Hollow Empire – Lessons Learned

Hollow Empire’s first Episode came out on a Friday night to a Kindle reader near you for a whole $0.99. For that you get to meet the characters, get immersed in the world, and get left on one heck of a cliffhanger for… another 2 days. Because that’s when Episode 2 comes out. And then a week later Episode 3 comes out. And so on for 6 straight weeks.

HollowEmpireEP1

Check it out on Amazon here!

Last month I talked about how the project began (in the various emails sent back and forth between Mr. Neill and myself). You can find that here.

The thing about this project was that while we had a bit of a road map, this was different than the way I normally write. Typically I’m working in solitude, late into the night, trying to hit my goals for the night. But even before that I have an outline of some sort set out. It might not have all the twists and turns laid out, but it gives me enough road signs that I know where I’m heading.

It’ll be months working on that 1st draft. A draft that no one else can see (not even Courtney). It is in this draft that I become unafraid to suck. Unafraid to write down everything that my brain might only be tangentially trying to tell me. It all goes in… because I know that when I sit down for Draft 2, I can easily cut the chaff from the wheat.

Or something.

Hollow Empire worked a little differently. Initially we set up goals of turning around the episodes every 3 weeks. At that point I’d send J my 3 chapters and he’d send me his 3 chapters and I’d spend a night or two on edits (and he’d do the same).

Let me say right now that J got the short end of that stick. Especially at the beginning. His chapters were pretty clean overall. A few grammar things, a misspelling or three, and maybe a tweak of some plot (mostly that was me asking questions like this: “Wow, this thing you introduced was cool, how does that work?”).

Editing

Mine were a little rougher. Mostly because, while I did give them a writer edit before sending them on, they were probably closer to 1st draft form than 2nd or 3rd draft form. I can only imagine what J thought when he read that first chapter.

Hopefully it wasn’t a “what have I gotten myself into” situation. ūüôā

I believe that by the 5th and 6th episodes I’d cleaned up some of the bigger mistakes, crutches, etc. that I was using (or he’d given up by then).

I’m fairly new at this, but I have to believe that even the JK Rowlings and Steven Kings still learn things with each project they write. Maybe they aren’t the HUGE things anymore, but I have to hope that there are still techniques to figure out… an envelope to push.

And I’m still at the point where everything is HUGE realizations. Writing Hollow Empire, getting that instant feedback, and then doing the edits immediately showed me a different perspective on how my work… worked.

I wasn’t expecting that when I agreed to the project.

The other big thing I learned was that 3 weeks isn’t as long as you think when you have a day job. You see, I was under the assumption that since my nightly goal is 1250 words and our portion of each episode was about 7000 words… well, you do the math. That should be only 6 days. Figure 2 more for any edits. Even if I only write 5 days a week, that’s only half the time.

time slipping away

Well to mis-quote Top Gun: My brain was writing checks that my body couldn’t cash.

I hit the first deadline, no problem. Heck, I had a whole spreadsheet set up with due dates and how long edits would take and so on. By Episode 2 I only barely hit the date, and I’m pretty sure by Episode 3 I was a little late. And so on.

That being said, I would set up the same schedule the next time (3 weeks). Some of the delays were from not knowing the characters quite yet. Some of it was trying to ¬†make sure that I hit the goal posts I’d set up in our initial story meeting. And some of it was vacations and work. At 3 weeks per episode we’d still be done in 4 months. Which leads me to the 3rd thing I learned.

The speed of the project made me a faster writer. More pure. I wrote my characters into corners in one episode and then had to figure out how in the world they were going to get out of that situation. And while that made for some longer nights than I would have liked, I’m hopeful that the end result of not agonizing over every last sentence captures a feeling with the readers.

What I’d like to know now is whether this experiment worked. How do the readers react to those moments and cliffhangers and everything else? Can we make it so they are hyped for a new episode to come out on Friday night?

I guess I’ll have to wait and see.

***

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 РA Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

This post originally appeared on tesseraguild.com.

 

Hollow Empire – Those Initial Steps

On March 23, 2013 I received the following email from J Edward Neill:

“My final round scooped. Weak. But seriously, if you want to try your hand at the serial story blog thing, I’m all in.”

The first part of that line refers to Magic the Gathering, so not really important to our discussion right now. The second refers to a conversation I had with J about a podcast I’d been listening to “The Self-Publishing Podcast” and how two of those guys had been on a tear with serialized fiction (which if you are at all interested in independent writing, you should check out the podcast). The format basically was about 15,000 words per episode (which equals about 60 pages), six episodes make a season (apparently we are on an English schedule)… leaving you with 90,000 words for the book (360 pages). They released them on a weekly basis, cliffhangers at the end of episodes (just like some of your favorite tv shows).

breakfast_serial_forum_183

No, not this kind of serial!

And I thought it could be duplicated.

So a couple of days later I got that email. And I replied on March 25, 2013:

“Serial – I’d be down.”

There was tons more included. Talk about potential schedules, the idea that this book could help not only cross-pollinate our works, but also generate content for our virtual book shelves. The one thing I am sure of in this writing thing is that if I only have one book, then it is much harder for anyone to find me. But if I have another book, I’ve increased my odds. And by co-writing it, I only have to do 1/2 as much work to get to the full novel.

Right?

Anyway. At that point we had no idea what this was going to be besides the barest of formats. Genre? Who knows. I only knew that we probably wanted to avoid vampires and zombies since they seemed to be running rampant throughout fiction and tv and movies.

J mentioned “a superhero theme, but waaaay back in time… fighting against ancient evils in a fantasy dark ages setting.”

I took that and wrote the following:

“125 years ago the last of the Great Wars were fought and the beginning of King XXX began. And the Age of Peace spread throughout the lands that he had conquered. Much like Alexander in our own world, this King spread his kingdom to the far reaches of the known world, but unlike Alexander, he lived to a ripe old age. Long enough to ensure that his heir would be ready to rule after him, long enough to make sure that the new lands remained within the kingdom. Trade increase, prosperity increased, etc.

10442Jollain_The_Plague_of_Frogs

20 years ago marked the beginning of the Outbreak in YYY. hey stacked the dead along the walls until they reached the top, and then they began a new corpse wall. The spread like wildfire throughout the world; the downside to having increased contact with the far reaches meant that no one could outrun it. The population of the world decreased over the next 10 years by 50%. Small villages now are ghost towns, empty of all life, as those who survived journeyed to the cities for protection, cure, help.

Now we deal with a medieval world which has begun to pull itself out of the apocalypse. They are trying to figure out where they stand. But there are peasant revolts, coups, kingdoms which quarantined themselves and have not been heard from in the last dozen years.

Plague_doctors'_beak_shaped_mask

<Insert Project Name> – Dark Fantasy – Not saving the world, not saving the day… just saving yourself.”

That’s all it took and we were off to the races. We began to flesh out the pieces of the world and the people who survived the end of the world. We came up with our four Points of View, each choosing to write two of them. We’d be each other’s first editor. And when it was done we’d have something greater than the one could possibly do.

I must admit, I wasn’t sure how it was going to work out. I’ve collaborated plenty on the comic book side of things. Heck, the whole format is about that very thing. Writers and artists working together to achieve something they could not have done alone. But this was something else.

And it worked (at least I think it did, you’ll have to read it and be the judge). I think we’ve not only managed to flesh out a world, but we’ve done it by using the characters as our vehicles to get there. They determine so much of what the world is going to look like.

The best part, though, was getting that new chapter from J. There would always be something new one of us would include in a chapter that the other one would want to add to their own story. So many emails and conversations seemed to begin with “X thing is cool… how exactly does it work so that I can use it.” Those surprises made it fresh in a way that working by yourself sometimes can’t be.

I’m excited to release this new creation into the world. I can’t wait to have people give it a read and let us know what they think.

And by the way, Mr. Neill also has given a little bit of teaser for Hollow Empire here.

***

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 РA 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!

dice

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.

***

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 РA 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.

24420873-bad-luck-unlucky-day-or-bad-fortune-misfortune

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.

StarWars_Scene3

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).

writing

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.

***

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 РA Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

This post originally appeared on tesseraguild.com.

Behind the Comic: The Comic Script

behindthemusic-thumb-3

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?).

stan_lee_happy_88_birthday_by_mexpiratered-d35w8lr

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.

Love-Hate-2

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.

***

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 РA Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

This post originally appeared on tesseraguild.com.

A Long Time Ago… We Used to be Friends…

My wife is obsessed.

I’m getting ahead of myself.

If you were a writer and you happened to know a Chemist, the best thing for you when you need to insert a generic scientist into your story MIGHT be to make that character a Chemist. I mean you have the access to that knowledge (so your story can be a little more authentic). It just makes sense.

Veronica_mars_intro

With the TV show Veronica Mars, I have access to an expert as well.

Now I’m not 100% on this, but I’d be willing to bet that she’s watched the show (3 seasons and 60+ episodes) more than anyone else on the planet (at the very least she has to be in the top 1% of Veronica Mars fans when it comes to watching episodes) (which probably means I’ve watched every episode 6 or 7 times). We own the DVDS and she’s manged to wear 2 of the seasons out from the repeated play (yeah, I didn’t know that could happen either with DVDs). When the SOAP Network (RIP) began showing the series in order during a 2 hour block every day (and then on the weekends as well) there was many a day I would come home from work to find V-Mars playing on the TV. Think about it, she’d watch episodes with commercials in them because she loved it so much (well, maybe there was a bit of laziness in there as well, not wanting to hunt down that particular episode).

A little obsessed…

So when Veronica Mars had a chance of returning to the world through a movie with their Kickstarter Campaign a couple of years ago, it was never a question of IF we’d be supporting the project. The only question was “how much would we pledge”. And when they passed 2 million dollars she squealed like a teenage girl. Then the countdown was on, and on March 14, 2014 at 7:15 we sat in a theater, about 1/2 full, and watched Veronica appear on the screen for the first time in about 8 years.

We also have a digital copy of the movie. Don’t ask how many times she’s watched it (I ran out of toes and fingers counting).

Amazon-Kindle-Worlds

Then when Veronica Mars was announced as being a part of the Amazon Kindle Worlds program, whether we were going to do a project was secondary to who the story would focus on, when to place it…

For those that may not know, Kindle Worlds is a way for you to write Fan Fiction in a world in a more legit manner. They license the properties and open them up to anyone to contribute. Whatever your opinion of fan fiction might be, it still strikes me as a kinda cool way to be more apart of the world(s) we all know and love.

With this opportunity and this particular World, my wife and I had to do something.

And that led us to Mac.

Veronica Mars

 

Mac is Veronica’s friend. She’s sorta the Q to Veronica’s James Bond. And since we weren’t going to write about Veronica directly she jumped out at us.

Collaboration is always tricky when writing comics or prose or whatever, but collaboration with your spouse… well, it was actually fairly easy. We spent a couple of weeks after the initial announcement in early February just talking about plot lines, possible angles to take. Which characters would appear? Which season would we set things? And so on. Then once we had the rough beats for things I started writing and over the course of about 2 weeks pounded out the first draft. She read it in 2 parts, the first 3 chapters and then the last 3 chapters. I then took her edits and did another pass on the story with her sitting beside me to really go over any places I had questions about.

The final step, after multiple drafts, was to read it aloud. I’ve read about other writers who do this in order to make sure that the sentences aren’t too awkward. The idea being that if you stumble over it as you read it aloud, then it probably needs to be rephrased. I gotta say, that after doing it I not only noticed more than a couple of odd sentences, but also caught a couple of simple errors, double words, that sort of thing.

So maybe there is something to this technique.

Anyway, we hit submit on the novella Sunday evening and then it was available! Right Here!

That’s right, you can now read a Veronica Mars story by me and the wife, if you happen to be into that sort of thing. And you should be, especially if you were ever a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Joss Whedon appeared in the show and at one point said it was his favorite show on tv (at least while it was on the air). So that’s gotta count for something, right?

dana-whedonverse

This guy likes Veronica Mars, you should too.

And now a little exert from the novella (just a taste)…

Get away from Beaver. Now. He’s a killer. I’m in the lobby.

The words scream at me from my phone. Veronica’s attempt to help me. To save me.

It’s been two weeks, and I’m not sure exactly what those words mean.

Oh, I understand the big things. The newspapers had part of it, and Veronica filled me in on the rest. Beaver was the one who killed all those people on the bus. Beaver tried to set Veronica up. And that night, he tried not only to kill her, but almost killed her dad with the bomb, which blew up Woody Goodman’s plane.

Get away from Beaver. Now. He’s a killer.

The words are in English, and yet they make no sense. Nothing about that night makes any damn sense. Try as I might I can’t wrap my head around it. What was supposed to be a special night became a nightmare. Since then, the days have been the better part of a blur. So I sit here at Java the Hut and stare at my cell phone, hoping through sheer force of will the phrase will make a little sense at some point.

I’m not holding my breath though.

He’s a killer.

What does that even mean?

***

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 РA Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

This post originally appeared on tesseraguild.com.

Behind the Comic – The Gilded Age

behindthemusic-thumb-3

I thought I’d provide the blog with a little bit of how this little project came to be.

GildedAge_Front Cover-tessera

It all started with a convention in Orlando a few years ago. My buddy Egg either had a table or was sharing a table or something (it doesn’t much matter). The important thing was that while he was down their he met an artist by the name of Larry Watts who was looking for a project to work on. For some reason Egg thought Larry and I could match up on a project. Larry has since gone on to work on a Zenescope Comic called Robyn Hood (found here).

The only problem was that I didn’t really have any ideas that were artist ready.

Now I certainly had a handful of ideas, but I had no finished scripts that were just begging for an artist. So when faced with the prospect of working with an artist and you have no solid ideas I cheated and went onto his Deviant Art page to check out his stuff and see if anything “inspired me”.

And there it was… a shot of a old western gunfighter… with a metallic arm. In that instant, something flipped in my brain and I had the barest bones of an idea. What followed over the course of the next few days would end up becoming a pitch called Machine Heart.

Now Machine Heart was ready, but I believe that Larry was no longer available to work on it (I probably missed my window by not being prepared with something). So I filed it away on the computer, just waiting for the moment to spring it from it’s prison.

A year or so later Terminus Media was beginning to look towards doing something more than just anthology stories. They wanted to have something that could be 5 or 6 issues to start. Something different than what was on the shelves. And that little voice popped up in my brain and I mentioned my “Steampunk” story. A couple of meetings later things began to crystallize and suddenly it looked like things were a go… there was just one problem.

With an indy comic there is always the risk that there will be a delay between issues. You might have production problems, money problems, printing problems, and who-knows-what-else problems. But here we are wanting to tell a story over the course of 5 issues… what happens if people don’t want to wait that long? What happens if someone stumbles onto issue 2 and can’t find issue 1?

So what was the answer? In a perfect world you would find a way to have a regular schedule. We, however, live in the real world (one populated with superheroes and the like, but real enough) where delays are going to happen…

xiron-man-alarm-clock.jpeg.pagespeed.ic.pNs3wejHrQ

Iron Man doesn’t like Daylight Savings Time either.

And then it hit me Р I could build this world from the ground up by telling single issue stories about a variety of characters. And what better way to ensure that there are plenty of characters to choose from? Have the stories take place in a vaudevillian carnival where you could have all sorts of weirdos running around and no one would bat an eye. Plus, the other bonus was that I could tell a variety of stories (adventure, horror, heists, etc.) and they could all work because of the characters involved.

There was only one more problem… a title. Machine Heart didn’t really apply to this particular story, so I needed to come up with something better than “Untitled Steampunk Comic”.

Enter Mark Twain and his coining of the phrase “The Gilded Age”. Now his applied to the late 1800s corruption occurring within the US government, but I saw something that could apply to this new world. There would be corruption (there always is), but it also rang true somehow for the comic… I can’t explain it completely, but it “fit”.

gilded age by twain

While Machine Heart’s plot-line no longer applied, the characters of Hannah and Elias still worked for me. An actress who is new to the carnival, bright eyed and innocent, and the stage magician of the crew who would need her help acquiring an item for his next performance. So I made the first issue about the two of them, giving the reader a complete story in 1 issue, but hinting at a much bigger world that I’m hoping to explore more and more of.

And that gunfighter with the metal arm that inspired it all… well, he’s getting to tell a story of his own…

Gilded Age #2-004-small

 

***

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 РA Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

This post originally appeared on tesseraguild.com.

Forget Me Not

People seem to ask writers one common question: “Where do your ideas come from?”

writing-letter

And while I’m still in my early writing career it is a very easy question for me to answer. It comes from answering what drives me as a person.

I’m obsessed with perception, memory, how time can distort both things, and what that means for a person (I am obsessed with other subjects as well: Time Travel, the future, alternate timelines, the supernatural, but I digress).

One of the things I’ve noticed over the years is how my own memory contorts and changes as I get further and further from an event. Now, I assume that for most people this is the case. Especially if it is not the most important of events it is very easily forgotten (though I seem to retain the most useless of knowledge, a gift from my Father I think). Perhaps it remains in some recess of our minds, waiting for a trigger to allow it to rush back to the surface of our mind, but mostly I think our brain just deletes that old, unused data. Kinda like my wife’s pack rat solution she (attempts to) employs upon me. “If you haven’t touched it in 6 months, then you can throw it out.”

Here’s the problem, there are moments in my own life that I have a different memory than those of my friends and family. Sometimes they have been instants where I wish it had been me there because the person feels like we’ve shared this moment and are closer because of it. So I typically go along with it, hoping that at some point it does loosen the old memory and then… but it doesn’t happen.

I can never figure out if it is a ME problem or a THEM problem.

And unless there is audio or video recordings of the event, who is to say that they are right or wrong about these things. If someone tells a story that features you in it, you have already bent in their minds to fit their version of events. Given enough time and enough retelling of that story, why wouldn’t you suddenly adopt it as a part of your own narrative? At what point would you no longer be able to know your own truths compared to those of the story-tellers around you?

Is it gaps in my memory or is he just remembering the event wrong? What do I not understand about my own self? Which is the better outcome for the both of us?

In the mouth of madness

One of my favorite horror movies of all time is In The Mouth of Madness (really, ask my friends Lee and Egg about watching this movie late on a Sunday night and Egg refusing to drive home to north Georgia because of the “guy on the bike”) (I also did not go home that night – dude on the bike is waaay creepy).

For those that don’t know, aside from being a John Carpenter flick (he of The Thing and Halloween to name only 2 classics), the main reason I love this movie, though, is that it postulates a very important question: If the majority of the world suddenly went mad, what would that mean for those of us who still had our sanity? Or, to put it another way, if reality is only this thing that we all have agreed upon, and then a large group no longer shares our same perspective… what happens then? When the inmates run the asylum, then are the remainder of us really the insane ones?

So does that mean that my reality is shaped by others because they remember things about me that I don’t? Should I take in their ideas of me and… and… what? What would I do with them?

These kind of thoughts keep me up at night, furiously typing away on the keyboard, trying to make some sense of my own world through the creation of new ones. Worlds populated with people that I can create and mold. Maybe through them I can try and work some of my own angst about this concept so that perhaps, somehow, I can find a small amount of solace in my own reflection of reality.

winter-reflection-mirror

So yeah, that’s where I get my ideas from, rantings and ravings from the inmates within my own brain.

***

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 РA Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

This post originally appeared on tesseraguild.com.

Slaying the Beast

 

It occurred to me – I think I’ve encountered Writer’s Block for the first time in a long time.

knight-vs-dragon

There is a problem to this sort of thinking, though. I don’t believe in Writer’s Block. Much like Santa and the Easter Bunny, I believe it is a mythical concept used by many as an excuse. An easy out that no one really knows how to conquer. Much like the ancient beasts of old, you’d need a knight in armor to slay this dragon. A non-writer might not understand, but they knew enough to know not to probe too deep.

They might whisper to your other friends, “What’s wrong with John?”

“He’s got Writer’s Block.”

“Oh… I better stay clear.” (as if they could catch it)

Fellow writers would go along with the gag. “Terrible thing, that Writer’s Block. Got me back in ’06 for the better part of a year.”

And you would nod and shake your head, but know in your heart of hearts that it was all a lie.

Writer’s Block doesn’t exist.

I didn’t know this truth for a long time. I leaned on this idea when what I really wanted to do was play video games or watch a movie or do anything other than sit in front of the computer and type out string after string of words. For me, I knew that Writer’s Block was just an easy out.

Turns out, I had it wrong. Writer’s Block as I think of it doesn’t exist. That much is true. Discipline has long been it’s ancient enemy. But this creature out there lives in the shadows of a writer’s mind. It preys on any possible weakness it can find. It whispers terrible nothings into your ears.

Tired? Don’t worry about those words tonight. There is a new South Park on after all.

Fried from a long day of work? No big deal, Facebook will comfort you in this hour of need.

Got some rough edits back and you don’t even know where to begin? Old WB has got your back and has warmed up the XBOX with your favorite game all prepped.

Last night’s writing session go absolutely nowhere and now you’re afraid that all those words you wrote and will write on the project will be absolute dog shit? Well, you’re right. Don’t bother, you suck.

calvin+hobbes

Calvin has it more right than even he knows.

This is the enemy. Writer’s Block is the thing that squeezes its vice-like grip around my brain and tries to convince me in any and every way possible to not write.

And the sad thing is, IT wins a fair amount of time. Sometimes without even trying.

But… but… but… I have found the best defense for it is a good offense. When I really get going on a project I have far fewer of the nights where Writer’s Block seeps in and prevents words from appearing on the screen. Instead, more ideas begin to flow out from me. My fingers struggle to keep up with my thoughts and I wonder how many more ideas get lost in the shuffle between brain and keyboard. When things are going well there is no such thing as Writer’s Block. It truly does become just another arrow in the excuse quiver.¬†And you forget it even exists at all.

But don’t forget about it. Use it as further fuel for your own creative fire. Before beginning this blog I had not seen that old boy for a few years. Instead my nemesis has been TIME more than anything else. I have about 25 short stories that exist in some form or fashion. I have about 5-6 comic story arcs that could see the light of day someday if only I wrote them (and then convinced someone to actually draw them). And I have about 4-5 novels that I want to write. So Writer’s Block hasn’t had much of a chance to do anything to me. I forgot that it really existed, and in that moment it drew itself back into my soul and waited until there was a perfect time to strike.

Yet, here I am, near the end, and I’m not sure if he really was here at all tonight. The words did come. Maybe, just maybe, I imagined the whole thing.

the-usual-suspects-the-greatest-trick-the-devil-ever-pulled_design

And then again…

***

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 РA Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

This post originally appeared on tesseraguild.com.

Time Enough For…

Time…

Mars

Did you know that on Mars the days are 40 minutes longer than they are on Earth? During the Curiosity flight to Mars one of the NASA engineers had his family adopt the Martian clock. What was of more interest to them was the fact that slowly they began to un-sync with the rest of us on Earth. Soon their days were our nights, their breakfast was our dinner, and so on. And all of that is interesting to a point, but…

I was more intrigued by the idea that they were gaining 40 minutes a day. What could I do with just 40 minutes more a day? Sleep, read, write, goof off… anything I wanted.

We schedule so much of our time away. The job takes 8, sleep another 6, travel to and from work another 1, eating is another 1 1/2, showering is 1/2, etc. It starts to disappear very quickly.

So how do I find that extra 40 minutes? That’s the question I’m constantly asking myself. Where can I subtract from my current Earth Day in order to get what I need/want/must get done on the writing side of things?

Sadly most of the time it comes from my sleep allotment (and it is sad… I love my sleep). I get the majority of my writing done during the hours of 11 pm to 2 am probably 5 nights a week. When I’m really rolling on a project or nearing a deadline (external or internal), that is when I really bear down and use that time efficiently. I know I’ve had a good night when it gets to 2 and I’m want to keep going because I’m in the flow of things. The bad nights are when I spent too long checking websites and blogs and email and Facebook and watch too much tv or play too much video games and the time slips away from me and it is 1 before I even open Word to start my night. It’s kinda hard to really get things going when I’ve shrunk my own time by 2 hours.

schedule-icon-fs

It all starts with a schedule I set up for myself. Maybe its the engineer portion of my brain, but I need milestones. When I lay out my goals for this year it was from having a decent idea of how much work I can produce on a daily basis. Then I take those projects and set up the next 3 months of my calendar. Putting it writing so that I can not only track my progress, but I can have those goals staring at me on a daily basis.¬†I really do believe that left to my own devices I would find more and more ways to distract myself. But I look at the schedule and see that this week I’m supposed to be starting on a new novel and then think “I’m already 2 days behind this week”. It helps get my ass in gear

As to my nightly writing plan? 5 nights a week producing 1250 words done in a night. The industry standard for what 1 page of a book equals 250 words, so my number basically has me write 5 pages a night. That’s the bare minimum I want to get when I sit down at the computer to start hammering on the keys. It has to include all the false starts and stops. The nights when the words just won’t flow and every single letter disagrees with all it’s neighbors. They squabble until I begin to wonder if I have any ability to string 2 words together, much less 1250. Comic projects take a different amount of work as I typically do different passes. First draft is mostly dialogue with a little panel description, second draft is making sure I have a decent rhythm throughout, and then it is onto a more final draft that I then turn into whomever are my editors on that particular project.

On good nights it takes about a hour and a half to get my work in. On bad nights it might take four hours and I may only have 500 words done. But when that clock strikes 2 am and I begin to turn into a pumpkin, I have to start wrapping things up if I want to have any use the following morning.

wake-up

This is how I feel it is for me every morning.

The other thing it does is lay out everything in writing that I want to do. Sometimes we get bogged down by the sheer thought of all these tasks and projects, but I find that laying them out removes some of that stress from my brain. It lets me know that today I’m doing the blog, but tomorrow I have 1250 words of the new novel to write, and maybe on Thursday I have some editing to do on Hollow Empire (though I typically don’t jump around that much – I find focusing on one project over the course of a week is better to ensure I get into that groove).

Does my technique work for everyone? I’m guessing not. I think creative people enjoy flying by the seat of their pants. And they also may only have one project going at any one time.

Me? I gotta have a dozen pans in the fire as I’ve seen too many things have false starts or never get off the ground at all.

And crossing things off your to-do list is a small jolt as well. Knowing that you are that much closer to having a final product is probably the best thing.

 

***

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 РA Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

This post originally appeared on tesseraguild.com.