Eight Years and Counting

 

Where last week I took a second to look at my writing releases and set goals for this upcoming year, I also like to take a minute to take a look back that this thing I do on a weekly basis and highlight those blogs that I’m particularly proud of, or maybe had a big impact on me, or just ones that I like that I think should get a second look (or a first look in many cases).

Love’s Labour’s Liabilities – Postscript

I always like learning about how other people’s Kickstarters have gone. Normally you can glean one or two things that they did that either you can “steal” for your next campaign or avoid. Sometimes you can get a better idea of why they made the decisions they made.

That’s what this blog post was all about, looking at our second RPG Zine’s Kickstarter and talking about why we made the decisions we made, and whether they may or may not be the best decisions (and what we might do in the future).

A Love Renewed?

I love Spider-Man. I grew up on the character. I have hundreds (if not thousands) of comics where he is featured. I’ve read through the good (great) stories and some of the worst and continued with my guy.

And then one day, I had to stop.

And then, many, many years later, I read Spider-Man again (only it wasn’t Peter Parker… and it wasn’t Miles Morales).

Karnivool, My Pandemic Band

With the world gone mad, I turned to music to help get me through the rough times. That same music will keep me company late into the nights where I’m writing. Sometimes you can find a band that just speaks to you in a way that you hadn’t felt in a long time. Their songs become a part of you so quickly that before you realize it, you’ve listened to their albums multiple times over the course of a day… every day of the week.

Westley

All my life I’ve found connections with my pets, each of them special in their own way. But this last November, my little cat passed over the Rainbow Bridge, and I had to write down everything I could about him so that in the years to come, if I’ve let some little piece of our history slip into the recesses of my mind, this post will pull it all back.

As I say at the beginning of the piece, “I want to remember it all. I need to remember it all.”

 

***

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

Let Me Sleep, It’s Christmas Time

I find myself listening to A Perfect Circle at some way too late part of the night (morning) staring at a blank screen. Maynard can’t help me out here, though. The icon flashes at me, mocking me with my lack of inspiration.

This is a problem.

That 5 weeks or so between Thanksgiving and Christmas are a tidal wave of events and responsibilities. It is the slowest and fastest month of the year. I feel like at times everything blurs together and before you know it I am in the car traveling to family (which is obviously great, but they don’t live very close…). Then I blink again and it is all over. I’ve somehow made it through another December of crazy to that magically week where I’m lucky enough to take off from the day job in order to reorient myself a little bit before we get to do it all again with the new year.

During this month, my wife stretches herself even thinner than I do (heck more than many people I know). She is a machine when it comes to giving her time to others, but also just in the day-to-day things that normally come up, she’s always got everything planned out. But the calendar begins to fill up with each new event. And it begins to stress her out. How can she fit this friend in or that obligation into the month where apparently EVERYTHING happens.

Her being stressed out stresses me out, but…

She was talking to someone over the course of the month and said something that nearly made me choke on whatever I might have been drinking at the time. She said something to the effect that she loved this time of the year because of the whirlwind of activities. That seeing all these friends and coworkers made it great. And even the other obligations didn’t dissuade her of those thoughts.

Funny Cat Work From Home Office Meme

I could scarcely believe that this was the same woman speaking these words into existence. And while I gave her a ton of grief over those statements, I sometimes forget that just because we all might be stressed out doesn’t mean we aren’t having a good time. She is definitely more extroverted than me, so she needs that activity, whereas I would be happy with just a non-stop series of “Bed to Couch” days.

This brings me to this week. I have to make sure to enjoy the week, the calm moments. I’ve been adding things to the To-Do list for the past six weeks (“oh, I’ll handle that during the week between Christmas and New Year). If I’m not careful, it will all begin to blur as well, and I’ll get the not so much fun version of Time Travel to the future where I’m sitting at my desk at work again on January 3, 2022, wondering where all the free time went.

***

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

 

A Love for Everyday – 9

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

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

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

As these holidays come to a close, I thought I’d share a few of my favorites from these 365 days.

January 1

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

Nicole Krause, The History of Love

February 2

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

Ray Bradbury

March 16

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

Neil Gaiman, The Sandman

April 19

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

So tweasure your wuv.

The Princess Bride

May 4

I love you.

I know.

The Empire Strikes Back & Return of the Jedi

June 19

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

Peter Pan

July 16

If you have just one,

Let me be that love

If you have lots of others,

Please let me be

Please let me be one

Let me be one

Jonah Matranga, Crush On Everyone

August 13

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

Gilmore Girls

September 30

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

Serenity

October 31

My dearest friend

If you don’t mind

I’d like to join you by your side

Where we can gaze into the stars

And sit together now and forever

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

The Nightmare Before Christmas

November 8

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

Calvin and Hobbes

December 29

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

Epic how?

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

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

No one writes songs about the ones that come easy.

Veronica Mars

***

Hope you have some great holidays with those you love.

***

John McGuire is the 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

Repost – Just Finish It

I’ve gone to plenty of writing panels over the years hoping to discover, like Ponce de Leon looking for the Fountain of Youth, the secret formula to their success. How the heck did they manage to get up there with their book, comic, etc? Most of the time I do learn something, some nugget of truth that makes the trip worthwhile (maybe a technique or some obstacle they managed to overcome). But there really is one thing that separates them from those of us in the room:

You want to be a writer?  Then write, sure, but FINISH the task.

Too much I get caught up in the idea of writing. Make sure that I get my WORDS in for the day, or make sure that the latest chapter gets revised.

w-b-park-finish-it-why-would-i-want-to-finish-it-new-yorker-cartoon

 But at some point you have got to get to “Pencil’s Down”. This is something I have only just now begun to understand, and I am not even close to where I want to be.  I have only scratched the surface of this for myself and constantly have to fight to get there.

There is a difference between “Wanting” to be a writer (nevermind the great) and “Being” a writer.

It is the “Doing”.

In everyday life there are people who WANT to do, be, have something.  How many of them take the time to sit down (or stand up as the case may be) and actually do it?  How many distractions can one person have before their WANT simply becomes their DREAM and then later their REGRET.

Dreams Road Sign

 

This is the mantra I have to keep telling myself over and over. When I get tired or don’t want to sit down at the computer, I repeat it.

It seems so simple. It seems like one of those things that you read and say “Of course. What else would you think you needed to do?”

Even knowing it isn’t enough. It’s never that easy. How many ideas do I currently have sitting on my computer or flash drive that are waiting for me to finish them?  Dozens.  How many are finished?  Not nearly enough (not by a long shot). So why can’t I get there every time? What’s the hold up?

Sometimes it is the FEAR. The FEAR that what I’m writing is not going to be liked. I’m just as worried that by finishing said story or script or novel or whatever that people will read the FINISHED product and not like it and then where did my work get me?  What a waste, right?

ed-dans-ed-wood-de-tim-burton-10967401cmebh_1713

Really? Worst film you ever saw. Well, my next one will be better.

I have to convince myself that it isn’t a waste. That with each word that I write (and rewrite and edit and then even the ones I cut) means I am one inch closer to where I need to be. I get to that million words and beyond.

So that unfinished thing is doing you so much good then?  Sure, you can’t get hurt if you don’t finish it, but I have to say, putting that final word down on the page and knowing that you have actually completed something.  That’s got to be worth something.

Right?

When somebody posts their finished piece of art or script or whatever, they are 1 million times ahead of me with my dozens of unfinished products.  It doesn’t matter how much better of a writer I THINK I am because they have already lapped me 4 or 5 times.

I know plenty of people (I am one of those people some times) that start a project and get bored and then jump to another project, get bored, wash, rinse, repeat.  At the end of a year they have enough stuff that you’d think they’d have a Finished Product, but instead it is spread out over ten different things. Ten different UNFINISHED things. Ugh.

It’s an odd thing that really in the last year I feel like I’ve started to have real successes on the writing side of things, but even those are still not quite finished. Sure, issue #1 of The Gilded Age is complete, but I think I allowed myself about 5 minutes to enjoy that it existed in a tangible format before my brain started spinning on when the next issue would be finished. Same with Tiger Style #1.

The greatest thing about comic books is that it is a collaborative process. You need a writer and an artist and maybe an inker and a colorist and a letterer and an editor before the whole thing is ready and done.

The worst thing about comic books is that it is a collaborative process. And that you need to have those other people because when any one point slips, the whole process comes to a complete halt. I don’t get the artist the next issue’s script, well I guess that is going to delay the book. The inker doesn’t get the pencils by the deadline… now we have another delay. And so on.

It can be maddening. It’s one of the reasons I started writing a novel in the first place. Finally, something that is totally on me and only me to get done.

Only. On. Me.

Gulp.

Yeah, so now who do I get to blame when my next chapter isn’t written yet? Who do I get to blame when that second draft is still waiting to get done?

Oh, that would be me.

Even now as I seemingly crawl through the last bit of editing on my first novel, The Dark That Follows, it doesn’t really exist until it is done. Before that it is just another unfinished project hoping for me to put the time in and get it out the door. The serial I’m working on with J Edward Neill, Hollow Empire, has many chapters completed in various forms (some in needed of editing, some ready for a read through, etc.), but until Episode 6 is complete and edited and out the door it just is another thing “I’m working on”. The next issue of The Gilded Age or Tiger Style or whatever else is coming down the pipeline.

So I repeat my mantra and put my butt in the seat and start typing.

***

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

Piece by Piece – The Dark That Follows Short

From the world of The Dark That Follows comes a short story featuring the main character, Jason Mills.

For those not familiar with The Dark That Follows, it’s the story of a Fortune Teller who can really see the future. He has a client come in and when he peers into what is going to happen to him, he finds nothing but darkness. Through the course of the book, he finds out there are larger forces at work trying to bring about the end of the world.

Piece by Piece focuses on something a little less “end of the world”. Jason is approached by a client who wants to find an inheritance left to him… he just isn’t sure where it is. It’s a use of the Future Sight power I’d not seen really before. If you’d like to check it out for free, you can find it on the Tessera Site here.

 

PIECE-BY-PIECE-COVER

 

***

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

A Love For Everyday – 8

 

Four years ago, I created a homemade book for my wife with all these quotes about Love from our favorite TV Shows and movies and books and then I added to it great quotes about love from history or just great quotes about love from anyone. For the past three years, I’ve shared a few from the book around the holidays.

Part 1 is here.

Part 2 is here.

Part 3 is here.

Part 4 is here.

Part 5 is here.

Part 6 is here.

Part 7 is here.

 

January 4

 

One frequently only finds out how really beautiful a woman is, until after considerable acquaintance with her.

Mark Twain

 

February 7

 

If I could have just one wish,

I would wish to wake up everyday

To the sound of your breath on my neck,

The warmth of your lips on my cheek,

The touch of your fingers on my skin,

And the feel of your heart beating with mine…

Knowing that I could never find that feeling

With anyone other than you.

Courtney Kutchta, If I Could Have One Wish

 

March 2

Never look for a good face,

It will turn old one day.

Never look for a good skin,

It will wrinkle one day.

Never look for a hot body,

It will change one day.

Never look for nice hair,

It will turn white one day.

Instead, look for a loyal heart that will love you everyday.

Anonymous

 

April 7

 

I believe a strong woman may be stronger than a man, particularly if she happens to have love in her heart. I guess a loving woman is indestructible.

John Steinbeck, East of Eden

 

 

May 24

 

You are my best friend, my human diary, and my other half. You mean the world to me and I love you.

Anonymous

 

June 13

 

Sometimes I think I made him up. Like I reached through the ether, through the haze, and tapped him on the shoulder and said, “Hey. Please, come wake me up.”

Dakota Skye

 

 

July 6

 

I wish I was a radio song, the one that you turned up

Pearl Jam, Wishlist

 

August 5

 

Know that love is truly timeless.

Mary M. Ricksen

September 2

 

A kiss blown

Is a kiss wasted,

The only real kiss,

Is a kiss tasted.

Anonymous

 

 

October 4

 

The luckiest man in the world is he who finds true love.

Dracula

 

November 28

 

And suddenly all the love songs were about you.

Anonymous

 

 

December 16

 

My heart is, and always will be, yours.

Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility

 

 

 

 

 

Westley

Westley at age 8. Sitting at the window.

I want to remember it all. I need to remember it all.

I told him in some of our many quiet moments that when he passed over it would break me. It wasn’t a glib comment. It wasn’t trying to make it seem like our bond was more than what it was. It was simply the truth.

Today… I’m broken. Fractured in a way that I can barely comprehend. It washes over me in waves where I’m fine, and then suddenly I’m wailing because a moment has hit me where he was normally with me. I reread what I’ve written here and break down repeatedly.

So I need to share his story. I need everyone to know who he was and what he meant to us.

I’ve said it to multiple people but he was my cat for 12 years, and it wasn’t enough time. I know that when we lost our first cat Cleo, we only had 8 years with her, and I felt cheated. I heard about other people having 10 or 12 or 15 years with their pets, and I was jealous. But I understand that it is never enough time.

It’s crazy that these little furry critters can make such an impact on our hearts and our lives. It shouldn’t be possible. When Cleo passed away, the house was too quiet. For those next 3 or 4 days, my wife and I couldn’t be in different rooms from each other. It was just too much to deal with. We’d follow each other from the bedroom to the living room to the kitchen and back again. Just being in some connection with each other made it a tiny bit more bearable.

Our house wasn’t a home without her.

Westley and Inigo in their white blanket. 7 weeks old.

It was a week or so when we got the boys (Westley and Inigo). I wasn’t even sure that enough time had passed to honor Cleo, but it was an adoption day so we said what I’m sure so many people have said in the past: “We’ll just go to look.” Inigo sold it for the two of them in the little kitten audition (Westley was too busy napping). After having a girl cat for 8 years we were opening our home to two orange little boys named Goblet and Cauldron who quickly became Inigo and Westley (named after the characters from The Princess Bride). We brought them home…

And they healed our hearts.

They showed us a level of love from the very beginning that I didn’t know was entirely possible. And Westley bonded with me almost immediately. He would lay next to me on the couch or climb onto my shoulders or snuggle in my arm at night (after giving my nose a few licks).

I told him and anyone who asked about him that I don’t know if a cat has ever loved me as much as he did. Every day he always wanted to be with me. He’d curl up in my arms while I was writing at the computer. So many words from my novels are the result of the two of us working late nights.

Me, Westley, and Inigo. The boys are about 1 year old.

He was a leaper. While Inigo is more of a low to the ground cat, Westley loved to get as high as he could in the house, jumping from countertop to the top of the refrigerator and to the tops of our Chester Drawers. Even as he got older and wasn’t always sure he still could make a jump up to a table, I’d say to him “I believe in you.” and he’d try one more time and make it.

When he drank from his water bowl (or pretty much anytime he drank from anything) he’d shake one front paw and then another as if he’d gotten them wet (he hadn’t). The first time I noticed it, I laughed out loud.

Early on though, he had a big problem with his not wanting to always use a litter box. We tried everything, even hiring a Cat Behavrioist in order to try and fix the problem. We added about 7 litter boxes to the house. We replaced the floors in the house (partially due to him and partially due to wanting new floors). We scolded him. Yelled.

I’d tell him that if we could just fix his peeing problem he’d be the perfect cat.

And then my wife figured out that she could praise him when he used the litter box. Bribe him with treats. And it worked like a charm. He would even wait until one of us was near a litter box before actually doing his business, to make sure we saw. And he even would attempt a fake-out from time to time, walk into the box and then immediately get out – to which we told him that wasn’t going to work!

Courtney and Westley in his first snow.

But he was always my perfect cat no matter what.

We had conversations over the years with me asking him how his day went and him telling me all about the birds and squirrels he watched from the windows. I remember my dad being in town one day and watching the two of us go back and forth. He looked at me and said “You two really did just have a full conversation, didn’t you.” But that was how it would always go.

He and his brother fought once in a while, but mostly they loved each other. We’ve begun to go through our pictures (something else I love my wife for doing over the years because I’m terrible about remembering to do it), and there are so many pictures where the two of them are curled up together in a blanket or on the bed. Or laying on either my wife or myself. We even have a short video where Inigo is holding Westley down because he needed to clean his head (earning the common joke/question in our house of “Why is his head so dirty?”).

As the years passed, he started climbing directly into my arms while we watched tv, activating his purring immediately, and then burying his head into my shoulder as he slept. Those moments I treasured each and every time it happened.

Westley curled up in my arms while Inigo looks on.

He loved to give out love nips, which sometimes hurt enough that we had to scold him. Courtney finally settled on telling him “Be sweet… you know be sweet” when the impending bite was coming, and he took that to heart would halt his attack. At least for a second or two.

He groomed me. I’d never had a cat do that, but he’d wait until I got out of the shower and then with my hair still wet he’d lick the water from my hair. Sometimes he’d even use his paws to “hold” my head in place while he did it. I joked that he was going to lick me bald (luckily that joke didn’t come true).

Whenever I went to the restroom, no matter where he was in the house, he’d come running and paw at the door until I let him in. Sometimes he’d just take a look at me and then leave as if to say “I’m just checking on you, Dad.” Other times he’d hang out and want head rubs. However, I had to be careful because if I wasn’t paying attention he would go for a love nip on the side of my butt.

We did what my mom called “shotgunning” where I’d open my mouth wide to breathe and he’d nearly stick his whole nose in there to get a whiff. I don’t even know when that started, but it was a fixture between us until his very last week.

He loved milk… which I realize isn’t strange for a cat, but I swear, he could be upstairs, asleep, and if I fixed myself a glass, he was suddenly in the kitchen meowing at me. It was magic.

He loved to be brushed as he reached adulthood. It was something I tried one day, not knowing if he’d like it and he nearly fell off the desk, he was so into it. I could even bribe him with just the idea of the brush. I’d bring it out and he’d immediately come running. The purr would be so loud that anyone on a conference call could likely hear it.

Westley helping with the Gilded Age Kickstarter fulfillment.

He even roleplayed with me. My group plays online most Saturday nights, and while he might make an appearance on camera (when I used one), mostly he’d voice his opinion on how the game was progressing (which I’d like to think the other players appreciated his feedback). Some nights he’d purr loud enough for them to hear through the microphone.

He loved to lay on my wife’s laptop while she worked. It would be sitting in the docking station closed, while she did her day job or any of her charitable activities. Though, we both believe that he might have caused one of the laptops to overheat doing this.

He loved to be warm. Whether it was sitting behind the TV on the DirecTV box or in the garage during the summer or just upstairs during the winter months (our upstairs is about 5 degrees warmer than the downstairs).

He would sometimes wait for us to come home by sitting at the front windows. I’d start walking toward the door and see that little face waiting for me, and I’d grin. No matter how bad a day I might be having, at that moment he was able to wash it all away.

I’m thankful that my wife has been able to work at home over the last four to five years. It meant that she could spend time with the cats all day, every day. She would tell Westley all about her frustrations and triumphs. Then, over the last year, while we were all dealing with Covid, I was blessed with the ability to work from home. This meant that my time with both of the little boys was nearly 24 hours a day. Some afternoons I would take a little break and Westley would come and lay on my chest while I lay on the bed. I’d rub him and feel the purring through my whole body.

My snuggle buddy.

He was never afraid… I don’t know how that was possible, but it is true. He was our greeter when people came over to the house. Where Inigo was a bit of a fraidy cat, Westley would come right up to the guest and check them out, sometimes talking to them immediately and sometimes just wanting some rubs.

As time went on, he had some medical issues. He had kidney stones at one point that required vet visits and eventually had us switch the boys’ food to science diet in order to ensure it didn’t happen again. Later he developed pancreatitis, which made him not want to eat. But we had the medicine on hand for it and had it down to a science to get him back to normal.

In fact, this last week, that’s what we thought we were dealing with again. And where his personality would dip during those first days, it came back on day 4 and the morning of day 5 – which normally meant we were on the mend. I spent Tuesday night with him upstairs (where he liked to be when he didn’t feel well), and rubbed and talked to him about how he needed to get better and start eating again. I told him we had more adventures to go on. I told him I loved him and that he was a good boy and that he was my best friend.

I didn’t know it, but I was telling him goodbye.

Sadly, that wasn’t the case. At some point after we came home from a bite to eat, his breathing had changed to extremely fast… too fast. We got worried and called our vet who Facetimed with us. She said we should take him to the 24-hour vet.

That’s when the fear really crept in. I told him again I loved him, and that he needed to fight this. But I also pulled him close and said “I know I’m being selfish, so if you can’t fight anymore, if you need to rest, it’s going to be ok. We love you.”

Those are really the last words I got to say to him. He stayed overnight at the 24-hour vet and then my wife transferred him to our vet that next morning with the idea that they’d figure out the breathing problem and we’d have a game plan on how to get him healthy again.

Westley in mid-yawn.

But his little body couldn’t take it. He had fought to be with us for as long as he could, but he couldn’t do anymore. He started having seizures and they had to perform CPR on him. And finally, Dr. Carson, who we had told her if she needed to make a decision for him before we got there that we trusted her to do what was best for our friend, she had to make the ultimate choice to spare him from the pain he was surely going through.

I regret that we weren’t there with him with he passed over. I’m sure he was scared, and I’d vowed that if I could, I’d be there for my animals no matter how painful. So I’m incredibly sorry that we couldn’t hold him in those final moments.

But I also don’t know that I could have made the decision to put him down very easily because of what I’m going through right now. Which would have been extremely selfish on my part.

I think he knew that, so his last act of kindness was to spare us from that choice by passing on.

Like I said, he was always so brave. I wish I could be more like him in that.

I know I’m forgetting things that I need to put down somewhere because it isn’t enough. None of this is enough to convey the bond I had with my friend.

I’m someone who loves with my whole heart. Which I believe is a good thing most of the time. When I’m with you, I’m all in. I believe that means my people know they can’t count on me when the bad times come. But it also comes at a price. Which means I don’t know how to harden my heart at all. Which means I can’t protect myself at all.

Westley found a hangout spot ontop of the refrigerator, in a water bottle box.

I’m raw and exposed right now.

That’s what I’m dealing with right now, the pit in my heart is there and I don’t have a way to combat it at all.

I also know that when I see others who have suffered the loss of a pet, I want to reach out and say something, but I’m not sure I do a great job with that. I want to hug them and let them cry as much as they want and try to just be there for them. I wish I knew the words to say, but there really aren’t words for that kind of loss.

To know the level of unconditional love from a pet is amazing, but to have one like Westley was a true gift that I know could never be replaced. He was my companion. My Partner in Crime. My late-night buddy. And the best friend a man could ever ask for. I consider myself lucky that he chose me for his human.

In these days since his passing, my wife and I and Inigo are pretty much inseparable. We lean on each other for support, and I cannot explain how much I appreciate my wife in all of this. She is the one person who gets me utterly and completely and shares my pain in a way that only can strengthen our bond.

For Inigo, he is doing his best to take care of his two humans. He is either sleeping with one of us or during the day hours, is normally nearby for scratches and rubs, or to lay against one of us trying to make us feel better. It saddens me to think about what he may or may not understand about the change which has occurred. He was with his brother technically longer than any one else (we got them when they were 6 weeks old) and he’s never known being an only cat. But he is also a very, very good boy, and I know that he will do everything he can to help us get through this tough time.

Westley and Inigo taking care of each other in an office chair (or maybe trying to claim the whole chair).

***

If you have a pet, go and hug them and shower them with kisses. Tell them that you love them and that they are a good boy or good girl. For Westley and all the other pets who have touched our lives and made the days and night fuller than they were before they came into being. Hug them tight and cherish your moments with them because there are never enough.

***

I’ve written just over 3000 words, and it has been the easiest and hardest writing I’ve ever done because it is easy to write about someone you loved with your entire soul. But it is hard because I know I need to do this to help heal just a little bit, and I know I’m leaving moments out. There also is a bit of finality to this writing, as if by finishing this post, I’m ready to accept things.

But I don’t want to accept any of it. I want my friend back. I want more time. I want more memories.

So I want to end it this the same way that I ended my post on Facebook because it sums up my little boy and my feelings for him.

In our quiet moments, I shared my hopes and dreams and fears. He never judged, but instead stayed with me and listened to his Human with a soft purr to let me know he was listening. I made sure to tell him over and over, through the years, that I loved him and that he was a good boy.

In fact, he was the best boy.

I’m going to miss you, buddy. I know Cleo and Fi are welcoming you across the Rainbow Bridge. Until we meet again, I love you, Westley.

Me with my boys.

***

Westley McGuire was the greatest little buddy I could have ever asked for. He helped make the long nights of writing not quite so lonely. I will forever be grateful to have had him as my pet and me as his human.

***

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

Repost – Twenty Things I’ve Learned From Concerts

It’s been a while since I’ve been to a show, though during this past year I have tuned into two different concert casts (or whatever they were called), so it was a little bit of a taste. At some point, I’d like to hit a couple of shows when some of my favorites come to town again.

***

Thinking I’m 25 again last week, my wife and I went to see concerts on back to back nights. A Perfect Circle and Soundgarden. Very different vibes at both shows (obviously), but I realized that over the years no matter what band it was I saw there were a number of “truths” I’ve experienced again and again.

1 – The “I Pre-Gamed Way Too Hard” Category

You should do what inspires you by singing (shouting along), swaying in place, jumping in the pit, or even dancing like no one is looking. It’s one thing to “Feel the Flow”, and it’s another to “flow” right into your neighbors. Especially if they are not currently anywhere near a pit… and you’re just drunk or high or both.

 

2 – The Hazards Of Having Seats On The End Of The Row

Look, I get it. This is your first night out in forever. The kids are up your ass all the time, the boss is up your ass the rest of the time, and you just need a night out. So you and a couple of friends head to the show, grab a beer and settle in for-

Excuse me.

Right, gotta get a refill. I understand. Especially since you’re getting one for your buddies as well-

What’s that? You’re only getting one for you? And as soon as you get back and I’m back engrossed in this song, your buddy is going to tap me and try to get by.

OK… but that guy is going to come back with a beer for your other friend right? No? Just one for him? And you’re saying he’ll interrupt my favorite song, clearly seeing that I’m REALLY belting out the song, thus completely pulling me out of the moment?

Yeah, no worries.

Dick.

 

3 – The Guys Who Think They Are Literally Anywhere Else Other Than The Concert

You know who I’m talking about. These assholes are standing 5 feet away from you carrying on the deepest, truest conversation anyone has ever had before. They are totally engrossed in just being there for each other, no matter what is going on with the band.

Good of you to spend $70 each to do something you could have done at Waffle House.

 

4 – Everything Happening On My Phone Right Now Is Way More Interesting Than Live Music

Obviously this has only been an issue since the turn of the century or so. I mean, how in the world did old Grandpa ever get by without checking their Twitter/Facebook/Whatever feeds?

Again, Great use of your money. Next time you give me half, and we’ll go outside, and I’ll kick you in the balls, and we’ll call it a day.

OK?

5 – Oh, You Didn’t Know? I Am A Famous Director

You know what is awesome? When you see a show and then later own it. It allows you to truly relive the experience and listen to it over and over again.

You know what is NOT awesome? When you have your phone up in a way that I can’t see the show in front of me. All because you have to have a really poor quality video of the whole concert apparently.

 

6 -I Like To Swim, Into The Mosh

No matter what the band, if the music is heavy enough, and there is room to be had – it is very probable a Pit will be formed. With the appearance of that natural phenomenon comes another absolute:

There will always be some asshole who thinks the Mosh Pit is a way to try and hurt someone.

You know the guy. He’s the one who made sure to go out and buy steel-toed boots “just because” and now he’s trying to destroy your kneecap.

The worst part is he probably isn’t even a fan of the band at all.

 

7 – Wait… Wait… Wait… What’s Happening!?!

No matter how far away you position yourself from where you THINK the Pit is going to form, you will be completely wrong. It is an unpredictable beast set to engulf you in its wake.

You have been warned.

 

8 – Sometimes Being Tall Sucks, This Is One Of Those Times

If you are tall you will be asked to help everyone up to start crowd surfing. Work out in the weeks leading up to the show otherwise you risk the chance of looking like a complete dick when the person can’t get two feet off the ground.

 

9 – Always Looking For An Opportunity

That said, if you are a woman and want to crowd surf then ask away. I don’t know of anyone who has refused to help a female “up”. However, you must steel yourself against the hundreds of sweaty hands which will grab you all over.

And I mean ALL OVER.

10 – Whelp, That’s It. Go On And Save Yourself!

When someone goes down in the Pit you’d think that’s the end for you. There are dozens of feet prepared to curb stomp you into oblivion, but that generally doesn’t happen. There is always 5+ people will immediately move to help you up.

Except for the asshole looking to hurt you – stay away from that guy.

 

11 – I Wish They’d Played Only Songs No One Knew

You know the person. They want to make sure you know the third song in the set was actually a B-side from their original pressing of the second album only available in Germany.

But you know a girl, so you’ve had it forever.

 

12 – Why Won’t They Just Let Us In? That’s The Rule! They Go, Then I Go, Then…

No matter how state of the art the venue is – getting out of the parking lot is still going to suck.

 

13 – Hey, I Know That You Didn’t Buy A Shirt Inside

Not saying you should give money to the bootleg t-shirt vendors… you want to support the band you came to see.

But I will say my Metallica shirt from 1994 might have been the best $10 I’ve ever spent.

 

14 – Philosophy According To The Band

Weed is the reason for sperm… according to Maynard James Keenan (Tool, A Perfect Circle, Pusifer).

Make of that what you will.

15 – Your Tiger Style Is No Match For My Miller Style!

There is clearly a martial art style waiting to get invented. It would be based strictly on being able to navigate a concert without spilling your beer. I mean, I’m not a drinker, and it’s damn impressive.

 

16 – My Pyrotechnics Never Burned Anyone!

Strobe lights are annoying most of the time.

Seriously. Less is more in their usage.

 

17 – Yes, That Is My Tent Set Up Over There. No, I Don’t Have Anything Better To Do.

Hey, look at you. You stood in line for hours beforehand all in the hopes of getting right up front when the doors open. And you did it!

Your punishment for standing right at the barrier is being crushed by the mass of people behind you.

Hope it was worth it!

18 – Dance Puppets! Dance!

I get it. You have played for the last hour or possibly hour and a half. You are parched. The drummer is about to pass out from exhaustion. The guitarist is destroying his fingers with every note he plays. The bassist has vibrated his body so he is in an alternate reality.

You clearly need a couple of minutes to compose yourself before you finish melting my face off with this concert.

Just don’t make us beg. Don’t make us clap like well trained seals for you to come back out. We want you to play more songs, otherwise we wouldn’t still be here.

Encores are weird.

 

19 – I Will Not Be Trapped With The Rest of You!

Who the hell are the people leaving the show early? Who are they? Why did they spend the money? Why did they come at all? What is going on anywhere else that should make you think:

Yeah, this was a pretty good show. But you know what would make it even better? Leaving before the band does!

I just don’t get it.

 

20 – Without Fail

There is always going to be some asshole who shouts out “Play some Skynyrd!” If you’re lucky, the band will oblige him for a few seconds.

But only for a few seconds.

 

***

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

Finally!!! Atlanta Braves Win!!!

This is no longer the Darkest Timeline.

We finally got to see the damn sailboat.

It’s magical.

***

I didn’t have faith earlier in the summer.

There have been years where I watched the Atlanta Braves throughout the course of a season and knew, just knew that the team was destined to go deep in the playoffs and end up in the World Series.

That wasn’t the case this year.

So many things seemed to go wrong. And being an Atlanta fan (and Miami Dolphins fan), I can recognize when one of my teams might be snake bit.

After the All-Star break, we literally went two weeks where we’d win a game and lose a game. It set a record.

I didn’t think it was possible even at the trade deadline. We traded for a guy (Eddie Rosario) who is on the Injured list? Really? We traded for a guy who is batting under .200? What the hell is going on?

Even as they started winning I thought, well, maybe we could make a run at the division. Maybe we’ll get to watch meaningful games in September. The way the season had gone to that point, that would have been magical.

And somehow we won the division. I thought, well, maybe we can win against the Brewers. Why not?

Then it was the Dodgers, and I recalled being up 3 games to 1 and somehow losing the year before. And we went up 3 games to 1 and lost game 5.

And the doubts began to creep in again. The ghosts of sportsball years past whispered their lies in my ear.

Then we were in the World Series. Somehow, someway. And I finally believed it could happen.

(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

And last night, it happened.

It struck me weird. My wife was jumping up and down, but for me, it got a little dusty in our living room. I wrote about how even with the 1995 World Championship run, I wasn’t focused on the Braves as much as I had been the previous years or how I would be the following years. So even though I felt great about it happening, I didn’t really experience it. I didn’t live and breath and die with every pitch. My heart didn’t threaten to explode out of my chest when they had men on base.

I thought about how I’ve watched all these games this season. The crazy amount of enjoyment I’ve gotten from watching these grown men hit and throw a small ball. It’s silly. And Crazy.

And amazing!

***

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

 

Movie Review – Midsommar

 

With a movie like Midsommar, I come at it from two different directions based on what little I knew about it. It’s a movie about a group of travelers (friends) who are given front row seats to experience a 9-day festival in a backwoods part of Sweden. Now, with stories like this, we all know that things are never going to be what they appear to be (otherwise it wouldn’t be a horror movie). So the questions we must ask ourselves are twofold:

Is the lead-up to the big reveal of what might really be going on enjoyable?

Is the reveal worth it?

It’s all about execution in these situations, because if you don’t spend enough time in the build-up where we start to get acquainted with our characters, then when bad things happen to them, we just won’t care. However, if the movie takes too long to start showing the weird, then it is very likely to lose our interest before we actually get there.

Spoilers to potentially follow:

We begin the movie seeing Dani and Christian going through the motions of being in a relationship. Well, it’s Christian who is going through the motions as he has become clearly disengaged with Dani using him as an emotional support person more than a boyfriend. All this comes to a head when Dani finds out her sister has killed herself and taken their parents with her. This tragedy has forced Christian to remain with her whether he really wants to or not.

Weeks? Months? later, Dani discovers Christian and his three friends are going to Sweden for the midsommar festival Pelle’s home commune throws every year. After being invited to go on the trip with the guys, they arrive and we can begin to see that Dani is not only still struggling with PTSD from her family’s deaths, she can’t even rely on Christian as much (as he’s mentally checked out). The festival begins and while there are some odd eccentricities, overall things aren’t too out of the ordinary.

And then things begin to go sideways when they see two of the elders commit suicide.

I’m not going to go any further with spoiling the movie, but I wanted to mention this key moment because none of our characters, save for Dani, have any kind of realistic reaction to what’s happening in front of them. And maybe it falls into the old troupe of not leaving the haunted house immediately, but both Christian and Josh nearly act like what they’ve seen is as normal as anything else (and what they saw was NOT normal). In fact, it is only Dani, who already has visions of horror in her head, who nearly breaks completely upon seeing the display. And for some reason, it’s only a pair of other travelers who decide they’ve had enough, not our group.

From there, things only get weirder and weirder.

The Good

Florence Pugh delivers a great performance and definitely has the most realistic reactions to nearly everything.

The set-up, while potentially dragging things out a little bit too much, does a great job in making sure you understand that while the festival might be odd, it’s still not crazy (until suddenly it is).

The Bad

The reactions of the other characters to strange things occurring. The elder’s deaths aside, at a certain point people, start disappearing and no one seems to care… at all. Like not even a raised eyebrow.

I get that you need the characters to stay, but I wish they’d found a more plausible thing other than “I’m writing my thesis on this.” Bleh.

The Ugly

It’s not really scary. I had a little bit of dread here and there, but only because I was hoping for something big and bad to happen. We have one kill completely off-screen, which felt like a missed opportunity because as the audience, we knew that character was dead the moment he went “missing”. It’s like the film wants to play coy when everyone knows the punchline anyway, so why hide things?

***

Another one that could have been trimmed a little bit (probably 15 minutes easily) (I’ve heard there is a 3-hour version and can’t imagine what that would do that the 2+ hour version didn’t already convey). The ending was just… I get what happened, but I’m not sure I “get” it

I’ll take another shot this weekend. Maybe I can find the one 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

Movie Review – I’m Thinking of Ending Things

Something is off.

I’m watching this movie (based off the novel of the same name) and something is off.

I was led to believe that this was a horror movie of some sort which obviously can cover a ton of ground within the genre. You have slasher flicks, monster flicks, mind f- flicks, slow burn, fast burn, and everything in between. So I understand that you don’t always know exactly what you are going to get but…

I was led to believe I’m Thinking Of Ending Things was a horror movie.

And it really isn’t. Sure, there are plenty of moments within the two hour plus movie where you are a bit unnerved by what’s going on between the characters. The conversations have the appearance of being about something without saying very much at all. They are all surface level things being said aloud with undertones that hint at bigger issues.

The basic plot is that Lucy and Jake, a couple who has been together are taking a day trip to pay a visit to Jake’s parents. And while things have been decent between them, Lucy had been coming to grips with the idea that perhaps the two of them are not supposed to be together. The mantra of the title is repeated within her head throughout the movie. For the first third of the movie they are in the car on the drive there. This means there are lots of moments for the awkward silences hanging in between the two of them. And while it appears that Lucy is the only one who may be clued in their relationship may be headed toward a break-up, I think Jake has begun to realize it as well. Perhaps this trip is one of those hail marys where he sees this trip to introduce her to his parents as a big enough gesture that he might hang onto the relationship for a little while longer.

Here’s the thing, it isn’t until they reach the parent’s house where I began to suspect there could actually be something bigger at work here. And while there is definitely a ton of VERY weird things going on at the parent’s house. And while his parents don’t act entirely normal at times (laughter which feels almost forced and meals randomly being prepared).

But again, it’s never scary. Even a trip down into the sealed basement only reveals more questions about… well, the reality of the situation.

The Good

The two main actors are absolutely crushing it the whole time. I liked the character of Lucy, and was definitely wary of Jake through most of the movie. But…

The Bad

Did I mention it was over two hours?

This movie could have done the same things with a much tighter edit (honestly I think a good 30 minutes could have been lost and it wouldn’t have made a ton of difference).

The Ugly

The dance scene.

Yep. I said dance scene.

***

Maybe if I hadn’t seen the trailer for the movie or read the review of the novel on a list of best horror. Maybe had I come into it cold, I might not have left the movie feeling… cold.

Oh well, my search for this year’s horror movie gem is ongoing. Maybe the next one will be the winner!?!

***

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

 

Origins 2021 Recap – Part Two

You can find Part One here.

Day 2

We continued on with another quick stop at the Exhibit Hall and then attempted the thing that always seems to get the best of us during these conventions: trying to fit a meal in at a restaurant in the hour between the Hall closing and our next game. Somehow we manage to get into one of the local places leading Lee to have a conversation with the waitress about potentially getting either a Bison Burger or a Chicken Sandwich… both of which they were out of. Funny enough, two year previous they’d been out of both of those foods as well.

Regardless, we managed to make it to the game only a few minutes late. Luckily we got there just before they effectively gave our seats away (to some people with generic tickets).

Kult: Divinity Lost

Kult is one of those games where I might not know anything about it, but I’ve seen the images over the years. The best way to explain it is a horror game along the lines of Call of Cthulu. Horror games feel like they are perfect for conventions as, in my mind at least, they should be dangerous for the adventurers (investigators?). I expect that not all of us may survive any particular encounter we have.

For this particular adventure, our GM was running an adventure of her own design which set the PCs up at Paranormal investigators whose leader has received a call from a longtime friend who is having problems with shadows within his apartment coming to life, noises in the hallway, doors opening, and he’s at his wit’s end. Of course, as we begin to dig into the building, the neighbors, the landlord, etc. things begin to take a more sinister turn with the creatures taking an interest in us as well.

It was definitely an interesting game as the PCs seemed to work really well together. Between the group of us, I feel like we managed to look under every tock and look in every hiding place to get to the truth behind everything. The thing with these types of games is that sometimes you end up not asking the right questions and suddenly you’ve gone in circles instead of advancing against the plot. Luckily, I don’t think that happened. The only “bad” thing is that we really didn’t have any dice rolls to speak of, so I still don’t have a great idea as to the system mechanics, so I’d be interested in getting into another game down the line.

You can find out more about Kult here.

Day 3

Excellents

Now it comes to the best game I played all weekend and, of course, it would be the game where we ended up playing some kind of Saturday Morning Cartoon Princesses. The system 9th Level Games uses for this game is based on playing with one die for each player. You have your choice of a D4, D6, D8, or D10 which helps define your character. While having a larger dice means that you are likely better at some of the more physical facets of the game, the lower die are perfect for the more intelligent style of rolls.

Oh, and you get your very own Animal Companion. For my Princess (Of Video Games), the animal pet was the Dog from the old Nintendo Duck Hunt game.

The actual game was very much a collaborative story-telling environment where in conjunction with the GM and the dice rolls, we all got our chances to shine throughout the game session. The GM was amazing to be able to think on his feet with so many crazy things the group threw at him. The ease of the system and the other players at our session made it just a fun game with tons of laughs.

More than anything, the Dice System they use is very interesting and makes me wonder how well it translates to more… “serious” games. But if you are looking for a good session, I’d urge you to check out this particular game. You can find more information about the game here.

The Few and Cursed

This left us with our last session on Saturday afternoon and the chance to participate in an actual playtest session of sorts. I knew of the comic the game is based on from a Kickstarter I supported a couple of years back of the same name. Plus, I’m a sucker for a good western style play experience. For this particular game, it uses a D100 system, so you are trying to roll under for all your successes.

Our adventure focused a bit on the harshness of the world, a world in which water is the most precious commodity. In playing the game, I can see how resource management will be of utmost importance as time goes on, with your PCs scrounging for food and supplies wherever they might be able to find them. Some of the other bits and pieces we gleaned were how critical successes ended up not only increasing your damage/skill result, but you would reference a chart where you wouldn’t end up just getting a 1 for damage, but instead tried to make that moment a feel good for the player (which is one of those things we all have experienced, make the great attack and then do very little damage – so I loved they were taking a look at some way to make all that work a little better.

They are looking to have a Kickstarter for the game sometime in late Spring/early Summer, so be on the lookout over at Rock Manor Games.

 

Day 4

We hit the Exhibit Hall one last time to make those last minute purchase decisions. In previous years at Gen Con, Sunday would be the day I’d end up buying a new game that would seemingly never actually get played. For this year, I opted not to do that (even if there were a few things here and there that certainly spoke to me). Instead, we did our final walkthrough before making our trip back south to Atlanta many hours later.

Due to the pandemic, Origins end up somewhere around 10,000 attendees, which is about 50% of a normal year. So while I got an Origins experience, I was assured that I hadn’t gotten a true experience just yet. At this point, Gen Con is still the one I’d rather do if just for the spectacle of it all, but I wouldn’t mind coming back to Columbus in a couple of years and checking out a more normal Origins!

***

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

Origins 2021 Recap – Part One

 

The past few years I’ve been able to make the trek northward to Gen Con. With the pandemic, 2020’s Gen Con was postponed, and after various new dates were determined for not only Gen Con but also Origins, our group made the decision to go to Columbus, Ohio instead. Partially because even at half capacity, Gen Con would still be around 35-40k in attendance, whereas Origins in 2019 was around 20k. It felt like the more prudent option of the two. Thankfully Gen Con allowed us to roll over our badges one more year, so hopefully, we’ll be back in Indianapolis in 2022.

Lee and Egg had gone to Origins a couple of times and reported having a good time. I knew that no matter what, this trip probably wouldn’t give me a complete picture of the convention due to a potentially reduced.

Day 1

CHEW

Thursday began with an afternoon game of CHEW, a roleplaying game based off the comic book of the same name. The concept is that you live in a world where poultry is illegal and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is now the uber-powerful agency. While I am familiar with the comic book, I must confess that I have not really read any of the comics.

There were a number of pre-generated characters to choose from, and after we all made our choices we start our adventure getting ready to go on vacation, departing from the Baltimore Airport. However, we are pulled aside for a special assignment to discover why a nearby research island has suddenly lost 30 of their prized chickens. As we proceed on this mission, we learned that not all is as it seems at the facility, and that, perhaps, the chickens are not merely animals.

If you’re thinking that the premise is fairly goofy, I’d say you’re spot on. At the same time, we had a good group at the table who all leaned into the humor (even when it was at their character’s expense). The game is currently in the midst of a recently (launched on Tuesday I believe) Kickstarter. You can find it here.

Shadow of the Demon Lord

I remember seeing this game when it was initially Kickstarted a number of years ago, but this was all of our first time playing the game. It is set in a Grim Dark world, where it would appear that the darker forces have succeeded in turning the world into a darker reflection of itself. And while there are those heroes who will rage against the darkness, it is supposed to feel like an uphill battle. For the rules, they were very similar to Dungeons and Dragons in a lot of ways.

For this adventure, it was a twist on Night of the Living Dead, with a bunch of us stopping at the same Tavern just off the road. After finding a dead man upstairs, the reanimated corpses from all around begin to converge on our spot. It was here that I think I misjudged how well I might be able to help with my Clockwork, and ended up taking enough damage to reduce me to one hit point. And while there were opportunities to potentially heal a little bit in between the waves of the dead, you had to make a choice on healing or fortifications or potentially trying a ritual to help put an end to it. Sadly, as the waves became worse and worse, we began to fall before the hordes until eventually, all but one of us died.

During the year when we roleplay online, Egg is notorious for his horrible rolls. I mean, his rolls defy logic, luck, or probability. However, the universe has decided that when he plays during a convention, his dice treat him much, much better. Yet, that terrible luck had to go somewhere… and this time, I was the sacrificial lamb. At one point during the game the GM asked me if I’d actually hit anything the whole session (this was probably 2 hours in). I had early on, but since then I rolled a series of dice that only served to mock me.

I wonder if this was one of those adventures wherein an attempt to show the players how dangerous the world is, they pushed things to make it extremely difficult to survive? One thing I did really like about the system was the initiative where you could choose to act Fast (1 action) and go before the monsters or Slow (2 actions) and go after the monsters. It streamlined things really well, and I wouldn’t mind trying to incorporate it into other games we play.

You can find out more about the game here.

Day 2

On Friday, we made our way into the Dealers’ Hall to check out the various booths. From what I’ve been told, normally this stretches at least two of the exhibit halls; however, the area with the dealers and companies were confined to about 1/2 of one of the halls. There was still plenty to look at and buy, but I’m sure in a normal year it would have been a whole day to really look at everything, whereas, we probably spent around 5 hours in the Hall all told over three days, and I felt like I’d seen everything (and some things twice).

Misspent Youth

You play youths (between ages 12 to 17) who are raging against the machine… whatever that particular machine happens to be. We started out brainstorming ideas for what the big problem with the world actually was. We ended up in a world where organs are harvested from the poor and given to the rich and old who use it as a way to prolong their lives. They wall off their areas to keep themselves away from the riffraff of the rest of the world.

We were EMTs sent out on our first solo harvest, but the patient we were sent to help had already been harvested. We managed to not finish the poor man off by taking his last kidney, but soon uncovered a hospital where people were being harvested against their will (rather than being paid something for their organs).

What was interesting about this system was that you the story is broken into scenes and you roll 2d6 and place a marker on a list of numbers between 2 and 12. You want to seed it with your own numbers, but the GM is doing g the same to trip you up. If you ever roll one of your numbers, then you dictate what happens in the scene, but if you land on the GM’s number, he narrates it. It was another case where I’d never seen a game do something like that, and I’d love to figure out a way to incorporate that type of idea to other systems too.

You can get the game here.

***

That’s the end of Part 1. Next week I’ll finish up the convention and reveal the best game I played all weekend.

***

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

Dreaming

Hoarding…

I’ve mentioned in the blog before that I’m a bit of a pack rat. At heart, I’m a collector. Which my wife can attest to with the comic book collection taking up multiple closets in our house. But it isn’t just physical objects, it’s digital ones as well. I have abandoned short stories cluttering up one of my drives because I know…

I KNOW!

That I may end up using some piece of the story in another project down the road. This mostly means that those projects from back in the day may only need just a little bit of love and maybe they can come back to life.

Which brings me to my next comic…

A couple of years ago I finished up the first four issues of the Gilded Age comic book, and while I am chomping at the bit to get back to writing that project, there was another one that actually existed many years before Gilded Age was ever a thought in my brain. It is something that is both a fantasy and sci-fi comic book. However, for many, many reasons (which I’m likely to touch on in the coming weeks), it was also the project that I couldn’t just let die somewhere on a hard drive.

It’s a project that has been around for some time, and after talking to the co-writer (this site’s own Egg Embry!), we have decided now would be the perfect time to finish it up.

So for now I thought I’d give you a peek at one of the covers (yes, plural) from Edgar Salazar (of Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, and many others fame).

I’m excited for this project to finally get out into the world!

***

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

 

Movie Review – Malignant

I always tell myself that this is the year I watch a TON of horror movies during the month of October. Yet, sadly, the month begins to dissolve away and before I know it the scary decorations are being put away and Christmas Season comes out in full force. However, this year, HBOMax released the movie Malignant allowing me to get a couple of weeks jump on the Halloween festivities.

Spoilers to follow…

Malignant is the story of a woman (Madison Mitchell) who after an altercation with her boyfriend who nearly kills her, finds herself followed by this demon/creature/person/thing. At first the creature seems to want to terrorize her specifically, but as the movie progresses, we see that it appears to have a different sort of agenda. Soon enough others are killed by the entity, with their only connection being our heroine. Even as the police arrest her, the entity continues to taunt them, until we get our final confrontation between the lead and the killer.

The Good

Some of the special effects are really amazing. There is a connection between Madison and the Killer so that she sees his kills. As the hunt begins, her world melts away revealing the house or room where the next victim is. The first time it happens I definitely let out a “wow”.

There is a pair of sequences where the Killer interacts with the police, the first time evading a lone cop by doing a crazy amount of parkour-style moves. The second is the battle at the police station, which I almost would say would be worth checking out even if you didn’t watch the rest of the movie. Aside from a couple of weird shots (which actually could be explained by the reveal of who/what the killer is), it gives a very creepy feel to how the thing moves in almost counter in style to what we would expect. The action is all over the place (in a good way), and it manages to get into the more gore side of the horror.

The Bad

My very first thought after finishing the movie was to wonder whether there was a classification of movies between an “A” and a “B” movie. There are times during the film where everyone is taking the script very seriously, and it mostly works. And then there are the times where the dialogue (and the delivery) makes me wonder if Ed Wood had a hand in crafting it. This makes it feel a bit disjointed like they didn’t know which way to go, trying to do a little of both and not mastering either.

The Ugly

The Killer… he was definitely ugly but not as scary as I was hoping for. Sadly, I figured out what the twist was going to be fairly early in the process which makes me wonder if it was too telegraphed for the audience or not. When the “twist reveal” occurs, instead of being a WTF moment, it was more of a “OK, that’s what I’d thought”. This doesn’t make it specifically a bad or good thing, but I think speaks to the idea of trying to play something a little too coy throughout the movie.

Overall, this is very much a popcorn and candy movie. It doesn’t ask much from the audience and tries its best to be a bit of a throwback to the horror/thriller films of the 80s. It does a good job with the spectacle but the rest fell a little flat for me.

Dragon Con 2021 – Review Part 2

After taking Saturday to go hang with family (and watch the Georgia Tech Football game that I’m still not sure how they lost… or actually, I know exactly where they lost, I just still can’t believe it), we ventured back down to Dragon Con on Sunday for what would be our last day.

Actually, before I go into Sunday, I wanted to say that this year’s Dragon Con felt like being in a time machine about 10 years earlier. With a self-imposed attendance cap (and what ended up at an estimated 42,000 people), I just looked on Wiki and it has 2011’s attendance at 46,000, so the 10 years feel was right on. Regardless, in this last decade, the convention has expanded to other hotels and America’s Mart because, well, it had to. And this will sound both stupid and obvious, but the difference of having 85,000 people and 42,000 people spread over the same area meant that this year you could breathe (ironic as we were all wearing masks). The Dealer’s room wasn’t so full that it was bursting at the seams. You could actually take a minute and look around and not worry about being in the way. The lines for the panels we chose were of normal length and didn’t have any problems getting seats.

I really hope that they don’t try to jump back to that 85,000 number next year. I know the money is better that way, but the experience was so much better this way.

In addition, all the other guests really stuck to wearing their masks in the hotels. I think I only saw 2 people not wearing them (the old “chin-diaper” look). I know it helped put us at ease that this wasn’t going to end up as some super-spreader event.

Anyway, we managed to get into the Zachary Levi panel. We’d done it in 2019 before we’d even seen Shazam (since we knew him from Chuck mostly) and were blown away by his frankness in dealing with mental issues, his frankness about his roles, and just how personable he’d come off. This time was no different as he still managed to mix in some cool anecdotes and made us laugh while still not shying away from the harder questions about his upbringing.

After that, we went to see Harvey Guillen (Guillermo) from What We Do In the Shadows. While I only know him from the aforementioned TV Show, there were plenty of questions about some of his other roles. Probably the biggest takeaway for me was just this idea of something always happens for a reason (or if you’re meant to do something, the universe will find a way). He had a couple of roles that seemed to work out just perfectly… apparently, even his audition for Shadows was one where he only got the shot because he showed up to a friend’s party and met someone whose boyfriend (husband?) worked for the show. The actual role of Guillermo was supposed to be a 40-something-year-old man (Harvey isn’t 40), but they humored him and gave him the shot. Then he said he’d blacked out in the process of doing it… just had no memory of it at all. Time went on and he’d heard nothing, so he figured that was it. And at the last minute, he received the call that not only did he get the job but it was starting that next week.

Finally, we decided the Smallville panel had been a ton of fun, but we were bummed we hadn’t seen Michael Rosenbaum (Lex Luthor). However, all four of them were there for this panel… and we got to see Michael in action. He was all over the room, answering questions (even those not meant for him), getting everyone to sing along with the theme song, and just generally someone who I could tell from this panel and the previous one would have been hilarious to have on set with you (the never a dull moment type of guy).

When it was done we had another panel on the list and some years we will do the Masquerade, but the previous two days had begun to wear on Courtney (and me as well) and AEW was having their Pay Per View at 8 that evening, so we opted to head out.

***

With so much trepidation in the weeks leading up to this event due to the Delta Variant, I am so happy we decided to go. Here’s to another one in the books and looking forward to next year!

***

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

 

Dragon Con 2021 – Review

It was, as they say, a game-time decision. After the cancelation last year, our 2020 passes were rolled over to 2021. There was definitely a large part of me who kinda hoped they might do the same again, but we live in Georgia, and Georgia is going to Georgia to be sure. With the numbers from the Delta at the top of mind, my wife and I weren’t exactly sure whether we were going to go or not this past weekend. Given that we are both vaxed, I was less concerned, but still, when you are going to be hanging out with 40,000 of your friends in a relatively small area for the weekend… well…

So we made the decision to go, at least on Friday. I figured that if it was half the s-show that I thought it might be, we could always bolt. If things were alright then we would end up coming back on Sunday (Saturday the in-laws were in town).

The doubts began creeping in when a few of my friends went down on Thursday night to pick up their badges and reported waiting in line for nearly two hours. As many years as I have been going, the ticket line has been the most hit-or-miss thing with the whole con. I remember some years where 2 hours was considered a short wait time. Then a handful of years ago something changed and the process seemed like it had sped up. To hear about the back-slide was disturbing to say the least.

I would like to say, after having been to Gen Con, I really wish Dragon Con would step up and mail you your badge. Gen Con charges an extra $10 for the process and it is the best money I’ve ever spent.

FRIDAY

We tried to give ourselves about 75 minutes to get through the line and still make our first panel at 11:30. I dropped Courtney off at the Sheraton and then went to park the car…

And found out she’d already gone through the line. 5 minutes. No problems. It was the same with me. I’m not sure if everyone came on Thursday or maybe they didn’t have the volunteers or what changed in the preceding 12 hours, but I was overjoyed!

Our first panel was with the Smallville cast. Courtney and I watched Smallville through about season 4 or 5 when I believe we fell behind in our viewing and the DVR ate the intervening episodes (and I kind of, sort of, but really didn’t, write an episode for the show). It’s always been one of those shows I would have liked to go back and finish out (and after this panel Courtney mentioned possibly doing that after we finish our Chuck rewatch). Still, it was great to see Tom Welling (Clark Kent), Laura Vandervoot (Supergirl), and Sam Witwer (Doomsday) talk about the show with such a fondness. I hadn’t realized it had been 20 years since the show debuted.

They talked about stunts gone awry (Laura passing out in the harness which they use to have them fly). Sam having appendicitis in the midst of a shoot and no one realizing it until late in the evening. And the fact that Tom had it in his contract that he wasn’t going to put on the suit. I’d always thought it was an executive decision for that not to have happened before the very end of the show, but Tom talked about how very early on (Season 2) they started talking about it. He put an end to that as he wanted the show to be about Clark’s journey prior to him being Superman. And once he’s in the suit, that’s really the end of the show.

It was such a good panel, the only bad thing was that Michael Rosenbaum (Lex Luthor) wasn’t going to be there until Saturday… which meant we might need to check it out later in the weekend to see what wackiness he might bring.

At this point we decided to hop over to the Exhibit Hall for the 4 floors of artists, dealers, cosplaying, clothing, comics, and just about anything else you can think of. We made our way through. Learning from 2019, we resolved to go through the entire thing on Friday as we knew it would be our only real chance to do so. Courtney bought some jewelry, a trio of shirts from the folks that make the Unstable Unicorns game. I ended up browsing through hundreds of $5 graphic novels only to end up with a pair of them. And even though I rarely get to play live other than conventions, I bought a new Flash dice bag for the impending Origins Convention. Finally, we bought a nice piece of artwork, a bit of a cutout of Buttercup and Westley from The Princess Bride surrounded by “As You Wish”.

Of course, by the time we’d gone through all of that, it was dinner time and we’d missed the two or three panels in the early afternoon. After dinner, Courtney and I split up… she went off to a Lucifer panel and I went to a pair of writing panels (one on Indy Writer secrets and the other on controversies in writing). The first was interesting, though the biggest thing for me coming out of it was more about using these types of panels as motivation. One of the panelists said something that really stuck out (James A Hunter): your best marketing is your next book. He’d written 35 books in the last 6-7 years with the thought that if you are prolific enough (and are writing decent enough stories) the odds of something hitting are only going to be increased. You take 35 shots and surely something is going to go in.

Now, I doubt with the day job being a necessary thing to put food on the table and a roof over my head I’d ever be able to have that much product in such a short amount of time. But, I also realize that putting out a book every 4 years isn’t going to get me where I want to go either. Sometimes it is hard to see where the road might be on this writing journey. These panels are like little check-ins for my psyche. I know I need to be a bit more diligent with all of it.

We ended our day with a comedy show. We’d done it once before and both really liked dipping our toes into some of the later nightlife which is the biggest part of the con to elude us. A bunch of laughs later, and it was time to head home so that we could go spend the day with family before returning on Sunday.

***

Next week find out what happens when you see the “same” panel twice but with a new panelist.

***

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

Repost: He’ll See Me On The Flipside

I’m 7-years old. The kid across from me has issued a challenge to me. We’re both to submit to the Sissy Test. We take our erasers and rub the skin on the back of our hands. Back and forth until the skin is raw. The first one to be in too much pain is the loser.

I won.

Office-pink-erasers

****

I’m 38-years old typing this blog and take a look at the mark on my left hand. The tattoo of my own making. It is the second reward for winning the Sissy Test.

****

I’m 7-years old and my mother is whipping me for being stupid enough to scar myself. This is my first reward.

****

In my defense, the act of rubbing the skin with the eraser never actually hurt. Once the other kid bailed I kept going for a little bit longer, surprised by the lack of pain. It wasn’t until one of the kids surrounding us told me to spit on it.

Then the pain came.

time_travel

It’s a strange thing, the past. The person you were and the person you currently are never get to meet. There is a younger version of you who has made every decision in your life. Every decision that may still affect you now. The so-called dominoes of our lives.

****

I’m 18-years old. In front of me is my acceptance letter to the Georgia Institute of Technology to study Computer Science.

****

I’m 19-years old and after 3 quarters at Ga. Tech I’m finally given authorization to change my major to Civil Engineering. Somewhere in my brain I have decided that my true goal is to design a bridge.

Thru-Truss-Bridge-drawing

Prior to this, Civil Engineering was pretty much an industry that I picked out of thin air. Really. I’m still not sure why exactly that major was the one I went with.

****

I’m 38-years old and I have designed plenty of roads and highways and interstates, but I have never designed a bridge.

****

I’m 24-years old and I have to decide which offer to choose. What job will be my first to set my course by? Maybe this will be a situation where this is the company I’m with until I retire many years from now.

I end up making my choice mostly on the basis of starting salary.

****

These aren’t decisions that I worry about so much. I genuinely like my day job (90% of the time), which makes me one of the lucky ones. But it doesn’t change the fact that a guy, fresh out of high school, made a major life decision for me. Then again, a fresh out of college guy is choosing where I’m going to go to work.  I’m wondering if either were even qualified to make such huge choices…

One of my best friends in the world shared a video with me yesterday from a camping trip a group of us took in 1996. Maybe that’s why my brain has become transfixed with these images of the past. Some key moments, others I just want to dwell in for a little while. I watch and see this 20-year old me with his friends, talking about nothing , but we all seem happy to be there in that moment together.

I wish we had recorded more of that evening. Even if utter nonsense flowed from our mouths, even if the jokes told were not fit for mixed company, every second reminds me of a time before responsibilities of  life crept in. Before friends moved away to pursue their own dreams.

Years later it seems like I’m chasing the weekends, wondering when I might find the time to see a friend, talk on the phone, or just hang out. Some of the people on the video I haven’t talked to face to face in a long time, and it makes me sad. But there is another part of me that is happy to know, to see that time when we were all together. That we have that shared experience with one another, and while memories may fade through time, bits and pieces of that weekend will always bind us.

Time moves fast and it moves slow. It’s like it has a mind of its own. I could say that the last 18 years have passed by in the blink of an eye, but that would be a lie. The memories which make us who we are get compiled day by day. And yet, we put things on a calendar to look forward to them and then forget to enjoy them when we are there, in that moment.

I acknowledge this and I am still guilty as I pen a portion of this blog on scrap pieces of paper at work. I’m counting down the hours, minutes, and seconds until it is time to go home.

****

I’m 11-years old and my new friend Lee has pushed a weird novel across a cluster of desks.

“Read this”, he says.

“I don’t read books.”

“Read it.”

On a Pale Horse

****

I’m 38-years old and tell my wife that all I’d really like to do this weekend is read.

****

I’m 34-years old and the company that I work for has just informed me I’ve been laid off. I stifle the tears while I’m speaking with my boss. Not only would crying be “unmanly”, but probably not the most professional. Though I’m not sure why that would matter in the moment, I try my best to exude a calmness. The peaceful exterior lasts until I make it outside of the building and am alone. I dial the numbers and then breakdown when my wife answers the phone.

****

I’m 34-years old and I’m talking to my wife about story idea 100476.

“You should just write it. You’ve got the time.”

“But I don’t know anything about it other than what I’ve told you.”

“Write it.”

****

I’m 20-years old in the video and see that the girl beside me is the woman who will become my wife in a few years time. I may not remember every thought he had, but I remember knowing that this was the girl I would marry. She was the one.

****

I’m 34-years old and the words pour out of me onto the computer screen filling the white with the black ants under each keystroke. The house is dark and quiet and the words continue to flow.

****

I’m 17-years old and the girl I’ve worked with for over a year at Kroger has agreed to go out with me. I’m nervous beyond belief.

****

I’m 37-years old and my wife’s hand is resting in mine, both our fingers ready to click the publish button on my first book.

It’s a new world.

***

John McGuire 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

 

Spider-Man: No Way Home Trailer Thoughts

I must admit… I watched the leaked version a few hours before the official release of the trailer. However, I’m not sorry. The version I saw actually had subtitles which helped me comprehend everything I was seeing a little better.

Anyway, in light of the trailer being released, I’ve noticed this thing that fandom loves to do is happening now with Spider-Man: everyone is playing guess the movie. They are picking apart things that don’t make a ton of sense in the trailer while relying on 2 minutes of randomish footage. In fact, I always find it is best to enter into watching trailers with an eye towards doing exactly that. I mean, how else are you possibly going to make up your mind about something coming out in December. Better to make a ton of snap judgments on this rather than wait to see the actual movie and then, if the inconsistencies which were hinted at in the trailer do manage to remain without a satisfying outcome – hey, feel free to rip it apart.

What’s strange about this phenomenon is I pretty much only hear it in these big genre movies. Star Wars certainly gets held under the microscope. Marvel has graduated to this level as well now. But otherwise, with most movie trailers the only things people might bitch about is a casting choice or the special effects or dialogue. I don’t seem to remember people tearing apart the trailer for something like Bill and Ted. Or maybe they do, and I’m just hanging out in the wrong corners of the internet.

Still, the trailer is something that is supposed to excite you. To get you hyped to see the movie in question. It is certainly there to make you ask questions. With this movie in particular, the rumors have been running for some time about what the plot would be about or who might show up in the movie. The trailer certainly delivers on the first part (at least the broad strokes) and by a couple of reveals lend additional credit to spoilers regarding the cast.

First, the plot appears to be that after the results of Far From Home, Peter Parker has been outed as Spider-Man. This single fact causes his whole life to turn upside down to the point that he ventures to see Doctor Strange in the hopes that there might be a spell to undo that knowledge from the world. Something goes wrong in the casting of the spell, and off we go into the greater multiverse.

In comics, normally a hero makes the decision very early on whether to have a secret identity at all. Most tend to opt to keep their lives separate for the very reasons we’re seeing play out in the trailer. The sudden super-stardom which accompanies it. The idea that there may have been crimes your alter-ego committed that your true identity is now responsible for. And the biggest key piece is that your enemies now can target you through your family and friends. This last reason is the most important one, and in those stories where the hero is outed, it never goes well.

In the comics, Spider-Man once chose to reveal himself to the world. During the heroes’ Civil War, in an effort to convince others to register with the government, Peter Parker revealed himself on live television. Reading at this time, I both knew that this change in status quo wouldn’t/couldn’t be a long-term thing, and I also knew it was a terrible (just terrible) idea. Soon enough, the Kingpin of Crime set hitmen to target Mary Jane (which resulted instead in Aunt May getting shot and led to things we do not speak of).

So for the purposes of the movie, having a portion of it showing how bad things can be for Peter should be cool (though, I am extremely interested in seeing how Flash Thompson reacts to this knowledge given how much he appears to hate Peter Parker but loves Spider-Man).

The second big piece of this is traveling to other versions of reality. In the comics, characters have been meeting alternate versions of themselves for decades (starting with DC’s “Flash of Two Worlds”). Heck, Into the Spiderverse did an excellent job with exactly this idea.

Whether they are going to lean into this being a situation where he is actually visiting these other worlds or if those other worlds are threatening to overwrite our own, I can tell from the trailer.

But it leads us to the other members of the cast and the big reveals near the end of the trailer. We see a Goblin Bomb and William Dafoe’s laughter. We see lightning in the sky conjuring thoughts of Electro. There are a couple of other things people are speculating might be The Lizard or Sandman, but the one, concrete person we do get to see is Otto Octavious, Doc. Ock not only makes a big appearance but also knows Peter (even this version) which is as curious as anything else to me making me wonder is this a world where Doc. Ock didn’t die? Maybe he is a redeemed version?

Or are we actually going to get our big fight against the Sinister Six in this movie? And the only way to potentially defeat them is to find a little help from some fellow Spider-Men?

I half expect that in the final trailer they release (probably around Thanksgiving) we’ll get some shot with our 3 versions from the last 2 decades all standing together. And while it might not be Endgame level, that should be extremely cool.

***

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

Movie Review: Parallel

The idea of other versions of ourselves… those who might have made very similar choices to the ones we have made so that their reality and ours aren’t that much different. If that were the case, and you found a way to reach across the veil of our reality into theirs, what could you do with that ability?

That’s the fundamental question at the heart of Parallel.

A group of four post-college adults who are struggling to make their business (app development) a success, find that there is a secret attic space in the house they are renting. More curious than the secret room is that it houses a mirror which when passed through, can lead the traveler to a world nearly their own, with subtle differences to be sure. However, the more important aspect of this parallel world is that time moves much much slower there. Hours can go by in the alternate world while mere minutes pass on our own. Armed with this knowledge, the group of friends begins to use this “extra time” to their benefit allowing them to finish projects in days when it should have been weeks. When they later discover that even though the world at large is pretty similar to their own (down to their own doppelgangers), they find that artistic choices aren’t always the same.

And with those minor differences, they recognize an opportunity to effectively plagiarise these alternate worlds for their developments in technology to increase their own stature in our world.

Opportunity becomes a chance at excess, and the movie begins to change. As these types of stories often do, the darker side of having this power begins to fracture the group to the point that they are no longer sure they can trust the others.

To say more would be to give away some of the middle and last acts twists and turns, but the thing about most movies about the parallel worlds (or tv shows for that matter) is that they normally go for the bigger changes to the timeline. It’s not enough to have a world that is virtually the same, minus some historical footnotes, those films would have us in a world were Rome never feel, or Germany won WWII, etc. This movie focuses more on the characters’ reactions to this newfound power. Really leaning into the whole “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely” theme.

What makes this interesting is the idea of these nearly identical doppelgangers from the other realities. While our group uses their mirror to ensure their own successes, very little is given to those versions of themselves they are potentially screwing over by: committing crimes, spending their money, and even living out their own fantasies with others. It’s a movie where the mirror is merely a way to tell a story about how easy it is to lose your own identity. As the movie progresses towards its ending, the characters no longer resemble themselves from the start of the movie, making us ask the question of whether or not they’ve effectively become their own doppelganger.

It’s those character moments which will drive the movie once you strip some of the sci-fi aspects of things from the story. What happens when a group of friends discover something to make them rich? How long does it take for that money and power to drive a wedge between them? And at the end of the day, are they even the same people they were at the start. Parallel takes all of that and then adds that bit of science fiction to tell that story while showing us that the grass isn’t always greener.

***

One other thing, the poster at the top of this blog makes me think more along the lines of a spy vs. spy movie than something to do with parallel worlds. Just an odd thought.

***

I enjoyed the movie, but then again alternate worlds and living different lives is right in my wheelhouse. In fact, I wrote a book that is definitely in that same vein where a man has to figure out what his own personal reality actually is as he experiences worlds very close to our own, but not his original one.

It’s called The Echo Effect and you can get it 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

My Comfort Movies

If any time has expressed a need to sit back with some comfort watching, this last year (and a half) have certainly answered the bell. I used Firefly as a part of that process by watching a couple of episodes every Friday night (and lamented that we only got the partial season). But when it comes to movies, I certainly have cycled through ones throughout my life where the amount I saw them was in direct correlation to what kind of mood I might be in.

A little Depressed as a teenager – Pump Up the Volume was the go-to for that version of me. I’m not sure exactly why as the movie isn’t really a “feel-good” movie. I’m sure it had more to do with Christian Slater and pretty much loving any movie he was in for the longest time.

Enjoying a night in during college attempting to destroy people in Duke Nuk’em? – Clerks and Mallrats to the rescue. My college roommate and I watched those two so much that I doubt we really needed to have them on, we could have pretty much done the movie dialogue in our sleep.

So when I go to my comfort movies it doesn’t necessarily mean happy-go-lucky or something that has a happy ending. Instead, I think for me, it has to be something that I simply find joy in. Something that puts me in a better mood through the skills of the writers/editors/directors/actors/etc working their crafts to perfection for those couple of hours.

Rounders

I probably watch this about 2-3 times a year. Aside from the fact that I love playing and watching poker, so a poker movie was a no-brainer. With Rounders there is an ease to the characters, to the story, and to the idea of overcoming one’s own shortcomings. At the end of the day, it really is about placing your faith in someone and having them not live up to your expectations. But really, all that does is cast a light on our own issues. How can we ask someone else to be someone they are not when we aren’t exactly sure who we are?

That struggle feels all the more real at 2 in the morning as I try and write or edit. While I’m not one of these people who can crank out a book in a few weeks, and while I should challenge myself with lofty goals, I shouldn’t lose sight of what I have accomplished and what I’m accomplishing.

Office Space

When you need to reflect on the idea that people weren’t meant to sit at desks for 40 plus hours a week doing various jobs until our brains begin to melt and all our motivations slip away. There is the fantasy at play here that we’ve all wanted to do in some form or fashion. Maybe you want to tell your boss off? Maybe you just want to quit? Or maybe you just want to get a game of Tetris in before your meeting with the Bobs…

This one features in pretty heavy rotation on Comedy Central. It has the sort of gravitational pull on me where I end up stopping on it and before I know it, I’ve watched the whole movie again. It genuinely makes me realize that all those times when you just want to call out sick to work: You don’t need to tell them what you are sick of.

Waiting…

This is one that I came upon because of the actors involved. Somehow, it slipped under my radar for a long time, and though I’ve never worked at a restaurant, watching this movie lets me know that was the correct decision to have made for my life. Even if the situations behind the scenes are over the top, we’ve all been in a restaurant when someone begins making a huge deal out of something with their food. Those moments ring true in more ways than I can even count.

The thing about this one, aside from the absurdity or its crass nature, is that it shows us a day in the life (much like a Clerks or Mallrats). Our lives can get this way very easily. The mundane becomes routine and before we know it a month has passed. For me, this is about enjoying the moment as best you can, even if they take place somewhere you might not want to be.

Tombstone

Wait. This is basically a tragedy. A tale of woe where Wyatt Earp loses almost everything dear to him and goes on a hunt for the people who perpetrated the crimes on his family. So how can this be a comfort movie? And my answer is that it probably comes from that simple idea of one man who just wants to get away from his past and start a career in this new town. Be in on the ground floor, as it were.

But our past is always there. It helps to shape the person we are today. The challenges from those earlier times allow us to have a better idea on how to prepare for the next obstacle. I don’t know why it helps ease my thoughts and any burdens I might be carrying. Maybe it is the power of friendship? Family? Revenge?

Or perhaps I’m just a sucker for a good western?

***

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

The Map of Tiny Perfect Things – A Review

This past weekend I conned my wife into watching a Time Loop movie. Now, I normally have to qualify this in a way because she isn’t a fan of Groundhog Day. This in and of itself is beyond blasphemous, but I think it is because she hasn’t actually sat down to watch the movie. Oh, she thinks she’s watched it, but even then she claimed that she fell asleep during it, woke up in the middle, and then felt like nothing had changed. Like there were portions of the movie she missed, but because of the Time Loop, she really didn’t need to watch it at all.

So, when it comes to Time Loop movies I have a little bit of an uphill battle.

It’s a good thing that the last novel I wrote didn’t have anything resembling a time loop or repeating lives or anything (check out Echo Effect here!).

However, I have recently figured out the secret sauce to getting her buy-in on such things. You take a simple (or maybe not-so-simple) Time Loop movie, and then add young adults to it. She’s a sucker for that. Which is how we ended up watching The Map of Tiny Perfect Things (based on a short story by Lev Grossman playing on Amazon Prime).

So the thing with Time Loops is whether we get to see our main character’s first Loop or do we enter it in after they’d already done dozens (or perhaps thousands). Groundhog Day shows us his very first day and then he is stuck in that Loop. In this movie, they very quickly show you that this isn’t Mark’s first time through the day. In fact, I kind of wonder if he’s closer to thousands. We watch as he makes his way through his day only to see he is trying to have a good interaction with a girl. Trying to replay the day to set up these moments in the hopes that she might like him.

It goes about as well as you think.

But those attempts are what cause him to run into Margaret… who turns out to be stuck in the same Time Loop as Mark. And that’s where the beauty of this little movie begins, because Mark, in an attempt to try and impress “the girl” begins showing her some of these Little (Perfect) Moments he’s discovered in his time going through the day. And he’s not alone in noting them as Margaret has a few of her own.

Thus begins their attempt to document all those great moments that happen in a day. The little things we might not notice as we go about our lives. It’s the shape of a cloud. It’s a moment between two people when they think no one is watching. It’s the interactions that occur every day for each and every one of us.

That’s the key to this movie. Where other Loop movies are about improving yourself or discovering/atoning for something you had done. This movie is about showing the viewer they don’t have to ignore the small, seemingly insignificant moments. Instead, those should be the very things that make up a joyous life. And that doing those things alone might not ever be as good as when you have someone beside you, experiencing those same instances… bonding the two of you in those moments.

***

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

Repost: Roleplaying for Fun and Profit

It’s not a secret, not really. I wasn’t embarrassed… not exactly. Much in the way that many things I have done in my life which fall under the heading of “geeky” or “nerdy”. Before the days when telling people about comic books was shunned.

I mean, I keep hearing about how the nerds won. As if it was for the very soul of the world. That they’ve done what we all predicted would happen when that first “nerd” started messing around with the family computer. They have overthrown their jock-overlords and have claimed the top of the mountain.

Rise up in the cafeteria and stab them with your plastic forks!

Rise up in the cafeteria and stab them with your plastic forks!

Throughout middle school, through high school, and college, and for some time afterward I role-played. And I think it has made me a better writer.

How’s that? Well, let’s see.

Character Creation – One of the biggest things in role-playing is that initial character creation. Maybe you are trying to balance out the team that already exists, or maybe you’ve had the nugget of an idea swimming in your head for the last few weeks and now you get to try it out. Sure there is the rolling of dice for your stats, and you would love to roll well to get them higher. But the character is something more than just numbers. There is a history there. A personality that you want to play with and figure out. Sometimes it is tropes, the disgraced knight, the reclusive wizard, the thief who walks the line between good and evil.

But the best characters are those ones who begin to mold themselves as you play them. As your Game Master puts you through the paces on an adventure. As the other players begin to speak with your character… a true personality emerges that you could have never expected… not 100%.

In writing, at least for me, I’ve found it is much the same. I may have the barest idea of how a character will react to something, but time and time again, when that moment comes something crazy happens.

The character surprises me. In the same way that those characters I role-played needed to act a certain way a month after I created them, so too does the written character need to be true to themselves. In fact, I sometimes learn more about them in that moment than I did in any of the moments previous to it (and then I have to go back and tweak a couple of things to help seed that “turn” or “moment”).

ddi_characterbuilder

World building – A lot of times this is the domain of the Game Master, but a good player can help develop the world in lots of different ways. Through their personal histories: maybe your uncle is a local lord (what is he the lord of? are you in line for his property? would someone want you dead to get their hands on it?), perhaps your best friend died in a conflict across the great sea (was it a conflict or a war? is this the first volley or the last? ), or maybe the village you came from was burned to the ground (who did it? why? are they still coming?).

I’ve heard that writing for comic books is a lot like playing with someone else’s toy box: you want to leave it with more toys than it started with. A good Game Master will take these toys from you and weave them into their world, creating more cohesion, and more stakes for the players.

Heroes – Most of the time I have played the hero (or one of the heroes) of the story. And in that, I push the villains as hard as I can. I want to escape their death traps, foil their master plan, and save the maiden. But if I’m paying attention, I can see the obstacles that the Game Master is throwing in my way. You see, it is his job to not quite let me win… at least not for a while. Small victories will keep you going until that final big battle.

In my writing, it is the same way. My job as the writer is to figure out what my character wants to achieve and then put as many obstacles in the way of them succeeding in their goals. In overcoming those setbacks, I learn more and more about how my characters think and feel and maybe even what it might take to completely break them.

Villains – I’ve played a couple of villains through the years. And it is fun. It is fun to mess with the other players and sometimes even catch the Game Master off guard with a line of play. Mostly I’ve found that while sometimes the Game Master isn’t looking to flat-out kill your character, another player who is opposing you has no such qualms. That’s where fast thinking comes in handy. But it is also the point where you can fill a villain with more traits than just “he’s evil”.

Not that there is anything wrong with that!

dice

The End – I’ve played in epic novel-length campaigns. They have that feel of a good book series where the heroes get a victory towards the end of the book, only to have something else happen which will propel the series forward for books 2 and 3, and 4. So I can identify where a good breaking point for a chapter, a section, and even the end of the book should be. It is a more subtle thing, but I believe it is there all the same.

Plus it never hurts to end something so that later you can get those heroes out of the mothballs and send them on their one final adventure. Everyone likes a last-ride story, right?

I take those old sessions to heart. What might have been cool and what moments might have caused groans. Either way, I continue to sift through my memories to see if there is more buried treasure somewhere in there.

I’d like to think there are tons.

 

***

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

Is It Enough?

When is enough, enough?

I’m in the process of doing an edit on my current novel: S.O.U.L. Mate and am approaching the finish line with it. Well, relatively speaking, I have about 25% of the book left to edit. And once that’s done I’ll have all the notes from my Alpha reader (Courtney) to address certain deficiencies with the current draft.

This book has been a little different than my other books in not only the subject and the style (first person is something I’ve only played around with in some of my short stories). It is also one that I went through a bit of writer’s block to the point that I set it aside and actually wrote an entirely different book before finally coming back to it early this year.

It is still a little incomplete if I’m being honest.

You see, I had a rough outline for the book. I’ve tried the write by the seat of your pants way and I’ve tried outlines, and outlines work better for me. It provides a bit of a roadmap, but it doesn’t tell me every stop along the way. It makes sure I reach my final destination but also doesn’t limit what exits I might take. It- you know, I think you get it.

But even with the outline, there were things missing. And I actually mean “things”. A very vague and non-specific amount of things. To the point that I had to tell Courtney, I knew things were missing from the draft, but I had no idea what they might actually be. So I asked her, begged really, to tell me what was missing. Where had I ignored something that she expected to read about within the book? Had I neglected any characters (yes, it turns out, I really had). Was there moments we needed to see (absolutely missed a couple of perfect moments that I’ll need to go back and finish up or add a new section/chapter).

The weird thing is thinking about what needs to be added when normally at this point in the process my job is to trim things. It is to make the prose tighter where possible. Say something in 5 words instead of using 10. That sort of thing. But this book has been different because I’m using writing muscles I don’t normally use.

I’ve been thinking about the idea of pencils down recently. It has popped up in my day job where certain reports have been edited and edited to the point where we are taking sections out in review 5 that we added back in review 3 because they no longer work. Which, to me, is an indication that we need to stop trying for perfection. Perfect is the enemy of done.

So I think about that, and then think about the editing and wonder, when is enough, enough? When will the work be ready to put out into the world? When will I be ready to have it out there?

And then I also think about the idea that nothing is ever really finished.

Or maybe the thing is finished when I have put all my best efforts into it?

Or maybe it’s finished when the missing pieces are all filled in. If writing a book is like a puzzle, I only need to find the missing parts and then add them into all the blank areas, right?

So, I’m not there yet with this one. I still have a little ways to go, but it is getting closer with every chapter I print out, with every word I change or cut or add or tweak, and it is slowly becoming the end thing I’ve been trying to get out of my brain and onto the computer.

Soon.

Well, soonish.

***

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

 

 

Free Short Story by John McGuire – The Secrets of Storytelling Part 2

A few years back I had the opportunity to write a short story for an anthology collection Beyond the Gate (Free!) taking place in the world of The Dream Engine (by the guys from the Self-Publishing Podcast, Sean Platt and Johnny Truant) which was a Steampunk novel set in a place where a great Fog surrounded the islands where the book takes place. Those who can avoid it, for within is a collection of nightmare creatures from the stories of old.

Anyway, my story was “The Secrets of Storytelling”, which focuses on one of the pilots living in this world, someone who is like a Rock-star on our world… and used his mouth and mind to tell the greatest stories.

Part 1 can be found here.

***

Lukas barely paused long enough for the shaw to touch down before leaping from the vehicle. Under his seat, he pulled out a metal box and opened it. Inside was a small pistol and a light stick, which he ignited. Shoving the gun into the back of his pants, Lukas pointed to the rear of the ship. “There’s some rope in the back, grab it.” Lukas stalked towards the crash, but still Isaac did not move. “What are you waiting for?”

Even at this distance, maybe a hundred yards, it didn’t feel far enough away to be safe. He shouted from his seat in the shaw. “Do you really need me?”

“What is wrong with you? A man could be dying over there. Now get the rope.”

Isaac gathered what courage he could muster and eased out of his seat to the rear of the shaw. The rope was heavy in his arms. Approaching the craft, Lukas held his light in front illuminating their path. When the beam reflected off the hull, he saw the damage. Flames licked at the edges of the fallen craft, but that didn’t stop Lukas from probing where he could. He surveyed the craft’s rear without any luck. He moved around the edge, near the barrier but stopped cold. “I’ve got tracks over here.”

Isaac shuffled over to look. With each movement, his body threatened to rebel. He wanted nothing more than to drop the rope and run away from this spot as fast as his legs could carry him. Yet, he’d seen Lukas’s disappointment before. Sure enough, he saw the marks on the ground, dragging through the fresh grass up to the Fog and disappearing into the white.

“You ready?”

Isaac took a step back. “Go in there? Are you insane?”

“Kid, we’ve got chalk here. Just nothing. Only way to be sure whether the pilot is alive or dead is to go in there.” Lukas pointed to the barrier.

“No sane person should go in there. Madness waits inside.”

“Guy could’ve crawled from the wreckage; he could have hit his head in the crash. Might be addled. Either way we’ve got to go in.” Lukas took the rope bundle from him and began tying it around his waist. Finished with the harness, he gave a few feet of slack and then did the same around Isaac before fixing the end to a portion of the wrecked ship.

Isaac wasn’t sure. The stories said to go into the Fog meant death for those who might dare to venture inside. To pass the threshold meant to make a final choice. Mostly he couldn’t get Penelope out of his head. All those years and she… maybe she had been right about everything…

“We’ve got to go in there. We’ve got no choice. Plus, I have this.” He withdrew the pistol from his pants, tugging on their lifeline to make sure it was secure. “In and out before anything in there could possibly know we were ever there. Right?” Isaac couldn’t tell if the man was giving reassurance or asking for it. Taking a deep breath, Lukas plunged into the unknown.

Isaac waited, his feet glued to the spot. He’d left out one piece of the story. How his sister spoke just prior to entering. With one hand hovering over the mist, she stared at him. “We both will have to go in there at some point. I’m just choosing my time.” He should have gone in there when she asked him. Maybe if she hadn’t been alone, she wouldn’t have let her mind get lost.

Now at the precipice, those words echoed back. The rope connecting him to Lukas stiffened from somewhere within the Fog. He passed through and felt the barest of resistance to the effort. As if a thin membrane needed to be pierced before he could enter.

No choice, indeed. There never was.

***

Isaac didn’t know how Lukas found the pilot in the soup. One minute they were stumbling around in the darkness, with the only light from a flashlight to guide them, and the next the pilot was there… still breathing, barely. Scratches scarred his arms, burn marks pocketed his face, and one arm dangled at an unnatural angle.

“Help me grab him,” Lukas ordered.

Isaac grunted, lifting the broken pilot as best he could. Then he heard it.

A mixture of a growl and a cry pierced through the air. The hairs on Isaac’s arms stood at attention and his grip began to slip on the injured man. Lukas must have sensed the slip and locked eyes with him, attempting to will him more strength in light of the animal nearby. In that look, Isaac saw his fear reflected back at him. Yet there was something else. A determination and a glimmer of someone else, long since buried, attempting to surface.

A claw materialized and slashed across Isaac’s arm. The pilot’s form slipped to the ground with a thud. Glowing eyes, red in the mist, belonging to something terrible and awful watched. A blur of razors tore through the air, finding their home in his flesh. He brought his arms up to protect his face and was rewarded by more blood. The ground rushed up to greet him and he felt the grass underneath, brittle and torn, the dirt a slog which clutched and tore at him trying to pull him under. Then came the jerk, first on his foot, before the tendril wrapped itself around like a vine on a tree, twisting and turning… and pulling.

Isaac gripped the ground for salvation, clutching broken blades of grass while they shattered under his touch. Within each moment that passed the grip strengthened and pulled on him further.

A scream escaped his lips. A name carried on the wind for help.

“Lukas!”

Isaac saw the man, his hero, with his gun, firing wildly into the mist attempting to ward off any other crawler who might want to take advantage. The gun flashed repeatedly, and suddenly his legs were free. He twisted back around, looking to lift the man they’d risked everything to save… and found nothing. The pilot’s body was gone. Track marks led away from the struggle, torn into the dirt, blood marking his path until it couldn’t be seen anymore.

Something collided with him, and he stumbled to the ground again. He groped for the rope still tied to his waist, but found it slack in his hands. He scrambled to pull it towards him, hopeful that Lukas was still there on the other end. A frayed end greeted him. Hacked and slashed, by either blade or razor or teeth, Isaac studied the piece and realized the loss.

This is where I’m going to die.

“Get up and run!” Isaac saw a hand in the mist and clutched it. They both raced from the spot, back the way they came, back to reality where monsters only existed in storybooks and legends. A place where he erased Penelope from his thoughts, at least for a little while. Yet, what should have taken seconds to traverse appeared endless. Isaac knew they could not have ventured far beyond the barrier, maybe twenty feet… certainly no more than thirty.

So why can’t I see the other side?

Lukas greeted the hiss behind them with more gunfire. Discarded shells littered the ground at they ran. Another black tendril snaked out from the miasma and Lukas slashed at it, cutting it away.

The Fog pressed its sudden weight down on them. It thickened, growing more oppressive with every step they took. And those steps came with a conscious effort, pulling his feet from the thick muck underneath them. They slipped and strained – the monster called out again, angry its dinner was attempting to flee. The ground rumbled beneath them. The shake lasted only seconds, but Isaac continued to feel a similar shaking in his legs as they continued forward.

Finally, he saw the outside world. The crashed ship became a beacon. Tantalizingly close, the knowledge reinvigorated Isaac, propelling him forward. Somehow, his strides lengthened.

With a snap, Isaac felt his stomach clench as what was left of the rope around his waist snapped to life. It choked the breath from him, but somehow he kept his feet and pulled. Tug of war, with a nameless death awaiting him if he lost. He grasped at the rope binding him, tugging at the knot. His feet dug into the ground, that same ground which had felt like muck, was as light as dust. His fingers began to bleed, but the knot… come on!

And he was free. Wasting no more time, he sprinted to the barrier. Between the two, the membrane that birthed them tore under their sudden pressure. A release so sudden they both tumbled onto the rolling Alterra fields. Isaac gasped for his breath, anxious to taste the clear air. Behind him the Fog pulsed, as if it were about to spew all its contents, not just them. Behind that was a hiss, but a louder rumble began to overpower it. A sucking sound emanated from the darkness.

Those same tendrils slid out from the Fog, ebony snakes slithering along the fresh grass, inching their way toward them.

“We’re not out yet, get up and run!” Lukas shouted.

The snakes surrounded where his body had been only seconds before.. Others busied themselves with the damaged shaw, engulfing it, extinguishing the flames. Metal wrenched, gears sheared off, firing like blasts from a cannon. Lukas jumped into the pilot’s seat of his shaw, Isaac wasted no time in strapping in.

“Go!”

The old beast roared to life, just as the last of the downed ship disappeared in the Fog, swallowed into the oblivion of horrors. Isaac couldn’t tear his eyes from the crash site, and while the Fog disappeared behind them, he continued to check. Still worried those snakes would trail them.

***

The ship touched the brick landing pad with a soft kiss. There had been no words spoken over the last few hours; however, Isaac hadn’t noticed. After an hour, his worry dissipated. There would be nothing else trying to get them, at least not on that morning. The world turned gray as it prepared for the sunrise to paint it anew.

When they arrived in Stensue, Isaac spilled out of the vehicle barely able to keep himself from collapsing to the ground. Beyond them, even at the early hour, dozens of happy spotters huddled outside the skyport’s perimeter. A slightly smaller crowd than the one from the previous evening, but what they lacked in numbers, they made up for in enthusiasm. Many of them had their faces painted up an assortment of rainbow colors. He watched them, these small people who had no idea how precarious their position might be. Their eyes shone dull, a lack of knowledge about the true state of the world made them less. He pitied them. One day they would see the truth and wonder how they could ever go back to their lives.

Somehow, over all the cheering, Isaac detected something else. A slow whistle filled the air, and once he righted himself erected himself, it surprised him to see Lukas was responsible. After everything they’d seen, everything they fought on the other side… how could he be calm?

“We’ve got to tell someone. Tell the Ministry. Tell someone here with the military. Someone!”

Lukas nodded slowly, reaching into his inside front pocket for his silver flask. “Aye. We will tell someone.” He brought the green liquid up to his mouth and drained the container, this time not a drop wasted. When he’d finished he looked around at the crowd waiting for their arrival. Lukas nudged Isaac toward the gathered crowd. “In fact, I know of many a charming female who would love to hear this.”

Isaac jerked away. “What? Why would I tell-”

Lukas grabbed a hold of Isaac and locked eyes with him. “No one else will listen. They never listen. I’ve told them time and again to avoid the routes too near the Fog, and they don’t care. They ignore it.”

And in that instant, it became clear to the younger man. “All those stories?” Lukas nodded, and Isaac saw the tired eyes that had seen too much over the years. He finally understood what the legendary pilot had meant when they first spoke so many hours earlier. He found the words rolling from his mouth. “The one thing that ruddermouths do better than anyone else.”

Lukas grunted. “Tell a story. Otherwise we might end up in Joffrey Columns ourselves.”

 

***

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

Free Short Story by John McGuire – The Secrets of Storytelling Part 1

 

A few years back I had the opportunity to write a short story for an anthology collection Beyond the Gate (Free!) taking place in the world of The Dream Engine (by the guys from the Self-Publishing Podcast, Sean Platt and Johnny Truant) which was a Steampunk novel set in a place where a great Fog surrounded the islands where the book takes place. Those who can avoid it, for within is a collection of nightmare creatures from the stories of old.

 

Anyway, my story was “The Secrets of Storytelling”, which focuses on one of the pilots living in this world, someone who is like a Rock-star on our world… and used his mouth and mind to tell the greatest stories.

***

Isaac Parkes twisted and turned through the throng of people gathered around the skyport. All eager to see the ferry shaws begin their next circuit supply run. All hoping for one more look at the ruddermouth pilots before they lifted off.

Isaac raced across the tarmac but not in an effort to be a spectator. He sidestepped an older woman who had painted her face a strange blue hue, nearly causing him to collide with a teenage girl, her eyes full of stars and hope. His satchel slid down his hand in the scuffle, but he kept his grip, leapt over another gawker, and shoved his way past the perimeter guards with a flash of his paperwork, though they did very little to verify much of anything. Too concerned with maintaining the lines for the rest of the mob, it seemed just acting as if you belonged was more than enough to allow you past their blockade.

Only fifty feet to the final shaw, he heard its engines fire up and begin their lift-off cycle. With no one between him and his goal his run transformed into a sprint. Back and forth he waved, trying to get the pilot’s attention. It did him little good. There was a stir in the engine. It would be only a few more seconds before the craft took to the skies, leaving him alone on the empty platform.

Just before the final lift, his hand found the passenger door and slid it open, hopping into the cockpit as fast as he could. His stomach lurched in time with the ascent, but he managed to keep his breakfast down. With a click, the door slid back into place, locked tight.

Now inside the craft he realized how heavy his breaths came and used the back of his sleeve to wipe away the sweat from his brow. Below them, he could see the crowd for what it was. A flash of red hair behind a handmade sign gave him the briefest pause. A memory from another time… then she was lost in the mass of women crying at the loss of their true love. Nearly fifty people saw them off. Their adulation was an impressive sight. Isaac wondered if they only felt that way for tonight’s lift-off or if this was a regular occurrence.

“About left you back there. Another coupla seconds and you’d have started walking.” The pilot startled Isaac. He turned to give the man his sincere thanks and the words wouldn’t come out. He started to stutter out some words again, but couldn’t make his mouth work like it was supposed to. There he was in the flesh. Never in all his years would he have expected to get his lift to Stensue from Lukas Byron. But it was him. The strong jawline, the dark hair with just the barest hints of gray peeking out told the truth of that.

Except once he took a good look at the pilot, he realized he’d gotten it wrong. This wasn’t the Lukas he’d seen two years earlier. Isaac still remembered the smell of the bar, a mixture of cigar smoke and bodies crowded into such a small room. He and his brother Sean arrived hours early, squeezed into one of the booths near the back where they could watch everything and everyone. Then the ruddermouths came in, full of thirst and swagger. He recognized a few of them, but it wasn’t until Lukas came in that the wait had been worth it.

Sadly, something had hidden that man from the world and replaced him with a doppelganger. That Lukas was a star, with his jet-black hair grown long enough to hide his eyes, but not enough to block a full smile displaying a full set of shiny ivory teeth. Apparently the years of long hauls and spinning yarns late into the night was tougher work than it appeared. Replaced by the four-day growth on his face, gray hairs were no longer content to hide from the world, fully announcing their presence. His jacket, worn thin in some places, was stitched together with hastily placed patches that were threatening to pull away from the leather. And while this Lukas still smiled, there was no longer a toothy grin attached. Instead, he gifted Isaac with a forced smile from a shell of a man.

The Lukas Byron he knew, the one everyone knew, told legendary tales, each one more fantastic than the last. He fought river creatures one day before stopping gremlins from destroying his skyship the next. Then there was a dogfight with a dragon, if you believed in that sort of thing. He was a man who made being a ruddermouth a goal to be had, not a consolation prize for those who aren’t picked for skyships or the zeppelins. He’d weaved his way through every city and every port, spinning his lies about adventures to the far side of the world.

Isaac would know. He owned the book. More than that, he had memorized the book. He could have recited the story about the hauntings at Aerohead when a group of ruddermouths were forced to stop overnight and nearly lost their lives.

And here, in this inner sanctum of his hero, he saw the proof. Pinned and stuck to the ceiling were an assortment of clippings, sketches, and fabric pieces torn from dresses, scarves, and possibly other things. These were his gifts from an untold number of fans.

Of course, Isaac knew the stories weren’t true. They couldn’t be anything other than simple tales. But he was fine with it. He’d always been one for stories and the like. When he was no taller than a doorknob, he’d lose himself in his father’s study. Books lined the walls, some stacked in the corner, and each time he touched a book a plume of dust lifted from its home. Each one held those old stories. His father liked to refer to them as Alterra’s old secrets. He’d say, “In those books you’ll get a picture of how things were.”

Image by Stefan Keller from Pixabay

“You mean monsters and elves used to run around?”

“No. I mean you can understand what people believed many hundreds of years ago. Those are just stories. Stories your mother might kill me over if she knew you were reading.”

The shaw hummed through the night’s sky. Lukas rummaged in the front of his jacket and produced a flask. Isaac saw a tint of green liquid leak at the edges of the man’s mouth before he offered his cargo a sip of Thunderclap. Isaac shook his head.

“So, why’d you join?” When Isaac didn’t immediately respond, Lukas filled in the silence for him. “It’s going to be a long enough flight, and I’ve never had a partner up here before. Might be nice to have someone to talk to.”

“I suppose. Well, I-”

“Wait! Let me guess… you fell for the campaign didn’t you? That whole ‘Come and see the world’ bit. Am I right?”

It was a question Isaac found himself pondering many nights when he couldn’t sleep. He’d yet to find a satisfactory answer, so he countered, “Why’d you join up?”

“To see the world.” Lukas said the words without any hint of happiness or sadness. It was a matter of fact. “I was never going to see Waldron’s Gate or Yon or Stensue where I was. Grew up in a small village in the middle of nowhere. Just was never going to happen. Being a ruddermouth was my way out.”

Isaac found himself nodding. Maybe he wasn’t different from this man. Both of them thrown into situations because of circumstance more than anything else.

“The women don’t hurt either.” This time he gave a full-toothed smile, and Isaac couldn’t help but return it.

Isaac shifted in his seat beside the pilot. All the gears and instruments clicked and hummed as the shaw made its way through the air. “I’ve heard almost all your stories. I even have the book.”

“Book?”

“I’ve always wondered what part of flying opens your mind up to weave those tales. I mean, I know it must be lonely when you are making your runs. Especially when you’re going from Yon to Waldron’s Gate. No disrespect to the Builders, but you do what they do… just in story form.” Isaac wished he’d stop gushing, but he couldn’t help it. There were so many questions he’d had since he’d first started reading about Lukas. He saved every clipping from the papers, watched every news story produced. Now he was riding in a ferry shaw with the man.

“Oh that. The writer ended up listening to my stories and a bunch from other pilots. Took ten and slapped my name on it. I don’t honestly know which ones they used.”

“Are you saying they aren’t your stories?”

“Maybe. Maybe not. I mean, I am pretty entertaining when I need to be. Ruddermouths always got stories to tell. Everyone knows that.”

Lukas stared out at the night. Below the cloud line they could still see the slow rolling fields underneath them. For some reason it reminded Isaac of what Jonah the Whale God’s ocean might be like. The grass swayed in time with the wind.

“Things are changing, though. Routes that were once sleepers… there’s a threat around every turn of a mountain or valley. Every…” Lukas trailed off. “I shouldn’t say anything.”

“What? What shouldn’t you tell me?”

“Let me ask you a different question first. Where have you been?”

“All over,” Isaac said.

“Waldron’s Gate?” When Isaac shook his head, Lukas continued, “Then you haven’t been anywhere. But it’s alright. You’ll be there soon enough.”

“Mayday! Mayday!”

The squawkbox lit up the cockpit with its flashing glow. The voice on the other end reached out through the air to try to find an anchor to someone. Static cut the words into broken pieces. “Something hit… going to try…”

Lukas touched the box. “Where are you?”

“Thirty miles out… on the way to Thestic.” Static ate the rest of the communication.

“Do you know where that is?” Isaac asked.

“Damn fool, trying to cut his route short after I warn him to stick to the tried and true ways. Yeah, I know good and well where he is.”

Isaac clenched his hands, tightening his grip on the dashboard, knocking off a random keepsake. He leaned forward in his seat, as if the movement would allow them to travel faster. Lukas shook his head at the gesture. “Oh, you’re a romantic… that’s why you want to be a ruddermouth. Well, with those doe eyes and full head of black hair, the ladies are going to love you.”

 

***

Isaac saw the crash site first when they came over the ridge. Flying low to the ground, above the treetops, Lukas pressed the shaw harder to get to the crash site. Not that it was possible to miss the blaze as it contrasted against the white-gray mist. The fallen shaw had carved a long trench, before coming to a stop at the edge of the Fog, half in and half out. Strewn pieces littered the ground, cogs and gears, as if someone had taken the Builder’s toy and destroyed it, turning the metal into nothing better than scrap.

“Hoped they’d not be this close to that blasted thing.”

No matter where you lived in Alterra, the Fog surrounded you. Maybe if a person happened to live where it intruded, it might occupy their thoughts a bit more. For most it was like the Crown or Jonah the Whale God; it just was. To Isaac, though, this was something else. He’d spent so much of his life away from this edge of the world. Horrible things pulled and probed at a person’s psyche from within that great unknown. He’d seen it firsthand.

Lukas pointed at the white curtain. “You’ve seen it before?”

Isaac croaked a reply, “Yes.” He’d seen it many years earlier.

“My sister… Penelope.” Isaac wasn’t sure why the words began to flow. Something about the pilot seemed eager to hear another story perhaps. “She was fearless. Always calling me out when I didn’t want to go exploring in the woods near our home. She’d always pick the highest tree and climb it. I can’t remember who dared the other one first, but it didn’t take any convincing. She walked right up to the edge of the Fog and reached out to touch it. That was all she was supposed to do. And then, for some damned reason she turned and looked at me… flashed me that smile of hers, and her red hair trailed her into the mists.”

“By the Crown,” Lukas muttered.

“I called for her. I screamed her name into the nothingness.” Lukas nodded and Isaac continued, “I lost track of the time… maybe it was a minute, maybe ten minutes. My voice was hoarse when she finally reemerged. I didn’t notice at the time, but there was something different. Like she’d lost a piece of herself. The light behind her eyes had grown dull.

“We didn’t notice it immediately. But all the same, something was different. She was a little off. Not big things at first. She forgot things. Time suddenly didn’t concern her. Where before she’d always hated being late to anything, instead we’d find her wandering around the farm without a care.

“One night we found her hiding in her closet with a knife. She was screaming about the darkness becoming alive. I thought maybe she hadn’t taken her Crumble, but that wasn’t the case either. She was slipping. And when she attacked our brother Sean two nights later… that was the end.”

Isaac took a deep breath, but his voice cracked anyway. “We had no choice.”

Lukas said the words for him, “Joffrey Columns.”

Isaac nodded and wiped the wet from his face, long-repressed emotions resurfacing. Lukas placed a hand on his shoulder. It was an awkward movement, though the meaning behind it was well-intended. The final descent jarred both men back to reality and the burning ship below.

***

Check out Part 2 next week.

***

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

Movie Watch

There was a post going around Twitter this past weekend where you are asked to name 5 movies you’d seen at least 10 times. Considering the people I follow, I saw many of the usual suspects mentioned (Star Wars being the big one). Of course, this got my mind going on those movies I could claim that I’d absolutely seen at least 10 times. Now I think for it to count, you would have had to sat and watched at least 90% of the movie. So if Shawshank Redemption is on TNT this weekend and you catch it shortly after Andy arrives in prison, I think that counts, but if they are well into him doing the taxes for the guards… then that doesn’t count.

The weird thing about this little exercise is not so much identifying the greatest hits of my own life, but trying to determine those movies that I have really and truly seen 10 times. Fundamentally, viewing a movie ten times is a lot. When you think about it, it’s a bit harder to do, especially as you move from your childhood into adulthood. Back then you had summers and random weekends and probably random afternoons where I decided to watch Young Guns for the twentieth time. As the list builds, anything that came out in the last decade or so is almost immediately eliminated. There are movies I feel like I’ve seen 10 times, but do I really know that I’ve seen The Replacements 10 times (I mean, I pretty much watch it every time it pops up on TV)? I love A Knight’s Tale, but I gotta be honest, it’s probably more like a 7 or 8 time movie for me at this point. Even something like Avengers is around 6 or 7 times, but there is almost no way it is 10.

But really, what does the list tell us about ourselves and our friends? There is a comfort in rewatching something over and over. I see it in my own household constantly as my wife has certain TV shows on a continuous loop (Veronica Mars, Gilmore Girls, Lucifer being only a few). You’d think she’d rather watch something new (and we do), but she uses the shows as a way to unwind and de-stress. She also uses them to fall asleep, training her mind to shut down as the episode plays on in the background.

There is also something to the idea of needing those familiar movies (or TV Shows) to help us through certain times in our lives. They can be a bonding mechanism or just a way to appease the next generation.

During last year, I definitely found it helpful to get a level of comfort in the familiar by watching something like Firefly on a weekly basis during the summer (about 2 episodes every Friday to really have a sort of throwback to “better times”). Revisiting those characters that I’ve loved through their handful of adventures is always a nice way to spend some time. I don’t have to worry about following every word since I nearly know all of them by heart. Even more than that, on first watch of nearly anything you are going to get caught up in the big moments (whether it is a small comedy or a big blockbuster). A single rewatch allows you to see what you missed in the first place.

Back in college, Clerks and Mallrats played over and over from the same VHS tape. It was a beat-up version copied from a rental so on my old-ass tv we had to turn the volume to its limits in order to hear it (even in our small dorm room).

Also during college, whenever I returned home for Quarter breaks, my sister and I would make a point to watch The Breakfast Club and Weird Science. Those movies became our way to bond in a real way that we didn’t or hadn’t been able to do when we were living together 24/7 and annoying each other day in and day out.

Casting my mind even further back, rewatching the pair of Ghostbusters 2 and Who Framed Roger Rabbit? was the only thing that would calm my younger brother down enough to let my mom sleep (she worked nights, so during the summer we babysat). Again, it was a VHS copied from HBO with both movies on it. Over the course of two summers that tape was played nearly every day. It got so bad that my sister hid the stupid tape… but my brother found it time and time again.

Much like music has an ability to recapture a moment in time for the listener, I think movies can remind us of who we were when we first watched them, and then later, on the rewatches, we are able to glean different and new things from those same stories, finding a way to apply them to our current lives.

***

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

 

The Van Gogh Experience

Van Gogh – Stary Night Over The Rhone

This past weekend my wife and I headed out to Atlanta to see the Van Hogh Immersive Experience. Prior to going, I could say that I might have known a couple of his paintings (Stary Night obviously being the big one) and maybe knew two things about him (he died young and cut off his ear for some reason). So you could say this was definitely something we were both walking into a bit blind.

The first portion of the exhibit showed many of his paintings along with information about what inspiration he might have drawn from when he was painting. And while the paintings themselves varied from the more mundane subjects (bedrooms and flowers and the countryside), it was still an amazing accomplishment (a true feat of brilliance by one man). Here was someone who did the majority of his oil paintings and artwork in the final two years of his life. To have a creative output of that level is beyond my understanding, but I could definitely appreciate everything I saw and read about a man who seemed to be so troubled by his own brain that perhaps through his painting he was exorcising the demons within himself?

The main portion is in a very large room where his works are projected on all four walls and the floor. The move to music, telling a story of a man’s passion for capturing the beauty he saw within the world. The images move and flow, they warp and change from darkness to light, from self-portraits to a wheatfield where a murder of crows fly into the night. The music they chose to accompany it is remorseful at times before morphing to match the images we can see.

This is the Immersive Experience. To be able to live within his works, even if only for a little bit of time. To be able to peer inside his head in order to gain a small understanding of what he was trying to say to the rest of the world. Sitting there on the floor with my back against the wall, the rest of the world was only what Van Gogh chose to paint. Reality was a series of short and long brush strokes. Life was a collage of images drawn by someone who had no choice but to bear his soul on the canvas.

Van Gogh – Wheatfield with Crows

Finally, we had a VR experience where we could see the world around him for ourselves. They had a digital recreation with frames suspended in the air where the painting would take shape. The idea that perhaps, for a second, we might be able to see the beauty he saw in the world and understand why he was moved to paint it.

Yet, as we left the rooms and ventured back to our own reality, the thing that resonated with me the most wasn’t the paintings. Instead it was the various quotes they had from his numerous letters which struck home with me. He wrote so many letters where he bared his soul in a different way than he could do in his art. Those words hit me in a way I wouldn’t have expected. There was clarity to each thought.

Sometimes because it was a beautiful thought:

“There is nothing more truly artistic than to love people.”

“There is peace even in the storm.”

 

To tragic:

“I put my heart and soul into my work, and I have lost my mind in the process.”

“Art is to console those who are broken by life.”

 

However, two stood out and really hit home. The first because I’ve recently begun to resurrect a project about Dreams so it felt as if Van Gogh was talking about it directly:

“I dream my painting and I paint my dream.”

 

And the second because it is something that I need to remember whenever doubt enters into my mind, for it is a singular truth like no other:

Choose to push through the doubts, the adversity, the days when you don’t want to do anything, the days when you can’t do anything, the days where the blankness of the page is so intimidating that you nearly cry…

“… then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.”

Silence the doubts.

***

To find out more about the Van Gogh Immersive Experience by going to their website.

***

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

Books That Changed Me – Part 3

I love horror movies. Since I was around 9 or 10, I’ve loved them. Somehow, I managed to watch the first Nightmare on Elm Street and that was it. I was taken down the path. Over the years I’ve watched slasher films, metaphysical films, bad zombie films, good zombie films, and everything in between.

But I haven’t read much horror over the years. Which seems like it shouldn’t be an issue at all. I mean, if I love the genre, then I should read some of the novels that are out there. But I stayed more in the Fantasy or Science Fiction worlds growing up (once I started reading for fun). It wasn’t until I decided that this Stephen King fellow might be onto something with his movies here and there that I’d catch. So I went to the library (back when you did that sort of thing) and picked up Misery.

 

Misery – Stephen King

In some ways this book managed to teach me about the idea of a story inside of a story. I probably knew of the technique (1001 Arabian Nights being one of, if not the biggest, example), but I’d never read anything that tried to do it. Effectively having to write one book about what the author was going through (just trying to survive his crazy, obsessed fan) and then being able to read the story he was writing. But not only that, once he’d finished the pages, he’d hand them over to Annie and he and the reader had to hope that she enjoyed the pages as he went along, otherwise, she would end up punishing him for it.

I’ve wondered if there could be a version of the overall novel that merely hints at what the “other” story was about. And the more I do, the more I realize that it is important for the reader to really get involved with this fictional character’s creation. Somehow it helps to make his plight all the more real when trying to please someone who is mentally damaged. We’re rooting for him to find a way out of the situation, but all the while reading along with the pages he “writes”. Those interludes offer a slight respite from what’s going on the rest of the time… a way for the reader to catch their breath a little bit.

I’ve since gone on and read some of King’s shorts, a couple of other books, and The Dark Tower series, but there is something about the pure horror of being under another’s thumb, with little to no hope of changing your fate.

World War Z – Max Brooks

Where Misery takes the story within a story motif and runs with it, World War Z approaches the horror in a different way, focusing on smaller stories as part of an overall theme: a reporter who is doing a retrospective book on the War with the zombies.

The key part of that is where the stories themselves are not directly related, they still are interconnected by the bigger theme: a world at war with a supernatural threat that may not being able to be stopped. But because it is a reporter “covering” the story, the reader is pulled along into the different lives of regular folk just fighting to survive. And then, just when you are settling in, you are pulled into the war effort itself with a focus on the war the armed forces were coordinating.

And while we know that humans won the war, by focusing on smaller tales, we can never be sure who within the story may or may not survive- furthering any tension they might be dealing with.

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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