My Love of Drawing Beautiful Women

Ages ago, I was a student in a small Atlanta art school.

I wasn’t searching for a degree. Or a job. Or to become the next Boris Vallejo, HR Giger, or Picasso.

I just wanted to learn how to draw. Particularly people. Especially beautiful bodies and faces.

After I finished school, I ended up getting married, having a kid, writing books, and falling out of touch with the artsy young dude I’d once been.

But…

Over the last year, my world has stabilized. Once full of turmoil, I now enjoy relative peace.

Which means more time to paint. Sketch. And draw. Usually while sipping red wine beneath the setting sun.

One of my favorite topics has always been the female face. It’s elegant in a way no other subject matter can match. That’s not to say I don’t love all other forms of art, just that I find relaxation in the challenge of painting human expression.

So today I’d like to share some of my work. Some of these are what I’d consider ‘failed’ pieces, being not up to my standards. Others are small successes. While I still consider myself to be a weekend warrior (at best) I’m getting better with each piece.

…and enjoying every second of the process.

* * *

Here’s a recent tiny (6″ x 8″) piece I did. I almost, almost, almost left it the way it was on the left. The mere suggestion of a face is sometimes enough. Nevertheless, I ended up finishing it up and naming it Callista, after a tragic character in this book.

*

Here’s another one I almost left alone after the initial sketch. Valeria’s look is completely different before and after I added the crazy watercolors. On the left, she looks pensive, maybe even regretful. On the right, she looks more like a warrior princess. I sometimes struggle with loving/hating a piece after I move beyond the initial sketch phase. Still, despite the unusual color scheme, Valeria is framed and hanging on my wall.

*

After finishing this one, titled Ashes for Ande, I suffered no such post-color regret. The sketch looked ok, but the inks and dark acrylics worked out really well. This painting popped off my brush with ease. I had a character in mind (from another of my books) and the outcome matched what I’d imagined. Ashes for Ande might be my favorite. Maybe.

*

Mother of Midnight is and probably always will be the most challenging thing I’ve ever painted. The sketch alone (performed on a 24″ x 48″ canvass) took a week. The deep graphite, inks, and shading took another twelve days. I still haven’t snapped an ideal photo of Mother of Midnight. The trouble with photographing graphite is that it tends to reflect light, thus dulling the image. Oh well. Here she is:

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For this tiny (6″ x 6″) piece, I imagined a dryad leaving her ancient forest behind. I sketched her, inked her, and then let the golden watercolors drip. Her name is Sylpha. You like?

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Emme, the Pale Queen is a portrait I did for a friend. My latest gig has been to draw real-life people, but with subtle fantasy elements added.  In this case, she got a few green face tattoos and a whip of black hair tightened to her throat. I really liked how Emme’s eyes turned out. Her look suggests complete confidence.

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The Sorceress is a piece I tried (as in really tried) to sketch and swear to leave alone. I made myself promise not to go in afterward with colors and inks. Apparently, I can’t keep my oaths.  A few days after I finished the sketch, I sipped too much wine and broke out the color. For a little abstract addition, I left half of her hair untouched. She looks dangerous, no? And I’m glad I smashed my promise. I like her better now.

*

Ah, the treacherous nature of adding color. This is one piece I wish I could go back and redo. There’s something about her face that’s not quite right. Even so, I couldn’t bring myself to trash this one (titled ‘Last Glance’.) If for no other reason, I hold on to her to remind myself I have lots of room for improvement.

*

For a true challenge, try sketching the intricate musculature of a woman’s shoulders and lower back. It’s no easy thing. For ‘Blood Princess’ I wore a few pencils down to nubs. And now she’s undressed to kill.

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This is my most recent piece, titled Angelic. The original sketch was fairly NSFW, but after I added an ethereal gown and some ghostly yellow-gold watercolor, she’s slightly SFW. Maybe. For a real challenge, I used almost every media available to me, including pencils, inks, graphite powder, charcoal, acrylics, and watercolors. Next up: framing her.

*

For even more paintings (most of which aren’t women) go here.

To start a conversation with anyone on the planet, get into this.

J Edward Neill

 

A Thought for Every Thursday – Love by the Numbers

Welcome to A Thought for Every Thursday.

Every Thursday we’ll pose a question (or several) regarding a specific current event, a modern moral issue, or a philosophical conundrum. Instead of answering it ourselves, we look to you for the resolution.

 * * *

This week, we’re concluding our discussion of romantic relationships.

That means no more romance. Or love. Or sex. At least not for a while. 🙂

*

The following three bulletins were pried from actual research performed in the realm of love and relationships.

After each research topic, we’ve added a simple question.

All you have to do is read…and answer.

*

Marriage is good for the heart

NYU Lagone Medical Center researchers surveyed more than 3.5 million Americans across 20,000 health care centers in the U.S. and found that married people, regardless of age, gender, or cardiovascular risk factors, have a significantly smaller likelihood of cardiovascular disease than those who were single, divorced, or widowed.

Question: If you were happily single, would the research depicted above be enough reason for you to seek a mate?

*

Healthy relationships, healthy minds

A nationwide population-based prospective study from Sweden examined the association between marital status and dementia. Those living alone were at a greater risk for early-onset and late-onset dementia. Swedish researchers also found that being married or cohabiting at midlife correlates to a lower risk for dementia and cognitive impairment.

Question: Assuming the above study is accurate, why do you feel it’s true that having a significant relationship delays or eliminates the changes for dementia?

*

Attitudes about couples

The National Health Statistics Reports describes attitudes based on surveys given to men and women, ages 15-44. In an eleven year timespan, there has been an increase in the percentages of men and women who agree with premarital cohabitation. There was a decrease in the percentages of people who agree with divorce. More men and women support same-sex relationships. Greater percentages of people also feel it’s acceptable for unmarried 18-year-olds to have sex if they have strong affection for each other.

Question: Do you believe it’s wise for couples to live together before committing to marriage? Or do you believe it’s morally wrong and should be avoided?

**

*

* * *

Past A Thought for Every Thursday entries are right here.

If you like these kinds of questions, try these on for size.

If you prefer something gentler, go here.

See you next Thursday!

J Edward Neill

Cover Art Reveal – Shadow of Forever

There once was a boy who took to the stars…

He sailed into the darkness…alone.

…and waged war against the horrors he found.

And now, he’s back.

***

Now available – the sequel to Darkness Between the Stars.

Shadow of Forever

Cover art by Amanda Makepeace

Shadow of Forever

Earth is no more.

Every human settlement in the galaxy has been destroyed.

…except one.

On a planet far from home, Joff Armstrong watches the stars and counts the years until the Eaters of the Light return. He knows it’s only a matter of time. He ended one of their worlds, but thousands more remain.

No one believes him.

No one understands the coming darkness.

And so, as humanity’s twilight nears, he will steal his way into the stars.

Alone.

One man against legions of star-killing undead.

Searching for a way to stop the darkness between the stars.

* * *

The complete novel is available here.

Book 1 – Darkness Between the Stars – is here.

Find more of Amanda Makepeace’s art right here.

J Edward Neill

A Thought for Every Thursday – The Singles Bar

Welcome to A Thought for Every Thursday.

Every Thursday we’ll pose a question (or several) regarding a specific current event, a modern moral issue, or a philosophical conundrum. Instead of answering it ourselves, we look to you for the resolution.

 * * *

For the next few weeks, we’re going to approach relationships.

Romance. Love. Sex. Yeah.

*


So…

Depending on whom you ask, being single is either the most amazing, liberating thing in the world.

…or not.

Let’s talk about some of the situations people endure as they search for love.

*

Singled Out

 You’re the lone single person at a gathering full of couples.

They’ve placed your love life, or lack thereof, on the table for hors d’oeuvres. They’re giving you advice, offering to set you up, and regurgitating your dating horror stories.

Are you feeling:

Mad? As in you’re the odd one out?

Thrilled? (Any attention is good attention.)

Amused? (Half of these couples are miserable together.)

Hopeful? (Maybe they can help you find love.)

Nothing? (You tuned them out an hour ago.)

*

Charted Waters

 List the following in order (most important to least important) in terms of importance to you when dating someone.

The other person’s job

Their looks

Their religion

How good they are at sex

Their political stance

How close they are with their family

Their circle of friends

Their favorite movies, TV shows, and sports teams

*

Artificial Intelligence

 Suppose you’re dating someone.

They’re good looking, funny, successful, and smart.

But…

On the third date, you find out they’ve browsed your social media profiles and used some of the information therein to help win you over.

Is this creepy?

Cute?

Would you consider dumping this person?

Nice looking bar. Too bad it’s 2,000 miles away.

*

* * *

Past A Thought for Every Thursday entries are right here.

If you like these kinds of questions, try these on for size.

If you prefer something gentler, go here.

See you next Thursday!

J Edward Neill

Shadow of Forever – A preview

Ghosts

*

 “She’s getting what? To who?”

The rain thundered against my house’s glass walls. Rivers of water slid down the panes, blurring the greyest afternoon I’d ever seen. With her arms crossed, Callista floated above the table while wearing a too-big smile.

“You heard what I said.” She feigned a yawn. “Your sister’s getting married.”

I sucked in a deep breath and leaned back in my chair. I felt calmer at once. It wasn’t as if I’d spent much time with Aly in the last several years. Whom she married and why wasn’t any of my business.

“I guess I thought she’d never do it,” I said. “I mean…you know how Aly is. She’s a loner. She’s always working, always doing her science.”

Cal floated down and sat on the table’s edge. She looked absurdly beautiful, especially with the grey rain dimming the world beyond her.

“I don’t think it’s love.” She stretched out her legs. “Not that I really know what love is like. I got the impression, without cheating and reading her eyes, she’s marrying him for business’s sake.”

I retreated into thought.

I thought she’d marry the young man who used to bring her flowers. If anyone, it should’ve been him.

This can’t be for love.

After what happened to us, she doesn’t want children.

I guess it’s ok…

…if this is what she wants.

“They’re moving to Arcadia?” I asked Cal.

“Moving?” Cal shook her head. “Nope. They’ve already moved.”

“Am I invited?”

She smiled. “I am your invitation.”

I stood and walked to the window. I had to step over piles of clothes, eating containers, and a mound of soggy towels. I wasn’t much for cleaning up after myself. My only visitor ever was Cal.

And she doesn’t judge me.

“When?” I asked as I gazed into the rain.

“Seven weeks,” said Cal. “It’s going to be lavish, whatever that means.”

“It means I’ll have to shave,” I murmured.

“And maybe dress in something other than a twenty-year old tunic,” Cal added with a grin.

A gust of wind caught the rain beyond my window. The day was as dark as twilight, and the sheets of falling water moving as though alive. I lost myself for a moment. In the spaces between the rain, I imagined eyes. In a peal of thunder, I swore I heard voices.

“Maybe she’ll listen now.” My voice was almost a whisper.

“Listen? What do you mean?” Cal floated to the window.

“If she’s marrying him, she’ll be wife to the governor. She’ll have his ear when he makes policies. She’ll be…influential.”

“Joff, don’t—”

The thunder rolled, low and powerful. I touched the glass with my palm and imagined monstrous shapes moving in the rain. They weren’t there, not really.

And yet I see them.

“Don’t take it lightly,” I said. “If anyone can help make people believe, it’s Aly. She knows.”

“Everyone knows,” Cal argued. “It’s just—”

“They don’t understand,” I interrupted. “To them it’s just a story. It’s not real.”

Cal let out as long a sigh as a little blue nano-girl could. She knew exactly where my mind had wandered.

“The last time you tried to argue this with her, you two didn’t speak for a year,” she reminded me.

I know, I thought.

“And Aly, she’s the only person on this planet as stubborn as you,” Cal added.

I know that, too.

“So just how is it you’re going to change her mind? How, with nothing new to show her, will you convince her?”

I wish I knew.

“I have…information.” I pulled my mind out of the rain. “Two-thousand three-hundred thirteen more stars have gone missing since we talked. And it might be even more, but I’m only working with one orbital scope. No telling how many other stars they’ve destroyed.”

Lightning flared beyond the window. The rupture of cold white light burned shapes into my eyes. I caught myself shivering.

The Strigoi.

They’re out there.

They’re—

“Joff?” I heard Cal say my name. “Joff, are you listening?”

I blinked, and the shadows fled my mind. I was just Joff again, standing in my kitchen. The only light in the house came from Callista. There were no Strigoi, at least not out in the rain.

“Sorry.” I wiped the sweat from my forehead.

“As I was saying, it’s not just about Aly,” Cal continued; she must’ve been talking the entire time I’d stared into the rain. “You’re asking an entire planet to mobilize against something they’ve never seen. You want four-million people to leave their lives behind and go to war.”

“Their lives…” I mumbled. “You mean the ones they won’t have.”

Cal went silent. In part, it was because she knew I was right. The Strigoi, eaters of the light, were out there. We’d seen them butcher hundreds of people on the planet Ebes. We’d heard their voices echo in the void. And we’d killed them together, burning away one of their planets using the only thing that truly caused them pain.

Sunlight.

But Cal also went silent because she knew there was no point in arguing. We’d done the same dance several hundred times. I’d always tumble into a dark state of mind, and she always tried to pull me out.

By then, she knew better.

* * *

For the rest of Cal’s time at my house, I didn’t mention the Strigoi. I knew she hated it. All it ever accomplished was to put us both in foul moods.

So for her sake, I did my best to imagine a future without all the darkness. That afternoon, after I filled my belly with food, we took a walk in the rain. The worst of the storm had passed, and the warm drizzle felt as good as any shower. Even though I expected the wind and falling water to disrupt Cal’s nano-light, she fluttered through the storm with ease.

“How do you do it?” I asked her. We were tramping across a muddy field in the thick of the rain.

“I can survive in the vacuum of space.” She flitted between rain droplets as though dancing between swords. “I can turn myself into a stream of particles and travel down nearly any energized conduit. You think a little rain should bother me?”

“I just thought…well…” I stammered. “My dad used to say electricity and water were no friends of each other. And I found it out for myself one day. I used a powered wrench to fix a nut on a tractor’s coolant line. The line popped. So did the wrench.”

Cal laughed. She scattered herself into a few hundred-thousand nodes and then retook her perfect shape farther down the path. I’d seen her do it countless times before. It never ceased to amaze me.

“Now you’re just showing off,” I said. “You must be glad to have your old body back.”

“I am. But didn’t you just call me a wrench?” she laughed again.

“Yeah. I guess I did.”

Most nights, we’d have stopped walking at the green river. But that eve, just as the rain began to die, we crossed a narrow bridge and entered the fields beyond. I didn’t mind being soaked to my bones. It felt liberating, as if I’d washed away the morning’s darkness.

In the day’s last light, I looked across the fields. I saw the remnants of all the work I’d done to help the people who’d lived in the village near my home.

I saw the tops of the drain pipes we’d laid, exposed after years of heavy rain.

I glimpsed the lines we’d carved in the soil, the pattern of the farm that once had grown.

The crops were mostly gone, having long ago weeded over. It was the trouble with farming on Sumer. The rains were so heavy and the crops grew so quickly that within a decade all the nutrients were sapped out of the dirt. And without much animal life to provide natural fertilizer, most farms wore out their usefulness far swifter than they would’ve back on Earth.

“It gets old sometimes,” I said as Cal and I meandered along the riverbank.

“You mean being human?” she quipped.

“No. I mean thinking of everything like a farmer would. I can’t walk anywhere without thinking about soil densities, nitrogen levels, and drainage.”

“Uh oh.” Cal made a face. “Is this where you tell me another story about farm boy life? About tractors and griddlecakes.”

“No, I guess not,” I grumped.

“I’m only kidding.” She circled me and sat on my shoulder. “You can tell me any story. You know I like to hear them.”

“Nah. Not tonight.”

Together, we sat on the riverbank. The last of the rain died and the fog slithered away into the dark. I pulled off my boots and dipped my feet in the river. Back home, on an Earth that was no more, the water would’ve been frigid. But the little green river swirled around my ankles, warm and pleasant.

“You think Doctor Abid ever imagined us sitting here like this?” I kicked up a little plume of water.

“Oh. Him.” Cal made a sour face. She’d never forgiven her creator for sending us into space, alone and likely to die. “I don’t think he imagined anything for us…other than dying.”

“You know, by putting us in the Sabre and shipping us off to Ebes, he saved us,” I pointed out. “If we’d have stayed on Earth, if someone else had gone in our place, we’d be dead. Just like…you know…Mom and Dad. Just like everyone.”

“Does that mean you’re thankful?” Cal looked at me.

“No. I mean, not exactly.” I couldn’t think of the right words. “It’s not like he did it to help us. There’s no way he could’ve guessed what would happen.”

Cal offered a slender smirk. “Well then there’s your answer. He didn’t imagine us here. Not on Sumer. Not sitting by this river. Not alive. Not together.”

“You’re right.” I nodded. “I’m sorry. I’ll never bring him up again.”

She didn’t answer. But I knew she was happy to hear it.

* * * 

Later that night, as I roamed around the lower level of my house and clean up my messes, Cal drifted down the stairs and into the room. I worked by the light of three blue lamps, in whose light she floated and danced. Within one of the lamplights, she hovered longer than the others. The shadow she made on the pale wall was the same size as a person.

And for a moment I watched her.

Wishing.

When she left the light, her shadow vanished. She had a serious look in her eyes. She’d been upstairs for hours, no doubt plotting whatever she was about to say.

“Your sister’s getting married.” She flitted around me as I carried off a pile of clothes.

“Yeah. I heard.”

“She’s moving on with her life.” Cal ignored my sarcasm. “She’s making happiness for herself. She’s joining the rest of humanity.”

I dropped my clothes at the bottom of the stairs. There was no sense in avoiding Cal. She had something on her mind and she meant to share it.

“I know where you’re going with this,” I shambled back into the light.

“Well…” She crossed her arms. “I want to know what you’re going to do with your life. You’ve talked for years about dying early because of the Strigoi poisoning, but that hasn’t happened. Not even close. You have all these reasons for staying out here and being a hermit. And I…I just want to see you happy. This obsession of yours isn’t healthy. After Aly’s wedding, I think you should live in the city with me. We don’t have to move to Arcadia or anywhere fancy. But I think you should be with people again.”

“With people…” I murmured.

“Yes.” I could tell she was upset by the way the light in her body intensified. “Besides, I’ll have a body in a few months. A real one. It’s almost finished. I’ll be as human as you. Same voice. Same face. You don’t have to…you know…love me. But we should live close together. You should talk to other people. You should live a full life. I want it for you.”

I hadn’t expected her outburst, but I should have. For years, she’d dropped not-so-subtle hints about the hopes she had for my life. It was hard to see her so upset.

I stopped moving, stopped thinking, and gazed across the room at her.

“I like it out here. It’s peaceful,” I offered.

“No.” She shook her head. “You like it out here because you can walk in your field and stare at the sky all night. You like it because no one questions you or challenges you. You like it because you don’t have to be human. You get to pretend you died on Earth with everyone else. Well, guess what? You didn’t.”

I might’ve been angry.

But Callista was right.

*

 

* * *

Ghosts is the second chapter of upcoming science fiction novel, Shadow of Forever.

The first chapter is here.

Shadow of Forever is the sequel to sci-fi hit, Darkness Between the Stars.

It’ll be out in the first half of 2017.

Both books are by J Edward Neill

Both covers are by Amanda Makepeace.

That time I destroyed my house with art

I’ve painted hundreds of canvasses.

I’ve gone through a thousand tubes of acrylic paint, wrecked dozens of brushes, and cleaned up countless spills.

None of it prepared me for the horrors of using graphite.

You see, I wanted a change. Not that I’d grown bored of using acrylics and watercolors; I hadn’t. It’s just that I’d seen some epic works by Allen Williams and others…and frankly I felt I needed to expand my horizons.

So I hit the local Hobby Lobby, snatched up some charcoal pencils, graphite sticks, tortillions, and two small jars of the most devious substance on Earth – graphite powder.

Pure. Beautiful. Evil.

The powder looked harmless enough. A fine black grit neatly tucked into a plastic cylinder, I wasn’t worried about how to use it. I figured I’d start experimenting, pound out a few dozen pieces, and learn on the fly.

I should’ve done more research…

It’s not that I spilled any; I really didn’t. It’s not that I was clumsy with it; I wasn’t. But the thing is…once rubbed in, stepped on, or lightly dusted across any surface, graphite powder embeds itself.

…into my hands.

…onto my drop cloths.

…on my patio.

…in my shower.

After a few hours of coating a canvas in dark, dark powder, the stuff was everywhere. I always work barefoot, and my toes and heels became black as midnight. I like to push charcoal and graphite around with my fingers to texture it, and so my hands resembled a coal miner’s. I like to breathe, thus the inside of my nose was coated with a fine layer of darkness.

The piece I created was only meant to be experimental, to get a feel for how the powder works.

You could say I learned my lesson.

Introducing ‘The Nameless Tree.’ It’s my first (and possibly last for a while) graphite powder piece.

The Nameless Tree is approx. 20″ x 30″.  The original is for sale for $250.00.

The tree was created by removing excess graphite with a pair of soft erasers. It took about an hour to coat the canvas, another hour to carve out the tree, and a full day to clean the corrupting graphite from my deck, my floors, and my skin. As I type this, I still have powder embedded beneath my fingernails.

Live and learn…

…and stay the hell away from graphite unless you know what you’re getting into.

If you like The Nameless Tree, you’ll probably like these.

And if you like quizzes, you’ll love this.

J Edward Neill

A Thought for Every Thursday – for Lovers only

Welcome to A Thought for Every Thursday.

Every Thursday we’ll pose a question (or several) regarding a specific current event, a modern moral issue, or a philosophical conundrum. Instead of answering it ourselves, we look to you for the resolution.

 * * *

For the next few weeks, we’re going to approach relationships.

Romance. Love. Sex. Yeah.

*

To get us started, here’s three light-hearted questions we recommend you read with your lover snuggled right next to you:

*

Famous Couples

Which fictitious couple best represents you and your lover?

Princess Leia and Hans Solo

Princess Fiona and Shrek

Rocky Balboa and Adrian

Carry Bradshaw and Mr. Big

Bella Swan and Edward Cullen

Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet

Write-in: ____________________________________________

*

Whatever It Takes

 For each of the following, state whether you did or did not do it while in the early stages of dating your current beau:

Blew off a friend to be with your new lover

Left work early to see them

Took a sick day from work to spend max time with them

Missed a meal

Skipped a night of sleep

Told a white lie to friends/coworkers about where you’d been

Spent more money than you should have

*

Couples Calculus

 Complete the following formula:

______________________

+

______________________

+

______________________

=

The perfect night out for you and your partner

*

* * *

Past A Thought for Every Thursday entries are right here.

If you like these kinds of questions, try these on for size.

If you prefer something gentler, go here.

See you next Thursday!

J Edward Neill

20 eye-rolling things about Facebook & Twitter

Roll ’em back, baby.

…all the way.

* * *

20 Things to Roll your Eyes at on Facebook & Twitter


Everything Snapchat related.

Posts leading with, “I never rant about _______, but…”

Fake news fallout – Is an article real? Or is it total, opinion-based garbage? Even ‘reputable’ sites are known to post clickbait these days. Is it fair to shout ‘fake news’ at pretty much everything and run away screaming? The answer: probably

Serial profile pic changers. You know the ones. Several profile or header pic changes daily. Here’s a hint: everyone thinks they’re crazy.

Fake profiles from India. Why India? Why not Mexico or Canada or Switzerland? The best thing is that people still fall for fake-profile scamming. C’mon…like a beautiful 22-year old brunette with three friends and a two-sizes-too-small bra really wants to be our friend. Please…

Anything to do with politics. Ever. Unless it’s funny. Then fire away.

Spamming a ton of shares and RT’s. Unless someone can spit out a funny joke or comment of their own once in a while, let’s just all go ahead and click the ‘Unfollow’ button.

Vaguebooking. If you don’t know what it means, you’re probably guilty of it. 🙂

Professional or business social media accounts stacked with complaints about the business-owner’s personal life. Not really a good image, right?

People who use other people’s photographs as their profile pic. What’s with that? Everyone knows they’re not really The Rock or Penelope Cruz. It’s fine to not have a profile pic or to use a graphic. But a celebrity pic…weird.

The dude in the background looks constipated.

Serial quiz-results posters. Yes, we know your birth sign means you’re a mecha-Barbara Streisand Valkyrie goddess. And yes, we know you’re smarter than 99% of Earth’s quiz-taking population. Can we move on with our lives now?

Hashtag abusers. Super savvy marketing idea…or extreme narcissistic disorder? You decide.

Unsolicited d**k pics. Barf.

Facebook’s ‘Suggested’ posts. What percentage of these are accurately targeted? How many suggest you buy something you already bought? How many make you want to assassinate Mark Zuckerberg?

Motivational memes and quotes…you know the ones. ‘Everyone’s beautiful.’ ‘Every woman is a queen.’ ‘You’re special and you deserve love.’ Here’s a few cynical counterpoints: Everyone isn’t beautiful. Queens usually get murdered by angry peasants. Love is earned and definitely not deserved by everyone. Sorry.

The fact that Kendall Jenner is a trending topic every single day forever.

People who post a random quote…and then attribute it to themselves. An offense worse than murder? Discuss.

Sales spamming. Go ahead and post that one link for the thing you’re selling. That’s cool. All good. But if an entire social media feed is sales stuff and bizniz chat, people start planning murders. (Or they just unfollow you.)

Cats who refuse to be terrified when presented with cucumbers.

People who don’t know what the website The Onion is all about.

* * *

If you’re annoyed now and want to start some arguments, read this.

If you’re into sharp, but friendly philosophy, check this out.

J Edward Neill

Creator of Coffee Table Philosophy

A Thought for every Thursday – Wanna be a monk?

Welcome to A Thought for Every Thursday.

Every Thursday we’ll pose a question (or several) regarding a specific current event, a modern moral issue, or a philosophical conundrum. Instead of answering it ourselves, we look to you for the resolution.

 * * *

So…

For the next few weeks, we’re going to approach a few deeper-than-normal topics.

Science. Religion. Meaning of life type stuff.

This week we’re discussing vices and indulgences, and whether or not certain behaviors reflect poorly (or not at all) on a person’s morality.

*

Wine

Liquor

Sex

Fine foods

Drugs

Just some of the things humanity indulges in.

For the sake of this question, let us assume none of these things are bad or immoral by themselves. While it’s possible the people overindulging in them might do harmful acts, the actual wine, sex, food, et cetera aren’t to blame.

That said, is a person who indulges in none of these a stronger person morally than someone who indulges in them often?

Does denial (or severe limiting) of one’s indulgences make a person better?

Or do indulgences have no bearing on a person’s goodness?

Best haircut ever….

* * *

Past A Thought for Every Thursday entries are right here.

If you like these kinds of questions, try these on for size.

If you prefer something gentler, go here.

See you next Thursday!

J Edward Neill

A Crap-Ton of Comedy for Twelve Bucks

A few months ago, I stumbled upon a true Atlanta gem.

There I was, sittin’ at my computer, when a message popped up from someone I hadn’t talked to in a while.

It was an invitation to something I’d never heard of before – Beer and Comedy at Sweetwater Brewery

Not being a true beer aficionado, I was skeptical. The snob in me wanted to sip cocktails in a traditional comedy setting…whatever that is. And yet I was curious. The ad promised several hours of local and traveling comedy talent – usually 8-12 comics per night. It promised me a ton of Sweetwater beer, which…even though I’m not a beer nut, made me say, ‘hmmmmmmm.’ It even promised a souvenir pint glass, of which I just happen to collector.

All of this…for only $12.

“F**k,” I thought. “Twelve bucks for two-plus hours of comedy, six beer samples, and a pint glass? It’s too good to be true. Right?”

Souvenir pint glass? I guess I’m easy to please.

And so, on a cold winter’s night, after stuffing my belly with treats (and maybe one little Long Island) at Brookhaven hot spot Kaleidoscope, I hauled my skeptical self deeper into Atlanta. The rain pummeled my passage along the dark streets, and the cold crawled into my skin. At nearly 7PM, I shambled alone into Sweetwater Brewery, paid my twelve bucks, and hopped up the stairs into a wide-open bar.

I arrived early that night. Prime seating was mine for the taking. I wandered up to the huge L-shaped bar, ticket in hand (Each ticket has six punch-outs; each punch-out gets you a half-pint of beer) and I sampled a light but flavorful pineapple ale. Reminder: I wasn’t a beer nut, but I liked the pineapple ale so much I used half my ticket getting refills.

So there I was, all alone. I was probably the oldest person in the brewery, and definitely the only one who hadn’t brought a date. Both of those truths were just fine with me. People-watching was (and still is) among my favorite pastimes, and I’d always thrived on flying solo. After some thumpy music from local DJ Durrty Martinez (including a sing-along of 80’s cartoon show Duck Tales) the crowd quieted (slightly) as a shaggy dude in a weathered beanie took the stage.

This guy – Joe Pettis.

And off we went.

Two hours of better than average comedy.

Six half-pints (in truth, they gave me mostly three-quarter pours) of better than average beer.

A young, lively, attractive crowd.

My expectations had been pretty low. I’d figured for twelve dollars, I’d get some beer and ‘meh’ comedy. And while it was true some of the ten comedians were hit-or-miss, for the most part the crowd laughed their asses off. As the show ended, I snapped up my pint glass and wandered back into the rain. I felt like I’d just robbed a bank. One doesn’t get a ton of beer and quality comedy in Atlanta for $12. Most spots, I’d have dropped at least $50.

The show’s second half – hosted by pretty damn funny dude, Jeremy Mesi.

And so…

Ever since that first night, I’ve been hooked. I’ve gone to a dozen shows, and I’ve enjoyed them all. Friends I’ve invited felt likewise. While it’s true the crowd can get pretty loud at times, and also true a small fraction of the comedians aren’t quite ready for prime-time, it’s still worth twice the price of admission. The two hosts (Pettis and Mesi) are legit hilarious, and the talent keeps getting better. Local comedy goldmine Ron White has even been known to show up now and then…and it doesn’t hurt that he’s my favorite laugh-maker alive.

So there you have it.

In Atlanta on Monday? Cool…join me at Beer and Comedy. I’ll buy you a beer or two.

Oh wait. I won’t have to.

And when you get home from the show, do this.

See you on the flip side.

J Edward Neill

Creator of Coffee Table Philosophy

A Thought for every Thursday – Not the ending you expect

Welcome to A Thought for Every Thursday.

Every Thursday we’ll pose a question (or several) regarding a specific current event, a modern moral issue, or a philosophical conundrum. Instead of answering it ourselves, we look to you for the resolution.

 * * *

For the next few weeks, we’re going to approach a few deeper-than-normal topics.

Science. Religion. Meaning of life type stuff.

Speaking of meaning of life type stuff, what if…

*

Not Quite What You Were Hoping

 There exist numerous theories regarding the meaning of life.

Some predict a divine afterlife.

Others believe in infinite recycling of our souls.

Some believe in very specific versions of heaven and hell.

And still others say there’s no meaning at all.

Everyone is guessing.

No one really knows.

Even so, the most common perception is that if there is a meaning, it’s probably a positive or at worst a neutral one.

But…

What if humanity one day learned our purpose is nefarious?

That perhaps humanity (or even all life) was engineered for a negative purpose?

Is it possible?

If you learned such a thing were the truth, what would you do?

Run!!!

* * *

Past A Thought for Every Thursday entries are right here.

If you like these kinds of questions, try these on for size.

If you prefer something gentler, go here.

See you next Thursday!

J Edward Neill

Painting with Darkness – Part XV

As I publish more and more books, I find myself wanting to create my own cover art.

It’s risky business, I know. If I paint something that looks too homemade or ‘arts and crafty,’ I could repel audiences with subpar art.

I’ll probably still keep reaching out to my favorite artist, Amanda Makepeace, for all of my major novels.

But for other, stranger, darker releases, I might keep trying my own brand of shadowy art.

And so…

1

On Christmas Eve 2016 I found myself sketching a scary hand. It grasped for a magical (and of course, evil) orb of power. This little concept was born days earlier when I dreamed up my next series of novellas, currently titled Ashes of Everything. The pencil I used is the same pencil I used in high school more than 20 years ago. No kidding. The hand….is based on mine.

2

Painting fire is fun! I mixed up soft watercolor reds and added depth as I reached the canvas’s edge. The pencil-sketched hand is still under there, just barely visible enough for me to fill it in with blacks after the flames were complete.

3

Ah, the claws, the grasping fingers! Those who’ve read my Tyrants of the Dead series might remember whose hand that is. Those who haven’t, well…what are you waiting for? But seriously, texturing hands (especially demonic ones) is no easy thing. I spent countless hours shading, darkening, and highlighting each finger.

ashes-of-everything

The more I toiled, the darker the painting became. The flames deepened. Black prison bars appeared in the background, representing the demon creature’s imprisoned state. This is the final pre-varnish image. I was very pleased with how it turned out. It’ll most likely make the cut as a book cover in the next few months.

* * *

If you liked this Painting with Darkness entry, check out the other fourteen: I, II, III, IV, V, VIVIII, IX, X, XI, XII. XIII, XIV.

To dive into the series that inspired this piece, click this.

Until next time…

J Edward Neill

 

A Thought for every Thursday – Is Reincarnation Pointless?

Welcome to A Thought for Every Thursday.

Every Thursday we’ll pose a question (or several) regarding a specific current event, a modern moral issue, or a philosophical conundrum. Instead of answering it ourselves, we look to you for the resolution.

 * * *

For the next few weeks, we’re going to approach a few deeper-than-normal topics.

Science. Religion. Meaning of life type stuff.

Today’s topic is reincarnation, and whether or not such a concept is even possible:

*

Reincarnation

It’s a prime tenet of the Hindu religion, and is referred to peripherally by several other faiths.

The idea:

Every human and animal has a soul.

Upon death of the body, the soul can inhabit a new body, thus beginning life anew.

Let’s imagine for a moment reincarnation is absolute fact.

Now suppose, due to some universal cataclysm, all life were permanently extinguished. It’s entirely possible, even if it happens many, many years from today.

If all the souls in existence were suddenly rendered homeless (no bodies to inhabit) would they simply wander the universe for eternity?

And would that make the entire reincarnation concept pointless?

* * *

Past A Thought for Every Thursday entries are right here.

If you like these kinds of questions, try these on for size.

If you prefer something gentler, go here.

See you next Thursday!

J Edward Neill

How to stop caring about (almost) everything

Don’t take the title too seriously.

I’m not suggesting you stop caring about your family, your friends, or your personal welfare. Nor am I saying you should be indifferent to things that really, truly matter.

But everything else?

That’s up for debate.

Maybe you’ve heard of it. These days, there’s a little thing called the internet. The big ole triple-dubya is pretty cool, right? It’s the fastest delivery system of information ever made. Crappy bandwidth notwithstanding, it delivers info at the speed of light. The trouble is, when I say ‘information,’ I’m using the term loosely. Because you see, the word itself implies a certain factual quality. Or at least it should. Or maybe it used to. But information doesn’t imply truth anymore, does it? Just because someone, no matter their credentials, publishes something to the ‘net doesn’t mean it’s true. Or unbiased. Or even based in reality.

Information isn’t information anymore.

It’s just characters on a screen. Usually hammered out by someone with an agenda.

And thus, maybe you should care about it less than you do.

Yawn a little more. Care about the internet a little less.

*

Think about these:

How many times have you seen an article stating someone famous just ‘destroyed‘ someone else famous? Meaning, they said something on the ‘net and everyone else chimed in with, “Oooooo…nice burn!”

How often have you read (or maybe even posted) a rant about some inconsequential (to everyone else) matter?

What percentage of your social media is consumed with one ‘side’ blasting the other?

How many people have you witnessed become aggressive, name-calling, angry, or just plain hyper-opinionated?

*

Let me answer for you: Every day. Too often. More than 50%. And almost everyone at one point or another.

Ah, the internet. Such a glorious place to live. But just because it provides a vehicle for everyone to speak to everyone else doesn’t mean humanity is suddenly enlightened. It just means it’s easier for us to run our mouths. To learn a little bit about a topic and claim we know everything.

The internet gives us a way to talk about stuff we don’t know much about.

So…

What’s a person to do?

Stop caring.

That’s right.

Just stop.

Or maybe…yawn a LOT more. Care about the internet a LOT less.

Here’s the thing about everything. With a few exceptions, everyone on Earth lives for themselves. I’m not saying everyone is selfish, just that everyone does what’s right and what works for them. Despite globalization, despite everything, most of everyone’s time is consumed with working, sleeping, eating, and surviving. Just like it was ten years ago. Just like forever.

Know what I mean?

Example: A politician threatens to shut down a coal mine for the noble pursuit of cleaning up the environment. Sounds good, right? Sounds progressive. But…do you really expect the coal miners and the vast network of people who depend on the coal industry to vote for this politician? No, you shouldn’t. The guy whose paycheck depends on shoveling coal into a furnace doesn’t care about noble pursuits or clean-air acts. They care about food. As in, on their table. They don’t care what Twitter says. And they certainly don’t care about you or me. When it comes to it, they’re gonna vote (if they care enough) for the person who opposes shutting down their mine. Even if it pisses you off. Even if it flies in the face of everything everyone else believes.

And so it goes. ‘Round and ’round the world.

People live for themselves.

If one group of people struts around the internet, trolling, name-calling, and otherwise tearing another group of people to shreds, does it matter? Is anything gained? And if the other group gets defensive (as is to be expected among humans) and fires back with verbal missiles of their own, does that mean anything? No. Aside from stinging a few butts, it doesn’t matter. At all. At the apex of the word-war, facts, truths, and hard scientific data lose all relevance. No progress is made. People’s hearts and minds don’t change. The battle is an illusion.

You wanna know why?

Ok. I’ll tell you.

Every person on every side and in every corner of every discussion is an individual. Lump ’em in a group all you want, but they’re doing what works for them. For their lives. For their families. There are no Red states. There are no Blue states. Those things are just colors on a map. What is there? Well…there’s a ton of people living their lives, doing whatever it is they think is best for themselves. It doesn’t matter what names you call them (deplorables, libtards, rednecks, elitists, et cetera.) Individuals don’t care, and nor should they. They’re trying to live the way they want. And in most cases, they’re living the only way they know how.

So what’s a person to do?

I’ll say it again: stop caring.

And while you’re at it, stop judging.

Yawn…wait….was there an election?

Ignorance. There’s a lot of it out there. In fact, everyone is ignorant. You’re ignorant. I’m ignorant. Humanity is ignorant. We know only what we see with our own two eyes, and sometimes even those deceive us. Like it or not, everything else is unknown to us. You might read about it or think you understand it. You might dive deep into some article you found online and claim to know about it. Guess what? You don’t. You can’t. You’re human, and the scope of your awareness is purposely limited by your biology. It’s in your DNA, baby. You’re meant to care about you and yours. And not much else.

Unless you’re IN it, you don’t really know it.

It’s a harsh reality, but the idea of unity and world peace are in fact, completely ignorant. Humanity will never be unified longer than a few moments at a time. The idea of peace on a planet with seven-billion human-beings (and climbing) is nonsense. We’re all too ignorant. We’ve no idea what it’s like to live anyone’s life other than our own. And yes, it’s true; some people are more ignorant than others. Some people are isolated, uneducated, extra-extra biased, or just plain unintelligent. And no, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t make you or me better than them.

Pointing out the weaknesses of others has yet to result in meaningful progress.

And yet so many of us do it.

Once a human being has reached a certain threshold, once they’ve decided they no longer care what’s outside their bubble, it’s over. It’s done. It’s finished. The odds of a person changing their mind due to anything other than a life-changing event are almost nil. Fiery words exchanged on Facebook don’t change us, and actions don’t really change us nearly as much as we like to think.

You know what changes people? Trauma. The hard stuff. People being torn out of their lives and thrust into entirely new bubbles. Harsh life experiences are far more important than anything anyone can dish out online. The only way to chip away at ignorance is to live IN a situation. All the way. For a long while. And suddenly, after that happens, you’re in a new bubble. It might be a different bubble than you used to live in, but it’s still a bubble. And it might be you forget about your old bubble. It might be you become ignorant to something you used to understand.

So what should you do about this? How loud do you need to yell for the world to see your point-of-view? To shrug off their indifference and start caring about what you care about? To move closer to your bubble?

Nothing. Stop trying. Go play in the yard with your kids. Go work at soup kitchen. Take a walk alone in the forest. Pick flowers for someone you love.

And when you find yourself surfing the internet, surrounded on all sides by armies of ‘information,’ go forth with a new purpose.

Don’t be distracted by all the things everyone else tells you to care about.

Don’t get sucked in to the idea of ‘sides.’

Don’t start thinking your point-of-view is any more important than anyone else’s.

Because it isn’t.

Once you accept the smallness of yourself…and once you deny your urge to scream at the world for being horrible, only then can you be at peace. And only then can you stop caring about all the things that don’t matter.

…and start caring about the things that do.

J Edward Neill

Artist and Author.

For more deep thoughts, get into this.

A Thought for Every Thursday – Rewriting the Bible

Welcome to A Thought for Every Thursday.

You know the drill.

*Y

 * * *

Let’s cut to the chase.

I call this question Stone Tablet:

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Stone Tablet

 Imagine yourself standing atop a mountain.

Human civilization has just begun.

The entire world clamors at the mountain’s bottom.

They want you to create three commandments, which will henceforth be regarded as sacred.

Name your three.

Use the words ‘thou shalt’ as often as possible.

*

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Past A Thought for Every Thursday entries are right here.

If you like these kinds of questions, try these on for size.

If you prefer something gentler, go here.

See you next Thursday!

J Edward Neill

Take this quiz if you’re a video game god(dess)

You say you’ve played a ton of video games.

You say you’re a master of classic and modern consoles.

Well…

Prove it.

Each of the fifteen questions below has a point value. At the quiz’s end, add up your points to gauge your level of awesome.

Answers are way down at the bottom.

*

FIGHT!

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Question 1

(1 point per correct boss named)

Name the three bosses in the original NES Metroid.

*

Question 2

(1 point)

What type of fantastical creature gets its tail pulled in the first boss fight of Zelda – Windwaker?

*

Question 3

(1 point)

 What dessert does the evil computer in Portal promise the player if they complete the game?

*

Question 4

(2 points)

What song plays during the intro to famed shooter game, Borderlands?

*

Question 5

(1 point)

Name the main character from the Mass Effect series.

*

Question 6

(2 points)

What was the main city used as a refuge in the original Diablo?

*

Question 7

(1 point)

In Minecraft, what does the Green Creeper do if your character gets too close?

*

Question 8

(1 point per correct name)

Name the two primary love interests of Geralt in the Witcher series.

*

Question 9

(2 points)

The huge metallic men with heavy armor and diving helmets appearing in the original Bioshock are known as

____________.

**

*Question 10

(1 point)

How many segments does each and every block in Tetris have?

*

Question 11

(2 points)

In the Halo series, what is the name of the massive green Flood-controlling entity?

 

*

Question 12

(1 point per correct answer)

In Castlevania II – Simon’s Quest, what are the four whip upgrades Simon can possess?

*

Question 13

(2 points)

Name the open-world RPG game in which a character famously utters, “I was an adventurer like you, then I took an arrow to the knee.”

*

Question 14

(2 points)

Name the robotic giant appearing first in Fallout 3 and then again in Fallout 4 (in which players must repair it.)

*

Question 15

(3 points)

Which game series focuses on an age-old rivalry between two secret societies, both of whom are related to an ancient species pre-dating humanity, whose society was destroyed by a massive solar storm?

***

 

Betcha didn’t know about this trick, didja?

 

* * *

Ok. All done with the quiz. Now check your answers wayyyyy down at the bottom and tally up your points:

*

0-10 points – At least you tried. Played any Wii Bowling lately?

11-20 points – Not bad at all. You probably grew up with the NES in your house, didn’t you?

21-28 points – Impressive! How many consoles have you owned anyway??

29 points – No one has ever scored this high. You cheated! 🙂

*

These questions are just a tiny splash of what you’ll find in The Ultimate Video Game Quiz, which is available right here!

Now back to button mashing!

J Edward Neill

Gamer, Painter, and Sci-Fi Author

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Quiz answers:

***

Answer 1: Kraid, Ridley, Mother Brain

 Answer 2: Dragon

 Answer 3: Cake

Answer 4: Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked (performed by Cage the Elephant)

Answer 5: Commander Shepard

Answer 6: Tristram 

Answer 7: Explode

Answer 8: Triss and Yennefer

Answer 9: Big Daddies

Answer 10: Four

Answer 11: Gravemind

Answer 12: Thorn whip, Chain whip, Morning star, Flame whip

Answer 13: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Answer 14: Liberty Prime

Answer 15: Assassin’s Creed

The Metal Bowl

The Metal Bowl

by anonymous

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It was the voice of the untreated sickness in her head that had us convinced she was the midwife, the prophet.

She was our salvation in a world conspiring to take our children away. She was the woman with multiple names and a dozen more roles. This day, as the tiny blood-soaked rocks hit the metal bowl, she was the doctor. I felt her needle nose pliers dig deep into the gnarled folds of skin and hair, the hot extraction of rock and infection from my partially scalped head.

Through the slits of my swollen eyelids, I saw a glint of my brother’s long hair fly past the window and disappear in a mischievous blur. I didn’t need to see where he went to know what he was doing. His rapid movements and wicked laugh painted the rest of the scene outside the walls.

I knew the pack of javelinas would be resting under the apple tree in their usual gluttonous fashion, getting drunk off rotten fruit scattered in the yard. I saw my brother’s tiny body contorted in a bush just out of the pigs’ sight, waiting for the right moment to assault the enemy beasts with the stray apples. He never got more than two hits in when the pack would come rushing at him with murderous intent.

I would be out there too, screaming and dodging death if not for my wounds. It had been a week, but I still couldn’t walk. My knees and face had taken most of the impact on the dirt road. When I’d flown out of the truck bed and onto the gravel road, it had felt like my body had rubbed across a giant cheese grater, stripping my flesh with unforgiving ease.

It was nobody’s fault.

Just a case of poor circumstance.

We’d chosen the wrong day to hitchhike. The old truck they picked us up in hid the secret of its faulty brakes until it reached the top of the most treacherous of winding mountain roads. When the dust settled and bodies were accounted for, it was the fear in my mother’s voice that convinced us to make a getaway before the ambulance could come.

Her sickness painted stories of evil-doers disguised as government workers. Her hushed warnings to muffle my groans were far louder than the sirens approaching and leaving. She cradled my crumpled body in her arms as we hid in a steep ravine in the thick California brush.

Seven days.

Seven days of hot ‘healing’ baths and prayers failed to heal my wounds.

Cool comfrey cloths and home remedies on my raw flesh had no power against the deep infection brewing in the dermal folds of my forehead.

The pliers dug deeper as I gripped the chair seat hard. Another ping resounded as a pebble dropped into the metal bowl. The pain brought me outside of my body and delivered me back to the dripping summer days of chasing wild pigs and shooting pretend bows at majestic peacocks. I soared above my own body, shaking and weak. Away from the pain and into a summer breeze winding through the Chiricahua Mountains, smelling of honey and blooming chamomile.

* * *

A Thought for Every Thursday – Three Questions for the Dead

Welcome to A Thought for Every Thursday.

*

 * * *

This week we’ll dig a little deeper.

…with a spade.

…in the dirt.

Answer me these questions three:

*

Necromancy

 Suppose you’ve lost a child or a beloved spouse.

But you have a device capable of resurrecting them.

The only cost to using this device: you have to kill someone else firsthand.

Use it?

Or throw it away?

*

Infinite Murder Machine

 If your child (or someone equally important to you) were in mortal danger, exactly how many people would you be willing to kill in order to save them?

These people aren’t actively trying to hurt the one you love, but are obstacles to survival.

*

Closing up Shop

You’ve been assigned an almost overwhelming task.

Your current religion or belief system notwithstanding, you’ve been asked to create a new afterlife for all of humanity.

This afterlife will apply to everyone who dies from today until the end of time.

Describe in detail the post-death experience you’d create.

Will there be different afterlives for different people?

*

* * *

Past A Thought for Every Thursday entries are right here.

If you like these kinds of questions, try these on for size.

If you prefer something gentler, go here.

See you next Thursday!

J Edward Neill

The Murder of March 22nd Book Sale

With any luck, the day you’re reading this is Wednesday, March 22nd.

And with a bit more luck, you like to read books.

Now then…

As of today, I’m offering half my entire body of work for sale. That’s more than a dozen titles.

Several titles are knocked down to only $0.99.  Most titles are free.

That’s right. Free.

Why would I do such a thing? Easy. I want reviews. If you happen to download one of my books (or several) I hope you’ll take a few seconds to leave an honest review on Amazon. If you need help learning how to review, here’s my simple guide.

View all my on-sale books right here.

Or take a quick swim in these titles right here:

Hecatomb front cover hi rez101-deeper-darker-cover101-questions-for-humanity101-questions-for-midnight-front-cover101-questions-for-single-people-front444-questions-for-the-universeh-e-tesseranether-kingdom-createspace-bright-coverold-man-of-tessera ultimate-game-quiz-front-covermachina-obscurumthe-ultimate-quiz101 Questions for Men Front Cover

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J Edward Neill

Five ways I refuse to market my books

Everyone will agree.

The hardest part about self-publishing isn’t the writing. Long hours of hammering out words are inevitable no matter what avenue an author takes to launch their books into the market.

No…the true challenge lies in an author’s self-presentation to the world. It’s how a writer markets oneself. It’s the image they create, the test of their willingness to engage the rest of humanity.

To truly take the next career step, modern authors have to leap out of their comfort zone. That means shaping a presence on social media, talking to (sometimes unsavory) people, learning all kinds of software, and getting (and appearing) comfortable with all aspects of self-promotion.

That said, for this author, some things cross the line between palatable and icky.

And here’s my list of things I’m just not gonna do:

*

*

No Hashtags

Yes, I know they help people search you out on Twitter and Instagram. And yes, I realize it might help them find my art and books.

But…

I figure just as many (if not more) people will be so annoyed or disgusted by hashtags they’ll choose not to be interested in all things me.

Because really, hashtags are that obnoxious. Am I right?

*

*

*

*

No Review Swaps

Yeah, this is still a thing. People ask me for them all the time. “Hey J Edward, can you review my vampire porn novel and I’ll pretend to read your book about the two dudes who destroy entire cities when they fight?”

“No thanks.”

First of all, I don’t have the time. Second, Amazon cracks down on that kind of thing. And third, other authors don’t handle brutal honesty like I do.

I realize how many reviews this has cost me. And because of the value of reviews, I realize it’s cost me money. Doesn’t matter. I can’t bring myself to do it. Despite the thousands of high-quality self-published authors out there, many thousands more (the majority of the industry) don’t have the fire or commitment to pump out high-quality books.

Meaning more than likely I’d get stuck reading trash.

Nah.

*

*

No Paying to Enter Writing Contests

It’s my personal oath to never enter a writing contest requiring a payment. Writing contests in general are governed by arbitrary rules and judged in a questionable manner. More often than not, the organization holding the contest is more interested in turning a profit and/or getting their own name out there than they are in helping authors earn legit recognition.

Even some of the free-to-enter contests employ some pretty questionable tactics, though at least they’re free.

To other writers, I’d recommend doing some serious research before entering any contest you encounter on the net.

And to readers, I’d cast serious doubt on any author whose bio begins with the phrase, “Award winning…” It probably doesn’t mean what you think it does.

*

No ‘Best-Selling’ BS

If I had a nickel for every time I saw an author boast ‘best-selling’ credentials, I’d have…well…a lot of nickels.

It probably sounds elitist for me to say this (it’s definitely not intended that way) but some authors need to cut the crap. Showing up a few times in Amazon’s top authors lists or having a really big sales day doesn’t qualify as ‘best-selling.’ While it’s true the major literature publications (NY Times, USA Today, etc) aren’t the only people qualified to choose who’s best-selling and who’s not, there’s just too much exaggeration in the industry.

I’ve seen authors boast ‘best-selling’ in bios containing multiple grammatical errors.

I’ve seen authors with one published book and no published reviews declare themselves ‘best-selling.’

I’ve seen…never mind. You get the picture. Until I’m a household name with a fixed place in a steady market, I’ll be the last author alive to shout ‘I’m best-selling’ to the world.

Lies do not become us.

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No Spam

There have been days when I’ve opened up Facebook and Twitter to the usual parade of politics, cat pictures, poorly-lit selfies, and cute babies. And there are other days when I open up my social media to find fifteen consecutive book ads…all posted by the same person.

Look, I love it when another person shares or reposts something of mine. It makes me oh so happy. But…it doesn’t mean instant and incessant reciprocation. Nobody on this earth cares to see an endless timeline of vampire were-hooker book ads in place of actual cool content. Actually, let me rephrase. I don’t want to see it. So I’m careful about what I share, meaning my stuff and my supporters’ stuff. The goal is to inform and entertain, not to drown.

Three Facebook book ads per week from me, max. And that includes sharing other authors’ work. As for Twitter, go nuts. No one reads retweets anyway. 🙂

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More things I can’t bring myself to do:

 Post memes about writers’ problems (They’re all so bad.)

Demand reviews (Politely ask once, then move on with your life.)

Shave on a regular basis. (Sorry, this guy stays scruffy.)

*

Now you know all my weaknesses. Go forth and exploit them. 🙂

J Edward Neill

Painter of Shadows

Writer of books about star-destroying space vampires

 

Anti-Meme Fridays – Worst of the Worst

Welcome to Anti-Meme Fridays.

We’re here with some fresh new meme-hate for your entertainment.

Here’s how it works:  The first meme (or memes) are always pulled from Facebook or Twitter and will have their logic deconstructed in the most sarcastic way possible. The second meme is anti-motivational, offensive, and/or funny.

Because…really…that’s all a good meme should aspire to be.

It’s all in good fun.

Mostly…

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Three Memes (Bad)

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Holy moly…

…these are bad.

First, and as a general rule, motivational memes are absurd. Foolish. A waste of time. People don’t experience life-changing moments by reading nonsensical quotes/memes on Facebook. They need to go through some serious, real-life growth, usually driven by hard times. Right? Right.

Now as for these specific memes:

Bad Meme 1. Actually, men (and women) can be defeated. Happens every day. I’m not sure if Hemingway really wrote this one, but if he did…it’s either out of context or dumb.

Bad Meme 2. You were given this life because two people got busy and some biology happened. That’s probably the only reason. Humans (especially nowadays when Survival of the Fittest no longer applies) aren’t innately strong, smart, or skilled. These things are earned, and certainly not by everyone.

Bad Meme 3. The love in your heart…doesn’t it die when you die? Or when you decide to stop loving something? I agree with the first two sentences, but the third is silly. Love fades. People change.

And I need a Snickers.

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Meme 2 (Not quite as bad)

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Jesus…

Wait.

…sorry.

* * *

That’s all you get today.

Past Anti-Meme Fridays.

Farewell for now.

J Edward Neill

Oh, here’s a few of my deadly serious books:

WebImageFront  

 

A Thought for Every Thursday – Human Algebra

Welcome to A Thought for Every Thursday.

Every Thursday we’ll pose a question (or several) regarding a specific current event, a modern moral issue, or a philosophical conundrum. Instead of answering it ourselves, we look to you for the resolution.

 * * *

Human Algebra

Please complete the following equations using only one word in each blank space:

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______________ + ______________ = Happiness

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_______________ + ______________ = Sorrow

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_______________ + ______________ = Evil

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_______________ + ______________ = Love

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Keep your answers to yourself OR share with the world.

It’s your call.

* * *

Past A Thought for Every Thursday entries are right here.

If you like these kinds of questions, try these on for size.

If you prefer something gentler, go here.

See you next Thursday!

J Edward Neill

The most anonymous memory ever

Quite by accident, I stumbled upon a story written by a young woman.

I remember the woman’s name, but she didn’t sign her story. She left it on a wrinkled piece of paper atop a blank canvas. I probably wasn’t supposed to find it.

The woman is gone. But the story she left behind made me wonder who she really was.

This is what I found:

***

There are many variations to the story.

Even from birth, circumstances surrounding my entrance into this world seem to be a fluid variation of fact. I no longer try to separate out one version from the next. Instead, I allow my mind to melt each version together…overlapping layers of possible realities.

Despite not being born yet, I could see all.

My aerial view of the camper gives me the ability to see everything. Hear all. Feel everything. I don’t exist yet, but I am the collection of memories that will later be told to me…the texture of my own childhood to come. I fill in the blanks with rich color and smell. Disembodied, I float above the bed my mother lies upon. Bright swatches of velvet and satin fabric hang on the walls. The smells of bay leaves and rosewater perfume mix with my mother’s perspiration. 

This is home.

Her cries of childbirth are gently hushed by the mirages of the midwives huddled around her bed. Their phantom limbs carry damp cloths to her head, soothing her discomfort. The conflicting stories of whether my mother was alone during my birth has given these three woman a transparency that allows me to give them life or melt them back into the camper’s upholstery. The story of my father’s reaction to seeing me for the first time is a gentle whisper floating in the air.

“She looks more like a cauliflower than a baby…”

I can detect a hint of garlic cloves and olive oil on his breath. A tabby cat slumbers in a corner of the camper with a dead snake it caught in a strawberry field. Some versions of this memory give life back into the snake, flinging it upon the bed in which my mother cradled me. The cat is filled with pride over the present it’s gifted to the newborn. It flings the snake’s wriggling body across the room by a screaming woman, where it dissipates into the wood…and where it becomes a faint outline in the rough grain.

***

I want to know more, but her story ends here. Perhaps I’ll find her one day and ask her what happened next.

J Edward Neill

Storysmith and Painter of Darkness

 

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.

Now with all new cover art.

And yes…those are real bones…

Hecatomb front cover hi rez

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

A Thought for Every Thursday – Our Footprint

Welcome to A Thought for Every Thursday.

Every Thursday we’ll pose a question (or several) regarding a specific current event, a modern moral issue, or a philosophical conundrum. Instead of answering it myself, we look to you for the resolution.

It’s all in good fun.

Here we go…

 * * *

This week is all about humanity at large.

I want to know how you feel about other people, the effects humanity has upon the world, and the meaningfulness of human activity.

They’re big questions.

You can handle them.

*

Human Mathematics

 Choose which of the following people is most and least valuable:

A hard-working mother of five children

A powerful, yet honest and fair politician

A 45 year-old childless man who plays video games all day

An inmate on Death Row

A child with utterly debilitating Down’s Syndrome

All of these are people are of equal value

*

Lions, Tigers, and Humans

 Is man the most dangerous animal?

*

With Sugar on Top

 What is mankind’s greatest achievement?

What about yours?

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* * *

Past A Thought for Every Thursday entries are right here.

If you like these kinds of questions, try these on for size.

If you prefer something gentler, go here.

See you next Thursday!

J Edward Neill

Tips for Dating Artists

…Tips for Dating Artists…

A completely unscientific exploration of the perils of sleeping with art junkies.

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#1. Consider dating someone else. As in, someone who might love you more than they love blank slabs of canvas and empty sheets of paper. 🙂

#2. When planning dates, dinners, or long nights on the couch watching Netflix, consider the odds of having to do many of these things by yourself. Master the phrase: “Dinner reservations for one, please!”

#3. “Five more minutes,” actually means thirty more minutes. The formula used when determining how much longer an artist will be involved in their latest stick-figure drawing masterpiece is:

Time They Stated multiplied by 6 = Actual Time Until They Emerge from the Darkness

#4. The love of your life’s studio will either look like this:

…or this:

…there is no in-between.

#5. Your lover can never have too many brushes. Or pencils. Or sticks of charcoal.

#6. If you leave a coffee mug out in the open, it’s no longer a coffee mug. It’s a paintbrush caddy. Deal with it.

#7. Keep them away from the kitchen sink and master bathroom at all costs. Detour them to a guest bathroom, preferably one with a sink whose color is something other than white.

#8. After hugs, make-out sessions, lovemaking, or accidental shoulder bumps in the basement, check your entire body and all your clothing for unexpected paint spots (and other stains.)

#9. If you decide to have children, consider that one day you’ll probably come home to this:

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#10. When critiquing their art (which you should avoid at all costs, but which you’ll be forced to do every day of your life) compare your beau’s latest art to someone famous. Or…if you want to break up, just make a stink-face and walk away without saying anything.

#11. Google the terms ‘abstract‘ ‘surrealism‘ ‘impressionism‘ and ‘realism.’ Use these terms when describing your lover’s art. While the odds are they were aiming for one of these, what they created is most likely another. But they’ll appreciate your lingo.

#12. Unless your beloved artist is really, really talented, don’t ever ask them to paint your portrait, draw you, or sculpt you. Trust me, you’ll regret what you end up looking like.

“Honey, I feel like my hands look a little…off.”

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#13. If you date someone who paints with oils or draws with graphite, set aside a special room (or five) for them, and make sure it’s a place you don’t care about. Actually, if you have the money, buy them their own house to work in.

#14. If one of your lover’s clients suggests that a piece of art should be created free ‘for the exposure’ you owe it to your lover to kill that client and bury them in an unmarked grave.

#15. The minimum number of paper towel rolls to keep handy is 17.

#16. They’re probably not cheating on you with all the people (subjects) you found on their camera.

Actually, they probably are.

I’m only kidding.

Or am I?

🙂

Think this was funny? Try my Tips for Dating Writers.

J Edward Neill

Crippler of canvasses

Author of billions of books

A Thought for Every Thursday – The Human Lens

Welcome to A Thought for Every Thursday.

Every Thursday we’ll pose a question (or several) regarding a specific current event, a modern moral issue, or a philosophical conundrum. Instead of answering it myself, we look to you for the resolution.

It’s all in good fun.

Here we go…

 * * *

The Human Lens

Sixth senses aside, everything you know about the world, you know through the subjective lens of your human brain.

Meaning you only truly know what you see, hear, smell, touch, and taste.

You’ll never know what it’s like to see the world in the same way a cat does, or a bird, or a whale, or a bacterium.

Meaning you’ll only ever experience the universe from a human point of view.

And more specifically, your human point of view.

So…

Does this mean your experience of reality is unique, almost isolated in its filtered-through-a-human-lens nature?

Or does this mean that physical reality itself is different for every single living thing?

*

* * *

Past A Thought for Every Thursday entries are right here.

If you like these kinds of questions, try these on for size.

If you prefer something gentler, go here.

See you next Thursday!

J Edward Neill

Ten Ridiculous Scenarios to Consider

 – Ten Ridiculous Scenarios –

In other words…

How many buttons will you push?



Money Button

Suppose you could push a button that would steal one dollar from every person in the world who has a bank account and deposit it into your account.

It’d be a totally untraceable transaction.

No one would ever know.

Well?

Push or no push?

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Vampire Button

For every time you push this deep, dark crimson button, you’re guaranteed to add one year to your lifespan.

 However…

Each time you push it, two years of life are sucked from another person at random. This person can be anyone in the world. You might never know.

How many times will you push the button?

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The Waistline Button

For each time you push it, this slim little button will carve five pounds of fat off your body permanently. The weight will come off whatever body area you desire.

Keep in mind you’ll never ever be able to gain this weight back.

Pressing it?

How many times?

*

The Button of Inches

This button will add 1 inch of height to you for every time you push it.

There are no negative side effects.

Would you push it?

How many times?

*

The Pink Slip Button

If you push this button, you’ll get a big promotion tomorrow. Your pay will be doubled. You’ll get a corner office, a sweet company car, and all the perks a top employee at your company could expect.

However…

The very next day, a random person at your company (other than you) will be fired with no chance of being rehired.

Push or no push?

*

Grey Button

Push this faded red button, and all the color will vanish from your life. Every sky will be grey. Apples will be pale and colorless. Leaves will be a washed-out shade of white. The world, as far as you see it, will forever be white, black, and various shades of grey.

But…

$250,000 cash (on a grey deposit statement, of course) will appear in your bank account.

Do you dare?

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All or Nothing Button

 If you push this button, you will become the most famous person who ever lived.

You’ll be adored, worshipped, and loved by every single person on the planet. Because of this, you’ll have all the riches and luxury you desire, but you’ll also have no privacy and nearly no alone time. Ever. Your life will be scrutinized to no end.

If you don’t push this button, you’ll become a hermit. You’ll be alone, friendless, and without a lover. But you’ll have all the peace and quiet you want.

Push or no push?

*

Persuasion Button

There are no real drawbacks to this button.

…unless you abuse it.

Upon pushing, you will gain the power to persuade any one person in the world to take one single action.

You can only use it once.

You must know the person’s full name.

You must be very specific when determining the one action they must take.

Would you push?

If so, who’s doing what?

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Bad, Bad Button

This shady little button is just begging you to push it.

If you do, you’ll learn every negative thing your closest friends and family have ever said about you.

Every time they’ve said something behind your back.

Every time they’ve secretly criticized you.

Everything bad. Ever.

Would you dare push such a button?

Or is it better to let some secrets remain unknown?

*

The Reality Warp Button

If you press it, all crime will end. No one on Earth will ever break any law. Governments will pass only peaceful, fair rules for every population to follow. No prisons will exist. No police will be needed.

However, lacking the urge to break any rules, everyone alive will have 75% less time for entertainment.

If you don’t push it, society will continue as it is.

Push?

Or don’t push and keep on truckin’?

*


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Each of these ten questions (buttons) appears in my brand new book, Big Shiny Red Buttons – A Book of Ridiculous Scenarios.

You should check it out.

It has more than a hundred buttons for you to push…or not push.

Hasta la vista, baby.

J Edward Neill

Want to destroy the stars?

 Darkness Between the Stars

* * *

3,000 years from today, Earth is all but recognizable.
Stark cities made of black towers and white houses dot the planet. Tiny robots and powerful dream-inducing software keep humanity entertained. Nearly everything is automated.
But on one rural farm, a lone family lives a remarkably old-world lifestyle.
They harvest wheat. They repair their machines by hand. They drive the only combustible engine car left on Earth.
At night, the family’s youngest member of watches the stars and dreams of one day flying between them.
And when he sees them begin to disappear, he knows what will happen…

The beginning of the end.

Darkness Between the Stars

A science fiction journey by J Edward Neill

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DarknessPaperbackFront

Consume me.

Review me.

Thank you,

J Edward Neill