The Agonizing Art of Writing Book Blurbs – Challenge Accepted

In the late moments of the day, when the wife and the cats have settled into sleep, I sometimes find myself struggling to come up with the next week’s blog (in between editing one novel and trying to finish up a novella at the moment).

Leave it to Mr. Neill to help a Guildmate out. He wrote a bunch of 1-sentence blurbs for each of his books, and then challenged anyone who happened to read his post to do the same for their own works. As this is a skill I certainly could use work on…

Well, Challenge Accepted…

The Dark That Follows by John R McGuire

 The Dark That Follows – A fortune teller comes to realize that his latest customer no longer has any future left.

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Hollow Empire – Twenty years after the Great Lichy Plague wiped out fifty percent of the population, the next generation struggles to find their way in this dark and desolate land.

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Beyond the Gate – A country surrounded by an oppressive Fog, where nightmares and monsters live, these are the stories of the Ruddermouths, the Sky Captains, and of the children of the festivals.

Machina Obscurum

Machina Obscurum – Dark tales of death, betrayal, and the end of all things.

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There’s Something About Mac – When Cindy “Mac” Mackenzie’s younger biological sister goes missing, it is up to Mac to track down the missing teen.

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Piece by Piece – Jason Mill’s fortune reading becomes an exercise in the Butterfly Effect as he examines a myriad of possible futures for his latest client.

The Guilded Age

Gilded Age #1 – Hannah Lancaster leaps at the opportunity to help the Branning Troupe’s Stage Magician, only to discover that his latest trick might be played on her.

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Gilded Age #2 – When you are known as the Fastest Gun, there will always be those who want to challenge for the crown.

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Tiger Style #1 – A kid with a Robin Hood complex discovers that he’s targeted the wrong “Rich” men, and these are willing to do anything in their power to reclaim a mystical artifact.

Terminus Team-up #2 – Amber Fox’s journey to the Gilded Age takes a detour through time as her companion seeks to understand how era’s end.

That definitely used a few different writing muscles. If you like any of these, click the pic and head to Amazon to pick up your copy today!

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John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

Half Way There

At the beginning of the year I wrote a blog post talking about my goals for the year. We’re just over half way through 2014, so I thought it would be a good time to check in on this year’s goals and note any other happy writing things.

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Comics – This was a big section of the blog mentioning future issues of Gilded Age, Tiger Style, and Entropy. Sadly there has been little to no movement on these (not my fault, I promise!). Some of it has to do with funding, some to artist timing, and others to the grand thing that is life. I still have some hopes to see a Gilded Age #2 at some point in the Fall, and that Entropy #1 could get underway as well.

This is going to have to fall under the old “fingers crossed” bit.

NovelsThe White Effect – It is my goal to have this book out this year. I believe that will still happen, though again, the year is speeding by. As soon as I finish my current project, this will become my all-consuming focus. I’ve been looking for editors for this tale, so I should have one lined up by the time I’m done with the 3rd draft.

Hollow Empire – Life has intruded on this one more than anything else on this list. I still need a last editor eye on my portion of it, but that had to be delayed while I was out of work (not expecting that one – hard to pay for editing when you have no job). Now that I am returned to the path of the employed, this is getting done and soon.

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That’s a whole lot of incomplete. So what things have I been doing, if not the above?

Edge of the World – The current Work In Progress. This is what I’m happiest about. I just passed the 1/2 point in the novel and I’m very much digging the story. I’m liking it so much that I keep finding new things and avenues to explore within the world. New characters have made themselves known and demand to have some page time. And I’ve experienced that magic moment when you write something and then have it tie into something else you weren’t entirely expecting… like magic.

Blogging – Still haven’t missed a week. This is on track for 27  weeks (now 28).

Website -I have a website now. And while I didn’t do the heavy lifting (a heap of thanks to Tanya Woods for that), I have been trying to keep it updated. This should have been on the list, but wasn’t, but I’ll count it as a win.

4 Shorts to online magazines – I haven’t submitted anything, but I did complete a short story (Piece by Piece) and posted it on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords (and at the latter 2 it is completely free – and you can also find it here and here for download). So another positive step forward.

Kindle Worlds Novella – When I capped off the Jan 1 blog, I said there probably will be something that pops up that wasn’t even on my radar back in January. This Veronica Mars novella was definitely one of those. With my lovely wife as co-writer, we got this out there at the end of April. So that was another one in the win column.

The Dark That Follows – Lastly, my debut novel finally exists in PRINT (here)! Another one that should have been on the list. Regardless, this was a cool day.

2010-Biodiversity_countdown (1)

So that’s it, as far as I can tell. 6 months in and the one thing I’ve really learned is that I need to get my butt in gear. There’s plenty of time left to do what I set out to do, but that time is going to speed by if I’m not careful.

 

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John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and now the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program. He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

The Dark That Follows is now available in print here or on Amazon!

 

Free Short Story Time: Piece by Piece

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

An aside… when the four of us teamed-up to form this little spot in the corner of the internet we talked about doing a short story for the site. Something that might even be able to use the name Tessera in its title or as its inspiration.

Jeremy jumped in, both feet first, because that man is a machine. Maybe in an effort to make everyone else look bad (jerk!) or maybe to light a fire under our collective asses, he wrote Old Man of Tessera (free on this here website!).

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!

 

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John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and now the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program. He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

 

A little something happened on the way to the Convention

This week’s blog was going to be a convention report on Anachrocon, the steampunk con I went to over the weekend. The same con where I was to sit in as a speaker on my first panels ever. I could talk about how the panels went (really well, I actually got invited to sit in on another one, but had to decline due to day job commitments). Or talk about the people I met and talked to. Or even about the other guys and gals on the panels I sat in on.

Yes, it was all planned out and would be the easiest blog post of all time. The words would flow like… well like wine or water or soda or whatever you might drink.

Then this happened…

window smashed

 

Apparently a book bag sitting in the back seat is too much of an inviting target for some people… though they left the comic box also sitting back there. I was annoyed, mostly because I felt put out because my day at the con was now over. Suddenly I get to deal with some real world problems as opposed to trying to have conversations with people. However, what they got was a couple of comics, a Square card reader, some pens for signing comics, and some laptop power cords (though the laptop was not inside the book bag). As I thought about it more it seemed that the bag probably was worth more than anything within it.

Today it occurred to me that there was one other item in the bag which I had forgotten about. There would be no reason to contact the officer to add this thing to the police report, but it is priceless to me.

I had placed my notebook in the bag before I left the house.

My notebook that I use to jot down any number of wild and crazy ideas. The notebook that houses many a random line of dialogue that I might overhear as I got about my life. When inspiration strikes, it gets written down in that notebook.

And it is gone.

On Sunday, while I was talking on one of the panels, a question arose from the crowd asking about ideas and what you do with them, how do you ensure that you don’t forget that random idea at either 3 in the morning or 1 in the afternoon. I talked about writing it on scratch paper and then compiling all of them at the end of the week.

messy-desk_final

This is a what my wife has to deal with taking over the desk every week.

But I also mentioned the notebook. I never know when a moment of inspiration might strike me. Half the time I hear some scenario on the radio and I take it one step further and suddenly an idea appears. And I have to write them down. Far too many of those moments get lost in the Ether way too much during the course of a day. And while I didn’t have the notebook with me at all times, it traveled with me just enough to get some decent stuff.

Luckily I tend to be one of those people who constantly hits the save button, and the best way to do this with those scraps of paper is to put it into the notebook or type it into the computer. So probably about 1/2 of the notebook exists on my computer in half-finished ideas.

But there are still some of them that are now lost forever.

Now I’m saying that any of them are Steven King/ JK Rowling ideas which will cause me to start a book empire, but there are things in there that my brain came up with… no one else could have invented those words in just that way. And you/me/whomever never knows exactly what might or might not work. Maybe some of them need a little more seasoning.

But they are mine, and now…

Gone. Lost.

 

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Not this type of Lost.

I wish I had some kind of nice ribbon to put on top of this story, and maybe one day someone will return it to me (I believe it has my address/email/phone number inside it). I’m not holding my breath exactly, but I will hope a little bit for that day where I’ll hold it in my hands like I’m Indiana Jones just before the Rock Trap is triggered. My fingers will tingle and I’ll be able to, for a moment at least, travel backwards in time to see what a younger version of me wrote down.

And say “This guy can’t even write!” 🙂

Hey, a guy can dream.

 

At the End… At the Beginning

New Years is supposed to be that time of year for looking forward, setting goals for oneself, and then taking measure in those things from the previous year. So I’m doing that for my writing career. My hope is that the things I write below all come to fruition plus some other things that I might not possibly even know. There were a couple of surprises from 2013…

First a look back at 2013 with the major accomplishments. This marks the end of Year 1 of my mental 5-year plan to take over the world.

Amazon Breakthrough

February/March – Made it through the first round of cut-offs in the Amazon Breakthrough Novelist Contest last February with The White Effect. I actually entered this contest with The Dark That Follows the previous year, but didn’t get out of the pitch stage (I found out about the contest the night before it was due, not a lot of time to revise and really think about every detail). This time I knew it was coming and really worked on the pitch to the point where something must have clicked as I made it to the 5000 word submission round. And while I did not make it past that point, I learned a little bit about how things work (or didn’t work) in that beginning.

GildedAge_Front Cover-tessera

May – The Gilded Age #1 – First full length comic book I wrote and created debuted at Free Comic Book Day. Prior to this my comic work was limited to anthologies, but with this I feel like I’m moving up a step (8 pages to 22 pages!). What started as a bit of inspiration based off a pin-up by an artist (who I never actually got to work with) morphed into this concept of doing a series of complete stories about the various members of a Steampunk era carnival. I’m extremely proud of this comic and cannot wait until the next couple of issues come out. And though I might be a bit biased, I really feel like each issue is better than the previous one (available at Amazon and Comics Plus).

tigerstyle-tessera

June – Tiger Style #1 – Technically written before Gilded Age, but comics is, at times, a slow moving field, and this book came out at Heroes Con in Charlotte. Up until this convention I had only traveled to cons as a spectator (there is little need for a table when you don’t have wares), but for that Saturday and Sunday I was on the other side of the table (technically I had done Dragon Con as a creator a number of years ago (back in the Dark Ages), so we’ll call this my Modern Age debut!).

June – Hired an editor for The Dark That Follows. In order to get the manuscript ready for publishing, I shelled out some funds and hired Will Flannigan to help me in that final process. It’s been a learning experience on my end to see the various things that someone outside my circle notices after reading through things. It is a weird position to be in as technically I have the final word on whether or not I agree with one of his suggestions, but I probably did about 95% of the recommended tweaks, changes, expansions, and I’m positive that the work is better for it.

June – Began the serialized novel, Hollow Empire, with J. Edward Neill. This idea formed from a conversation over cards one night where I was talking about a podcast I had been listening to and how they wrote serial novels (Self Publishing Podcast). A couple of days later I had an email waiting for me from Mr. Neill, which basically said: “I’m down with doing something if you are.” Through the next couple of weeks we fired emails back and forth about a potential setting and how exactly we were going to try and conquer this strange format (the goal is to release it in Episodes, like little novellas, on a bi-weekly basis before eventually collecting the 6 parts into a book – Season 1). Writing Hollow Empire has made me a better writer because I have had to turn in something to Mr. Neill pretty much every 3 weeks. I’ve learned as much on this project as maybe my other two novels combined.

July – Finished the 2nd draft of The White Effect, my sci-fi novel. Not only am I excited about that book (and getting it finished up in 2014, but more on that below), but it is the longest work of mine to date (90,000+ words) (nothing compared to the esteemed J. Edward Neill, but he’s crazy with his epic fantasy word counts!). Probably the single biggest thing about this project was that I proved to myself that I could finish another book.

October – Terminus Team-up #2 debuts at New York Comic Con. My 3rd comic of the year is still only available in print (that should change in the new year). It is an attempt at trying to tell a story combining a Terminus Media character into the world of The Gilded Age. So I structured it the same (a complete story in 1 issue). It’s a cool book with some heart in there (and dinosaurs… and flying carpets… and clockwork men… and adventures… escapes… true love…). An example of what happens when I convince myself that I cannot possibly write a story given certain parameters… and then go on to find that story in the deep crevasses of my mind.

Tessera - A Creative Guild

October – This here site: TesseraGuild.com. It launched during that month and I’ve managed a blog every week since. Another idea pushed to fruition by Mr. Neill, I believe he chose his Guild wisely with Amanda and Chad (and hopefully me too). I think we are still discovering what this site can be and in the coming months I believe we will only get better.

December – Finished the first draft of Hollow Empire. Technically, I’m in the process of writing the last thousand words on my portion of the first draft (got a little distracted by The Dark That Follows being released)…  While there is still editing to be done, I’m extremely happy with the stories we’ve managed to read. This is one of the biggest surprises of the year as this thing didn’t exist at all before June.

December – Finished scripting duties for a CDC project (actually my second batch of scripts). Can’t say much more about it until it debuts (hopefully next year sometime, fingers crossed). Once it does, I will definitely blog a little about the experience.

The Dark That Follows_Ebook

December – Publishing The Dark That Follows with all the nervousness that such an endeavor entails. When I pressed publish it ended a portion of my life that began 3 1/2 years ago when I was laid off from work for 4 months. After pitching the barest of ideas to my wife over dinner one night: “What if there was a fortune teller who could really see the future? And then what if someone came in who he saw was going to die? What would he do?” – she said “You should write it; you’ve got the time”. So I did. I finished the 1st draft the night before I began at my new job, and as per my last post, pushed Publish on December, 23, 2013 (it too is available at Amazon… maybe you need something to read during this winter?).

Since then it has gone through beta readers, wife readings, personal editing, and outside editing. I’m sure it is not perfect (nothing ever is), but I am proud of my work on the book.

I think that’s the majority of it. So long 2013.

Hello 2014. Goals for the year:

Publish Issue 2 & 3 of The Gilded Age. I’m hopeful for more than that, but given the speed of things and the money involved, I’d rather be a little conservative in my estimate here. Issue 2 is being inked right now, and Issue 3’s script is needing 1 more pass after going over editing comments.

Publish Issue 2 of Tiger Style. I believe this one is all but done. Maybe we might get issue #3 as well, Arena Comics?

Publish Issue 1 of Entropy. This is a comic book from myself and Robert Jeffrey II about what happens at the edge of the universe after the wars and the plagues and all the other bad stuff has happened. What do you do when all you can trust is yourself and your ship? Kinda a Mad Max in space is what we’re going for.  I’m so excited about this comic. I think that Robert and I have created a world that has so much potential.

Finish Scripts for Issues 4 & 5 of The Gilded Age – The first set of stories ends with issue 5 and the eventual goal is to collect them all into a graphic novel and then publish them and get them distributed through Diamond. I’m of the opinion that in the comic book process things cannot afford to wait on the writer. He (or she) should never be the thing holding up the penciler. So, I need to make sure to have the last 2 in the bank ready to go when they are called upon.

Finish 3rd Draft of The White Effect. I’m hopeful for a few more beta reader comments. I’m targeting late February for the next draft.

Hire an editor for The White Effect.

Publish The White Effect. This is something that is more than doable, barring something strange happening, it will happen.

Hire an editor for Hollow Empire.

Publish Hollow Empire. Again, this is going to happen. Saying that aloud is crazy as that would mean I would be publishing 2 books this year.

Begin Hollow Empire Season 2. I’m not sure how Season 1 is going to go from editing to getting out there, but I know the story of the world is far from over. Even if it was just getting those first drafts done, that would be a major accomplishment.

Finish 1st Draft of The Edge of the World. This is one that my wife has been after me to write for about 2 years now. The story about a young woman, her missing uncle, and the secret of what lies at the end of the Earth. I have it fully outlined and is just waiting for a block of time to get it on the computer. I’m going to try to start this one very soon.

Finish at least 4 short stories and send them off to various online magazines. I have a folder on my computer filled to the brim with about 20 story ideas. Some are just a title and a couple of sentences, some have a couple of thousand words written in them, and still others are not sure what they are going to be when they grow up. Regardless, I want to take my shot with a few of them as they each burn a tiny hole in my brain telling me to finish them.

Continue blogging for a full 52 weeks. My goal is to not miss a week. We shall see how that goes.

So there it is, the plan for 2014. I can’t wait to see what things I accomplished when I check back in at the end of the year. There may (probably will be) something that isn’t anywhere in my brain right now, and that is even more exciting.

Happy New Year!

John

It’s A Christmas Miracle!

As I was preparing to hang out with family on Christmas day I have been a little (read: a lot!) distracted by my smart phone. As it rested in my pocket or on the console of our car or where ever I was throughout the day, I found myself fishing for it and checking my email. First for the news for this:

 

The Dark That Follows_Ebook

 

That the cover was ready. I had formatted the novel over the last week, pushing myself to finish what ended up being (and what Chad told me) about 8 hours. Just prior to that the last of the edits came in, so I put all other projects on hold and got the book ready.

Which leads me to today (or actually Christmas Eve as I write this) and waiting for that cover to be ready. And then uploading it… I called my wife over to the computer so that she could click the Publish button with me (she actually clicked it faster than I could).

And then more waiting. Is it live yet? Check? Nope, no email. Thirty minutes later check again. Nope.

Around 8 I checked Amazon.com to just see if I could find it.

Sure enough, there it was (the email appeared shortly thereafter).

I’ve heard the saying that writers don’t actually like writing as much as they like finishing. I’m not 100% on that one. The act of putting words on the screen is very much a huge part of what I like to do. Those words may not always be the best ones or even the ones that last the longest, but they offer me the escape into those other worlds. I love the writing.

Now, after 3 and a half years of typing the first few lines of The Dark That Follows… after various drafts… after Beta reader comments… after hiring an editor and going through things one more time… staying up until 2 in the morning many nights in a row and then finding my way into work the next day…

I’m releasing this into the world. And it feels pretty good. I’m beginning to understand why a saying like the above could come into being.

So I may take a couple of days to bask in this one. To allow myself a moment to reflect on it all.

At least until January 2nd… then its on to the next project!

John

PS – The Dark That Follows is available on Amazon.com as an ebook (the print version is forthcoming). Hope everyone has a grand Christmas!

A Band Called Death

I don’t remember caring much about music before I was about 12. Maybe that’s the way it is for most kids. I’m not sure. Most of what I listened to was either on MTV or through the oldies’ station on the radio. In fact, there was a window of time that I did not (nor did my younger sister) know the radio had other stations because it was always on that same station playing those old pop-rock songs (no, I don’t know what we thought the dial was for). Then as I got older, my tastes looked to the heavier music: Metallica, Helmet, Alice in Chains, Faith No More… before eventually coming into the various Grunge bands.

mtv

Yet there was one music type that eluded me. The only representative of Punk within my budding music collection was The Misfits. It’s not that I didn’t like it, it was more that I just didn’t have that exposure to it. It wasn’t until I was older that I began to hear the Ramones or The Clash or The Dead Boys. Even today my access to most punk is through online sources and not through my iPod.

That being said… over the Thanksgiving holiday, I had the opportunity to watch a documentary: A Band Called Death (it is on Netflix and well worth watching).

The gist is this: Death was a punk band before punk bands existed. In the early 70’s, when it would still be a couple of years before the world knew of the Ramones or the Sex Pistols, there were 3 African-American brothers from Detroit who was doing their own thing. Their love of “Rock” which caused them to buck the trend. To eschew Motown for a heavier sound. One influenced by the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix.

ABandCalledDeath-Poster

Three brothers who did their own thing and for a little while it worked. The Documentary basically tells their story of how they seemed poised to break and then, mostly because of the name of the band, DEATH, they kept getting turned down. A band with a name like that was going to have a hard time convincing people to look past the title. And so the rejections kept adding up, and like many things, when you are told “no” enough you stop wanting to get your head beaten in.

And the brothers moved onto a different sound with a different name.

I’ve checked out their music and must say that it feels ahead of its time, and my iPod is about to have a little bit of new/old songs for me to listen to.

But maybe the biggest thing I took from the documentary had to do with the fact that one brother effectively decided the fate for the whole band with the name (it was his idea to start), and then later by not giving in on changing the name to something… more agreeable. Think about it… you’re being told that the music you’re doing is good, maybe even great, but that pesky name is going to be a problem. What if you just changed it?

And my initial thinking would have been, “F- it, change the name and get paid. It doesn’t change the music you’ve already written and the music that you may write in the future.”

I mean, this would be the opportunity to have others hear your work… isn’t that, at least partially, why you got into music?

Maybe part of my thinking comes from the fact that I see titles as almost placeholders. In fact, in the stories I’ve worked on, the title is the thing that eludes me for the longest time. And even at the end, when I finally fight through the forest of words to come upon that single word or phrase which works for that tale… I’m not married to it.

So if they (whomever “They” are) asked me to change a book/story/comic title in order for more people to see it… I would make the change.

In a heartbeat.

However, if you see the title of your story as a true extension of the art, then wouldn’t the very nature of that change mean you were altering whatever you intended the reader to see?

Let’s go deeper then. Instead of focusing on the title, what if they were talking about changing the story? Not just editing, but really an overhaul to what the story was about.

Would that be right?

At what point would being asked to change something become too much? Where is my line? What aspects of the writing is worth fighting the good fight over and what things are just something to let slide. Pick the battles worth fighting.

And isn’t that the same thing as what David Hackney and Death was trying to fight against? They wanted to have control over their brand, their identity, but the more I think about it, I believe they just wanted to do it on their terms. Had they lived 30 years later, they would have been able to get their music out. Get past the gatekeepers and let the public determine their fate.

These are the thoughts that spin in my head as we close in on the end of the year. With the advent of the Kindle and then other readers/tablets/apps, we’re now in a world where I can have complete control. Right now, I’m in the process of finalizing my very first novel, The Dark That Follows. And in this new world, I can write my book and not have to answer to anyone. I can hire an editor to help me out, but at the end of the day I get to be the final arbiter on what stays and what goes. It will be my vision 100%.

The Dark That Follows_D3

And that is terrifying.

Because it is all on me. There are no final checks hired by some company to make sure that every bit of grammar is correct. Or that the cover looks right. Or… or….or…

All on me.

It’s made me realize that sometimes having all that control isn’t always the best thing. That old adage of “be careful what you wish for” fills my brain. This is the path that I have chosen, and the path I’m going to abide by. For better or worse.

So I salute you, Death… in my own way, I’m just following in your footsteps. I just hope I don’t have to wait 30+ years for someone to know it exists.

Just Finish It

I’ve gone to plenty of writing panels over the years hoping to discover, like Ponce de Leon looking for the Fountain of Youth, the secret formula to their success. How the heck did they manage to get up there with their book, comic, etc? Most of the time I do learn something, some nugget of truth that makes the trip worthwhile (maybe a technique or some obstacle they managed to overcome). But there really is one thing that separates them from those of us in the room:

You want to be a writer?  Then write, sure, but FINISH the task.

Too much I get caught up in the idea of writing. Make sure that I get my WORDS in for the day, or make sure that the latest chapter gets revised.

w-b-park-finish-it-why-would-i-want-to-finish-it-new-yorker-cartoon

 But at some point you have got to get to “Pencil’s Down”. This is something I have only just now begun to understand, and I am not even close to where I want to be.  I have only scratched the surface of this for myself and constantly have to fight to get there.

There is a difference between “Wanting” to be a writer (nevermind the great) and “Being” a writer.

It is the “Doing”.

In everyday life there are people who WANT to do, be, have something.  How many of them take the time to sit down (or stand up as the case may be) and actually do it?  How many distractions can one person have before their WANT simply becomes their DREAM and then later their REGRET.

Dreams Road Sign

 

This is the mantra I have to keep telling myself over and over. When I get tired or don’t want to sit down at the computer, I repeat it.

It seems so simple. It seems like one of those things that you read and say “Of course. What else would you think you needed to do?”

Even knowing it isn’t enough. It’s never that easy. How many ideas do I currently have sitting on my computer or flash drive that are waiting for me to finish them?  Dozens.  How many are finished?  Not nearly enough (not by a long shot). So why can’t I get there every time? What’s the hold up?

Sometimes it is the FEAR. The FEAR that what I’m writing is not going to be liked. I’m just as worried that by finishing said story or script or novel or whatever that people will read the FINISHED product and not like it and then where did my work get me?  What a waste, right?

ed-dans-ed-wood-de-tim-burton-10967401cmebh_1713

Really? Worst film you ever saw. Well, my next one will be better.

I have to convince myself that it isn’t a waste. That with each word that I write (and rewrite and edit and then even the ones I cut) means I am one inch closer to where I need to be. I get to that million words and beyond.

So that unfinished thing is doing you so much good then?  Sure, you can’t get hurt if you don’t finish it, but I have to say, putting that final word down on the page and knowing that you have actually completed something.  That’s got to be worth something.

Right?

When somebody posts their finished piece of art or script or whatever, they are 1 million times ahead of me with my dozens of unfinished products.  It doesn’t matter how much better of a writer I THINK I am because they have already lapped me 4 or 5 times.

I know plenty of people (I am one of those people some times) that start a project and get bored and then jump to another project, get bored, wash, rinse, repeat.  At the end of a year they have enough stuff that you’d think they’d have a Finished Product, but instead it is spread out over ten different things. Ten different UNFINISHED things. Ugh.

It’s an odd thing that really in the last year I feel like I’ve started to have real successes on the writing side of things, but even those are still not quite finished. Sure, issue #1 of The Gilded Age is complete, but I think I allowed myself about 5 minutes to enjoy that it existed in a tangible format before my brain started spinning on when the next issue would be finished. Same with Tiger Style #1.

The greatest thing about comic books is that it is a collaborative process. You need a writer and an artist and maybe an inker and a colorist and a letterer and an editor before the whole thing is ready and done.

The worst thing about comic books is that it is a collaborative process. And that you need to have those other people because when any one point slips, the whole process comes to a complete halt. I don’t get the artist the next issue’s script, well I guess that is going to delay the book. The inker doesn’t get the pencils by the deadline… now we have another delay. And so on.

It can be maddening. It’s one of the reasons I started writing a novel in the first place. Finally, something that is totally on me and only me to get done.

Only. On. Me.

Gulp.

Yeah, so now who do I get to blame when my next chapter isn’t written yet? Who do I get to blame when that second draft is still waiting to get done?

Oh, that would be me.

Even now as I seemingly crawl through the last bit of editing on my first novel, The Dark That Follows, it doesn’t really exist until it is done. Before that it is just another unfinished project hoping for me to put the time in and get it out the door. The serial I’m working on with J Edward Neill, Hollow Empire, has many chapters completed in various forms (some in needed of editing, some ready for a read through, etc.), but until Episode 6 is complete and edited and out the door it just is another thing “I’m working on”. The next issue of The Gilded Age or Tiger Style or whatever else is coming down the pipeline.

So I repeat my mantra and put my butt in the seat and start typing.

Why Can’t I Be Rod Tidwell?

In the movie Jerry Maguire, Rod Tidwell is an athlete who has confidence in himself (some might say too much), in his abilities, and in his skill. But he’s hit the wall. No one seems to know about him and no one seems to care about him (in the football world at least).

Until… finally, at the end of the movie he shows up and on a national stage does something to capture everyone’s attention.

That’s what I want.

No, not the money, I certainly don’t write to make tons of money. I just want the opportunity to show that I have some talent. To tell a story and to have others see it.

To have others enjoy it.

The most maddening thing about being a writer who is on the outside looking in is that moment when you read something “professional” and know, 1000%, that you could do it better. That your ability to string words together in a sentence was better than that particular writer. If only you had the chance.

If only someone with power knew you existed.

I’ve been at this writing thing for almost a decade now. I say a decade because the stuff before it doesn’t count for me. It was playtime in a notebook. I cringe to think about those stories I wrote back in school. The terrible poetry (maybe it is good – with that certain teenage angst running through it, but I cannot bring myself to look) sitting on my hard drive. The one problem with being a pack rat is that old stuff is still around. Everything is kept because to not keep it would be disastrous.

So, ten years ago I became involved in a writing group. We met in the back of a comic book shop. Artists flowed in and out of the place and someone had the idea “let’s make a comic book”. That first day I saw a page of something I’d written drawn was a moment akin to magic.

That was the first step.

But with every little step forward it was followed by at least two steps backward. A cliche, to be sure, but beyond true. Flaky people who promised one thing and then never delivered. They all seemed to fall right off the face of the Earth. And yet, stubbornly, I continued on. The first anthology comic came out. A year and some later another one came out. Then the first color book about a year after that.

When Do I Get To See The Sailboat?

When Do I Get To See The Sailboat?

And still the frustrations grew. Projects thought up and then abandoned for all sorts of reasons. And still I wondered what it was going to take.

“I should be further along…

If only the artists would stop being so slack and finish something…

If I had more free time…

If…”

Almost three years ago I got laid off from my day job.  For the first time since college, I was out of work for almost four months. That time might have been eaten up before I knew it, if not for my wife. She was the one who suggested that I just write a book.

“You have these stories, and you never have the time normally, but now…”

So I went home that night and started to write what would become The Dark That Follows. Every night after my wife went to bed I stayed up into the early hours writing on that draft. Stumbling over words, but doing the deed.  Butt in chair every night.

I finished the first draft the night before I started my new job.

Since then I’ve written another novel, worked on a bunch of comic projects (both of which I’ll be talking about as time goes on), and slowly feel like the tide is turning. The old 10-year success… maybe. I’m certainly hoping that someone notices.

That someone enjoys it.Rod Tidwell Touchdown

I’ve got my celebration dance ready for that day.

John McGuire

PS – You can find that very first comic here: http://www.terminusmedia.com/new-retro-the-god-that-failed/#more-1063