Fine Photo Friday – Sandhill Crane at Sunset


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.



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.


Next up – Skeleton Chair

Skeleton Chair – Tahina Morrison & J Edward Neill


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:


6 RPG Kickstarters you should Back

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


Nightmares, Horros, and Visions

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

Nightmares, Horrors, and Visions


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.



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.



My Mother – The Horse Diver

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

My Mother – The Horse Diver


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

And please enjoy your holiday season.


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

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.


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


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.


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.


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!”


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.


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.


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.”


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

Is it fair?

Probably not.

Is it accurate?


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.


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.


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.



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 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




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

Cover by Tahina Morrison & J Edward Neill


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.


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.


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…


And ended with this…

Decided against the tattoos…


Here’s another angle…

Appears darker in this lighting setup.


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.


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


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.


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


4 sets of crunches

4 sets of pushups

2 sets of burpees


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


Off day. Enjoy some pizza or something


8 sets of pushups

…and that’s it.


6 sets of crunches

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

* * *

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


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


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.


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


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)


Take the day off. You’ve earned it.


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


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.


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. 🙂


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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


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.


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.


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


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

101 Deeper Darker Cover

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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.



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.



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.


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.


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.


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

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!!



“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.


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.


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.


And I moved on to these:


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


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…


…and finished with this.


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.


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.



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.


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.)


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.



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.



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.



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.



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.


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


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.


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



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