Writing Blurbs is Easy!

It’s a new year, and I’ve got a whole new crop of book blurbs. Some authors hate writing blurbs. As for me, I enjoy the process. Smashing a entire book into one or two sentences is the easiest part of my life. Much easier than say…writing the actual book.

Don’t dread the blurb. Far worse things in life exist.

I challenge all my writer friends to create blurbalicious articles like this one and share them with me.

And I hope readers will enjoy:

Reality is Best Served with Red Wine – A tipsy author drinks eleven different bottles of red wine while chatting about eleven different parts of his life.

Life & Dark Liquor – Still red-nosed from his wine, an author sips eleven cocktails while waxing philosophical about single fatherhood and his upbringing.

Lys & the Heart Stopper – An imprisoned young woman seizes her chance to escape a life of slavery. Her quest leads her directly into the clutches of the world’s most dangerous man.

101 Reasons to Break Up – Hundreds of strangers spill the beans on their deepest, darkest break-ups. Only the funniest and most bizarre make the cut.

101 MORE Reasons to Break Up – The break-ups get even more serious (and sometimes ridiculous) in this sequel from Splitsville.

Darkness Between the Stars – While gazing at the night sky, the world’s loneliest boy sees the stars begin to disappear.

Shadow of Forever – Obsessed with saving humanity from a horde of star-destroying vampires, an aging hero leaves his idyllic life behind.

 The Hecatomb – A ghoulish monster and its offspring stalk cities at night with the aim of killing every last human in the world.

The Skeleton Sculptor – A soldier watches his comrades disappear. One each night, every night, until only he remains.

The Circle Macabre – A young warrior chases her final prey into a sprawling medieval city. Armed with only her magical blade, she faces a centuries-old horror.

Big Shiny Red Buttons – The most absurd scenarios imaginable stacked between 100 pages.

101 Questions for Couples – Bubbly, light-hearted quizzes for couples new and established.

Hollow Empire Front Cover

 Hollow Empire – Night of Knives – After a plague wipes out most of a medieval nation’s population, five lost souls must survive the horrors that follow.

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Down the Dark Path – Book I – A young woman leaves home to make a better life for herself, only to wander into the heart of a horrific, world-consuming war.

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Old Man of Tessera – The lone survivor of a deadly storm finds the city of Tessera, in which nothing and no one are what they seem.

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101 Questions for Humanity – The original entry in the Coffee Table Philosophy series asks short, simple questions with aim of provoking thoughtful answers.

101 Questions for Midnight Front Cover

101 Questions for Midnight – The stakes are raised and the questions darker than ever in this fun, engaging ice-breaker book.

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Down the Dark Path – Book II – A woman follows her lover into a battle he can never hope to win.

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A Door Never Dreamed Of – In a distant Earth future, two young men on opposite sides of an apocalyptic war collide.

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Down the Dark Path – Book III – After invading and crushing his rival’s homeland, a war-crazed emperor sends his cruelest warlord to butcher the last of his enemies.

101 Questions for Women Cover

101 Questions for Women – Written with women in mind but accessible to everyone, 101 Questions for Women focuses on love, lust, and the breakdown of traditional gender roles.

101 Questions for Men Cover

101 Questions for Men – Geared for men, this entry in the Coffee Table Philosophy series asks questions about sex, relationships, and much more.

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Down the Dark Path – Book IV – As a world-ending conflict reaches its climax, a young woman must choose whether to join the winning side and become queen or sacrifice everything to betray her kidnappers.

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The Sleepers – A wealthy student in a far-distant future is tasked with destroying an alien world to save humanity.

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Let the Bodies – A little girl suffers alone while everyone in her city vanishes.

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101 Deeper, Darker Questions for Humanity – 101 dark questions to test your morality, challenge your ethics, and entertain your friends.

101 xxxy Questions Front Cover

101 Sex Questions – Lovers and laugh-seekers alike will find entertainment in this sexy sidekick to the Coffee Table Philosophy series.
  Dark Moon Daughter New Kindle CoverDark Moon Daughter – Young Andelusia Anderae is seduced by a messenger and convinced that her budding black magic is the key to saving thousands of lives.

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Nether Kingdom – At the world’s edge, a sorceress awakens to the terrible realization that she alone can stop an invasion of otherworldly horrors.

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444 Questions for the Universe – Meant to entertain for hours, 444 Questions is a grand compilation of serious yet fun questions.

The Little Book of BIG Questions – Science and morality collide in the ultimate conversation-starting book for smart people.

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101 Questions for Single People – In the modern world of swiping left and never looking back, 101 Questions for Single People asks readers about every facet of love, lust, and human romantic connection.

Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows – A leper dedicates his life to saving children, a woman accepts the rarest of all murder contracts, a girl suffers insanity in a space colony, a train-hopping duo crosses through dimensions, and much, much more…
*The Ultimate Get to Know Someone Quiz – A delightful crash course of fun questions to ask spouses, significant others, family, and friends.

* * *

There might be no better way to grab a reader’s attention than through a good blurb.

…and no easier way to lose it with a bad one.

See you on the flip side.

A while back I got mega sarcastic with a list of alternative movie blurbs.

And later I roasted myself in public by making fun of all my books.

J Edward Neill

5 Brutal Break Up Stories

Five Reasons to Break Up

True Life Tales of Splitsville


 

*

Fish are Friends, not Food

Our marriage basically ended because my wife tried to force our son to become vegan.

She wanted him to eat things like grilled portobello mushrooms and tofu steak. You try telling a six-year old he can’t have fish sticks.

Oh, and she totally ruined Taco Tuesdays.

– Jonathan

*

Up to her Elbow

I pretty much lost it when…during a night of hot sex, she balled her hand into a fist and said, “Look where I can put this!”

Some things, you just can’t un-see.

– Anonymous

*

Hotel Calipornia

She said she’d landed a role in a local student film. I told her I’d happily give her a ride to the set location, but she insisted she’d be fine.

It didn’t take long for me to figure out what was up.

Turns out the movie set was a hotel room.

And her co-stars were naked.

Just google ‘student porn’ on one of those sites and you’ll probably see her. She’s the one making annoying horsey sounds.

– Anonymous

Alms for the Poor

She kept giving away all our money to the homeless people in our neighborhood.

I can appreciate a little generosity, or even a lot. But she once gave a guy $300 just so he could buy drugs. Which meant we had to struggle for the next two weeks to buy food and gas…while some kid sat on a corner and did meth.

 I told her to go work in a soup kitchen or something. And then I left.

– Wrecker

*

Downward Dog

She dumped me because she said I wasn’t dedicated enough to yoga.

I couldn’t keep up with six days per week, two hours per day of planking in the company of hipsters and jobless housewives.

Also, the music they play at the yoga studio is awful New Age crap.

Now I’m sitting at a bar drinking beer with some guy who’s willing to put my story in his book.

I win.

– Anonymous


 

If you want to read nine more epic break-ups, go here.

For 101 more break-ups, get into this.

My Pencil Sketch Progression – 1994-2017

I used to draw. A lot. In high school, I fancied myself an amateur artist, and away I went, sketching girls, monsters, and fantasy settings.

My work was juvenile. Unpracticed. Untrained.

But still a lot of fun.

Most of these are drawings I doodled between 1994-1995. Mostly while in school…while I should’ve been studying. I still have the originals in my house.

A tower in the woods. I drew this one during a loooooooooong math class.

Knight on horse. I really could’ve used a better reference photo of the horse. I just kinda BS’d it.

Demon guy. 20 years later, he became the basis for the antagonist in my fantasy book series. Here, he just kinda sucks.

Every teenage boy likes to draw boobs, right? This drawing might’ve been competent had I not given her spheres instead of actual breasts.

Same girl. Different angle. I like the mug. And the knife.

He’s mildly ok. The background is pretty boring. His necklace should probably be beneath his sleeves…realistically speaking.

*

Fast forward 20 years…

After a long layoff, during which I played too many video games, airbrushed cheesy T shirts, and pretended to be an author, I started drawing again. But this time I tried to take things more seriously. I wasn’t just avoiding homework or ignoring math class. I began doodling as a passion, not just to pass the time.

I used grids to help me get back in the feel of drawing faces. For this girl, I almost left her as-is. She looks pretty intense, right?

 

Changed my mind. Finished her. Added some blue.

She probably needs a sandwich. But I like the feel of her pose. And the grass she’s sitting in.

Now look what you did. You pissed her off. Smooth move.

More grid work to help with her mouth and eyes. She’s the heroine in my fantasy novel series. You’d be serious, too…if you were in her shoes.

An intense warrior woman. For no reason other than I felt like it. Look at her shoulders. She’s pretty much ripped.

I decided to step things up and invest in a few quality tools. Charcoal sticks, high-quality pencils, blending tools, powdered graphite…

…and with the powdered graphite, I went nuts. This fearsome girl stands five feet tall on a giant canvas.

And now it’s time to step away from simply drawing faces. Full bodies. More expression. Abstract elements paired with realism. Also…no underwear.

*

Anyway…I hope you enjoyed this little sketch timeline. I’m trying to get a little better with each piece I create. And a little darker, too.

Love,

J Edward Neill

10 Things I Miss Most About Role-Playing

It’s no secret.

I can pretend to be a sports-loving, cave-dwelling, meat-eater.

But it wasn’t always so.

Once, long ago, I dwelled in the lands of swords & sorcery. At the tender age of eleven, my uncle passed along a set of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons books, and I was hooked.

Every dorky image you’ve seen of role-players on the internet…they were me. Every nerd stereotype, I conquered.

And no, I don’t care. I loved every second of my dice-rolling origin story.

Here’s the ten things I miss most about role-playing back in the day:

* * *

The Clatter of Dice on the Table

As a little kid, I thought dice were six-sided and used only by gamblers in the seediest corners of Vegas. Who knew they came in such a huge variety of shapes, sizes, and colors? My favorite set was sparkly green. And damn, that twenty-sided die rolled more 20’s than should’ve been legal. As a game master, I crushed many players’ dreams with my dice. Just ask Egg Embry, king of role-playing wanna-lancers.

*

Role-Playing for Days Without Stopping

When we played, we played. No tiny two-hour sessions for us. My little group of four would sometimes convene on a Saturday afternoon, head down to the basement, and emerge late Sunday night. No, we didn’t have girlfriends. Yes, we had more fun than everyone else on the planet. Sometimes, if my entire crew wasn’t available, I’d run a session with two guys, then head over to the third player’s house and game until the wee hours.

Pure. RPG. Heaven.

*

Creating Art for the Game

Some D&D players show up with the simple goal of advancing their character and hoarding treasure. Not our group. We created worlds, and we lived inside them. To aid the process, some of us created art to support our fantastical visions. Hell, I bought a giant art book and populated it entirely with drawings, sketches, and hand-painted maps. Did we take it too far? Nah. Instead of watching movies, we directed our own stories inside our minds.

The Underhollows – A painted scene from our campaign.

*

Eating Pizza & Drinking Mountain Dew

If I ate today like I ate back then, I’d be 300 lbs. Fortunately, the body of a fourteen-year old is resilient. We chugged gallons of carbonated sugar water and ate boxes upon boxes of Little Caesar’s pizza.

…and we didn’t gain a damn pound.

More importantly, the caffeine we imbibed fueled our bodies better than a thousand Haste potions. If we’d have had an IV, we could’ve stayed awake for weeks at a time, rolling dice and avoiding life beyond our basement.

*

Painting Miniatures

Nowadays, my young son plays with the remnants of what was once a mighty lead-pewter army. He doesn’t know about the hundreds of hours involved in painting and perfecting thousands of his tiny miniature monsters. He doesn’t really care.

Honestly, we didn’t really need the miniatures to play our style of game. Most of the fun lived in the actual painting. It’s not like video games, in which everything is programmed for you. When you take the time to add color and life to your very own miniature character, it becomes something sacred.

And ‘effing badass.

*

Creating New Worlds

The guys (and gals) who participated in my campaign won’t ever know the work I put in behind the scenes. I didn’t just design simple treasure hauls. I invented a universe, and I loved every minute of it.

I probably should’ve been studying for school.

Nah.

In folders ancient and dusty, I have hundreds of maps, sketches, character drawings, stories, and massive overarching plot outlines. I planned our game sessions well in advance, carefully constructing multiple scenarios to accommodate whatever crazy choices the players might make.

Some of those sketches and outlines, I turned into fantasy novels later in life. Others remain in hiding, likely never to see daylight again.

Sniffle…

*

Drawing Dungeon Maps

Along with world-creation came the fun (though often tedious) job of mapping out dungeons.

Take a left turn, fall into a pit of spikes.

Go straight, fight a pack of bloodthirsty Necrophages.

Head down the stairs, prepare to meet your doom.

Armed with reams of graph paper and a knack for being cruel to my players, I designed dozens of dungeons. Some were simple. Others were bottomless. Several were never traversed, and still lie hidden, chock full of gold (and death.)

Think this is complex? You ain’t seen nuthin’, rookie.

*

Seeing the Joy on Players’ Faces

For as insidious as I tried to be, I genuinely wanted my fellow gamers to succeed. After all, I’d laid the trappings of an epic world, and if the players’ characters died, they’d never have the chance to explore it.

They’ll never know it, but I loved it when they outsmarted me.

And when they reached the end of a plotline, it felt like we finished one movie in a thrilling series.

Only…instead of having to wait a year for the next installment to arrive, we simply kept playing.

It’s like leveling up in a video game, only a million times more euphoric.

*

Creating New Characters

In our deep, dark basement (or my dad’s musty living room) I sometimes wonder how many new characters we made. For us, making a new character wasn’t just writing statistics down on a sheet of paper; it was more about inventing a new persona. If the idea behind role-playing is to escape our mundane reality for a while, then there’s no greater method than to step into the mind of someone else.

Elves. Dwarves. Cantankerous old wizards. Midget lizard-folk clerics. Whatever floats your boat.

We played ’em all. Some died. Some lived. Some went down in infamy.

But all will be remembered.

*

Storytelling

Ultimately, gaming (at least the way we did it) isn’t about rolling dice, collecting treasure, or slaughtering goblins. It’s about creating a living world, not unlike a book, into which one can wander for days on end.

For the players, it’s all about exploration. Discovery. Advancement.

For me, it’s about telling a story. And not just a lonely, beginning-to-end tale, but a flexible, ever-changing universe.

Like the butterfly effect, one motion by one player can change everything.

Sigh…

I only wish we could’ve finished the story. We stopped well before arriving at the end. It’s probably my fault for being long-winded.

Oh well.

If reincarnation exists, I’m coming back as a fourteen-year old dungeon master.

With a shitload of Mountain Dew.

*

If you like role-playing inspired stories, go here.

If you like cheesy RPG art, try this.

J Edward Neill

Deep Dark Cover Art – The Hecatomb

Hecatomb – ‘heka’tom/ (noun) – An extensive loss of life for some cause.

or…

The name of my terrifying novella.

In a drowned village, on a dark shore, in a city of white stones, an ancient evil stalks.
It has no name, no face, and no desire but to see the death of everything…
…and everyone.
Down through the ages it exists, sleepless and void, a relic from the world before humanity.
One dead. Every night. Forever.
Until nothing remains.

J Edward Neill

All Hallows Eve Book Sale

Happy All Hallows Eve!

You’re here, which means you have the chance to unearth a ton of great books.

Several are free. Many others are only $0.99.

I’ve got fantasy, horror, sci-fi, philosophy, and even a pair of alcohol-fueled memoirs.

Crawl through the graveyard and go here here to view my entire catalog, including everything I’ve slashed for this one-day event.

To get a feel for what I’m offering, peruse some of my cover art below.

As always, I appreciate your Amazon reviews.

dark_moon_daughter-initialcoverjuptereventcrop1cover101-qs-for-the-end-of-the-world-front-cover101-questions-for-humanity101-questions-for-midnight-front-cover101-questions-for-single-people-front101-questions-for-women-cover101-xxxy-questions-front-coverletthebodies_kindlenether-kingdom-createspace-bright-coversleepersimageforbloggingsoul-orb-new-ddp-cover-second-trythe-circle-macabre-covermachina-obscurumthe-ultimate-quiz

Find me in these great locations: Facebook TwitterTheA Ur Hand G

Catch you later,

J Edward Neill

Savage Hearts – A Paranormal Romance Anthology

 

 

 

 

Savage Hearts:
A Paranormal Romance Anthology


Release: 10/31/17

Genre: Adult, Paranormal Romance, Anthology, Collection, 
Publisher: Satin & Stone Publications, LLC.
Cover Artist: Dark City Designs

Blurb
Dracula, Quasimodo, Dr. Jekyll…they are the monsters that stalk your nightmares. Haunting the pages of books for centuries, they are the embodiment of all that emerges from the shadows when you close your eyes. They are the deformed, the hated and the incomprehensible, fated to walk in the darkness alone forever.
 
Or are they?
 
From twelve amazing authors come twelve new tales, stories that go beyond the blighted surface to see into the heart of the beast. They are stories of acceptance and redemption, love and passion… and chance encounters that forge the love of a lifetime.
Stop running. Stop hiding. See past the monster. Look into the face of fear and you might just find the soul of a man.
10/1 Pre-Order Price ONLY $3.99!!
HELP US BRING LOVE TO SCARY PLACES

 

 THE STORIES:



“Sanctuary” by Harper L. Jameson  Inside the hallowed bell tower of Our Lady, a monster was hidden by the righteous meant to protect him. Seeking help from the almighty against the furor of a crazed priest, Esmerelda found more than a monster inside the church…she found salvation.



“Bander Snatch” by David Michael Charlie has a secret – a centuries old secret – which has forced him into a life of solitude and lonliness. In order to rid himself of his curse, he has to give up the first piece of normal he’s ever had. Will the Jabberwock win again?



“Beyond the Shallows” by Kristy Nicolle  When English beauty and avid poetry lover Ophelia is holidaying with her two sisters in 19th Century Blackpool, she finds herself unmistakably called to the water. Will she flee in horror at what lies beneath the waves, or can she learn to look beyond the shallows?



“He Calls” by Alice K. Wayne 
When the Master of the new world summons you, will you surrender your body to Cthulu’s call, or choose to be fractured by madness?


“Yielding to Temptation” by Jess Raven Skyla had one job. Get in, get the prize, get out. The house had other ideas. When she finds herself trapped with too many secrets and a man who claims the impossible, can she stay strong enough to fight the darkness for a man who captivates her, or will she become prey to the Portrait of Dorian Gray?



“Holding the Devil” by Stephanie Farrant Hell isn’t a game. A night of passion and a promise of her heart’s desire seems too good to be true for Evelyn Church. The price is high and the road dark. But can she trust the devil? 



“Hyde and Seek” by Katie H. Weill Gabriel John Utterson is drowning in law school debt, so when a lucrative employment opportunity as a guard for a handful of mental health patients presents itself he accepts, and commits himself under the hands of Dr. Jekyll. But who is Ms. Hyde?



“Behemoth” by D.M. Earl Trying to find that rare woman to share his heart with, Francis
N. Stein- Aka Stitch – struggles to live detached, battling his honorable and dark
sides.  His ‘special powers’ further complicate his ability to exist in society, searching for something he has never thought possible- a kindred spirit.



“Night Music” by Desiree King On a fateful night, a young songstress finds herself in the wrong place at the worst time. A shadowy figure seems to fall from the darkness to save her, but who is actually the monster?



“Wickedly Ever After” by Stephanie Ingram 
Somewhere over the rainbow, good and evil struggle for power. But in a
land of magical possibility, can the wicked get a happy ending?

 

“Immortal Devotion” by Lou Tenn The Father of Vampires has lived in solitude, believing that she didn’t exist. After she finally made an appearance, her family business proves to complicate things.


“Loving the Hound” by Mila Waters When death comes, so does he. He’s the hound, the messenger no one wishes to see. But when Emmaline ‘sees’ past the omens, he’s given the chance at something he’s never known before.



www.satinandstone.com

 

My Daily Struggle With Not Giving a F**k

Nothing matters.

Nothing at all.

Don’t agree?

I’ll explain:

Objectively speaking, our universe is infinite. Our solar system, huge as it might appear, is no more than a tiny pinprick in the fabric of our galaxy. And our galaxy, as absurdly vast as it seems, is just a small puff of gas and dust in an ever-expanding cosmos.

How’s the saying go?

You’re a ghost driving a meat-covered skeleton made of stardust, riding a rock, hurtling through space.’

*

And the other saying? The one by Carl Sagan?

‘The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot.’  – Carl Sagan – Pale Blue Dot, 1994

What does this mean? Well… It means the sum of humanity’s value to the universe is nil. And the sum of an individual human – I scarcely want to mention it for fear of insulting everyone. We’re small. Really small. To call us grains of sand on an immeasurably huge beach is unfair to grains of sand everywhere. We’re tinier than that.

We’re meaningless.

I’ll say it one more time so you know I’m not kidding.

We have no objective value. None. Nada. Zilch.

See that tiny speck in the middle right of this Voyager 1 photo? That’s Earth.

*

Should our smallness bother you?

No. Not really. Go about your life. Have fun. It’ll all work out in the end.

Does it bother me?

Yeah. A bit.

Before we go any further, let’s define something:

ni·hil·ism (ˈnīəˌlizəm,ˈnēəˌlizəm/)

  1. The rejection of all religious and moral principles, often in the belief that life is meaningless.
    synonyms: skepticism, negativity, cynicism, pessimism

Pretty hard to stomach, right?

And yet here I am.

Anymore, waging war against my instinctive nihilism is my life’s defining challenge. I know I’m not alone in this, but I do tend to focus on it perhaps more than the average person. As I grow older and my comfort level with having no meaning deepens, I feel an increasing urge to escape this world. And no, I don’t mean die. What I’m looking for is an escape from society. From people. From places. From things.

But I’ve got two complications. And therein lies the struggle.

Complication 1.  I enjoy this life despite its meaninglessness. When I’m able to forget my smallness (or at least set it aside) life tends to be fun. And while I realize not everyone is as lucky as I am to enjoy life, it feels pointless to carry any semblance of guilt.

Complication 2.  We’ll get to this one later…

Life is fun. Until it’s not. The exhaustive circle in which I’m spinning is often tolerable…except when society’s weight comes crashing down upon me. As an author and artist who makes his living with books and paintings, I’m obligated to have a presence in the world. I have a Twitter feed. A Facebook page. An Instagram profile. And although I pour my daily passion into maintaining these things, they aren’t me. They’re not real. They’re smaller than I’ll ever be, and I’m pretty tiny. They’re more meaningless than everything else, even though that’s impossible.

And when I stare out into the world, whether through the internet’s lens or with my own two eyes, my struggle deepens. I see the world we’ve created and I find it hard to feel this thing people call ‘hope.’ I suffer an existential ache – a deep, dark sense of ‘Why am I doing this? What do I hope to accomplish in this place?’

The politics. The wars. The murder. The rape. The ideologies. The people who talk as if they know many things…

I can’t stomach them.

Pop stars. The next big TV show. GIFs. Selfies. Hashtags. Political correctness. The latest, greatest iPhone…

I can’t make myself care.

Memes are stupid. And yet…

*

And so it goes. There’s nothing I can do to stop these things. I can no more slow society’s never-ending march than I can leap across the galaxy and settle alone on a planet far from Earth.

I’m powerless.

We all are.

Sometimes, our powerlessness isn’t evident. Lacking meaning, humanity invents things to amuse ourselves, to distract us from our insignificance. We’ve constructed pantheons of culture for the sole purpose of entertaining ourselves. We’ve unearthed every possible form of distraction, to which we flock the moment our daily work of survival is done. And, speaking of survival (which might once have been the truest form of human meaning) most of us really don’t struggle to survive anymore. We’re harder to kill than ever. We’re seven-billion and spreading. We’re able to grow older than ever before, all the while coming no closer to knowing our purpose in this universe.

Which might be a blessing.

…considering no purpose exists.

But for all my talk, for all my desire to wander off onto some far and quiet beach in the middle of nowhere, there’s a reason I can’t. I call it complication number 2, even though it’s not a complication at all.

It’s my son, the G Man.

He’s six now, and he doesn’t know much about this crap-stew we call life. For as long as I can, I’ll keep it that way. I’ll let him savor his childhood. He’ll see none of my cynicism. He’ll not hear me talk about about grains of sand, pale blue dots, or the hopelessness of choosing one side (of anything) against another. He gets to make up his own mind about these things. To indoctrinate him to my thought process would be to kill a part of his individuality.

I won’t do it.

And yes, I realize the hypocrisy.

I guess I’m not a ‘true’ nihilist. Or any ‘ist’ for that matter.

*

In the beginning of this article, I talked about humanity’s insignificance. Yes, it’s true. We’re insignificant, all of us. It’s not a belief. It’s reality, and there’s no going around it. And yet I can’t help myself. When it comes to my child, I don’t want to punish him by teaching him the brutal truth. If he learns it on his own (and he likely will one day) it’s ok. But I won’t be a mentor in this regard. I’ll allow him to invent his own meaning, just as many other billions of people do on a daily basis. If he wants to be religious, so be it. If he wants to dance with the rest of society and listen to Justin Bieber albums all day, ok. I’ll not try to stop him.

In doing so, in playing the part of unbiased, open-minded dad, I’ll struggle. I’ll toe the line between not giving a f**k and teaching my son to genuinely care about the world he lives in. It won’t exactly be pretending. I do care. And I do think the world can be a wonderful place. But at the same time, I’m acutely aware of ‘pale blue dot’ syndrome. We’re small. We’re pointless. The only reason my son has meaning to me is because I decided it would be so.

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If there’s one thing I hope, it’s that my kid won’t be like me. Not that I’m miserable or full of horrid judgments for humanity – I’m not. But I’d like him to be free of burdens, free to decide what’s meaningful for himself. I want him to give a f**k. And truly, I hope this for all humanity. If for no other reason than life hurts more when we become aware there’s no prize at the end of the game, I hope my son gives as many f**ks as possible.

This is where I’m at. Stuck in the grey space between ‘aware of my meaninglessness’ and ‘willing to pretend meaning so my kid doesn’t become exactly like me.’ It’s an interesting place to be. I get to care, but not care. I get to glimpse hope through the eyes of another, and sometimes pretend his hope is my own.

There’s no meaning but what we make for ourselves.

And maybe that’s enough.

For now.

J Edward

Thursday Art Assault – Wood Panel Warfare

At DragonCon 2017, I wandered the art gallery for what seemed like eons.

I encountered stunning fantasy art of all kinds. I found light, darkness, and everything in-between.

But then I stumbled upon something I’d never really seen before. An artist – I admit I don’t know her name or website – had created a large quantity of long, narrow paintings on slender wooden panels.

For me, a guy who has always focused his work on canvasses, gesso boards, and plain old paper, the idea of painting on peculiar-sized chunks of wood transfixed me.

I knew at once I had to try a few of my own:

I started with these:

Pieces of an old picket fence. About 20″ long – 4″ wide. Cut, dried, and sanded to a smooth finish.

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And I moved on to these:

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Here’s an up close shot of my favorite plank, The Sorcerer:

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After finishing a ton of smaller planks, I tried a giant plank. This one’s 6′ tall and 12″ wide. It was a true pleasure to paint:

Started with this…

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…and finished with this.

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I admit I loved making these so much, I’ve got another six planks drying on my deck right now. Meaning…more are soon to come.

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Want to learn more? Hit me up on Facebook, Twitter, or via email.

And…you might also like these.

J Edward Neill

Painter of shadows

10 Simple Ways to Spot a Fake Amazon Review

 

10 Simple Ways To Spot A Fake Amazon Review

John Hawthorne

Let me paint a hypothetical (or perhaps very real) scenario.

You want to purchase something on Amazon. You’re excited about this purchase. It’s a new [insert that thing you’ve been dying to get]. You’ve set aside some cash over the past month and are pumped to finally be able to buy.

You go on Amazon and begin researching the different options. You read reviews on each product and find one that seems perfect. It’s got thousands of positive, glowing, over the top reviews.You click “Buy” and eagerly await for your happiness to be delivered.

When your package arrives, you rip it open with the fervor of a kid on Christmas.

It looks right. It feels right.

But there’s one problem.

It’s a terrible product. It breaks quickly. Or it’s poorly constructed. Or it’s just not the same as portrayed in the pictures.

So what gives? What about all those amazing reviews? You trusted those!

Unfortunately, it’s quite possible that they were fake. Yes, in an effort to boost sales, some Amazon sellers will either purchase reviews or offer free products in exchange for an “honest” review. As you can imagine, this deeply skews the rating system on Amazon.

Fortunately for you, Amazon is beginning to take steps to crack down on and even remove fake reviews.

But until all those fake reviews are gone, you need to know how to spot a fake.

Here are 10 ways to spot a false review on Amazon.

 

#1 – There Are Numerous Reviews Within A Short Time

 

Amazon Shipping
Typically, it takes quite a while for a product to organically accumulate reviews. After all, only a small number of customers will actually review the product, which means that it should take a number of months for it to build up a significant base of reviews.

If there are flood of reviews (particularly positive ones) within a very short time, it’s a good sign that those are not legitimate reviews.

 

#2 – They All Contain Similar Photos

 

If most of the reviews contain similar photos, they’re probably fake. It’s likely that the company asked the reviewers to post a particular type of photo that will best highlight the product.

For example, if you’re looking at an essential oil diffuser and all the photos show it on an end table, that should raise a red flag.

 

#3 – You Can’t Find The Company Website

 

Fulfillment by Amazon Asia
If you can’t find a legitimate company behind the product, a warning bell should go off in your head. That may not mean it’s not a legit company, but it should at least push you to do further research.

If they don’t have a website, it probably means that they’re only selling on Amazon. For all you know, it could be a guy shipping these products out of his basement. If that’s the case, it would be surprising if his product had thousands of positive reviews.

If a product has a reputable company behind it, you can know that you have recourse if something goes wrong with the product. You don’t have this assurance if you can’t even find a company website.

 

#4 – All The Reviews Use Similar Wording

 

What are the odds of every reviewer saying something like, “This is a great product and I am definitely buying a lot more?” Pretty small, right? You would expect there to be a variety of descriptions within the reviews.

If you notice that all the reviews have a similar flavor, it may be an indicator that the company asked reviewers to use a particular type of language.

 

#5 – A High Percentage Of The Reviews Are 5 Star

 

rating ecommerce sellers reviews
If almost all the reviews are 5 star, you should at least pause. The product may legitimately be of the highest quality, but this may also indicate that they’re fakes. In any normal product, you expect to see a mix high and mid quality reviews. If you don’t find any middle of the road reviews, this should raise a red flag.

After all, with any product, no matter how good, there will be issues. This should come out at least somewhere in the reviews.

 

#6 – The Reviews Are All Vague

 

A fair number of the reviews should contain language that is specific to the product, whether that’s how it functions in particular circumstances or the durability. There should be some reviews that are highly technical in nature, left by the type of people who really enjoy getting into the specifications of a product. There should also be reviews that tell how people are using the products.

If most of the reviews contain vague, unclear language, it may be a signal that they’re not legitimate.

 

#7 – The Reviewer Uses the Same Review Language Repeatedly

 

amazon review system changed
When you click on a person’s username, you can actually see all of the reviews they’ve ever left on Amazon. If they’ve left an unusually high number of reviews containing the same or similar language, there’s a good chance that their reviews are being compensated in some way.

A genuine reviewer will leave thoughtful, detailed reviews about the different ways that they’re using the products. A fake reviewer will essentially copy and paste their language across multiple reviews.

 

#8 – The Review Is Not A “Verified Purchase”

 

If a customer purchased the product directly from Amazon, it will say “Verified Purchase” under the headline. This means that they didn’t purchase it from the store or some other site and then come review it on Amazon.

If the review isn’t verified, you should probably discount it. You have no way of knowing whether it’s true, and there’s a good chance that it’s false.

 

#9 – The Review Is 5 Stars And Really Short

 

If a review is one sentence long and 5 stars, it offers very little value and may be fake. A true 5 star review should contain some detail as to what makes that product worth buying. Whether that’s the durability of the product or the many uses it has, one sentence simply doesn’t cut it.

 

#10 – Odd Language Is Used

 

amazon review sample
If a product is being sold in the United States for $13 and a reviewer uses the phrase “13.00 USD”, it should be a red flag. A native english speaker would never use that type of language and it may indicate that the seller is buying reviews.

 

How To Spot Biased Reviews

 

defending against bogus reviews
You will encounter many reviews that aren’t exactly fake, but are highly biased. Fortunately, these can be spotted as well. Here are some simple ways to do that.

Disregard Highly Positive or Negative Reviews On Controversial Products

 

Some products, particularly books, are going to be controversial. If you see a glowing 5 star or vitriolic 1 star on a controversial product, it’s sign that it was written by a biased reviewer.

Disregard Reviews Not Related To The Product

 

Unfortunately, many reviews aren’t tied at all to the product. For example, a customer may have misunderstood what he was buying, gotten angry, and left a negative review in retaliation. Or a product may have been delivered late, which can be just as much the fault of the postal service.

Any review that’s not tied directly to the product can be disregarded.

 

Scrutinize “Vine” Reviews

 

Amazon has what they call the “Vine” program, which provides free products to top reviewers. There is nothing unethical about this, but the simple truth is that any time someone gets something for free, it will bias their review.

At a minimum, you should read some of that person’s other reviews to get a feel for their free product bias.

 

A Safe Rule Of Thumb

 

Generally speaking, you should do several things when looking at products.

  • Look at the overall balance of reviews. The best product should have a healthy mix of 5 and 4 star reviews, with some three stars thrown in. Make sure to read the worst reviews to determine why they rated so poorly.
  • Read reputable review websites like Consumer Reports, Wirecutter, and PC Mag.
  • Watch reviews on YouTube. This can give you a visual feel for what your product will look like and feel like. You can also get some honest reviews.

 

Conclusion

You’ll never be able to fully avoid fake and biased reviews, but if you do some due diligence you can spare yourself a lot of pain.

Yes, it may take some time, which can be difficult if you’re really wanting to get your product, but it’s worth it. The last thing you want to happen is to waste your money on a terrible product.

 

This article is an authorized mirror of John Hawthorne’s original Floship article.

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More Amazon Tips and Shipping:

How Amazon Floats All That Prime Free Shipping

Amazon and the Future Of Drone Delivery

How to Find an Exceptional Online Order Fulfillment Center

How to Source and Sell Products from China Online

My top 5 brands of scotch

On a rainy winter’s eve in the heart of Atlanta, someone slid a glass of scotch my way.

Single ice cube. Short glass. Bright amber color.

I sipped once.

I sipped twice.

And I fell in love.

Since that night, I’ve made it my mission to find delicious, affordable scotches wherever I go.

These are my top five brands (and bottles within each brand.)


Balvenie

In the shadow of Balvenie Castle, Dufftown, Scotland, the finest scotch-makers in the world distill casks of liquid sunshine.

With bright, bold flavors in a wide variety of prices, Balvenie is great for both entry-level scotch sippers and seasoned scotch lovers.

My first sip of scotch ever was a glass of Doublewood 17, possessed of a particularly dark & bold flavor. Since then, I’ve been lucky enough to try almost every Balvenie (save the elusive 50-year, of which I’d kill to claim a bottle.) I’ve yet to find one I don’t enjoy.

Favorite cask – Balvenie 21 Portwood – equal parts dark and delicious.

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Aberlour

A friend and fellow scotch lover offhandedly mentioned his experience with a bottle of Aberlour 15 Select Cask Reserve (shown above.)

I bought the very same bottle that very night, and now I’m hooked. Aberlour’s a somewhat smoother, slightly less colorful scotch than Balvenie, but no less amazing. I prefer it when grilling red meat, noshing on a fine dessert, or closing out evenings on the back deck.

For a bargain, Aberlour 12 will serve your palate right.

To step it up a notch, try my personal favorite, Aberlour 16. Can’t beat the bourbon and sherry dual-cask flavor.

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Glenlivet

Probably the single finest bottle of scotch I’ve ever had the pleasure to taste – Glenlivet XXV (25y)  It’s pretty much like drinking sunshine. I recommend it to everyone…even people who don’t normally like scotch.

So there’s that…

Most full-bar restaurants in Atlanta (and elsewhere) carry Glenlivet 12. If I’m you, I stay clear of the 12; it’s unnecessarily sharp. However, all the other casks are worthwhile.

My favorite, other than the XXV (which will set you back a pretty penny) is the Archive 21. It’s so rich you’ll think you’re drinking a glass of sunshine-flavored syrup. Aunt Jemima wishes she were this delicious.

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Glenmorangie

Glenmorangie translates roughly into the Gaelic term ‘Vale of Tranquility.’ More like ‘Vale of Big Flavor,’ leastways to me. Few scotches are as bright, sharp, and bold as the Glenmorangie family.

Nectar D’Or, Glen’s 12-year offering, is an excellent introductory scotch. It’s reasonably priced with a crisp, bold flavor easily blowing away the standard American whiskeys of the world. Eat your heart out, Jack Daniels, Jim Beam, and all the rest. Glenmorangie has your number.

They say alcohol (in one form or another) has been produced in Tain (hometown of Glenmorangie’s distillery) since the early 1700’s. Makes sense to me. The stuff’s got the taste of something I’d gladly drink for 300 years.

My favorite is definitely the aforementioned Nectar D’Or. Grab a bottle tonight…and spend some time in Heaven.

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Dalmore

I’m new to the Dalmore experience, so I can’t claim a range of knowledge about every last one of their casks.

For starters, check out their interesting backstory, which explains the stag appearing on every Dalmore bottle.

At least for the bottles I’ve sampled, I’ve found Dalmore to be smokier than other brands. It’s a flavor that might deter new scotch drinkers, but one that appeals to me for its uniqueness. It’s best sipped after a glass of fresh water, and probably separate from meals – so as to best appreciate its spicy, smoky punch to the palate.

My favorite thus far – Dalmore 15. The subtle hints of orange compliment the smoky sherry flavor rather well.

Try it.

Try them all.

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If you’re thirsty and want to read more of my scotch adventures, go here.

If you’re more of a wine-lover, try this.

J Edward Neill – Artist and scotch aficionado

Thursday Art Assault – Sketching Pretty Girls

We’ve recently ended our long-standing Thought for Every Thursday series.

It may one day make its return.

But for now, please enjoy the latest installation of  Thursday Art Assault

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For my latest round of short stories, I’ve decided to sketch my own cover art.

It’s a challenge.

…and I love it.

This next piece is a sequel to this.

Here’s a quick progression:

Nadya – or at least half of her. I started with strictly pencils, sketching her face on a huge sheet of watercolor paper. Surprise, surprise….watercolor paper is excellent media for fine pencil sketches, especially realistic pieces.

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I used a blend of charcoal, graphite, and dark pencil lead to deepen Nadya’s eyes and hair. Here’s my arsenal….

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Nadya, the Deathless is a character in the novel Hollow Empire.

Thanks for stopping by. More paintings are soon to come.

Prints are available here.

For art inquiries, hit me up on Facebook, Twitter, or via email.

If you like Nadya, you might also like these.

J Edward Neill

Painter of shadows

Power Rankings – The Top 10 Most Powerful Fantasy Characters Ever

Hey…

I know…

Let’s count down the top 10 fantasy characters of all time.

Each of the following fantastical characters appears in a popular fantasy book, movie, or video game.

Some are modern. Others are old school. I’ll rank each from 1-10 in terms of their power.

A few rules:

  • Each character is a headliner – central to the book, movie, or game in which they appear. In other words, no background characters. Sidekicks are up for consideration (as long as they’re well-described.)
  • No one too obscure, meaning we’re not gonna pull up some random side-god from Final Fantasy 700
  • Humanoids only. No dragons, Cthulu-esque monsters, or Moby Dicks. Two legs and two arms are required (even if illusory) to play this game
  • Lastly, I didn’t include characters appearing primarily in comic books or cartoons…because…well…I simply don’t know enough about ’em. Also, since comic book characters are typically made to be over-powered, it feels like cheating. We’ll avoid them…with one exception.

Feel free to argue the results in the comments section.

Let’s get started…


Top 10 Most Powerful Fantasy Characters

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# 10 

Raistlin Majere (Dragonlance)

Raistlin Majere by AkiraNao

Coming in at number ten, we have the proud and dangerous wizard from the Dragonlance novel series. Raistlin starts out as a good guy (mostly) but after his test at the Tower of High Sorcery, he becomes something else. With his eyes, he sees the effect of time on all things (powerful indeed.) Ultimately, his powers grow such that he’s able to do battle with the gods themselves.

Not bad for a woodcutter’s son.

Also considered for this spot – Maleficent (Sleeping Beauty)

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# 9 

Randall Flagg (Various Stephen King novels)

Randall Flagg by Michael Whelan

*He’s understated. He looks like your average Joe (sometimes.) And he wears many, many faces – Marten Broadcloak & Walter o’Dim, to name a few. As a demon, a sorcerer, and an infamous man of malice, the seemingly unstoppable R.F. moves throughout time and dimensions with bad, bad things on his mind.

Did he kill Pres. Kennedy? Will he eventually kill everyone? Who knows?

I wonder who’d win in a fight between R.F. and Raistlin Majere. Hmmmm…

Also considered for this spot – Moiraine Damodred (Wheel of Time series) and/or Yennefer of Vengerberg (The Witcher video game/novel series)

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# 8 

Doom Guy (Doom video game series)

But…he’s just a guy, right?

Wrong.

He’s a demon-slaughtering, Hell-smashing demi-god resurrected for the sole purpose of saving humanity from incineration. In the latest Doom iteration, we learn Doom Guy hails from an ancient order of Martian soldiers responsible for one task and one task alone:

Kill. Demons.

If you’re surprised he’s earned 8th place, don’t be. I’m not sure there’s a wizard alive whose magic could stop a BFG to the face.

Or a chainsaw wielded by Doom Guy with a Berserk power-up.

🙂

Also considered for this spot – Kratos (God of War) and Darth Vader (Star Wars)

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# 7

The Night’s King (Game of Thrones (novels and TV series)

He’s the ultimate necromancer.

He raises armies of wights with a flick of his fingers.

He slays dragons. He walks through fire. He turns babies into White Walkers. He orchestrates the invasion of all Seven Kingdoms.

Do NOT F with the Night King.

Also considered for this spot – Jadis the White Witch (Chronicles of Narnia) and/or Emperor Palpatine (Star Wars)

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# 6

Ganondorf (The Legend of Zelda)

Perhaps most compelling about good old Ganon is that he keeps coming back.

No matter how many times Link rises up to banish or destroy him, the ‘Dorf finds his way into Hyrule. And by virtue of claiming the Triforce, he has far more power than many of his contemporaries.

He’s sometimes a great beast. He’s often a powerful wizard. Even now and then, he’s a living, breathing cataclysmic presence in the sky.

And he edges out the Night’s King due to having already conquered his kingdom of choice…several times.

Even though he always seems to lose it in the end.

Also considered for this spot – Dracula (Bram Stoker’s novel)

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# 5

Gandalf the White (Lord of the Rings & The Hobbit)

He once slapped a Balrog of Morgoth off a mountain.

He defeated his own boss and plotted the downfall of Middle Earth’s primary nemesis, Sauron.

And he smokes a mean pipe.

Often cantankerous, sometimes downright mean, Gandalf might seem human, and yet he’s anything but. His powers are largely un-catalogued, but so obviously formidable. Sometimes, true power isn’t just lobbing fireballs and blasting lightning bolts. It’s all in the intellect, of which Gandalf has more than most.

Also considered for this spot – Albus Dumbledore and/or Voldemort (Harry Potter series)

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# 4

Pennywise  (Various Stephen King novels, also the movie, It)

Now we’re getting somewhere.

You might think of Pennywise as just a serial-killing clown. But It’s much, much more. As a Lovecraftian horror from beyond all normal dimensions, It’s come to Earth to consume as much humanity as It can.

It thrives on fear. It can shape-change. It can move about almost at will. By virtue of Its eternal nature and Its bizarre, otherworldly powers, It beats out earthbound characters. It’s possible some of the others might defeat It in one-on-one combat, but It’d probably just self-resurrect in the Macroverse and find some other food source to fill IT’s belly.

Yum.

Also considered for this spot – Lord Haliax of the Chandrian (The Kingkiller Chronicle)

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# 3 & 2

Superman & Wonder Woman (Movie versions)

 

Yeah. I know what I said. Comic book characters are generally only special because of their bloated superpowers…blah blah blah.

But since these two are mainstream and they’ve been in a few movies, they’re fair game.

Let’s talk Superman first.

His powers (at least in the movies) are absurd. He can seemingly take limitless punishment, as long as the ones dealing out the punishment don’t use Kryptonite. He flies. He lifts impossible weights. He shoots fire from his eyes. He can breathe in outer space. No elements appear to affect him. Maybe some of the aforementioned wizards would know of a way to stop him.

But I don’t. And so he takes spot #2 on the list.

As for Wonder Woman…well…

She’s a master of hand-to-hand combat. And that’s all well and good.

But she’s also decked out in a full array of divine gear. Without it, she’d lose a fight to pretty much anyone else on this list. But with it…she’s damn near unstoppable.

Her sword can cut atomic particles. Her bracelets are completely invincible. Her lasso makes everyone else tell the truth, which is extremely powerful if you think about it.

Other characters, even the magic-wielding ones, would be hard-pressed to stop her. I’m not sure whether she’s #2 and Superman’s #3, or vice versa.

And I’m not sure it matters.

Also considered for this spot – No one in particular

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# 1

Morgoth (The Silmarillion)

Morgoth holding the Silmarils – Ron Foerster

Most powerful of the Ainur, Morgoth (or Melker, as he was once known) was the tyrant of Middle Earth long before little Sauron came to power.

His powers were many:

Shape-changing. Orc-breeding. Dragon-ruling. World-creating (and destroying.)

Tolkien describes him as having more power than all his brethren (the Valar) combined. If he hadn’t spread his power so wide in his quest for dominion, he might’ve ruled Middle Earth until the end of all days.

Alas…in his arrogance…

Also considered for this spot – Lucifer (Paradise Lost)

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Notable mentions:

Darkness (Legend) – He can permanently end the sun’s reign. He can summon fire, twist the desires of mortals, and command various evil entities to do his bidding. His one problem: he couldn’t defeat Tom Cruise in a one-on-one duel. Also, he fell in love with Mia Sara (as did we all.) Shame on you, Darkness. You almost made the list.

Sauron (Lord of the Rings) – Ah, Sauron. You would’ve made the list if not for your boss (Morgoth) and the fact that you tied up too much of your power in a tiny little ring. Do better next time.

Intentionally left out:

Queen Bavmorda (Willow) – She’s an (almost) all powerful witch. She once turned an entire army into harmless pigs. She commands a mighty army of ruthless, skullmask-wearing warriors. But…and it’s a big but…she loses her final battle to a ‘peck,’ accidentally exiling herself to the nether world while fighting lil’ Willow. Step up your game, Bavmorda.

The Wicked Witch of the West (The Wizard of Oz) – You died. To a little girl. With a bucket of water. Don’t they make magic spells to stop that sort of thing from happening? Must’ve sucked never being able to go outside in the rain.


If you like powerful characters, formidable wizards, and impossible-to-kill monsters, try some of these.

Until next time.

J Edward

An ordinary guy’s movie review of Blade Runner 2049

Disclaimer: This review contains no spoilers. It does contain minor plot elements and thematic discussions.

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I’m fresh off a viewing of Blade Runner 2049.

And I’m buzzing.

Director Denis Villenueve’s latest film tackles the not-so-easy task of reviving one of the more classic cult films of the early 80’s – the original Blade Runner. And boy, does he do it in style. For those not familiar with the bleak, mega-dystopian feel of the first film, Blade Runner 2049 recaptures it…and it does so in grand fashion.

Ever present rain drips from a never-sunny sky.

No birds. No leaves. No softness.

Just hard angles, harder hearts, and possibly the most brooding atmosphere since…well…pretty much ever.

Blade Runner 2049 isn’t a remake, in case you wondered. It’s a sequel, occurring decades (in movie time and real time) after the events of the original. In it, ‘K’ (Ryan Gosling) gets down to the dirty business of hunting the last of the old model ‘replicants.’ Replicants are programmed humans – faster, smarter, and stronger than regular people – but also mostly enslaved to humanity’s will.

As you can imagine, things don’t go particularly well for K. Every time his boss (Robin Wright) rings him up on his next-gen cell phone, you know s**t is about to go down.

And it does.

‘Luv’ – played to perfection by Sylvia Hoeks. When you see her, run.

Now then, if you were to waltz into the theater expecting a bang-bang action flick, you might as well tuck tail and head right back out the door. B.R. 2049 isn’t really an action film. That’s not to say action doesn’t happen or that the fights aren’t razor sharp. It’s just that Blade Runner 2049 is a thinking film-lover’s movie. At its core, it’s about atmosphere, emotion, and tension. It’s about feeling like you’re actually walking through the stark, cold wasteland of Los Angeles 2049. It’s a look at what our world might someday become.

It’s exhilarating. And terrifying.

I felt it. I think you will, too.

Ok. So let’s go ahead eliminate one concern you might have. No, you don’t have to worry about Harrison Ford. Unlike in The Force Awakens, he doesn’t just show up as wallpaper guy rehashing a thirty-year old shtick. He’s as vivid as everything else in the movie. And yeah, he can still fight.

And speaking of vivid performances, I’m allowing myself a moment to gush about one of the movie’s most intriguing characters. Joi (K’s pseudo-lover, played by the absurdly beautiful Ana de Armas) just about won my heart over in every scene she appears in. Poor Joi’s just a hologram-girl meets Stepford wife, and she nails her performance. Hers might’ve been an easy role for movie-goers to brush off as window dressing, but in my mind, she gives us a glimpse at what the future of human relationships might look like.

Bleak. Yet fascinating.

And it doesn’t hurt that Ana de Armas is simply stunning to behold.

Blade Runner 2049 is a long movie. Let’s be honest. Some of the scenes take a good while to develop, and others take their sweet time in coming to a close. This will assuredly provoke boredom in some movie-goers. At times, I admit I found myself begging for the next scene to start. And yet…the longer the film went on, the longer I wanted it to be. The quiet moments aren’t boring; they’re allowing us – the audience – to think. To ponder. To wonder what’s next.

In this respect, Denis Villenueve does very well. Just like he did in Arrival, he doesn’t leap casually from scene to scene. There’s a thoughtfulness in his pacing uncommon to most modern film directors. Some won’t appreciate it. Others might suffer bouts of impatience. But as for me…I learned to love it.

I wanted time to think.

During a movie like this, I needed it.

Plenty of spaces like this appear in the movie. Big. Sparse. Sterile. Beautiful.

Let’s talk antagonists. The bad guy is played capably (if weirdly) by Jared Leto. He’s cool, for a blind dude. The bad girl, however, is one of the best parts of the film. Her name is Luv. And no, she doesn’t luv anything except kicking ass. Evil ass-kicking women with no remorse…well…that just floats my film-lovin’ boat. I think everyone will ‘luv’ Sylvia Hoeks’ performance.

Musically, the film score (by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch) sounds a ton like the score from Arrival. It pairs well with the atmosphere, though sometimes feels a little loud. I’m a Hans Zimmer nut, and I’ll admit this isn’t his best ever effort. It’s too derivative. Even so, it’s better than most.

In the end, Blade Runner 2049 creates one of the finest dystopian atmospheres you’ll ever see. It’s populated  with fascinating characters, most of whom continually surprise movie-goers. Even I, the king of know-it-alls, got hit with a few plot twists I didn’t see coming. In a world full of predictable movies, that’s a good thing.

Once again, B.R. 2049 is long. Maybe too long for some. Early on, things take a while to develop. And not everyone will buy into the ending. There’s questions left unanswered, to be certain.

But…

For the patient fan, for the fan who likes to wander into worlds far different than our own, and for those who wonder what humanity’s fate might someday be, this movie is for you.

Go see it twice. I know I will.

And someone please get me Ana de Armas’ phone number.

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Read my other movie reviews here.

J Edward Neill

Thursday Art Assault – Shadow Art

On a lonely Friday eve, long after midnight slid by, I stood before a black canvas with the last drop of white paint clinging to my paintbrush.

Songs a bit dramatic, right?

Anyway, I made good use of the white paint.

And out came my latest painting, Night Emperor.

Night Emperor

*

And of course, Night Emperor needs his bride.  Here’s ‘Frozen’ sculpted and painted by artist (and lady of the night) T. Morrison:

Frozen

They make quite a pair, don’t you think?

For art inquiries, hit me up on Facebook, Twitter, or via email.

If you like Night Emperor and Frozen, you might also like these.

J Edward Neill

Painter of shadows

Author of darkness

A Book to Break your Coffee Table

You say you want a perfect book for your coffee table?

The only one you need is here.

It’s like the rest of the Coffee Table Philosophy series, only instead of ice-breaking, improve your love life-type questions, it’s full of deadly serious inquiries. Think Socrates meets Stephen Hawking, Plato meets Carl Sagan, and that’s kinda what this book is like. It’s for science buffs, astronomy lovers, old world philosophy fans, and serious truth seekers.

Introducing:

101 Qs for the End of the World Front Cover

101 pages. 101 awesome questions.

Here’s seven little samples to get you started.

And here’s a perfect selection of DIY coffee tables on which to kick back and read.

Where did my Halloween go?

As a child, I remember stalking the streets until 10PM.

Alone…

With a plastic jack o’ lantern in hand…

And hoards of candy awaiting me.

Those were the days. Those were the nights. Beneath the pallid streetlamps of my suburban Chicago neighborhood, I craved All Hallows Eve. In the rain, in the bitter cold, in the deep shadows through which the wind tore ragged holes, I was king.

As Darth Vader, I hunted bucket-loads of candy.

As a vampire, I hid behind oak trees and scared the crap out of the other kids.

As a demon, I shambled to my neighbors’ front doors. They didn’t know me that night. My mask earned more than a few shudders.

And when at last I returned home, belly full of candy and cheeks wet and chilled from the night, I arrived to the sight of jack o’ lanterns on the porch, candles still flickering in their bellies, dry leaves crackling at their bottoms.

I remember this…

And this…

*

Where have the nights gone? What happened to the crisp afternoons during which the sun dared only a few peeks through the clouds? Where are the sidewalks buried in fiery leaves, the crickets chirruping long before evening descended?

I’ve lost these things.

I want them back.

I’m middle-aged now. And while my exhilaration for All Hallows Eve has taken a twenty-year nap, it’s not completely gone. I still crave all the things October brings, but now I do it more for my son’s sake than my own. He loves his Halloweens much the same as I did. Carving jack o’ lanterns and wearing creepy masks are his domain. We light bonfires in the backyard, build mountains of candy in our kitchen, and take twilight walks to savor the coming Samhain.

He’s too small to understand it. But Halloween in the modern age isn’t what it used to be.

And somehow I’m sad.

Maybe I’m getting old.

Or maybe All Hallows has changed more than expected.

*

Anymore, there’s not enough of this…

And entirely too much of this…

*

Sometimes I no longer recognize my favorite night of the year.

I’m not against sexy things. I’m a guy like any other, and I appreciate a scantily-clad beauty as much as any man alive. But I’m glad my son (and the other neighborhood kids) aren’t caught up in what adults have made of Halloween. In fact, the thing we adults celebrate isn’t really Halloween anymore. It’s cosplay. It’s something other than what it was. It’s undefinable…and in some ways bizarre.

It’s pointless for me to rebel against what Halloween has become.

But I’ll allow myself to long for what it once was.

Long ago, All Hallows was meant to be a glorious, frightening thing. A day for driving demons and witches back into the dark. A night to celebrate the harvest, the end of summer’s warmth, and the arrival of a long, cold, and dangerous winter.

You can keep your sexy nurses and stores stacked high with cheap autumn-ish decorations.

I’ll take my…

my…

and my…

*

As Halloween draws near, I’ll try to do it right. My son and I will carve our jack o’ lanterns a little creepier. We’ll picnic out in the leaves. We’ll take walks at dusk and leave our windows open while we sleep.

And when we head out to haunt All Hallows Eve, we’ll stay out a bit later than the other kids. We’ll dress a little scarier. We’ll stretch out our ghoulish fingers and grab a piece of Halloween the way it used to be.

November will arrive the very next dawn.

But our Halloween will last forever…

J Edward Neill

Specialist in spooky stories

Thursday Art Assault – Sylvan Eternity

I’d just finished working on several highly-realistic sketches.

…and my pencil hand was tired.

To ease my mild suffering, I picked up a huge (24×48″) canvas and went after it with green, black, yellow, and white paint.

The result was…well…

Sylvan Eternity

**

…big.

I enjoyed every second of painting this giant landscape. Now it’s back to cover art work.

Prints are available here.

For art inquiries, hit me up on Facebook, Twitter, or via email.

If you like this painting, you might also like these.

J Edward Neill

Painter of shadows

 

The Many Reasons You DON’T Want to be a Writer

On December 30th, 2001, I made pretty much the worst decision of my life.

I decided I wanted to be a writer.

And not just any writer, but a balls-to-the-wall, grind my fingers to stumps, spend every night alone with a bottle of scotch and a laptop whose battery is ready to die…writer.

And no I don’t regret it.

And yes I do.

These days, everyone has written  a book. Or at least they have a book idea. I’m reluctant to mention my profession anymore, given everyone’s opinion on the matter:

“I want to write a book, too!” people will tell me.

“I have this great idea. I just need to get it on paper,” they’ll say.

“I started something a few months ago. I’ll finish it one day,” my bartender muses.

To these well-meaning folk, I want to say awful things:

“You don’t want to write a book.”

“You’re not gonna finish anything.”

“You have no idea what you’re talking about.”

Usually I just nod and smile. After all, my bartender (who helped inspire this little tome) is a sweet lady. She makes a mean cocktail, and she doesn’t need to hear my negativity. And my friends who like to talk about their works-in-progress, they’re good people, too. It’s best to let them believe writing is something one does part-time, that it’s something everyone can do.

It isn’t.

Actually, it’s something almost no one should do.

If there’s a culprit, it’s the rise of the self-publishing market. I’m looking at you, Amazon, Smashwords, and all the other upstart platforms. No, I’m not upset about it. These outlets are how I pay the bills. But yeah…ok…I’m a little upset about it. Suddenly everyone in the world has the power to publish anything they want. This means the die-hard, out-of-their-goddamn-mind authors like me have to compete with pretty much everyone else on the planet.

It’s fine. I don’t mind a good fight. I just worry about the sanity of my contemporaries. This kind of competition doesn’t happen in other lines of work. Not everyone in the world can be a plumber, a lawyer, a chef, or a porn star. I can’t wake up tomorrow and decide to be a congressman. I can’t paint a big white hand on my face and join the ranks of the Uruk-Hai.

But everyone can be a published author.

You.

Your grandma.

Your dog.

The hacker who lives in your basement and knows how to scam the system.

Everyone.

Immediately.

Fuck this shit. (Just kidding.)

It’s not that I want this to change; I don’t. Writers chasing their dreams is a good thing. It’s far better for people to challenge themselves with the task of writing a book than it is for them to relax and enjoy their lives, maintain good relationships with their loved ones, or kick back and play the latest video game system no one can actually buy.

Am I being sarcastic?

I honestly don’t know anymore.

What do I know? Most people shouldn’t write books. I’m not talking about the quality of writers’ grammar or the sharpness of their prose; those are subjects for a different article entirely. I’m referring to the commitment of life resources required to be an author. It’s not just about the time investment, but a willingness to sacrifice a large portion of one’s ordinary life. Wordsmiths have to write, re-write, edit, and re-edit. Writers must embrace being alone, lost on islands of imagination no one else can perceive, wandering at the edge of the abyss armed only with words.

Few enjoy such things.

And fewer still savor the horror of realizing one’s work is sub-par, that monkeys in cages could write with more emotion, or the sinking feeling that…honestly…no one gives a shit about what one has written.

Writing for money? It’s similar to prostitution, given the punishment one must endure to turn even the mildest profit. I’ve never seen a group so comfortable with self-loathing as the average indie author. The blank page, worst of all enemies, hits harder than a Conor McGregor left hand. A book half-finished has the power of infinite patience, and a novel doesn’t care whether it’s complete. Words, weak or strong, offer no consolation to their creators. We’re selling our minds for pennies, and we get ploughed in the process.

Fact: a writer’s work is never finished. Most other tasks in the universe, save perhaps art and music, are finite in duration. Fix a broken pipe? Done. Go grocery shopping? Ok. Handle Brexit? Gimme a few years. All of these will one day be complete.

But writing? It’s forever. You might finish one book, but you’ll never push every idea out of your head. Go ahead and die trying. I dare you.

Memes are stupid. Unless they’re sarcastic. Then I love ’em.

To the novice writer, the weekend warrior poet, or the new-to-the-industry author, I have just one suggestion:

Quit.

You’ll never find happiness doing this. Even if you do manage to make it big (you won’t) the money won’t make it worthwhile. You’ll get lost in the same swamp with every novel you write. You’ll finish one story only to find it begets three more. Your short story will turn into a trilogy, and your trilogy into a thousand tales you’ll never live long enough to tell.

You want to be happy? Take up MMA fighting. Build your own house. Plant a garden. Sit down and watch a good movie.

Whatever you do, don’t commit to being an author. You’ll find every moment of your life more challenging than the moment before. You’ll fall into a hole out of which you’ll never be able to climb.

And you’ll probably get fat from sitting on your ass every day.

Am I being satirical?

Hell if I know.

Read this.

J Edward Neill

 

Thursday Art Assault – Big Dark Painting

I’m wandering in a strange artistic realm.

Somewhere between this and this.

On a rainy Saturday, with a glass of scotch in hand and Chris Isaak roaring in the background, I decided to consume my largest remaining canvas.

…and paint green clouds, dark terrain, and tall, hollow tombs.

Introducing the Grave Towers:

The final painting. Bleak and green. Were I a better photographer, you’d get the deep shading and details.

**

This is the background, which I painted on a chilly Friday night. Some people have told me they prefer it without the towers. Meaning…I’ll probably paint a tower-less version soon.

*

If you liked this painting, you might also like these.

J Edward Neill

Painter of shadows

When to Walk Away from the Game (And when not to)

I’m standing on a bump of red Georgia clay.

It’s muggy out here. I’m sweating beneath the stadium lights. The baseball feels slick between my fingers.

It’s the ninth inning, and the game is tied 1-1.

For a Thursday night game in northwest Atlanta, we’ve drawn a nice crowd. We’re playing a tight contest against the state champion Cherokees, and the fans have decided to stick it out to the end.

Cherokees’ fans, mostly, I figure.

That’s fine.

Before the first batter struts up to home plate, I scan the seats. Of the hundred or so spectators, I recognize only a handful. I don’t know them, and they don’t know me. My name’s not on my jersey. I’m here for me, not for them.

If there’s one thing that’s been consistent about my stint as a baseball player, it’s my anonymity.

I’ve embraced it.

I prefer it.

Normally I’d tune the crowd out, but it’s the ninth inning and I’m tired. Tonight I notice everything:

Jason’s girlfriend is loud. I smile to myself. Jason’s our catcher tonight, and he’s doing a damn fine job. For the last eight innings, I haven’t had to shake off his pitch selection even once. If anyone deserves cheers, it’s him.

Buster’s wife and kids hunker right behind the first base dugout, waving to him as he takes his spot at second base. Buster’s the only guy on the team older than me. He can’t hit a lick, but he hustles, and so everyone loves him.

I can hear Matt’s fiancé chatting with Ben’s brother and wife. Matt and Ben can’t hear a thing; they’re in the outfield awaiting my first pitch. I’m pretty sure Ben’s wife is still gushing about his first-inning home run.

As well she should.

Every other player on both teams has at least one fan in the crowd. They’ve invited friends, wives, and girlfriends. Several players’ kids zoom around in the bleachers, savoring one of their last free nights before the school year begins.

The whole crowd is a cacophony of support.

And here I am…on an island.

It’s all Jason’s fault, really. Last winter, I’d all but retired from pitching. My body felt great and my competitive fire was still intact, but I’d convinced myself to devote more time to writing and less to pursuing a baseball career that’d never go anywhere.

Because…let’s be honest.

I’ve never hurled a fastball harder than 85 mph.

The most home runs I’ve hit in a season? Three.

Baseball, like everything else in my life, was something I was good at, but never great at.

And then Jason had called me.

“Hey buddy,” he’d said with no shortage of cheer.

“Hey,” I grumbled. “Who’s this?”

“Jason,” he said. “You know…J.J. From the Muckdogs?”

“Oh. Right. Hey, Jason. How’s things?”

“Never been better,” he said. “I’m married now. Life’s great. So listen…I know you said last year was probably it for you, but I’ve gotta ask. One of our guys just went down with a shoulder injury. We need your arm.”

“I haven’t thrown a pitch in six months,” I told him. “You know that, right?”

To which he replied, “Then I guess we’d better get started.”

Jason’s butterfly wings fluttered in the breeze.

And here I was, dishing out a pretty good game against a superior opponent, closing out what was probably the best season in my career.

Go figure.

The inning’s first batter stalks up to the plate, and I shoot him a dirty look he probably can’t see. He’s already homered off me tonight. There’s nothing I hate more than giving up bombs. If this game goes into extra innings, it’s his fault.

And mine.

I strike him out with an impossibly slow curveball. He complains to the ump, then takes his seat with a few choice words in my direction. I’m never one to gloat, but I allow myself the world’s smallest smirk.

The second batter walks up. He’s no doubt the Cherokees’ best player. Standing a monstrous six-foot five, I’m pretty sure his bat is heavier than most of the players on my team. He’s already got two hits tonight.

Focus, I tell myself. I figure if I can somehow get the big guy out, I’ll retire the final batter and give my team a shot in the ninth.

He crushes the first pitch.

The crack of the wooden bat echoes in the night.

But…

He hits it dead-on at our center fielder, who flinches, but snares it in his glove.

Whew.

Two outs.

I breathe the warm night air. I feel comfortable, as at home on the mound as I am anywhere on Earth. I’m no longer aware of the crowd or anyone in it. If they’re cheering, I can’t tell whether it’s for my team or for the Cherokees’ next batter.

I admit to myself – I take a sort of grim pride in having no loved-ones in the crowd. In a strange way, it’s motivating for me to persevere alone. Sure, I have my teammates. But in my mind, in this moment, they could be anyone. I want to secure the last out and win the game, not for them or even for myself.

But because it’s a pitcher’s job.

The inning’s third batter is a stout, muscular, serious-looking guy. I like him already.

It’ll be fun to strike him out, I tell myself.

I get him swinging at a slow changeup for strike one.

He takes a good hack, but fouls off a fastball for strike two.

In theory, I have him where I want him. No balls, two strikes. He’s mine to toy with.

Jason calls for another changeup. The batter wasn’t even close to hitting the first one. A changeup’s the obvious call.

Jason’s an effin’ genius.

But…

In my narrow little mind, I’m just about to do the second dumbest thing in my life. It’s almost as bad as pouting about not getting a new video game.

I shake off Jason’s call for a changeup.

I reject his curveball and slider calls, too.

I want a fastball, I’m thinking.

I want to blow it right past this guy.

Jason looks confused, but he trusts me. I’m supposedly a wily veteran who knows what he’s doing.

I rear back and fire a fastball.

It’s got good velocity, but it’s up in the zone. And it catches too much of the plate.

Boom.

Home run over the center field fence.

I don’t even have to turn and watch it soar out of the park. The crack of the bat tells me everything.

Crap.

I retire the next batter, but it doesn’t matter.

I lead off the next inning with a triple, and it still doesn’t matter.

The Cherokees’ closer strikes out the final three Muckdogs, and we lose the game 2-1.

To rephrase, I lose 2-1.

After the game, my teammates are supportive. They remind me I’ve just pitched nine innings against a tough team and allowed only two runs. Some of the spectators approach me, smiles on their faces.

“Good game, man,” they say.

“That’s a tough team you played tonight.”

“Played your heart out.”

“It was you we were cheering for.”

I shrug it off. In my mind, the only thing worse than receiving a compliment for winning is earning one for losing.

And I’m deaf to anyone who says otherwise.

Later that evening, as I’m trucking home on the silent roads north of Atlanta, reality hits me.

I didn’t play my heart out. In fact, I played with no heart at all. I stood on the mound, arrogant, maybe even selfish, and I blew the game for our team. If not for my pride, we might’ve won a thriller against a tough opponent.

Instead I’m driving home in the dark, tired, alone, and defeated.

The closer I get to home, the more I awaken. I realize as the years have gone on, baseball has become a cerebral game for me. It’s all brains, no passion. All numbers, no excitement. The youthful love I once played with is now a cold, hard, competitive obsession.

I need a new hobby, I conclude. Something exciting. Something to reignite the fire.

Also, I owe Jason a beer.

Somewhere in my house, tucked away in boxes no one has opened in many years, the remnants of my baseball days lie sleeping. My old gloves are tucked away, doubtless in need of a good oiling. My collection of game-used baseballs sits in a musty corner, the seams loose in their decades-old leather. I’ve even saved my old uniforms, three in total, hidden away as keepsakes.

The Muckdogs, the Angels, the Yankees –

all covered in dust.

I wonder if they still fit.

Now and then, I crave to hit the field for one last season. It might be possible. For reasons I can’t fathom, I’ve worked hard to keep my throwing arm in shape. To this day, I leave baseballs at random around the house, which I fidget with and grip as if I’m about to throw curveballs. I even have a trio of game-ready, pine-tarred bats in my garage.

It’s strange, isn’t it?

I wonder what it might feel like to break out my gear and head out onto the mound again.

I sometimes think–

No.

I have to be honest with myself.

Those days are over.

After my game against the Cherokees, I never again took the mound. It’s not as if age caught up to me or the fire died in my heart. It’s just that the time had come. The once beautiful game had turned into an obsession. I spent more time training and keeping my arm in shape than I did paying attention to my life.

And once I discovered writing, the two tasks were at odds.

Most days, I’m at peace with giving up the thing I loved most. I look back at baseball with the same fondness I would an old girlfriend. We had our moments of glory, she and I. I’ll always think fond thoughts of her.

But I can’t go back.

Unlike pitching and writing, some things aren’t at odds with one another.

For example – writing and drinking scotch.

They’re like BFF’s, they are.

It’s a balmy evening, not unlike the fateful night I last took the field. Warm mist rises from the grass beyond my back door. Fireflies float between the trees, putting their lives at risk. The local bat population has realized my backyard is a feasting ground, and they’ve turned out in droves, gobbling up moths, mosquitos, and unlucky lightning bugs by the thousand.

The G Man and I like the bats so much we’re planning on building bat houses for them to inhabit. We’re weary of the mosquitos, and we figure a few friendly neighborhood predators might help.

As it turns out, flying bats are more interactive than wooden ones.

They don’t often swing and miss.

As a toast to the bats, tonight I’m soaking up several glasses of Balvenie 21-year. This scotch is the real deal. It’s another from Speyside, Scotland, aged in casks previously used for port wine. A girl I once knew gifted it to me as a surprise. I’ll savor it to the last drop.

Balvenie 21-year’s color is darker than most scotches, and its flavor unrivaled. As I pop the cork, I’m startled by the scents of rich soil, light smoke, and sun-warmed rain. If one could literally drink the sunset, Balvenie is what it would taste like.

I wish I’d had a glass after my final game.

It might’ve made walking away easier.

It’s a cool, damp night in early November, and I’m sitting in local Atlanta bar Kaleidoscope.

Used to be, I’d come here to chase girls, rare cocktails, and long, lonely evenings at the bar.

Not tonight.

Tonight I’m here for baseball.

Tonight, of all nights, I’m here to watch game seven of the World Series, in which my beloved Chicago Cubs face off against worthy nemesis, the Cleveland Indians.

I almost feel bad for the other people who’ve braved the night to be here with me. Jerry, a Cubs’ fan in his own right, isn’t prepared for my level of emotional commitment. I’m here to watch every pitch, every strike, ball, and tense moment in-between. Jerry likes baseball, maybe even loves it.

But me?

I’m a junkie.

Jerry thinks I’m crazy. And tonight he might be right.

Jerry’s wife Chan sees the look in my eyes. I’ve hardly touched my Long Island ice tea. Before the game’s first pitch is thrown, I’m knotted up into a nervous ball. Me, the guy who has trouble cracking half a smile. Chan’s not seen this side of me.

No one has.

And then there’s my date, who doesn’t know what she’s signed up for. Having flown into town to see me, she’s pretty much signed an oath to spend every moment by my side. I guess I probably should’ve asked her to come the week before.

Nope.

The week before, when we faced the Los Angeles Dodgers, was almost as bad.

Kaleidoscope is packed tonight. I chose this spot in particular because it’s not a sports bar, which means I won’t have to spend all night in deep discussion with fellow fans. I want to be alone with my angst. I want to gaze at the television all night, uninterrupted, unnoticed, and anonymous.

It’s only here I can do it.

…friends and girlfriends notwithstanding.

Play ball.

During the game’s first at-bat, the Cubs’ Dexter Fowler smacks a home run. My heart roars and my blood heats up to volcanic temperatures. I’m pretty sure someone else in the Kaleidoscope masses lets out a cheer, but I pay it little mind.

Cubs lead 1-0.

The second inning arrives, and the Indians tie the game. For as happy as I was fifteen minutes ago, I’m now just as gloomy. I’d hoped the Cubs would win 20-0. And now those dreams are dashed.

My second Long Island arrives.

I don’t remember ordering it.

“You really should relax.” My date smiles.

“Relax?” I say.

“Yeah.” She snuggles close. She’s as supportive as they come, and I love her for it. “Everything’s gonna be ok,” she swears.

“Not me. I’m not gonna be ok.”

And then a few glorious things happen. In the tops of the fourth and fifth innings, the Cubs pile on four runs. They take a 5-1 lead. Every part of my body begins to sing.

But then…

In the bottom of the fifth, the Indians score twice and narrow the margin to 5-3.

My hearts skips twenty beats. My muscles hurt. I’d probably feel better if I were out there pitching for the Cubs. At least then I’d have some control over the game’s fate.

In the sixth, the Cubs score another run on a David ‘Grandpa’ Ross homer. It’s his final at-bat in the major leagues, and he goes out in style.

“A home run in his last at-bat…in the World Series?” I shout to no one in particular. “You have got to be kidding me.”

Cubs lead 6-3.

Life as a baseball fan, hell…life as a human being just got better.

Two scoreless innings pass. The Cubs’ Jon Lester steps into the game and looks just as good as ever. After three solid innings of work, he steps off the mound.

And up steps Aroldis Chapman, he of the 101mph fastball.

I’m feeling good about where we’re at. A 6-3 lead late in the game. A third Long Island. The Kaleidoscope crowd gradually turning over to the Cubs’ side.

And then, with two outs in the eighth inning, disaster strikes. Chapman leaves a slower-than-usual fastball up in the zone, and Rajai Davis of the Indians hits a three-run homer, tying the game at 6-6.

Jerry looks at me, awaiting my implosion.

Chan takes the opportunity to ask for the check. She’s not interested in seeing my heart shatter and spill all over the floor.

My date, luckily not a baseball fan, shrugs it off.

“They’ll still win,” she says. “Just watch.”

“No…” My mouth hangs open. “No, this isn’t happening. One-hundred eight years, and we blow a lead to lose in game seven? No, no, no.”

“Relax, man,” offers Jerry. I’m envious of how tipsy he is. I probably should’ve downed my Long Islands before the ice melted. They’re mostly water now.

It’s then I make the third worst decision of my life. It’s not as bad as talking back to my grandma or throwing a fastball when Jason called for a changeup.

…but it’s close.

“I’m leaving,” I announce.

“What?” Jerry sits up. “You can’t just leave. Game’s still tied. There’s more baseball to play.”

“No.” I push my chair away. “I can’t do it. I can’t sit here and watch the Indians walk off the field with a win. I just can’t.”

I pay my tab and pull the car around. My date hops in, and we’re off. She doesn’t understand the significance of my leaving. She doesn’t know about 1985, when the Cubs had a 2-0 game lead and blew three games in a row. She wasn’t with me in 2003 when the infamous Steve Bartman reached for the ball and undid an almost certain trip to the World Series for my beloved Cubbies.

She doesn’t know and she doesn’t care.

Ignorance is bliss.

We pull into my driveway. It’s late, as in late, late. I’m a thousand-percent sure I’m going to walk into my house, check the score on my phone, and learn the Cubs gave up a run in the bottom of the ninth to lose the series.

But wait…

No…

I check my phone.

No one has scored since I abandoned Kaleidoscope. The game is tied 6-6 in extra innings.

Fuck.

I should’ve stayed. 

My phone rings. It’s Jerry. He’s still at the bar. He’s braver than I am.

“You watching this?” he asks.

“I can’t,” I groan. “I mean literally can’t. No cable here. I can’t— wait…I’ll listen on the radio.”

“Can’t believe you left, man,” he tells me.

“I know,” I say. “I’m sorry.”

I hang up on Jerry and scramble to find a radio feed. I get lucky, and within moments the top of the tenth inning pumps through my living room speakers.

And there I sit, on the floor.

My shoes still on.

My heart pounding again.

My date smiling in the background. She gets it now, at least a little.

I listen to the radio feed as though I were a kid:

Ben Zobrist, a wily veteran with a penchant for big hits, slaps a double down the line. The Cubs go up 7-6. I start vibrating.

Miguel Montero smacks a base-hit to left field, lifting the Cubs to an 8-6 lead. I’m not just vibrating anymore. I’m quaking.

I only wish I could see the action, not just hear it.

And then, clinging to a one-run lead in the bottom of the tenth inning, the Cubs’ Mike Montgomery stands on the mound. I imagine his face as the Cleveland crowd roars all around him. I wonder if he’s as calm as I was.

Anyways…

There’s two outs.

Cubs are up 8-7.

Two men are on base.

The radio announcer goes silent for a split second. Montgomery bends one in, and the hitter rolls a soft ground ball to the Cubs’ third baseman, Kris Bryant.

I’m paralyzed. I can’t see anything. It’s all in my imagination.

Cubs win.

Cubs win.

Cubs win.

* * *

If you like stories like these, go here.

If you prefer red wine over baseball, try this.

J Edward Neill

The Best Break-ups Ever

During a blazing hot summer, I interviewed nearly four-hundred people.

At bars, on the street, via Facebook.

I took their 101 funniest, weirdest, and most off-the-wall break-up stories…

…and slammed them all into this book:

101 Reasons to Break Up

Read it. Laugh at it. Review the hell out of it.

Here’s nine sample break-ups.

Now available for just $0.99.

J Edward Neill

Thursday Art Fart – Asian Art Attempt

I suppose I’ve always been fascinated by Asian style art.

Trees. Landscapes. Buildings. Dragons.

…all so different from Western work.

I tried to let it inspire me while painting a duo of large acrylic canvasses.

Did I succeed?

You be the judge…

Tower of Souls

Tower of Souls was sort of an accidental painting. I painted a deep gold background while having no idea what to focus on as the subject.

And then it came to me. An eerie tower…full of ghosts.

As ever, it was a true pleasure to paint with bold blacks and deep, rich ambers.

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Winds of Forever

For Winds of Forever, I tried to be a bit more focused. I wanted to do a bigger, bolder version of this. The blues remind me of a perfect winter day. No clouds. A chilling breeze. A sky drifting into forever.

Pretty sure I’ll keep Winds of Forever for my private collection.

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Thanks for stopping by. More paintings are soon to come.

Prints are available here.

For art inquiries, hit me up on Facebook, Twitter, or via email.

If you like these, you might also like these.

J Edward Neill

Painter of shadows

9 Reasons to Break Up With Someone

Nine Reasons to Break Up with Someone

True-life tales…

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First Time’s a Charm

I’d been dating a beautiful girl for many months, but we hadn’t yet been intimate. I wanted to wait because I didn’t want to mess things up.

Five months in, I cracked and we have sex for the first time at my house.

It was great. No complaints.

I went to work the next morning and told her the place was hers for the day. When I came home that afternoon, I found tiny hearts drawn with lipstick all over the house.

In the shower. On the mirrors. On the glass cabinet doors. Even one on my iPad screen.

It was too much. I bailed.

– Jeff

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Uncommon Ground

I never really minded her dislike of baseball. Or MMA. Or most of the things I hold dear.

But when she told me she’d never seen Office Space or Grandma’s Boy, I knew the end was near.

– Christopher

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Like Son, Like Father

She always wanted to hang out at my parents’ place.

She especially liked my dad.

My parents had recently separated, but decided to live in separate parts of the house.

I don’t really need to finish this story, do I?

– Anonymous

**

Gag Order

Every time he brushed his teeth, he’d gag horribly. I couldn’t stand it.

He’d have made a terrible gay guy.

– Michele

*

She gets around better than you think…

My guy was always super sweet to my female friend who’d been partially paralyzed during a skiing accident. He’d push her wheelchair up ramps. He’d give her rides and help her get into the car. He even landed her a job.

I guess I shouldn’t have been so surprised when I went to her apartment and found him pushing ‘other’ things.

Afterward, I managed to keep her as a friend.

Although sometimes when I see steep hills, I imagine how easy it would be…

– Anonymous

*

Slow and Steady Loses the Race

She wouldn’t stop bringing stray animals into the house.

And by stray animals, I mean turtles.

– Gary

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Mixed Signals

Our break-up argument started over the small matter of me messing up her Netflix movie queue. Apparently my favorites weren’t the same as our favorites.

She dumped me over it. It was ok. I understood.

But she never actually deleted me as a guest user. So I’m still able to login and watch movies on her account.

And I get to see what her new boyfriend likes to watch.

– Joe

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A Two-and-a-Half Way?

My fiancée and I lived in a small downtown apartment. Even so, we liked to host parties for our friends.

One night, we ran out of beer near the party’s end, so I walked down to the local convenient store to get a six-pack. When I returned, everything was dark and quiet. I figured all the guests had gone home.

Nope.

I walked into my bedroom to find my girl in bed with another couple. They tried inviting me in (as if that was the plan all along) but I felt too disgusted.

Even if the ‘extra’ girl had been a supermodel, I wouldn’t have done it. But she was a dwarf – about four feet tall.

– Russell

*

Another Reason to Ditch Cable

 Several of my buddies told me they believed my wife was having an affair, but since none offered any evidence, I gave her the benefit of the doubt.

But then one fateful day I came home early to find her sleeping naked on the couch and a man asleep in our bed. When I confronted the man, he said he was the TV repair man, and that he’d passed out due to working long hours.

I went to the living room to wake up my wife, but the guy slipped out the window.

…and took my TV with him.

– Anonymous

* * *

For 90 more real-life break-up stories, try this.

For happier endings, go here.

IT movie review

(Disclaimer: no major spoilers appear in this article. Minor thematic and a few vague plot details are discussed.)

*

I knew what I was getting myself into when I settled into my seat on a chilly Friday evening.

Twenty-seven years ago, on an eve not so different, I watched the original IT. Starring Tim Curry, it promised vast horror, and yet it only partly delivered. Tim Curry’s performance was of course flawless, but the disjointed flashbacks and clunky pacing didn’t deliver in the ways they could’ve.

After all, we’re talking about IT here.

Evil shape-changing Cthulu-esque clown invades small American city to devour children and consume oceans of human fear?

This kind of plot needs a better movie.

And perhaps IT 2017 is it.

As any good movie-goer knows, the key to setting a horror movie’s tone is to make us care about the characters. Anything less, and the most one can hope for is B-grade cheap scares and campy, gory death scenes. Fortunately, character-wise, IT 2017 delivers in a way most horror films just don’t. From the opening scene onward, we care about young (and stuttering) Bill (played by Jaeden Lieberher.) He’s vulnerable, yet strong in ways we can’t yet see. And so it goes for nearly all of the young, mostly unknown cast of ‘kids.’ Bev (Sophia Lillis) and Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor) stand out in the gang of seven Losers. We meet the young gang in their early teens, and they behave exactly like teenagers. They’re funny, sarcastic, and not yet sure of themselves.

Just like we all were.

And not only are the kids believable, they’re nuanced. No cookie-cutter fears here, folks. Each young’un deals with terror in a different way…and each one has a separate reason for fearing death at the hands of Pennywise, the Dancing Clown. Best of luck to the adults who have to follow this young cast up in IT – Chapter Two (rumored to hit theaters in 2019.) These kids will be a tough act to follow.

Speaking of Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard) he’s as creepy as we can hope for. I won’t compare him to Tim Curry (not really a fair fight) but Skarsgard delivers a solid performance. Modern special effects help Pennywise go over-the-top in ways 1990’s IT couldn’t. He’s not the most subtle villain, but likely one of the most powerful…and diabolical ever to hit the big screen.

Side-note: being a movie-geek and a lover of HP Lovecraft, I recommend this wiki explaining the Cthulu-esque origins of Pennywise. (Hint – IT isn’t just a clown.) Beware of spoilers.

Who wants to float?

Now…let’s be honest. The adults in IT are afterthoughts. Bev’s father (Stephen Bogaert) is appropriately creepy, while young hypochondriac Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer) has a mom (Mollie Atkinson) who’s pretty much the most overbearing helicopter parent ever. And then there’s bully Henry Bowers (Nicholas Hamilton) whose dad (Stuart Hughes) shows up just long enough to make us hate him. But that’s it in terms of adult, non-Pennywise roles.

And that’s just fine.

This movie isn’t about the adults, but instead the impacts they’ve had on their children.

Now then…

It’s safe to say that an hour in, I cared plenty about all seven kids, but wanted more monster. IT runs pretty long (more than two hours) and I’ll admit at times I craved a slightly faster pace. But that’s just the thing. To really build anticipation, and to avoid some pretty common horror tropes, IT needed space to breathe. Meaning, if you’re looking for an in-and-out gorefest or a quick slasher horror flick, this isn’t your film. The expectation here is that movie-goers will be patient. After all, this film is just part one of two. It’s basically the Lord of the Rings of horror flicks.

IT is what Dark Tower was supposed to be, but failed to live up to.

Other notes:

The special effects? They’re good, but not obnoxious.

The music? Subtle, but not intrusive.

Jump scares? Only a handful, thanks to director Andy Muschietti. If you’re looking to be completely terrified, this isn’t necessarily the movie for you.

Adherence to Stephen King’s novel? Well….not exactly. I didn’t mind the deviations. Although, to really appreciate the bottomless depth of IT’s evil, one really needs to read the book (or at least hope the second movie dives headlong into the monster’s true nature.)

Ultimately, IT is a solid film. It’s not just a horror flick, but a character piece and reflective of several of humanity’s real-life fears. It’s sometimes slow, sometimes perfectly-paced, but mostly very good.

For me (and for most of you, I’m betting) the measures of a good film are:

A. Would I see IT again? The answer is yes…pun intended.

B. Am I itching to see the sequel? Yes. IT can’t come out fast enough. Pun intended again.

In other words, go see IT.

*

For my other movie reviews, go here.

To get into something just as scary (but not nearly as long) go here.

J Edward Neill

Write Tipsy, Edit Sober

In his latest book, J Edward sips scotch, bourbon, and deep, dark whiskey with every chapter.

No topic goes untouched.

No cocktail is spared.

 Life & Dark Liquor

A tipsy memoir by J Edward Neill

Now available at Amazon.

Get a sample of stories and sips right here.

Life & Dark Liquor is the ‘sequel’ to Reality is Best Served with Red Wine.

A Kickstarter for the Kids – Hello! Fat Crow!

Is it Fall yet? More importantly, has the feeling
for the season of Halloween started? For some people
this is just another passing holiday, but for others, it’s
a yearly tradition that starts the second the change is in
the air.
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ATLANTA, GA. – AUGUST, 2017 – Comic book creator/artist, Jason
Flowers tries his hand at making a fun children’s story.
But not just any normal kids book, this one represents the
season of Halloween. He constructed the project and released
it on August 22nd through www.Kickstarter.com called: Hello! Fat Crow! A story of a little fat crow that ventures to an old forgotten cemetery to wake a skeleton named Mister Larry so that he may go and dig up his four brothers to get into mischief on Halloween night.
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“When describing the book I try to explain the story as told in the rhyming styles of Dr. Seuss with fun spooky illustrations done in the style of the old Disney’s Skeleton dance cartoon,” says the artist. “Whenever reading bedtime stories to my daughter we could never really find many great Halloween books. A few were good, some were okay, but most just fell short of what made Halloween so great to us. So one day I thought up this idea of a little fat crow that goes to visit a skeleton to wake him up. Over the years I drew doodles and ideas here and there which finally led to me writing the story out a few years ago. Fast forward to today
and as part of a personal goal to make long awaited projects, the season is coming
up and it was finally time to unleash this idea upon the world!”
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Already given Kickstarter’s seal of approval, also known as a “Project that we
love” you can see why this book has already gained such great attention just by
watching the vintage, comedic, Halloween video talking about the book, artist
Jason Flowers created with his wife.
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The book is being sold as 8.5 x 11 inches in size and forty-four pages in length
with perfect bond binding. Colored in the traditional fall and Halloween colors (orange, white, and black) the creative and moody illustrations, along with the detailed environments help make and bring this fun and spooky kids book to life.
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Scrolling down the campaign page you can see a wide arrange of pledges
available to choose from. Starting at a digital download of the book to physical
copies, bookmarks, tshirts, limited prints, sketch drawings, or hand made original
sculptures.
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Asking for a $5,000 project goal in a thirty-one day time frame, Hello! Fat crow!,
well into it’s second week, has already reached more than $1300 in pledges and
with the help of more supporters this book will be funded in no time~
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For more information visit the link to the Kickstarter:

www.kickstarter.com/projects/698068505/hello-fat-crow

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KICKSTARTER DESCRIPTION:

Hello! Fat crow! Tells the story of a little fat crow that ventures to an old forgotten cemetery to wake a skeleton named Mister Larry so that he may go and dig up his four brothers to get into mischief on Halloween night.

The book measures 8.5×11 inches in size and is forty-four pages long. The story is told in the rhyming styles of Dr. Seuss with fun spooky illustrations done in the style of the old Disney’s Skeleton dance cartoon.

Check out these sample panels!


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Reach out to the creator, Jason Flowers, at contactjasonsart@yahoo.com
Jason Flowers is a full-time Freelance Comic Book/Sketch Card Artist from Atlanta, GA. Currently he is illustrating his new creator owned books, Hello! Fat crow! and A.A.I Wars. His past work include numerous sketch card sets for UPPERDECK CARDS and TOPPS CARDS for companies like DISNEY and MARVEL. His comic book work has been published in Image Comics, Arcana Comics, and Black Thumb Press. Between comic and sketch card work, he is constantly creating various designs for clients on t-shirts, logos, album covers and art prints.