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Behind the Artist – Interview with Sean Hill, Part 1

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

Sean Hill is an artist I’ve had the pleasure of watching grow into his skill. When I first encountered his artwork on Route 3 #1, he was clearly talented, but as he completed each subsequent issue… you could tell that his confidence in his craft was also developing. Of course, it didn’t take long for others to notice as well.

Lucky for me that he had some time, and I had a 4th issue of Gilded Age needing an artist.

Sean took some time out of his busy schedule of conquering the comic book world to answer a few of my questions.

***

How long have you been creating art/working in comics?

I’ve been drawing since I was about 6 or 7 years old. My grandfather (Otis Hill) would draw sometimes for me and he would encourage me to practice it myself. He’d take me to comic stores sometimes and I would try and emulate some of the work I saw in those comics and some books my mom had at home. 

As far as drawing comics though I think it’s  been about six years now ( time flies) my girlfriend at the time ( now my wife) was going to school for animation and she really encouraged me to draw comics since I would always say I used to want to.I think my first gigs were for Saint James comics ( now defunct ) and Terminus Media‘s Amber Fox vs the Terra force. I kinda miss those characters now that I think about it I still sometimes get the inkling to redesign those characters and redraw that book.

HaHaHa.

From Gilded Age #4 – Art by Sean Hill

At what point did you sit down and decide to become an artist? Have you had any formal training? What’s the first thing you drew? 

I remember when I was 7 being a huge fan of Knight Rider and the old Superman movies. I was obsessed with trying to draw them and make it as perfect as I could. I’m not really sure if I ever wanted to be anything else other than an artist. It just seemed like one of those natural callings I guess. I remember looking at that old Levi’s commercial with Rob Liefeld, it was my first look behind the scenes of how comic artists made comics. I think when I saw that though I realized what type of artist I wanted to be.

 What things inspire you to create art? Favorite artists/creators? Influences?

There are a lot of things that inspire me to create, movies, fashion, real life people and places, all that stuff as far as artists the list gets pretty extensive. I think of all the things that do keep me creating there are a few artists that are consistently in my head all the time.

#1 is Bernie Wrightson, I was exposed to his work as a little kid, my mom had The Stand by Stephen King, and, of course, all the illustrations in that are by Bernie.

The other is Gustave Dore from Paradise Lost, another book my mom owned and a lot of Wally Wood and Frank Frazzetta pen and ink work. Also artists like Mshindo Kuumba, Ivan Reis, Todd Mcfarlane, Eddy Barrows, Lewis LaRosa, the list goes on and on.

How do you manage your daily life with the art? Is this your 9 to 5 or is this your 10 to 2? If you have the old day job, what do you do? Do you do anything to market/promote yourself?

I honestly am really loose with the time management thing, most times I keep in mind that I have to do certain amount of pages in a week and I just try to get that done as best I can. Sometimes the deadline is really tight and I have to become more organized but more often than not I find consistency is far better than being a great time manager. If your consistently showing up at the drawing table to get work done it can be better than managing your time well enough to know you might have only two hours to draw for one month straight but you loose steam somewhere In the middle. I find if I just keep showing up at the table and just relaxing a bit about time and just focus on the work, it gets done eventually and most times on time.

The hard part is though this is not my 9 to 5. For that I’m an Inventory manager at an art store and I have a job as a husband to my wife and then from 10 to 3 or 11 to 4 in the morning I’m a decent comic book artist that’s managed to trick people into paying me to draw for them.

As far as promotion I’m admittedly an introvert, I’m quiet I don’t call for a lot of attention really, but I do rely on social media for promotion of my work though. It’s just apart of being in a creative field, you just have to show people what you’re doing in order to get work. I’m mostly on Facebook or Instagram but I sometimes use twitter and blogger as well.  

Sean Hill’s Route 3 Roughs

What’s your process? Digital vs. by hand? What do you prefer?

My process is  really simplistic, I start most of my stuff in my sketchbook. I keep an 11 x17 moleskine sketchbook it’s really big to carry around but I tend to anyway. When I get a script or just doing cognitive storytelling for myself, I get a business card and trace out 5 pages across my moleskine page throughout the entire page. This gives me about 20 pages I can thumbnail on one sheet. I start my thumbnails out pretty tightly, I try to get as much detail as I can and try to really flesh out as much as I can. The more I do at this stage the less I have to do on the final artwork. During this stage I’m referencing as much as I can and trying to get a flow for the story. Once that’s done I use my phone to take pictures of all the thumbnails and upload them to Dropbox or e-mail them to myself or whatever. 

Sean Hill’s Not so Rough Route 3

After that I’m at home and in Manga Studio, I open a story folder with as many pages as I need. From there I drag and drop each thumbnail picture into every corresponding page and start on the pages. 

Drawing the actual page is pretty simple as well, I used to do some pretty tight penciling and then ink my stuff but it was taking forever and as I got more comic assignments I became a little more confident in my inking, I no longer rely on such tight pencil work. As a matter of fact, because it’s digital, I don’t even bother using a pencil brush. I make a new layer over my thumbnail, and I make both layers blue. I drop the opacity on the thumbnail and start roughly sketching over it. When the roughshod are satisfying, I jump right into the inks. When I’m inking, I tend to noodle around a lot and most times it causes me to draw a lot of unnecessary lines but it’s fun, and I’m kinda like going on the fly with the inking anyway.

Cover by Sean Hill & Fran Gamboa

What have you worked on previously? 

I finished some Route 3 a bit ago, and I have been chipping away at a personal project for a while now. I got the chance to do some covers for Zenescope Entertainment’s DeathForce series and also Hellchild : the Unholy. I also got the chance to work on Grimm Tales of Terror: the Monkeys Paw and some DeathForce covers .

Cover by Sean Hill

Are there themes and/or subjects you find yourself drawn to again and again in you art? In regards to comics, are there things that draw you in, something you see or read where you must put your own spin on the story/character?

Three books come to mind that I really felt like I had an obligation to tell this story right, and I felt really connected to. 

#1 Dark Shaman a four part mini series I did for Zenescope, it was about a long dead Native American Shaman who comes back from the dead to seek just for his dead tribe. He start trying to kill this group of college students vacationing in a cabin. Two of those college kids are native themselves and I really enjoyed how the main hero had to get in touch with her culture and roots to over come this Shaman. It dealt with a lot of issues some natives go through with cultural identity. It’s difficult to live in a modern world we’re the culture you should know is either at worse ignored and at best appropriated. 

#2 is Route 3, and again it’s because of identity. The character of Sean Anderson is trying to find his place in the world and is conflicted with the loss of his Mom and the fact he just doesn’t fit in to “black culture” all that well things only get worse when he finds out he has destructive powers he can’t control yet. But it gives him an opportunity to make his place in the world. I can identify with that being s quite kid growing up in “the hood” and not fitting in all that well 

#3 is gonna be The Gilded Age, I though the dynamic between the main characters was interesting and seeing how they dealt with their conflicts was both really entertaining and really heart breaking, but in real life many of us have been on that emotional roll a coaster 

As far as adding things into stories, I think I am more often doing it nowadays then when I first started. I used to have this notion that the writers vision must be adhered to at all times, but I truth comics is a collaborative effort and everyone is gonna bring something unique to that story and that’s fine as long as it services the story. 

***

Sean’s work can be be seen:

http://nazirstudios.blogspot.com/?m=1

https://m.facebook.com/sean.hill.777/photos?ref=bookmarks

https://www.instagram.com/seandamienhill/

***

I want to thank Sean for taking the time to answer all my questions. His artwork and skill have made The Gilded Age all the better for them.

Part 2 of this interview is available here.

***

John McGuire

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

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

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

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

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

Behind the Artist – Interview with Nimesh Morarji, Part 2

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

Last week I started conversing with Nimesh about how he got his start in comics and got some insight on exactly how he sees his job of coloring in regards to telling a great story. This week we get into his work on The Gilded Age #3.

***

Do you have a favorite thing to color (genre, scenery, etc)? Least favorite?

I do believe my colors works very well with SciFi, but I personally prefer History periods like Medieval, Western, SteamPunk. But this genre is a bit tricky, so me coloring this, the editors need to want clean shiny colors over muted muddy colors. My least favorite, I think, is working on a book where you don’t have any chance to be creative, to work on a book where, let’s say everything is established and all you need to do is to copy what’s been done.

What’s the most challenging thing about being an artist in today’s world?

This one is a hard one. I do believe that today you can do whatever you want (well, in the past too, but now it’s more “easier”), so I will say the most challenging thing about being an artist in today’s world is Yourself. You are your own obstacle I guess.

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

I think I needed to go a little more back and say “Internet”. In the future there will be this thing called Internet and provide everyone with more chances to do what they want.”

But if I had to go 10 years back I would say that the time I’m wasting learning 3D as a shortcut for not drawing is a complete waste of time. GO LEARN/IMPROVE ON DRAWING instead.

What is your worst habit?

Wondering off on social media. Dammit, that thing will get you!

Goals? One year from now? Five years from now?

My main goal is to make the Comic book industry my main profession. I’ve been working with Indies and I’ve been blessed with the money that it’s coming from this. Also I’ve been learning a lot. My goal for one year from now is to have a bigger client Rolodex that keeps me busy. And from 5 years from now I want to have worked for at least one book on Zenescope and Dynamite and I want to have clients enough to make me give up my regular job and just do comics.

Gilded Age #3 Art – Antonio Brandao Colors – Nimesh Morarji

You did the coloring for The Gilded Age Issue 3 which has a dream sequence to start things off. It’s one of my favorite things in the issue, and I love how you really mixed in some of those darker greens and the red eyes following/chasing Hanna only to wash it away with the knight shows up. How did you land on that color scheme not only throughout that scene, but then contrast it against the rest of the issue.

I’m glad to hear that you like it, I also love that sequence and I do use that sequence as portfolio piece.

After reading the script and looking at the pages I noticed how this 3 pages contrast even artistically. For page one and 2 I wanted to showcase Hanna’s horror and the first thing that came to my mind was Nightmare on Elm Street. I went to see some scenes of the movie and I noticed that when Nancy (the girl from the movie) was dreaming and thus entering the Freddy realm things looked ugly, cold and disgusting. With the third page where the knight shows up I noticed that the artist made this shiny look to it and the first thing that came to my mind was a classical Disney Prince charming thing.

So I tried to translate this 2 feeling (the horror/disgust and the Prince that saves the day) in to colors. I believed the green on Hanna trying to escape would bring that disgust looking feel and it would contrast beautifully with the red glow of the monster while the next bright blue tints page would shine of readers face and evoke that prince charming saving her.

This was a unique scene on the book so I had to be very careful on my color choices because I couldn’t do it again in the book or the effect would be invalidated. So I’m extremely pleased to know that you felt that.

Did you have any favorite pieces within the issue you thought came together exactly the way you had envisioned?

Oh, yes, Page 5, Flashback scene. The muted colors worked very well in there in my opinion.

Also, page 10, that last panel, it’s so beautiful. The Artist drew it so well and with the colors laid down I do believe the reader feels Vanessa’s loneliness at that moment. It is a dramatic panel that I still today look at and feel the sadness.

Gilded Age #3 Art – Antonio Brandao Colors – Nimesh Morarji

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on a Project for Wayward Raven Media called Balloon World and I already have lined up to start coloring O Lusitano the first Portuguese superhero and 2 more projects that I can’t name yet due to NDA’s.

Anything else that you’d like people to know about you (Hobbies? Passions? Favorite TV Show?)?

If you guys could check out the Western themed comics that I’m creating that would be awesome I guess.

😛

I´m making it available in WebComics format on nimprod.com and you can read it for free (shameless promotion, I know).

I’m currently spending all my free time on coloring comics and practicing drawing as I’m going to draw my comic later on too but sometimes I take a break and watch some movies, TV shows and read Comics. Westworld is definitely a must watch, are any of you watching it?

Where’s the best place to see your stuff on the web (website)?

Best place to see my stuff probably is my Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/nimeshmorarjiart/ where I post Works in Progress, process, and final pieces.

***

Nimesh also provided a little Bio:

My name is Nimesh.
I’m from Portugal and I’m a self-taught ComicBook Colorist. Currently I’m working in a freelance basis.

In my 3rd year coloring professionally, I’ve worked with publishers, such as Terminus Media, WayWard Raven, and Arcana. Titles that I’ve worked on includes: Carlton Harvey’s Soul of Suw, James B. Emmett’s The Committee, and Chuck Amadori’s Pale Dark.

With a background in illustration, I’m aware of how color can impact a story and my vision is to help creators bring dimension to their worlds. 

***

I want to thank Nimesh for taking the time to answer my questions. And I definitely appreciate his contributions to helping bring The Gilded Age to life.

And make sure to check out his Western Comic at nimprod.com.

***

John McGuire

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

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

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

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

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

Behind the Artist – Interview with Nimesh Morarji, Part 1

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

 

As a writer of comic books the first question people like to ask (after “so you draw the comics”) are – how in the world does that actually work? So many times those same people are completely taken aback by how many hands and fingers touch a comic book page before it becomes something they can see. Even then, it is a bit of magic.

I, personally, think one of the unsung heroes of the industry are the colorists. I’ve been fortunate to work with a couple of good ones in regards to The Gilded Age. So I reached out the colorist on the 3rd issue, Nimesh Morarji, to see if I could get a better handle on just what made him tick.

Gilded Age #3 Art – Antonio Brandao Colors – Nimesh Morarji

***

How long have you been creating art/working in comics?

I would say I’ve created art as long as I remember. As a toddler we all do art I guess :P. But professionally I’ve been working in comic since 2013.

At what point did you sit down and decide to become a colorist? Have you had any formal training?

I’ve been wanting to develop my own comic book since around 2005. It’s a western themed book where Women take the lead in a shared universe. My ability to draw at that time was very limited as I gave up drawing a long time ago. So around 2005 I was trying to develop my comic using 3D software like Poser, and I learned a bit of modeling on Maya and 3DS Max, but the results never satisfied me. It always looked very stiff from what I wanted to do. Then after some frustrating years of learning Max and Maya, I started to look other options.

Digital Painting was starting to be a thing and lots of artist were posting stuff about it. I fell in love with what they were doing, so I started to learn that. Comics started doing digital coloring as a norm and comics were my true passion. I believed that with what I learned with digital painting could help me focus on digital coloring, I could always get some gigs and with that money I could hire artists do draw my comic, and I could color it.

It sounded like a perfect plan in 2010, After this amazing *cof* cof* cof plan set up, I saw a DC comic book colorist making some online course available with opportunity to One on One while we were doing the classes, so I decided to invest on that.

What’s the first thing you colored?

The first thing I colored professionally? I think it was The Almighties from Actuality Press.

What things inspire you to create art? Favorite artists/creators? Influences?

I think Movies, TV Shows and books inspire me, I like to be entertained so I love to entertain as well. Favorite Artists in coloring are Marte Gracia and Justin Ponsor. I love the way they use bright saturated colors and make them look “real” with great use of lighting and the ability to tell the stories with colors. I will never forget how Gracia did a shock scene in ALL NEW X-MEN by showing the characters in black and white. I loved it.

I think it’s safe to say that Alex Sollazzo, Gracia, and Ponsor are my influences.

How do you manage your daily life with the art? Is this your 9 to 5 or is this your 10 to 2? If you have the old day job, what do you do?

My daily life is extremely busy to be honest. I gave up a lot of things in my life to work on this. Since I was a kid (we are talking on the 80´s here, and yeah I’m old)I dreamed working in the comic book industry, but here in Portugal there isn’t such industry. So, at one point I shifted to the movie industry but my family never believed that the entertainment industry would fit me as they wanted me to carry on the family business (being a commercial person or economist and stuff like that) so they pressured me to not pursue what I wanted.

I caved in and did what they wanted.

After living unhappy all my life doing things I didn’t care for or liked, I turned my back to everything to start over and do stuff that I wanted, so now with 3 years of professional career I’m betting all my chips on this and so far I can’t complain.

I do have a day job while I’m moving up on my career as a Comic Book colorist and coloring/working in this industry is what I want to do.

Do you do anything to market/promote yourself?

To Market/Promote myself I usually post my stuff (as projects allows) on social media, DevianArt and such.

What’s your process like when you are preparing to color a comic? How do you make sure that you are enhancing the artwork?

I don’t believe that the colorist job is to enhance the artwork, I do believe that the colorist job is to help tell the story with colors. Creating a mood in a panel, making the reader feel the shock that the characters are feeling or making the reader feel the fear of the scene happening. This is what I believe the colorist is there for: to help tell the story.

My process usually is, read the script and take some notes of important dramatic things happening on the story then I do research. I go online and try to see some still images of movies or tv shows that tried to convey that drama, what they did, how they did, and I analyze all that. I like to color when I have all pages ready cause this way I can lay down colors on those important moments to help me set the mood of the book and create a guide line for the rest.

Gilded Age #3 Art – Antonio Brandao Colors – Nimesh Morarji

How do you work? Music? TV shows? Movies? No distractions?

I prefer watching streams. I know, it’s odd. watching people work while working, lol. But yeah, I love to hear other artists talk about their experiences in life of art and that motivates me to work instead of wasting my time going on Facebook and such.

(to be honest, you will find me more on social media when I’m at my regular day job rather than when I’m working on comics :P)

What have you worked on previously?

On comics? I started on a webcomic dedicated to Marvel’s character called NOVA, and then I worked on the Almighties. After that I met Chuck Amadori online and it led me to work with Isle Squared Comics on a couple of titles and later they helped me develop my Western comics. Wayward Raven Media got me for 3 of their titles (currently finishing on one of it) and Terminus Media. Along all this I worked on 2 or 3 titles for Portuguese comics. I’m currently coloring the First Portuguese super Hero title (I believe it’s issue 5) and did some work for Arcana Anthology as well.

It’s been 3 crazy years going from my regular job to sitting on the computer and coloring comics in my free time.

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

I try to avoid doing the same over and over again and on coloring its hard because even though there are millions of colors not all of them work well together. But I guess there are Blue/Orange colors that I keep doing most of the time, but I try to do more.

***

This is only the first part of my conversation with Nimesh. Check out Part 2 next week.

***

Nimesh also provided a little Bio:

My name is Nimesh.
I’m from Portugal and I’m a self-taught ComicBook Colorist. Currently I’m working in a freelance basis.

In my 3rd year coloring professionally, I’ve worked with publishers, such as Terminus Media, WayWard Raven, and Arcana. Titles that I’ve worked on includes: Carlton Harvey’s Soul of Suw, James B. Emmett’s The Committee, and Chuck Amadori’s Pale Dark.

With a background in illustration, I’m aware of how color can impact a story and my vision is to help creators bring dimension to their worlds. 

***

I want to thank Nimesh for taking the time to answer my questions. And I definitely appreciate his contributions to helping bring The Gilded Age to life.

And make sure to check out his Western Comic at nimprod.com.

***

John McGuire

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

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

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

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

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

Behind the Artist – Interview with La’Vata O’Neal

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

Doing this comic book thing as a writer who can barely draw stick figures means I have to lean on the artists who work with me. There is a level of trust that must exist when you hand over your finely crafted words for them to work their magic. So far, I’ve been very lucky in this regard on all the various comic related things I’ve done, but that is especially true with the Gilded Age.

I was happy when I reached out to La’Vata O’Neal (who has done the cover for the Gilded Age Graphic Novel… more on that later…) and she agreed to an interview.

***

How long have you been creating art/working in comics?

I’ve been working in comics since Mr. Tony Cade decided to pick me up to do some work for him.

(Tony Cade is the Editor-in-Chief over at Terminus Media.)

At what point did you sit down and decide to become an artist? Have you had any formal training? What’s the first thing you drew?

When I was little I was interested in shapes and figures, still am of course, anything that isn’t a number or word! Though, I’m interested in writing due to its creative nature as well.

What things inspire you to create art? Favorite artists/creators? Influences?

I didn’t have an early influence back then because it’s really like an old love. It’s the serenity of it, though now I’m greatly inspired by many artists now, deceased or living. I’m particularly fond of old paintings because of the way they were able to capture a story in one image. They spoke with such power with just one image.

How do you manage your daily life with the art? Is this your 9 to 5 or is this your 10 to 2? If you have the old day job, what do you do? Do you do anything to market/promote yourself?

I sketch daily and paint weekly, it’s like my fingers are possessed-

I’m joking!

I do sketch daily though to keep the creative flow. Whatever I produce in sketches I try to share and it keeps me relevant. I post to facebook, tumblr, and Instagram as the best way to market myself. At some point during the week though I’m always interested in learning new creative ways of doing art, so I’m usually reading up on some art form or for example how to do animation, etc. But At the moment I’m juggling a 9 to 5 job on top of the freelance business.

What’s your process? Digital vs. by hand? What do you prefer?

I love both to be honest; traditional is more expensive so the digital helps keep the budget down-but both, all day every day if I could! My process is a longer explanation, but a lot of it derives from traditional practices.

How do you work? Music while you draw? TV shows? Movies? No distractions?

I love to work while listening to music and if not music then an audible book.

What have you worked on previously?

I worked on a mobile game app, doing character design and illustration.

Are there themes and/or subjects you find yourself drawn to again and again in you art? In regards to comics, are there things that draw you in, something you see or read where you must put your own spin on the story/character?

Let’s see, reoccurring themes…Fantasy mostly, I’m most drawn to that I believe. But realistically, I’m drawn to anything that’s fiction as long as the story is good! As for putting my own spin on characters, it’s something I reserve for others to do at the moment.

Do you have a favorite thing to draw (genre, scenery, etc)?

My favorite thing to draw are fantasy characters, they’re interesting in their own way because they’re so dynamic and otherworldly. But as long as character has enough character they’re interesting to me.

What’s the most challenging thing about being an artist in today’s world?

I would say keeping afloat, isn’t that always the case though. It’s rough being freelance if you don’t know what you’re doing.

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

Wow…hm…I know exactly what I would say and it has everything to do with being more exposed to the art world. The more exposure the more you’ll understand.

What is your worst habit?

My worst habit…daydreaming, maybe? Lol

Goals? One year from now?

Let’s see, one year from now I look to be employed by a studio and not just doing freelance, I’d like to try being under some other artists so I can learn more.

For the Gilded Age, you worked on the cover to the trade (which is amazing by the way). I know we went back and forth with some ideas about how to present the characters, but it seemed like the tarot card idea just worked not only on a story level, but visually just nailed it. After we figured out that direction, how long did you work on those pieces – fine tuning them?

It might have taken me around 30 total hours to complete the cover. It was a very pleasant experience working on the Gilded Age trade cover!

Have you worked on any Steampunk style images before?

I have not actually but trying something new is always a learning experience and it can also be fun!

What are you currently working on?

I am currently working on my own project which still needs time to develop but it’s in the works, so keep an eye out! 😉

Anything else that you’d like people to know about you (Hobbies? Passions? Favorite TV Show?)?

Well that depends if people really want to know! I like being the mysterious type.

Where’s the best place to see your stuff on the web (website)?

www.leonealart.com

***

I want to thank La’Vata for not only taking the time to answer my questions, but for being such an amazing artist. The cover for the Gilded Age Trade is ridiculous in every (great) way!

***

John McGuire

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

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

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

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

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

Interview with the Nicest Author Ever

In the business of creative networking, it’s common to meet a ton of nice people. They’re everywhere, and they WAY outnumber the trolls.

But sometimes, every once in a while, you meet someone who’s nicer than nice, who’s sweet, calm, and utterly pleasant to talk with.

One such uber-nice person is Regina O’Connell. She’s the author of several books, including Wren and Saving Wihe, and she’s the subject of this week’s Tessera Guild creative interview!

* *

Without further ado…

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Hi Regina! Welcome to Tessera Guild’s latest author interview. Rumor is you’ve got a brand new book, Saving Wihe. We’re dying to know what it’s about. Give us the scoop?

Saving Wihe is the second book in the trilogy Wren’s Journey. Wren is a young Witch who is on a quest to save Wihe from the evil priest, Nye. She is joined by her grandmother, a few close friends and her wolf, Maicoh. They are on the run, planning the rescue and finding the freedom they all desire.
 

Soooo…you’re pretty popular on the web. Tell us all about yourself. Give up the goods on where you’re from and how you got into writing books:

Well I am originally from Jackson, Michigan. I have been living in Bend, Oregon for the past eleven years. I am a proud mother and grandmother! I started writing books in high school. My first was a children’s book which I also illustrated for my youngest brother. I wrote many children’s books throughout the years for my own children and now my grandchildren. I never tried to publish them though!
 

We’ve seen images for your previous book, Wren, all over the planet. Is Wren your first published piece? Tell us ALL about it!

Yes, Wren was my first! I wrote it for my son. He told me I should write a book. Initially I thought I would write about a young boy, but then I thought I’d do better writing from a girl’s perspective. But I still wanted it to mean something to my son, hence the magic singing! My son has an amazing voice!  Wren is young, a little self-absorbed and totally loyal to her family and friends. She faces loss and heartache with the help of her grandmother and friends. The book is a fast-paced adventure that I hope people will love.
Wren

As an indie author, what do you find most challenging about marketing your work?

Marketing without money!!!! I so love social media and the author friends I have met! We help each other! I don’t know what I’d do without them!

Let’s say someone wanted to get in touch with you to get a copy of Saving Wihe for reviewing purposes. Where’s the best place to reach you?

Facebook: https://facebook.com/ReginaOConnellAuthor

OR

Twitter: https://twitter.com/regina_oconnell

Check out this cover!

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Regina

And here’s Regina mugging with her son. Look at that smile!

That’s it for this week. Be sure to give Regina’s latest book a read (and of course, a review!)

For more Tessera Guild creative interviews, follow this link.

Until next time.

J Edward Neill

Interview with Author Stacy Bennett

You may not yet know the name Stacy Bennett, but you will. Last year I had the pleasure of reading an early version of one of her upcoming novels. The experience was thrilling–one of those instances where I couldn’t stop reading. I was wide awake in wee hours of the morning devouring every word I could. That good. Seriously. I thought it was about time I featured her here at Tessera and she was gracious enough to oblige.

Stacy BennettTell us about yourself, where you’re from and what you love.

I was born and raised in New Jersey, but I’ve lived in a number of different places, having moved more than 13 times between college and being married to a Marine. I’m back in Jersey now with my kids doing the single mom thing. If something would happen to my husband, though I hope not, I may be qualified for a Child tax scheme. As for what I love — When I was little, it was always “I love horses” and later became “I love my boyfriend/husband”. Now the answer isn’t so simplistic. Perhaps it was the years with the Marine Corps that taught me to grow where I’m planted because with the exception of my children (both in high school) and our pets, the things I love are subject to availability. Right now, those things include lunches on a sunny porch, rainy days off work so I can read and sip coffee, nature walks and anything that makes me laugh. Of course in any location, nothing beats good food with good company and bantering talks about life, the universe and everything especially when those conversations don’t end abruptly in the answer 42.

Did you always know you wanted to be a writer, a creator of stories?

Actually, no. I mean I wrote write stories as a kid just like I drew pictures as a kid. I also spent quite a bit of time daydreaming, planning out adventures in my head. But I never really considered it a vocation. Even now I’m pretty sure I won’t be quitting the “day” job. I love to write, I love to be immersed in a world of my own design and that’s why I do it.

Stacy Bennett

What books inspired you growing up? Which stories have you held onto?

Like many people who have much older siblings, I was a precocious reader and grew up in a house full of science nerds with shelves of sci-fi/fantasy books. I finished The Forgotten Planet, The Hobbit, Narnia and the entire LOTR trilogy before I was 12. I read every book the library owned that had any horse stories in it by the end of grammar school (no doubt where I get my penchant for tragedy, later reinforced by a love of Shakespeare).

My mom was also an avid romance reader. She had this little book that listed all the complete Harlequin series and she crossed each one off as she read them. Because of this we made a weekly trip to the Book Swap near us since by then the library ceased to offer enough new options. I found some of my best fantasy books secondhand in that little shop in Milltown. It was there I found:

  • Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny (I scoured weekly for the rest of the series)
  • Dragonflight which led to an Anne McCaffrey addiction. My faves were The Ship Who Sang and Crystal Singer.
  • In school, I was enthralled and amazed by LeGuin’s The Left Hand of Darkness and Lathe of Heaven.
  • I also fell in love with C.J. Cherryh’s Morgaine Cycle and especially The Faded Sun Trilogy which I felt was a remarkable work of cultural commentary (in the same vein as Left Hand of Darkness).
  • And outlier fantasy works like Diamond’s Lady of the Haven and Lindskold’s Through Wolf’s Eyes.

The world of publishing has changed so much in the last five years. What advice would you give new authors?

Personally, I don’t have time to be a master of all trades when it comes to my writing. My “job” in this enterprise is the actual writing, cranking out 70,000 to 120,000 coherent words. I’m responsible for the ideas, the story lines, the characters. But things like book covers and marketing, those are areas where I could use a professional’s input. So my advice is to not be afraid to hire a professional to make your work as good as it possibly could be. Professional editors and proofers to me are a must and worth the investment. A professional cover artist also can make a big difference in how people receive your work. I’m not saying you need to spend a fortune, but by all means have your work polished by people who know what they’re doing and know the business. In the end, it will improve your readers’ experience, and isn’t that the goal?

Son of Anubis by Stacy BennettWhat are you working on now? And where can we find more?

A few things. My fantasy novel Quest of the Dreamwalker is out for proofing right now, in fact. It’s Book I of The Corthan Legacy series and I’m hoping for a late September release on that one. Also, I’m working on The Goddess’s Dark Hand for my Goddess Stone Trilogy which is also fantasy and would be out sometime in 2017.

I have a paranormal fantasy novella available on Amazon now called Son of Anubis. It’s a fun but quick read. For those who like dogs or werewolves, it might fit the bill nicely.

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Thank you, Stacy!

Websites:
http://stacybennettauthor.com/
BHC Authors

Social media:
Goodreads
Facebook
Twitter
Instagram

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

In an exclusive collaboration with TesseraGuild.com, BlackSci-Fi.com presents the first part of a 2-part interview with screenwriter, and comic book writer Brandon Easton on his work on “Marvel’s Agent Carter” upcoming season 2 episode, “Monsters”.

Since the creation of Iron Man in 2008 Marvel Studios has continued to grow their shared cinematic universe through film and television. Pulling from a wide array of licensed characters found within the pages of Marvel Comics, they’ve stretched from the farthest reaches of the galaxy (Guardians of the Galaxy), to the seedy streets of Hell’s Kitchen, New York (Daredevil).

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Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter, Image Credit: ABC/Marvel TV

On both film and television the studio has found critical and commercial success, and shows no sign of stopping. This is further exemplified by such television series as ABC network’s, Marvel’s Agent Carter.  The television show follows the story of the Strategic Scientific Reserve’s (SSR) finest and most brilliant secret agent, Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell). Introduced in Captain America: First Avenger, Peggy Carter has become one of the MCU’s (Marvel Cinematic Universe) most prominent characters, fighting evil in World War II ravaged Europe, and now in late 1940’s Hollywood, CA.

The show is in its second season, and this coming week will air two episodes on 2/16/16: Life of The Party (Episode 6), and Monsters (Episode 7).

Adding another notch to his ever growing portfolio of work, Brandon Easton joined the writing staff of Agent Carter in 2015, on the heels of his acceptance into the 2015 Disney/ ABC Writing Program. This has culminated in the upcoming 2/16/16 premiere of his addition to the MCU, with an episode that he wrote, the aforementioned Monsters.

Easton’s body of work continues to grow in the arenas of comics, animation, and now live action television with such standouts as his creator owned Shadowlaw comic book series, his documentary Brave New Souls: Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Writers of the 21st Century, his work on the Glyph Comics Award winning/ Eisner nominated Watson and Holmes, WB Animations ThunderCats, and the recent Dwayne McDuffie Award for Diversity in Comics nominated Andre the Giant: Closer to Heaven.

In an interview with BlackSci-Fi.com, Easton spoke about his time spent in the Disney/ ABC Writing program, his work on Agent Carter, his writing career, what he’s learned during his time in Hollywood, along with other topics in this two part interview.

“It’s a really long story, to really get into it. I had a really up and down 2014, between family stuff, and career stuff,” Easton said speaking about his acceptance into the Disney/ ABC Writing program. “I was nominated for an Eisner in 2014 that I didn’t win. But the very week that I didn’t win the Eisner I’d also lost out on two really important jobs. Well maybe not important, but two lucrative jobs that would’ve kept me alive throughout the end of 2014. Things got really bad.”

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Brandon Easton

“If I didn’t get into the ABC/Disney Writing Program I honestly don’t know what this past year would’ve been like for me. I had no idea what would’ve happened to me. So to make a long story short it was an incredible feeling.”

“I was one of 8 people selected in the program. Halfway through the program they try to get you staffed on any show in the ABC family, and the ABC Family networks. First, getting into the ABC/Disney Writing Program which is damn near impossible, that was amazing. Then when they said “we have an opening on Agent Carter and a couple of other shows”, and they sent me out, it just happened that Agent Carter really was the best fit.”

Gaining an inside track of sorts into the inner workings of the executive side and development branch of the ABC network, Easton was able to utilize his time spent with the ABC/ Disney Writing Program to expand on his knowledge of what it truly takes to put together a television program.

“The program puts you in a very unique position. You get to meet with development executives within ABC the studio, and the network, which are two different things as I found out.  You get to spend time with people that you would never get a chance to meet in any other capacity,” Easton explained.

“And you learn things about the business that don’t get reported anywhere. You learn things like who’s actually in charge. You learn about the people that actually make the decisions.  There’s no class in the world that will tell you that. So the ABC program puts you in the unique position to really understand the business side of it, because all the people who complain 24/7 every single day, whining and complaining about this and that, very few people understand the business side of it.”

“I learned so much about how things actually work that it changed the way I thought as a creator.”

Easton provided an example of such insight which involved a scene that he wrote for his upcoming Agent Carter episode. It was here where he found how the business of the network can affect the scripting process, while also informing how he’d write future scripts.

“To give you an example, I wrote a couple of night scenes. I also wrote a scene in the desert. When you’re shooting a night scene you’re actually going to be outside. A typical TV recording/ shooting day is anywhere between 12-15 hours. That’s typical. Sometimes you’ll go onto 20 hours. I didn’t know that,” Easton explained.

“So I was writing a bunch of night scenes and I wrote some scenes in the desert. Next thing you know we start shooting at 6pm, we’re out all night until 6 am. We were shooting in the desert and I’d never spent any time in the desert.  I’m from the East Coast, from Baltimore, what the fuck do I know about a desert (laughter)?”

“We go out in the desert, and it’s like, did you see The Martian by any chance? There’s a scene in The Martian where the red dust of Mars is blowing across the landscape, and you can’t see shit. The spaceship is falling over. I felt like I was in that position. We were in the desert at 5 am the wind is like 90 mph, sand is cutting through everything, and I realize in the future I’m no longer going to write any scenes in the desert.”

“I’m going to make sure I don’t write too many night scenes either because you have to realize everything you write that they can physically achieve, you’re actually going to have to be there for the entire shoot. And that’s something I didn’t really know and nobody can prepare you for that.”

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Brandon Easton’s comic book work including Shadowlaw, Watson and Holmes, and Andre the Giant: Closer To Heaven

As the new recruit on the Agent Carter writing team, Easton explained that though the experience was an irreplaceable one, being the new kid on the block wasn’t necessarily the best feeling.

“It didn’t feel great,” Easton explained. “And this is nothing against the people that I worked with because they are really good people, and I learned a lot from every single one of them. But I came in on a show that had already had a season.”

“It’s sort of like transferring from one school to another as a sophomore. You come in and the relationships are already made. You weren’t there for the freshman year to build those relationships. I often felt like the odd man out, I was the only black person there, and that wasn’t always fun, but that’s the reality of the business.”

“So at the same time you’re also there to learn because you’re new. And you try to find a way to make yourself useful to the people. You don’t want to make your bosses’ day harder than it already is going to be. I learned a lot, I had some good teachers, so I really can’t complain.”

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Wynn Everett as Whitney Frost, Image Credit: ABC/Marvel TV

Easton’s work in the writers room, his years of screenwriting, and the ABC/ Disney writing program culminated in an episode which he’s called “The Empire Strikes Back” of this season. The writer explained that the episode focuses on this seasons’ archenemy, Whitney Frost (played by Wynn Everett), who deals a major blow to Carter and her team. Throughout the season, Carter and Frost’s struggle has risen in a tense and exhilarating fashion, and it seems that Monsters will possibly bring this conflict to its climatic and destructive head. Adding to the growing pantheon of complex MCU villains, Frost seems to be on a path to test Carter in a way that she hasn’t encountered before.

“I can’t wait for people to see her performance (Wynn Everett). She really brings it. She brings it hard,” Easton said.

“It was fun (writing an episode featuring a villain). My episode is a Whitney Frost episode in a way. A lot of the episode is dealing with something that Whitney Frost is working on. The way that the episode works you have to have some bad things happen in order for the heroes to come back. My episode is sort of like the Empire Strikes Back episode of Agent Carter.”

Easton further explained that he was able to have a hands on experience with the filming of his episode. Being able to be on set when Monsters was filmed, Easton explained was an invaluable experience, as he gleaned more information into the development of his story from script to screen. In addition to gaining this experience, Easton found another perk of being a screenwriter on a major network series: you become a go-to person for those in front of and behind the camera.

“In TV the writer is basically number one. On set, the director knew I was new, the producer who was with me on set knew I was new. So I was really observing and learning how it goes.  Also, no matter how good you think what you wrote is, some actor somewhere is going to say there’s a problem with it, and ask “can I say it this way?”, Easton said.

“Whatever you’ve got to get (in terms of filming) that day you’ve got to get. So a lot of times actors will have ideas, the directors have ideas, and sometimes you listen and sometimes you don’t. More often than not there are good suggestions but you don’t always get the flexibility to make changes.”

“I was on set, I was participating, I had a say in things, and if I didn’t like something I’d let them know, but more often than not I liked it. You don’t want to be saying shit to just say stuff. You want to make sure that if you’re saying something it actually makes sense.”

Marvel-Television-SeriesAt the end of the day Easton explained that his experience writing the Agent Carter episode was an important one, that he appreciates on both a writing/ creative front, and as a fan of the MCU.

“As a fan, that’s a good question. I can’t even figure out where to begin,” Brandon said.

“I was working with some ridiculously creative, talented people. And knowing that every word I write is a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, because Agent Carter is in the Captain America films, she was even in Ant Man at the beginning. So she’s a part of that world, so everything that happens in any episode of Agent Carter also occurs at some point in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.”

“It hasn’t hit me yet because it hasn’t aired. But trust me when I say once it airs, and particularly with the type of stuff that I deal with in my episode, its really going to hit me hard then.”

Stay tuned for Part 2 of BlackSci-Fi.com’s interview with Brandon Easton which will be available with the 2/27/16 relaunch of www.blacksci-fi.com.

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Episode 7 of season 2 of Agent Carter,”Monsters”, premieres  2/16/16 on the ABC Network, at 10 pm EST. Check your local listings for exact times.

Many thanks to the fine folks of www.tesseraguild.com for this great collaboration opportunity.

 

 

Creative Interview with Martin Powell

Martin PowellThis week’s creative interview is with author Martin Powell, who I wish I had met at JordanCon back in April, but our paths never crossed. We connected afterward via Facebook and it’s been wonderful to discover Martin’s amazing library of talent. I hope you’ll be delighted too!

Tell us about yourself, where you’re from and what you love.

Well, I’m an insomniac writer of prose, graphic novels, and children’s books, with hundreds of published credits, which I suppose is proof of my restlessness. I was born and raised in Louisville, Ky., spent a number of years in the Twin Cities, but now I reside in Florence, Alabama with my wife, Leia Barrett Durham Powell.

Did you always know you wanted to be a writer, a creator of stories?

I did, actually. Although I was also interested in many other things like stage magic, astronomy, and my formal education was in paleontology, which I’m still deeply connected with. But the writing bug bit me very early. I wrote my first book during Christmas holiday when I was in the second grade. So, yeah, I’ve always been lucky enough to know exactly what I wanted to do.

Martin Powell and the Komodo Dragon

 If you had to pick a favorite genre, which would it be and why?

Martin Powell and the T-RexNot sure if I really have a preference. I’ve pretty much written in every conceivable genre, from mysteries, science fiction, horror, comedy, westerns, and over two dozen children’s books. Ray Bradbury was a great friend and mentor, and he always stressed remaining flexible, which is crucial for the survival of a full-time writer like me. Happily, I’ve be able to write some of the industry’s most popular characters, such as Superman and Batman, Sherlock Holmes, Popeye the Sailor, and Tarzan of the Apes. I’m a very lucky guy.

We never officially met at JordanCon this year, but I saw you there. How and when did you become a part of this amazing event?

It was an amazing show, for certain. Actually, I sort of tagged along with my wife, as she’s a regular presence at JordanCon, with her novels and stained glass art. We both had a great time and, as a first-time guest, I felt very welcomed and at home there. Next year, please come to my table and say hello!

Martin PowellWhat are you working on now? And where can we find more?

Well, my most recently published books are JUNGLE TALES OF TARZAN, from Dark Horse/Random House (which, amazingly, sold out within a couple days of being released), and a new children’s graphic novel version of ROBINSON CRUSOE, from Stone Arch Books. Currently, I’m writing seven different weekly online comic strips for Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc., and Leia and I are co-writing the prose novel, THE HEART OF FRANKENSTEIN, a genuine sequel to Mary Shelley’s original book. A number of other new projects loom in the near future, but I can’t talk about them yet. I’m looking forward to all of it. I always believe that the best is yet to be.

You can Follow Martin Powell on…

Amazon
Facebook

Thank you, Martin for taking time out of your busy schedule for our little interview. I will definitely stop by your table next year!!

Twitter Tyrannosaurus – Creative Interview with Author JL Clayton!

Boom!

That’s the sound of Twitter detonating.

If it’s way loud, it’s because this week’s creative interview is with The Chosen Saga author, JL Clayton. She’s fun, she’s funny, and she’s all over the Twittersphere like white on rice.ChosenSaga

Let’s do this:

Hi JL! Welcome to Tessera’s latest creative interview. Start us off by telling us a bit about yourself:

Hello Tessera. A little about me: I consider myself to be a laid back, friendly person who has her shy moments. I’m silly most of the time and I love to see people smile, plus I’m a big hugger. Last year I had my first book signing at That Book Store. The same store that John Grisham had his first signing. That day everyone who got a book from me also received a hug. I’m sure some people thought I was crazy. I loved it. I also try and help everyone out if it’s within my ability. I’m a 33 year old author who loves her family, friends and life. I have been writing for almost two years. I feel it’s a big accomplishment to have published two books within a year and being a mother to such a smart beautiful girl like Shyla. That’s just the tip of the iceberg with me, but if I don’t stop now I’m sure I’ll be writing you my life story.

Let’s talk about the Chosen Saga. It’s all over Twitter and social media. Give us the goods on what it’s about and why you decided to write it:

The Chosen Saga is about a teenager named Charlize, aka Charlie.  She learns she isn’t quite human. She is spunky, sarcastic and she doesn’t take no for an answer. In the first book of The Chosen Saga; A Spark of Magic, you get the feel of what’s going on. Charlie moves from city to city, never understanding why her family has to move so much. Now she and her family it seems are settling down and she is thrilled about this prospect. Plus, the fact that she is turning sixteen, making friends and crushing on some seriously hot guys who seem to like her; doesn’t hurt either. Charlie learns a lot about herself and the truth of why she is always uprooted. She finds out who keeps invading her dreams and why she feels so drawn to him. There is a mixture of a normal life and a supernatural one. In book two, A Blaze of Magic, I pick up from the cliffhanger. You meet more characters like sexy Vampires, beautiful Dragon Shifters, and many other supernaturals including the wicked Crispin. Charlie is finally using her magic and becoming the person she was meant to be. Of course there is a cliffhanger in this book to set the tone for A Ghost of Magic – Book 3.

Why I decided to write the Chosen Saga: I watched the movie Twilight and I wanted to know what was going to happen next. I was telling my friend that I wished I knew what was going to happen. She was like, “Jen, you do know the movie is based off a book, right?” I told her that I didn’t. She said I needed to give it a try. Well, because I had to know what happened next; I read the books. I became an instant book lover. I have to give my friend Nikki the credit for encouraging me to read it; if not for her I might never have thought about writing. So I just got off topic…sorry…back to what I was saying. After reading a lot of books, I had a dream about Charlie. And yes I know that is cliché… But it’s the truth.

Tell us about your creative process. Got a strict method? Or maybe you’re a freestyler?

I’m more of a freestyle writer, but sometimes I will crack my knuckles before I start. Or I will do something silly, like dance with my daughter. But I would say mostly freestyle.

What kind of stories inspire you?

I am not picky. I love all kinds of books and if the book is good, it can inspire me. Every time I read a book I love, I seem to be set on that author. As in I have to read all they have written. So at any given moment, I’m inspired by the author I’m currently reading.

What do you find most challenging about being a writer?

Dividing my time between work, my life and promoting. I’m not too good at the whole prioritizing thing.

Aside from Twitter, at which you’re legendary, how can people reach you?

Haha. Yeah, I don’t think I’m legendary, maybe by my emoticons.

Here’s where you can reach me.

Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, Chosen Saga Website

Where can people get their grubs on the Chosen Saga?

The Chosen Saga is available in paperback and eBook format.

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/kindle/series/B00XLX31J0?ref=series_aw_dp_link

Barnes & Noble: http://t.co/icRO7SlpH3

JLClayton
J.L. Clayton – Author and Twitter pro

 

 

You can also get my book from me; I send out signed copies. My books are available on Smashwords, iBooks, iTunes, and many more. Send me a email through my website, and I’ll get it to you!

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That’s it for this week’s interview. Check out JL’s books and link up with her at Twitter.

And stay frosty. Next Monday we’re gettin’ deeeeeeeeeeeeep.

J Edward Neill

The Lord of Infinity – A Creative Interview with Dylan Kinnett

This week’s interview is with Dylan Kinnett. He’s a Baltimore denizen and creative writer extraordinaire, and his visit is special for the Tessera Guild. The reason: Dylan is the taller, younger, and better looking brother to J Edward Neill (yep, that’s me.) I was first introduced to Dylan’s fascinating style of writing in his original release of Infinity’s Kitchen. And now that he’s gone global, he’s up next in our ongoing Creative Interview series.

So let’s get started!

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Hey there, latest Tessera victim. Tell us about yourself, where you’re from, and what you love:

Hi, my name is Dylan Kinnett. I’m from Baltimore, Maryland. I’m not originally from Baltimore, but I wonder: after spending 10 years in a place, do you become “from” that place? What does it really mean to be “from” a place, anyway? Does it just mean that you live there, that you’re proud to live there? In any case, the place where you live is part of who you are. Despite whatever repetitive loop you may have seen on cable TV lately, Baltimore is a charming place to be, and I love it here.

In layman’s terms, describe your unique style of writing:

That’s a difficult question because the layman’s terms aren’t particularly accurate for what I’ve been writing lately. If you ask a layman what “poetry” means, they’ll probably describe rhyme, meter, rhythm, and they may go on to say that it’s supposed to be about romantic themes and imagery. I’m trying to avoid all that, and to write something else, something new. I’ve discovered that the laymen are actually quite open to these new things, so long as I don’t use too many confusing old words for those things. Is it poetry? Sure, but I don’t go out of my way to call it that. In general, I’m just trying to do new things. I also like to write short plays, stories, and I dabble in performance art.

Please describe for us your fascinating new release, Litanies and Reiterations:

Litanies and Reiterations is a chapbook, which is a small book of writings. The works within the chapbook got their start as a collection of commonplace phrases. I’d find the phrases in everyday conversation, in song lyrics, blog comments, and catalogs: all over the place, really. Then, I worked the phrases into some writings that are repetitive, reiterative, or chant-like, and that’s what the title is about. One of the pieces, for example, is about how often politicians talk about the world and their work in four-year increments, and about how arbitrary and absurd it is to think about the world that way. Another one makes fun of how many love songs are on the air. It’s a playfully sarcastic little book.

Talk about Infinity’s Kitchen and the interesting things readers might find therein:

Infinity’s Kitchen is a literary journal that I started a few years ago that has grown into a quarterly reading series as well. As the editor, I’m looking to feature works that are somehow the product of an interesting new recipe. In order to contribute to the publication, its website or reading series, authors and artists are asked to answer a question: what is experimental about your creative work or process? The word “experimental” is a difficult one; some examples might help. Some of the interesting things we’ve published include a film and pirate radio project, poems made with Jello letters, and a reading from gigantic broadsheet printings revived from the 18th century.

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Do you have an ultimate artistic goal you’re pursuing?

Yes, but I don’t know what it is yet. I’ll create something, it doesn’t reach the goal, so I keep creating.

Creatively speaking, what’s next for you?

I’m on vacation this week, but I do hope to finish writing a ten-minute play that I’m working on. The play is a follow-up to a morbid parody about astronauts that was performed a few years ago, but I’m finding that to be a tough act to follow.

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It’s a real treat to have a talent like Dylan stop by, and it’s especially neat to encounter his awesome style of artistic expression. Here’s a few more Dylan-related tidbits and links for you to devour:

Artistic statement: http://seks-ua.blogspot.com/2013/08/dylan-kinnett-artist-statement.html

His latest release, Litanies and Reiterationsavailable in paperback and in e-book formats from Apple and Amazon.

Infinity’s Kitchen

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Thanks again to Dylan for stopping by!

Everyone stay tuned for the next Creative Interview!

J Edward Neill

Author of the brain-tingling Coffee Table Philosophy series.

Creative Interview with Author and Illustrator Michael Blackbourn

I’ve met more than a few amazing creative people via Twitter.  One of those is Michael Blackbourn, an author and illustrator (just for starters). He agreed to let me shine a spotlight on his creative endeavors this week!

Cindercast - Chapter 1Tell us about yourself, where you’re from and your journey to being a published author and illustrator.

Thanks for this interview and thanks for asking. My journey on the road of published author and illustrator is really just beginning. I’ve had a creative inclination for a long time and It’s only recently that I’ve channeled it directly into telling my own stories. After finishing high school I spent a few years jumping out of planes blowing stuff up in the army. The idea of combining camping with guns seemed attractive and I was fortunate to have been stationed in Italy while I was enlisted.

I didn’t really want to wake up one day and realize I was forty and still sleeping in a puddle. So I used my time wearing camo face-paint to figure out what I wanted to do next. Since I’d already tried the combination of camping and guns I figured I would take two other passions and see how they worked together. Art and computers were up next. I went to a 3d animation school and am now employed as a 3d visual effects supervisor, I’ve been lucky to work on films like Iron Man, District 9, Mocking Jay and many others.

Have you always loved both writing and illustration?

I’ve always loved drawing. Telling a visual story is what drew me into 3d animation and effects. The writing is more recent. It’s a way to communicate the storytelling in my head without needed things like the huge budget needed for film. It’s definitely been the hardest part for me to learn. As a voracious reader I could have always told you what novels I liked, but its so much harder as a writer to craft those words into something someone else may want to read.

Can you tell us a little about your process and your choice of medium?

My process for my first book was a mess. It was a single idea, What if you were small and lived on a beach, what would that world look like. From there it took a couple years to turn sketches and notes into a narrative and art that was a finished product. Along the way I learned so much about books, publishing, ebooks, art, and writing. In the end most of the art was done with pencil and paper and then finished using a digital paint program. The cover of my kids book, Cindercast, was a fully digital oil painting. From my feature film work I’ve become accustomed to having an ‘undo’ to rely on.

Cindercast

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

I’m not sure yet. I’ve completed a kids illustrated adventure book and I’m putting the finishing touches on a sci-fi short story (non illustrated). One is a journey of a tiny girl having to survive on the beach between the tides and the other is about the madness triggered by an AI researcher about to launch a super intelligent thinking machine. The similarity between them is that I like to transport the reader somewhere and challenge their thinking on a subject. Both stories show the world from a perspective that isn’t our usual experience.

Barnacles

What are you working on now? Where can we go to view/purchase your work?

Cindercast by Michael Blackbourn

My sci-fi short story is in progress. It needs another month or so of editing and then I’ll put it up on Amazon for sale at 99 cents. My kids book is available here: http://amzn.com/B00T2T9PYW

You can get it as a paperback or as a kindle ebook. I put in a lot of effort to make sure the formatting of the art would look great as an ebook and in paper. Also please check out my website www.michaelblackbourn.com or www.cindercast.com for other news about me or my work or my art.

Author Interview and New Book Release – Keith Rommel!

Welcome to the latest in our long-running series of creative interviews. We’ll be interviewing creative individuals in the realms of writing, illustration, comics and more. Today we have author Keith Rommel, Long Island native, Floridian transplant, and author of grim new thriller, The Devil Tree!

Let’s get right to it:

Hi Keith! Welcome to Tessera’s latest creative interview. Word on the street is that you’ve got a new book. Please tell us ALL about it.

The Devil Tree is based off of a Port Saint Lucie Florida legend that I like to call the dirty little secret of this otherwise quiet community. There was this serial killer that would kidnap hitchhikers and preferred them in groups of two. He would hold them at gunpoint and make them negotiate why they should live and why their friend, the person he kidnapped them with, should die first. The killer has been noted as saying “Why kill one when you can kill two?” You couldn’t imagine how lively the conversation would get while one pleads for their life and begs you to kill their friend first.”
Bodies were buried and discovered years later.
DT

Awesome cover. Just straight up grim, just the way we like it.

Now tell us about yourself. Give up the goods on where you’re from and how you got here.

I am from Port Saint Lucie Florida and have lived here for over ten years. I’m originally from Long Island and came here to escape the hustle and bustle of the speedy New York lifestyle. I’ve adjusted to Florida living just fine and like it here. I am the writer of eight novels and have penned the critically acclaimed dark suspense Thanatology series. The debut novel in that series, The Cursed Man has been filmed as a major motion picture and is coming out this October, premiering in California. I am the co-screenwriter of the film with producer James L. Perry.

Tell us about your creative process. Do you have a strict method or…?

When I get an idea I do my best to outline it. Once the story is outlined, the writing process begins. The first draft is usually a train wreck but I edit it over and over again, and start adding details and all the characters’ personalities. The rewrites are my favorite part because that is when the story and characters start to take on lives of their own. It is during this process that I either love, hate or sympathize with the major players in the novel.

What kind of stories are your favorite?

I like my imagination being challenged every step of the way. I don’t like knowing the answer to the story after only a few chapters into the book. It is imperative to me when I write my stories that I write a plot that is not only difficult to guess what’s really going on but deliver a surprise ending that is long lasting.

What do you find most challenging about being a writer in today’s world?

The most challenging aspect of being a writer for me is standing out in a very overcrowded market. With technology making it easy for most anyone to be a writer, I believe the only way to rise to the top and build your audience is by being patient, release solid, well-told stories, and put out a finished product that won’t turn readers off. Professional cover, edited inside and a professional layout of the internal text is key. At no point can I afford to appear amateurish. I need to breathe new life into a genre that is plagued with zombies and end of the world conflicts whether pandemic or war.

How can people reach you?

By visiting my website: www.keithrommel.com. I answer all fan mail and questions from aspiring writers myself. There is a tab to contact the author.

How can people get a copy of The Devil Tree or some of your previous novels?

The Devil Tree is available as a hardcover or on your Kindle. It is on Kindle Unlimited and the unique thing about this release is if you buy the hardcover, you get a free download of the Kindle version. They can visit my author page by going here.

And now, from the back cover of Keith’s latest book, The Devil Tree:

Based on the Port St. Lucie Legend
Back in the 1970’s, a series of bizarre incidents occurred at what has since been known as “The Devil Tree.” Beneath this ancient denizen, evil was wrought by a sick serial killer, calling upon forces most evil and dark. People were hung there … and bodies buried there … exhumed by the police. Overcome by superstition, some tried to cut down the tree, to no avail. Since then, it has stood in a remote section of a local park — left to its own devices — quiet in its eerie repose — until now!

Best-selling psychological-thriller author Keith Rommel has imagined the whole tale anew. He’s brought the tree to life and retold the tale with detail only possible in a fiction novel. Action-packed, with spine-tingling detail, this thriller is beyond parallel in the ground it uncovers … one author’s explanation of what may have really been said — what may have really happened — under Port St. Lucie’s “Devil Tree.”

Check out more of Keith’s work:

Author of The Cursed Man, The Lurking Man, The Sinful Man from the critically acclaimed psychological horror series. The Cursed Man is coming soon as a major motion picture. Also available from Keith Rommel: You Killed My Brother (crime) and Among the People (paranormal).

Author site: keithrommel.weebly.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Thanatology.Series

Amazon: amazon.com/author/keithrommel

 That’s all for this week.  

 Special thanks to Keith for appearing.

More is always to come.

J Edward Neill

 

Interview: Cosplayer and Makeup Artist Bekah Shambrook

Bekah ShambrookI’ve been looking forward to this interview for the last several weeks. Bekah Shambrook, daughter of author (and friend) Lisa Shambrook, is an amazing artist. AMAZING. Often times, she is her own canvas.

Tell us about yourself, where you’re from and what you love.

I’m Bekah from Carmarthen, West Wales and I love art, I always have. In school I was the art nerd, you could find me in the art rooms in every spare moment. I loved it. It was only natural for that to follow into my life, I now work part time as a freelance make up artist and spend every spare moment making cosplay costumes.

How did you get started in makeup artistry and cosplay?

I always loved art but it took a while for me to work out what aspect of it was truly me. Throughout school I tried photography, pencil drawing, digital art, sculpture… I enjoyed them all but they were never quite me. When I started my GSCE’s at the age of fifteen I decided to recreate Salvador Dali’s Mae West on my own face (I’m afraid I don’t have the photo any more), and that was the beginning. I branched out in the same course and used my family to recreate the amazing looks from Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland and, for the first time, tried my hand at prosthetics turning my sister into a zombie in the name of art. Much to her dismay, I had never actually learned what to use, and used PVA glue and tissue paper (don’t try that a home). Once I left school, I started a face painting business (www.masterpiecefacepainting.co.uk) which I still run and love, but I quickly decided to expand into makeup artistry and I’ve worked with photographers to create wonderful pieces of work.

Masterpiece MUA Sample

The cosplay is more recent but it all ties in. I didn’t take fashion or textiles at school, I didn’t know how to sew, I wasn’t great at sculpture, but I’m nothing if not ambitious! A few of the models I know through the makeup work also did cosplay, and I love watching the cosplay music videos on youtube so I thought, why not? My first cosplay was November 2014, I decided to cosplay Thranduil from The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug. I had no idea where to start, but I managed it!

Bekah Shambrook as Thranduil

My second, and most recent, was this March. I decided to cosplay Maleficent from the recent Angelina Jolie film, but I didn’t want to cosplay her later costumes, the leather and staff… Oh no, I wanted to cosplay her Queen of the Moors costume, y’know, the one with the wings! So off I went, and 100 hours later I had made her dress, horns, armour, and fully articulated wings! (I even won Cardiff Film and Comic Con’s open Masquerade!)

Bekah Shambrook at MaleficentAre there themes and/or subjects you find yourself drawn to again and again?

When it comes to makeup I love to create extreme looks, I love to challenge myself. My favourite looks are the ones where I have complete freedom, when there are no constraints.

As for cosplay, I have a list as long as my arm of cosplays I want to make! Although there are characters I love that have simple costumes I tend to steer away from them for cosplaying, as I said earlier, I love a good challenge. Cosplay is a learning tool for me, I will never know it all. I learn something new every costume I make. So I guess to answer your question, I’d have to say, anything with a challenge.

What are your goals and aspirations?

My goals are small ones, in terms of cosplay I would be honoured to be invited to guest at a convention. Big, small, anything, I think that would be wonderful. I also aspire to have the confidence to enter a big cosplay contest like London Super Comic Convention’s Championship. At the moment, the goal isn’t to place, but just to have the confidence to enter.

One day I’d love to visit San Diego Comic Con too…

What are you working on now? Can you give us a peek?

Right now, I’m working on Toothless from How to Train your Dragon, but with a twist. I’m making it a humanoid, armoured Toothless. I’m hoping to have it ready by London MCM Comic Con in May, but I have only just started so wish me luck!

Toothless Plans

You can see all my making of photos on my facebook page linked below, but for now, here’s a sneak peak of the armour design.

Links:

Arkhdrauth Cosplay Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/ArkhdrauthCosplay
Masterpiece MUA Website: www.masterpiecemua.co.uk
Blog: https://www.bekahcat.wordpress.com
Twitter: @BekahCat
Instagram: @Arkhdrauth

Creative Interview with Filmmaker/ Screenwriter Gabrielle Aliké Hawkins

I’m going to be straight up with you guys and gals, I’m kind of biased on how much I respect the subject of today’s creator interview. She’s talented, driven, and she’s my lil’ cousin.

Who I’m unabashedly proud of. 😀

Gabrielle Aliké Hawkins has studied the craft of film making internationally in London, on our own shores in the great NYC, and has honed her craft working on such indie productions such as “Alto” and “Global Tides”.  In addition to being an accomplished photographer, Gabrielle is currently conducting an Indiegogo campaign for a sci-fi dystopian short film she’s written and will direct called “Criminals”.

The filmmaker recently took the time to speak with the Tessera Guild about her career, the campaign, and indie film.

Can you start by telling us a little about yourself, your background in film, and just being a creator overall?

I became drawn to the arts at a young age, focusing on dance. After suffering a severe dance injury, I decided to continue my passion for arts and focus on filmmaking. I have always been drawn to films and when I was about 12 years old, I used to write stories that I wanted to see on the big screen. At that time, I wanted someone else to direct them. Then, I realized I could direct the stories I wanted to see.

I have a B.A in Film Production from Brooklyn College and a Certificate of Completion from the Met Film School in London where I studied film producing. I started working as a Production Assistant on music videos and feature films. I recently worked as an Assistant Director on a wonderful feature film called “Alto” directed by Mikki Del Monico.

What drew you to filmmaking? What about the medium drives you to create film?

Filmmaking is such a beautiful and powerful medium. It influences our society. As a teenager, I didn’t realize how much film and media influenced me. How I saw myself on screen or if I didn’t. What I watched influenced how I interacted with people without me even knowing.

That is one of the reasons that I became a filmmaker because I would like to see more diversity on screen. Not just in terms of race but also telling unique stories. I feel that watching a great film is like watching a painting come to life.

Talk to our readers about your short film “Criminals”, and the Indiegogo campaign. What about the science fiction/ dystopian future arena appeals to you as a filmmaker/ screenwriter in terms of storytelling?

I have always been drawn to abandoned buildings and characters that are seen as outcasts from society. There is great beauty in darkness if you can see the light.

The film takes place in 2040. Our characters, Ian and Ariana, are the last surviving members of an underground movement called the E.G.O. A massive manhunt for their capture takes place, in response to their infiltration of the notorious officer program and stealing confidential government files. They escape into the woods fighting to reach their last hope for survival. Will they make it to Nuevo Acuerdo, a society untouched by the government?

 I have always been drawn to science fiction/dystopian future films and novels. Octavia E. Butler is one of my Criminals Movie Posterfavorite authors and her work has greatly influenced me. For this particular film, I wanted to write within this genre because in some ways I feel  as a society this is where we are moving towards, unless we experience a serious wake up call. Climate change, violence and so much more is something that shouldn’t be ignored by the masses.

We currently have an Indiegogo campaign running to raise money for this film. All of the money raised will go to the making of the film. There is a breakdown on the site, and the campaign ends on April 2. Check out the link for more info here.

Is science fiction a particular favorite in terms of film genre’s to create in, or does this include a variety of other genre’s?

Science fiction is one of my favorite genres to watch and write but I am also heavily influenced by other genres, such as film noir and even comedy. So depending on the story, I like to combine genres.

“Criminals” is definitely science fiction but with a film noir touch. I have a super random taste in movies so I think that helps a lot. My goal is to write a film in every genre.

Once I write a story and create the characters then I come up with the genre. I always have an idea of where I want it to go but usually the characters tell me what type of film it should be. For example, “Criminals” started off as a modern drama, but once I knew the characters and developed the story further, the genre had to change.

 A common saying nowadays is that the field of independent filmmaking has become more level, with the advent of new technologies, greater access to information etc. Do you feel that this is the case? Why or why not?

I think there are two ways to answer this question. I think in terms of making an independent film, you do have greater access thanks to digital filmmaking. There are also so many ways for people to watch films now. You can upload to websites, like youtube or vimeo and people can view your work. Also there are so many festivals, that accept many different genres and stories.

However, if you want to have your film in theaters, I think that is still pretty tough for indie filmmakers. Not that it’s not possible, because it definitely is, but it’s harder for an indie film to get wide release in theaters than a Hollywood film. 

Are there any filmmakers, or films that you feel have been an influence on you as a creator? What about those creators, or works speaks to you?

Tom Tykwer is an incredible filmmaker and his film “Run Lola Run”, is one of my favorites. The story is just so different and the moment I saw it I was in love with it.

 Gina Prince-Bythewood directed “Love and Basketball” and most recently “Beyond the Lights”. I love her work because you become so emotionally attached to the characters. I love how naturally she writes and directs human interaction.

 The television series “Breaking Bad” to me was just pure brilliance. The writing, the acting, the direction, just everything. I was blown away by this series and needed a support group when it ended.

 There are so many other films, television shows and filmmakers that I can go on and on about because there really are so many. I love the classics like “All About Eve”, “Alien” to comedies like “Friday”. I love films that make me think and sometimes I just need a good laugh. I am all over the place with the types of films and TV shows that I watch.

 All of these artists work speaks to me simply because it makes me feel something and makes me think outside of the box.

What can fans look for from you in the future, and where can they find your current work?

After this short I plan on working on a web series, and then work on a feature film that I wrote. This would be my first short that I directed so the current work I have has been on some great projects where I worked in other departments. I am also a photographer and my work can be viewed on my website.

photo

Gabrielle Aliké Hawkins​​​​​​ as Assistant Director on the feature film “Alto”

 

 

 

 

 

Creative Interview with Illustrator/ Creative Designer Takeia Marie

For me, Facebook has become a great resource for finding great artistic talent, and Takeia Marie is one of my most favorite find’s. Takeia’s credits include work done with Food Network’s “Chopped” champion, Josetth “Josie” Gordon, CJ Fly of Pro Era, The American Physical Society as an animation consultant, while also contributing work as an editorial writer for The Hip Hop Speakeasy. Hailing from New York City, this gifted artist recently took time to speak with the Tessera Guild about her career, her process of creation, and how her home city influences her work.

angel_banner_sizeTell us about yourself, where you’re from and any training you’ve had in the visual arts, comics medium.

I am an illustrator from New York. I went to school for animation, but found myself more drawn to illustration, developing concepts and storytelling (mostly in comic books). I started teaching myself more about those things and the business behind illustration. I’m still learning more everyday.

What is the first thing you remember drawing?

The first thing I remember drawing seriously was Sonic The Hedgehog when I was younger. I was a huge Sonic fan from the first time I played the first Sonic game on the Sega Genesis back in the day. I had all the comics and loved the stories.

Can you tell us a little about your process and your choice of medium?

I always say I’m a hybrid of digital and traditional media when it comes to how I draw. It really depends on what I’m drawing and how I feel at the moment. But for the most part, I’ll use Photoshop or Manga Studio to lay out my work. Could be anything from a rough sketch to something more refined.

At that point, if I want something to be illustrated on paper or a client wants something tangible, I’ll print my rough and lightbox over it. Otherwise, I’ll digitally draw and color everything. If I’m doing graphic design work, I’ll usually sketch out an idea on paper and then, using my sketch as a guide, create everything in Illustrator. At the end of the day, though, I don’t think any one tool, whether it be digital or traditional, is better than any other. It’s about the artist and how he or she chooses to use it.

Are there themes and/or subjects you find yourself drawn to again and again in your art? Are there any particular artists who inspired you to work in the comic book medium?

The first person who inspired me to draw comics was my cousin. He is an artist too, and is the person I credit with getting me into anime and the comic book medium. Before, I didn’t realize that it was possible to actually draw for a living. From there, I kept reading comic books, studying them, and getting how-to books to learn the depths of drawing comics.

As for themes – the thing is, I’m drawn to anything that has a good story and interesting characters. I get excited about drawing characters who are dynamic and stories with interesting and diverse worlds. For the most part, if  I can get excited about a story or the nature of the characters in it, it really doesn’t matter the genre or particular subject matter, so long as it sparks something that I can relate to.

You’re a native New Yorker. Do you find that your city informs your work in any way, or are there elements throughout your day that you find might creep its way into your work?

I find myself drawn to work that is very sketchy or gritty and energetic, as opposed to work that is super clean. I think that comes from the grittiness of New York, and the kinetic movement you’ll find in the graffiti that has just become a part of the iconic look of NYC. I enjoy drawing odd little things like buildings and streets or the cracks in a concrete sidewalk -anything that feels dirty or imperfect.  I’m also a huge Hip-Hop fan, and I find myself trying to integrate that raw, aggressive energy that you find in the music into some of my work. Growing up in New York has definitely had a big influence on me artistically.

What are you working on now? Where can we go to view/purchase your work?

I’ve actually been trying to branch out from just staying in the comic book/illustration world (even though I still enjoy doing those things very much). Right now I’m working with iSojah, a Hip-Hop artist out of Columbus, Ohio, on some of the design portions of his Klasik Media imprint, which will be a go-to place for up and coming hip-hop artists and musicians, fashion designers, and entertainers who need help getting started.

war_paint_low_resIn between client work, I’m also working on my own project, The Forgotten. Something totally unrelated to art – I’m a contributing editorial writer for The Hip-Hop Speakeasy, a Hip-Hop blog that is dedicated to covering independent and slept-on Hip-Hop artists and bringing their music to the forefront.

People can view my work here:

www.takeiamarie.com

www.atomiclattestudio.com

Twitter: @KiaPeya

 

 

 

Creative Interview With Novelist/ Comic Book Writer/ Bobby Nash

For today’s creator interview installment, we sit down with the prolific, and award winning author, Bobby Nash. The author of such works as Alexandra Holzer’s Ghost Gal: The Wild Hunt, Snow Falls, Evil Ways, Domino Lady: One Shot, and the recipient of the 2013 Pulp Ark Nominee for Best Novel, Earthstrike: Agenda, Nash show’s no signs of slowing down, with a host of other titles scheduled to be released in 2015.

 To begin with I just want to say this: you write like a mad man! And I mean that in a good way. Do you get that a lot? 

I have heard that a time or two, yes. [smiles]. When I decided that this was the path I wanted to travel, I set goals for myself and headed toward them. My stubbornness came in handy with helping me to keep going and I never looked back.

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Tell us about yourself. Where you’re from, what got you into writing professionally, and some of your training.

I was born and raised in Georgia, which is where I still live. I fell into writing, oddly enough, because of my desire to be a comic book artist. Turns out that my art skills leave a little something to be desired, but I was writing stories that I could draw. Somewhere along the way, other artists I knew started asking me to write for them so I decided that maybe I could be a writer/artist. Thankfully, a friend of mine pointed out that writing was my real strength and suggested that I focus on it instead of splitting my time between writing and art. He was absolutely right. Then one day I sold a comic book story to a publisher. It’s been a roller coaster ride ever since.

I don’t really have much in the way of formal training. I’m mostly self-taught, although I’ve picked up some hints, tips, and tricks along the way from others. I took some night classes at UGA focused on creative writing, which were quite useful. We would bring our writing in and read in front of the class. That instant feedback came in handy plus there was the happy side effect of helping me to get past being shy and awkward in front of a room full of people.

What’s the first thing that you remember writing?

WOW. That is a tough one. I wrote some truly horrendous comic book stories back in my elementary school days, but the less said about them the better. I started writing short stories in high school. I remember we used to be given a list of words each week to use in a sentence. I was bored one week so I actually wrote a story and used the words in it. The teacher thought it was neat and encouraged me to keep it up. I had fun doing it and even set up the challenge of ending stories on a cliffhanger that I would have to resolve the following week when we received our list of words. I learned a lot about writing doing that.

Is there a particular genre that you prefer to play around in, and why?

I do like to play in multiple genres, but I always find myself drawn back to crime thrillers, although they can have other descriptions added to them like pulpy crime thriller, action crime thriller, sci-fi crime thriller, you get the point. I grew up with PI’s on TV, books, and movies so I developed a love for the genre. I like solving crimes, at least in my writing. It’s not something I really attempt to do in real life.

SnowFallCover-wTitle

How does a typical writing session work for you? Do you have any “tools of the trade” that you use?

Typical is a relative term. I used to write full time so my day generally went, wake up, write for several hours, take a dinner break, watch TV, write, go to the gym, watch TV or read, bed, then repeat. Now that I’m back among the corporate working life, my writing time is pretty much limited to the weekends, which goes much the same as before. I spend a lot of time sitting in front of the laptop.

Not sure if I have any specific tools of the trade handy. I write on an old laptop using an outdated version of Word. Everything else is just in my head.

You’ve done a bit of screenwriting (the web series Star Trek: Farragut), and acting (Camp Massacre, The Following, Fat Chance). How have your experiences been working in this realm both behind and in front of the camera? Do you feel the practice of speaking in front of your writing critique groups prepared you for jumping into this arena?

Well, I’ve dabbled. I have a few screenplays under my belt, but three produced, two with my name on them and one that I did a script doctor job on that doesn’t bear my name. Each was unique in the way they were worked. Of those three, 2 have been produced and the third, a short film, is in production. It’s a lot like writing comic books in terms of how I set up the pages, focus on dialogue, and things like that. I will say though, that it is really cool to see actors delivering your words. I hope to do more screenwriting in the future.

I don’t think of myself as an actor. Most of what I’ve done on The Following, Satisfaction, Dumb and Dumber To, Halt and Catch Fire, Three Stooges, etc. is work as an extra. That involves a lot of walking back and forth most of SF COI BN banner3the time, but I’ve had some fun times doing it. Working with Kevin Bacon , almost knocking Matt Passmore down with my carry on bag, and standing next to Jeff Daniels and Jim Carrey as they did a scene are definitely three of my highlights.

Working as an extra also gave me a chance to meet a real life FBI agent (while I was playing an FBI agent on The Following) and that led to a nice meeting where I got some really interesting insight into the FBI for my upcoming Evil Intent novel. That was a nice bonus.

Learning to read my work out loud absolutely played a role in helping me do this type of work. If you can’t look up and stare straight ahead on a set, you’re no good to the filmmakers. It’s hard to be shy on set.

Congratulations for receiving the 2013 Pulp Art Award for Best Author. Can you talk a little about winning the award?

GG FINAL CVR frontThanks. It was quite an honor. As you know, I’m not often at a loss for words, but when I read off the list of winners on the old All Pulp site, I actually scrolled past it before it sunk in what I had just read. I was literally speechless for several minutes as I tried to digest the news.

Winning an award is an odd thing. Even though you don’t write any differently than you did before winning, having an award adds a little extra something to your work for many readers so hopefully, it helped open up my work to a wider audience. The biggest change is having people refer to me as “award-winning author Bobby Nash,” which is pretty darn cool, but it did take some getting used to as well.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received from a fellow writer?

I don’t remember exactly who told me this, I want to say it was Beverly Connor, but I could be remembering it wrong. Regardless, the advice was that no one was going to care about my work more than me so I should not expect anyone else to promote it more than me. There is a lot of truth in that and it’s one of the reasons I taught myself how to market my books.

What can folks look forward from you in the near future?

Oh, 2015 looks to be a good and busy year. I don’t have dates for any of these yet, but here are some books to be on the look out for in 2015:

Prose: Snow Storm, Alexandra Holzer’s Ghost Gal: A Haunting We Will Go…, V-Wars vol. 5, The Ruby Files Vol. 2, Evil Intent, Blood Shot, Freelancer: The Traveler Sanction, an as yet untitled Nightscape novel, and a few others I’m sure I’ve forgotten.

Comics: the graphic novel adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ At The Earth’s Core (art by Jamie Chase), 000 ATEC CVR FRONT smDomino Lady Threesome (a new team-up series I’m co-writing with Nancy Holder with art by Marco Santiago and others), Operation Silver Moon (art by Rick Johnson), Strong Will (co-written with Mike Gordon with art by Wendell Cavalcanti and Rob Jones), All-Star Pulp Comics #3 (a Lance Star: Sky Ranger story with art by Rock Baker and Jeff Austin), and a few others in the works.

Yeah. Looks like a busy year ahead of me.

Readers can keep up with the progress and release dates for all of these projects and more at www.bobbynash.com

Thanks Bobby for taking the time to sit with us and talk about your career.

Thanks Robert.

Author Interview – PS Syron Jones!

Welcome to the latest in a series of creative interviews at Tessera Guild. We’ll be interviewing creative individuals in the realms of writing, illustration, comics and more. Today we have author Phill (P.S.) Syron-Jones, crime-drama author of Rise of a Phoenix!!

Let’s get started:

Tell us about yourself, Phill. Give up the goods on where you’re from and how you got here.   

PS SyronJonesI was born and raised in the West Midlands (Great Britain) where I had a great childhood (which I still haven’t quite grown out of.) Later, after a small term at College I joined the Army where I served 22 years. I am married to a brilliant young woman and I have one fantastic daughter. After leaving the Army I decided to settle in Germany and in my spare time try to write.
The project I am working on is a crime series set in New York, each story been a stand alone so it doesn’t matter if you miss one. I have tried to make it as twisty as possible but at the same time simple to read. Eventually I hope to span out to fantasy and maybe children’s books. My website is: sjoecable@wordpress.com.

When did you first know you wanted to write? What’s the first thing you remember writing?

When I was at school I was always making up stories in my head (as one does) but when i got to English lit my world was opened to a whole new level. We would be given a word and told to write a story on that word. Unfortunately the two page essay became a novel. I knew then what I wanted to eventually be. I remember one time we were given a word “The wall”; this soon became my first detective story. I even drew a front cover.

Tell us about your creative process. Do you have a strict method or…?

I just have an idea then jot it down. Sorry there is no real science in it, but that’s the way the grey cells work. At home I have lots of notebooks; each one has a title and a rough storyline in it. These are then put away for when I have finished one book so I can move straight away to the other. When I am writing, the story just comes to me; sometimes I am surprised about where the story is going and that’s the fun part. If you (the writer) are shocked, then hopefully so will the reader be.

What kind of stories are your favorite?

 I don’t really have a favorite; that’s like saying what’s your favorite movie. For me personally there are too many out there. Just anything that draws me in really and that’s what I try to do with my books.

Tell us about what’s upcoming for you. Got any new books soon to hit the market? Any fresh blogs or short stories you’d like to share?

In March if all goes well, the second book called ” OPERATION UNITY” will be released. As I am a new author I thought about giving at least six months between books just to see how they go. That said, I am working on book three of the series and after that I hope to start on my first fantasy novel. Any new blogs? By the time this has gone out I am sure there will be (thanks for reminding me.)

What do you find most challenging about being a writer in today’s world?

The challenges are galactic. As a new writer you have to spend so much time on social media; half the time you don’t get a chance to write. You have to sell yourself not just your book. I work full-time so writing as well as working means instead of a book a month it takes up to six. But I guess that makes it feel like more of a hobby than a job. Years ago you would get an agent, then publisher, then the world; now you have to do that yourself as a self-published author. It is hard getting into traditional publishing, there is no doubt about it, but that for me is the end goal. Sure I can say I am a published author but it’s saying I have an agent and publisher that gets me sweaty. Writing is the easy part; selling your book is the hardest part. All I can say to any aspiring author is don’t give up. If it is what you want you will find a way.

Check out Phill’s latest crime-drama book, Rise of a Phoenix, now available on Amazon! 

RofP_high

Creative Interview With Comic Book Artist Sean D. Hill

Continuing in our creative interview series, next up to bat is comic book artist/ fine art illustrator Sean D. Hill. Sean is the talented artist behind the pencils/ inks of “Route 3”, ” “Jaycen Wise And The Secret of The Rose” and is the current penciller on Zenescope Entertainment’s critically acclaimed “Dark Shaman”. Let’s get things rolling!

Tell us about yourself, where you’re from and any training you’ve had in the visual arts, comics medium.

Well I’m from Washington DC, born and raised. As far as training goes my grandfather began showing me stuff from an early age. After that, when I was in 4th grade, I was introduced to an artist named Kofi Tyus.

Sean Hill's "Lineage"

Sean Hill’s “Lineage”

Kofi quickly become my mentor and I even got my first sketchbook from him. As I got older I went to an arts high school called the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, where my major was Visual Arts or VA as they called it. I had great teachers like Bill Harris, Cathy Cann, Mel Davis to name a few. I always wanted to be a comic book artist ever since the Spike Lee Levi’s commercial featuring Rob Liefeld.

I pretty much stuck to fine art until I started dating my wife, and she was going for a Media Arts and Animation major. I learned everything I know about comic illustration and storytelling from her and the classes I would sit in with her.

What is the first thing you remember drawing?

The first thing I vaguely remember drawing was KITT and Michael Knight from “Knight Rider”. I was obsessed with that show as a kid. I would show the pictures to Grandpa and he would tell me what I had to work on and then I would get excited to redraw it again because I’d learned something new.

A page of Sean Hill's work from Zenescope Entertainment's "Dark Shaman"

A page of Sean Hill’s work from Zenescope Entertainment’s “Dark Shaman”

Can you tell us a little about your process and your choice of medium?

I work mostly digital nowadays. I use Manga Studio 5 for my software and I draw on a Yiynova MSP19U, which is a screen that I draw directly on, which is  similar to a Cintiq.

I still do stuff traditionally though when I get the itch. My favorite traditional tools are my Pentel Brush pen that I never leave home without , and I love my Zebra G Pen nibs. The best Bristol I have ever used is still the 500 series Stathmore Smooth 4ply. It’s great stuff.

A page of Sean Hill's work from Zenescope Entertainment's "Dark Shaman"

A page of Sean Hill’s work from Zenescope Entertainment’s “Dark Shaman”

Are there subjects you find yourself drawn to again and again in your art? Are there any particular artists who inspired you to work in the comic book medium?

The stories I seem drawn to the most are ones with a lot of character development and a lot of action. I love stories that take in the aspects of blockbuster films also.  The artists who inspire me are numerous, though ones I think mentioning are Mshindo Kuumba, Ivan Ries, Lewis La Rosa, Brian Hitch, and Jason Fabok. It’s a pretty long list.

What are you working on now? Where can we go to view/purchase your work?

Right now I am working on the final issue of Zenescope Entertainment’s “Dark Shaman” mini series. It’s a story steeped in a lot of Timaucuan Native American lore which I love. You can order the books from your local comic shop if they don’t have them on the shelves already, or through the digital comic book distributor, Comixology.

I am also very proud of the work I have done on “Route 3” for Terminus Media which is available for digital download on Amazon, and the Comics Plus app.

Sean Hill's "Lineage"

Sean Hill’s “Lineage”

 

You can view all my work at:

www.nazirstudios.blogspot.com

https://m.facebook.com/sean.hill.777?ref=bookmark

http://instagram.com/seandamienhill

Creative Interview with Fantasy Artist Angela R. Sasser

Welcome to the first creative interview at Tessera. Each month we’ll be interviewing creative individuals following their passion in art, illustration, writing, comics and more. This month we have artist Angela R. Sasser. We’ve not met in person, but we were both in the Dragon Con 2014 Art Show. Thank you for joining us today, Angela!

Dreaming Butterfly by Angela R Sasser

Dreaming Butterfly by Angela R Sasser

Tell us about yourself, where you’re from and any training you’ve had in the visual arts.

I’m a military brat whose dad was in the Army, so I’m from everywhere! We moved every two years of my childhood, just about. If I had to pick a ‘home’, it’d be North Carolina where I spent the majority of my childhood. I currently reside in Atlanta, Georgia where I work out of the 2nd bedroom of an apartment which we’ve turned into a studio.

I’ve had formal training as a Studio Arts major at the University of West Georgia where I learned a lot about figure drawing and using traditional media. The rest where digital art is concerned is all self-taught. I’ve been extending my education with classes like Painting Drama from the Oatley Academy and Proko’s Figure Drawing Fundamentals course. Fun fact, I also was a double major in English and have a masters in Arts Administration. My training and interests are pretty varied!

What is the first thing you remember drawing or painting?

I was an avid colorist as a child. I colored anything and everything and had a massive coloring book collection (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Transformers, He-man, you name it!). I imagine a Lady Lovely Locks or She-Ra coloring book was the first thing that I colored! And if coloring doesn’t count, the first thing I ever drew was probably a unicorn. I had quite the intense unicorn/horse phase as a child and used to write and draw my own stories about them anywhere that I could!

The Lotus Eater by Angela R Sasser

The Lotus Eater by Angela R Sasser

Can you tell us a little about your process and your choice of medium?

I’m not picky as far as medium, I use whatever helps me best tell the story. Some of my favorite media combinations include watercolor with color pencil detailing, ink lines with watercolor coloration, and even digital, which I’m actually doing a lot more of these days. I’m planning to experiment with new ways to combine traditional and digital, perhaps by doing graphite images first with digital coloration on top to help me preserve the texture of traditional art which is so delicious.

Kushiel's Dart by Angela R Sasser

Kushiel’s Dart by Angela R Sasser

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

My art has been in flux lately! I did quite a lot of angels and softer watercolor work for my Angelic Visions howto art book, but I’m currently moving towards more darker folklore and character-driven work. I find myself drawn to subjects that combine beauty with an edge of darkness. I want to create the kind of imagery that stays in the backs of your eyelids long after you’re done looking at it.

Keeper of Secrets by Angela R Sasser

Keeper of Secrets by Angela R Sasser

What are you working on now? Where can we go to view/purchase your work?

I’m currently working on images for a book cover portfolio to turn into some of my favorite fantasy publishers (ie. Tor, Wizards of the Coast, etc.) I’m also beginning to explore my own written worlds with illustrations of my characters and stories, which is something I have been wanting to do for years, but never felt I had the skill to do in the past. Oathbound emerged from this exploration of my own worlds.

Oathbound by Angela R Sasser

Oathbound by Angela R Sasser

You can find more of my fantasy work at www.angelasasser.com and more of my Art Nouveau work at www.angelicshades.com.

And if you like masks, I also create original leather crafted masks and accessories over at www.angelicartisan.com.

Author Interview with Kevin Tumlinson

Among the handful of podcasts that I listen to is the Self Publishing Podcast. Basically 3 independent writers come on weekly and share their thoughts and experiments and interviews with the rest of us trying to find our way in this brand new world of ebooks and tablets and whatnot. I’ve been listening since almost the beginning, randomly stumbling upon them through some way or another.

I’ve since become a bit more interactive with some of those like-minded fans of theirs. And it has been a wonderful experience so far with people sharing ideas on how to go about getting more eyeballs on the works we’re creating. So, when Kevin put out the call to do some kind of interview swap, I raised my hand.

***

What would you like people to know about you?Kevin-wall-Brenham_300

I hail from a once thriving world called Wordslingeton, where my highly advanced race loaded me into a small capsule and launched me to this planet in an effort to preserve Wordslinging culture. I also provide author coaching for those looking to get into this game. The two are very similar.

At what point did you sit down and decide to write that first book?

I was actually in about second grade the first time I sat down and decided to write a book. I wrote in pencil, on lined notebook paper, and filed about four pages front and back (including the hand-drawn cover … very “young Renaissance!”). When I took my book to school, my teacher informed me that “books aren’t written on notebook paper.” Thus propelling me into a downward spiral of “my work isn’t good enough” that has lasted to this day.

But the first real book I wrote was an as-yet unpublished horror story. Unpublished, because it was just awful. Truly terrible. It’s not bad as “writing” goes, but for plot and structure and characterization, it’s more horrible than its own premise. I’m haunted by it.

I did, however, learn a lot from it.

Just the act of sitting down and actually writing a book was a big boost for me. It showed me I could do it. And, having done it once, I did it again. And again. And again. I may not ever publish that first book (I go back and forth on it, digging it out of the drawer at least once per year), but I’ll always be grateful to it, because it was a start.

The first time I followed through and actually published, however, was the first book in my “Citadel” series. That book, too had it’s “awfulness.” But mostly in the form of arrogance on my part. I didn’t bother with editing or proofing, for example, because that would keep my book from reaching the yearning masses in a timely manner. So instead, I released the first edition au naturale. Raw. Straight from my keyboard to the page.

And, shockingly, despite all the typos and continuity errors, it was actually well received! It didn’t draw those “yearning masses” I had hoped for (I’m still looking for those guys … I imagine them out there, wandering and yearning, forever hoping to stumble upon my work. Poor buggers). But I did get an audience out of it. And an education. I’d say that writing and publishing that book, and then rewriting and re-publishing it, was the best author course I could have enrolled in.

If you could start all over again, what advice might you have for your younger self?

Two things: Start writing sooner, and write more books.

It’s ridiculous how much time I wasted in my younger years. Wholly ridiculous. More than anyone else I’ve ever known, I’ve had piles upon piles of free time in my life, in which I had this yearning to write, but was too lazy to actually do it. I wanted to be published, but I didn’t want to write a book. That was hard. That was work. I wanted my brilliance to be recognized just in and of itself.

So once I perfect my own TARDIS (made, at the moment, using old TV parts and zip ties), I’ll be paying a visit to Young Kevin, giving him a thump on the head and a copy of Scrivener, with a note that says “Write the books, save the world.”

Because the one piece of advice that’s universal, from all authors everywhere, is “Write more books.” It’s also the best marketing advice you’ll get. “Write more books,” and you’ll be more “discoverable.” “Write more books” and you’ll build an audience faster. “Write more books” and you’ll have more credibility. And you can write more books by starting right now, not waiting until “the time is right.”

In your latest work, what was the hardest scene to get right? And what did you do to solve the problem?

In “Sawyer Jackson and the Long Land,” the toughest scene was when I had to introduce the main character (Sawyer) to the main antagonist (Aeodymus). The two are on different planes of existence, by necessity, and can’t actually interact with each other yet. So it was the classic conundrum … Aeodymus is the Voldemort to Sawyer Jackson’s Harry Potter, and you can’t have them facing off in the first act. You have to spend some time learning to fear the guy. You have to feel the anticipation.

I worked on this for a while, but the answer came to me all of a sudden, in the shower (as all answers do). I had already created a very cool “magic system” for this book, and tied it to what I was calling the Omni—the Omniverse, or the collection of all existence and realities. The knotwork is this thing that winds through everything in existence, and our guy Sawyer can see and manipulate it. I made the decision, then, that to make Aeodymus a more personal threat, I needed him to have the same ability. So I wrote a scene in which Sawyer and Aeodymus interact within a sort of dark knotwork.

It was a real turning point for the characters, and a real point of danger in the story. It started a thread that has woven its way right into Book 2, which explores the idea of the dark knotwork even further.

And I think that’s the key to good storytelling. The practical solutions are both fed by and fed into the story itself. One influences the other at all times. So there are those story telling devices that we, as authors, study and commit to using. And when we start implementing them we realize, “I have to tie this to my mythos. I have to make these practical, real-world pieces fit my improbable world.” That’s when it gets fun. That’s when you get to really be the author you always dreamt of being. Real writing happens right there.

Writing is often a very lonely profession, but one of the ways to combat that is through collaboration. Have you managed to work with any other writers on projects up to this point?

I’m actually collaborating on two different books right now, along with my own work. One is a serialized project called “The Lucid,” which was the brain child of author Nick Thacker (www.nickthacker.com). Nick’s another author coach and marketing smartypants, like me. I actually went to him at one point for author coaching, and liked him and his approach. I pinged him about collaborating together, and he was onboard immediately. He’d been looking for someone to write with, and he liked my work. So he shared his idea for “The Lucid,” and now we’re finishing up the first episode. It’s already available for pre-order on Amazon! (http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00N4AO18U)

The second collaboration is with an old friend and mentor. Todd Hewey and I have produced documentaries together in the past, and he was actually the first person to give me a real shot at breaking into that industry. I learned a lot from him. So when he approached me with his idea for a book, based on a film treatment he’d written that was getting some attention from Warner Bros., there was no way I could pass it up. It’s a grueling book to write, of course. It’s science fiction, but int he style of Tom Clancy and other prolific and hyper-detail-oriented authors. Not really a strength of mine. But that’s where Todd comes in, supplying me with more detail than I can handle, most of the time.

What’s been great about both of these projects is how much I’ve learned from my partners. We’re always teaching each other, frankly. I know quite a bit about characterization and plot, and how the two meld and dance together. I’m a character writer, first and foremost. And that, I’ve discovered, is something unique in this business. Most authors tend toward setting or details as their mainstay. I start with and lead with the characters. In my own books, the charactersare the story. You could lift them out of their settings and put them anywhere, and it wouldn’t change much.

So working with these two guys has given me a chance to hone that skill while learning a few new tricks. Nick’s experience in marketing his work has been invaluable. Todd’s experience as a historian has as well. I’m picking up traits of both as we go, and coming out a better writer for the experience.

What’s your process? Outline? Pantser? A bit of both?

I lean way more towards “pantser” than “outliner,” which is ironic, considering my staunch position on pants. But I have to admit that as I’ve taken this on from a more business-oriented approach, I’ve started outlining a lot more. I use story beats to guide my work.

Typically I’ll write beats for the first few chapters, though, and get excited about the story, and frustrated with the sort of truncated way I’m having to outline. At that point, I just start writing. And I think that’s for the best. Because anything that lets you start putting words to the page is good, and you should always go with it.

Once I get to the end of my beats, I almost always just keep going. I know the story by now, and the characters. There’s no reason to stop. But then there may come a point where I don’t really know where I’m going anymore, and I need to stop and reassess. At that point, I’ll sometimes finish out beats for the rest of the book. And by the time I’ve gotten a few down, I’m already raring to get back to the writing. So it’s a nice balance of both, I think.

What does your typical writing session consist of? Do you have a specific goal of words or time or chapters?

I get up every morning and exercise for an hour or so before writing. I do the dishes from the night before. I shower and shave and brush my teeth. Basically, I start my day just like I would if I were going to a “real job.” And I start early, about5 am every morning.

Usually by about 6:30 am I’m in front of the keyboard, and Scrivener is up and humming. And I begin.

I have a word goal for each session. I aim for 1500 words. That’s actually about a third of what I can comfortably produce in a morning, but it’s enough of a goal to make serious daily progress. You won’t write a book in 30 days at that goal, of course. When I’m really aiming to churn a book out each month, I set my daily count around 3K, and generally double that on most writing days.

But I think it’s more important to have that minimum word target than to aim for blasting a third of a tenth of a book out with every session. For some authors, just sitting down with that block of time is tough enough. I think if you can set a word goal and stick to it, you’re doing the work you mean to do. You’re actually being an author, instead of paying it lip service.I used to aim for a page count, but that never felt natural. Hitting a set word target each day helps me feel a rhythm for this stuff. Besides, the number is bigger. What sounds more impressive, 1500 words or 3 pages?

Sawyer Jackson-FRONT

Writer’s block – do you get it and how do you handle it?

I have absolutely no idea what this is.

I’m not being flip—I legitimately have never experienced anything I’d call “writer’s block.” I’ve had moments when I sat down with no plan and no idea, with the intention of “I’m going to write something, dammit!” And at that point, sure. I was a little stymied. But I think it’s in the same way that an architect would be stymied if they had no idea what sort of building they needed to design, and where it was going to be placed, and what it was going to be used for.

Having an idea, before you sit down, is the key to keeping things flowing. Sometimes that idea is small and simple. “I’m going to write about a frog with a magic hat.” Sometimes it’s more grandiose, involving reams of research on a topic that evokes passion in your breast. But I’d advise writers to avoid sitting in front of the keyboard at all until they actually know what they want to say. Not word for word—but they must have the spirit and essence there, ready to go.

If you’re still stuck at that point, I think the secret is to just start typing (or writing by hand, if that’s your thing).

I’ve worked as a copywriter for most of my career. There were times when I was asked to write something for a client, and the instruction was a very informative “We need 1,500 words on Subject X.” I may know nothing whatsoever about Subject X when I sit down, but that’s easily solved with Google. And once I have some background, now it’s all about the output. I’m probably not an authority on Subject X, but I know how to start a sentence and see it through. So I just start writing.

That adage of “writing is rewriting” is true. Absolutely true. You may start by plunking down whatever nonsense is in your brain, but eventually you’ll come back and revise what you’ve written to fit the timbre and tone of what followed it. As you write, the ideas take form, and gel. They become something, whereas before they were just concepts and abstract thoughts. Now they have form. They’re clay. But they’re clay you made yourself, and as you shape it you’re even more in contact with it than a sculptor or carver would be. They shape what the world gives them. Writers shape the medium of their own creation.

The secret to kicking writer’s block to the curve, then, is to just start. Write without editing. Write without caring about your mistakes. You’ll get it fixed when you come back later. Write knowing full well that a more informed, better educated version of you, in the future, will be back to make it shine.

What inspires your writing? What are the questions you want to answer with your books?

I’ve lived with the stories I tell most of my life. My childhood and upbringing inspired a lot of my writing. The fantasies that play out in my head, and the grist of books and television and films I’ve seen, they all come together to form a sort of ongoing tale. I’m just shaping that tale and putting in on the page, with faces I drew myself, and dressed in clothes I made.

I don’t know that I’m actually trying to answer a particular question with my books. Quite the opposite, actually. I’m trying to evoke questions. I want people to read something I wrote and think, “Huh. That’s something I never thought about before. Where could I take that? Where could it take me?”

Music while you write? And if so, does it change based on the project? Favorite albums?

For the most part, I listen to a lot of instrumental Celtic music. A few years ago I discovered that it really resonated for me as I wrote. I keep it pretty low, almost inaudible, but it makes me feel a little “comfy” as I sit in my home office, tapping away. It’s a very “transporting” kind of music.

I’d say there’s likely a flavor in all my books that ties in with that music.

Of course, I do switch it up every now and then. Sometimes I’ll play something contemporary. But that usually makes me feel a little off balance. The tones of my work change, slightly. It’s like switching the source of water at a soda factory. You get pretty much the same product, but it has a slight difference in taste. Maybe I should have used a classier analogy, like wines made with grapes from different regions.

Do you have any upcoming projects? Anything you’d like to promote?

I mentioned this earlier, but Nick Thacker and I are working on episode one of “The Lucid,” which promises to be a very cool serial. Lots of action, lots of clandestine activities, and a nice post-apocalyptic flavor. It’s a very unexpected kind of story, and one I think my readers will love!

I’m also nearly done with the second Sawyer Jackson book, “The Shadow Strait.” It’s a fantastic continuation of the series, and the people who loved book one are not going to be disappointed. The characters in this book keep evolving and keep getting better. I’m completely in love with this story!

Where’s the best place to find out more about you and your work?

My home online is www.kevintumlinson.com. That’s a portal to anywhere and everywhere else you can find me! But you can also connect with me on social media:

Facebook: /kevin.tumlinson

Twitter: @kevintumlinson

Google+: +kevintumlinson

Kevin Tumlinson’s Author Bio:

Kevin Tumlinson is the Wordslinger—a full-time indie author and author coach, spending most of his days enslaved to a MacBook that just won’t let him go outside and play. His “Citadel” and “Sawyer Jackson” series are reader favorites, and his readers are Kevin favorites.

Learn more about Kevin and his work at www.kevintumlinson.com.

 

 

Creative Feature Interview

Friend and author Lisa Shambrook interviewed me on her blog this week. Here’s a teaser. Click the link below to read the rest!

What inspires you?

If I’m honest, what doesn’t inspire me may be the better question. As a child I spent most of my time playing outside, wandering in the woods, creating imaginary worlds to play in with my friends and sometimes alone with my toys. My favorite movies from age 6 to 12 were The Black Stallion, The NeverEnding Story, Labyrinth, Star Wars and Alien/Aliens. Nature, Magic, Fantasy and Science Fiction (with a dash of horror) can all be seen in my art from the last decade.

Read more on Lisa’s Blog…

30 Years Ago

It all began on July 24, 1993. I went on my first date with Courtney Becker (at the time). We went over to my buddies’ house to swim in his pool. Probably not the best plan overall since what would happen if it rained? Why not go with something more tried and true (dinner and a movie)?

Fear.

If we rewind the clock just a little bit…

Courtney and I met at Kroger. I’d been working their for a couple of months at that point.

***

The only reason I chose Kroger in the first place was to get my dad off my case. You see, after I’d hit 16, I had jumped to get my driver’s license, but I didn’t have a car. At best I could run errands for my parents… maybe use it to go out with a friend. But the months rolled by and I had little to no desire to get a job.

It seemed like a drag.

But, it was going to have to happen. However, I was smart. I decided I’d just go up to the closest grocery store, get the application, bring it home, and buy myself a week or so. At some point they might call. At some point, I might have to go to another place and fill out an application. This was going to take some time to happen.

It took an hour for it to happen. I went in for the application, the manager was there and interviewed me, and suddenly I have 20+ hours a week.

So laziness led me to Kroger. Had I been a little more of a go-getter, then perhaps we would have never met.

Lazy for the win!

***

I actually wasn’t there for her first day of work. When I did meet her she was dating another guy (they’d started on the same day), so I didn’t think anything of it. But as time went on, we became friends. She’d invite a bunch of us over to her house to watch the Atlanta Braves in the playoffs (this was back when it was a unicorn of sorts for the team to be good). Another boyfriend at some point in there, but I wasn’t angling or anything. I was happy to have a friend.

***

I went on one date prior to the faithful July 24 date. To say I lacked self-confidence would have been an understatement. When I was asked by my parents why I didn’t ask out any of the girls, my answer was a bunch of rambling gibberish.

The truth was Fear.

Fear of rejection.

People make the joke, “what’s the worst that could happen? She says no?”

They act like it is no big deal to hear someone say NO. And they aren’t entirely wrong. Yes, being rejected wouldn’t feel good, but that wasn’t where the Fear came from. It was the thought of them laughing at the prospect. What if they not only rejected me… they then went and told everyone who would listen that John McGuire had tried to ask them out.

What an idiot.

What a nerd.

***

With all those thoughts swarming around my head, I thought it better to pine away in silence with any of the girls in school I might have liked.

Time went on. A year had passed. And a group of us went to Six Flags (escorted by my mom). I don’t remember anything special particularly happening on that day. I’m sure Courtney and I rode some rides together, but she rode rides with other people too.

***

I’m oblivious.

Still am.

***

We got home and my mom said “That girl likes you.”

What? Not a chance of that. You see, my mom wasn’t the one who lived in my head. She wasn’t the one who thought they were ugly. She wasn’t the one who felt socially awkward. She wasn’t the one who wasn’t sure there was a person out there for them. Maybe come college. Maybe.

But she persisted. “That girl likes you.”

***

Kroger intervined again. Ashley in the floral department pulled me aside one day and told me straight out “Courtney likes you. She wants you to ask her out.”

Now this… this felt like enough information to go on. Maybe she did like me? Maybe she would say yes?

But there was a problem.

Our work hours.

Every week they would post the work times, and typically I’d have 3 days (nights) off and 4 days on. Courtney was the same. So when I went to find that magical night where both off… a week went by. And Ashley came back, because apparently she thought I didn’t understand. “What’s taking you so long?”

So I had to just hope the next week’s assignments would grant that rare concurrance of both schedules being open. And as luck would finally have it, somehow neither of us worked Saturday night.

***

I wish I could remember how I actually asked her out. We talked on the phone a fair amount, so it was probably during one of those conversations.

***

The last detail was to figure out what to do. My friend, Lee, must have seen how nervous I was with the entire prospect, so he offered his pool and other people there so that there would be a little less pressure.

I jumped at the chance.

And I asked her out.

Image by Nos Nguyen from Pixabay

***

The strange thing was the Fear was still there. Even though I knew she liked me. Even though I knew she’d say yes. The Fear tried to worm its way into my brain and convince me that wasn’t going to be the case. That somehow everyone had misread the situation, and my nightmare of rejection was right around the corner.

***

She said yes. We went on our first date 30 years ago. We’ve grown up together. She is my best friend.

***

And I’m still amazed that she said yes back then.

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

In Our Dreams Awake – The Posts

Check out John McGuire’s new Fantasy/Cyberpunk/Dreampunk Comic!

 

Throughout this Kickstarter campaign I’ve written a few posts on In Our Dreams Awake, so this post will put them into a more comprehensive guide so that you don’t have to go stumbling through the Tessera archives in order to locate things.

 

Kickstart the Comic – In Our Dreams Awake #1: A Cyberpunk/Fantasy Adventure

A breakdown of the actual Kickstarter campaign laying out the pitch and story as well as looking at the reward options. I normally try to be as unbiased when doing the Kickstart the Comic posts on other books, but that might be a little difficult when talking about your own work.

 

Behind the Comic: In Our Dreams Awake

This is a peek at the history of the comic book. How things began all those years ago with a series of emails between Egg Embry and myself. It has been a long journey to get to the point where the comic is nearing a real release.

 

Behind the Comic: – Anatomy of a Panel – In Our Dreams Awake #1

A breakdown of a pair of panels from my portion of In Our Dreams Awake. Consider it a behind-the-scenes or director’s commentary on some of the thought processes when looking at a comic page from the point of view of the writer. And then see how the artist takes that and makes it 1 million times better!

 

I tried to put the spotlight on a couple of my collaborators on this comic book through a pair of interviews to try and get into their minds a little bit about their process and history.

Behind the Artist – Interview with Rolands Kalnins

 

Behind the Artist – Interview with Alex Lugo

 

The interview with Sean Hill, who did a variant cover for In Our Dreams Awake, is from a couple of years ago, but has some nice insight.

Behind the Artist – Interview with Sean Hill, Part 1

 

Behind the Artist – Interview with Sean Hill, Part 2

***

Please check out the current Kickstarter for In Our Dreams Awake!

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

Kickstart the Comic – In Our Dreams Awake #1: A Cyberpunk/Fantasy Adventure

As I talked about last week, In Our Dreams Awake has had a long journey to get from the kernel of an idea all the way to this next milestone: A Kickstarter Launch today!

This is one of those stories that examines that fundamental idea I think everyone deals with, which is wondering if their life is enough or if there might be another one we could live if only the circumstances were a little different.

We are raising funds to get the first issue of In Our Dreams Awake printed and out to readers.

***

In Our Dreams Awake #1: A Cyberpunk/Fantasy Adventure

John McGuire – Writer/Creator

Egg Embry – Writer/Creator

Edgar Salazar – Artist

Rolands Kalninš – Artist, Colorist, Letterer

Genaro Olavarrieta – Inker

Alexander Lugo – Letterer

Sean Hill – Variant Cover Artist

The Kickstarter campaign ends on Wednesday, April 27, 2022.

***

The Pitch:

In Our Dreams Awake is the story of what happens when both of those worlds begin to spin out of control. What happens when Jason no longer knows which world is the dream and which one is reality?

 

The Story:

Jason Byron dreams of two lives. In one fantasy, magi reactionaries won, technology is banned, and Jason is a portrait painter hiding a contraband telescope. In the other world, he leads a cyberpunk gang amid a future of flooded cities and gilled aliens. When he closes his eyes in one world, he awakes in the next. Jason’s only desire is to wake up in the arms of his true love, Laura… Uh, or is it Fem’a Lin?… If only he knew which one was real?!

Cyberpunk Variant – Art by Rolands Kalninš

John’s Thoughts:

I’m obsessed with the idea of What If when it comes to how people live their lives. Those little moments then spiral out to set the course of our lives. How easy it is to focus on the things we don’t have rather than embrace all the gifts we do have. It’s very easy to lose sight of what is important when you always are lamenting the things you don’t possess.

It’s human nature to evaluate and then reevaluate and then wonder about the path not taken.

With In Our Dreams Awake, Egg and I are giving this concept a bit of a twist. Instead of trying to figure out how Jason Byron’s life might have gone wrong, he instead sees a world nearly the opposite of the current life he lives. And that would be fine, we could all use a little bit of fantasy in our lives (or cyberpunk as the case may be), but what happens when those two realities begin to bleed into one another. How would you determine which was the real world and which was the dream world?

And how would you know which one was worth fighting for… or dying for?

The Rewards:

The Kickstarter is for the first issue in what we hope will be a four-issue series. We have the options of either the pdf ($5) or print version ($10) to send to you. We also have two different variant covers, one by Rolands Kalninš and the other by Sean Hill ($15).

And if being drawn into the Cyberpunk world as a potential member of Jason’s gang interests you, we have that for $200.

We also have a number of Add-Ons ranging from a copy of The Gilded Age Graphic novel to the Dreamr by the Apocolypse RPG Zine ($10-$20 each).

Mirror Variant – Art by Sean Hill

The Verdict:

As a co-creator of this little project, I’m so excited for it to become a reality. As my post last week talked about, it has been a long (looooong) road to get here, but we only have a little more to go before this story can see the true light of day and get into the hands of all you potential readers.

The other key piece is that the first issue is completely done. Finished. This isn’t going to be a Kickstarter that lingers on and on. In fact, my hope is that we fund quickly, and I can get the second issue into production while this Kickstarter is actually going on, so that the wait between issues isn’t so long.

***

I’d like to thank you in advance for checking the project out. And be sure to check back in on the project throughout the month as I’ll be posting various interviews with my fellow creators.

And be sure to check out the Kickstarter here!

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

In Our Dreams Awake – Kickstarter Prelaunch

Jason Byron dreams of two lives. In one fantasy, magi reactionaries won, technology is banned, and Jason is a portrait painter hiding a contraband telescope. In the other world, he leads a cyberpunk gang amid a future of flooded cities and gilled aliens. When he closes his eyes in one world, he awakes in the next. Jason’s only desire is to wake up in the arms of his true love, Laura… Uh, or is it Fem’a Lin?… If only he knew which one was real?!

In a society ruled by mages, Jason Byron is a master artist trying to provide for his family. He has a secret heirloom, a telescope. With it he can see the stars, but can he see the trouble his illegal piece of technology will bring to his family?

In drowning London, Jason Byron deals in chum, the hottest drug among aliens. He and his true love are trying to escape their world. Can they keep the peace long enough to get away before the world is pulled beneath the waves?

In Our Dreams Awake is the story of what happens when both of those worlds begin to spin out of control. What happens when Jason no longer knows which world is the dream and which one is reality?

***

In Our Dreams Awake comes from co-creators John McGuire and Egg Embry. The first issue of this mini-series features two dreams, the first illustrated by Edgar Salazar and the second by Rolands Kalniņš. Both artists provide covers in addition to Sean Hill’s variant cover. Written for fans of love stories, dreampunk, steampunk, and cyberpunk, this comic offers an engaging mystery with amazing artwork. This story is about love and loss and asking the big questions: Who am I? Where do I belong? Who do I love?

***

We are launching the Kickstarter on March 30, 2022; however, you can make sure that you get notified when it launches by signing up at the Pre-launch Page!

***

Over the next month and a half, I’ll have preview pages, origin stories, interviews with the creative team, and probably some stuff I’m not remembering right now. I hope you’re ready to join me on another comic book adventure!

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Turn the Page on 2021

The problem with this writing gig is that almost all of it happens behind the scenes. It becomes a topic of conversation from time to time:

“What are you currently working on?”

Yet, it’s not always one or two or three things, but a bunch of projects that you might be trying to take across the finish line. Each of them at various stages of completion. Some are maybe very close to the end and others feel like they are never going to get out there at all. It can be frustrating to not have things come out, to not have a release of anything that you can point at, and have that physical thing to point back to in order to show everyone that you’re actually working on “things”.

This last year follows 2020 where I had a handful of releases and in comparison, it looks quite… non-existent. Then again, going through my year, I had completely forgotten about a couple of these, so maybe I was more productive than I thought?

Love’s Labour’s Liabilities

So after the pain and suffering of putting out a RPG Zine, somehow Egg convinced Lee and me to give it another try with all the things we’d learned on the first one. The biggest of those was to have the whole thing completed before the Kickstarter ever started. It was nice to have something that could be not only put out into the world immediately after the campaign ended, but it also acted as a bit of a make-good for those people who had supported our first Zine’s Kickstarter and had to wait over a year for it to be finished (we gave those original backers a free PDF copy of the new Zine).

I wrote a Postscript about the Zine here.

 

M.S. Wordsmith Interview

It’s always an honor to have someone actually want to interview me about the writing I do. I had the opportunity to talk a little bit with the good folks over at M.S. Wordsmith back in March.

You can find the interview here.

 

Blog Posts

Unlike 2020 where I broke my continuous blog streak (on accident), I managed to get a blog out every week. One of the things I have been doing (probably once a month or so) is to repost some of the older blogs from the first couple of years of writing on Tessera. The first benefit is to have content on those weeks where maybe I’m not entirely sure what I should be blogging about. The second benefit is that I’m able to shed a light on some of those writings that I really liked and many people have never seen.

 

Not a lot of things going out there into the world. But that’s partially because of the whole “behind the scenes” stuff I mentioned above.

 

Looking Forward

 

As we are just into 2022, my goals are all in front of me…

In Our Dreams Awake

I journey back into the realm of comics with a story I co-created with Egg Embry that has sought to see the light of day for over a decade. We’re putting the final touches on the book and the Kickstarter page in the hopes of launching the first issue toward the end of this month.

 

S.O.U.L. Mate

A novel I’ve been working on for far too long. I spent much of the last year finishing up the first draft, editing, and then realizing I needed about 5 additional chapters to help flesh out characters, plot points, etc. I’m nearly there and believe (maybe naively) that I can have this one finished up and released later this year.

 

Short Stories

A recommitment to try and find a home for a few of my shorts. I’m going to redouble my efforts to submit them, while also finishing up a few others that I’ve been working on over this last year. My hope would be that a couple do see the light of day this year.

 

The Untold Series

The one thing I’ve really done wrong from a writing point of view (ok, not the only thing) is that I don’t have any series. I have 2 standalone and even S.O.U.L. Mate is a standalone (so I don’t learn no matter how much I say I will). However, I’ve been working on a series, and I have big plans for it. I have 2 full novels written, with the hopes of 4 more (not this year) and a series of 12 novellas to also expand the world(s) I’m creating. I don’t think I’ll be releasing anything from this series this year, but I hope to set myself up for multiple releases next year.

 

***

Some years I have a ton of stuff to focus on and other years it is a bit more streamlined, but I know if I keep at it, good things are coming.

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Ramblings about Anne Rice

This past weekend Anne Rice passed away, which has gotten me thinking about Vampires (of course).

I was a teenager when I first read Interview with the Vampire (around the same time as when the movie premiered back in 1994). It’s hard to believe that my picture of vampires up until that point was pretty singular in the black and white Universal monster version of the monster Dracula or the more recent version of the book by Francis Ford Coppola. This singular entity that was either evil or misunderstood or possibly both of those things was my picture of the myth.

Then came Interview.

And while it obviously leaned into the romantic idea of the creature, it focused on this person who was at odds with his true nature. Louis (our narrator), walks us through his life with a remorseful look. Here was someone who no longer relished their eternal life, but instead saw it as it truly was: a curse. He was not a part of humanity any longer, but was forced to endure alongside it.

It seems hard to even think about the idea of the reluctant vampire as something groundbreaking now. We’ve had decades of versions who are the bad boys, the mysterious strangers, the reluctant heroes, and the monsters underneath that they dare not expose anyone to. Whether it is the Vampire Diaries, Twilight, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or True Blood (or probably a hundred others I’m forgetting), you can draw a straight line from Anne Rice to these versions of vampires being depicted now. I’m not sure there has been anyone as influential since Bram Stoker wrote Dracula almost 125 years ago.

It seems a weird thing to think about that an entire genre can be effectively reoriented by one person, but that’s really what Anne Rice did.

***

The only one I immediately can think of that might challenger to that idea is Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend, which looks at the vampire “problem” from a very scientific idea rather than a mystical one. Strangely, it draws its line to Night of the Living Dead and our modern Zombie movies and television shows.

***

30 Days of Night might be the other one in that it is leaning instead to the sheer monster/horror of the legend.

***

Without Anne Rice, White Wolf roleplaying wouldn’t look the same as it currently does. I’m sure it would still exist in some form or fashion, but there is no doubt in my mind it is what it is because of her contributions to the genre.

***

I hadn’t realized she had written 13 books in the Vampire Chronicles series. I think the last one I read was number 4, Tale of the Body Thief. In fact, I’ve been looking at her Bibliography in amazement. She has written about vampires and mummies and werewolves and witches and genies and…

The focus on those creatures who we might view as monsters, she decided to go in and look at their souls (what was left of them) and show the reader that there was more to them than teeth and claws. They might haunt our nightmares, but it was they who were living the nightmare.

It’s an incredible way to put the mirror up to our own faces. Show us the creature who resides in each of us. And to do that for a generation of readers is a great gift. Thank you for the reflection and the stories.

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Chapter Preview – The Echo Effect

In the world before, Aaron Anders had a different life with a different family…

Until the White Light washed them away.

A select few know the truth about our world: every time the calendar approached the year 2025, the world resets and creates a new Earth, with a new history for each of us. The Awakened remember their previous lives, and throughout history, many of them have done their best to ensure that the world proceeds on a particular path.

The lucky few.

Aaron didn’t feel lucky. Trapped in this loop, forced to live again and again in half-remembered lives, his current reality was spiraling out of control. His wife and his best friend thought he was losing his mind, and the worst part was they might be right. Another existence filled his head, mixing false memories with his real ones until he wasn’t sure of the truth.

And the only one who seemed to know anything was a stranger convinced “They” were after both of them.

The Echo Effect is currently on Amazon.

 

Please enjoy the following preview chapter of

THE ECHO EFFECT

CHAPTER ONE

 

The shadow of Olympus Mons stretched beyond Lieutenant Aaron Anders’s sight. Its false darkness obscured the Martian soil beneath him, the rocks underneath his boots clicking and scattering while he surveyed the latest outcropping.

Identified to offer the easiest access to older samples, this area held many promising models. Coming to the end of a long day of collecting, he went to wipe away the trickles of sweat inside his pressurized suit. His hand tapped on the glass of his solar visor, and he shook his head at the wasted motion.

The helmet’s light illuminated an odd shape in the formation to his left. Of course, these rocks should be odd and alien to him, the result of millions of years of wind and sand having taken their toll. But while wind abrasion could provide some strange results, this was something else.

He ran his hand over the area, surprised by its smooth definition.

The crackle of static followed by a familiar female’s voice jarred his daydreaming. “Lieutenant Anders, what’s your status?”

Aaron paused in his excavation, pressing the radio control on his suit.

“Captain Reyes, location’s approximately a kilometer from the ARES site. Currently collecting the last of the Zone C samples near the southern base of the mountain. Found some curious formations.”

He continued to work on the flat area in front of him, bringing out one of his brushes to sweep away the dust and sand. The more he worked on it, the more curious he was to see if anything interesting lay beneath.

The radio popped again.

“Go ahead and make your final measurements, then return to the ship.”

A short pause and before he could confirm the order, she spoke up again. “You should make note that in two hours, we’re going to be ringing in the New Year with all the formality of an Earth gathering.”

“Sir, you do realize that we’re still the better part of a week away from that particular day? Unless I have my calendar dates wrong.”

“Understood, but the brass back on Earth wants to pretty us up with the help of a few of their Hollywood friends. They’re talking music to try and make people cry with a great edit. And really, who are we to deny them that privilege? Therefore, they want a little lead time on this. We can all look forward to seeing it for years to come. Regardless, if you don’t hurry up and get back to the ship, all the pretty girls will be taken for the midnight kissing, leaving you all alone on fake New Year’s Eve.”

Aaron paused. Was that an invitation? Not a question he was going broach.

“Copy. I’ll make this one my last.”

As the years of dirt began to clear off, his suit’s trail of light glinted off a piece of the rock. A brush revealed not stone, but what appeared to be metal.

Metal.

Not ore—but processed.

That fact alone sent a surge through him, his brain overloaded with conflicting thoughts. At each new pass with the brush, he managed restraint, careful not to damage this find. Aaron kept a delicate hand with whatever it was he uncovered, even if it wasn’t possible it existed in the first place.

Searching for an edge, he began fingering the metal’s uncovered grooves. His gloved hand traced around the object, and then the brush slipped from his grasp and he stumbled backward. Aaron closed his eyes hard as if being so close to the item tainted his vision.

Yet the piece, its grooves and edges now revealed, remained. His light continued to shine off the metal. No, not just metal, something more than that.

It was a plaque.

A metal plaque mounted on the side of the Martian mountain, with indentations that ran across its face, forming letters and words. Those very letters and words he recognized as English, even when his mind assured him that it could not be. It was dehydration. It was exhaustion. His brain attempted to make sense of it. Even explaining a single piece would be enough to ground him.

It could not exist, and yet…

There it was.

No matter how many times he blinked in hopes it would disappear.

There it was.

 

KENNEDY SPACE CLASS OF 1979

FIRST STUDENT CLASS TO VISIT OLYMPUS MONS

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA

 

He recoiled and almost toppled over, stabilizing in a half-sitting, half-crouch position. It was as if electricity leapt from the plaque onto his fingers. From this position, his eyes strained to read the message again.

It was beyond impossible. And then his insanity deepened.

“Base, this is Lieutenant Darlington. I have…”

Darlington’s voice cut out. Captain Reyes’ voice broke through the silence. “Lieutenant Darlington repeat that last statement. We were unable to read you.”

There was a moment before Darlington made his reply. “Sir… I’m not entirely sure what I have here.”

Base crackled through. “Lieutenant, what is your current position?”

“I’m in Zone D… at another landing site.”

“Say again, Lieutenant? We’re not sure we understood your last message. Something has happened at your site?”

“Negative, Base. We have found another landing site. I repeat. We have located an additional landing site.”

Aaron froze in place. Minutes before, he’d questioned his eyesight—and now, he worried about his hearing. None of this was possible. Surely, NASA would have let them know if someone else beat the United States to Mars. On the other hand, perhaps this was the reason they assigned their landing to this planetary point.

He needed more than just his eyes for proof and brought out his camera. Taking a myriad of pictures of the plaque, Aaron made sure to note his exact location and began uploading them to the ship’s computer. Once the last picture was complete, only then did he move out to the other landing site.

***

 

Their momentous landing had taken place only days earlier, the world watching them speed across the vastness of space. They’d called them otherworldly celebrities, but Aaron didn’t know anything about that. What little information they’d received from NASA concerned itself more with the instrument readings.

While “third man to walk on the red planet” hadn’t provided the ring the word first conveyed, the moment he’d first stood on the alien world’s surface had left him speechless.

In those seconds, he had found the order of descent no longer mattered to him.

Reaching the perimeter of designated Zone D, he’d spotted five members of the ARES crew. While it was possible the plaque was an elaborate hoax or even a sign of dehydration, this was neither. Its existence meant that now, six people were seeing something that should not exist. Therefore, it was either fact or some sort of crew-wide space madness. Neither thought reassured him.

The scientific side of his brain began to compartmentalize the sights before him. It was clear as he watched the sun’s movement across the sky that it was the area’s proximity to the Mons that concealed this position upon their initial approach. It was more surprising Darlington found it at all, as the years had not been kind.

The lander base lay buried under shifting sands. A large transmission antenna jutted out of the ground, but otherwise, there was very little visible. Random pieces peeked out from their tomb. Had the late afternoon sunlight not glinted off the lander base, it would have stayed hidden. The site itself felt much like the original moon landing must have seemed to conspiracy theorists: a hoax or a galactic trick.

With Aaron moving down the slight incline to join the ARES crew, he could imagine the looks underneath their helmets. Stumbling a bit on his descent, it was everything he could do not to scream. Their brains must have been doing the same level of gymnastics, attempting to process the information slapping them in the face, and endeavoring to reconcile their previous shattered reality with a new one.

Most shuffled about the area as if unsure of what their duty should be in light of this illumination. Ensign Janic stood like a statue, afraid to interact with the zone, almost as if touching it would break the last barrier to this new reality. Something he wanted to avoid for as long as possible.

Captain Reyes took a different approach. Her hands traced along the bits of the lander base. A piece flecked off, and she stooped to pick up the debris, holding it up to the sun’s fading light. Delicately, she rolled it in her hands.

Beside her, Aaron reached out to touch the antenna and found it to be as solid and genuine as anything else on the planet. Yet his mind screamed at the impossibility of it all.

“Theories, anyone?” Captain Reyes’s voice jarred Aaron from his nightmarish thoughts.

Silence greeted the Captain. The rest of the crew looked to each other, waiting for someone to offer a solution.

“Nothing? Surely someone has a theory?”

“Is it possible that this is just… uh, leftovers from one of the Martian Landers missions back in the nineties?” Ensign Janic’s voice had no confidence behind it.

Another voice chimed in. “How long has this been here, you think?”

Aaron knew part of that answer and could thank the plaque.

“1979. Nearly forty years.”

All five turned and stared at him through their sun visors. Captain Reyes asked the question for them. “And how do you know that?”

“I found an… oddity… as I gathered rock samples. Something that didn’t make any sense to me at all until I heard Lieutenant Darlington’s communication. A metal plaque… a marker proclaiming that some kind of class trip made it to Mars. Apparently, it was the first class to visit Olympus Mons.”

“I’m sorry, Anders. You say you found a plaque? Are you sure?”

Aaron pointed around them at the half-buried site. “I am as sure about seeing the plaque as all of you are about seeing all of this.”

The Captain failed to deliver any kind of answer to that thought, and everyone else remained stunned. After a good minute of silence, she began pointing at the five of them and at the site around them.

“Alright, we document this as best we can in the next hour. Our orders have been to avoid venturing out in the Martian night. The sun’s going down, and I don’t want anyone outside after that. Regardless of whatever all of this is, it’s been here for some time, so I think we can safely assume it isn’t going anywhere in the next twenty-four hours. Take as many pictures as you can and upload them to the ship’s computer so we can get the big brains back on Earth to start analyzing it, figuring out exactly what we have on our hands here.”

No one moved.

“Did you not hear me? Double time, people! Move!”

 

***

Image by WikiImages from Pixabay

As they huddled around the radio and awaited Earth’s response to the strangeness, Ensign Janic noticed the time. A jittery young man, his dark hair pressed and matted against a head stuck with sweat. His body rocked in a constant rhythm, leg bouncing from excess energy. A contagious sort of nervousness enveloped him.

“Do you realize we’re two minutes from the planned New Year celebration? Or what would have been two minutes if we’d started on time. Now we’re probably a good ten minutes at least from getting to that point.”

The entire crew turned as one, glaring at him. Captain Reyes broke the awkwardness and said aloud what everyone else was thinking. Her shoulder-length jet-black hair was pulled back against her scalp by her perspiration, but it did nothing to conceal her sharp eyes. They pointed like daggers at the Ensign.

“After what we have out on the Martian landscape, you’re concerned with New Years? This is a completely new world we find ourselves living in. Whatever that is out there is far more important than staging a New Year’s bash for the sake of someone back on Earth.” She moved over closer to him, as if her proximity would make him understand. “Literally, everything we ever knew or thought we knew has been upended.”

“Mmm, sorry, Captain. It’s just…” Janic swallowed hard. “…the big balloon dropping on New Year’s Eve is the most normal, calming thing I can think of right now. And even though we’re a good ten days early, it feels like there should be something stable to focus on before everyone else’s world goes to shit.”

Her stern gaze cracked, and the shock on her face melted into a smile. She slapped the back of Janic’s head. “You are an idiot.”

Aaron could see that the moment of levity did exactly what the Captain had wanted. Everyone’s shoulders released a small measure of tension. Janic even stopped bouncing quite so fast in his chair. Aaron turned back to his station.

Increased solar flare activity had played havoc with their communications throughout the last day. NASA had warned them of as much in their preflight briefings, the head brass having debated whether it was worth it risking something going wrong with such a momentous occasion. Yet, if they’d waited for the flares to return to normal levels, they risked missing their departure window to return to Earth. Therefore, they had carried the ARES mission out. Since the initial landing a few days earlier, there had been sporadic contact with Earth. Even though it was unlikely they’d get through consistently for a few more days, the schedule served to keep everyone from freaking out at the isolation.

Their ship was as spacious as had been advisable by the suits back on Earth.

The main area was about the size of two large living rooms, while the sleeping area stood along the sides where their bunks were stacked on top of each other. Much better than anything man sent to the Moon, but a bit cramped when the entire crew was back at base and attempting to move around.

“Anders, any word from Houston?”

Aaron looked up from the radio and spun his chair around to face the crew’s leader. Always strong and in control of her surroundings, it was no surprise to anyone that they’d tasked her to lead this mission. She excelled at the physical stress tests and blew the curve in the mental challenges. Aaron thought he could sense something else behind those thoughtful looks.

“No, sir. We’re still in the dark.”

“Damn, we need to get them word of this.”

Aaron stood up to stretch and moved to near one of the portholes of the ship, taking a moment to reflect on the majesty that was the Martian sky at twilight. Like Janic, he needed to focus on anything other than what those pieces of metal meant. So instead, he concentrated on the mission itself. A short-term solution, his joy of being a part of the first manned voyage to Mars was a little dimmer than the previous evening. His brain raced with questions and possible theories for what he and the others saw.

Massive hallucination, Martian madness, or something even worse…

Still, he strained to see the bright-blue orb that resided out there. Were Samantha and Jacob looking back up at their sky through the telescope they’d bought Jacob all those months ago before Aaron boarded this ship? Today, he missed them more than on any other day so far. The separation sat on his chest even while he moved amongst the crew.

A handheld camera’s sudden appearance brought him back to reality.

Sergeant Tom Willis held onto it in a way that made it the opposite of a steady camera. With his more-and-more-mountain-man beard, he was the perfect choice for a proper director. Or at least, someone who should be behind the camera instead of in front of it, even if his technique sucked.

“Alright, Aaron, do you have anything to say to the good people back on Earth?”

Aaron forced a smile. “I thought we weren’t going to do this?”

Tom shrugged. “Janic’s an idiot, but he’s not completely wrong on this one. Plus, what else are we going to do? We can’t head back out until morning. Pending Houston sending a message, we can only speculate on what seeing that… stuff… means. Which leaves this camera. So, with all that said, Aaron Anders would you like to say anything to your family?”

“Hmm… Happy New Years to everyone back at home, especially my beautiful wife and great son, Samantha and Jacob. Dad will be home soon.”

Tom nodded and then moved on to interview the others while Aaron went back to staring out the viewport. Captain Reyes sat down next to him.

“So, on a scale of one to ten…”

Aaron did not wait for her to finish the question. “One million.”

Claudia smiled and nodded her head. “Same here.”

“You think the brass back at NASA are going to have any clue about what it is we found up here?”

Claudia began to answer and then stopped herself.

“I caught that. What?”

She leaned in close. “Odds are this information isn’t going to be something that’s ever broadcast out, even if they do figure out what the hell is going on. This is one of those things where you have to be on a need-to-know security clearance. And I’m pretty sure none of us will have that level of clearance in our immediate futures.”

Ensign Janic’s voice broke through the ship’s comm as he played the role of Dick Clark for the inhabitants of the ship.

“10.”

Aaron looked over at his Captain and smirked.

“9.”

“What?”

“I remember something about a kiss at midnight?”

“8.”

Claudia laughed. “I did say that, didn’t I? What will Samantha think?”

“7.”

“I don’t think she’ll mind all that much when I’m home.”

“Well then, pucker up.”

“6.”

“A little early, but what the hell, right?”

As their lips brushed against each other, Aaron noticed the blue star that was Earth growing a bit brighter.

“5.”

The light exploded outward. Like a ripple on the water, it grew and grew, faster and faster.

“4.”

Aaron broke the kiss. Claudia could see the fear in his eyes, but Aaron’s voice caught in his throat.

“3.”

“What is it?”

“2.”

He wanted to scream out, to warn everyone, but the light began to obscure the entire skyline.

“1.”

Then his world burned white.

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com