In Our Dreams Awake Issue 2 – Kickstarter Prelaunch

 

The Kickstarter Prelaunch Page can be found here!

Jason Byron dreams of two lives. In one fantasy, magi reactionaries won, technology is banned, and Jason is a portrait painter hiding a contraband telescope. In the other world, he leads a cyberpunk gang amid a future of flooded cities and gilled aliens. When he closes his eyes in one world, he awakes in the next.

In Our Dreams Awake is the story of what happens when both dream worlds spin out of control. What happens when Jason no longer knows which world is the dream and which one is reality?

***

In Our Dreams Awake comes from co-creators John McGuire and Egg Embry. The second issue of this 4-issue mini-series features two dreams, the first illustrated by Edgar Salazar with the second by Rolands Kalniņš. With covers by Moonee Art, Rolands Kalniņš, and Egg Embry, this is a comic written for fans of love stories, dreampunk, steampunk, and cyberpunk, this series promises an engaging mystery with amazing artwork. This story is about love and loss and asking the big questions: Who am I? Where do I belong? Who do I love?

***

IN THE FANTASY DREAM, a mage arrives at Jason Byron’s cottage with orders: Paint and document a downed flying machine before the Magi destroy the heretical technology.  But, will the authorities let Jason live with this forbidden knowledge?

IN THE CYBERPUNK FUTURE DREAM, there’s a turf war in Drowned London, and Jason Byron must parley with the rival gang leaders. Can Jason make peace with the ‘A People, those mouthy cat aliens, and other gangs? Will this escalate and go to guns?

Who can say what dreams may come? Each Jason Byron works for an unseen love. Their guiding light is making their worlds better for those who hold their hearts. But can these dreampunks make their dreams come true?

***

We have been working hard to get this issue ready for public consumption. Over the next month or so, I’ll have preview pages, behind the scenes looks, and probably some random other stuff that I’m not remembering right now. I hope you’ll join us on another great comic book adventure!

Remember to sign up to the Pre-Launch Page to get notified when the project launchs on Kickstarter!

***

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

The Reason Why – The Last Stand

Back at the beginning of this journey, my brain was looking for any way to get a comic done. Of course, at that time I was recently married, just beginning my career in Civil Engineering, so I didn’t have a ton of disposeable income. Which is a nice (or just honest) way of saying I couldn’t pay an artist.

Not the best place to be.

At this point Terminus had gathered a bunch of artists up to do their first anthology, where I had my first published work: The God That Failed. It wasn’t enough. I went online to see what things might be out there. Various contests for artists, but very, very few which had many opportunities for writers. The best I could find was a couple of short contests where you entered your script and if they liked it, you’d get matched up with an artist.

I didn’t win the couple I entered.

Then came an anthology built up to support the victims of the 2004 Tsunami which hit southeast Asia.

I needed to figure out something that would be a little uplifting, maybe having to do with the sea, maybe something from a dream, maybe… maybe… maybe.

I gathered up three artists to do the 4 pages I’d written about a kingdom dealing with the oncoming storms which threaten everything they’d built up. And those same artists took my still very early script and turned into a lovely little story about endings and beginnings.

Sadly, I’m not sure if that anthology ever actually came to pass, or if they just passed on my story… it’s been nearly 20 years.

But the work still stands as one of those first things which I poured myself into. One of those first stories where I am grateful for each of the artists who have their time to a project that ended up not seeing the light of day for a while.

In fact, it wasn’t until Egg Embry was putting together an anthology many years later (The Burner) that the story finally found a place to call home.

***

That story is my reminder that comics are a collaborative process. Every set of hands helping to bring these stories to life which is simply amazing.

***

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

A Love for Everyday – Part 16

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

Part 1 is here.

Part 2 is here.

Part 3 is here.

Part 4 is here.

Part 5 is here.

Part 6 is here.

Part 7 is here.

Part 8 is here.

Part 9 is here.

Part 10 is here.

Part 11 is here.

Part 12 is here.

Part 13 is here.

Part 14 is here.

Part 15 is here.

 

 

January 27

It’s like, it’s not even real to me. It’s like my life isn’t even real to me unless you’re there and you’re in it and I’m sharing it with you.

Gilmore Girls

 

February 13

It is a curious thought, but it is only when you see people looking ridiculous that you realize just how much you love them.

Agatha Christie

 

March 12

You’re my favorite reason to lose sleep.

Anonymous

April 10

When you think you’re not happy with your life, always think someone is happy simply because you exist.

Anna Kendrick

May 17

Love is the longing for the half of ourselves we have lost.

Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

 

June 24

There is nothing more truly artistic than to love people.

Vincent Van Gogh

 

July 29

I could not tell you if I loved you the first moment I saw you, or if it was the second or third or fourth. But I remember the first moment I looked at you walking toward me and realized that somehow the rest of the world seemed to vanish when I was with you.

Cassandra Clare, Clockwork Prince

 

August 26

Loving you is like breathing – so effortless, so natural. And so essential to life.

Anonymous

September 24

Someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection. The loves, the dreamers, and me.

Kermit the Frog

 

October 30

But our love was stronger by far than the love

Of those who were older than we

Of many far wiser than we

And neither the angels in heaven above,

Nor the demons down under the sea,

Can ever dissever my soul from the soul

Of the beautiful Annabel Lee.

Edgar Allan Poe

 

November 10

There is no more lovely, friendly and charming relationship, communion or company than a good marriage.

Martin Luther

 

December 11

One love

One blood

One life

You got to do what you should

One life

With each other

Sisters

Brothers

One life

But we’re not the same

We get to

Carry each other

Carry each other

One… life

U2, One

 

***

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Tales from the Cubicle – Part 8

Image by piviso from Pixabay

She Knows Where You Live

During 2020, I was lucky enough to have the type of job where I could work from home. However, the job wanted to make sure we still felt some level of connection with the rest of our coworkers even if we weren’t seeing them regularly. So we ended up with Zoom call happy hours where we would chat… it was actually nice. However, what always cracked me up was one of my coworkers would normally ask a question about where someone lived and from that appeared to hack into the government database to discover all sorts of things about you that you didn’t think was out there.

It became a running joke for any new employees to warn them that if they gave her any information, she’d have their addresses within the hour.

 

I’m Having a Problem With My Computer

We once had a Temp employee who was helping us out on a series of deadlines wih the goal of hiring them on full time if things worked out. At that particular job, I was the one who they designated to help them out on any problems they might have with our network/computers/jobs/etc. I didn’t mind doing that at all (I’ve come to realize over the years I really like helping the junior engineers, so in some ways this was one of the steps down that path). After a couple of weeks of the Temp working on any number of projects, they came over to me and said there was a problem with their computer… it was crawling.

I walked over to their desk and saw it was really slow. Like slower than I’d ever seen any of our machines run. I start doing some digging and I realize what the problem is – the computer is out of storage.

Then I dig further.

The Temp had been saving all the files they’d worked on to their computer as an extra level of backup in case something went wrong. Now, I can understand some things you might want to do that with… and maybe they’d had a nightmare scenario at a previous job which caused this behavior… but this was above and beyond. It was as if ANY file they touched at all got backed up to their computer.

After a conversation about the companies’ backup procedure, we managed to get the machine cleaned up enough… for like a week. And that became a weekly routine of trying to explain that not everything needed to go on their computer.

Every week.

Owen Wilson

At the various holiday parties and monthly lunch and learns, there are moments which hit you out of the blue. I can’t recall what we were having lunch for in particular, but a series of stories were being shared. At the end of one of them, one of the engineers made what can only be referred to as an “Owen Wilson WOW” sound. At that point, I started paying attention to her reactions and sure enough Owen Wilson Wow made multiple appearances. With the best moment being during a meeting where some rather uninspiring thing was being shown for the group and I heard a “Wow” from two rows behind me and nearly lost it right then and there.

It has now entered my own lexicon throughout my daily life. Anytime anything deserves a Wow… Owen Wilson gets his kickback.

 

***

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

A Free Short Story – Piece By Piece

I sometimes forget that I should be promoting myself, things that I’ve done, or books and shorts that I’ve written. I end up more passive than I would like to be by including it into my signature at the end of the blogs. But it occurs to me that maybe people aren’t reading those things. And it also occurs to me that being passive isn’t the answer. As I get ready to launch some more work into the world, I need to remind people what is already available as well.

I wrote this a few years back, but it is available for Free. And if you liked The Dark That Follows, it features Jason Mills doing his psychic thing (and if you haven’t read The Dark That Follows, you could do worse than having this short be your introduction into the world).

***

I’m trying to figure out this publishing thing. I’ve got the book, got a comic, got a little novella, but I know I need to do more. The chances of anyone having just one thing out there in the void and suddenly hitting it big are pretty low. And that’s fine with me. I know it is a marathon and not a sprint (to borrow that old cliche’). Still, the projects I’m working on don’t really feed the beast of The Dark That Follows. And while I have ideas for the sequel, I’m not ready to really dive in (too many other projects that must get done).

So how do I fix that? How do I get potentially more eyes on this book I wrote without writing another book in the same world?

writing

I’d been thinking about a story, but I really wanted it to tie into The Dark That Follows somehow. Have a place where they could get the short for free and if they liked what they read, maybe they’d check out the book. Something extra. And a story began to shape itself in my mind.

A short story.

This is the old two birds one story idea. And while I didn’t name it Tessera or Tesserization or Tesselation or… (well, you get the idea), it does take a little bit of inspiration from trying to see a bigger picture from little bits of information.

PIECE-BY-PIECE-COVER

So without further ado, I present to you Piece by Piece. You can find it here on the site, and shortly you should be able to find it for free download on the various other platforms… but you can get it first!

***

The Song of Your Life III

In the movie, Before Sunset, Ethan Hawke is on a book tour where he is talking about his next project: this idea of a song transporting you back in time. How it grabs you and can make you remember things you’d forgotten – all of it locked within a song.

I feel the same way, where the music moment can transport you back to those memories you might not always have right at your fingertips. Things you thought had been lost are now crystal clear once again.

***

Image by Mollyroselee from Pixabay

Def Leppard – Hysteria

One of the first albums I ever owned, I nearly wore out the cassette tape as it would play behind me while I shot baskets throughout so many afternoons. But more than anything it transports me back to a particular summer where I’m maybe 12 or 13 at my grandparents’ house in south Georgia. My sister and I would normally spend two weeks with them every summer and hand out with our cousin. The thing was that south Georgia heat is nothing to play with. We’re talking 100 degrees easily during most afternoons, and in the area I’m talking about, it was probably closer to scrubland than woods sometimes (so not as much shade to potentially keep you cool). We tried to stick to the indoors as much as possible, but even back then the adults were always wondering why we weren’t outside playing (I wondered if adults didn’t feel heat in the same way, but now, as an adult, I know it’s certainly not the case). So I took a basketball out to the weathered and battered goal and turned on Def Leppard and cooked in the heat.

Good times…

***

Guns N’ Roses – November Rain

When you are a poor high school student, you really depend on tape trading with your friends in order to experience anything more than what your own feeble funds might allow you to purchase. One of those tapes was a copy of Use Your Illusion 1 (and 2 as well) which Chad Shonk had made a copy of for me. I devoured that tape over the course of many weeks before I finally decided to just go and get the CD. Imagine my surprise when this song Novemeber Rain came pouring through my stero… a song I did not recognize at all. I popped back on the tape, fast forwarded to where the song appeared and got a weird gabled version of the song that was abruptly shortened as well. So it was that one of the bands greatest songs finally managed to be appreciated by me… months after the album had been out.

***

Korn – Blind

Right after I graduated from high school, my parents moved the family up to Richmond, Virginia, leaving their oldest in behind in Georgia to begin college at GA Tech in the fall. It was a great summer as for many weeks I pretty much was by myself. My dad would be down about every other week, but otherwise I was on my own (luckily for them, I was anything but a wild kid – I wouldn’t have known how to throw a party even if I’d wanted to). Just before the end of summer, the movers came and packed up all our worldly items and off we went to Richmond, where I think I technically lived for about two weeks.

It was there I discovered a record shop a couple of miles away from the new house. Every couple of days I would pop up there to see if they had anything of interest. And one day they had these sampler tapes from a band named KORN. Free means go ahead and grab one just in case. I got home, popped it into the stero, and was blown away by what I heard. Suddenly, a random trip to the store had introduced me (and my friends shortly thereafter) to not only a brand new band but the beginnings of a whole new music (Nu Metal).

***

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Repost – Behind the Comic: In Our Dreams Awake

 

I don’t have the email anymore where I first pitched Egg the basic idea behind In Our Dreams Awake. I basically remember that I had hit upon this idea of someone having to live two different lives, one when they slept and one when they were awake. I know that it happened around the Winter of 2004-2005 in one of many of our daily emails back and forth to each other. Those emails served as both catch-up on the day/week and also a dumping ground for us to share potential writing ideas.

You see, the goal with Egg and I always was to find a way to write comic books. During college, there were many, many, many weekends the two of us would journey from one comic shop to another looking for back issues. And during those trips, we’d talk story ideas. They ranged from some take on whatever Marvel or DC or Image might be doing at the time all the way to our own comic ideas featuring our own characters. But this was in the days before something like Kickstarter existed, back in the days when we were going to have to find a way to do things on the “cheap”.

Egg’s always been good about looking at potential story ideas and breaking them down into a format that might be a little different. And In Our Dreams Awake sent his mind going.

I know/remember a few things about this time:

Egg found the title from a quote by Thoreau.

Egg pitched the idea of the two of us writing portions of the story. One of us would take one dream and the other would write the other.

Egg found both the artists to do what would become a 4 issue mini-series: Edgar Salazar (pencils) and Genaro Olavarrieta (inks) for my “fantasy world” dream and an artist for “futuristic world”.

So we started on the scripts for issue 1. And then the pages started rolling in… this was working… we were going to have a comic book!

We quickly got scripts going for all 4 of the issues, as Edgar and Genaro were rocketing through their work. I learned how to color on the computer (which is a story for another time). Egg’s artist was turning in good stuff. The tone felt great… all we needed to do was find a home for the comic.

We approached Image, I think we sent it off to a couple of other places, but nothing ever came of it. I was working with the Terminus Media guys at the time and had learned enough to know how to get the book printed, but we realized we probably needed to have a complete book before going down that path.

And then Egg’s artist fell off the face of the Earth.

He’d done around 20ish pages out of the 48 or so we’d need to finish things up. But we couldn’t find him. He didn’t return email. I think Myspace was a bust (remember Myspace?). Months went by, which became a year, which became two years. Edgar and Genaro finished their pages and moved on, but we felt hamstrung by this artist. It was weird that one of the original reasons for doing the comic with two artists was so that it would half the load. We thought there was a chance that if an artist disappeared (or ghosted us) that it would be relatively early in the process. Maybe they’ve done 1-5 pages and then make like a wizard, but he’d done enough for 2 issues.

We scrambled. Egg came up with an idea to split his dream in two with the already finished pages and then get a new artist (potentially himself) to do the last 24 pages. We toyed with some other thoughts, but time went on, and like so many things…

In Our Dreams Awake passed into legend…

It nagged at me. Tugged at the back of my mind. Every year I’d look through my files and see the pages and think about what could have been. I wrote the Gilded Age and The Dark That Follows and still, it was there. Egg moved on to RPGs and writing for so many websites that I can’t even keep up with his output these days.

When we were first working on the comic, Egg found the Thoreau quote and it fit perfectly. But randomly during that same Christmas, my mom got me post-its with quotes on them. And while they didn’t have the In Our Dreams Awake quote, they did feature one from Poe that seemed made for our comic:

Things had lined up perfectly until they didn’t.

Then March 2020 happened and the world changed. We had time on our hands. And In Our Dreams popped up in my dreams again. So I reached out to Egg. Told him I wanted to make a go of it. That we knew so much more than we had nearly 2 decades earlier. The biggest obstacle was always having product, but in this case, we had 1/2 the story already done. There was only one hurdle to go: we needed to reach out to Egg’s artist and see if we could use those pages or if we were going to start over.

And after many weeks, we decided to go with someone new.

The thing was, I’m a part of a couple of Facebook Groups where artists post their work looking for their next gigs, so I’d been saving posts of anyone who caught my eye. So when we decided to move on, I shared all the potentials with Egg, and very quickly we identified Rolands Kalniņš as the person who could bring the sci-fi/cyberpunk dream to life. And Rolands has done that and more. And all of a sudden we had issue 1 ready to go.

All of sudden… after 17 years… we had the first issue.

***

We’re in the process of putting the 2nd issue on Kickstarter very soon, and I’m hopeful that we won’t have quite as long of a break between issues from now on. Be on the lookout for the prelaunch page coming to your screens very shortly.

***

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Turn the Page on 2023

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

 

I normally like to take this first blog of the new year and do both a look back and look forward on the various projects I have been working on. However, 2023 was an odd year in that I’ve been working on things, but overall it has probably been one of my least productive years in some time with no good milestones of releases to kind of mark my personal progress. It’s likely to a lack of discipline to sit my butt behind the keyboard and do the work, mixed with some shiny object syndrome, and some real life events that made it where many nights I just wanted to veg out rather than be productive.

So, with that thought I think a better use of my time would be to look forward to 2024 and see what possibilities lie in front of me:

In Our Dreams Awake

In 2022, Egg Embry and I launched a Kickstarter for the first issue of In Our Dreams Awake. Due to various reasons (some hinted at above), we weren’t able to get to the second issue Kickstarter within the 2023 calendar year. However, issue 2 is complete and ready to be unleashed into the world during the first quarter of the year. In a perfect world, I’d like to see all four issues get their Kickstarter runs while still allowing for maybe a final shorter Kickstarter in 2025 for the trade. I’ve never run more than one crowdfunding campaign in a year, so this may be easier said than done. Still, it would be nice to bring a story to a close after nearly two decades.

 

The Crossing

In 2020, Robert Jeffrey, Sean Hill, myself, and 133art came together to tell a story which was a sort of love-letter to the Dimension hopping stories of science fiction (think Sliders or Exiles). Then the pandemic happened. Then Sean Hill got himself famous with Marvel work. And the project kind of got back-burnered. After some discussions late in 2023, we have new pages and are looking to potentially having a path to wrapping up the first story in what (hopefully) could be a much larger sandbox. Assuming things go well, I could see us having a Kickstarter for this during the second quarter of 2024.

Another Comic Project

I look at everyone who is doing independent comic books and notice that they have multiple projects going at various stages of completion. And while I have that in some ways (see the above), I also need to look towards the future and not just 2024. It is all fine and well  if I have 3 issues of In Our Dreams Awake come out and maybe two issues of Crossing this year, but what then? Do I kill any momentum I might have gathered during 2024 and 2025 becomes a waiting for the artwork to get done type of year? Or could I start the wheels turning this year so that when Dreams is done, I’m immediately ready to launch the next project into the world?

So that’s what I’ve been trying to figure out in this last week. Some of it depends a great deal on whether I’m successful with Dreams and the Crossing. If those fail or even just squeek by… it could change the entire equation. But if you are going to take a leap of faith, I could see worse things to do. I have two projects that would make a decent follow-up, so the only question is which one to attack first.

 

S.O.U.L. Mate

I swear this is my white whale. I have a full draft of this one. I have done a first pass of edits. But it is still missing something. It’s nothing big, the overall skeleton is there, but I think there are a few places within the draft where things need to be punched up and/or elaborated on (fleshed out). Editing is the least fun part of things sometimes just due to the time investment on my side. If you think about it, when you read for pleasure a 300 page book can take days/weeks of reading (according to how fast you read). With editing, I’m having to reread the work but with an eye for where the weaknesses in the manuscript might be and then make the edits. An hour of editing might get me through 1 chapter. And if I’m editing, then I’m not writing anything else… very much a push-pull effort on my time.

The other thing is when this thing is ready to get released into the world, I want it to actually do more than any of my previous works. Now I’m not delusional, but I’d also like it to do more than pizza money. I really need to have my marketing strategy down pat when I put this one out (really that goes for everything though).

Image by G.C. from Pixabay

Untold Series

I jump around genres. That’s a path to failure. So I’ve been working on a series of books (and novellas and short stories) to try and get a proper release that will take hold and maybe grow the audience with each release. This won’t be ready for release this year. At this point I have 2 1/2 of the novels done in what I see as a 6ish book series. I have notes filling up pages of notebooks. I have worlds being created and destroyed. But this big push for this one is consistantcy in writing on the series so that perhaps 2025 might see the release of Book 1. No matter, if I make more and more progress on this insanity, I will be extremely happy.

 

Hollow Empire

Mr. Neill and myself wrote a serialized story set in a world where the Black Plague event happened twenty years eariler and the world was still picking itself back up from getting punched in the teeth. We did 6 episodes and collected that as a full-length novel (Season 1). In the years since, I’ve wanted to go back to this story, but have always back-burnered this in favor of something else. However, Jeremy has written 2 additional novellas in the world in the meantime.

It is like an itch I need to get at… I have one novella ready to go, but need to finish the next two before I do any releasing. Regardless, more work on this is needed this year.

Short Stories

At some point this year I wondered about both my published and unpublished short stories. I have a few building up in my folders, so I started putting them all in a Scriviner file to see where I was in a potential Anthology. I was pleasantly suprised to see I had about 40,000 words over around 10ish shorts. And I have about 4 other stories that would be really good fits in there that are in progress. This is another “make progress” as I wouldn’t want to try and put it out this year but maybe in 2025…

***

So that’s a look toward my writing future. I’m optimistic that come this time next year a whole bunch of these items will have a big checkmark beside them. Fingers crossed.

***

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

A Love for Everyday – Part 15

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

Part 1 is here.

Part 2 is here.

Part 3 is here.

Part 4 is here.

Part 5 is here.

Part 6 is here.

Part 7 is here.

Part 8 is here.

Part 9 is here.

Part 10 is here.

Part 11 is here.

Part 12 is here.

Part 13 is here.

Part 14 is here.

 

 

January 25

You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.

Dr. Seuss

 

February 12

You can transmute love, ignore it, muddle it, but you can never pull it out of you. I know by experience that the poets are right: love is eternal.

E. M. Forster, A Room With A View

 

March 29

Time is

Too slow for those who wait

Too swift for those who fear

Too long for those who grieve,

Too short for those who rejoice;

But for those who Love,

Time is not.

Henry Van Dyke, Music And Other Poems

April 22

If anything happened to you, I’d be so destroyed they’d have to strap me to a bed and feed me through a tube. After five or six years, I might be capable of taking care of Rex. In the interim, you should assign a guardian.

Janet Evanovich, Fearless Fourteen

May 16

Love has nothing to do with what you are expecting to get – only with what you are expecting to give – which is everything.

Katherine Hepburn, Me: Stories Of My Life

 

June 17

Whenever you are confronted with an Opponent. Conquer him with love.

Mahatma Gandhi

 

July 11

One day spent with someone you love can change everything.

Mitch Albom, For One More Day

 

August 10

You don’t marry the person you can live with…

You marry the person you can’t live without.

Anonymous

September 25

What greater gift than the love of a cat.

Charles Dickens

 

October 28

Only one is a wanderer; two together are always going somewhere.

Vertigo

 

November 9

For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love.

Carl Sagan, Contact

 

December 7

I love you not only for what you are, but for what I am when I am with you.

Roy Croft

 

***

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Survivor – What’s Your Path to Win?

Watching this season of Survivor brought me to a weird conclusion about games in general. For those unfamiliar with Survivor, each week someone is voted out, but there are items which can grant you immunity if you find/earn them. During this season, one of the players, Bruce, made the decision to trust someone and opted not to play his immunity idol… and was promptly voted out. Now, this isn’t the first time something like this has happened in the history of the game. In fact, there have been many times where the players have commented no matter what, they weren’t going to be dumb and go home with the idol in their pocket.

In the past, I would have definitely been railing against this player… why on earth wouldn’t you play this idol if you had any inkling you were next to go? I’m pretty sure I have done just that while watching past seasons.

Yet, this time something else occured to me. What was his path to actually get to the end of the game and win?

Just because you can make a move in any game doesn’t always mean that you have to make it. In fact, I’d argue that doing something because you don’t want to look stupid not doing the thing is likely just avoiding failing versus actually trying to win.

Let’s say that at 8 players left, he plays the idol and makes it to 7 players… isn’t he just as likely to be the number one target next time? Yes, he’d have an opportunity to win a challenge (which he had done twice already) to protect himself, but if he doesn’t do that… he’s toast.

How does Bruce get to the end game?

Image by Erik from Pixabay

To get to the end game means not using the idol at 8. He has to put his trust into someone at some point. And the path he needs to take requires him having that idol in his pocket at least one more vote. If he survives the vote at 8, then he can now use it at 7 if he needs to. However, the thing is, if he survives the vote at 8, then the game has likely pivoted more in his favor anyway. Suddenly, he may not be worth the bother anymore. There may be someone on the other alliance who needs to go first. There may be a bigger threat. Or, given that he wasn’t well liked… sometimes those people become assets as you assume no one will give someone who annoys them 1 million dollars.

Obviously, no matter what game you might be playing, you don’t want to get to a position where you are hoping for the narrow path to possibly win, but I believe it can be a good exercise to employ. When you win, how does that most likely occur? In Poker, it may be getting someone to pay you off on a big hand or it may be getting someone to lay down a big hand. In Magic the Gathering, it might be a series of counter plays where you find a window to play a threat and protect it at all costs.

Once you can start to see how the win comes, you can craft your strategy to get there better than if you are just allowing variance to control your fate. And that may mean taking an unorthodox line of play, knowing that yes you might not be successful, but at least you didn’t let the game dictate to you. At least you took as much control as you could.

***

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

The Reason Why – The God That Failed

 

How do you write a comic book?

I had crafted terrible, terrible stories throughout my youth. I have a blue beat-up notebook with the ongoing tales of the Threats based on the adventures of my sister and friends. I had various files on the computer with a bullet list style outline of ideas here or there but there was never a real chance to actually get a comic going. And then somehow I found myself with a very random opportunity after spending a few months talking about writing in the back of a comic shop.

There were some artists who met up there as well and somehow there was an opportunity to do something short. 8-pages.

I didn’t go back to any of my old ideas. In fact, I wasn’t really sure how to go about writing a script for an artist. I don’t think I’d really seen anything at that point. But there was a bigger problem:

I didn’t have an idea.

It was a struggle to try and find some kernel of an idea. Sure I had 60 issue epics planned out, but only 8 pages? What in the world could I tell in such a short amount of time?

And then it hit me one day while I was at work. Over the next 10 minutes I roughed out the full script on a bunch of scrap papers. The idea of having a hero who had a very limited time in the world. I don’t know if I was feeling my own mortality as I approached my 30s or if there was something about comic book heroes never getting to see the last of their stories, but that’s what I set out to do.

Again, it was a bare bones script at best that I handed the artist, John Etienne, the next meeting. He might have asked a couple of questions, I can’t remember. All I knew was there was a chance this bit of words on a couple of pages might get transformed into something bigger.

 

Evolution-Book-one-cover-lo

Since the internet loves a list, here are 9 things (Why 9? Because that’s how many I came up with!) about my first comic that might strike your fancy, a behind the scenes, if you will:

1- John Etienne was the artist on the story. The only reason that Etienne was my artist is because I had approached him a couple of months earlier, before the idea of doing an anthology was even a real thought in anyone’s head. However, it wasn’t because I had this story lined up. No, instead I had wanted him to draw an 8 page Moon Knight story for me (not sure what my goal there would have been). Lucky for me he didn’t have time right then to work on anything, and when the anthology project was finally launched I had a story of my own.

2- John Etienne happens to know my Mother-in-Law. She played a trick on him once the comic was out by telling him that not only had she gone to Dragon Con, but she had bought this comic book and wondered if he was the artist on it. “I always go to Dragon Con, and I love comic books”. After a few dumb-founded seconds she fessed up, but both of them later relayed the story to me (and the look on his face as he wasn’t sure if he’d stepped into Bizzaro world or not). I believe Etienne’s words were to me that he just couldn’t see her at Dragon Con. Though, I would pay good money to see her downtown on Labor Day weekend.

3- There was some debate about the order of the stories within the book. I generally like to be the nice guy about most things, but by my thinking I believed you either wanted to be the first story or the last story in the book (actually we all may have thought those spots were the best). I ended up with the last story position, but when the first story ended up delayed (or abandoned, I can’t remember) everyone agreed to put The God That Failed into the first position. Again, I have to thank Etienne for actually being the first one finished with his pages which made the choice fairly easy plus they looked pretty damn good as well, which did not hurt our cause).

4- I mentioned in the blog that my favorite superheroes are Spider-Man and The Flash. The God That Failed was my idea of what would happen to a guy who received the abilities of The Flash, but that power was burning him up inside.

TheFlash

5- In my original script, page 7 was actually page 6, and page 6 was page 7. Given the way the narration was done the story wasn’t as much linear as it was a guy talking about his friend who was disappearing from the world. When I actually saw the finished pages I had those two flipped given the way the story played out. That being said, page 7 is a “what if” moment, not something that the character actually did (he didn’t need to get more power, he already had way too much).

6- Though I love the serialized format of comic books, this was always a stand-alone story… a cautionary tale, a new myth or something. Thus began my apparent need to tell complete stories (done in one) in comics. That continued with The Gilded Age. But the real reason that I didn’t want to have him as a new hero for future stories was that I had no idea if or when I’d ever get a chance to do more comics. And as a reader there is nothing more frustrating than buying a comic that says “To Be Continued” and then not ever finding the rest of the story.

7- The main character’s name was John Smith; however, it wasn’t because two Johns worked on the story. I wanted a generic name, someone who might be easily forgotten regardless of all the good deeds he might have done. That fear is something that I know I have and I was channeling that fear into John Smith. This is really summed up to me on pages 5 & 6 but mostly in panel 4 on page 5. John carving into the Easter Island statues is not him destroying something precious; it is his attempt to prove that he existed at all. I sometimes wonder if he did that all over the world.

8- The title is taken from the title of a song on Metallica’s Black Album. I just liked the way it sounded, and since superheroes many times are considered gods, it fit exceptionally well in my mind.

Now I probably owe them money or something.

9- My favorite page of the story is the last one. I think (I hope) that I dodged becoming too preachy by having that last panel thrown in there. I love the idea of another what if… this one being, of course, what if John Smith had lived. The shot of The Fruit Fly conjures up memories of a 10-year old me. I think he would have gotten a kick out of that.

***

I’m not sure John truly knew how excited I was to start seeing those pages. And while the narration and idea was mine, it wouldn’t be anything without his wonderful artwork. He took a bare script and made it look like a true comic story. And when he was done, that’s when I got that first true rush I hope everyone who creates something gets when they see it finished. It’s an odd moment where you know no matter what else happens, a little piece of you exists in the world. Something permanent which sprang from your mind.

My own Easter Island carving if you will.

***

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

The Blank Page

The scariest thing about doing this writing thing is always the blank page. Whether it is a blog or a mailing list email or a short story or a novel or a comic script…

Every movie or tv show you’ve ever seen has the wadded up pages scattered along the floor near the wastebasket (never in it unless it is completely overfilled… a very all or nothing scenario I suppose). But that image is what’s going on in your brain the whole time. A metaphorical throwing away of the pages.

The white page/screen stares you down. It dares you to try and fashion something coherent. It annoys you with its stark nature. Mocks you into thinking you won’t be able to write the THING. Whatever that THING happens to be this time. It reflects that not-so-little voice inside us which trys to remind us we are frauds. Why would anyone bother reading anything you’ve written?

To start a new THING is a bold and scary thing. Even the act of hitting that NEW button of your writing software. The very act which summons your ancient enemy. It’s all a part of the process.

But push past that initial fear and there is an odd freedom to what lay before you. I mean a blank screen can also represent something completely unknown to you in the moment, but it is also a promise of something to come. True endless possibilities. The opportunity to write and discover the secrets you’re unearthing.

That, too, comes with obstacles. Just because you’ve started and managed to get some words on the screen, doesn’t mean you have accomplished your goal. The thing is, ideas can be squirelly to nail down. I have folders of partially written blogs and short stories where I got off to very strong starts. Thousands of words littered across the pages. The characters becoming more and more real with each line of dialogue or discription. Then it just stops. It becomes a slog. You’ve lost the thread. You go back and read what you’ve written and begin to have the doubts again. You can’t abandon all this work, but you know it isn’t going anywhere either.

Click Save and move on. It’ll remain unfinished.

Or will it? Maybe that start is all you needed? Maybe you can come back to it? Maybe you can harvest that THING for use in another THING? Maybe it can be the inspiration for something even bigger and better?

Maybe… maybe… maybe…

Sometimes all you need is a little kick in the rear in order to get going. Most of the time I search for inspiration in any place I can think of. I have the habit of writing ideas, bits of dialogue, random notes or what have you on pieces of scrap paper.  Because the truth is you don’t know when the next bit will happen. The story well may have run dry for a while, but all it takes is one little bit of light to shatter the darkness you find youself in.

That’s the key. You have to allow yourself to dream. To mentally go down wrong pathways before you can discover the true nature of the THING.

***

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

A Love for Everyday – Part 14

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

Part 1 is here.

Part 2 is here.

Part 3 is here.

Part 4 is here.

Part 5 is here.

Part 6 is here.

Part 7 is here.

Part 8 is here.

Part 9 is here.

Part 10 is here.

Part 11 is here.

Part 12 is here.

Part 13 is here.

 

January 9

What I really want to do with my life – what I want to do for a living –  is I want to be with your daughter.

I’m good at it.

Say Anything

 

February 27

Doubt thou the stars are fire;

Doubt the sun doth move;

Doubt truth to be a liar:

but never doubt I love.

William Shakespeare, Hamlet

 

March 30

 

The one thing we can never get enough of is love. And the one thing we never give enough of is love.

Henry Miller

April 20

 

Being with you and not being with you is the only way I have to measure time.

Jorge Luis Borges

May 15

You’re in a car with a beautiful boy, and he won’t tell you that he loves you, but he loves you. And you feel like you’ve done something terrible, like robbed a liquor store, or swallowed pills, or shoveled yourself a grave in the dirt, and you’re tired.

You’re in a car with a beautiful boy, and you’re trying not to tell him that you love him, and you’re trying to choke down the feeling, and you’re trembling, but he reaches over and he touches you, like a prayer for which no words exist, and you feel your heart taking root in your body, like you’ve discovered something you didn’t even have a name for.

Richard Siken

 

June 10

For it was not into my ear you whispered, but into my heart. It was not my lips you kissed, but my soul.

Judy Garland

 

July 25

You have been my friend. That in itself is a tremendous thing.

Charlotte’s Web

 

August 15

 

But love doesn’t make sense! You can’t logic your way into or out of it. Love is totally nonsensical. But we have to keep doing it or else we’re lost, and love is dead and humanity should pack it in.

Because love is the best thing we do.

How I Met Your Mother

September 13

That’s when you know for sure somebody loves you. They figure out what you need and they give it to you – without you asking.

Adriana Trigiani, Very Valentine

 

October 27

My only nightmare is waking up in a world where you’re not mine.

Anonymous

 

November 14

With my last breath, I’ll exhale my love for you. I hope it’s a cold day, so you can see what you meant to me.

Jarod Kintz, This Is The Best Book I’ve Ever Written, And It Still Sucks

 

December 5

Woman is sacred; the woman one loves is holy.

Alexandre Dumas, The Count Of Monte Cristo

 

***

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Movie Review – The Marvels

There is a ton of talk about this movie online. Honestly, it is to the point that I’m wondering about that old saying “whether it is bad or good… as long as they are talking about you” still applies. After one weekend, this has underperformed at the box office, and while many people have listed their own theories about why this has occurred (smarter and dumber people alike), it seems to me we’ve gotten away from the key part of watching a movie.

Did you like it?

Yes.

***

Thanks for coming to the blog!

***

OK. The first Captain Marvel really occupies an odd place in the MCU as it came out after Infinity War but before End Game but took place in the 90s, which put in a position where it didn’t really fit into the current storyline and acts as a prequel to much of the MCU (other than say the first Captain America movie). It introduces more of the Kree (since Ronan in Guardians was really the only Kree we’d met otherwise) and sets up something that within the comics is a HUGE deal: the Kree/Skrull conflicts.

I enjoyed the first one, but I must admit, I haven’t gone back to do a rewatch so it might have been seen through rose-colored glasses as we all waited for End Game.

***

With Marvels, my concern was how well would people who haven’t watched the tv shows understand who these characters are. We’d watched WandaVision, so Monica’s story was familiar to us, but we haven’t had a chance to watch Ms. Marvel. And while I am familiar with the comic version, I haven’t really read much with her in it. Luckily, I think they did a pretty good job of introducing both, even if Monica has a leg up due to Captain Marvel being Aunt Carol.

The sequence which gets the movie started is them switching places whenever one of them uses their powers at the same time as another of the trio. Which creates a breakneck series of fights which does a nice job of illustrating each of their power sets. When the three are finally all together, the embarassingly cute interaction Ms. Marvel has with the other two women is infectious. It also does a nice bit of contrast to one of the things people complained about with the first one – that Captain Marvel was too stoic. In fact, that is kind of her character arc here. Someone who has seperated herself from the rest of the universe, someone doing a job only they can do, and just being utterly alone. Faced with a “team”, she balks at it because it is so against her nature. Yet as things continue, she has no choice but to literally and figuratively embrace these two souls. It was this underlying thread that still made it HER movie in so many ways.

Dar-Benn

On top of everything else, though, this movie feels like something where everyone is having fun. The actors look like they are into it. The writer clearly understood this was supposed to be more about the three heroes and their developing relationships between one another rather than the larger plot. Which may be the one bit of “bad” about the movie for me.

I don’t know if they completely knew what kind of villain they were portraying here? Is Dar-Benn your classic cosmic world destroyer in the vein of Ronan? Is she someone who is only trying to do her best to restore her homeworld back to from the brink of annihilation? Or is she someone who is bent of revenge against a sworn enemy?

Now, that sounds like the beginning of real depth for Dar-Benn, but it is here that things seem to get confused. She is all these things, but we only find out about the revenge against Captain Marvel near the end of the movie which makes it seems like it was her ultimate motivation. However, this came across as more of a “oh, ok” moment rather than a “WOW” moment. I wish they would have put something more into that, even an exchange between her first officer saying something about getting revenge is how she’s picking her targets.

***

The cosmic side of Marvel has so much to explore and these characters could allow them to do just that. And could even seed some additional ideas for a Fantastic Four movie (Annihilus is out there).

The comic book nerd would hate for the lower box office to hurt these explorations in the future. There is a ton to enjoy about this movie, and if the first one didn’t quite hit right, this one has a feel very different to that one – it may be more in your wheelhouse.

***

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Editing and Editing and Editing

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

I’m always trying to find better ways to write. Trying to figure out tips and tricks that might help me as I wrap up the next story I’m working on (whether that’s a short story or novel or series of novels). And even when the last words are written on the page and I can put THE END at the bottom… it only means that a whole other thing has to be done.

In movies it’s said that the film is really made in the editing room. That with a good edit, even the worst subject matter and story can come out smelling like roses. And I think it is the same in prose writing as well.

I treat my first drafts as just that: First Drafts. Which means I try not to worry too much about making mistakes or poor word choices or even character names… my goal is to get it on the page. By taking this approach it means that after the first draft is finished I still have a good amount of writing and rewriting to do. Now, luckily, I don’t believe I’m just writing a ton of stuff which will have to be overhauled by any means. The core is certainly there. However, it needs to be massaged and cleaned up.

And at some point I have to go through and start using the word search so that I can get rid of my crutch words. So I can get rid of the filler words. So I can get rid of certain turn of phrases which aren’t needed.

Image by DeSa81 from Pixabay

Things to Excise:

Adverbs – Anything that ends in “ly” is fair game for elimination. However, as with all of these words or phrases, I do a reread of the paragraph and see if it really warrants extinction. Sadly (hey, there’s that “ly”), adverbs most of the time don’t add as much as we think they do.

For example: “The girl ran quickly.”

Well, how else might she run? Typically if I wanted to imply that she was really pouring it on I’d opt for something like: “The girl sprinted.”

That – This is my absolute favorite one to get rid of. Most of the time the word “that” can be eliminated. Flat out. Read your sentence with “that” and then read it again without “that”… no difference (I’d say 75-80% of the time).

Nodded, Smiled, Laughed, Sighed, Shrugged, Shook, and Grinned – These are really more like placeholders for me on that first pass. I can’t always think of great things for someone to do, so I slot these in initially, and it is on this pass I begin to alter them into something a little… classier maybe. “She grinned.” vs. “She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear.”

I just need something different that 1000 instances of “grinned” and “nodded”.

Just – I probably use this more in my dialogue than in my prose, but it does sneak in there as well. Another word to be deleted.

He said aloud – Another placeholder, waiting to grow up and become something better.

Cliches – These vary from project to project, and I’m not going to claim to find them all, but most of the time I try to avoid them: Needle in a haystack, grasping at straws, get out of dodge, and fast and furious have managed to infiltrate my prose on more than one occasion.

***

Character Names

I use placeholders for character names. Which has its advantages and disadvantages. The advantage is I don’t need to waste a bunch of time when I might be in a good flow to figure out whether the name should be Keith or Kranston. They just get a nickname or more likely something like XXX or YYY (easier to find in word search that way). However, in my current series, I called one character Big Boss for so long I literally couldn’t tell you what name I landed on. Even as I type this up I’m straining to figure it out and nothing is coming to me.

Of course, with that character, I don’t think I came up with a name until I was writing the last couple of chapters… so his name might as well been Big Boss.

The other thing I try to remember is not to pick names with the same starting letter.

I noticed when I was reading something I’m still learning everyone’s names at the beginning of the book. At some point the main character just becomes Alden or Harper and we’re good to go. The problem is when you want to have the entire cast all have names in the same range of the alphabet. I see Aaron and Alden and now I’m trying to remember which character is which. Maybe it is just a me problem, but the least I can do is avoid a similar problem in my own work.

Image by Peter H from Pixabay

***

Using Less Words

This isn’t simply about erasing filler words, this is about the economy of your prose. One person I read mentioned an idea to go through every paragraph within your book and see if you can cut a sentence and still get the same point across. Can you tell what you need to tell in 10 words rather than 20?

This is a place where I think that yes, I can do that, but sometimes there needs to be some level of flowery language in there. If everything was See Spot Run, then reading would just be too boring. We’re trying to build worlds and characters who are complex and need to have room to breathe.

Still, after editing your work should be a little trimmer, a little lighter on its feet. It’s not a full diet, but just a couple of days of a good cleanse.

***

I’m still at it within Nanowrimo, even if my writing time has been as much as I would like. I’m hopeful the next couple of days can be very productive ones and help me catch up to where I should be.

November is speeding by awfully quick.

***

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Repost – Prepping for Nanowrimo

I attempted this last year and while I didn’t hit the 50,000 word goal, I still managed over 30,000 words which considering the last week or so is extremely hard to get much in the way of words with travelling and spending time with family. So I considered it a success.

My wife asked me if I was planning on doing it again, and the answer was yes. I’ve been making notes, outlining, and all the other things begining on the first. Plus, October has been a bit random with good writing nights. I’ll hit two or three in a row and then not be able to get much done for another two or three… for pretty much the whole week.

Anyway, I wanted to reshare some of my prep from my post last year as I focus on this next month!

 

So I’ve decided that this is the year that I’m going to give this Nanowrimo a shot. Of course, I’ve thought about it over the years, and I think I gave it a start a couple of years ago, but life got in the way. This decision means that I’m a little bit behind the eight ball, as it were because I made the decision all of about 7 days before the end of October. So I did what anyone might do, I started with some old-fashioned research on what things I needed to do to have the best chance of succeeding with my goal.

This list has been cobbled from my reading so many blogs out there. I tried to see what were the common themes that I kept seeing repeatedly. The biggest thing was asking the big question:

What am I getting out of this? What’s my goal beyond just having 50,000 words written at the end of the month?

Part of me is curious if I can do it at all. I’ve talked about this idea that if only I could keep my butt in the seat, then maybe I could write more than 1 draft in a year. I want to get going on book 2 of this series. I’m excited to push to make sure that the work progresses. I also know that my bigger goals only work if I can increase my word output. And finally, I just spent the weekend at a convention where I got to see all these people displaying their dozens of books, and I had my three plus a few comics. While I’m proud of the work I’ve done, I need to catch up!

Set up your calendar.

This is obviously a big one. Trying to figure out the days I’m available and the days that I certainly won’t have time to do much writing. It is not for the first time that I wonder whose bright idea it was to do this during a month with only 30 days and with a major holiday at the tail end of the month (you know, probably the time when you are going to want to play a little bit of catch-up). Looking at it, I definitely need to account for the days I can write but especially figure out those days when I cannot.

It breaks down like this: 50,000 words in 30 days = 1,667 words/day

That’s a bit intimidating.

November-2022-calendar-b18.jpg printable calendar

Clear the calendar of the to-do lists.

Some items cannot be cleared. Others will need to be juggled a little bit. One of the things I do every week is the blogs for TesseraGuild, so I sat down over the last couple of days and wrote out all the blogs for the remainder of the year. In fact, it might be the furthest ahead I’ve ever been since I started doing this.

 

Set up your Nano account

Need to set up my nano account (I guess). I saw this a bunch about having a group to help build friendships and discussions and whatnot for encouragement. It can’t hurt!

 

Outline the book.

I’m lucky in that I know exactly what book I’m going to be writing for the project. I also have already begun working on the outline prior to the start. However, I have plenty of blank spots leading into this that I will need to fill in.

For the first book, I did something called 40 sentences, where I basically had a beat sheet or plot sheet broken into 40 bullets, with the idea that each one would be a chapter (I don’t think that’s exactly what I ended up with), but it worked well to have that roadmap to fall back on, and it is interesting to review to see where I departed from the original breakdowns.

Some of this also falls under the list of having your title, having the story idea, having your characters and who they are. This is book 2 in a series, so with that comes a couple of known characters (my two POVs), but I do need to take a little time to flesh out some of the supporting cast for both.

 

Writing the story logline and/or pitch.

I don’t know that I’ve ever done this upfront, but then I realized that I basically have done it when I’m pitching the various ideas I have to my wife. She listens to me stumble around, trying to figure out the exact way to frame whatever it is, and generally is a good sounding board. For this story, I haven’t really told her much about it because she’s read book 1, she knows how things ended, and I kind of want to keep it all as a surprise. So I’ll need to do this on my own.

Have a tracking system

I have been tracking my writing over the years with a simple excel spreadsheet. I figure if it ain’t broke…

 

Research

Normally research is something that is a nice break from the actual writing process, but it also becomes this not-so-fun time sink. However, when writing the first draft, I mostly don’t concern myself with too much on the end of the research. If it is something that is only going to slow me down, then I should probably cut it for this draft and worry about it when I go to do my first editing pass next year. However, I did see something that talked about images (which I already use), but maybe spending a little of this prep time to grab some more for the story might not be a bad thing.

Another thing that enters into this is the idea of making a cover for your potential book, which is another rabbit hole I could definitely spend a ton of time diving down.

 

Notebook

I need to keep one of my notebooks with me at all times during November. I have a couple that are blank, so they might make the best ones to use for this exact process.

 

Mindset

I’ve seen in more than a couple of places talk about getting into the right mindset. This is truly a marathon (but perhaps one made up of a bunch of sprints). This is something that many attempt and don’t end up getting to that mythical finish line. So if I’m going to have a shot at writing that much during this month, then I need to prep my brain to get onto the good path.

***

Anyway, here I go. Wish me good luck!

***

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Free Short Story: Til the Last Candle Flickers

From the Machina Obscurum Anthology:

 

Image by Myriam Zilles from Pixabay

* * *

Til the Last Candle Flickers

 John McGuire

Dave Simms wished the world would just end already. He didn’t care if it swept away in an enormous tidal wave that washed everything from the land. If a meteor struck his very spot in an extinction level event, he wouldn’t have minded. If the dead clawed their way through filth and earth and wooden coffins into the sunlight with a new desire to eat the living’s flesh, he would sigh in relief.

For then, maybe, just maybe, he wouldn’t have to put up with people like Steven Kingsley anymore.

“The world’s supposed to end this week, right Dave?” The nasally sound of Steven’s voice boomed across the hunting store causing Dave to gnash his teeth and clench his jaws.

Though, hunting store wasn’t the correct term for this place. Part hunting shop, part grocery store, and part gas station, the Tilly Mill Shoppe sat at the edge of civilization. Old highway twenty no longer roared with traffic the way it might had some thirty years earlier. Like most places just outside the suburban beltline, this area was wilderness for most city-folk. The store would be crowded with customers traveling north to the mountains from Atlanta on Friday evening, their trucks towing a boat, or a camper, or just hunting equipment. Each of them convinced they were recapturing some primal essence long since lost to them in their weekly routine of desks, emails, and deadlines. This place represented the last stop before complete anarchy. Somewhere the strong ate the weak. So the store would be very busy nearly every weekend. Filled to the brim with patrons trying to reconnect to that lost animal inside.

Those very reasons summed up why Dave only visited during the week. A trick he used so that he only needed to deal with the regulars. Maybe give a few of the old timers a nod as they lived out the last days of their lives, sitting outside, swapping stories, and counting every car which drove past.

That was, of course, as long as they weren’t giving Dave grief. Three of them had left their perch outside and followed him in, ever curious about his plans. He’d dealt with their type his whole life. In high school, they were the jocks, the cool kids, and he was the nerd who needed to be pointed at and laughed at for being different. Scrawny, glasses wearing, wimp of a kid, they saw him as weak and it was a moral imperative to ensure that they terrorized him throughout his adolescence.

“Big day for you, huh Dave?” When he made no move to acknowledge the comment, Steven cleared his throat and tried again. “This is the week, right?”

Dave looked up quickly, taking care not to lock eyes with Steven before immediately dipping his head downward again. Under his breath, he muttered. “Yes, sir. Noon on Saturday.”

Steven grinned, flashing his yellowed teeth back at Rick and Sam. “You hear that, fellas? We best be saying our prayers if ole’ Dave is to be believed.”

Rick decided to join in on the fun. “You ask me, the apocalypse happened a couple of years ago. Whole world’s going to Hell.”

Somewhere, along the shelves in the back, Dave Simms examined his shopping list a little closer. In front of the squirrely man stood the shelf with various dried packaged food, and he didn’t need to grab anything that might not sit well with his nervous stomach. His eyes darted from shelf to paper and then back again before he made his decision. His arm shot out and proceeded to scoop a dozen packets into his basket. A few more passes up the three aisles the small store offered and Dave sifted through the basket once more before grunting his satisfaction at his haul.

Rick chuckled and reached into the front of his shirt pocket to find the dip can waiting. Using two dirty fingers, he pinched a piece and set it between his front lip and gums. “Well I got ah question for you, Dave. How is it that about every three months or so you come in here and stock up on all sorts of,” he grabbed one of the pouches from the shelf, “Re-hydro-ized vegetables?”

Sam interjected, “That’s not real food. You know that.”

Dave remained silent, waiting for Rick to finish whatever point his feeble brain was trying to make. He kept his hands at his sides, fighting the urge to clench and unclench them with every word spat his way.

“Every three months you think that the world is going to end, and every three months go by and we’re all still here.”

Dave could tell that a reply was required. “That is true.”

Steven broke into a big grin before pointing to the radio sitting on the counter behind him. “I sometimes listen to those late night shows, you know with the crazy callers about aliens and the like. And they talk about the end of the world too. Ain’t none of them mentioned this particular time though. Why do you think that is?”

Rick poked him in the chest with the pouch. “So how is it that the world hasn’t ended if you’re so sure that this is the time. Last time was the time. And the time before that.”

Dave did his best to keep his expression neutral. “I only have to be right once.”

“What’s that?” Steven cocked his head and for a moment looked more like a confused dog than a man.

Dave spoke the words a little louder, a little clearer. “I only have to be right one time.”

The three men exchanged looks before they each let out a howl of laughter. Dave couldn’t blame them for their reaction. He took their jabs because he knew that it didn’t make sense. None of it made sense.

They weren’t wrong about his previous predictions. A quick bit of math told him that he’d made almost thirty-seven different predictions about the end of the world. He was far past crying wolf. Nobody would believe him, and if he were being honest with himself, he no longer believed it either. Yet he continued to make his weekly visit and monthly predictions.

*

The first message came to him through the direct service his work employed. A cryptic line that only gave the score of the next weekend’s Falcons’ game: 24-10. Dave didn’t pay it much mind. To be honest, he wasn’t much of a sports guy, knowing just enough about the goings-on with the various ball related sports to contribute one or two lines of dialogue to any conversation which might have the misfortune to spring up around him. It wasn’t until he arrived to work on Monday morning that he thought about the note again and rechecked the final score: 24-10.

The next Friday afternoon he received the scores for every football game on the weekend slate, college and professional. They all matched… every single one of them. By the end of the weekend, he was watching the Sunday night game with a measure of both astonishment and disbelief. He cheered as hard as he could against the picked winner. Even if every other game had been right, somehow he just needed one to be incorrect. It wasn’t possible to have that level of accuracy in such things. But when the final whistle blew and he double and then triple checked the scores, they all matched.

He seriously thought about calling in sick that next day.

*

“Hey! You three better stop harassing our customers!” Dave hadn’t noticed the woman behind the counter when he came into the store. The nice thing about small town grocers was that things never changed. The bad thing about small town grocers was that things never changed.

Every week it was the same elderly man, Mr. Jacobs, who sat and listened to the police scanner, a spit cup resting alongside him on a little ledge behind the counter… not quite out of sight of the customers. A heavyset man, Mr. Jacobs never said more than a couple of words in his mixed mumble speak, and Dave was never entirely sure if he actually hated the customers or just didn’t care to engage any of them in conversation.

Dave liked that about Mr. Jacobs.

Yet, here she was, someone new, someone he’d never met before.

“Sorry, Stacy.” Steven cast a dirty look Dave’s way, but led his cronies back out the front of the store.

The woman never took her eyes off the little crew until they were outside. Only then did she turn her attention to Dave. “Sorry about that…”

Dave focused on her. Full face, dark hair that had a little too much product in it, long finger nails, some kind of dark red, and the warmest smile he’d seen since he’d relocated to the mountains.

She took his basket from him and began inspecting his haul on the day. “Do you actually eat this stuff or what?”

Most of the conversations Dave had started much the same way. A bit of disdain dripping from their voice as they tried to wrap their brains around whatever freaky lifestyle they thought he was living. He’d been labeled a Prepper, a Doomsdayer, and a bunch of other names not fit for mixed company. A person tends to become immediately defensive regardless of anything else.

“Yes! Why does it matter?” Dave felt bad immediately upon speaking the words as it dawned on him she didn’t have that sound of arrogance in her voice. Instead, while his brain replayed the question back in his head, he heard something else… perhaps a bit of playfulness. “I’m so-sorry. Those guys, they just-“

“Push your buttons. No, I get it.” The smile returned after its brief vacation, which made him all the more grateful for it.

“So, did something happen with Mr. Jacobs?”

“What? Uncle George? Oh, no. He’s just getting a bit too old to work the full week here. And my aunt is very keen on keeping him more around the house rather than hang out with the…” she pointed to the outside. “Other nere-do-wells.”

“Oh, good then. I mean, not good.” Always stammering and stuttering around women. Dave knew he was doing it again. Couldn’t find the correct words to say if they sat in his mouth and leapt out of their own accord. Still, through it all, she just gave him another smile that calmed him once more. “I mean, I’m glad he’s doing alright.”

She finished ringing his last item. “Seventy-two fifty-five is your total. And I know what you meant.”

Dave watched as she took his card and fed it through one of those old style credit card swipes that created the carbon copy, one for the store and one for him. Stacy grimaced. “I just wish he’d have something from this century for me to use. Something with a scanner and buttons.”

*

The week after the football games, the messenger changed his style. Dave began receiving the communications on his work computer, his home computer, his tablet, his phone, and anything else that could convey the missive. Every waking moment his devices would chirp or beep in excitement at a new dispatch. And they all said the same thing:

I know the future. I know when it all ends. If you want to continue living then you must follow my instructions.

Each time, Dave would press the delete button. Yet the notes haunted him. His dreams twisted under their influence until all he could see were those words. He couldn’t focus on work. He couldn’t focus on the few friends he actually had. He couldn’t focus on entertainment. None of it could distract him from the messages. What they might mean to him, and whether or not they contained any measure of truth.

That was the thought that kept him awake more than any other.

*

Dave took his card back from her, signed the bottom of the store’s copy, and scooped up his bags. “Well, I guess I’ll see you next week then.” He wanted to say more to her. He wanted to find something to talk to her about. He just wasn’t that good at the small talk. For him, small talk was just a way to extract him from the conversation rather than ease into a deeper one. He shuffled along to the front entrance, trying to will something clever to say when he heard her voice again.

“Is it true?”

Dave turned around. “What’s that?”

“Is it true what they said? That you think the world is going to end this weekend?”

What was he supposed to say? Should he lie? Did it even mean anything? If things were about to go to pot, what did pissing off one more matter?

“Yes.”

He waited for the ridicule or the laughter or anything. He shut his eyes, not wanting to see her make fun of him. It might kill the last piece that still believed in humanity. Instead, she spoke with no hint of arrogance or irony, but as someone who was genuinely interested in the potential answer. “How is it going to happen?”

Dave shook off the shock and cleared his throat before speaking. “Have you heard about the N-778?”

Stacy furled her brow. “I don’t think so.”

“It’s a meteor. Well, more than that really. We’re talking about an object in space the size of Alaska.”

She lit up. “Wait! I know about that one. I heard it on the news late one night. Some NASA muckity-mucks have said…” she paused, and Dave could see that she was trying to make sure she got the next part correct. “That it is crossing through a trajectory in such a way that in some of the simulations they run, it collides with the Earth.”

Now it was his turn to smile. She had it, well most of it anyway. “I’m surprised.”

“Surprised that I know something about one of the billions of big objects in the sky?”

“Well, yes, but only because the rest of these people I interact with wouldn’t know a tenth of what you just said.”

“Sorry, not much to do here all day. I like the Science Channel.”

“So do I.”

“Plus considering the lot of them outside barely know how to tie their shoes every morning, that’s no surprise.” She cocked her head to one side. “Still, I’m going to take that as a complement.”

“Yes.” The words flowed from Dave’s mouth in rapid succession. “And do you remember the percent chance of it actually happening?” She shook her head. “About one in one hundred trillion of crossing into our direct orbit, and then another one hundred trillion worth that it could collide with us.”

She sighed, partially for effect. “Yet, apparently you think it is a one hundred percent chance.”

“Well, I’ve seen it.”

*

Dave couldn’t recall the exactly moment when he broke down and answered the lingering message. The days blurred into a molasses of nothingness, as if he were a stranger in his own life. He watched that version of him go to work every day and count the minutes from the time he sat down until the minute changed to six o’clock and he could head back to his home. That cold apartment never greeted him very warmly. The television never did much to enhance his life. And now, he dared not go to the computer lest the bombardment of messages face him once more.

He needed a change. He needed a lifeline. He needed something, but he couldn’t be sure what it was.

So slowly, he came around. Like an addict who had a left-over bottle of liquor hidden away at the back of the pantry. First, he slid over to the chair, his fingertips hovering over the power switch. Oops, suddenly the machine was on again. As it went through its boot-up process he thought about standing back up, unplugging the machine from the wall, and being done with it. But his feet didn’t move. His ass remained in the chair. And when it came time to enter his password, his fingers did not hesitate to type them in.

What do you want?

I want to save your life.

Why? Who are you? How did you know all of that stuff? Why me?

I know when things are going to happen because for me they are the past. You are my past.

Dave stopped typing. Did he believe it? Could he believe it? Was it possible? The person on the other end seemed to be able to read his thoughts.

It is true. It is possible. And I have already proved it to you. Or do you require more proof?

What did he require? If this was the truth, what would it take for him to believe? Why weren’t the scores enough?

I need one more piece of proof.

*

“You’ve seen it with a telescope?” Dave set his groceries down on the floor and moved back over to the counter. Stacy leaned against it.

“Yeah, I’m pretty sure I spotted it two days ago.”

Stacy pushed back from the counter. “So if it is going to happen, why would they say that it wouldn’t?”

“They?”

“The NASA muckity-mucks.”

Dave stood and stared at the woman. She noticed his look and blushed. “But you don’t believe them? You think they’ve got it all wrong?”

“Well, let’s look at it this way, maybe they’re right and it is going to miss us. Certainly is a long shot that we would get hit in the first place. But if they really saw that the damn thing was going to collide with us… that’s the type of information you can never let out, because if they can’t stop it, then there is no point in having mass riots and chaos for two weeks before the event is supposed to happen.”

Stacy stared at him with her mouth open a little bit. After a few moments, she seemed to catch herself and regained her composure. “That’s… probably true.”

“Yeah, so whether it is going to hit or not, we’re on our own.”

*

Within three months, Dave bought the cabin in north Georgia, quit his job, and began construction on the bunker under his house. With the money he made from the predictions, finances were no longer a concern for him. No, the only worry left was survival.

These new days brought out a man from inside him that he didn’t know existed. In the mountain air, he felt invigorated. Without the need to wake up at some god-forsaken early hour, he now chose to be up with the sun. He filled his days with work on the bunker, and his nights reading one of the many books he’d brought up from the city with him.

And when the day approached he was ready for it. He watched the internet and listened to the news from the safety below his cabin home. As the hours ticked by, he napped, calmer than he’d ever been before. Then when the day past into night and then into early morning again, the world continue to spin as if nothing had happened.

The world had not ended.

It didn’t happen.

A pause greeted him from the other side.

Hello. Nothing happened.

Hmmm.

Hmmm? That’s all you have to say? I’ve abandoned my life for this and then nothing happened? I warned the people at the shop I go to.

Why would you do that?

Why wouldn’t I?

I’m only trying to warn you. I’m only preparing you. Remember that.

But…

I was wrong this time. These things are a little fuzzy at times. But you are prepared. And I assure you, it is going to happen.

I don’t understand. I thought you said you knew what was going to happen and when.

I do and I don’t. My brain isn’t what it used to be, my memory gets jumbled sometimes on the big stuff. But I know it is coming soon. That’s why you must be ready.

*

“Show me where it is.”

Dave swallowed hard and shifted the telescope around. Stacy moved back, but not very far. He could feel her sweater brush the back of his arm. The sweetness of her breath filled his nostrils. Night overtook the day and the two stood on top of the store, her telescope focused on the clearest sky he could remember seeing. A small bit of chill in the air misted their breaths.

“There. There it is.” Dave pulled back to allow Stacy room to see. “It’s not much to look at right now, but-“

“Oh, no… it’s beautiful. I can see wisps of light trailing behind it.”

“That’s pieces of it breaking off through its trip through space. Kinda like a comet.”

“And this is the thing that is going to end the world?” This time he heard a little playfulness in her voice, but it didn’t bother him.

“I believe so, yeah.”

“That’s too bad.” For the first time that day, he thought he detected a hint of sadness in her voice. A slight quiver as she said the words.

“I’ve never told this to anyone, and I know that it’s silly, but I’m actually wishing the world would just go ahead and get it over with. It’s the waiting that’s the worst.”

Stacy pulled away from the eyepiece and smiled at him, a small amount of proof that perhaps his joke had the right kind of effect. A gust of wind whipped across the rooftop, and she moved in closer to him… for warmth. “Is this world really so bad?”

*

The world had died. Of course, that happened many years ago, though Dave Simms’ mind no longer could recall the exact date it happened. The years between had not been overly kind to his memories which disappeared as if his brain was run through a colander. Still, he had a job to do. Something to help heal his heart, even if only a little bit.

Throughout the bunker, he did his best to avoid catching a look at any reflective surface. His was a face he no longer wanted to see. Somehow, he knew exactly what he’d find. Gone would be the bit of youthful exuberance that once filled his frame. Gone would be the determination to ensure he had the right things planned out, replaced by the man sitting in front of the ancient terminal. A graying, sad, little man who struggled on his bad days not to open the sealed door.

Not let the Armageddon in.

This place now served as a tomb to the one living person who could still use it. Shelves lining the walls, once packed full of various foods and canned goods, held only dust. He had to make a trip to the far end, through two pairs of doors, to get to the last of his reserves. At last count, he probably had enough to make it through the end of the year.

It was a slow death preparing to greet him. The very reason why opening the door to the outside became more enticing every day. A growing part of him wished to see what the world looked like before his retina’s burnt away.

Beside the infernal machine’s whirling and blinking, a strained effort to keep going, was a lone portrait from the Before. Of all the objects he could have brought below with him, he cursed and celebrated his decision to bring this item. The red-haired woman smiles at him, a small amount of cotton candy stuck to the tip of her nose. Those eyes focused on a younger version of him. Somehow, she was in love with him in a way that he did not know could be possible. At the bottom there was a date, slightly smudged from his fingers. It marked those last days where he… where they were truly happy. Alongside it sat the last newspaper he ever picked up proclaiming the end of all things. Mass chaos… death… fear. The dates were only a few days apart.

Dave settled into the chair, his fingers the only part of his body that still moved with a reckless abandon. Their tips pounded away at the top of the keyboard. He had stopped looking at his fingers a long time ago, but it would do him little good to bother with such an action now. Most of the keys were blank, worn away through his furious use over the years.

Time was all he had since the End came. Dave knew it would be over, and he hoped that he managed to steer his ancient doppelganger in the correct direction for once.

I met a girl.

The words came in pieces across the screen. Dave shook his head at no one in particular and fired a missive back. He wanted to scream at the man on the other end of the line. To grab ahold of him and shake some sense into him.

We talked about this. You can’t make personal connections.

No, I know, I know. You’ve told me not to get attached, and I haven’t, but…

Dave found himself nodding. Finally, some of the words he’d been telling the man had seemed to sink into his skull.

I’m sorry, but that doesn’t really do much for me though. I’m not sure what you want me to do. You’re not right.

More anger. More disbelief. Had he really been this stubborn so long ago?

What?

I’ve lived this way for the past three years. The only people I seem to talk to are you and the few who mill around the store.

That is what you have to do in order to survive what’s to come. You can’t allow your emotions to cloud your judgment. You’ve come so far… and it is ending soon.

You know what? Those people in the store are right. You’ve repeated that same thing repeatedly for all this time. And nothing happens. You’re never right about any of it. The comet missed, the flash-fires didn’t happen. The moon is still shining on us from above. Whole. There were no grand solar flares that emitted EMP and wiped us all out. No mass of lightning strikes. Nothing!

I know, I can’t figure it out either. My brain is still a little bit scrambled, but I know that it is soon. You just have to have a little more patience.

No, I don’t. I’m just the idiot for believing you again and again. For building this shelter. For leaving my life and my job and any semblance of a real future… and for what? Because I’m too damn scared of life?

No! To survive. To find a way to go on living. That girl is only going to haunt you. She’ll be the one you can’t save. She’ll be the one that makes you think about ending it all every day of your miserable life and the one who convinces you to carry on in spite of those feelings.

You say that I would only lose them. That I have to worry about surviving. That I must worry about myself. How would you even know? What does it matter to you?

Dave reread the screen. Since his first contact with his younger version, he’d managed not to answer that question directly. For some reason he worried that it would change things if his younger self knew whom it was communicating with him. He had his reasons. A list of them he long since used for kindling. Now… now, he couldn’t remember one of them.

It doesn’t matter who I am, only that I am trying to help you.

I’m done. I’m finished. I’m done listening to you. I can’t live like this anymore. By myself, waiting for something that may or may not happen. So what if you are right? From now on, don’t try and contact me anymore.

But the end-

I don’t care. If it happens, then it happens. But I’m not going to hide anymore in my dungeon.

Don’t do this. Dave! Listen to me!

The cursor blinked, waiting to be put to use again. Dave watched and waited for a response. He screamed at the monitor, picked up the keyboard ready to launch it across the bunker, and then thought better of it.

An hour, then two, and then four passed him by, the machine’s whine becoming the only noise in the room. It threatened to wash away his thoughts with its anger. Yet he didn’t move. He couldn’t move from this spot in front of the computer. He didn’t dare to-

A last whirl followed by a hiss. The hiss gave way to a series of pops. Those pops crackled in rapid fashion echoing off the metal sides of the tower until they climaxed into a firework finale. The monitor flashed once and clicked off, a small trail of smoke emanating from the top.

The whole process only took a minute. But in that time, Dave saw his own life flash before his eyes. He wasn’t dying, but with this last link to the outside world… even if it had been to an ancient world that no longer existed… even then it was something to look forward to every day.

Pushing away from the desk, he shuffled over to the mirror on the far wall and took that final look at himself. It was as he feared; though, his hair was much longer than he’d realized… a far cry from the short cut he preferred in his younger days.

Alongside the mirror sat his collection of water bottles now nearly empty. From his last trip into the back room, he knew that he wouldn’t find any more there. His filters went a few months ago… one of the few things he hadn’t calculated correctly.

The containment suit felt heavy today, that old easy weight pushing his frame a little lower. For a passing moment, Dave wondered if it wasn’t the suit or his muscles at all, but perhaps the planet’s gravity going on the fritz. Looking at his skinny arms and legs, it was a nice dream to clutch to. A heavy twist to the right and the airtight seal released, greeting him with a hiss. The outside world flooded into the first room, bathing it in radiation.

“There was never enough for both of us.”

The metal groaned as he pushed the door back into place. Another day in Hell, he only hoped that he could find some bit of supplies that he’d previously missed.

But hope was something he’d never been good at.

***

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Top 5 Episodes of Black Mirror

I’ve previously reviewed all the episodes of the show (save for Banderdash Choose Your Own Adventure episode, which I should rewatch at some point I think) here:

Season 1&2

Season 3

Season 4

Season 5

Season 6

But there has now been 27 total episodes of the show which feels like the right number to do a Top 5 episode breakdown, right?

Season 1 Episode 3 – The Entire History of You

This was the reason I fell in love with this show. The core idea of being able to record your life is both so simple and so ripe with possibilities that I’m somewhat paralyzed by the very idea of it. Like so many Black Mirror episodes we are led down a destructive path where the search for the truth gets in the way of being happy with your current life. While we all believe we would like to live in a world where every secret could be revealed to us, I’m not sure we could ever be prepared for the quiet truths. The truths that are spoken about us when we are not around. I think about the handful of times in my own life where I got a peek at a private moment where someone spoke their truth about me. You’d like to believe it will always be good things, but sometimes their version of reality can make you reassess your own version… and not always for the best.

Perhaps sometimes ignorance is truly bliss?

 

Season 2 Episode 1 – Be Right Back

I read an article the other day that this very idea is now being used via an app. That we could recreate a loved one through all the various writings, postings, videos, and basically anything where there might be a digital version of you. Something built out of a empathetic need to help people grieve doesn’t seem like it would be bad. But I can only wonder how hanging on to those who have passed in this way could never be mentally or emotionally healthy over the long term. Part of the process is the letting go portion, but it would be too easy, too convinent to just keep talking with them. Convincing yourself that this is them, when all it really could be was a empty doppleganger.

 

Season 3 Episode 4 – San Junipero

Sometimes Black Mirror shows us the positive side of technology. I mean, it can’t always be bad, right? Here it’s the idea of living forever in a virtual world with the people you love. Like many advances in tech over the years, allowing the elderly or disabled have a somewhat normal life, this one literally can not only do this while they are living out the last few years of their lives… but it also can be a permanent place for their minds to live on after their fleshly bodies are gone. Is that something you might want? And if the answer right now is no, what happens when you realize the end is much closer than your beginning? Who could fault someone for chosing to start fresh? And who’s to say that if your mind can survive in such a way, that your soul might join it in this new afterlife?

Season 4 Episode 1 – USS Callister

On Star Trek they have a Holo Deck which allows the crew to have some recreation time while onboard the ship. It creates environments as real as anything they can imagine. And pretty much any episode which ever featured the Holo Deck ended up having something go wrong (or at least all the ones I can remember). So it is very fitting that we have a homage to Star Trek where the Holo Deck in question is basically a recreation of a starship. However, in this version of things, it isn’t the holograms who are the problem, but the one who programmed it in the first place.  And in this particular episode, the all-powerful creator allows that very same power to lead him down some very dark paths.

 

Season 4 Episode 4 – Hang the DJ

I’ve written a book about Soulmates (currently editing it), so the idea of having a program decide not only who your lifelong partner will be, but also how long your other relationships might last… feels very much on point. Again, we have to ask ourselves what truths do we want to know. Is it better to fall in love with the hope the person is our ONE? Or would you rather know you will be with a person for a couple of years before it winds down? For many people, I could see not wanting to bother with the shorter relationships because we want to have that fairy-tale relationship. But without those other entanglements to help us grow as people, how will we get to the place we need to be for our ONE?

 

 

Season 6 Episode 5 – Demon 79

One that is less about technology advancements and more about the lengths someone would go to in order to save all of those around her. This one played with ideas on both delusion, trust, and again… the truth of the matter. So many times we find ourselves going down a path because it feels like the only path laid out in front of us. Too many times we lament not being able to make changes to our lives. Here, in this story, Nida has this horrible task thrust upon her. Does she change? Can she change in order to save the world? How much of your soul would you make forfeit? Is there a limit you might go?

And what if it was all in your head?

***

Black Mirror does a great job of not only asking very open-ended quesitons, but it also manages to show you a version of events where whatever the technology might be, it could lead you down the wrong path. And I think this is important. With everything we create we should still ask ourselves what did we mean for it to be used for and what negative things might it be used for. The show doesn’t say don’t advance… it just wants us to look before we leap.

***

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Old Man Shouts at Cloud

As I get older, I think I’m experiencing more stupidity in the world around me. Maybe its just the stuff which didn’t bother me when I was younger now gets me for some reason. I’m not exactly sure what it is, but the following things have become an annoyance which is only growing everytime I encounter it. Maybe it is because I design roads every day, but I’m going to lose my mind.

Not Going the Speed Limit (at least)

Look, I live in the Atlanta subburbs. Everyone drives crazy. I once had relatives come down from New York and complain about our drivers. We have a Perimeter around the city which I believe acts as a qualifier for the Indianapolis 500.

So why is it when I’m driving home from work I somehow find myself behind a person who is going at least 5-10 MPH below the posted speed limit?

I’m more than willing to overlook it if I see you’re going slow because you are lost or just not sure what street you are supposed to turn down next. Because, as some point, you’d turn off the road I’m on. But that never happens. No, we pass street after street and their speed remains the same (SLOW) as it has been the whole time I’ve been behind them. For the 3 mile stretch of roadway where this seems to ALWAYS happen, I just can’t figure it out. It’s at least once a week, if not more.

Just drive the speed limit… you’re killing me (albeit slowly, but still).

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Random Stopping for Sideroad Cars to Enter Traffic

Let me qualify this by saying, if traffic is thick and the person in front of me slows down to allow a person from a sideroad or driveway to join in the fun – I have no problem with that.

What I have a problem with is the people who randomly stop (or nearly stop) for the car on the sideroad or driveway. There is no one in front of them slowing the flow of traffic. No, this is them, for SOME REASON, thinking “the person behind me will know I’m going to out of the blue nearly come to a complete stop for no good reason”.

This is a more recent problem, but over the last few months I have encountered it a dozen times. I’m not sure what people are thinking, but I’m fully sure I’m going to get into an accident because of this foolishness (and it will end up being me who gets the ticket for Following Too Close, even though I leave a ton of room most of the time).

U-Turns Are Apparently Just a Thing You Can Do Whenever

Contrary to the title of this section, it isn’t true. When you are sitting at a red light, you can’t just make a random U-turn on Red.

THAT’S NOT A THING!

I get that you don’t want to wait for the light to change and give you the green arrow (of protection). I don’t like waiting either. But it is very likely you are going to hit someone (probably me) because you can’t be bothered to follow the rules of the road.

Can You Please Pull Up While We Cook Your Food

OK. This one is roadway adjacent. I have never understood the rationale of fast food drivethru windows who ask you to pull up instead of waiting at the window when there is no one else in line behind you. What sense could it possibly make to then have to run the food out to me. I could have sat there at the window and saved you the hassle. And hey, if someone does come… that’s when you ask me to pull up. But if everything is clear, there is literaly no reason to waste all our time with such a dumb ask.

***

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Dragon Con 2023 Recap – Part 2

You can find Part 1 here.

Saturday

We’d left off half-way through our gaming day…

 

Mothership

This is the 3rd time I’ve played Mothership (I’ve run it once, we played it at Gen Con this year, and now Dragon Con). Each time has leaned into a different style. One was more suspense/horror, one was a scalvaging mission dealing with pirates, and this one was a race against time as the colony we were on slowly disentigrated. As we all noted, the actual adventure ended a little early (maybe 45 minutes early), but due to the way things were run with us bouncing from various points on the map, trying to get to the Space Port, it felt like a full session.

I also appreciated the Warden (GM) letting us know not to bother picking the Scientist character class as we built our characters since this adventure was more focused on combat/speed. Too many games don’t let you know something like that, and then you have to just make your way through the adventure without the skills truly needed to succeed.

The Warden also simplified the initiative system, just going in clockwise order. You had 2 actions – you could move and shoot, you could shoot twice, or you could move twice. All of that did a great job of keeping the game moving with a heightened level of tension throughout.

Mothership really can be whatever you need it to be, and since character creation is so strightforward, it might be a perfect convention game.

After that we ended up going out to eat, finding out that some places shut their kitchen down 2 hours earlier than you would think. And here I thought that was only a Indianapolis policy.

Sunday

We woke up bright and early because Chad Shonk had a Star Wars panel at 10 AM. Let me say that by day 3 of any convention, 10 AM might as well be 6 AM for how excited I am to wake up that early… but I braved the morning and we made it down there about 10:10. The panel was on the High Republic books/comics/etc, which I have close to zero knowledge on. I’m good with the various live-action shows Disney Plus puts out, and back in the day I collected most of the old Dark Horse comics, but once the rebooted those stories, I used that as a perfect time to jump off the bandwagon.

However, this time frame interests me in not only how they’ve rolled it out, but also because it truly is a time period that hadn’t been explored. So even if I wasn’t sure about all the details and characters the panel talked about… it did get me back in the mode to start reading those novels and see if they can grab me like the old ones once did.

After that was a quick stop at the Art Show and a visit with Amanda Makepeace. I’ve known her since high school, but over this last decade her talents have reached truly awesome levels.I was so happy to hear she had won the Hank Reinhardt Award, which is a lifetime achievement award that honors someone that has made significant contributions to fandom culture in Georgia. So amazing.

Lastly, we made our way to the Firefly panel where they avoided talking explicitly about the show, but didn’t shy away from saying the names of certain shows they’d been on. We actually got a handful of great stories about Ron Glass which were both sad and funny and really the perfect type of story to tell at the panel. The other thing I always take away from the cast is how much they appear to truly like/love each other. From the physical touching here and there, to the inside jokes, to the shared text chain… I always like to think that the people on my shows are friends (even if I know that isn’t the case), but here, I think it is very true.

There was another panel I’d hoped to jump to, but it was about 3 hours later, and I hit the wall. I hated cutting things short, but between all the walking, waking up “early”, and knowing that if I didn’t listen to my body I’d end up with Con Crud (or worse), we called it. All told, I think the Saturday gaming is likely to become a annual thing, helping to break up the weekend very nicely, and really letting me experience even more the con has to offer.

***

One last thing before I go.

Image by Albrecht Fietz from Pixabay

Escalators

I was reminded of the scene from Mallrats where Brodie ends up ranting:

“Listen, not a year goes by, not a year, that I don’t hear about some escalator accident involving some bastard kid which could have easily been avoided had some parent – I don’t care which one – but some parent conditioned him to fear and respect that escalator.”

Apparently, in 2023, people no longer understand fundamentals of using the escalator.

First, you have to clear the area in front of where the escalator ends. You see, unlike regular stairs where you can potentially hang out, these “moving stairs” are going to dump more and more people ontop of you. So when you don’t move quick enough, I end up bumping into you… that doesn’t give you liscense to give me a dirty look. YOU need to move it!

Second, when you are getting on the escalator, you normally allow the person at least one step of distance. If you don’t know the person, you do NOT get on the same step as me. I’m not sure why you would think that was a thing we were suddenly doing. But maybe I missed the memo.

Third, reread the quote above. Almost had a little girl (say 4-5 years old) in her pretty princess costume get run over because she didn’t step off at the end, instead tried to slide off for some reason. Luckily, she didn’t fall, and I had given an extra step to seperate us… thus avoiding disaster.

Look, I just want to have a fun convention, but apparently all of you need to go back to class and figure this mechanism out again.

***

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Dragon Con 2023 Recap – Part 1

After my early August trip up to Gen Con and the record setting attendance that convention set, I was very curious as to how Dragon Con would end up feeling. After only going for one day last year, Courtney and I had our 4 day passes with a sure-fire plan in place on how to attack the convention.

Friday

Step 1 – Arrive around 11 AM on Friday and get our badges, praying that the lines were mercifully short.

Step 2 – Go see the Lucifer Panel, praying the lines were mercifully short.

Step 3 – Head over to the America’s Mart and venture into the Vendor’s Hall, praying the lines were mercifully short.

Step 4 – Make our way through the 4 floors while not going into too much debt… and praying any lines were mercifully short.

The first part went off without a hitch. I’ve mentioned it before that back in the day the badge pick-up line was insanely long. It didn’t matter when you showed up, you were going to be there for a solid 2 hours no matter what. However, at 11 on Friday morning we spent a total of maybe 5 minutes in total. Note, I still question why they can’t just send us our badges in the mail and cut out this step entirely (and before someone says “counterfeiting”, I’d argue that Gen Con has nearly as many people and still manages to do it).

The Lucifer Panel had a small line… so no real issues there. The panel itself was good, if a bit strange. With the Writers/Actors strike, the panelists can’t really talk about any shows they were on. Which makes it a bit of a word play dance when answering any questions about their lives. In a truly funny moment near the end of the panel, DB Woodside said the name “Lucifer” in a clear reference to the show. The entire room did an audible gasp. But Lauren German was quick on her feet “He meant from the Bible” which received a nice laugh.

The third part was our first experience with a line. It was wrapped around the building, in and out of the loading/unloading area… and while it was constantly moving, it was still 50 minutes of our lives we won’t get back. Luckily Atlanta’s weather was cooler than many other Labor Day weekends (I don’t think it got above the mid-80s on any day). Even so, that line kind of sapped us a bit immediately.

The Vendor Hall itself was full of the normal wares. Anything from Cosplay to comic books to loot boxes to artists wowing with their works. The majority of my purchases centered around half-off or $5 trades, and a number of reader copy comics from the late 70s (The Champions and What If) that I really had no choice on whether to purchase or not.

There were a handful of panels we had tagged to go and see, but we didn’t leave the Vendor’s Hall until around 6:30 and by that point Courtney’s back had enough (and my calves were barking as well).

Saturday

This was the first year of a brand new plan. One I’d actually wanted to try last year and couldn’t execute because I only ended up going for one day. Egg, Lee, and myself (the Gen Con crew) would see how Dragon Con did their gaming. The thought was that this would keep us in one location, limiting not only our walking, but fighting any lines. Saturday normally has the most people anyway, so trying to deal with the extra people over the years has become less and less fun. Plus any opportunity to game is a good one.

Shadowrun 6E

I’ve never played Shadowrun in any edition, but it’s been one of those that I’ve been interested in. The Cyberpunk world with bits of magic thrown in for good measure is always intriguing. Egg summed it up – the more dice you roll, the more fun you are having. Shadowrun using d6 to resolve in game issues where you end up rolling as many dice as you can based on your various stats (a 5 or 6 are successes). I think I was rolling 8 dice at one point in assisting another character, whereby every success I had added a dice to his roll. Lee ended up with around 14 d6. However, in his typical “con game” mode, he would only have maybe 3 successes. Probability was not on his side.

The adventure was an extraction of a prisoner just outside of Savannah, Georgia. We then spent about 1/3 of the time meeting NPCs and leveraging those contacts to try and make things go as smoothly as we could during the mission itself. Of course, there was bound to be issues along the way, but overall our planning paid off and our target was delivered to a safe house for our client. It was a fun time.

I did have one critique of the pre-generated character sheet though. And this isn’t limited to Shadowrun, I’ve seen it in plenty of games. There were entirely too much going on. I was a Rigger, which means I dealt with Drones. But I probably had a dozen different ones listed on the page. Considering this is a one-shot adventure, I’m not sure I need all that extra stuff. I didn’t end up using most of it… and some of the time it felt like something I couldn’t be sure if it was more of a reconasance drone or a battle one.

In general, I think that character sheets should be fairly bare bones. The more “stuff” listed, the more potential for confusion.

***

That’s it for this week. Next week will be part 2 with Mothership and Firefly and… Escalator Safety.

***

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Gen Con 2023 Recap – Part Two

 

You can find part one here.

We left off on Saturday afternoon. A quick bite and it was off to…

Zombie World

We played in Lucas Oil Stadium, down on the field, which for a fan of the NFL is always a cool experience. This was the game we wondered most about since it was run entirely through cards instead of dice (based on the Powered By the Apocolypse system). But it worked extremely well. Having the deck there made combat run really quick, and it made for a very easy setup experience when we were pulling out backstories and tragedies, which helped craft the narrative for the players but also had a real tangible affect on the gameplay. The deck of NPCs was nice as well, since the GM was able to lay things out that much quicker. Even the act of figuring out our location and issues were done through a “draft” where each one took a chance to mark down something about the base. What kind of base, what our strengths were, what our liabilities might be, etc. It meant that we were able to get into the game pretty quick.

As to the game itself, we had a pretty good group, and with the scenario that was set up (Lee’s character was attempting to overthrow the people in charge and the rest of us needed to break him out of confinement before his execution), we actually did a fair amount of role-playing to the point that our GM made note of only having maybe 45 minutes left and we hadn’t encountered any zombies.

Which, like the best zombie stories, the monsters might have been us all along.

Saturday (Day 3)

Things from The Flood

A sequel to Tales from the Loop that exists in a damaged 1990s era. You’re still playing kids, though these kids are more on the older side (among our Players we stuck to mostly 15 year olds). But instead of new technology that is all bright and shiny, the world experienced a Flood, and now that technology has some sort of blight attached to it. Where Loop is about wonder from the innocence of a child, I feel like Flood is the step we all have to make in realizing the world isn’t always the nicest place. That means rebelling against that world.

Like Loop or Alien or any of Free League’s games, the system just works really well. With both a simplicity to it, but also allowing you to court doom by “pushing” your dice rolls, but only if you then take Stress. We avoided being eaten by a T-Rex, avoided getting run off the road by a Johnny Cab (effectively from Total Recall), and stopped the world from experiencing a complete meltdown of time… all the while saving out classmate from certain doom.

All in the day’s life when you’re in the Flood.

Pirate Borg

One of the Mork Borg inspired games, this one took place during the Golden Age of Piracy… in a Dark Carribean. All sorts of nasty monsters roamed the land and seas. Ghost ships attacked without warning, and strange ruins might lead to your doom or treasure to last you forever.

This one made full use of minatures, which was a nice thing to see at the convention. Since my group only plays online, I;m not sure when the last time we had minatures during a game.

The overall character setup was fairly straightforward and contained on one sheet of paper. However, if you are unfamiliar with how you are supposed to proceed, there are a couple of spots which weren’t quite as intuative as you might think, causing a couple of us to stumble a bit. Since the game is very OSR, there are limited hit points and the likelihood of a character dying pretty much seems assured. In fact, Egg’s characetr began with one whole hit point. Luckily, the GM was prepared and when Egg died, his character came back as a Skeleton (so we was able to continue playing with the rest of us).

Having played AD&D 1st edition for a long time, I am familiar with how deadly it can be, so I think that makes this game more of one to be enjoyed at a convention and less like one that would work with a campaign.

Sunday (Day 4)

Sunday is the day of trying to get any last part of the Dealer’s Room seen before we head out around 1-2 in order to not get home too late (after it was all done and the driving was done, I entered my house around 12:30-ish, so one of the earlier times for sure). We all noticed the number of signage that mentioned selling out of something. Whether that was books or accessories or what-have-you, it was both impressive how many we saw (much more than any of us had seen in previous years). Which I take as a good sign that people were ready to support gaming and art and anything and everything else that was there during the weekend.

I’m already looking forward to next year!

***

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Gen Con 2023 Recap – Part One

Didn’t actually realize it until I began writing these blogs, but this was my 5th year attending Gen Con. I can remember talking about going for years and years as this thing that maybe could happen. So to not only have been able to go, but to be able to make it somewhat yearly as my own form of a “guys’ trip” has been really cool to consider.

Wednesday (Day O)

The drive up was fairly uneventful. We arrived at the Hyatt just across the street from the Convention Center and got settled in fairly quickily. In previous years we’ve spent time in hotels that were a few blocks away to ones across the street. Obviously across the street is the best, but I hadn’t considered how good of a placement this year’s hotel turned out to be. You had access to the convention center. We were on the Stadium side for that one event (which was one of the later ones), so the walk back wasn’t so bad. But the biggest thing is all of the food was on the end where we were staying. It’s one thing to have to walk a few blocks back and forth to your hotel and then a few more blocks to potentially get to food, but this location made everything very convienent overall.

However, while it was better this year, I do have to ask why some of the resturants don’t bother to stay open later during Con Week? When Dragon Con sets up shop in Atlanta, I feel like everything stays open until at least midnight, if not much later. Multiple resturants closed by 11 that week. I’ve never understood that.

Thursday (Day 1)

We began shortly after the initial rush of people that had gathered outside the Dealer’s Room to get Lorcana cards. I am apparently completely out of touch with card games not named Magic the Gathering, so I had no idea that Disney had a card game coming out, much less that there would be the level of demand where people would begin lining up at 6 PM to get cards the following day.

But as we entered the Dealer’s Room around 10:45 AM, I was unaware of any of this. So when we literally couldn’t make it down Aisle’s 100 and 200, worry began to set in. We figured that Gen Con would likely be back to roughly its pre-Covid attendance this year (and it actually exceeded it – over 70,000), but to have Thursday be so packed that we couldn’t manuever set a bad presedence in our minds. If Thursday was going to be bad, what would Friday and Saturday look like? In some ways it is a bit of a struggle to make it through the Dealer’s Room in the one or two hour bursts. Sunday ends up being the catch-all for last minute shopping, but we were concerned about the next couple of days.

Mothership

Mothership was/is one of those games who really just found its niche in the roleplaying space. The idea of playing in a horror space setting (think Aliens or Event Horizon) with a fairly straightforward system is definitely appealing. A couple of years ago I ran a game for our group that tried to focus more on a John Carpenter’s Thing vibe of “Who do you trust”. I think I did an OK job, but overall didn’t manage to quite hit the beats I wanted to. I’d wanted to play it ever since just to see how someone else ran the game.

The one concern I’ve had is I wasn’t sure how exactly a longer campaign might go. As with any horror based game, characters are supposed to die or go insane, which makes investing in your character a little more difficult. It felt like more of a One Shot style game, perfect for conventions.

This game was a little less horror and much more straightforward story of Salvagers trying their best to make their way from shitty job to shitty job. The game played pretty much how I remembered it, though maybe our rolls were better than average as during the firefights, none of our people died. If not for the suicide run that one player made while piloting a captured ship we might have all survived. Sadly, his ramming of the enemy spacecraft ended up killing three of our crew.

Lucky for me, I wasn’t on the doomed ship!

The key though was that after this one session, I could see a little bit better how a longer style storyline might go where you lean a little less hard on all the horror monsters and instead let the dread simmer in the background as best you can.

Stealing Stories for the Devil

This is the game I could see running like it was a tv show. Setting up your overall storyline and then having the big payoff after 12 or so “episodes”. The basic idea for the game is that you are time travelers from the future who have become stuck in the current era of Earth. Time is breaking down due to the existence of certain anomolies. These items create a version of a world where the impossible is possible and where time exists differently. The heroes job is to discover what the item is and remove it from the area (which will revert things back to normal).

What transpires within play is that as a group we effectively created the scenario: A Costco where time had slipped such that it was always both Halloween and Black Friday at the same time. We would need to work as a team in order to extract the 8 foot tall skeleton from the premises. And since all that really required was lying really well… that ended up creating a bunch of really goofy and fun scenes spread out amongst all of the players.

Like I said, I really enjoyed this one and could see running a short campaign with the system.

Friday (Day 2)

Pretty much each day was much the same. We’d grab food somewhere, head into the Dealer’s Room and see as much as we possibly could before our first game took place. Food, if there was time, between the games, and then rush off to the night game. The only bad was not being able to meet up with a few people as most of the time we were either in a game or on our way to a game (which is certainly the whole point), but it is nice to catch up sometimes as well.

Deadlands: Weird West (Classic Edition)

Next on the list was a game I was looking forward to. I’m a big fan of Weird West style stories and Deadlands is really (as far as I know) the granddaddy of that genre within RPGs. However, you should always read the fine print. We thought we’d signed up for the current edition of the game (the Savage Worlds version) but instead we found out that we were going to be playing in a 1st edition version of the game.

There is a lot to the overall world of Deadlands. I supported the Savage Worlds Kickstarter and have read some of the book, but that’s about as far as my knowledge base will take me. So it can be a lot to dump on a bunch of players. That said, I understand why 1st edition rules might be considered too cumbersome. There were so many things to do. Some characters had decks of cards to help with their abilites. There was another deck of cards that you used for initiative. You had your bennie chips that could help alter dice rolls. There were dice rolls where you only took the best score and others where you definitely wanted to roll a ton. Once you hit someone, you rolled again to potentially figure out if it was a head shot or body shot.

Too much stuff going on honestly.

This is a game where we were very lucky to have a GM who knew the system, but in the end the system really felt overly complex. After the game we definitely talked about places you could just cut out potential rolls (and rules). I’d love to play in the world, but I don’t think I need to play 1st Edition again.

***

Check back in for part 2 next week where there will be teenagers in a Flood, zombies in a hospital, and pirates on the seas!

***

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Black Mirror: Season 6 Review

My previous reviews can be found here: Seasons 1&2 and 3, 4, and 5.

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

After a long wait, we managed to get a 5 episode season this year. And while it has its ups and downs in terms of the actual episode stories, what was more surprising was that these mostly looked backwards as opposed to where technology might lead us, this instead tried to show us where older technology might fit into our lives (and potentially make it a better or worse experience).

***

Ep 1 – Joan is Awful

This episode is probably my second favorite of the season if only for how unique the initial premise is. A woman named Joan suddenly finds her life broadcast on the Streamberry App. It is cleverly done by cutting back and forth between our Joan and the TV version of Joan (played by Salma Hayek).

Initially Joan tries to find a way out of it, but that goes nowhere since apparently those “Check the box to say you’ve read the Terms and Conditions” are really well written to the point that they can just use your likeness for anything. She then decides to try and be as over the top as possible to maybe get the show off the air (it is disgusting what Joan does). But at every turn she finds more and more obstacles.

Seeing as how AI artwork and imagery is currently a big deal in Hollywood as well as for any artist trying to ensure their works isn’t stolen… this episode feels exceptionally timely. The best Black Mirror episodes are the ones where the leap in how technology is being used/portrayed doesn’t feel all that strange. This one has that in spades.

Ep 2 – Loch Henry

Sadly, this is my least favorite of the season, and not because it does anything particularly wrong. The basic set-up is that Davis and Pia are a pair of film students who come back to Davis’s home town and decide to investigate a serial killer who not only did his crimes there, but was indirectly/directly responsible for Davis’s father’s death. During the investigation which follows, they begin to learn more and more about what really happened all those years earlier.

It is very straightforward to the point that the reveal near the end didn’t feel like a reveal at all. Instead, it was more of a thing that really was the only way the story could have gone (considering the various hints the episode drops throughout). And maybe that’s why it’s my least favorite. It weirdly didn’t feel like it was taking any chances with the plot.

 

Ep 3 – Beyond the Sea

1969. A pair of astronauts, David (Josh Hartnett) and Cliff (Aaron Paul) are in Deep Space on a mission for six years. Luckily, they have technology which allows them to still be in robotic replicas back on Earth. However, when David’s replica is destroyed and his family is killed, he begins to spiral into a severe depression. So Cliff offers him the ability to use his replicant. What follows is some of the best acting you’ll see as Aaron Paul is effectively playing 2 different characters. And considering that there is only 4 main characters in the episode (with Kate Mara playing Cliff’s wife and their son being the last), this one feels like it belongs on a stage more than it does on the screen.

While I’m not sure I like the overall ending, it was definitely one which forced me to really think and feel what each of the characters were thinking and doing in each moment.

 

Ep 4 – Mazey Day

Set in 2006, this follows a paparazzi named Bo who is on the hunt for a picture of one of the larger acting stars who during the filming of her lastest movie did too many drugs, got behind the wheel of a car, and killed someone. And ever since, her life has spiraled completely out of control.

I appreciated the idea of the camera being the real focus point for the technology. With the mobile phones we carry around in our pockets, you can forget that it wasn’t all that long ago you had to carry an entirely seperate device to take pictures of any real use.

This episode is fine. I don’t mean to damn it with faint praise, but had it not been for the final act twist, I’m not sure what I would have thought about it (or would I have really given it any further thought). Instead the twist puts evertything into a different light and changes the story being told from one genre to another (and yes, I’m trying to be as vague as possible here).

EP 5 – Demon 79

The last entry this season was Demon 79 and I have to say this was my favorite episode of the year. Though, I’m not entirely sure how or why the technology aspect really plays during this episode, I didn’t care.

Set in 1979, the story focuses on Nida, who deals with some manner of both racism and sexism in her day to day life. We see flashes of moments where she shows us what she’d like to do to her coworkers (driving their head through the glass display), we understand this is the fantasy she allows herself. But when she stumbles upon a relic which summons a demon to her side, her world twists into something completely foreign.

You see, the demon informs her that she must kill one person a night for the next 3 nights or the world will end.

It was in this moment, I suddenly had 3 versions of what might play out:

1 – Everything with the Demon is simply another hallucination from her fantasy mind. Something she’s built in order to regain some level of control. There is no Demon and now she is truly wrestling with her own concious.

2 – Everything is real except for the Demon’s story about needing to kill people. Instead, he is trying to prey upon Nida in order to corrupt her and gain his (bat?) wings.

3 – Everything is real, including the End of the World clause, and that means Nida is going to have to kill.

The episode does a great job of straddling those three ideas for a lot longer than you might think before finally revealing the true nature of everything. I was extremely engaged while watching this one, and it may be in my top 5 episodes of the show

***

The only bummer now is that it might be 3 years or so before we get more episodes.

***

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

Book Report – Demon Copperhead

During this last year of reading the same books as my mom, I have gone into them knowing very little about what they may or may not be about. I don’t know what genre they are or even how long the books are going to be (reading on a Kindle I figure out as I go by the percentage). This is the opposite of books I have picked out for myself, since I’m normally looking for some tag-line or plot synopsis which may catch my eye.

All this means is that I am sometimes in for a bit of a ride as I wrap my brain around the book she’s picked.

Which brings us to Demon Copperhead (by Barbara Kingsolver).

***

Demon Copperhead is the nickname of our title character. As we read along, we follow his life from very early on (while the story itself doesn’t really start until he’s elementary school age – we do get some stories about his birth as well). Demon lives in the middle of nowhere Lee County, Virginia. It is one of those places we all can likely imagine in our mind. A small town where the people who live there have been there for a long while. Their grandparents lived (and died) there, and so have their parents, and eventually so will they. They love their local football team. They grwo up, make friends, fall in love, and sometimes… they become addicted to drugs.

Demon’s mother is an addict. As time goes on and Demon grows up, he finds that the call of getting high becomes the thing to do. Whether it is something simple like weed to the big heavies.

And this is the key here. This is not what I would call a Beach Book. There is a reason summer is the time to release the blockbusters where the pagentry is what you atre interested as much or more than the actual plotlines. Books are much the same. You want a beach book to be something you can just enjoy. You don’t want to have to ponder the fundamental questions of the cosmos and you don’t want to try and figure out if your main character is going to survive the next couple of pages.

Image by John Hain from Pixabay

Demon Copperhead is instead a book that forces the reader to sink into the muck with Demon as he loses his family, gains a new one, and then throws all that away as well. It is not a book where you are grinning while you are reading it. Instead, I had many times where I mentioned ot my wife “I’m beginning to wonder if anything good is going to happen to this kid.” And while a regualr novel might have allowed a happier point sooner than this one did (I swear we were over 100 pages in before anything “good” occurred).

That can make the read take a little longer. Because while the writting is stellar, it also asks a ton from the reader. And since it wants you to live all that bad, when the good does finally occur, there is cause for celebration… but like everything in this kind of life, the moments of glory and happiness are far apart. You have to cherish them when you can before they turn to ash in your mouth.

***

I would close by saying this book represents a slice of America you may only have seen glimpses of in your life. Maybe only through tv or books, but it exists. So to have this novel exist gives a voice to many who may have been forgotten over time.

***

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

The Best Show You’re Not Watching – The Lazarus Project

A few years ago I came up with an idea for a book. I’d always been a fan of time travel… of What If stories… of Groundhog Day shenanigans… and this idea combined them all in a way that just made sense to me. I sat down to write this story about a man who lives his life only to die and have everything restart sometime in his adulthood. The world would be different, an alternate timeline would have been created somewhere along the way, but most of the fundamentals would still hold the same. So while the Allies might have still won World War II, you might be married to someone else in this new world.

How unnerving would that be? How would you go about trying to find a way to center yourself within this new life? What about your friends? Your family? The woman you were once married to… do you have to leave all of that behind this time?

And what about next time things reset? Or the next life?

And then what if you found out you weren’t the only one experiencing this?

All of those thoughts and feelings about our actions in the world and how each of us are sometimes tied together in ways we would scarcly believe… all of that went into my novel: The Echo Effect (available here for purchase). I’d not see a version of all of this in anything I’d consumed until I started watching The Lazarus Project.

What I discovered was a show that I might have written in another lifetime. The basic plot is that George is a regular guy – he develops apps for a living (or he hopes for a living). He has a girlfriend who he is massively in love with. And in the background of this nice, pleasant story, the news is beginning to talk about a virus spreading. A few months pass and some very familiar images begin to show up in his life: masks, excess deaths, fear, paranoia… until the day that his now pregnant girlfriend gets sick and dies.

And then the world resets about 9 months.

Only George doesn’t forget what happened before. Yet he’s the only one. So he starts preparing for the worst, scaring his lady and friends, and basically acting like a crazy person. It isn’t until a woman shows up (Archie) who informs him he’s not the only one who can remember the previous timelines. That she works for a Lazarus Project who has been tasked with ensuring the big, world ending threats, don’t end up destroying the world. She tells them that the catch is they can only go back to July 1 of the current year, and if the clock strikes midnight on June 30, then that new July 1 becomes a new Save Point.

And she offers him a seat at the table to help them avert the civilization endings.

The thing I love about this show is that within the first episode I was all in on George and his plight. Maybe it was due to writing a book that felt somewhat like a twin to this story, but I could really sympathize with his struggle to try and retain his sanity at the beginning. And then later when he is forced to do some really, really, terrible things… I still found myself rooting for him to find a way out of the mess he’d made. Even if that meant falling short of his true goal.

Each episode trys to focus on various other characters who are apart of the Project. In this I’m reminded of the flashback sequences from Lost. Here, they look at some of the aborted timelines, where we see the issues each of them have stuggled with in the past while also doing a nice job of still connecting to George’s journey throughout. These are flawed humans dealing with some level of shit which can only wear and tear on your pysche.

These shows do a masterful job of making small connections mean nothing when they are introduced, but soon enough you begin to see how every little thing connects. Sometims you expect it and other times you will be completely caught off-guard by how a reveal in act 1 of an episode suddenly changes everything about something you previously thought you knew and understood.

The only bad thing I have to say about the show is that it is only 8 episodes so far, and the cliffhanger they left us on after season 1 had me completely in shock wishing my DVR had one more episode. However, from what I’ve read, they are in the process of filming right now, so the wait may not be quite as long.

If you like any of the shows or movies I referenced above… if you like really good science fiction with solid character work… if you like paying attention and having it pay off later – then this is the show for you.

***

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

30 Years Ago

It all began on July 24, 1993. I went on my first date with Courtney Becker (at the time). We went over to my buddies’ house to swim in his pool. Probably not the best plan overall since what would happen if it rained? Why not go with something more tried and true (dinner and a movie)?

Fear.

If we rewind the clock just a little bit…

Courtney and I met at Kroger. I’d been working their for a couple of months at that point.

***

The only reason I chose Kroger in the first place was to get my dad off my case. You see, after I’d hit 16, I had jumped to get my driver’s license, but I didn’t have a car. At best I could run errands for my parents… maybe use it to go out with a friend. But the months rolled by and I had little to no desire to get a job.

It seemed like a drag.

But, it was going to have to happen. However, I was smart. I decided I’d just go up to the closest grocery store, get the application, bring it home, and buy myself a week or so. At some point they might call. At some point, I might have to go to another place and fill out an application. This was going to take some time to happen.

It took an hour for it to happen. I went in for the application, the manager was there and interviewed me, and suddenly I have 20+ hours a week.

So laziness led me to Kroger. Had I been a little more of a go-getter, then perhaps we would have never met.

Lazy for the win!

***

I actually wasn’t there for her first day of work. When I did meet her she was dating another guy (they’d started on the same day), so I didn’t think anything of it. But as time went on, we became friends. She’d invite a bunch of us over to her house to watch the Atlanta Braves in the playoffs (this was back when it was a unicorn of sorts for the team to be good). Another boyfriend at some point in there, but I wasn’t angling or anything. I was happy to have a friend.

***

I went on one date prior to the faithful July 24 date. To say I lacked self-confidence would have been an understatement. When I was asked by my parents why I didn’t ask out any of the girls, my answer was a bunch of rambling gibberish.

The truth was Fear.

Fear of rejection.

People make the joke, “what’s the worst that could happen? She says no?”

They act like it is no big deal to hear someone say NO. And they aren’t entirely wrong. Yes, being rejected wouldn’t feel good, but that wasn’t where the Fear came from. It was the thought of them laughing at the prospect. What if they not only rejected me… they then went and told everyone who would listen that John McGuire had tried to ask them out.

What an idiot.

What a nerd.

***

With all those thoughts swarming around my head, I thought it better to pine away in silence with any of the girls in school I might have liked.

Time went on. A year had passed. And a group of us went to Six Flags (escorted by my mom). I don’t remember anything special particularly happening on that day. I’m sure Courtney and I rode some rides together, but she rode rides with other people too.

***

I’m oblivious.

Still am.

***

We got home and my mom said “That girl likes you.”

What? Not a chance of that. You see, my mom wasn’t the one who lived in my head. She wasn’t the one who thought they were ugly. She wasn’t the one who felt socially awkward. She wasn’t the one who wasn’t sure there was a person out there for them. Maybe come college. Maybe.

But she persisted. “That girl likes you.”

***

Kroger intervined again. Ashley in the floral department pulled me aside one day and told me straight out “Courtney likes you. She wants you to ask her out.”

Now this… this felt like enough information to go on. Maybe she did like me? Maybe she would say yes?

But there was a problem.

Our work hours.

Every week they would post the work times, and typically I’d have 3 days (nights) off and 4 days on. Courtney was the same. So when I went to find that magical night where both off… a week went by. And Ashley came back, because apparently she thought I didn’t understand. “What’s taking you so long?”

So I had to just hope the next week’s assignments would grant that rare concurrance of both schedules being open. And as luck would finally have it, somehow neither of us worked Saturday night.

***

I wish I could remember how I actually asked her out. We talked on the phone a fair amount, so it was probably during one of those conversations.

***

The last detail was to figure out what to do. My friend, Lee, must have seen how nervous I was with the entire prospect, so he offered his pool and other people there so that there would be a little less pressure.

I jumped at the chance.

And I asked her out.

Image by Nos Nguyen from Pixabay

***

The strange thing was the Fear was still there. Even though I knew she liked me. Even though I knew she’d say yes. The Fear tried to worm its way into my brain and convince me that wasn’t going to be the case. That somehow everyone had misread the situation, and my nightmare of rejection was right around the corner.

***

She said yes. We went on our first date 30 years ago. We’ve grown up together. She is my best friend.

***

And I’m still amazed that she said yes back then.

***

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Tales from the Cubicle – Part 7

Image by David Mark from Pixabay

Everything I know or think is wrong.

One of the younger guys at the day job is writing a manifesto. Well, not actually, but he honestly should. He has tons of thoughts and opinions on things that don’t really affect anything in the real world, but for him they are not in any level of gray. This are black and white issues and you are a fool for thinking otherwise.

Chicken Nuggets is for children.

I heard this one about a year ago and it both blew my mind and made a level of sense. If you think about it, chicken nuggets are one of those staple foods for the pickiest of eaters (kids under 10). My own nephews will refuse many, many things, but nuggets are not included in that bunch. And there is something fundamentally childish about their size. Basically small enough where you shouldn’t have to cut them up for the child.

These are food items that might take each and every one of us on a little trup back to when we were kids. Maybe, perhaps… is that why we’ve been choosing to eat nuggets over tenders?

Twizzlers are the worst candy EVER.

I was told this last week when asked what my personal favorite candy is. The look of disgust which reflected back at me was unexpected and honestly, unwarranted.

Listen, I get it if you don’t like licorice. I don’t like the taste of the stuff, but Twizzlers is just processed strawberry goodness. How can that ever be wrong? This is one of those where I will dig my heels in and not budge on my love for this one.

Besides, the man didn’t know the difference between a Milky Way and a Snickers. I’m not sure his vote truly counts here.

A frequent sight

Hey, There’s a Leak

My last office had a nasty habit of leaking after particularly hard rainstorms. The ceiling is made up of tiles, and so the telltale signs were extremely easy to notice. My office mate and I would put a trash can under the most likely drip spot and go about our day (after informing the powers that be of the problem). They would then call out the roof guys (I’m not sure specifically what the “roof guys” actually did to the roof). I know they walked around on the rocks up them and we could hear every step.

Inevitably they would come down and say it wasn’t a roof issue, it was an air conditioning issue.

Which feels weird because it leaked after it rained on the roof… but OK. The A/C people were called in. They would go through the pipes and stick their heads through our ceiling for a day before informing everyone that it couldn’t be an A/C issue. It had to be a Roof issue.

And like Groundhog Day, this cycle continued about every other month for the better part of twoish years that I was in that particular office.

***

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Free Short Story – The Secrets of Storytelling Part 2

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

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

Part 1 can be found here.

***

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

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

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

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

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

“You ready?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No choice, indeed. There never was.

***

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

“Help me grab him,” Lukas ordered.

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

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

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

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

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

“Lukas!”

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

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

This is where I’m going to die.

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

So why can’t I see the other side?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Go!”

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Free Short Story – The Secrets of Storytelling Part 1

 

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

 

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image by Stefan Keller from Pixabay

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

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

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

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

“I suppose. Well, I-”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Book?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What? What shouldn’t you tell me?”

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

“All over,” Isaac said.

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

“Mayday! Mayday!”

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

Lukas touched the box. “Where are you?”

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

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

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

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

 

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

“By the Crown,” Lukas muttered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

Check out Part 2 next week!

***

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

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

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

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

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com