Free Chapter – Hollow Empire – Vadim

Vadim

 

 

The splintering door shattered Vadim’s peaceful sleep. A booming voice ripped through the early morning tranquility.

“You slept with my wife!”

His instincts took over, and he threw himself to the floor beside the bed in an effort to avoid the oncoming blow… that never came. Furniture exploded, a man roared again, and yet Vadim’s room lay seemingly undisturbed. Daring himself to peek at the carnage, he raised his head up so that his eyes were above the lip of the bed, just over the edge of the sheets.

And saw only his guest from the previous evening…

Hilda? Rayne?

She met his blue-eyed gaze, “Is there something amiss, milord?”

“I thought…,” Vadim caught a glimpse of himself in the full-length mirror along the wall beside him and observed his predicament; his manhood exposed and him cowering on the floor. No way for one of the King’s Men to behave. He stood up allowing his six-foot frame to come to its full height. It was not the nudity that brought awkwardness, but his stumbling and fumbling about on the floor. In fact, he never had any complaints about his appearance. The other Long Riders often teased him for his boyish grin, his bright, blue eyes, and his shaggy blonde hair. All of which resided on an untouched face, somehow free of any scars or wounds in his years journeying the Circuit. “This is rather embarrassing. I thought perhaps that which is happening next door was instead being visited upon the two of us. It’s not occurring in this room though, is it?”

“No, milord, it is not.” The freckled young woman stifled a giggle and ran her hands through her long blonde hair attempting to excise any tangles she found there. Vadim paused and stared into her deep green eyes trying to light a candle, which would be her name.

The wall behind the bed shuddered. Pieces of the ceiling flaked off and fell to the floor. Next door, a woman screamed.

Vadim searched for his trousers and found them tangled with his tunic and his consort’s skirt and blouse, all of it abandoned in a pile the night before. As he pulled up his trousers, he heard another crash, this time away from their shared wall. Then came more shouting from the hall and additional voices joined the chorus with the first.

Vadim glanced at… Sara? Trianna? and raised a finger. “One moment.”

Tightening his belt, he moved towards the door. Through the wood, he heard the shouting continue. There were calls for blood, pain, and then a slur of unmentionable deeds described by someone who must have been the original injured party. Vadim ran fingers through his blonde hair before gripping the handle. Preparing himself for the carnage, he took a deep breath.

When the door opened, he bore witness to sheer chaos. How the inn’s hallway could support the volume of patrons who watched, cheered, and shouted at the two combatants, he could not be sure. They crowded each end of the corridor, some stood just inside their open doorways, but all wanted to see these combatants duel. However, the word duel invoked images of two men squaring off in agreed-upon combat. This stank of something else entirely.

Vadim caught glimpses of the two men, flashes between arms and legs of the mob until he made himself a place in the crowd. It was only then that he could see the fight for what it was. Spittle erupted through the barrel chested man’s full black beard with each roar. A giant of a man, but not one someone might call attractive. His eyes appeared a bit too close to each other while his forehead seemed to slope until it gave way to a receding hairline. He appeared to have a full foot on his opponent giving him the reach advantage, but it seemed the smaller was adept at using his quickness to slip under the devastating blows. The two stumbled, the sea of bodies parted, and they crashed to the floor in front of Vadim.

“Jericho, how goes your morning? Rest well?” Vadim shouted above the din of the crowd hoping to catch his oldest friend’s attention.

Jericho looked up from his assailant. His red hair clung to the side of his face. Blood leaked from various cuts and lacerations on his head. In fact, red appeared to be the only thing that covered him.

Vadim smirked and shouted again. “Did you notice you don’t have any pants on?”

Jericho struggled to keep the large man’s blows from colliding with his body. “Perhaps you’d like to lend a bit of help?

His assailant bellowed, slamming a fist into the floor, just missing Jericho’s head, denting the wooden planks. “My wife!”

The two twisted and scrapped, each trying to gain some kind of advantage. Jericho managed to regain his feet and pushed away.

“He says you slept with his wife. Is that true?” Vadim asked the question through the din of noise, but did not give Jericho time to answer, “Tsk, tsk.”

A wild swing and another dodge.

“Vadim! I promise you, that was never my intention.”

“This gentleman would beg to differ on that point.”

“She never spoke anything of having a husband,” he spoke first to Vadim and then shouted it again at the large man, “I didn’t know!”

“It was our wedding night!”

Vadim whistled at the revelation, “Doesn’t seem like this man is all that eager to issue forgiveness. And even if he was, your explanation is not going to cover it.”

Jericho awaited the oncoming charge and slipped to the side under the brute’s undisciplined swings. The giant rammed into some of the crowd, toppling them in a mass of arms and legs.

“Even so, a little help?” Jericho screeched the last before sidestepping another missed blow.

Vadim nodded, “Right. Uhm… one moment.”

He turned back into his room and shut the door, muffling the roar slightly. He strode towards the partially dressed… Pia? Selene? woman sitting on the edge of the bed.

“Terrible thing, my mate is out there getting his head bashed in by a rather large, angry fellow. Something about sleeping with his wife. A pity. Still, it now falls to me to save the… wait; you’re not married, are you?”

She blushed and shook her head. “No, milord.”

“Right. Brilliant. Wouldn’t want to have a similar exchange as those two out there.”

Vadim scanned the room for the remainder of his belongings. Sunlight glinted off the small emerald gem sealed inside the pommel of his sword, which was resting in the corner alongside his pack.

He fastened the weapon around his waist before sliding his cuirass over his head. With one hand, he reached into his small pack and fetched a silver coin from a pouch within.

“You were a sheer delight, and I would love to spend another glorious evening with you when I return from the Long Ride in…,” his brain struggled with the length of time he would be away, “a few months’ time. If that would please you?”

A smile appeared as she blushed again. “Indeed, milord, it would.”

Vadim moved close and pulled her off the bed into him. Their lips met and she engaged his tongue with her own. His free hand explored her exposed right breast with one final squeeze before relinquishing its touch. He felt the familiar stirring in his trousers. He heard her moan softly and the bed creak as she lowered herself to engage him elsewhere. Yet it was what his ears did not pick up that troubled him. Only muffled sounds of the fracas filled the air to the point he could not be sure there was a fight left. He released his grip on her and slid back to the entrance to the room. A quick turn of the handle and an empty hallway greeted him.

“For your breakfast,” he turned and flipped the silver to her, “though I might wait until the festivities ran their course. Farewell…” Rachel? Miranda? “milady. Until I return!”

The hall was in disarray. The door to Jericho’s room hung lazily from one hinge. Shards of broken wood lay scattered, marking the path of destruction, a trail of crumbs leading him downstairs into the main area of the inn.

Vadim took the stairs two at a time. Jericho was the one man in the company he did not want to see injured. Of all the King’s Men Vadim had ridden with, Jericho was the only one who always had his back, whether it was when they were under fire from bandits or dealing with the strangeness of the infected. The man knew no fear, and never hesitated to rush in alongside Vadim. His other brothers never showed that kind of loyalty.

Now he hoped that he had not misjudged the threat his friend was under. As he made his way around the last corner, a mug exploded on the wall near him. Remnants of someone’s coffee leaked down the paneling. Those patrons from the second floor filled the dining area. They had pushed the tables and chairs up against the walls and out of the way. Their faces contorted in a frenzied desire to observe more pain.

“Kill ‘im!”

“Break his face!”

Each time Jericho tried to cut a path through the crowd they held fast and did not part. Instead, they tossed him back into the center. Vadim watched another tankard fly through the air, but this one found its mark and glanced off Jericho’s forehead. While not an incapacitating blow, it was enough to stagger the naked man. Jericho reached out to steady himself against a nearby spectator who shoved him down. Tree-like arms slipped around Jericho’s throat. It would take only one quick snap and the fight would be over.

The large man raged, “Most of you know me, but for those who do not, I am Otto Wilmot. My family has lived in Racein since before the Lichy. When everyone else fled to the larger cities, the Wilmots protected them and theirs. And when the plague had run its course, they helped rebuild with the rest of the survivors.

“Yesterday I married a woman before the town center. Under the statue of Rowan, we proclaimed our love as truth. The party which followed last night was a grand one indeed.”

The crowd bobbed their heads in agreement.

“And I must confess that both myself and my dutiful bride managed to imbibe much of the fine ale provided. I fear, in my drunken stupor, I failed to realize that my new wife did not return to my bed last night. She stumbled throughout this inn, clearly beyond her mind and this man… no, this wretch… he chose that moment to strike. He charmed her, brought her upstairs to his room, and defiled her!”

Jericho wheezed trying to explain but his captor tightened his grip.

“So I ask you, good folks of Racein, how do I answer this affront to the sanctity of my vows? Should I be content to extract my vengeance in bloodied knuckles and broken bones?”

Many in the crowd murmured amongst themselves. The early morning fog must have gripped them still, as they did not seem to understand the sermon’s purpose. Vadim understood all of it. Otto was not merely asking whether it was acceptable for him to kill Jericho, but asking the crowd to demand that satisfaction.

Vadim slipped through the throng, who had parted in an attempt to get a better look, and slid behind the combatants. Another stein, long since emptied, sat on the table beside him. He reached out and gripped the makeshift weapon. Otto continued,,, oblivious to the presence behind him.

“What say the lot of you? What judgment for this sinner?”

Vadim could see a few of the men did not care what the outcome was, but more of them were starting to realize the stakes presented to them. They might be a mindless lot, but they would never condone murder. But it only takes one…

From the rabble someone yelled, “Kill him! Teach a lesson to all the outsiders that our women are not their receptacles. We show them our hospitality and they abuse it for their own base needs.”

“Yeah!”

“Split his ‘ead open!”

Otto nodded. “Thank you, brothers. I am grateful you see the truth of the matter. If you deem it to be righteous and just I will act as your implement of destruction.”

Otto looked down at Jericho, whose face was tinted red as he groped and gasped for release. The enormous muscles flexed and seized around his neck.

“The Lichy may have spared your whore mother, and may have allowed you to enter this world, but I shall be the instrument that forces your exit. This insult will be met with righteous just-.”

Vadim brought down the large stein and shattered it on the back of Otto’s head. The blow was not enough to fell the giant man, but it did cause his grip to loosen. Jericho slipped out and crumpled to the floor, gasping for breath.

Vadim stepped out of the shadows, and pulled Jericho behind him. “This has gone on for long enough.”

The mob, for their part, did not know how to respond. They stood in shocked silence.

Otto did not possess that problem. He unleashed a guttural roar and spun around. In the same instant, Vadim released his sword from its sheath and placed it just under the man’s neck, freezing any further movement.

“My friend is sorry.”

Jericho had coughed his voice hoarse. “So very sorry. It was a misunderstanding.”

The giant rubbed the back of his head and took a step back. “You think you are going to stop me from exacting my vengeance?”

“Well, not only me, but this sword in my hand. Yes, I believe that changes the currency of this situation.”

“There is an entire room of men seeking justice here. Each willing to strike you down with a word from me. How is your sword going to stop them all?”

Vadim took a long look at the group still in the main room. Most of them had cleared out with the change of fortune, but he still counted eight, no nine including the lumbering hulk in front of him. Otto Wilmot might not understand what justice or consummating his wedding meant, but he was not so far wrong in his analysis of this situation.

Jericho’s legs were still a little wobbly, but he held a tankard as his weapon. The two of them, one naked, made for a laughable sight.

Perhaps, if we manage to escape with the better parts of ourselves intact, we could use this as great fodder for many a story in the future. For now, though…

“This sword does not need to stop all of them, only you. And do not doubt my word in that. You will be dead, gutted like a fish, before the first one of them reaches me. That is my promise to you.”

Traces of fear shifted through Otto’s features, but were gone just as quick. Vadim caught sight of it, and watched it vanish. His entire body steeled for the fight.

Emma! That was her name.

“Come on then.”

An ear-piercing whistle penetrated the room. Each and every man, including Otto, Vadim, and Jericho found himself wincing in pain.

“Hold!”

In the doorway of the inn stood the Watch Commander, his King’s armor glistening in the morning sunlight. His wiry frame doubled in size under its weight. The grays in his beard were the only thing that betrayed his apparent age. No one in the company knew his exact age, and none ever felt the need to ask. Around his neck, a bronze chain held the instrument that caused their mutual pain. He let the whistle slip from his lips.

“I believe that I must be witness to some kind of elaborate competition. For that is the only reason I could possibly see citizens squaring off against King’s Men.”

Vadim stared into Otto’s eyes. Even with the Commander’s appearance, he did not dare lower his weapon. The entire room held its breath, waiting to see which way the winds blew this day. When there was no immediate answer, the Commander spoke again.

“Mayhap the patrons are deafened by my device as well?”

Otto spoke through gritted teeth. “I demand justice from this one.” He pointed at Jericho. “He defiled my wife.”

“Is this true?”

Jericho opened his mouth to speak, thought better of it, and nodded.

“It appears you have taken the measure of this man through your fists. He is bloodied and he is beaten, what else must you have for your sense of justice to be satisfied?”

“His death,” said Otto.

“Tis treasonous to assault one of the King’s Men. The answer for such a crime is death. You have already committed one crime this day. Yet I am an understanding man and am willing to forget this event in its entirety. Make no more trouble and be content in the knowledge that this man is on his way to the Long Ride, and as such, you will not see him again for many moons.”

The Commander stepped closer to Otto, and Vadim thought it strange that even though the larger man stood at least a head taller, he seemed to shrink when he gazed into the Commander’s eyes.

“Do we have an accord?”

Otto forced the words reluctantly past his lips. “Aye.”

He then began to move towards the inn’s entrance, “Come on, lads. These King’s Men are needed to protect the land from all sorts. Let’s let them get to their business.

“Though, there will be a day between you and I, naked man.” Otto never took his eyes off Jericho until he was out the door. “Believe in that.”

After Otto and his gang were gone, the Watch Commander turned his gaze on the two of them. “All this… the two of you are going to be the death of me, you realize that don’t you?”

“Yes, sir,” they spoke in unison.

“The squad is set to leave. Get your asses outside and on your horses.”

“Yes, sir.”

The Commander moved to leave, but paused and turned back to look at Jericho, shaking his head.

“And for God’s sake, put some clothes on!”

***

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Bracketology

Image by Jeff Jacobs from Pixabay

Little teams facing off against Goliaths. The blue bloods going against the mid-levels. The unknowns hitting their last-second shot. The upsets.

That’s exactly what indy comics feels like.

It feels like you are the unknown quantity and you know that you just need one chance in order to prove that you belong. But the thing is, during the regular season those big dogs never want anything to do with you. They don’t want to schedule games against you. Heck, they wouldn’t know where to go if they did. So you have to struggle and scratch and claw alongside others of your ilk. You’ve got to put in the work the same as if you were playing in the big arenas across the country.

You’ve got to create for yourself because no one else in the big leagues is going to be of much help to you.

Those dark hours you spend in front of the computer, all those loose scraps of paper with little bits of genius on them, the whiteboard where you’ve mapped 60 issues of your storyline out, and everything else you do to keep those ideas alive. Trying your best to wrap your head around the plots and put them in a coherent format so that an artist can bring your vision to life. The Fear has to take a back seat during those moments when you are creating.

 

But in the tournament it’s different. You finally get your chance to show off your skills and your stories to an even bigger audience. They can’t ignore you completely anymore. They can’t outright dismiss you, even if they would like to.

But here’s where the analogy fails. You see, while those little schools are all competing for the handful of slots just to get on the big stage, it doesn’t have to be like that for the independents. We don’t have to be competition for each other. Instead, we can be another ship in the fleet, raising the sails of anyone and everyone we can.

Hopefully, as the world begins to return to something that might resemble “normal” (though that word feels like it will always have an asterisk beside it, much like we say pre-911, I see us saying pre-Covid19), we’re going to start venturing out to the comic book conventions. You’re going to walk down those aisles where the big creators are, and that’s great. I love doing that as well, but I would say that maybe, just maybe, you take a venture down to where the indy creators are. Take your time down there. Those guys and gals have poured their free time into those books. Each one might not appeal to you, but I’m willing to bet that there are a few in there which will feel like they were made just for you.

This might be the closest thing to the Big Dance many of us are ever going to get to (and that’s ok). Not everyone is trying to work at Marvel or DC. Many creators just want to be able to put their vision of the world out there in some form or fashion. They are hoping that a handful (well, maybe more than a handful) of people are going to give them a chance. That they are going to stop and look. Pick up a comic and flip through it. To have those conversations where you can hear the excitement in their voice while they pitch you their stories.

It’s not always about the big splashy moments. Sometimes it can be about the little ones. A reader and a creator connecting with their mutual love of the form.

***

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

New Interview Up At MS Wordsmith!

I’ve obviously done my fair share of interviews on this site, but it’s always a bit crazy to find myself being interviewed by someone else. I never know if I’m saying enough or not enough or if the interviewee is going to need to take a hacksaw to whatever my answers are just to get it into a form that someone might be able to not only read but perhaps even glean some information about me.

Then of course there is always the whole “imposter syndrome” bit. Why would anyone bother wanting to interview me followed quickly by why would anyone ever want to read such an interview? I have to remind myself that little voice in the back of my head doesn’t always know what the hell it is talking about (maybe). I have to tell myself that you want to have people read these because then they might actually learn about your books.

So I want to thank Mariëlle Smith over at M.S. Wordsmith for taking the time to talk to me and ask me questions about some of my books and my writing process. I truly appreciate it.

You can find the interview here!!

***

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Kickstart the Comic – The Fox Chronicles #1

You have to train. You must get better today than you were yesterday. You must be better tomorrow than you were today.

For there is something you are to do for this world and many, many other worlds.

Yet, the world around you is dark and full of monsters that appear the same as any other person who walks down the street. Those are the ones you must guard the innocent against.

You are destined for great things.

***

The Fox Chronicles #1

Publisher – Prime Direction Studios

Writers – Robert Jeffrey II & Leo Patrice Ware

Artist – Fritz Fulo Casas

Cover Artist/Colorist – La’Vata E. O’Neal

Cover Artist – Marcus Williams

Colorist – Candice Han

Illustrator/Graphic Designer – Pao Xiong

Cover Artist – Sheldon Mitchell

Kickstarter Campaign ends on Thursday, April 15, 2020, at 12:00 PM EDT.

***

The Pitch:

A coming-of-age futurist adventure. Full of action, suspense, and intrigue.

 

The Story:

In this coming of age, centuries-spanning story, Autumn Fox finds herself caught up in a galactic power struggle when all she wants is to better her world. As sinister forces, terrestrial and beyond exploit the very systems we take for granted. Our story is going to follow Autumn, an Atlanta teen, as she tries to balance overly protective parents, friends, and the overwhelming need to protect those around her. The series is a must-read for fans of such genre-defining series as “Tomb Raider”, “Far Sector”, “Ironheart”, and “Netflix’s Voltron: Legendary Defender”.

 

John’s Thoughts:

As I’ve noted in the past, I’m with Robert Jeffrey II on anything he decides to write. I’ve watched his skills as a writer grow over the years, and am proud to be his co-writer on The Crossing.

With The Fox Chronicles, he is getting to build a character who appears to have one foot firmly on Earth and another that ties her to something ancient and deadly. This young woman at the center of the story is not only trying to figure out her place in a larger world but in a very large and scary universe.

But maybe more importantly is that this book wants to use its platform to illuminate an ongoing problem: the forced labor of women and girls. From the Kickstarter page:

“Every year millions of people are victims of forced labor with women and girls accounting for 71% of all victims.”

If we can help people gain an understanding of extremely important topics through our stories, then it only makes sense to do just that.

The Rewards:

One of the first things you’ll notice is that there are three different variant covers available to order which will allow you to get exactly the cover you want for this tale ($50 level). In addition, there is an opportunity to get some Original Artwork ($100), and at the same cost, have a one on one with Robert Jeffrey II who has gone through the DC Writer’s Workshop. I have no doubt that he’ll have plenty of things to discuss with whoever goes for such a Reward.

The Verdict:

As I’ve said in the past, I’m with Robert Jeffrey II on pretty much anything he writes. But beyond that, I think that this is one of those true labors of love from the team. Seeing the artwork come in, reading the script, and just listening to them talk has me convinced.

***

Be sure to check out the Kickstarter here!

***

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Car Shopping Blues

Me learning our SUV had been “Totaled”

You think you have so much time. You plan out your trips. You plan out your years ahead. You mark your special occasions where the odometer crossing 50k, 100k, 150k…

And then it’s over. You didn’t even have time to prepare yourself for needing to shop for a new car.

***

That’s where I am this week after the unfortunate news that my wife’s Honda CR-V had some structural damage from a fender bender and the insurance company made the decision to “total” the car out. Suddenly we are a 1 car family.

***

I ran out of gas during my very first test drive.

Seriously, I ran out of gas with my mom in the passenger seat and the salesman in the back. We’d gotten maybe half a mile or so from the dealership when it started sputtering a little bit. I tried to compensate, I mean, clearly, it was my fault that the car was making these weird noises, right? I distinctly remember my mom saying “Just drive. You know how to drive, just drive.”

It wasn’t until the salesman leaned over the seat that he realized the fundamental truth: a car needs gas to run (or at least it did back in those days).

***

Cars are weird. I never have been a “car guy”. I know little more than how to start my car everyday and somedays I struggle to do even that. This is probably a stain on my family since my grandparents owned a junkyard for 40 years or so and worked on and around cars constantly. My dad built his first car.

But I’ve always viewed my cars as a way to get from point A to point B. I have no idea if it has a Z27 1/2 engine in there or not. Does it have 4 wheels? Can it get me where I need to go? OK then!

I can nod along when other people start talking about engine size or horsepower or some classic car, but it is all a defense mechanism. Mostly I want until the conversation turns to sports again where I might be able to contribute to the conversation.

***

Now comes the stressful part. The search to find just the right fit. Too many miles? Too much money?

My current favorite: Find a great-looking deal on a dealer’s site. Write down all the information. Find out when you get to the dealership that particular car is actually at their other location, 40 miles away.

Ugh!

We’re already tired of looking and it’s only been 4 days. We just want to be done, but I’m also obsessed with finding that “perfect” one. You know the car that falls right in the sweet spot of price and miles and accessories and everything else. The one you do a legit double-take on, then ask yourself (out loud) “what’s wrong with this car”

The unicorn of cars.

***

I’m obviously being a bit glib above, but I do think there is something to a car being a part of a family. You make memories in it the same as anywhere else. I live outside of Atlanta, Georgia, which means that many times I feel like I’m living in my car on the weekends (pre-pandemic) running errand after errand.

I traveled back and forth from Richmond, VA to Atlanta, GA during my years at Georgia Tech during the various week breaks. I’d have a stack of CDs sitting in the passenger seat and rotate through them while I made the 8-hour trip. I’ve turned up Pantera as loud as I could, screaming along with the lyrics, that one time I decided to wake up early and get on the road. All to try and stay awake at 11 in the morning. I eventually found a rest stop and napped for about an hour.

So many post-concerts where my shirt was soaked through, trying to figure out the best way not to have it seep into the seats (and never remembering to bring a towel or something for the next show).

***

I held hands for the first time with my future wife while driving back from a Braves game.

***

There are the big memories, but there are all the other memories where we just take it for granted. With this vehicle, I really thought we had 3 more years before we’d need to start going car shopping. With Courtney working from home, assuming some regular maintenance, there was no reason to think that would need to be a pipe dream.

Instead, last week Courtney had to clean her out, turn over the keys, and leave her behind. We only hope that maybe they can use some of her parts in other cars so that she might live on. She served us well. Was a great old gal, and we’ll miss her.

***

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Books That Changed Me – Part 1

They say that the number one thing a writer should do (besides writing, of course) is reading. You should be devouring other books. I think the biggest reasons have to be:

Know what other authors (your contemporaries) are writing.

Learn the tropes of your genre.

Pick up new techniques and new skills by watching how the greats do it.

Let your mind hang out in someone else’s world for a little while.

But really, the biggest reason is that it’s just fun.

***

Many, many years ago, reading was not something I did. I’m sure it was that way for plenty of folks. If you read anything it was because the school required it. But to actually seek out a book to read on your own? That sounds ludicrous. Why would anyone choose to do such a thing?

Yet, now I can hardly find the time to just sit down and let myself go into a book. That thing that is both important to the person and the writer in me. So I look back, to remember those books that probably put me most directly on my current path one way or another.

***

On A Pale Horse – Piers Anthony

I consider this my awakening into the world of books. I’ve talked about the moment on this blog before, but my friend Lee came to sixth grade one day and put this book on the desk in front of me only saying the words “Read this.” But even more than that moment, which sealed my fate as an avid reader, it also created my first “favorite” writer. It was one thing to read this book about Death and these other Incarnations, but then I found out there were 4 other books in the series (at that point).

What?

There’s more to be read? I can hang out in this collective world for even longer? Where do I sign up?

Through a Tangled Skein (the 3rd book) is one of the first books that I ever reread immediately upon finishing.

And then I moved on to his fantasy series, Xanth, which was filled with puns and silliness, yet there was also a ton of heart waiting between those pages. I remember one particular week in 7th grade where I think I read 4 of those books in 7 days. Which, to be honest, isn’t as much reading, but simply devouring the text and then eagerly grabbing the next helping. The only thing that would stop me was if the library didn’t have the next book or if Lee didn’t. Then I had to wait until a trip to the bookstore could free me of such problems.

***

So we go from something that caused me to develop a love for the art form. Something that got me to reread something I’d just read. Something that changed the way I perceived books.

To something that caused me to realize that I don’t have to like everything I read.

A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens

It’s probably a bit of blasphemy, but I not only didn’t like this book, I actually never finished it. Oh sure, I know the end, I know where it was going, but for every bit that this might be a masterpiece of literature, I could not get into it. The writing style didn’t work for me, and later, when I found out that Dickens was paid by the word, I suddenly understood the role an editor might have in making a book even better.

It should have been so easy. There is history between those pages. I love history!

And I tried… I really tried. I was doing my best to get into the story and the characters and it just didn’t happen for me. I’m a fast reader, and it turned my experience into molasses.

So why did I bother with it at all? Why did I fight with it for as long as I did? Probably for the same reason many of you might have picked up the book: It was the next assignment in English class during high school. While I don’t remember completely failing the test(s?) on the book, I’m pretty sure I didn’t do as well as I normally did on those types of assignments.

I mean, I disliked it enough that I didn’t even bother with the Cliff Notes!

***

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

Love’s Labour’s Liabilities – Postscript

So we are about a week past the end date of our submission for Kickstarter’s ZineQuest 3. How did it end up?

 

I think Stress was the watchword on this project with most decisions that we made focusing on how to limit the amount of stress we would have in running the Kickstarter, hitting our goals, and fulfilling the Kickstarter. So you’re going to see that word a lot in the recap below.

As I noted in my Kickstart the Game post, we reached our goal in about 5 hours which made it a lot less stressful (see, there’s that word!) than our first attempt at doing a Zine back during ZineQuest 1. During that campaign, we funded in the last hour or so which meant that for the entire duration of the Kickstarter we were constantly checking and double-checking the webpage. Now, this is a normal part of a Kickstarter… or at least for me it is, but it can’t be both distracting and at times deflating. You get the little highs when you check and the number goes up, but it is almost worse when the number just sits there, mocking you.

In comparison, Loves’ Labour’s Liberated’s (LLL1) goal was set at $1000 and Love’s Labour’s Liabilities’ (LLL2) goal was set at $400.

Why the difference in goals? Well first was the hope that we might fund earlier in the process and not get down to the last few minutes not knowing whether it was going to fund or not. The second was that we knew more about the process. Going into LLL1, between the 3 of us, only I had run a Kickstarter before and that was for the Gilded Age Graphic Novel. This was an RPG-related item that we were still figuring out. And we wanted to set what we thought was an achievable goal… technically we weren’t wrong. But with LLL2, we had learned what to do and what not to do.

Finally, there was the biggest reason for only having a $400 goal. We gave away LLL2 (pdfs) to all the LLL1 backers for free. Why did we do that? Well, we were late on delivering LLL1.

Really, really, really (add about 100 more “really”s and you start to get the point) late. We all dropped the ball on that and really there was no excuse for it.

This giveaway was an additional attempt to make up for all those delays. However, this created a different sort of problem: If you give away the zine to your previous backers then you are going to have to pretty much find all new backers for the new Kickstarter. Normally, when you do sequels to previous Kickstarters, you are counting on some percentage of backers to follow you to the next project. During LLL1 we had 81 backers. Doing things this way meant we were kind of starting from scratch with this one.

I should note that about a dozen backers for LLL2 had also backed LLL1, so it didn’t completely eliminate some repeat customers.

Of course, we didn’t know what to expect, so the $400 with a potential for some stretch goals made a ton of sense. And again, funding so quickly really let us focus on getting the word out rather than worrying so much on the $$.

This brings us to the single biggest difference between LLL1 and LLL2, we had completely finished LLL2 before the campaign went live. Obviously, we needed to have it done to deliver to LLL1 backers, but it was a conscious decision by all of us that we needed to get out in front of this so that there would be no question in anyone’s mind whether they’d have to wait a year or more to receive what they’d paid for. In fact, as we look to the future, I believe this is the best way to do any additional Kickstarters we run.

When LLL2 was all done, we actually eclipsed LLL1 in both total backers and total dollars:

LLL1 – 81 Backers for $1018

LLL2 – 86 Backers for $1134

This amount allowed us to unlock 3 stretch goals which were Bonus Art X-Cards for use at your gaming tables.

We delivered the updated LLL2 pdf immediately upon the campaign ending, and are now in the process of getting the dedications put into the pdf before it gets sent out to the printers. After that, the three of us will get together and pack up the zines and stretch goals to send out to the backers (which looks like it will happen the first weekend in March). All of this means that potentially everyone will get their Zines within about 5-6 weeks of the campaign ending.

***

Now what?

We’ve started talking about what a LLL3 might look like. I know Egg is looking to do another non-5e Zine at some point down the road on his own. And recently I’ve become enamored with the idea of maybe branching out from a 5e zine and looking at some of the other systems. Not sure exactly when any of those will be done, but I’m looking forward to working on them!

For all of you who backed either Kickstarter, I just want to thank you again for placing your faith and your hard-earned dollars behind these projects. The ability to do this is really the fulfillment of some dreams that we’ve all had since we first discovered roleplaying games.

***

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

Chapter Preview – The Echo Effect

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

Until the White Light washed them away.

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

The lucky few.

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

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

The Echo Effect is currently on Amazon.

 

Please enjoy the following preview chapter of

THE ECHO EFFECT

CHAPTER ONE

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The radio popped again.

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

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

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

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

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

“Copy. I’ll make this one my last.”

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

Metal.

Not ore—but processed.

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

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

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

It was a plaque.

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

It could not exist, and yet…

There it was.

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

There it was.

 

KENNEDY SPACE CLASS OF 1979

FIRST STUDENT CLASS TO VISIT OLYMPUS MONS

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA

 

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

It was beyond impossible. And then his insanity deepened.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Nothing? Surely someone has a theory?”

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

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

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

“1979. Nearly forty years.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

No one moved.

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

 

***

Image by WikiImages from Pixabay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Anders, any word from Houston?”

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

“No, sir. We’re still in the dark.”

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

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

Massive hallucination, Martian madness, or something even worse…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“So, on a scale of one to ten…”

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

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

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

Claudia began to answer and then stopped herself.

“I caught that. What?”

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

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

“10.”

Aaron looked over at his Captain and smirked.

“9.”

“What?”

“I remember something about a kiss at midnight?”

“8.”

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

“7.”

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

“Well then, pucker up.”

“6.”

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

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

“5.”

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

“4.”

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

“3.”

“What is it?”

“2.”

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

“1.”

Then his world burned white.

***

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

A Love For Everyday – 7

Check out Egg, Lee, and John’s Kickstarter until the end of this week as a part of ZineQuest 3!

 

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

Part 1 is here.

Part 2 is here.

Part 3 is here.

Part 4 is here.

Part 5 is here.

Part 6 is here.

 

January 6

 

Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly.

Leo Tolstoy

 

February 1

 

And when one of them meets with his other half,

The actual half of himself,

Whether he be a lover of youth or a lover of another sort,

The pair are lost in an amazement of love and friendship and intimacy.

Plato, The Symposium

 

March 4

 

A great marriage is not when the “perfect couple” comes together. It is when an imperfect couple learns to enjoy their differences.

Dave Meurer

 

April 6

 

There is only one page left to write on. I will fill it with words of only one syllable. I love. I have loved. I will love.

Audrey Niffenegger, The Time Traveler’s Wife

 

May 7

 

People call these things imperfections, but they’re not. That’s the good stuff. Then we get to chose who we let into our weird little worlds… but the question is whether or not you’re perfect for each other. That’s the whole deal. That’s what intimacy is about.

Good Will Hunting

 

June 3

 

You don’t get to choose. You just fall in love. And you get this person who is all wrong and all right at the same time. And you know you love them so much except sometimes they just drive you completely insane and no one can explain it. And the reason it’s so confusing is because it’s love. But if love didn’t have any challenges, what would be the point?

Party of Five

 

July 1

 

Relationships don’t work the way they do on television and in the movies:

Will they, won’t they, and then they finally do and they’re happy forever – gimme a break.

Nine out of ten of them end because they weren’t right for each other to begin with, and half the ones that get married get divorced, anyway. And I’m telling you right now, through all this stuff, I have not become a cynic, I haven’t.

Yes, I do happen to believe that love is mainly about pushing chocolate-covered candies and, you know, in some cultures, a chicken. You can call me a sucker, I don’t care, ‘cause I do… believe in it.

Bottom line… is the couples that are truly right for each other wade through the same crap as everybody else, but, the big difference is, they don’t let it take ‘em down.

Scrubs

 

August 2

 

Age does not protect you from love, but love to some extent protects you from age.

Jeanne Moreau

 

September 12

 

We get old and get used to each other. We think alike. We read each other’s minds. We know what the other one wants without asking. Sometimes we irritate each other a little bit. Maybe sometimes take each other for granted.

But once in a while, like today, I meditate on it and realize how lucky I am to share my life with the greatest woman I ever met. You still fascinate and inspire me. You influence me for the better. You’re the object of my desire, the #1 earthly reason for my existence.

I love you very much.

Johnny Cash

 

October 2

 

I am longing to be with you, and by the sea where we can talk together freely and build our castles in the air.

Bram Stoker’s Dracula

 

November 15

 

Don’t you understand? You mean more to me than anything in this whole world.

Peter Pan

 

December 10

 

Morning without you is a dwindled dawn.

Emily Dickinson

 

***

Squeeze those you love tight this weekend (and on every other day as well)!

***

And if you play Dungeons and Dragons 5e, make sure to check out our Zine focusing on all things Love and Loss currently on Kickstarter!

***

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Kickstart the Game – Love’s Labour’s Liabilities

Check out Leland Beauchamp’s, Egg Embry’s, and John McGuire’s 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons Zine!

We live, we love, and sometimes we lose. All are part of life, and yet the last part is the thing that will not only knock us to the ground but put so much weight on our chest that we may never find a way to get back up again.

***

So I am a part of a new Kickstarter…

And for the first time, it is a sequel to something I’ve already contributed to:

Love’s Labour’s Liabilities.

You can check it out here.

***

We launched on Monday around 11 AM and by the time I’d gotten back from a doctor’s appointment at 2:30 PM, we had funded! It was a modest goal this time of $400, but there is definitely a huge sigh of relief when you hit your goal. It makes it so that you can actually enjoy the ride a little bit more. We’ve now begun to focus on Stretch Goals which will be a bonus X-Card for use at your table.

This year marks the 3rd annual (I’m assuming) Kickstarter Zine Quest for the month of February. What’s Zinequest you might ask? Well, if you cast your mind back to the 60s or 70s or 80s when you would go into a record shop or comic shop or gaming store and had those pamphlet looking things sitting there that were put together by hand… that’s basically what a Zine is. Yes, today we have programs that allow it to be done a bit easier, but the goal is the same. These are ideas that have been percolating since our successful Kickstarter of Love’s Labour’s Liberated during Zine Quest 1, and that Do-it-Yourself attitude has gotten to us again.

But we learned from the last Kickstarter. This time the whole thing is completely done and ready to go. So the only thing you will have to wait on is the actual printings, but the day after the campaign ends, you’ll have your pdf!

***

This time we are focusing on more of a darker part of the love relationships… the loss part… the obsession part…

It seems like when I’m thinking of ideas for the backstories for any characters I play, I drift toward those who might have a little bit of darkness in them. Perhaps there was an unrequited love, perhaps there was something more devious at hand. That’s what we’ve tried to provide for players in this Zine. A Broken Hearted Monk. An elemental force of nature obsessed with it’s Warlock. New spells, magic items, and much more. All options for bringing even more depth to your 5th Edition games.

***

Like I said on the first Zine Quest we did, you never know who is going to potentially read your work. My hope is that everyone who gets it and reads it is able to use at least one thing from it in their home games.

I hope you take the opportunity to check out the Kickstarter!

***

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

My Life as a College DJ

Image by Michi S from Pixabay

Spinning the black circles. Finding those up and coming bands. Flipping through 30+ years of vinyl to find those forgotten secrets.

I did all of that during my brief time as a DJ at 91.1 WREK at Georgia Tech my freshman year.

The thing is, it’s not like it was even on my radar. That wasn’t something a random college student would do. While I was finding new bands to like/love and music was a passion of sorts, it wasn’t something I’d ever given any thought to. In fact, had my roommate and another friend not found out about the open sign-ups, I would have never had the chance to even bother.

The actual radio station back then (and I’m assuming now, but I don’t know) was right beside the Basketball arena, which meant it was about a ten-minute walk from my dorms. I’m not sure what a college radio station was supposed to look like, but this one didn’t disappoint. A couch that likely was considered used in the late 70s adorned the common area. A beat-up soda machine sat off to the side. Rumor had it if you pressed two of the very worn buttons at the same time when you were making your selection, a can of beer would instead descend from inside. Inside the actual booth where we played music was big enough for a couple of people to sit, with a large desk-like apparatus that held the cd player, the record player, and assorted other buttons and dials. Just behind that was a larger room filled from top to bottom with all the vinyl you could possibly want.

 

From https://www.wrek.org/gallery/historic-wrek-gallery/

So the deal was (I think this is right) 2 or 3-hour shifts where you marked which CDs or vinyl you’d played during your session (think of an old-school notecard inside your library books and it was the same thing). They divided the newer bands they wanted you to play at least once a day. In addition, for an hour you had to play one reggae song and one rap song. Finally, once an hour you could play anything you wanted from the back.

Now here’s the thing about college radio music – a lot of it SUCKS. I legitimately played songs that sounded as if people didn’t have drums but instead had pots and pans they were playing on. And I’m being completely serious. So what happened was you’d find a handful of bands that you liked enough to play during one of your sets, and you just prayed the person working before you hadn’t already played them (because then they were off-limits for the rest of the day). The other thing you discovered were the longer songs. Something maybe 7 to 8 minutes in case you needed to run over to the restroom.

Finally, during your sessions, you’d peruse the back area where there were tons of bands that no one has ever heard of. Oh, they had some things you would know… they had Faith No More’s Epic and The Police Synchronicity, but you had to be very careful with which track you chose.

***

Since I’m a big Police fan, when I found the album sitting back there I decided that I’d delve into one of the more obscure tracks to play. I put it on as my “song of choice” for the hour and within thirty seconds the phone rang and someone growled – “turn that off!” I was so nervous that I’d broken some unwritten rule that I did stop the song in mid-chorus and swapped it with some garage band’s terrible pot banging. The next day when I went to look for that album (thinking that I just chose the wrong song)… it had magically disappeared.

If you worked at the radio station there was an opportunity to sign up to be on the guest lists for various clubs around the city and nearby towns. Which was extremely cool considering I didn’t have a ton of disposable income, to begin with. The problem for a newbie like me was the sign-ups were in order of seniority. So I signed up for a few things here and there that an older DJ then sniped from me. In the 5 months of working there, I managed to get on 1 guest list: Helmet at the 40 Watt in Athens. Considering they were one of my favorite bands at the time, I was just praying no one would snipe my passes, but sure enough, I and a friend got to go.

https://www.wrek.org/gallery/historic-wrek-gallery/ I believe that’s the same couch from my memories.

***

One other thing the radio station did was broadcast the college baseball games. As spring approached, multiple afternoon shifts would butt up directly to the games. Normally, there was a DJ who would cover that shift which mostly meant making sure the initial setup worked and then being on hand for any issues during the game. Except on that one day when the end of my shift approached and the DJ still hadn’t shown up. The clock turned 5 and the baseball guys called in, saying they were ready for the hand-off… and me… the guy who was nervous about screwing something up in the first place, suddenly had to explain to them that the regular guy wasn’t there, and they’d need to walk me through things.

I don’t remember any specifics, but I know I had to go mess with the main “machine” (my brain fails me what it was called), something I didn’t interact with AT ALL. The clock was ticking, I’m cursing the DJ for being late, and I’m sure the broadcasters were wondering if the game was going to make the air.

It did. After about 1/2 an hour the late DJ showed up, thanked me, and then I left hoping to never have to do that again.

***

It is only now, looking back, that I wish I’d stuck with it for a little while longer. After summer, my friends kinda petered out on it, and since that was half the reason to do it… and I was going to be co-oping in the winter quarter anyway (which meant I wouldn’t have time to do it), I stopped signing up for shifts. Before too long it had become a weird thing that I’d done… something neat to put on my resume for a little while as “hobbies” or something interesting about me.

Mostly though, I wish I’d come up with my radio voice back then.

***

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

New Year’s Resolutions and the Easy Button

A new year and a chance to start over fresh. Make your resolutions on how to be a better you. I know many times this has become the moment to set forth on a new diet. Try to get some of those unwanted pounds off, get into better shape, and maybe eat a little better.

As I’m walking or avoiding the snack foods or any various desserts that may cross my path, I can’t help but wonder how technology and science have failed us. And I’m not even talking about the mystical, magical Diet Pill that actually works and just melts away the excess weight… no. I mean, there have to be some other ways for this to work out. There have to be some ways that science fiction might actually predict science and make all our resolutions thing of the past.

So here are a couple of ideas for how this might work… the Easy Button way to get into shape:

Is it impossible to create a machine that allows someone to temporarily gain control of our bodies? Whether our minds just go into a blissful state or maybe it is a true mind swap. The overweight or out of shape person swaps out of their bodies for maybe an hour a day to allow our trainers the time to whip those same bodies into shape (for a nice fee of course). Of course, an hour a day would show some level of improvement, but if you are really serious, then might I suggest our month-long vacation plan? While you get to live it up with a perfect body, our trainers will take your flabby form and put it through all sorts of exercises. These trainers are used to eating right, living right, and will do for your body what you could only dream about. In the meantime, you will be taken to a resort where for those same days you get to live the way you’ve always wanted, in a specimen of a body.

At the end of the month, you swap minds back, and now you get to have that Hollywood/movie star physique for once in your life… and if you manage to slip up, well, we can always do it again next year!

It’s a win-win!

***

Though, thinking about it, swapping minds is probably a dangerous idea since you would never be sure what someone might do with your face, your fingerprints. You’d effectively be living a different life for that time so there is no end to the trouble your body might get into. Would you need to put a freeze on your accounts? What happens if they die in your body? What happens if you die in theirs? Hmmm… this may take a little more thought.

***

Ok, what about this idea:

Matter cannot be destroyed only transferred, right? What if that was applied to all of those with a little extra weight to give? Say I could give someone a pound of my fat for a fee. It could even be set up on an official exchange where you might get paid a hundred dollars to take a pound from someone. Now you have people who are trainers, who again are used to keeping a low fat percentage and allow them to make a little more money. In fact, technically anyone could suddenly make a few extra bucks if they were willing to exercise and do the dieting for you. You pay your money, they get the weight, and your resolution is a little easier to achieve?

Image by HeungSoon from Pixabay

***

Of course, I could see that one allowing for crazy excesses. I could see people getting into debt and the only way they can pay things off is through taking the weight which would/could mess their own systems up beyond anything they might normally be able to adjust to. I mean, it’s one thing to maybe put on a few pounds in a week, maybe 5-10 pounds in a month. But what if you had to take 20-30 pounds in a matter of minutes. The shock alone…

***

Or maybe, just maybe, I could take another walk around the neighborhood…

***

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

You Haven’t Seen It – Karate Kid Part III

As Cobra Kai fever grips my house (I think my wife has watched the first 2 seasons around 4 times now since we discovered the show on Netflix), we decided to take a nostalgic trip with the movies as well. Now, we’ve seen the first two movies many, many times, but still decided to watch the first movie again before we even watched one episode of Cobra Kai. And just last week, with the announcement of certain Part 2 characters showing up, we went ahead and watched the second movie. So that only left some small piece of the saga to catch up with: Part 3 (and maybe The Next Karate Kid at some point, maybe).

Now, to be fair, this was not Courtney’s first time ever seeing Part 3; however, watching the movie with her this time around it might as well been her first time watching it. There was plenty of stuff she didn’t remember about it. In addition, we ended up watching it in two settings because… well, it isn’t the greatest movie. But more than that, the… well, I wouldn’t call them plot holes, but there are just lots of coincidences required to make the movie go the way the bad guys want it to go.

And speaking of bad-guys…

John – I love how Terry Silva is basically a cartoon villain.

Courtney – I know… it’s just over the top. He was talking about dumping toxic waste earlier.

John – He could be the bad-guy for Captain Planet!

The thing is, Mike Barnes is this badass karate champion who they enlist to beat up Daniel, and he just owns Daniel. He’s a solid villain if Part 2 never happens.

John – I don’t understand how this guy… Daniel never lands a punch really. I mean, he’s only a few months removed from fighting for his life in Okinawa.

Courtney – And they never call the cops? Really?

John – Think about all the stuff that has to fall into place for Terry Silva’s evil plan to work. Mr. Miyagi has to refuse to train Daniel. Daniel has to seek out Terry. Then he has to not leave in the middle of the training. Then at the end, when he’s decided to quit, Terry and his evil band have to be waiting for Daniel at the dojo.

Courtney – I just… it’s a lot to believe, right?

So we watched it in two parts, and the second part is a little better. But then you get to the tournament…

Courtney – Wait, Daniel only has to land one point and he wins the whole tournament?

John – Yep.

Which, that was always my biggest problem with the movie. One of the best things about Part 1 was the tournament. Learning how things worked. Watching Daniel and Johnny on their collision course. But with this movie, we only really have the end of the semi-finals and then the championship match. So you remove the best stuff with some crazy new rule that says a defending champion only has to fight one fight? How in the world does that make sense on any planet. We’ve all heard of byes, but to get a bye through, what, maybe 6-8 rounds? You take no wear and tear?

Just makes no sense.

John – Final thoughts on Part 3?

Courtney – I think watching the first half of this one… hurt me. It kind of took something away from the first two (this one being so bad). But as we talked about the characters and how they acted. Basically, the need to have some depth and it created a conflict between our leads that we’d not seen. But over-the-top characters… wow. If you are Mr. Miyagi you justified the previous tournament because he was being bullied, but now you won’t even though Daniel is getting bullied because… reasons? I thought the bonsai tree story was a little over the top (even if it gave us a nice little moment between them at the end).

***

I somehow don’t think this movie is going to enter the replay list for her… Cobra Kai season 3 though…

***

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Turn the Page on 2020

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

Finally.

It has been the fastest, longest year that there has ever been. Obviously, the world has experienced a year unlike any in over a hundred years. I’ve been lucky in that I haven’t had any direct loss in my family or friends from the virus, but I know a number of people who have been affected by this. To say it derailed any plans everyone might have had for 2020 would be the understatement of the century. When it came to writing, I must admit that from around March to June, that took a backseat to just… wrapping my head around the new normal. It’s like I would sit down to start working on something and my mind would become occupied with the real world and the escapism just disappeared.

Weirdly, one of the things I found to give me a form of peace was Soduku. Somehow working my way through those puzzles helped to soothe me. I also rewatched Firefly in those early weeks, treating it as if it was only coming on one time a week (on Friday night).  Just anything to get by.

On the positive side, it was writing the Comic Book, the Crossing Issue 2, that snapped me out of my initial haze. And it became something of a better second half of the year. As I approach these last few days of 2020, I’m only a few chapters from finishing the draft on a new novel.

So let’s recap:

The Echo Effect is released!

This is my second full-length novel that I’ve released. It was a long time coming (years since I wrote the first words), but I believe that in the time between The Dark That Follows and this that my writing skills have improved by leaps and bounds. In addition, I released it for the first couple of weeks for only $0.99 for the Kindle version, something I’d not ever really done before. And I dipped my toe in the water of advertising and promotions for this release and saw some successes and know much more for the next time.

The Crossing Issue 1 is released!

Not only did we run a Kickstarter as the world began to be gripped by COVID-19, but it was also fulfilled this year. Any release of something I helped to create is such an awesome moment, but with every page completed, I got to see it come to life in a way that few ever really understand.

Love’s Labour’s Liberated RPG Zine is released!

While it was over a year late (not good), we managed to get it to those backers finally. I’m proud of my first work in the RPG side of things, being able to help create ideas that hopefully will be used by others in their games is a very cool feeling. However, the big thing I learned from this project was the importance of having the item done. Too many Kickstarter projects seem to drag on and on and that only creates a potential problem with those who contribute money to them. If you or I am going to go back to these people over and over, we have to be considerate of them.

Tales from Vigilante City is released!

While short stories are often considered the step-child compared to novels, there is something great about being able to get in and tell a smaller story. Something that doesn’t take months (or years, hopefully) to write. Something that can be read and absorbed over a smaller frame of time. “Anonymous” was my contribution to this more grim and gritty, street-level collection of super-hero stories. I like to think of it as a story that could have been told in an issue of Detective Comics.

What else:

I published a blog for 51 out of 52 weeks this year!

Sadly, my streak of like 7 years was accidentally broken when I forgot to hit submit on a blog post and then didn’t realize it until the following week. This year, without the ability to go to conventions and write about that, meant that there were more than a couple of late Tuesday nights where I had to find some inspiration for the week’s blog. In the new year, I’m hoping that as vaccines become available, perhaps some convention reports will actually happen.

SOULmate is 95% finished.

I have about 2 and 1/2 chapters left to write. A sci-fi novel with a twist for me, it is written entirely in first person. Which is working writing muscles that many times I’m not sure I know what I’m doing. This first draft will need a heavy edit to be sure (my tenses are switching between present and past all the time). But, the biggest thing is always getting that first draft onto the page. After that, it becomes more about streamlining the story, adding pieces here and there, editing other pieces to smooth it all out.

Hollow Empire EP 9 is finished.

It needs an edit and a cover and then it is ready for prime time. I may hold it until I can get another Episode completed, but that was another big accomplishment this year. I would love to do a couple of these a year as I love playing in the world and love the characters that Jeremy and I created.

Shorts

I have a pair of short stories that I’m shopping around to various magazines and websites. Which means rejection, but I believe in the stories. I have no doubt they will eventually find the right home.

***

Looking at the above, that’s a fair amount of “stuff” to have done in the past year. When you are in the thick of things, it is sometimes hard to tell where you are in the process, but these milestones always afford a nice way to look back and really take stock. For those of you who have been with me on this journey, I appreciate it.

Now let’s put a sword through 2020’s heart and move on to a better time!

***

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

A Love For Everyday – 6

 

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

Part 1 is here.

Part 2 is here.

Part 3 is here.

Part 4 is here.

Part 5 is here.

 

January 10

If I could save time in a bottle

The first thing that I’d like to do

Is to save every day

‘Til eternity passes away

Just to spend them with you

Jim Croce, Time In A Bottle

 

February 6

If there’s any kind of magic in this world, it must be in the attempt of understanding someone, sharing something. I know, it’s almost impossible to succeed, but… who cares, really? The answer must be in the attempt.

Before Sunrise

March 14

 

It has made me better loving you… it has made me wiser, and easier, and brighter. I used to want a great many things before, and to be angry that I did not have them. Theoretically, I was satisfied. I flattered myself that I had limited my wants. But I was subject to irritation; I used to have morbid sterile hateful fits of hunger, or desire. Now I really am satisfied, because I can’t think of anything better.

Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady

 

April 8

 

All I have are the choices I make, and I choose her, come what may.

The Adjustment Bureau

 

May 12

 

Sex without love has its place, and it’s pretty cool, but when you have it hand in hand with deep commitment and respect and caring, it’s 9,000 times better.

George Carlin

 

June 8

 

If you loved someone, you loved him, and when you had nothing else to give, you still gave him love.

George Orwell, 1984

 

 

July 5

 

Never close your lips to those whom you have already opened your heart.

Charles Dickens

 

August 20

 

But if I am worthy of it you will always love me;

And if there be anything good and pure in me,

It will be proved by my always loving you.

Nathaniel Hawthorne

 

September 11

 

Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves.

Albert Einstein

 

October 1

 

The best things in life make you sweaty.

Edgar Allen Poe

 

November 7

 

At the touch of love, everyone becomes a poet.

Plato

December 3

 

Nobody really thinks it will work, do they?

You just described every great success story.

Say Anything

***

I hope this holiday is a good one no matter where you are or who you might share it with.

***

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

Comics Are My Time Machine

Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

There is a scene in the movie Before Sunset, where Ethan Hawke is talking about this idea of a song being able to transport you back to a particular moment in time. That in a way, the song is a time machine because it allows you to experience something from long ago almost as if it is happening in that moment. A bridge between two times.

It is a wonderful idea that I’ve seen mentioned in other places since, and while I agree that music can do that for me as well (and may be a future blog if I remember), I have another way to track time within my own life:

Comics.

Comics are truly my time machine. Much in the same way that a song can take you back to an earlier time in your life, so too, do I see comics performing that task for me.

I remember distinctly the four comics which set me on the path towards readership, fandom, and loss of a closet in my current home (which my wife laments). $10 in my pocket for purposes of snack, drink, and possibly a magazine became a 10 year old looking over the newsstand rack in amazement. Before that moment, I don’t think I really knew “about” comic books or understood them for what they were. Weirdly I owned 2 comics prior to this (an issue of Transformers and an issue of Fantastic Four). To this day I’m not sure why I decided to get those four comics. Why I didn’t grab a Sports Illustrated or maybe even saved the money for a rainy day.

They called to me.

After that, it was over for me. I was hooked completely. In those early days every stray quarter, nickel, dime, and penny was scrapped and saved in order to have enough to buy a couple of books when I rode my bike up to the local convenience store. With no concept of shipping dates or even that comics came in weekly, I would go as many times a week during the summer as I could think of and return with at least one new comic no matter if I had left it on the shelf four times previous.

Now they exist as artifacts of different times. A reminder of what my life might have been when a particular issue or comic came out.

The afternoon I stopped by Chad’s house with my comics and neither he nor Egg would talk to me until I read the latest issue of The Flash so that we could discuss in great detail. This was during Mark Waid’s epic run.

Finding comraderi with a co-worker through a shared love of Moon Knight… even if he loved the original series and loathed the 90s one that was my introduction to the character (and therefore has a special place in my heart).

Those Saturday afternoons (with Egg) that I spent going to used bookstores looking to rummage around in various dollar bins and after seeing a copy of an issue of Firestorm randomly within remembered that I kind of dug that character back when he was on the Challenge of the Superfriends cartoon. Suddenly, I had a goal to get his complete run (and even more reason to visit all those shops).

Being able to hand my dad a stack of Legion comics or The Great Darkness Saga trade so that he could see how his favorite characters from when he was a kid were doing.

Randomly finding out about Valiant Comics being in our backyard (at Dark Adventure Con) and even though I knew very, very little about them or their books traveling to a local con where the number 3 comic company decided to come and roll out some special posters and comics. It made me a fan of those creators and those characters to this very day.

It doesn’t need to be a specific book (though, each of those stories has a particular comic that sparks the memory), but I think the reason I still love to collect and read these stories is because it connects me to myself. A different version of myself throughout 30+ years of reading about these various characters. I may seem silly to those on the outside, but they have become as much of a part of me as anything else has.

Now I find myself trying to create my own comics. There’s a hope I could leave others with a little more than they started with. A chance to expand how and what they perceive comics to be.
For older readers, a return to glimpse that young person who first clutched those comics in their hands and read and reread them on a daily basis.

A true connection to the past and a promise of the future.

***

By the way, The Crossing is now available for sale here!
***

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Worlds Upon Worlds

The Crossing deals directly with parallel worlds where all that we’re limited by is what crazy idea Robert, Sean, or myself can come up with. I’ve said before that it is truly our love-letter to shows like Sliders and… well, really anything that deals with a world not quite your own one. I just got done with the second issue script which has my mind going a million different directions on what other worlds we can visit, which ones help to tell the story we want to tell, and what aspects of them might just be cool to draw!

This year has kind of felt like we are in the wrong timeline, but writing the script has me mulling over parallel worlds in television and movies. Those stories can only show us our own flaws and the paths not taken. Sometimes because we knew that wasn’t the way to go and other times because we felt like we had no other choice. Those worlds give us a glimpse into what might have been, but can just as easily become true horror stories for the heroes.

Rick and Morty – Rick Potion No. 9

“Cronenberg World”

The thing that gets me about this episode is not even that Rick would screw things up to the point that everyone on the planet would become Cronenberg style creatures, but that his solution isn’t to find a way to fix them (at least after a couple of tries). No, he’s willing to just write the whole damn world off and start fresh on another Earth where his and Morty’s doppelgangers had recently died.

That’s both a hardcore and extremely practical way of looking at parallel worlds.

Fringe

The show that started as a pseudo-X-Files, but then evolved into something much, much more. Even as they hinted at the possibility of another Earth, it wasn’t until they showed the airships on Earth 2 (I can’t recall exactly what they called it) that it was truly revealed for all to see. At that point, it became a story about how the characters interact with this new world and how they interact with their doppelgangers.

Star Trek – Mirror, Mirror

If I strain my brain about this, I have to assume that this might be the very first thing I saw that dealt with a parallel world. The ideas presented here might not feel as groundbreaking today when viewed through a modern-day lens, but when it premiered and even more importantly to a young kid watching the rerun of it many decades later, it introduced an earworm of a concept that I still can’t get enough of.

 

Yesterday

I’m a long-time fan of the idea of changing one thing in a world and seeing what happens. You can take the most minor things and have it butterfly effect into something huge or you can take an idea that is already huge given our musical history – What if the Beatles never existed.

Not only does this movie do just that, it does it in a way that makes me smile at the craziness of such a world while also feeling for our hero who has finally found a way to get out of obscurity and the guilt he carries because he knows that he has just become a cover artist.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer – The Wish

Normally you wouldn’t immediately jump to a wish being granted suddenly causing everything to go sideways… unless you’ve played Dungeons and Dragons… in which case you are assured of that very thing happening. This Buffy episode got to take liberties with our well-known characters and flip the script with them so that some were now vampires, others were hardened warriors suddenly without a Scooby Gang to keep them grounded, and has one of the best moments where bad things happen to the very person who caused the world to change (to the point that when I was first watching I was like “well how the heck are we getting back to our world?”).

***
There are so many more worlds that have caught my imagination over the years. My hope is that with The Crossing, some of the cool ideas we have can inspire others to view our world in a little different way.
By the way, The Crossing is now available for sale here!
***

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

A Love for Every Day – 5

 

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

Part 1 is here.

Part 2 is here.

Part 3 is here.

Part 4 is here.

 

January 7

 

I see you everywhere, in the stars, in the river; to me you’re everything that exists; the reality of everything.

Virginia Woolf, Night and Day

 

February 8

 

Sometimes your nearness takes my breath away;

And all the things I want to say can find no voice.

Then, in silence, I can only hope my eyes will speak my heart.

Robert Sexton

 

March 3

 

Every girl needs a guy best friend to help her laugh when she thinks she’ll never smile again.

Anonymous

 

April 2

 

All your life, you will be faced with a choice. You can choose love or hate…

I choose love.

Johnny Cash

 

May 13

 

Love isn’t an act, it’s a whole life.

Brian Moore

 

June 2

 

There isn’t time, so brief is life, for bickerings, apologies, heartburnings, callings to account. There is only time for loving, and but an instant, so to speak, for that.

Mark Twain

 

July 9

 

August 14

 

Faith. You give it to the people you love, but the people who really deserve it are the ones who come through even when you don’t love them enough.

Veronica Mars

September 8

 

Never close your lips to those whom you have already opened your heart.

Charles Dickens

 

October 3

 

When a girl is in love,

You can see it in her smile.

When a guy is in love,

You can see it in his eyes.

Anonymous

 

November 2

 

This is true love-

You think this happens every day?

The Princess Bride

 

 

December 3

 

 

***

Here’s to showing your thanks for the loves in your life.

***

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

Chat and Spin – Radio Interview

I never know what it is I’m doing in this whole marketing of oneself. It is a labyrinth of trying various things that mostly seem not to entirely work. Or you half fall into an opportunity and it works out better than you could have thought. Which, I guess, means that you must keep yourself open to any and all opportunities as they come along… without knowing where they may or may not lead.

As it so happens, I had the opportunity present itself this past Friday night via the good folks over at Chat and Spin Radio. From their website:

“We are a 24 hour, not for profit Internet radio station broadcasting over 7 years, covering the UK National & International audience. Giving you MORE MUSIC and MORE VARIETY. 

We Broadcast National, throughout the UK & Internationally to many listeners per week. We interview Book Authors / Bands / Singers / Charities / Businesses / Groups. If you would like FREE PUBLICITY and to come on our station for an interview, then please contact us for more information.”

I found out about them through a somewhat random posting in one of the many Facebook groups I’m a part of where they said they were looking for authors to interview, an email back and forth, and before I knew it I was scheduled for last Friday.

Prior to the actual live interview, they had me come on via Skype and I chatted with Ron Clark (Station Owner). He walked me through the interview and basically prescreened the questions on me, which I believe helped as once we actually got on air, I felt pretty comfortable in doing it. Afterward, I spoke a bit more with both Ron and Ian Johnson (co-owner and advertising manager). And potentially, I should be able to get back on for another interview sometime in January.

So while I don’t know what will come out of the chat, I am grateful for any and all opportunities that may come my way.

***

If you’d like to take a listen to the interview, it’s about 6 or 7 minutes beginning around the 47-minute mark at the following link: Chat and Spin

***

And if you are an author, artist, or any other type of creative, reach out to the guys over at Chat and Spin for a potential interview yourself!

***

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

Free Short Story – And I Feel Fine

In honor of everyone’s favorite month of scares and strange… and only a couple of days late, I present:

 

 

* * *

And I Feel Fine

 John McGuire

Begin log. Sarah Knotts. May 11, 2019.

 

Huh… I guess the Mayans were right after all.

That was my first thought when the end times came. You might have expected screams or crying or begging… basically any of the five stages of grief. But no, that’s not how I work. I’m too worried about ancient prophecies coming true rather than the immediate need to extract myself from the situation.

Typical.

Oh, sorry. I should probably be a little more official in how I do this. I mean, I activated this recorder for a reason right? My grandmother always said that when you cut corners you only hurt yourself. Or was it when you skip steps you bounce… no, that’s not it either. Damn, can’t remember. I guess it doesn’t much matter.

Still, always better to be official.

 

End log.

 

 

Begin log. Sarah Knotts. May 12, 2019.

 

Seven years after the big one. Though, you might say that’s a bit of a misnomer. Really, I should say seven years after the first one. That would be much more accurate.

So why am I so calm?

It’s a question I ask myself all the time, honestly. I should be a screaming mess, running around, panicking… or whatever it is a person is supposed to be doing. This, if you think about it, is the strangest thing you could possibly even think. I’m saying I should act normal… when the world hasn’t acted normal in quite some time.

Either way, once you lived through a dozen or so cataclysmic events in your lifetime, what’s the difference? Wait, what am I saying? You probably know exactly what I’m talking about.

I guess.

I mean, I’m not yawning about it, but if it is my time… well, what the hell am I supposed to do about it?

I remember that first morning after it happened. Heaps of clothes on the ground, cell phones lying on top of the piles, drinks and food once being enjoyed now serving only the scavengers and ants. News spread fast, and all over the world it was the same scenario. People had just up and disappeared.

Nothing brings out some religious nuts like a good mystery so we heard lots of claims about how God had finally had enough with us screwing up the Earth. That he had taken his faithful up to Heaven and abandoned the sinners.

Maybe that was what happened. The rest of us poor schmucks biding our time until the absolute end.

I always thought it strange that things got back to normal so quickly after that. Don’t get me wrong, there were still tons of things we had to deal with. Family members lost and gone and all of that. But it was a shared grief. Everyone knew at least one person who disappeared…

It bound us together.

And when you think about it, percentage wise, there weren’t a lot of people taken. Then you had that scientist make the claim that it was spontaneous combustion. Had all sorts of charts and graphs to back up his theories. Like anything else, you can get scientists to say anything if you pay them enough. And I gotta believe the governments of the world didn’t need some kind of religious fervor let loose… hence the combustion theory. I didn’t buy it, but it seemed to calm a lot of people down.

People just want to believe.

I was never a big one on the Bible, but I have wondered, how many people survived the flood? I remember that he brought two of every animal, but he also brought his family.

Is that right?

Well, it couldn’t have been all that many. We may be getting down to that number here shortly. Assuming we haven’t already reached it.

To be honest, I’m not even sure who this message is for. For all I know the amount of humans left in the world could be down to a few dozen. And I think that I read somewhere that you’d need a minimum number of potential breeders to be able to restart the human race. Something about genetics and inbreeding.

What really sucks… ok, what really sucks more is that you know it is coming, but there is nothing you can possibly do to stop it.

And folks thought Global Warming was bad. Oh no, we’ll be dead in hundreds of years.

I’d kill for Global Warming. I could do it in my sleep.

 

End log.

 

 

Begin log. Sarah Knotts. May 13, 2019.

 

It was a zombie uprising last year, and I have to say, putting down Johnny in front of his mother may have been one of the least happy days I’ve ever had. Man, did that woman have a set of pipes on her. My ears still ring sometimes when I’m getting ready to go to sleep. For most people they get the ear ringing from loud music, me, I get it from the unholy screams of a woman whose son you just killed.

For a second time.

Whoever is out there listening to me blather on about all sorts of horrible things… I just want to say that I don’t mean to be so callous. I really don’t. Mostly I blame others and that seems to get me through the days.

Dreams of alcohol get me through the nights.

The thing they don’t teach you in school is how to be all right with it all. We study history, but what is history? Just a series of horrible events, and then we answer questions about dates. But, we never learn what it really means. Those people who died in the Black Plague, we know the numbers, but what about the survivors? When they thought the world was ending, did a bunch just take a knife to their throats and end it all? Those that didn’t, how did they find the internal stamina to keep going on?

This is the stuff that keeps me awake at night.

I need a drink.

 

End log.

 

 

Begin log. Sarah Knotts. May 14, 2019.

 

The worst part is the waiting.

Or maybe the worst part is the loneliness?

I mean you really can’t trust anyone these days. I get a knock on the door, hoping it is the pizza delivery order I put in a decade ago. Maybe the guy just got lost? But no, it’s some random scavengers.

Oh, they tell you they’re nice, but sure enough, it is just more of the same crap. They’re trying to take your stuff, or they want to infect you, or whatever.

Hey! It’s not as if it’s my fault Dad was a nutbag who not only stocked his shelter, but had a shelter to begin with. What did you expect? They had to have bomb drills when he was in elementary school. Duck and cover or some such shit. Like any of that would save you from the mushroom cloud shape filling up the horizon. But it was something for them to do, and I have to think doing something is better than doing nothing. My grandfather raised him with plenty of stories about the Soviets, which would be enough to make any kid a little nuts.

So he went out of his way to ensure that this place, this bunker, was full of everything you would need to survive whatever came. Food stores, a way to replenish the water supply through extra deep wells, exercise equipment, all sorts of entertainment, and just about anything else you could think of. He didn’t know if he would need to be down there for a year or ten, so he prepared.

I want you to know something; I did my best to save everyone I could. I invited the good ones in, and I invited the bad ones in.

No matter what, I learned that people end up as bad ones most of the time.

Except for Ian.

 

End log.

 

 

Begin log. Sarah Knotts. May 15, 2019.

 

You know I am making up these dates, right? I have no way of knowing what the real date is. This camera says May 15, 2019 on the little display, but how do I know it hasn’t been reset or rebooted? There aren’t any new patches to update the damn thing, that’s for sure.

They say that in a nuclear Armageddon the only survivors would be cockroaches. I think that statement is wrong and sells us short. The real answer is always cockroaches and humans will find a way to survive. Though I suppose, at this point, humans are effectively cockroaches.

So maybe the original statement works.

 

End log.

 

 

Begin log. Sarah Knotts. May 18, 2019.

 

I buried Ian six days ago.

One week. That’s how long it has been. One week. I don’t know how to go on.

My constant, my love. My…

I’m sorry, I can’t… not today.

 

End log.

 

 

Begin log. Sarah Knotts. May 19, 2019.

 

This must be cabin fever kicking in. Heh. I’m actually surprised that it took this long.

Ok.

Let’s try this again.

Deep breath.

I buried Ian eight days ago.

I don’t know what I’m doing here anymore.

This was not how it was supposed to be. My family had the shelter since back during the Cold War when everyone either had a bomb shelter or hoped those old videos about crouching under a desk were going to be enough.

They should have called those old things ‘Better get ready to kiss your ass goodbye!’

It was a lark, a goof. We used it as a teenaged clubhouse.

Back when I was nine one of the houses in the neighborhood went on sale and somehow, one of the teenagers managed to get in the locked house. And then he told a friend, who told their brother, who told me, and soon enough we had a fully functioning house to hang out in. It was the perfect place to just get away from everyone else.

You know, just how every little kid needs their own house to really reflect on the rigors of elementary school.

Anyway.

It made us think we were older than we really were. And yeah, the older guys hated that us youngsters where always there, but they couldn’t kick us out because then we would have told on them and poof the whole thing would have been gone.

Mutually assured destruction.

Of course, no matter what there is always some dumbass in the neighborhood. Some kid or pair of kids who think they know better or think they are cooler than they really are. Yeah, we had those kids in our neighborhood. We had those two idiots. You want to know what they did?

They were playing in the house without anyone there. No supervision whatsoever. These two first graders who decided they were above it all.

Yeah, mistake number one. Not like they murdered someone. Very forgivable.

But then the dumbasses made sure that whatever it was they were doing in the house occurred in full view of the front kitchen window. Suddenly every person out for a walk in the neighborhood could look in as they passed the For Sale house and see one the neighborhood kids in the window.

You can guess how that turned out. Locks were changed, windows sealed up, and the clubhouse became a distant memory.

But it was a fun two months.

That’s what the bomb shelter was supposed to be. I mean, sure we were teenagers and no one knew we were going to be down there… uhm… mixing it up.

We’ll I don’t want to get graphic about it. A lady never talks.

So yeah, that’s why we’re down here when the shit went down the first time. When things went sideways…

All five of us.

Wait. Stop.

It just occurred to me, every one of those horror movies begin with the five teenagers and then one by one they end up dying or getting killed or…

Having to kill one of their own.

Yeah, life can be funny. But mostly it has a really sick sense of humor.

 

End log.

 

 

Begin log. Sarah Knotts. May 20, 2019.

 

Jimmy and his mom arrived in those early days. This was after the people disappeared, of course. This was just the next thing.

We were too scared to venture out. Too scared about what the broadcasters were saying. Then one by one, they disappeared from our screens. But we had the internet to tell us about the chaos. And it told us more than we wanted to know. It told us about the fallout in Russia, that New York had sunk into the ocean, the fact that one of the missiles diverted to the North Pole… the heat from the bomb caused glaciers to melt. The ocean rose…

We’d sent out emails, to family, to friends, trying to let them know we were somewhere safe. I wanted to go get my dad, but he told me not to bother. Both he and Mom worked downtown, and the city had taken the worst of it. Still, he thought there were a couple of places where they’d be safe enough. Maybe even make it to us if things got any better.

So I stayed put.

But Jimmy and his mother came because of the emails. And it was good. Ian and him had lived across the street from each other since they were five, but I think his mom never liked Ian. And when you start to get that cabin fever after a couple of months. When the fear kicks in and every moment of every day is full of worry.

Well, that’s when those little whispers begin to get the best of you.

 

End log.

 

 

Begin log. Sarah Knotts. May 21, 2019.

 

It was Jimmy’s mom who let the new guy in. He’d begun pounding on the door and would not stop. She screamed at him to go away, and when he didn’t move she opened the hatch and let the bastard in.

Yeah, it only takes one idiot to ruin it for everyone else.

He wasn’t right in the head. The radiation or the solar winds or whatever it was that week swept across the nation and gotten its hooks into him. He’d turned like most people do when they have nothing left to live for. He’d become a creature even if he wasn’t actually infected with anything. Whatever it was, it was enough.

Somehow, Jimmy stepped in the way, got bit. Infected. The disease transmitted itself to him.

If it is any conciliation, and I’m not one hundred percent sure there is, he did it to save his mom.

Ian put them both down. Because even if Jimmy tried to save his mom, she still got the sickness too.

We burned the bodies in the incinerator, and then hoped that we weren’t infected too.

 

End log.

 

 

 

Begin log. Sarah Knotts. May 22, 2019.

 

Someone decided we needed to go out. I’m not naming names, but it was Rick.

Have I mentioned Rick up to this point? Sorry. Rick was the fifth member of our little group. The odd man out. The one who secretly hoped he could use the friend zone as his way in with Kelly or me if we broke up with Daniel or Ian.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved Rick. Just not in that way. He used to spend the night at my house. Heck, he spent more time at my house than he did at his own most days. Not that I blame him. His parents were real pieces of work. His dad was constantly on his case about college and his grades. Never mind he had the highest grades in the school twice over. I remember asking him how far ahead of the second place person he was, and he told me that he could have skipped his last semester of senior year, gotten zeroes in every class and still been our school’s valedictorian.

So, pretty smart.

But it can be a bit lonely in this place, as I am beginning to find out. And now I feel bad for Rick. At least we had someone to cuddle with at night. Someone who we loved was right there with us. That personal connection is a huge thing when you are not sure what tomorrow is going to end up bringing to you.

Cabin fever though, it’s a real thing. I was beginning to wonder if it was the last stage of the Earth trying to kill us.

Rick wanted to go out. To see if he could find any survivors. To see if anything of the old world still remained. Maybe it was the cabin fever. Maybe it was that he needed to know what happened outside our four walls. Mostly I think that he needed to either find someone for himself or die trying.

I begged him to stay put. We all told him that there was nothing left for any of us. That the world out there was the past and we just needed to deal. But he wasn’t listening anymore. He waited until we were asleep and left.

I…

God…

Sorry, I don’t mean to break down on you like this. I’m supposed to be giving an account, but I never realized how much I would miss him. It’s been three years since he walked out the door. I really do hope he found someone else out there. That he is with the love of his life doing all sorts of naughty things that you are supposed to do when the world ends.

That’s what I hope for him.

 

End log.

 

 

Begin log. Sarah Knotts. May 23, 2019.

 

Kelly and Daniel. I wanted to say a little bit about them, but I’m not entirely sure how to frame it. They were Ian and my friends.

Well our couple friends.

You know the kind that you can do everything together and not get bored. But you never are on your own with one of them. Ian called it playing two on two defense. That’s the only way it could work. Otherwise, it becomes one of them bitching about the other, and you’re stuck in the middle.

I mean, how many times can you tell me about some horrible slight Daniel has done to you and me telling you to break up with him and you not doing it has to happen before I stop hanging out with you altogether?

We had reached that point before the world went to shit. And after two years’ worth of it, the whole time Kelly wanted out of the relationship. I mean, you’re stuck with this guy you now hate. You could see it with the two of them after about six months. They no longer cuddled at night. Soon he was sleeping on one side of the bunker and her on the other.

I thought that might be the opening for Rick to make his move out of the friend zone, but it wasn’t. Thought Daniel might have killed him if he had tried, so I didn’t push it.

But when it was just the four of us… it got to be too much.

I wish I knew when it really turned. What was the last step that pushed them over the edge? Was it this idea of their not being anyone else out there for them? Was it Ian and me, still happy, not sharing in their misery?

I wish I knew. I might have been able to stop what had happened.

 

End log.

 

 

Begin log. Sarah Knotts. May 28, 2019.

 

I awoke to Kelly standing over Daniel with the knife in her hand. He was gurgling on his own blood, and she had the spray all over the front of her shirt. Her eyes were glazed over, like someone who couldn’t see anything anymore.

And that smile…

Her smile.

I sometimes see it when I dream.

Ian did his best to approach her. He talked to her in that calming voice he has. A voice that would say everything was going to be all right if only she would give him the knife.

For a second, maybe not even that long, I saw something in her eyes. The glaze melted away, and she saw the knife, and she saw Daniel, and the smile didn’t leave her face.

Madness.

I don’t blame Ian for what he did. She went at me with the knife, and he stopped her. He stopped her the only way he knew how.

When it was finished, we clutched each other, just the two of us in this place.

I don’t know what terrified me more… Kelly’s actions or Ian and I being there by ourselves.

 

End log.

 

 

Begin log. Sarah Knotts. May 29, 2019.

 

I’m at the end of things now.

The food has nearly run out. It was a good run. I can’t complain about that. Ian really did me right on that accord. Almost makes me…

No, I told myself that I would be strong about this. I’ve collected every spare bit of whatever I have around here. I don’t know if I’ll need it. Maybe the problem with being a pack rat is that even now, of all times, I can’t let the old shit go. My bags are packed. I’m ready to step outside, for whatever that is worth. I may not last five minutes out there. There’s actually no way to know what a person might encounter out there. It literally could be anything.

Anything.

That’s a difficult thing to prepare for. What was it last year? It all runs together these days. Plague I think. Some unknown horror left behind by the CDC or some terrorist organization?

It makes a girl wonder if maybe the Earth is trying to tell us something. Dad had an old stereo, which actually could play albums. Yes, even long after the days of cds and then mp3s he loved that thing. More than that, he’d go out and get these great comedy records.

Pryor, Murphy, and Carlin.

George Carlin had a whole routine about maybe the Earth invented AIDS in order to wipe the humans out. Now, I’m pretty sure he was joking with that one, being a comedian and all. Then again, when you have one extinction level event and you survive… maybe he was onto something. Maybe, just maybe, the world is tired of us and now wants to weed out the undeserving.

So what do you call it when you’ve survived five of them?

The air may be on fire out there. There could be an asteroid streaking towards us right now, and I wouldn’t know. I’d be stuck in this fucking box, staring at the empty shelves, dingy furniture mocking me from the corner, the entire world would incinerate, and you know what…

I’d probably survive that as well.

Only the strongest survive? I got news for you; I’m not all that strong.

Or maybe I don’t care about surviving anymore.

 

End log.

 

***

I Feel Fine appears in the Machina Obscurum Anthology and can be found here.

***

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

New Release – Tales from Vigilante City

Anthologies are a great smorgasbord of being able to get a wide breadth of stories that you might not have normally been exposed to. In addition, there may be an author or two whose story grabs the reader in a way that they want to seek other writings from them. For me, I just like a good short story. Something that can be consumed entirely in one sitting. Something that can ask a question or look at an event in a different way than a novel ever could. With novels, you have time. The writer can spin four or five different storylines and double that many characters over the course of three hundred pages. Short stories aren’t allowed those luxuries. You have to really focus in and cut through the noise.

I’m honored that my short story, “Anonymous”, has found a home in the Tales from Vigilante City Short Fiction Collection (which you can find here).

Vigilante City is the main city of the “gritty, street-level, superhero game set in the near future”, Survive This!! Vigilante City from Bloat Games. If it wasn’t apparent by the name, this is more on your Batman style of crime-fighter and less of the Green Lantern types (although the game allows you to tailor it to whatever style you want).

For my short story, I knew I wanted to submit something, but I didn’t have anything in the hopper that really fit into this genre. Weird that as much as I love comics, I tend not to write them in a prose format. And I was stumped with what to write. Was there a hero doing… something? Could I maybe write about a speedster? I love the Flash, but even that didn’t go anywhere.

Sometimes, though, you just need to let your subconscious mind work things out for you.

I’m not exactly sure why I started thinking less about the hero and more about the villains… but I do remember that I effectively wrote the story in the twenty-minute commute I had, literally speaking it out to an empty car in the hopes that I wouldn’t forget my idea before I could write it down. I wrote the first draft that night and finished it up only a couple of days later.

This is what I came up with: what if I wrote about a henchman instead of the big bad villain. What if this henchman has been doing this gig for long enough that he’s finally got that “one big score”? How would his story end?

Image by Allen_Henderson from Pixabay

***

“Anonymous” by John McGuire

“In Vigilante City, there are opportunities to be found whether you are on the right side of the law or the wrong side. However, the glitz and glamour of being the villain captured on the evening news isn’t all it is cracked up to be. And for one anonymous henchman, he has a plan to get his last score.”

***

In addition, I’m joined by some talented writers in the collection:

“I’m Not a Superhero” by Clare L. Deming

“BANG-BANG” by Egg Embry (hey, he writes for Tessera too!)

“The Icy Death of Dr. Furious” by Christopher Robin Negelein

“Marshwalk” by ‘Aerzyk’ Thomas Parent

“Midnight Ace and The Atomic Engine” by James M. Spahn

***

I just want to thank the guys and gals over at Bloat Games again. It’s very cool to get to play a bit in this kind of world! And remember, you can purchase it here!

***

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Last Day for Echo Effect at $0.99!

The Echo Effect is only $0.99 for one more day.

A quick reminder that the price of The Echo Effect will go up to $2.99 after midnight.

And for those who may be on the fence…

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

Until the White Light washed them away.

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

The lucky few.

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

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

Want to read a little more? Here’s a preview.

 

Interview with Wishful Thinking’s Jack Raines

A little while back I ran across a comic on Kickstarter that just spoke to me: Wishful Thinking. The story was about a ex-Genie who becomes a wish consultant. That Kickstarter went on to fund, and now Wishful Thinking is back with their second issue on Kickstarter.

Jack was kind enough to take a few minutes and let me pester him with questions.

At what point did you sit down and think “I want to be a comic writer?”?
When I was a senior in high school I finally got my license. It was during the same year I learned my small southern town had a comic shop! I hadn’t read a comic in years, at the time I was more interested in manga just cause it was more available online at the time. So when I stepped into my LCS for the first time I was greeted with a wealth of cape comics (superhero comics are my FAVORITE), most notably Mark Waid’s Daredevil, Scott Snyders Batman, and Matt Fractions Hawkeye. Their ability to weave imagery with narrative made it hard to put those books down. When I learned Scott Snyder would be in Charolette for HeroesCon I just had to go.
There I met so many creators both professional and independent that were more welcoming than I could believe. Everyone was so down to Earth and there to showcase/talk about what they loved. It was then I learned that anyone could be in this business, and that’s when I started practicing turning my story ideas into comic form.
I’m a big fan of all those comics, too! And Mark Waid’s run on The Flash is by far and away my favorite run on the character. Who inspires you? Or do you have a favorite writer/artist or creator?
Scott Snyder has been both my favorite creator and biggest inspiration. Everything connects in these wild stories he puts out in such a complete way, all while being a total class act with his readers!
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?
It’s hard, especially now that I’ve started working 3rd shift and going to school. My biggest key to success is writing down a list of things to do each day. I try to go for 4 things max, and plan my week accordingly. I have a white board next to my desk for this purpose. If it’s been written down I get a sense of satisfaction from crossing it out, and it keeps me from feeling overwhelmed. Doubt I could do what I do without a calendar of some sorts!
I do much the same thing with my to do tasks, but sadly the thing that probably is the hardest to figure out is promotion. It’s often difficult to get word out about independent comics. What do you do to market and promote your books? Anything work really well or really poorly?
Social media is tough for me. I’m moreso a lurker than anything else so it’s been a challenge getting myself out there. So far my biggest success social media-wise has been on Instagram, but even then it’s hard to fight against the algorithm to get the word out there. My mailing list has been the best and my most favorite way to connect with readers. It feels more personal which allows me to write more about what these projects mean to me as well as what I’m up to.
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?
Little of column A and a little of column B. Often my story can change depending on how the pages look. I like leaving character appearance to the artist’s discretion. I’ll write about their personality and demeanor, then it’ll be up to Trigo to handle the rest. When seeing how he frames each panel and designs these characters I find new avenues to take the story. So even if I am a few issues ahead I usually end up rewriting it by the time we get there.  The collaboration between my crew (Carlos, Ester, and Justin) makes writing fresh and exciting!

Wishful Thinking Issue 2, Page 1

I love the idea of Wishful Thinking! What inspired you to write Wishful Thinking?
Thank you! I was introduced to urban fantasy through The Dresden Files. It’s really fun to think of how fantasy creatures would interact with our society. I knew that I wanted my story to be under the same genre, but didn’t know the specifics.
I then began thinking about what I wanted to write about. What kind of feeling did I want to convey? During the time of Wishful Thinkings’ inception, I was around 23, working as a custodian, and not having a solid idea of how I wanted to tackle my goals. I didn’t have much of a grasp on myself either, so the thing I wanted to write about most was identity. It was something everyone struggles with, and I wanted to personify that conflict through comic form.
Around that time I caught wind of a 6-page story contest. The top 3 would get looked at by an editor from some indie publisher (it’s been too long I can’t remember!). I’m not entirely sure what I was looking at when I came up with this, but I remember thinking of how if a djinn was a human it’d be Jim. Why would a genie need a human name? Well, I guess if he wasn’t a genie anymore. What would he do if he wasn’t a genie? Probably the only thing he knows how to do, help with wishes. When I told my buddy this he gave me the name for Jim’s business, Wishful Thinking, and the rest was history.
What’s been the reaction to the book?
So far I’ve heard nothing but compliments!  This project has been in development for 3 years, and seeing that work pay off in the form of satisfied readers has been a blessing. It makes all the stress worth it lemme tell ya! This issue dives more into the fantasy side of things and is a bit of a bigger story than the first one. Very curious on how it’ll be received!
Are there themes and/or subjects you find yourself drawn to again and again in your work?
Definitely identity, as it’s still something I’m figuring out.  It’s a thing everyone must go through on their own, and can only be found with complete honesty of one’s self. I think Wishful Thinking and my webcomic, Spectre Protector (illustrated by Sarah Burgess) talk of different methods of searching for that identity.
You ran your first Kickstarter for issue #1 and funded. I’m interested in the idea that you weren’t using the Kickstarter to fund the comic but instead used it to “introduce” yourself to the greater comic community. Do you feel like you succeeded in that goal?
Yes, I believe it did a good job. It definitely exceeded my expectations for my first Kickstarter! I tried to play it as safe as possible so that I can just get used to running a campaign.
I intend to carry that energy through future Kickstarters. In my opinion, it’s only to fair to fund as much of the book myself before going to Kickstarter. I want you to know this is a story I believe is worth telling! It also helps speed up the fulfillment process which is a plus.

Wishful Thinking Issue 2, Page 2

I’ve found that the difference between having the book done or still waiting on the book to finish after the Kickstarter can be stressful, so I’m going to try and have any future issues done before then. Now that you’ve just launched your second issue on Kickstarter, what have you learned about the process of Kickstarter? Something that afterward you “wished” you knew?
The biggest thing I learned was the process of shipping these books out. I haven’t heard any complaints about damages or packages that never showed up so I’m glad all was well on that front. It was pretty nerve-wracking, but now that I’ve done it once I feel more comfortable with all that’s involved in shipping, and now that I know all the steps I can better plan out how to go about them without any need for stressful crunch time.
What’s the overall plan with Wishful Thinking? Do you have an overall target for the number of issues?
I’m shooting for 7 issues, each one being roughly 32-36 pages long. I have other stories to tell in this world, and if it continues to gain support I wouldn’t mind diving into that. For now though 7 issues is the plan!
Comics is an amazing collaborative medium. Tell me a little about working with Carlos Trigo, the artist on Wishful Thinking.
He’s been amazing throughout the whole process! I tend to give my artists a lot of space in the design department (the only character I’ve been picky on is Jim), and he’s given new light to each character he touches. For instance, the bank teller in this story doesn’t have a name. I just refer to her as Teller given that she’s just a side character. Actually, she used to be a he until Carlos suggested otherwise. After seeing what he’s done with the teller and how her personality comes alive in the panels I was inspired to write her a bigger role in the next issue! His experience has helped greatly when it came to refining how I structure my panels. I feel with each new issue I grow a bit more as a writer thanks to his, Ester, and Justins collaborative efforts.
If you could go back in time ten years, what advice might you have for your younger self? Something you wish you knew?
Honestly, I don’t have anything to tell 16-year-old Jack. Maybe ask if we can switch places? All he had to do was play video games and go to school. No bills no nothin…lucky dog.
Anything else that you’d like people to know about you (Hobbies? Passions? Favorite TV Show)?
Unfortunately, I don’t have much time for them now, but I do really love fighting games. That community has the same vibe as comics. I ran an online tournament with a friend called Bapmasters and met so many cool people! That lead me to go to Chicago to see a tournament live, it was an amazing experience. I’m not too good at them (yet) but I love figuring them out.
Other than that I’m into the gym and hiking. Both are great ways to clear my head. I would recommend either of them to anyone going through a tough time right now. I promise getting your body moving will provide some excellent mental results! Especially when you see physical improvements.
Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. Where’s the best place to find out more about Wishful Thinking and maybe any other projects you have in the pipeline?
The best place would be my email list! During campaign times I try to post once a week. Non-campaign times every other week. That’s if you want to see progress on my work. If you just want to chat with me feel free to find me on twitter @mysticmike8 or instagram @zach_brains.
I have a webcomic that’s free to read titled Spectre Protector. It’s about a ghost named Vera accidentally becoming the superpowers to a high schooler named Liam. Link is below!
Jack Raines is a comic book writer based in Greenville SC. When he’s not writing stories such as Wishful Thinking or Spectre Protector, you can find him writing mile-long notes trying to understand networking.
***
Thanks again, Jack! You can check out Jack Raines latest Kickstarter for Wishful Thinking #2 right here!

Variant Cover by artists Ted Brandt (@ten_bandits) and Ro Stein(RoStein404)

***
Also, just a reminder that my newest book, The Echo Effect is newly released and only $0.99 for the first week! Check it out here!
***

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

New Release: The Echo Effect

The Echo Effect is released today! And for this release week, it is only $0.99!

 

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

Until the White Light washed them away.

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

The lucky few.

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

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

Want to read a little more? Here’s a preview.

 

 

***

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Parallels…

I was thinking about what I’m really doing when I’m writing a story. Obviously I’m putting pieces of a larger narrative together in what will hopefully be not only coherent, but also readable. But really I’m trying to do something else with the stories… I’m trying to answer a question for myself.

Why am I here?

What is my purpose?

What if I could change a decision I made long ago?

If I knew something terrible was going to happen, would I try to stop it… even if that meant putting myself through pain and heartache?

How much free will do we really have?

The big questions, the ones that philosophers have been asking in a much better fashion than I could ever try to do. They are trying to form an answer and so am I. My hope is that as I proceed I manage to gain those moments of discovery about the story but also about myself.

***

What if?

We all play this game in some way or another. We are caught in an endless thought experiment of what would happen if I had handled a situation differently. What if I had asked that person out? What if I’d gone to college in a different state? What if my parents never divorced? What if I never moved? Switched jobs? Fought for a relationship?

What type of person would I be if some of those things changed? Are we determined by our environment or are we predestined to act a certain way? What about the persons whose lives were are impacting? How do their lives change without us in them?

Image by John Hain from Pixabay

***

I think from the very first time I watched Groundhog Day, I was fascinated by a movie where so many of my questions were trying to be answered by the film. Where by the end of the film, Bill Murray has changed how he perceives the world and his place within it. He’s made himself a better version of what he was.

When I watched something like Mr. Destiny (look it up), we get to see a parallel world where Jim Belousi hit the big home run and his life changed completely.

He changed completely.  And not for the better. He learns that his old life is just fine for him.

When I watch It’s a Wonderful Life, we live Jimmy Stewart’s pain and joy only to see his life spiral out of control because of his good heart. As much as anything, the world around him is less for his absence.

***

Do you ever wake up to go about your day and feel something is off? It’s never anything you can put your finger on – something is just different. Your house, your car, the world?

Yourself?

Have your friends ever commented about an event as if you were there (when you clearly were not)? And then get mad at you when you say as much? Even going so far as to recruit others to inform you that you had indeed been there, whether you remember it or not.

<And since I don’t drink, that can’t be my excuse.>

Placed your keys in one place only to find them in another place later that day?

What if everyone else was wrong? What if you had fallen, passed through the fabric between parallel worlds? Could that happen?

What is the difference between some level of madness and a truth that is more insane than fiction?

***

What happens if you could relive your life?

What happens when the people you love no longer know who you are?

Who are you when you have memories of so many other versions of yourself?

I’ll be releasing The Echo Effect on September 30, 2020. It’s my attempt to answer that question of What If. It’s my attempt to see if things are really better in a different life. It’s my attempt to try and understand my own effect on the people around me.

I’m hoping you’ll join me on the ride.

***

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

The Dark That Follows on Sale for $0.99

In celebration of my upcoming novel release, I thought it was probably past time for a sale on my very first novel: The Dark That Follows. So for a limited time (roughly a week), the price will be only $0.99 over at Amazon. If you’ve never read it before, now’s your chance. And if you have read it and liked it, maybe mention it to a friend so that they can get a copy while it is on sale.

***

A disgraced former cop who possesses the ability to see the future…
A college student whose life has become entangled in black magic…
A girlfriend who is no longer sure who to trust…
And a vision of the future, which shows only the darkness of the void…

With a touch, Jason Mills’ mind is flooded with images of what may come. Am I going to fall in love… am I going to be rich… am I going to get that promotion…

Until the reading that shows him absolute nothingness.

Drawn into a web of secret societies, Black Masses, and beings of immense power, Jason races to determine the truth behind his visions in order to save the future from being wiped out completely.

***

To purchase the ebook for $0.99 beginning at noon today (Sept. 16, 2020), just go to this link.

And thank you for checking out the book.

 

***

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Free Short Story – Piece By Piece

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

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

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

 

PIECE-BY-PIECE-COVER

 

***

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Where To Begin and Where To End

Over this past week, I was with family on our annual beach trip. It’s a great time for everyone to get together, see the nephews, and just enjoy each other’s company around the pool or beach or both. During the course of the trip, my dad and I talked about various things, everything from life to politics to religion to movies to comics and anything in-between. It was in those conversations that we came to talk about movies over the last few years that really resonated with us. He’s a big sci-fi guy and much of my love for the genre comes directly from him. One of the movies we talked about I thought was interesting from a writer’s point of view:

Passengers (2016)

If you missed it (spoilers to follow), it tells the story of Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) after he finds himself awakened from a hibernation sleep on board a colony ship about 90 years too soon. Much of the first part of the movie is about how he deals with being completely isolated (there’s no way to get back to sleep). After more than a year alone, he decides to wake someone else up, Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence). The movie proceeds as a love story (and according to wiki it is an “American science fiction romance”) where they fall in love… and yet we know eventually this big lie will drive them apart once Aurora finds out Jim woke her up (as opposed to the “malfunction” he leads her to believe).

When I watched it a couple of years ago, I enjoyed it, but it was also one of those movies that felt like it could use something else to help push it from a decent movie to a good or maybe even great movie. I remembered reading something in a blog or a post or something where the person reviewing the film posited one change:

What if we started with Aurora’s awakening instead?

You suddenly get a very different movie. One that might be a bit more on the thriller… or possibly even the horror side of things. You see, when you are with Jim from the beginning, he’s our POV. We understand his growing loneliness, so when he makes that decision to wake Aurora up, while we know it is wrong, we get it.

But if she’s our POV, now he’s this weird guy who may or may not be on the up and up. It lends a bit of creepiness to the movie.

Check out this Youtube video for more detail on this idea/theory.

Because as much as I would like to see that version of the movie, the idea alone really got me thinking about beginnings and stories. It’s potentially a very strange thing to rearrange a story and completely change it’s meaning… or is it? Techniques like Flashbacks or Flashforwards or limiting our POV to one character for a story are just some of the ways that an author can try and get the reader to feel a certain way. Maybe they want you to be sympathetic to a character, so they show you bits and pieces of their history so you are drawn to them. But just as easily they could eliminate those very things and suddenly we have 180 degrees of difference in our opinions.

Think about another Chris Pratt movie, Guardians of the Galaxy. The very beginning of that movie shows Peter Quill as a young boy with a mother who is dying of cancer. It shows us how important she is to him, true, but it also helps to ground us with the character. Because most of the early part of the movie, he is a fairly arrogant d-bag. Without that first scene, we might not like him as much because we wouldn’t know why he was the way he was (can’t let people in because they’ll die on you).

Context is key.

This makes me think about how I structure my own work too. In something like Hollow Empire, I began Vadim’s story with comedy. I wanted to convey that this is someone who didn’t want to take things seriously. He is very fly by the seat of his pants type of character. But I also knew that overall his story in Season One was not going to be a pleasant one and that the humor early on would hopefully help the reader sympathize with him as things get worse and worse.

And even in my upcoming book, The Echo Effect, I have an opening section of the story that accomplishes a couple of things for me. One, it sets up my main character, but it also sets up the world that he’s living in (and it also introduces a secondary character that is extremely important to the overall story). When those things change for him, it needs to be jarring for the reader because it is jarring for the character. And while I could have not included this first section and instead jumped to the “something’s gone wrong”, I think it is stronger for the reader to be able to see that indeed, “something is wrong”.

Hopefully, when people read it, they will feel the same way!

***

To read the first chapter of The Echo Effect, sign up for John’s Mailing list.

***

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

The Push

Sometimes we need that little something extra to get us through the hard times. For so many of us that’s what this year has been. It is both the slowest year I’ve ever been through and weirdly at other times it has gone by in a flash.

Now we’re into the back half, and almost to the back third. All those things each and every one of us said we were going to get done over the course of this year way back in January… we’ll, we’re running out of time. And in these last 4 months we can’t feel like we have to do every single thing on the list. That’s probably not the way to handle things. Aside from being impossible to fit in 12 months into 4, we have to allow for the craziness to be there still.

I’m going to release a book in a few weeks… one that the first draft was done almost 6 years ago. I have taken multiple passes on it. It’s the second solo thing I,be written and while I’m very happy to put it out into the world there is something that is strange about releasing anything.

there is a fear that no one will like it.

Hence the Push.

I was going to release this back in April… that was The plan. Then the world went nuts and now I have to have a new plan. And that’s good. I have to keep moving forward. And it is time for people to see this latest thing.

Sometimes we need to push and sometimes we get pushed… but we have to strive to improve and to move on with what is important to us.
At least, that’s what I believe.

 

So I get to be excited and scared and everything else. And maybe that won’t always be the case but for now it is.

In the coming weeks, I’ll have stories about writing the book, things I learned, and just general thoughts on everything. I’m looking forward to sharing all of that with you.

***

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Comics Today

Almost a year ago I wrote a post about how I was a part of the problem when it came to potential problems in the comic industry. I listed a myriad of ways that I consume my comics, but what it boiled down to was that the act of buying single issues of 30 comics a month has long gone the way of the dodo for me. -(see this blog post for more on that I’m the Problem).

In light of the recent layoffs at DC Comics (and across the greater businesses that own them), so many people want to point out the problems with the industry right now. They are ready to pin the problem on one or two reasons… which is really simplistic when you think about it. In almost any other company, when there are layoffs, it typically is due to many things. In fact, many times it might even have less to do with what is happening in the here and now and go back to something that was set into motion months (or years) previous.

The thing is, I don’t have any great insight either… not really. I’ve done a handful of independent comics. I know a couple of people who have done work for Marvel and DC. At the end of the day, I’m a reader and consumer of the product. And just like last year when the realization hit me that I might be (a part of) the problem, someone else posted something that made me start thinking about the current titles I get month in and month out.

The question was simple – if Marvel and DC had to reboot everything and you had very little information on what was going on with the relaunch aside from the titles, what comics are you almost certainly still going to read.

It made me think for a minute as there are comics over the years that I have loved in the moment, or maybe I collected for 200 issues, or maybe the title just keeps getting canceled on me every so often, but I still like to support it. There are those comics I like a lot, but maybe don’t read anymore because the creative team changed at some point and my interest waned. There are certain spots where a comic got relaunched and I used that as my jumping-off point.

What comics would I stick by no matter what in this weird/strange dystopian world?

Avengers

This is the comic for me. It was my first favorite comic beating out Spider-Man and Transformers. I’ve always collected it save for about six months right after I started college when I trimmed my comic buying down to one singular comic during that time (more on that in a minute). Avengers is the comic that I currently have a full run from issue 190 until today (500+ issues there) and I have my oldest comic of my collection – Avengers #9

Good storylines or bad ones, I’m all-in with Avengers.

The Flash

This is my DC title. While my collection doesn’t go back as far as my Avengers one, I also have a complete run of the Wally West Flash. If you watched Justice League Animated Series, he was your Flash. The idea that he is a guy who “just” runs fast always has cracked me up. He is so much more than that. He is the heartbeat of the DC Universe in my mind. He has the second-best rogues gallery of anyone in that universe (Batman gets the automatic nod for first place). The stories told about him are about Hope and love and family which sometimes is hard to get from comic books. Even now with Barry Allen having returned to the prime Flash role, I love the book.

It also doesn’t hurt that two of my favorite writers, Mark Waid and Geoff Johns have epic runs on the book.

The New Warriors

This would be with the caveat that it would have to be some version of the original team. This was a 90s comic through and through and yet I loved these mismatched characters. You might even argue that the one character with the most name recognition outside of comics, Firestar, was someone, who up till that point, had been underused and underdeveloped. The whole teenagers banding together to prove something to the world and to themselves was excellent.

This was the one comic that I never stopped buying. It’s also the one comic that after that initial 75 issue run has been brought back multiple times to little fanfare. I’m not sure if it just doesn’t have that same magic or if it was a product of its time and that doesn’t work anymore or what.

 

Those three are my absolutes, but there are also that next level of comics that I would think long and hard about – The Fantastic Four, Green Lantern, Legion of the Super-Heroes, Aquaman, and Guardians of the Galaxy.

So maybe there is hope for me and the industry at large. It’s got problems, but that doesn’t mean it’s beyond repair. We just have to remember why we fell in love with it in the first place.

 

***

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com