Comic Challenge, New Day, New Questions

A while back I did one of those 30 day challenges… except instead of doing it daily over the course of a month, I did 4 at a time over the course of a year (and ended up doing 33 total for good measure and because months should have more days in them… or something).

I got to thinking about some of my previous posts and then saw someone else had done one of those 30-day challenges (the correct way… you know, daily). Anyway, I thought “Here are some new things I haven’t posted in the previous run… so why not continue things. We’ll call this Volume 2 or something.

For the previous posts, check out: 1 & 2 & 4 & 5 & 6 & 7 & 8.

1. My Favorite Villain

This one is easy. When I think about villains, I’m looking for those characters who could have gone the straight and narrow had one thing gone the other way. Villains should be flawed versions of the heroes and at the same time be better than the hero in some way (otherwise, where is the struggle). For me, that villain has always been Doctor Doom.

And while he is a no doubt villain, there is an honorable man buried beneath that armor. Yes, he is petty, and he is power-hungry, and he always thinks he knows more than everyone else (and most of the time he’s correct), but when he shows up he has that presence where every hero has to go “oh, crap!”

2. Favorite Villain Team

The Masters of Evil

This is more the version from just before I started collecting “The Siege on the Mansion” where they laid waste to the Avengers.

Wait… what? How’s that?

Yeah, they took them out systematically. Baron Zemo used his brains to isolate them, take them out, and then go onto the next. Until it was him and Captain America… and he wanted to hurt him.

Of course, it also features Captain America overcoming the odds to win the day, but it was a hollow victory for sure.

3. Superhero who should have stayed dead

This is more about the soapbox of death in comics. When I was first getting into collecting comics, Marvel put out these Marvel Universe books which were a breakdown of their characters. It would give things like first appearance and an overall bio… every page was fresh and new to me as I was just discovering how big the world was at that point. But my favorite run of that comic series were the Books of the Dead. Even back then I knew that death in comics wasn’t an every issue occurrence – otherwise who is the hero going to fight after a while. In that series, I read about obscure characters I’ve still never seen mentioned since, and there were the biggies, like the Green Goblin.

I might have read those a dozen times.

Around the same time, there was a two-part story in Avengers and West Coast Avengers where the team is forced into a fight to the death against some of those very same characters from my comic. It was one of those comics where I realized both how cool it was to have some of them back, even if only briefly, and also how it was nice to have this assortment to choose from.

In the years since many of those characters have returned from the grave (it is comics after all)… but it makes me think about that Avengers story – it doesn’t work anymore. Yes, if they magically came back to life it works, but what about someone who was in hiding during that time (Norman Osborn)?

I don’t like things being completely invalidated like that.

Plus, I kind of like the idea that if someone had a reason to kill a character off, there should be a good amount of time passed before they can come back.

***

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

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

Peacebuilders and Comics

This past Friday, Robert Jeffrey and I journeyed down to south Georgia in order to participate with the campers at the Peacebuilders Camp at Koinonia Farm. From the website:

Peacebuilders Camp at Koinonia Farm is a unique overnight summer camp in rural south Georgia where youth ages 11 to 15 spend a week together learning how to work toward peace and justice. Campers enjoy games and sports, laugh with new friends from diverse backgrounds, go on field trips, learn about human rights, make a difference for others through service projects, and explore the stories of peacemakers past and present.

Our task for the day was a pair of workshop sessions with the kids to talk about How to Make a Comic. This was a part of the concept of being able to Express yourself. The kids got to sit down with C-Grimey, a DJ from Chattanooga, TN for a chance to make a rap song or sit with us talking comics.

While we have a Powerpoint Presentation which breaks down the different aspects of a comic book: from developing characters and a script to working with artists, inkers, colorists, and letterers. We talk about how the medium is great because it is so collaborative. And that same fun you get from just talking to your friends about ideas or artwork you’ve done makes it very much a shared experience.

After that, we provide the campers with some blank pages with blank panels already drawn on them. When we did the Workshop for the first time this past December we provided the kids some example one page scripts so they could practice drawing that way, but as that session rolled along, we realized the better ideas just flow out from them as they want to tell their own stories. So this time we told them that while we had some examples, they should feel free to just wing it.

From the two sessions we got:

A lesson about what to do if your friend trips over a rock (the answer is to ask the rock for help!).

A cover piece of The Green Lantern: John Stewart.

A breakdown of the helicopter scene in Suicide Squad between Harlequin and Joker.

The best tagline ever – “It’s so stupid, it might just work.”

Learning that one of the kid’s favorite movies was the Purge (remember, he’s between 11 and 12 years old)!

Deadpool was another favorite.

In addition, we had a couple of copies of Route 3 and The Gilded Age trades on hand, and it definitely warmed my heart when I saw the kids reading through during the lunch break. We ended up leaving the copies so hopefully not just the campers last week, but the others this week and next could enjoy them.

Really though, my hope is that a couple of the kids will end up pursuing their comic dreams. We told them to practice every day because a year from now they will be better than they were. Who knows, maybe I’ll be buying one of their comics before too long!

***

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

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

When In Doubt, Learn Something New

The Grind. Day in and day out the same things. Days blurring together to the point that you legitimately might not know what day of the week it is. The 4th this year, while coming in the middle of the week is very weird, also allows for some grounding and rest and recharging.

But it is not the only way.

Over the weekend, I attended a two-day, online writing course. And by attended, I mean I stumbled out into the room where we have our computer set up and watched and listened and took notes. After the two days were over, I was so jazzed about the ideas I had for my next project that every free moment has been me jotting down ideas on spare scrap paper and spending the last two nights up way too late trying to get every crazy idea out of my head as best I can.

Which I’m only realizing this now, but sometimes we just need to go back to the beginning and remember that while we may know a lot of things, we can still learn brand new things.

As an indy writer, there are so many little bits and the piece you pick up along the way that it very much becomes the bright and shiny thing. And even if you know how to do something, it never hurts to take those steps back and reevaluate your approach.

And really, that’s what can recharge you the easiest and best overall. The daily grind of work, home, work, home and fitting in some sleep somewhere in there can weigh on you.

Years ago, as Terminus Media was beginning to get off the ground we had weekly meetings in the back of a comic store. I’d show up at 5 or 6 and we’d go until 9 or 10 talking, swapping ideas, looking at new artwork. All of it got you pumped. It inspired you to create new things, and it challenged you to try to one-up the previous week’s notable stories. Yeah, there was plenty of times where we didn’t know what we were doing and yet those days, even when an outsider might think that nothing was learned by the people in the room… if you really paid attention, you’d find one thing.

Those are the invaluable moments. And as much as this day off from work to hang out with friends and family is welcomed… it is not the only recharge you should allow yourself to enjoy.

***

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

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Nadya the Deathless – A new short story by J Edward Neill

Mother to a slain child…

Hunted for her power…

Some fear her…

Others adore her…

Those who know her best have named her…

Nadya the Deathless

Episode 8 in the Hollow Empire series

Now available on Amazon.

Book Report – The Death of WCW

Wrestling.

I started watching wrestling during the 80s. At some point, my sister and I discovered that on the UHF channel they’d show wrestling pretty much all day on Saturdays. There’d be WWF and NWA to bookend things, but in the middle, you got all sorts of regional wrestling shows with people that my dad recognized but neither of us had any clue. We watched the goofiness of GLOW (well before it became a Netflix tv show). We’d absorb it. We’d cheer for our favorites.

And we had no idea that it wasn’t real.

Then I didn’t watch it for many years, only to pick it back up in the mid-90s when I heard that Hulk Hogan had turned bad guy and the NWO (New World Order) was running roughshod over WCW (which I later understood to be basically the successor to those NWA shows I’d watched as a kid. Every week I tuned in.

And then I stopped again. I’m not sure if I grew tired of it or just faded out with it. Once in a while, I’d flip it on and see who was wrestling. I watched the last episode of WCW when WWE bought them. I watched handfuls of episodes of TNA Wrestling. And even watched WWE.

A couple of years ago I started back up (much to my wife’s chagrin). My nephew has tons of the figures and at the beach, we watched an episode of RAW (WWE’s flagship show). It was over.

Luckily, I knew it wasn’t “real” anymore, but I still like to watch.

***

The Death of WCW by R.D. Reynolds & Bryan Alvarez is a history lesson and a cautionary tale. It is about making all the correct decisions for a short amount of time and then having it all come crashing down around you.

You see, in the 80s, the WWF was king. Everyone knew Hulk Hogan and Wrestlemania and Andre the Giant. They had a cartoon. Andre was in one of my favorite movies (The Princess Bride for those keeping score). But in the 90s WCW had a run where they took over and all people wanted to see was the NWO.

The book goes into the history leading up to this revolution. It talks about WCW’s roots within the regional wrestling business. How Ted Turner’s TBS Superstation made him want wrestling programming. And how with a few signings of talent from the WWF (Hogan, Kevin Nash, and Scott Hall), WCW became number one.

It walks you through the weeks. And as it did, I began to remember many of the matches talked about. One of the great things about wrestling is this ability to connect to your childhood through the championships and through the wrestlers who span the decades. Each backstage glimpse revealed answers to questions I’d long-since forgotten about.

If I had one complaint about the book it would be that towards the end you could almost cut and paste the words on the pages. WCW did this stupid thing and made this stupid decision and then doubled down on that dumb thing… but that’s not really the book’s fault. Those were the decisions being made by whoever might have been in charge at that particular time. I mostly found myself thinking (even though I know the ending… it’s right there in the title) “Surely they are going to learn from this mistake, right?”

They didn’t.

And like a train wreck, you can’t look away and you want to keep reading if only to find out the next dumb decision.

Wrestling might be fake, but the decisions being made were very real indeed. If you are a fan of wrestling now or then, it is an eye-opening read to be sure.

 

***

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

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Kickstarter Reflections – Shipping and Handling Not Included

This is part of a series of posts where I look back at the process of running a Kickstarter. The steps we took, the mistakes we made, and a bunch of other things I wish I had known.

Other Kickstarter Reflections Posts

Kickstarter Reflections – Mailing List Blues

Kickstarter Reflections – Starting at the Finish Line

***

When we last left our intrepid hero, he was busy crunching numbers for the Route 3 Kickstarter, trying to find the bare minimum it would take to actually get the trade funded. And I had my number: around $4500 would get us what we wanted.

Aside from my mistake, that is what it would cost…

I didn’t notice my mistake at first. And I really must say that I had done a ton of research. I’d listened to podcasts and read blogs until I was cross-eyed, and still didn’t see it coming. Because here’s the warning that you get on every single one of those posts:

Watch out for Shipping costs.

So I did. I was a maniac about it. I was making sure to count every person at the $7 shipping charge. What I didn’t realize is how Kickstarter actually incorporates that number. My brain said:

The shipping is determined after you make your pledge selection, so it CAN’T be a part of the overall $$. It’s a separate item and is effectively collected separately.

What reality said:

No, that $7 for shipping is actually added into the total goal number. So when you were calculating your goals, you should have included that one, but you didn’t.

It seems like it probably shouldn’t matter all that much, but I didn’t realize it until I did an update to the spreadsheet once we’d gotten past the 50 backer mark – and then realized my error.

On the positive, it meant we were much more likely to hit our goal when our $25 reward level was actually worth $32 to the campaign each time. On the negative, I was now seeing that there was as much as an $800 difference. Which basically meant if we barely funded, we’d potentially be behind by $800. Of course, that was the absolute worst case scenario (and I kept reminding myself of that very fact). That was if everyone only contributed at the $25 level. The idea of that happening was highly doubtful. It would mean no one would buy any PDF only levels or any of the higher tiers… again, not realistic.

That rationale didn’t help ease my brain spinning, and I can only imagine Robert’s state of mind when I told him the “good news”:

“So after we got off the phone tonight I got curious about the overall numbers. I quickly added the 55 backers up and found that the shipping charge (the $7 or $20) that appears to be an add-on is actually contributing to the Project Fund Goal.
This obviously causes a problem because we did not factor that into our cost breakdowns. I have written Kickstarter to make sure that I am seeing this correctly. What follows is the note I submitted through their “Support” button:
“I would like to confirm whether or not the added charges for domestic and international shipping is a contributing factor to the project’s overall Funding Goal. I had been under the impression that this was not the case when we launched on Friday afternoon. Is there any way that this can be altered for a project, as our calculated costs did not assume the shipping applied to the pledge amount? We believed it was an add-on. Any assistance you can provide on this would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for your time.”
Assuming that this cannot be changed for the project, it appears that our True Number should have been approximately $5625 ($775 difference).
Now, this number is based on various factors:
Digital vs. physical backers – I’m assuming 25% digital based off our current level
Potential of International vs Domestic Shipping – This is probably only going to be a handful of people, but it is something to consider
The number of people who actually chose to do a higher reward level – This would reduce the number of people we actually have to ship anything to.
And potentially people who can get their reward hand delivered – Again, reducing the number of people we actually have to ship anything to.
That’s a lot to take in. I can walk you through it if you want to talk by phone at some point. I’m sorry that I didn’t catch this as I thought we’d been as thorough as possible.”

***

 

Of course, things couldn’t be changed at that point, and Kickstarter wasn’t going to change their whole setup for little old me. So I mentally prepared myself to make up for the blunder if it came to it. As the campaign went on I tracked the updated numbers and found that for every digital only person, it brought that value down (nothing to ship), for every higher award number chosen, it brought the numbers closer together.

I said it last post – the biggest part of Kickstarter is that it changes with every new person who contributes. We’d calculated in the “have an artist draw you tier” into our numbers, but if all of them weren’t taken (I think we were limited to 10) then it would reduce the number. So there were tons of ways to get through this gaffe. And by the end, just due to the rewards taken, we ended up all good and got some Stretch Goals in for good measure!

***

So I suppose the lesson is to really, really try to identify the potholes where you can. And even if you think you have a handle on the costs, maybe reach out to someone who’s already done a Kickstarter. Sometimes it is the question we don’t even know to ask which end up biting us in the ass.

***

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

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

 

Kickstart the Comic – 5 From Beyond

When Terminus Media decided to get into comics, we cut our teeth on four different anthologies. The thought process was that it was a lot to ask an artist for 22 pages, but 8 pages… that would be doable. On top of that, learning to write in those 8 page blocks only helped me as a writer. Considering I was still trying to figure out how exactly to script a comic in the first place, it allowed for learning on the job.

So I have a soft spot for anthologies…

***

Five From Beyond

Published by From Beyond Comics

Writers – Kyle Roberts, Dan Kern, Clay Adams

Artists – Rafael Romeo Magat, Kyle Roberts, Rafael Dantas

Colors – Ilaria Fella, Mai, Davi Comodo, Emilio Pilliu

Kickstarter Campaign ends on Friday, June 22, 2018 at 11:00 PM EDT.

***

 

The Pitch:

Drawing inspiration from classic anthology comics and television shows like Creepy, Eerie, The Twilight Zone and Tales From the Crypt – FIVE FROM BEYOND is a full color, 48-page anthology comic featuring five short stories infusing elements of horror, suspense, and science fiction into each gorgeously illustrated tale.

 

The Stories:

Parent/Guardian

In the far flung future, beyond the far reaches of our solar system, PARENT/GUARDIAN tells the story of a father’s fight for redemption in the eyes of his daughter.

The Brokener

Born from the imagination of a three year old girl, THE BROKENER is a terrifying tale of folk tradition and the cycle of abuse.

Deathtrap!

A mind bending re-imagining of Edgar Allen Poe’s classic The Pit and the Pendulum. DEATHTRAP! turns the focus outside the pit and onto the rescue party tasked with saving Poe’s original protagonist.

The Ark

Earth’s attempt at colonizing a new world is jeopardized when the transport’s commander decides to play God aboard THE ARK!

The Bin

Based on true events! Four teens stumble upon an unsettling discovery when they go snooping within THE BIN!

John’s Thoughts:

Kyle Roberts clearly knows how to hook me in the very first sentence as he called upon The Twilight Zone. I might as well stop reading at that point as “you’ve got me!”. That aside, the biggest thing with anthologies is doing the initial scan when you are trying to see if any of the story synopsis grab you. So I do that, and knowing nothing else, I’m intrigued by “The Ark” and “Deathtrap!”. The first due to the fact that I have about 10 different ideas on where the story may go and want to see if they’re true. With the latter, Edgar Allen Poe’s story is one that’s always caught my attention (if, for no other reason, that my wife once had nightmares from watching only the beginning scene of the movie).

And I love the cover!

 

The Rewards:

You have the PDF ($5) only or the Print ($15) versions of the comic. At higher levels you can get an 8 1/2 x 11 inked drawing ($60) or an original interior page from the book ($100). At the $25 level, there is a unique reward where you get a panel from the comic that is suitable for framing.

 

The Verdict:

The book is done, so that’s always a great thing to be able to read it all the quicker. And like I said above, I’m a sucker for this type of comic. When done well, you end up with stories that will stay with you for weeks after you’ve read them!

 

***

To find out more about From Beyond Comics, check them out here.

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Book Report – House of Leaves

Years ago, I heard stories about a strange book: House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. The person claimed it was a horror book, but that it was so much more. It used narrative within a narrative within the narrative to tell its story, bouncing between these moments via footnotes within the text itself. They said it used the book itself as a way to tell the story, with the edges of the paper acting as the walls of the haunted house, and the words were the characters trying to find their way through to the other side.

I’m sure they said the name of the book, but it was lost somewhere within my mind. And for years I thought nothing more of it.

And then, as these things do, it reappeared on my radar, randomly mentioned on a podcast. At my desk, I scrawled the name on a scrap piece of paper before looking it up on the internet. It didn’t take long for me to remember the previous conversation about the novel, so I went ahead and put it on my Christmas list in the hopes some family member might purchase it for me. Sure enough, that wish was granted.

But I waited.

I read most of the books I have on Kindle. Yet, this was a book – well, I’m not sure there would be a way to construct it for digital consumption. It almost demands you have the tactile sensation of holding it in your hands. Flipping the pages and then flipping the orientation of the book. So I saved this beast for the beach.

I have a habit of not always choosing the bright and cheerful books for the beach, having read The Road a couple of years ago. House of Leaves demanded a different level of focus from me than I’d been expecting – so much so that after a day of reading. I was only at about 50 pages into the book. I’m a fast reader, but this crawled along.

Note that’s not a slight on the book, instead it speaks more to how the book is laid out.

One of the things I have learned in writing comics (and am always learning) is the idea of the pace of reading a page. Typically, if I want to slow the reader down (maybe because there is something coming that needs to be built up) I add more words to the page. Narration boxes, dialogue, etc.

And on those pages that need fly by, to feel fast, I include fewer words, let the art breathe a bit more.

House of Leaves is the 1st book I’ve ever seen that attempts to do this as well. Pages will have only a couple of a couple of sentences, a word presented upside down, twisting and turning on the page.

It uses footnotes, editors ramblings, forward, and appendices to paint a picture of how this House affects these people throughout the world. Students write theses on it (within the world it has constructed).

It’s complex and confusing and maddening and at times you can’t put it down and at other times you are unsure whether to pick it back up.

It has highs and lows as to what held my interest more, but once things get “weird”. I was devouring pages.

It may make you obsess. I found myself looking for answers to some questions while still reading, chastising myself for doing it as I didn’t want to spoil anything.

***

What is House of Leaves about? It’s about multiple things – a weird, possibly haunted house and the people who live there. A documentary made by those people who live in the house. The world at large’s thoughts on the doc.

But it is also about a man who had written “House of Leaves”

Oh and about the man who found the “House of Leaves” manuscript.

And the subject of the manuscript. The one who made the documentary. The one who journeys into the darkness within the house itself. That’s where the book really shifts into forcing you to turn your book sideways or upside down. The text will shrink the gutters on one page before expanding to the next. You’ll have pages with only a dozen words on it.

It pulls you in. All the techniques, which on the surface appear to be a pain in the ass, all serve the same goal. Through this, it makes you a part of the story. As much as any of the people you’re reading about.

It’s horror, but not always scary, but quite often disturbing. It’s the type of book that pushes the boundaries of what a novel can actually look like. Fiction upon fiction upon fiction. If you want to read something odd and strange and something that will have you searching the internet at 2 in the morning to try to figure out… this might be the book for you.

***

Most of the time book reviews/reflections/whatever want to be a little vague so they don’t spoil anything, but I honestly think that I couldn’t give anything away without giving everything away. A strange and amazing read. I’ve seen book reviews online for this where the person says they hated the book in one sentence and yet they recommend everyone read it. Such a strange thing to be said about anything.

So I’ll say, if you want to read something pretty unique… this is the one.

***

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

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Kickstarter Reflections – Starting at the Finish Line

Here we are, at the gateway of Summer (is that a thing?). You have people everywhere casting off their high school personas and trying to take their first stabs in the “real world” (whether college is the “real world” or not is a discussion for another day). I couldn’t tell you anything about the speeches given during my graduation, but I do remember the closing line from my sister’s which was a quote from the band Semisonic “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”

That stuck with me more than anything else.

This idea that an ending becomes a new beginning is a beautiful thing. It means we get a chance to close the door on something old and move onto something new. And maybe it is a chance to see that before you can begin, you must look at the end… where you are going.

I’m in the process of final fulfillment of my Kickstarter for the Gilded Age, but I’ve got all these thoughts swirling around in my head about the process over the last year or so. You see, about a year ago Robert Jeffrey II launched his Route 3 Kickstarter. He was the guinea pig for this process. And knowing that I’d be launching one of my own in the Fall, I wanted to be along for every step he took. You know, so that hopefully if we made errors, then it wouldn’t happen again the next time (a wonderful thought, if nearly impossible to anticipate everything).

***

Where to start is always an odd thing. You have blogs and posts out there that talk to you about certain things, but a lot of time there is very little consensus in the right way to do something (note- there are TONS of wrong ways to do it… don’t worry). But honestly, the place to begin a Kickstarter is by thinking about the very end: what is the goal and what does that equate to? Numbers, dollars, cost, shipping, taxes, fees, and so on. You really need to have a grasp on those numbers so that you can set the right goal to get to, otherwise, it doesn’t matter what you plan and publicize or whatever. If you set your goal too high you’re dead before you even get started.

That meant looking at what our costs were going to be and trying to set a slightly moving target.

***

Route 3 by Robert Jeffrey II and Sean Hill – Available for order… just click the image.

With Route 3, we started with what we knew. We knew we’d have a 108-page trade as the final product. The layout had already been done and a small print run had been completed (about 25 copies), so we knew what it looked like (and what it was like to hold in our hands). We knew that the target retail price would be about $20 each. And we wanted to not only be able to fulfill our Kickstarter order, but also have extra copies for conventions. However, we didn’t want to fill Robert’s apartment with too many copies. It needed to be… manageable.

Then it was a matter of determining what kind of prices were even available. We ran the numbers through 5 different printing companies (Kraken, Artist Express, Ready Comics, Print Ninja, and Colorwise Commercial Printing). And by running the numbers, I mean trying it out with different copies ordered. Trying to find out where the best price break might be while always being mindful of having a number that still was attainable.

Key Takeaways: From most of the places listed above, it became apparent that the price break (and therefore the question we needed to ask ourselves) happened at 500 copies. At that number, the price of each trade is around $6 to $7 whereas if we tried for fewer copies, like 200 or 250, we were in the $10+ range per book.

***

I wrote this to the Terminus guys as I was breaking down the numbers, and it really remained true throughout the number crunching process and into the actual campaign as well:

“What I’m really finding is Kickstarter is like having a target that keeps moving every day. Sure, you have the big target that stays the same, but everything else ends up being highly dependent on about 3 or 4 additional things which need to be factored in. It’s like – ok, you need another $1000 to get to this stretch goal, but that really means you need $1000/$32 = 32 additional backers who need stuff shipped to them and… so you put in a number and then recalculate and recalculate and…”

Beyond true.

It means you are going to be doing iterations with your numbers. And you’ll want to factor everything in. T-shirts and buttons and prints and anything else you can think of, but each of those come with a cost, which drives your shipping up which drives your overall numbers up which drives the Kickstarter fees up.

Oh, and did you factor shipping into your numbers? No? Well, start again because you’ll need to have those in there as well.

I was coming up with numbers around $6000 for Route 3’s Kickstarter.

But I’m looking around at other Kickstarters that might be comparable and they are closers to $4000 or $5000.

My thoughts from an email to the team:

“I’m a little concerned about hitting these numbers. Maybe that’s unfounded, maybe I’m being pessimistic, but I’d love to have these numbers lower.

So…

I also went ahead and calculated what the costs might be if we went “Bare Bones” with the rewards. Basically, we’d be doing the trade and the pdf and that is it… no prints, no additional artist stuff, and no t-shirts or stickers. This also eliminated the 10% contingency (I don’t think we should get rid of these things necessarily, but I wanted to know what our “Floor” really was).”

Doing all of that I finally got the numbers down to something closer to what I hoped might be attainable: about $4500.

And so we had our first real target… but I’d made a mistake that might have cost us…

***

This is part of a series of posts where I look back at the process of running a Kickstarter. The steps we took, the mistakes we made, and a bunch of other things I wish I had known.

Other Kickstarter Reflections Posts

Kickstarter Reflections – Mailing List Blues

***

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

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

Kindle Worlds – Looking Forward Back

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

***

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

But the whispers are always there:

What if Amazon changes something?

What if Amazon decides to overhaul their programs?

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

These were different.

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

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

***

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

***

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

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Kindle Worlds Closing

 

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

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

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

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

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

One of the early Kindle Worlds.

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

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

 

***

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

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Kindle Worlds Shutdown

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

 

Dear John,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Warm wishes,
The Kindle Worlds Team  

 

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

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

 

***

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Kickstarter Reflections – Mailing List Blues

Copies now available for order! Click the image to see how!

I’m in the process of final fulfillment of my Kickstarter for the Gilded Age, but I’ve got all these thoughts swirling around in my head about the process over the last year or so.

So I’ve taken rants from my emails to friends and put them on here so that you can see how dumb I am sometimes and how innocent mistakes can lead to bigger things…

Anyway, this is Part 1 of who knows how many posts about Getting Ready for a Kickstarter/How to have a Successful Kickstarter/ or maybe just:

How to Fund a Kickstarter and lose your mind at the same time!

***

Mailing List Blues

 

One of the things that I continually come up against is:

How to inform people of “Your Stuff”?

This Blog was kind of part 1 of this thing.

I have 2 books, 2 novellas, a couple of comics… not Jeremy Neil yet, but working on it. So how do you get people from going – “That’s a nice blog post, now what are these cats going to do in this video?” to “Oh that’s a nice blog post, now what books has John written?”

I still don’t know. I’m sure I’ve gotten a handful of sales from the blog (or at least I hope I have), but I certainly haven’t gotten any kind of numbers to talk about. It feels like Jeremy does ok with the blog, though he has (at least) 3 things going for him:

  • A new release like monthly.
  • A million books that could each sell 1-2 copies a week and get him some nice folding money.
  • A couple of posts which have gone viral – one which literally gets like 150/day and 75/day. Even if only a very small fraction of people ever buy one of his books, he’s getting in there just based on sheer volume.

So what’s the answer?

An Email List.

The original mailing list software!

That’s what all these podcasts and blogs and grandma’s who don’t actually know what an Email List actually is, but they are also sure you need to be doing this.

Again, if you wait for them to stumble upon you, then you are going to be clearly disappointed. So I turned to giving away Gilded Age #1 in order to get emails on Instafreebie.com. I did the trial for a month and probably averaged 1-2 a day for the month. I went ahead and signed up for $20/month in order to get more. I’ve got 70ish people in roughly 2 months. So that’s a success for me.

All of this is looking toward the Gilded Age Kickstarter. I get the 1st issue into people’s hands and maybe I can actually fund this thing.

Since it had been a couple of months for the very first person who got the issue, I decided this would be the perfect time to send out the “Welcome to my email list” message. On part of a Thursday night and too much time on a Friday night, I got C working like I wanted it to, and crafted my initial message. I even got it set up where if you join the list from here on out, you’ll get an automated “Thanks for joining!” message (though I’m currently unsure this actually is working the way it should – something else to add to the list of things to do).

About 11:00 PM on Friday I kicked off the campaign.

MailChimp has all sorts of analytics going on. They know where the people are (what country) how many people have opened your email, who clicked on links within it (I actually had a link to both Tessera and the free copy of Gilded Age just in case). They tell you how many have unsubscribed…

And they tell you how many people have reported “Abuse”.

Hmmm. I didn’t see anything about that before. Why do I have 1 of those already and the campaign is like 10 minutes old.

A little research and I find that “Abuse” is whenever you click that little button in your Gmail/yahoo/whatever that says “Report as Spam”. That triggers an “Abuse report”.

No biggie. I’m sure that happens all the time.

***

Let me back up slightly. When I prepared to send out to my subscribers, I had to upload the Instafreebie’s contact list because I hadn’t automated the process yet (should have done that immediately, but I didn’t know if it was going to work all that well and…). I was surprised to see that I had about 900+ people on my MailChimp list already (by clicking on the submission form on my website). The name column was odd for a ton of them – like numbers and letters, but I thought, perhaps that either these were fake OR possibly C did that as a way to identify people. Either way, if they were fake, they’d bounce back or whatever, and if not, then yea! Shouldn’t be a problem, right?

***

So back to the reports… slowly over the next hour, I got about 2 more “Abuse”. I started worrying. Hmm, I wonder what that will end up meaning. Oh, and I really am wondering what the threshold might be?

Well, according to MailChimp, you should have only 1 in 1000…

I’d sent out 1047 and had 4 at this point… I passed the threshold. I went to bed and it was at 5.

When I woke up on Saturday, it was at 8 and MailChimp had issued me an email telling me that I had to use a “Double Opt-in” which they enacted on the website – Oh Good!

The funny thing was I had spent over an hour trying to do that very thing on Thursday night. I went through the various tutorials and videos and whatever and could NOT get it to work. Oh, and now I could not import any further contacts. On the plus side, they would allow me to send a “Reconfirmation Email” to everyone on the list (who hadn’t already unsubscribed or bounced emails) to ensure they really did want to be on the list.

So I take the time to set that up on Saturday night and sent it off, BUT I also sent support an email saying – What my initial email was about and gave a link to the Instafreebie site and that the reports were probably from a “Stale list”.

 

Here’s where my further frustrations come from. They replied:

“Downloading a free digital publication does not grant the expressed and verifiable permission for bulk emails as set by the standards of ISPs, SpamCops, and corporate filtering services.

In order for book downloads to be accepted an opt-in box would need to be added to the form allowing for contacts to make the clear choice to opt-in in.”

 

To which I responded:

If you follow the link to where the comic is exchanged for their email: https://www.instafreebie.com/free/2V0z3 you will see that it is about as explicit as it can be to let them know what it is they are signing up for. The title is “Sign up for John McGuire’s mailing list”. There is a “Claim” button and there is a notice at the bottom that says “By submitting your email address, you understand that you will receive email communications from John McGuire.”

It would seem to me that anyone signing up to claim my comic book would do so with full knowledge of what they were exchanging.

I’m just a little confused by the statement above.

 

And this was their response:

While the top of the free book download does mention that this is for your mailing list the overall expectation that is given from the form is of a book download. It can be very easy to miss those top three words.

Because permission is based on something being optional–and therefore, the contact makes the choice to sign up or not–it will need for the form to be changed so that the contact can get the book download without choosing to sign up for newsletters.

***

Whaa? So I can tell them that this is for my mailing list. I can provide them with a product in exchange for their email… which they have to enter in order to CLAIM the item. And that isn’t enough? I have to say – “Hey, sign up for my list or not. And oh, here’s something just because!”

Maybe I’m misreading. Maybe I’m misguided. Maybe I’m wrong. But come on! That doesn’t make any sense.

***

Either way, those 70 people are possibly gone! Any legitimate people who signed up through the website are gone! I’m basically back to my starting point. Sigh.

The one silver lining to this is that 15 people reconfirmed. Hopefully, some more will do so in the next couple of days. And it seems the automated bit from Instafreebie directly into MailChimp actually still works (I guess because they are doing it and not me, I don’t know and I’m not going to bring any attention to it). So, in theory, any further people who get Gilded Age #1 will automatically join the list.

Just another chapter in the saga of “Things I wish I had done correctly the first time”

***

This actually marked the proper start of my Mailing List. It now has around 200 people on it, many of which actually came from the Kickstarter itself (so kind of backward from what you might think). I knew that I should have started clean… I knew it and still, I clicked that button because the number was so big, and I wanted to get started. There is no time to wait to do it the “right way”. And that’s on me.

Still learning… every day.

***

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Kickstart the Comic: Cat & Mouse #1

Stories don’t want to be confined to our desk drawers or to our computer hard drives… they want to be out in the world where they can be consumed and absorbed into the minds of readers and creators.

 

***

Cat & Mouse #1

Writer – Roland Mann

Penciller – Dean Zachary

Inker – Barb Kaalberg

Colors – Kevin Gallegly

 

Kickstarter Campaign ends on Thursday, May 31, 2018 at 12:00 PM EST.

***

The Pitch:

Cat & Mouse is a crime action-crime-drama, set in the city of New Orleans, presented to you in saddle-stiched comic book format! Cat & Mouse #1 contains 22 pages of story and art.

 

The Story:

When Brett’s ex-girlfriend asks him to go to New Orleans to find her runaway sister, Bobbi, he stumbles on to a human trafficking operation run by Ms. Johnson, known on the streets as The Widowmaker. Brett has to figure a way to rescue Bobbi, and maybe take down the entire organization. Fresh out of the police academy, is he up to the task? Brett will seek the help of his friend, Jesse, an officer on the New Orleans police department, and will also receive help from … some unusual sorts.

 

John’s Thoughts:

I never read the original Cat & Mouse series, but I love the idea that a creator is able to take something from thirty years ago and bring it back to life through Kickstarter. As much as anything else, we all have these ideas and projects that have a bit more story left to tell. These creators have decided to do something about it, which is all sorts of awesome!

As to the story itself… well let’s see: it looks like we get a mixture of crime story, mixed with super-heroics in the form of martial art fighters/heroes. I’m only going to assume that is going to lead to some pretty nice all-out fight scenes… with ninjas!

Page 15, Cat & Mouse #1

 

The Rewards:

The good thing is that this project has already hit its goal (currently $3,610 at the time of writing). The bad thing is that a few of the rewards are no longer available. Luckily, there are still plenty of ways to get the comic in pdf ($4) in print ($10) and signed by the entire team ($20). I’m also a big fan of projects, especially when you read the credits on each of the creators, that offer up and coming artists/writers/inkers/colorist an opportunity for a critique ($50). Sometimes all we need is just a little direction from an outside viewpoint to truly make that last leap from good to great. On the higher end of things, you can own some original artwork ($100+) from selected interior pages to the cover.

Mock-up of the RETAILER cover.

 

The Verdict:

This is one of those no-brainers. The artwork reminds me of some of those 90s style artists that I loved to pick up their books because I knew they knew how to tell a story. Each of the sample pages shown only reinforces that feeling for me. In addition, given that each of the team has worked professionally for decades, this seems like one that will certainly get done.

I’d say give it a shot. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

 

***

To find out more about Roland Mann, check him 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 prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Ode to Free Comic Book Day

I’ll be at Challenges this Saturday with brand new copies of the Gilded Age Graphic Novel!

This Saturday is the annual Free Comic Book Day event. It’s a time where the comics industry hopes to bring energy and excitement into the comic book stores by coordinating and putting out free comic books (hence the name). Whether you read comics back in the day, never read comics before, or have been reading them for over 30 years there is apt to be a comic being given away that might interest you (yours truly).

I always try to snag a couple of the kiddie comics to give to either my niece or nephews or kids of friends. As someone who’s been reading for so long and as someone who creates comics, I think it is my job/duty to try and pass along that same love to the next generation. And the thing is I don’t know if it will work at all. I figure it might take doing this every year and still not have any luck swaying the next generation. I’m still not sure why it clicked in my own head all those years ago. Technically it took four tries before I actually began picking up comics on a monthly basis.

The first time I remember even seeing a comic book had to have been when I was 4 or 5. I would sometimes get babysat by a woman whose husband had a bin in one of the rooms filled with comic books. They were neatly stacked up and I can recall seeing some of the crazier comics that existed back in the 70s: Ghost Rider and Man-Thing come to mind. I didn’t try to look through them… maybe I wasn’t supposed to touch them, but I did stand there at the edge and look at the covers with some wonder and awe not knowing exactly what it was these magazines represented.

The second time was when I picked up an issue of Transformers from the hospital gift shop (my mother was a nurse there). I was pretty much locked in on Transformers, constantly watching the show after school. Always conspiring on what I might be able to get when Christmas came around (sadly relatives thought Go-Bots were the same thing – I’m surprised I didn’t yell at them to try to get them to understand the difference!). I read that comic over and over again. Maybe it was because the cover said it was the last issue of a 4 issue limited series, but it never occurred to me to even seek out more issues. This really should have locked me in but it didn’t.

The third time was my elementary school’s book fair. Armed with a little bit of money, I stumbled across a collection of comic books. Again, not knowing the characters, I grabbed one that looked interesting – Fantastic Four. The story was in the middle of a story-arc about a little boy and what only could be the devil and these heroes who had to fight… demons? Again, it never occurred to me to seek out more issues.

And maybe that would have been it. I would have had 2 comics to my name and a bunch of money in my pockets from then on. I watched the Spiderman and His Amazing Friends comics, fascinated whenever some new hero might show up on-screen. In later years I would come to realize how many members of the Marvel Universe made little appearances on the show. After Spiderman, the Hulk cartoon came on and I watched that. I’d seen the Superman movies, watched episodes of the live-action Hulk, the 60s Batman and Robin, and the Wonder-Woman live-action shows.

Still, I didn’t seek them out. Maybe I didn’t know where you’d buy them?

On top of all of this, my dad read comics when he was a kid, but before I started collecting I don’t think we ever talked about it.

Then one day it happened. My step-father dropped me off to get my hair cut while he ran some errands and left me with $5 to go next door and get a snack and a drink. Next door was a 7-11. Needing to kill time, I wandered through the aisles trying to figure out what kind of candy I was going to get (I’m sorry… candies… plural). I wondered to the magazine rack and began looking when I saw a Spiderman comic book. Picking it up, I flipped through it amazed (pun intended) that Spiderman wasn’t wearing his traditional red and blues, but had a black and white costume that looked really cool.

Hmm… $0.75? OK. Sold! Wait, there are other comics? Who are the X-Men? And why are there two Avengers comics?

I bought all 4 and waited outside with my comics, soda, and maybe a candy bar (just one).

And it was over. I was hooked. It took 4 opportunities for the universe (maybe?) to ensure I went down that path.

Without comics, I don’t know if I would have read very much prior to 6th grade and meeting one of my best friends. Without comics, I wonder if I would have formed the same friendships which have lasted to this day. Without comics, I don’t know if I would be a writer of anything (the first thing I ever wrote was basically a comic).

So I’ll be out there on Saturday watching new faces light up to their first comic book and other faces light up to their 10-thousandth. You just never know when the magic is going to happen.

***

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Kickstart the Comic – Stealth

No matter what, I love reading newly created superhero stories. I’ve grown up on them, and they have a special place in my heart.

Plus, it never hurts that our good friend Robert Jeffrey II was involved!

***

Stealth Comic Book Series Launch!

Writer – Sean Mack

Creator/Writer – William Satterwhite

Artist -Schereiner

Colors -Woods

 

Kickstarter Campaign ends on Sunday, May 20, 2018 at 5:00 PM EST.

***

The Pitch:

Allen White must learn to balance educating the youth of Terminus City while educating criminals as the vigilante hero Stealth!

The Story:

Stealth follows the story of Allen White as he navigates Terminus City as a school teacher by day attempting to educate the youth on real-life issues and why those real-life issues should matter to them. However, by night, Allen provides an entirely different education to the underworld and evildoers of Terminus City as the vigilante hero known to the public as Stealth.

 

John’s Thoughts:

One of the things that many comic book Kickstarters don’t always factor in, is what happens if you aren’t actually finished with the comic. It always takes double or triple the time you think it is going to take. So for every little extra day here or week there, that is another gap in time to get the books out to your backers. So it is always nice to see that the comic in question is already completed and ready to go off to the printer. That means the day the funds are released they can send the files off… which really means you get your comic that much quicker (something we all want, right?).

That bit of preamble out of the way, I also like the ideas they put forth as to having a good mix of action, character interaction, and “Real Human Stories”. Too often we can get caught up in making sure to have it be over the top with the action that you never get a real chance to understand the character and his experiences.

The Rewards:

At the low end, you can get PDFs of the comic and the issue #0 ($5). Or for $10 you can get a sampler pack of Red Band’s other comics (in pdf). As you move up the list, they start adding alternate cover art (by Sean Hill! – who I interviewed here and here!) ($25), t-shirts ($35), or a Custom Stealth Action Figure ($100). And if you are feeling really creative, maybe you can make your own action figure ($135).

 

The Verdict:

For these creators, yes, they want to tell a great story, but they are also looking to give back to the area. They donated copies of the comic to multiple charitable organizations. We feel that this project can have a greater amount of reach to fans that will appreciate new and diverse superhero stories using a direct market approach as opposed to going through costly distributors.

Support good comics made by good people!

Stealth #1 Variant Cover B by Sean Hill

***

To find out more about Short Fuse Media Group, check them out here.

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Crumbs

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

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

***

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

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

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

A fossilized record of what came before.

And sadly only interesting to that one person.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Is no longer up to you.

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Not A Review – A Quiet Place

Spoilers will not follow…

Because I have not seen this movie yet.

Yes, it is a strange thing to write about a movie without having seen it. But I have a reason for doing so… you see, this movie has already invaded my dreams.

This past weekend I had one dream from the time I closed my eyes until the time I woke up where I was in the world of A Quiet Place.

Now, without seeing the movie, the only thing my subconscious would have been able to glean was from what we see in the trailers themselves. And there is clearly something about it. I’m not sure if it is the premise: being hunted by things that rely on sound to find you. It might have been the spooky score they play during the trailer. Or it could even be the narrator, his low, gravelly voice breaking through my tv screen in order to make the hairs on my arms stand up. I wish I could know exactly what it was that set this dream in motion.

I think I’m lucky that I have pretty vivid dreams in full color. And most of the time even if I’m the main character of a dream, I’m somehow watching myself from behind the camera.

My dream version of the movie was pretty good (with a bit of strange dream logic, but I’ll let that slide). Very post-apocalyptic. In this, I was a part of a smallish group (maybe 12 people total) moving through the outskirts of where the suburbs end and the farmlands of Georgia begin. Where you get the occasional subdivision but can also not see a house for miles. We were the last ones in the area, somehow finding our way through the initial attack.

It was long stretches of walking, of waiting, of deeply disturbing moments when the sun had set and the little bit of whispering would happen. Everyone needing a small amount of connection with those they were surviving with, but not daring to go too far without there being any other thing that could possibly keep the monsters from hearing us, from tracking us to our lair. There were planned ambushes and being forced to leave people behind due to injuries, but…

It was the feeling that I remembered more than anything else. Thinking about it in the morning, it was clearly the feel I got watching the trailer. That no matter what, basic human nature dictates that we need to interact with others. That we need to be able to communicate. That sheer fear as one of them stalks you.

Normally these types of dreams would happen after I’d seen the movie, but this came before that. It became a movie that was obviously already on my radar before that night and now I’m just wondering if it will actually be too scary for my wife to want to see it or not.

Sometimes I let my dreams help me work out a story problem. Sometimes I go along for a ride I might never actually be able to do. I’ve jotted down ideas from dreams – fresh from waking up – but that feeling while they actually are happening can’t be duplicated. That dream logic will kick in and suddenly everyone is on scooters when we are traveling down a busy interstate. That feeling just can’t be recaptured in the same way because I don’t have the right foundation. So I wonder how it is going to be to actually watch the movie. Will it live up to my version? From everything I’m seeing on Facebook and from friends who went to see it – I think mine is going to be a very pale imitation.

Maybe in my head canon I can claim my idea takes place before the movie itself?

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Define “Fine”

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

Fine – adjective – Of high quality

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

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

However, in my house there are two other definitions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That is something worth aspiring to.

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

Steampunk Friday – Interview with the creators of The Invention of E.J. Whitaker

In scouring the web for Steampunk comics sometimes you hit upon one that you are interested in, but have completely missed the Kickstarter for. Even so, I felt compelled to give it a Kickstart the Comic treatment. At the same time, I reached out to the women behind the comic for an interview and with the official release of the comic today, it seems like a great time to catch up with Shawnee´Gibbs and Shawnelle Gibbs.

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How long have you been creating/working in comics?

SHAWNEE´: Shawnelle and I have been working in comics since 2011 when we started writing our comedic sci-fi series “Fashion Forward.” We’d been working in independent animation before that and comic books just felt like a natural step, since we loved telling stories through art. In addition to the “Fashion Forward” series, we’ve written short stories for anthologies, including several for Graham Cracker Comic’s Ladies Night Anthology, a great women in comics organization based out of Chicago. 

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

SHAWNEE´: When we were kids in elementary school, we’d staple together lined paper and create our own little homemade comics to sell to kids for a quarter. I remember those stories being about cartoon characters, not unlike the animated shows we were seeing on tv at the time. Imagining fictional worlds and writing about them was something that began early for us. It was an awesome way of entertaining ourselves and our friends and a surprisingly great way to make candy money. 

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

SHAWNELLE: We are inspired heavily by our mother, who set us on this path with her eternal love of illustration and stories and our strong desire not to bring shame upon her head (laughs). Octavia Butler who we discovered in our youth, and whose stories spoke to our souls, and the work and careers of a host of writers and artists such as Vera Brogosol, Nnedi Okorafor, Sonny Liew, Vashti Harrison, and the list goes on and on. In terms of our own work, Shawnee and I are forever inspired by life itself, history and the human condition. We’re constantly getting hit with shocks of inspiration, our notes applications in our phones are a laundry list of thoughts and ideas for stories and projects.

How do you manage your daily/family life with your creative work? Is this your 9 to 5 or is this your 10 to 2?

SHAWNELLE: We’re still working on it, actually. I think it’s a lifelong process. Shawnee and I don’t have families of our own at the moment, but it’s something we constantly think about, carving out time to stop and smell the roses and spend time with our partners, friends, and families. We both make our living in creative and demanding jobs, and write and produce our own content independent of that. It helps to have the resources to take trips and take breaks when we can, it’s just a matter of taking breaks. We both have incorporated sacred time for meditation and stillness that has been really helpful to how we approach the days and weeks. Having a partner to help get the check-off list of things to do helps tremendously as well. So that when we need to tap out for a day or two, there’s someone there to carry the torch.

Working with your sister has to be both amazing and bring an entirely different set of challenges. What’s your process look like when you’re writing? Do you go with the full outline? Or are you a fly by the seat of your pants type?

SHAWNELLE: Having some level of organization and a plan when it comes to writing has always been a big part of our process. But when we first started writing together, we’d outline together and then try and sit down at one computer and write together as a team….and….it was difficult, to say the least, and SLOW. We’d spend more time debating about dialogue than actually getting it on the page (laughs). But over the years, we definitely have found our groove in respect to writing and most things. These days we’ve learned to work more remotely, and we’ll come up with an outline that we both are excited about, split it in a way that makes sense, and have at it separately. That way we can swap pages, make scene and dialogue punches without getting into long western-movie-style stare-downs (laughs).

What inspired you to create The Invention of E.J. Whitaker?

SHAWNEE´: While working on the story for “Fashion Forward,” which is a time travel adventure that jumps time between present day New York and a New York twenty five years in the future. We were also writing a screenplay about an African American entertainer who lived during the early 1900s. 

So we were simultaneously looking at historic photos of African Americans from the early part of the 20th century, while also perusing designs and concept art of what the world would look like in the near future. And an idea started to emerge about a young black woman of the Victorian Era who had dreams of becoming an inventor. Once we started fleshing out the details and knew there’d be flying machines and robots and fanciful gadgets involved, we thought comics would be the perfect medium for it. 

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

SHAWNEE´: I think as the story started to take shape, the setting pretty quickly followed. As a historical fiction piece, we wanted to anchor The Invention of E.J. Whitaker in an America that actually really existed. Since our heroine, Ada, is an inventing phenom, we thought placing her on the campus of Tuskegee University, where legendary inventor George Washington Carver taught and lived would be the perfect place for her. 

We also knew that one of the most challenging places to be black and a woman at the time was the Deep South. So having our adventure get underway in both Alabama and Texas gave the story real palpable tension and danger. 

What’s been the reaction to the book?

SHAWNELLE: We’re really thrilled that our readers are enjoying the beginning of the series, and the steampunk community has also embraced it as well. In our early reviews, they’ve been really positive and it helps as we’re digging into the second book to have that level of reaction. It’s very validating.

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

SHAWNELLE: Science Fiction, Adventure, and History are recurring themes in our work, and there’s always some level of comedy sprinkled in somehow, someway. For some reason, orphans are a recurring part of our narrative universe, probably because we grew up in a single-parent family and were “half-orphans” (as we’ve phrased it) ourselves. We’d need to get a psychologist in to help answer this one (laughs). Women overcoming obstacles to find their way/place in the world is always part of the undertone to our stories, I believe, because essentially that is a big part of our own journeys.

After running a successful Kickstarter for The Invention of E.J. Whitaker, what have you learned about the process of Kickstarter? What do you think has contributed to hitting your goals on The Invention of E.J. Whitaker? Do you view the platform as a testing ground for the concepts?

SHAWNEE´:  It is an incredible tool for testing concepts and finding people who may be interested in what you do. But I’ve gotta admit, Kickstarter can be a terrifying platform—I think both our knees were probably trembling a little as we hit that “Launch” buttonBeing as organized and as prepared as you can for crowdfunding, and researching firsthand accounts of both successes (and failures) was key for us. There will be unexpected bumps in the road on your journey, but staying committed and never being deterred by hiccups will help you reach your goals and cross the finish line.

We are super thankful to our Kickstarter supporters for believing in an unconventional story about one young woman’s courage to dream big despite the cultural and societal limitations surrounding her. We were floored that so many people believed in our little steampunk tale enough to help over fund it by $10,000.

Comics is an amazing collaborative medium, and it looks like you’ve managed to gather a talented team of co-creators around you. Tell me a little about working with the pencillers, inkers, colorists, and designers.

SHAWNELLE: Independent comics allow us to realize the worlds and stories of our dreams with a small team of people. On The Invention of E.J. Whitaker, we were able to call upon a couple of incredible artist/friends we’ve worked with in the past. That’s Mark Hernandez (Penciller) Hasani McIntosh (Colors), Earl Womack (short story) that we knew and worked with beforehand. Mark and Hasani we worked with on a beautiful, animated project some years ago, and we met Earl “amazing artist/kindred spirit” Womack at Long Beach Comic Con about five years ago, and have been looking for ways to work together since.  We met Shanna Lim (Inker) June Park (Graphics) and were lucky to work with ladies from the LNA anthology series we’ve contributed to in the past —Lauren Burke (Copy Editor) and Emi Rosen (Letterer). We truly became a small comics publishing house with this one.

The process went pretty much like this — After finishing up all of our concept art and character sheets with Mark and Hasani, it continued with the script that we workshopped with Mark to get ready for Shanna for inks, and finally Hasani for colors. Over several months, we had a rotation of pages of art with each artist/“department” if you will, until it was finally ready. And we love our team, because like us, everyone was working full time jobs, heading families, having life happen, etc., and their time, commitment, and care with it continues to warm our hearts. It took a little longer than we initially anticipated to finish it, but the team rallied (shoutout to Mark and Hasani who divided the lions share of it!). We are so proud of what we were able to to do together and what’s possible for the future.

Where’s the best place to find out more about The Invention of E.J. Whitaker and the rest of your works?

SHAWNEE´: You can find out more about The Invention of E.J. Whitaker at http://www.ejwhitaker.com and find the rest of our work at http://www.gibbsisters.com

***

The Gibbs Sisters are an award-winning hybrid team with credits in writing, producing, and animation. The twin sisters and collaborators have created a brand of quirky, fun projects that have entertained audiences across the globe. They are the creators of the popular online animated series’ Adopted by Aliens and Old Ladies Driving, and the YA time-travel comic book series, Fashion Forward. Their comic book adventure series, The Invention of E.J. Whitaker, a diverse re-imagining of the early 20th century, makes its comic book debut March 30th, 2018 published by BopSee Books. 

 The Gibbs Sisters are members of Writers Guild of America, West, The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences and the Organization of Black Screenwriters. Their combined credits included Producing for Emmy-Award winning series’ Top Chef and Project Runway, and popular television series’ X-FactorThe Ultimate Fighter, Food Network’s  Holiday Baking ChampionshipCupcake Wars, Discovery Network’s Shark Week and National Geographic’s Wicked Tuna, as well as contributions to Disney’s Emmy winning sitcom, Wizards of Waverly Place.

 The pair are also alumni of the renowned USC Guy Hanks & Marvin Miller Screenwriters Fellowship.

===

The Invention of E.J. Whitaker: Issue #1

Written By: Shawnee´Gibbs, Shawnelle Gibbs

Pencils by: Mark Hernandez

Colors by: Hasani McIntosh

Inks by: Shanna Lim

Short Story Art by: Earl Womack

Letters by: Emi Roze

Cover Art by: Mark Hernandez, June Park, Sharifa Patrick

Copy Editor: Lauren Burke

Published by: BopSee Books

Release Date: Friday, March 30th, 2018

***

I want to thank Shawnee’ and Shawnelle Gibbs for their time in answering these questions. Be sure to check out the first issue of The Invention of E.J. Whitaker today!

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Even More Editing Hacks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Look Up In The Sky

Tonight SyFy Channel is going to premiere the new series Krypton effectively set in a time long (LONG) before Superman was ever whisked off to Earth as a baby…

And it’s caused me to wonder: Are there too many superhero related shows?

Note, I don’t mean comics related shows. Comics is a medium, superhero is a genre. The Walking Dead tv show is based on a comic book, but it is clearly set in a post-apocalyptic universe. Just as Hollywood has been mining books for inspiration in creating a myriad of tv shows and movies, them looking to comics is mostly a byproduct of realizing that there were TONS of ideas to potentially use just sitting there, being ignored because they were in “Funny Books”.

No, what I’m talking about is whether or not we’ve reached a saturation point with these superhero shows? Yes, somewhere lost in Space/Time is a 12-year-old John plotting his future self’s demise for even thinking such thoughts (much less putting them out into the universe in this way).

I know there are plenty of people out there who reached their own fill of such things probably as soon as the first show hit the air. I’m not one of those people. I’m someone who maybe even feels a little obligated to at least give these shows a shot. I haven’t been reading comics for 30 years just to stop bothering with them in a new medium.

However…

Currently, there are:

Agents of Shield

Jessica Jones

Daredevil

Luke Cage

Iron Fist

Defenders

The Punisher

The Gifted

Legion

Runaways

Arrow

Legends of Tomorrow

Black Lightning

The Flash

Gotham

Supergirl

Lucifer

And now Krypton (and, just remembered, soon enough there will be Cloak and Dagger).

That’s 18 shows. 8 DC Universe and 10 Marvel Universe (to be fair there are some FOX ones mixed in on this side). Some are released in 10 or 13 episode chunks and others get 20 or so episodes. But either way, I look at the build-up of these shows on my DVR… of the unwatched Netflix titles… and wonder how in the world to keep up with this many. It becomes a job in and of itself. You get a little behind on one series and it suddenly impacts the whole line of shows. We’re just now beginning Daredevil Season 2, which means we have about 60+ episodes before we could even think about beginning Jessica Jones Season 2 (which came out about 2 weeks ago at this point). We’re probably about 40 episodes behind of the various DC shows with at least 4 new episodes every week.

Look, I want good shows to watch. And obviously I’m somewhat partial to this genre, but does there come a point where you’ve flooded things so that it all begins to blend together. I’m in that place where it has gone beyond an embarrassment of riches. When we had no shows and Arrow debuted, it was a big deal. And when Daredevil showed up on Netflix, we gobbled it up. But if I have this many to potentially watch, and they all tie together in some way – why do I need a Krypton show? If I’m already committing 5 hours a week to the CW line-up, and the 13 hours every 3 or 4 months to the Netflix shows… why bother with a new show?

Why not wait until one phases out? Eventually, Arrow will finish its story and then you can launch something to “replace” its slot. Right?

When you are getting a constant influx of something, how can you long for it? When Smallville was the only superhero show on tv, it was appointment television. We bought the seasons on DVD. It was the only influx of the genre we were getting at the time (in that deadlands time between Batman & Robin and Batman Begins).

We’ve gone from drought to an overabundance in less than 20 years. When is it no longer “special”?

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Y the Last Man

 

Rant mode on.

How is it we don’t have a Y the Last Man tv show yet?

Really… I want to know. If ever there was a comic made for tv, it was this one (my friends and I felt this way about another comic book for a long, long time – The Walking Dead – I’m just putting that out there). I wrote about this a couple of years ago (and still no show!) here.

To catch people up, Y the Last Man was a comic book series which ran from 2002 to 2008 (60 issues), written by Brian K. Vaughn (who I have a writing man-crush on as everything he writes I love), Pia Guerra, Goran Sudzuka, Paul Chadwick, and Jose Marzan Jr, about a plague which wipes out every male mammal on Earth other than Yorick and his pet monkey. As this is obviously the end of the world, he sets out to reunite with his fiance… who is half a world away. With his bodyguard and a scientist who is trying to figure out why Yorick survived in the first place, they encounter women rebuilding pieces of society, some helpful, some trying to kill him, and others unsure of what to make of the situation.

So this story has a core cast of 3 main characters, a handful of recurring characters, and literally has them set up where they could move from one town to another getting into various adventures on the way to trying to figure out why this happened in the first place and hopefully finding his true love. Much like the old tv show The Incredible Hulk, it becomes an easy conceit to move on from town to town and mission to mission over the course of maybe a 3-5 season series. Not saying that it needs to be padded at all, but things could be potentially expanded upon. One of the things I believe The Walking Dead TV Show did right was having Shane hang around longer than the 6 issues he survived within the comic. There is an opportunity to be able to clean up some things that maybe don’t completely work when translated from one medium to another.

I know that there have been talks over the years since the series ended. There was the talk of a movie and there have been talks of tv shows, but somehow, someway the people in charge just haven’t “gotten” it. Every few months I’ll do a Google Search and see that progress has stopped or maybe that someone else now has the reigns and is trying to push it forward, but they too get stalled out.

They haven’t realized that this is just a no-brainer.

I mean, it’s like a modern day storybook… but with more sadness and death.

But really, it wouldn’t take very much. The blueprint is there within those pages. All the twists and turns. Fighting, torture, revenge… chases, escapes, true love, miracles… all contained within those comic books… waiting, needing to be told to a larger audience. A story that is sad and beautiful and will make you cry and will make you scream in excitement.

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

The Truths About Comic Conventions

This past weekend I spent time holding down one half of a table at the Atlanta Science Fiction and Fantasy Expo.

Conventions are a strange thing. I can’t claim to have done the rounds as much as some of the other people I run into at cons, but at this point, I’ve parked myself at many different tables over the years. You never know quite what to expect, who may be interested in your products or who might just stop by and chat. There are a few things that always occur at conventions… without fail.

As soon as you step away from your table someone will come up wanting to buy one of your comics/novels.

It never fails. You are starving or your bladder is full, so you step away for a few minutes and when you come back the person who graciously watched your table for you says, “Hey, a person came up wanting to buy X thing, but I didn’t know the price so they said they’d come back later.”

You always have more product on hand than anyone could reasonably expect to sell in one day.

If it was possible, I’d try to take every single item I had in my possession into the con… “just in case”. When really, I should have about half that number in my cart/bag/arms and leave the rest in the car. There’s no reason I couldn’t run back out to the car to get the thing that’s suddenly selling out (unless I’ve parked 10 miles from the con, I suppose then you’d want to carry it all inside).

Your pitch probably sucks, but everyone around you has it all figured out.

You stumble or stammer over your pitch to a potential fan and when they leave you are absolutely sure it was because you hadn’t done the correct job in “selling” them on the product. And that may very well be true, but if you listen to the people around you… the words flow like honey past their lips. They are smart and you are dumb. And so on and so on.

That one guy/gal who is just doing gangbusters and you cannot figure out why.

Maybe they have a particular art style. Maybe they have been doing the circuit long enough to gain fans who come to really see what new thing they’ve developed. Maybe they are popular and you’re just out of touch. No matter the reason, they will have the line of people while you are staring at nothing.

There will be times that you miss out on a sale because that one person has decided you are their new best friend!

Some people come to cons to see the costumes, some come to buy toys, some come for the artists, and some come just to talk. Those people are both a blessing and a curse. The blessing is that you get to really engage with someone you might never have the opportunity to in any other setting. Plus it might mean the day just flies by instead of dragging minute by minute. But it comes at a cost, the longer you talk to the one person, the less able you are to talk to the next person who walks up to check out your stuff.

Those people almost never seem to actually buy a comic.

Nuff said.

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

March 3-4 – The Atlanta Science Fiction and Fantasy Expo

This weekend I will be manning a table at the annual Atlanta Science Fiction and Fantasy Expo.

Here’s the thing that makes this event so cool – it’s FREE to attend. Located inside North Dekalb Mall, you can wander in, walk through the tables and check out the various wares people are selling. Tons of creative types from artists to writers to cosplayers to comic creators and a bunch of other things I’m certainly forgetting about.

Check out the website to see all who is going to be there, and if you are around Noon on Saturday, stop by the Kickstarter Panel I’m a part of and say hey! Sadly, the Gilded Age is still being printed overseas, but I’ll have copies of my novels and possibly some other goodies… plus there will be plenty of other things for you to check out!

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Steampunk Friday – Kickstart the Comic – Boston Metaphysical – The Scourge of the Mechanical Men

Inventors, investigators, intellectuals…

Madmen (and women)…

And a virus which threatens to turn people into machines…

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Boston Metaphysical – The Scourge of the Mechanical Men

Creator/Writer – Madeleine Holly-Rosing

Artist/Colorist – Gwynn Tavares

Letters – Troy Peteri

Kickstarter Campaign ends on Friday, March 2, 2018 at 3:01 PM EST.

***

The Pitch:

Granville Woods and Tesla are in a race for time to save Boston from a mysterious disease that turns human beings into machines.

The Story:

Granville returns home to Liberty Row only to find an almost insane Tesla hiding there. But his efforts to get rid of Tesla hit a snag when they discover that a virus is turning humans into soulless mechanical men. Realizing that Emily and Travis Morgan of Morgan Medicinals are behind the outbreak, they fear that the twins are after more than just control of Boston – They want to take over the Great States of America.

John’s Thoughts:

I interviewed Madeleine Holly-Rosing last year (which you can read here) where she mentioned that one of the next stories would focus on Granville and Tesla… and here you go! From her section on the page “The Story behind the Story”, it sounds like this started with a premise of getting two characters in the same place for an extended time and see how that worked out (and what might the writer learn about both characters in the process). It’s an amazing moment when that happens as a writer. When a character speaks to you and lets you know exactly where they would prefer you to go and how they would prefer to act. It makes writing them all the easier because it really does feel like they write themselves (and maybe they do).

It has been and always will be important to me to write characters who, though they come from diverse backgrounds and have different points of view, are able to work together for the common good.

The Rewards:

As this is a standalone story, you can pick it up on its own ($6 for the PDF and $10 for the print), but given the nature of Kickstarter you have that opportunity to play catch-up ($22 for the digital and $35 for print). At the higher levels, you have the opportunity to get drawn into the Granville and Tesla pinup in full period garb ($145). And if you are considering running a Kickstarter of your own you could opt for one of the Consultation packages which include reviews of your Kickstarter Homepage, phone conversation (plus all the goodies from the Kickstarter) ($225 for Economy Consultation and #350 for Premium Consultation).

 

The Verdict:

Obviously, if you have been there for a while, this becomes a no-brainer, but if you are just thinking about dipping your toes into the Boston Metaphysical Universe, this might be a good place to jump in and check it out.

***

To find out more about Boston Metaphysical Society, check them out here.

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Black Mirror, Season 4 Review

My previous reviews can be found here: Seasons 1&2 and 3.

As I wrote last time, “For those not in the know, Black Mirror is an anthology show. Each episode stands alone to tell a story about how our technology or something perhaps not too far from our grasp affects people.”

If I have any problem with Black Mirror is that Charlie Brooker doesn’t come out with the fast enough. Even the ones that are not my favorite episodes are far better than many of the other things available on my tv. But I suppose I can live with only getting 6 episodes if the seasons have a couple of true gems each time.

EP 1 – USS Callister

When you are “into” something, the last thing you want to happen is for someone to take a pot-shot at your favorite thing. Star Trek fans (I’m talking the hardcore ones) are probably well past tired of being mocked over the years. So this episode could very well be the last straw for them.

And I think that would be a shame. This is my second favorite episode of the season.

It really seems odd that an episode about a virtual version of a crew could show the most realistic version of how people act when no one is watching. If you’ve ever played ANY game online, odds are you’ve dealt with some of the worst people. They are gods of their own little desktop/laptop/etc world and you must show them the respect they’ve clearly earned. For you to question how they see the world would be blasphemous. Who are you to question them or how they spend their downtime?

Peel back the Star Trek skin and what you are really dealing with is someone on an ego trip through the stars.

Plus, how appropriate that virtual characters were better developed than their real-life counterparts…

EP 2 – Arkangel

I can only imagine the horror of trying to keep your child safe from all the potential dangers in the world. The idea that they must figure out some way to navigate the dangerous waters all by themselves armed only with the few golden rules and some other words of wisdom.

Terrifying.

And if there was a way to help them with that. You know, on those days you can’t be there beside them to hold their hand as they cross the street or when the mean dog begins barking at them or when the bully at school starts to torment them. What if you could protect them for a little longer?

Would that be so wrong?

And how long is too long?

Is there such a thing?

EP 3 – Crocodile

Crocodile is one of those stories which might have been a movie idea at one time. It feels like a series of stories unconnected to each other. You bounce between each as the threads begin to draw them together more and more. And when those threads cross and tangle, and when the woman has gone too far down one path to stop.

That’s when the real horror presents itself.

EP 4 – Hang the DJ

My favorite episode of the season. Somehow I think I knew as I watched this one second. I’m pretty sure I didn’t even know the episode was about couples being matched up with random people until they stumble across their real soul mate via a computer algorithm. Taking away the awkward bit of trying to figure it out for yourself and really let the computer system determine it for you. I can’t quite tell if this is a metaphor for online dating, arranged marriages, or just a fun story about how true love conquers all.

And I don’t know that I need the question answered.

EP 5 – Metalhead

Sadly every season has favorites and those episodes I didn’t enjoy as much. Maybe it is because this is the most straightforward episode of nearly all of them. In a post-apocalyptic future, a woman is being chased by robotic hounds bent on wiping all humanity.

A woman trying to survive against some unstoppable creature has been all the rage for a while. Going back to the 70s slasher films through the zombie movie craze. This is about survival. And then it is about the will to live.

But it is mostly about robotic dogs trying to kill a woman.

EP 6 – Black Museum

This season’s version of the White Christmas episode from season 2.5. We have a number of little stories enveloped by another story. The fun in these types is that you can enjoy the smaller stories without the larger story, but when the final curtain is revealed and you get to see not only how everything fits into one another. How, with each story, the story-teller is merely setting you up for the big reveal… only to have the viewers in on a different FINAL reveal.

My only real question would be whether or not any of these mini-stories would have originally been planned for a full-length episode on their own, but then something happened to convince Brooker otherwise or if they are exactly as he originally set out to present them.

***

Another 6 episodes down and now the waiting begins anew for a hopeful season 5!

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

Kickstart the Comic: 5 Seconds Volume 2

When is a power a gift and when is it a curse?

And could it be both?

What happens when the person you save has an extraordinary ability of her own.

***

5 Seconds – Volume 2

Writer – Stephen Kok

Artist – P.R. Dedelis

Colors – Peyton Freeman

 

Kickstarter Campaign ends on Friday, March 2, 2018 at 6:02 AM EST.

***

The Pitch:

What would you do if you could see 5 seconds into the future? How will Jake use this gift when meets a girl who can hear your thoughts?

The Story:

5 Seconds Volume 2 is a YOUNG ADULT – 70 page – PERFECT BOUND – Graphic Novel which picks up directly after the first 5 Seconds finishes. Jake finds himself dealing with a new situation, a girl who can read minds. What deep dark secret is the girl hiding and can Jake (with his best friend Ellie) find out before the past catches up with them?

John’s Thoughts:

I’m in that boat, having not read the first volume, but I’m willing to take their word for it with this self-contained story.

I sometimes (all the time) wonder about how it would feel to be able to see into the future. How could you not these days when every new discovery, every new piece of handheld technology, and every advancement in knowledge makes you feel as if the old school science fiction writers had been left to guide us into the future. Going back to HG Wells, we all want to know what might lurk for us around the next corner. What happens if we choose this path over another path.

Where are we going?

Add to that the idea of peering into other people’s heads… all at once it is both enticing and utterly frightening. I think that if we knew what was going on in our friend’s heads at any time we all would seal ourselves away from the rest of the world (and it wouldn’t even be close).

Put those two things together…

The Rewards:

On the higher end, you can get the original cover artwork ($235) or get drawn into the comic ($102). If you are looking to play a bit of catch-up you have the PDFs available ($6) or print copies of both volumes ($39). One thing I really like is that you can also get pdfs of his non-5 Seconds comics (Tabby, Blue, and Word Smith) and really play catch-up on everything Stephen Kok has put out into the world thus far ($12).

The Verdict:

While I haven’t read Volume 1, I have checked out Word Smith by Stephen and really enjoyed it. If you like fun comics with a cool gimick at the core (whether that is words are magic or a glimpse into the future), you may want to check out the Kickstarter.

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To find out more about 5 Seconds or other works by Stephen Kok, check them out here.

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

 

 

Steampunk Fridays – Kickstart the Comic – Make/100: Pneumatic Cases #2: Sleuthing Steampunk Spouses

The modern day Holmes and Watson are man and woman (or at least one version of them is)… but why not have that dynamic against the backdrop of a Steampunk world? And instead of the will they/won’t they – let’s just have them say I Do before the story even begins!

A love story, a murder mystery, and the happy couple who is at the center of it all.

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Pneumatic Cases #2: Sleuthing Steampunk Spouses

Published by Last Ember Press

Creator/Writer – John Wilson

Artist/Cover – Rowel Roque

Colors – Lisa Moore

Letters/Book & Logo Design – Brant Fowler

Edits – Lisa Moore & Brant Fowler

Kickstarter Campaign ends on Saturday, March 3, 2018 at 12:59 AM EST.

***

The Pitch:

Lord and Lady Ravenscroft are two brilliant scientists and inventors whose Bohemian lifestyle and inventive ways are in direct contrast to the staid and proper ways of Victorian Era London.

Served faithfully by their steam-driven metallic Majordomo, Pneuman, and armed with a variety of elaborate self-created inventions, the Ravenscrofts pursue the one vocation that brings excitement into their world… solving murders!

The Story:

Brought in to consult on a mysterious murder, the Ravenscrofts began hunting down clues that might lead them to the devious culprit. Making waves and alerting the wrong people to their efforts nearly cost them their lives.

Now, the case takes them to Austria to seek out the next piece to this chaotic puzzle of murder and mayhem they’ve found themselves wrapped up in.

Issue 2, Page 1 Art – Rowel Roque Colors – Lisa Moore

John’s Thoughts:

I think I must have missed the first issue of this comic at some point, because I recognize the title, but obviously have not read it. Lucky for me, there are options to go ahead and catch up on the series. Regardless, this takes its nod from the mystery style stories of the time with a married couple at the center of it. I dig the idea of both of them being inventors as that way they both will have a chance to show off as the story progresses.

The sample pages/ opening to the story makes this feel like it might almost be a stand alone adventure for the two of them, and makes me very curious about whether the first issue was done in the same fashion. Given that my own Gilded Age comic is told in “done in ones”, it is a format that is near and dear to my heart.

Plus, kudos for the alliteration of their title…

The Rewards:

As part of Kickstarter’s “Make 100 campaign”, it’s a interesting idea to piggyback the Acrylic Charm ($39 level) with the comic campaign itself. I’ve seen many people do the small pin designs throughout the month, but couldn’t figure out a way to tie it into a potential comic campaign. Leave it to the Last Ember Press guys and gals to figure that piece out. In addition, at the $17 level they have basically a preorder for issues #3 and #4 as well which again is not only thinking towards the future, but really making it so that this project will get to its issue 3 and 4. At the highest level ($250) you can get Drawn In to issue #3… always a cool option.

The Verdict:

If you’re reading this blog, I’m guessing that you have at least a passing interest in all things Steampunk. This is definitely that… so what are you waiting for? Go to the Kickstarter page here!

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To find out more about Last Ember Press and their other comics, check them out here.

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Steampunk Friday – Kickstart the Comic – Grimwood Crossing Vol. 1 & 2 – A Stylish Supernatural Western

The stranger comes to town…

The Sheriff must defend everyone against bandits…

The corrupt cattle owners do their best to hunt down the ragtag band…

Zombies…

Werewolves…

Vampires…

Just another western? I think not.

***

Grimwood Crossing Vol. 1 & 2

Writer/Letterer – Conner Bartel

Illustrator – Atagun Ilhan

Logo & Book Designer – Marc Bartel

Cover Art & Design – James Liswed

Editor – James Davenport

Kickstarter Campaign ends on Wednesday, February 14, 2018 at 7:59 AM EST.

***

The Pitch:

Read the complete story of the supernatural western comic series about a monster hunter and his young apprentice.

The Story:

Grimwood Crossing is the biggest town in the grim old west. Vampires, Werewolves, and Zombies are part of the everyday struggle for the townsfolk. That’s why Grimwood’s Sheriff also has the added job title of monster hunter. It’s a dangerous job so a replacement must always be arranged. With the help of his young, scat-talking apprentice, the Sheriff must fend off a vengeful outlaw with demonic powers.

In Vol. 2 the demonic outlaw confronts the duo face to face. The entire town must come together to keep the outlaw from destroying everything. Alliances are made, differences are put aside, and the community is put to the test.

John’s Thoughts:

Weird West stories hold a special place in my heart. One of the first real scripts I ever wrote was for a 8 page western comic with a werewolf appeared in it. So when you mention all the things which go bump in the night against the desperation and opportunity of the wild west… I’m going to at least take a look and see what it is all about.

From what I can tell of the characters, I like the idea of a former bandit suddenly helping a town against the monsters. And maybe they’re not entirely sure they can even begin to trust him. But they know that someone has got to protect them…

The Rewards:

At the $30 level there is an opportunity to have the book with a signed bookplate featuring the signatures of the writer and artist. Considering they live on two different continents, this would be pretty much the only way to get such an item.

For those of us who missed the Volume 1 Kickstarter, there is an opportunity to play catch-up at $20 for the print or $8 for the digital, both which are a great bang for the buck.

The Verdict:

Color me interested. The artwork gives the right feel for such a book and having it in black and white should only help that.  Around 200 pages of comics potentially… seems like a good deal to me.

***

To find out more about Grimwood Crossing, check them out here.

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com