Imagine a World Without ________

Reach deep.

And imagine…

 

You’re walking down a city street. All the cars speeding past you are grey and boxlike. They’re all the same, featureless, colorless, and they make no sound as they sweep down the streets.

You walk into a clothing store. There are no sections for men, women, and children. On every rack hang beige shirts, pants, and coats. The styles are drab and shapeless. There are no dressing rooms. There is no color. Other shoppers…even the cashier…are dressed in the same exact clothing. Everyone looks identical. You slap down your money and walk out with a grey bag full of the same clothes everyone else wears.

You’re hungry. Starving, actually. You walk into a restaurant without a name, a logo, or a menu. You step up to the counter and order the same thing everyone else is having. This is the city’s best place to eat, but you’re not impressed. All they offer are tasteless, watery noodles and flavorless bread. Everyone sits quietly and eats at grey tables. You can’t even remember why you picked this place.

Mmmmmm…watery noodles.

At home, you’re ready to relax after a long day at work. Your house looks exactly like everyone else’s, but luckily you remember which one is yours. After all, it’s got a number. You park your grey car inside your grey garage, and you walk through grey doors into a grey room. Your walls are barren. No photos of loved ones. No paintings. No color. You sit on your couch and turn on your TV. There’s only one station. It’s the same two people wearing the same two suits talking about the same thing they did yesterday. There’s no Food Network, SyFy Channel, Game of Thrones, or Discovery Channel. It’s just two people discussing the value of nothing. What else is there to watch?

Nothing.

You’d like to go to the movies. But there’s no such thing.

You’re thinking of taking a stroll through a museum. But no one’s ever thought to build one.

You’re hungry for a gourmet pizza, a scrumptious slice of cake, and a nice cocktail. But there’s no chefs, no bakeries, and certainly no bartenders.

Perhaps I’ll just lie in bed and read a book, you think. It’s not like there’s anything else to do. 

But there are no books. Because there are no authors. And even if there were, all the covers would look the same…grey and black. You wouldn’t know which one to read. It’d be impossible to choose. At this point, you’d settle for a magazine, a newspaper, or a funny website with cute comics on the internet. It sucks, because these things don’t exist. You’ve never heard of them. You can’t even want to want them.

You’re bored. You’re distraught. You step outside for a walk. It’s strange walking through your town. The houses, buildings, shops, and stores are all white boxes. No one bothers with windows…there’s nothing to see. You can’t tell the difference between the car repair shop and the bank. They look exactly the same. No one ever bothered to be an architect. No one knew it was possible.

There’s one thing left that’ll save you. You run back to your trusty radio. It’s a grey box like all the others. You flip the switch and turn the dial to your favorite station. The sound greeting your ears? Static. Dead, dry noise. There’s no rhythm in it. There’s no beat, no catchy hook. It’s just static.

Always crackling. Always the same.

And you’re emptier still.

That evening, your kid comes home from school.

“What did you do today?” you ask. “Learn anything interesting?”

He shrugs. He doesn’t care much about school. He learns the same things every day: math, chemistry, and science. That’s all well and good. But he never has any good stories. It’s because there aren’t any. He’s happy because he doesn’t have to write book reports, but sad because he’s never read a book. There’s not much going on at his school. No sports. No chess club. No band camp. Why have extracurricular activities if there’s no such thing?

He doesn’t even know what a crayon is.

Actually, neither do you.

You’re walking down a hall.

The walls are barren. Everyone you pass is wearing pale sackcloth. Everyone looks the same.

It’s silent in this place. The only sounds you hear are footsteps and your own breathing. They haven’t even bothered to pipe lame elevator music into this place. Why would they? There’s no such thing.

There’s no color here. There’s nothing to do but eat your noodles, sleep in your white bed, and drive to work in your simple grey box.

What is this place?

Where am I? you wonder.

It’s simple.

This is a world without art. Without color. Without chefs, architects, or artisans. Without painters, writers, or musicians. Without photographers, sculptors, or comedians. Without gardeners. Without dance. Without movies.

Without meaning.

Support an artist today.

Without them, we are nothing.

J Edward Neill

Grinding Away in a Creative Life

It’s sunny outside.

It’s the kind of morning of which I like to dream. Not cold, but not quite warm. No clouds. No wind. I can hear the birds and smell the honeysuckle. It’s perfect.

It’s enough to make me want to freeze time and wander the morning for a few thousand years.

I should be working, but I’m not. I’ve just finished publishing another pair of books, and I find myself slogging through a short story about which I’m only somewhat passionate.

Sometimes, when I hit a lull like this, I pick up my paintbrush and spread out a few shadows. Maybe a colorful tree. A mournful maiden. Or maybe something terrifying.

Not today. I’m not in the mood.

I really just want to hang with the cat.

This is where I’m at:

Eaters of the Light, my sci-fi/romance/thriller series? It’s published.

My goal of finishing thirty canvas paintings at this point in the year? Exceeded.

The latest entry in my ridiculous ‘Reasons to Break Up’ trilogy? Slapped together and shipped.

It’s been a good year so far. But I want more.

Some people talk about creative exhaustion. About writer’s block. About procrastination, lack of direction, and boredom.

Nah. Forget all that.

I’ve got 99 problems, but none of ’em are those.

My cardinal sin? Setting reachable goals.

Yeah. Oops.

It’s like this. Some mountains in life are meant to be climbed. You say you want to save $1000 bucks for a vacation? Boom, you did it; now get in the car and head to the beach. Land a big promotion at work? Achieved. Need to step outside and mow your lawn? Nice, you’re finished…hopefully with a cool glass of bourbon awaiting you inside.

But artistic goals – are those really meant to be conquered? Of this, I’m not so sure. Is there ever a point at which an author sits down and says, ‘You know…I think I’m done. No more books. I’m just gonna drift away into the sunset .’ Do painters, sculptors, and photographers one day just set down their tools and declare their life’s work complete? I mean…maybe. Maybe some people can do it. Maybe the best of the best reach a point of contentedness, and afterward float away in the clouds with a satisfied smile on their faces.

Maybe.

But somehow I doubt it.

My son – the G Man. He’s not impressed.

Last night, for the first time in forever, I didn’t create. My brushes sat in a Mason jar full of water, soaking up nothing. My new short story ‘Nadya the Deathless’ laid untouched on my century-old laptop. I didn’t draw. I didn’t write. I didn’t wander outside beneath the perfect stars to dream up a new and exhilarating story.

I just sat there in the gloom of my basement. With a bowl of Progresso soup. Vaguely watching a movie. Not really thinking, moving, or existing.

For a while, maybe an hour, I floated in the stillness. Near the end, a scary idea crept over me. I thought perhaps I’d made a grave error in setting goals that were too easy to achieve. ‘Aim low, and you’ll hit your target,’ I realized. ‘Shoot for the moon, and though you’ll never make it, you’ll get to die trying.’

I opened my eyes. The back door was open, and the moths fluttering inside to get at the room’s only lamp. My cats dozed beside me, savoring my rare moment of inactivity.

It was then I knew my low-goal setting hadn’t been some tragic thing.

I can make a new goal, I realized. Something lofty. Something impossible to reach.

Something I’ll be proud to die trying to do.

So let’s talk goals.

Absurd goals.

Quest to drop the One Ring into Mount Doom kind of goals.

Right now I’ve got thirty-two published books. My new goal – one-hundred.

Right now my painting store is stocked with one-hundred nine original canvas paintings. New goal – three-hundred.

Season one of Hollow Empire is finished. New goal – finish three full seasons.

This giant fantasy trilogy, the one I published five years ago, has begun to gather dust. New goal – sell one-thousand new copies…and write a sequel.

And my most ambitious goal, the one that’ll allow me to sniff retirement, is to sell one-million copies of this little tome. (Right now I’m only at thirteen-thousand copies sold.)

Challenges, challenges…

Insurmountable.

Unlikely.

Delusional.

This should be fun.

It’s still sunny outside, although maybe a bit warmer now. And there’s just a few things more I want to share before I wander outside.

My art partner, Tahina Morrison, with whom I’ve created nearly one-hundred sculpted paintings, is leaving town. It was inevitable, this change. It’s humanity’s natural ebb and flow.  As I sit in my little chair and think about the challenges that will arise in her absence, I can’t help but smile.

We did good work together, she and I.

We had a blast.

 

Furiosa

Twilight Shaman

 

Horned Queen

*

These are just a few of my favorite collaborative pieces. In Tahina’s absence, I realize my painting goals will be even more difficult to achieve.

So be it. Challenge accepted.

Now then…

I think it’s probably time.

Time to open the door and step out into the sunlight.

Time to stop talking about goals and start realizing them.

Time to feed my cats.

Thanks to all my readers for sticking with me. Thanks to all the art collectors who’ve invested in me, and who happily stick my canvasses on their walls. And special thanks to Tahina and the G Man, without whom the last two years would’ve been infinitely less rewarding.

Goodbye for now.

I’ll be back.

 * * *

Readers will want to check out this book here. Trust me…you’ll be happy you did.

And dark art lovers might appreciate this piece, which I created based on an actual skull sitting in my living room.

J Edward Neill

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kindle Worlds – Looking Forward Back

“I’ve come to bury Kindle Worlds, not to praise it.”

***

In Indy publishing, the big worry is What is Amazon going to do? For so many independent writers, Amazon has provided them with a steady income to turn their hobby of creating fiction into a true job. They see that constant stream coming in, month by month and believe it will never end. So they up and quit their day jobs only to see their returns begin to dry up. And why does this happen? Many times it is due to Amazon changing their algorithms in how your books get presented to the book-buying public. If your title gets some extra love from Amazon, maybe it takes off into the Top lists for your category or even for the whole of the store itself. That one thing can be the difference between pizza money and a house payment.

But the whispers are always there:

What if Amazon changes something?

What if Amazon decides to overhaul their programs?

What if they decide to get rid of some aspect of the program?

Some people worry and diversify their writings to other sellers (Smashwords, Draft2Digital, Barnes and Noble, etc.) and others say they’ll cross that bridge when they come to it.

For those people making more than pizza money on their Kindle Worlds stories, the end is nigh (see the email here). And much like those oracles had predicted… you never know when or if it is going to happen (and my follow-up).

***

For the two Veronica Mars Kindle Worlds Courtney and I wrote (still available here and here!), it was always on the pizza money side of things. Four years ago I wrote a post talking about writing in that universe and the birth of a story (here). Last year we finally followed up that one with another book, which I wrote about (here).

Prior to Kindle Worlds existing, I didn’t get Fan Fiction. I certainly didn’t understand that there were tons of places on the internet where you could go and read about your favorite tv show or movie characters further adventures. Did you want to know what would happen if Show X crossed over with Show Y? There’s probably a whole subgroup for that. And, if there isn’t, you could always invent the genre!

But writing Fan Fiction isn’t that different from many things I’ve done over the years playing RPGs or coming up with my comic book pitches that will never be read by anyone over at Marvel or DC (but seriously, I have a 60 issue pitch for Moon Knight that you wouldn’t believe!). I’m still not sure how I feel about the whole Fifty Shades origins, but clearly, it worked, so who am I to judge?

So the announcement last week that this was all going away hit me well and good. Not because they were selling thousands of copies, but because it helped me convince my wife to write with me. Or maybe it was her telling me that we WERE going to write something together once it was known that Veronica Mars was going to be a destination spot within the program.

The nice thing about the program is/was that there really wasn’t any pressure. I’m not saying we didn’t put our best work out there… I think we did a great job working within the world of the TV show. I just mean that this was something on the shorter side (just over 10,000 words in each of the two novellas) that we could put out for consumption pretty quick. A full-length novel takes me months/years to write a draft, then do another draft, then set it aside for a while, then hire an editor…

These were different.

In addition, I wanted to make sure all those hours of her watching and rewatching the show could suddenly be called RESEARCH! 🙂

There was always good and bad with creating these stories though. We knew that if Veronica Mars removed herself from the program, the books wouldn’t really have a home anymore other than on the Kindles who’d already bought them and our hard drive. We also knew these weren’t our toys; they would need to be returned to the toy box. I’ve only had a couple of occasions in my writing projects where I wasn’t the one creating the story and characters and worlds. These two projects allowed me to stretch a different kind of writing muscle. Hopefully, it made me a better collaborator and writer for it.

***

I want to thank everyone who has downloaded them over the years and appreciate the reviews that have been left. These two stories are going to become this thing we did. Maybe some other program will come along allowing us to display our works once again.

***

John McGuire has co-written, along with his wife, two Kindle Worlds novellas set in the world of Veronica Mars: Theft & Therapy and There’s Something About Mac.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Kindle Worlds Closing

 

Almost five years to the day, from when they originally announced the program, yesterday Amazon sent out emails to the various Kindle Worlds authors letting them know that they were discontinuing the program.

As of May 17th, Kindle Worlds will no longer be accepting new submissions. Previously published Kindle Worlds stories will no longer be available for sale on Amazon.com on or around July 16th. The Kindle Worlds website will be closed on August 29th.

When Kindle Worlds rolled out, it was with three worlds fan-fiction authors could play in: Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars, and Vampire Diaries. Over the past five years, this number has grown to ninety. Ranging from other television shows to romance to comic book superheroes, the line seemed to be the answer for many aspiring writers who populated fan fiction boards and posted their latest versions of the characters. Expanding on moments from the series, whether that was television or in print form, Kindle Worlds encouraged them to not only continue what they were doing but actually get paid something for their efforts. If your work was over 10,000 words the royalty rate would be 35% of net revenue. Works between 5,000 and 9,999 words, which would be priced at $0.99 would provide a royalty of 20% of net revenue.

It really felt like a win/win scenario for all parties.

There were a few caveats to this. Authors would need to follow Amazon’s content guidelines. In addition, anything new that was created within the world would potentially be owned by the license holder. Still, even with those parameters, Amazon was able to launch the website with titles from some established authors. They put the spotlight on these works and the fan fiction began to populate. A look today shows The Vampire Diaries as the largest library with 232 submitted stories with GI Joe (124) and the Silo Saga from Hugh Howey (122) coming in at numbers two and three.

One of the early Kindle Worlds.

In light of the announcement, the questions of what to do with those works fall back to both the original authors and potentially the license holders. When Amazon closes the doors, the rights will shift back to the author who could then strip out any reference to the Kindle World in question and potentially put out a “clean” version of the story for sale. Whether that is worth the effort or perhaps these become lost treasures mentioned on an author’s website and nothing more.

For an indy author who had the fortune of people writing in their worlds, more eyes should translate to potentially more sales. This removes one of the avenues to get the word out there. Though, there is always the chance that the license holders will come up with ways to keep those versions out there, pointing new readers to their own series while still rewarding their fans who wrote the stories. Some writers have already taken to Facebook and Twitter to announce they have “something in the works”, so authors would do well to continue to pay attention to their World’s Creators in the coming months.

 

***

John McGuire has co-written, along with his wife, two Kindle Worlds novellas set in the world of Veronica Mars: Theft & Therapy and There’s Something About Mac.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Kindle Worlds Shutdown

As a co-author of two Kindle Worlds novellas, I was sad to get the following in my email this afternoon:

 

Dear John,

As a valued member of the Kindle Worlds author community, we wanted to let you know of some upcoming changes to the Kindle Worlds program.

As of May 17th, Kindle Worlds will no longer be accepting new submissions. Previously published Kindle Worlds stories will no longer be available for sale on Amazon.com on or around July 16th. The Kindle Worlds website will be closed on August 29th; we ask that all Kindle Worlds participants update and validate their banking information, mailing address, and contact information by July 31, 2018 in order to facilitate a timely final royalty payment.

Your final royalty statement will include a proactive final payment for all remaining Kindle Unlimited borrows, including borrows that have not yet met the qualified borrow threshold. We plan to remove Kindle Worlds stories from Kindle Unlimited on May 16th.

Effective as of the date we remove your work from the Kindle Worlds program, we revert the rights granted to us by you in your Kindle Worlds Publishing Agreement. As a reminder, please note that certain rights have been granted to the applicable World Licensor and, as a result, you may not be able to republish your work, use elements from the world, or otherwise exploit the rights you granted unless you obtain the World Licensor’s permission.

If you have any questions, please feel free to email kindle-worlds-support@amazon.com.

For five years, Kindle Worlds has been thriving, engaging writers and readers who enjoy writing in one another’s worlds, and we’re proud of the work we’ve done together. While we are closing Kindle Worlds, Amazon is constantly innovating on behalf of our authors and readers, and we look forward to continuing to do so. 

We hope that 2018 and beyond bring wonderful things for you and your stories, and we appreciate your support over the years. 

Warm wishes,
The Kindle Worlds Team  

 

Kindle Worlds was a great opportunity to play in someone else’s sandbox for a little while. And being able to write with my wife in a world she is… obsessed with, in Veronica Mars, is one of the highlights of the writing side of my life.

So I guess now I should say: “Still available for a limited time!” (Click on the image to see the books.)

 

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His 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

Crumbs

I’m having trouble with a story. It’s not so much a case of Writer’s Block. I know what the subject is. I pretty much know the beginning, middle, and ending. The problem I’m having is in the How. How do I tell the story? What form will it ultimately take when it is put on the page? I can’t wrap my mind around it and I don’t know why.

I have 8 pages of notes for this short story. That feels excessive, but I have to truly understand what is going on before I can be sure how the story will look. And it means I can’t proceed until then. The best I can do is write notes, mini-essays to myself in an effort to retrain my brain in what needs to be said. So I thought I might put some of the more essay parts out here to sift through things and perhaps find the right truth buried within.

***

We box up things. Pieces of us. Memories of a life lived. Through our wars and struggles, through the joys… everything that makes up a part of us.

Leafing through biographies like they were disposable items. Something to be thrown out rather than clutched to our chests and cherished. Something to be lived in once more.

These are our oldest friends, long-lost pets, a picture, a collar, a tag, a scrap of paper – separately they are probably junk… trash… together they become something else – a legacy of one man’s life.

A fossilized record of what came before.

And sadly only interesting to that one person.

Each one has a memory. Each one reminds me of something. Brings back that thing I’ve thought long since forgotten. These aren’t the kind of things you just remember because you want to. These are the things you are forced to remember because to not remember is to not have lived. To not have experienced a life worth living. To accumulate things isn’t a bad thing if it means you are connecting to a different version of yourself. That kid who recorded a VHS tape is far different from the man who just got rid of his only means of playing it. I’ve never even watched the damn thing. I’ve never had the desire. It’s a game where the team I root for winds by six or seven points. So why the hell do I keep it?

No picture is needed for a random box of baseball cards. I know exactly when and where it was purchased. Florida. Spring Break. We chilled IBC bottles instead of alcohol… still too young to bother with the real stuff. I can’t remember her name, but I still feel her arm’s wrapped around me while we sat around the hotel’s pool in that unseasonably chilly night air.

It didn’t matter if the box of cards were long since worthless – a tragedy of over-printing in the early nineties. It didn’t even matter that aside from these once a year epic cleanings that I hadn’t touched the box or the cards inside. None of that mattered.

It was what it always had been: a time capsule of a weekend of time. To remove that from my house would be to erase a moment from myself. As if I was telling a younger version that their moment all those years ago didn’t matter. The money spent was never going to be an investment.

They connect me to that kid all those years ago. They let me travel through time in my own way. They’ve built me up and cobbled me together out of ideas and thoughts and adventures and happiness and sadness and everything in between. A picture of a man. Yet not complete because you can only see the outside stuff. You can never see into the nooks and crannies of what it is to have those fleeting thoughts.

Without them, I’m just an old man who doesn’t know how he got from there to here. They’re my roadmap leading me from the past into my future.

 

Instead, Spring Cleaning meant death for those little pieces of memory.

Without those pieces, you get unstuck from things, from who you are. They define you, they anchor you, and those… the bad things… it’s ok if you are rid of those. It’s more than ok – you should seek those and cut them out of your life. Rid yourself of the terrible things wholly and you won’t be the same person either. You have to accept all of it. Sometimes it is going to be bad and sometimes it may end up good. And whether you want it to be those things or not-

Is no longer up to you.

***

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.

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

Define “Fine”

THE GOOD PLACE — “Everything Is Fine” Episode 101– Pictured: Kristen Bell as Eleanor — (Photo by: Justin Lubin/NBC)

Fine – adjective – Of high quality

Fine – adverb – in a satisfactory or pleasing manner; very well

Both of these definitions lead me to believe that if you were to say that something was “fine” or that you thought the food was “fine” you would be paying it a compliment.

However, in my house there are two other definitions:

Fine – adverb – Adequate. Not great, but not bad. Ok.

That is my usage of Fine most of the time (pardon the rhyme). It is how I let someone know that the thing is pretty much average.

Fine – 4-letter word – See $#$%$ and @#$$#

That is how my wife hears the word. To her, it has become synonymous with terrible, bad, unfortunate, and about 100 other things which convey “BAD”. And no matter how much I’ve tried to explain myself – that I’m merely using it in lieu of saying things are OK – she doesn’t really believe it.

But here’s the thing: most things are just Fine to me.

When I go to a restaurant I can think of about 2-3 times where I was so blown away by the food I thought to myself that “this is the greatest X thing I’ve ever eaten”. I hear other people talk about restaurants and a particular cut of meat or a certain dish that they all say is the best in the city, the best in the state, oh, you have no idea how good it tastes.

It’s fine. It’s never as good as all of that. It’s decent enough. Never bad, but never mind-blowing. Just Fine.

(Maybe it is my taste buds. I don’t ever season things… I like fairly bland food.)

Or even when things turn the other way – maybe they food quality has decreased… eh, I bet it is still Fine, but you’ve convinced yourself it is the worst horrible really bad thing you could have encountered.

Most days of work are like that too. I try not to get too up or too down about the day job. I come in, do my work, and then I leave it all behind me as soon as I get to the car. And while there are certainly days I want to pull out my hair or days where I’m just not in the mood to work… most of the time it is just Fine.

Movies/TV Shows – Tons of them fall into this category. Books, too. Many times I’ve walked out of a movie and liked it enough, but if I wouldn’t tell you to rush out to see it… it’s probably just Fine, too.

Writing… my writing… I don’t want it to be fine. It doesn’t have to be spectacular or the next great American novel or any of that. I am by no means a perfectionist (or at least that is what I tell myself), but I need it to be better than OK. I think if you create anything you have to want it to be “More”. More than the previous book they read. More than the last meal they had. Just More.

So I struggle with word choice and sentences and read and reread things I’ve written and sometimes there is a passage or a chapter or even a couple of chapters where I recognize that the piece is better than Fine. That’s where, I think, you have to push yourself. You have to try to limit the number of Fine sections. You can’t be just “adequate”. You want to aspire to the very first definition… “Of High Quality”.

That is something worth aspiring to.

***

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.

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

 

Even More Editing Hacks

I took too long of a break between writing the 1st draft of the current novel I’m working on. I’ve about 1/3 of the way through it and hit the dreaded Writer’s Block. Say what you will about the mighty Block (I did here), whether you believe in it or not, whether you let it control you or not, or maybe you just ignore it altogether… when it does sneak up on you it is no fun.

So now I’m back at it, trying to get back into the flow, trying to figure out what it is that I’m doing. And trying to fill in the gaps of an outline that I didn’t realize had any gaps in it until I started writing.

Well, I’m almost at it. You see, I’m somewhat breaking one of my rules about editing before the draft is done. In rereading the early chapters of the book I notice things. Nothing big, but enough where I want to tweak, add, subtract, you name it and I’m trying to do it. So I’m both reading and editing in an effort to get back to where I want to be with the book.

But I notice the little things and it makes me realize that putting things off until the end can work for a while… until it doesn’t want to work anymore.

Character Names – I use placeholders for names of characters. Who the heck knows if the girl is a Jennifer or a Celeste? I don’t always know that when I start writing them. So they get a placeholder name. And that works pretty well until it becomes time to figure out who they are supposed to be, and you still don’t have your main character’s last name (just “YYY”). It is annoying and bothersome and forced me into some true decision making about a couple of names.

Skipping around and writing chapters out of order – A great way to ensure productivity for the evening is to jump around with the manuscript. You write the first 6 or 7 chapters and then when you get a tiny bit stuck, just jump to the big action scene or that one scene you’ve been looking forward to for forever. It keeps the writing crisp and gets you closer to writing The End. The only problem is that if you don’t finish everything up you are left with huge gaps where you’re either not sure what is going to happen or you are 100% sure, but may not want to actually write that piece of the narrative. Because you’ve already written that “exciting’ section, the rest sometimes feel a little mundane.

Outline – This is the best. You may think you work better pantsing, but you just don’t know the power of the outline. It’s great.

And then you realize that the outline isn’t complete. You’ve left out a huge plot point which occurred to you while you were writing. You forgot some set piece or character moment or something. And now you’re stuck again. Repairing this thing that you’re not sure you really needed or just the thought of what good is it to lay everything out if you are just going to go off script anyway.

Or maybe that’s ok. Maybe it is just the basic roadmap, but it doesn’t have to have all the possible stops. It may not mention the big ball of yarn, but if you want to include it – it just means that maybe you need to update the outline.

Get to the keyboard and just type – Really, this is the only hack I need to remind myself of. Sitting down and do it. The words are going to flow one way or another, but you won’t capture them sitting on the couch.

 

***

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.

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 – Looking Forward Back

 

I started doing this series of blog posts at the beginning of July. My thinking was two-fold:

1 – Check out who might be producing Steampunk comics.

Obviously, I write a Steampunk comic (The Gilded Age), so I’m already interested in the genre. However, aside from the DC covers they did that one month or something else random to come out which might mimic the ascetics, I really didn’t know what other indy creators might be doing within the genre.

2 – Help potentially spread the word for those creators.

Comics should be this thing where we are always helping each other up. And if I like something why wouldn’t I try to get another person to like it?

3 – Content for the blog.

Some weeks are easier than others to figure out a topic. This really gave me a direction that the Wednesday blog sometimes doesn’t have (which I like the free-form, but this is focused – or as focused as I’m going to get).

4 – See what was successful for other Kickstarters (especially those in the Steampunk realm).

As I was pretty sure I’d be kicking off a Kickstarter sometime in the Fall, this was an excuse to start to drill down and see what might be working and what wasn’t. Looking at the pages for how they were laid out, the various Reward levels, and just the level of artwork on the page. I took notes of what I liked and what I didn’t like.

So if you missed any of the weeks, here’s a handy recap of 2017!

Interviews

Interview with Ken Reynolds

Ken Reynolds is the creator of the comic Cognition: a comic where the lead characters are a clockwork and an evil rat who stop supernatural entities.

And if your brain didn’t begin dripping from your ears, you need to check this out.

Seriously, the comic is all sorts of cool.

Interview with the Creators of Arcane Sally & Mr Steam

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?

Interview with the Creator of Hinges

What I wrote in the introduction still holds true:

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.

Interview with the Creator of The Legend of Everett Forge

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.

Interview with the Creator of Boston Metaphysical Society

Take the X-Files, set it in an alternate history of Boston, and force the characters to have to deal with a different set of social mores and expectation than we deal with today. BMS has run a handful of successful Kickstarters (and have 6 issues collected in their trade), so you are going to get your full story.

The Gilded Age Interviews

As part of my month-long Gilded Age Kickstarter campaign, I collected the various interviews I’d conducted with much of the team over the previous year. There are still a couple of people left to talk to… it’s on the to do list.

Interview with the Creator of Monstrous

Monstrous stems from a lifelong fascination with monster movies and their misunderstood heroes.  Even when they’re completing evil, monsters are always the most compelling thing about the stories they occupy.  I’ve always loved the Universal Studios monsters and Ghostbusters and the Hammer Studios movies.  I threw all of those influences together with plots from John Wayne westerns in this strange steampunk hybrid. Monstrous is like all of these things I’ve loved for years having a party together.

Interview with one of the Creators of The Jekyll Island Chronicles

The Jekyll Island Chronicles is a graphic novel adventure series blending historical fact with heavy doses of alternate history and adventure. Book One, The Machine Age War, opens the story in the days following The Great War – a time when a brief glimmer of peace and hope quickly fades as a cryptic organization moves to threaten fragile governments and their people with a campaign of chaos and terror. 

 

 

Kickstart the Comic

Word Smith

This was the first of the series, focusing on Victoria who crafts words. Through the use of this magic, she is able to affect the world around her. This Kickstarter ended up funding, and I have my digital copy!

Imaginary Voyages of Edgar Allan Poer #1 KS Exclusive

Edgar Allan Poe has lost everyone he ever loved and now he is losing his mind. Haunted by his wife’s ghost and his many literary failures, the poet tumbles into a fantastical world created by his genius…and his madness. This world called Terra Somnium is a nightmare region that merges his macabre literary creations and mythological gods and monsters of old, all hell-bent on stopping him from escaping the land of dreams.

This Kickstarter funded and I believe the second issue was funded as well, so if you missed them, keep an eye out for issue 3.

The Invention of EJ. Whitaker

This was a case where the Kickstarter was long over, but I still wanted to shine a little light on the project. In fact, I need to reach out to the creators about an interview I’ve been promised!

When Ada Turner, a young Inventor’s apprentice, creates a flying machine in 1901, she’s introduced to the dangerous side of the Industrial Age.

Blood & Dust Volume 2

The Old West is really that last bastion before the industrial revolution kicks into high gear. But there is plenty of bleed between the two areas, the same as Steampunk and Weird West style stories. That Gothic Horror feel of monsters being in a place where, by all rights, they should not be. And whether it is a Steampowered invention needing to put the darkness back in its place or the sidearm of a cowboy – it feels all connected even if it isn’t a 100% match of genres all the time.

The Death Defying #1

Arthur Conan Doyle & Harry Houdini.

The writer and the magician.

They were once the best of Friends.

When their friendship went to hell, 

The world wasn’t very far behind.

Stoker and Wells – The Graphic Novel

In 1894 London, a 20-something H.G. Wells and a 40-something Bram Stoker meet and have a very unexpected 48-hour adventure that leads to the creative inspiration for both writer’s first great success – THE TIME MACHINE for Wells and DRACULA for Stoker.  It is not only a thrilling, scary, fun, and beautifully drawn adventure tale, but also a story about putting aside fear and insecurity and stepping into your true identity.

Kickstart the Game

1879 London Adventure and Sourcebook

1879 is FASA’s steamweird roleplaying game, that takes the place of Shadowrun in our cosmology. Due to a weird science experiment that opens a stable wormhole, Earth’s magic cycle gets jumpstarted in the late Victorian era, leading to a Gilded Age with elves, dwarves, snarks, and trolls. As the world adjusts to its new races, technological progress races forward, as the Age of Steam begins to give way to the Age of Electricity. Clockwork computers exchange data over telegraph wires, steam-powered airships chug through the sky, and industrial applications of magic churn out new wonders daily.

Westbound: Revolvers and Rituals

Westbound is a game of adventure on the frontier. You’ll explore the magical wild west, encounter other frontiersmen, fight strange new creatures, and strike gold or die trying. Robbing trains, shooting up saloons, and rescuing damsels is all apart of a days work for a Westbounder.

When the soil’s turned sour,

And the well all dried up.

When men in suits put a gun in your hand

And send you to war.

When there’s nothing left of your home,

But ash and regret.

It’s time to turn Westbound.

Game Reviews

Space: 1889

As I said in the breakdown of the RPG Quickstart rules: Take the best parts of John Carter, Warlord of Mars, a mix of the crazy-fun science fiction of Jules Verne and HG Wells, and top it off with some of the pulp stories from the 30’s and 40’s about adventures on other planets (before pesky real science ruined it for everyone). The Imperial nations of Europe decided to look to the stars to appease their appetites for materials for Queen and Country (or Kaiser and Country as the case may be).

Other

5 Steampunk Movies You Should Watch

As I was coming up with this list of 5 Steampunk movies, I had to admit that there aren’t as many as you might think there are considering the number of costumes I see posted all over the web (or at conventions like Dragon Con). The following aren’t necessarily the best, but these are ones who contribute in their own way to the genre.

Short Film – Eye of the Storm

This is a music video. This is a short film. This is amazing looking.

The story centers around a sky captain making his way across the sky, making peace with what came before and steadying himself on what may come next. Accompanied by a large dog-sized dragon, he sees the green glow just past an oncoming storm and must make his decision on how to deal with it. Whether he should avoid it or push through to the other side.

Batman: Gotham by Gaslight

With the trailer for the animated movie debuting, I thought it was more than time to give a little focus on a Batman related Steampunk story… that I have not read as of yet. Share in the story of my failure…

Gears and Cogs

A few of the things that had caught my eye over that week: Draw with Jazza, They are Billions (video game), and Brass Empire (card game).

***

I’m looking forward to even more this next year!

***

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.

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

 

In the Future, Retread the Past

We come to the beginning of the year and with it a chance to reflect on the previous year’s accomplishments and failures and set those goals for the following year. Every year I set out goals, but manage to only hit a small portion of what I had planned for the coming year. Sometimes the reasons are other projects which suddenly demanded my attention and other times it is a time squeeze or not managing my time just right or perhaps I’m setting my goals too high?

The thing is that each of these projects are like open boxes in my mind. If I’m not careful I’ll continue to open new boxes… which is great! However, if you never close any of the boxes, that can be worse than not having them in the first place.

2018 has to be about closing boxes so that new boxes can be worked on. And a big piece of that puzzle was actually accomplished late last year with the Gilded Age Kickstarter funding. Shutting the box (completing the graphic novel) doesn’t mean I’m finished with the Gilded Age, but instead means I have something I can point at and feel that sense of accomplishment we all get when we complete those large tasks.

The Look Back – 2017

Reviewing my previous to-do list is a little depressing because I can feel the frustration of my previous self. 2017 was to be the end of this “5-year plan” where… well I don’t exactly know what it is I was expecting.

The White Effect

I have one more path for this book before I do self-publish it. I entered it into the Angry Robot open submissions during the holidays. One way or another this must become a box that gets closed.

Edge of the World

Not much movement here. I still need to finish my self-edit. I would still like to send out query letters.

S.O.U.L. Mate

Above, I mentioned that having too many open boxes is better than the alternative, but in this case, the old Writer’s Block came to visit me. It was surprising considering I had the book outlined out… until I realized I didn’t have parts of it outlined out… and that brought me to a screeching halt.

The Gilded Age

This is where I can pat myself (and all those who supported the Kickstarter) on our collective backs. After helping out on the Route 3 Kickstarter, I was both excited and worried about launching my own. But when I finally pulled the trigger… it was even more nerve-wracking than I would have thought!

Regardless, this is a big success, and I’m looking forward to holding the trade in my hands.

Veronica Mars Novella 2

This was published earlier in the year and somewhat showed me that everything is timing. When the Kindle Worlds had just launched, we were pretty much ready with the 1st novella… and while it didn’t break the bank, it was a consistent seller, a handful here or there every month. This novella was released a couple of years later. There wasn’t a new book or movie or really much in the way of Veronica Mars news, and the sales of both books prove that out.

I’m still extremely happy to have published the story.

Short Stories

This was a very nebulous one and I did finish up a couple of stories, but they are still on the hard drive, so maybe I’ll give myself half credit.

Blogging

Another success story in that I still didn’t miss a week (though I came close a couple of times), but the other aspect was to be a little more focused with the Kickstart the Comic series or the Behind the Comic series… and I think I did a better job of it. My blog is probably still a little too scattered, but I like that.

Plus, I also launched a second blog over the summer in Steampunk Fridays… and let me tell you it is both a blessing and a curse to have a focused blog. Sometimes it means you have plenty of things to write about, interviews to run, reviews, or Kickstarters, and other times there is next to nothing happening. Very feast or famine.

I took the last couple of weeks off for the holidays, but I’m hoping to keep at it in the coming year.

Looking Ahead to 2018

What are my goals this year? How about forward motion on closing those open boxes? How about opening new boxes? How about publishing another book? How about selling books at conventions?

How about a little of all those bits and pieces? Things I’d like to work on in the coming year:

The Gilded Age

The White Effect

The Edge of the World

S.O.U.L. Mate

The Crossing

Ravensgate

Short Stories

The Next Big Idea for a Novel Series

Hollow Empire Season 2

You Must Be This Tall To Ride

Entropy

Lightning

The blog(s)

Something I didn’t even have an idea was on the horizon

I want to be excited by the paths I choose. I want to have some success. I want to get the books into people’s hands and have them love the ride.

So what are you doing this year?

***

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.

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

The First Immortal

The First Immortal

 

I walked the streets of a city I hadn’t seen in two-hundred years.

And I felt thousands of people watching me.

If Sumer’s crowds were passionate, it felt easy to forgive them. They knew me only from the stories they’d read, the outlandish tales their parents had told, and the exaggerations their schools had taught. In their eyes, I was something well beyond human.

‘Callista – Bringer of Light,’ the banners at the light-train station had blazed.

‘Callista – the Savior.’

I’d learned long ago to ignore such things.

Behind glass partitions, amid lush gardens, and atop silver towers, the people cheered me. An entourage of black-suited men led my way, pushing through the crowds as we neared Arcadia’s tallest tower – the Gran Spire. The people wanted more than my fragile half-smile.

But then, they knew nothing of the horrors I’d faced.

I crossed white streets and meandered through a courtyard made of glass. At the bottom of the Gran Spire’s white-marble stairs, I halted. High above, a long line of glass doors remained shut.

“Is all this necessary?” I asked the man beside me. He was young – at most twenty-five years. He’d never left the planet of Sumer. I knew it at a glance.

He’s never even left Arcadia.

“Pardon, m’lady.” He looked nervous despite his black suit and dark sunglasses. “It’s protocol. President Hephast and the Congressional Court want to welcome you in style.”

I sighed.

I’d known his answer before he’d said it.

But I’d been hopeful for something other than cheering crowds beneath the midday suns.

I stood in the entourage’s center, tugging at the collar of my deep blue dress. I hadn’t wanted to wear the sleek, ridiculous Arcadian fashion, but I’d allowed the heralds who’d greeted my landing to convince me otherwise.

“The people will love you,” they’d promised.

“It’s best to look as though you’re one of us.”

I miss the war already, I thought.

And I forgot how warm this planet is.

A dozen times since last I’d stood beneath Sumer’s two suns. I’d died and been reborn. My newest body had only ever known the cold of interstellar Rings and the deep dark of planets long ago murdered by the Strigoi.

And now the light hurts me almost as much as my enemy.

I glanced at the bronze-skinned Arcadians surrounding me. To them, my discomfort must’ve seemed strange.

“M’lady, are you well?” the young man in sunglasses asked me.

“I am. And please don’t call me m’lady.”

“As you wish, m’la— Madame Callista,” he stammered. “What shall I call you?”

Cal,” I said. “I prefer Cal.”

The glass doors at the Gran Spire’s bottom swung open. Out stepped President Hephast and seventeen members of Arcadia’s Congressional Court, all of them decked in garish Arcadian suits. They were old, many well over a hundred years. To them, standing at the stairwell’s bottom, I must’ve looked childlike.

Yet I’m far older than anyone here.

“Callista Lightbringer.” President Hephast boomed across the courtyard. The amplifiers on his collar projected his voice loud enough for everyone within a half-kilometer to hear.

The crowds fell into reverent silence. The entourage of black-suited men knelt all around me. I stood alone among them, the only soul in Arcadia gazing up at Hephast and his assembly.

“Please, Lady Lightbringer,” Hephast called to me, “come forth.”

With a sigh, I climbed the stairs. My heeled shoes clicked on the glass, and my dress’s train dragged behind me.

Why all this in the middle of the day? I winced against the light. Why not at night?

Symbolic. Must be.  

I arrived at Hephast. Standing just one step above me, he looked older than I’d expected. His bald scalp was tanned to a golden shine by Sumer’s suns. His shoulders were narrow, his fingers long and thin, and his eyes hanging in his sockets, busy yet so very tired.

Humanity had found many ways to extend their lives.

But only I had managed immortality.

“The light, it bothers you?” Hephast saw me wincing.

“It’s been so long,” I said. “And this new body…it’s never been to a sunlit world. It hasn’t yet adapted.”

The old man peered beyond me. I followed his gaze, and found the crowds still kneeling, their eyes averted.

“Wave to them,” said Hephast. “Wave and then join me in my tower. The people have waited so long for you to come. They want to see you happy.”

Happy?

I can’t remember happy.

I faced the crowds and waved to them. A few dared to look up at me, and within moments they all stood and roared with applause. I’d never heard such a noise before. The sound of such overwhelming humanity felt powerful, but empty.

I waved for a full thirty seconds, and then faced Hephast again. All at once, I felt the Congressional Court’s eyes fall upon me. The line of elderly men and women smiled down at me, but not because they loved me.

They smiled because they needed me.

Soldiers clad in powered white armor emerged from the Gran Spire and held open the giant glass doors. Hephast beckoned for me to lead the way, and so I did. Behind me, Arcadia trembled with the cheers of thousands, and then I vanished into the tallest tower humanity had ever built.

Inside, I breathed. The midday heat fell away, and the crowd’s roars went silent. I stood beneath a spinning silver fan whose blades ushered cold air across my face. I closed my eyes and pretended I was still aboard the Sabre, still gliding through the deep darkness between the stars.

If only…

The soldiers stepped aside. Hephast and the seventeen Court members swept toward the Gran Spire’s central hall.

“Come,” Hephast called to me.

I followed.

In a vast white chamber with pale carpets and sharp lights, I settled into the chair they offered me. They put me in the second highest seat, just a half-step below Hephast’s colorless throne. Below us, some hundred chairs sat in a great ring around a table carved of glass.

Every seat was filled.

All eyes were on me.

As I looked into the room, I considered my audience.

These people have never seen me before. They know my stories, but not the truth.

The lights dimmed. Only two still shined.

One above Hephast.

And one above me.

“Welcome to Sumer’s high assembly, Lady Lightbringer,” announced Hephast. With his amplifier still active, his voice spread throughout the room like thunder.

“Thank you.” I gazed forward without expression.

“Before you sits the Arcadian Congressional Court.” He waved his skinny arm. “Also here are delegates from the city of Mercuria, emissaries from Iona and Venya, and members of the Far Court from distant Plutari. They come from all corners of Sumer to hear you speak.”

I gazed at my audience. Their faces, shrouded in shadow, looked shapeless in the dark.

“Forgive me,” I said, “but most of these places…I’ve never heard their names. When I left Sumer more than two centuries ago, the planet hadn’t been fully colonized. Now it seems—”

“We’ve come a long way, Lady Lightbringer,” said someone in the darkness.

Callista,” I corrected him.

“Pardon?” He sounded confused.

“My name – Callista,” I replied. “No one in the fleet calls me Lightbringer. I am…I always have been…Callista.”

Murmurs spread throughout the chamber. The Court’s discomfort hung heavy in the air.

“Callista,” Hephast said my name. “So be it. We’re told you have a full report. If it pleases you, we will hear it now.”

My report arrived years before I did, I wanted to say. You already know everything.

“As you wish.” I nodded.

I reached into my bodice and withdrew a slender silver capsule. I motioned for the nearest attendant, and the nervous young woman took the capsule from my fingers.

“Slide it into your holo-viewer,” I said loud enough for everyone to hear. “You will see what I last witnessed.”

“Wait…” said someone in the dark, “is it—”

“Yes. It’s a vid-capture from Strigoi hive XV Prime,” I said. “From their home-world. Or should I say — the home-world that is no more.”

The Court drowned in a sea of whispers. I heard their voices, faint and full of disbelief, and I allowed myself a smirk.

“…it’s true after all,” one woman said.

“…XV Prime? Their last stronghold in the Milky Way?” uttered a man in the seats below me.

“…she has a vid-capture? We’ll get to see the dark planet?”

The attendant girl looked to Hephast for guidance. He nodded, and the young woman scurried to the projector machine beside his throne.

She slid the silver capsule into the machine.

And we watched the battle unfold:

* * *

“They’ve nowhere to escape,” the young pilot beside me shouted.

“Which means they’ll fight all the harder.” I shook my head.

From the cockpit of my scythe-winged warship – the Sabre, I saw everything:

To the left, the star we’d just created blazed with brilliant yellow light. Even at ten-million kilometers away, the infant sun hurt my eyes to see.

To the right, the bloated Strigoi world XV Prime shuddered beneath the impact of the two-thousand string reprogrammers our fleet had just dropped on its surface. We’d sequenced the string reprogrammers, or S.R.’s, to turn the black substance composing XV Prime’s surface into glass.

If the new star we’d made didn’t kill the dark planet, we’d shatter it instead.

We knew most the S.R.’s would be overwhelmed and reversed by Strigoi death-bots.

“…but they can’t stop every last one.” I grinned in my cockpit. “And when the chain-reaction starts, we’ll break this planet. You’ll see.”

The young pilot stared at XV Prime. The planet’s coal-black surface teemed with Strigoi death-machines, its dark towers housing billions of our enemy.

The poor kid shivered.

He sees them.

They’re coming.  

 I ignited the Sabre’s quantum engine. I felt my chair vibrate and the universe move around me. XV Prime and the infant star became blurs as we accelerated to twenty-thousand kilometers per second. Anything slower, and the Strigoi warships would’ve carved us to tatters. Anything faster, and we’d have moved too far from XV Prime to fight.

“Joff would’ve gone faster.” I grinned.

“Who’s Joff?” my co-pilot asked.

That’s right, I thought, he doesn’t know.

I seized the cockpit control stick, guiding the Sabre between webs of Strigoi death-beams. They weren’t firing at us, but instead at the bigger, more powerful ships in our attack fleet. Red lights flared on the vid-screens, each one indicating a friendly ship’s extermination.

“God, they’re killing us!” the pilot screamed.

Should’ve left him on his home-ship.

No. I saw another twenty red lights illuminate the vid-screen.

If I had, he’d already be dead.

After many hundred years and countless attacks on Strigoi worlds, I’d become a far better pilot than anyone else in the fleet.

And yet…

I’m still not as good as Joff.

I pulled, pushed, and spun the Sabre’s control stick. We weren’t moving through space so much as space spun around us. Whenever I pulled the trigger, streams of missiles tore into the darkness. The Strigoi scythe-ships, their hulls like black, cadaverous bone, dove out of the missiles’ paths.

Not one missile hit its target.

Not that it mattered.

I pulled a second trigger, and all at once the missiles erupted into orbs of light. Spanning a few hundred kilometers each, the orbs burned only a few seconds before collapsing back into shadow.

The Strigoi were made of nightmares, but they’d yet to find a way to survive our newest weapons.

Darkness overwhelms light, our enemy believed.

No.

Light destroys the dark. 

“They’re almost out of ships,” I said to my co-pilot. I looked at him, and I saw the sweat on his forehead, the color drained out of his skin. He looked like a Strigoi had touched him.

But it was only fear that paled my young friend.

“We have to get closer,” I said. “Fire the beacons above their largest city. We’re going in.”

“We’re going down there?” he gasped.

“It’s the same as every other world we’ve destroyed,” I told him. “Now fire the beacons before it’s too late.”

“How many?”

“All of them.”

He hammered a sequence into his half of the Sabre’s console. Nervous wreck though he seemed, he pulled himself together long enough to launch a wave of nearly a thousand light beacons from the compartments beneath our wing.

The tiny spheres ejected themselves into space. Soaring through the darkness behind them, I cut our speed to a few hundred kilometers per second.

XV Prime awaited.

On its surface, seas of black towers stretched to the end of all sights.

The Strigoi swarmed.

Having slain hundreds of their worlds and dozens of their interstellar death-spheres, I was their nemesis. They knew I was coming.

But they can’t stop me.

Can you see, Joff?

Are you watching?

The beacons formed a web a few hundred kilometers above XV Prime’s hugest, blackest city. All at once, they ignited. Strigoi death-beams died in the beacons’ light-storm. Swarms of death-bots soaked up the blinding radiance and disintegrated.

I blinked and saw clouds of ashes.

My eyes hurt in the aftermath.

The dark city had never seen such light before. Thousands of years ago, the Strigoi had stopped the planet’s rotation, cutting it off from the star blazing on its opposite side.

And then they’d killed the star.

And thrived in the shadows remaining.

“No death-bots survived,” I said to the young pilot. “Nothing to stop our Primary S.R.”

“Then can’t we turn around?” He shivered. “The other S.R.’s should be enough, right?”

“No,” I grimaced. “We have to be sure.”

I keyed a quick sequence into the Sabre’s console. A last few death-beams smoked and curled upward from the Strigoi city, but I seized the control stick and swerved just in time.

“Release the Primary S.R.,” I commanded the Sabre.

And she did.

Somewhere in the Sabre’s underbelly, a door slid open. A slender silver projectile, no taller than me and only half as heavy, leapt into the planet’s orbit at quantum speeds. I couldn’t see it, but I felt it in my bones. It was the most powerful weapon we’d ever created.

“…strong enough to turn a half a planet into whatever molecule we want,” the scientist had told me.

“…hydrogen, helium, anything…”

No. None of those, I thought.

Glass.

I want the Strigoi to be glass.

And so it was.

At the moment the S.R. hit, we were already on our way out of XV’s atmosphere. The last of the beacons’ glimmers shielded us from the death-beams, and we soared out into far orbit.

A graveyard awaited us.

Clouds of dark powder floated in the void, the remains of thousands of Strigoi scythe-ships.

Metal spun through the emptiness, sprinkled with the remains of the humans who’d died.

“Look,” I said to the young pilot. “No, not at the dead ships. At the vid screen. See XV Prime? The S.R….it’s working.”

Together, we gazed at the screen. XV Prime’s surface, already cratered from the other, weaker S.R.’s, began to change color. From black to translucent silver, it went, and from hard, inflexible bone to brittle glass. Towers once black and mighty collapsed under their own weight. A full quarter of the planet shattered all at once.

I tried to imagine the sound, but I couldn’t.

God,” the young pilot exhaled.

“They’re finished,” I said. “The new star we made of its sister planet…the smaller S.R.’s burning…the Primary S.R. turning everything to glass. We don’t have anything capable of detecting Strigoi life-signs, but they’re all dead. I can feel it. Can’t you?”

He looked at me with his mouth hanging open.

“Weren’t they already dead?”

“Yeah…well…now they’re dead-dead.” I smiled. “And this was their last world in our galaxy.”

* * *

The hologram in the Gran Spire’s heart flickered and went out.

Having witnessed the spectacular end of XV Prime, Hephast and all the others fell into a deep, satisfying silence.

I wanted it to last forever.

But soon enough, Hephast spoke.

“It’s done,” he shouted. “It’s finished. The Strigoi are dead.”

I opened my mouth to interject, but the Congressional Court erupted into applause. Their raucous cries washed over me, hurting my ears. My new body hadn’t been conditioned for such noise.

“Lightbringer. Lightbringer. Lightbringer,” they chanted.

“The war is over,” they bellowed.

I waited.

And I let them come back to calm.

After five minutes, the clamor died. Hephast called for order, and most of the assembly returned to their seats.

“Lady Lightbringer,” Hephast said to me. “You have done a great deed. For hundreds of years, we have lived in the Strigoi shadow. Many of us never thought it would end. We assumed…no…we knew we would make weapons and send fighters to their doom until the end of all days. And now—”

“All hail Lady Lightbringer,” someone in the assembly cried.

“Our champion,” said another.

“Give her whatever she desires,” shouted still another.

With a wave of his fragile fingers, Hephast quieted the room.

“And so we shall,” he said. “Lady Lightbringer – or Lady Callista, as you like – we shall restore your full citizenship upon Sumer. You shall be given a tower, upon which your name will shine until the end of time. When our people look to the sky and fear no death at Strigoi hands, it is your name which will linger in their minds, and your victory for which monuments numbering in the thousands shall be hewn.”

“President Hephast…” My voice sounded small. “If I may speak…”

“You may,” he said.

“The Strigoi menace in our galaxy is destroyed,” I began. “It’s true. We’ve spent nearly a thousand years making it so. When he – when Joff Armstrong slew the very first Strigoi installation, I never thought it would be possible.”

“And yet here we are,” Hephast raised his slender arms, igniting fresh cheers from the crowd.

“Yes. Here we are.” I raised my voice. “But our galaxy isn’t the only one in which our enemy thrives. We know them to exist in Andromeda.”

Andromeda.” Hephast scoffed. “This too, we have heard. And yet even the Strigoi must know they can never overtake us now. Our scientists have said it will be a hundred-thousand years before our enemy can again marshal enough power to threaten our galaxy. A hundred-thousand years…might as well be a million.”

“Are you saying the war effort will end?” I asked.

The room quieted. I heard only the beating of my own heart.

“There is no war.” Hephast looked down at me. “This very day, we shall send word to the other planets. It is confirmed – the Strigoi are defeated.”

I hung my head. I’d always known what his answer would be, and yet I’d dared to hope otherwise. For all my centuries of wisdom, I often forgot the simplest lesson I’d ever learned:

Hope is a mistake.

* * *

The First Immortal is the opening chapter of upcoming novel – Eaters of the Light.

Eaters of the Light is the sequel to novels, Darkness Between the Stars and Shadow of Forever.

Look for it to hit stores in early 2018.

J Edward Neill

A Love For Every Day

 

Last year I gave my wife a homemade gift. Yes, those are cheesy and many times it is a cop-out to giving a “real gift”. But I decided, partially inspired to the multitude of Jeremy’s various Question books, to go through and look for quotes about Love, about how I feel about her, and still embrace my own nerdiness – so it included lots of bits and pieces from various media that we both love.

I called it A Love For Every Day, and set about trying to find the right words for each day.

Let me tell you, it is not as quick and easy as you would think. Especially as I tried to include little nods to the actual day if possible – sometimes those being birthdays or anniversaries or just plan old holidays… many times the quotes play off of that as well.

As these holidays come to a close, and as she begins reading the entries for the last few days of the year, I thought I’d share a few of my favorites from these 365 days.

January 1

Once upon a time there was a boy who loved a girl, and her laughter was a question he wanted to spend his whole life answering.

Nicole Krause, The History of Love

February 2

Love is the answer to everything. It’s the only reason to do anything. If you don’t write stories you love, you’ll never make it. If you don’t write stories that other people love, you’ll never make it.

Ray Bradbury

March 16

Have you ever been in love? Horrible, isn’t it? It makes you so vulnerable. It opens your chest and it opens up your heart and it means that someone can get inside you and mess you up. You build up all these defenses, you build up a whole suit of armor, so that nothing can hurt you, then one stupid person, no different from any other stupid person, wanders into your stupid life… You give them a piece of you. They didn’t ask for it. They did something dumb one day, like kiss you or smile at you, and then your life isn’t your own anymore.

Neil Gaiman, The Sandman

April 19

Mawage. Mawage is wot bwings us togeder today. Mawage, that bwessed awangment, that dweam wifin a dweam… And wuv, tru wuv, will fowow you foweva…

So tweasure your wuv.

The Princess Bride

May 4

I love you.

I know.

The Empire Strikes Back & Return of the Jedi

June 19

You know that place between sleep and awake, the place where you can still remember dreaming? That’s where I’ll always love you. That’s where I’ll be waiting.

Peter Pan

July 16

If you have just one,

Let me be that love

If you have lots of others,

Please let me be

Please let me be one

Let me be one

Jonah Matranga, Crush On Everyone

August 13

I’m afraid that once your heart’s involved, it all comes out in moron.

Gilmore Girls

September 30

You can learn all the math in the ‘Verse, but you take a boat in the air that you don’t love, she’ll shake you off just as sure as the turning of the worlds. Love keeps her in the air when she oughta fall down, tells you she’s hurtin’ ‘fore she keens. Makes her a home.

Serenity

October 31

My dearest friend

If you don’t mind

I’d like to join you by your side

Where we can gaze into the stars

And sit together now and forever

For it is plain as anyone can see, we’re simply meant to be.

The Nightmare Before Christmas

November 8

I think we dream so we don’t have to be apart so long. If we’re in each other’s dreams, we can play together all night.

Calvin and Hobbes

December 29

I thought our story was epic, you know, you and me.

Epic how?

Spanning years and continents. Lives ruined, bloodshed. EPIC.

Come on. Ruined lives? Bloodshed? You really think a relationship should be that hard?

No one writes songs about the ones that come easy.

Veronica Mars

***

Hope you have some great holidays with those you love.

***

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.

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

 

If You’re a Self-Published Author, Here’s 5 Things You Probably Need to do Better

Fact: right now, more published books exist than at any other point in human history.

The reason is simple: the ebook explosion. And yet it’s not just ebooks. Observe Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and any number of a thousand vanity presses, and you’ll find that not only are there more books in print (or potentially in print) than ever before, but the number of authors keeps growing.

Every. Single. Day.

Which means…

…we all need to step up our game.

*

Stage 1 – Writing a Marketable Book

If you’re an author with the intention of making money selling books (which you probably shouldn’t bother with) your competition is currently larger than any author has ever faced.

Tomorrow morning, it’ll be greater than it was today.

Next year, the odds will be stacked even higher against you.

And so on…unto the end of the publishing world.

And while the hundreds of ‘I’m not competing with other authors‘ memes are cute and optimistic, the fact is this: If you’re trying to sell books, you’re competing with every other author on the planet.

That’s why Stage 1 – Writing a Marketable Book – is the first and most obvious hurdle to new and established self-published authors. It feels like it should go without saying – if you plan to write, write well. And yet we all know our market. Due to the ease of publishing, the literary world is flooded with weak, poorly-written, badly-edited junk.

And so we’re going to make an assumption. If you’ve clicked this article, and if you’ve read this far, we’re going to assume you’ve written something worth reading. Your book is smart. It’s entertaining. It’s well-edited. If you were a famous author, you’d simply shuttle your new novel to the publisher and watch the sales and reviews stack up.

But this is where the assumptions stop.

And the struggle begins.

Sure, she’s beautiful. But can she spin a tale? Let assume yes…for now.

**

Stage 2 – Pitching your Book to the Masses

Before we dive too deeply into the muddled waters of the book pitch, I want you to do something for me. I want you to close your eyes, take a deep breath, and remove the following three-word phrase from your vocabulary. I want you to promise never to utter this phrase again. And I want you to promise it right now.

The three-word phrase I want you to forget?

Check out my…”

You mean to say you’ve written a book (and remember, it’s good) but the only words you can think of to lure people into buying it are “Check out my book?” No. Just…no. If readers are going to build any desire to invest in your words, you need to awaken the same skills you used to write your novel and apply them to your sales pitch. You need to practice writing blurbs. You need to master using one or two sentences to not only describe your book, but also to hint at your writing style.

You need to capture people with words.

You need to make them say, “Whoa!”

Let’s look at the following sales pitches. You tell me which of these you’d be more likely to buy:

Pitch 1 – “Hey everyone! Buy my new book ‘Angels of the Seventh Dawn’ on Amazon today!”

or

Pitch 2 – “Upon burning fields and cities buried in ash, seven angelic spirits awaken to deliver humanity from the coming darkness.  – Angels of the Seventh Dawn – Now available.”

That was easy, right? By the way, I don’t know of an actual book named Angels of the Seventh Dawn, but if it existed, I might give it a read.

The point is this: most self-published authors suck at pitching their books. They go through all the glory and suffering of writing something beautiful, and suddenly it seems their creativity abandons them. In their greatest hour of need, they become lost. They pepper the internet with boring ads, dull sales pitches, and no real content other than “Check out my book.”

Don’t ask readers politely to check your stuff out.

Light fires under their asses.

Thanks…but no thanks.

**

Stage 3 – You are More than the Books You’ve Written

So you say you’ve written a masterpiece.

Your new book, Angels of the Seventh Dawn, is the bizniz.

It’s bold. It’s epic. Readers will wet their underwear by the time they get to page two.

Trouble is, other than your mom, your cousin Marge, and two of your Facebook BFF’s, you don’t have any readers.

Do modern authors expect to write a book, however great it might be, and watch it soar atop the charts like some kind of cash-feathered eagle? Based on the number of complaints uttered by self-published authors across the internet, yes. But, c’mon now. Why would someone who doesn’t know you, who’s never heard your name or read anything you’ve written before, and who just worked their asses off to make $2.99 – spend that same $2.99 on your new book?

The answer is simple – they probably won’t.

Which is why any author who wants to make even the most modest sum of money selling books needs to create a presence. And by presence, I mean everywhere. To get known and to stay known, the self-published author (who lacks the marketing vehicles supplied by traditional publishers) must write far more than books.

Things an author needs to write:

Stories online – preferably free

Blogs – the topic doesn’t matter as much as the skill exhibited while writing about it

Words. Lots of them. Here, there, and everywhere, establishing who the author is, what they care about, and why they’re someone whose words are worth investing in

Oh, and more books (you thought three was enough?)

And in case authors believe grammar, spelling, and good proofreading are meant solely for their novels, they should think again. The internet is a cesspool of shitty wordplay, and it’s a writer’s job to rise above this. Be sharp with your blogs. Be clean and focused when telling stories. Go back and read your own sentences before hitting the ‘Post’ button. Be a grammar Nazi, but only for yourself.

Because…

I don’t know about you, fellow book reader, but the number of misspelled words, obvious grammatical mistakes, or incoherent sentences I’m willing to tolerate from the authors whose books I read is  – zero. That’s right. Zero. If a writer can’t manage a simple Facebook post well, what are the odds they can handle the pressure of an entire novel?

“The odds are…never mind.”

*

Stage 4 – If your Presentation Sucks, Readers will Assume your Writing Sucks, Too

Is it fair?

Probably not.

Is it accurate?

Definitely.

Oh baby. Angels of the Seventh Dawn, your kickass new book, is really good. It’s got angels. It’s got dawns. It’s got…wait…what? A shitty cover?

There’s a ton of good art out there. And a ton of great artists. If you’re serious about the industry, and if you really want to sell books to more people besides your cousin Marge, hire one of these artists. Collaborate with them. Talk about the feelings you want them to convey through their art. And then, after they’ve worked wonders to create something for you, pay them. And pay them well.

The odds are already stacked against you, fellow writer.  Why hamstring yourself by using boring template art or poorly-rendered, low-rez crayon drawings?

Don’t. Just don’t.

My apologies to Mrs. Jeppsen. I’m sure Onio is a solid read.

Your presentation doesn’t just include your cover art. It’s much, much more.

It means having a website, a good one. One that’s easy to navigate. One that includes cool graphics, links to your books, and a rockin’ bio.

It means learning how to write articles with subtle links to your content.

It means creating content that has nothing to do with salesmanship. Just sharp, engaging articles without any mention of your books.

And it means managing your personality online. Not mixing business with pleasure. Not overwhelming people with book ads. And not betraying yourself by spilling negativity onto your audience.

You’re not just selling books, baby. You’re selling you. It won’t matter how good your books are if your self-presentation is sloppy.

*

Stage 5 – You Can’t Cheat the System

Yes, you can hire a ‘street team’ to pile up 5-star reviews for your books.

Yes, you can use Bookbub to generate a giant sales spike.

And yes, you have a 0.0001% chance of striking it big with your debut novel, Angels of the Very First Dawn.

But there’s no substitute for quality writing. There’s no marketing strategy allowing you to ‘click it and forget about it.’ There’s no cheat code to worm your way to the top of the industry. You’re going to need patience, and a lot of it. You’ll also need discipline, a willingness to push other pursuits aside, and at least a little bit of luck.

And while walking down the long, hard road to making money via self-publishing, you might be tempted to complain. You might feel the urge to lash out at the unfairness of Amazon’s review system, the prominence of trolls, and the agony of having to deal with readers lobbing 1-stars your way. You might want to quit because you haven’t topped the best-seller charts.

Don’t.

Sit the fuck down.

Stop complaining online.

Kill your desire to post memes about killing off people in your books, how much you need coffee, or how great it is when people reward authors with reviews.

And get your ass into gear writing Angels of the Eighth Dawn.

**

Love,

J Edward Neill

Unfinished Business

Weirdly, in the aftermath of running a successful Kickstarter to get a project I’ve been working on for years, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about unfinished projects sitting on my hard drive. How for every file and folder that lies dormant on the computer, I will soon have something that is somewhat “complete”.

It was due to these incomplete projects that I created the Gilded Age the way I did in the first place. Too many comic book projects had gotten started only to fizzle out. It was very much the idea that the Gilded Age might only last 1 issue and I had a full 4 issue story-arc planned. What do you do with that? How do you get around the fact that 1 issue could very well be the only thing anyone ever sees?

In fact, there was a while there where Egg and I would email back and forth about 1 issue comic ideas because that was something we could see actually being done and finished. It was something concrete whereas the many talks about 50 issue comic storylines might (only might) have been a little beyond any of us.

Yet, even with those constraints, so many of them never saw the light of day.

And I’ve been thinking about them.

They say you are supposed to Kill Your Darlings as a writer. Basically, when you are writing, even if you love a scene or a paragraph or even just a sentence – you have to be willing to cut those just as easily as anything else.

And there is also some saying about always moving forward (I think). If something doesn’t work out, then toss it aside and start on the next thing. Something about ideas not being precious. That any creator worth their salt can come up with 100 more… and then 100 more.

Yet, I look through the files and remember things I’d forgotten. I see that there was potential within these projects. I see that there could still be potential within so many Lost ideas.

Maybe it is that Kickstarter success that suddenly has shown me a finish line is actually possible? Has it got me convinced there might be a way to bring those things back to life in some form or fashion?

It’s not about the business of the pieces… not yet at least. That will come. The questions about what does this particular thing being brought out of storage actually accomplish. What if by focusing on these older toys, I don’t give enough focus to newer ones?

I’m caught in a weird time loop of my own doing. Lamenting what should have been out a decade ago if only I’d have pushed the right buttons. How I could have been further along whatever path I currently make my way down.

But mistakes have been made along the way.

So what do you do about those old things? I’m a collector. I don’t throw things out without good reason. I believe that ideas are very precious, but I know that more will always be forthcoming. I could never just be rid of them. Do they represent too much thought, too much work, too much… growth?

Without each word, line, paragraph, half-finished script, or even finished scripts that never became comics… my current work wouldn’t exist. Without every pain of trying to pull or get pulled across a finish line, my couple of books, The Gilded Age, and a handful of short stories would not exist (or at least they would not exist in the way they do today).

So I don’t push delete on these things. I don’t erase them from my mind or my flash drive. I don’t purge the emails of random thoughts and nuggets of storylines… for they offer me a glimpse at all the paths I’ve been on until today.

Sure, they may frustrate me that they didn’t get there, but they might have helped me get there.

***

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.

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

50 Things I Worry About

I’m not a person who worries about much of anything.

After all, worrying helps nothing. It only adds to one’s suffering.

And yet…here’s fifty things that concern me almost every single day:


I sometimes wonder whether I’m spending enough time with my son.

…or whether I’m actually the helicopter dad I try so hard not to be.

I worry I don’t read enough.

…that I don’t home cook my dinners more often.

…and that I sip too much wine.

I’m pretty sure my cats are at home destroying my furniture right now.

…the fat one probably barfed on the floor again.

I wonder if I’ll end up single, alone, and locked away in a big empty house by myself.

…and yet it concerns me that the idea of being alone is so very appealing.

I’m sure I’ll suffer from ’empty-nest syndrome’ when my son grows up.

And I’m positive I’ll struggle with an existential crisis when it happens.

I worry I’ve outlived my usefulness.

…except to scotch distilleries. I keep those guys in business.

I’m concerned I wasted my youth in the pursuit of pleasure.

…and yet if I were young again, I know I’d do the same things all over again.

I worry I don’t tip well enough. Even 20% feels low sometimes.

I sometimes worry that I don’t worry enough. Is being indifferent the truest form of immorality?

…and if it is, I should probably worry that it still doesn’t much matter to me.

I sometimes suffer from FOMO. (Fear of missing out) I want to do everything and be everywhere.

I’m concerned I chase Friday at the expense of Monday through Thursday.

And I’m really concerned about the huge pile of pancakes I devoured on Sunday.

I worry that it’s all meaningless.

But I push myself harder every day, and for what?

I’m not tall enough.

…or buff enough.

…or able to do all the athletic things I could do just five years ago.

And I worry sometimes these facts make me less of a man.

I worry that I’m smart enough to understand most of the world’s problems…

…but not nearly intelligent enough to solve them.

I worry about the 3,000 calorie steak dinner I ate last night.

…and the just-as-huge spaghetti platter I plan to cook tomorrow.

If I blow off being creative in favor of playing video games, I worry I’ve wasted a precious night.

But when I spend a whole week working myself to the bone creating, I sometimes think I’m missing the point.

I’m concerned about my quiet urge to sell my house and leave all my possessions behind.

But I’m more concerned about having to give up my grill if I leave, which means I’m probably staying.

I worry I don’t spend enough time writing.

…or am I writing too much, and thus falling out of touch with reality?

I definitely spend too much time thinking about money.

And too much time spending it.

And not enough time saving it.

I fear for my eardrums. All that heavy metal can’t be good.

I worry for my guitar, which I haven’t played in weeks.

…and my wardrobe, which I haven’t improved in years.

And of course, I worry about my stupid blind cat. She’s 18, and it’s only a matter of time before she becomes incontinent.

…which means I’m worried about my floors.

I’m not really worried about politics or religion or people fighting about it on the internet.

But I do wonder whether someday a lunatic who does worry about these things will end up killing me.

I’m mega worried about my son turning out to be too much like me.

Or that he’ll end up liking country music.

Please.

Anything but country music.


If you like lists about 50 things, try this one.

And if my worries have you thinking, get some of this.

J Edward Neill

…guy who writes too much.

…or maybe not enough.

Steampunk Fridays – Interview with one of the Creators of The Jekyll Island Chronicles

When I was younger, my grandparents would drive to Jekyll Island (on the coast of Georgia) to go fishing. They’d wake up before the crack of dawn, somehow get my smaller frame from the bed to the back of the car, and drive the forty-five minutes to the beach where we’d spend much of the day fishing and learning about various fish worth eating and not worth eating.

So when I saw that there was a steampunk related comic called The Jekyll Island Chronicles… I had to reach out.

***

How long have you been creating/working in comics?

There are three of us in this endeavor and we all have been either reading or making comics since we were kids.  I (Steve) used to sit in my room and draw my own versions of Spider-man and the Fantastic Four.  Our actual jobs are all doing different things, so becoming graphic novel authors became a side hobby for us later in life.  We actually started working on The Jekyll Island Chronicles in January of 2013.

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

I think I am the one with the most graphic arts background.  My dad worked in a factory during the day and would come home at night and paint portraits for friends and family members, to make extra spending money.  He taught me how to draw when I was old enough to hold a pencil.  I remember a book of Disney characters that I drew when I was a kid.  I remember him sitting at the kitchen table with me and building dinosaur models.  I have since graduated to more extensive and difficult kits, and scratch built a bunch of my own.   Creating art has a wonderful, calming effect on me.

All three of us have been heavily involved in writing projects of our own in the past as well.  Ed wrote another book several years back and Jack and I have been writing plays and sketch comedy for our church for many years.

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

Jack loves experiences:  he is a Disneyphile through and through.  He would build a scale (and highly detailed) model of Disneyland in his house if he could.  Ed is a voracious reader and plows through novels constantly.  He loves sci/fi, mysteries, and westerns.  And I get inspirations everywhere, no place in particular.  Sometimes, I just like to walk through a retail shopping center and look for things that inspire me.

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?

Hah!  We all have really demanding jobs.  This is our hobby.  Nights, weekends, while watching tv or sports at night.  I am usually sitting drawing thumbnails on my ipad to make life easier for our artists.  We try to meet periodically to line up on story and plot development (maybe once or twice a month).  We tell our spouses we don’t play golf (at least not well), so this is our club membership.

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

It’s been an eye-opening experience.  I have an author friend at work who told me that marketing of books has changed over the years—authors are really much more responsible for this and publishers are, well, publishers.  I have found this to be generally true.  Not bad.  Just generally true.

Our publisher at Top Shelf, Chris Staros, told us pretty much the same thing after we signed our book deal.  They publish the books, invite us to the Cons where they are present, put the books out in the proper channels, but we do the heavy lifting on the marketing (Facebook & websites, blogging, boosting posts, local book signings, reaching out to newspapers and magazines, etc etc etc).  We had to learn how to do a bunch of stuff, from a literary marketing standpoint, that we have never done before.  But Chris is a great sounding board for us and happily answers any questions we have.  It’s so good to have his knowledge and experience base in our corner when we need it (which is A LOT!)  We are working with a PR firm on putting together proposals for the release of Book Two.  So, we are hoping to have more firepower in that area.

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?

We have to have an outline.  We use the classic three-act story structure, but because we are a series, we have to layer that structure over each book as well as the entire series.  I guess that’s why trilogies make sense.  For Book One, I had a lot of the basic story arc in my head, and Jack and Ed helped me fill in a bunch–like the whole Jekyll Island connection.  Book Two was more of a blank page than Book One, so it was harder.  We use note cards with plot points and move things around constantly in the beginning.  When we get the arc locked down, we divide and conquer the writing duties, usually giving one person an act to tackle.  We come back, read together, edit together, and make suggestions.  The key is to hold your writing loosely.  You can’t be so dogmatic to “have it your way”.  If that happens, you frustrate everyone and it flies in the face of collaboration and making each other better.  We are long-time friends, so that makes it easier.  But even then, every once in a while, we have to work through things.  It really is a lot of give and take.

I currently live just north of Atlanta, in Suwanee, Georgia, but I’ve been to Jekyll Island dozens of times when I was younger. So it was very cool to even see that this book existed. What inspired you to create Jekyll Island Chronicles?

Ed was instrumental in coming up with the idea to place much of the story at Jekyll.  When I explained the original idea to him, he asked if I had ever been to Jekyll.  I had been in Atlanta for 25 years and had never gone there, and only just heard of it but never really knew about its history.  So, my wife and I took a weekend, went to down to the island, toured it and my brain exploded.  It was the PERFECT set up for the characters and the scenarios, which were all post-WWI and at the height of the gilded age at Jekyll.  It is a Georgia treasure and our hope is that people, especially Georgians, will become a little more knowledgeable about their own history.

What’s been the reaction to the book?

It’s been extremely positive.  Of course, our family and friends have been our biggest cheerleaders.  We’ve gotten good reviews on Amazon (especially) and Good Reads.  Every once in a while we get someone who “doesn’t get it” or takes issue with the alt history portions of it.  We even had one guy who reviewed it and got the plot/character points wrong, so did he even read it??  But then again we were named one of the Top 10 Books Every Young Georgian Should Read for 2017 (all graphic novels go in that category)—so that was a nice feather in our cap.  We already had a second printing.  We had a line of people waiting to sign the book at the NY Comic Con, so that was pretty cool.  We’ve gotten a lot of interest from podcasters, bloggers and people wanting to do interviews.  This is our first rodeo, but so far, so good.

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

We started this whole process with themes.  We wrote down the things/principles we believed and wanted to be true for our story.  First, we saw a lot of cynicism with heroes—dark heroes, conflicted heroes—and we wanted to do something different.  Maybe even classic.  My grandfather fought in the US Cavalry in WWI to gain his citizenship.  He was a regular, simple man of principle.  He knew right from wrong.  He wasn’t perfect, but he wasn’t constantly dark and conflicted.  We wanted a return to classic heroism.  We wanted people who were willing to work together in spite of their differences.  Our country is torn down the middle today and we are all saddened and sick of it.  At least we have a built a world where people can come together for the greater good.

Also, we wanted to have a world where it wasn’t evil to have resources.  Andrew Carnegie gave away like $300 million dollars.  He built a system of libraries all across the country.  Not all people with wealth are robber barons, you know?  Jack and I worked for one for decades.  There is good and evil is ALL people–not just one group, one type, or one party.  We hoped that the book would force people to actually look for the good in all of our heroes.  Finally, we wanted a story where the veterans were the biggest heroes.  We owe SO MUCH to them.  It’s no surprise that our original heroes are the broken WWI vets that get “rebuilt” to fight the atrocities of the early 20th century anarchists.

Your first graphic novel was released by Top Shelf & IDW Publishing. How did that relationship come about?

We actually sponsored a class at SCAD in Savannah to help us create a pitch packet for publishers/production companies that might be interested in our idea.  Once we got the packet done, we approached Chris Staros with Top Shelf.  He was Georgia-based, actually Marietta-based, which was right around the corner from all of us.  We called him, took him to lunch one day, introduced ourselves, and handed him the pitch packet.  He said he would take a look at it and give us comments.  The next day he called me and said he thought it was good—really good—and if we finished it, he would like to keep the whole thing in Georgia and publish for us.  WOW.  I know that this is NOT how it is supposed to work.  But, it happened for us and we were, and still are, very grateful to Chris and his confidence.  When Top Shelf got acquired by IDW, that confidence transferred over to them.  They have been huge supporters of ours and they now have us in their catalog that they send to production companies for tv/film.

You currently have 1 graphic novel out there with a second one due out next year. What’s the overall plan with Jekyll Island Chronicles?

The plan is to keep making books until we get too tired and stop (or someone tells us to stop).  At least we want 3.  But the larger goal is 6. The story arc of the original Jekyll Island Club ends in WWII.  We would love to take it that far.

I see on your website that there are teaching materials based on the comic. Can you talk a little about how you came to that idea as well as your goals with the program?

Well, the story has a TON of facts in it.  The alt history component actually has a lot of HISTORY.  We always loved the idea of using the book to teach history and have students weave through the narrative of what is true and what is not.  So we approached Glen Downey (an author who is an expert in this area) and he agreed to put together teaching materials for us.  They are all available for free on our website.  We have a public high school in the Jekyll area that is using it in both the US and world history class, and a private school here in Cobb County that is doing the same thing.  Ideally, this is a great way for creative teachers to introduce their students not just to history but also to the medium of the graphic novel.  We think this is a big idea.

Comics is an amazing collaborative medium. Tell me a little about the artists on the books.

We met both of our artists in our SCAD class.  They were students who, at the time, were finishing up their studies.  Moses Nester is our illustrator/inker and SJ Miller is our colorist.  One is in ATL and one is in Vegas.  Everything is done digitally.  I take the script, gather reference photos, drop them into an app for my ipad called Strip Designer and create tight comps/thumbnails, send them electronically to Moses who inks, sends to SJ for coloring and sound effects and then back to me for final approval.  It seems to work pretty well.  Our artists are very gifted individuals with a bright career in front of them!  We are just so happy that we have access to them at this time of their lives—and we hope this is given them so good experience to bounce off of for the future.

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

I wish I knew that I was really responsible for my creative outlets in life.  I mean, I have always been creative, but sometimes at work, I was waiting for that itch to be scratched there.  And at times, that didn’t happen.  I wish I had been more aware of the idea to create instead of consume, and now I hope that our creative endeavor helps others to do the same.  Bottom line, if opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door (with credit to Milton Berle for that fine axiom).

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

Like us on facebook

https://www.facebook.com/jekyllislandchronicles/

or go to our website

https://jekyllislandchronicles.com/

Steampunkers are welcome to check out our website, where we have a link for selling the book, pre-ordering book two and buying other merch. And the book is available in bookstores and on line everywhere.

STEVE NEDVIDEK has worked in film, radio, and television and received his Masters Degree in Theater from Wake Forest University, where he completed his thesis in make-up design. He is an avid cartoonist, model maker, writer, and movie watcher, and resides in the Atlanta suburbs with his wife, kids, and dog.

ED CROWELL holds advanced degrees in political science and international affairs. He is an executive at a non-profit and a writer with dozens of published articles. A lifelong fan of science fiction and fantasy, he and his wife have two children who went off to college, but left Ed and Cynthia with two cats, a fish, and a dog.

JACK LOWE is a student of film making and themed entertainment. A passionate storyteller with a bent toward immersive, multi-sensory experiences, Jack and his wife, three children, two dogs, and two cats live in the shadow of Kennesaw Mountain in Atlanta.

Ed is on the left, Steve in center, Jack on right

***

I want to thank Steve for taking the time to answer my questions!

***

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.

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 Quick & Easy Workout Routine for Writers, Artists, or really anyone

Judging by the title, you probably thought this would be an article about exercising your brain, your writing chops, or your editing skills.

Nope.

This is all about running, pushing, punching, and picking up heavy things.

I know. I’ve been there. As a teenager, I was skinny as a whip. A weakling. A fragile little artist. The exact opposite of this guy.

And then I discovered iron. And it changed my life.

Look. I get it. Spending gratuitous amounts of time sitting on your ass hammering out novels isn’t exactly a great way to sculpt your abs. And while reading is a great workout for the mind, it’s not particularly heart-healthy. In fact, most of the jobs humans do these days aren’t conducive to maintaining muscle tone and blood flow.

As writers (and artists, like me) we have an obligation to our fans, don’t we? To live long, healthy lives and pump out the most possible books? To operate our keyboards with freshly-toned forearms? To appear at book signings and art shows with swelling biceps and toned calves?

Ok. Whatever. You get the point. Here’s two sample weekly workout routines from my personal regimen. One is a light workout regimen for people who have no real equipment. The other is a more serious setup for those who either have gym memberships or can arrange an area with a small amount of equipment in their homes. I’ve been doing an advanced version of the second workout routine for about three months now, and it has truly energized me without taking up much of my day.

I recommend doing these workouts before writing, painting, or whatever your creative pursuit might be. A happy body tends to mean a clear mind.


Workout 1 – For beginners and those who have little or no equipment

Monday:

6 sets of pushups (do as many as you can until reaching failure)

6 sets of crunches (at least 20 per set, but no more than 80)

1 set of burpees (at the end) If you don’t know what a burpee is, look it up here. Do them until utter exhaustion.

Tuesday:

Run for at least 20 minutes or walk briskly for at least 40.

Wednesday:

4 sets of crunches

4 sets of pushups

2 sets of burpees

Thursday:

Run for at least 30 minutes or walk briskly for at least 50.

Friday:

Off day. Enjoy some pizza or something

Saturday:

8 sets of pushups

…and that’s it.

Sunday:

6 sets of crunches

Run for at least 20 minutes or walk briskly for at least 40

* * *

Easy, right?

Remember, before starting any workout routine (light or serious) get in a good 10-15 minute stretch. Here’s another good starter routine, including some great tips for beginners.

In place of running (in colder climes or urban areas) I recommend using a stationary bike. Here’s the one I use. It’s served me well for five years now, no maintenance required.


Workout 2 – For those who either have equipment at home or visit a gym

Monday:

15 minutes of vigorous punching bag work (use MMA gloves if you’ve got ’em) Here’s the bag I use.

4 sets of 60 crunches

Tuesday:

4 sets of push ups. (Try to do the same amount during each set)

2 sets of 60 crunches

4 sets of dumbbell bicep curls (try to do at least 10 reps with each set – you’ll quickly figure out what weight dumbbell to use)

4 sets of chin ups (do each set to exhaustion) Here’s the bar I use at home.

Wednesday:

Run for at least 30 minutes (or use an elliptical machine/stationary bike) or walk briskly for at least 45 minutes.

Thursday:

10 minutes of vigorous punching bag work

4 sets of 60 crunches

4 sets of dumbbell rows/10 reps per set (here’s how to do rows)

Friday:

Take the day off. You’ve earned it.

Saturday:

4 sets of dips. If you don’t know what a dip is, check this video.

4 sets of dumbbell bicep curls

4 sets of pushups

4 sets of chin ups

Sunday:

Run for at least 40 minutes (or use an elliptical machine/stationary bike) or walk briskly for at least 50 minutes.


Adjust as needed to suit your style.

But definitely put in the work.

Your body (and your mind) will thank you for it.

*

Other tips:

Get up and take a 5-10 minute walk for each hour of writing, painting, or sitting

Ditch the coffee. Drink water.

Eat after your workout, not before.

And yes, mowing the lawn (especially if you’re using a push mower) counts as cardio. 🙂

*

J Edward Neill

…author, artist, and gym rat

 

 

Writing Blurbs is Easy!

It’s a new year, and I’ve got a whole new crop of book blurbs. Some authors hate writing blurbs. As for me, I enjoy the process. Smashing a entire book into one or two sentences is the easiest part of my life. Much easier than say…writing the actual book.

Don’t dread the blurb. Far worse things in life exist.

I challenge all my writer friends to create blurbalicious articles like this one and share them with me.

And I hope readers will enjoy:

Reality is Best Served with Red Wine – A tipsy author drinks eleven different bottles of red wine while chatting about eleven different parts of his life.

Life & Dark Liquor – Still red-nosed from his wine, an author sips eleven cocktails while waxing philosophical about single fatherhood and his upbringing.

Lys & the Heart Stopper – An imprisoned young woman seizes her chance to escape a life of slavery. Her quest leads her directly into the clutches of the world’s most dangerous man.

101 Reasons to Break Up – Hundreds of strangers spill the beans on their deepest, darkest break-ups. Only the funniest and most bizarre make the cut.

101 MORE Reasons to Break Up – The break-ups get even more serious (and sometimes ridiculous) in this sequel from Splitsville.

Darkness Between the Stars – While gazing at the night sky, the world’s loneliest boy sees the stars begin to disappear.

Shadow of Forever – Obsessed with saving humanity from a horde of star-destroying vampires, an aging hero leaves his idyllic life behind.

 The Hecatomb – A ghoulish monster and its offspring stalk cities at night with the aim of killing every last human in the world.

The Skeleton Sculptor – A soldier watches his comrades disappear. One each night, every night, until only he remains.

The Circle Macabre – A young warrior chases her final prey into a sprawling medieval city. Armed with only her magical blade, she faces a centuries-old horror.

Big Shiny Red Buttons – The most absurd scenarios imaginable stacked between 100 pages.

101 Questions for Couples – Bubbly, light-hearted quizzes for couples new and established.

Hollow Empire Front Cover

 Hollow Empire – Night of Knives – After a plague wipes out most of a medieval nation’s population, five lost souls must survive the horrors that follow.

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Down the Dark Path – Book I – A young woman leaves home to make a better life for herself, only to wander into the heart of a horrific, world-consuming war.

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Old Man of Tessera – The lone survivor of a deadly storm finds the city of Tessera, in which nothing and no one are what they seem.

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101 Questions for Humanity – The original entry in the Coffee Table Philosophy series asks short, simple questions with aim of provoking thoughtful answers.

101 Questions for Midnight Front Cover

101 Questions for Midnight – The stakes are raised and the questions darker than ever in this fun, engaging ice-breaker book.

2

Down the Dark Path – Book II – A woman follows her lover into a battle he can never hope to win.

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A Door Never Dreamed Of – In a distant Earth future, two young men on opposite sides of an apocalyptic war collide.

3

Down the Dark Path – Book III – After invading and crushing his rival’s homeland, a war-crazed emperor sends his cruelest warlord to butcher the last of his enemies.

101 Questions for Women Cover

101 Questions for Women – Written with women in mind but accessible to everyone, 101 Questions for Women focuses on love, lust, and the breakdown of traditional gender roles.

101 Questions for Men Cover

101 Questions for Men – Geared for men, this entry in the Coffee Table Philosophy series asks questions about sex, relationships, and much more.

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Down the Dark Path – Book IV – As a world-ending conflict reaches its climax, a young woman must choose whether to join the winning side and become queen or sacrifice everything to betray her kidnappers.

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The Sleepers – A wealthy student in a far-distant future is tasked with destroying an alien world to save humanity.

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Let the Bodies – A little girl suffers alone while everyone in her city vanishes.

101 Deeper Darker Cover

101 Deeper, Darker Questions for Humanity – 101 dark questions to test your morality, challenge your ethics, and entertain your friends.

101 xxxy Questions Front Cover

101 Sex Questions – Lovers and laugh-seekers alike will find entertainment in this sexy sidekick to the Coffee Table Philosophy series.
  Dark Moon Daughter New Kindle CoverDark Moon Daughter – Young Andelusia Anderae is seduced by a messenger and convinced that her budding black magic is the key to saving thousands of lives.

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Nether Kingdom – At the world’s edge, a sorceress awakens to the terrible realization that she alone can stop an invasion of otherworldly horrors.

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444 Questions for the Universe – Meant to entertain for hours, 444 Questions is a grand compilation of serious yet fun questions.

The Little Book of BIG Questions – Science and morality collide in the ultimate conversation-starting book for smart people.

101QSP

101 Questions for Single People – In the modern world of swiping left and never looking back, 101 Questions for Single People asks readers about every facet of love, lust, and human romantic connection.

Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows – A leper dedicates his life to saving children, a woman accepts the rarest of all murder contracts, a girl suffers insanity in a space colony, a train-hopping duo crosses through dimensions, and much, much more…
*The Ultimate Get to Know Someone Quiz – A delightful crash course of fun questions to ask spouses, significant others, family, and friends.

* * *

There might be no better way to grab a reader’s attention than through a good blurb.

…and no easier way to lose it with a bad one.

See you on the flip side.

A while back I got mega sarcastic with a list of alternative movie blurbs.

And later I roasted myself in public by making fun of all my books.

J Edward Neill

Steampunk Fridays – Interview with the Creator of Monstrous

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

The Universal Monster movies are really what introduced me to those creatures of the night. And while I’m probably most partial to the Creature movies, I loved Frankenstein, Dracula, and the Wolf Man. It not only set them in popular culture but also provided a blueprint on how you might go about using them in other formats.

Add that to a Steampunk setting and you have something that seems to hit all the right buttons.

***

How long have you been creating/working in comics? 

I had published a few short comics stories in anthologies before my first one-shot came out in 2015.  That comic is called Wild Bullets, and it follows the four siblings of the Bullet family as they attend their parents’ Thanksgiving dinner.  They each take a turn telling the story, and when they do, a different artist handles each section in a different genre and style (crime, science fiction, adventure, and horror).  They’re all dysfunctional pulp adventurers: a detective, a mad scientist, an archaeologist, and a monster hunter.

Since then, I’ve published several issues of Monstrous and Holliston: Friendship Is Tragic.  Monstrous is a fun romp where the stories all take place in a steampunk, Frankenstein-dominated Europe.  The monsters and robots fight for their own interests, and everybody is a little bit monstrous.  

The Holliston graphic novel is based on the cult TV show by Adam Green, but it’s not just for fans of the show.  The basic idea is that it’s like The Big Bang Theory, except for horror nerds.  There are references to Stephen King, serial killers, and John Carpenter movies.  The story tells about four friends who find a cursed credit card that threatens to destroy them, destroy their friendship, and destroy the town of Holliston itself. There is a new Holliston comic on the way, and more Monstrous will be out soon!

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

I have written allllllll kinds of garbage in my life.  I literally do not remember what it was like before I was writing.  I wrote comics and illustrated stories as a kid, mostly ripping off the stuff I liked.  That method is still pretty much what I do.  People who read my comics probably think: “Oh, I bet he likes ______ because he stole ______ from…”  And they’d be right.  All creators are thieves!

I taught screenwriting for a couple of years at Kalamazoo College, and I wrote movie scripts then.  Comic book scripts are much more likely to be made into something than movie scripts, so I tried that out.  I really love collaborating with the great artists I get to work with, and being able to share a comic with someone is very, very cool.

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

There are scads of creators I could point to: Alan Moore if I’m feeling a little pretentious, Rick Remender if I’m being honest, etc. 

But I figure I should use this venue to give a shout-out to someone who might not be a household name yet but deserves to be.  I’ll say Ryan Ferrier.  He is a comic book writer in a variety of genres working with lots of companies, but his D4VE series and Hot Damn are just a bunch of fun, taking weird premises and wringing every last little bit of lunacy out of them.

If you haven’t read his stuff, fix your life right away, folks.  (He also wrote the forthcoming Kong on the Planet of the Apes, which promises to be cool, but give his original stuff a whirl, too.)

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 am literally working on this response after 10:00 p.m.  And on a school night, too!

I have no idea how I manage this stuff.  If somebody knows, please tell me.

The upshot of working on creative stuff while having another job (I teach college English courses) is that when I come to the writing I know I need to focus because my time is limited.  When I “have all the time in the world” to work on something, I tend to fart around longer on the Internet.  I might claim that time as “research,” but if I do, I’m a filthy liar.

Also, my writing process is a pretty straightforward thing.  I do a lot of prewriting and outlining, so I know exactly where I need to go with the story.  I highly recommend this method, as it takes some of the airy-fairy, arty-farty aspects of writing out of the process.  I mean, it’s not all sitting under a juniper tree on a dewy April morning to achieve the necessary inspiration or whatever.  Just write the damn thing.  I’ll talk more about not screwing around waiting for some idiotic celestial muse in a bit.

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?

What works best is having really rich, organized people do it for you.  But that’s not a luxury a whole lot of independent creators have at their disposal.  There are plenty of tools I would recommend using, like social media, podcasts, and lots and lots and lots of face-to-face conversations with people at anything and everything related to the comic (or book or whatever the person wants to promote).  Get out there and tell everyone who will listen!  And, please, for the love of everything that’s holy, try to make it interesting.

This past weekend, I did a signing at Barnes & Noble, and that was sandwiched between two other weekends at comic cons (Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids).  I spend a lot of time meeting people and telling them about what I have created.  I’m really excited about my comics, and I hope that enthusiasm is contagious.  From my perspective, nobody will ever care more or work harder to promote your work than you.

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?

Oh, I don’t just have a full outline; I have a bunch of them.  I like to use the screenwriting model of writing out the beats of any story, organizing it, chopping it up how it needs to be broken down to look like a story that humans can recognize.  I write a logline, a synopsis, character bios, the works. 

I use Blake Snyder’s beat sheet.  Then I write a page breakdown.  If my notes on a single page can’t fit into a single line of description, I’m probably doing too much with a single page.  (Of course, I set all my rules up clearly just so I can cheat.)

My last step is actually writing the script itself.  I specify the panels, camera angles, etc.  Some other writers are more freeform, but I could sketch out the page breakdowns I am visualizing in my head if artists ever wanted that kind of thing.  I’m open to that, but so far nobody has ever really wanted me to be that absolute with my control issues. 

And the good news is that my artists (Ken Lamug on Monstrous, Steve Sharar and Josh Werner on Holliston, and Sean Seal, Steve Sharar, Jason Jimenez, Joe Freyre, and Sarah Dhyne on Wild Bullets) come up with things I never pictured throughout this process.  And it’s always better than I anticipated.  They’re terrific!  It’s like a constant stream of birthday presents!

What inspired you to create Monstrous?

Monstrous stems from a lifelong fascination with monster movies and their misunderstood heroes.  Even when they’re completing evil, monsters are always the most compelling thing about the stories they occupy.  I’ve always loved the Universal Studios monsters and Ghostbusters and the Hammer Studios movies.  I threw all of those influences together with plots from John Wayne westerns in this strange steampunk hybrid. Monstrous is like all of these things I’ve loved for years having a party together.

The potential of this setting and these characters really feels limitless to me.  I have loads more stories in this universe than I have time to write.  Frankenstein’s Europe, teeming with steampunk robots, Dracula, and Igor running tech support on brains in jars—it all just strikes a chord with me.  I don’t think I know how to get bored here.

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

The notion of a shared universe with monsters and robots duking it out, trying to live their everyday lives, was the initial impetus I had.  I love the 70s horror comics Marvel put out about Dracula and Frankenstein.  The best part, to me, was taking these characters and just logically extending their stories to see what might be interesting about them.

Eventually, they basically turned Frankenstein’s monster into Captain America, and they gave Dracula a fantastic adversary by creating Blade.  Those weird changes are the kinds of things I want to do with Monstrous. Take something already established and bring a new sense of excitement and possibility.  Get all the toys out of the toybox and have fun.  The stories come mostly out of wanting to see something crazy on the page.  I keep tossing out bizarre scenarios to Ken Lamug, and he routinely delivers on this insanity in amazing and entertaining ways.

What’s been the reaction to the book?

Most people seem to like it a lot.  If they don’t, they’re too polite to tell me.

The response has been overwhelmingly positive.  Monstrous seems to tap into a bunch of things that people really enjoy, and that’s why we keep making more.  There are some possible developments as well to adapt it into a movie or a game.  I don’t have anything definite to report, but that level of interest is very exciting!

I really like telling stories about unusual families, either “families” that are not really related but instead made up of people who need to bond with each other in order to make their lives work (as in Monstrous) or actual families that stray pretty far from how we think of families working (like the deeply dysfunctional Bullet family). 

More specifically, in Monstrous many of the relationships are between father figures and daughter figures.  I guess I gravitated toward that dynamic because I feel like the father-daughter pairing, which should be fairly common in fiction, more or less isn’t.  I just wanted to see what kind of mileage a horror/western hybrid might get out of a less conventional pair at its heart.

Most of my creative work tends to be fast, fun, and escapist.  That’s not really a theme.  It’s just my overall disdain for reality.

After running a successful crowdfunding venture on Monstrous on Kickstarter, what have you learned about the process of crowdfunding? What do you think has contributed to hitting your goals on Monstrous? Do you view the platform as a testing ground for concepts? Any plans on more Kickstarters?

Ooh, that’s a tough one.  There are so many people out there who have the Kickstarter thing down to a science.  Ours was successful, but I don’t know how much I personally had to do with it.  I mostly just got nervous and spazzed out for a month.  Seriously, I lost my voice and got pneumonia.  If I had a lesson to pass on about Kickstarters, it would probably be: “Don’t be like me.”

Ha ha ha!  Who am I kidding?  That lesson extends far beyond just Kickstarters.

In all seriousness, I think it’s important to have a few videos and plenty of visual information.  Don’t run a Kickstarter if the project isn’t in the final stages!  Ideally, it should be completely finished.  Treat a Kickstarter more as a hype machine to get your thing—whatever it is—in front of different audience members.  For people who are already supportive fans, treat it as a pre-order system.

As for Kickstarter being a testing ground, that is a kind of pleasing notion.  Kickstarter is a Darwinian Thunderdome for ideas.  The only problem, though, is that some projects are too pricey or too niche to really work that way.  It is a good wake-up call, though, if the Kickstarter doesn’t work or barely squeaks by.  That idea needs re-tooling and adjustment.

As for future Kickstarters, Travis McIntire at Source Point Press has talked about us doing a Kickstarter for the second Wild Bullets.  I don’t know if we will, but I’m willing to give it a shot.

Get it?  Get it?  Bullets?  Shot?  Oof.  Remember, kids: “Don’t be like me.” 

What’s the overall plan with Monstrous (series length)?

This question is a real toughie.  I have ideas that could fill up loads of stories, but I also don’t necessarily want to outlast the interests of my readers and wind up making everyone sick of it.  I am sure that all long-time comics fans can point to a particular arc or character or series that has severely overstayed its welcome.  I don’t want that to be the case with Monstrous.

As of this moment, the series will at least go twelve issues with the plan to group four issues together into three trades, maybe have a bigger omnibus at the end.  But if I can be entirely honest and mercenary about it, I will probably take the corporate model and just do it until it’s no longer profitable.  (And yes, I know that this answer is essentially a full reversal of what I said in the last paragraph.  A real toughie, huh?)

How did you get together with Source Point Press?

I’ve known the people at Source Point Press for years, and when Ken and I had the first four issues completed, his agent was shopping the project around.  Source Point Press approached me to see if we could work something out, and it was an excellent fit between their brand and what we’re doing.  All creators should, I think, work on their network.  Keep meeting people.  Keep talking to people.  Be polite.  Be someone others want to work with.

Sometimes I hear people ask: “How do I break into comics?”  And I almost always answer: “Dang.  Just be one of the people others are not trying to keep out of comics.”  That sound flippant, but it’s also true.  Be professional, reliable, quick, and friendly.  Be the type of person you’d like to work with, whatever that means to you.  Greedy people don’t get far.  Ditto people who make excuses or spread negativity, etc.  Talk. Interact.  Put yourself out there!

Comics is an amazing collaborative medium. Tell me a little about working with Ken Lamug.

Working with Ken Lamug is wonderful!  He gets where I’m coming from with the scripts and comes up with fantastic art.  There are rarely any hiccups in the communication and/or collaboration.  Everyone should go check out his children’s illustration work, too.  There is some tonal overlap with Monstrous, but it’s all still very different and wild and fun.

Fun fact: Ken Lamug lives in Las Vegas, and I live in Michigan.  We have talked extensively via Twitter messages, e-mails, and phone calls, but we have never met each other face to face.  I’m sure that we will eventually, but things are going so well now I’d worry about blowing it.

Earlier in the working relationship, he would send some process images and sketches, and I would send him outlines and notes.  Now, we mostly exchange finished products, as we really trust each other and trust ourselves.

Plus, I don’t know if I’ve said it extensively enough here, but Ken Lamug is an absolute animal.  He does it all: pencils, inks, colors, letters, covers, design work.  He’s 100% fantastic, and I’m lucky to work with him.

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 probably make fun of whatever outfit I was wearing ten years ago.

Seriously, I would tell myself not to get so attached to things that are doomed not to work out.  I know that sounds like good advice for everyone, but I get altogether too worked up about things that don’t turn out like I’d hoped, everything from jobs to creative projects to relationships.  With the creative stuff, at least, that is part of the path.  As a writer, I need to keep writing.  I have to write more stuff than will make it to the marketplace.  That’s just how the process works.

It’s a little heartbreaking at times, though.  “I really want this thing to get finished and into people’s hands!”  A high percentage of the time, for a variety of reasons, that scenario doesn’t work out.  So make another thing.  When I hear about creative people talking about working on one thing for years—decades, sometimes—I just feel sad.  Keep using your time to create different things, and eventually one of them will catch. Every new idea you can offer increases your odds.

Anything else I wish I knew ten years ago?  Appreciate your hair, younger Greg.  You’re going to lose most of it in the future.

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 do!  I’m excited that there is a second Wild Bullets on the way, more Monstrous, and another Holliston graphic novel.  I have some other projects, too, but they’re in the early stages.  Some movie stuff, some comics stuff.  I hope I’m pulling off an air of mystery here, as opposed to just an air of vagueness…

All my hobbies involve sitting.

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

People can check out my website: www.gregwrightcomicbooks.com

They can also find me on Facebook: www.facebook.com/gregwrightcomicbooks

And I have two Twitter accounts: @GregHenchman and @GregWrightBooks

Monstrous is available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and all my comics can be purchased directly from Source Point Press: http://sourcepointpress.storenvy.com/products

For those who like prefer digital copies to physical copies, all my comics are available digitally through Comixology, Drive Thru Comics, and ComicsBlitz.

The website for Monstrous is www.monstrousworld.com

Thanks for taking the time to hear me out!  I’m grateful for this opportunity.

See you all in Frankenstein’s Europe, folks.  Let’s get MONSTROUS!

***

 

Greg Wright has written several comic books: Monstrous, Wild Bullets, and Holliston: Friendship Is Tragic.

Greg earned a Ph.D. in American Literature and Film from Michigan State, and his award-winning fiction has appeared in a variety of journals. He has taught screenwriting, media studies, creative writing, and composition.

If he had a castle with a secret passage, he’d probably tell everybody and make it just a regular passage.

***

I’d like to thank Greg Wright for taking the time to answer my questions!

 

 

***

John McGuire

The Gilded Age Kickstarter is still going on. Check it out on Kickstarter here.

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.

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.

Savage Hearts – A Paranormal Romance Anthology

 

 

 

 

Savage Hearts:
A Paranormal Romance Anthology


Release: 10/31/17

Genre: Adult, Paranormal Romance, Anthology, Collection, 
Publisher: Satin & Stone Publications, LLC.
Cover Artist: Dark City Designs

Blurb
Dracula, Quasimodo, Dr. Jekyll…they are the monsters that stalk your nightmares. Haunting the pages of books for centuries, they are the embodiment of all that emerges from the shadows when you close your eyes. They are the deformed, the hated and the incomprehensible, fated to walk in the darkness alone forever.
 
Or are they?
 
From twelve amazing authors come twelve new tales, stories that go beyond the blighted surface to see into the heart of the beast. They are stories of acceptance and redemption, love and passion… and chance encounters that forge the love of a lifetime.
Stop running. Stop hiding. See past the monster. Look into the face of fear and you might just find the soul of a man.
10/1 Pre-Order Price ONLY $3.99!!
HELP US BRING LOVE TO SCARY PLACES

 

 THE STORIES:



“Sanctuary” by Harper L. Jameson  Inside the hallowed bell tower of Our Lady, a monster was hidden by the righteous meant to protect him. Seeking help from the almighty against the furor of a crazed priest, Esmerelda found more than a monster inside the church…she found salvation.



“Bander Snatch” by David Michael Charlie has a secret – a centuries old secret – which has forced him into a life of solitude and lonliness. In order to rid himself of his curse, he has to give up the first piece of normal he’s ever had. Will the Jabberwock win again?



“Beyond the Shallows” by Kristy Nicolle  When English beauty and avid poetry lover Ophelia is holidaying with her two sisters in 19th Century Blackpool, she finds herself unmistakably called to the water. Will she flee in horror at what lies beneath the waves, or can she learn to look beyond the shallows?



“He Calls” by Alice K. Wayne 
When the Master of the new world summons you, will you surrender your body to Cthulu’s call, or choose to be fractured by madness?


“Yielding to Temptation” by Jess Raven Skyla had one job. Get in, get the prize, get out. The house had other ideas. When she finds herself trapped with too many secrets and a man who claims the impossible, can she stay strong enough to fight the darkness for a man who captivates her, or will she become prey to the Portrait of Dorian Gray?



“Holding the Devil” by Stephanie Farrant Hell isn’t a game. A night of passion and a promise of her heart’s desire seems too good to be true for Evelyn Church. The price is high and the road dark. But can she trust the devil? 



“Hyde and Seek” by Katie H. Weill Gabriel John Utterson is drowning in law school debt, so when a lucrative employment opportunity as a guard for a handful of mental health patients presents itself he accepts, and commits himself under the hands of Dr. Jekyll. But who is Ms. Hyde?



“Behemoth” by D.M. Earl Trying to find that rare woman to share his heart with, Francis
N. Stein- Aka Stitch – struggles to live detached, battling his honorable and dark
sides.  His ‘special powers’ further complicate his ability to exist in society, searching for something he has never thought possible- a kindred spirit.



“Night Music” by Desiree King On a fateful night, a young songstress finds herself in the wrong place at the worst time. A shadowy figure seems to fall from the darkness to save her, but who is actually the monster?



“Wickedly Ever After” by Stephanie Ingram 
Somewhere over the rainbow, good and evil struggle for power. But in a
land of magical possibility, can the wicked get a happy ending?

 

“Immortal Devotion” by Lou Tenn The Father of Vampires has lived in solitude, believing that she didn’t exist. After she finally made an appearance, her family business proves to complicate things.


“Loving the Hound” by Mila Waters When death comes, so does he. He’s the hound, the messenger no one wishes to see. But when Emmaline ‘sees’ past the omens, he’s given the chance at something he’s never known before.



www.satinandstone.com

 

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