TV Shows That Ended Too Soon

I was thinking about cancelled tv shows the other day, and it occurred to me that there are a handful of them that I loved when they came on, but just didn’t grab the audience they needed to survive. All of these either had 1 or 2 seasons, and while there are plenty of shows that maybe only got 3 seasons (Veronica Mars – I’m looking at you!), at least they got 3 seasons.

Also, I’m not going to put Firefly on this list, but only because it is a no brainer, and probably the biggest tragedy when it comes to cancelled shows. That said, so many other people have written that article/blog, that I’m just not sure what I could really say. Yes ,it was awesome. Yes, I thought so from the very first episode. And yes, I wish they’d do more episodes at some point down the road (why not an animated show? Then the cast only needs to show up for the voice work!).

So here are 3 shows that were ended too soon:

Nowhere_man_promo

Nowhere Man (1995-1996) UPN – I wasn’t actually watching a lot of tv during this phase of life. I was entering my second year at Georgia Tech, but somehow I saw an ad for this show about a man who has his entire life erased (because of a photo he took years earlier). That woman who was his wife no longer recognizes him, none of his accounts work, and there seems to be someone trying to kill/get him. Each episode followed him as he tried to figure out who was behind ruining his life and why. He’d travel from town to town, mailing the negatives to himself over and over (so he wouldn’t have them on him if he got captured). And each episode he’d learn a little more about the organization behind ruining his life.

Paranoia was the largest piece of this show. Our hero trying to figure out who it was that was ruining him, while at the same time trying to stay a few steps ahead of them when he could. But more than anything, I love the idea that everything we have could be stripped away from us at a moment’s notice. That if we aren’t careful about creating and maintaining real relationships out in the world… well, who will be there to vouch for us when it all goes sideways.

In the days before DVRs, I made sure to either record it or probably watched it live most of the time. And when it got cancelled I was scouring the fledgling internet for any news I could find on it from fan sites and the few interviews the creator (Lawrence Hertzog, RIP)Sadly, I actually never got the see the series finale (and it only just now occurs to me that I might be able to watch it out in the internet jungle… hold on… yep. Well, I know what I’m going to be watching sometime this weekend!).

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Brimstone (1998-1999) Fox – It is a deal with the Devil story!

I don’t think you heard me. It is a Deal with the Devil STORY!

The basic gist is that this cop’s wife is raped and the rapist manages to get away with it. So, our hero (Zeke), ends up tracking the guy down and murders him. Sadly, it is not that long afterwards that his own life expires and without additional time to get his good/evil scale back on the side of angels he ends up in Hell.

Flash forward about 18 years and there is a prison breakout of Hell. 113 souls have escaped back to earth. So the Devil makes Zeke an offer: track down these errant souls and at the end he’ll get a second chance at life.

All that would be enough, but then add John Glover as the Devil and you have a masterpiece. No, seriously. His portrayal of the master of darkness was such that whenever he came on the screen he took total control of the scene. Whether it was simply “annoying” Zeke with cryptic words or tying a sleeping bum’s shoelaces together for a laugh, he nailed the role.

This show had the misfortune to come onto Fox during a time when they were blind to anything that didn’t do X-Files type ratings on Friday night. Of course, they forgot that X-Files wasn’t a juggernaut immediately and was allowed to become the top-notch show.

Do I think that Brimstone was ever going to be the end all be all for Fox? No, I think, at best, it would have maybe gotten 2-3 seasons and the fans would have been happy with it. As it is we got 13 episodes that, to these eyes, only got better and better as time went on.

Oh, and Peter Horton (Zeke) always gets extra point from me by appearing in the greatest Volleyball film of all time: Side Out (look it up, you won’t be disappointed… well, you might be disappointed, but not this guy).

werewolf

Werewolf the Series (1987-1988) Fox – A show that owes as much to the Incredible Hulk as it does American Werewolf in London, Werewolf was one of those shows that I remember being excited about seeing, even if I never knew exactly when it was coming on. The thing is, I’m not sure it does much reinventing of the genre or anything. At its core it was a very standard werewolf story. Guy gets bit, guy tries to fight the urge to change, and then guy doesn’t know whether he’ll be able to live with this curse.

Except this had special effects that rivaled the Howling and American Werewolf in London. And they did give Eric Cord a goal with one twist on the legend: if you kill the head of your bloodline then you will be human once more. So much like the Fugitive, he’s tracking down his maker while avoiding his own pursuer, a bounty hunter named Alamo Joe (much cooler than it sounds).

I must confess that I’m not 100% on how well this one might hold up to today’s standards… I haven’t really sat down with it in a long while. But I remember watching as a 12-13 year old and thinking that it might be the coolest show I’d ever seen. It probably (most likely) is the reason I love werewolf fiction.

Honorable Mentions: Roar, Sports Night, Journeyman, Friday the 13th the Series. Rome, Deadwood, Awake, and many, many others.

 

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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!

This post originally appeared on tesseraguild.com.

Dragon Con Memories

We’re days away from another year of Dragon Con.

Dragon Con 2014

Dragon Con is this weird thing for me because it has always been there. I believe the very first time I went I was 15 or 16 and Chad’s dad dropped us off and then picked us up some time later. It is where I first realized that there were these comic book conventions, and where I got my very first comic autographed (issue 300 of Amazing Spider-Man by Todd McFarlane). We were only there for a few hours, but my mind was blown, and I resolved to come back again the following year.

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Of course that promise was blown away the very next year when family commitments meant I couldn’t attend and ended up missing a DnD session run by Tracy Hickman (of Dragonlance fame). For the weeks afterward my friends all made sure to let me know what I missed out on.

A year later the Magic the Gathering frenzy had taken over. You had to wake up early, stand in line for some crazy amount of time, and if you were lucky you would get 1 pack of Legends. Now I know that must sound crazy to think that the current set could not be bought at any random comic store, but it was the world we were living in.

The years went by and most of the time I tried to ensure I’d go at least two of the three days. And then when it became a four-day con, I pretty much stuck to  the two days anyway. At the time it felt like they were expanding just to do it… I mean, I could see 90% of what I wanted in 2 days, why bother with 3.

But then a curious thing happened… friends began to move away or maybe they lost interest into going. And soon that group of 10 or so that made it where no matter what panel you wanted to go see or what deal was going on in the Dealer’s room – you’d know about it and have someone to share in the experience. I don’t know about you, but doing things by myself means there is no one to nudge when you see that “cool thing”.

And not long after that, I was the only one going to con… and it became strictly a 1 day thing for me.

I carried the flag for those “dark” years for my group of friends. Sure, I might see a couple of people I knew, but that old core group was nowhere to be found… and it lessened things a bit.

Then came Firefly and Serenity.

ImageDayFireflyMotivational

For most of this time my wife avoided Dragon Con. It was something I think that amused her from a distance. That “thing” John did around Labor Day. Every year I’d ask and nudge and hint that I thought she’d have a great time if she just did 1 day with me.

And she always put it off. Maybe next year. Maybe next year.

Then came Firefly and Serenity. And a panel at Dragon Con with pretty much the whole damn cast.

And I had her.

And she came to Con, and saw the panel, and then saw that Charlene Harris and TruBlood was there and sat in on another panel. And we spent the evening watching the costume contest with some good friends in their room on closed circuit enjoying room service.

That’s all it took.

And suddenly I wasn’t alone anymore. I had my best friend to nudge and point at a cool costume and to experience things with and just enjoy this piece of my own life with her.

Soon enough some of the other friends have drifted back (here and there) to the con. And I get to meet up with newer friends as well… guys and gals I may not have seen in months.

It’s glorious.

At the end of Dragon Con I’m always hit with a slight melancholy. No matter how much I enjoyed myself or even on those years I was bummed out about being by myself… I would still get it. That idea of all these people who shared some passions with me… all these people who said fuck it, I want to enjoy what I want to enjoy and not worry if I look or act silly during these 4 days. I love that about Dragon Con. I love people watching. I love going to panels and seeing tv and movie stars talk about their projects and getting excited about the next big thing. I love going to writing panels in an effort to glean as much information from people in the “know” as possible.

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It makes me feel not so alone. Because, for a long time there us nerds were out in the wilderness. It wasn’t cool to say that you played DnD or Magic or read comics or liked Anime or played computer games. And for 4 days Dragon Con offered an oasis for those of us who wanted to feel apart of something bigger than just us.

So yeah, at the end of the day on Sunday (most likely I will not be down there on Monday – we’re using it to recover) I’ll get that funny feeling in my stomach that another one of these has ended, and it will be another year before I get the chance to do it again. I’ll be tired, my feet may hurt, and my wallet will likely be lighter, but even with that slight sadness I know that it is only a matter of a little time before we get to do it again.

Hope to see you this weekend!

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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!

This post originally appeared on tesseraguild.com.

Roleplaying for Fun and Profit

It’s not a secret, not really. I wasn’t embarrassed… not exactly. Much in the way that many things I have done in my life which fall under the heading of “geeky” or “nerdy”. Before the days when telling people about comic books was shunned.

I mean, I keep hearing about how the nerds won. As if it was for the very soul of the world. That they’ve done what we all predicted would happen when that first “nerd” started messing around with the family computer. They have overthrown their jock-overlords and have claimed the top of the mountain.

Rise up in the cafeteria and stab them with your plastic forks!

Rise up in the cafeteria and stab them with your plastic forks!

Throughout middle school, through high school and college and for some time afterwards I role-played. And I think it has made me a better writer.

How’s that? Well, let’s see.

Character Creation – One of the biggest things in role-playing is that initial character creation. Maybe you are trying to balance out the team that already exists, or maybe you’ve had the nugget of an idea swimming in your head for the last few weeks and now you get to try it out. Sure there is the rolling of dice for your stats, and you would love to roll well to get them higher. But the character is something more than just numbers. There is a history there. A personality that you want to play with and figure out. Sometimes it is tropes, the disgraced knight, the reclusive wizard, the thief who walks the line between good and evil.

But the best characters are those ones who begin to mold themselves as you play them. As your Game Master puts you through the paces on an adventure. As the other players begin to speak with you character… a true personality emerges that you could have never expected… not 100%.

In writing, at least for me, I’ve found it is much the same. I may have the barest idea of how a character will react to something, but time and time again, when that moment comes something crazy happens.

The character surprises me. In the same way that those characters I role-played needed to act a certain way a month after I created them, so too does the written character need to be true to themselves. In fact, I sometimes learn more about them in that moment than I did in any of the moments previous to it (and then I have to go back and tweak a couple of things to help seed that “turn” or “moment”).

ddi_characterbuilder

World building – A lot of times this is the domain of the Game Master, but a good player can help develop the world in lots of different ways. Through their personal histories: maybe your uncle is a local lord (what is he the lord of? are you in line for his property? would someone want you dead to get their hands on it?), perhaps your best friend died in a conflict across the great sea (was it a conflict or a war? is this the first volley or the last? ), or maybe the village you came from was burned to the ground (who did it? why? are they still coming?).

I’ve heard that writing for comic books is a lot like playing with someone else’s toy box: you want to leave it with more toys than it started with. A good Game Master will take these toys from you and weave them into their world, creating more cohesion, and more stakes for the players.

Heroes – Most of the time I have played the hero (or one of the heroes) of the story. And in that I push the villains as hard as I can. I want to escape their death traps, foil their master plan, and save the maiden. But if I’m paying attention, I can see the obstacles that the Game Master is throwing in my way. You see, it is his job to not quite let me win… at least not for a while. Small victories will keep you going until that final big battle.

In my writing it is the same way. My job as the writer is to figure out what my character wants to achieve and then put as many obstacles in the way of them succeeding in their goals. In overcoming those setbacks, I learn more and more about how my characters think and feel and maybe even what it might take to completely break them.

Villains – I’ve played a couple of villains through the years. And it is fun. It  is fun to mess with the other players and sometimes even catch the Game Master off guard with a line of play. Mostly I’ve found that while sometimes the Game Master isn’t looking to flat-out kill your character, another player who is opposing you has no such qualms. That’s where fast thinking comes in handy. But it is also the point where you can fill a villain with more traits than just “he’s evil”.

Not that there is anything wrong with that!

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The End – I’ve played in epic novel length campaigns. They have that feel of a good book series where the heroes get a victory towards the end of the book, only to have something else happen which will propel the series forward for book 2 and 3 and 4. So I can identify where a good breaking point for a chapter, a section, and even the end of the book should be. It is a more subtle thing, but I believe it is there all the same.

Plus it never hurts to end something so that later you can get those heroes out of the mothballs and send them on their one final adventure. Everyone likes a last ride story, right?

Sadly, the closest I come to role-playing these days are playing Dragon’s Age (waiting for the next one!), but I take those old sessions to heart. What might have been cool and what moments might have caused groans. Either way I continue to sift through my memories to see if there is more buried treasure somewhere in there.

I’d like to think there is tons.

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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!

This post originally appeared on tesseraguild.com.

I’ll Ride the Wave Where It Takes Me

There are many things which make me feel like a man out of time. I joke about it. That I was born too late for having a job in this country (I’d much rather be at one place for decade after decade rather than jumping from one employer to another). I was born too early to see us out there in the stars (since the space program seems to be a little stalled on the man missions to other places right now).

Music-Quote-Wallpaper-music-24173742-1440-900

But one place I might have been in the sweet spot was with music. I was reaching my teen years with the onslaught of Grunge which wiped away the awfulness of Hair Metal (which even now their looks seek to both embarrass and confuse. Where up until that point I was bouncing from whatever might have been on the radio (though there were a couple of years there that both my sister and I thought there was only one radio station – Oldies  – because that is the only point on the dial the radio ever sat on). A strange thought since I change the station on every kind of whim if a certain song is no longer holding my interest.

More than that is with this discovery of something that could be mine, it has been with me every since. I typically cannot sit down and write without it. Most days I’m fortunate enough to have it on while I work the old day job, my headphones assisting me in blocking out the background noise.

Music has become this important piece of my life. Songs and albums act as markers in my past in a way that no singular action could otherwise. And the playing of that particular tune, sending me spiraling back into my own life, and forces me to relive moments both glorious and terrible. Certain songs that can no longer be listened to because of an event I must now associate with them.

Random songs that carry strange and fantastic memories for me –

Kokamo by The Beach Boys – Summer 1988 – Cocktail soundtrack carries a Beach Boy song of all things: Kokamo. Because of the singular radio station in the house, aside from songs on MTV, my sister was obsessed with anything and everything Madonna. Now what does this have to do with the Beach Boys? Well, when you only think there is one radio station in town and you ask them to play Madonna on a daily basis during the summer they are going to tell you NO (especially if they only play the oldies). However, when you are 7 years old, like my sister was, you really just want them to play a song for you. And so Kokamo became the go to song to ask them (after petitioning for Madonna first, of course).

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Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana – Winter 1992 – We’re six months after Smells Like Teen Spirit has reached the airwaves, but it has only really been in my head space for a couple of months. But more to the point, this is pre-internet days where BBS(s) ruled the world. Where some people would set up their computers so that we could remote log in to them, play games, download or upload files, and then move on to the next BBS. And my buddy Chad had the idea to set one up on his computer… which worked well enough. As one of his first guinea pigs, I logged on, tried it out. And since the connection was sometimes spotty the following exchange happened:

Hello?

Hello?

Until the other one responded. Chad tweaked this a little bit because of a certain song playing on the radio.

Hello?

Hello?

Hello?

How low?

No matter when I hear the song I get a picture of my old vga monitor (which was large enough to kill an ox) with those words drifting down the screen.

Van Halen - Live - Right Here Right Now 2

Right Here, Right Now (Live) Both Discs by Van Halen – Every College Quarter Break between 1994 and 1999 – My parent moved to Richmond, VA right after I graduated high school in 1994, which mostly meant that when a quarter ended I had the unenviable task of driving 8 hours up I-85 by myself. In the days before iPods and satellite radio, I was not going to suffer at the hands of whatever radio station might be within range. And that meant a book of cds sitting in the passenger seat.

8 hours is a long time.

This is also the part where I confess that I am a Van Hagar fan more than a Van Halen fan. Don’t get me wrong, I like David Lee Roth, but I missed out on his antics with the band. By the time I cared about them, Sammy had been the singer for 3 albums. More than anything though, this thought was cemented by the double live cd I had. Every trip, without fail, I had to listen to the cd(s). It wouldn’t have been a proper trip without them. And, of course, they feature 95% of Van Hagar’s catalog.

Even now, when we make that drive, the desire to listen to those songs are powerful ones.

pearljam-indifference

Indifference by Pearl Jam – Spring 1994 – Those only familiar with the radio hits will likely not know this song, that’s fine. This serves as much as a lesson learned that I’ve since carried through every concert I’ve since attended. That Spring my future wife, Chad, myself, and our friend Lee had somehow managed to get tickets to their now legendary show at the Fox Theater. They were my favorite band at that point (and still are) so this was going to be amazing. We all ride down to downtown Atlanta together and go to our 2 pairs of seats (we were on level 1 and they were on level 2). The band played pretty much every song in their catalog and did a pair of encores. It still ranks as one of my top 5 all-time concerts I’ve ever been to.

But there is one song Courtney and I did not hear, and that was Indifference. Though, if you check the set-list for that night, listen to one of the copies of the concert that are out there, you might notice that it was, in fact, played as their final song.

See, the problem was that after their second encore they thanked us and the house lights came on. Now, I hadn’t been to very many shows at that point, but I understood that meant “Get the heck out of here.” So Court and I did. However, once at the car we began to wonder what was taking Chad and Lee so long. When they finally arrived we began our trek home and the following conversation took place:

Me – “That was amazing!”

Chad – “Yeah. I especially loved them playing Indifference. That blew my mind.”

John – “Uhm, they didn’t play Indifference.”

Lee – “Yeah, they did, it was the last song they played.”

Beat.

Chad & Lee – “John, did you leave when the lights came on?”

So now I don’t leave until the ushers and other concert staff start to poke me with sticks and the like. I don’t move until the band’s bus is on its way out of the parking lot.

Never again!

There are hundreds of others which move to a time and space trapped in my memories. And I am thankful to music for that. They serve as wondrous mile posts and exit signs in a way that I would have never expected.

What songs transport you?

 

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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!

This post originally appeared on tesseraguild.com.

More Than Meets the Eye

I also could have titled this: Michael Bay Hates Me

While other kids were playing with He-Man (only saw the cartoon when I stayed with my grandparents, so for about 2 weeks a year) or GI Joe (Mom didn’t want me playing with soldiers) or Thundercats (OK, I was watching Thundercats), I was buying, watching, playing, collecting, and living Transformers. Comics, toys, and tv shows. I created scenarios where planets lived and died due to the eternal struggle of these mighty warriors. And if dinner was announced in the midst of battle – they’d hang onto the edge of the bed or dresser and hope I made it back to finish that story.

Many Autobots and Decepticons died while I ate corn dogs.

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I just wanted to include a picture of corn dogs. Jeremy gets to have skulls every week, so I wanted to show these bad boys.

But like any obsession, there comes pain and suffering.

Suffering when it came time to get your Christmas presents from relatives. All those boxes under the tree. I just knew that I’d get to open Omega Supreme or Optimus Prime or Starscream or any number of other bots.

Well, I did get to open some bots… Go-Bots. The not-so-cool cousin of the real guys.

You’ll never know the pain that a 10 year old kid can go through when he misses Transformers the Movie. Not that it is entirely my Mom’s fault. We lived in a small Georgia town, one theater, and a ton of movies only came for 1 week (Godzilla 1985 being another that sticks out in my memories). For some reason, lost to time, I wasn’t able to go see it opening weekend (“I’ll take you next weekend.”).

Transformers-movieposter-west

But there wasn’t a next weekend. It was gone. Instead I had to suffer the ultimate in 10-year-old humiliation: having all my friends tell me about it.

A transformer who was a planet?

Optimus Prime dead?

Megatron transformed?

Starscream dead? (this hurt more than Prime’s death).

And who the hell was Kup?

That was maddening… and I made sure my Mom knew my disappointment.

It took me about a year before I saw the movie. I had been counting down till it was released on VHS, and somehow they decided to play it on tv. And it was glorious. Everything that my friends had told me and more.

I figured that would be the only movie.

When the 90’s rolled around and this new Transformers show: Beast Wars came on, I scoffed. “That’s not Transformers. It looks weird. Who are these characters.”

I was wrong. When I sat down and watched it…dare I say it, Beast Wars might be the best story the Transformers have told.

But still, that had to be it. There couldn’t be anything more, could there?

I must confess something… I didn’t mind Bay’s 1st Transformers. Yes, it has lots of flaws (tons), but I enjoyed it for what it was. And what was that? A live action Transformers movie! For the sake of my 10-year-old self I could say I liked it at the very least.

But they say that time has a way of giving us perspective… and with enough time that first movie didn’t age well. I didn’t go see the 2nd one in the theaters. With the vitriol that people were throwing towards it, that was easy enough to avoid.

When it finally came on HBO and there was nothing else on, and the wife was in the bed… I watched it.

The Horror!

So, yeah, I’m not seeing the new one. Fool me once… not going to go see a Bay Transformer movie. The only reason I’m writing that down though is to give myself some kind of willpower…

So I’ll be strong and explain to my inner 10-year-old why we can’t bother with it. And he’ll be mad, I’m sure. Maybe not as mad as I was when I missed the animated movie, but mad enough. He’ll talk to me right before I drift off…

“But it is a Transformers movie. That’s still cool!”

“Why have you given up on the old school cartoons? Go see the movie!”

NElsezRvBddSot_1_3

Yeah, he’s riding around on this guy!

“Dude! Optimus is riding on Grimlock’s back! Dude!”

Pray I have the strength to avoid this one…

 

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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!

This post originally appeared on tesseraguild.com.

My Writing Process

I loathe chain emails. I’m not sure if they existed in paper form, but the thing which always killed me was the warning at the end. Like something out of a Steven King novel: “If you dare break this chain of old, a thousand locusts will descend upon thy host until only misery and bones are left to thee.”

Chain Letter

I snub my nose at such dire warnings. And I’m insulted that you feel that the subject manner itself is not good enough to spur me into action. There are many things that are difficult in this digital age, forwarding something on is not one of those things.

(Though I wonder if some of my recent bad luck is a result of not sending along that latest one… hmm, maybe I should rethink my stance.)

But a Chain Blog Tour? Well now, that is a horse of a different color. And when a fellow Guild-mate taps you then you do your best to appease the chain-blog gods. So with that in mind a little something to say about J Edward Neill.

I’ve known Mr. Neill since high school, brought together by a shared love of basketball and roleplaying. For the many years I thought about writing a book, he was sitting in his dark cave (or mountain top or volcano fortress) actually putting pen to paper, fingers to keyboard to create his fantasy opus: Down the Dark Path. And much like in sports where they tell you to play against better competition in order to get better at your craft – I use him as one of my gauges. Of course, this week he’s come out with Book 2: Dark Moon Daughter… so my work is cut out for me.

writing

What am I working on?

Sometimes I feel like the question should be “What am I not working on”, but let’s see:

The White Effect – Editing the latest draft of my science fiction story about a man who finds that his world is rebooting, and he is one of the lucky (unlucky) ones who realizes what’s happening.

Gilded Age – My Steampunk creator-owned comic series through Terminus Media. Issue 3 is set to have letters added, and it looks like issue 4 is about to have pencils started any day now.

The Edge of the World – A story in the vein of Journey to the Center of the Earth where our heroine seeks to find her missing uncle. I have finished the first draft of this. Still need to start editing.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

With my comic writing, and The Gilded Age in particular, I’m trying to write character based stories and create a world from them as opposed to plopping them into a world. With my novel, The Dark That Follows, I’d say that it differs from “standard” urban fantasy in that it isn’t a romantic story where you wonder will they/won’t they. Instead it is about a man in way over his head just trying to do the right thing.

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Why do I write what I do?

As you can see above, I’m a little all over the place with regards to genre (for better or for worse). I guess I just follow that old rule of write what you’d like to read, and since I don’t just read fantasy or science fiction or urban fantasy or super-heroes exclusively my brain ensures that almost everything I work on is something different from the thing I wrote before. I take everything I’ve read, everything I’ve watched, everything I’ve ever heard and put them through the grinder of my brain and then something comes out. If it is interesting and moves me, then I write about it, if not, I move onto the next project.

How does my writing process work?

It starts with music. Something to write to. Recently it has been 10 Years, Chevelle, and Deftones. Once I have the right mood set I generally have a decent idea of what needs to happen within the story, so much more plotter than pantser. For a comic script I tend to write out a 1-2 paragraph summary of the major story beats and then start writing dialogue. Only after most of the dialogue is written do I go back and fill in every panel’s description and manipulate the pace of the comic. After a couple of passes I send it on to my editors, do one more pass with their notes, and then end up doing a FINAL-FINAL pass during the lettering stage as I can see the whole picture (literally) and see if something needs to be added or subtracted.

With my novels I have the story beats, but I write out-of-order most of the time, jumping from one scene to another and then piece things together like a puzzle. After that first draft is done I follow Steven King’s advice and put it in the drawer for 6-8 weeks to gain perspective. After that time I do my second pass, and if I’m happy with that version I might reach out to a couple of BETA readers for thoughts. Another draft follows that and then the editor. And then the final draft.

But at some point I do say “pencils down” because while we can tweak and refine our work forever, it doesn’t mean we should. Release it into the world and move onto the next project.

 

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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!

This post originally appeared on tesseraguild.com.

A Little Luck

I want to try something for the blog. I’m not 100% on how it is going to work, but… I like the idea of demystifying things. So how do you come up with the stories you write? Just like this:

Royal Flush Poker cards & Chips

My wife and I play poker at one of the local restaurants nearly every Sunday evening. It works out well because it is something we are decent at and enjoy together. But I had a lot of time to think about Luck when a hand didn’t go my way (“Bad” Luck) and suddenly I was out of this week’s tournament. In my mind the fact that my opponent ended up winning the hand when (once we got all the chips in the middle) he only had about a 25 % chance to win tells me I had some bad luck in that hand.

Sometimes I wonder if I don’t just have bad luck in many other hands. But as many poker players (and more than one mathematician) would tell you, sometimes you are just in a bad stretch, but eventually things will regress back to the mean. Or to put it simply, things will average out.

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But let’s face facts, we remember the bad beats in cards and in life more than we remember the times when we got “lucky”. It is very easy to bemoan our fates when those negative thoughts keep coming up. When we know that the other shoe is bound to drop. We’re the types of people who when you say bad things happen in 3s, we are quick to point out items 4,5,& 6.

We compete to figure out who has it worse. We’ve all been in those conversations:

Me – “I blew a tire today so I was late to work.”

You – “Yeah, my car wouldn’t start today, so I ended up having to call in sick. And after repairs and everything I’m out $1000.”

Me – “O.K. You win!”

Though, let’s be honest. I’m going to talk about some other instance of something bad happening to me today while I was at work, because I cannot concede defeat that easily, right?

It’s the same in stories. One of the ideas I’ve heard is when you are writing figure out what your character wants and then put an obstacle in front of them. So maybe they have to get across the state for some meeting of the minds which will solve all their problems… oops! your tire blew, and because you didn’t have a spare you missed the meeting and now the aliens are going to invade (or something). In a lot of ways it seems like Bad Luck is almost the thing that can keep your hero from winning their story.

But I think the other side maybe works too well. Sometimes it is too much good Luck running amuck. It’s gotta be believable. It’s gotta be something where you don’t scratch your head because the solution was not just impossible, but beyond lucky.

Star Wars – If you were a character who didn’t understand the Force, but knew the events that led to the destruction of the first Death Star, wouldn’t you think that Luke was literally the luckiest man alive? I mean he closed his eyes and took the shot. “One in a million, kid!” What a stroke of luck.

Of course, we the viewer, know the truth of the situation.

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One Lucky S.O.B.

The Hobbit – Bard ends up hitting Smaug in the one spot where he is vulnerable. Yes, maybe he is just “that good”, but I know  when I read the Hobbit, that was my biggest problem with it. So one arrow fired by someone not in the main group was going to be the thing to end the evil of this dragon? How lucky!

So there is a fine line to walk. You must make it so that your character has to struggle a bit, perhaps they bemoan their fate (their Luck), but most of the time they are going to triumph in the end. Overcoming the odds.

Overcoming the odds… sounds like they got lucky to me.

Something else that puzzles me about luck… Is it possible that there is an amount of luck that each person has? Can it be measured? Is it like matter in that it cannot be created or destroy, but merely transformed?

There’s an 80s movie with Richard Dryfuss called Let it Ride (a personal guilty pleasure movie). In the film, he’s a compulsive gambler (horse racing in this instance). There’s a line in that movie that’s always stuck with me:

“You could be walking around lucky and not even know it.”

That’s a profound thought. What if we have some amount of luck which ebbs and flows on a daily basis? What if we could predict when those cycles were so that we only played poker or craps or blackjack on the days when our own personal luck meter (for lack of a better term) was in the positive rather than in the negative? Maybe that’s why there is something to be said for the idea behind “beginner’s luck.” Those are people who have not burned through their luck for a particular luck based game. So that first time they play… well, it’s like they can’t lose because they really can’t.

I have a friend who I have joked with over the years about his luck. I’ve seen it in action before to the point that it is now a matter of fact that it will happen. It’s like he has a super-power where he can manipulate the odds into something a bit more in his favor. And obviously it doesn’t work every time, but it works enough for me to notice. It works enough for me to wonder if there might not be something to it.

Here’s the key thing, he doesn’t waste it. When we play games of chance, he isn’t always winning. In fact, he probably wins at an average rate. What you might expect any person to win who plays Settlers every once in a while. Does he know what he’s doing? Does the Luck?

I think there is something to all of that. Could I steal someone else’s luck? What would that look like? How might you go about taking something like that? Is there such a thing as taking too much? I mean, if you reduce all their Good Luck and only leave the bad… well, they’d probably get hit by a random object from the sky (oh, and if you are going to do that, make sure that you are nowhere near them afterwards).

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And this is how ideas begin to form. A bad beat in poker becomes something more… but where to go? This feels like there is something there. Buried underneath, waiting for a story to be told. The only question now is whether I can exhume it anytime soon. Or perhaps it is destined to be filed away for a while.

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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!

This post originally appeared on tesseraguild.com.

Terminus Media and the CDC Team Up For San Diego Comic Con

I am excited to announce a project years in the making will finally see the light of day 4:00 PM (PST) at San Diego Comic Con during a panel titled “Using Motion Comics for HIV/STI Prevention”. I acted as one of the main writers for the project in which they scripted a series of motion comics with the idea of both entertaining and informing. Episode One of the series will be shown in its entirety for the first time at the panel with a plan to roll out the additional episodes during the remainder of the year.

Below is the press release:

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Terminus Media and CDC Team Up for San Diego Comic Con

Press Release

Atlanta, GA (July 18, 2016) On Friday, July 22nd the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Terminus Media will host a panel titled Using Motion Comics for HIV/ STI Prevention at this year’s San Diego Comic Con. The panel will highlight the continuing collaboration between the CDC and Terminus Media a Creative Services and Entertainment Studio in their efforts to use the medium of motion comics/animation to raise awareness about HIV/ STI prevention.

“With using motion comics to spread “edutainment” our hope is that we will be able to use this medium to better illustrate the facts of this issue, while also highlighting the personal experiences of those affected by HIV/ and STI,” Mark Stancil, CEO and co-founder of Terminus Media explained.

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The event will be held at San Diego Comic Con between 4:00 pm-5:00 pm PST, in room 32AB. An official description of the panel is as follows:

4:00p.m. – 5:00p.m PST Using Motion Comics for HIV/STI Prevention

In the U.S., young people (ages 16-24 years) are significantly affected by Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and other sexually transmitted infections (STI).  Storytelling through comic books has been shown to be a useful method for HIV/STI education and prevention.  The increasing popularity of comic related media and advances in computerized graphics have created new ways of using comics to reach youth with HIV/STI information.  You are invited to come and learn how scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Leigh Willis (behavioral scientist), Rachel Kachur (health scientist,) Ted Castellanos (public health advisor), John Brooks (senior medical advisor), and Terminus Media Mark Stancil (CEO),
Joe Phillips (lead artist) Lexington Wolfcraft (artist) worked to create an HIV/STI focused motion comic which improves knowledge about, and reduces stigma around, HIV and STI, and encourages healthy behaviors by young people.  Attendees will learn how audience feedback, behavioral research and cutting edge comic production methods were used to create the storyline and the look, sound and feel of this motion comic.  For the first time ever, during this session, the first episode of the series will be debuted.  Information will also be provided on how the public can access the full motion comic series and future plans for the series will be discussed.   

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About Terminus Media

Terminus Media is an Atlanta-based Creative Services and Entertainment studio dedicated to identifying, developing and aggressively marketing corporate and creator-owned properties into valuable multimedia assets. In addition to publication of critically acclaimed titles like The Gilded Age, the Glyph Comic Award winning, Route 3Terminus Team Up, and the Glyph-award nominated, Radio Free Amerika. Our Creative Services division assists corporate, government and private-sector clients with visual communication projects ranging from animation and character development to full-scale message-specific publications, including work done for such clients as the Centers for Disease Control, Nitto Tires, and The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra/Alliance Theatre.

www.terminusmedia.com

Terminus Media LLC

860 Johnson Ferry Road, Suite 140

Atlanta, GA 30342,  contact@terminusmedia.com

Behind the Comic: The Comic Script

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The company I do a lot of my comic related work with is Terminus Media. Early on, before the money and the fame (ok, maybe I’m still waiting on that), we met in the back of a comic book shop in Stone Mountain, Georgia. These were open meetings where any number of creatives were welcomed to listen in, discuss their own ideas, and even contribute to the anthology comics if they had the desire.

Each time new writers or artists came in they had the same questions I had when I walked through those doors. When I sat down to write my very first comic script I had no idea of how to go about setting it up. It’s a weird thing, this product we read on a weekly basis, but how in the world does it get from the writer’s brain to the artist’s fingertips? How does the script work?

In the comics industry there are basically two main forms that comics take: Full Script and Marvel Method.

Full Script – This is the one most people might be familiar with. In a full script the writer typically is going to break the comic down into pages and then those pages are broken down further into panels. Then within each panel would be a description of what you want the artist to draw (perhaps painting a general idea of the scene all the way to “camera placement”). Finally there will be any dialogue or narration needed. And so on and so forth until all 20-24 pages have been scripted out.

Yet, even among the Full Scripts there are those who give a small amount of  description and those who give tons. Do yourself a favor and try to find a copy of an Alan Moore script… that man writes tons of description and analysis for each panel (some might say too much, but he is one of the greatest comic writers of all time so what do they know, huh?).

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Marvel Method was something that developed from Stan Lee’s early days at Marvel Comics. Since he was the main writer (only writer) he didn’t have enough time for a full script. And he happened to work with the likes of  Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko. They were artists who he knew could “do the job” as it were. So he provided them with plots of the comic, but left it up to them to actually layout the pages, determine what would go in each panel, and so on. Then, once it was done, Stan would go back in and add the narration and dialogue.

I had no sample script to work from, so my first one was probably closer related to the Marvel Method than a full script. But that was due to me not knowing than any conscious decision about how this scripting thing was supposed to work.

Over the years I’ve mostly done the Full Script version for my comics. And the reason for that is because many times I don’t know who is going to be the artist on the book. And without that key knowledge, I’d rather give them my vision for the comic and then go from there, than leave them with just a plot.

But, as I work with an artist, and grow more comfortable with them, I try to leave more things in their hands. Fight scenes are probably the biggest one. I feel like no matter how I think the fight could go, the artist is going to have a better feel for the flow of the characters. So why not let them stretch their skills a little bit. I give them general ideas of what needs to happen: “Bill and Jack rumble on this page. Maybe Bill gains the upper hand early in the fight, only to have Jack turn the tables.” OR “Jack and Bill are going to fight on this page. The only key thing is that by the end of the page Jack needs to hold Bill out a window… otherwise go nuts!”

All that is a long-winded way of saying, lots of those people coming into those early Terminus meetings didn’t have a clue about scripting or, if they were artists, didn’t know how to draw from a script. They just didn’t have access to one. So a few years ago, at the behest of some, I wrote out a short called 3 Brothers for the express idea of helping newer artists have something to draw.

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I divided the story into 3 parts:

Part 1 was a love story (Romance). Two people in love with each other, some talking head shots, playful interaction.

Part 2 was about hate (Rage). Two brothers, in love with the same woman, have a major fist-fight that doesn’t go well for one of them.

Part 3 was about loss (Death). Two people, dealing with the loss of a loved one, standing in the rain (so they have a little bit of the environment to deal with).

Anyway, I think a couple of people tried it out here or there. I think it was a helpful tool, and as such I’ve added a copy here.

Perhaps an aspiring artist will get inspired by this, or want to draw something that isn’t just superheroes for their portfolio.

Hope it helps.

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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!

This post originally appeared on tesseraguild.com.

Put Me In Coach, I’m Ready to Play

The following is about baseball and me betraying my math inclined side of my brain.

But mostly it is about baseball.

Of all the sports, I believe that Baseball is the one most steeped in mysticism. There is a magic about it, sure, but more than that, I think there is something to all the superstitions and whatnot. More than any other sport, it is the one that focuses so much on numbers. As science has gotten better and better, they have managed to distill the game into an algorithm. And the math side of my brain loves this idea – solving baseball.

We have movies celebrating this idea.

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But the other half of my brain wonders about sucking out the mystery of the game. Where a nobody can turn into a somebody, if only for one at bat. Where we value a player because he only fails 70% of the time. Where a pitcher can attempt to do something that only 23 other players have ever done: pitch a perfect game. Think about that. In over 100 years only 23 people have played the game perfectly. I look at the list and see names that are steeped in lore, but there are other names on there who I don’t immediately recognize.

How do you solve for that?

At some point tomorrow night (I’m writing this sometime on Monday) I’ll be settling in to watch the Baseball All-Star Game. I don’t always watch the All-Star game. As much as I love baseball, the game doesn’t mean the same to me it did years ago…

Wait – this isn’t one of those things where I say such and such was better back in the day. It wasn’t better. In fact, it was pretty much the same. The difference is that I’m not 10 anymore. The thrill of seeing an Atlanta Brave in the game is still cool, but there was something more to it when I was younger. The one thing I seemed to be able to count on was Dale Murphy being on the tv at some point during the All Star Game. As bad as the Braves were (and boy were they awful), I knew one of our team would be out there.

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I have this card upstairs.

Which is why I’m always amazed when I hear the sports talk machine complaining (bitching) about the fact that each team has to be represented. So that means 15 of your spots are automatically taken. They say that someone is going to be left off the team that deserves to be there… and maybe they are right. But considering the sheer amount of injuries that happen to players, it is not that uncommon for 3rd, 4th, or 5th alternates to get invited to play as well.

So that “loser” from the “loser” team, did they really take someone’s place? Not really.

Just like when the NCAA Basketball tournament has to decide on cutting the 67, 68, & 69th teams, there is always going to be someone annoyed at a choice.

Here’s my counter argument that throws stats and logic out the window. An argument that tries to look at the purpose of this mid-summer classic.

And no, it is not because “this time it counts”. That is the dumbest thing about the All-Star Game. Home field given to the league who wins… ugh.

I think back to a time when I was happy to see that at least Dale Murphy was going to be on the All Star team. There would be one player from MY TEAM who would make it worth while to watch.

In a time when baseball’s ratings get trounced by the new American pastime (football), why would you want to exclude ANY fan base from watching the game? It wouldn’t make any sense.

More than that, who is to say that the “loser”, that one guy who was the last one to make the team… what if it just happens to be a magical night for him? Don’t you think there will be some 10-year-old out there who sees that and forever falls in love with this silly game of hitting a ball with a stick?

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Logic and stats and numbers be damned when it comes to baseball. Something else moves the ball through the grass. Some bit of wind carries a fly ball higher and farther than it was supposed to go. And the guy who wasn’t supposed to be there… well, maybe tonight is his night.

We shall see.

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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!

This post originally appeared on tesseraguild.com.