You Haven’t Seen It? – The Godfather

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

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

Pre-Movie

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

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

Mid-Movie

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

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

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Post-Movie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

All The Free Comics You Could Want!

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

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

2000 AD

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

Archie Comics

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

Image Comics

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

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

Kenzer and Company

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

Top Cow

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

Valiant Comics

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

Vault Comics

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

 

From the Indie Ranks

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

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

Jacob Edgar also has a thread going here.

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

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

 

***

Finally, a bit of self-promotion:

The Crossing Kickstarter is LIVE

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

***

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

In A World

The Crossing Kickstarter is LIVE

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

***

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

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

***

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

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

Coherence

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

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

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

Maybe.

Sliding Doors

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

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

Exiles

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

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

***

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

Take care of yourselves!

***

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Behind the Comic – The Crossing

The Crossing Kickstarter is LIVE

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

***

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

And I love the idea of multiple worlds.

To my very core.

***

The Crossing Issue #1

Publisher – 133art

Writer – Robert Jeffrey II & John McGuire

Artist (Cover & Interiors) – Sean Hill

Colorist – Sunil Ghagre

Letter – Loris Ravina

Variant Cover Artist – Matteo Illuminati

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

***

The Pitch:

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

 

The Story:

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

Variant Cover by Matteo Illuminati (colors still to come)

John’s Thoughts:

How far would you go?

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

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

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

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

Hang on… it’s going to be intense.

 

The Rewards:

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

 

The Verdict:

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

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

 

***

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

***

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Announcement – The Crossing #1 Kickstarter is Live

 

The Crossing Kickstarter is LIVE

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

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

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

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

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

Art by Sean Hill, Colors by Sunil Ghagre

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

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

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

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

 

Art by Sean Hill, Colors by Sunil Ghagre

 

***

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

***

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

You Haven’t Seen It? – The Big Lebowski

 

 

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

Until now.

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

Pre-Movie

So what do we know about this movie?

I really don’t know anything.

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

That seems right.

I press play.

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

 

1/2 way through the movie

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

Flash forward about 2 weeks actually…

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

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

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

John – Does he have a mustache in Road House?

Courtney – (Thinks) I don’t know.

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

So crisis averted.

Back to the movie.

Which we actually finish in this session.

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

Takeaways

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

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

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

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

Well, you were kind of nodding off.

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

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

Yeah, me too.

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

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

***

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

***

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Kickstart the Comic – The Hated #1

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

And the Hated has embraced that.

***

The Hated #1

Writer/Publisher – David F. Walker

Artist – Sean Damien Hill

Colorist – Mx. Struble

Letterer/Designer – Becca Carey

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

***

The Pitch:

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

 

The Story:

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

 

John’s Thoughts:

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

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

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

The Rewards:

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

 

The Verdict:

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

***

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

 

 

 

A Love For Every Day – 4

 

Three years ago, I created a homemade book for my wife with all these quotes about Love from our favorite TV Shows and movies and books and then I added to it great quotes about love from history or just great quotes about love from anyone. The past two years, I’ve shared a few from the book around the holidays, but it occurred to me this week might be fitting as well considering Valentine’s Day is this Friday.

Part 1 is here.

Part 2 is here.

Part 3 is here.

 

January 11

 

February 3

 

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

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

Chasing Amy

 

March 5

 

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

Anonymous

April 3

 

Did I say that I need you?

Did I say that I want you?

Oh, if I didn’t I’m a fool you see

No one knows this more than me.

Pearl Jam, Just Breathe

May 10

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

Audrey Hepburn

 

June 4

 

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

The Wonder Years

July 3

 

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

Back to the Future

 

August 9

 

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

Anna Kendrick

September 4

 

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

Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games

 

October 29

You’re my favorite, favorite thing

Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World

November 16

December 30

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

Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

 

***

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

***

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Kickstart the Comic – Make 100: Three-Legged Tales

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

And stories about animals.

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

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

 

***

Make 100: Three-Legged Tales

Creator/Writer/Artist -Haley Boros

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

***

The Pitch:

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

The Story:

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

 

John’s Thoughts:

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

The Talent!

The Rewards:

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

 

The Verdict:

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

***

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

***

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

From A to Z – Resolutions

Image by Jeff Jacobs from Pixabay

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

YOU Season 2 – A Review

I did a review about season 1 here.

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

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

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

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

And I was pulling for him the entire time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

YOU – Season 2 – Love and Family…

***

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Top Eleven Albums – Part 2

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

 

 

The Police – Message in a Box

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

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

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

Deeper cuts for me.

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

 

Nirvana – Nevermind

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

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

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

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

Hello?

Hello?

Hello?

And I would respond with:

How low?

Pantera – Far Beyond Driven

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

This album sealed that for me.

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

Alice in Chains – Dirt

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

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

Deftones – Around the Fur

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

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

Pearl Jam – Ten

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

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

And then I played it again.

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

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

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

***

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

Top Eleven Albums – Part 1

Image by annca from Pixabay

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

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

I love that idea.

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

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

Far – Water and Solutions

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

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

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

!0 Years – The Autumn Effect

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

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

The Misfits – Collection 1

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

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

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

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

Taproot – Blue Sky Research

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

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

Shock Lobo – My Wicked Soul

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

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

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

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

***

My last 6 will come next week!

***

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Six Years In

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

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

You Haven’t Seen It? – Neverending Story

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

 

Concert Review: 10 Years

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

Black Mirror, Season 5 Review

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

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

 

The Darkest Timeline?

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

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

I’m the Problem

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

 

All the Free Short Stories!

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

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

Behind the Comic – Last Stand 2

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

Hollow Empire – Free Chapter – Vadim

Chapter Preview – The Dark That Follows

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

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

***

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

A Love For Every Day – 3

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

Part 1 is here.

Part 2 is here.

 

January 2

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

F Scott Fitzgerald

February 4

March 12

 

You’re my favorite reason to lose sleep.

Anonymous

April 1

 

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

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

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

How I Met Your Mother

May 9

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

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

“Yes. I want to ruin you.”

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

Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell To Arms

June 1

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

Sarah Dessen, The Truth About Forever

July 4

August 8

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

Winston Churchill

September 21

There is no shame in loving.

George R. R. Martin, A Feast For Crows

October 9

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

John Lennon

 

November 12

I just love to see you smile

So put it up on your face

Hallelujah

And these days will all go by

Anything I can do to you to help you through it

I just love to see you smile

Jonah Matranga, Smile

December 17

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

Anonymous

***

Hope you have some great holidays with those you love.

***

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

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

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

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

Part 1 can be found here.

***

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

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

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

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

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

“You ready?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No choice, indeed. There never was.

***

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

“Help me grab him,” Lukas ordered.

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

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

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

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

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

“Lukas!”

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

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

This is where I’m going to die.

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

So why can’t I see the other side?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Go!”

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Kickstart the Comic – Wishful Thinking Issue #1

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

That was certainly not the case tonight.

***

Wishful Thinking #1

Creator/Writer – Jack Raines

Artist -Carlos Trigo

Colorist – Ester Salguero

Letterer – Letter Squids

 

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

***

The Pitch:

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

 

The Story:

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

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

 

John’s Thoughts:

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

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

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

 

 

 

The Rewards:

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

 

The Verdict:

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

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

***

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

***

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

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

 

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

 

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image by Stefan Keller from Pixabay

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

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

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

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

“I suppose. Well, I-”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Book?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What? What shouldn’t you tell me?”

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

“All over,” Isaac said.

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

“Mayday! Mayday!”

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

Lukas touched the box. “Where are you?”

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

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

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

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

 

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

“By the Crown,” Lukas muttered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

Check out Part 2 next week.

***

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Building A New World

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

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

***

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

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

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

Yeah, about that…

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

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

And I don’t think I’m alone in that.

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

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

***

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

Maybe it is time to trust yourself?

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

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

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

***

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

The Darkest Timeline?

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

And then there are sports.

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

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

Right.

Right?

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

You’re living in the Darkest Timeline.

***

1991

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

The Twins win in extra innings.

1996

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

In steps Jim Lehritz…

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

1997

Game 5 of the NLCS.

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

1991 to 2005

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

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

2011

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

2013

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

2019

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

***

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

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

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

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

(Plus, the book is very nice!)

 

***

Mine to Avenge: Book of Layla #1-3

Creator/Writer – Robert Jeffrey II

Artist -Matteo Illuminati

Colorist/Letterer – Loris Ravina

 

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

***

The Pitch:

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

 

The Story:

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

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

 

John’s Thoughts:

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

If you like monsters and dark powers…

If you like being the chosen one…

Then maybe this book if for you.

The Rewards:

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

 

The Verdict:

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

***

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

***

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Lucifer – An In-Progress Review

I broke my wife.

When the show first came on, I watched it because I love shows which feature an interesting version of the Devil. I don’t need the pure horror version. I want a version that has a particular viewpoint or agenda… one that makes some level of sense within the world they exist. Maybe that means they are true and pure evil or maybe it means they have a job to do whether they like it or not.

Which brings us to Lucifer. I watched it right away and occasionally Courtney would wander into the room, watch half an episode and say “I think I’d like this show, but…” This continued for about a season and a half before I got too far behind on Lucifer and then they canceled the show – so no reason to catch up, right?

Still, weird things happen for shows these days. Sometimes they get to have a second life and when Netflix is calling, you go ahead and answer.

But now the show becomes this thing that I’ll eventually catch up on. I mean, there are a ton of shows I’d like to be watching, but I also have to keep my cats in the manner they’ve grown accustomed. And that’s where I left the show, in the limbo of wanting to see it but not having enough time.

Yet, somewhere along the way, my wife decided she needed a new show to watch. And the notification on Netflix mentioning the fifth season popped up. And soon she was binging like no one’s business. 4 seasons were done before I really knew what she was doing. And now she is after me to catch up. So now I must put other shows on the back-burner so that I’m caught up before the next season pops up on Netflix.

Rewatching season 2 (and some episodes in Season 1) reminded me how well the show was put together. The case of the week formula is nothing new, but the underlining plot lines of the seasons have enough of the mythology to keep you guessing about where exactly they are going to end up. About the time you think “we haven’t seen this thing” is about the time they push that storyline to the forefront.  With each episode, they build the secondary characters up a little more so that you not only understand their value to the show but also are pulling for them to continue to grow their own story-lines. When we get the odd pairings and see characters interact in ways we haven’t seen before… that’s stuff I really like to see.

And of course, there is the lead player himself. This version who has left his post in Hell for the sunlit skies of Los Angeles… he sees manipulations of his father behind everything. He only wants to be his own man, make decisions for himself, and yet he feels foiled each and every time (whether it is true or not). The idea that he is assisting the police because he is all about punishing the guilty – does that truly make him evil or not? What value does he have to his partner? To the people around him? And what value do they have to him?

I’m beginning the 3rd season, well into episodes that I’ve never seen before. And where last season had the ongoing storyline with his Mother (yes, that’s right) which wasn’t overly dark or sinister; this season has a bad guy with the name of Mr. Sinner. Someone who seems to have it out for our resident Devil.

***

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Retro Post – Hitchhikers

We started this blog thing about 6 years ago now, and I was thinking there were probably a handful of posts from those early days that might be worth another post. This will go down as possibly the single dumbest thing I’ve ever done. But it is certainly appropriate for Halloween.

I originally entitled this “I should have paid more attention to C. Thomas Howell”… if you’ve ever seen the Hitcher, you’ll understand.

***

The year was either 1997 or 1998. Now a Junior in college, I had driven up to the Georgia Tech Student Center to pick up my mail and was on my way back to my car (and then my dorm room) when I heard a woman’s voice call out to me from the dark Atlanta summer night.

“Excuse me, sir? I was wondering if I could ask a favor of you?”

I turned around and saw an older woman, maybe late forties, but most likely in her early fifties. Regardless of her actual age, she was someone who had that look where life had never really cut her a true break. Through cigarettes and alcohol, she might be able to numb the pain of existence, but she was destined to be one who, from cradle to grave, would work until her fingers became little more than nubs. Stick thin, her leathery flesh hung off her bones.

I felt sad for her immediately.

“Can I help you with something?”

She moved a little closer to me and nodded, fully emerging into the parking lot’s light. “I hope so. You see, I’m supposed to go and get my younger son from the baby sitter. And my older son was supposed to give me a ride, but he’s not in his dorm room. I can’t seem to get a hold of him.” She glanced down at the watch on her wrist. “And the sitter is done at nine and it’s already eight-thirty.”

I didn’t immediately respond, even though I could tell where this was going. When you live in downtown Atlanta, you get used to people coming up and asking you for spare change or various other favors. In my first year living downtown, I probably (read: definitely) ended up giving too much money to the random homeless who crossed my path. But that bit of humanity had been stamped out by the bank account of a college student living a few years on his own.

I braced myself for the question.

“She’s only a couple of miles down the road. If you could give me a lift,  I’d be forever grateful.”

Now my mind and mouth normally do things in agreement. Mostly the mouth waits until the brain has finished its various calculations or what-have-you and then when it gets the proper instructions it spits out the correct sequence of words.

Not this time.

“Uh, yea, I guess I could do that.”

Immediately my brain rebelled. Why had I said that? I don’t want to give her a ride. What the hell am I thinking?

Her face lit up, and I was suddenly glad that I had said yes. This would be my good deed for the year. Heck, for the century possibly.

“I’m right over here.”

As I moved over towards my 1990 red Pontiac Sunbird, I didn’t notice her wave to another person. Another beaten down by life person, but male. Same tanned leathery skin… in his late forties, early fifties as well. He wasn’t rail thin like his wife, but there was only the slightest beginning of a beer belly hiding under his shirt.

“This young man is  going to take us to the sitter’s.”

Now this is the point I should have said something like “no” or even “hey I’ve got something else I need to get to that I just remembered”, because now the numbers were not in my favor. With just her in the car she’d be in the passenger seat beside me. I’m 6’5″ 275 lbs and all of 21-22 years old. I could take on the world with the side benefit that being that size, no one typically bothered me in the first place.

Yet, with him along for the ride that meant someone would be in the back seat.

Behind me.

Where I couldn’t see what he was doing. Not a good idea.

I think my brain was on strike that night because it only barely fazed me. My southern hospitality was going to get me killed. And there is even a saying for a situation like this. Don’t pick up hitchhikers. I mean that is the number one thing right up there with “Don’t take candy from strangers.”

What is wrong with me? My parents taught me better than this!

Sure enough she moved into the front passenger seat, and he sat in the back, straddling the middle so that I could see him in the rear view. But not really see what he was doing back there. I turned out onto North Avenue going West. My eyes darted from her to my rearview mirror to see him and then back to her. I barely remember the road, driving on instinct.

urban-legend-killer-backseat

“So, where is it I’m taking you?”

The woman answered quickly. “It’s only a couple of miles up the road.”

“Actually, we don’t need to go to the sitter’s. She’s taking the baby back to the house.” The smoker voice from the back jarred  me to the core. What the hell? Now I’m taking them home?

“Oh, then just continue on North.”

Again, I should have found a way to get them out of the car. But I was stuck taking them home. Somewhere my screams wouldn’t be heard by anyone.

I’ve been in three fights in my entire life. Two of them were won pretty quickly. The other was a losing battle, one of the few times where the other kid had been a little older and a little stronger. Mostly I observed what my grandfather had always told me: I better not ever start a fight, but I damn well better finish one that someone else started.

Those thoughts drifted into my mind while I tried to determine my best course of action. If they had a knife or something similar I might be able to put a hurt on one or both of them… if she had the blade. If he had the weapon, then I was going to need something of my own. But what else was there? A passing car’s lights illuminated the interior of the car and my eyes flashed to the keys dangling from the ignition. Rough edges of a weapon. It wasn’t much, but it might be better than naked fists.

Still I tried to think things through. I figured as long as I don’t do anything to set them off, or show that I know I am in trouble, it has to be in their best interest to wait until I get them to wherever their true destination was. Otherwise they might risk the chance that I drive the car off the road and try something now.

They made idle chat with me. A decade later, I couldn’t tell you what we talked about. I’m pretty sure that the most that escaped my lips was Yes, No, or I don’t know. I was too busy putting that math side of my brain to work trying to analyze the angles of this situation I’d gotten myself into. Plus it was hard to hear what either of them were saying due to my heart echoing throughout my body.

We drove and drove and drove, more and more minutes piling up on the odometer. Now I’ve taken North Avenue east many times on my journeys to hang out with friends, but I had never gone this far west on the road. Everything had long since become unfamiliar and I kept waiting for them to say something, to have me turn off, but more time passed and nothing. I had no idea how far we needed to go before I got them “home”, but I kept on, sure that terrible things awaited me.

Finally, at some point we turned off North and then worked our way onto some of the more back roads.

For those unfamiliar with the layout of Atlanta, if you are in downtown and you drive more than about 20 minutes in any direction you will run into an interstate. Worst case you’ll hit the perimeter I-285. This is a road that loops around the city, encircling it.

Base Map 285

Yet, we had driven far enough and still, I didn’t see a sign for the highway, nothing. Somehow I was in the backwoods of Georgia while still being in the city. It was as if they had managed to take me to a part of town where street lights were only a suggestion and not required. Long stretches went by with only my Sunbird’s headlights to show that the world outside the car even still existed. And I was driving these two random people up these roads I didn’t know existed.  And these roads were the type where I don’t even know how there was nothing on them. Very few houses. No restaurants or gas stations. It was like I’d crossed over into the Twilight Zone. Nothing made sense in my head. My heart pounded in my chest, threatening to explode.

dark road

What was I supposed to do? Call their bluff? Point out, ever so nicely, that I had only agreed to take one of them “a couple of miles” to their younger son?

I spotted a small cluster of lights in the distance. As we got closer I could see it was a convenience store, and then the night took a turn.

“Do you think we could stop up here? I need to get some cigarettes.” The way the man said the words and the paranoia in my brain combined to make me wonder whether it was a question or an order. So I pulled over.

“Would you like anything? A drink or something?”

Yeah, that’s what I’m going to do, let you get me a drink and somehow put a drug into it and then I’m missing a kidney or I’m dead or something.

I locked eyes with him in the rearview mirror. “No, thank you.”

The man exited the car, and I held my breath that the woman would follow. I slid my hand very casually so that it was resting on the gear shift.

They both get out of the car and I’m gunning it.

She didn’t budge. “Hey honey, get me a pack of smokes too while you’re in there.”

They were just playing with me now. I know it.

He returned a few minutes later and I wondered if the old guy had gone in and robbed the store (sometimes I still wonder this). They might already be ready to kill and eat me, but there was no telling how far they might go.

Hmm.

We journeyed for a bit longer. Again, I would say the exact amount, but I lost track. I think I’d been gone from Georgia Tech about 40 minutes by this point.

They both pointed out a side road to turn down… it was dirt. “Ours is the one on the end.”

Of course, it is. Where else would you live but off a dirt road within the Atlanta city limits.

I stared out into the darkness, but couldn’t really find the beginnings of a structure to know where I might be going or for how far. My car’s shocks protested the potholes and each bump caused my two passengers to shift in their seats. We began to climb a fairly steep hill, and when we finally came over the crest I caught site of their double-wide home.

This thing might have been nice looking once upon a time, but now, through either the elements or lack of caring about what the shit-hole looked like, it could only remind me of something that should be condemned. Various bits of junk littered the yard and every redneck stereotype crept into my thoughts.

“Home.” My voice may have cracked with the hope that this was the end of our voyage. My own fight or flight on high alert.

The old man shifted in the backseat. “I just feel awful about making you drive all this way. I have some money in the house. If you could wait a minute I’ll run in and grab it for you.”

I shook my head. “That’s OK. I’m just glad I could get the two of you home.”

Liar! Just get the hell out of the car and let me go!

“You sure?”

“Yeah. Have a good night.”

They seemed to pause at that. And to this day I’m not sure about what they were thinking. Maybe this whole thing was just them trying to get home without needing to take the bus. Maybe they really had a son at Tech who they’d come to see. Maybe they had a younger son who they needed to get to, but then the sitter decided to bring him home instead of waiting for them to arrive.

Or maybe they had been planning on killing me the whole damn time.

Until I told them to have a good night. And that was the point they had a change of heart.

The two of them got out of the car, but before the wife could shut the door the man held it open and stuck his head back into the car.

Just gun it!

“You know how to get back?”

I nodded in the darkness even if he couldn’t see my action. “I’ll figure it out.”

“Alright. Take care.”

And with that, he shut the door and I turned my car around and headed back to the paved streets. It was only then that I saw a sign for I-285. I may have taken it to just get my bearings (I honestly don’t remember). My body began shaking, the adrenaline pumping through my system for the better portion of an hour finally began to wear off. In a daze, I somehow managed to guide my car back to more familiar streets and then back to the dorm.

Somehow still alive.

I may not have slept well that night… or the next few.

So there you have it, The Stupidest thing I have ever done. My last good deed, ever.

***

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

You Haven’t Seen It? – Alien

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

Until now.

Plus, with it being October and all, a proper horror movie was needed to cross off. Which brought us to seeing Alien as part of Turner Classic Movies’ 40th anniversary showing last night.

Pre-Movie

What do you know about this movie?

It has Sigourney Weaver… it has an alien… doesn’t an alien come out of her stomach?

I can neither confirm or deny any of these things.

(The pre-movie was running Alien trivia) Do you know what the tag line was?

(She looks at the 4 choices.) In space, no one can hear you scream.

Nice.

 

About 10 minutes into the movie

I’m a little worried about the cat.

Post-Movie

That was really cool. I thought it was going to be more about it hunting them, but it was as much about them hunting it. And I thought it was going to be Ripley vs. the Alien for half the movie.

So let’s talk about it. What did you like? Didn’t like?

Lambert. I didn’t like her. I don’t think we’re supposed to like her though. She seems super pissed at the world. Someone who remains on edge the whole time. She seemed to know bad things were about to go down… even when they first arrive.

Yeah, she says multiple times while they are out there “ok, let’s go back to the ship”. She’s a real fraidy cat.

Oh, I loved that Parker got in a lick on the alien.

Before he died?

Yeah.

Overall, I thought it was excellent on the suspense. It kept a good balance that so many horror movies don’t do a good job on. It had big moments and then the smaller moments.

Favorite character?

You’d think it’d be Ripley. But I really liked Dallas. His whole demeanor with Ripley. Do you think he was hitting that?

Huh, I had never thought of that.

Maybe it was more of unrequited love? There were looks he gave her. There was underlying respect with a tinge of passion. Would they have been together back on Earth?

Well, he did put himself in harms way over her multiple times… so, maybe?

So how about the big stomach scene?

It’s my favorite. Fantastic.

Did you know what was about to happen? I mean, you kinda knew something with a chest-burster was coming and it is such an iconic scene.

No, I wasn’t thinking that at all. I didn’t think Kane had ingested it. But then the baby comes out.

Baby?

Well, that’s what I’m calling it. We know what the alien looks like fully grown, but you can see it this creature.

Plus he had a cuteness to him.

Disturbing.

That entire scene, them having to hold him down. That’s family right there. No matter how much they scabble in the first scene, this is their people. So it is agonizing.

Did you think it was over there at the end?

No… mostly because of the score. I felt like there was something up. Something else was going to happen. What about you? When you first saw it, did you know there was another scare?

Hmmm… I probably was 12 and watching it on tv. I don’t think I thought there would be more. So it was a big surprise to see this thing that blends in so well, and then to wonder how in the world she was going to get out of that.

Any last thoughts?

Just that this might not be the most epilepsy-friendly movie there at the end with all the flashing lights and whatnot.

Oh, and I’m looking forward to Alien 2-

It’s not Alien 2.

Right, Aliens. But let’s not wait until 2026 to see the 40th anniversary of that one.

Deal.

***

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

The Immortal Hulk

I’ve never been a “Hulk” guy.

Sure, I watched the old tv show with the sad music playing at the end as he hitchhikes across the country. I actually think of those types of shows as “Incredible Hulk” style shows, with the story or the week, the guy helping people in a town, etc. I’ve waited for him to say “Don’t make me angry… you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry”. I’ve seen the tv Hulk movies (not much to write home about, though I’m pretty sure Thor and Daredevil appeared). I dug the Ang Lee “24” version up until the end of the movie. The Ed Norton one was ok at best.

And then there have been the Avengers movies where it just works.

You see, in the comics, he was an original Avenger. He was there for all of like 2 issues. That was it.

Because, the dumb, Hulk Smash version of the character isn’t really a “team player”. In fact, in those early days, he was a bit more of a bad guy when he popped up in some of the comics. But, that version never much appealed to me.

However, I have a friend, James, who is a Hulk guy. He has hundreds of issues. He’s read it when it sucks and he’s read it when it has been really good. So when the newest series: The Immortal Hulk came out over a year ago, James immediately raved about it. But it wasn’t that it was just a Hulk book that was good. He talked about it like it was a Horror book.

Uhm, what?

So, after much talk about it, I picked up the first trade and read that first issue.

It’s a Horror comic.

In fact, if it had been a Tales from the Crypt episode where instead of the Hulk rampaging and breaking a bunch of bad people it was a random monster… you wouldn’t even question it. Or maybe a dead comes back to life story… like this:

“At a gas station in the middle of nowhere, a desperate man ends up killing a trio of innocents in a robbery gone wrong. Three bodies were delivered to the morgue this afternoon. By morning, only two remain. And the ones who killed them are dying or broken.”

I mean, that is the plot to an undead creature movie.

Even the way that Joe Bennett draws the Hulk… this isn’t a dumb Hulk and this isn’t a Hulk where Bruce Banner is in charge. This is something else. Something with a sparkle in his eye when it is time to do some damage. An avenging devil? Or something worse?

Al Ewing even starts off the comic with a thought about human nature. It’s the idea that everyone is two people:

“The one you try to be.”

“And the one you try not to see in the mirror.”

The answer he gives tells you everything and nothing at the same time.

It tells you that this isn’t a regular Hulk book. This isn’t just another superhero story. This is something different. Something which ties to ideas in the past. Something which allows Al Ewing to use the character in a way that hasn’t been done before. What does it mean to have a Monster inside you? All that power… and yet, the character has mostly feared it. Maybe due to losing control and hurting someone. Maybe due to not wanting to understand his own duality.

And now, just maybe, the monster within has some other ideas…

***

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

I Remember Halloween

Image by Myriam Zilles from Pixabay

Halloween is one of my favorite times of the year. I love how the weather (normally, just not this year in Georgia) cools off and Autumn greets us. I love that for a month we allow ourselves to get scared… just a little bit. A month where adults are allowed to act a little like the children we used to be.

But I also have a weird time with the holiday.

You see, I was raised Jehovah Witness, so the number of Trick or Treat nights I got to go on was about 2 that I remember. As a teenager, it was too late to make such trips along the neighborhood and apparently I must have been “too cool” to actually use my younger siblings to gather up some excess candy.

But I do have some good October memories:

1 – I remember being about 10 and spending the night at a friend’s house and somehow getting permission to watch A Nightmare on Elm Street. I’m not sure if I actually had nightmares, but I knew that if I did I needed to keep such things to myself, otherwise Mom might not allow me to watch those types of movies anymore.

2 – I remember watching the old creature feature style horror movies on late night. The Creature from the Black Lagoon probably scared me the most even while I still felt bad for him.

3 – As a teenager, three of us sat in the front row of Nightmare on Elm Street 6: Freddy’s Dead. At the end of the movie, we stood up and chastised the audience by saying that they needed to give Freddy a moment of silence.

Image by Simon Wijers from Pixabay

4 – The multiple times over the years of going to my friend Lee’s house to watch any sort of horror movie. They range from some classics like Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Fly to Dead Snow and Teeth.

5 – I brought Teeth to the party. I actually thought there was some good there. I was clearly the only one who appreciated it.

6 – I may still be mocked today.

7 – Those nights were how Courtney and I watched the first 3 Paranormal Activities. Back to back to back.

8 – I did get to dress up as both Batman and Darth Vader over the course of 2 years.

9 – During one of those years, I split my pants and had to hide my issue with the cape included with the costume.

10 – I went to a costume gathering/party as Bruce Willis in Die Hard. Basically a white t-shirt with the words “ho ho ho, now I have a machine gun”. Mostly because it was last minute… and I’m lazy.

11 – The last time I dressed up was as Fry from Futurama (complete with the pizza box!) probably 4 years ago.

12 – I do have a “scary” mask upstairs that flashes a glowing light. I may have worn it once for about 10 minutes (it is not comfortable).

13 – But I think my favorite memory is that one October night where my mom made pigs-in-a-blanket and we watched Disney’s The Headless Horseman on tv. A story which is still one of my all-time favorites.

***

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

You Haven’t Seen It? – Neverending Story

While at Dragon Con a few weeks ago, I caught sight of a group of three people in costume. I quickly realized that one of the women was dressed as the Empress from The Neverending Story. So I looked across the table to where my bride was eating her lunch and said:

“Cool. Neverending Story.”

And she replied:

“Never seen it.”

I immediately posted on Facebook that my world had been shattered by this type of news. How in the world could she not have seen that classic from the 80s? We’d just finished season 3 of Stranger Things and there is a whole thing with the Neverending Story song… it never occurred to me that she might not get that reference.

I had to fix this situation. So on that Monday night, we found that Vudu had the movie for free (with limited ads – honestly it was better than watching it on tv. There were probably only about 6 to 8 minutes of commercials total for a 90-minute movie). So we watched it. And of course, because she’s not a crazy person, she loved it.

But it got me thinking about the various movies I grew up on that for some reason Courtney had never seen. I mean, there was a point where she was 20 years old and had never seen Star Wars (blasphemy). For a long while, she’d never seen The Wizard of Oz (what was happening on Spring Break – they show it every year).

I had an idea. We made a list of movies that either she hadn’t seen but probably should have by this point or just movies that she hadn’t seen but kinda wanted to see. Then I would talk to her about the movie and get her thoughts as an adult. I did this with Neverending Story, but it’s been a couple of weeks so it isn’t quite as fresh.

You Haven’t Seen It?

 

John – The Neverending Story is a classic. I joked that perhaps you were spending time playing outside while the rest of us were watching movies, but then one of your best friends mentioned she’d seen it (and thought she’d seen it with you). So what gives? Why didn’t you see it back then?

Courtney – I actually wasn’t sure if I’d seen it or not. Images from the movie pop up every now and again, so sometimes I think I’ve seen it and then other times not so much. I will say that you know I’m not a big fan of LONG movies, so if you’re calling it The NEVERENDING Story I’m probably going to assume it is going to be a very long one.

Of course, when we started watching it, I quickly realized I hadn’t seen it at all. When did you first see it?

I was 8 when it came out. I think I saw it in the theater, but it is just as likely that I saw it on HBO. They’d run the same movies over and over and over during the summer.

Prior to our watching it, did you have any clue what it might be about?

All I knew was that it was in the fantasy genre. Maybe some kind of quest. I had no idea it was a story within a story.

How about the movie itself? Did you end up liking it?

Oh, I knew right away that I was going to like it. Immediately the whole bit with the characters like the Rock Guy-

Rock Biter.

Yeah, and the elf-guy.

The Bat Rider?

I don’t know his name. Turn it on.

I load it up and fast forward to the scene with the Rockbiter, Snail Rider, and Bat Rider. Courtney immediately picks the Bat Rider as her favorite of the trio.

Rewind it to the beginning, with the bullies.

Did you notice that Major Dad was eating 3 raw eggs? He was hardcore from the beginning!

<10 minutes pass as we watch the scene with the bullies and Bastian hiding in the bookstore and then stealing the book.>

So let me ask you this: do you think the bookstore owner wanted him to take the book?

Of course.

So here’s a thought that will wrinkle your brain: did the bookstore owner know Bastian was going to come into the store?

What do you mean?

Well, he was reading the book as he comes in, but later we find out that Bastian is a character in Fantasia’s larger story. So was the whole beginning of the movie stuff that was actually in the book already?

Hmm… I don’t know…

<The swamp scene appears on the tv.>

I loved the fact that he could live through Atreyu, who was young and underestimated. Both people who lost someone close to them.

The horse!

You kinda spoiled that scene for me. I mean, it still got me, but you dampened it a little bit.

Sorry.

It’s OK.

But you can see that was something that could have scarred you as an 8-year-old. Good lord.

That was the scene that made me definitely know I’d never seen the movie.

Alright, other favorite characters? I personally like the turtle!

The Luck Dragon is absolutely my favorite. I love that he’s a big dog. It just takes any potential fear you might have of this massive beast and puts it to the side. The ear scratching moment! He was great!

And how about the story within a story aspect?

It was awesome. Just like the bookstore owner said, he had real stakes within the story and wasn’t just a bystander.

Finally… what did you think overall? Did you like it?

Yes! Yes! Yes! I actually would love to see it with our 8-year-old niece and see it through her eyes. But, yes, it was great!

***

So a success! I’m hoping to get a horror movie in at some point during October. She’s never seen Alien…

 

***

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Hollow Empire – Free Chapter – Cassidy

Hollow Empire exists as this experiment between Jeremy and myself to see if we could build this medieval post-apocalyptic world together in a serialized format. And I think the set up of him choosing a pair of characters and me doing much the same worked really well. It is a story and characters I’d like to get back to soon. In fact, I have part of what could be Episode 9 completed (assuming my co-writer doesn’t drop another chapter before then.

But, in order to get in the right mind-frame, I need to go back and reread… so here’s my second chapter from Season 1 (and if you want to read the very first chapter featuring my other Point of View character, you can get that here):

 

Cassidy

 

 

 

What once had been two living, breathing men now swung in the soft breeze. Though this area along the road did not possess much foliage, the outlaws had chosen one of the larger oak trees with its thick branches to support the display. Stripped of clothing, the dead skin baked under an autumn sun. A trio of crows roosted on the two bodies and pecked at the exposed flesh. It would only be a matter of time before they picked the corpses clean.

Cassidy rode closer to the bodies, and the air turned sour with death and decay. His stomach seized and contracted, but he fought the urge to vomit. When he was within an arm’s length of the once-men, he shooed the black birds away. They had devoured three of the four eyes thus far, but it was not enough to obscure the men’s identities.

“Damnit.”

“Is it Hadrian?”

Isidora’s voice broke through the stench. Though her horse seemed to have reservations about being so close to the dead, Isidora trotted up alongside Cassidy and studied the deceased men’s faces.

Cassidy shook his head. “No, it was Darius. Didn’t realize he’d been put on this hunt as well.”

Isidora guided her steed over to the other swinging corpse. She reached out with her gloved hand and spun him around.

“Wasn’t this one of their men?”

Cassidy looked up. “Lichy, maybe?”

She continued to twirl him, the rope tightening with each revolution. “No sores, no blackness along the fingertips, and no bleeding gums. He’s clean.”

“You think he wore out his welcome? Though, I suppose finding anyone other than Hadrian is welcome news. Perhaps he’s managed to remain in their good graces.”

Turning back to his corpse, Cassidy rotated Darius one more time. Aside from the battle scars, and a few bruises, the man might have been in good shape, other than being deceased. As he pulled back from the body, he caught sight of the scar. The mark of an eye, no larger than the width of a finger, rested on the inside of Darius’s wrist.

“He has the Brand.”

She backed her horse away and twisted in the saddle to scan the hills around them. “A warning then.”

“For who?”

“Us. Our kind.”

“Lovely thought. And here I figured they didn’t make us in Tolem.”

“Obviously your ability to maintain a low profile could use some work.”

Cassidy ignored the comment and pulled a folded map from his pack. He marked their position with one finger and then traced the long black line, the King’s Road, with his other. Ahead, the line wove between the foothills before turning northward to skirt the mountains. A series of small scratchings along the road indicated the occasional village.

Isidora dropped down from her horse, took a few light steps away from the execution site, and squatted. Cassidy had observed her perform this bit of artistry more times than he could count. She studied the rocks, the dirt, and the very dust, nothing lost before her vision. He had watched her pick up the barest of markings after a rain. It was rumored that she might have been the finest tracker in all of Othis. They were wrong. She was better than they could imagine.

“We’re close now,” she told him. “Tracks no more than a day old and they lead east.”

“Old Welkwood is nearby. Maybe two or three miles ahead along the road.” He marked the sun’s progress in the sky. “We ride hard, we can make it prior to dusk.”

He nudged his steed forward on the road. Isidora remounted and flanked him. Then without a word, she put her heels into her mount and charged off ahead.

* * *

Cassidy looked down over the shell of a village. From their vantage point along a small rise in the ground, it stretched out in front of them. In its prime Welkwood might have been a proper town. The King’s Road cut through its center, lined with what would have been a blacksmith’s forge, a stable, a tavern, or any number of other businesses. Now those same positions were marked by decaying framework or the occasional stone wall. A large statue still stood in the center of town; though weeds and vines threatened to overtake it. He suspected it was one of Lord Rowan’s visages. At the statue, the road split and divided, and from that point, everything radiated outward along a pair of smaller roads. Four larger buildings, more stone than wood, flanked the midpoint.

He glanced at Isidora. “Looks as though those four are in the best condition. One might be an inn or larger tavern. Seems as good a spot as any for them to hole up in. Can you take a look?”

She nodded and closed her eyes. Each breath steadied into a rhythmic pattern. Her body swayed from side to side, threatening to tip over at a moment’s notice. Cassidy made no move to steady her; he did not dare interrupt her gift. Just below her neck, the faint, telltale glow of her Brand began. He looked at her face and saw her eyes rolled up into the back of her head, her eyelids flickering.

A survivor of the Lichy, she was one of the so-called lucky ones. When the madness of the times came, her parents left her on the doorsteps of the church. The priests and sisters found her; the dark heart of the disease clutched her to its breast. This frail little form, barely strong enough to lift her head for the soup they provided to her. She was given a day, no more than two, before she would expire. Yet on the following day, she could talk. On the second day, she stood without any assistance. By the time a week passed, she showed no signs of the plague, save for the small crescent scar on her lower neck.

Not one out of the hundreds who found themselves with the Lichy sores survived. Entire towns ceased to exist over the course of a few weeks. Yet this small girl survived, with only a mark to distinguish her from every other person, a lingering reminder that she was now the stronger breed.

It was only later she learned about the other aspect the disease left. She’d been blessed with the gift of second sight, or perhaps cursed with it. Cassidy never knew what she saw; she only gave him enough information to accomplish whatever task lay directly before them. Still, her foreknowledge saved his skin more times than he could count.

Isidora gasped for air beside him and rolled onto her side. Her body shook like a spastic ragdoll on the grass-patched dirt carpet. He instinctively reached out and placed his hand on her side to keep her from injuring herself while the shaking occurred. Her dark hair, usually shorn close to her head, had begun to grow out, a consequence of the hunt. He pressed a cloth to her forehead and blotted the beads of sweat. A small amount of blood leaked from her mouth.

Her tongue will be sore on the morrow.

He blotted her cheeks as well.

Soon the shaking subsided, though her eyes had not yet reopened. They still danced underneath their lids.

Cassidy never knew if his presence helped to bring her back to the present, but it made him feel better. Not that he would ever voice it to her, but in these moments after she used her gift, the intensity and the scowl, which normally accompanied her face, disappeared. In those moments, she seemed at peace with herself, with the world, and with him.

He pressed his canteen to her lips, and she drank as if it were the last drop in all of Othis.

He whispered, “Did you see how many there were? Do you know if Hadrian is still alive?”

Even with the water, her voice scratched and strained, “You need to go into their lair. You must confront them. It is the only way.”

“Very well, we will hold here until your strength has returned. Then when you are ready-”

“No, you don’t understand. You must do this. Only you… alone. I will have the horses ready for a swift ride back to the capital once it is done.” Her eyes pierced the darkness. “But you are to do this alone.”

* * *

The half-moon’s light illuminated the abandoned trail as Cassidy crept down to the outer structures of Old Welkwood. No potential sentries roamed this portion of the fallen town. At the bottom of the slope, he pressed himself against the broken stone wall and peered around its edge before sprinting along to the next barrier.

Now, in the middle of it, he saw the signs. Once it might have been a thriving burg, yet when the first infected showed up, many chose sanctuary in the larger cities. They hoped the abundance of doctors and apothecaries might spare them. Families left sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers, and even children behind. They flooded to the largest churches and prayed to God to spare them, as if a change of scenery would have made any difference.

They were left wanting.

He turned his focus back on the ruined town. Everywhere he saw the marks of the Lichy, and suspected it had run through this place like wildfire. Mounds of ash and bone on the west side of the town marked the last remnants of the doomed, revealing how little time the citizens had to put the dead in the ground. Up close, he could see that the buildings were not simply abandoned or destroyed by the wind and rain, but put to the fire a long time ago. A choice made to head off the plague before it consumed them all.

Glancing back up the hill to their perch, he saw no sign of Isidora. He only hoped that he would have the opportunity to make his way back out to her. He trusted her gift, and the glimpses she saw of things to come.

Cassidy weaved through the buildings’ husks towards the town’s center. Charred and blackened frames surrounded the main street. A small church sat in ruin, the holy spire long since collapsed, spearing the remains of the structure below. Slowly, nature had begun to reclaim her land. Vines climbed and squeezed a few of the standing walls, threatening to pull each down to the earth.

At the very center of the town was the old Rowan statue. One arm outstretched in each direction, a symbol of the vastness of the empire Lord Rowan had amassed all those years ago. This one no longer had either of its limbs. The head was only a partial head, storms or vandals having ripped the missing pieces from it many years earlier. Here again, the vines and weeds worked their way upward, tying themselves into knots around the legs, up the torso, before finishing around his neck like the hangman’s noose. Flames from a small fire cast shadows up and down Rowan as it spat and seized, threatening to expire.

No one tending it.

He crouched behind the last of the stone remains and waited. To his left, he could hear the whinny of their horses. He counted to one hundred before he felt sure no sentries were patrolling.

No one is mad enough to enter this area, even if they didn’t know who was here.

Across from him stood the one building not in complete disrepair, and from his vantage point, he could see a soft light coming from inside the lower level. Cassidy darted across the street and positioned himself just outside the entrance. An ancient sign of a woodpecker drinking from a mug creaked in the wind above his head. Coming from inside the shell of a building, he heard grumbling and shouting. A quick glance showed him six… no, seven men.

He unslung the crossbow from his back and loaded a quarrel. Cassidy exhaled and swung the door open.

“I’m here for Hadrian.”

The entire crew halted their drinking, their card games. One fellow even paused his pissing in mid-stream. They all took a long look at him. One of them rubbed his eyes to make sure the man before them was not a drunken vision, which presented as a dirty, unkempt, and road-weary Cassidy before them. One of the card players pushed himself away from the table and stood, his skin tanned from many years on the road. His patchy beard matched his shaggy dark hair. A toothy grin escaped from his lips and he cocked his head from one side to the other doing his best to analyze the situation before him.

“And what business do you have with Hadrian?”

Cassidy held the loaded crossbow out in front of him so that all could see. “For crimes against the King, I have been authorized to bring him back to Othis to await judgment.”

“Is that so?” The man turned to look at his men and chuckled. They all joined in. “Well, I’m afraid that you will have to wait for your King’s business.”

“Do you have Hadrian or not?”

Another laugh, full of anger, erupted from the man. “I am in possession of Hadrian. Well, me and the boys in this room.”

“I have been charged to bring Hadrian back to Othis to stand trial. I have tracked him to you and yours. Will you turn him over to me?”

The man moved over towards the partially standing bar and snagged a canteen. He downed the contents in one swift drink, only a small amount of foam leaking at the edges. With a hand, he wiped his beard clean.

“Sadly that is not possible. Hadrian is also accused of crimes against me and mine. And I prefer him where he sits.”

He pointed to the back corner where a little man, who looked like he would have been more suited for scribe work, sat. The top of his head bore small nicks and cuts from where they would shave him. The clothes he wore looked four sizes too large for him, hanging from his body like loose skin. At the mention of his name, Hadrian looked up and Cassidy saw the weariness in his eyes. A defeated look, which said that he had no fight left in him. He would not run or attempt escape. Cassidy doubted he would get very far with the shackles around his legs and the manacles on his wrists.

“Perhaps when his flesh is flayed from his bones we shall let you collect. By what right do you have to take him?”

Cassidy reached under his cloak and revealed the metal disk pinned to his armor. Though faded, it remained easy enough to see the falcon wings crossed by a pair of lightning bolts. “By the law of this land-”

One of the card players shouted, “He’s a Walker.”

His tablemate joined in. “Didja not see the gift we made of the last one of yours who came here? Are you so eager to feel the rope burn your neck as well? Alric, it looks to be another hanging!”

“This place, Walker, this place is ours. Your kingdom no longer exists for the likes of us. We are a free people who want for nothing. We drink, we fight, and when we find women, we screw. We live by our own code here. That one,” their leader, Alric, pointed to Hadrian, “that one is a rodent of the worst kind. He possesses no honor, no code, and the limit of his depravity begins and ends when the coin stops flowing. So by what authority do you think to take that which is rightfully ours? For yours, in this room, is severely lacking.”

Cassidy studied the room. He did not miss the various movements of his opponents throughout the exchange, subtle as they attempted to be. Five feet in front of him, the two at the card table had relieved their blades from the sheaths at their feet. The pissing man in the back now stood near the other side of the bar, his hands below the crest. Two of the men he had first thought too drunk to stand held gnarled clubs in their hands, waiting on his right. The third drunk Cassidy had pegged correctly; his head had not risen from the table near the middle of the room.

Alric, for his part, leaned against the bar to Cassidy’s left, his anger replaced by calmness. He had made no move to secure a weapon. That worried Cassidy more than anything else he saw. Even on his best night, with no road weariness, he would not be able to take on the other five. He might fell three before he finally succumbed to their superior numbers.

The math did not add up.

I trust Isidora’s gift, my Lord. I place myself in your hands.

He turned his crossbow and leveled it at the man behind the bar. The bolt whistled through the air before it buried in his throat. Cassidy let the device slip from his grasp, replacing it with his sword. The two card players came at Cassidy and he darted between them, his sword parrying each of their first attacks with ease. Steel clashed with steel, the small fire casting a shadow of the combat onto the far wall.

He observed their techniques, which were rudimentary. They used brute strength and superior numbers more than any real tactics. He slowed his breathing, slowed his mind, and watched their movements.

Anticipate the next blow, move your enemy, make them strike where you are not.

Another blade imbedded in a nearby table, barely missing Cassidy’s sword arm. With his enemy exposed, he severed the bond between sword and man at the wrist. A scream followed, and the man crumpled to the ground, his hand dangling, held on by only bits of sinew and splintered bone.

A bolt slammed into Cassidy’s chest and he stumbled backwards. While the leather took the brunt of the impact, he would have a hell of a bruise on the morrow. Alric stood on the backside of the bar loading the next shot into the crossbow. When he raised it again, Cassidy reached out to the first card player and spun him around to act as a shield. The man’s eyes grew wide in conjunction with the sickening thud as Alric struck true, just late.

Cassidy’s instincts told him to roll to the ground. Sure enough, a gnarled club occupied the air where his head had been. He kicked out and the man’s knee buckled under the impact. Above him the other club-bearing beast of a man stood, his weapon ready to crack Cassidy’s skull.

The whistle of an arrow’s flight broke the silence and hit the man square in the chest. He took a step back, unsure where this new threat came from. Two more arrows embedded themselves in his stomach. He staggered, blood oozing from his lips, before toppling over, his strength no longer able to support his great form.

Cassidy sprung to a crouch and scanned the area before he spotted her at the rear of the room beside Hadrian. Isidora notched another arrow and let it fly at Alric. Again and again, she fired on his position never allowing him to gain an opportunity to respond. Cassidy sprinted to the back of the building, leaving the wounded and dead.

Isidora motioned to Hadrian. “Grab him and let’s be gone from this place. There is an entrance behind me. I’ll be right behind.”

Cassidy nodded and grunted as he lifted the prisoner and tossed him over his shoulder. Outside he found three horses: his, Isidora’s, and a third, stolen from the outlaws. He loaded Hadrian onto the back of the last one before he mounted his own. A moment later, Isidora rushed out of the building and vaulted onto the back of her horse.

The two of them shouted at the horses in unison, “Go!”

* * *

The three rode as hard as they dared under the moonlight for the next hour. It was only when heavy clouds began to obscure the orb’s radiance that they slowed the pace. Cassidy watched for any signs of pursuit.

“How far behind do you think?”

Isidora cocked her head to the side as if doing calculations in her head. “Hard to know. What survivors there are will have to locate their horses. I stole one and scattered the rest to the night.”

“Beautiful.”

She continued, “Most are injured or dead. My guess is that unless they have more we did not see, they won’t have the will to give chase.”

Cassidy nudged Hadrian. “How many are there?”

He coughed. “Water, please.”

Cassidy retrieved his canteen and held it just out of reach from his prisoner. “How many?”

“You don’t want to know the answer to that.”

Cassidy leaned in closer, so that he could look into the man’s eyes, “How many?”

“Fifty.”

 

***

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Dragon Con 2019 – Review Part 2

Part one can be found here.

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When last we left our hero (me), he was suffering from an unknown allergic reaction to Aleve.

Sunday

After a full day of not doing much more than applying cold compresses to my eyes and staying firmly on the couch, I awoke on Sunday nearly 100% back to normal. Which really meant a morning full of deja-vu as we headed downtown to the convention via MARTA again, had to go purchase a Sunday day pass (luckily there was virtually no line again) (though, not sure why we couldn’t go ahead and get a Sunday pass on Friday and save ourselves a trip), and then attempted to get into one of the 10 AM panels. However, unlike Friday and David Tennent’s panel, we were able to make it into the Lucifer panel.

Lucifer is one of those shows that I love the concept. I knew it was a comic, but aside from his appearances in Sandman, I’ve not read any of the issues. Still the idea that the Devil takes a vacation just checks off so many boxes. And the idea of sewing that onto a police procedural with the weekly crimes works fairly well. The panel had D.B. Woodside and Aimee Garcia and the two of them had excellent chemistry up on stage. You always wonder if the cast members actually like each other, but with the two of them, there was no doubt. They had plenty of stories to tell and (since I’m a little behind on the show) only one real spoiler that I caught.

Next up was Zachary Levi’s panel. We managed to snipe that one without needing to wait in an insanely long line (always a risk). Inside the room, I noticed that there was no table or mics set up for him and a moderator. There was really no need as he stood and took questions one after the other. He was funny and had great stories, but also had an underlining message of mental health. He talked about it for himself and then elaborated on it with regard to his mother.

The whole hour might be the best hour I’ve ever seen at Dragon Con, he was that good. Heck, he was good enough that I kinda want to see Shazam (and I am not a fan of that character).

An excursion to the Art Show and Tessera Guild’s own Amanda Makepeace was in booth number 1! If you haven’t checked out her work before or it’s just been a while, go here and let your eyes get a good look at what an extremely talented artist (and better person) can do.

And after the convention was over, I found out she won Best SciFi in the DragonCon 2019 art show for “Saturn’s Twilight.” (her 3rd year in a row!)

Saturn’s Twilight by Amanda Makepeace

With every Dragon Con comes the big panel… the one I crawled out of bed for: the Venture Bros Panel!

Given that we are in-between seasons. And given that seasons take 2 years to come out, I wasn’t sure what this one would bring. I knew the two creators wouldn’t be there, but I also knew the voice actors can be extremely amusing. And that was definitely the case as they answered question after question from the fans. Then, with about 20 minutes left, they got Doc Hammer on Skype, and he had a puppet of Dr. Mrs. The Monarch on his arm. While the connection was spotty for most of it, it was a real treat to have him there virtually. Hopefully, they can all come out next year and really show out.

With all the fun and games mostly done, it was time to journey back to the Dealers’ Room again. On Friday we’d seen 3 of the 4 floors, so it was a moral imperative to venture up to the last floor )(comics and pop-culture). Yet, that pesky line was an issue again, save this time it wrapped around part of the America’s Mart Building 1 and then 3/4 of Building 2. The whole process was about 25 minutes (faster than I would have thought). Considering those early Dragon Cons I went to had a strong presence, it’s just good to see the comics being embraced again after so many years of not being cared about.

After hurrying through that last piece, we had one last panel on Webcomics to go and watch. Robert Jeffrey (Route 3 and many things on this site) and Tony Cade (Editor-in-Chief of Terminus Media) were both on the panel, so I figured it was a good idea to be supportive! After listening to the questions by the audience, I think that the biggest take-away from that panel or really any writing/art panel is that you just have to sit down and start doing your thing. And then, at some point, you need to finish that thing and put it out there for people to see and read. So many people have these half done or barely started projects (me included) that really just need to get completed.

Dinner with Robert followed as we talked about comics and the convention. Normally, that ride/drive back home is a bit more melancholy as I reflect upon another year in the books. This ride home was more of a celebration of the con, the projects Robert and I have worked on (and are currently working on). It made the ride pass far too quickly.

Just like the convention itself.

***

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Dragon Con 2019 – Review Part 1

This was a slightly different Dragon Con Experience. Normally we have a 4-day pass (although, Thursday is now a hopping place and people are really getting things going on Wednesday. Soon it will just be a whole week of debauchery!). This year we didn’t have the 4-day and made the executive decision to buy a Friday and a Sunday pass (and go ahead and pre-purchase the 4-day for 2020). This means we are going to need to cram 4 days into 2 days.

As it turned out, this was probably the best decision we could have made… but more on that below.

FRIDAY

One of the nice things about doing the day passes was that there was nearly no line on either Friday morning (around 9 AM) or Sunday (9 AM as well). Maybe it got busier as the day progressed, but it did seem off that the day-of line would be so little, but the pre-purchased might have a longer line (or at least it did on Thursday for some people).

I normally go through the schedule and pick about 3 to 4 panels to go to every hour. This way if something has too long of a line or they cut the line off we have a back-up plan (and sometimes a back-up to that back-up). It also comes in handy on Sunday when your legs don’t want to do much more walking and the next panel is 4 hotels away:

“Hmmm… what’s happening in THIS hotel?”

I’d went through the schedule and found a handful of things on both days. There wasn’t so much Courtney “centric” things that she saw, but since we both watch most of the same things, it works out. First thing, we tried for the David Tennent line. Now, while I have watched Doctor Who, I have not really seen his Doctor (yes, I understand this is blasphemy… hey, Netflix removed them just as I was starting to watch). We were in line about 30+ minutes and was told the room was full.

Great way to start the day off!

This actually threw off our plans since we were going to do that and then head over to be one of the first for the Dealer’s room, but this meant we had an extra hour to kill. So kill it dead, we did by hanging out in the gaming room, grabbing food, and then having to walk around America’s Mart in order to get into the Dealer’s area.

Image by Emilie Farris from Pixabay

They were on 4 floors this year (2 years ago they were on 3). They had the comics/pop art on the 4th floor and I’ll give them credit when you actually support the funny books, you can get a nice turn-out. Roy Thomas, Marv Wolfman, Demattis were there (to name a few). The only companies were Aftershock and Scout (I think that’s right), but I was impressed considering it wasn’t so long ago they were in the closet.

It took us about 45 minutes per floor. They had the usual stuff. Not much in the board games, which I’ve seen CMON there in the past and I don’t think they had a booth. A couple of 1/2 trades places. A couple of older comic book dealers, and then some guy who had “grab bags” of comics. Look, I don’t understand the Mystery Box thing, but do your thing, right? So Court saw the booth and asked if I wanted to take a look and I said, it’s grab bags, I’m good. And the owner is right there and does the whole “No, they’re great. Guaranteed a variant cover, blah, blah, blah.”

Yeah, I’m good. I don’t need random variant cover for a funny book I didn’t want in the first place. I’m sure it’s great. It’s just not for me.

Courtney managed to find a bunch of decals related to Veronica Mars, Gilmore Girls, and Firefly that she got for her car. I didn’t buy anything… nothing grabbed me hard enough. Plus, I was counting on some additional time on Sunday (mistake!) to potentially find some comics.

We had a panel at 4 or 4:30 on Indy comics. You know, one of those panels where I’m hoping to glean some additional knowledge from the panelists on steps to take or just some general tips. And while there were some good ones, it was a little disheartening to hear from more than one of them that the best way to get an Indy book is to work for Marvel and DC first.

Blink… blink…

That’s not all they said, but it was kind of funny that a couple of them agreed that’s how they got into the correct position to do an Indy comic.

Then we went to an Arrow/Legends panel where only Paul Blackthorne was there (even though 2 others were on the list). They never made any mention of it. I liked him in Arrow. I really liked him in Dresden Files. But it was just odd that it was only him.

However, this is when the strangeness happened:

I learned something un-Con related this year: I’m suddenly allergic to Aleve. During the Indy comic panel, I took some and within an hour my face looked like Sloth from Goonies.

Aleve is something that I started taking for aches and pains and headaches for about 10 years now. When we were playing a ton of softball maybe 5 years ago, I was taking it every other day some weeks. Never had a problem. About 2 or 3 months ago, I had my lip swell up. This is something that I sometimes get over the years (Courtney does not believe this even after I’ve explained that it was only enough swelling that I noticed, no one else really would). The swelling would happen, and in a couple of hours, it would go back down. Mostly, I never thought anything of it. Occasionally, I would think “I wonder if I ate something I’m allergic to” but then forget about it. Anyway, I had an episode where the swelling was enough for Court to see. So I recorded everything I ate that day (I didn’t think about the Aleve). Maybe a month later, it happened again, but none of the same foods, and I didn’t think about the Aleve. During Gen Con I actually took Aleve at least once, but I don’t remember having a swollen lip.

Anyway, about 3 weeks ago, I had a reaction where my eye swelled up and it was in the back of my mind suddenly. Then I took some at DCon, on an empty stomach… and yeah, my Friday night and Saturday was pretty much me on the couch with a cold compress on my eyes, waiting for the swelling to go down. I talked with my mom (a nurse) because I wasn’t sure if this was something I needed to go to an Urgent Care or whatever, but she said that as long as I saw it getting better over the course of Saturday, I was good.

This happened about 6:30 and we got some Benadryl from one of the hotel stores and then headed home. Fun stuff. Being allergic to Aleve means I’m pretty much allergic to Asprin and Ibuprophen products, so it is Tylenol for me only now.

Just weird how it has occurred over the last couple of months, during a time when I haven’t been taken pain killers all that often.

***

Next week we can find out if the swelling did go back down, or if I just embraced my new “swollen” look!

***

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

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

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com