Art Collection – Dem Bones by J Edward Neill & Tahina Morrison

Over the years, we’ve sculpted and painted more skulls, skeletons, and bones than we can recall.

Some might say Tahina Morrison and I are obsessed with the macabre.

Maybe not.

Maybe so…

Here’s some of our favorites:

 

Find more skeletal art right here.

Thanks for stopping by.

J Edward Neill

Fine Photo Friday – Under my Wing

Under My Wing – Larry Winslett

“Under My Wing.”  Another bird shot, Canadian Geese at a TVA lake in Tennessee.  Fast shutter speeds are the key to capturing any wildlife – especially birds in flight.

Find Larry Winslett on Facebook and Flickr.  His photos are available as prints and fine art cards.

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For previous Fine Photo Friday submissions, go here.

Interested in submitting your work to be featured on Fine Photo Friday? Go to this Facebook account and send in your submission via message!

Selling the Last of my Shadows

This gallery contains 14 photos.

 The ORIGINAL canvas art for J Edward’s most popular paintings are now available. The paintings are here. Interested buyers should reach … Read more

Wildflowers of Stone Mountain

Larry Winslett, an award-winning nature photographer and teacher, and his wife Julie capture hundreds of beautiful flowers in their book – Wildflowers of Stone Mountain.

In gorgeous photographs on high quality paper, Wildflowers of Stone Mountain showcases over a hundred flowers. It’s a field guide for nature enthusiasts as well as casual lovers of beautiful photography.

Just a tiny sample of the beautiful photography you’ll find.

Wildflowers of Stone Mountain is available online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and www.larrywinslettphotography.com.

Its convenient pocket size makes it an excellent trail companion, not only for Stone Mountain, but also for trails throughout north Georgia.

7 Video Games I want to Play in 2018

Ten years ago, my annual list of want-to-play video games would’ve been twenty games long, maybe even thirty.

But dad life has narrowed my expectations. To squeeze in max gaming time, I have to seek out the best of the best upcoming games.

It’s not easy to carve away a ton of good games to get the list down to seven. It’s a dirty job.

…but somebody’s got to do it.

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7 Video Games I Want to Play in 2018


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Crackdown 3

Wait, you mean it’s got Terry Crews? Ok, no…that’s not the only reason I need to play this game. The original Crackdown is one of my favorite open-world games of all time. I’ve never been a Grand Theft Auto guy or a Saint’s Row lover. I prefer my open world action cut straight to the chase. Ridiculously big explosions? Check. Fun boss lairs to invade and annihilate? Yep. Freedom to destroy stuff in any way I choose without annoying plotlines getting in my face? Sign me up.

If Crackdown 3 has any of these things, I foresee long nights of me on the couch blowing everything to smithereens. One caveat – They’d better have agility orbs. Just sayin’.

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Kingdom Come: Deliverance

Speaking of open world games, this one has me hyped. Long have I craved a medieval game with some sense of realism. Long have I desired to fear for my life with every axe-stroke, flying arrow, and falling sword. Kingdom Come promises me this realism. Events within the game are real-time, meaning they happen whether or not the player chooses to get involved. The HUD, always an obnoxious staple of RPG’s, is promised to be minimal. Take an arrow to the knee? Well…just one is probably enough to kill you. I’m hoping it’s easier than Dark Souls, but only slightly. And while I loved Skyrim, I crave the sort of realism most RPG’s have avoided.

Here’s to hoping Kingdom Come: Deliverance…delivers on its promises.

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Shadow of the Colossus: the Remake

In the past twenty years, few games have genuinely impacted me beyond my immediate time spent playing them. Most titles are pick up/play/forget games. They’re fun, but nothing transcendent. Not so, Shadow of the Colossus. Upon playing the original game, I felt as if I’d fallen into another world. It was a beautiful, haunting place. And now it’s back.

I was willing to buy a Nintendo Switch just to play Breath of the Wild. And so it goes for Shadow of the Colossus. I’ll pick up a PS4 just to play it. And yes, I know the PS4 has plenty of great exclusive titles. Shadow is just the gateway.

I. Can’t. Wait.

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Vampyr

Yeah, yeah. I know. Vampyr was supposed to come out in 2017. I was all hyped up about it, as I talked about here. So anyway, I figure the game deserves my patience. The idea of being allowed to turn good or evil in an open world setting pleases me. Will I go all out Dracula? Or will the in-game plot convince me to tread lightly on the throats of humanity? Set in a gothic-looking London, Vampyr will be a release-day purchase for me.

Assuming it ever gets released. 🙂

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Ori and the Will of the Wisps

Most gamers will fondly recall the stunningly beautiful game, Ori and the Blind Forest. With deep shadows, sharp lighting, and crisp, smooth controls, the original Ori proved to be the 2D adventure game we all needed. And while I’ll admit some parts of it were pretty challenging, it hooked me all the same. My kid and I stayed up wayyyy too late on many a school night bouncing around Ori’s deep, dark woods.

I don’t know much about upcoming title Ori and the Will of the Wisps. Details are scant and the release date isn’t set in stone.

One thing I do know?

I’m getting this game.

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Sea of Thieves

It’s the kind of good-looking game that makes me want to take a leap of faith. Stunning visuals, bombastic gameplay, first-person action…it all looks amazing. And while I confess I’m not a guy who’s usually into pirate games, Sea of Thieves looks ready to change my mind.

Things I hope for with this game: A solid single-player campaign. No always-online requirement. No bugs (Microsoft reports it’s allowing the developers to skip the normal certification process.)

If it all comes to fruition, this could the game that propels me into buying an Xbox One.

Time will tell…

 

Metroid Prime 4

Whoa. Ok. Take a deep breath.

Metroid Prime 4 release date – unknown. Gameplay details – not currently available. Screenshots – nowhere to be found. Do I care? No. The Metroid series is the reason I play video games. The original was the first game I played on the old school NES. I’m not too proud to admit I still play it from time to time.

In development for the Switch, Metroid Prime 4 isn’t just the game I want. It’s the game I need. A part of me hopes it’ll return to Samus’ 2D roots. Another part wants the awesome FPS design made so famous by the original Prime series.

Good god, Nintendo. Please release this game in 2018.

Thanks.



Enjoy more of my gaming articles here, here, and here.

J Edward Neill

Dark Artist, Fiction Author, & Coffee Table Philosophy Creator

The First Immortal

The First Immortal

 

I walked the streets of a city I hadn’t seen in two-hundred years.

And I felt thousands of people watching me.

If Sumer’s crowds were passionate, it felt easy to forgive them. They knew me only from the stories they’d read, the outlandish tales their parents had told, and the exaggerations their schools had taught. In their eyes, I was something well beyond human.

‘Callista – Bringer of Light,’ the banners at the light-train station had blazed.

‘Callista – the Savior.’

I’d learned long ago to ignore such things.

Behind glass partitions, amid lush gardens, and atop silver towers, the people cheered me. An entourage of black-suited men led my way, pushing through the crowds as we neared Arcadia’s tallest tower – the Gran Spire. The people wanted more than my fragile half-smile.

But then, they knew nothing of the horrors I’d faced.

I crossed white streets and meandered through a courtyard made of glass. At the bottom of the Gran Spire’s white-marble stairs, I halted. High above, a long line of glass doors remained shut.

“Is all this necessary?” I asked the man beside me. He was young – at most twenty-five years. He’d never left the planet of Sumer. I knew it at a glance.

He’s never even left Arcadia.

“Pardon, m’lady.” He looked nervous despite his black suit and dark sunglasses. “It’s protocol. President Hephast and the Congressional Court want to welcome you in style.”

I sighed.

I’d known his answer before he’d said it.

But I’d been hopeful for something other than cheering crowds beneath the midday suns.

I stood in the entourage’s center, tugging at the collar of my deep blue dress. I hadn’t wanted to wear the sleek, ridiculous Arcadian fashion, but I’d allowed the heralds who’d greeted my landing to convince me otherwise.

“The people will love you,” they’d promised.

“It’s best to look as though you’re one of us.”

I miss the war already, I thought.

And I forgot how warm this planet is.

A dozen times since last I’d stood beneath Sumer’s two suns. I’d died and been reborn. My newest body had only ever known the cold of interstellar Rings and the deep dark of planets long ago murdered by the Strigoi.

And now the light hurts me almost as much as my enemy.

I glanced at the bronze-skinned Arcadians surrounding me. To them, my discomfort must’ve seemed strange.

“M’lady, are you well?” the young man in sunglasses asked me.

“I am. And please don’t call me m’lady.”

“As you wish, m’la— Madame Callista,” he stammered. “What shall I call you?”

Cal,” I said. “I prefer Cal.”

The glass doors at the Gran Spire’s bottom swung open. Out stepped President Hephast and seventeen members of Arcadia’s Congressional Court, all of them decked in garish Arcadian suits. They were old, many well over a hundred years. To them, standing at the stairwell’s bottom, I must’ve looked childlike.

Yet I’m far older than anyone here.

“Callista Lightbringer.” President Hephast boomed across the courtyard. The amplifiers on his collar projected his voice loud enough for everyone within a half-kilometer to hear.

The crowds fell into reverent silence. The entourage of black-suited men knelt all around me. I stood alone among them, the only soul in Arcadia gazing up at Hephast and his assembly.

“Please, Lady Lightbringer,” Hephast called to me, “come forth.”

With a sigh, I climbed the stairs. My heeled shoes clicked on the glass, and my dress’s train dragged behind me.

Why all this in the middle of the day? I winced against the light. Why not at night?

Symbolic. Must be.  

I arrived at Hephast. Standing just one step above me, he looked older than I’d expected. His bald scalp was tanned to a golden shine by Sumer’s suns. His shoulders were narrow, his fingers long and thin, and his eyes hanging in his sockets, busy yet so very tired.

Humanity had found many ways to extend their lives.

But only I had managed immortality.

“The light, it bothers you?” Hephast saw me wincing.

“It’s been so long,” I said. “And this new body…it’s never been to a sunlit world. It hasn’t yet adapted.”

The old man peered beyond me. I followed his gaze, and found the crowds still kneeling, their eyes averted.

“Wave to them,” said Hephast. “Wave and then join me in my tower. The people have waited so long for you to come. They want to see you happy.”

Happy?

I can’t remember happy.

I faced the crowds and waved to them. A few dared to look up at me, and within moments they all stood and roared with applause. I’d never heard such a noise before. The sound of such overwhelming humanity felt powerful, but empty.

I waved for a full thirty seconds, and then faced Hephast again. All at once, I felt the Congressional Court’s eyes fall upon me. The line of elderly men and women smiled down at me, but not because they loved me.

They smiled because they needed me.

Soldiers clad in powered white armor emerged from the Gran Spire and held open the giant glass doors. Hephast beckoned for me to lead the way, and so I did. Behind me, Arcadia trembled with the cheers of thousands, and then I vanished into the tallest tower humanity had ever built.

Inside, I breathed. The midday heat fell away, and the crowd’s roars went silent. I stood beneath a spinning silver fan whose blades ushered cold air across my face. I closed my eyes and pretended I was still aboard the Sabre, still gliding through the deep darkness between the stars.

If only…

The soldiers stepped aside. Hephast and the seventeen Court members swept toward the Gran Spire’s central hall.

“Come,” Hephast called to me.

I followed.

In a vast white chamber with pale carpets and sharp lights, I settled into the chair they offered me. They put me in the second highest seat, just a half-step below Hephast’s colorless throne. Below us, some hundred chairs sat in a great ring around a table carved of glass.

Every seat was filled.

All eyes were on me.

As I looked into the room, I considered my audience.

These people have never seen me before. They know my stories, but not the truth.

The lights dimmed. Only two still shined.

One above Hephast.

And one above me.

“Welcome to Sumer’s high assembly, Lady Lightbringer,” announced Hephast. With his amplifier still active, his voice spread throughout the room like thunder.

“Thank you.” I gazed forward without expression.

“Before you sits the Arcadian Congressional Court.” He waved his skinny arm. “Also here are delegates from the city of Mercuria, emissaries from Iona and Venya, and members of the Far Court from distant Plutari. They come from all corners of Sumer to hear you speak.”

I gazed at my audience. Their faces, shrouded in shadow, looked shapeless in the dark.

“Forgive me,” I said, “but most of these places…I’ve never heard their names. When I left Sumer more than two centuries ago, the planet hadn’t been fully colonized. Now it seems—”

“We’ve come a long way, Lady Lightbringer,” said someone in the darkness.

Callista,” I corrected him.

“Pardon?” He sounded confused.

“My name – Callista,” I replied. “No one in the fleet calls me Lightbringer. I am…I always have been…Callista.”

Murmurs spread throughout the chamber. The Court’s discomfort hung heavy in the air.

“Callista,” Hephast said my name. “So be it. We’re told you have a full report. If it pleases you, we will hear it now.”

My report arrived years before I did, I wanted to say. You already know everything.

“As you wish.” I nodded.

I reached into my bodice and withdrew a slender silver capsule. I motioned for the nearest attendant, and the nervous young woman took the capsule from my fingers.

“Slide it into your holo-viewer,” I said loud enough for everyone to hear. “You will see what I last witnessed.”

“Wait…” said someone in the dark, “is it—”

“Yes. It’s a vid-capture from Strigoi hive XV Prime,” I said. “From their home-world. Or should I say — the home-world that is no more.”

The Court drowned in a sea of whispers. I heard their voices, faint and full of disbelief, and I allowed myself a smirk.

“…it’s true after all,” one woman said.

“…XV Prime? Their last stronghold in the Milky Way?” uttered a man in the seats below me.

“…she has a vid-capture? We’ll get to see the dark planet?”

The attendant girl looked to Hephast for guidance. He nodded, and the young woman scurried to the projector machine beside his throne.

She slid the silver capsule into the machine.

And we watched the battle unfold:

* * *

“They’ve nowhere to escape,” the young pilot beside me shouted.

“Which means they’ll fight all the harder.” I shook my head.

From the cockpit of my scythe-winged warship – the Sabre, I saw everything:

To the left, the star we’d just created blazed with brilliant yellow light. Even at ten-million kilometers away, the infant sun hurt my eyes to see.

To the right, the bloated Strigoi world XV Prime shuddered beneath the impact of the two-thousand string reprogrammers our fleet had just dropped on its surface. We’d sequenced the string reprogrammers, or S.R.’s, to turn the black substance composing XV Prime’s surface into glass.

If the new star we’d made didn’t kill the dark planet, we’d shatter it instead.

We knew most the S.R.’s would be overwhelmed and reversed by Strigoi death-bots.

“…but they can’t stop every last one.” I grinned in my cockpit. “And when the chain-reaction starts, we’ll break this planet. You’ll see.”

The young pilot stared at XV Prime. The planet’s coal-black surface teemed with Strigoi death-machines, its dark towers housing billions of our enemy.

The poor kid shivered.

He sees them.

They’re coming.  

 I ignited the Sabre’s quantum engine. I felt my chair vibrate and the universe move around me. XV Prime and the infant star became blurs as we accelerated to twenty-thousand kilometers per second. Anything slower, and the Strigoi warships would’ve carved us to tatters. Anything faster, and we’d have moved too far from XV Prime to fight.

“Joff would’ve gone faster.” I grinned.

“Who’s Joff?” my co-pilot asked.

That’s right, I thought, he doesn’t know.

I seized the cockpit control stick, guiding the Sabre between webs of Strigoi death-beams. They weren’t firing at us, but instead at the bigger, more powerful ships in our attack fleet. Red lights flared on the vid-screens, each one indicating a friendly ship’s extermination.

“God, they’re killing us!” the pilot screamed.

Should’ve left him on his home-ship.

No. I saw another twenty red lights illuminate the vid-screen.

If I had, he’d already be dead.

After many hundred years and countless attacks on Strigoi worlds, I’d become a far better pilot than anyone else in the fleet.

And yet…

I’m still not as good as Joff.

I pulled, pushed, and spun the Sabre’s control stick. We weren’t moving through space so much as space spun around us. Whenever I pulled the trigger, streams of missiles tore into the darkness. The Strigoi scythe-ships, their hulls like black, cadaverous bone, dove out of the missiles’ paths.

Not one missile hit its target.

Not that it mattered.

I pulled a second trigger, and all at once the missiles erupted into orbs of light. Spanning a few hundred kilometers each, the orbs burned only a few seconds before collapsing back into shadow.

The Strigoi were made of nightmares, but they’d yet to find a way to survive our newest weapons.

Darkness overwhelms light, our enemy believed.

No.

Light destroys the dark. 

“They’re almost out of ships,” I said to my co-pilot. I looked at him, and I saw the sweat on his forehead, the color drained out of his skin. He looked like a Strigoi had touched him.

But it was only fear that paled my young friend.

“We have to get closer,” I said. “Fire the beacons above their largest city. We’re going in.”

“We’re going down there?” he gasped.

“It’s the same as every other world we’ve destroyed,” I told him. “Now fire the beacons before it’s too late.”

“How many?”

“All of them.”

He hammered a sequence into his half of the Sabre’s console. Nervous wreck though he seemed, he pulled himself together long enough to launch a wave of nearly a thousand light beacons from the compartments beneath our wing.

The tiny spheres ejected themselves into space. Soaring through the darkness behind them, I cut our speed to a few hundred kilometers per second.

XV Prime awaited.

On its surface, seas of black towers stretched to the end of all sights.

The Strigoi swarmed.

Having slain hundreds of their worlds and dozens of their interstellar death-spheres, I was their nemesis. They knew I was coming.

But they can’t stop me.

Can you see, Joff?

Are you watching?

The beacons formed a web a few hundred kilometers above XV Prime’s hugest, blackest city. All at once, they ignited. Strigoi death-beams died in the beacons’ light-storm. Swarms of death-bots soaked up the blinding radiance and disintegrated.

I blinked and saw clouds of ashes.

My eyes hurt in the aftermath.

The dark city had never seen such light before. Thousands of years ago, the Strigoi had stopped the planet’s rotation, cutting it off from the star blazing on its opposite side.

And then they’d killed the star.

And thrived in the shadows remaining.

“No death-bots survived,” I said to the young pilot. “Nothing to stop our Primary S.R.”

“Then can’t we turn around?” He shivered. “The other S.R.’s should be enough, right?”

“No,” I grimaced. “We have to be sure.”

I keyed a quick sequence into the Sabre’s console. A last few death-beams smoked and curled upward from the Strigoi city, but I seized the control stick and swerved just in time.

“Release the Primary S.R.,” I commanded the Sabre.

And she did.

Somewhere in the Sabre’s underbelly, a door slid open. A slender silver projectile, no taller than me and only half as heavy, leapt into the planet’s orbit at quantum speeds. I couldn’t see it, but I felt it in my bones. It was the most powerful weapon we’d ever created.

“…strong enough to turn a half a planet into whatever molecule we want,” the scientist had told me.

“…hydrogen, helium, anything…”

No. None of those, I thought.

Glass.

I want the Strigoi to be glass.

And so it was.

At the moment the S.R. hit, we were already on our way out of XV’s atmosphere. The last of the beacons’ glimmers shielded us from the death-beams, and we soared out into far orbit.

A graveyard awaited us.

Clouds of dark powder floated in the void, the remains of thousands of Strigoi scythe-ships.

Metal spun through the emptiness, sprinkled with the remains of the humans who’d died.

“Look,” I said to the young pilot. “No, not at the dead ships. At the vid screen. See XV Prime? The S.R….it’s working.”

Together, we gazed at the screen. XV Prime’s surface, already cratered from the other, weaker S.R.’s, began to change color. From black to translucent silver, it went, and from hard, inflexible bone to brittle glass. Towers once black and mighty collapsed under their own weight. A full quarter of the planet shattered all at once.

I tried to imagine the sound, but I couldn’t.

God,” the young pilot exhaled.

“They’re finished,” I said. “The new star we made of its sister planet…the smaller S.R.’s burning…the Primary S.R. turning everything to glass. We don’t have anything capable of detecting Strigoi life-signs, but they’re all dead. I can feel it. Can’t you?”

He looked at me with his mouth hanging open.

“Weren’t they already dead?”

“Yeah…well…now they’re dead-dead.” I smiled. “And this was their last world in our galaxy.”

* * *

The hologram in the Gran Spire’s heart flickered and went out.

Having witnessed the spectacular end of XV Prime, Hephast and all the others fell into a deep, satisfying silence.

I wanted it to last forever.

But soon enough, Hephast spoke.

“It’s done,” he shouted. “It’s finished. The Strigoi are dead.”

I opened my mouth to interject, but the Congressional Court erupted into applause. Their raucous cries washed over me, hurting my ears. My new body hadn’t been conditioned for such noise.

“Lightbringer. Lightbringer. Lightbringer,” they chanted.

“The war is over,” they bellowed.

I waited.

And I let them come back to calm.

After five minutes, the clamor died. Hephast called for order, and most of the assembly returned to their seats.

“Lady Lightbringer,” Hephast said to me. “You have done a great deed. For hundreds of years, we have lived in the Strigoi shadow. Many of us never thought it would end. We assumed…no…we knew we would make weapons and send fighters to their doom until the end of all days. And now—”

“All hail Lady Lightbringer,” someone in the assembly cried.

“Our champion,” said another.

“Give her whatever she desires,” shouted still another.

With a wave of his fragile fingers, Hephast quieted the room.

“And so we shall,” he said. “Lady Lightbringer – or Lady Callista, as you like – we shall restore your full citizenship upon Sumer. You shall be given a tower, upon which your name will shine until the end of time. When our people look to the sky and fear no death at Strigoi hands, it is your name which will linger in their minds, and your victory for which monuments numbering in the thousands shall be hewn.”

“President Hephast…” My voice sounded small. “If I may speak…”

“You may,” he said.

“The Strigoi menace in our galaxy is destroyed,” I began. “It’s true. We’ve spent nearly a thousand years making it so. When he – when Joff Armstrong slew the very first Strigoi installation, I never thought it would be possible.”

“And yet here we are,” Hephast raised his slender arms, igniting fresh cheers from the crowd.

“Yes. Here we are.” I raised my voice. “But our galaxy isn’t the only one in which our enemy thrives. We know them to exist in Andromeda.”

Andromeda.” Hephast scoffed. “This too, we have heard. And yet even the Strigoi must know they can never overtake us now. Our scientists have said it will be a hundred-thousand years before our enemy can again marshal enough power to threaten our galaxy. A hundred-thousand years…might as well be a million.”

“Are you saying the war effort will end?” I asked.

The room quieted. I heard only the beating of my own heart.

“There is no war.” Hephast looked down at me. “This very day, we shall send word to the other planets. It is confirmed – the Strigoi are defeated.”

I hung my head. I’d always known what his answer would be, and yet I’d dared to hope otherwise. For all my centuries of wisdom, I often forgot the simplest lesson I’d ever learned:

Hope is a mistake.

* * *

The First Immortal is the opening chapter of upcoming novel – Eaters of the Light.

Eaters of the Light is the sequel to novels, Darkness Between the Stars and Shadow of Forever.

Look for it to hit stores in early 2018.

J Edward Neill

Fine Photo Friday – Sandhill Crane at Sunset

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Sandhill Crane at Sunset – Larry Winslett

 This shot is from Bosque Del Apache Wildlife Reserve in southern New Mexico, a real bucket list location for birders and photographers.  These kind of shots are always the result of high shutter speeds, timing, and a little luck!

Find Larry Winslett on Facebook and Flickr.  His photos are available as prints and fine art cards.

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For previous Fine Photo Friday submissions, go here.

Interested in submitting your work to be featured on Fine Photo Friday? Go to this Facebook account and send in your submission via message!

Thursday Art Assault – Bring the Dark Art!

 Please enjoy two of my recent paintings. The first is Lucifera, which is another angle I painted of this girl.

The second is a quick collaborative 3D piece I worked on with sculptor Tahina Morrison.

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Lucifera

The base sketch. Just pencils on a treated canvas.

Step 2 – Splash watercolors and acrylics on her face (while sipping on bourbon.)

Step 3 – Get crazy with demonic horns.

Lucifera – Finished piece

And here’s a side-angle, right after I varnished her.

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Next up – Skeleton Chair

Skeleton Chair – Tahina Morrison & J Edward Neill

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For more like these, chase me on Instagram.

Or crawl after me on Facebook.

Celebrating 1,000 articles!

Last week, we published our one-thousandth article.

That’s one-zero-zero-zero.

…and here we never thought we’d hit one-hundred.

2017 has been one hell of a year for Tessera Guild. We secured a full-time gaming blogger, Egg Embry. We expanded our Steampunk Fridays series. And we inspired readers with hundreds of paintings, books, crazy lists, and life-bending stories.

With an eye on doing even more in 2018, here’s five of our most popular articles of 2017:

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6 RPG Kickstarters you should Back

Egg Embry erupts onto the Kickstarter coverage scene with his biggest compilation of upcoming games ever!

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Nightmares, Horros, and Visions

Amanda Makepeace primes us for Halloween with a stunning collection of Zdzisław Beksiński art.

Nightmares, Horrors, and Visions

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How Playing D&D Reshaped my Entire Life

An author acknowledges his complete and utter nerd-dom, while also crediting it with inspiring his writing career.

 

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Tales From the Loop – Thoughts About the Best Game I Played at GenCon

John McGuire gushes about a new amazing game at the famous GenCon convention.

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My Mother – The Horse Diver

A woman remembers fondly her mother, a famous horse diver (not kidding!)

My Mother – The Horse Diver

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Come back soon for more articles about art, gaming, movies, books, and life – every single day!

And please enjoy your holiday season.

Sincerely,

J Edward Neill

Fine Photo Friday – Water & Rock

Welcome to the latest edition of Fine Photo Friday.

We’ll be posting one photo every Friday.

This week’s submission is from nature photography specialist, Larry Winslett:

Water and Rock, Maine Coast

How water shots look are always dependent on how you use shutter speed.  This shot is at 1/3 of a second (f14, ISO 100.)  Lens is a Canon EFS18-135.  Somewhere in this shutter speed range often gives a pleasing effect to moving water.  Of course other factors like the speed of the water also play a role in how the image looks.  See more water shots at www.larrywinslettphotography.com

Find Larry Winslett on Facebook and Flickr.  His photos are available as prints and fine art cards.

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For previous Fine Photo Friday submissions, go here.

Interested in submitting your work to be featured on Fine Photo Friday? Go to this Facebook account and send in your submission via message!

Thursday Art Assault – Dark Towers

Creepy gothic cathedrals.

Ancient dark towers.

Fantastical sky-piecing minarets.

Some of these are among my older (and therefore cruder) works.

Others are more recent.

Quality notwithstanding, painting dark towers is among my favorite things to do, second only to drawing attractive women.

Here…

The Last Tower – J Edward Neill

Ocean of Knives – J Edward Neill

Grave Towers – J Edward Neill

Gateway to the Moon – J Edward Neill

Black Light – J Edward Neill

Fortress of the Elder – J Edward Neill

City of Nowhere – J Edward Neill

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For more, go here.

For previous art assaults, go here.

If You’re a Self-Published Author, Here’s 5 Things You Probably Need to do Better

Fact: right now, more published books exist than at any other point in human history.

The reason is simple: the ebook explosion. And yet it’s not just ebooks. Observe Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and any number of a thousand vanity presses, and you’ll find that not only are there more books in print (or potentially in print) than ever before, but the number of authors keeps growing.

Every. Single. Day.

Which means…

…we all need to step up our game.

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Stage 1 – Writing a Marketable Book

If you’re an author with the intention of making money selling books (which you probably shouldn’t bother with) your competition is currently larger than any author has ever faced.

Tomorrow morning, it’ll be greater than it was today.

Next year, the odds will be stacked even higher against you.

And so on…unto the end of the publishing world.

And while the hundreds of ‘I’m not competing with other authors‘ memes are cute and optimistic, the fact is this: If you’re trying to sell books, you’re competing with every other author on the planet.

That’s why Stage 1 – Writing a Marketable Book – is the first and most obvious hurdle to new and established self-published authors. It feels like it should go without saying – if you plan to write, write well. And yet we all know our market. Due to the ease of publishing, the literary world is flooded with weak, poorly-written, badly-edited junk.

And so we’re going to make an assumption. If you’ve clicked this article, and if you’ve read this far, we’re going to assume you’ve written something worth reading. Your book is smart. It’s entertaining. It’s well-edited. If you were a famous author, you’d simply shuttle your new novel to the publisher and watch the sales and reviews stack up.

But this is where the assumptions stop.

And the struggle begins.

Sure, she’s beautiful. But can she spin a tale? Let assume yes…for now.

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Stage 2 – Pitching your Book to the Masses

Before we dive too deeply into the muddled waters of the book pitch, I want you to do something for me. I want you to close your eyes, take a deep breath, and remove the following three-word phrase from your vocabulary. I want you to promise never to utter this phrase again. And I want you to promise it right now.

The three-word phrase I want you to forget?

Check out my…”

You mean to say you’ve written a book (and remember, it’s good) but the only words you can think of to lure people into buying it are “Check out my book?” No. Just…no. If readers are going to build any desire to invest in your words, you need to awaken the same skills you used to write your novel and apply them to your sales pitch. You need to practice writing blurbs. You need to master using one or two sentences to not only describe your book, but also to hint at your writing style.

You need to capture people with words.

You need to make them say, “Whoa!”

Let’s look at the following sales pitches. You tell me which of these you’d be more likely to buy:

Pitch 1 – “Hey everyone! Buy my new book ‘Angels of the Seventh Dawn’ on Amazon today!”

or

Pitch 2 – “Upon burning fields and cities buried in ash, seven angelic spirits awaken to deliver humanity from the coming darkness.  – Angels of the Seventh Dawn – Now available.”

That was easy, right? By the way, I don’t know of an actual book named Angels of the Seventh Dawn, but if it existed, I might give it a read.

The point is this: most self-published authors suck at pitching their books. They go through all the glory and suffering of writing something beautiful, and suddenly it seems their creativity abandons them. In their greatest hour of need, they become lost. They pepper the internet with boring ads, dull sales pitches, and no real content other than “Check out my book.”

Don’t ask readers politely to check your stuff out.

Light fires under their asses.

Thanks…but no thanks.

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Stage 3 – You are More than the Books You’ve Written

So you say you’ve written a masterpiece.

Your new book, Angels of the Seventh Dawn, is the bizniz.

It’s bold. It’s epic. Readers will wet their underwear by the time they get to page two.

Trouble is, other than your mom, your cousin Marge, and two of your Facebook BFF’s, you don’t have any readers.

Do modern authors expect to write a book, however great it might be, and watch it soar atop the charts like some kind of cash-feathered eagle? Based on the number of complaints uttered by self-published authors across the internet, yes. But, c’mon now. Why would someone who doesn’t know you, who’s never heard your name or read anything you’ve written before, and who just worked their asses off to make $2.99 – spend that same $2.99 on your new book?

The answer is simple – they probably won’t.

Which is why any author who wants to make even the most modest sum of money selling books needs to create a presence. And by presence, I mean everywhere. To get known and to stay known, the self-published author (who lacks the marketing vehicles supplied by traditional publishers) must write far more than books.

Things an author needs to write:

Stories online – preferably free

Blogs – the topic doesn’t matter as much as the skill exhibited while writing about it

Words. Lots of them. Here, there, and everywhere, establishing who the author is, what they care about, and why they’re someone whose words are worth investing in

Oh, and more books (you thought three was enough?)

And in case authors believe grammar, spelling, and good proofreading are meant solely for their novels, they should think again. The internet is a cesspool of shitty wordplay, and it’s a writer’s job to rise above this. Be sharp with your blogs. Be clean and focused when telling stories. Go back and read your own sentences before hitting the ‘Post’ button. Be a grammar Nazi, but only for yourself.

Because…

I don’t know about you, fellow book reader, but the number of misspelled words, obvious grammatical mistakes, or incoherent sentences I’m willing to tolerate from the authors whose books I read is  – zero. That’s right. Zero. If a writer can’t manage a simple Facebook post well, what are the odds they can handle the pressure of an entire novel?

“The odds are…never mind.”

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Stage 4 – If your Presentation Sucks, Readers will Assume your Writing Sucks, Too

Is it fair?

Probably not.

Is it accurate?

Definitely.

Oh baby. Angels of the Seventh Dawn, your kickass new book, is really good. It’s got angels. It’s got dawns. It’s got…wait…what? A shitty cover?

There’s a ton of good art out there. And a ton of great artists. If you’re serious about the industry, and if you really want to sell books to more people besides your cousin Marge, hire one of these artists. Collaborate with them. Talk about the feelings you want them to convey through their art. And then, after they’ve worked wonders to create something for you, pay them. And pay them well.

The odds are already stacked against you, fellow writer.  Why hamstring yourself by using boring template art or poorly-rendered, low-rez crayon drawings?

Don’t. Just don’t.

My apologies to Mrs. Jeppsen. I’m sure Onio is a solid read.

Your presentation doesn’t just include your cover art. It’s much, much more.

It means having a website, a good one. One that’s easy to navigate. One that includes cool graphics, links to your books, and a rockin’ bio.

It means learning how to write articles with subtle links to your content.

It means creating content that has nothing to do with salesmanship. Just sharp, engaging articles without any mention of your books.

And it means managing your personality online. Not mixing business with pleasure. Not overwhelming people with book ads. And not betraying yourself by spilling negativity onto your audience.

You’re not just selling books, baby. You’re selling you. It won’t matter how good your books are if your self-presentation is sloppy.

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Stage 5 – You Can’t Cheat the System

Yes, you can hire a ‘street team’ to pile up 5-star reviews for your books.

Yes, you can use Bookbub to generate a giant sales spike.

And yes, you have a 0.0001% chance of striking it big with your debut novel, Angels of the Very First Dawn.

But there’s no substitute for quality writing. There’s no marketing strategy allowing you to ‘click it and forget about it.’ There’s no cheat code to worm your way to the top of the industry. You’re going to need patience, and a lot of it. You’ll also need discipline, a willingness to push other pursuits aside, and at least a little bit of luck.

And while walking down the long, hard road to making money via self-publishing, you might be tempted to complain. You might feel the urge to lash out at the unfairness of Amazon’s review system, the prominence of trolls, and the agony of having to deal with readers lobbing 1-stars your way. You might want to quit because you haven’t topped the best-seller charts.

Don’t.

Sit the fuck down.

Stop complaining online.

Kill your desire to post memes about killing off people in your books, how much you need coffee, or how great it is when people reward authors with reviews.

And get your ass into gear writing Angels of the Eighth Dawn.

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Love,

J Edward Neill

Fine Photo Friday

Welcome to the first edition of Fine Photo Friday.

We’ll be posting one photo every Friday.

This week’s submission is from nature photography specialist, Larry Winslett:

This shot is from the Blue Ridge Parkway – Waterrock Knob, North Carolina – Milepost 451.2.  The secret with sunrise shots – you always have to get up early to get the low clouds.  This was shot with a Tamron 18-200mm lens –  Exposure f8 @ 1/80 sec., no filters.

Find more Larry Winslett photos at www.larrywinslettphotography.com or find him on Facebook and Flickr.  His photos are available as prints and fine art cards.

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Interested in submitting your work to be featured on Fine Photo Friday? Go to this Facebook account and send in your submission via message!

 

Thursday Art Assault – New Cover Art for A Collection of Shadows

Whoa…

Whoa…

Whoa!

Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Shadows has all new cover art:

Cover by Tahina Morrison & J Edward Neill

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Tread lightly into ancient, forbidden realms.

Wander into the futures of apocalyptic worlds.

Know what it feels like to face the darkness alone.

Machina Obscurum contains twenty-two short tales by nine masters of fiction. Within these pages lie stories of men and monsters, of lonely souls and far-distant places. No matter what whets your appetite: sci-fi, horror, fantasy, or hard, dark realistic fiction, A Collection of Shadows has it all.

Contains stories by J Edward Neill, John McGuire, Chad Shonk, River Fairchild, Jennifer Clayton, Phil Elmore, Robert Jeffrey II, F Charles Murdock, & Roy Dodd.

My life as an 8-year old misfit

“Sorry,” the pastor tells me. “You’ll have to sit in the back pew again.”

It’s ok.

The holy wafers don’t look all that tasty.

It’s about ten o’clock on a Wednesday morning. I’m at school, shuffling my way to the back row of wooden pews. Outside, the weather is warm and inviting. Spring is in full force. The school year is almost over.

But for now, I’m stuck in here.

Oh right. I forgot to tell you. I’m at a private Catholic school. It’s called Holy Family. I’ve been attending this school my entire life. It’s a pretty great place most of the time. Our classes are small. Our teachers are strict, but fair. And they’re really good at teaching.

The one small complication: I’m not Catholic. Nor do I believe in God.

I’m also the only student among several hundred who hasn’t been baptized.

Of all the stunning gothic churches in the greater Chicago area, it figures that the one I’m in is ugly. From my seat, I can see stained-glass windows, the pastor’s dais, and the little metal box they call the tabernacle.

But this place has no towers, no sharp spires reaching for Heaven, none of the classic Catholic architecture.

It’s cold. It’s boring.

It’s municipal.

I can’t wait for Communion to end so I can go to recess.

The other kids file past me. They’re all wearing their special uniforms. Their robes are white and black, their shoes fancy. But for me, it’s the same yellow shirt and navy pants I wear every day.

It’s cool. They’ll have to change clothes before playing kickball today. I won’t.

Lounging in the back row, squinting to see what’s happening up front, I stick out like a sore thumb. When my friend Tricia walks by, I make her giggle, but both of us are quickly silenced by Sister Alvina. The nuns here are all-powerful. No one giggles on Sister Alvina’s watch.

Not even me.

Communion continues. It’s a quiet affair, considering the room is stuffed with parents, kids, altar boys, and nuns. I’m not really sure what the fuss is all about. I guess I’m not all that curious, either.

The kids march up to the pastor in single file, eat a pale wafer, and sip some red juice. The pastor says, “Body of Christ, blood of our savior…” and some other important-sounding stuff, and then it’s done. Next kid up. Next soul in line for Heaven.

Is it really this easy? I wonder.

Is that all it takes to get into Heaven?

If I didn’t love this school so much, I’d have begged out of this place.

My friends are being indoctrinated.

And they don’t even know it.

Oh well.

If today was the only day I had to sit in the back pew, everything would be fine. I can get over one little day. For an eight-year old boy, I’m as patient as they come. If I can sit still for twenty more minutes, I’ll be out there in the sunshine, kicking the hell out of rubber balls.

But this is the tenth time I’ve been stuck in here. Watching the other kids. Not allowed to dangle my finger in the holy water. Not permitted to wear the sweet-looking holy ropes. Not sure whether the red stuff in the pastor’s cup is Kool-Aid or actual pinot noir.

I might not know what pinot noir is yet, but I’m pretty sure I could use some.

If my dad were here, he’d probably remind me for the hundredth time about his decision not to have me baptized.

“…let you make your own choices,” he’d have said.

“…can change your mind when you’re older.”

The last few kids march past. They’re mostly Irish, just like me. They’ve got names like O’Conner, McDonnell, and Thompson. They don’t look at me today. I don’t look at them.

Everyone knows the deal.

I’m not allowed to play with wafers and sip fake wine because no one splashed me with the magic water. It’s all good. Any sense of curiosity I feel is dulled by my exclusion. The nuns don’t pity me, which is good.

But…

I’m pretty sure they’re wary of me. As if I’ve got a disease. I don’t belong here, and everyone knows it.

Finally, it ends. The pastor utters a few holy words, and the kids disperse. Across the aisle, Tricia’s parents smile and glow. I’m just glad none of my family are here. My expression isn’t something they’d be proud of.

I’m hovering in the grey space between sleepiness and boredom. It’s written all over my face.

A few minutes later, I’m outside. There’s not a cloud in the great blue sky. A field of suntouched grass awaits me and my classmates. We’re not thinking about holy wafers and blood-wine any longer.

It’s time for kickball.

And yet, as I await my chance to crush the bouncy red ball into oblivion, I can’t help but wonder. It’s something Sister Alvina said. It’s something Miss Calvin has repeated. And though they’d never admit it, it’s something most of my family has signed up for.

Since I’m not baptized, I’m not really a Catholic.

And if I’m not a Catholic, I’m going to Hell. You know – that place where the souls of the damned burn for all eternity.

I wonder if the other kids believe it. I question, even though they’re willing to play kickball with me, whether or not they think I’m going to roast forever in a fiery pit.

I guess it’s easier if we don’t talk about it.

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To continue the story, go here.

50 Things I Worry About

I’m not a person who worries about much of anything.

After all, worrying helps nothing. It only adds to one’s suffering.

And yet…here’s fifty things that concern me almost every single day:


I sometimes wonder whether I’m spending enough time with my son.

…or whether I’m actually the helicopter dad I try so hard not to be.

I worry I don’t read enough.

…that I don’t home cook my dinners more often.

…and that I sip too much wine.

I’m pretty sure my cats are at home destroying my furniture right now.

…the fat one probably barfed on the floor again.

I wonder if I’ll end up single, alone, and locked away in a big empty house by myself.

…and yet it concerns me that the idea of being alone is so very appealing.

I’m sure I’ll suffer from ’empty-nest syndrome’ when my son grows up.

And I’m positive I’ll struggle with an existential crisis when it happens.

I worry I’ve outlived my usefulness.

…except to scotch distilleries. I keep those guys in business.

I’m concerned I wasted my youth in the pursuit of pleasure.

…and yet if I were young again, I know I’d do the same things all over again.

I worry I don’t tip well enough. Even 20% feels low sometimes.

I sometimes worry that I don’t worry enough. Is being indifferent the truest form of immorality?

…and if it is, I should probably worry that it still doesn’t much matter to me.

I sometimes suffer from FOMO. (Fear of missing out) I want to do everything and be everywhere.

I’m concerned I chase Friday at the expense of Monday through Thursday.

And I’m really concerned about the huge pile of pancakes I devoured on Sunday.

I worry that it’s all meaningless.

But I push myself harder every day, and for what?

I’m not tall enough.

…or buff enough.

…or able to do all the athletic things I could do just five years ago.

And I worry sometimes these facts make me less of a man.

I worry that I’m smart enough to understand most of the world’s problems…

…but not nearly intelligent enough to solve them.

I worry about the 3,000 calorie steak dinner I ate last night.

…and the just-as-huge spaghetti platter I plan to cook tomorrow.

If I blow off being creative in favor of playing video games, I worry I’ve wasted a precious night.

But when I spend a whole week working myself to the bone creating, I sometimes think I’m missing the point.

I’m concerned about my quiet urge to sell my house and leave all my possessions behind.

But I’m more concerned about having to give up my grill if I leave, which means I’m probably staying.

I worry I don’t spend enough time writing.

…or am I writing too much, and thus falling out of touch with reality?

I definitely spend too much time thinking about money.

And too much time spending it.

And not enough time saving it.

I fear for my eardrums. All that heavy metal can’t be good.

I worry for my guitar, which I haven’t played in weeks.

…and my wardrobe, which I haven’t improved in years.

And of course, I worry about my stupid blind cat. She’s 18, and it’s only a matter of time before she becomes incontinent.

…which means I’m worried about my floors.

I’m not really worried about politics or religion or people fighting about it on the internet.

But I do wonder whether someday a lunatic who does worry about these things will end up killing me.

I’m mega worried about my son turning out to be too much like me.

Or that he’ll end up liking country music.

Please.

Anything but country music.


If you like lists about 50 things, try this one.

And if my worries have you thinking, get some of this.

J Edward Neill

…guy who writes too much.

…or maybe not enough.

Thursday Art Assault – A Girl Standing in the Wind

We started with this…

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And ended with this…

Decided against the tattoos…

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Here’s another angle…

Appears darker in this lighting setup.

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Hither the Wind – Tahina Morrison & J Edward Neill

For more 3D art pieces like this, go here.

For previous art assaults, go here.

 

A Quick & Easy Workout Routine for Writers, Artists, or really anyone

Judging by the title, you probably thought this would be an article about exercising your brain, your writing chops, or your editing skills.

Nope.

This is all about running, pushing, punching, and picking up heavy things.

I know. I’ve been there. As a teenager, I was skinny as a whip. A weakling. A fragile little artist. The exact opposite of this guy.

And then I discovered iron. And it changed my life.

Look. I get it. Spending gratuitous amounts of time sitting on your ass hammering out novels isn’t exactly a great way to sculpt your abs. And while reading is a great workout for the mind, it’s not particularly heart-healthy. In fact, most of the jobs humans do these days aren’t conducive to maintaining muscle tone and blood flow.

As writers (and artists, like me) we have an obligation to our fans, don’t we? To live long, healthy lives and pump out the most possible books? To operate our keyboards with freshly-toned forearms? To appear at book signings and art shows with swelling biceps and toned calves?

Ok. Whatever. You get the point. Here’s two sample weekly workout routines from my personal regimen. One is a light workout regimen for people who have no real equipment. The other is a more serious setup for those who either have gym memberships or can arrange an area with a small amount of equipment in their homes. I’ve been doing an advanced version of the second workout routine for about three months now, and it has truly energized me without taking up much of my day.

I recommend doing these workouts before writing, painting, or whatever your creative pursuit might be. A happy body tends to mean a clear mind.


Workout 1 – For beginners and those who have little or no equipment

Monday:

6 sets of pushups (do as many as you can until reaching failure)

6 sets of crunches (at least 20 per set, but no more than 80)

1 set of burpees (at the end) If you don’t know what a burpee is, look it up here. Do them until utter exhaustion.

Tuesday:

Run for at least 20 minutes or walk briskly for at least 40.

Wednesday:

4 sets of crunches

4 sets of pushups

2 sets of burpees

Thursday:

Run for at least 30 minutes or walk briskly for at least 50.

Friday:

Off day. Enjoy some pizza or something

Saturday:

8 sets of pushups

…and that’s it.

Sunday:

6 sets of crunches

Run for at least 20 minutes or walk briskly for at least 40

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Easy, right?

Remember, before starting any workout routine (light or serious) get in a good 10-15 stretch. Here’s another good starter routine, including some great tips for beginners.

In place of running (in colder climes or urban areas) I recommend using a stationary bike. Here’s the one I use. It’s served me well for five years now, no maintenance required.


Workout 2 – For those who either have equipment at home or visit a gym

Monday:

15 minutes of vigorous punching bag work (use MMA gloves if you’ve got ’em) Here’s the bag I use.

4 sets of 60 crunches

Tuesday:

4 sets of push ups. (Try to do the same amount during each set)

2 sets of 60 crunches

4 sets of dumbbell bicep curls (try to do at least 10 reps with each set – you’ll quickly figure out what weight dumbbell to use)

4 sets of chin ups (do each set to exhaustion) Here’s the bar I use at home.

Wednesday:

Run for at least 30 minutes (or use an elliptical machine/stationary bike) or walk briskly for at least 45 minutes.

Thursday:

10 minutes of vigorous punching bag work

4 sets of 60 crunches

4 sets of dumbbell rows/10 reps per set (here’s how to do rows)

Friday:

Take the day off. You’ve earned it.

Saturday:

4 sets of dips. If you don’t know what a dip is, check this video.

4 sets of dumbbell bicep curls

4 sets of pushups

4 sets of chin ups

Sunday:

Run for at least 40 minutes (or use an elliptical machine/stationary bike) or walk briskly for at least 50 minutes.


Adjust as needed to suit your style.

But definitely put in the work.

Your body (and your mind) will thank you for it.

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Other tips:

Get up and take a 5-10 minute walk for each hour of writing, painting, or sitting

Ditch the coffee. Drink water.

Eat after your workout, not before.

And yes, mowing the lawn (especially if you’re using a push mower) counts as cardio. 🙂

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J Edward Neill

…author, artist, and gym rat

 

 

Brand New Ridiculous Book – 101 MORE Reasons to Break Up

Oops, I did it again.

Over six weeks during a rainy autumn, I collected hundreds of break-up stories from friends, strangers, Facebook pals, random people on Twitter & Instagram, and several tipsy folks at the local bar.

And then…just because…I cleaned the stories up and put them into this book:

Every story is true. Some are anonymous. For others, the storyteller’s name is proudly displayed.

Sample break-up stories from the book are here.

The original 101 Reasons to Break Up is here.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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