What’s the best way to get to know someone?

It’s obvious. Get my book. Available now

It’s the very first of my books with cover art straight from the paintbrush of my five-year old son. (<<< That’s actually true.)

It’s…

The Ultimate Get to Know Someone Quiz

The most entertainment you can squeeze into 101 pages.

Pass it around to friends and family. Bring a copy to your breakroom at work. Crash a party with a few copies in hand.

Inside you’ll find a ton of fun, quick (and ridiculous) questions designed to shine a light on your friends’ and loved ones’ hearts and minds.

The best part? It’s only $5.99. Snag your copy today!

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With cover art by Garrett Alexander Neill.

And questions by me…

J Edward Neill

Ten Courses Every College Should Offer

I’ve been thinking.

Dangerous, I know.

In universities across the globe, professors teach math, science, language, and philosophy. Trade schools give students the gift of mastering a specific skill. Liberal arts universities offer so-called ‘well-rounded’ class structure. Schools teach many things, most of which are probably forgotten the moment a student walks out the door.

Let’s be honest. In most cases, college isn’t really about learning stuff. It’s about socializing and introducing students to a way of life they’ll never actually live outside of school. Unless a student learns a very specific skill-set, college seems to be mostly not worth the money we pour into it.

And so…

I propose a different kind of schooling altogether. One that teaches real-life skills. One that prepares students for the catastrophic transition from ‘living with Mom and Dad’ to ‘living in a one-bedroom flat with an obnoxious roommate who refuses to wash their dishes.’

I give you:

Ten Courses Every College Should Offer

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Breaking Up with Someone 101

We ALL have to do it at least 30 times a few times in our lives, so why not teach it in school? Ok, so there’s no super-easy way of dumping someone’s heart in the trash. But there are definitely ways not to do it, up to and including: stalking the other person, publicizing every detail on Facebook, or dumping them only to come crawling back for a second chance. This class is more about what to avoid doing during a breakup, which ex-lovers worldwide could probably stand to learn.

If just one little university would sponsor this class, I volunteer to teach it. For free.

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The Art of Floating Checks

Ah, newly-grads. No marketable skills. No direction in life. No money. When bills are due, but payday is still a week away, what’s a kid to do?

The answer: float that check. And do it well. This course will teach the ins and outs of researching which companies cash checks quickly, and which ones you have a little wiggle room to work with. With any luck, you’ll become an expert at just barely remaining financially alive.

For extra credit, students can also take the Paying Your Mortgage Late, But Not Getting Penalized elective.

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#Winning at Social Media

These days, this class should probably be offered in early grade school. In it, students will learn when to post memes (never) when to use hashtags (almost never) and the best time of day to post relationship status changes on Facebook (never!)

For students who want to do something online other than annoy people and leave their friends scratching their heads, #WinningAtSocialMedia is the class to take!

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Advanced Emotional Distancing- Class 502

This class will almost surely be a mandatory addition to every college program. In it, students will learn advanced techniques to help them be happier via having nearly no emotions. Because honestly, the universe doesn’t care about feelings, especially those of young people.

The techniques studied will include:

Shrugging

Caring less

Caring less while not talking about caring less

Never complaining

Histrionics avoidance

Ego removal

How not to cry while everyone else around you falls to pieces

Students who hope to pass this class will intern for a minimum of three months in an emotionally unstable relationship while maintaining the facial expression shown above.

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Understanding Satire 101

Think you know what satire is? If you’re asked to take this class, odds are you have no idea. Class US101 is designed to help clueless students gain a full grasp of reality. Ideal candidates for this class include students who believe everything they read on the internet, graduates who habitually share clickbait on Facebook, and students who have never heard of Snopes. While primarily for college enrollees, this class is also available as a vocational study group for angry, aging white men.

The final exam in US101 will involve a complete study of the website TheOnion.

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Honors Reading Between the Lines

While available to all students, Honors RBTL is geared for the student who has no idea what a woman means when she says, “Oh nothing’s the matter.” All males are encouraged to attend during their very first semester, while  females are encouraged to attend the similar class, Manipulating Men’s Feelings 101.

Both classes will instruct students in the eye-roll/disdain ratio, the true meaning of ‘nothing,’ and the length of time you should sleep on the couch. Male classes will focus on avoidance, while female classes will primarily teach advanced techniques to counter everything the men learn.

Good luck!

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Remedial Sarcasm

Due to the large influx of students who either don’t understand the true depth of sarcasm or are easily offended by it, universities across Americas have been asked to include a remedial class as a mandatory elective.

Because…honestly…we all know someone who can’t handle the ‘casm.

This class promises to eliminate all the negative aspects of not understanding sarcasm, including: crying, standing with your mouth wide-open, getting angry, getting butthurt, and not knowing what butthurt even means.

Remedial Sarcasm professors get paid at double the rate of other teachers. Sign up now!

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Metaphors and How to Use Them

Honestly, if students haven’t figured out what a metaphor is and how to use one, they probably shouldn’t go to college.

This class has been cancelled. It’s dust in the wind. It’s bones in a grave. Oh never mind.

*

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Urban Dictionary Study Hall

This class isn’t what you think it is.

Students will not be taught the meanings of various modern slang, insults, and acronyms. (It’s assumed students with any value already know these terms.) Rather, class attendees will be instructed in the prized technique of being able to distinguish which terms are funny or appropriate from terms that are…ahem…stupid.

Examples include:

How and when to use ‘bae’ – only when making fun of someone else using ‘bae.’

How a kitten dies anytime anyone uses the terms ‘LOL’ or ‘YOLO.’

The subtle difference between ‘WTF’ and ‘WTF?’ – I’m kidding; there is no difference.

For extra credit, students may also take the sub-course: Sounding Ignorant on Purpose to Appear Cool 101

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scammerIntroduction to Online Dating

If college life has one similarity to real life, it’s that people don’t actually talk face-to-face anymore. Cell phones are god and texting is all-powerful.

To help students face the nearly insurmountable task of finding easy hook-ups a long-term mate, Intro to Online Dating is now offered as an elective. Students will learn the finest methods of making themselves appear slimmer, taller, and less out-of-shape than they actually are. Male students will learn why it’s best to wait at least ten minutes before sending unsolicited d**k pics, while females will be instructed in the subtle techniques of ‘ghosting,’ ‘catfishing,’ and not starting every single conversation with, “Hey.”

Seriously though. This should actually be a class.

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Other classes soon to be added:

How NOT to use Tinder

Snapchat Filters and the End of the World

Why The Walking Dead Sucks

* * *

*I’m thinking this book should be a standard college text.

This one, too.

Seriously.

J Edward Neill

 

 

 

A Thought for Every Thursday – The Omega Project

Welcome to the latest installment of my new weekly series, A Thought for Every Thursday.

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

It’s all in good fun.

Here we go…

* * *

The Omega Project

Imagine you’ve been elected to lead all of humanity.

Your goal: bring every living human together for the purpose of completing a singular, grand project.

The project can be anything imaginable, so long as it’s scientifically plausible.

What will you lead humanity to do?

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More pyramids?

*

* * *

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

Gift Books for the Holidays

Got a few stockings to stuff?

Have a friend you have no idea what to get for Christmas (or a birthday?)

Need something for under $10?

Solutions await thee.

Welcome to the Coffee Table Philosophy series. These slim, sexy coffee table books are full of fun questions and quizzes to keep anyone (or any gathering) entertained for hours. There’s something for everyone: women, men, couples, singles, et cetera!

The best part? Most of the books in the Coffee Table series are under $7.00!

Get some…

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

Buy it here!

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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. Includes questions that are slightly more serious than other entries in the series.

Buy it here!

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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.

Buy it here!

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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, war, politics, and much more.

Buy it here!

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444 Questions for the Universe – Meant to entertain for hours, 444 Questions is a grand compilation of serious yet fun questions. It includes four books worth of questions: Humanity, Midnight, Women, Men, plus 40 bonus ‘Questions from Beyond.’

Buy it here!

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101 Qs for the End of the World Front Cover

101 Questions for the End of the World – Definitely the most serious entry in the Coffee Table Philosophy series, the questions in this volume challenge readers’ minds regarding science, philosophy, and the meaning of life.

Buy it here!

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101 Deeper Darker Cover

101 Deeper, Darker Questions for Humanity – 101 dark questions to test your morality, challenge your ethics, and entertain your friends. The questions here are slightly longer and more in-depth than other entries.

Buy it here!

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The Little Book of BIG Questions – This one is a compilation of the most serious entries in the Coffee Table series. It includes the entire volumes 101 Questions for the End of the World and 101 Deeper, Darker Questions for Humanity.

Buy it here!

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101 Qs for Couples Front Cover

101 Questions for Couples – Love and fun collide in this lighthearted collection of questions meant to turn up the heat between lovers. Want to get to know your partner better? This will help!

Buy it here!

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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. For adults only!

Buy it here!

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101QSP

101 Questions for Single People – In the modern world of swiping left and never looking back, 101 Questions for Single People explores every facet of love, lust, and human romantic connection. Includes questions about every aspect of dating!

Buy it here!

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Spread the love!

J Edward Neill

If you’re into more serious fare, click here. 🙂

A Thought for Every Thursday – Thunderbolts from Above

Welcome to the latest installment of my new weekly series, A Thought for Every Thursday.

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

It’s all in good fun.

Here we go…

* * *

I call this little series of questions The Adversary.

In most major religions across the world, the primary god or goddess is typically a benevolent or sometimes even an actively good figure of power.

They care. They want the best for their creations. They have positive feelings toward humanity.

But…

What if that assumption is completely off-base? What if humanity, in its infinite fallibility, has mistaken the intentions of its creator(s)?

With that in mind:

If there is a god or gods responsible for the creation and guidance of the human race, do you suppose:

…it’s possible this being is less than the benevolent deity described in several major religions?

…it’s possible this being might not have humanity’s best interests in mind?

…it’s possible this being might one day reject its creations?

…it’s possible this being has a dark purpose in store for us?

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Well? What are your thoughts?

divine_vengence

Squish!

* * *

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

My Beef with all the Quotes on the Internet

Quotes, quotes…everywhere.

We see them on our Facebook feeds, on people’s T-shirts, on bumper stickers, and on the walls of houses and offices across the land.

Some are funny. Some are dull. Some have a grain of truth, while others are contradictory. And many quotes are credited to people who never said the quoted phrase to begin with. But no one really cares. If it sounds cool, it becomes cool. And that’s all people really want. Right?

I get it. I get the allure. People like mottos. They enjoy direct, easy-to-understand life-messages they feel are attainable. People want goals. They crave wisdom for themselves and their families. And maybe more than anything, they want something simple. The more bite-sized a quote, the better. Fewer words implies fewer opportunities for the meaning of something to be mistaken. Also, having a short and nifty quote really helps when you want to hang a framed version of it on your living room wall. Or stick an inspirational magnet on your fridge. Or stamp your Facebook feed with something awesome someone might have said.

But I’m here to tell you something:

Internet quotes suck.

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Actually, let me rephrase:

Almost all quotes suck.

Is that crude? Yeah, probably. Maybe, “Internet quotes suck,” is my internet quote. Whatever. I’m pretty sure no one will frame it and slap it above their fireplace, so it’s ok. Where was I? Oh, right. I was just about to explain why quotes suck and you shouldn’t try to live your life using words someone else said.

Let’s go over a few examples:

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Since no one really knows what the future will hold, it’s pretty much impossible to truly prepare for it. Yes, it’s possible to get ready for tomorrow’s day at work or to plan for a specific event a few weeks or months down the road. But sometimes, a lot of times, even the best-laid plans change drastically or fail miserably. And then what have all our preparations wrought? The answer: nothing. It’s a cool sounding quote, but until we perfect time-travel, the future will devour us all.

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Suppose someone is trying to become a man of value, whatever that is. If they achieve it, isn’t that success for them? Meaning, they tried to become a man of success after all?

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Thanks, Eminem. But what if you stood up for something awful? What if your enemies are people you’ve betrayed? What if the only reason you have these alleged enemies is because you’re an A-hole, not because you stood up for some greater cause?

*

*

Maybe you see what I’m talking about. Maybe not. While some of these quotes might have virtue in specific situations for specific people, they’re hardly wisdom for the masses. Besides, how many people actually follow the quotes they slap on the internet, on their cars  and on their walls? Not many. People who get stuff done in life spend more time doing than talking. Right?

thomas-edison-famous-quotesYeah right. Tell that to slaves. To people who work three jobs for paltry pay. To the guy who cleans the toilets. To the teacher who busts her butt only to get cursed out by her students’ parents. Or just read the evil sign posted outside Auschwitz that once boasted Arbeit Macht Frei…aka ‘Work sets you free.’ I think I know what good old Edison meant (if he actually said this.) But then again, some people believe Edison stole several ideas from Tesla rather than work on them himself.

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While I’m not definitely hating on photographers (because it’s a beautiful art form) let’s be clear about something:

The camera made the photo. Nature made the photo. The universe made the photo.

The photographer may have captured it, but he didn’t create it.

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Nelson Mandela was an awesome dude who suffered immeasurably in life.

But this quote (if it was really his) really just bolsters the idea that humanity is innately powerful.

Here’s a hint: we’re not. We’re floating on a tiny blue dot in an ocean of darkness. Our fear is definitely that we’re inadequate. Because in so many ways, we are.

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Ok. So maybe I’m a little cynical. Or maybe I’m just having fun tearing down a few quotes. Or mayyyybe I’m just exhausted of seeing humanity speak a few eloquent words only to completely ignore the message in the end. Fine. Whatever. Since we’re already here, let’s do a few more.

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I know quite a few dedicated religious folks. And while I love and respect many of them, the terms unsinkable, undefeatable, and unshakeable are not the words I’d choose to describe them.

Plus, did anyone ever hear of the Crusades?

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Love ya, Harry. But that’s not what those two words mean. At all.

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What if you died? What if you’re flat broke and there’s no one to help you back on your feet? What if you honestly gave it your all, but were defeated utterly in the end?

It sounds poetic to say failure only happens when you quit. But sometimes people just fail because…life. And sometimes there’s no poetry to it.

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It’d be nice if the world worked this way. And sometimes it might.

But as long as such things as politics, war, and religion exist, there are just too many enemies who have no interest in ever becoming friends.

I mean, just consider this year’s election. Nuff said.

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Quotes, quotes…everywhere. But the fact is: life’s wisdom isn’t earned by a photo and a few clever words on the internet. It’s measured in terms of experience, knowledge, and a willingness to endure heartache, triumph, and change. It’s earned throughout the long, slow decades. It isn’t clicked on, retweeted, or posted on walls.

Our wisdom is inside us. And words, no matter how smart they sound, will never quite capture it.

* * *

 

Want to coin your own quotes instead of using someone else’s? Try this.

Prefer to think before you speak? Go here.

J Edward Neill

 

 

A Thought for Every Thursday – Gotta Love It

Welcome to the latest installment of my new weekly series, A Thought for Every Thursday.

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

It’s all in good fun.

Here we go…

* * *

This week, I’ve got two relationship questions for you. Both involve the complicated matter of people being hesitant when getting into new romances.

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Hey you! Slow down with the swipe-rights!

The first question:

You’ve met someone. You like them. A lot. So much so that you’re afraid of getting your heart broken.

The catch is; you’re not quite sure whether or not your feelings are mutual.

Which of the following are you most likely to do?

End the relationship now before they break your heart

Stay with them and take the risk

Try really hard to make them fall in love with you

Or _______________

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And the second question, which involves skeletons:

 We all have them in our closet. Maybe they’re childhood traumas, bad exes, fetishes, phobias, or *gasp* maybe even cats.

At what point during a relationship should someone let their skeletons out?

Immediately

After the 3rd date

Before things get serious

The very moment things get serious

Lock the closet door and throw away the key

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Well? What are your thoughts?

* * *

Past ATFET’s 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

 

10 Questions for When You’re Tipsy

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It’s late. You’ve had a few adult beverages. You’re with a few friends. Or maybe you’re alone.

It’s time to break out ten questions you might not ask if you were sober.

* * *

Let’s Get Physical

 Assuming one-on-one combat, what percentage of the world’s population could you handle in a fight?

*

Unshackle the Chains 

Consider the laws in whichever country you call home.

Choose three things you want to no longer be illegal.

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Buying Love

 You have $10 with which to build your ideal romantic companion.

Spend wisely:

$5 – Fantastic in Bed                       $5 – A Great Parent

$3 -An Amazing Body           $3 – A Great Sense of Humor

$3 – Highly Intelligent         $2 – A Specific Skill ($2 per Skill)

$1 – Has ________ in Common With You ($1 Each)

$3 – Morally Solid             $5- Wealthy

$7 – Will Always Love You

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Silver Tongues

 What is the worst lie you’ve ever told? 

If you’re reluctant to answer, then…

…what is the worst lie someone has ever told you?

And why?

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The Heist 

If you could steal any one thing in the world and make it yours forever, what would it be?

It can be an object, a person, a life situation, a place.

You won’t get in any trouble for taking it.

No one will ever know.

Well?

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On a Scale of 0-10…

…in which 0 is ‘not at all’, 5 is average, and 10 means ‘highly’:

How intelligent are you?

How physically attractive are you?

How charming?

How artistic?

How generous?

 And how narcissistic?

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Three Drinks Too Many

 People in relationships can answer this one, too. (just make sure their significant other is cool…or not present.)

 So…

It’s Friday night.

You’re out with your friends, no date.

You’ve had a few drinks too many.

If you were to text or call any one person from your past, who would it be.

And why?

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Let’s Just Hope They Shave  

 Think about romance during previous generations.

The Roaring 20’s

The Sexual Revolution

The Renaissance

Suppose you got a chance to sample a bit of romantic life in one of these time periods.

Which one would you pick?

And why?

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Fight Club Time Machine

 Suppose you’re given the chance to travel back in time to fight any one historical figure to the death.

If you defeat them, the course of history will be changed in accordance with their absence.

The fight will be hand-to-hand. Your foe will be in their prime.

Whom will you fight?

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The Ultimate ‘What if?’

 If you could be a member of the opposite sex for one single day, would you?

Assume no one but you will ever know.

If yes, what would you like to experience?

What age would you want to be?

What situation would you want to be in?

If you’re not interested, why not?

* * *

These ten questions were pried from the pages of my Coffee Table Philosophy series.

In these books, I pose more than 1,000 questions to people.

Some of which are here.

And sexier ones are here.

J Edward Neill

Giving away the Graveyard

That’s right.

I’m giving away four free softcover editions of my spooky novella, The Hecatomb.

All you have to do is click the creepy cover below. It’ll take you to Goodreads, where you can get clicky and enter to win a signed copy. There’s no catch. Entries are valid from Oct 25th – Nov 25th.

TheHecatombWeb

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.

The Hecatomb includes four short stories, including previously published horror shorts Let the Bodies and Old Man of Tessera. Each story is set in the same world.
It’s up to readers to decide the order in which they happen…

If you’d like to straight-up buy or review The Hecatomb, follow the dark path here.

J Edward Neill

A Thought for Every Thursday – How or Why?

Welcome to the latest installment of my new weekly series, A Thought for Every Thursday.

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

It’s all in good fun.

Here we go…

* * *

Finally, a Simple Question

In past ATFET’s, we’ve been pretty wordy.

This week we’re keeping it quick and easy.

So…

 Given the choice, would you rather know HOW the universe works, meaning you’d understand all the hard science behind each and every interaction taking place in our existence?

or

Would you prefer to know WHY our universe and all the individual objects within it exist, meaning you’d grasp the purpose behind everything?

Explain your reasons.

* * *

Past ATFET’s 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

 

Nine Weird Things About the Internet Today

One-hundred years from now, I’m convinced most of the modern world will have almost no reason to walk outside their front door. Ever.

Just think about it.

The internet (if it isn’t already) will be all-powerful. Every consumer good will be deliverable instantly. Anyone will be able to contact anyone FTL (faster than light.) All services will be available always. If we think communication is fast today, imagine where it’ll be a century from now.

Pretty crazy, right?

But for now we’re still kind of in the internet’s adolescence. The net survived its www.infancy and it’s gotten just big and smart enough to be dangerous.

Consider, if you will, these nine observations about the strange state of the modern internet.

* * *

Observation 1Each social media hub has its own personality

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I’m not sure anything can illustrate the differences better than this graphic. But what I’m really not sure of is just when it was each site evolved into its own little solar system.

Examples: Twitter and Facebook, though wildly different in interface, are for funny stuff, news bytes, porn, and marketing (some of which I’ve been guilty of.) Instagram seems to appeal to younger crowds, artists, and photographers. The Pinterest fan base is mostly female, while pretty much no one uses Google+. Obviously I’m generalizing a bit, but it’s undeniable how the quirks of each social media site have attracted user bases that are so very different from each other.

I think it’s pretty cool. Except for LinkedIn, which pretty much sucks. 🙂

Observation 2 – People still argue about politics online

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If you added up every occurrence of a political debate in the history of the world, you’d probably have a hard time finding ten instances in which someone’s mind was actually changed for the better. In polite society, political debates in conversation are verboten, but no so much on the internet. A quick scan and breakdown of my own personal Facebook feed reveals that 60% (not kidding) of the posts are political in tone. And no, it’s not open-ended, objective stuff taking place. It’s hostile, “I’m right! You’re wrong!” incendiary warfare. Personally, I find it obnoxious. But perhaps more relevant is that everyone on the net is happy to say lots of stuff, but rarely does anyone actually do anything about it.

Why is that?

Whatever.

Observation 3 – The ascension of spam and clickbait

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I despise clickbait with such passion I wrote a big piece on it. But let’s be serious for a moment. Spam and clickbait are existential threats to our beloved net. They crowd out marketing for actual, quality goods. They take up space that might otherwise be inhabited by cool, interesting content. Despite these facts, most people struggle to spot spam or clickbait at first sight. And the real trouble is that since the internet has no singular governing body, there’s no one-stop elimination strategy to get rid of this junk. It just keeps spreading.

What does it mean? Well…we’d better prepare ourselves for sneakier, smarter, and more diabolical clickbait. Because while we’re busy going nuts on Amazon Prime, the spammers are out there designing better ways to siphon money and time from the rest of us.

And I think it sucks.

Observation 4 – Free porn for everyone

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More than anything, I just really, really want to know how pay-for-porn websites stay in business. I mean, with literally thousands of free porn sites out there, it feels like the entire triple-x pay-per-view industry should collapse. Right? Imagine if a bunch of companies started giving away free, high-quality cars, TV’s, and houses. Wouldn’t all the legitimate industries dry up within weeks? But no…not with porn. Making it free seems only to inspire more and more videos to be created.

I guess even when sex doesn’t sell, it sells.

Observation 5 – All the @#$%*&! memes

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In my web series Anti-Meme Fridays, I surmised that one day in the future everyone on Earth will communicate solely via memes, thus eliminating the need for actual spoken language.

Ok, maybe that’s a little heavy handed. But in all truth, memes are everywhere. They’re not stopping anytime soon, even though 90% of them are misspelled, unfunny, cheesy, or annoyingly motivational in tone. What I can’t figure out, and what I need your help in solving, is how it is we arrived at this point. I can’t imagine anyone on this planet who actually likes a bunch of boring pictures and quotes crowding out everything else on their social media feed.

And yet….here we are.

Observation 6 – The prevalence of perverts

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Based on the tales pretty much all my female friends and family have told, nearly 100% of the adult male population has sent unsolicited photos of their anatomy to a woman at least once in their life. But seriously, there are way more creepers among us than we ever could’ve guessed. They’re everywhere, and the internet makes it easy for them. I’m willing to bet we all know several dudes who are like this, but we have no idea what they’re up to. And it’s not just the rapey dudes spamming junk pics to every woman they can, but also other creeper types, not limited to but including: guys who threaten violence, guys who get irrationally angry when rejected, and guys who get extremely insulting in everyday social media forums.

Gentlemen, we’re better than this, right?

Guess not.

Observation 7 – Everything is based on opinion

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The headline tags for several major news websites are as follows:

CNN – ‘Breaking News, Latest News and Videos’

Fox – ‘Breaking News Updates, Latest News Headlines’

Huffington Post – (Their description is too long to type, but it’s pretty much similar to CNN and Fox, while admitting a sprinkle of ‘entertainment.’)

And so and so forth…

As a kid, I remember learning about this little thing called Journalism. I was taught such terms as “unbiased” “objective” and “factual.” I remember the days when news reporters were calm, serious, and almost indifferent in most scenarios.

Those days are dead. Scour the blogs, articles, and links of every major news outlet on the internet these days, and what do you mostly see?  Editorials.  Not that the articles in question typically identify themselves as opinion-based, but that’s what they are nonetheless. Objectivity appears to go as far as reporting names and body-counts, but that’s where it stops. Everyone has an angle, especially the reporters. Media isn’t where one goes to find truth. Nowadays, it’s all about entertainment.

Observation 8 – No one knows how to use hashtags

Seriously. Just stop.

Observation 9 – Artists around the world have a home

Jeremy Neill. Honest.

…even this douche.

 

By and large, it’s a good time to be a writer, painter, graphic designer, or any other kind of artist. The modern net allows things that just weren’t possible as recently as ten years ago. Authors can self-publish via dozens of outlets. Artists like this awesome lady here have a home to display their work without needing to hunt down big, pretentious galleries. I mean…these are good times.

But there is one little drawback: piracy. No, not Blackbeard holding a cutlass to our necks. If you’ve ever posted a cool piece of art, uploaded an awesome song you’ve created, or written something digitally awesome, it’s likely (even probable) that many other individuals have downloaded it illegally, plagiarized it, or otherwise distributed your work against your wishes. Some won’t care about a few pirate raids. But for others (me among them) piracy is seriously bad for bizniz. It sucks.

Seems no matter what infrastructure a society settles into, there will always be those who nip at the edges, seeking an advantage. Digital society is no different.

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Be assured, there are darker (much darker) corners of the internet than the things I’ve touched on above.

But that’s a list for another day…

If you like dating on the aforementioned web, this is for you.

But if you prefer seeing your friends face-to-face, try this.

J Edward Neill

 

Painting with Darkness – Part XII

I like to paint trees.

A lot

Sometimes, even when I start a new canvas with every intention of painting a castle, a spooky city, or some other dark imagery, my brain misfires and takes control of my brush. Before I know it, I’ve painted yet another tree. I can’t help it. I’m a slave to impulse.

Knowing this, I decided to do a series of paintings to get all the trees out of my system.

And along came four little paintings, one for each season:

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‘Deep’ – for spring

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‘Midnight’ – for summer

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‘Umber’ – for autumn

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‘Dusklight’ – for winter

 

I thoroughly enjoyed painting this series. These simple, yet fun paintings have a way of calming me. After working on them, I sleep better, I’m relaxed, and life feels easy.

You should try it sometime…

For previous Painting with Darkness entries: Part I, II, III, IV, V, VIVIII, IX, X, XI.

J Edward Neill

A Quick Guide to Rating Books (1-5 stars) on Amazon

This game sucked – One star review

This widget did exactly what the description said it would do – Five star review

My new windshield wipers arrived late – One star review

This shirt is red. And it fits – Five star review

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See where I’m going with this?

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For 99% of the products sold on Amazon (or any site where reviews are gathered) rating things is a fairly straightforward process. If a product doesn’t work, doesn’t match its description, or showed up a billion years late, the result is usually BOOM – bad review. If a product works, fits its description, or basically doesn’t fall apart within five minutes, BOOM – good review. It’s easy. It’s simple. It’s a formula that applies to most consumer goods, from clothing, tools, toys, jewelry, et cetera.

But for books…whoa.

Totally different process.

But it’s no problem. Not at all. Simply refer to my handy guide on deciding how many stars to rate a book on Amazon.

Now let’s start at the bottom:

one

 

One Star Reviews

To be used only when a book is awful, unreadable trash, the one star review should seldom be applied. I reserve it only for those books that have awful editing, a truly atrocious grasp of storytelling, or a first chapter so dull and uninspiring I couldn’t get past the first few pages. When thinking about one star reviews, consider that if you finish the entire book, it’s probably not a one star book. If you enjoy even some small part of it, it’s probably not a one star book. But if it’s so wretched you feel ill after a chapter, then maybe, just maybe, you can go ahead and kill it with the old single star.

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two

 

Two Star Reviews

Now is where it gets a little trickier. Did you get halfway through a book, but you couldn’t finish it due to a sudden, moronic plot twist spoiling everything? Did the book have a few interesting characters and events, but crappy grammar throughout? Was a book ok, but wayyyy too short or wayyyy too long to really reach out and grab your interest? These are a few of the reasons to hit a book with two stars. Once again, if you can finish an entire book without throwing it at the wall, it’s generally not a good idea to cripple it with two stars.  Although a book might be two star worthy if you find yourself slogging through it just to say you finished it.

Useful side-note: if you stop reading a book due to something going on in your life (as opposed to the book sucking) consider a three star review instead.

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three

 

Three Star Reviews

In theory, this is what most books should be rated. Three stars for average. Three stars for good, but not great. Three stars for readable, but not gripping.

Did you finish a book, but found yourself struggling near the end due to poor plot management? Did you enjoy a novel, but hated a character or two because they were badly, unrealistically written? Was the story pretty darn awesome, but the editing or grammar spotty? Now we’re talking three star material. Three stars is for solid, readable material written competently, but not written masterfully. If something was pretty good, but just a bit too long or short, it’s probably three stars. If it had a decent, but not super compelling story, it’s probably (you guessed it) three stars.

The three star review is underused. Consider adding it to your arsenal.

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four

Four Star Reviews

Now we’re getting somewhere. The four star review is where most good books (should) reside.

If a book has solid grammar, tight editing, and a story that makes you want to read just one more chapter before going to bed, it might be four star worthy. If after you finish, you can’t stop thinking about that one cool plot twist or awesome chapter, it might be a four star book. If I’m an author (and I am) I’m happy beyond measure with four stars. It means I entertained the reader. It means I made them love some of my characters (and maybe hate some others.)

Think of it this way: if right after you finish a book, you’re hoping for the sequel, you’ve probably got a four star story on your hands. If you itch to recommend it to your friends or maybe even re-read it the very next night, we’re talking four stars all the way.

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five

Five Star Reviews

Ah, five star reviews. Perhaps the most overused and misunderstood star cluster in the universe. No author will complain about getting a five star shot in the face, but let’s face it, most of the books a person reads in their lives probably aren’t five stars…even if they review ’em that way.

Five star books should be at least one of the following:

  • Among the best literature you’ve ever read
  • Something that stirs deep thoughts in you for days after you’re finished reading it
  • A book that ignites a new passion in you
  • Something you just can’t put down. It’s so good, you’re willing to lose sleep (and possibly friends) in order to finish it

If a book isn’t really, really good or it doesn’t possess a unique quality compared to other books, it might not be five star worthy. But if it grabs you, scares you, makes you fall in love, or lights up your intellect, that’s when we’re talking five stars.

Five stars should be reserved for the best of the best. If you love-love-loved a book, that’s when you take a dive for five.

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I hope you enjoyed this quick and dirty star-guide.

For even more interesting content, check out the hundreds of articles on Tessera Guild.

Love,

J Edward Neill

If you feel like reviewing some good fiction, try this.

If you prefer non-fiction, go here.

 

 

 

 

 

Slayer, Anthrax, and a sleepy pit in Atlanta

If you’re a fan of thrash, speed metal, or any of the hard, fast, deadly metal bands from the 80’s all the way up to the modern era, it could be said:

  • You haven’t really lived until you’ve seen Slayer perform live
  • You’ve stood in a thrash metal pit and soaked up the abuse love of your fellow concert-mates
  • You’ve gone home in a haze of sweat and Jack Daniels with your ears ringing and your throat sore

These are things I know to be true.

Oct 5th, 2016 was one such formidable night. I was lucky enough to attend a mid-week show at Atlanta’s legendary Tabernacle theater. Slayer headlined, preceded by thrash metal pioneers Anthrax and Death Angel. The evening was cool outside, while the Tabernacle was as smoky and crowded as I remember from ages past.

It had all the promise of an epic night.

And for the most part, it delivered.

First, I have an admission. I arrived late to the show, missing opening act Death Angel completely. Like any sprawling city, Atlanta’s traffic is simply awful. One mishap on any of a dozen major roads shuts the whole scene down. I had every intention of arriving in time to catch every minute of each act, but the highways had a different plan in mind. So…… After two hours in traffic, I showed up just in time to grab two double Jack Daniel cocktails and plant my boots near stage-left, where Anthrax was already taking the stage.

Interesting note: just for kicks, Anthrax allowed the guy who plays Daryl on the show The Walking Dead to crash the stage just before their first song. I don’t know a damn thing about Daryl or his show, but the girls in the crowd did, and when Daryl picked up a bass guitar and pretended to jam, they soaked it up.

And then, boom. Anthrax started thrashing. (Or is it ‘thraxing’?)

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Scott Ian (right) and Joey Belladonna (left) of Anthrax.

Now it’s true; Anthrax is a much different band than Slayer, so their inclusion on this part of Slayer’s US tour was an interesting choice. Singer Joey Belladonna belts out songs more in line with 80’s hair-bands, only with slightly more ferocity. Some might perceive them as not being as ‘heavy’ or ‘gritty’ as Slayer and other deathier bands. But as for my view, Anthrax’s spot in the metal pantheon is secure.

  • They played a viciously tight set
  • They showed no signs of aging. Scott Ian, rhythm guitar god, looked shredded, as did the other members
  • Belladonna’s voice was as crisp and powerful as ever

Anthrax’s set was maybe 45-minutes long. As one of the few ‘singer-only’ guys in the industry (most metal lead singers also play bass guitar) Belladonna hammed it up with the crowd between hooks. The set-list was energetic, especially when crowd-favorite Scott Ian took center stage and chugged through several awesome riffs. One noteworthy thing: Anthax’s style has always been kinda anthemic and sing-along, which is cool. One other noteworthy thing: despite their best efforts, the Tabernacle crowd just wasn’t biting. (More on that later.)

As my first Anthrax viewing (compared to at least six Slayer viewings) I was mightily impressed. Hair-band thrash isn’t exactly my thing, but ‘Thrax did it perhaps better than anyone. In the future, I’d like to see a show they headline.

After Anthrax went silent, and after another Daryl the dude from The Walking Dead sighting, the curtain fell over the main stage. Someone (bravely) had scrawled a bloody ‘Slayer’ logo on the otherwise pristine white curtain, which the crowd appreciated.

And so I drank.

And milled about the crowd.

And drank.

And again I noticed that despite the promise of Slayer, most mighty of all thrash-metal bands, the crowd was…sleepy.

And then…

…with a rumble, a few drum smashes, and a growling bass, the white curtain lifted and Slayer emerged. The crowd erupted (kind of) and the world shook. Tom Araya opened with the title track from ‘Repentless,’ and it get better with each song. Compared to my previous experiences with Slayer (including a show at the Tabernacle back in the early 2000’s) I can say without a doubt Tom, Kerry, Paul, and Jeff Hanneman’s stand-in Gary Holt are still every bit the gods of death. While no one will ever truly replace Hanneman, Gary Holt is more than capable. His solos rattled the Tabernacle, ditto for Tom Araya’s ageless howls and Paul Bostoph’s percussive blasts.

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King, Holt, Bostoph, and Araya

In case you care, here’s the setlist. (I’ve dropped an asterisk to the highlights of the night.)

Repentless

The Antichrist * A fine, fine choice for the first ‘oldie’ of the night.

Disciple

Postmortem * Probably the tightest, most energizing song in the setlist.

Hate Worldwide

War Ensemble

When the Stillness Comes

You Against You

Mandatory Suicide

Fight Till Death

Dead Skin Mask * The only time Tom Araya addressed the crowd was to explain how Dead Skin Mask is a Slayer ‘love song.’

Born of Fire

Pride in Prejudice

Vices

Seasons in the Abyss * Personally, I think this is Slayer’s best song ever. Played live, it’s twice as good.

Hell Awaits * I’d never heard this one live before this show. Completely worth the wait!

South of Heaven

Raining Blood

Angel of Death * Slayer almost always closes shows with this one. And for the last two shows I’ve seen them, they also dropped a tribute banner for Jeff Hanneman just for this song.

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The very cool tribute banner to fallen guitar god, Jeff Hanneman.

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Other highlights:

  • The main banner behind the stage was a massive, crimson glow-in-the-dark monstrosity depicting Jesus with thorns in his scalp and other terrifying images. It. Was. Awesome.
  • The average ‘down’ time between each Slayer song: 1.5 seconds. These guys don’t slow down. Ever.
  • This was the first Slayer show I’d ever been to in which no girls stripped off their shirts.

All of this brings me to one little thing that bothered me about the show.

It had nothing to do with the bands. They were beyond good.

It had to do with the Tabernacle crowd. More specifically, the Atlanta crowd. I’ve seen Slayer in several different cities, and yet every time I see them (or any band) in Atlanta, there’s always something about the crowds. It bothers me a little bit, their sleepiness, their reluctance to form a pit and start thrashing, their strange indifference to transcendent guitar play and machine-gun drumming. And on this night, I think Slayer and Anthrax felt the same. Surely the bands noticed the lack of moshing, the high volume of people gazing at their cellphones, and the general malaise pervading the masses.

Are we getting too old for this? I mean…I know I’m not, but are other people?

Is a Wednesday night a tough draw for heavy metal?

Or is there something about Atlanta, something about the specific mix of concert-goers making shows a little less uninhibited? It feels possible, given that I (an old dude) was one of only three people in a mass of several hundred in Tabernacle’s lower area willing to go into heavy-metal convulsions.

   Despite Atlanta’s passive approach to headbanging, the show was awesome and the venue as perfect as it’s always been. If and when Slayer or Anthrax return, I’m all in. Maybe I’ll bring a few rowdy friends for good measure.

Next up…Carcass, aka the gods of grindcore.

Thanks for reading.

J Edward Neill

Fantasy/Sci-Fi Author and Dark Artist Extraordinaire

 

A Thought for Every Thursday – Walking Contradictions

Welcome to the latest installment of my new weekly series, A Thought for Every Thursday.

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

It’s all in good fun.

Here we go…

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Walking Contradictions

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This week I have several questions for you.

All have a similar theme: why do humans exist in a state of near-permanent contradiction?

For example:

Why do Americans lash out against the two-party system, yet few ever vote for a third party?

Why are people so willing to criticize and denigrate others, but so resistant to criticize or improve themselves?

Why do people kill in the name of their ‘peaceful’ religion?

If rush-hour traffic is so detrimental to public safety (and sanity) why do most businesses open and close in the same small window of time?

Why are people who condemn drama (in social situations) usually the most likely to start the theatrics in the first place?

How is it that the people who admit they have the least amount of knowledge are often the wisest among us?

Explain if you can.

And take your time.

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Past ATFET’s 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

All Hallows Book Sale Part III

I’ve got a game for book lovers to play this Halloween.

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Every Monday through every Thursday until All Hallows Eve, I’ll be offering random Kindle books for free.

The catch, I’m not telling exactly which ones will be free on which days. You’ll just have to guess.

Each book will be free one day of each week. With six books to choose from, some days will have two freebies.

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Here’s the books:

Dark_Moon_Daughter-InitialCover 415+yIHxswL__SX331_BO1,204,203,200_ WebImageFront 101 Questions for Women Cover soul-orb-ddp-cover the_strange_things_p_cover_for_kindle

Trick or treat!

J Edward Neill

Ten Eccentric Movies Everyone Should See

There are Hollywood smash hits.

And there are bombs.

There are formulaic rom-coms, predictable horror cheese-fare, and various deadly serious films starring Matt Damon.

But as most of us know…

There are films that defy convention, break from the mold, and flip movie-goers’ expectations upside down. Many of these, you might not have watched or even heard of. They’re not quite mainstream, but not quite indie either.

Please enjoy my list of ten eccentric movies, all of which are worth viewing:

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perfume-the-story-of-a-murderer

Perfume – Story of a Murderer

It’s possible I’m starting this list with the best movie of the ten. Perfume – Story of a Murderer is among the most eccentric, most gripping movies ever to hit the screen. It goes like this: a young man with a gifted sense of smell decides he wants to capture the scent of all things. Only…that’s impossible. So rather than continue trying to capture the odors of copper, glass, and dead cats, he steps up his game and makes it his life mission to make the most powerful perfume the world has ever known.

I won’t spoil it more than that.

Featuring Ben Whishaw, the late, great Alan Rickman, Dustin Hoffman, and narrated by John Hurt, Perfume is a powerful tale of the dark places obsessions can go.

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Moon

One must be careful when describing Moon, lest one reveal spoilers.

So I’ll say only this:

A lonely, lonely man named Sam (played by Sam Rockwell) exists on the far side of the Moon with the sole purpose of mining Helium-3. Sam’s only companion is an AI named GERTY. His journey is haunting, sometimes grim, and always mysterious.

Moon’s atmosphere (no pun intended) is different than any movie I’ve ever seen, while the soundtrack is flat out beautiful and chilling.

Just see it.

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my-blue-heaven

My Blue Heaven

Let’s go old school for a minute.

My Blue Heaven is my personal favorite Rick Moranis movie (other than mayyyyyyyyybe Ghostbusters.) And Steve Martin definitely has the best hairdo of any dude ever.

So…when Vinnie (Steve Martin) falls into a semi-ridiculous witness protection program, it becomes Barney’s (Rick Moranis) job to protect him. As expected, Steve Martin’s performance is over-the-top absurd, and Moranis plays it pretty deadpan throughout.

Plenty of critics will say My Blue Heaven’s premise is way better than its execution. To them I say, “Pfffffffft.” My Blue Heaven is good, silly fun.

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shadows

What We Do in the Shadows

Speaking of fun movies, What We Do in the Shadows is among the best of them.

The setup: four vampires living in New Zealand must cope with the everyday challenges of the modern world. This includes: wrangling new victims via a third-party, dealing with dirty dishes, bickering over whose turn it is to clean the house, etc. Each of the vampires is from a different era of history, meaning their interactions are flat-out bizarre and hilarious. It’s shot in a reality TV/documentary format, and it’s insane.

See it now.

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Ex Machina

Everything you need to know about this movie appears in my thorough review – right here.

But seriously, most people I know still haven’t seen this instant sci-fi classic, which baffles me. It’s probably among the best sci-fi movies ever made. It’s that good.

The quick and dirty premise: a megalomaniac scientist creates a powerful AI, which he lures an unwitting young man to perform a Turing Test on.

Big mistake.

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rocknrolla

RockNRolla

Ever seen Snatch? What about Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels? Or…ever seen any Guy Ritchie movie ever?

If so, you’ll love RockNRolla. The plot is too complex to explain in just a few sentences, but I’ll try anyway:

When a Russian real estate magnate pursues big-time property in London, the worst of the city’s criminals close in for a piece of the pie. Meanwhile, the mobster’s son, a drugged-out rocker named Johnny Quid, is the key to the whole deal working out or completely unraveling. And meanwhile, meanwhile, a gang of thieves (played by Gerard Butler, Idris Elba, and Tom Hardy, to name a few) gets in wayyyy too deep.

I’ll just leave it at this – RockNRolla is top-notch Brit crime comedy.

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pan

Pan’s Labyrinth

Guillermo del Toro, fantasy and horror genius, sets the stage for something truly beautiful in Pan’s Labyrinth.

In it, a little girl seeking refuge from a horrific civil war stumbles into a web of dark secrets surrounding her (sadistic) stepfather’s mansion. In typical del Toro fashion, we’re sucked out of the usual Hollywood fantasy tropes and thrust into something eerier, crawlier, and more visceral.

It’s not really a fantasy movie in the typical sense. Nor is it quite horror. It’s about a little girl trying to escape her awful reality, meaning it’s a step above most of the fiction fare you’ll ever see on the big screen.

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the-big-lebowski

The Big Lebowski

You’ve maybe/probably heard of The Dude. At least, I hope you have.

Mashing up Jeff Bridges (mellow) John Goodman (insane) and Steve Buscemi (obnoxious) to star in a movie about a missing rug, a cheating wife, mistaken identity, and bowling, was pure genius from the start. And to call it a cult classic is easily an understatement.

My favorite parts: when John Goodman goes off on John Turturro’s (playing Jesus the bowler) teammate. And then of course the big fight with the nihilists (one of them is played by Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea) at the end.

It’s a total mess. It’s weird. It’s almost without a tangible plot. And it’s awesome.

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The Prestige

“Are you watching closely?”

The Prestige (Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman, Scarlett Johansson, Michael Caine) is among my all-time favorites.

The plot: when a stage magician’s wife (Piper Perabo) is accidentally killed during a dangerous trick, a cold war begins between her husband (Jackman) and the man (Bale) who may or may not have been responsible for her death.

Everything about The Prestige is a bit dark, a bit tragic, and shadowed by questions about what’s really going on. It’s not really about the stage tricks the two warring magicians pull off. It’s about the rivalry between them, and how much damage the whole concept of revenge can do to everyone involved.

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kubofeatured

Kubo and the Two Strings

I figured I’d tie in a kids movie, because…well…so many of us have kids, and kids love movies, too.

Kubo was one of those films I didn’t know anything about when I sat down in the theater to watch with my son. We’d seen exactly half of one preview, and we didn’t really know what we were getting into.

What we didn’t know – Kubo and the Two Strings is an elegant tale about a little boy, a monkey, a giant beetle, and a tiny paper man…and all their adventures as they try to escape the boy’s dreaded (and all-powerful) grandfather. The fight scenes are somehow bloodless AND intense. The subject matter is full of quiet wisdom. And the movie itself is beautiful. My son was riveted during the action, and full of sharp questions about life, death, and love afterward.

What more can you ask for in a kids’ movie?

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Honorable mentions:

Dragonslayer – The coolest old school fantasy film you’ve never heard of

Strange Brew – Max von Sydow versus Rick Moranis? Count me in

Memento – A classic head f**k

The Machinist – Christian Bale lost a million lbs. for the lead role

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If I were to make one of my novels into a movie, I’d choose this one.

…and this one, too.

Until next time,

J Edward Neill

A Thought for every Thursday – So Many Opinions

Welcome to the latest installment of A Thought for Every Thursday.

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

It’s all in good fun.

Here we go…

* * *

But Are We Really?

The old saying goes, “Everyone is entitled to their opinion.”

Let’s explore that a little deeper.

When people talk about opinions, they’re not really talking about truth. They’re talking about their personal feelings as they relate to various topics. They’re talking about emotions, instincts, and impressions. But most importantly, they’re talking about themselves.

Perhaps they don’t like a certain kind of food.

Or the way a car looks.

Or maybe it’s more serious, and the person really dislikes something going on in our society, sometimes to the point of being enraged by it.

Generally speaking, opinions are emotionally driven. They’re often formed when a person achieves a limited understanding of something and associates a positive or negative emotion in regards to it. Typically, though not always, the person with the opinion (regarding something important, not something frivolous) feels the need to express the opinion.

Loudly.

To anyone willing to listen.

And sometimes to people who aren’t so willing.

So now let’s talk about that saying again. When we talk about entitlement, we’re talking about something that a person has an inherent right to possess. And when we talk about opinions, we’re talking about feelings and emotions, something that doesn’t always mix well with truth and reality.

So…

Is a person truly entitled to their opinion?

Always?

What if it’s ignorant or based on misinformation?

And are people who possess a wide variety of powerful opinions narcissistic?

Or are opinions inalienable no matter what the circumstances might be?

And when someone says, “I respect someone else’s opinion,” regarding something they strongly disagree with, are they really telling the truth?

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Past ATFET’s 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 Playing D&D Reshaped My Entire Life

Christmas Eve 1987.

I was eleven years old.

As far as gift-hauls go, 1987 was a reasonable year. I raked in some fresh NES games, unwrapped a new pile of GI Joe action figures, and rolled my eyes at the requisite stack of clothes for school. I would’ve been satisfied if that’s all it had been. Toys, games, and clothes…what more could an eleven-year old want?

And then my Uncle John rolled into town.

You see, I lived in Chicago with my grandparents at the time, and the snows that winter were brutal, particularly that night. We’re talking piles of white powder in the yard and dirty grey slush on every road. We’re talking fifteen hours of night, and no real breaks in the clouds for weeks. Uncle John had to commute all the way from downstate, which normally takes two hours, but that night it took him pretty much triple the time. Either it was the snow’s fault, or he dreaded Christmas Eve at my grandparents’ house.  I guess I’ll never really know for sure.

The hour was late. Ok, maybe not that late, but late for an eleven-year old who’d just spent the entire day begging his grandparents, aunts, and uncles to unwrap a few of all his gifts early. Having succeeded at tormenting them into a massive gift-release, I sat in my bedroom, surrounded by wrapping paper and happiness, content with my life. I could’ve died a happy child right then and there, drowning in a sea of blue inter-connectable racetracks, NES cartridges, tiny plastic rocket launchers, and socks.

But I didn’t die. I heard a summons from the living room, and out I shambled. If I was slow, it’s because my belly was stuffed with Circus Peanuts and Orange Crush. I was sleepy. I was dragging. I just wanted to be left alone for the next three months to fully soak up my gift-haul.

“Jeremy, your Uncle John has one last gift for you. Do you want to open it tonight?” I remember someone asking me.

I halted. Of course I do! I screamed in my head-movie.

“Yeah ok,” I grunted in real life.

Uncle John handed me a wide, flat box. You know the ones. I think it was from Macy’s, and it had all the hallmark signs of being another box full of clothes. It wasn’t gift-wrapped, but it did have a single red bow on top. One. Red. Bow. Uncle John wasn’t a sentimental dude, which I could (and still do) understand.

When I took the box, I had the same sinking feeling every kid does when he sees a box like that.

Great. More clothes.

I thanked him and padded back into the hallway. No one thought much of my departure. I wasn’t two steps away before all the adults (I was the only kid in the house) started talking politics again. Not even Uncle John seemed fazed by my apparent disinterest. Untended to, I plunked down in my bedroom doorway, sighed with all the weight an eleven-year old could muster, and pried the top off the box.

I guess I should’ve realized the box was too heavy to be full of clothes.

And I should’ve known my Uncle John was too cool for sweaters and school shirts.

What was inside?

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Mind. Blown.

Before that instant, I’d never heard of Dungeons & Dragons. I’d never heard about role-playing, tabletop gaming, or rolling dice to kill undead lich lords. As I picked up the first tome (the Dungeon Master’s guide was my favorite) I felt as if a sharp breeze blew away the memory of all my other gifts. It stunned me, and made me shiver both literally and figuratively. Also in the box: a set of sparkly green polyhedral dice (which my players would learn to hate) and a stack of PC stat sheets, but I didn’t yet comprehend their meaning. I couldn’t see it yet.

I was lost, but in a good way.

Winter deepened. Chicago frosted over for most of the next three months. I didn’t care. Even though I lacked local friends to game with or a real understanding of what I was getting into, I consumed the books Uncle John had bought me. When I say ‘consumed’ I don’t mean to imply I merely read them a few times. No…I memorized them. I gobbled up the D&D dialect, became a master at its mechanics, and plotted for the day I’d actually be able to run a campaign.

But more than this, more than just learning the game, I felt a door open inside my mind. I’d always had a vivid imagination, but this was something different. It changed my perspective about what creativity could be.

And in doing so, it changed the course of my life in a very real way.

* * *

Let’s fast forward a few years.

Far removed from frosty Chicago, I found myself in a hot, heavily-wooded part of North Georgia. My parental unit had remarried and shipped us to the deep south, where summers were forever and winters were but a few weeks of rain in late January. I missed the frozen wastes, but thawing out felt nice. And more than the weather were the chances to meet new friends.

Friends who would game with me.

Friends who shared my passion for deep, dark storytelling.

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…friends who would fight this guy with me.

And so it began. In eight grade, I met The Kube, a friend who was willing to spend endless hours rolling dice with me. He created the legendary characters Silverleaf, Black Dragon, and the wizard who became a prime character in my epic fantasy series, Dank. Then in my freshman year in high school, I met Egg, John McGuire, and the devious Chris Griner.

And it was ON.

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map-3 map-5 map-4

I was a dedicated DM, going so far as to create my own 200-page hardcover campaign setting…

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We spent thousands of hours role-playing.

We downed hundreds of pizzas, killed barrels of Mountain Dew, and endured sessions lasting upwards of 15 hours.

My players learned to hate my dice, but I like to think (in my head-movie) they enjoyed the fact our games were about more than slaughtering imaginary monsters. We told stories. Deep stories about sacrifice and suffering. Legendary stuff that no video game can capture, that not even the longest, most profound novel can duplicate. If you’ve ever played our style of ‘storytelling’ D&D, you know what I mean. The players are a part of an epic tale, not just dice-rolling treasure fiends. The dungeon master is merely a blank page, ready to turn whichever direction the players want to go.

But the best part?

It didn’t stop there.

It began

Many years after my last epic session, sometime in the early 2000’s, all the storytelling lessons I’d learned flashed back into my mind. I missed (desperately) the feeling of sitting down with friends to weave a deep, dark tale, but I knew at the same time I probably wasn’t ever going to recapture it. We’d all moved apart and built our own lives. Some of us were married, and others were exploring new careers. Lacking a way to play the game I loved, I had to find a new outlet for my unbridled creativity.

And so I started my writing journey.

I sat down in the dark, my brain brimming with an entire childhood’s worth of ideas.

And the stories, many of them birthed a decade or more earlier, began to pour out of my fingertips.

Over the next fifteen years, I wrote fantasy novels, sci-fi tales, spooky novellas, and other fictional fare. I couldn’t stop. I was (and still am) a man possessed. Looking back at all of it, I know I never would’ve done it if not for those endless nights of dice-rolling and gold piece counting. I might’ve done other creative stuff, but the depth wouldn’t have been there. The story-telling skills I learned during a decade of D&D’ing were irreplaceable stuff. The seed had been planted on Christmas Eve 1987, and had grown into something I never could’ve anticipated.

Those three little books changed the way I thought. The way I imagined. The way I wanted to create. And after thousands of dice rolls, hundreds of hours spent preparing stories for my players, and countless nights at the gaming table, I wasn’t the same person I’d been. I’d grown to appreciate the art of a story without an end, and I’d learned to love all the crazy thought-collisions that happened while playing this simple little game.

There are those who will mock D&D. They’ll say it’s a game for nerds, introverts, maybe even losers. Some will even claim it supports anti-social, anti-religious behavior. Nonsense…all of it. Done right, D&D is a vehicle for allowing people to take part in a story. It’s better than TV, which isn’t interactive. It’s better than video games, which confines players to a controller and some pixels. In many ways, it’s the most imaginative game ever created. It was for me. And I’m willing to bet, it was for many, many others.

So here’s to The Kube, Egg, Griner, Nicky P, Jeremy II, John, and all the rest. These fine friends were inspirers of more characters than I can recollect. AD&D First Edition forever!

And here’s to Uncle John. He gave me three little books that rocked my world.

…and inspired twenty-four books of my own…and counting.

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Published in 2015….conceived in 1992.

If I had any advice to modern parents, it’d be something like this:

Take your kids’ phones away. Give them a D&D book. And walk away.

🙂

J Edward Neill

Author and Artist

DownTheDarkPath

 

 

 

the Hecatomb – ‘heka’tom/

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.

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

or…

The name of my terrifying new novella.

 The Hecatomb includes 4 short stories, each connected, each taking place in the same world.

It’s up to readers to decide the order in which they take place.

J Edward Neill

A Thought for Every Thursday – What’s in a Heart?

Welcome to the latest installment of my new weekly series, A Thought for Every Thursday.

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

It’s all in good fun.

Here we go…

* * *

What’s in a Heart?

What’s a gesture worth?

What’s the value of symbol, an image, or an idol?

If you think about it, we’re surrounded by symbols. They’re on our cars, on our sports team logos, on businesses, roads, and flags.

Some of these symbols appear to be of more importance than others.

Like how the McDonalds arches are more widely known than the Maserati ‘M’.

Or how the US flag is always hoisted higher on the pole than the others.

Human gestures can also be symbolic. Like remaining silent during a somber moment, flipping someone a middle finger, or standing (or not) during a ceremonial moment.

These symbols and gestures are obviously important to many people, otherwise no one would be up in arms whenever someone else didn’t observe the popular protocol.

Let’s talk about that.

If a person remains silent during a somber moment, does it really, truly imply their respect for the moment? Given how our thoughts are our best-kept secret, is it possible many (or even most) people are thinking about something completely unrelated to the moment at hand?

What about symbols such as military standards, sacred buildings, and flags? If a person stands at attention (or otherwise appears to pay their respects) does it really reflect what’s in their heart?

Is it possible that many of the people giving apparent respect don’t actually give a damn? Is it probable?

And if it were true that some of the people who appear to give respect don’t actually care much about whatever’s happening in the moment, does that mean we’re kidding ourselves when we praise the appearance of respect and turn our noses up at the apparent lack of it?

Because it’s what lies in the heart that really matters, right?

Gestures and symbols are nice things to have, but do they really have the meaning we think they do?

Also…when’s the last time you stood at attention before a symbol (a building, a flag, etc) when no one else was looking?

I don’t know the answers.

Which is why I’m asking you.

* * *

taco-bell

I’m willing to bet a LOT of people worship this symbol…

Past ATFET’s 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

101 Questions for Humanity is Free this week

FREE for the next few days!

101 Questions for Humanity

Designed to provoke, question, and challenge, 101 Questions for Humanity is the supreme coffee table book for armchair philosophers. Crack it open during huge parties, tiny gatherings, or lonely nights on the couch. Entertain yourself…or twenty friends and frienemies.

Review it right here!

101 Questions for Humanity

 To get a feel for 101 Questions’ content, check out my popular blog, 10 Questions for Humanity.

Now Available via Amazon

J Edward Neill

Strange and Shadowy Art

Hi there everyone.

While it’s true most of my creative time is dedicated to writing fantasy, sci-fi, and philosophy books, in recent months I’ve found myself wanting to paint. As in a lot. As in almost every night. It’s something I do to relax at the end of a brutal day of word-battling. And it’s also something I can do with my young son, the G Man, who can’t watch me paint without wanting to wield a brush of his own.

As the days have passed, I’ve found my walls, closets, and nooks increasingly stuffed with the art I’ve dreamed up. Most of it portrays dark cities, twisted trees, deep space, and eerie landscapes. It’s these things that fascinate me.

Always have.

Likely always will.

So today I’m sharing some of my favorite canvasses. If you like dark art, or if you’re just curious, please browse and enjoy. If you particularly appreciate a piece or two, feel free to say so in the comments section below.

I typically name (but never sign) all my art. But today, just to keep it messy, I’m leaving the names off. 🙂

Here we go:

15272346_10208233194483325_5513701102521009144_o forlorn scavenger-of-the-night

IMG_0062-300x147 img_0094-300x223image2-300x146 Illyoc-300x198

the-demon sylpha lake-of-longing 15271927_1043668525779570_626948488346795251_o

Ghostscape-6-297x300   Grave-Rain-235x300   Four-Swords-300x225 shadow-tree-1-300x225Hallows-3-300x226 Fire-World-300x150 Midnight-2 let-there-be-fire-300x298Ocean-6-300x221 Pale-Swamp-300x225 Spiritfall1-300x245 String-Theory-300x96 keys-to-the-end-300x181 The-Abyss-300x237 The-Emperors-Vision-300x196 The-Hecatomb-Master-300x196 The-Last-Tower-300x225 The-Underhollows-300x224 Firemass-300x300 Faint-Glimmer-225x300 Dusklight-147x300 Dripping-300x202

ashes1-300x150 cold-tree perfect-dawn-300x236 Descent-300x292 Cixh3l_UkAE_pM0-300x300 Cheerios-300x300 Brothers-Finished-e1430745967326-300x166 Blood-Dawn-300x146 5-300x221 The-Rabbit-Hole-292x300 shadow-tree-2-300x234 Ghost-Tree-300x225 order-of-dracul-2-294x300 umber-300x145

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Thanks for viewing!

Interested in acquiring some of my art? Check out these links here and here.

Love,

J Edward Neill

A Thought for every Thursday

Welcome to the first installment of my new weekly series, A Thought for Every Thursday.

It’s simple:

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

Oh, and I promise it’s all in good fun.

So…

Here we go…

* * *

Don’t Shoot the Messenger

Many times during our lives, a large percentage of the people you know will hear about something that’s happened in the world. Maybe it’s something big that just happened and everyone saw it on the news. Maybe it’s something somebody famous said. Or maybe it’s a national event we all read about on the internet. Regardless, it’s something everyone hears about, and something everyone has an opinion about.

Sometimes it’s something we can all agree with.

And sometimes not so much.

Whenever this happens, there’s often a messenger, aka a person or people who said or did something unusual.

Like that time Martin Luther King gave a society-changing speech.

Or when the Cold War ended.

Or when (insert celebrity name) said something controversial about (insert a touchy subject.)

Often when this happens, the message becomes secondary to the messenger. As in, the person or people who said or did something fall under more scrutiny than the actual thing they said or did.

Sometimes someone unsavory says something controversial (but maybe true) and their character gets attacked, thus destroying their message. And sometimes someone beloved says something unusual (but maybe not so true) and their message is automatically accepted because of their popularity.

See where I’m going with this?

So this week’s question is:

Is it fair to ignore a thought-provoking or hard-to-hear thing if the person saying or doing it is less than awesome? Should an important cultural commentary be shrugged off if people don’t like the messenger or the way the message is being delivered?

or…

 Should all the attention be paid to what is being said or done, and not to who the messenger is?

What do you think?

Is it ever fair to shoot the messenger?

Maybe sometimes…in certain situations?

* * *

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Kudos to anyone who gets the correlation.

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

Shadows & Dust & Free Paperbacks or Bust

Hey there, my favorite people in the world.

I’m talking about book readers. Obviously. 🙂

Several times over the last two years, I’ve taken a few risks. I’ve offered free paperback copies of my best books in exchange for honest reviews via Amazon. I pay for the paperback and I ship it on my dime. While it’s true most people take the book(s) and run away, a few have turned out with great reviews.

Meaning this program is totally worth it.

So…as of today I’m issuing a standing offer. I just ordered two big boxloads of my most popular titles, and it’s my intention to give them ALL away in exchange for honest Amazon reviews. If I run out of a particular title, I’ll buy another boxload. That’s how serious I am.

What do you have to do?

  • Pick a book from the list below you’d like to read and review
  • Either email me here, Facebook me here, or Tweet me here
  • Leave an honest review via Amazon within 30 days
  • Earn my eternal love and respect. 🙂

It’s free and easy for you. The books are all new high-quality paperbacks. I ship at no charge. If you’d prefer to read on your computer or tablet, I can also send full-formatted PDF’s. I’m flexible that way.

Choose from these titles:

DDP 1 TheHecatombWeb DoorNeverDreamedPaperback1 101-Questions-for-Humanity-333x500

* * *

Need a few pointers on writing a review in 60 seconds or less? Click here.

Love,

J Edward Neill

Three Little Sunsets in Florida

Recently I took a little vacation to the Gulf Coast of Florida.

In contrast to some of my lavish vacations of yesteryear, I did this one quick and cheap.

Which turned out just perfect.

This is my journal for four days and three nights in Palm Harbor, Florida.

Please enjoy.

* * *

Tuesday, Sept 6th – Morning and Early Afternoon

On a sunny, warm morning, I drove my kid (the G Man) to his school. After releasing his groggy, five-year old self into the waiting arms of his cranky teacher (she always gives me stink-eye) I wandered back to my car. Decisions, decisions… I knew a 7-hour solo drive awaited me, and that if I didn’t get some exercise, I’d regret it. You see, my body rebels at long car drives. Without space to move around, my muscles tense up and everything starts to hurt. It’s pretty much the worst feeling ever. So instead of immediately settling in for the long drive to Florida, I went on a four-mile run.

It’s probably worth mentioning I never get to run in the mornings. And after Tuesday’s little sprint, I remembered why I love early running so much. It’s cool outside, usually mildly breezy, and in the deep woods of the Suwanee Greenway, I get to be alone under the trees. This particular run was especially wonderful. I mean…not having to instantly go to work afterward meant I got to stand under the leaves and breathe deep.

…and then drive seven eight-and-a-half hours to Palm Harbor.

Some of the billboards seen on the way:

“Only Jesus can stop the Zombie Apocalypse!”

“Wind Turbines kill Millions of Birds Every Year!”

and my favorite pairing:

“Jesus is the Only Answer!” ….right next to…. “Strippers! We Bare All!”

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Wow. Just wow.

Tuesday Mid-Afternoon

After a loooooong drive, during which I listened to the Mad Max – Fury Road soundtrack at least twice, I arrived in Palm Harbor at about 5:30 PM. I was half-starved, having consumed only a Muscle Milk and a Babe Ruth bar since breakfast. 🙁 Luckily, my buddy Danish Mike (more on him later) arrived from Fort Lauderdale at nearly the same time. We met for an early dinner, and the eating was on.

Now, the thing about restaurants in Florida is this: if they’re anywhere near the beach, they’re all the same. They look the same (weathered pastel paint and crumbling roof) their clientele is the same (tanned seniors) and the menu is pretty much the same (crab cakes and rum runners.) The place we chose was exactly like any other place we could’ve chosen. The food was cheap and hot, and the drinks were cheaper and cold.

I sat down with Danish Mike (think Arnold Schwarzenegger with a tan and long hair) and our buddy Greg (local musician and philosopher.) We slurped down about 4,000 calories each while catching up and planning a three-evening destruction of Palm Harbor. It was the perfect way to start a relaxing trip.

Oh, in case you wondered, Palm Harbor is a mostly residential town wedged between Tampa and Clearwater. It’s flat, crisscrossed with narrow waterways, and quiet. Not sure any of this matters. Just thought you should know.

Tuesday Evening

I wish I could tell you we immediately leapt into scuba diving, deep-sea fishing, or massive senior citizen orgies. Nope. Didn’t happen. My long-haired European friend and I simply skipped to another bar, where we ate again, sipped some really mediocre beverages, and enjoyed a three-hour conversation about the meaning of life. If you know me, you know I love philosophy. And so it went: deep drinks and deeper talks. Niiiiiiiice.

Wednesday, Sept 7th – Morning

So there’s this restaurant on the Gulf Coast of Florida. It’s in Clearwater, about 100 yards from the shore. Clear Sky Café – not quite a dive bar, not quite high end. It’s pretty much a mandatory go-to spot every time I’m in town. After rising early, Mike and I hopped in my truck, turned up some realllllly loud, obnoxious death metal, and sprinted down to grab some breakfast. We planned on a quick meal and then whatever, but naturally, as it always happens, we stayed at Clear Sky for about two hours. Nope, not chasing local girls. Nah, not drinking. Somehow we started talking politics.

And it turned out we did so in an ocean of hardcore Trump fans. Yay!

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Clear Sky Café – home of amazing mojitos, top-notch food, and vigorous political fury.

Wednesday Late Morning through Early Evening

I suppose some people’s idea of relaxation is different than mine. Most of the people I know would define relaxation on the beach as: lying in the sand, wading in the ocean, reading by the pool, and generally chilling completely out.

Me and Danish Mike…not so much.

For about nine hours on Wednesday, we played volleyball, swam in the ocean, ate more food than an entire third-world nation, and…played more volleyball. Now, when I say we played volleyball all day, I don’t mean to imply we found eight random people to play five versus five. Nah. Not our style. We scoured four different beaches (and four different bars) to find some hardcore competition. We found and played against: an Italian woman and her Andre the Giant-sized Brazilian husband.  A group of super friendly weekend warriors. A beautiful South American girl and the overbearing guy trying to impress her. And a bunch of young dudes eager to destroy us. We played them all, and for the most part, we won….despite being sauced with rum & beer and playing with full bellies.

It’s true. We’re addicted to volleyball.

vball

The Gulf Shore is home to (not kidding) thousands and thousands of volleyball courts.

Wednesday Evening

Exhausted and covered in a pretty gross sunscreen/sand lather, we drove back into town, ate our sixth meal of the day, and collapsed. What a day!

Thursday, Sept 8th – Morning

It’s turns out Clear Sky Café isn’t the only good spot to get breakfast on the Gulf Coast. There’s also another chain called First Watch, a little family-friendly spot with tons of offbeat breakfast and brunch fare. After Wednesday’s high level of exercise and consumption, we decided to play it healthy. If you’re ever in the Palm Harbor, Tampa, or Clearwater area, I suggest First Watch. While it’s true most of the wait-staff is either high or realllly high, the food is fantastic.

Plus, I really like pancakes. Sue me. But theirs were amazing.

Thursday Late Morning – Midafternoon

Our musician/philosopher friend, Greg West, had the perfect solution for our mid-Wednesday malaise. He suggested ocean kayaking, which…if you’ve never done it, is really a transcendent way to spend an afternoon. So it’s kayaking we went. We loaded up between three little islands (Holiday, Caladesi, and some other island I can’t remember.) It was just three dudes and a buttload of sunscreen out in the relatively shallow water between islands.

What’d we find out there in the beautiful blue water?

We came across a ship marooned on a sandbar. We speculated the ship’s captain must’ve been drunk as hell. The boat was pretty big, and yet somehow Cap’n Genius McIdiot managed to pilot it into two-feet deep water, where it’s been stuck ever since. The cool part: some pretty cool fish made a little reef out of the ship’s far side, and it’s there I plucked out a handful of beautiful shells to bring home to my kid.

We saw a shark (black – about 5′ – 7′ long) feasting on fish near a patch of stumpy mangroves.

We rowed within five feet of a dolphin pod. They didn’t mind us at all. We approached them calmly on our little kayaks and watched them jet through the shallows. Meanwhile, everyone on shore lost their minds. Based on their over-the-top screaming, I’m not sure any of the screaming teenage girls or drunken frat dudes had ever actually seen a dolphin before…or any wild animal…ever.

We spotted two manatees. They’re faster than you think.

Greg stepped on a crab, which bowed up at him as if to challenge him to a claw fight. Lacking claws, Greg backed down. A wise decision, we all agreed.

And then the tide rolled in. Somewhat reluctantly, we rode the rising waters back to shore and treated ourselves to beers and snowcones. Honestly, kayaking in the ocean was the most fun we’d had all trip. After proposing to our server, eating a buttload of fresh shrimp, and trying to force feed Greg in order to make him gain weight, we fled the islands and crept back onto the mainland.

Thursday Evening

So it’s true. A while back I committed to not watching any NFL football all season long. And yet…on Thursday, game one of the season (Panthers vs Broncos) happened to be playing on every TV everywhere. “Fine,” I thought. “We’ll watch it. Let’s go. Just don’t tell anyone.”

And so it went. A group of us (our clan had somehow swollen to five people) shambled over to a local Taco Mac-like spot to listen to Greg jam and to torment the waitresses. We watched Serena Williams lose badly, the US hockey team spank the EU team, and the Panthers blow a 10-point lead. Somehow we did this while barely drinking or spending any money. I think, being a local celebrity, Greg’s presence allowed us to camp out without emptying our wallets. It’s good to have friends, people. It’s even better to have friends who play guitar. Remember this.

In the middle of the football game, the bar fired up some trivia. We didn’t play (we should’ve; we’d have won easily) but we did witness one table cheat over and over again. You see, there were these five meatheads who busted out their phones for every question, and yet…somehow…didn’t win the trivia tourney. My theory is that if you’re gonna cheat, you’d better win. Just my two cents. Mediocre, meatheads. Mediocre.

Exhausted from rowing, waitress-tormenting, and talking about the end of the world, we retreated to sleep once again.

Friday, Sept 9th – Morning

I suppose the hardest part of any vacation is dealing with the fact that at some point, it must end. This is doubly true for short trips, and triply true when a looooooong drive awaits at trip’s end. When I awoke Friday morning, I let out the world’s longest sigh. I wanted to go kayaking again, to play volleyball all day, and to go back to the bar with the rubber ducky racing lagoon. Yes, I’m serious. And yes, I’d picked the purple duck to win. And yes, he lost.

So after a quick breakfast, Danish Mike and I headed down to Clearwater Beach to fit in some last-minute volleyball. But it turned out our hearts just weren’t in it. We knew we couldn’t commit to a full day of fun, and so, much like pouty kids, we just lounged in the ocean and judged all the people walking by. It was pretty relaxing, at least until Captain Blonde Dude McWhatever hopped on his waverunner and tore off into the deeps at 500mph. I’m not afraid to admit we both wished his waverunner would explode.

But it didn’t.

We crawled out of the water. We listened to Greg play a few songs at the Rockaway (another bar filled with tanner-than-everyone seniors.) And we drank the nastiest pineapple juice ever.

And then, after a hug and a fist bump, we got in our vehicles and drove away.

Friday Evening – The Drive Home

There’s something about driving solo over long distances. After a while, it becomes a meditative experience. To pass the time, one tends to fall into one’s thoughts. For the first few hours, I listened to loud music and drove wayyyy too fast, but after a while I slowed it down. I dreamed up a few offbeat book plots, not unlike this and this.

But then I started thinking about new marketing strategies. You see, on the long stretch of road between Palm Harbor and Atlanta lies a string of quiet (and mostly dead) towns. And clustered around these towns are some of the most entertaining billboards I’ve ever seen. They range from simple and poorly-worded to straight-up weird.

I seriously need to invest in some of these billboards. Can you imagine, sitting between a thousand signs for pecans, adult toy shops, and Jesus, a huge banner for a crazy dark fantasy novel?

I can.

Here. Enjoy a small sample of awesome billboards:

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Pure, raw entertainment right there…

Exactly how a vacation should end.

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I’m back home now. I’m listening to music on my couch and contemplating what flavor Ramen noodles to eat. As for my time in Florida, I loved it. I’ll not soon forget kayaking on the clear blue water, eating pancakes while discussing the end of humanity, and zombie-Jesus billboards.

These are the things vacations are made of.

J Edward Neill

Author and Artist

The search for badass bloggers!

artists%20wanted

Hey you.

Are you an artist? An author? A photographer? Or someone with something awesome to blog about?

Yeah. We bet you are. 🙂

We think you should know; Tessera Guild is looking for someone like you.

Did you just finish a rockin’ painting? Cool! We want you to blog about it.

Did you publish an epic novel or a smooth little short story? Nice! We want to interview you about it.

Or maybe you want a weekly platform from which to write or podcast about art, life, and the end of the world? Yeah. We can help with that.

Tessera Guild is looking to grow its readership and help fresh new artists and wordsmiths get the exposure they need. We have primary openings on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and weekends.

There are no strings attached. We don’t charge any money to anyone. We’re not in this for the cash.

Seriously.

We’re looking for full-time contributors AND one-time interviews, blogs, and press releases.

Interested?

Good. It’s easy. Just reach out to us via the comments section or send an email to JEdwardNeill@Downthedarkpath.com.

Tessera Guild gets thousands and thousands of hits every single week, and has been for more than two years now. Seems like a no-brainer for you to join us.

See you soon,

Team Tessera

I’m awful at relationships (and it’s ok)

Hi there,

I’m J, possibly the worst person at relationships in the world.

A while back, I wrote about how modern love is a battlefield. I talked about how dating is harder than ever  because it’s actually too easy. And I figured (out loud) that finding love and relationships will never be the same as just fifteen years ago.

My article probably came across a little grim. But honestly, I don’t feel mine is a ‘glass half-empty’ viewpoint. It’s just the way things are. At least in my experience.

So after my original ‘love’ article, I decided to write tons more about modern dating. I can’t explain why I did it, especially since relationships aren’t exactly my strong point. Even so, I penned two books on the topic and published sarcastic blogs like this and this. I was pretty harsh, essentially mocking the entire process of dating and relationships. The whole thing felt funny to me. Not just funny, but laughable. I’m not really sure why.

But then I got to thinking. What if, instead of taking enjoyment in deconstructing everyone else’s love lives, I actually tried to forge something meaningful for myself. As in, a real relationship. Or at least a thriving presence in the dating underworld. What if I crawled out of my subterranean writing lair and began a legitimate search for love? At the very least, it’d be a fun experiment. At the worst…

Well…

Before I set out into the dating wilderness, I stopped to reflect on my life up to that point. It wasn’t a pretty picture. I’d been married, and I’d been pretty awful at it. I’d had girlfriends, but I’d carved my way through their lives, always finding some tiny reason to justify an instantaneous breakup. I’d worked way too hard to forge a persona that was cold, indifferent, and to be honest, pretty damn selfish. I sucked at relationships, and I knew it.

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Ok. I’m bad, but maybe not THAT bad.

It was then I realized, even if my destiny was to be a lifelong bachelor, I had to change things up. Being a perma-jerk really wasn’t a good life plan, even if I confined it to dating. If I was gonna bother to meet new people and light some fresh romantic fires, I had to take it seriously. I had to be *gasp* a nicer human being.

So out I went into the wide, wild world. I had a dating plan, and I tried…really tried…to embrace it. I dressed better than in previous years. I hit the gym hard. I made a conscious effort to be extra polite, to smile more than once a day, and to compliment people without being sarcastic. I even tried not to laugh if a woman said she liked country music. That last one was particularly hard for me. Actually, it still is.

And so…dating, real dating instead of just crazy, midnight, one-evening collisions, started happening…

…and let’s be honest. I continued to suck at it.

I remember one night in the dead of winter.  My date, already tipsy from several glasses of wine, started kissing my face while we were in the middle of a restaurant. I don’t mind PDA, and certainly not from a good-looking girl, but I probably didn’t handle my reaction too well. I sat there, dead as a fish, and made a face like I was being murdered. Fail.

After a few weeks of steadily seeing a beautiful girl I genuinely liked, I randomly decided to blow off our (always awesome) Friday date-night to party with friends. The party wasn’t much fun. Naturally, we broke up a few days later. Fail.

While dating a smart, funny, and possibly out of my league younger woman, I flubbed every major conversation. I was too sarcastic, too blunt, and too indifferent. When, despite my idiocy, she came to me with the big ‘L’ word, I looked her in the eyes and said…nothing. Absolutely nothing. It was like someone had hit me in the head with a shovel. We dated for a little while afterward, but what human wants their big ‘L’ revelation to be greeted with silence? The answer: no one. Anything would’ve been better than nothing. Fail.

The stories gathered. The fails piled up. My effort waned. And within a few months, I was right back where I started. Single. A bachelor. A perpetual third wheel.

The weird part was – I didn’t really mind.

I like to think of myself as a pretty introspective person. When I eff up, which is often, I tend to look inward to find out what I did wrong, why I did it, and what I can do better the next time.

So inward I looked. And here’s what I came up with:

If you go into a relationship expecting it to be dull, crappy, or short-lived, it will be. Trust me. I know from personal experience.

But if you go in with sky-high expectations, you’ll be disappointed just the same.

If your favorite thing to do in life involves locking yourself in a dark room for long hours every night to write novels, relationships will be hard.

And if, when you finally come out of the room, you find yourself wanting to either: A. Go back in …or B. Hit the town hard to expel all your pent-up energy, relationships will be extra hard.

If you’re a guy, and your favorite things in life are attending death metal concerts, painting deathy landscapes, cooking huge piles of meat, playing tons of sports, and basically doing whatever you want whenever you want to, you might have trouble finding a girl with similar interests.

Especially if you have a young kid who’s exactly like you.

And double especially if you’re rapidly approaching 40.

* * *

I could go on. I really could. I have all kinds of stories about my relationship suck-itude. I mean, did you know RBF (Resting Bitch Face) is also a guy thing? Yep. I have it. Have you ever looked up the meaning of ‘aloof?’ Yep, I am it. Have you ever had a date or a significant other tell you they thought you had a terrible, dreadful night when you actually had a blast? Yep, happens to me every time. Apparently I suck even when things aren’t sucking.

Now, let’s be clear about something. I’m not writing this to earn sympathy. I’m not bemoaning my life story as a lousy relationship-er. I’m all about the facts, and I’m completely at peace with my suck-itude. I’m just here to tell you that if and when you start to think you suck at finding love and meaningful companionship, rest assured someone sucks worse than you.

Me.

🙂

J Edward Neill

Author of all kinds of relationship-y books:

101 Qs for Couples Front Cover

101 xxxy Questions Front Cover

101QSP

 

 

 

 

Making a Publication on a USB Drive

Making a Publication on a USB Drive

by Dylan Kinnett

Contributor to the awesome website, Infinity’s Kitchen

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Publishing has become a digital process. Books, newspapers, magazines, and posters are all, for the most part, created using software before they’re printed, by machines, onto paper. The older traditions of letterpress, screen printing, and binding by hand have taken a back seat to these newer technologies throughout the publishing industry, but they’re not dead.

Ink Press Productions, an operation based in Baltimore, Maryland, is a publisher that focuses on a DIY aesthetic, and relies heavily on the tried-and-true manual, human processes of book-making.

In that same city of Baltimore, Maryland, another operation called Infinity’s Kitchen is focused on the question, “what is literature in a post-digital setting?” It’s also a website that features video and other multimedia. This project seeks to do things with writing that take advantage of what print can do, but it also publishes work that cannot possibly be printed.

These two operations are collaborating to produce An Internet, which is a digital publication that does not rely on the World Wide Web to be distributed. Instead, it is a physical object, a USB drive. Dylan Kinnett, of Infinity’s Kitchen shares some coder’s notes, about what it’s like to build such a thing…

In the early days of the project, before the interface for An Internet had any code to support it, we had several conversations, largely centered around THE Internet. What is it? What is it meant to be? What is it becoming? How do we feel about it? What would happen if we were to bring a DIY aesthetic to the whole thing? I found myself thinking often about the very early days of the web, before Google became the apparently omniscient automated oracle that it is now, when the web really was a more handmade thing. There were hand-picked web directories, and web rings, and links pages, that provided personally chosen connections between one thing and the next. These connections were made as often by individuals, sometimes hobbyists, as they were by other individuals who worked for small (growing) companies. Now, the whole thing is so vast that these connections seem to be impossible to curate by hand, let alone to comprehend, and so we trust algorithms to compute relevance for us. A hand-made internet, if there can be such a thing, should resemble those early days, more than the algorithms.

Read the full Notes from a Coder article right here. *

By Dylan Kinnett

courtesy of InkPress Productions

A Book to Break your Coffee Table

You say you want questions…

Oh, does 101 Questions for the End of the World have them.

But instead of ice-breaking, take to a party full of tipsy people, improve your love life-type questions, it’s full of deadly serious inquiries. Think Socrates meets Stephen Hawking, Plato meets Carl Sagan, and that’s kinda what this book is like. It’s for science buffs, outer space lovers, old world philosophy fans, and serious truth seekers.

101 Qs for the End of the World Front Cover

101 pages. 101 awesome questions.

Here’s seven little samples to get you started.

The rest of the Coffee Table Philosophy series is here.

J Edward Neill