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. 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:
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Star Wars : My Thoughts Before We Wake

featuring art by the late great Ralph McQuarrie

Star-Wars-Concept-Art-New-Hope3

I’m writing this from the past.

All the way back on Tuesday, December 15, 2015.

Because today, Friday, December 18, is a big day. For me. For a lot of us. I wanted to write this post ahead of time. Before today. Before it happens. Before we see it. Before the Awakening. Before the results of all this hype and hope and speculation and excitement are known. Will we be disappointed today? Will we be thrilled? Will our prayers be answered? I don’t know and for the purposes of this post, I don’t want to know.

So I’m writing this from the past. star_wars_r2d2_c-3po_ralph_mcquarrie_desktop_1920x1080_hd-wallpaper-1054461

Last night (for me, here in the past), The Force Awakens had its premiere at the Mann’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood. Which means that people have seen it. A large group of people, a lot of them famous, a lot of them on Twitter. And, while I trust that none of them are going to run and tweet “Oh my God! Han Solo is just Dexter Jettster wearing a Mission Impossible Mask!”, I have deleted Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and any other social media app off my phone; deleted the bookmarks in Google Chrome. From Monday until Saturday, I am in as much of a media blackout as is possible in this day and age.

Because I don’t want to know.

I’m not a spoiler-phobe. I actually find that trend more than a little annoying, as I wrote about a while ago HERE. Do I want to know the story? The surprises? The ending? Fuck no. But mostly, I don’t want to know what people think about the movie. I don’t want to read Kevin Smith tweeting “HOLY SHIT STAR WARS IS SO GOOD!” or Patton Oswalt saying “Bad news guys…”. I don’t want to know what the critics have to say. Not a single fucking one. Not because I don’t like critics, but because I have no interest in what other people think about the movie.

I only care about what I think about it.

Two reasons for this:

1. There are at most a dozen people in this world whose opinions on film I actually respect. Who I can talk movies with in a way that satisfies me. Whose praise or condemnation of a film can actually sway my desire to see it. Does this make me a snob? Fuck yes. I embrace being a snob. I don’t care what most people think because I think I know better. It’s an ugly truth about me but a truth all the same. I feel that way about all movies; with Star Wars I feel it tenfold.

2. Knowing the general consensus on a film’s quality undoubtedly taints your experience in watching it for the first time. If the praise is effusive, often times you are disappointed by what you see because it was merely “good”, not “amazing” as every keeps saying. For me, I call this the Something About Mary effect. Conversely, if the word on the film is bad, if people are ripping it, if the cursed Rotten Tomatoes (boy do I hate Rotten Tomatoes) rating is low, you go into it expecting bad and you look for the bad. All you can see is the bad. And you don’t want to feel like an idiot for liking something that everyone else hates. Or you can go the other way. You’ve heard the film is bad, you go see it, enjoy it, and think “That was much better than everyone is saying. I don’t get it.” That happened with me on The Dark Knight Rises. The word wasn’t great on it but when I saw it I enjoyed it. Looking back, I realize those low expectations inflated my opinion of the film. I bought it on blu-ray the day it came out and haven’t been able to watch it all the way through even once. I find it mediocre and disappointing.

star-wars-mcquarrie3I don’t want to walk into the theater today with that baggage.

I’m bringing in enough with me as it is.

Because, well…

I love Star Wars more than you.

Since I don’t know who you are, dear reader, it’s understandable if you find that statement laughable.

But I love Star Wars more than you because Star Wars is my thing.

And it has been since 1980.

When I was four years old, my parents let me stay up to watch the network television debut of Star Wars. It was hosted by Billy Dee Williams (which is how I know it was around 1980), from a badly mocked-up version of what I would later learn was the Mos Eisley cantina. (Did you know it was owned by a Wookiee named Chalmun? Of course you didn’t. No reason you should. But I do. Because Star Wars is my thing.)

Like so many people, the first time seeing George Lucas’s Star Wars changed my life. I was never the same after that. I had, at the age of four, fallen truly, madly, and deeply in love.

I obviously don’t remember every detail of that night, but I remember enough. I remember the opening shot of the Blockade Runner (the Tantive IV) and the Star Destroyer (the Devastator) coming over the top of the screen and thinking the child’s equivalent of “holy shit!”. Being terrified of Darth Vader. I remember the cantina, obviously. Ben cutting off Ponda Baba’s arm. Meeting Han Solo. Seeing the Falcon for the first time. I have very strong memories of the trash compactor and, after that, the image that probably stuck most in my mind: Luke and Leia swinging across the chasm in the Death Star. Of course, the getaway fight with the TIE Fighters was amazing (“Don’t get cocky!”).

But what left an indelible impression on me was the final assault on the Death Star, later known as the Battle of Yavin. It enraptured me in a way I had never experienced. Starting with the scene in the briefing room where they break down the plan (I have this thing. Don’t know what it is, but my favorite scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark is when Indy uses the chalkboard to explain to the guys, one of them the actor that played Jek Porkins in A New Hope, how the Staff of Ra worked. Don’t know why that is.) and then of course the visuals, the action. It was so damn exciting and tense. I had no idea what was going to happen next. I had seen very few movies, so it never occurred to me that of course the hero was going to save the day. I was four. I didn’t know that it was an automatic thing in movies like this. I was terrified for Luke every step of the way. He’s just a kid from a farm! This is so dangerous! How is he going to make it out alive?

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Ships crash. People die. Darth Vader starts mowing down Y-Wings in his funky looking fighter (TIE Advanced x1). It was all too much.

Then Luke switched off his targeting computer.

I stopped breathing.

Then, it happened. The moment that brings me chills every time I think about it, let alone see it. Seriously. Right now, seeing it in my head, I’m getting that feeling.

Just when it looked like Vader was going to shoot Luke down. Just when the Rebellion was about to be blown to oblivion, a miracle happened.

“Yahoo!”

The Falcon came down out of the sun and saved the day.

yahoo

They came back! Han and Chewie came back! If you were an adult, you probably knew it would happen. Because that’s how movies work. The cynical loner always grows a heart and comes back to help. But as a child? I had no idea it was coming.

And when it did, I felt it for the first time.

The jolt. The shiver. The surge.

For all I knew, at that moment, 35 years ago, it was The Force Itself.

That feeling, you know? The potent injection of emotion that seems to shoot up your spine when you see, hear, read something that just hits you in a place you never knew you had. It’s the white soldiers cheering “give ‘em Hell!” to the 54th Massachusetts as they leave to die attacking Fort Wagner. It’s a brave vampire slayer leaping to her death to save both her sister and the world (“She saved the world. A lot.”). It’s the “Ode to Joy”, when that damn chorus comes in and the bliss crackles like electricity under your skin.

I was paralyzed with… I don’t know what that feeling is. It’s a cocktail of emotions, universally known but undefined. Just that… rush. That feeling.

It was the first time I had felt it.

It was riding my first roller coaster.

It was losing my virginity.

Drinking my first beer.

I have George Lucas to thank for that. And I thank him, as all fans should, for giving us this gift.

I also wanted more.

star_wars_movies_atat_ralph_mcquarrie_fan_art_1280x800_wallpaper_wallpaper_2560x1600_www-wallpaperswa-comThe first Star Wars trilogy was an enormous hit. Millions and millions of people are fans of the films. Made Lucas a brand of his own, the most successful independent filmmaker in history. The original trilogy is beloved the whole world over. Especially The Empire Strikes Back, nearly universally considered the best of the films.

But my love affair didn’t stop in 1983 when Return of the Jedi was released. I didn’t think “Well, that cool thing is over. On to the next thing.”

I was in love. I still wanted more.

And to get more, I had to dive deeper. And there wasn’t a whole lot there.

I’ve seen the two pretty-awful Ewoks TV movies more than a dozen times each. Why? Because they were Star Wars. Same with the “Droids” and “Ewoks” cartoons. I read the seven available Star Wars spin-off novels, including the very enjoyable Han Solo and Lando Calrissian series. I read the lackluster Marvel comics.

But between 1983 and 1991, it was slim pickings for a kid who wanted more of his favorite thing.

But in ’91, a novel was published. Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire. It took place 5 years after Episode VI and heir-to-the-empire-coverstarred all of the original characters, and introduced a few new ones, including one of the great Star Wars villains (hell, characters) of all time. Soon after, in the world of comic books, Dark Horse got the Star Wars license and released “Dark Empire”, which took place a year after Heir to the Empire. It was a bleak story about Emperor Palpatine rising from the dead to take one last stab at conquering the galaxy.

With those two pieces of fiction, the entity that would eventually be called the Expanded Universe was born. It would live and grow for almost a quarter of a century.

And I experienced all of it. Every novel. Every comic book. Every video game. Every role-playing game. Every encyclopedia. Star Wars became much more than three movies for me.

Even through the Special Editions and the Prequels, the Expanded Universe thrived. The novels and comics kept coming. Some were great. Some sucked. Most were in the middle somewhere. But the Star Wars galaxy continued to grow outside of the movies. In the case of the prequels, it often times eclipsed it in terms of quality. When 2005 was over, and Revenge of the Sith had come and gone, Star Wars wasn’t over for me like it was for so many others. I hadn’t abandoned it because of the quality of the prequels. Because to me it was so much more than six films. The movies were the most important aspect, sure, but I enjoyed the prequel era. While Lucas’s movies were bad (at times horrible), with several great moments, they spawned so many interesting stories between the cracks. In comics. And fiction. And in the spectacular “Clone Wars” television show.

I can imagine losing faith in Star Wars if all you know is the films. I don’t begrudge anyone for being done with the franchise after the prequels. Nor do I blame people for hopping back on in hopes that The Force Awakens is awesome. Please, come back to Star Wars. But also understand that some of us never left. Not out of blind loyalty, but because we’re fans. Not fans of the Star Wars movies; fans of Star Wars as a whole, the entire multi-media giant it has grown into.

MCQ-dagobah

Now George Lucas is out. Disney, Kathleen Kennedy, Lawrence Kasdan, and J.J. Abrams are in. The Force Awakens takes place 30 years after Return of the Jedi.Everyone is excited to see what things are like, what’s happened, what’s going, three decades after the death of the Emperor and Darth Vader. So am I. Except, I’ve already seen it. The novels hit “30 years later” a long time ago. In the (now defunct) Expanded Universe, a lot happened in those years. Weddings. Births. Deaths. New villains. New heroes. Wars. Adventures. Tragedies. Triumphs. A fully fleshed-out timeline that has been built upon that first wonderful Timothy Zahn novel.

None of this has any bearing on The Force Awakens. This is a new timeline. A new vision. One that only includes the films and animated TV shows as “canon”. And I’ve come to terms with that. It’s fine. It’s all make-believe bullshit anyway. But it will be impossible for me to not bring all that (fictional) history with me. That knowledge is in my DNA. It’s part of what makes me me.

J.J. Abrams is without a doubt a Star Wars fan. But, if I had to guess, not the same type of Star Wars fan as I am. He loves Star Wars and I think he is going to make a film that represents it well. Except, his Star Wars is not my Star Wars. My Star Wars galaxy is so much bigger than most people’s. The question is really going to be, for me, is “is what J.J. loves about Star Wars the same thing I love about Star Wars?”. Maybe, but maybe not.

RMQ-CarkoonSkiff

What do I want this new movie to be?

I want it to be a good story.

I want it to feel like Star Wars.

I want the Kurosawa screen wipes between scenes instead of dissolves and cuts.

I want Harrison, Mark, and Carrie to be Han, Luke, and Leia.

I want Rey and Finn and Poe to be great characters that I will enjoy watching carry on the saga.

I want it to feel old and new.

I want someone to say “I have a bad feeling about this.”

I want John Williams to make me bawl like a baby.

I want it to pay homage to George but not be an homage to George. There’s a difference. Ask Bryan Singer.

I want Kylo Ren to be badass.

I want Captain Phasma to be badass-er.

I want it to be its own movie but also earn the title “Episode VII” and feel like part of the greater saga.

I want it to be good.

I want it to be great.

I want to love it.

ralph-mcquarrie-star-wars-original-artwork-concept-lucas-films-9

What do I not want?

I do not want Luke Skywalker to be evil.

That is the one thing that could turn me off of Star Wars for a very long time. Make me lose faith in the new regime. I think it would betray the original films, the films that everyone behind The Force Awakens say they are trying to do right by.

“Where’s Luke?” has been the refrain as the hero of episodes IV through VI has been absent from the poster, the trailers, the TV spots, and the toys. “Where is Luke?!?”

There could be many reasons why they haven’t shown Luke Skywalker in any of the promo material. Maybe he’s not in it that much. Maybe he’s only in scenes that are later in the film and they don’t want to spoil anything. Maybe his entrance into the movie is so motherfucking Orson-Welles-in-The-Third-Man-awesome that they want to hold onto it. Make us wait for it. Because when I see Mark Hamill playing Luke Skywalker, 32 years after he did it last, I’m going to cry. The quality of his reveal will determine whether I just get misty-eyed or curl up into a sobbing ball on the floor of the theater. I want his entrance to floor me. I want to feel like a kid again.

He could also be a bad guy. That would be a legitimate reason not to reveal him until we see the film, as some have speculated. I really hope that’s not true.

Because I don’t know what I’d do. They would have to do it REALLY well to keep me watching.

They could have Jar-Jar and Wickett talk about midichlorians for two hours and I’d still be there for Episode VIII. But making Luke the bad guy…?

Let’s hope not. MCQ-emperor

As this posts, 1:20 pm, EST, I am sitting down with my father and brother at the Regal Cinemas Atlantic Station theater in downtown Atlanta to watch The Force Awakens in IMAX 3D. The last time I saw a Star Wars film in the theater with these two people that I love: 1983. So that, in itself, will be special.

If you are reading this within two and a half hours of me posting it, I am currently sitting in a darkened theater with an appropriately StarWarsian mix of hope and fear. I don’t need this movie to be good. If it’s not, I’ll still be a Star Wars fan tomorrow. I’ll be sad Star Wars fan, sure, for a while, but I’m not walking away. When my baseball team has a bad game, a bad season, even a bad decade, I don’t stop wearing their caps. I don’t stop rooting for them, watching their games, going to see them when they come to town. And even if the last year was horrible, I still start the next season with hope that they’ll get it right this time.

I feel the same way about Star Wars. In all of pop culture, there is nothing that is nearer to my heart. That’s why I wanted to write this before seeing the film. To express my undying love. No matter what I am experiencing at this very moment, I will be a Star Wars fan tomorrow.

As for my opinions on The Force Awakens, I will express them. On Saturday I will be recording another episode of the NEEDLESS THINGS podcast where we will have a round table discussion about the film. The episode will be available online soon after the film comes out, if you really want to hear me talk about it. I’m sure I’ll have one or two or five hundred things to say.

I may even let the other panelists talk. If I’m feeling generous.

Thank you, George.

Good luck, J.J.

It’s time. You psyched? I’m psyched.

Let’s do it. Here we go.

Punch it, Chewie.

jump

May the Force Be with You,

Chad J. Shonk
December 15, 2015

Night Stone by Rick Hautala

Night Stone by Rick HautalaWhen I first caught the reading bug in my early teens, it was horror fiction that grabbed hold of me and changed my life. I use to be one of those kids that hated reading. It was torture. A kind soul introduced me to Stephen King and it was then I realized I’d just been reading the wrong books.  In 1990/91 I stumbled across a copy of Night Stone by Rick Hautala. It was the paperback edition with the holographic image. I can’t recall now where I found the book, but it looked creepy so I decided to give it try. The book ended up giving me nightmares. But I kept reading! I suppose reading a scary book just before bed, on the floor, peering under a large bed with darkness creeping across the your blanket, could have played a role.

I read Night Stone while my grandmother was visiting and when my grandmother came to visit I always gave up my bed. Was it just the timing of it all? Reading a horror novel and imagining monsters under the bed? I’ve decided to see if the book that scared me silly back then would do the same 24+ years later. I no longer have the paperback, but the book is now available for Kindle. Look for my verdict next month!

Until then…

Night Stone by Rick Hautala (Kindle)HIDDEN TOYS

The old house in Maine gave Beth the creeps. She couldn’t believe they were really moving in. If it weren’t for the wooden doll she had found in the closet of her new bedroom, she would have been miserable. But the strange hand-carved figure fascinated her, and she sensed with a child’s instinct that she had to hide it from her parents…

HIDDEN EVIL

It was a house of darkness and shadows, but with her secret doll, Beth wasn’t afraid. Not even when she heard the scratching and whispering at night. Not even when the tall, massive stones of her dreams began to ooze with blood. For as she stared into the eyes of the wooden doll, she heard it call to her and felt the force of its evil power. And she knew that it was about to tell her what she had to do…

Take a Look, It’s in a Book, Part 2

A few more smallish book reviews for a few of the things I’ve been reading over the last few months:

Designers-and-Dragons

Designers and Dragons – Shannon Appelcline

For a long time Dungeons and Dragons proved to be one of the ways that I gained the friends I had in high school. That close-knit group which formed due to our mutual love of a game without a board, where you were encouraged to act, where you’d go from Tavern to Dungeon and everything in between. Some of my best memories from High School center around late Friday nights spent laughing and rolling dice until we couldn’t focus anymore.

Designers and Dragons let me tap into that just a little bit by showing me the history of the game(s) I loved so much. Split up by decade (70s, 80s, 90s, & 00s), I have read the 70s and 90s ones so far and the amount of information I’ve gained about not only Dungeons and Dragons, but the whole history of roleplaying left me a bit amazed at how things actually went down back then. Rival groups, people creating new gaming systems over the course of a weekend, and the boom and bust cycle which seems to grip the industry every 10 years or so. The ideas people came up with, started their own companies, made mistakes, broke their word… I mean you could do a movie that would have all the drama you could ever need.

Just fascinating stuff. If you have any interest in the actual history of roleplaying I highly recommend these books.

I’ve taken a break from it for now, but I have the last 2 volumes ready to go when I am ready to delve back in.

The Red King

The Red King – Nick Cole

What do you get when you get a bunch of authors together and decide to end the world?

You get Apocalypse Weird.

Each book written by a different author, the overall series gives us a view of a world gone to hell. Whether it is zombies, or rage monsters, or terminator style creatures, or anything else you could think of… the authors have carved out their own little places across America.

But it all starts with The Red King. And zombies. And trying to find a way in the new world when everything is going to shit. Luckily the best thing about zombie fiction is that while the zombies are nice to see, the real story is always about the people in the middle of it all.

But there is a bigger story going on here. Something possibly otherworldly, possibly alien, possibly older than the world itself… beings who play with humanity like masters play chess.

And the best part is that The Red King is free on Amazon.

And you can see all the books here.

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The Dragon’s Path – Daniel Abraham

I have a friend who is always on a constant lookout for more good fantasy books. Whether it is in tv show form or in comic book form or novels. He’d been telling me about this series (The Dagger and the Coin series) for a few months, so I gave it a shot.

I’m so happy I did. I’m now onto book 2…

You want a book with epic stakes? You want a book where civilizations crumble before your very eyes? You want a book that main characters die?

Well then read something else.

You want to read about people wearing false masks. Trying to cover up who they really are. People on the run from their pasts, trying to avoid their futures. People who are just trying to get by in the world, and yet the world keeps laughing in their faces. That’s what this book is about. It is about a girl without a home. It is about a man who is without a company. It is about a young man who is lost in a sea of politics. And it is about an older man who is lost because his King doesn’t act the way he wished he would.

I wish I could explain more about the book. What I can say is multiple times I laughed with the characters. I had those moments where I wanted to pump my fist because something had happened. And multiple times I sat dumbfounded that one of the characters had acted so… evil isn’t the exact word I want to use… human. They aren’t heroes, they are just people who are flawed and make mistakes.

And I am utterly taken with the entire story.

 

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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 recently released anthology Beyond the Gate, which is free on most platforms!

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

All My Futures…

I’ve become obsessed in the last week.

On one of my various adventures down the rabbit hole that is the internet I somehow found myself staring at this page for a collection of short stories from a couple of years ago. No biggie, I end up at various projects from time to time, but this one stuck in my head.

Since then I’ve been reading these shorts during lunch, trying to squeeze in one more where possible before my lunch break ends.

The Machine of Death (a collection of short stories edited by Ryan North, Matthew Bennardo, and David Malki)

machine-of-death-cover

The premise is simple enough. At some point in the not so distant future some scientists managed to stumble upon a machine which will, through a sample of blood, tell a person how they are going to die.

That, in and of itself is interesting enough for me. But then they take it one more level. Let me give an example:

Guy comes in, gets his death slip given to him and it reads: Old Age.

Great, what an excellent thing. I know I’m going to live probably another 50-60 years. And then he steps outside and gets run over by a car driven by a senior citizen.

Old Age.

Yes, it is cutesy, but there is also a lot of room in there to play with. I believe the good ideas are ones that get you thinking regardless of whether they are your ideas or not. They are the ones that you slap your forehead (hopefully, not too hard) and say “Why didn’t I think of that?” or “That is so obvious, why hasn’t anyone ever thought of that before?”

More than all of that, I like the dilemma it provides. If you had knowledge of what caused your death (not the when or the where, just the How) would you want to know?

Think about it for a second… what if you get Car Crash? If you live in any city, anywhere, then you are completely hosed. So you stop driving, you move to the country where the only cars that might come anywhere near you are the mailman and the occasional delivery you have. You live your days like a hermit until, at some point, the prediction still comes true. Because that’s the kicker: you can’t change your fate. Maybe you can delay it, maybe not.

What about the idea that knowing your future will actually cause you to end up on that path? Maybe you get Car Crash, but because of that prediction you embrace your fate. You live as hard as you possibly can until finally you die in a street race (hey, Furious 7 just came out so it’s on my mind). Who’s to say that had you never gotten your reading, maybe it would have gone differently for you?

That’s the things I love though. These simple ideas which cause me to spend hours on the drive to work trying to figure out what I would do. How I might try and game the system. What type of story would I tell in this strange world.

I’m reminded of the old Twilight Zone episode “Nick of Time” where William Shatner and his wife end up with a broken down car in Small Town, USA. They go to the local diner which has this little fortune teller on the table. You feed it a penny, ask it a question, and it gives you a sorta Magic 8-Ball style answer. But the thing is that this couple gets to the point where they are asking it questions about their future at first, and then that becomes almost asking it permission (When can we leave?). They become paralyzed by this little machine.

nick of time

And maybe that’s because knowing what is to come removes much of the mystery from life. Even if it is a good future told to you, it may still be years away. You may just miss the journey if you’re not careful. You could not live your life because you are too busy waiting for something good to happen. We spend our times clocking into our jobs, waking up at the same time every morning, doing the same things day in and day out because of the idea of what the future might bring. Sometimes you just have to make the decision to embrace things as they are and make the change. Don’t wait for the fortune teller, whether it is a Machine of Death or a a strange woman behind a crystal ball.

 

***

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 FREE!

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

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

Thoughtful Thursday with Chuck Palahniuk

Thoughtful Thursday with Chuck Palahniuk

“The unreal is more powerful than the real. Because nothing is as perfect as you can imagine it. Because its only intangible ideas, concepts, beliefs, fantasies that last. Stone crumbles. Wood rots. People, well, they die. But things as fragile as a thought, a dream, a legend, they can go on and on. If you can change the way people think. The way they see themselves. The way they see the world. You can change the way people live their lives. That’s the only lasting thing you can create.” ~ Chuck Palahniuk

Painting: Midnight Reading, NFS

Many lives, Many Worlds, Many Words

I didn’t read much when I was younger.

I recall a time when I was about 10 years old where during a particularly bad rain storm I let our collie, Holly, in the house. Unbeknownst to me, she decided that she was so happy to be inside that she was going to chew on some of the furniture. Me, being oblivious, didn’t notice her efforts (maybe she was giving me a message to thank me?).

My Mom noticed. My step-Father noticed. And I was given the choice:

Grounded for a month. No TV. And I had to do a book report a week during that time.

Or I could take a whipping and it just be over.

I lasted a week before I opted for the whipping. I think a friend’s mom convinced me that while it would hurt, it would be over and then I could do whatever I wanted after that.

I think about that from time to time. Not so much the whipping or the no TV, but the idea of having reading be a punishment. And it would have been at that time. I think I was still a couple of months away from discovering comic books, so the idea that someone might read for pleasure never occurred to me. I completed one of those book reports before I went with option #2.

Call of the Wild

Strange that it took years before I read anything else of Jack London (To Build a Fire – which might be the perfect short story), an author who I would put as one of my top 5 overall.

Years passed and pretty much the only reading I did that wasn’t in comic form was some assignment from school. I’ve mentioned it once before, but it was my friend Lee, in 6th grade, who set me straight about reading. He slid a copy of On A Pale Horse by Piers Anthony over to me and urged me to begin reading it.

On a Pale Horse

When I finished with that one he had the next book ready. And then the next… all the way until book #5 (book #3, With A Tangled Skein is the first book I’ve ever reread). I would liken him to a drug dealer, but it was worse than that. At one point during 7th grade I believe I read 4 books in 1 week. Literally every moment of my free time that wasn’t spent shooting baskets was occupied with reading.

During high school it became all about the pulp fiction of the day. The various worlds where Dungeons and Dragons were being played with names like Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms, Dark Sun, Spelljammer, and a bunch of others that I’m surely forgetting. Every month a new book (or 2 or 5) seemed to come out and if I couldn’t buy them myself I’d borrow them from friends.

The bad thing about assigned reading was always that in learning about the classics… well, sometimes they aren’t all that great. Yes, for every Alas Babylon that you get to read in class there is a (for me at least) Tale of Two Cities.

That book may go down as the only book I never actually finished while in High School. I have no idea how I managed to pass the tests on the novel as I didn’t bother to get the Cliff notes, and there was no Wiki for me to go and peruse at the time.

After high school I decided that all those authors you learn about in school… maybe I should actually check them out. And so came my education with Twain and Poe and London and Kipling. Somehow, just that act of reading on my own made me want to do more, to discover more. And when I had my fill of those classics I turned to more modern readings of Science Fiction – Dune, Stranger in a Strange Land, and Time Enough for Love.

Each one altered my brain a little bit more, showed me a new universe. And even now, with the Kindle and the onslaught of Independent publishing, I find more and more universes to discover. I still hear those older ones still waiting for me to discover them. In the last year I have a book shelf of non-fiction books I want to read. Books about the history of pirates, or Marvel comics…

It seems weird now to think that there ever could have been a time where reading could have been used as a punishment for me. Now the only way that might work is if you told me I couldn’t read anymore.

Now my biggest problem are the books sitting on the dresser waiting for me to give them a read.

***

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 FREE!

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

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

Death of the Physical

Black Friday and Cyber Monday have come and gone… and for the most part, this year was a complete bust as far as some item we absolutely wanted or needed. It seemed like the majority of deals centered around tablets or video game systems, but since we are lucky enough to have the former and I still have games to play on my XBOX 360 before I need to upgrade systems… there just wasn’t that much out there.

black-friday-casas-bahia

What I did spend a small amount of money on was in the ebook and ecomic realms. And it may be getting to a point where I’m going to need like a year off to read the back-log on my Kindle. Even as I work through the Dark Tower there are a dozen of other books that stare at me from their perch on the bookshelf. They taunt me with those unread words. They challenge me to take a minute away from the glowing screen in the other room and give them a spin. They make it so that I keep my Kindle in the car so that I can squeeze in a little bit of reading time regardless of where I am.

That’s all good and fine, I suppose. I mean, for the most part I’ve not been overly sentimental with books I’ve purchased. I mean, I am a pack rat – so I hold onto things for way too long and that does include some books that I know in my heart of hearts I will never read. But I keep them anyway. But with the digital version I find that I fill up my Kindle with all sorts of books and the list gets longer and longer.

With the ecomics though, that’s been a change over the last year or so. I’m still the guy who goes to the comic store every couple of weeks to pick up his physical copies of the comics I read. I still snag the occasional trade when I need to. But… I find that sometimes having that digital version of something is a better bet for me on some things. And it is damn weird.

All-Devices-Image

So far it has been comics that are either independent and getting a physical copy might be a little more difficult, or it is a mainstream title that I don’t want to pay full price for, so I wait for the $0.99 sales and load up. And Black Friday/ Cyber Monday were good for this. I only spent about $10 and could have easily spent over $100. They had Batman comics for sale, and Image comics for sale, and trades and graphic novels reduced. And my finger hovered over some, but still couldn’t pull that trigger every time.

And it is not about reselling that stops me. The idea that most of the comics I read will not appreciate much over the course of my life is not that big of deal. That boom from the early 90s nearly killed the comics industry. Plus I do have my Walking Dead comic books if I ever want to take a vacation.

I think that with comics, that feeling of opening up the pages, of being able to turn them in my hands… that tactile feeling they provide. I fight against it, but I’m fighting against almost 30 years of conditioning and reading and storing the things. Maybe I’m wrong about that reselling thing as well… more conditioning.

Much like every other item that I keep, these physical copies have memories associated with them. Certainly not every one of them, but a good number. Whether it is those first 4 comics I bought in a convenience store or a Transformers comic before that or even the random Fantastic Four comic I bought at our elementary school’s book fair (still not entirely sure how that issue managed to make it in considering they were fighting against… well, effectively the Devil). I remember passing my copies of Spectacular Spider-Man to my friend Heather during class to let her read about this black costumed Spider-Woman. I remember rushing over to Chad’s house and him and Egg waiting for me to finish the latest issue of the Flash in order to actually be able to talk about the OMG! moment right then.

feature-accessories._V324779281_

And those are just the top of the ice… and I wonder if the digital comics can have that same effect? Will I be able to make any lasting memories while reading an ecomic or does it make it just more disposable… like the Entertainment Weekly’s that build up over the course of a month?

So I probably cling to the paper a bit too much on one side and then not very much at all on the other. Not sure what any of that signifies… not sure if in a year or two from now I’ll have more and more regular series on the iPad and less and less in physical form (even typing that I wanted to write “real form” instead).

longboxes

One foot in the past and one foot inching towards the future… I guess.

Maybe.

***

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. Each episode is only $0.99. But you can go ahead and purchase the full novel (all 6 episodes) right now for $4.99 with the above link!

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

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

Notes from my Nightstand

If you read my post last week, you know I have full schedule at the moment. Even so, I find time to read. Reading is my pre-sleep ritual. It’s how I wind down. Here’s what I’ve read over the last couple months and also what I’m reading now.

Books

The Martian by Andy WeirThe Martian by Andy Weir (Kindle)

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first men to walk on the surface of Mars. Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first man to die there.

The astronomy lover in me and young girl who grew up with a NASA cousin devoured this book. I can’t recall the last science rich novel I read. It was a treat! The Martian wasn’t all science though. There was plenty of tension, but Watney’s humor helped keep things balanced. The ending may not have been much of a surprise, but I was still gripping my Kindle till the end.

The book is already being adapted for film. Matt Damon is playing Watney. I’m not so keen on this choice and now that I’ve read the book, I’m not sure I even have a desire to see it as a movie. I already know what’s going to happen!

The Genome by Sergei LukyanekoThe Genome by Sergei Lukyanenko (Kindle eARC)

Five months after the horrific accident that left him near death and worried that he’d never fly again, master-pilot Alex Romanov lands a new job: captaining the sleek passenger vessel Mirror.  Alex is a spesh—a human who has been genetically modified to perform particular tasks.

More Science Fiction! This time from one of my favorite authors, Sergei Lukyanenko, author of the Night Watch series. The Genome was not what I expected but I still enjoyed the story. Reading translated works is sometimes a challenge. Translations can alter the original flow of a sentence or a scene, but I was able to overlook that here. What I enjoy most from Lukyanenko’s novels are his characters. The Genome is a quicky SciFi novel that weaves a galactic mystery (there’s a Sherlock Holmes spesh!).

 

What to read next… I’m never without options on my Kindle or even the bookshelves in my room. The top three books in my Kindle are: Beyond the Gate (featuring a story by Tessera’s John R McGuire), Engraved on the Eye by Saldin Ahmed, and The Imago Sequence by Laird Barron. All of these are short story collections.

Comics

My current pull list at my local comic shop features:

 

 Art Related

Fantasy IllustratorI always have art related reading materials close at hand, though they are not usually my first choice for bedtime reading. My newest purchase is the latest installment of Fantasy Illustrator from ImagineFX. This is the traditional media edition (pencil, oils, acrylics and more). I have never bought an issue of ImagineFX that didn’t teach me something. These magazines are worth every bit of that $17.99 (and more for the big issues).

Whatnot and more Whatnot

The last week and a half has been exhausting. I feel like I’ve traveled through the Hell Mouth and back. After four days of trying to avoid a serious situation, things were pushed to the brink. I rushed my cat Hunter to the Vet at 11 p.m last Thursday night. I have the best Vet in world, one of those exceptionally caring individuals. He gave me is cell phone number and said call at any hour. When I called he was in bed, but got up, dressed and met us at his practice. Hunter came home on Monday night and he’s doing better, not 100% but getting there. I’m nowhere near 100% but I keep pushing ahead nonetheless, except when it came to this blog post. I had planned to put together a post on books with monsters, something fun for October, but I just stared at the screen. Not this week. Maybe next week, or the week after, but I can’t do it now. Instead, you get this random post about whatnot.

whatnot

used to not give the names of everything
Put your pot, the corpse and whatnot in the back of the car.
by eugenie March 01, 2004

*******

The example! I won’t be sharing anything about corpses in my whatnot post. The best I can do is share this photo I took of the cemetery in my front yard. 😀

My Halloween Cemetery

What else? I’m reading a digital ARC of a new (new to the US) book by Sergei Lukyanenko (author of the Night Watch series), originally titled Геном. His characters are always wonderfully complicated on the outside, but down-to-earth on the inside. I’m over 50% of the way through the book but I’ve been too tired to read the last two nights. 🙁

The Genome by Sergei Lukyanenko

Cats make superb pirates. All Hunter needs is a pirate hat and a hook.

Hunter the Pirate

I have two Etsy coupon codes running till November 1st. Trick or Treat, you choose.

Trick or Treat

Oh, and I did this… You can too. Just click on the link in the lower right of the image.

http://amandamakepeace.com

http://makepeacestudios.etsy.com

Will you be Attending Dragon Con 2014?

Dragon Con 2014 is one week away! Are you going? Are you excited? We are! John McGuire, J Edward Neill and I, along with Robert Jeffrey II, will be attending this year’s event. Here are some official blurbs about where you can find us:

Amanda Makepeace

Amanda is a Dragon Con 2014 Art Show Participant. You can see her Fantasy paintings in the Main Gallery of the Art Show, in the Hyatt Regency Atlanta. Selected artworks will be available to purchase as prints in the Art Show Print Shop.

Saturday, August 30th Amanda will be leading a panel on the Basics of Digital Painting in the Hyatt, room Hanover G. You can download the full schedule here:

2014 Art Show Programming

 

Like her Facebook Page, or let her know you’re attending via the Event below, for more details leading up to this year’s convention.

 

John McGuire

Author of The Dark that Follows and creator of The Guilded Age comic, John McGuire will be attending Dragon Con this year. John and Tessera guest blogger, Robert Jeffrey II, will be at the Terminus panel at 8 p.m. on Saturday Aug 30th. In addition, they will be around the Terminus Media table (please see the guide for the exact location) at various times throughout the weekend, so if you have a minute or two stop by and say hey.

 

J Edward Neill

Author of the Tyrants of the Dead series and co-author of the upcoming serial novel Hollow Empire will be pit-stopping at Dragon Con. He’ll have free bookmarks, car magnets, and free books to dish out. He hasn’t been to D-Con since 1995, during which he stepped on Glenn Danzig’s foot, saved his friend from drowning in a bathtub of vomit, and cruised the open streets while searching for bottles of Captain Morgan.

So please be gentle…

Like J Edward’s Facebook page here. Shamble after him on Twitter here.

And to check out his ghoul-tastic website, click the Orb of Souls.

TheOrbOfSoulsSliderBizCard

 

 

Books that Have Stayed with Me

For those of you who don’t know, I’m on Tumblr, and there’s an awful lot of tagging posts that pop up on my dashboard every day. When you tag someone, you’re asking and/or challenging them to most often share a list. Yesterday I was tagged to share ten books that have touched me in some way. I thought I’d share them here too. Some of these books made my cry, some terrified me, some enlightened me and some fed my soul. Several of these books I read a decade ago or more and I they still sit on my shelf. What ten books would be on your list?