As I publish more and more books, I find myself wanting to create my own cover art.
It’s risky business, I know. If I paint something that looks too homemade or ‘arts and crafty,’ I could repel audiences with subpar art.
I’ll probably still keep reaching out to my favorite artist, Amanda Makepeace, for all of my major novels.
But for other, stranger, darker releases, I might keep trying my own brand of shadowy art.
On Christmas Eve 2016 I found myself sketching a scary hand. It grasped for a magical (and of course, evil) orb of power. This little concept was born days earlier when I dreamed up my next series of novellas, currently titled Ashes of Everything. The pencil I used is the same pencil I used in high school more than 20 years ago. No kidding. The hand….is based on mine.
Painting fire is fun! I mixed up soft watercolor reds and added depth as I reached the canvas’s edge. The pencil-sketched hand is still under there, just barely visible enough for me to fill it in with blacks after the flames were complete.
Ah, the claws, the grasping fingers! Those who’ve read my Tyrants of the Dead series might remember whose hand that is. Those who haven’t, well…what are you waiting for? But seriously, texturing hands (especially demonic ones) is no easy thing. I spent countless hours shading, darkening, and highlighting each finger.
The more I toiled, the darker the painting became. The flames deepened. Black prison bars appeared in the background, representing the demon creature’s imprisoned state. This is the final pre-varnish image. I was very pleased with how it turned out. It’ll most likely make the cut as a book cover in the next few months.
Sometimes, even when I start a new canvas with every intention of painting a castle, a spooky city, or some other dark imagery, my brain misfires and takes control of my brush. Before I know it, I’ve painted yet another tree. I can’t help it. I’m a slave to impulse.
Knowing this, I decided to do a series of paintings to get all the trees out of my system.
And along came four little paintings, one for each season:
Deep – for warm, green spring
Dusklight – for cold, cold winter
Umber – for autumn’s arrival
Midnight – for the longest night of summer
I thoroughly enjoyed painting this series. These simple, yet fun paintings have a way of calming me. After working on them, I sleep better, I’m relaxed, and life feels easy.
Sometimes, even when I start a new canvas with every intention of painting a castle, a spooky city, or some other dark imagery, my brain misfires and takes control of my brush. Before I know it, I’ve painted yet another tree. I can’t help it. I’m a slave to impulse.
Knowing this, I decided to do a series of paintings to get all the trees out of my system.
And along came four little paintings, one for each season:
‘Deep’ – for spring
‘Midnight’ – for summer
‘Umber’ – for autumn
‘Dusklight’ – for winter
I thoroughly enjoyed painting this series. These simple, yet fun paintings have a way of calming me. After working on them, I sleep better, I’m relaxed, and life feels easy.
I’ve been focused less on art and more on invading the universe with my latest novella.
I recently decided to go over the top with another shadowy dark city painting. I love using the black & white color scheme…and I love eerie, otherworldly images.
Thus was born ‘Dead and Dreaming,’ the latest of my acrylic paintings:
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It all started with a blank 16″ x 24″ canvas. I blended water, black, white, and a splash of glow-in-the-dark paint. While I’ve yet to expose the painting to enough light to activate the glow paint, I noticed this particular blend made the swirled pattern go on super smooth. Those white dagger-like things…well they’re the first of many towers to come.
The most daunting parts of this painting? 1. Using a bookmark as a straightedge to get most of the towers with nice, flat sides. 2. Doing the math to make sure a large percentage of the towers were directed at the right angle to ‘surround the swirly abyss.’
So…after I added all the white towers, I moved in with my preferred color: black. I wanted the dark towers to be taller and more swordlike, almost as if they wanted to reach all the way into the swirly abyss. The effect was a trippy, alien cityscape. I was pleased.
You might have to enlarge the image to see it, but this is where I started to add shadows and ghostly windows to every…single…tower. I’ve done paintings like this before, particularly with The Emperor’s Vision, but the added challenge here was rotating the painting to make sure I didn’t miss a tower.
The finished painting. Hundreds of towers. Thousands of tiny windows. About 12 hours of painting time. I’m ecstatic pleased with the result. After a few matte coats of varnish, this one is going up on my wall until it sells.
The original canvas for Dead and Dreaming is now available for sale right here.
Prints and other materials are available for sale on my Society6 page.
After a short layoff, I’m back to doing terrible things with my paintbrush.
Dark cities, twisted terrains, and this time around, an eerie, abstract tree.
I call this one, ‘The Last Autumn.’ The original is for sale here, if you’re interested.
Now let’s talk about how The Last Autumn came to be:
It all started with a 24″x 24″ super-thick white canvas. I used a straightedge, a level, and a twenty-year old pencil (yes, really) to divide the canvas into perfect halves. With my little wooden palette, I paired up acrylic golds, blacks, reds, yellows, and whites. I mixed them at random, and when I was done with the first coat, I poked golden dots all over the right side of the canvas. Voila. What you see above.
For the left side, life got a little easier. I mixed gold, black, and umber, and went nuts with fast, broad strokes. Before it dried, I poked little white ‘leaves’ into the background. The difference between the two halves was stark. I loved what I was seeing.
About 0.0003 seconds before starting with the right-side tree, I had a revelation. A. I wanted to flip the painting over so the darker half would be on the right and the red/gold half on the left. I have no idea why. It just felt right. B. I pulled out a sand-based gel with which to paint the tree. For those not familiar, the gel adds a texture you can see and feel when you’re up close to the painting. It’s so ridiculously fun to paint with; I suggest everyone try it.
For the left side of the painting, I mixed pure black with more sand gel. I used four different brushes, starting big and working down to the tiniest branches using pretty much the smallest acrylic brush you can buy. It was tedious, but I loved it. Each flick of my wrist gave life to a new branch. The picture here is pre-varnishing; the sand gel takes forever to dry. The plan for this painting is to use a heavy gloss, which will make the colors pop and allow The Last Autumn to be a centerpiece for any room.
It’s the only piece I’ve done in the last three years that I didn’t work on in my epic painting studio.
And it’s the first I finished in my little shoebox apartment.
Presenting my walkthrough of ‘Ghostscape.’
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I hope you’ve got your reading glasses on. This is the soft pencil work I put on the canvas before a single drop of paint ever touched it. I’m not gonna lie; the geometry was challenging. See that circle in the center? It’s dead-on in the middle down to the millimeter. What’s special about it? To trace the circle I used the 60-year old mixer bowl my grandmother many times used to make my pancakes.
Begin the darkness: First I swirled watercolor blacks and sepia tones in the background. Then I used a hard straight-edge to paint in the black ‘towers’ jutting out of the sphere. And then…I added even more sepia and filled in the center sphere to give it depth.
More towers were needed. I realized I hadn’t added enough. Also, I darkened the center sphere. Also also also…I used pale watercolor blacks to slice in distant towers behind the hard, sharp foreground towers.
What can I say? I wanted even MORE towers. In this shot, although it’s hard to see, I used whites to give the towers a reflective quality. Like they’re made out of polished obsidian or some hard, dark otherworldly metal.
Now began the hard part. And by hard I mean TEDIOUS. Using a tiny brush and some titanium white paint, I started adding windows and doors to the towers. I imagined a ghost behind each window…and NOT a friendly one. At the time this picture was taken, I’d spent two hours just dotting in windows and adding texture to the towers.
Ghostscape – the final image. I like how the ring of lower tower lights frames the center of the sphere. It’s kind of a never ending city swirling around a tiny, terrifying planet. So…anyone up for a vacation?
Now…the only question is:
Which way to hang it?
In other words, which towers should point up, and which should point down?
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The original canvas of Ghostscape – Approx 24″ x 24″ – is available for sale for $300.00. Reach out to me at JEdwardNeill@DownTheDarkPath.com if you’re an interested buyer.
In recent weeks, I’ve been working with my paintbrush more than I’ve been writing.
Turns out slashing with paint gets the darkness out of my system much faster than hammering on a keyboard.
And so I thought I’d share:
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‘Fire Lens’ – 36″ x 36″
Fire Lens is 3 lbs of canvas. It’s huge! The photo here is somewhat muted, but the live version is lustrous and dark, a shining white eye wreathed in deep crimson and black. It’s a room dominator, to be sure.
‘Dripping’ – 36″ x 22″
Dripping was a tortuous painting. It started as a watercolor experiment and became much more. I saturated my paints with as much water as they could hold (while still maintaining a bit of grey/black) and went to work. The acrylics drained down the canvas. The white lines you see are drip marks, which is exactly what I wanted. The muddled blacks and gruesome greys are where I let the watered paint form into little puddles. This is one sad, cold painting.
‘Sunshine’ – 16″ x 12″
My kid, the G Man, won’t let me paint without him. He’s done almost as much canvas work as I have! Here’s a quick multicolor work he named Sunshine. It’s a stark contrast to my darkness, which I love about his method. He says this is what the sun looks like up close. Pretty close, right?
‘The Hecatomb’ – 30″ x 20″
Most of my work is without purpose. I just paint what I want and let the brush fall where it may. Not so with The Hecatomb. This large canvas was created with a book’s front and back covers in mind. The book by the same name will be out soon. It’s a sequel to this and this.
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If you liked these, here’s a few Painting with Darkness posts from history. Like this. And this. And this.
A few months ago, I got it in my head that I wanted to paint something huge. Something to be the centerpiece of an entire wall. Something that if people walked by, they’d have to stop and look.
And of course, it had to be dark. Because…well…you know.
And so I present: Ocean of Knives
After securing a 36″ x 48″ white canvas, it sat in my closet for a solid two weeks while I stewed on what to paint. Would I use colors? Blacks & whites? What would be the subject matter? And once I finally stacked the canvas up on my easel, life got precarious. Each brush stroke threatened to topple the easel and ruin everything. I had to be like Muhammad Ali: “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.”
Surfaces started to take shape. Pale rivers flowed from the hills into a deathly ocean. Things were looking stark already. I loved it. And yet, while making wild ovals and grey hills was fun, it was by far the easiest part. Life was about to get harder.
Ocean of Knives was meant to be a companion piece to my novel, Down the Dark Path. I began adding watercolor towers (knives) in the distance. Like snowflakes, each ‘knife’ had to be different. Some were forked, others straight as sin. Looks kinda barren in this pic. It wouldn’t stay that way for long.
Now it came time to add the big towers. To make them straight, I carved out varying lengths of posterboard and used the pieces as straight-edges. For the wavy and irregular towers, I freehanded. Raise your hand if you’d like to live in one of these things. Am I the only one? Well ok then…
The quality of this pic sucks because I used my iPad. But I couldn’t leave it out. It shows the towers almost fully added. I still needed more watercolors for the faraway ones. And I needed street-level buildings to fill the city out. But progress was made. By this point, I’d spent about 12 hours on the painting. Whew.
The finished painting – 18 hours in. See those little pale dots? They’re windows. I tried to count while adding them, but lost track at 2,000. Yes really. I figure there are about 3,000 little white windows in all. Tedious as hell, but utterly worth it. Also notice the deepened shadows the towers cast across the water.
Just to show scale, here’s my 4yo, G Man, standing beside the painting. He’s a bit tall for his age, but even so. The canvas is about 4 times his size.
While painting this bad boy, I listened to soundtracks. A lot of Hans Zimmer, David Julyan, and Clint Mansell. Nice, brooding stuff, all of it.
As summer’s warmth fades and the days die earlier than before, I find myself in the studio for long stretches of time.
Some might say locking myself indoors with brooding soundtracks playing in the background and a crispy cold glass of scotch on the table is a swift road to being utterly alone.
My point exactly…
My latest painting: All Hallows
I started at the bottom with water-diluted oranges and worked my way up. With every inch gained toward the top, I added drops of red and black. Watercolors became solids. Lights became darks. The striking colors satisfied me. And the hard blacks on the bottom were fun to paint (and easy!)
Now came the time-consuming part. At first, I worked on the trees with a 1/4″ wedge brush. Then, as the branches thinned, I used the sharpest-point brush in my arsenal. The tops of the trees began to look like claws. It was exactly the eerie look I wanted.
Completing the trees was a full-day task. I used my daggerlike brush to add sharpness and realism to every branch. As is always my theme, I made the trees curl toward the center of the painting…as if reaching for something unseen. I considering adding more to make this a full-blown Halloween-ish work, but decided to keep it simple. Blacks on color. Nothing cheesy. Stick to the plan of painting with darkness.
All in all, this canvas was fun and simple. In other words, my favorite kind.
The same night I finished All Hallows, I began work prep work on a huge 36″ x 48″ canvas, my hugest ever:
This’ll be called ‘Ocean of Knives’. The canvas is 3′ x 4′. It’ll take weeks to finish, for sure. Gonna need a lot of wine…
Recently, I used one of my grimmest works for the cover of Let the Bodies, my latest short story:
Painting your own cover art…fun!
And previously in the ‘Painting with Darkness’ series:
A few weeks ago, I received an encouraging reception for my latest painting, ‘The Emperor’s Vision.‘
Which made me want to share how this dark canvas came to life.
When I started working on this one at summer’s beginning, I knew I wanted to paint another companion piece to my fantasy series, Down the Dark Path. I wanted something stark, something to fit my mood. And with it being summer, I felt I wanted to paint something anti-seasonal…meaning a canvas I’d usually wait til winter to finish because of its cold, almost bitter tone.
Moreover, this canvas was the last of a big pile given to me by my patron, whose name I dare not utter here. So I figured I’d do something special…something they’d appreciate.
Thus I began:
In the beginning, indecisiveness claimed me. The 20″ x 30″ canvas sat for three weeks looking like this. See that pale line left of center, it’s from an accidental varnish spill. No big deal, I figured.
Finally, I started adding shapes. At this stage, I wasn’t sure whether or not to go completely abstract. These weird little darknesses gave me all sorts of ideas. Never mind the sepia tone. That’s just from my shitty camera.
About one week from finish, I decided to go mega-gloomy. No color. No signs of life. Just a pale river leading to the sea and an ocean of daggerlike towers. Readers of my fantasy series might recognize this place as Morellellus, gathering place for the Emperor’s grand army.
The finished product. My camera is crap, but the colors here are sorta kinda close to the real thing. The pale lights are windows. The shadows are long and lean. It’s no place I’d want to live…what about you?
I hope you enjoy ‘The Emperor’s Vision.’ For more of my canvas work, nose around over here.
After a satisfying week during which I published my first non-fiction novel, I need a mental vacation (if not a real one…at the beach…with a pitcher of margaritas.) So this week I’d like to veer away from books to showcase six of my newest paintings. Thematically, all save one of these share similar elements. And yet all were painted with different moods in mind:
The Last Tower – An Ur stronghold floating in an abstract nether void. I was thrilled to finally get some colors going on. The floating islands I painted with a mixing knife. The white doors lead to the world’s end.
Pale Swamp – The clouds were fun, fun, fun to paint. The thicket of twisted tree limbs, maybe not so much. Again we see the Ur tower, wandering its way through yet another dimension. See the eye in the upper left?
Four Swords – I wanted to go almost full-on abstract here. I blended my fragile geometric skills with some unusual color choices. Probably my most contemporary piece. Very satisfying to finish.
Grave Rain – Far and away my favorite painting. It started as an angelic spirit overlooking a forest. But then my mood changed, and it become something else entirely. Headstones line the sodden earth at the bottom. The center tree is home to something treacherous. For me, the only thing that comes close to watching rain…is painting it.
Dark Moon Cemetery – Almost certainly my simplest piece, but also my heaviest. The canvas weighs a solid 3.5 lbs. The power of the black moon bends all to its whim, including the trees.
Ashes – When I saw Amanda Makepeace’s Heart of the Forest, some dark part of me wanted to counter it with something wicked. The shadow to her light, perhaps. The evil to her good. My crappy camera failed to pick up many of the subtle details, but the actual Ashes canvas is strikingly stark. To the first one who guesses (no Google cheating) the meaning of the symbol, I’ll send a free copy of 101 Questions for Humanity.
Some dream it. Others pry beauty from otherwise ordinary things. Still others wander the world in eternal search of it.
As for me, inspiration recently walked right up and slapped me in the face. Quite by accident, I collided with an artist whose style and creative medium is so different than my own. Her art tore me out of my miniature creative rut, lighting a new fire beneath me.
I could go on and on about how and why we decided to smash our styles together. Why we believed mixing her paper sculptures and my deep, dark color would work.
But instead I’ll just show you…
Our first collaboration was…naturally…a demon inspired by my kid…
It went like this: my six-year old described a monster he wanted on his wall. I listened closely and sketched a rough draft. And then T. Morrison (the aforementioned amazing artist) poured herself a big bowl of water and lightweight spackle (and another bowl of Cream of Wheat for sustenance) and hand sculpted our deadly demon friend.
When she finished a few days later, we turned the demon over to my kid, who slathered it up with blacks, reds, golds, and whites.
Meaning this piece was created by three artists, not just two.
Then T. Morrison decided to get serious.
Her next piece (which I’m calling Black Masque; she never names her art) is about as creepy and cool as it gets. Once again her mediums were lightweight spackle, wet paper (for the shawl) and acrylic paints.
I had no idea what to expect when I turned over this oval-shaped canvas to m’lady Morrison. But she delivered…and she even let me paint a few skeletal shadows in the background.
I love it. What do you think?
Soon enough, it was time for T. and I to engage in a true collaboration. No kids, no messing around.
On a 20″ x 20″ canvas, I sketched out a twisted tree. (It’s kind of my thing.) Afterward, Miss Morrison whipped up a BIG batch of sculpt-alicious spackle and turned my simple tree into a spooky three-dimensional monstrosity.
Here’s the progression:
1. Apply lightweight spackle atop my sketch.
2. Turn the piece over to me for background painting.
3. Sip vodka and pineapple juice while I pour on more colors.
And thus was born a piece we call ‘Haunted.’ It’s super vibrant. We liked the end result so much, we decided to sell prints here.
Next up, T. Morrison decided to put her patience to the test.
Lovingly (she uses the term loosely) T. sculpted three airships atop a blank canvas. The ships took hours to sculpt, requiring utmost care to carve out every little detail. Then…she decided to paint each one. Tiny brushes…tiny blobs of paint…and not-so-tiny sips of vodka.
I thought she might give up, and yet she persevered.
As for the background city, she insisted I paint it. Every cloud, building, and razor-sharp bridge component…mine all mine.
Storm City took us about a week.
Well worth the effort, we think.
Now then, here’s one that’s all T. Morrison. Other than a few color (or lack thereof) suggestions, I didn’t touch it.
And perhaps this piece is better for it:
Look at the folds in her cloak. Savor the deathly whites and deadly blacks.
Frozen Shade is my personal favorite piece of all the works T. Morrison has created.
As of the moment I pen this article, we’re working on several new sculpture/painting collaborations.
But perhaps none so dark as this one:
Ocular – a nice angle to see the 3D sculpture
Ocular – part skull, part tentacle, all scary. Sculpture by T. Paint by me.
For our final pieces, I’ll just leave them here. I did the backgrounds. T did the rest. Boom.
The horned girl is Infinity Queen. She’s available here. The angelic girl is Spirit of Regret. She’s available here.
We’ve got several more pieces lined up.
Including a spooky green-lit tree, a girl in a shawl, and more.
Visit us again right here at Tessera Guild to see what we’ve cooked up.
I’ve settled in my new house long enough to reboot my creative engine and slather up some new paintings.
I’ve got new lighting, a cabinet stocked with all manner of deep, dark colors, and a set of brushes sharper than any sword…
Sylpha – 12″ x 12″
Sylpha is a character from my upcoming novel, Darkness Between the Stars. Here, I give her the abstract treatment. She cuts a sad figure, doesn’t she?
Forlorn – 12″ x 32″
Forlorn is the first painting I finished in my new setup. The colors are powerful, and the effect really strong in rooms with low light.
Lake of Longing – 24″ x 48″
After I finished Lake of Longing’s red companion (Forlorn, shown above) I knew I had to paint a bigger, darker version. Lake of Longing is epic-level huge, and dominates my gloomy man-cave, just the way I love it.
If you enjoyed these, you’ll probably also like these.
You’ve listened to the playlist and you’ve seen the cover, now you can feast your eyes on the full painting behind J Edward Neill’s Nether Kingdom. You’re going to want to click on the image below…
They move from star to star, swallowing every planet in darkness, building black towers on every surface, and turning oceans to deathly broth.
I think it surprises people when I create a piece of dark art (literal in this instance). I’m known for my love of nature and animals, but those that truly know me are aware of my fascination with the dark. From about the age of 9 I would scour the tv guide for classic horror movies. And as someone who’s survived cancer, I’m no stranger to darkness. Here are several more examples from my childhood (pre-teens) if you’re not convinced!
1. The Labyrinth – My favorite character was Jareth, The Goblin King, of course. I wanted Sarah to stay with him, to hell with the crying baby!
2. Star Wars: Return of the Jedi – I was secretly thrilled by the possibility that Luke would join his father.
3. Giger’s Xenomorph – I’ve talked about this obsession numerous times. I have movies, comics, and my own fan art.
I love monsters and villains. I have a life-size God of Mischief hanging out in my studio. So, yeah. When J Edward asked me if I was up to the challenge, I needed only to look within, find that inner darkness and breathe it into my painting.
He hunkered in his hole, bobbing his head to the falling rain’s beat.
He tasted the ashes of the dead in the air.
And he knew it was his fault.
If I hadn’t come here,they’d be alive, he thought.
I guess I did them a favor.
Little streams of warm water slid across the broken streets overhead and plunged into his hiding spot. He hated the feel of the rain squelching in his boots, and he grimaced when the foul liquid peppered his hood. He hadn’t been this uncomfortable in weeks, not since the time he’d cut the fingers off a man who’d tried to steal his one and only apple.
My last apple. He shook his head.
Did he have to bleed on it?
Down in the muck and shadows, Galen waited for the rain to snuff the fires. The stench in his pit was already unbearable. Two others had crawled down into the hole with him, but they’d been too slow, and had gagged to death moments later. The poisonous air in the city above had been more than enough to kill them.
He wanted out.
But he knew if he poked his head up too soon, someone was likely to nip it off.
So he waited. Ashes from the burning city mixed with the rain, which in turn plummeted down into his hole, painting his cloak, his weathered pants, and his skin a sickening shade of grey. He didn’t look like a living man anymore.
He looked like death.
I’m the Ash Man, he thought. Can’t catch me if you can’t see me.Can’t kill me if I’m already dead.
He whistled softly to himself, and he couldn’t help but grin. Ash Man sounded like a nickname he might’ve liked. But someone had once told him he wasn’t allowed to give himself nicknames.
Too bad, he thought. Ash Man would be better than Prey.
When the storm was at its strongest and the thunder began to break the sky, he climbed out of his pit. Soggy, his face grey as charcoal, he pulled himself above street level and emerged into the half-light of the ruined day. The shanties and crude brick houses that had made up most of Cedartown lay in crumbled heaps around him. The smoke from human corpses curled into the air despite the rain.
He slithered down a street and ducked behind a pile of smoldering wood beams and bricks blackened by fire. An hour ago, he’d been standing inside a house in the very same spot, conversing with the doctor who’d lived there.
The ashes staining the wall a dozen feet away?
The good doctor’s, he imagined.
At least he finished before he died.
Clutching his cloak around his shoulders, he hunkered in the house’s ruin. The hole in the back of his neck, which the doctor had installed and lovingly termed a ‘skin-port,’ itched worse than his toes inside his rancid boots. But he didn’t dare scratch.
Doc said not to, he recalled. Needs a few hours to heal up.
He slowed his breathing, just like his mother had taught him. He snapped his eyes shut and listened to the sounds between raindrops, the rolling thunder, and the wind beating against broken walls. Somewhere, maybe a few hundred feet away, another building collapsed. And somewhere else, the rain crackled as it peppered a burning wooden beam.
No. Not those sounds.
Soundless, still barely breathing, he made a shadow of himself and slipped out of the doctor’s crumbling abode. When he passed the wall onto which the doctor’s ashes had burned a vaguely human shape, he couldn’t help himself. He stuck out his finger and scrawled a ‘G’ in the ash.
It was a stupid thing to do, he reckoned.
But was it?
The ones hunting him would know he’d survived.
They always knew.
He crept into the alley behind the doctor’s house. Some of Cedartown’s houses were still half-standing, and some walls still high enough to provide cover. He moved from ruin to ruin, and he stepped so lightly through puddles black with ash no one would’ve heard him even without the thunder and rain.
Through one house, he moved like the wind. A woman and her child knelt on what he supposed had been the kitchen’s dirt floor. Their bodies were flesh no longer, just sculpted dust soon to be washed away by the rain.
He moved on.
In another shanty whose roof had burned away, he glimpsed an old man half-buried beneath a mound of smoking timbers. The poor creature sucked in short breaths, looking little different than a fish plucked from his bowl and tossed on the floor. But was he really an old man? In this place where no one lived longer than forty years? Or had the bomb aged him, withering the flesh of a much younger man?
It didn’t matter, Galen supposed.
Whoever the man was, he wouldn’t be alive much longer.
And it was a good thing, he reckoned.
He reached Cedartown’s boundary, if such a thing existed in the weary old hamlet. The last few shanty huts, erected in no particular order on the directionless cobblestone streets, had made a noble stand against the bomb’s fury. A few were merely blackened, but not quite felled. One or two looked almost untouched, shielded from the blast by some miracle of physics.
Someone might’ve survived in these houses, he imagined. Someone might still be hidden inside one of the shanties, ticking away the last few minutes of their life.
If it were true, he pitied them.
Wouldn’t be a pretty life here. He crouched beside a house of sticks. It’ll soon be sand. Just like all the rest.
In the shadows, he waited. The fields beyond the hamlet had ceased burning, and the smoke was no longer black, but pale and wispy. Galen kept his hood close to his cheeks, his neck still itching. If anyone had seen him, they’d have said he was a ghost with ashes for skin, black opals for eyes, and a cloak so weathered it must’ve been ripped from the grave of a corpse twenty years dead.
And if that someone had seen him, gasped in terror, and run screaming into the barren fields, Galen would’ve smiled. He was good at frightening people, and better at being alone.
The foul, humid wind whipped up across the grass. Galen didn’t move. Between flurries of smoke, curtains of rain, and the charnel smells of Cedartown, he hunkered low and listened to the world.
He wasn’t alone.
The Nemesis and his soldiers had come from the east, having followed him from the steel cities near the ocean all the way across the rusted, blackened graveyards dotting the shores of grey-watered lakes. Always, they were the shadow on his back, the knife in the darkness.
And always, he escaped them.
The enemy warrior, clad in scaly black armor, trod through the mud at Cedartown’s edge. He walked alone, Galen knew. Only ten of the Nemesis’ knights had come here, and this one, a beast of muscle and black steel, believed himself unstoppable.
Maybe he was right.
Maybe, in a fair fight, no swordsman in the Kingdom of Earth could outduel the black-armored warrior.
But then, Galen didn’t care for fair fights.
When the black knight clattered to the end of the street and halted at the beginning of the fields beyond, he didn’t know he was being watched.
Two swords, Galen counted.
Other, deadlier weapons.
He’s a pretty one…he is.
It’s a shame.
The wind rose again, and with it Galen moved. Gliding between breezes, he closed the distance between himself and the knight. His only weapon, a knife scavenged from the steel cities of the east, flashed in his hand.
The knight never heard him, never saw him.
And with the wind, Galen floated behind the knight, buried his dagger in the tiny gap between armored plates, and eased the armored titan down into the mud.
Even before Galen helped his limp body to the ground, the knight died. Galen’s dagger, wet with heart’s blood, splashed into a puddle, where the scarlet stain spread through grey water.
“Sorry for that,” Galen whispered into the dead man’s ear. “You lived a good life…better than most of us. I’ll honor you by keeping one of your swords.”
He rolled the dead knight onto his back. It felt funny to him that a man with so many weapons and so much armor could be felled by a simple handmade knife. Shaking his head, he loosed a black-steel dagger from the knight’s waist and sliced the straps crisscrossing the dead man’s chest.
Quite by accident, he glimpsed the knight’s other weapons. They were marked with the Pharaoh’s seal, and were among the deadliest devices ever made. One looked like a wand, short and slender. The other was an obsidian disc polished to a mirror shine.
These, he didn’t touch.
Another day, old friend, he thought.
For now, just your sword.
He tugged one of the knight’s scabbards loose from the straps and pulled the sword halfway out. More than a century ago, he’d had a similar blade—three feet long, ebon steel polish, sharp enough to clip a man’s head from his shoulders without him feeling a thing.
With the dagger and sword, he crouched over the knight and peered back into Cedartown. Fell shapes moved though the city, hunting with weapons drawn. The Nemesis and his men were dressed all in black, and the rain glinted atop their armored shoulders.
“Should’ve paid more attention.” He patted the dead knight on his arm. “Might’ve seen me before you died.”
No, he knew.
Even at his best, he never had a chance.
He sprang to his feet, tucked his new weapons under his armpit, and darted into the field beyond Cedartown. He’d picked right. The grasses here were scorched by fire, but still tall enough to hide him. Like a snake—an animal no one in Cedartown had seen in centuries—he slithered through the grass and vanished.
The Nemesis and his men, even had they looked in his direction, would’ve thought they’d seen nothing more than the wind.
In minutes, Galen stood a full half-mile away. A blackened tree jutted from the dirt, and he leaned against it. His neck itched worse now. He considered ripping the skin-port out, if only to ease his irritation. He would’ve done it, too, had he not spent the last hundred years searching for the right man to install it.
Never said it would itch this much.
Everyone makes out being immortal like it’s a thousand-year party.
From his safe vantage, he watched Cedartown. The Nemesis and his men scoured the ruins like ants hunting for a last drop of sugar. He saw their weapons flare more than once, their sinister lights somehow darker than everything else. They were killing Cedartown’s last survivors, probably more out of frustration than anything else.
They hadn’t found his body, and they knew they wouldn’t.
He’d escaped them yet again.
Almost got me, boys. He lifted a rotten apple out of his satchel and took a careless chomp. But now what’ll you do?
The doctor’s dead.
And I’ve got what I came for.
He wished he could’ve seen their faces. Before the sunset, before the starless night reclaimed the ruins of a town in the middle of nothing and nowhere, he wanted to see the frustration in their eyes.
But then, he knew he wouldn’t.
He’d fled twenty generations of the Nemesis’ men.
And if he’d learned one thing in the last five-hundred years, it was that they never took off their masks.
“Contribute to help create a Prestige Edition of Geist: The Sin-Eaters 2nd Edition and get the book into stores!
Death is not the end.
You learned that firsthand when you died, and in the darkness you made a deal that brought you back — but not alone. Now, bound inextricably to a geist — a shade, a monster, a tragic, broken soul — you stand between the world of the living and the world of the dead. You stand between the dead and the hungry dark that would devour them. You give a voice to the voiceless and tear down cosmic systems of oppression. You will make a better world, and if you die trying… well, you came back once, and you can do it again.
In Geist: The Sin-Eaters, you play a person who died with a powerful burden on their soul — something they didn’t accomplish in life, or something they never found. On the other side of the veil, they made a bargain with a powerful being called a geist, which returned them to the world of the living and to their own body, at the cost of a permanent bond between them and the geist. Now your character stands as a medium, with one foot in the world of the living and one in the world of the dead. Will you bend your efforts toward the cosmic injustice of the Underworld, that consumes all who become trapped in its inky depths? Will you turn your wrath on the necromancers, the ghost-eaters, the two-bit frauds who exploit dead and living alike for their own enrichment? Will you reach out to the strange shade bound to you, to try to find the person beneath the inchoate fury and bring them peace? Will you bring a new faith to the masses and teach the living to welcome the dead into their lives? Or will you use all your newfound supernatural might to accomplish what you could not in life?
Originally released in 2009, Geist: The Sin-Eaters was a sleeper hit for the Chronicles of Darkness, finally bringing “life” to the realm of ghosts and death. And now this game of second chances gets a second edition, with Geist: The Sin-Eaters 2nd Edition, offering a revised and updated rules system and an expanded setting.
This Geist: The Sin-Eaters2nd Edition Kickstarter is designed to enable us to create a prestige hardcover edition designed to match the look and feel of our other Chronicles of Darkness core rulebooks such as Vampire: The Requiem, Werewolf: The Forsaken, or Mage: The Awakening…
We want to create an 8.5″ x 11″ hardcover with a beautifully designed, symbolic cover image printed on a metallic under layer, and featuring an emboss/deboss of the logo. We estimate the book to be more than 280+ pages, with a two-color interior and endpapers on high quality paper stock.
Geist: The Sin-Eaters2nd Edition includes all the rules you need to play as one of the Bound: Five Burdens reflecting the cause that pulled you back from the grave, five krewe Archetypes for building your own mystery religion, and the Haunts, Keys, and Ceremonies that provide the Bound with their macabre powers.
It also includes the Chronicle of the Dead, featuring the Sin-Eaters’ struggle against the all-consuming Underworld and a variety of terrifying threats. In addition, for the first time in the Chronicles of Darkness line, ghosts are presented as playable characters.
The Quick and the Dead: the five Burdens (the reason a Sin-Eater comes back from the dead and what draws a particular geist to them) and krewe Archetypes (the common cause that draws a krewe of Sin-Eaters together).
The Road Back: On death and coming back, and why Bound make the Bargain, including possible consequences.
One Foot in the Grave: Character creation, with sections on both geist and krewe creation, Anchors, Merits, Synergy, Plasm, Abilities, Haunts, Keys, Ceremonies, and Mementos.
Old Laws: the core Chronicles of Darkness rules, with special rules for playing Sin-Eaters, as well as information on subsystems for krewes, ghosts, and the Underworld, including Avernian Gates.
Antagonists: villains for your Geist chronicle, including Reapers, Eaters of the Dead, necromancers, enemy Bound, and Kerberoi.
The Quiet Places: Setting information and story hooks for playing your Geist chronicle in specific times and places in history., from 16th-century Brazil to modern-day Edinburgh, Scotland to Mobile, Alabama in 1910, as well as information on Dominions.
Ghost Stories: Storyteller advice and information for running a Geist chronicle, including designing Remembrances, how to set theme and mood, story seeds, and various ways to play out the end of a game.
Appendix: The Absent: This Appendix details the Absent, playable ghosts, including Memories, new Merits, and a collection of possible ghost characters to expand on and use in your chronicle.
Appendix: Conditions and Tilts: Geist-specific Conditions and Tilts, including ephemeral Influence Conditions and Manifestation Conditions for ghosts, as well as Haunt Conditions and Tilts.
Throughout this Kickstarter campaign, we will be posting complete previews of the Geist: The Sin-Eaters 2nd Edition manuscript as backer-only updates.
The primary goal of this Kickstarter campaign is to create the best version of Geist: The Sin-Eaters 2nd Edition that is possible. Your support allows us to fund the best production, use the most appropriate components, and possibly even contract more art for the core book. We hope to not only deliver a beautiful hardcover book to all of our backers, but also fund at least one print run to be sold through distribution and into book and hobby stores that are so vital to our community.
Beyond that primary goal, we hope to gain additional funding to explore more of the world of Geist, expanding into rules companions and other Storyteller and player tools and accessories. The greater our funding for this project, the more resources we are able to explore this (Under)world.
Thirdly, we want to celebrate the quiet legacy of Geist: The Sin-Eaters by offering an affordable bundle of first edition PDF titles. The Underworld Reflections bundle is a quick-and-easy way to dive into the world of Geist and revisit those ideas and concepts as we move forward with our new edition.
Beyond all of those campaign-specific goals, we hope to do what our games have always done — open a path to a new world; a setting for our community to build new stories and entwine imaginations. Every person who participates in this campaign is joining with the goal of giving this game physical form — and like our protagonists, we all become Bound with common purpose. When you back this project, you join our krewe and we journey into the new edition together.”
I’ve been on a Storyteller buying spree lately. I backed Geist. I’m signed up to play one of the Geist: The Sin-Eaters 2nd Edition sessions at Gen Con. And I covered this Kickstarter in my first deals article highlighting their $10 for [now-12] PDFs of Geist: The Sin-Eaters 1e (plus the Chronicles of Darkness core rulebook PDF for $5 more). I’m in and eager to see this series return to life.
You can see examples of their work at DriveThruRPGhere.
“A range of highly detailed dogs compatible with role-playing systems.
Animal Adventures brings intelligent animal characters to your favourite fantasy roleplaying game! Dungeons and Doggies is the first in a planned series of Animal Adventures releases! It is a set of highly detailed miniatures combining some favourite dog breeds with the different classes of the fifth edition of the world’s greatest roleplaying game!
This set features not only the miniatures in preassembled ready-to-play or paint PVC, but also a bespoke set of fifth edition compatible rules for using your Animal Adventure miniatures and playing as dogs in ANY campaign setting.
You will be able to mix canine characters with your regular adventuring party or create an entire doggy team of heroes to save the world! The miniatures also make perfect companions and familiars for your existing characters in any fantasy setting or game!
Our range of canine characters are true dogs, four legged companions true of heart and pure of soul! We have chosen to develop a range of ‘non-humanoid’ minis to offer as much of a unique play experience as we possibly could.
Each dog has been lovingly designed and sculpted, by some serious dog fans, to be bursting with personality and detail. From the panpipes of Monty, the bard, to the magical spell bones of Cornelius, the Wizard, care has been taken to add flavour and fun to every model.
The Fetch! Pledge $35/£27
Because this is Painting and Polygons’ first independent Kickstarter project (despite our experience on other projects), we have chosen to keep things as simple as possible to make it easy for us to support, while ensuring smooth delivery.
The Fetch! Pledge brings you 13 doggy miniatures along with the Rules and Adventure Companion PDFs, as well as art prints from our artist, April Prime.
Rather than include stretch goals that would complicate the process, in an attempt to encourage more participation, we are keeping things really easy with only one pledge level, that gets you everything we can cram into this campaign!
We have many more ideas for the future too, including more doggies (and maybe even kitties) so don’t panic if your favourite breed isn’t here! The world of Animal Adventurers is just opening up, and with your support, we hope to be able to make this our first step on our journey into it!
The dogs are designed on 25mm and 20mm bases and scaled to fit in with existing RPG miniatures ranges. And, although we are providing full rules to create your own doggy adventurers, each miniature comes with its own pre-generated character, complete with character sheet and short story! Whether you fancy being Hartley, a gruff and stoic fighter or Freya, a noble guardian druid, there’s a dog for every player.
We are proud to be able to support the excellent online comic Dungeons and Doggos! As part of our collaboration with them, every backer will receive as part of their pledge, a Kickstarter exclusive cross-over miniature; Tonka, the Mastiff Bard.
You can read all about Tonka, and the rest of our fearless canine friends, by joining in with the adventure, as depicted by V Lee Illustrations, every Friday at dndoggos.com.
Alongside our range of miniatures, we are proud to present and include in our campaign a full set of digital rules and a unique adventure that provides a perfect setting for a great one-shot RPG experience, for absolutely free!
Our rules set contains OGL fifth edition racial rules for creating an intelligent dog, unique canine feats and class options, notes on a canine deity for divine doggies and magic items specially tuned for dog use (which of course, are chew proof as well!).
The accompanying adventure, titled “Who’ll let the Dogs Out?”, is designed to be played either with the characters included in the rules or with any party of equivalent level and tells the fateful tale of sinister magics, dark druids and a chance for some brave dogs to save themselves, their canine cousins and the local village from a terrible fate!
Both the adventure and the rules pack feature stunning artwork from professional illustrator and dog lover April Prime, who’s previous work includes the excellent Baby Bestiary for Metal Weave Games.
Alongside the free rules PDFs, we are excited to be able to offer some of April’s illustrations as art prints, included as part of the campaign for free for every backer!
Do you need magical dog miniatures for your campaign? Do you play Pugmire (a 3PP D&D variant where dogs and cats rule the world) and want to have your characters be quadrupeds? Just need a miniature of a dog in a hat and some 5e adventures? This project is likely for you then.
“Delta Green co-creator John Scott Tynes presents a sourcebook of threats, allies, and mysteries to deepen the terrors of your campaign.
Delta Green: The Labyrinth takes Delta Green agents beyond the beltway and deep into the fissures of America in the new millennium. From Silicon Valley startups to industrialist Super-PACs, from Oregon anarchist collectives to alt-right activists, from the depths of Reddit to this morning’s livestreams, American life has entered a labyrinth of twisty passages all alike. And while there are many ways in, there is no way out.
Written by Delta Green co-creator John Scott Tynes, this all-new collection of organizations presents ready-made sources of allies, enemies, mysteries, and surprises for your Delta Green campaign. Each group has its own story arc, progressing through three stages as it encounters Delta Green agents and the evils they fight. Some groups corrode, wither, and die. Others gain hideous strength and uncover profound new horrors. Each has connections to other groups, ensuring that players find fresh hells at every turn. But all are destined to change — and the journey each one takes holds up a mirror to the agents themselves.
Because things fall apart. The center cannot hold. And once you enter the Labyrinth, you will never escape.
Delta Green: The Labyrinth will be a sourcebook for Delta Green: The Role-Playing Game, about 192 pages long, hardback, in full color. Written by John Scott Tynes, illustrated by Dennis Detwiller, designed by Simeon Cogswell, edited by Shane Ivey, and published by Arc Dream Publishing, The Labyrinth will join the ever-growing line of beautiful and terrifying sourcebooks for Delta Green.
The Labyrinth will contain brand-new factions for players to encounter. Some will be sources of friendlies, allies, and aid. When their exposure deepens due to contact with Delta Green agents, however, those people’s lives and realities will corrode. A group that begins as an ally may end as a foe. Others will be enemy cults and monstrous exploiters of reality. Even those that start small may metastasize under investigation, gaining power and influence.
While this is a faction book, the combinations of story arcs for each faction, and the connections between factions, mean that it can also serve as a de facto campaign. For groups with more self-directed players who like to chase down their own clues, The Labyrinth will be a narrative sandbox they can explore in multiple directions at once.
Throughout, the point remains the same: the mosaic of American life is schisming before us and when exposed to the unnatural, and to the best intentions of Delta Green, it weakens and shatters. The Labyrinth portrays America’s march towards the End Times in microcosm.
“Deception is a right. Truth is a privilege. Innocence is a luxury. Born of the U.S. government’s 1928 raid on the degenerate coastal town of Innsmouth, Massachusetts, the covert agency known as Delta Green opposes the forces of darkness with honor, but without glory. Delta Green agents slip through the system, manipulating the federal bureaucracy while pushing the darkness back for another day — but often at a shattering personal cost.”
In Delta Green: The Role-Playing Game, the cosmic horror of the Cthulhu Mythos meets modern-day technothriller conspiracy. Delta Green postulates a secret group of men and women dedicated to investigating and neutralizing inhuman and supernatural horrors, misappropriating the resources of the U.S. government to wage a war that they must at all costs keep hidden. Delta Green has explored this world of secret horrors in dozens of game books, novels, and anthologies for over 25 years, winning awards and acclaim all along the way. Delta Green: The Role-Playing Game and the sourcebook A Night at the Opera were nominated for seven ENnie Awards in July 2018.
John Scott Tynes founded Pagan Publishing and the magazine The Unspeakable Oath in 1990. He first wrote about Delta Green in “Convergence,” a groundbreaking scenario that appeared in The Unspeakable Oath issue 7 in 1992. The idea of Delta Green immediately seized the imaginations of gamers around the world. Tynes expanded it with co-creators Dennis Detwiller and Adam Scott Glancy in the sourcebooks Delta Green (1997) and Delta Green: Countdown (1999), both of which won Origins Awards. Tynes’ novel Delta Green: The Rules of Engagement also won an Origins Award in 1999.
In an encrypted message left in an unlisted voicemail drop, John told us: “After completing the new edition of Puppetland for Arc Dream last year and contributing to the new edition of Unknown Armies for Atlas Games, I found myself haunted by strange dreams of an America plagued by discord, ruled by monsters, and slouching towards one of several moral or literal apocalypses. Fortunately, none of that is happening in the real world, so this seemed like the perfect time to explore these completely fictional ideas in the world of Delta Green.”
We’re very excited to have John back in the world he was so fundamental in shaping.
In late 2015, Arc Dream Publishing ran a successful Kickstarter campaign to launch Delta Green: The Role-Playing Game. For the first time, Delta Green is its own game system, fully customized for the uniquely suspenseful and fearful experience that Delta Green scenarios offer. That campaign funded a long line of sourcebooks and adventures, many of which have now been published. We have produced over a thousand pages of new material for Delta Green since that Kickstarter project ended.
The final shape of Delta Green: The Role-Playing Game inspired John Scott Tynes to write The Labyrinth, his first new game material for Delta Green in many years. At the same time, illustrator Dennis Detwiller’s most substantial work from that Kickstarter, writing the King in Yellow campaign Impossible Landscapes, will be done by the time John has finished The Labyrinth. The timing lines up perfectly. Other books—Deep State, PISCES, Falling Towers—and scenarios are in development by other writing teams.
Funding for Delta Green: The Labyrinth will pay for its writing, editing, illustration, and design, and for printing it as a full-color, hardback book with the same high quality as the Agent’s Handbook, the Handler’s Guide, and other books in the Delta Green RPG line.
We love working on Delta Green. We want every new book or scenario to be even better than the ones that came before. This campaign gives us a chance to do just that.”
Delta Green started life as a setting for Call of Cthulhu. It grew from a 3PP setting of one game to be a game onto itself while the new material remains backwards compatible with CoC. “Delta Green’s percentile-based rules are compatible with 20 years’ worth of Delta Green scenarios and sourcebooks.” As the pitch above states, if you’re looking for “allies, enemies, mysteries, and surprises for your Delta Green campaign”, this book is for you.
You can see examples of their work at DriveThruRPGhere.
“A trio of books for the Neoclassical Geek Revival Roleplaying Game
What is Neoclassical Geek Revival?
Neoclassical Geek Revival (NGR) is a fantasy roleplaying game. Many reviews of it have been completed over the years, but the core purpose that differentiates it from things like retroclones (beyond that it is not an OGL game) is that it is focused on player driven shenanigans. It has different mechanics for class, conflict, stealth, magic, and experience which create a wildly different play experience while maintaining the old school adventure vibe.
“This is possibly the best FRP I’ve read in decades, as much for what it simplifies as for what it enhances.” – Kyrinn S. Eis, Alternate Reality Games
“When playing the game quite a few things stand out to me as brilliant” – The Magician’s Manse
“My opinion? Neoclassic Geek Revival is WIN! Buy a copy!” – Paolo Greco, The Lost Pages
“Overall rating: 9½ out of 10 stars.” – Anthony Hunter, Sleeping Griffon Productions
“I would definitely recommend NGR.” – Murky Pool Roleplaying Advice and Fiction
“It was this introduction that made me fall in love with NGR and Kowolski’s distinctive writing style.” – James Maliszewski, the Black Gate
There are also special versions which features art by a number of different artists. Scrap Princess, Dyson Logos, Alex Mayo, and Chris Huth all have or will have their own versions. Luka Rejec is the next artist to unlock via our stretch goals.
What is the Adventure Omnibus?
Getting a hard copy of one of Zzarchov’s adventures has usually been reserved for those published by another company or getting lucky with one of his rare small print runs. Zzarchov has created a compendium of all his dual stat NGR/OSR adventures in one large volume that is nearly 300 pages in size. This includes “The Roots of Bitterness” which is not available for sale and Down in Yon Forest which is only available seasonally. Included in the Omnibus are the following adventures:
A Thousand Dead Babies
“It is efficient, engagingly written, mechanically solid, and there’s a sense of…anticipatory and ominous giggling?” – Playing D&D with Porn Stars
“This would also be a good module to use to introduce your non-D&D friends to D&D” – Goblin Punch
“The highest compliment I can give to any product is that I intend to use it in my own campaign…and I intend to find a cool little spot on a map for Corroc and wait for the day they players wander to that neck of the woods.” – Gothridge Manor
“I can’t wait to run it myself.” – Dyson Logos
” I love this thing. Simple. Short. Sticky.” – Bryce Lynch of TenFootPole.org
“this is probably one of the darkest modules I know.” – Endzeitgeist
The Gnomes of Levnec
“The Gnomes Of Levnec is a dank twisted little affair which I imagine will leave adventures some how feeling dirty no matter how they handle it. Well done sir, well done.” – Scrap Princess
“Good adventures about gnomes are rare, but this one by Zzarchov Kowolski checks both boxes. It’s short, peculiar, and perfect for an old school D&D game; I’d happily drop it into a campaign with an evil smile on my face.” – Gnome Stew
“First impressions…this is a adventure is disturbing and hilarious. I got a lot of entertainment reading it.” – Gothridge Manor
“you will begin to fathom the warped genius of the module’s writer.” – Hero Press
“There were a few times I caught myself laughing during the read through, and immediately knew I’d slot this adventure into any upcoming low level campaign.” – Dreams of the Lich House
“I smiled, I cringed, smiled some more and nearly did a dry heave (well, maybe not that far, but certainly more than a cringe).” – Tenkar’s Tavern
“a fantastic “so you are lost in the woods” table. Based on the map, and the awesomeness of the table, I would make sure that I roll on that table the first time they head into the woods. And at least one more time.” – Take On Rules
“The Gnomes of Levnec is a great little adventure that is worth getting to read, get a new table idea, or possibly screw with your players some. I think it is totally worth it, even at almost $6….which is saying a lot for me.” – Frugal GM
“I’m a fan of this though. I will sometimes say a product is pretty close to my cutoff line, either pro or con. Not this one.” – Bryce Lynch of Tenfootpole.org
“The Gnomes of Levnec is an amazing 1st-level module (or 0-level funnel for DCC) that manages more in its couple of pages than many modules with twice that page-count” – Endzeitgeist
Scourge of the Tikbalang
“No one writes adventures like this.” – The Cuticle Chewer’s & Well-Pisser’s Fantasy Report
Under the Waterless Sea
“There is very little art in the scenario, but somehow there are two pictures of the penis tower in addition to a vertical map of it.” – Fictive Fantasies
“All in all this is interesting, well made and value for money with a good amount of sandbox and possibly replay value.” – Thomas W.
Trail of Stone and Sorrow
“Personally, I believe it warrants your support with a donation.” – Paul Baldowski
“Zzarchov Kowolski provides an interesting, fun sidetrek here, one that has a truly intriguing fallout potential” – Endzeitgeist
The Gem Prison of Zardax
“after trying to think of different ways to make dungeons with interesting metapuzzles for year, the Gem Prison of Zardax created a set of tools that made it really easy to think up fun variants. So, yeah, recommended.” – Playing D&D with Porn Stars
“So basically a great quick adventure that you can use for probably a single night with the recommended party level. ” – Quiet in the Dungeon
The Price of Evil
“This generator is very well done and its got tons going for it. I’m a fan of generators of this type in general and this is an especially well done style of product. ” – Swords and Stitchery
“anyone and everyone running a horror game should buy this product.” – Stefan B
The Temple of Lies
” It’s a nice little urban adventure”. – Bryce Lynch of TenFootPole.org
The Roots of Bitterness
This one had a very limited release so there aren’t many reviews about.
Down in Yon Forest
” Now, I really enjoyed this module, due to completely different reasons than most Christmas modules; because it is kind of anti, but without resorting to a full-blown inversion or spitefulness; it is a tale of the holidays in a world, where the meaning behind such a celebration may well spell the difference between life and death.” – Endzeitgeist
What is City of Tears?
The City of Tears is a desert themed dungeon adventure clocking in at 64 pages. It is set in the burned out basement of the Sultan’s palace after a plague killed the entire population of a the titular City of Tears. Now bandits and scavengers camp outside the gates and the haunted lower levels of the Sultan’s palace are the last source of valuables. This adventure also features enough details of the surrounding area that it would be a great start to a new campaign. It features art by the talented Jez Gordon, maps by Dyson Logos, and layout by Jensen Toperzer.
Who are we?
Zzarchov Kowolski is an award winning game designer from Ottawa, Canada. He has a number of roleplaying game adventures published by Lamentations of the Flame Princess, ZERO/Barrier, DIYRPG, and by his own private label. He also developed the Pioneers of Mars board game. Zzarchov is the author of all the works in this project. Joshua Rottman is a project manager from Ottawa, Canada. He has managed the previously successful Pioneers of Mars kickstarter and runs Neoclassical Games. Joshua will be handling the business and logistics aspect of this project.”
I don’t have much to add to this one that is not covered in the AMAZING number of reviews quoted above. If the volume of praise does not move you, how about this – I recently covered this Kickstarter’s best deals – CA $1 for an art-less PDF version of this or CA $5 for the PDF with the art.
Allen Williams, master of graphite powder, lord of graphite, is among the most interesting illustrators and conceptual artists I’ve ever stumbled upon. He’s done film work, but the works I’m struck by are his weird, ghoulish drawings, posted regularly for sale right here.
Back in my days of playing Magic the Gathering, I discovered the best part of the game is the card art. A host of excellent illustrators toils to create some pretty fascinating monsters, angels, and otherworldly entities, all for players’ enjoyment. RK Post’s art is likely my favorite. His sometimes harsh, often dark images bring MtG to life.
His website is here. He creates unique alternate versions of his MtG cards here.
And one of my favorite RK Magic cards is:
If RK Post is my favorite MtG illustrator, Terese Nielsen is a close, close second. She blends strong realism with wild, barely controlled elements, and I love it. Angels, goddesses, beautiful women, strong men, powerful animals…she’s a master of them all.
Her website is here. A fine selection of her best Magic the Gathering cards is here.
Bastien LeCouffe DeHarme
Sometimes one stumbles upon an artist whose concepts and execution demand immediate attention. Bastien is one such person. Based in France, he specializes in women, often mixing them with mechanical and/or fantastical elements. His themes are often dark and tormented (my favorite) and his execution when blending realism and the abstract is stunning.
I have several DeHarme prints on my walls. Just sayin’.
Enough of my gushing. Go look at his portfolio right here. And yes, some of his work is NSFW.
Sadly, the lord of the Xenomorphs has passed to the next world. Thankfully his creations remain. Surely most people have watched the Alien movies, and yet H.R. (Hans Ruedi) Giger created far more than just a few creepy extraterrestrials. His mastery of biomechanical, necromantic paintings, sculpture, and other media are unparalleled.
It’s true. I accidentally discovered Jeremy Mann years ago while Facebook stalking a mutual fan. Whatever. Simply put, Mann’s oil paintings and photography are stunning. He specializes in portrait work and breathtaking cityscapes, sometimes blending his subject matter with a dark edge. Like most of my favorite artists, he walks the line between utter realism and abstract fantasy. Just look at his women here (NSFW.) And his unbelievably haunting cityscapes, implying rain and twilight, are here.
It’s worth mentioning Mann prefers not to sell prints. You’ll have to hit up one of his galleries or buy one of his premium (and personalized) art books if you really, really want to be a fan.
It’s probable that during the creation of the Lord of the Rings movies, Peter Jackson could not have chosen a better illustrator than John Howe (and Alan Lee.) John’s sketches, landscapes, and character work captured LOTR’s theme in a way perhaps no other could match.
His website is a bit clunky. Doesn’t matter. Check it out anyway.
It’s definitely worth mentioning that John Howe is also an experienced and talented swordsman. He believes the best way to understand objects and motion is to hold, use, and touch the object to be drawn or painted. I tend to agree. Completely.
You owe it to yourself to check out the special features on the LOTR DVD boxed set. Kick back and check out John Howe and Alan Lee’s superior art
The second half of LOTR’s dynamic art duo is Alan Lee. He’s a master of watercolor paintings, often depicting surreal landscapes with incredible detail. His creation of faerie-like forest scenes, with writhing branches and strange, ethereal colors, is particularly inspiring. Alan not only worked as an illustrator for the movies, but also has his hands in several Tolkien-related art books, all of which are worth every penny.
I count myself lucky to have found (again by accident) Marcela’s art via Facebook. Marcela is a photo-illustrator specializing in digital recreations of stunning photos. While I don’t typically adore digital art, for Marcela (and a few others) I make exceptions. Her work, especially her women and surreal natural scenes, provide elegance and eye-candy all art-lovers can likely appreciate.
Lady Makepeace is a humble dweller of the central Georgian woodlands, and just so happens to be my personal favorite cover artist. Yeah…I’m a fanboy; her painting Autumn Waters hangs right next to my favorite art pieces at home. She’s an illustrator, using both digital and traditional media to portray mythical creatures, magical birds, wondrous woodlands, and the occasional terrifying sci-fi monstrosity.
You’ll find the Amanda Makepeace cover art below. Amanda has created more than half my book covers. She does great work, don’t you think? I’m glad our shared time in high school didn’t result in her hating me. I’d have lost a valuable friend and ally in my creative endeavors. 🙂
Click me to buy!
Shadow of Forever– available in ebook and softcover formats. Joff Armstrong and Callista return for their deadliest adventure yet. Think space vampires, star-killing machines, and galaxy-wide viruses…
I’m here to admit that while Shadow of Forever and its predecessor were challenging and rewarding to write, I’m moving on from science fiction for a bit.
Does that mean I’m going to stop writing books? Nope. Not even close. I’m currently working on a non-fiction story during which I’ll drink a different brand of wine while writing each chapter (yes, I’m serious!) It’s tentatively named Reality is Best Served with Red Wine. I’m also working on several short stories (they hurt less) and exploring Season Two of this, in which I’ll reunite with author John McGuire.
Why the temporary withdrawal from sci-fi? Well…it’s complicated. I love, love, love penning stories about humans in deep space, cool scientific theories, and eldritch horrors lurking between the stars. But my challenge is…sci-fi just doesn’t sell as well as other genres. Even when one writes approachable-to-everyone sci-fi (as I do) the stigma remains. When many readers see the word ‘sci-fi’ they assume a male-dominated, violence-filled orgasm of spaceships mixed with bizarre scientific theories. That’s not really my gig, but many readers have been conditioned to think otherwise. It’s a hard mountain to climb.
Fact is, non-fiction and fantasy are where it’s at. Let me explain. I can punch out 5-6 non-fiction titles in the same span of time as one full-length novel, meaning multiple mass-appeal entries into the market. And with fantasy (my favorite genre to write) the readership isn’t as narrow. Fantasy has so many nuanced sub-genres, so many plot and world-building options, the audience is easily ten times that of sci-fi and horror offerings.
Will there be a Shadow of Forever sequel, thus making a trilogy of the Eater of the Light series?
If I sound like I’m waffling, it’s because I am. My newest love, painting 3D canvasses in collaboration with other artists, takes up more and more of my time these days. I admit that relaxing on warm evenings with a paintbrush in one hand and a glass of pinot noir in the other makes for a pretty good life. It’s easier than writing, editing, and marketing books. It tends to satisfy my immediate need for peace and tranquility.
The writing bug remains.
So stick with me, loyal readers. I’ve got thirty-two titles on the market, meaning I’m committed to this writing gig for pretty much forever :). As the years roll on and the words keep flowing, I’m planning to touch every major genre (except maybe romance and were-bear erotica.)
That’s a promise.
Give Shadow of Forever a shot. It’s my counterpunch to hyper-technical sci-fi.
And if you prefer quick & quiet quizzes (yeah…alliteration) just try this out.
I’ve gone through a thousand tubes of acrylic paint, wrecked dozens of brushes, and cleaned up countless spills.
None of it prepared me for the horrors of using graphite.
You see, I wanted a change. Not that I’d grown bored of using acrylics and watercolors; I hadn’t. It’s just that I’d seen some epic works by Allen Williams and others…and frankly I felt I needed to expand my horizons.
So I hit the local Hobby Lobby, snatched up some charcoal pencils, graphite sticks, tortillions, and two small jars of the most devious substance on Earth – graphite powder.
Pure. Beautiful. Evil.
The powder looked harmless enough. A fine black grit neatly tucked into a plastic cylinder, I wasn’t worried about how to use it. I figured I’d start experimenting, pound out a few dozen pieces, and learn on the fly.
I should’ve done more research…
It’s not that I spilled any; I really didn’t. It’s not that I was clumsy with it; I wasn’t. But the thing is…once rubbed in, stepped on, or lightly dusted across any surface, graphite powder embeds itself.
…into my hands.
…onto my drop cloths.
…on my patio.
…in my shower.
After a few hours of coating a canvas in dark, dark powder, the stuff was everywhere. I always work barefoot, and my toes and heels became black as midnight. I like to push charcoal and graphite around with my fingers to texture it, and so my hands resembled a coal miner’s. I like to breathe, thus the inside of my nose was coated with a fine layer of darkness.
The piece I created was only meant to be experimental, to get a feel for how the powder works.
You could say I learned my lesson.
Introducing ‘The Nameless Tree.’ It’s my first (and possibly last for a while) graphite powder piece.
The Nameless Tree is approx. 20″ x 30″. The original is for sale for $250.00.
The tree was created by removing excess graphite with a pair of soft erasers. It took about an hour to coat the canvas, another hour to carve out the tree, and a full day to clean the corrupting graphite from my deck, my floors, and my skin. As I type this, I still have powder embedded beneath my fingernails.
Live and learn…
…and stay the hell away from graphite unless you know what you’re getting into.
If you like The Nameless Tree, you’ll probably like these.
Quite by accident, I stumbled upon a story written by a young woman.
I remember the woman’s name, but she didn’t sign her story. She left it on a wrinkled piece of paper atop a blank canvas. I probably wasn’t supposed to find it.
The woman is gone. But the story she left behind made me wonder who she really was.
This is what I found:
There are many variations to the story.
Even from birth, circumstances surrounding my entrance into this world seem to be a fluid variation of fact. I no longer try to separate out one version from the next. Instead, I allow my mind to melt each version together…overlapping layers of possible realities.
Despite not being born yet, I could see all.
My aerial view of the camper gives me the ability to see everything. Hear all. Feel everything. I don’t exist yet, but I am the collection of memories that will later be told to me…the texture of my own childhood to come. I fill in the blanks with rich color and smell. Disembodied, I float above the bed my mother lies upon. Bright swatches of velvet and satin fabric hang on the walls. The smells of bay leaves and rosewater perfume mix with my mother’s perspiration.
This is home.
Her cries of childbirth are gently hushed by the mirages of the midwives huddled around her bed. Their phantom limbs carry damp cloths to her head, soothing her discomfort. The conflicting stories of whether my mother was alone during my birth has given these three women a transparency that allows me to give them life or melt them back into the camper’s upholstery. The story of my father’s reaction to seeing me for the first time is a gentle whisper floating in the air.
“She looks more like a cauliflower than a baby…”
I can detect a hint of garlic cloves and olive oil on his breath. A tabby cat slumbers in a corner of the camper with a dead snake it caught in a strawberry field. Some versions of this memory give life back into the snake, flinging it upon the bed in which my mother cradled me. The cat is filled with pride over the present it’s gifted to the newborn. It flings the snake’s wriggling body across the room by a screaming woman, where it dissipates into the wood…and where it becomes a faint outline in the rough grain.
I want to know more, but her story ends here. Perhaps I’ll find her one day and ask her what happened next.
It’s been at least a decade since I bought an album anyone reading this article has heard of.
I can’t remember the last time I read the news, tried craft beer, or understood a hashtag cause.
Anyone else feel me?
Every day that goes by, I’m lost deeper and deeper in an ocean of information. My friends ask if I’ve seen or heard the latest ______, and I’m a deer in the headlights. I’m like, “Huh?” And my friends are like, “Duuude.” I haven’t seen the latest show, heard the new kickass song, or kept up with whatever the Kardashians are up to. (Are they still famous?) I feel like I should ask for help, reach out to friend, or crawl out from under the rock I’ve apparently been living under.
Look, you probably think I’m about to start a big rant against modern culture and all its evils. Nope. I don’t have enough data to make a case for or against whatever the world has become. The only rant I could dream up would be an essay arguing the infinite darkness of social media. But whatever. That’d be pretty hypocritical, wouldn’t it? Especially since I’m about to post this commentary on Facebook and Twitter.
What I do wanna know is: how the heck did I get here?
I’m not that old.
I don’t have an ‘our generation is better than yours’ complex.
I don’t tell stories about wading through the snow to get to school and eating rocks for dinner.
You’d think having a son would compel me to brush up against modern culture now and then. After all, he’s at that age when Justin Bieber must start to seem cool. Or when the latest ‘thing’ must be purchased. Or when we just have to watch some crazy new show. But no. All junior wants to do is hang with his weird dad (me) and roast marshmallows in the fire pit, play board games all night, and watch movies that haven’t been famous since the 80’s (Gremlins, Willow, Sword in the Stone, et cetera.)
Anymore, I’m not sure whether I’m rubbing off on him or his indifference to modern stuff has reinforced my own.
And I’m not really sure it matters.
What started this thought process? Well… I’m glad you asked. Just the other day, I overheard some friends chatting it up about the Grammy awards. (And yes, I know what those are.) At the big Grammy celebration, some pregnant lady killed it with her performance and everyone thought she was a queen. Not just any queen, but THE Queen. Turns out the Queen was Beyoncé. (And it turns out the program I’m using to write this knew to put a ‘ over ‘e’ in her name – which is really weird to me.) Also, the guy from Metallica’s microphone failed, prompting Lady Gaga (whom I know of via her Super Bowl gig) to save him. And lastly, some blonde lady (Adele?) gushed so loudly about the aforementioned Queen some people questioned her sincerity.
Ok, cool, I thought. Sounds pretty entertaining.
Wait. No it doesn’t.
To all of this, I listened wide-eyed and confused. And then I realized that although I’m not terribly old, my tastes are pretty much ancient. It’s almost as if my love of music, culture, art, and books stopped somewhere in the late 80’s – early 90’s. And I can’t explain it. It’s not as if I don’t want to find new music to love. It’s not like I find modern music disastrously boring on some random whim. And life sure would be more fun if I had any inkling to enjoy The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, and ________ <—- (insert superhero tv show here.)
Does anyone else experience this?
What the F does this meme even mean??
If I think about it, I don’t particularly miss the cultural era in which I grew up. The 80’s were straight up strange, with all the long hair, horrid pop music, and low production television. The 90’s might’ve been even worse, dragged into despair by depressing grunge music and not-quite-awesome-yet video games.
But I guess I didn’t realize my situation until the new century rolled in and forcibly stopped me from caring.
I don’t remember when it happened, but at some point all the music on the radio turned me off.
More recently, the wave of superhero movies and bombastic action films flew right over my head.
Leaving me almost alone in the theater watching this.
I guess I can’t really complain; living under a giant rock has its benefits. I have tons of extra time. Peace and quiet are my domain. And then of course there’s all the money I save by not having cable and never going to a concert starring anyone famous. But the drawbacks are…well…I’m not sure. I’m left out of discussions regarding politics, news, movies, television, et cetera. And while I don’t particularly mind sitting in my quiet corner, it tends to halt conversations when I admit I don’t know a damn thing about whatever’s being talked about.
Me. As in my face. Always.
It’s almost intentionally ignorant, right?
It’s cultural abandonment.
It’s a willful disregard for humanity.
And now, after all these years, I still have no idea what happened.
Check out John McGuire’s The Gilded Age steampunk graphic novel on Kickstarter!
Doing this comic book thing as a writer who can barely draw stick figures means I have to lean on the artists who work with me. There is a level of trust that must exist when you hand over your finely crafted words for them to work their magic. So far, I’ve been very lucky in this regard on all the various comic related things I’ve done, but that is especially true with the Gilded Age.
I was happy when I reached out to La’Vata O’Neal (who has done the cover for the Gilded Age Graphic Novel… more on that later…) and she agreed to an interview.
How long have you been creating art/working in comics?
I’ve been working in comics since Mr. Tony Cade decided to pick me up to do some work for him.
(Tony Cade is the Editor-in-Chief over at Terminus Media.)
At what point did you sit down and decide to become an artist? Have you had any formal training? What’s the first thing you drew?
When I was little I was interested in shapes and figures, still am of course, anything that isn’t a number or word! Though, I’m interested in writing due to its creative nature as well.
What things inspire you to create art? Favorite artists/creators? Influences?
I didn’t have an early influence back then because it’s really like an old love. It’s the serenity of it, though now I’m greatly inspired by many artists now, deceased or living. I’m particularly fond of old paintings because of the way they were able to capture a story in one image. They spoke with such power with just one image.
How do you manage your daily life with the art? Is this your 9 to 5 or is this your 10 to 2? If you have the old day job, what do you do? Do you do anything to market/promote yourself?
I sketch daily and paint weekly, it’s like my fingers are possessed-
I do sketch daily though to keep the creative flow. Whatever I produce in sketches I try to share and it keeps me relevant. I post to facebook, tumblr, and Instagram as the best way to market myself. At some point during the week though I’m always interested in learning new creative ways of doing art, so I’m usually reading up on some art form or for example how to do animation, etc. But At the moment I’m juggling a 9 to 5 job on top of the freelance business.
What’s your process? Digital vs. by hand? What do you prefer?
I love both to be honest; traditional is more expensive so the digital helps keep the budget down-but both, all day every day if I could! My process is a longer explanation, but a lot of it derives from traditional practices.
How do you work? Music while you draw? TV shows? Movies? No distractions?
I love to work while listening to music and if not music then an audible book.
What have you worked on previously?
I worked on a mobile game app, doing character design and illustration.
Are there themes and/or subjects you find yourself drawn to again and again in you art? In regards to comics, are there things that draw you in, something you see or read where you must put your own spin on the story/character?
Let’s see, reoccurring themes…Fantasy mostly, I’m most drawn to that I believe. But realistically, I’m drawn to anything that’s fiction as long as the story is good! As for putting my own spin on characters, it’s something I reserve for others to do at the moment.
Do you have a favorite thing to draw (genre, scenery, etc)?
My favorite thing to draw are fantasy characters, they’re interesting in their own way because they’re so dynamic and otherworldly. But as long as character has enough character they’re interesting to me.
What’s the most challenging thing about being an artist in today’s world?
I would say keeping afloat, isn’t that always the case though. It’s rough being freelance if you don’t know what you’re doing.
If you could go back ten years, what advice might you have for your younger self? Something you wish you knew?
Wow…hm…I know exactly what I would say and it has everything to do with being more exposed to the art world. The more exposure the more you’ll understand.
What is your worst habit?
My worst habit…daydreaming, maybe? Lol
Goals? One year from now?
Let’s see, one year from now I look to be employed by a studio and not just doing freelance, I’d like to try being under some other artists so I can learn more.
For the Gilded Age, you worked on the cover to the trade (which is amazing by the way). I know we went back and forth with some ideas about how to present the characters, but it seemed like the tarot card idea just worked not only on a story level, but visually just nailed it. After we figured out that direction, how long did you work on those pieces – fine tuning them?
It might have taken me around 30 total hours to complete the cover. It was a very pleasant experience working on the Gilded Age trade cover!
Have you worked on any Steampunk style images before?
I have not actually but trying something new is always a learning experience and it can also be fun!
What are you currently working on?
I am currently working on my own project which still needs time to develop but it’s in the works, so keep an eye out! 😉
Anything else that you’d like people to know about you (Hobbies? Passions? Favorite TV Show?)?
Well that depends if people really want to know! I like being the mysterious type.
Where’s the best place to see your stuff on the web (website)?
Ever daydream of being somewhere other than wherever you are?
Maybe you fantasize about slumming at a beachside tiki bar?
Maybe you daydream of sitting in the backyard on a warm night, soaking up a pitcher of sweet tea?
Or mayyybe sometimes you dream of nestling on a couch with all the lights off, controller in hand, television ablaze with an amazing video game?
Yeah. You know you’ve thought about it. It’s ok to admit. I’m right there with you.
Daydream of this real-life scene….oh wait…that’s Skyrim!
Let’s take a moment to appreciate where we are these days. We’re in the golden age of video games, and that’s no exaggeration. As far as new forms of art (yeah, video games are art) games are advancing leaps and bounds ahead of other industries. Hollywood movies are kinda stagnant. Television is all reality shows, zombies, and superhero/crime drama.
Every time a new year rolls around, we get to swim in a shiny ocean of faster, prettier, more artistic gaming entertainment. For $60, you can either take your family to see a single 2-hour movie at the theater OR you can buy a game like Skyrim, Witcher, or Zelda -Breath of the Wild and create stories of your own via your console of choice.
My kid pretty much wet himself when he saw the preview of Zelda – Breath of the Wild
And so here we are. Another new year. After a powerful 2016, which saw a waterfall of hot, stunning titles roll over the precipice, we’re primed for what could be the most beautiful year of games ever. And I don’t just mean good games like I’ve listed here, but gorgeous, artistic, crazy-good looking titles. Like sharp and futuristic Mass Effect 4 and noir-looking Vampyr.
Which begs the question: what are some of the most beautiful game titles of all time?
Witcher 3 (CD Projekt Red)
Metroid Prime 3 (Retro Studios)
Mass Effect 3 (Bioware)
Ori and the Blind Forest (Moon Studios)
Beyond Good and Evil (Ubisoft)
The Last of Us (Naughty Dog)
Halo 3 (Bungie)
Half-Life 2 (Valve)
A while back (and I mean WAY back) game-devoted site IGN did an article focusing on the best graphics ever. Now I don’t mean to be picky, but great graphics don’t always translate into superior beauty. Yes, realism is nice. And yeah, a poppin’ frame-rate is great. But sometimes it’s not the sharpest, most advanced games that strike an artistic chord.
Take Playdead’s Limbo and Inside, for example. Neither game was a technological achievement, but both were atmospheric, subtle, and beautiful. And let’s not forget Wind Waker, now more than a decade old, using cel-shading to give gamers a whole new perspective of Link. Both were risky moves by their developers, and both paid off.
Speaking of developers, they haven’t always had the tools they do today. Take one look at my progression of best games ever, and you’ll see the jumps we’ve made in graphical power.
Which begs the question: which old-school games are the most beautiful?
Majora’s Mask – Nintendo
Quake 3 (id Software)
Neverwinter Nights (Bioware)
Knights of the Old Republic (Bioware)
Admittedly, it’s slim pickings if you go much older than the mid-90’s. Games back in the day had to be fun first, pretty last. That’s not to say old-school games don’t have moments of beauty, but the highly pixelated graphics usually meant the beauty was due to the story or the atmosphere.
And that’s the true test, isn’t it?
A fun-to-play game can be good, but it’s the rare game that makes us think and feel, and thus it’s the rare game that’s truly beautiful throughout.
Games can be art. Art can be games. The better developers gets at making them, the more the line will blur.
And that’s a good thing.
You say you’re a video game god? Find out the truth by taking this quiz.
Whenever pushed, this red (but flecked with gold) button deposits $1,000,000 into your bank account.
The only price: it also shaves three years off your lifespan every time you push it.
Will you push it?
How many times?
One tap of this big round button will destroy any one cultural phenomenon.
Examples: memes, Facebook, hashtags, a specific music type, a specific slang word, a new fashion, et cetera.
You only get to use it once.
Wanna push it?
Whatcha gonna combust?
The Duplication Button
One press of this unassuming button can be a powerful thing.
If you use it, any one person in the world will adopt your moral code, your intellect, and your view of the world. They’ll still be themselves physically, but their mental state and beliefs will resemble yours.
I spent ten years writing them…then another two years in rewrites.
Along the way, I created and commissioned a ton of art for the series. Some of it was inspirational. Other pieces were meant as cover art, and still others for marketing.
Today I’ve brought a ton of it together. Think of this as a unified sketchbook. It includes pieces by the elegant Amanda Makepeace, the gifted Eileen Herron, and the super savvy Damonza.
Please enjoy the art of my Tyrants of the Dead series, which includes the novels Down the Dark Path, Dark Moon Daughter, and Nether Kingdom:
Let’s start with a dirty little sketch I did. I sent it to Amanda Makepeace to aid her creation of Nether Kingdom’s cover art. You’ll see in the next pic how she took my humble idea and made it grand.
Lady Makepeace’s full cover art for Nether Kingdom. This demonic dude is one of the Ur, the primary villains in the series. His skin is shadow, and his insides glow with starlight.
Here’s another bad, bad creature. This full-color piece was Eileen Herron’s vision of a Sarcophage (undead knight) who plagues the pages of book two in the series, Dark Moon Daughter. It’s one of my favorites.
What’s this? Why, it’s the original Eileen Herron cover art for Dark Moon Daughter. I commissioned a full-scale painting, which still hangs in my bedroom to this day. Ultimately we went with something edgier and darker for the final cover, but I still love this piece.
This guy (in the lower right of the full painting above) is the only existing image of the malevolent Warlock. Ironically he was modeled after Eileen’s husband, who’s pretty much the opposite of evil.
Here’s a painting I did in 2015. I named it the Underhollows. It doesn’t appear in the books, but is meant to show what the world would look like if the villains won.
Two Eileen Herron sketches of Andelusia, the series’ heroine.
Here’s a huge canvas painting I did called ‘Illyoc.’ It’s a bit abstract, I admit. It’s a view of the dark stronghold Malog, as seen from a balcony.
A conceptual piece Amanda Makepeace did. You can see how it’s the beginning of the Nether Kingdom cover. Pretty ghostly, yeah?
Kinda looks like the killer from the Scream movies, yeah? It’s actually the first ever sketch of the Ur. Another Eileen Herron piece. Nice and creepy.
These are shots of Eileen Herron’s original cover art for Down the Dark Path. Once again, she painted a large canvas for me which still hangs on my wall. The redhead is pre-darkness Andelusia. The guy with the flaming sword is Garrett Croft. The big red spiky ball was the concept for the evil Soul Orb. I love this painting. But as it turns out, it didn’t photograph well for the final cover. Check out the lone black lock of Ande’s hair. Hint…hint…
Another Eileen Herron sketch of Andelusia. This is our heroine gliding out of the shadows. It’s a simple little drawing, but I’ve always been in love with it.
Early sketches of Andelusia by me (top left) Amanda Makepeace (top right) and Eileen Herron (bottom.)
A promo digital painting of Andelusia by Amanda Makepeace.
Here’s what the Soul Orb ended up becoming. This is just a sliver of Lady Makepeace’s cover work for Book I. And yes…those are bones!
You’ve probably seen these before. I post them all the time. Book I is Amanda’s full cover art. The other three are paintings I did in 2015. The original canvas for Book II (Ghost Tree) ended up being a Christmas gift for a family member. The other two still hang on my wall at home. The painting for Book IV (Ocean of Knives) is epic-level huge, measuring in at 36″ x 48″. It took a month to paint!
This one was done by online professional, Damonza. He custom-did the entire thing based on a photograph of a woman I was dating at the time. That’s post-darkness Andelusia, and the eyes in the background belong to the Ur. This one is a fan favorite, probably because it’s so damn sexy.
Eileen Herron’s art for Down the Dark Path…the bookmark. That’s a Furyon knight, fully armored and standing in a storm. It’s a badass piece. I wish I could’ve found a way to make it work for a book cover. Maybe someday…
This was the original back cover for Dark Moon Daughter, which I nixed after Damonza finished his sexy cover. This was my first ever attempt at making a back cover by myself. It’s not horrible (but not good, either.)
Here’s The Emperor’s Vision, a painting I did in 2015. You can probably see the similarity to Book IV’s cover art. This is meant to be the dark city of Morellellus, in which the very first passages of Down the Dark Path open. It’s still one of my favorites. It was among the very first things I painted for the series.
Finally, I did a piece called Ocean of Knives. It’s an expansion of The Emperor’s Vision. Same city, same concept, but four times the canvas space. This painting would quickly become the cover art for Down the Dark Path – Book IV in the mini-series.
I think I know the reason why. But reasons aren’t always important. Instead I think I’ll catalog some of the ones I remember. For my sake. And hopefully for your entertainment.
* * *
A lot of people describe having falling dreams. I can’t remember ever having one of those. But I used to have falling ‘up’ dreams. As in I keep falling toward outer space. I don’t die out there in the stars. I just keep going. Trippy.
Remember the cool spherical submarine James Cameron took down into the ocean deeps? I dreamed that. Except the sub went way, way down. Not just the seven miles into the Marianas Trench, but a hundred miles deeper. I can’t really recall what I saw down there, but it was fascinating…and terrifying.
I once dreamed I met two men in Israel. They each offered me a different power, but the catch was I’d have to use it to help them do nefarious things. One power was to slow time for everyone else besides myself. The second was to become as heavy (in terms of weight) as I desired, while maintaining the same size. Both would make me unstoppable. I did bad things. I chose the weight power, then used it to steal the time power from the other guy. Oddly enough, this weird little dream inspired my new book, A Door Never Dreamed Of.
Ever seen the movie, The Fountain? Pretty good flick. I dreamed I was the dude in a space bubble, and I dreamed it fifty times, maybe more. I was utterly alone, forever floating. I was immortal. It was kinda cool, and supremely lonely.
I had a baaaaad nightmare when I was eight. My recently departed grandfather visited me, only he was rotting, eyeless, and nasty. His guts were hanging out. He looked like the dude from the old Metallica video, The Unforgiven. Yikes.
Less a dream and more an observation. I’ve never heard music of any kind during any dream I’ve ever had. Is that unusual? Do you guys hear tunes while you sleep?
I used to have a specific night terror as a boy, then later as a teenager (after several years of not having it.) In the nightmare, a skeletal shadow hovered over me as I slept. It woke me, whispered horrible things to me, and promised one day it would destroy me. Not just my body, but my soul. I decided later in life to make this critter the bad guy in my way-too-F’n-long fantasy series, and haven’t had the nightmare since. Hmmmm…
I had a recurring dream about a genie in a bottle. No…not the Christina Aguilera song. The genie asked me what my one wish was. (It was BS I didn’t get three.) My answer was always the same: The Power of Persuasion. Meaning anything I suggested to any person, they listened to. It was the ultimate Jedi mind trick. Sometimes I used the power for good. Sometimes just to get laid. Other times I took over the entire planet, upon which I established a seriously dark, tyrannical empire. Fun!
First dream I remember having: I’m in a car driving down a long road I’ve been down before, but can’t remember where it is in real life. Graveyards sleep on either side of the car. It’s not scary at all. There’s someone singing to me in the front seat. It’s soothing, but kinda dark.
The worst nightmare I’ve ever had (worse than rotting grandpa and shadow demon) was definitely this: I’m relaxing in my childhood bedroom. I have earphones on, but no music is playing. I’m at peace, but suddenly every single light in the world starts going out. I can sense the lights dying one by one. And then the outage comes to my house. It’s slow. It’s agonizing. And when the last light dies (a lamp beside my bed) I expire.
I dreamed this one almost exactly as I ended up writing it. I’m a boy at a zoo for aliens. I’m with my family. Everything seems fine, until it doesn’t. If you care, the story is here.
Ever played the game Metroid? Basically it’s a story about a woman alone on a planet full of things that want to kill her. For almost a year, I had a similar dream. Earth needs me to go to this weird planet and blow it up. No one can go with me. After training, I land on this eerie place and wander into some caves. Sadly I never get to finish. I like to think I completed my mission. Guess I’ll never know.
In a completely non-sexual way, I had a recurring dream about a red-haired woman. She was like my sister or something, and I was completely obligated to follow her around, protect her, and to not under any circumstances fall in love with her. All of this I did in a medieval setting. No modern conveniences at all. The girl later became part of the inspiration for the heroine (Andelusia) in my dark fiction series.
In one of my favorite dreams, I soar through clouds that look much like these. I’m utterly free, no cares in the world. I like to think we’d all love this dream.
I dreamed once, maybe twice, of a great, dark city. The city was newly-made, shiny and black. It wasn’t really modern, but nor was it from the old world. The city lay on a black shore upon which oil instead of water washed up in waves. I wandered the city for years. And found no one. So I painted it here.
Had a dream that the Russian government asked me to end a war. All I had to do was assassinate the president of their rival nation. I did terrible things in this dream, but perhaps the saving grace is that I never got to the end. The Russians didn’t win, and I always had the sense that they were the bad guys to begin with. (Disclaimer: I don’t believe this in real-life.)
I used to have persistent (and weird) dreams of being Lucifer from Paradise Lost. I fight God, lose, and fall. Except Hell in my dreams isn’t scary or hot. It’s peaceful, albeit cold.
Ok. Yes. I’ve had the typical I’m the best NFL quarterback in the world dream. I mean…it’s been a while. Forgive me, ok?
This one sounds like a nightmare, but it never really was. As a ghost, I wandered the world for hundreds of years after my death. I couldn’t touch or really affect anything. I figure I should’ve been lonely, but somehow I wasn’t. It was kinda interesting observing how humanity evolved. I only wish I could’ve remembered all the cool tech I dreamed up. 🙂
The last dream I remember having before my dreams stopped: walking through the rain on a forested mountainside. So very peaceful. If that was the last one I ever have, I’ll take it.