COVID Through the Eyes of A Cat

I wonder if my cats think that I’ve lost my wits (and writing the following blog only cements that idea).

Over the weekend, we visited with the in-laws and my step-father in-law mentioned that our cats didn’t like him. I replied, they slept with you while you napped in the chair! He shook this statement off, so I ended it with “Well, they like us!”

Overall, though, both Westley and Inigo are very friendly cats. Now over ten years old, they are the type who will initially hide when guests come over but shortly thereafter are in the middle of the room demanding some level of attention from the trespassers.

When it comes to my wife and me, it goes to another level. Most nights when I sit at the computer I am offered company by one of them. Sometimes they tag team, allowing a brief respite from entertaining the big guy for a little while. My wife has worked from home for over two years now, so I think they’ve gotten used to her being here. Typically they hang out upstairs (where her desk sits) trying to find a sunbeam in one of the bedrooms.

During this pandemic, I’m now home pretty much all the time. And on top of this fact, I don’t bore very easily. My problem has always been that there is never enough time to do everything I’d like to do. I want to write and read and play games and watch movies and tv and have time with the wife and… so being at home isn’t the prison sentence more extroverted people are dealing with.

Funny Cat Work From Home Office Meme

But the cats clearly don’t know what to do because I’m here all the time. I’ve been working from home for two months now, and the pair of them have adapted to my being home treating it as a now foregone conclusion that I am always home with them. The old world is shattered and this new one is all there is/was/ever will be. If I leave to go outside for a walk I am scolded by Westley upon my return. A series of meows which signify “How dare you leave this house!?! I did not give you permission for such things!” Days meld together so that every day must be the weekend in their eyes.

I can only imagine that they think I am just changing the time from when I normally sit at the desk from night-time to literally all day. I wonder if they wonder whether I still have a day job. Will there still be food in their bowl in the morning? Is he ever going to get up and give me more treats? Can’t he see I’ve been good all day? Heck, he’s been here all day!

Yet, even after spending all that time during the day, I’m sitting here typing up this blog, and Westley is resting on the desk beside me. Inigo visited me a little while ago before going into the bedroom with my wife and curling up on the bed.

Now I can only imagine what they’ll think when it is time for me to go back into the office on a regular basis.

***

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Why Dwell on the Bad?

My wife and I are avid Survivor fans. Enough so that a couple of years ago I wrote a breakdown of how I saw ways to play the game. Last week was the season finale of their 40th season which saw 20 past winners come back to play the game against each other. To say it was a great season was an understatement. While the regular games with all new players tend to play out in somewhat similar fashion at the beginning (get to know each other, build a shelter, try hard as hell not to lose the first challenge, etc.) there is still that unknown ahead of each of them. No one knows who the others are so you have to feel things out. Maybe you immediately click with another person only to find out they’ve already rubbed people the wrong way. What do you do? Are you going to risk your game on a relative stranger?

But with previous players and especially former winners, you have a different dynamic unfolding. Each of them kinda knows each other. Sure, some of the early players may not really know the newer players, but all of them know exactly what it took for each of them to get a win in the game. They know how important certain alliances were to their well-being and how sometimes one mistake can completely sink your game.

And that was very interesting to see play out on our television. The idea of a mistake being made where you want to shout at the screen: “No! Stop! You aren’t going to come back from this!”

This has existed in the game since the beginning and is pretty much in most other games you may play. Had that been the only thing that I noticed through this watch, then I would have maybe filed it away and moved on, but during the finale there was something said that really spoke to me as a human and definitely as a writer:

One of the players made mention that she dwelt on the bad things for far too long, but that she didn’t have to. She shouldn’t do that. It’s baggage around her neck that she’s carried around throughout her life for the last few years.

But that idea of dwelling on the bad things is exactly what so many of us do in our daily lives. We never give ourselves permission to dwell on the GOOD that might have occurred.

***

Courtney and I, prior to the pandemic, played poker pretty much every week. Occasionally we’d win the night and those were things we did celebrate. But on a regular night where maybe we finished 3rd out of 50 people are we normally happy that we did so well? Or is the ride back thinking about that one or two hands that we could have/ should have played completely differently?

“Why didn’t I make that call? I’d won a huge pot!”

“Why did I make that call? It was so stupid. What else could they have had but the nuts?

“Why did I bet so much? It scared them.

“Why didn’t I bet more? They stuck around and sucked out on me.

And so on.

***

In writing, sometimes it is all about the next accomplishment. So much of what you might be doing is on a fairly long timeline. It could be weeks, months, or years (or decades even) where you are tolling away. Chapter by chapter passes by and you think very little of it. Maybe you set your mini-goals at word counts and when you finally hit 25%, 50%, or 75% of the book being done it is a small fist pump or maybe a slight mention to the wife. But then there is the next milestone to hit and so we can’t dwell on that.

However, if you haven’t been able to get inspired or the words are a little slower coming or maybe you’ve just worked too much over the last few weeks so your word count is in the gutter… well, you live in that world where you are behind.

“I haven’t written that much.”

“I am so far behind my goals.”

“Did you see how much that other person has written in the last months. What the hell is wrong with me?”

DWELLING in the BAD.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

***

Celebrate the wins.

You wrote 200 words last night. Great! You are 1% closer to your book being done. You finished a chapter! Great! Take that moment. You finished the book! Don’t think about all the other things you still have to do (edits, writing the sequels, what if no one buys the damn thing, and so on).

No. Celebrate the wins. Wallow in them for a little while longer. Because there will always be something to dwell on if you want. Those little mistakes or the big ones… they are going to happen regardless. Instead, give yourself permission to be happy for a change.

Celebrate the wins.

***

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Speed?

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

I’m currently in the midst of a daily email series about the various aspects of writing where you get a lesson and then are prompted to either write some notes or break down an existing movie into its pieces or write something that is kinda like an essay. Regardless, one of the lessons this last week was about Writing Fast.

Now, Writing Fast is like the Fountain of Youth or the Lost City of Gold. It is this abstract thing that other writers talk about but I’m not 100% sure that they can truly convey how they manage it. It’s like running in real life. I played sports my whole life. And I would say I was fairly athletic through high school. But I was sooooo slooooow when it came to running. It’s an odd thing because I’m 6’5″ so you’d think that my longer legs would equate to longer strides but they really didn’t. When my dad remarked that I should stretch those lengths I had no idea how one would even begin to go about doing it.

That’s a bit how I see Writing Fast.

But, I don’t doubt that there is a way to increase your speed. Of course, it takes practice… over and over and over again. Butt in chair type stuff.

Anyway, the assignment after reading about how to become Faster was to set a timer for 10 minutes and then just write about what it means to you. What follows is what I wrote:

***

Sometimes it feels like everyone in the world has unlocked a secret and you are just waiting there trying to figure out exactly what it is. They tell you that all you have to do is this one thing and everything will make sense… like it is something you unlock within your brain and for whatever reason everyone else has figured it all out.

Yet, I ‘m still not entirely sure what it is that is supposed to be a magical switch within my brain that should be turned in a different direction. It does not come with an easy button even though everyone seems to want to tell you that it is.

That’s what writing fast feels like. It feels like something you should just be able to do with almost no problems and yet when you do it, it’s like a car trying to struggle to crank up. Sure you can get it going after a while, but it is going to take more than a few tries.

This is the intimidating aspect of any of this. I’ve been listening to you guys almost since the beginning, and I have been living with your trials and failures through it all. At the same time I’ve been trying to do this writing thing and yet, there are plenty of times where I do question myself. I know I can do it… but doubt always somehow creeps in.

Is it a mindset? Is it desire? Is it talent? Is it luck?

Is it all of those things?

Probably.

Honestly, I’m doing the best I can at this exact moment… but that doesn’t mean it is the best I could ever do. It doesn’t mean that I can’t find a way to shift to another gear. It doesn’t mean that I’ve got it all figure out. I certainly don’t. I’m constantly searching for the little bits of information I might be able to glean from other writers. What works? What hasn’t worked? What do you do when this one thing happens?

I soak it all up like a sponge because to do anything else would be a true waste of time. It’s focus. It’s trial and error. It’s successes and failures. And then shifting the dirt and seeing if you have any gold under there… maybe?

I just asked Alexa how much time was left on the timer because it feels like forever for some reason. Maybe that’s because at some point in this process of answering the question I literally had no idea what was about to come out.

What’s the good though that could occur if I could have everything click into place? I could get my ideas out there, into the world. Currently, I’m doing my best to keep up with my brain, but if I could get a little faster it might be that my brain needs to catch up to my fingers. It would mean the difference between being on a ten-year plan and maybe being on a 2 or 3-year plan.

It’s freedom.

***

That’s how I feel. If you can potentially harness the gift of speed, maybe it would provide even greater freedom in my writing.

Gotta keep practicing.

***

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

Repost – Brought to you by Yellow #5

Occasionally, I like to reach back into the archives to repost something from waaay back when. That time after Tessera had just started, and I was blogging about anything I could think of. The following was one of my very first blogs (maybe a month into blogging at this point). It’s all about how sometimes you are just in for a very bad day.

***

With it being Thanksgiving Week, I figured this was a good time for me to reflect on what I’m thankful for. However, this particular thing is not a person or a place, but a moment in time that could have gone all sorts of sideways on me. So, sit back on this pre-turkey day and take a stroll to March/April 1999.

It was during my last year at Georgia Tech, at the end of Winter Quarter… finals week. I don’t know how many finals I had that quarter, I believe 4, and of course, I had 2 scheduled on that Friday.

finalsweek-kitty-photo

Which wasn’t supposed to happen. The policy at Tech was that you only should have 1 final per day. They figured, smartly, that you were under enough stress studying for a test that would pretty much make or break your grade, so why complicate things with trying to study for 2 at once. And let me tell you, I tried to get one of them rescheduled for earlier in the week. I begged and pleaded, and each of the professors told me that I needed to talk with the other one as “Their class took precedence”. After banging my head against that wall, I sucked it up and took my medicine like a good boy.

I don’t remember what the classes were, nor do I remember how long I was up the night before (heck, the week before). What I do remember is that feeling of relief as soon as I finished that second test. I walked out of the classroom feeling both the extreme fatigue, but also filled with a warm feeling knowing that I was that much closer to being done with school (I would graduate at the end of the year). The Mountain Dew surging through my veins had managed to keep me awake long enough. So, I begin driving back to my apartment in Decatur, Georgia.

mountain_dew

Again, I don’t recall much of the drive until I got into the city limits. Only 1 mile away from my place I come to a stop at a red light. All I want at this point is to go and take a nap and not wake up until sometime on Sunday. My body ached, my brain ached, and my eyes ached. The light seemed to go on forever, but with the free time afforded to me suddenly, I took a glance into my rearview mirror…

And saw one of Decatur Police’s finest behind me. Now I pass the Police Station almost on a daily basis. Never worried about it…

Until right then.

What’s the problem you ask? Well, there was one other thing that happened to me prior to my double finals. My poor Pontiac Sunbird was in the shop (I was just hoping to get through school with it, figuring once I got a job I could get a new car). Courtney, my girlfriend at the time (and my wife now) was going to Cancun on Spring Break. She made me a deal (she loves to make deals, her nickname is Monty Haul): I can use her car for the week if I take her to the airport (or perhaps it was to MARTA) at some ungodly hour in the morning. Not having much of a choice, I agreed. As I dropped her off she said these fateful words:

“Hey, if you get a chance, could you swap out my tag, I haven’t done that yet.” (She placed the physical tag in the passenger seat so I wouldn’t forget.)

“Sure.”

Oh, and if you don’t know, her birthday is in December…

And it was now late March/early April.

And the tag still hadn’t been changed.

Anyway! Flashback to me in the car with the cop behind me.

Please don’t notice, please don’t notice…

cop_car_crop380w

The light turns green. I press on the gas and the red lights flicker on behind me.

Damn.

I pull the car over on the next side road. Annoyed. Nervous.

Oh, and the window on her car did not work (did I mention that this Honda Civic from the stone ages was effectively a lemon?). So I have to open the door when he approaches. I’m sure that got his Spidey Sense tingling.

“Do you know why I pulled you over?”

I did.

“I’m assuming it is due to the expired tag?”

“Yes.”

“Look, it is right here. This is my girlfriend’s car. I’m on my way home and I was going to change it.”

When I handed him my license and insurance card my hand was shaking. Visibly shaking. The kind of shaking where you realize that it is shaking and the more you try to stop it from doing it, the more it continues…

Shaking.

“Why is your hand shaking son?”

Because I’m running on about 4 hours of sleep for the week. Because I have enough Mountain Dew in me that my blood is yellow and not red. Because my brain is fried from taking two finals in one day.

I did not say any of those things.

“I don’t know.”

“Please step out of the car, son.”

A second police car pulls up at this point.

“May I search your vehicle?”

Yeah, I’ve got nothing to hide. I’ve never done drugs. I’m not drunk.

“Sure”.

NOOOOOO! What are you thinking? This isn’t your car. You don’t know who Courtney might have had in the car. Yeah, you trust her, but what if they stuffed something under the seats?

Well, too late now.

The second cop pulls me aside while the first begins to go through the car, my backpack, glove compartment, trunk, etc. I joke that Courtney is going to get an earful after this. A few minutes later, the first cop calls me back over. Stacked in a nice row on top of the car are pills of various shapes and sizes.

Loose-Pills

Courtney was notorious for opening her pill bottle and having them go flying about the car. She never cleaned them up, so the floorboards were littered with various pills. If you knew her, it was no big deal.

These guys don’t know her.

“What are these?”

I looked at them, fear in the pit of my stomach.

“Those are herbal diet supplements my mom sells.”

“Those are my girlfriend’s epilepsy medicine.”

Those I have no idea what they are.

“I think those are more epilepsy medicine.”

And then came the words I never hope to hear again…

“This will go a lot easier on you if you just tell the truth.”

What!?! But I am… I don’t… WHAT!?!

“Are you on something? Speed?”

“No, sir. I don’t do drugs.”

“And this diet pill, if we call your mom and she comes down to the station she’d confirm that?”

I don’t think I was trying to be a smart-ass, but…

“Well sir, she’s in Richmond, Virginia.”

A third cop pulled up (I am not kidding). Apparently it was a slow day in the City of Decatur. That or I was Walter White 10 years before Breaking Bad… or would that make me Jessie?

At this point, I was led to the first officer’s police car and placed in the back seat.

A couple of observations:

Not a ton of legroom. Guess they shouldn’t be all that concerned about whether the criminals are comfortable. Still, I’m 6’5″ and I was kissing my knees.

This was the first and only time I’m ever been in the back of a police vehicle (I’m hopeful that this remains true for a very long time). I missed that opportunity earlier in my life by 15 minutes back in high school (another story for another holiday).

While the 3 officers searched the car, ran my information, and made me sweat, three songs played on the radio. I wish I could say that I remember them (my guess is that there was a Red Hot Chili Pepper’s song since they are the bane of my existence and 99x played them about every 5th song), but my brain focused on the various scenarios where my future mother and father-in-law would have to come bail me out of jail.

My friend Egg’s voice popped into my ear, “John, they’re cops. They can do anything they want.”

Later, when I relayed this story to my sister, she said, “You do realize that there was probably a drug deal going on within 100 yards of you and yet they are harassing you.”

My Dad said, “Well, you did fit the profile. 20-something, expired tags, beat-up car.”

So about 10 minutes pass and the first cop comes around to the door and opens it up.

“Get out.”

I stood up as he handed me my information (along with the tag).

“We’re done, for now. Get that tag changed.”

“Yes, sir.”

Drive that last mile home. Go upstairs and grab my tools and CHANGE THE DAMN TAG.

Georgia_2007_license_plate

It was only at that point did my pounding heart begin to slow down.

A small postscript to this story. That night, Courtney called me to tell me she was in Cancun. By this point, I’d relayed the story to my roommate and to another friend, so it was becoming something funny (Comedy is just tragedy from a distance). So I started telling her about it. I was about 1/3 of the way into the story when I heard her start balling on the other end of the phone. “I’m so sorry!” over and over. I felt so bad about making her cry I don’t think I ever really gave her the business about the incident in the first place.

I guess I still owe her for that fun experience.

But, yeah, I’m (very, extremely, beyond, etc.) thankful that I didn’t go to jail that day.

Happy Thanksgiving!

***

While Thanksgiving is a while off, I hope you and yours are staying safe. Thanks for reading!

***

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

Puzzles

This writing thing… is a bit of a guessing game. I don’t mean guessing what will work or what won’t work. I don’t mean trying to figure out what someone else might want from a novel. I don’t even mean trying to figure out how to actually sell the thing you’ve crafted.

(Yes, all of that is both a guessing game and potentially something you can influence with the right pushes in various directions.)

I mean trying to figure out when your brain may be ready to actually get down and do some writing on a project. Or potentially guessing whether the current story is going to be replaced in your mind by the shiny object over in the corner… you know, that story you aren’t actively writing? Yeah, it is 100x more exciting that what you are currently doing. Even the act of sitting down and plotting out a story, you just never know if and where the inspiration is going to come from.

If you were to put me in a time machine and go back 20 years before I’d ever really gotten serious about any writing endeavors, none of the ideas I’m currently working on would have been in my brain at that point in time. Not a one.

Now I have ideas that have sat around from those just out of college days, but other things have excited me more. Other things that represent some level of a challenge.

See, the thing is, it is all like a big puzzle.

***

During the Shelter in Place, I finally went up into my comic book closet and brought down a puzzle that we’ve had for years (at least 2 or 3 but maybe as many as 10 years). The box had sat in a closet, sealed, and really was something that disappeared from my mind until I started seeing these other people on social media sites show off the puzzles they were building. So we broke it out and began working.

My wife was there for the start. She did a bunch on the first couple of days, but as things progressed (or didn’t progress on some days) her attention span and desire faded.

Me, I’m stubborn. And we had 200 pieces of a 750 piece puzzle (which those who do 1000 piece works… that may be out of my reach after this one). I would sit down and work on it some evenings. I started to bring the iPad over to play movies while I worked.

Until… finally… last night I finished.

***

Puzzles have these pieces that can seem like they are a lock to go into one area only to have you realize that you were looking at the wrong part of the picture and it really fits perfectly into this other spot.

Stories are the exact same. You have an idea and you’re excited to figure out where it is going to lead you. You make notes, you grab pictures from the internet to help inspire you, you see some patterns, and force others… but the edges never quite fit right.

You can leave those rough ones in there, but part of the job is figuring out when something just isn’t a fit for what you’re doing.

And it is a true guessing game… a feel for what may or may not be the correct answer.

***

There are other pieces to figure out. How to release a book/story/comic into the world. How to get people to pay attention to it. How to get people to read what you’ve written.

Always more edges to smooth out to make sure the picture comes into focus.

***

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

To Become A Super-Villain

I think the shelter in place has pushed my wife over the edge. Much like many people, it is just the two of us in the house (well, plus the two cats). And while we’re both fortunate to be able to do our jobs from home, one of the aspects of that is the close proximity to each other without any real break. We’re in each other’s heads, either guessing or just preemptively saying things the other is currently thinking.

So maybe it is my fault that she’s gone over the edge.

I immediately commented that this is the way super-villains are created. When they can no longer deal with what’s going on around them, the mind seems to go little by little until only plans for grand schemes might remain. I fear I might not be able to stop her when she turns her attention to world domination. But there may be a solution to all of this, I just need to avoid completing her journey to the Dark Side, as it were.

This moment is merely the catalyst, something temporary, fleeting, but it could be the beginning. I consulted my reference tomes, the ones I’ve read for 30 years, in order to see what I must avoid doing to set her off any further.

1 – Avoid large vats of chemicals.

This one is a sure-fire way to push the person into full-on villainy. Now, the Joker is probably the biggest example of showing that falling into the chemical bath messes up your whole world, but I’d argue he was well on his way down this path before the fall. However, his one-time girl, Harley Quiin is another story. She might have come back from his manipulations, but the dive truly tipped the scales too far.

2 – Her Name Doesn’t Translate to Something that could also be a codename.

The Rainbow Raider’s real name was Roy G. Bivolo (he shoots rainbow powers).

The Riddler’s real name is Edward Nigma (E.Nigma).

The DC villain who builds futuristic devices was named Thomas Oscar Morrow (T.O. Morrow).

Hmm… Courtney McGuire doesn’t immediately bring anything to mind, so maybe that’s safe enough.

3 – Don’t allow her to have a fascination for any particular animal.

There is a huge list of animal-based villains: Killer Moth, Vulture, Beetle, Swarm, Catwoman, Doctor Octopus, Cheetah…

Now she does love animals and we do have a pair of cats. She used to do volunteer work for an animal shelter. One night, while working late on a new database-

Wait! Gotta stop myself before I write her origin story into being. OK. I’ll have to keep an eye on that possibility.

4 – Don’t let her go off on a journey of self-discovery only to find out that she is really harnessing some power from a League of Assassins or monks who provide her with battle armor.

Doctor Doom

Ra’s al Ghul

Since we are sheltered-in-place, I suspect any random travels to very remote portions of the world are off the table.

5 – Don’t let her go around changing the past.

Abra Kadabra, Kang the Conqueror, The Reverse Flash… these people all either come from a future to our time in order to cause havoc or play with us because they know what is going to happen, so they can ensure they reap the most benefit out of that.

Now, while I don’t specifically know that she’s not a time traveller from the future, I don’t specifically know she’s not either. Of all the scenarios, this one seems the most plausible. I’ll have to use some of my downtime to thoroughly search the house for her time platform or cosmic tradmill.

***

Overall, she’s not checking any of the boxes… yet… so maybe this is just an isolated incident. But I’ll continue to keep the situation monitored. As long as she doesn’t realize she’s being watched, she may trip up yet.

***

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Little Moments

In times of craziness, where none of us knows where things will be in a month or six or a year, it’s been interesting/difficult/weird/fucked up/all of the above plus a thousand other things. I hope that each of you are staying safe the best you can.

***

I’m supposed to be writing, but I’m not. I’ve distracted myself again with some various Youtubers talking about anything and everything from Magic the Gathering to Comic Book Stores and the Virus (and how are they going to survive) to Pitch Meeting videos. I’m supposed to be putting words onto the screen, but I can’t stay focused. Too much real life.

I saw a meme at the beginning (or at least nearish the beginning of all of this) where it said that… well, let’s just go and find it… ok, I apparently can’t find it. Anyway, it said that you should be using this time to learn a new skill, a language, etc. And I saw it and thought – yeah, that’s a great idea. People will have a ton of time on their hands and they could use it constructively. Heck, even though I’m still working (thankfully) from home, I should have a little bit more time in the day where I’m not driving into the office to get some additional words on the screen.

But… it… is… hard…

My brain reads too much of the stuff online. It sees too much of the world “stuff” and suddenly I only want to be distracted from all that “stuff”. So I turn to familiar things – I watch Firefly and Community episodes to put me in a good mood.

How do you write something that is supposed to be any good when your brain wants to play squirrel all day?

And this isn’t Writer’s Block – for me, that’s where the words won’t come just because. These are external forces playing with everyone’s emotions.

***

I get some words on a novel I’m working on… have been working on, off and on for a couple of years. I’m getting closer. I feel good about the project. But it is never enough words. Not for what I want to do with the writings.

And that attitude makes it hard to celebrate the things us writers should be celebrating. Even if it is only a few hundred words that night. It doesn’t mean you failed in your goal. It means you are a couple of hundred words closer to finishing the draft.

***

So a week or two goes by and I see that Meme again but someone has added to it saying that it’s ok if you don’t accomplish all of those things… those goals. That we’re all going through something that none of us have ever experienced before and we’re reacting and acting in whatever way we can.

And that’s OK.

***

Last night I finished the edits for a novel (a different one than the one above – what can I say, I have been writing words prior to all of this “stuff”). This novel has been in my folder for a couple of years. I tried to get it in with an agent but received a stack of rejection letters instead. And maybe I haven’t pushed hard on it prior to this year because I was worried about putting it out there. It’s always scary to push the publish button.

But I hit a major milestone. And I didn’t celebrate in a loud way. I just exhaled. When my wife woke up I told her, and she’s the one who sees through all the other stuff and realizes these are the little moments to savor.

So I savored.

***

In the next couple of weeks, I’ll start revealing somethings about the upcoming novel. Until then, stay safe.

***

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

Kickstart the Comic – Burlap Issues 1-4

Sometimes when I get notifications in my email that other people I follow on Kickstarter. They populate my inbox to the point that I can’t always keep up with all of them. But, with some diligence I do my best to at least look at the various projects and see if they interest me in any way. It can be a title or an image or even the cost which grabs my attention and forces me to read further. Regardless, I never know what is in store for me with such a scattershot approach to potentially finding these new indie comics.

Burlap did something though. It kinda stuck in my brain. Not at the forefront, but just at the edges of my mind. That thought of a slasher killer being the potential hero of the story. It’s enough to plant that seed in my mind, telling me to check it out.

***

Burlap Issues 1-4

Writer/Publisher – Jesse James Baer

Artist – Zoran Jovici

Kickstarter Campaign ends on Thursday, April 16, 2020, at 4:45 AM EDT.

***

The Pitch:

The idea was to take the slasher formula we all know and love and flip it on it’s head. This go around, instead of a silent, masked killer stalking and executing stoned teenagers or long lost siblings our slasher killer is the hero! And our doomed victims are the series villains!

 

The Story:

It is fall of 1995 in a small town in New Jersey, where a vicious gang of serial killers, led by the charismatic psychopath Cottontail, are spreading madness and bloodshed. But something happens Cottontail did not intend when he comes face to face with BURLAP, a silent, masked killer with a mission of his own; destroy Cottontail and all of his followers. As the mayhem ensues Cottontail comes to realize this is no random vigilante, but a ghost from the past who will stop at nothing to make Cottontail and his lunatics pay for what they did to him. So begins a twisted tale of murder, revenge ghosts, gypsy curses, forbidden romance…and a homicidal Easter Bunny.

 

John’s Thoughts:

A black and white horror comic that focuses on a slasher trying to get revenge on the maniacs (in masks) who did him wrong. That was enough to color me intrigued. Taking a look at the artwork, there is an unsettling feeling as you see these psychos go about terrorizing a mother and son. The idea that one of them is dressed as a clown who both terrifies and also, somehow, is there to try and help cheer the kid up, tweaks the brain a little bit.

And I think that’s what I’m expecting from the comic – something that is going to tweak my brain over the course of the four issues.

The Rewards:

To get the full series will cost you $5 (digital) or $20 (print). As you move up the tiers there are opportunities to get some very unique things. At $125 you get a Custom Made Burlap Mask Bust with Stand. Nothing like having your own slasher movie mask on your shelf! And, it wouldn’t be a horror comic without an opportunity to have a role where you get killed. At $150, you get to have a personal commission where your comic version gets killed!

 

The Verdict:

They have passed their overall goal, which is no guarantee in these times we find ourselves living in. As of this post, there are eight days left for them to run the score up… so to speak. Mostly, I’d say if horror comics are in your wheelhouse, then you may want to check this one out. I know I’m looking forward to reading it.

***

Be sure to check out the Kickstarter here!

***

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Repost – And Now For Something Completely Different

I wrote this blog post during my very first year blogging on the site, but I think I mis-timed it. You see, I wrote it in light of the upcoming Superbowl where I thought the topic was completely appropriate. However, after I got a few people who raised eyebrows at me for the subject matter, I realized I should have timed it for April Fools Day. Not because I’m kidding about my Pizza Theory (oh, yes, there is a Pizza Theory below), but people expect weird and wild stuff on April 1.

So today I set a wrong thing right.

***

Please excuse the following. It is mostly a rant about something of extreme importance. You might laugh at it. You might question my sanity in bringing it up. Up until this moment I have written about things like writing books and comics, stories about almost getting killed by hitchhikers, and even about one of my favorite sports teams. However, I must recall Monty Python this week…

Now for something completely different

 

I want to talk about pizza.

Yes, that pizza.

Look tasty? Think again!

Look tasty? Think again!

But first a bit of background…

I am an EXTREMELY picky eater. Wait, no, that’s not entirely true. It’s not like I am one of those people who can only eat chicken nuggets and mac and cheese. There are plenty of foods that I do like. I mean, most meats I really enjoy (save for tuna and salmon and liver and sushi in general). And fruits I do like (save for coconut and grapefruit). But veggies are my nemesis. It would take far too long for me to detail all the vegetables I do not like, so I’m not going to bother.

So I guess I should say I am a picky eater, without the EXTREME in there (maybe – my Mother-in-law may disagree).

I’m not proud. I’m not trying to win a contest. I want to like various foods. No, really I do.

But…

I…

just…

don’t…

BUT I have noticed something due to that very behavior. Over the years of watching the habits of people when it comes to ordering pizza I have hit upon a theory. And with it being Superbowl week this is probably the most timely blog post I could have ever dreamed of writing. I am going to save you a lot of heartache.

You should be ordering more pepperoni and plain cheese pizzas at your parties.

Wow. That’s it. That’s all.

Oh?

You want more details as to why I just blew your mind? O.K.

Say you need to order 5 pizzas for your party, lots of people end up doing the following: 2 Pepperoni, 2 Cheese, and 1 Supreme (like the one above).

And there is your mistake. Only you like everything on the Supreme. Sure, you did the call-out about the Supreme. You covered your bases. Two or three hands popped up for the Supreme. You’re set. What could go wrong?

So what happens is that the pizza arrives and you grab a couple of pieces of Supreme, no big deal. Those others start to get scarfed down because of the one guy who doesn’t like onions, and the girl who hates olives, and so on and so on. Those people who said they liked Supreme? Yeah, they ended up grabbing Cheese because they forgot about one of the toppings.

If I have seen it once, then I have seen it a thousand times.

Then at the end of the night everything is gone save for whatever bits of the Supreme that you didn’t eat. Now maybe this isn’t a problem for you… left-over pizza rules. But what happens when this guy shows up a little late and all you have is 6 pieces of Supreme? And he hates green peppers?

Last time he didn't get a piece, he burned the building down.

Last time he didn’t get a piece, he burned the building down.

And to be sure that I’m not just picking on my vegetable lovers out there, it also applies to the meat lovers. The solution is to be bland. Be boring. People will eat some cheese pizza. People will eat Pepperoni. Just Keep the pizza simple (KPS for short… Trademark Pending).

Plus, it is not a pizza only problem. This is something that is out of control in society confounding me at every turn. And just then, when I think it isn’t going to show its ugly head, my company has a lunch meeting and the premade sandwiches have their DEFAULT ham and cheese sandwiches in RYE bread? Why? Why? Why?

What was so wrong with plain old bread?

What was so wrong with plain old bread?

Yes, you in the back… I understand you don’t see a problem with that… but what happened to the staples: White and Wheat? What were wrong with those two? Why is the default setting so bad? Or maybe, if you are going to have a few RYE bread versions… LABEL THEM!

Though I can guarantee that they will be the last ones taken (KPS in effect).

Now, normally this would be the portion of the blog where I would tie things back into something I’ve learned about writing. Maybe even something I learned while writing The Dark That Follows (available at Amazon). Like sometimes being complex for complex sake is not good. That when you build a maze for people to comprehend it might just cause them to turn the Kindle off or put the book down. Sometimes you can be too clever for your own good.

But, this is too important a subject to be bogged down in such discussion.

This weekend don’t let a good pizza go to waste!

***

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

You Haven’t Seen It? – The Godfather

There comes a time in a man’s life where he must step up and stop living the lie. He needs to know that people view him a certain way, and he needs to be comfortable with that. Or he needs to do something about it.

It’s long past time for me to watch The Godfather, one of those classic movies where until you see it, you can’t get the stamp on your Man Card.

Pre-Movie

We didn’t really do a pre-movie portion. It was more that we had time on a Friday to watch this three-hour movie without too much threat that Courtney would fall asleep due to it being too late in the evening (not that it still couldn’t happen, but just that it WOULD happen if we tried to start watching as the sun went down).

For my part, I knew it was a mob movie of some sort, but expected it to be less Goodfellas and more of a slower-paced movie.

Mid-Movie

I want to say that Courtney did nod off in the wedding scene for a half a minute. No matter how much I tell her to sit up, she just doesn’t listen to me. After a verbal scolding that included the remark of “Well, this is going to be another movie we finish two weeks from now and not have a clue what it is that’s going on!” (see our Have You See It? – The Big Lebowski edition).

One other thought I had about 30 minutes left in the movie was that I wasn’t 100% where we were going to end up. I assumed it was with Michael winning, but I didn’t entirely know who things were going to go down.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Post-Movie

Both of us liked the movie, which isn’t overly surprising. Things don’t get called classics for no reason (most of the time, at least).

Courtney – I was surprised at how many of the BIG MOMENTS were so early in the movie.

John – Yeah, like I didn’t know the whole “You come to me on this, the day of my daughter’s wedding” bit was in the first 5 minutes.

Courtney – Or the horse’s head in the bed was really quick, too. I just figured those were things we’d get more toward the end.

John – I tell you what though, this is a movie unconcerned about its run time. They lingered on scenes for a few extra seconds. The horse in the bed had like 3 or 4 establishing shots of the house before we even get inside.

Courtney – There were a couple of odd scenes that didn’t make much sense. Like where the girlfriend shows up at the house while Michael is in Italy. It’s like 2 minutes and there is very little point to it and then we are onto something else.

John – I wasn’t sure if the next scene was a few minutes later or a few days later. I also can’t quite figure out the Michael in Italy scene. I liked it, but I was actually expecting him to disappear from the middle part of the movie and then get called back. But I’m not sure if you couldn’t have just cut that whole section out and still had a great film. They never reference it again. He doesn’t say anything to anyone about his now-dead wife. It’s as if that whole time doesn’t matter anyway.

Courtney – Sometimes it was a little hard to understand Brando.

John – Yeah, I thought we might need to turn on the close captions for him. He is phenomenal in the role, but you definitely need to really focus on what he’s saying.

It was a trip to see Pacino so young in the movie. I’m used to him from his Devil’s Advocate and Any Given Sunday time frame.

Godfather is one of those, I can see why everyone should see it. Without it, the modern mob movies don’t exist. But, I don’t know that it will be a rewatch movie for me where something like Goodfellas can be seen over and over.

***

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

All The Free Comics You Could Want!

In light of the Coronavirus that has gripped the world, many major comic companies and many more indies have decided not to wait until May for Free Comic Book Day. Instead, they are taking to the internet and posting links to their comics and making them free. The idea that there are many people either currently social distancing with very little to occupy all this extra time in our homes… what better way to pass the time than by reading comics!

What follows are the various sites, twitter threads, and any other things I’ve stumbled across. If you know of others, please let me know and I will add it to the list.

2000 AD

2000 AD will give you links to over 450 pages of their comics when you sign up for their mailing list. You can find the sign-up here.

Archie Comics

Archie has free comics available through their App. You can find the link here.

Image Comics

Image has 133 different Issue #1s available to download. You can find those here.

Jim Zub has shared the first volume of Wayward and the first volume of Skullkickers here.

Kenzer and Company

Kenzer has put one of their collections up for free, a 79 page Knights of the Dinner Table book “Crutch’s Shutdown Special”. You can find it here.

Top Cow

Top Cow has made 40 different comics free on their site ranging from single issues to full trades of a huge cross-section of their catalog. You can find those here.

Valiant Comics

Valiant is releasing a new comic every day, and so far they have made four titles available. You can find the thread here.

Vault Comics

Vault has 13 different Issue #1s available to download. You can find those here.

 

From the Indie Ranks

Jeremy Whitley started a thread on Twitter where comic creators were encouraged to share their comics for free. I believe the replies are up to 135 at the time I’m writing this. This could be your chance to discover a diamond in the rough. You can find the thread here. You can also use #CoronaCon.

I’ve also discovered threads from Comic Book Yeti that has 189 replies. You can find that thread here.

Jacob Edgar also has a thread going here.

Greg Pak (of Planet Hulk among others) has a handful of his independent work available here.

Steven Niles (of 30 Days of Night) has a trio of titles available here.

 

***

Finally, a bit of self-promotion:

The Crossing Kickstarter is LIVE

Go here and check out the Kickstarter for the Crossing (Co-created by Robert Jeffrey II and Sean Hill and in conjunction with 133art).

***

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

In A World

The Crossing Kickstarter is LIVE

Go here and check out the Kickstarter for the Crossing (Co-created by Robert Jeffrey II and Sean Hill and in conjunction with 133art).

***

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

The world being where it is at right now makes it weird to talk about anything other than the virus. I don’t know whether to hide away in a bunker or what these days. I just hope everyone out there stays safe. We’ll push through this and come out stronger on the other side.

***

Given that the Crossing is still going on its Kickstarter, my plan this week was to write about Parallel Worlds and those instances in media that originally drew me to them. Now, many of us would rather be in one of a million different timelines other than this one…

I’m not going to list Sliders here because The Crossing is a love letter to that show. Robert even went so far as to live commentary the pilot while waiting on the side of the road for a tow truck. But it isn’t the only thing that I’ve found over the years that makes for good watching.

Coherence

The basic plot is that a group of friends is having a dinner party when a comet passes overhead. They soon discover that the comet has split their reality so that there are other versions of themselves.

Now, that’s the overall story, but watching the movie it is really about paranoia. How do you really know the person beside you is who they say they are? How do you know if their version of reality is the same as your own? The movie twists and turns so that the audience is a part of the process, trying to discern not why this has happened, but how to get back to their own house before the comet finishes its path, potentially trapping them in a reality that was never their own.

Coherence deals with the parallel worlds idea on a close to the ground level. There are no crazy worlds where dinosaurs still exist or one where the Ice Age never ended. This is our world… the one just outside our window.

Maybe.

Sliding Doors

Sliding Doors takes the idea that one moment, one decision, can change your entire life. But the interesting thing is that you get to see what happens in both timelines as the story progresses. We all ask What If questions all the time. In fact, so much of our lives are based on decisions we made without knowing what the outcome might even be. We trusted our past selves to get it right and hoped for the best. Yet this movie doesn’t shy away from showing you that life not only can be very messy, but that being able to ask that question of What If, may not always give you the result you were looking for in the first place.

The nice thing about Sliding Doors is that it doesn’t dwell into the science fiction aspect of things. One might say that there is no parallel world but only a story-telling device. Either way, it is a movie that does the path not taken in a way not normally seen.

Exiles

Not a movie but a comic book series. It takes the many-worlds concept and builds a superhero team (with a focus on X-Men characters) to world-hop throughout the infinite realities trying to fix something in each of them that was broken. If you are a long-time reader of Marvel comics, some of the scenarios they play out are things you might have read… that instead went very wrong in this world.

One of the other bits I really enjoyed was the slightly rotating cast of characters. Throughout the series, there are normally 6 members of the team, but through the 100+ issues, aside from Blink, the rest of the team is filled in with other refugees from these other worlds. This gives the writers the opportunity to tell a complete story arc with these superheroes in a way that a normal comic rarely can. They live, love, and in some cases die in the course of their adventures.

***

If you are a fan of this stuff like I am, you could do worse than to look up the movies or the comics and spending some time in another world(s).

Take care of yourselves!

***

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Behind the Comic – The Crossing

The Crossing Kickstarter is LIVE

Go here and check out the Kickstarter for the Crossing (Co-created by Robert Jeffrey II and Sean Hill and in conjunction with 133art).

***

Last week, when I announced that the Kickstarter was live (here), I talked a bit about how the project came to be. Fundamentally, though, I have a few sweet spots in the things I enjoy. I love Zombie movies. I love Groundhog Day style stories. I love Time Travel ideas.

And I love the idea of multiple worlds.

To my very core.

***

The Crossing Issue #1

Publisher – 133art

Writer – Robert Jeffrey II & John McGuire

Artist (Cover & Interiors) – Sean Hill

Colorist – Sunil Ghagre

Letter – Loris Ravina

Variant Cover Artist – Matteo Illuminati

Kickstarter Campaign ends on Tuesday, March 24, 2020, at 3:00 PM EDT.

***

The Pitch:

In the tradition of such dimension-hopping adventures as Sliders, Fringe, and Exiles comes The Crossing. Its the late 21st century, and the world has changed drastically with the discovery of cross-dimensional travel dubbed ‘Crossing’. This amazing and innovative breakthrough has provided our Earth with a seemingly unyielding flow of resources, through tapping into other, unpopulated Earth’s raw material. While the collective wealth of mankind has seemingly reached another golden age, the desires of men have stayed relatively the same.

 

The Story:

Fugitive Dr. James Kincaid is running for his life. Years prior he was the most accomplished physicist in the realm of Crossing, but due to his own mistakes (professional and personal), he lost everything. Now, in a last-ditch effort to fix things Dr. Kincaid runs afoul of powerful US Senator Christopher John Rice. Kincaid steals Crossing tech and escapes into the multiverse. However, Sen. Rice will stop at nothing to get what he wants, so he enlists renowned Crossing physicist Jun Patton and FBI agent Kayla Cooke in a covert mission to hunt him down.

Variant Cover by Matteo Illuminati (colors still to come)

John’s Thoughts:

How far would you go?

That’s the question that lies at the center of this story.

How far would you go to save someone you loved? How far would you go to get your loved one back? How far would you go to prove yourself? How far would you go with your lies?

These are the themes we kept in mind as we were writing the first issue and laying out the outline for the four-issue series. Everyone has their own reasons for Crossing over to the next world. Now whether they share that information with anyone else is an entirely different story.

In addition, you are going to get to see amazing worlds from Sean Hill. Glimpses of some, fully realized for others, and all the while we have an FBI agent and an inexperienced scientist trying to track down one of the few men alive who knows more about Crossing technology than nearly anyone else.

Hang on… it’s going to be intense.

 

The Rewards:

We have the PDF of the issue ($5), or the print copy ($10) or both versions of the cover ($15). As you move up the ladder, there are opportunities to get an assortment of first issues from some of the top Black Indie Creators of today ($30). At the top end levels are an opportunity to have Sean Hill draw a full-color pin-up ($300), get a script review and call from Robert and I ($300), be a guest on the NerdSoul Podcast ($500), and finally if you are really wanting something unique: an exclusive variant cover and 100 copies of it ($1000).

 

The Verdict:

Obviously, I am pushing anyone reading this to go and support this Kickstarter. Then again, I might be biased… might.

Just know that all of us who have poured ourselves into this book did so because we love telling stories, love sharing them with others, and we hope you take the first step in this journey with us.

 

***

Be sure to go to the Facebook Page and like it so that 133art knows people are interested! And make sure to check out the Kickstarter!

***

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Announcement – The Crossing #1 Kickstarter is Live

 

The Crossing Kickstarter is LIVE

Go here and check out the Kickstarter for the Crossing (Co-created by Robert Jeffrey II and Sean Hill and in conjunction with 133art).

Robert came to me a couple of years ago and we talked about working on a comic book series with one another. The plan was for each of us to bring an idea to the table and then we’d work on both concepts, alternating who wrote each issue.

Funny enough, both were science fiction stories, with mine focused on a post-apocalyptic section of the galaxy and the few people who manage to survive in it. Robert’s was this story inspired by Sliders and Quantum Leap and the DC Comics Elseworlds stories and the Marvel What If stories.

All of which pressed all my buttons. Because if there is one thing I love as much as a good time travel story, it is a good multiverse story!

From there it was all about brainstorming ideas. There was a fugitive, Dr. James Kincaid, who has kidnapped his kid and jumped to alternate worlds. There was an FBI agent who saw this as a second chance. There was the inexperienced scientist who was trying to prove herself to everyone, and who was clearly in over her head.

Art by Sean Hill, Colors by Sunil Ghagre

It was one of those conversations where things just fell into place. Robert would mention an idea and then I would see how that could connect to another moment and before long we had the four-issue story laid out.

Flashforward a couple of years as we’ve pitched the concept to a few comic companies. 133art saw the concept, saw the artwork from Sean Hill (always amazing), and said: “Let’s do this thing!”

So here we are on March 3, 2020, and we are doing this thing. Come over and check out the Kickstarter page to see more of the artwork and get a little more of the characters.

I think this is going to be one of those comics where it is going to be crazy worlds and amazing artwork, but also the characters are going to be the type you can get invested in.

 

Art by Sean Hill, Colors by Sunil Ghagre

 

***

Be sure to go to the Facebook Page and like it so that 133art knows people are interested! And make sure to check out the Kickstarter!

***

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

You Haven’t Seen It? – The Big Lebowski

 

 

This series is based on movies that my wife should have seen at this point in her life but somehow has failed to do so…

Until now.

However, I’m in a similar boat as she is on this one. Even if it is one of those movies that all my friends seem to know. But, I must confess, the real reason this is going to be watched is because it is Veronica Mars’s favorite movie.

Pre-Movie

So what do we know about this movie?

I really don’t know anything.

Yeah… I think he’s a slacker or something. And then shenanigans occur?

That seems right.

I press play.

I just hope this isn’t a Napoleon Dynamite situation…

 

1/2 way through the movie

Courtney was falling asleep – not due to the movie, that she was enjoying, but just too long a day. Which means we’ll be picking this up next weekend!

Flash forward about 2 weeks actually…

After not getting back around to watching the movie the following weekend, we picked it up again. Courtney requested that we rewind a little bit, so we ended up backing up to the point that Sam Elliot makes his first appearance. At which point we have the following conversation:

John – I don’t think Sam Elliot has aged. Like he was this old since he started acting right?

Courtney – It’s the mustache. If he didn’t have that cowboy mustache, I wonder how his career might have gone.

John – Does he have a mustache in Road House?

Courtney – (Thinks) I don’t know.

Note – after we finished this, I noticed that either HBO or Amazon Prime has Roadhouse for free. So we fast-forwarded until Sam makes his appearance. He does not have that trademarked mustache but instead has a kind of scruffy not quite a full face of hair, but not just a couple of days stubble.

So crisis averted.

Back to the movie.

Which we actually finish in this session.

My wife during pretty much any movie once the sun has gone down.

Takeaways

I think it was a big no-no to break the movie up onto not only different days but different weeks. Which, anyone watching just about any movie would agree with, but sometimes the ole wifey gets sleepy and I know that when the eyes start closing it is well past a losing battle. When we restarted, I had to give Courtney a quick catch-up on where we were. Plus, given the nature of the movie which is a quintuple cross (I think, there is a lot of BS being spit during various portions of the movie).

We also had a minor discussion about the fact that White Russians and Caucasians were the same drink (remember, we don’t drink, so we know literally nothing about alcohol).

Personally, I liked the movie. It is so random and weird but had a ton of funny moments. However, I would say that the two (I believe there were only two, though you might make the case that the whole movie was one big drug-induced dream) hallucination scenes didn’t do anything for me. They didn’t last very long, but I honestly felt like they could have been skipped and the movie would have been better for it.

I don’t know what to say. I think the big thing is that it couldn’t hold my attention in the second half of the movie.

Well, you were kind of nodding off.

Exactly. I liked what I saw, but it was… hmm… it just didn’t hold my attention that well.

I am a little shocked this has become such a cult classic.

Yeah, me too.

So this is where you and your girl have your first disagreement.

Veronica Mars and I are fine, but I think it might be Rob Thomas’s favorite movie more than hers. Veronica and I are just fine.

***

I have a Kickstarter beginning on Saturday, February 29, 2020 for The Crossing Issue #1. It is a story about multiple parallel earths, and about how far a father will go.

***

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Kickstart the Comic – The Hated #1

Divergent history is one of those sweet spots for me. I’m a big fan of What If style scenarios. Taking major moments from history and changing something so that the outcome is entirely different. It really is a rabbit hole to climb down into and allows for story-telling to happen against backdrops that never could have been. I think those new worlds allow you insight into a situation that might not have otherwise been possible.

And the Hated has embraced that.

***

The Hated #1

Writer/Publisher – David F. Walker

Artist – Sean Damien Hill

Colorist – Mx. Struble

Letterer/Designer – Becca Carey

Kickstarter Campaign ends on Thursday, March 14, 2020, at 12:56 PM EDT.

***

The Pitch:

Imagine if director Sergio Corbucci (DJANGO, THE GREAT SILENCE) made a western starring Pam Grier as a badass, gun-slinging bounty hunter. Now imagine the story takes place in a world where the Civil War ended differently – instead of a victory for the North, there is a truce, and what had been one country is now two. This is THE HATED.

 

The Story:

It is 1872, and the war between the North and South is over. Neither side won. After years of bloody conflict, both sides entered into a truce, resulting in the formation of two nations, the Union States of America, where blacks are free, and the Confederate States of America, where blacks are still enslaved. Araminta Free is a former slave turned bounty hunter. She specializes in crossing the border into the Confederacy, and liberating slaves. She also tracks down Confederate war criminals, which has made her a woman with a price on her head in the southern nation. When a group of Confederate Raiders illegally ventures deep into the Union to kidnap free blacks and sell them into slavery, the stage is set for a deadly showdown between Araminta and the men who want her dead.

 

John’s Thoughts:

Growing up in the South, the Civil War is one of those things that you are naturally drawn to. Whether it is visiting battle sites or simply because you are passing through the towns that stood out in the theater of war… or even because in some areas they still aren’t entirely ready to admit how the War ended… it becomes something that the history classes definitely focus on. And I’ve done the mind experiment of what might have happened if X battle turns a different way.

All that said, the story presented here is not anything my mind would have conjured, and that makes me want to read it all the more.

THE HATED cover art by Sean Damien Hill with colors by Mx. Struble

The Rewards:

You get the pdf of the comic for $4 or $8 for the print version. But as you go up the ladder, there is an opportunity for a cover by David Mack ($20). And for those that are a completist who want all the covers and the special Kickstarter Black and White version, you can get that at the $35 tier. It’s interesting to note that is the top end tier, where many Kickstarters continue to push to over $100 with other reward levels, this one you can get everything for a nice enough price point.

 

The Verdict:

The project is completely penciled and inked so they are in the process of getting the colors done, which I always like as that way you know it is only a short matter of time before you get to read the comic. Plus, the artist Sean Hill, is also the artist on issue 4 of the Gilded Age and the artist on an upcoming comic I’m cowriting with Robert Jeffrey called The Crossing. So I might be biased about liking the art!

***

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

 

 

 

A Love For Every Day – 4

 

Three 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. The past two years, I’ve shared a few from the book around the holidays, but it occurred to me this week might be fitting as well considering Valentine’s Day is this Friday.

Part 1 is here.

Part 2 is here.

Part 3 is here.

 

January 11

 

February 3

 

I love you. Very, very simple, very truly. You are the-

The epitome of everything I have ever looked for in another human being.

Chasing Amy

 

March 5

 

To love a person is to see all of their magic, and to remind them of it when they have forgotten.

Anonymous

April 3

 

Did I say that I need you?

Did I say that I want you?

Oh, if I didn’t I’m a fool you see

No one knows this more than me.

Pearl Jam, Just Breathe

May 10

The beauty of a woman is not in the clothes she wears, the figure that she carries, or the way she combs her hair. The beauty of a woman is seen in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heat, the place where love resides. True beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It’s the caring that she lovingly gives, the passion that she shows, and the beauty of a woman only grows with passing years.

Audrey Hepburn

 

June 4

 

All our young lives we search for someone to love, someone who makes us complete. We chose partners and change partners. We dance to a song of heartbreak and hope all the while wondering if somewhere and somehow there is someone searching for us.

The Wonder Years

July 3

 

I’m your density. I mean… your destiny.

Back to the Future

 

August 9

 

The truth is, we are not afraid of being in love. We are only afraid of not being loved in return.

Anna Kendrick

September 4

 

Remember, we’re madly in love, so it’s all right to kiss me anytime you feel like it.

Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games

 

October 29

You’re my favorite, favorite thing

Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World

November 16

December 30

I wish you to know that you have been the last dream of my soul.

Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

 

***

Here’s hoping you have the right words this week.

***

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Kickstart the Comic – Make 100: Three-Legged Tales

I’m a sucker for a few different things. You give me a Groundhog Day-style story, I’m in. Parallel Worlds… I want to discover what makes them tick and what random world are we going to go to next.

And stories about animals.

Heck, I joke about the fact that my Facebook feed is so consumed with politics at times (on both sides of the aisle) that I pretty much only use it to discover the latest story of a dog or cat being rescued by some good samaritan (it’s not really a joke).

When I stumbled across this particular Kickstarter… it might have tugged at those same heartstrings.

 

***

Make 100: Three-Legged Tales

Creator/Writer/Artist -Haley Boros

Kickstarter Campaign ends on Thursday, February 27, 2020, at 11:01 AM EST.

***

The Pitch:

A 40-page comic collection featuring 1-panel tales of my three-legged dog Rusty on a fantasy adventure.

The Story:

Since 2016, I have been participating in Inktober, a global month-long project that has artists creating every day in October. Every year I often branch out from the official prompt list and have used my own themes like Succulents in 2016, taken commissions of people and their pets in 2017, drew 31 dogs doing fantasy jobs in 2018 and now – publishing my good boy’s adventure from 2019. This book will feature all 31 prompts from the official prompt list, highlighted in bold letters in each panel.

 

John’s Thoughts:

Like I said above, animal-related items are a weak spot for me. I saw the title and then you get to see a picture of the “talent” and it’s like “tug on my heart a little more”. I also like the Make 100 idea overall. Something small that doesn’t have to overwhelm the person making it. Plus, it is a very neat idea to have your dog as the subject of this grand fantasy adventure. If I had the artistic talent, I would do the same for my two knucklehead cats!

The Talent!

The Rewards:

The standard reward of the 40-page comic is $16 (USD), with the digital-only clocking in at $8 (USD). But if you want your own personal panel from the 31 that have been done for $57 (USD). Always cool to have some personalized art.

 

The Verdict:

The project is already done. It’s literally waiting to be printed. And since it is part of the Make 100 Campaign, you are getting a limited edition item. All of which sounds good to me.

***

To find out more about Three-Legged Tales, check them out here.

***

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

From A to Z – Resolutions

Image by Jeff Jacobs from Pixabay

With the new year comes the dreaded resolutions. They say that anything you start, if you keep it going for 4 weeks, then you have created a habit for the long haul. We just passed the 4-week mark in the new year, so the question that comes to mind is how well are you/me/everyone doing on those resolutions?

I always start off the year with a blueprint of what projects I want to work on, which items I would like to have finished, and other things I would like to start. And I’m always very aggressive in the scheduling. In fact, most of the time just with the act of living your life, the goals are too much.

This year was no different, and a lot of times by this point in January I’m already thinking “Oh god, I’m so far behind. I wanted to have 50,000 words written by this point!”

(OK, I’m never that crazy. I have a day job and a wife I like to see from time to time, but you get the point.)

So here it is, 28 days in, and I feel pretty good about my progress this month so far. It’s not 100% what I was hoping for in the pie-in-the-sky scenario, but I’ve written more than 13,000 words thus far and I still have a couple of days to go to try for 15,000 for January.

So, what I’ve decided to do for my Resolutions post is instead list out some projects. Some are goals for this year. Some are literally goals that will happen in the next month. All of which should help remind me of the work I have done and what still is to come.

***

A – Anonymous Short Story – I wrote a short story last year for the upcoming Tales from Vigilante City Anthology that should be coming out sometime in 2020. It’s the story about the villain you never heard of… and how he likes it that way.

B – My Blog – A random hodge-podge of ideas and rantings and reviews and whatever else I happen upon at 2 in the morning. This blog will be the 401st entry on this website. Crazy.

C – The Crossing – A new comic book coming to Kickstarter in late February by Robert Jeffrey II, Sean Hill, and myself from 133art. A love-letter to parallel worlds and how tragedy can make us a hero or a villain.

D – The Dark That Follows – My first novel… I’m planning on putting it on sale soon to get more eyes on it.

E – The Echo Effect – My next novel, due out this Spring. A man finds that he is reborn into a new world whenever the calendar reaches 2024. Things have changed, but he has not. And he might not be the only one.

F – Forgotten Lives – I completed the first draft of this novel and if things go well this year, I’ll be releasing not only this novel but books 1 through 3 in early 2021. It’s my story about why we’re here… and how much control over our fates do we really have.

G – Gilded Age – I have ideas, but I also have a stack of graphic novels that I need to get into more people’s hands. So I’m hoping to do some conventions this year for that very purpose.

H – Hollow Empire – While Jeremy has come out with two additional chapters, my side has been quiet. However, that’s going to change with the 9th chapter of the serial we started about life in a medieval post-apocalyptic world.

I – Indiegogo – A reminder that The Gilded Age is available on Indiegogo here!

J – Journal of Impossible Things – Title was stolen from Doctor Who, but it is the folder where I put all my short stories currently in progress. I want to move 4 of them to the completed side this year.

K – Be a part of and fulfill at least 2 Kickstarters this year.

L – Lightning – A long-term horror novel project.

M – Marketing – For all of this stuff, I’ve got to find a way to get it in front of people which means figuring out Amazon and Facebook ads. Not looking forward to stumbling through all of that!

N – Newsletter – My goal is to send out at least 12 this year. With so many projects coming to fruition, I’d be dumb not to use it (heck, I’ve been dumb about it up until now).

O – Opportunities – Be open to any additional opportunities that may come my way. There always seems to be a random thing out there that I could never forsee.

P – Premade book covers – I’ve been lucky enough to find a couple that work perfectly for both The Echo Effect and SOULmate. Plus, in my wanderings around the internet, I found a collection of covers that have inspired some ideas that I’d love to write set in the world I can see.

Q – Query – I haven’t given up on traditional publishing, but right now I’m not sure how to break through that barrier.

R – I have promised to help my step-father-in-law collect his poetry and put it into book form. I’m looking forward to seeing how it will end up (his name is Robert, hence the “R”).

S – SOULMate – The second novel I’m going to release this year. It’s a story about a world where Soulmates are not only real but a status symbol.

T – Time – Whether I’m using it well or potentially misusing it, it is often the cause for any bottleneck. I need to manage my time better.

U – Untold Series – The series of books that Forgotten Lives belongs to. Coming in 2021, but written in 2020!

V – Vacation – In between all the words, I still need to get away to recharge the batteries. I’m not sure when or where this will take us this year.

W – Edge of the World – A novel that needs a thorough edit. It’s the story of a woman who travels to the ends of the earth to find and save her uncle.

X – eXtra work-  Be willing to hit my goals, even when I’m tired and want to just goof off. Be focused.

Y – You Must Be This Tall To Ride – A comic idea I have focused on a slightly younger crowd. This is more of a long-term project.

Z – Zine – Last year, Egg Embry, Lee Beauchamp, and I ran a Kickstarter as part of their Zine promotion. We had hoped it would be done last year, but it has stretched into this year. We are closing in on completing it though (hopefully by Valentine’s Day – It is focused on Love, so that seems fitting).

***

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

YOU Season 2 – A Review

I did a review about season 1 here.

When I was watching Season 1 of YOU, there was always this little voice in the back of my head that said: “yes, I get that this guy is the bad guy, but I’m still pulling for him.” Or at least, I was kinda hoping he’d end up with the “Girl” and they’d live happily ever after like some kind of modern fairy tale that starts off with a guy stalking the object of his obsession.

But deep down I understood that Joe couldn’t do that. He wasn’t the hero of the story. He was the villain of the piece.

This season is a different story, but with very familiar beats. The guy is new to town. Guy meets girl. They get together. The guy is a bit obsessed with girl. People die.

Yet, I had my eyes completely open with this. I knew who Joe was the whole time. I knew the warning signs of the path he was heading down. I understood that no matter how much he may want love to lead him on the right path, he doesn’t know how to really be in love.

And I was pulling for him the entire time.

Because Season 2 is somewhat of a redemption story for old Stalker Joe. He recognizes the bad within him as well. He wants to be better. He wants to be good.

He wants to be worthy of Love (both the actual idea of it and the woman of his obsession: LOVE).

However, that means he has to go down a different path than any he’d done before. He needs to understand what it is he is doing and then really think it through. No more acting on pure instinct. He must be thoughtful or he won’t get what he truly desires in the end.

The big difference in the two seasons is really that we aren’t entirely sure what kind of show we’re watching for much of the first season. Is it a love story? Is it a weird episode of Dexter? Is it about two people who are so damaged that they just might deserve each other? The second season asks us to forget what we know about the show and ask us what does our “hero” really wants? Now we see the pitfalls coming and can shout at the screen for him to make a different decision. When he does, we can see that this version of Joe is trying to make a change in the type of human being he really is. Where last year Beck’s friends were basically big pains in his ass, this season Love’s friends are people he genuinely likes. He sees how they are good for Love and she for them. That it is never a case of her putting them first because that’s what he loves about Love.

Even her brother, this constant thorn in his side. As the season progresses, I think Joe legitimately comes to like him and it isn’t for show. He sees the bond between the siblings and knows that he couldn’t break that apart and deep down, he wants to be a part of a family.

All of this makes for an interesting way to view a season that wants to remind you of the beats in season one, but then still do something different in this season. This season is more about families and how everyone is a little damaged and maybe that’s ok. Maybe family is who you choose more than your flesh and blood, but at the end of the day, you are willing to do whatever it takes for the people you love.

YOU – Season 2 – Love and Family…

***

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Top Eleven Albums – Part 2

So last month there was a bunch of Facebook posts to talk about your favorite albums, but not actually give any reasons… just post something and leave it like that. But as I said in part 1, context is key.

 

 

The Police – Message in a Box

This is a cheat and it isn’t one at the same time. This is a full collection of all their albums. But when I received this box set for Christmas I was 14 or 15 and I only had Synchronicity. But I also knew that I loved any songs by the band which came on the radio. For some reason, I asked for this thing which might have been $40 or $50 on that basis alone. And when I think about it, I probably only really knew about 5 or 6 songs of theirs.

So I got this full thing of like 78 songs which ran the gambit of their entire career. And like most things, I probably listened to it all once and then skipped to my favorite songs.

But as time went on, I started listening to the other songs. And I found ones that I never knew existed. Driven to Tears is a punch to the gut every time. The Bed’s Too Big Without You speaks to me anytime my wife and I are apart for too long. I Burn For You.

Deeper cuts for me.

So it is a Christmas gift, but more than that it is a gift where as I got older, it showed me different faces to the music. And while that might happen with any album, when it is an entire catalogue, it makes it to the point where you appreciate the band all the better.

 

Nirvana – Nevermind

Like so many people of my age, this album fundamentally changed how you listened to music. In many ways it is the true line of demarcation. There is certainly a time Before Nevermind and an After Nevermind stamp. But weirdly, I more remember when I first heard Smells Like Teen Spirit. It was at one of our High School Basketball games where it was played during the shoot-around just before the game. As much as I watched MTV, I didn’t know what this song was, but instantly liked it.

Later, I realized the irony of that moment with the Cheerleaders and the stands and all of that. Everything the song was sort of railing against, and here it was being played without any other regard.

And I had no idea what it was, but I was instantly drawn to the sound. I needed to know more. I needed to hear more.

The other part that I think about is when Chad Shonk had a BBS (Bulletin Board) and to test it out, we would chat across the computers through our modems (this feels like the stone ages now). But sometimes you weren’t sure if you were connected, so he would write:

Hello?

Hello?

Hello?

And I would respond with:

How low?

Pantera – Far Beyond Driven

With Cowboys from Hell and Vulgar Display of Power, I didn’t have those albums until Egg Embry made me a pair of tape copies. This was at the time when I would have just gotten a CD player in the car and so tapes weren’t going to get listened to all that often. Yet, I listened just enough to know I liked Pantera.

This album sealed that for me.

However, as much as the album told me how much of a metalhead I might have been, it was going to the concert for this tour that sealed it for me. It was at Lakewood Amphitheater in Atlanta and we managed to get like 13th row. Strange as that sounds to have seats for a Pantera show, it is a Top 5 show for me.

Alice in Chains – Dirt

I found out about Alice in Chains from the Singles Soundtrack (which would/should be in my top 20 for influential albums). Where Nirvana and Pearl Jam were the darlings of the magazines and MTV, Alice in Chains felt like it was still a secret (even though it was not). They felt more metal than any of the Grunge bands. And listening to this was the first time I’d really heard a concept album. It took you on a full story from beginning to end, made the agony of that downward spiral into drugs and death… you felt the pain.

Weirdly, I don’t know if I have a specific story for this. I remember it being a major soundtrack of my teenage life even if I never dabbled in drugs or alcohol, this was as good a reason why I stayed away.

Deftones – Around the Fur

It was another soundtrack that introduced me to the Deftones: The Crow 2. They had one song on there and were the standout track for me. I searched them out (back when you needed to go to record stores for such things) and found their first album and fell in love with the band.

This was the soundtrack of my 1997 and 1998. It accompanied me on many a road trip. It was a comfort when I needed to rage at the world and, probably, more importantly, was one of those albums that all my friends loved. Which, especially when you are younger, helps create an even stronger bond with the music.

Pearl Jam – Ten

If you’ve read my blog for any amount of time, Pearl Jam has been mentioned. Heck, if you’ve ever met me and we talk about favorite bands, I don’t hesitate to claim them as mine.

As to stories, Chad left his copy of Ten at my house and I had it for a few days when he asked for it back. I hadn’t listened to it at all. For some reason, without hearing any of their music, I was convinced I didn’t like them. But, seeing as I needed to bring the disc into school the next day, I played it.

And then I played it again.

And then I got out a blank tape and copied it onto it.

With most albums, the first listen is rarely a “fell in love with it”. I normally find a couple of things I like and as I continue through, I like it more and more. But Ten was different. It spoke to me through the music and lyrics and the actual construction of the songs on the album. I fell in love with the non-hits like Deep and Garden to the point that I may love those songs as much as any hit they’ve ever put out.

And when Release comes to an end, and we slowly fade to what was the intro… my journey becomes complete.

***

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

Top Eleven Albums – Part 1

Image by annca from Pixabay

I was talking with my in-laws over the weekend about memory. They volunteer at Grace Arbor, a place where older folks with various memory/dementia issues can go for the day and have activities and listen to music (among other things). They mentioned that they heard the portion of the brain which remembers music never truly goes away.

Which reminded me of a scene in Before Sunset where Ethan Hawke is talking about how misuc can be a form of time travel for a person. That when you hear a particular song it returns you to the place where it means the most to you and instantly you are 8 or 18 or 28 again.

I love that idea.

And then on my Facebook feed various people have all been doing the FB challenge of posting your favorite albums (or ones that had the greatest effect upon your life) but without any comment.

But the comment… the context is key. It’s as important as anything else. So… here’s some context.

Far – Water and Solutions

I’m 20 and my friends have rented a ski cabin in North Carolina for the weekend. Egg (who discovered the band in the first place) puts on Water and Solutions and it becomes, for me, the theme of the trip. It’s heavy at times and yet soulful. No one who hears it in the cabin has a bad word to say about it.

Later, I’ll find out the lead singer (Jonah Matranga) has a tape of some of his solo stuff available to send off for through the mail (good lord, that’s like the dark ages). I send away for them, immediately transfer them from the tape which arrives to a digital format, burn it onto a cd, and still wear those songs out.

Even later, I’ll be at a club show for Far and decide to tap him on the shoulder and tower over him with all 6’5″ of my frame in order to tell him how much I love his music. Egg says I gave the guy the scare of a life. I’m not so sure.

!0 Years – The Autumn Effect

Somehow, due to me putting a bunch of music on my wife’s phone over a decade ago, 10 Years became one of her favorite bands. Last year, 10 Years played a anniversary show where they played this album from front to back. It was both of our first times seeing the band (somehow we kept missing them previously). As it was the first night of this anniversary tour, they had only rehearsed the album, so when they went off stage after the last song, we expected an encore song or two. The lead singer came back out, informing us that they had nothing else, but that wouldn’t satisfy us, so, all by himself, he sang one of the more beautiful versions of their song “So Long, Good-bye”. And we all joined in. Just a couple of hundred people and a guy with a microphone singing as loudly as we could.

One of the best moments from any concert I’ve ever been to.

The Misfits – Collection 1

When you are younger, there are so many ways your music tastes can go. Things you hear your parents play can go a long way to shaping you. My parents listened to the Oldies station nearly exclusively. Lots of late 50s and 60s songs. In fact, there was a time where my sister and I didn’t realize there were other stations on the radio. It never changed from the one station, and for some reason, it never occurred to us that those MTV songs we heard had to be on the radio somewhere.

Yet, it is through your friends where I think the key music comes in. So when Lee gave me a copy of the Misfits, I had no idea what I was in for. It destroyed my brain. These 2-minute songs (at the longest) were a blistering, blazing, fireball of in your face music. And they sang about the most outrageous things when they weren’t singing about some weird movies I’d never seen.

I must have been 12 or 13, at the beach in Destin, and listened to these songs over and over on my Walkman. I didn’t dare let my parents listen, but my sister still almost ruined it by sneaking a listen and then telling them about what she’d heard. For some reason, they were unfazed.

But that was really the moment that the heavier side of rock/punk was going to be my wheelhouse.

Taproot – Blue Sky Research

I’m sorry if Nu-Metal left a bad taste in your mouth. I will never understand that. It is the music that I listen to the most even to this day. And I would claim that this particular album might be my favorite of the entire genre. I can listen to it over and over and have never gotten sick of it. It feels like such a complete album where there is no one song I would remove from it. I love it so much, I’m interested in hearing any of the songs that might have been written around the same time.

With this one, I’m at work and needing to really focus on whatever project I’m working on. And this CD will not get removed from my CD Player. When I reach the end, we just loop around to begin again. But it isn’t only work, when I’m writing, it is one of my go-to albums to put on, pushing and pulling me into the correct train of thought.

Shock Lobo – My Wicked Soul

There are a handful of bands that I have seen which were openers for the band I wanted to see and then have gone on to be a favorite of mine. Shock Lobo was not only one of those (they were opening for The Josh Joplin Band and caught our eyes/ears), but since they were local to Atlanta, we saw them a lot. Pretty much every show they did locally Courtney and Chris and I went and saw them. When they needed fans to show up for a special taping, we were there. When they opened for Toad the Wet Sprocket, we were there.

So much so that the three of us are listed in the liner notes under the Thank You section.

With them, it isn’t one particular moment or performance, but all of them. Agnes Scott College. Them playing at a pizza restaurant. Underground Atlanta. The Point.

Mostly, it reminds me of a time, when I was in college, just hanging out with some good friends, listening to musicians play this music that we all loved.

***

My last 6 will come next week!

***

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Six Years In

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Another year has flown by… well, portions of another year has certainly flown by. It’s at the cusp on this new year that I like to take a look back at the previous year’s worth of blog posts and highlight a few that might have slipped through the cracks (because I either didn’t do a great job of sharing it or the various Social Media Overlords made sure you didn’t see it).

You Haven’t Seen It? – Neverending Story

As a blogger, I’m always on the lookout for potential blog series that will be fun to write and also fun for the readers. This year at Dragon Con, the fact that my wife had never seen The Neverending Story presented a problem and a solution all in one. I have a list of movies now that once Christmas has passed, we can start watching some movies and getting insight from someone who has never seen them (and I have a few of my own to add to the list).

 

Concert Review: 10 Years

Technically when this post is put up on the site, I’ll actually be at the 10 Years’ New Years Eve concert. And I sprung for VIP tickets (for the wife’s birthday!) so I’m hoping it has been a great day. Last year we got to see them play all of Division in order.

Black Mirror, Season 5 Review

After such an odd start, Black Mirror is one of my favorite shows. It really boils down to a Twilight Zone in a modern time trying to look at how we are affected by the mass amount of technology in our lives. Taking us down these storied roads in order to shine a light in the mirror and force us to maybe take an extra moment to ask ourselves the hard questions.

And any show that can do that consistently over and over is well worth watching.

 

The Darkest Timeline?

What if we are in a multiverse of timelines where the differences can be as small as a coin flip or as large as the dinosaurs roaming the Earth?

What, too much for you? Well, what if I told you that we might be living in the Darkest Timeline… if you are an Atlanta sports fan.

I’m the Problem

It always comes back to the comics. I’m struggling to know how to push the books. What avenue might present a great opportunity to sell a few copies of the Gilded Age. I don’t know what the best ways are… and then I thought about my own buying habits… and realized who the problem might be.

 

All the Free Short Stories!

I have to admit, sometimes the reason for me posting one of my short stories is I’m not sure what I should talk about in a given week. There are certainly stretches where I end up banking two or three posts and pat myself on the back and then don’t keep pace and suddenly it is a case of “Break Glass” time. But I also like sharing the stories because I’m suppose to be a writer and if you never get to read the fiction, then what’s the point.

This year I posted a bunch, which I thought I’d put conveniently right here:

Behind the Comic – Last Stand 2

A Free Short Story by John McGuire – Til The Last Candle Flickers

Hollow Empire – Free Chapter – Vadim

Chapter Preview – The Dark That Follows

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

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

***

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

A Love For Every Day – 3

Three 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. The past two years, I’ve shared a few from the book around the holidays.

Part 1 is here.

Part 2 is here.

 

January 2

I love her and that’s the beginning and end of everything.

F Scott Fitzgerald

February 4

March 12

 

You’re my favorite reason to lose sleep.

Anonymous

April 1

 

She doesn’t say “I love you” like a normal person.

Instead, she’ll laugh, shake her head, give you a smile, and say, “You’re an idiot.”

If she tells you you’re an idiot, you’re a lucky man.

How I Met Your Mother

May 9

“Maybe… you’ll fall in love with me all over again.”

“Hell,” I said, “I love you enough now. What do you want to do? Ruin me?”

“Yes. I want to ruin you.”

“Good,” I said. “That’s what I want too.”

Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell To Arms

June 1

There is never a time or place for true love. It happens accidentally, in a heartbeat, in a single flashing, throbbing moment.

Sarah Dessen, The Truth About Forever

July 4

August 8

My most brilliant achievement was my ability to be able to persuade my wife to marry me.

Winston Churchill

September 21

There is no shame in loving.

George R. R. Martin, A Feast For Crows

October 9

A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.

John Lennon

 

November 12

I just love to see you smile

So put it up on your face

Hallelujah

And these days will all go by

Anything I can do to you to help you through it

I just love to see you smile

Jonah Matranga, Smile

December 17

The words I, ME, and YOU ceased to matter when life became about US.

Anonymous

***

Hope you have some great holidays with those you love.

***

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Kickstart the Comic – Wishful Thinking Issue #1

The way I pick comics for this blog is mostly random. I mean, sometimes I’m supporting a creator I know, but most of the time something about the project catches my eye. Then I read through the pitch, look at the artwork, and then do these write-ups. I never know when something will hit me just right and many times I go through the listings on Kickstarter and not find much of anything that appeals to me.

That was certainly not the case tonight.

***

Wishful Thinking #1

Creator/Writer – Jack Raines

Artist -Carlos Trigo

Colorist – Ester Salguero

Letterer – Letter Squids

 

Kickstarter Campaign ends on Sunday, December 15, 2019 at 12:04 PM EST.

***

The Pitch:

A comic about an ex genie who sets up shop as a Wish Consultant.

 

The Story:

Wishful Thinking is set in a modern time where creatures of fantasy have taken the first steps in integrating into our world.  The only fantasy creature that has never called the mortal realm their home, is a djinn.  This, in turn, begs the question: “why is there a genie outside of his lamp running a wish consulting shop?”  Throughout the seven-issue series, you’ll get those answers and then some!

For now, let’s focus on a smaller picture.  What is this issue about?  With fantasy creatures becoming more popular, pentagrams are getting awfully more dangerous these days.  When Mary, a youth having trouble getting over a recent breakup, gets in a fight with her old lover’s new squeeze, she inadvertently summons a demon after a drop of blood lands on her favorite band’s poster.

 

John’s Thoughts:

Maybe it was the Genie starting his own business… maybe it was all those times I watched Aladin when I was younger… or maybe it is just unique enough to say to myself, “Self, you have never seen this particular idea, maybe give it a shot!”

I think it was probably a combination of all those things and then seeing the artwork which I think really works for me. It evokes a cartoony style which makes me almost think it could be animated right off the page.

Page 3 from Wishful Thinking #1 by Raines, Trigo, Salguero, & Lettersquids

 

 

 

The Rewards:

You can opt for the digital pdf only at $3 or a physical copy at $7. As you go up the scale there are options with art prints ($12) or a magnet ($20), but on the higher end ($50), you can get a variant cover “depicting how unfortunate your wish could turn out if you don’t have someone like Jum looking out for ya”. Which is an extremely cool idea for a pledge level. There are only 2 available currently.

 

The Verdict:

This one has a very short turn around time as there is only 4 days left in the campaign (I’m honestly sorry I didn’t see this a week ago). Hopefully, my little signal boost can help in some way. Jack is only about $142 away from having this fund. Plus, the issue is done, so you’ll get any digital copies right after the campaign is over.

Page 1 from Wishful Thinking #1 by Raines, Trigo, Salguero, & Lettersquids

***

To find out more about Wishful Thinking #1, check out the Kickstarter Page here.

***

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Building A New World

I recently finished the first draft of what I hope is the first of many more books in a series.

I want to start writing the outline for the second novel, but it isn’t coming as easily as I thought/hoped. I’m stuck on the big ideas and not on what knew things/new stories/new worlds I could be creating. Instead, the blank screen with a cursor stares at me with the occasional blink to let me know that nothing new has been written.

***

You see, my brain doesn’t work the way it should in this writing game. The rule is that the best way to succeed is to create a series of books to write about. That way, when someone finishes up your first book you lead them on to your next one. You set it in the same world/universe and that way you can show your readers that if they want the latest Urban Fantasy series or Sci-fi series or whatever, you’ve got them covered.

This isn’t nefarious. It’s called giving the readers what they want. My first novel, The Dark That Follows, is about a Fortune Teller who sees no future for one of the people who come in to get their future read. In the process of trying to help this person, he finds himself involved in dark magics, other mystical places, and dealing with beings from beyond his understanding. It is strictly set in modern times and would fall cleanly into the Urban Fantasy genre.

There has been more than one person who read the book and asked when book two might come out.

Yeah, about that…

See this is my problem. I like various things. I’m not just a Fantasy reader. I’m not just a Sci-Fi reader. I like a bunch of different types of stuff. I love Superheroes, but I also love things that are more down to earth.

I’m a genre hopper. I can’t help it. And I write things that I’d like to read. This means that on those days when I want to watch or read something that is Horror, it’s great. Or when that Steampunk movie comes out, I’m interested.

And I don’t think I’m alone in that.

Now I know that there are plenty of people who may like one genre and they stick to it and only it. Anything else might just be a distraction for the briefest moments. My Step-Father-in-Law doesn’t like fantasy or sci-fi stuff. He is more of a historical fiction type guy. And that’s great!

But it also means that he’s not checking out that Urban Fantasy series. He’s not in it for a 5 book series about the colonists traveling the stars.

***

What do you do when your brain wants to write one thing but you know you should be writing something else? I think that’s where Writer’s Block begins and ends. Because your brain knows what you should be doing, because you know what you should be doing (whatever that is) and you are preventing yourself from doing those things in the hopes of… what, exactly? Someone on the internet told you different than what you wanted to do?

Maybe it is time to trust yourself?

Maybe if you do that then the writer’s block will begin to lift. Maybe it will show you the path you should be on?

Or perhaps you should start brainstorming, taking every idea that could be related to this and everything else that pops into your head and put it down on paper. Writers are excavators, after al. It doesn’t take much to find the shimmer of gold buried under all that dirt and rock.

Or maybe I just need to embrace it, stop fighting myself, and see where the roads take me.

***

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

The Darkest Timeline?

In the episode of Community “Remedial Chaos Theory”, they use dice to simulate 6 different outcomes according to who had to go pay the pizza guy. It was a funny play on the multiple timelines idea. What struck me the other day was that in one of their timelines, everything went horribly wrong. People got hurt or died. All from one random roll of the dice. And while I’m fascinated by multiple timelines and parallel worlds and whatnot, that idea of a Darkest Timeline resonates even more.

And then there are sports.

If you follow any sport, you might have a superstition about your favorite team or player (or driver or…) and how you might watch. Maybe you have to sit in the same spot on the couch every game. Maybe you have to wear the same shirt. Maybe you have something more elaborate that involves turning around multiple times when the other team scores.

It’s a crazy idea that one thing that we do while watching things will have any real tangible impact on the contest we’re observing.

Right.

Right?

However, what if it only didn’t work because you were already in the wrong timeline? What if the reason your teams never win is just a simple thing:

You’re living in the Darkest Timeline.

***

1991

It’s game 7 of the World Series. Both the Minnesota Twins and the Atlanta Braves have gone Worst to First and find themselves tasked with trying to win a final, winner take all baseball game. John Smoltz is pitching a masterful game and there is a chance within the game where Braves outfielder Lonnie Smith could possibly put himself in scoring position (or perhaps even score). Instead, he inexplicably holds up. Never scores.

The Twins win in extra innings.

1996

After coming back from 3 games to 1 deficit in the NLCS, the Atlanta Braves find themselves up 2 games to 1 over the hated New York Yankees. In Game 4, they lead 6-3 and are ready to put a complete stranglehold on the Series and give the city of Atlanta back to back World Titles.

In steps Jim Lehritz…

The Braves won’t win another World Series Game in this Series or in any since.

1997

Game 5 of the NLCS.

Eric Gregg is behind the plate calling balls and strikes. And honestly, he pretty much calls the worst game anyone has ever seen. And it is all one-sided. Florida Marlin’s pitcher Livan Hernadez has the greatest game of his career when balls are strikes and strikes are strikes. Florida will go on to win the World Series.

1991 to 2005

The Braves will win 14 straight division titles. From 1991 to 1999 they will appear in 5 World Series and only win 1 time (for comparison, the Boston Red Sox have appeared in 4 World Series since 2004 and have won each time.

Since 2001 to Current, the Braves have not won a playoff series.

2011

The Atlanta Braves have an 8.5 game lead over the St Louis Cardinals on September 6. They lose their lead and the playoffs spot on the last day of the season in one of the worst September Collapses by a Baseball team… ever.

2013

Trailing 2 games to 1 in the Divisional Series, the Braves hold a slim 1 one lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 8th inning. They have arguably the best closer in the game. With 5 outs left to get to send the Series back to Atlanta, our Manager decides NOT to bring Kimbrel in so that he can watch with the rest of us as the next batter puts the ball into the stands… and the Braves lose another series.

2019

Game 5 of the Divisional Series, the Cardinals score 1 million runs in the first inning (it was 10, but same difference)… something that almost never happens in the history of baseball.

***

And that’s just my Atlanta Braves (the fun we could have with the Miami Dolphins, I’m sure).

Is it a curse? Curses are sexy. Curses are something “out of your control”. Curses can bring a city together in their misery. When the explanation for something improbable happens, we think that the gods/God/karma/etc must be against us.

But I don’t believe it is a curse. What could be the instigating moment? What spun things out of control? We don’t have a mysterious goat in our past. We don’t have one of the greatest players in the history of the game get traded. So what could it be?

Not, it’s not a curse… we just are in the Darkest Timeline.

***

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Kickstart the Comic – Mine To Avenge: Book of Layla #1-3

Independent comic books offer us a chance to hear new and different voices tell new and different stories. I know that without Kickstarter, the ability to reach new readers is hard. Even with something like Kickstarter, the opportunity to be a one and done is both very difficult and extremely easy. Which can be frustrating for those authors who wish to tell a longer story. They put so much trust in their readers in the hope that not only will they be there to support them when the very first issue drops, but also carry them through each subsequent chapter in the story.

With Mine to Avenge, we’ve reached the third issue, and with that we push toward Robert Jeffrey’s complete story with every single issue. As a reader, I’m glad that such an opportunity exists at all.

(Plus, the book is very nice!)

 

***

Mine to Avenge: Book of Layla #1-3

Creator/Writer – Robert Jeffrey II

Artist -Matteo Illuminati

Colorist/Letterer – Loris Ravina

 

Kickstarter Campaign ends on Wednesday, November 27, 2019 at 10:02 AM EST.

***

The Pitch:

The  history  books  call  it  a  house  of  horrors.  A  testament  to  the  true  depravity  that  inhabits  the  souls  of  man.  

 

The Story:

The  little  girl  who  escaped  the  demonic  forces  which  occupied  the  LaLaurie  New  Orleans  mansion  on  a  sunny  day  in  1833,  though,  called  it  something  else:  the  site  of  a  rebirth.  The  little  girl  swore  on  that  day  that  she  would  never  be  anyone  else’s  victim,  and  so  began  a  centuries  long  campaign  of  bloody  revenge.  The  Retribution  Cabal  (RC)  was  born,  protecting  only  those  descendants  of  America’s original sin.  

Now  on  a  cyberpunk  stage  where  technological  wonders  leave  no  place  for  creatures  of  legend,  the  LaLauries  and  their  denizens  reappear,  continuing  their  blood-soaked  quest  for  obtaining  ultimate  power.  Time  will  tell  if  the  remaining  members  of  the  fractured  Cabal  can  stand  as  the  bulwark  between  humanity  and  the  rising  hordes  of  darkness.

 

John’s Thoughts:

If you like stories that stretch across time, from the 1800s to the 2100s…

If you like monsters and dark powers…

If you like being the chosen one…

Then maybe this book if for you.

The Rewards:

It’s only $10 to catch up via PDF or $20 if you want the first three issues in their physical form. Past that, if you’d like a collection from Evoluzione’s Horror Comics, then the $45 level will get you a whole bunch of books to scare you. Lastly, there is the always cool pledge of $100 to get a cameo in the next issue. Maybe one of the monsters can “get” you!.

 

The Verdict:

Sometimes I’m not sure if I’m going to see more than an issue’s worth of story. That isn’t going to be a problem here. They have already had two Kickstarters fund and this one is about 1/3 of the way there with 3 weeks to go. I’d say give it a shot, but then again, I have the first two issues already!

***

To find out more about Mine to Avenge: Book of Layla #1-3, check out the Kickstarter Page here.

***

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com