever since I decided to publish The Dark That Follows and start writing a weekly blog. Then again, spam has probably morphed over time regardless to what I’ve done. It just seems I’m paying attention to some of it more than I might have been in the past.

no-junk-mail

“Click here to sell more books today!”

“Learn how to drive more traffic to your blog!”

“The only way to write 10k words in a minute!”

“Make her excited-” erm… OK, maybe not that one. But you get the point.

According to when and where I actually come across these potential articles/blog posts/click-bait/random something else all determines as to if I’ll actually click on them. Yes, many times I stumble across them while I’m in the midst of some other internet rabbit hole, but most of the time I search these damn things out.

Why?

I mean, I’m not dumb. I get what they are doing. However, I also am in this weird place whereby I want to learn the secrets they supposedly have to share. I keep thinking that while I might not be Shakespeare or Twain or insert your favorite author here in talent level, there are literally hundreds of authors who have figured all of this out while not… well, they try, but…

OK, let’s face it. A lot of them aren’t very good at actually stringing two words together. Ask them to put more than four or five in a row with punctuation? Well, that’s the end of that idea.

But they have it figured out. Right?

easy-button

They’ve found the magical EASY BUTTON! So I click on their link and read and try to find that nugget of information which will blow my mind. That knowledge where just prior to it I was only a monkey and now afterwards I am able to use tools and make a fire. This is the type of stuff I’m looking for.

It eludes me.

I do everything wrong. Or in the wrong order. Or I’m impatient. Or I’m too patient. I don’t have enough time to write. I have too much time to write. I goof off. I don’t goof off. I should reach out to more people. How do you reach out to more people? Get involved with a group. I did that, nothing’s changed.

My mind becomes a barren wasteland full of left over billboards which say the above… dotting the horizon with their mocking attempts to “HELP” me.

***

A side story – When I applied to go to Georgia Tech there was a little spot on the form where you could put a Major or you could put Undecided. Now when I filled this out, I was in the midst of thinking I wanted to be a computer programmer. As such, during my senior year in high school I took a Computer Programming class. I’m pretty sure I was doing well in the class (well enough), and the last thing I wanted to do was put Undecided. That might make it seem like I didn’t have my shit together (I was 18… of course I didn’t have my shit together). So I put Computer Science down.

Fast forward to my first quarter at Tech. I’ve long since given up the idea of going into computers. By the end of the year I just didn’t feel like I “got it”. It was hard to explain, but I figured out I wanted to go into Civil Engineering.

And that’s when I found out that because Civil Engineering was “Full” I couldn’t transfer in. However, I could have done so if I had been Undecided.

<Slaps head.>

So I went and talked to the head of the department during the Fall. He told me to come back during Winter Quarter. So I went during Winter Quarter… still no openings. Come Spring I was beginning to wonder if I needed to escalate this foolishness. Maybe reach out to someone else (not sure who I was going to reach out to, but something needed to be done!).

I knew the classes I needed to take. Nothing prevented me from taking them. As long as there was an opening in them, you could enroll in pretty much any class. When I went to talk to the new head of the department he gave me more of the same song and dance.

<I wonder if this was the same game the insurance companies do when they immediately deny anything you apply for thinking that most will stop there?>

At that point I’d had enough of the run around. I remember shaking his hand, thanking him for his time, and letting him know that I would see him that Summer to have the same conversation. Furthermore, I knew the classes I needed to take to become a Civil Engineer, and that was the path I was going to head down. So whether he let me in then or in a year I was going to get in.

He blinked. Asked me if I was telling the truth about my classes that quarter (I was). There was a pause, and then he asked to see my form to transfer into the School of Civil Engineering.

***

wall-crack

I wrote the above to remind myself that this writing gig is just the same.

I’m stubborn.

This is my gift. This is my curse.

I will bang my head against that wall until the wall collapses.

***

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.

Behind the Comic – Anatomy of a Panel

behindthemusic-thumb-3

One panel.

How much can we cram into one panel? It’s one moment of a story. Yet, in a medium where you might only have 5-6 of them on a page, and then perhaps only 20-24 pages total… there’s not a lot of room to waste. Every panel has to have a purpose within the story.

gildedage0204_pencils-panel-1

 

The Gilded Age

At a time where the Industrial Revolution collides with the twilight of magic, the vaudevillian Branning Troupe, made up of actors and carnival folk, moves throughout Europe performing its acts. And each member has their own desires and secrets…

Issue #2

Page 4 – Panel 1&2

The Team

Pencils – Sheldon Mitchell

Inks – Rich Perotta

Colors – Tom Chu

Letters – Khari Sampson

Concept

A slight cheat, but as you can see, these two panels are really pieces of each other. Much like on TV or at the movies where I wanted to try to emulate that idea of transferring from a previous moment to this moment… here and now. Then we pull out to see this man: Silas Gideon. As much as anything else, and even though we see him on the first 3 pages, this is our real introduction to the man for whom this story is about.

So what do we see?

A gun, empty glasses, a mechanical arm, a long face, and scars… lots and lots of scars. This is a man who, as the previous pages would show, has been through wars. More than that, this is a man who is weary. Perhaps someone who has to find a bit of sanctuary inside the bottom of a glass. Someone who knows the way of the gun and is tired of it.

The Script

Page 4 Panel 1

Inset panel.  Close-up on Silas’s eye.  Now.  He is older (forty-something), so the years of service, battle, have aged him.  There is an intensity that occupies his face… his “being”.

Narration – Greece, 1881

Page 4 Panel 2

Pull back and see that he’s staring at his own reflection in a dirty old mirror (the kind that would sit on top of a dresser), the edges of which have already turned a milky white.  He should have his fair share of scaring along his chest, old bullet wounds, knife slashes, and other untold ones.

Here you can see what I wrote. These were the things I was trying to convey to the artist. I try to explain something more than just the image that I have in my own mind to the artist. My hope is to give them a glimpse of what I’m thinking. Technically I could have said “Close-up on Silas’s eye.” and that would have probably been enough. However, I need to add more (for my sake as much as anything). Talk about the battles. Talk about the intensity.

In panel 2, I’m trying to convey more about what is around him because panel 1 is about him (why I coupled these two panels together here). I spent most of my time with the scaring, because I believe, more than anything, this scarring is just an external image of what he is internally fighting for every day.

gildedage0204_lettered-panel-1

 

The dialogue that was included in the image above is not in the script. Actually, it is in the script, but was listed under Panel 3. The letterer shifted it to this panel which is an interesting choice. Sometimes they’ll do that so as to fit my words on a page, but Khari Sampson is adept at reading the script, seeing the images, and acting as a final eye on the project. Here the shift adds to that little bit extra to a panel that might have been needing just a little bit more.

It’s spoken by someone off-stage (someone we’ll meet in the very next panel, in fact).

“Does it bother you anymore?”

What? Life? Death? All of it? That’s our question. That is a heavy line for a man who might not know what answer to give.

***

Comics at their core are collaborative. They must be. You take an idea, give it shape with words, the artist turns those words into a visual, the colorist blending colors in and out of the shapes, and the letterer finding a way to fit sometimes way too many words into the space of one panel.

Every piece needing to work in conjunction so as to build a story.

***

John McGuire

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

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

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

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

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

My Beef with all the Quotes on the Internet

Quotes, quotes…everywhere.

We see them on our Facebook feeds, on people’s T-shirts, on bumper stickers, and on the walls of houses and offices across the land.

Some are funny. Some are dull. Some have a grain of truth, while others are contradictory. And many quotes are credited to people who never said the quoted phrase to begin with. But no one really cares. If it sounds cool, it becomes cool. And that’s all people really want. Right?

I get it. I get the allure. People like mottos. They enjoy direct, easy-to-understand life-messages they feel are attainable. People want goals. They crave wisdom for themselves and their families. And maybe more than anything, they want something simple. The more bite-sized a quote, the better. Fewer words implies fewer opportunities for the meaning of something to be mistaken. Also, having a short and nifty quote really helps when you want to hang a framed version of it on your living room wall. Or stick an inspirational magnet on your fridge. Or stamp your Facebook feed with something awesome someone might have said.

But I’m here to tell you something:

Internet quotes suck.

*

Actually, let me rephrase:

Almost all quotes suck.

Is that crude? Yeah, probably. Maybe, “Internet quotes suck,” is my internet quote. Whatever. I’m pretty sure no one will frame it and slap it above their fireplace, so it’s ok. Where was I? Oh, right. I was just about to explain why quotes suck and you shouldn’t try to live your life using words someone else said.

Let’s go over a few examples:

famous-quotes-18

Since no one really knows what the future will hold, it’s pretty much impossible to truly prepare for it. Yes, it’s possible to get ready for tomorrow’s day at work or to plan for a specific event a few weeks or months down the road. But sometimes, a lot of times, even the best-laid plans change drastically or fail miserably. And then what have all our preparations wrought? The answer: nothing. It’s a cool sounding quote, but until we perfect time-travel, the future will devour us all.

3-famous-success-quotes-entrepreneurs-should-l-mainiw

Suppose someone is trying to become a man of value, whatever that is. If they achieve it, isn’t that success for them? Meaning, they tried to become a man of success after all?

famous-quotes-by-famous-people-07-2

Thanks, Eminem. But what if you stood up for something awful? What if your enemies are people you’ve betrayed? What if the only reason you have these alleged enemies is because you’re an A-hole, not because you stood up for some greater cause?

*

*

Maybe you see what I’m talking about. Maybe not. While some of these quotes might have virtue in specific situations for specific people, they’re hardly wisdom for the masses. Besides, how many people actually follow the quotes they slap on the internet, on their cars  and on their walls? Not many. People who get stuff done in life spend more time doing than talking. Right?

thomas-edison-famous-quotesYeah right. Tell that to slaves. To people who work three jobs for paltry pay. To the guy who cleans the toilets. To the teacher who busts her butt only to get cursed out by her students’ parents. Or just read the evil sign posted outside Auschwitz that once boasted Arbeit Macht Frei…aka ‘Work sets you free.’ I think I know what good old Edison meant (if he actually said this.) But then again, some people believe Edison stole several ideas from Tesla rather than work on them himself.

ansel-adams-famous-photographers-quotes-860x688

While I’m not definitely hating on photographers (because it’s a beautiful art form) let’s be clear about something:

The camera made the photo. Nature made the photo. The universe made the photo.

The photographer may have captured it, but he didn’t create it.

aaeaaqaaaaaaaamzaaaajda2nmu0m2yzlwjlnmqtndi5my04owvjltdkntizzgflntm4oq

Nelson Mandela was an awesome dude who suffered immeasurably in life.

But this quote (if it was really his) really just bolsters the idea that humanity is innately powerful.

Here’s a hint: we’re not. We’re floating on a tiny blue dot in an ocean of darkness. Our fear is definitely that we’re inadequate. Because in so many ways, we are.

*

*

Ok. So maybe I’m a little cynical. Or maybe I’m just having fun tearing down a few quotes. Or mayyyybe I’m just exhausted of seeing humanity speak a few eloquent words only to completely ignore the message in the end. Fine. Whatever. Since we’re already here, let’s do a few more.

14463291_581690542016394_6664521756873294265_n

I know quite a few dedicated religious folks. And while I love and respect many of them, the terms unsinkable, undefeatable, and unshakeable are not the words I’d choose to describe them.

Plus, did anyone ever hear of the Crusades?

138

Love ya, Harry. But that’s not what those two words mean. At all.

famous-quotes-and-sayings

What if you died? What if you’re flat broke and there’s no one to help you back on your feet? What if you honestly gave it your all, but were defeated utterly in the end?

It sounds poetic to say failure only happens when you quit. But sometimes people just fail because…life. And sometimes there’s no poetry to it.

famous-abraham-lincoln-quotes-on-slavery-leadership-life-civil-war

It’d be nice if the world worked this way. And sometimes it might.

But as long as such things as politics, war, and religion exist, there are just too many enemies who have no interest in ever becoming friends.

I mean, just consider this year’s election. Nuff said.

*

*

Quotes, quotes…everywhere. But the fact is: life’s wisdom isn’t earned by a photo and a few clever words on the internet. It’s measured in terms of experience, knowledge, and a willingness to endure heartache, triumph, and change. It’s earned throughout the long, slow decades. It isn’t clicked on, retweeted, or posted on walls.

Our wisdom is inside us. And words, no matter how smart they sound, will never quite capture it.

* * *

 

Want to coin your own quotes instead of using someone else’s? Try this.

Prefer to think before you speak? Go here.

J Edward Neill

 

 

10 Ways Not To Sell Books

Don’t…

button-1182750_1280

1 – Think that by putting out one book, your work is all over.

It’s a hard lesson to learn, but the work doesn’t end when you write “The End” on your manuscript. And it doesn’t end when you press publish on the Amazon dashboard.

No, now you have to figure out how to get people to actually download/buy the damn thing. How to convince them to actually read the book. And then get them to leave a Review.

Start that all over again.

2 – Randomly put out one book, and then nothing else for over a year.

If someone takes the time to read one of your works, finish it, and like it – then you need to be able to point them into another direction: another book. Having only one thing in your catalog puts far too much pressure on that title to over perform.

3 – Not have some kind of series of books.

Having more than one book in a series means that if you hook someone with book 1, you’re going to make a sale of book 2 and 3 and so on.

4 – Genre hop.

This ties in with the above. When you hop around genre’s you may get to tell all sorts of stories, but it may make it where your books can’t help each other. What if you have done a romance and then a science fiction and then an epic fantasy? The amount of cross-over readers for those three genres are going to be small.

Editing

5 – Bother to edit.

Odds are you aren’t coming up with pure gold spun from your fingertips. You’ll need to hone and refine those words on the screen. Follow that up with some outside help. Another set of eyes will go a long way to reducing any number of dumb mistakes (and there will be plenty).

6 – Post only to Amazon.

Why? Why would you potentially limit your exposure?

7 – Post your eBook EVERYWHERE.

Why? Why wouldn’t you go exclusive with Amazon? Do you not like money?

Everyone with an opinion has one on this: do you go WIDE or NARROW. Long term going WIDE means you’ll potentially get more eyes on your stuff. People who don’t go to Amazon for their reading experiences. Short term (and medium term), going exclusive with Amazon may mean more eyes up front = more potential money sooner.

8 – Spend too much time and money on advertising.

There is this thought that the single best bit of advertising you can and should do for your book is to write the next book in the series. So every moment you delay, is a potential reader possibly not finding you.

books-messy

9 – Print too many copies of their book.

Having your book in print is an amazing thing. As much as I appreciate how eBooks have changed the landscape, there is something amazing about holding your own book in your hands. Still, you should be realistic on your sales. And maybe you should order in the 10s as opposed to the 100s.

10 – Think that you have all the answers…

Because no one has any idea what the “Right” way to do any of this. For every person with a terrible concept, cover, lack of edits, etc. holding them back – others are chugging right along having only spent about five bucks on a cover and no editing whatsoever.

joker-all-apart-of-the-plan

There is a very fine line between doing something stupid and having it all be “a part of the plan”. There is a finer line between experimentation and making a mistake. Whatever you do, make sure you have a reason for doing it. That way, even if you’re wrong, you can at least know why you went down that particular path.

***

Full disclosure – I have done some (much), if not nearly everything on the above list. I have done them willingly. No one had to twist my arm to ensure it would happen. I have my own excuses. Some legitimate. Some probably (definitely) not so legitimate. I’ve genre hopped. I’ve had way too long go between books. I’ve published only on Amazon and then gone wide with something else. I’ve tried some advertising and no advertising.

Luckily (for my readers), I have had editing done. That one is/was/will be a deal breaker for me.

I’m still learning. Still making those mistakes.

I’m mostly waiting for the EASY BUTTON, myself. That’ll make this whole process that much easier.

(That’s probably #11 right there.)

***

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.

Could My Brain Be Evil?

The month of October is the absolute perfect time for that favorite pastime of mine: watching horror movies. I love the bad ones that everyone else hates and somehow only takes a couple of friends mocking it to make it seem all the better. I love the classics that everyone agree on as being the best of the best. New, old, black and white monster movies to slasher flicks to haunted house stories…

I love horror movies.

***

October is also a different kind of month for me. It is that last month which promises to be productive for writing before the hectic natures of November and December appear to rip every last bit of free time from me until the new year. Much like when you were in school and you had two weeks to turn in that report, but you decided to put things off day after day, because there was always a little more time there… before you know it, the thing is due and you’re up until four in the morning, blurred vision, just trying to get something on the page.

That’s how it is with my various projects.  And no matter how much I have accomplished over the last 9+ months, it’s never as much as I would like to have accomplished. I come up with plans and calendars and self-imposed deadlines, and still I feel like I’m always rolling that damn boulder up the hill.

Sheer horror.

***

tmnt-kraang

That’s when it hit me. Maybe my brain is evil?

That is the only conclusion you could possibly come to in all of this. We’ve been told throughout cinema how we can get so focused on the results that we rush headlong without actually doing all the little pieces of work. I mean, I’ve watched The Fly. I’ve read Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I’ve read a Superman comic with Lex Luthor. You can think you’re taking a good turn before you realize it has all been a lie from the very beginning.

Maybe that guy upstairs, rattling around in my skull, is both the architect of my salvation and also the cause of all my sorrow? He plays both the angel and devil on my shoulders. I just don’t realize that they are one in the same.

If this was a courtroom drama, I would go ahead and present my case (so that’s what I’m going to do).

1 – He conspires against me as I sleep. I know that now. There is a plan I’m not privy to where he has detailed the entire downfall of my writing career. And before you think that maybe I’m just being paranoid (his fault again), let’s look at the evidence:

2 – He loves a blank page. Every time I go to start a new project he likes to linger on that first, completely clean page. Subtle little thoughts of what could appear there managed to fight off those first instincts, but that is only because of the larger plan he has awaiting me.

3 – He makes sure that I forget my good ideas, even when I write down the most obscure titles. I’m pretty sure that the title of this blog doesn’t match my original intent (but I’ll show him!).

candle

4 – He’s the one that makes me think the last thing I wrote is no good. Ideas of “scrap the whole thing and rewrite it from scratch” run across my brain like the stocks at the bottom of all the news channels. Every line I write can’t be the worst thing he’s ever read, it’s just not possible (right?).

5 – He is the master of distractions. Oh, he knows every sports team that is playing and when they are going to be on TV. Or every internet site that we “probably” should check out – for “research” purposes. Time is just a con game for him, and he is damn good a manipulating it.

inside-out-guilt

Guilt – From Inside Out’s cutting room floor

6 – He’s best friends with Guilt. Together they form a powerful duo that will not only cause you to stay up too late staring at the screen, hoping for inspiration (who, as I understand it, is just outside the front door – if only I’d let her in).

7 – He’s into torture. At 2 in the morning, when the barest trickle of something which very well might be readable, starts to show up – that’s when the yawns come. That’s when I need to go to sleep.

8 – He invites the Beast to visit. Writer’s block. Knowing he could step in and save the day, but it is too much fun for him to watch me drown over and over.

***

It must be the same reasoning that causes me to like all of those horror movies. My Brain loves a good tale of woe and scares. Luckily for me, I’m onto him now. Maybe I can throw him off guard, stay a little bit ahead of him, and when these last couple of months start-up I can set a new momentum. Force him to play catch-up for once.

***

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.

 

Things I Wish Someone Would Have Told Me

I’ve squirreled away bits and pieces of information. The type of things you wish you didn’t have to learn the “hard way”. Various little lessons. There is still tons more to learn, but this is where I’m at today.

 

You can do multiple drafts.

I’m pretty sure that unless you have sat down and actually written something that this whole process is like stage magic. You know in your heart of hearts there is a logical explanation on how these books get written, but damned if you can’t see through the trick.

magic

And then when you start writing… well, it isn’t very good. Sure the idea might be fine, but those two sentences you put together over there – yeah, those are garbage. Soon enough you may believe your whole approach is terrible. Why are you even bothering? I mean, haven’t you read X author? Her stuff is amazing! I bet the genius just falls from her brain into the computer like that.

But like the magician, I’m here to tell you that there isn’t always going to be magic in the first draft. Luckily the first draft is just that. It means you can go back and correct it. These aren’t the days of the typewriter and trying to use white-out in order to clear up your mistakes.

Instead we have this amazing thing called the backspace.

You can change and update and tweak and fine-tune for as long as you want.

 

(Almost) Never show anyone your first draft.

Seriously. I’m not kidding. Really there shouldn’t be a parenthesis in this section because even my wife doesn’t get to read the 1st draft (she probably does read something closer to a 1.5 draft). I suppose if you have a writing partner, and they are the ones effectively doing the 2nd draft then maybe it might be… it’s still a terrible idea.

Writing Dark

Let me spare you from what will happen (almost) 100% of the time:

The person reading doesn’t understand that this is the first draft (it’s the magic trick bit from above – no one has told them the secret), so every bit of the feedback you may get is going to be about spelling errors or grammar related things. They are going to talk about the plot holes (which you know about and will fix in that crazy Draft 2) you can drive a truck through.

But 95% of what you get isn’t going to help you very much. In fact, I’d argue that it will only discourage you no matter how nice they are about it.

I’ve done it one time ever and will never do it again.

 

Their way isn’t your way.

When you read blogs or articles or books or hear people talk about their craft… I always think I must be doing it wrong. They write 5000 words a day. They write 1 million words in a year. They write up-teen (an official number, honest) of books in the last couple of years.

Dreams Road Sign

I mean who could be happy with their own output when everyone else is doing it so much better, so much more efficient, and more effective than I could ever attempt to do it?

What’s the point of bothering at all? If it takes me a year to write a book. If I have two books that still need to be properly edited. If no agent wants my stuff?

That’s the mess going on in my head most days. That’s the shit I have to make sure to force back down into the dark recesses of my mind or it will paralyze me.

Look, it is great to have goals, but they have to be realistic. And they may only work for YOU. If you can only write 100 words in a day, it just means that you will take a little longer to get to 1000 words than the guy who writes 5000 words a day.

Just gotta keep repeating that to myself. Remind me that I’m still on track… not your track, but my track.

 

There is no such thing as having time to write.

I’ve been thinking about this a little bit over the past few months. Sometimes lamenting not having enough time in the day (again, let’s move to Mars where we’d get an extra 4 hours a day!). In a bit of synchronicity, Gail Simone (@GailSimone), writer of Wonder Woman and Red Sonja and Birds of Prey (among tons of other things), talked on Twitter this week about an encounter with a woman who commented that “she’d love to write, but who has the time?”

time slipping away

Every day is a struggle with the writing thing. Whether it is due to an abundance of distractions or life or just general laziness, it becomes this thing that I block time out for and then never get quite as much done as I would have liked to. But I’m learning, every day. Sometimes it is a technique, sometimes it is a breakthrough on how to write a bit of dialogue, and sometimes it is staying up way to late in order to finish this week’s blog.

Guess what – welcome to life.

People have things to do. We all have commitments. All that stuff above is my own set of excuses. What it really means is I have to make a choice about where I spend my time.

Do I put my butt in the chair and go to work or do I allow that time to be co-oped by some other activity? Because it is up to me most of the time. Life is about choices.

I chose to write.

***

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.

What This Blog Looks Like Now Will Shock You!

Good things take a while. Bad things arrive instantly wherever they are not wanted.

Projects drag on for much longer than you ever thought possible. And I have the patience of… well, something with a lot of patience. There is a fine line between patience and stubbornness. Most times, I’m not sure I understand the difference. Either way, I do my best to remain upbeat about the little hiccups. I try not to worry about the medium-sized issues which tend to pop up every now and again regardless of the project you might actually be working on right then and there.

But when it all goes sideways. When Lucy pulls that damn football out from under you just as you prepare to strike the goal.

lucy-football

That’s the moments that make you wonder if the Thing is ever going to actually happen.

I worry about what other people think. Not in the way you’re probably thinking. More in the writing itself. I wonder if people have it in the back of their minds that “oh, it’s nice he’s doing that comic book thing. Oh, that’s good he did that novel thing. But…”

And the “But” could be any number of things, but in my mind what the “But” signifies is that age old question so many writers tend to want to worry about – Am I a real writer?

Said with the same emphasis Pinocchio might have used when he asked if he was a real boy.

pinochio

You see, to my friends and family I wonder if they view this as a Hobby? Dreaded word that is. That maybe I’m just staying up until 2 in the morning because I got nothing better to do. That maybe I’m kidding myself in this pursuit.

So I want to have those moments where there is something tangible. Even if they might not “get” what I’m doing with the various comics, when I hold up a copy of the book there is something tactile they can see. And maybe they don’t have any idea of the work that went into it, but it is there.

Now, some/most/all of this might just be in my head. Stephen King said that (at least I think it was him) if you got paid for something you wrote and it was enough to pay for a utility bill – that’s it. You’re a “Real Writer”.

And I have managed to do that. Multiple times.

Yet doubt is there.

And then the doubt kicks into overtime when a couple of things don’t go my way. Earlier this year I sent a pitch and sample chapter(s) to an assortment of agents who represent Science Fiction for my novel The White Effect. Nothing, no takers. Earlier this month I entered a contest #Pitchwars with the same novel and got the same result (as in, I didn’t get anywhere with it).

Yesterday I found out I wasn’t accepted into the DC Comic Workshop.

Now, I understand… in my head, that these things are long shots. That the good things take time to happen.

But… it gets hard. Lucy needs to let me hit that ball from time to time.

dragoncon

Then maybe it is fitting that this week, along with Robert Jeffrey, I’ll be participating in my second ever Dragon Con Panel to talk about a project that at multiple times I was 100% sure was never going to see the light of day. Because that’s just how these things go. Sometimes it is good to be wrong.

The panel (4 PM on Friday) is going to discuss the KABI Chronicles, a motion comic Terminus Media did for the Centers for Disease Control (yes, THAT CDC), to create a series of stories that could both entertain as well as teach teenagers and young twenty-somethings about STIs and HIV. Something that we started working on 5 years ago. Something that went from 3 episodes to 7 episodes. Something that was delayed and then restarted and then delayed and then…

Something that I helped to write. Something I helped to create.

And now it is out there.

Nice timing…

***

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.

J Edward’s Big Fat Author Video

Hey everyone.

This week, instead of words, I give you video.

About four and half minutes of it.

It’s just me discussing A Door Never Dreamed Of, 101 Questions for the End of the World, and my new super (not anymore) secret project.

It’s also my first video taken in my new apartment…which was less weird than I thought it’d be.

Anyway…please click the link to enjoy my latest video on Youtube:

Oh…and here’s some of my stuff:

WebImageFront DDP 1 101 Questions for Humanity

J Edward Neill