Books That Changed Me – Part 2

Like everyone, I go through phases where I don’t read a ton of books. Those are the days when time seems to never actually slow down any so that you can actually enjoy things. Where you have those quiet moments to lose yourself within the pages of a book to a short or whatever. My bookshelf beckons me. My Kindle mocks me with all the unread titles that I still continue to buy because “I’ll get around to them at some point”. Even my Amazon Private List has thirty or forty books that I managed to have the willpower to not actually buy at the moment but still intrigued me enough to want to flag.

It’s normally those forced days of doing nothing where I manage to come back to the love of the page. Vacations being the biggest thing to spur me back into the mode so that I can really dwell in the words of someone else. Where I can feel the character’s voice in my head, hearing it almost before I read the words. When you look up and two hours have passed and the only thing you know in that moment is you need to get back to the story. Because to not dive right back in would be nearly a sin against your very being.

There have been books that have spurred me on to continue reading more and more. As much as I could get my hands on. But there was a dark time before I really read for pleasure, and while the novel is one of my favorites, it was a forced read of sorts.

The Call of the Wild – Jack London

You see, the only reason I ever read this book was that I was grounded. Suffice to say that I had allowed our dog to come in during a bad storm, and she decided that the coffee table would look much better if she chewed on it. I didn’t notice because I was all of ten and probably watching TV or playing with my Transformers. It wasn’t on purpose and had I seen her, I would have stopped her, but neither of those things happened.

Suddenly, I was grounded for a month with the added punishment of doing a book report each week. My “out” was to get a spanking. I thought I was being smart avoiding it. I’d eventually give in after a week (which I obviously should have opted for it immediately and saved myself the trouble).

But the first book I chose was The Call of the Wild, this somewhat illustrated book that I’d probably gotten for a gift or maybe I picked it up at the book fair one day at school. Either way, I started in on it and found that I was enjoying my “punishment”. The story of this dog and the amazing and sometimes terrible things he was forced to do in order to just survive. I don’t know for sure what impression it made on me in the moment, but it lingered in there, somewhere deep in the brain… waiting for me to access it again. To determine whether something else this author had written might also appeal to me.

Luckily late middle school or possibly freshman English had an assignment to read one of Jack London’s short stories “To Build a Fire”. And with that, he graduated to one of my favorite writers. It had only taken half a decade or so…


The Hobbit – J R R Tolkien

In middle school and high school, my group of friends all read fantasy books. Since we played Dungeons and Dragons we naturally leaned toward all the books TSR was putting out. Those stories slowly built the various worlds they’d developed. We read the Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance novels and later when they expanded into the Dark Sun universe and Spelljammer novels, we devoured those as well.

All the time, though, one of my friends kept telling me that I needed to read this book: The Hobbit. Didn’t I understand that Mr. Tolkien was the headwaters of the whole genre? Didn’t I want to see where the things I loved so much had come from originally?

Much like other people, it’s always a hard thing when someone tells you constantly that your life isn’t complete without doing/seeing/reading something. My natural tendency is to fight against it. Not always, but more often than not. Maybe I don’t want them to be right (which makes no sense, as I should want to be entertained by good things). So I put it off and put it off… until the day came where he might have put the book down on my desk one day.

So I begrudgingly read it.

Now, I assume you know where this little story is going. I tore through those pages in a way that I didn’t think was possible. And upon reaching the end of the book, I asked if he’d done anything else which would lead me down the rabbit hole of The Lord of the Rings.

You’d be wrong about all that, but it was a good guess.

Sadly, the book didn’t grab me. I was bored by many of the early scenes. And at some point, I put the book down for nearly six months (or was it nine). I had other things to read and no matter what pedigree this novel had, it didn’t work for me. But after much shaming from that same friend, I picked the book back up and finished it.

And still didn’t like it.

This is my gift. It is my curse. I love fantasy, but I didn’t like The Hobbit.


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

Everything We Know About the LORD OF THE RINGS Prequel So Far

By Egg Embry | September 21, 1937 | Honest!


Amazon has let it be known that its forthcoming Tolkien series will be a prequel to JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. While looking for information about this prequel, reporters at the Tessera Guild unearthed a treasure trove of information when they contacted the Tolkien estate, who directed us to a prequel novelization.

While we cannot be assured of the name of the Amazon series, the novel is titled, The Hobbit. Based on the book, some of the characters in the story will be familiar to fans of The Lord of the Rings as it features a younger version of Gandalf who recruits one of the minor characters from LotRs, Bilbo Baggins (Frodo Baggins’ uncle), to thieve. There are dwarves. A mountain described as “lonely”. A dragon, which sounds like they’re already desperate to capture the Game of Thrones audience. After reading the novel, it is quite an unexpected journey.

The only thing that would be more unexpected is a clickbait article purporting to know anything about a series that has yet to be screenplayed. Yet, I’ve seen a variety that do just that.

Writer’s Note: “Screenplayed” is not a word. Which is ok, because this is not an article full of affiliate links to Amazon… er… well, it is that. Speculative clickbait articles that use the term “know” in the title imply factual knowledge instead of the specious fanboy wish fulfillment that they always turn out to be. As a site, if you’re desperate to write an article about something new and Tolkien, might I recommend interviewing publisher Cubicle 7 about their tabletop roleplaying game, Adventures in Middle-earth RPG for Dungeons & Dragons 5e. It’s new and Tolkien and excellent!


Disclaimer: This article contains affiliated links to Amazon’s affiliate program.

Adventures in Middle-Earth 5e Play Review – Character Backstories

Cubicle 7’s Adventures in Middle-Earth for 5e Bundle of Holding (here) ends January 4th, 2019 at 10PM EST! This article is going up during its final hours. If you have not joined in, now’s the time!

Ends January 4th, 2019 at 10PM EST


NOTE: This is my third article and my goal was to get through the character backstories and to the first journey. However, I’m over my word limit for this week so the first journey will be next week. Sorry about my poor planning.

TRIGGER WARNING: Discussions of torture and mutilation.



I’ve given my initial reasons for writing a play review of Cubicle 7’s Adventures in Middle-Earth (for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition), I’ve touched on my character creation for the campaign, that leaves the character backstories to wrap up setup (at least, I hope so).

Our fellowship consists of:

  • Gwynnestri of Mirkwood (often shortened to Gwynn). An elven Treasure Hunter (read, Rogue). Player: Rebecca
  • Kort, the Hushed, son of Korith, son of Hoin. A dwarven Slayer (read, Barbarian). Player: Stephen
  • Finn of Gondor. His class has not been revealed yet, but he’s a 17-year-old human. Player: John McGuire (Tessera Guild)
  • Robgud Clarfield (often shortened to Rob). A Hobbit Scholar (read, Cleric). Player: Egg Embry (Tessera Guild)



Thanks to Jolly Blackburn of Kenzer & Co for the picture.

Finn of Gondor’s backstory is… well, John hasn’t shared it yet. His character is young and human. [Sharing some website information, the first two Adventures in Middle-Earth articles (here and here) are the highest viewed pieces for the Tessera Guild for the past few weeks. As such, I think I’m going to pressure John to write his character’s backstory for his column next week. Wish me luck!]

[UPDATE: John wrote up the backstory for Finn of Gondor here.]

For the backstories of Gwynnestri of Mirkwood and Kort, son of Korith, son of Hoin, both were present at the Battle of the Five Armies (end of The Hobbit), and share lightly linked backstories.

Gwynnestri was a soldier in the elven army sent to help the humans of Dale to siege the dwarves of the Lonely Mountain.

Kort’s purpose for being there was meant to be in opposition. When word arrived from Thorin II Oakenshield of his desperate situation, his relative, Dáin II Ironfoot of the Iron Hill Dwarves, prepared an army to intervene. In our campaign, before he set out he sent a small group of dwarven scouts to get the lay of the land and make contact with Thorin II. Included in this group was Kort, son of Korith, son of Hoin. As the scouts came ready for the elves and humans, they did not expect the army of goblins and wargs. Most of the scouts were killed while Kort and a few others were captured. The orcs tortured the dwarves to learn what was coming. None broke. As the goblin army was being routed, Kort’s torturer cut out Kort’s tongue, leaving the dwarf to bleed out. But Kort did not. Instead, he freed himself, killed some retreating orcs, including some that were surrounding Gwynnestri, which resulted in saving her, the original enemy’s, life. In the aftermath of the battle, he learned that Thorin II perished. Kort, horribly mutilated, took the news to heart feeling that his failure to reach the Lonely Mountain and serve with Thorin’s company in the battle led to his death. After that, Kort has not been seen in the civilized world until Gwynn encounters him at the inn.

NOTE: Like many 1st-level D&D character backstories, Kort’s would have left him at a level greater than 1st, but he, I guess, learned nothing from all of that so he’s still 1st-level. Such is D&D.

Robgud Clarfield, an offshoot of the Byhills, Hobbit Scholar. Instead of being given to the right fine Hobbit calling of farming and communal interests, Robgud cultivated a particular trade in herbs and curatives and the lore of nature, yet without formal education. Naturally, that left his kin having to defend him against gossip accusing him of being a snake oil peddler, that there was more of Mordor than medicine to his ministrations. True, his doctorings might avail a mischievous stomach, a limb broken in twine, or some of the worst of the gout, but his poultices could smell less of the dung of the big folk’s world and more of the pleasant fragrances of the Shire. Right, now, he could be neater about it, and not offer to help the big folk or, worse, talk of them moving into the Shire. Of course, the Clarfields are from the very limits of the East Farthing and known to conduct a bit of business among the big folk of Bree. The Clarfield family reputation give them to be an unsavory lot for their mingling, and so a son that knows their ways is but to be expected. Rumors have it that Robgud spent time among the Eregionians and learned their particular methods from several of their kind or, possibly, from the elves. Regardless of the facts, either story makes him an embarrassment to the Clarfields, and even more so to all decent Hobbit folk. Robgud’s father and family patriarch, Cefil Clarfield, determined to remove the stain his son’s affairs place on the Clarfield name, and apprenticed him into a most unsavory profession, traveling agent, a mesh mash bit of business entailing travel beyond the Shire’s borders to conduct any number of transactions that no self-respecting, simple Hobbit would willing take up. Cefil Clarfield is only too happy to put his son to backpack and road so the family, and the Shire, might reap some benefit from a starry-eyed Hobbit scholar.

Why is a Hobbit of the Shire like Rodgud Clarfield so far from home, having taken up at Esgaroth? In the aftermath of the resurrection of Bilbo Baggins and the litigation therein (ending of The Hobbit), some here-to-fore unrecovered funds from Biblo’s adventures needed to be secured and returned to Bag End for disbursement. To be clear, Robgud is employed as a temporary agent of the estate, and was assigned this job via messenger never having met either party involved in order to act in a neutral capacity. Upon execution of his duties, his contract is complete and, as the campaign opens, Robgud has dispatched said sums for home and is, at the moment, without employ in Lake-town.

Background: Emissary of Your People


Next week… The characters meet up, get their first adventure, and do their first journey…



Interested in trying out Adventures in Middle-Earth for 5e? You can get most of the books as PDFs through Bundle of Holding (here) until January 4th, 2019 at 10PM EST. The price for Adventures in Middle-earth Player’s Guide, Rhovanion Region Guide, The Road Goes Ever On, Loremaster’s Guide, Wilderland Adventures, and the Eaves of Mirkwood & Loremaster Screen is not likely to get cheaper than what BoH and Cubicle 7 have it for there.

As well, Cubicle 7 has started taking pre-orders for Adventures in Middle-earth – Bree-land Region Guide + PDF on there site (here). As soon as you order, you get the PDF.

Logo taken from Bundle of Holding’s Adventures in Middle-Earth for D&D 5e offering.

Disclaimer: This article may contain affiliated links to DriveThruRPG’s affiliate program and/or Humble Bundle’s Humble Partner program. 

When Fandom Attacks

I want to start with the simplest of questions:

At what point is the “Thing” no longer your “Thing”?

the thing

Not this Thing… well actually, maybe this Thing

Fandom has reached the point where the next generation has caught up. They are already exerting pressure on the accepted way “things are”. When do we relax our grip on it and let someone else insert their own views/ideas/stories?


Did you know that eye-witness account only go so far with the police? The thought is if you asked six different people, who saw the same crime being committed, to describe it you’d come away with six slightly different versions of the same event. Sure, the big things would be the same, but the minor details – maybe something as simple as the color of a shirt would differ.

Why is that? They all saw the same thing. Why isn’t there a consensus on what happened?


We are all colored by every little thing we’ve experienced in our lives. Both obvious and not so obvious. Which means everything we consume gets put through a particular unique filter. Hence why we can all love a movie/show/book/album/piece of art, but not love the exact same particulars. It means we are shaped again and again so that those minor differences really become the most important things.



However, there is always a place we agree – the crime was that he broke into the car. Whether that was with his arm, a tire iron, crowbar, rock, or whatever.

Yet, on a long enough timeline those things are bound to blur.


Comics, books, movies, tv shows…


This new generation has absorbed what they thought important and focused on that. This pisses other fans off. The more the version deviates from the “CORE” things/values/ideas… the more we rebel. The more we are likely to exclaim, “That’s not this thing that I love!”

The scary piece is we probably are both correct and both flat out wrong about the piece of fandom. As the time ticks by there may be less and less opportunity to say “This isn’t right” and move towards “This isn’t my preferred version”.

Take the Hobbit movies. I personally really like them. Could watch them over and over (and do every time I see the Smaug scene is about to start).

I hated the book (and wrote about that very thing here). One could make the argument that I am literally the last person who should provide an opinion on that piece of literature or anything which might be derived from its pages.

And yet…


Batman V Superman

Batman doesn’t use guns.

But he does in the Burton movie. His Batwing is firing them directly at the Joker.

Superman doesn’t kill.

But he has… maybe the better thing to say is that Superman tries extremely hard to not take a life.

Because it isn’t never.

Here’s the thing, there is a group of fans who are absorbing these new movies and deciding what the hero does or does not do. They’ve seen the love story in the Hobbit and embrace that as now a proper part of the legend. They realize that Superman will kill as a last resort. Batman could use a gun.


These are the New Truths. Should we rage against them? Should we fight the good fight? Or should we possibly take a step back and reevaluate why we hold our particular truths so sacred.

Maybe we could just roll with these new punches?


On a long enough timeline, the details begin to blur. Will these stories end up a part of some elaborate telephone game where eventually the only thing which remains is Superman has an “S” on his chest? That Smaug is the dragon they are going to kill?

Maybe that’s why we’re gripping so hard right now?


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