Four Color Bleed has launched on Kickstarter!

fcb centered cover

My novel about comic books, nostalgia, and the nature of reality is finally revealed to the world. As of right now, we’re one-third funded on Kickstarter and going for the gold. But don’t take my word for it: listen to me say it in our campaign video. A good friend nearly died in that eyeball helmet, so give it a watch.

After scaring everyone with Monsters All the Way Down, I wanted to have some fun. Four Color Bleed is everything I wanted it to be, a book about friendship, dog-eared comic books, and heroes punching villains in the face. It’s a book you’ll love, especially with illustrations by Rian Gonzales, Weshoyot Alvitre, Ben Zmith, Morgan Perry (aka Geauxta), Ben Cohen, Kevin Kelly, Adam Prosser, and Chris “Chance!” Brown.


But this book will only exist when the fundraising campaign succeeds. Please support this project on Kickstarter. Because, with everyone’s help, this book will really be something special.

Four Color Bleed. Now on Kickstarter.

Gifts for Someone Serious About Becoming a Magician

magic table

Several folks on Reddit and elsewhere have been asking about gift ideas for a teenager or adult who is serious about learning magic tricks. I’ve given some of this advice before, but thought it was time to do a serious write-up.

Magic is expensive if you’re buying one-off tricks. What I would suggest is getting the tried-and-true material that always gets recommended. It’s going to give you the biggest bang for your buck. If you think the person you’re shopping for would just want an easy trick, there’s plenty of that out there. With these books and props, they could learn hundreds of great tricks.

If I were to do this for someone on a budget, I would go with these three books:

If you want to spend a little more, there are DVD sets for both Modern Coin Magic and The Royal Road for Card Magic. They’re only $15 each. You can get them along with the books or on their own, and they’re made for beginners.

Coins and cards are the bread and butter of learning sleight of hand. If you know the person is interested in just cards or just coins, you could get them just the book or DVDs on that subject alone.

As for props, you want five fifty-cent pieces (assuming you’re in the US). You can get a roll of them at the bank for $20, take out five that match and deposit the rest back in. With five coins, you can do almost anything in the Bobo coin book or DVD.

Get a couple of decks of Bicycle playing cards from the store. If you want to get really fancy, Monarch playing cards are on Amazon for $8. They’re gorgeous, but totally unnecessary. If you’re practicing card tricks, you’ll wear out a few decks of cards anyway.

If the person you’re buying for decides magic is something they want to keep doing, they can always get fancy coins, special cards, and more expensive tricks later.

Amazon links:

If you want the bare minimum, just get a couple of decks of cards, the five fifty-cent coins, and Magic: The Complete Course. It has card tricks and coin tricks, so it would have plenty to get started.

One request: if you buy someone a book on magic, resist the urge to flip through it. There’s a good chance they’ll want to show you some tricks, and knowing how it’s done can ruin the fun for everybody. Plus, the Magic Police will round us all up. And I can’t go back to Magic Prison. I won’t go back.

I hope this is helpful. If you have any questions, please ask in the comments. I’m happy to help.

New Short Story in the free Siren’s Call eZine

I have a new horror story, “Prove It to Me,” in The Sirens Call #23, the Bat-Shit Crazy for You! issue. It’s a FREE online eZine, so check it out.

sirens call cover

The Sirens Call eZine, with every issue available for free.

Direct link to the PDF of issue 23. I’m on page 23.

Just a heads up, this story is a bit more explicit. Triggers include violence, making out in cars, and the 1970s.

The tale is set in the fictional Flatland, Texas, where a number of my stories end up. If you enjoy it, be sure to join my mailing list for more free short stories, along with updates, movie recommendations, and valuable links.

Summer Reading with my Five-Year-Old

This summer I decided to read chapter books to my five-year-old son at bedtime. I’m not saying I’ll never read him Caps for Sale again, but I wanted to show him some of the longer children’s books I’ve loved.

Honestly, I never expected it to work. At the most, I hoped to lay the groundwork and circle back around later. I should have had more faith, because now I have a nightly reading time we both enjoy.

It takes about the same amount of time as our old bedtime routine, only instead of reading two or three picture books, I read one chapter from a big book. I still do voices, we still look at the pictures, and we still have a good time. If you want to try this, I recommend patience. If your child doesn’t respond, just wait and try it again another time. This ain’t a race. And even if they’re enjoying themselves, you’ll still have to remind them to stop kicking the walls and screaming gibberish. Or maybe that’s just us.

It’s nice to start a reading session with a review. Ask your child, “What’s happened in the book so far?” or “Where’d the heroes end up last night?” After we finish reading, I try to ask a few comprehension questions like, “Why do you think so-and-so did such-and-such?” or “What do you think will happen next?”

Here are the first four books we read together and how it went. Consider checking the books out from your local library. If you read a chapter a night, you can probably finish them before you have to renew. Continue reading

Coming up on July’s McSwain Monthly Missive

The first free short story went out last month, and I’ve had a great response. The next McSwain Monthly Missive drops on Wednesday, including links to “Shave and a Haircut.”

On a stormy night, a face from the past turns up at the barbershop. A subtle drama with a hint of mystery.

Shave and a Haircut cover copy

Subscribe now to the McSwain Monthly Missive for fun recommendations, useful links, and free short stories.

If you missed out on last month, don’t you worry none. Starting Wednesday, new subscribers can download past stories on a special archive page. How cool is that?

I’ll tell you how cool. As cool as last month’s story, “Love Always, Johnny Fingers.” It’s a 1920s boxing story with all the logic of a Looney Tunes cartoon. Check out the cover.

Johnny Fingers cover copy

I know I’ve been neglecting the blog, but another post should be up by Friday.

New for the Mailing List: Short Stories!

I haven’t been doing much with my email list–or the blog, for that matter–and I apologize. But I’ve finally got a handle on it.

Each month subscribers will receive an email with updates and fun recommendations. But what I’m really excited about will be the free short story. Each email will include download links to a new story.

Some are a bit Twilight Zone, some are good ol’ slice of life, and some defy description. But I think you’ll enjoy them, so please sign up for the mailing list if you haven’t already. I’ll have the first story out before the end of the week.

I have some great stories to share with you.

And be on the lookout for news on my next book. Wheels are in motion.

Mailing List Sign-Up Link

Podcast interview: Tell Me Another

I help co-host Josh Jordan’s excellent podcast, Tell Me Another. It’s a show where we interview different storytellers, from epic poets to comic book publishers, from photographers to bestselling authors. We also talk about the different media we’ve been experiencing in books, games, movies, and what-have-you. Every episode ends with the guest sharing a story.

Josh started Ginger Goat Press to publish his own role-playing gamebooks around the time I was pulling my hair out and trying to decide what to do with Monsters All the Way Down. His success was a huge inspiration to me. Since I took the self-publish plunge, Josh has been a huge source of advice and encouragement. I’m thrilled that I get to help with the show that he puts so much work into making great.

The other co-hosts are PK Sullivan and a recent arrival, Stephanie Bryant. PK has worked on the Firefly game and others (and he has some very cool projects coming down the pike). Stephanie is a writer (check out her Handknit Heroes comic!) and also works in game design and has some cool projects on the front burner. They’re all great people, and they haven’t kicked me out yet for talking too much.

Some of the episodes I’ve co-hosted include Mike Olson (Atomic Robo RPG), Lee Francis (INC Comics), Brandon Perlow and Paul Mendoza (New Paradigm Studios, publishers of the popular Watson & Holmes comic series), and Jim Butcher (author of the Dresden Files and the Codex Alera series). One of my favorites that I didn’t help with was author Jared Axelrod, particularly his recommendation of Kamen Rider Fourze, a Japanese TV show that might have made me a better person. They also had Janet Varney (voice of Korra on The Legend of Korra). Don’t remember where I was for that one–maybe I didn’t want spoilers since I haven’t finished Avatar yet.

Because the hosts are also storytellers, we’ve been doing a round robin, taking turns in the hot seat ourselves. Since I like talking so much (please don’t kick me off, you guys!), I got to go first. You can hear the interview here: Ryan McSwain Inteview Part 1, Ryan McSwain Interview Part 2.

You can and should follow Josh, PK, and Stephanie on Twitter. Coming up December 1-15, Josh also has the Actual Play Festival, an online celebration of collaborative storytelling. You can get more information here.

“How’d the Book Launch go?” and updates.

I’ve been neck deep in requesting reviews, and it’s slowly paying off. I have a guest post on the illustrious Longbox Graveyard: The Influence of Sequential Art on My Novel or: How I Shoved Comics Into A Book Without Pictures. I talk about some of my favorite comics and their influence on Monsters All the Way Down. I’m a fan of Paul’s site and his Twitter shenanigans, so I was excited to contribute.

Despite the rain trying to wash us away, the book launch on September 5 was a huge success. From the moment I set up shop, I was chatting with folks and signing books. I really appreciate everyone that braved the storm to make it to Sunset Galleries, and a huge thanks to Ken Wampler for hosting the launch at his gallery!

book launch 2

I almost drowned, but I sold books.

I was a total basket case leading up to the launch, and my wife did an amazing job putting up with me. I don’t get stage fright, but releasing a book was terrifying. Looks like I was worried over nothin’, because the response has been excellent, and I’m looking forward to reading the reviews over the coming months.

As for the future, I have a few short stories that are almost ready to leave the nest. The current big project is the next novel, which is in revisions. The plan is to get through a few drafts by the end of the year so I can run a Kickstarter in the spring to pay for illustrators.

Coming up on the blog in the next couple of weeks will be posts on “How to Feel Like A Real Big Shot Author at Your Book Launch” and on my work with Josh Jordan and PK Sullivan on the Tell Me Another podcast.