Painting a Hollow Empire

You are about to enter another dimension. A dimension not only of sight and sound, but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land of imagination. Next stop, the Twilight Zone!

Okay. That might be an exaggeration, but you’re still about to see raw sketches and studies that until now only a few have been privy. Last November I met up with John R McGuire and J Edward Neill to discuss a project they were writing together, post-apocalypse fiction set in medieval times, aptly named Hollow Empire. This was to be a big project and it began like all projects do with a lot of brainstorming, sketches, and research. I read small portions from story, explored images of medieval town and cities, and began envisioning the world they had created. One aspect key to the cover was a city in partial ruins. Here are three sketches from the early stages, click through to see larger images.

From there we ended up going with the first sketch after we discussed the need for graves. Many graves.

Hollow Empire SketchI still like this sketch quite a lot, but as I began painting I realized it just didn’t work. Sometimes that happens. Thankfully, I felt comfortable enough to approach John and J Edward with my concerns. Before doing so, I began reworking the idea and incorporating elements from those early first designs. I also took inspiration from the medieval ghost town of Craco. If it looks familiar you’ve probably seen it in a film or documentary. Craco was abandoned after an earthquake in 1980, but it had already been on the decline due to poor agriculture, landslides and flooding. When I approached the author duo again, I presented them with two quick studies, the original idea and my Craco study.

Lucky for my muse and I, we were all on the same page. They too went for my Craco idea and I spent the next four weeks developing that world. One feature I was happy to see return was the gravestone from one of the original sketches. Sometimes things stick with you and for whatever reason I couldn’t shake that gravestone from my mind. This is the final painting without the extra bits.

Hollow Empire Painting by Amanda MakepeaceHollow Empire by John R McGuire and J Edward Neill will be available in the coming weeks! Subscribe to our blog in the sidebar to stay in the loop.

 amandamakepeace.com

Ten Commandments for writers (or any artist, for that matter)

MosesJunk

 

God has given us these fifteen – Oy! Ten…ten commandments!” – Moses – History of the World, Part I

For any writer, artist, athlete, musician, or human being with any accidental creative intent, I recommend the following list. In my limited, brief, relatively ridiculous experience, these etched-in-stone rules will help (or possibly confound) any man or woman who takes their craft at least somewhat seriously.

1. Thou shalt not have a but a shadow of thy former social life. – Seriously, who needs friends or lovers when you could be sitting on your couch in sweats, agonizing over how much your latest work sucks?

2. Thou shalt possess a cat or dog who sits on thine work and distracteths from the task at hand – Because, you know, it’d be too much trouble for them to sit on the fucking couch like most normal pets.

3. Thou shalt never clicketh on Facebook, Twitter, or any website ever – If you do, you’re fucked.

4. Thou shalt set aside one hour per day to exerciseth, lest thine body turn to jello – Unless of course you’re going for the George RR Martin look. (Because everyone knows success as a writer = scruffiness + BMI x beard length) Yes, for the ladies, too.

5. Thou shalt paint, write, and sketch while tipsy, yet fixeth it all while painfully sober(ish) – They say alcohol and drugs bring out the creative juices.

        5.1 They’re wrong. It just makes fixing your F ups all the more tedious.

SugarSkull

Look! A bamboo skull iPhone case! If I buy it, I’ll waste 20 minutes of productive time…and blow my profits from the last 700 books I sold!

6. Thou shalt be no less than three months late for thine deadlines – At best.

7. Thou shalt sleep no longer than five brokeneth hours per night. Three if you have kids, a spouse, or *gasp* a day-job. None if you’re attempting a social life.

8. Thine bank account shall never explodeth, nor erupt, nor even runneth over – Unless you’re fully decked out with the aforementioned beard, in which case you’ll be swimming in cash. And then, after you’re bearded and rich, you’ll never get laid again. (You’ve got a reputation – and a beard – to uphold.)

9. Thou shalt die alone – Relax. I’m kidding. (But not really.)

10. Thou shalt only know joy when thine project is completeth – And then, because you’re a masochist, you’ll start a new project, looking for that one sharp-as-a-sword ray of sunshine to gleam upon your work once again. Dumbass.

 I could probably stretch this list to 100, but…

Until next week,

J Edward Neill

Author of the Tyrants of the Dead dark fantasy trilogy

Author of The Sleepers and Old Man of Tessera

Down the Dark Path

Release Day – Dark Moon Daughter – New cover art!

Dark Moon Daughter – Book II in the Tyrants of the Dead trilogy

New ebook cover art now available!

Dark Moon Daughter New Kindle CoverA little background on the new cover: Andelusia Anderae, part-time heroine in the epic-length Down the Dark Path, takes center stage in Dark Moon Daughter. That’s the Black Fire roiling in her left hand. And yes, that’s the first official image of an Ur in the background. Note the white eyes (like stars). If you look closely, you’ll see its mouth opening up behind Andelusia as if to devour her.

The ebook version of Dark Moon Daughter is now available on Amazon here. Just click Andelusia’ cleavage…or the Ur’s eyes:

Dark Moon Daughter New Kindle Cover

The Smashwords version is here:

Dark Moon Daughter

By J Edward Neill
Price: $6.99 USD. Words: 164,630. Language: English. Published: July 9, 2014. Category: Fiction » Fantasy » Epic
Andelusia’s magic is meant only for suffering and death. One flicker of black fire, and the world will burn. One word uttered, and the Ur will butcher every living thing. In her heart, she knows what she must do. Fight them… …or join them.
 

 

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New cover art for the softcover version will be out any day now. Look for updates here at Tessera AND at my Down the Dark Path web abyss.
 
 
 
 
 
 

Hollow Empire – Those Initial Steps

On March 23, 2013 I received the following email from J Edward Neill:

“My final round scooped. Weak. But seriously, if you want to try your hand at the serial story blog thing, I’m all in.”

The first part of that line refers to Magic the Gathering, so not really important to our discussion right now. The second refers to a conversation I had with J about a podcast I’d been listening to “The Self-Publishing Podcast” and how two of those guys had been on a tear with serialized fiction (which if you are at all interested in independent writing, you should check out the podcast). The format basically was about 15,000 words per episode (which equals about 60 pages), six episodes make a season (apparently we are on an English schedule)… leaving you with 90,000 words for the book (360 pages). They released them on a weekly basis, cliffhangers at the end of episodes (just like some of your favorite tv shows).

breakfast_serial_forum_183

No, not this kind of serial!

And I thought it could be duplicated.

So a couple of days later I got that email. And I replied on March 25, 2013:

“Serial – I’d be down.”

There was tons more included. Talk about potential schedules, the idea that this book could help not only cross-pollinate our works, but also generate content for our virtual book shelves. The one thing I am sure of in this writing thing is that if I only have one book, then it is much harder for anyone to find me. But if I have another book, I’ve increased my odds. And by co-writing it, I only have to do 1/2 as much work to get to the full novel.

Right?

Anyway. At that point we had no idea what this was going to be besides the barest of formats. Genre? Who knows. I only knew that we probably wanted to avoid vampires and zombies since they seemed to be running rampant throughout fiction and tv and movies.

J mentioned “a superhero theme, but waaaay back in time… fighting against ancient evils in a fantasy dark ages setting.”

I took that and wrote the following:

“125 years ago the last of the Great Wars were fought and the beginning of King XXX began. And the Age of Peace spread throughout the lands that he had conquered. Much like Alexander in our own world, this King spread his kingdom to the far reaches of the known world, but unlike Alexander, he lived to a ripe old age. Long enough to ensure that his heir would be ready to rule after him, long enough to make sure that the new lands remained within the kingdom. Trade increase, prosperity increased, etc.

10442Jollain_The_Plague_of_Frogs

20 years ago marked the beginning of the Outbreak in YYY. hey stacked the dead along the walls until they reached the top, and then they began a new corpse wall. The spread like wildfire throughout the world; the downside to having increased contact with the far reaches meant that no one could outrun it. The population of the world decreased over the next 10 years by 50%. Small villages now are ghost towns, empty of all life, as those who survived journeyed to the cities for protection, cure, help.

Now we deal with a medieval world which has begun to pull itself out of the apocalypse. They are trying to figure out where they stand. But there are peasant revolts, coups, kingdoms which quarantined themselves and have not been heard from in the last dozen years.

Plague_doctors'_beak_shaped_mask

<Insert Project Name> – Dark Fantasy – Not saving the world, not saving the day… just saving yourself.”

That’s all it took and we were off to the races. We began to flesh out the pieces of the world and the people who survived the end of the world. We came up with our four Points of View, each choosing to write two of them. We’d be each other’s first editor. And when it was done we’d have something greater than the one could possibly do.

I must admit, I wasn’t sure how it was going to work out. I’ve collaborated plenty on the comic book side of things. Heck, the whole format is about that very thing. Writers and artists working together to achieve something they could not have done alone. But this was something else.

And it worked (at least I think it did, you’ll have to read it and be the judge). I think we’ve not only managed to flesh out a world, but we’ve done it by using the characters as our vehicles to get there. They determine so much of what the world is going to look like.

The best part, though, was getting that new chapter from J. There would always be something new one of us would include in a chapter that the other one would want to add to their own story. So many emails and conversations seemed to begin with “X thing is cool… how exactly does it work so that I can use it.” Those surprises made it fresh in a way that working by yourself sometimes can’t be.

I’m excited to release this new creation into the world. I can’t wait to have people give it a read and let us know what they think.

And by the way, Mr. Neill also has given a little bit of teaser for Hollow Empire here.

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John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program. He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

The Dark That Follows is now available in print here or on Amazon!

Upcoming Release – Hollow Empire

Something new lurks on the horizon…

In 2013, I teamed with John R McGuire for an ambitious new co-project. We called it the Dark Fantasy Project, an appropriately ominous moniker for the grim, grave-licious tale we’d begun to weave. Truthfully, the DFP was my first attempt at co-anything. I felt jittery about working with someone not named me. I worried that our vision might never meet in the middle.

My fears were unfounded.

We’ve crafted a tale rivaling anything we’ve written before.

Fast forward to 2014, and the DFP nears its release. Only it’s not the DFP any longer; it’s Hollow Empire, a six-part serial novel. We’re excited. If you like quick reads or full-length novels, you should be excited, too. In the coming weeks, we’ll release Hollow Empire in serial e-form (six episodes at only $0.99 each!) and in a complete softcover format available on Amazon and Createspace.

Get some.

Here’s a bone-licious teaser of the back cover art, crafted by Tessera’s own Amanda Makepeace. It sums up Hollow Empire’s tone. Just wait ’til you see the front cover.

HollowEmpireBackText1

What is Hollow Empire, you ask? Think post-apocalyptic, post-catastrophe world, but instead of zombies, nukes, vampires, or futuristic technological holocausts, think the other direction. What if the apocalypse happened during medieval times? What if, instead of scavenging for ammo, fuel, and the odd crossbow bolt, mankind were forced to scratch out their lives by the sword? And by the sword, we mean literally. What if surviving in this grave new world meant not reclaiming the life you lost, but simply trying to make it to the next hour without being carved to tatters by outlaws, captured and tortured by bloodthirsty aristocrats, or eaten alive by wild, flesh-craving animals? What if, what if, what if…?

Hollow Empire follows the lives of four unlucky people as they claw their way across the ruined nation of Vhur. We call them unlucky because it might’ve been better for their sakes if they’d already died. We’ve got Vadim, a highborn soldier with only a fragment of his former life to cling to. There’s Nadya, an outcast mother with nowhere to hide. We’ve got Cassidy, a Walker charged with doing God’s dirty work. And finally there’s Murgul, a broken, twisted, and heart-rendingly simply soul who craves only a few moments of peace in his sad little life.

Survivors, all of them. Each with only a thread of their former lives remaining.

Here’s our world. We call it Vhur.  See all those cities marked ‘Lichy Ruins’? Dead…all of ’em. Surrounded by graves. Haunted by handful of survivors and packs of vicious Iritul.

Vhur World Map

So keep your eyes peeled and yours breath held.

Hollow Empire – September 2014.

From the authors of Down the Dark Path and The Dark that Follows.

J Edward Neill & John R McGuire

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Until next week,

J Edward Neill

Author of the Tyrants of the Dead dark fantasy trilogy

Author of The Sleepers and Old Man of Tessera

Down the Dark Path

A Small Dragon for #DragonCon

Here he is, my re-imagined Dragon’s Egg for Dragon Con, all done up in his beautiful frame. This was a test run of shots I took on my iPhone. When he hangs in the show you’ll see below the egg, the title, number and signature. I’m taking print no. 1 from a limited run of 15 to the 2014 Dragon Con Art Show. There will be 10, 4×5 inch open edition prints in the show’s Print Shop. The 8×10 inch limited editions are available now in my Etsy shop and if you’re quick, they are on sale for a few more days!

Dragon's Egg by Amanda Makepeace

 

I’m going to have quite a few large artworks at Dragon Con this year, but there will be a selection of smaller works too like this little guy. There will be a range of artworks in a range of prices. As the event draws closer I will have some detail information on what I’m taking on my website – amandamakepeace.com.

Everything in my Etsy shop – http://makepeacestudios.etsy.com – is 25% off for a few more days! Don’t miss out.

What if…? I turned Sleeping Beauty into a dark fantasy novel

Spoiler alert: For those who haven’t seen Maleficent, beware…

A few weeks ago, I fired up the What if…? series with my dark reimagining of this

Today I’m reworking the classic animated film Sleeping Beauty, and to a lesser degree, Angelina Jolie’s Maleficent. What if, instead of a sometimes-for-kids, sometimes dark, but just as often musical and cheery film, I penned Sleeping Beauty as a full-length dark fantasy novel? And what if, instead of Maleficent’s decidedly PG rating, I poured a decanter of thick, soupy shadow juice all over it and gave my pretend new novel a solid R? The original film is a classic, the new film not so much, but between the two I believe there’s a grimmer tale yet untold. Two movies. Two stories. One blender. One book.

Well? What if?

DragonSB

Fear not. In the book, she gets WAY more screen time.

 As far as darkness, the movie Maleficent sets a good tone in the beginning. Stefan is a thief, albeit a terrible one, and his doomed romance with our heroine sets the stage nicely for his betrayal. But let’s get doomier. Let’s get tragic(er). In my pretend book, King Stefan never hates Maleficent. He loves her. Always and forever. Even after he carves off her wings, even after she curses his child to die, he pines for her. His wife and queen, Aurora’s mother, will suffer long bouts of depression due to his love for another woman. His subjects will think him mad. For what woman could ever hope to compete with Maleficent, whose beauty, majesty, grace, and power are second to none? Stefan will always lament his sacrifice. He gave up the truest of loves for the dubious honor of becoming king. Aurora’s curse is his fault, and rather than become an irredeemably evil monarch (the easy way out), he is tormented to the last of his days by what he has done.   

In the movie, I liked the twist of Maleficent watching over Aurora and eventually wishing she could undo the curse. But after that one act of kindness, I want no redemption for her. In Dark Sleeping Beauty, our favorite evil sorceress will do far more terrible things than in either movie. After realizing she cannot undo Aurora’s curse, she’ll raise up her goblin armies, send out storms of crows to spy for her, and destroy city after city in dragon form. (Because, you know, we ALL want more dragon.) Prince Philip’s father, the wonderfully plump Hubert, will perish in an ocean of her green fire. Her thorn thickets will cover most of the realm. Castles will fall to her and her alone (But not Stefan’s). The Hobbit’s Smaug will have nothing but envy for the horror Maleficent wreaks. She’s lost her heart. She’s going to lose Aurora. A woman’s vengeance is like nothing else on this earth.

maleficent2

I wonder if Brad asks her to dress up like this after the kids are asleep…

Fallen at Maleficent’s hands:

Two of the three faeries. Cooked to crisps while helping Prince Philip break free of Maleficent’s fortress. For the record, I’m sticking with the animated faeries. The ones in the new movie…awful

King Hubert. BBQ’d. Gives Prince Philip all the more reason to hate Maleficent

Stefan’s wife, the queen. Hangs herself from a gibbet. “Alas, I’ll never be but an afterthought in your eyes,” she’ll write in her death note. “No matter the horrors of what she’s done, you’ll always wish Maleficent were queen. And perhaps one day she will be, albeit without you.”

King Stefan. Of grief and sickness. And only days before Price Philip escapes and kisses his daughter

Who gets to live:

Prince Philip. Though wounded terribly and gravely ill after spending a decade in Maleficent’s dungeon

The blue faerie, Meriwether. She alone will put Stefan’s kingdom into a ten-year sleep. In fact, the closing narrative will be hers, lamenting Stefan’s foolishness and Maleficent’s wrath

Aurora. She’ll still get her kiss. But she has to sleep for a decade first. And when she wakes, her parents are dead and her kingdom is the last standing

Maleficent’s crow. Dude worked too hard to die 

The End Game: The last battle in the animated film Sleeping Beauty is fairly epic. After enduring the best villain’s speech ever, Prince Philip flees his dungeon, battles hundreds of goblins, carves through walls of thorns, and duels Maleficent in dragon form to the death. In Dark Sleeping Beauty, it’s a little different. A weary, sickly, and ten-years-older Philip crawls from his cage. He takes up his new magical weapons, but instead of a glorious sword and unbreakable shield, the faeries give him a wicked, dragon-slaying blade and an ugly fireproof shield, forged over the last decade in the lowest furnaces of Stefan’s castle. Due to Philip’s weakness, two of the faeries are cooked during his escape. He trudges away from Maleficent’s fortress, and for the next week he’s hunted by goblins. Only after regaining some of his strength and seeing Stefan’s castle surrounded by a thorns a mile thick does he dare confront his enemy. “With this blade will you her heart pierce,” Meriwether will tell him. “Else your love forever sleeps and the last kingdom shall fall.”

The aftermath: I like a good, cheesy, happy ending. Not. In Dark Sleeping Beauty, when Philip awakes his darlin’, he’s ten years older than her. Ten tired, painful years. Yet poor Aurora remembers nothing. All she knows is that she is now queen, her prince (and soon husband) is beset by shadows, and all the kingdoms around her are destroyed. She must mature quickly (she’s only sixteen) and rise to the challenge of rebuilding a ruined land. If you think about, it’s a nobler ending. Sweet as pie, the kiss and easy oblivion of the movie, but sweeter still a queen rising above the ashes of her father’s malcontent. And no, it won’t be without struggle. Not with her new pet crow sitting lightly on her shoulder.

Next week? I have no idea what next week’s blog will bring. I’ll think of something.

J Edward Neill

Author of the Tyrants of the Dead dark fantasy trilogy

Author of The Sleepers and Old Man of Tessera

Down the Dark Path

Etsy Christmas in July Sale

My Christmas in July Sale begins today in my Etsy shop. Everything is 25% off. Discounted prices are good from July 10th – July 20th. Here’s a breakdown of the discount:

  • $10.00 sketch cards are now $7.50
  • $25.00 prints are now $18.75
  • $30.00 prints are now $22.50
  • $35.00 prints are now $26.25

http://makepeacestudios.etsy.com

Sketchbook for the end of the world

 Let’s face it. I’m likely the worst artist on Tessera. If you want beautiful, colorful, deep art, check here.

Otherwise…let’s dance.

A few months back, I shared a few sketches I drew ages ago during the inception of Down the Dark Path. Each sketch depicted a fragment of the story as I’d originally dreamed it. My pattern was: I dreamed it, I drew it, and years later, I wrote epic fantasy novels about it. It sounds simple. It wasn’t.

Recently, I dug up about forty additional sketches.  Most (read…all) I sketched during my early twenties. They’re simple, sometimes juvenile, and somewhat faded by years spent moldering in an ancient paper envelope.  Even so, to this day they reflect my early conceptual visions of the Tyrants of the Dead series. If I were a true artist, I’d spend my time painting reimagined masterpieces for each one.

But I’m not.

So you get sketches…

Gryphon Inn

 

We begin with a tower deep in Grandwood. It’s ten stories high, surrounded by oak trees, and hides a wizard’s laboratory in its walls. I named this tower Gryphon. About ten years after this sketch, I wandered back to it. I decided Gryphon needed to be an entire city, not one lonely tower in the woods. And so Gryphon, home of Rellen, was reborn.

 

 

 

 

Knight 1

This was my original concept sketch for Rellen Gryphon, one of the heroes of Down the Dark Path and Dark Moon Daughter. Rellen later lost his halberd, became younger and blonder, and sat atop a horse instead of a bizarre, long-snouted mutant mule, but his pose…reining up to watch the Furyon horde draw near…still belongs to him.

 

 

 

 

The Whisperers

 

Long ago, I only had the vaguest notion of what the bad guys in the Tyrants series looked like, but this is how they began. I’m not spoiling anything, because the modern-day Ur look very little like this trio. And yet, somehow…I still remember the night I dreamed them. White eyes… Pale as death… Whispering black thoughts into fragile minds…

Hmmm…

 

 

 

Ghoulish

Nothing fancy about this dude. Every other sketch I created in the beginning just happened to be of a ghost, a ghoul, or a skeletal horror. I suppose this guy could be the murderous spirit who shows up in the swamps of Furyon. You’ll just have to read it and decide for yourself.

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KiraniSexy Elf

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It’s no secret. Women are usually more pleasant to draw and dream of than zombies, ghosts, and stone towers. These two ladies were characters who lost their spots in Down the Dark Path during the great 200k-word ‘let’s make this novel more serious’ culling. Even so, I remember them, though these drawings do them no justice.

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Soul Orb Sketch J

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Now we’re getting somewhere. This is my first sketch of the Soul Orb. (The final version graces Down the Dark Path’s cover.) Notice the ghoulish faces at the Orb’s base and the demonic eyes gazing out of its center. This is among my favorite sketches.

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Night Wisdom

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My original concept for Dark Moon Daughter’s antagonist, the Warlock. He later lost the horns and the jewelry, but kept the hood. Because…you know…every diabolical wizard needs a sinister cloak to hide behind.

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What are YOU looking at

And lastly, a bit of adolescent fun. The original Andelusia was sassy, sneaky, and completely willing to use her beauty to snare men’s adoration. Here she seems to be saying, “What are you looking at?” And yes, she’d have used that knife. You probably had it coming.

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That’s pretty much all the sketches I have related to the big fantasy trilogy. Maybe someday, after I write my fiftieth novel and the ideas cease to flow, I’ll get some art lessons.

I could definitely use ’em.

Love,

J Edward Neill

Author of the Tyrants of the Dead dark fantasy trilogy

Author of The Sleepers and Old Man of Tessera

Down the Dark Path

New Studio Assistant

 

These week I hired a new studio assistant. She knows nothing about brushes, paints or Photoshop but I’m sure she’ll be a quick study. Drusilla is eager and full of creative drive. I met her at the dog groomers over the weekend and I knew then she’d make a perfect edition to the creative family. She’s already begun learning about colored pencils and of course, brushes. I’m going to have to watch her with those–she keeps trying to munch on them.

Drusilla MakepeaceDid I fool you?! Probably not. If you follow me on the web anywhere I’ve been posting photos of this little angel almost non-stop. She’s just too precious!

And, she looks just like Shadow. It was a little surreal when I walked into the dog groomers Saturday morning and saw her sitting near the door. My heart clenched and I tried not to look at her. It must have been fate. She’d been found inside a car engine and she has the scars on her nose to prove it. The small, very friendly kitten, was also severely underweight. I brought her home and within days she was gaining weight and running around the studio.

Up until yesterday, we were not positive on whether she was actually a she and that was partly due to her weight and overall scruffiness. The Veterinarian confirmed yesterday we indeed have a little girl and except for some tummy bugs, she was in good health.

I can’t take credit for the name, but I also didn’t need any convincing. Drusilla was my mother’s suggestions. And yes, she is named after that Drusilla. 😀

Drusilla is already taking after Shadow. She likes to sleep right up near my face and she lunged and hissed at the dog yesterday. She’s a fighter and a survivor, but also incredibly loving. I still miss Shadow terribly but this little look-a-like warms my heart. Before long she’ll be sitting in my lap, snoozing as I paint.

Drusilla

For fellow Buffy the Vampire Slayer Fans, you may be interested in my videos from Dragon*Con 2012. I have two videos from a panel with actors Juliet Landau (Drusilla) and Spike (James Marsters). Here’s Part 1, check my profile for Part 2.

The Seer

The Seer by Amanda Makepeace

 

Her name is Masego, meaning divine favor, but don’t assume that means she is on your side. She is a member of a special council–the Mystics–who oversee the protection of our planet. Humans have been making her job very difficult as of late. I was fortunate to be able to paint her portrait last month.

Limited Edition Prints can be purchased from my Big Cartel Shop and if you’re attending Dragon*Con this summer you’ll have a chance to see her there too.

😉

Taking the Next Step

“Seize The Moment because you never know if that moment will ever come your way again. I know that when I look back at my life, I will see the memories of all the little adventures that I didn’t let pass me by.” – Cody Atencio

Sometimes, even when we don’t think we’re ready, we have to take the next step. That was me four months ago when I finally decided to take the plunge and apply to the Dragon*Con Art Show. The idea, the seed, was planted when I met artist Charles Urbach during the last year’s convention. I’ve talked about our conversation and the encouragement he offered at length, but I was still on the fence as to whether I should apply or not. I decided to take a leap and wouldn’t you know it, it was one of the best things I’ve ever done.

Dragon*Con is a Juried Art Show. It’s not an Artists Alley you see at some typical Fantasy/SciFi conventions. This year’s jurors were Michael C. HayesPatrick J. Jones and Thomas Kuebler. Wow. Wow. Wow. That made me even more nervous but I’d already decided to ‘seize the moment.’ After an excruciating month of waiting, where I’d told only a handful of people what I’d done, I received notification that I’d passed the jury selection. I was in shock. I think a part of me is still in shock. I celebrated with my family two weeks later when I received notice again that I was to be placed on the Art Show Floor.

To think. . . I almost didn’t even apply.

Let’s be honest now. As much as my friends and family lather me with compliments, I know I’m in the infancy of my digital painting skills. Some things I have a strong grasp of and others I’m not quite there yet.

One painting from February 2013 and one from November of the same year.

But I’m learning and I like to think I’m improving, but the message here is stop waiting for your dreams to come true. If you want something, ‘seize the moment,’ go after it with a passion. When I stopped by Charles’ table last year he took a look at a few of my paintings, and asked me, ‘Why aren’t you here?” (Or something close to that.) I’m sure at the time I looked like a deer in headlights. He said, even if you don’t make the cut the experience is valuable. It’s a process all artists have to go through as they are trying to make their way in the world. I know this but I was stuck in thinking I needed to hone my skills more–I was convinced I wasn’t ready. I kept telling myself I needed another year. I was wrong. Even if I had not passed the jury, the experience has helped me grow. The juror comments have helped me grow.

Comment #1:  Nice work! Keep working on your anatomy and you will go far.

Comment #2:  Human facial anatomy needs work. More expression. Even if the subject is in repose more facial definition and distinction would be helpful.

Her Domain by Amanda Makepeace

Her Domain, 2013

So what is the next step?

I’ve made the cut. I’m in the Dragon*Con 2014 Art Show and now that I am, I am pre-approved for future Art Shows. Next year I’m going to have a bazaar table in the Art Show room. That’s my goal. From now until then I’m going to ‘seize the moment’ again and work to improve my human anatomy. I’m going to do whatever it takes, legally, to keep growing.

As for this year’s Art Show. . . I will be attending Dragon*Con all four days. I will be lurking around the show and I will be available to talk art, illustration, Fantasy, etc. To keep up with where I’ll be and when I suggest following me on Twitter. I’m not always super active there but I will be during the convention.

Don’t Fall for the Trap

Charles de Lint quoteIt’s easy to lose sight of our path. It’s easy to paint what everyone else is painting. It’s easy to think I’ll never be as good as “them.” It’s easy to fall into the trap.

If you aren’t painting for you, you’re stifling your own creative voice. This makes you unique, what sets you apart from other artists. There are dozens of artist/illustrators I admire, and there is a small part of me that hopes and wishes I might be as great as them one day. But focusing on that won’t get me anywhere. As much as I admire Todd Lockwood, Cynthia Sheppard, Dan Dos Santos, and Cory Godbey (to name only a few), trying to be them is a trap. Read more

Phoenix in Need of Home, Plays well with Unicorns

 

There once lived a phoenix trapped in the mind of an artist until the day she set him free in fiery waves of sunlight and crimson. While the artist loved the magical bird, she knew he must be set free, to find his own home and heart. She watched him soar over plains and dew frosted pines until she could only see him in her dreams.

 

Where will my little Phoenix find a home? He first traveled to Colorado and then Kansas City, Missouri for Spectrum Fantastic Art Live 3, but no one captured his heart. Now he waits, feeling hopeful that someone will find him and love him.

Adopt a Phoenix Today

New Art: Exploring Space

I’ve always been drawn to nature, wildlife and the fantastical. Those same themes are what show up in my art 95% of the time. The other 5% is reserved for Science Fiction and Horror. I’ve painted space scenes on canvas with acrylics and I’ve painted them with my Intuos in Photoshop. Space is wondrous. Space captures the imagination. I took Astronomy in college, just because I could. Though I’ve never been there I feel I know it, as we all do, through images from the Hubble Space Telescope. Read more

300 Tiny Paintings at Spectrum Fantastic Art Live!

Spectrum Fantastic Art Live 3 is happening now and Jon Schindehette‘s ArtOrder Booth is decorated with 300 tiny paintings available to purchase. My 3×3 inch oil painting, Phoenix and the Unicorn, is one of them. Do you see him?

SFAL is going on all weekend. If you’re going be sure to stop by Booth #718. If you’re not going you can still enjoy the view as seen in Jon’s photos below.

SFAL is this Weekend!

Phoenix and the Unicorn by Amanda MakepeaceDon’t forget, if you’re attending Spectrum Fantastic Art Live this weekend you can see (and purchase) my tiny oil painting, Phoenix and the Unicorn. You’ll find my painting and many others at Jon Schindehette’s ArtOrder Booth – #718.

Spectrum Fantastic Art Live 3 is May 9-11th.

https://spectrumfantasticartlive.com

Bartle Hall Grand Ballroom
Kansas City Convention Center
301 W. 13th St. Kansas City
MO 64105

Spectrum Fantastic Art Live 3

Click to Enlarge

The Alchemist

The Alchemist by Amanda Makepeace

 

Last year I painted a well received Jackalope and I made sure to tell everyone he was the first in a new series. Then I had one commission after another and the series was put on hold. Until now!! Say hello to The Alchemist. Yes, I know he’s a fox but he’s an alchemist too. He’s part of an ever evolving series of paintings called the Mystics. Read more

Why Digital?

There are quite a few misconceptions about digital art. I honestly don’t hold that against anyone. It can be confusing. Digital Art is a broad term to describe anything created via a computer. Just as with Traditional Art, you can then break that down into subcategories: Photomanipulation, Digital Painting, Vector Art, Pixel Art, Fractal Generation, 3D Art and more. Digital Painting is what I do. Illustrator Kelley McMorris has a comic to help explain it a little better:

How Digital Painting Works by Kelley McMorris

 

This is incredibly accurate, even the second half. Over the holidays I was showing some family members my digital paintings, specifically my Jackalope. One person asked me, “So the computer does this for you?” I was polite. I tried to explain in simple terms, that no, a digital painting is not that different than a traditional painting.

If a computer were able to spit this out:

Gatsoh Elder by Amanda Makepeace

Or this:

Stone of Knowing by Amanda Makepeace

Then I’d have far more paintings in my portfolio already. Paintings, whether they are digital or traditional, take time and planning. With that said, there are a myriad of shortcuts to the process when you are painting in Photoshop. Custom brushes that look like leaves or trees is one example. Not everyone utilizes these shortcuts. I have on occasion, but more often than not, I paint everything in my paintings by hand. There are no shortcuts. See the little tablet in the comic above? I have one of those too:

Wacom Intuos 4

It’s called a Wacom Intuos 4 (Medium). When I use the stylus to draw on the tablet, it translates that into Photoshop–precisely and accurately. No, it doesn’t feel the same as drawing on paper or painting on canvas, but it basically does the same thing. The outcome is the same. Anything I can draw on paper, I can draw the same in Photoshop via my tablet. It’s  not magic. I use all the same skills I’ve learned with traditional art.

There’s one of those misconceptions. Many people think that using the tablet is somehow like cheating or it will make it easier to draw and paint. Sorry, but, no. I’m not saying it’s impossible, because I always believe in exceptions, but if you struggle with traditional drawing you will have an even harder time trying to use a Wacom Intuos. It’s not easy and it’s not for everyone. Many artists find it cumbersome to draw with the tablet. So they draw on paper first and then scan it into the computer. There’s nothing wrong with that. It took several months of retraining my brain before it became second nature.

Still, your asking, how is it the same as a traditional painting? Let’s look at the definition of the word.

Cambridge Dictionary:

the skill or activity of making a picture

Dictionary.com:

the act, artor work of a person who paints

Merriam Webster:

a product of painting; especially :  a work produced through the art of painting

A painting is a painting, whether it’s painted with oils or computer brush strokes. The outcome is the same. When I paint in Photoshop, I use a digital brush to apply paint to a digital canvas. Here’s a look at the brushstrokes from a few of my favorite brushes.

My basic brushes

These brushes can be large for painting washes or very small for painting details. Sound familiar?

There will probably always be individuals who refuse to see digital painting as Art. I will probably continue to be asked, “Are you going paint any originals soon?” Which, kinda feels like they are actually asking, “Are you going to create any real art?” I’ll admit, it stings a bit, but only for about a minute. Then I get back to creating. Creating is what it’s all about. That’s why, to answer the title of this blog post. To create. I’ve not been the luckiest person as far as my health goes. I’m not going to go into all the details. Those of you that know me well, know I’m lucky to be alive.

In 2011/12 I began developing another “issue” but this time it was with my hands. It was becoming increasingly difficult to paint and draw without putting myself through a lot of pain. I deal with pain on a daily basis. Most of the time you’d never know it. I’m a fighter. I keep going. But this was proving to be a challenge. My time in the studio slowed to a crawl. I was depressed. All I wanted to do was create.

Artist Amanda MakepeaceThen I bought a Wacom Intuos 4 Small and my world changed. Painting and drawing with the tablet is far less strenuous on my hand. But what I never expected was the effect it would have on my creativity and imagination. It was as if the flood gates had opened. I’m not painting anything now that I couldn’t also paint in oils or watercolors, but something broke free when I changed mediums–something I’d always kept under lock and key. If they found a cure for all my disorders tomorrow, I wouldn’t stop painting digitally. I’m a happier person and a more content artist, for letting go of my insecurities and letting my passion be set free.

Limited Edition Prints can be purchased from my shop:

http://amandamakepeace.com/shop/

It F***ing Sucks Bein’ Green

The-Avengers-Climax-Hulk-the-avengers-34726224-1920-1080

signal_ver2_xlgIt was announced last week that David Bruckner, a long-time acquaintance, friend of a dear friend, and fellow Atlanta-ite, is going to direct the next Friday the 13th movie. Dave directed one third of the Atlanta-based horror film The Signal as well as the first (and in a lot of people’s opinions, the best) segment of the anthology V/H/S. It will be his debut feature as a solo director.

I congratulate David and wish him nothing but the best. I’m very excited for what he’s going to do.

Oh, and also, fuck him.

My friend Jake Goldberger‘s second film, Life of a King is available on DVD now.

His first film, Don McKay, was an off-beat dark comedy that was so off-beat that most people didn’t get how funny it was. It starred two Oscar nominees and a future Oscar winner. It wasn’t treated very well by critics and not very many people saw it. I liked it, but I also read the script about a decade before and was elated to see it make its way to the screen.

life-of-a-king-posterLife of a King is a much more high-profile film. Starring another Academy Award winner, Cuba Gooding Jr, it is a moving tale about an ex-con that teaches a group of inner-city kids the value and beauty of the game of chess. It’s kind of Stand and Deliver with a Karate Kid finale (with a Rocky twist). It may not sound like your type of film. It’s honestly not mine. But I found myself enjoying it quite a bit. More than anything, I was impressed by the performance by Gooding and by how much Jake has grown as a director. He told me the other day that it was shot in just 15 days, which astounded me for how good it looks. Dakota Skye had more time to shoot and it felt like we had no time at all.

I have known Jake for over a decade. I’m proud of him and congratulate him on his success and hope his next film is even bigger and better and I can’t wait to see it.

Oh, and also, fuck him.

Lake-Effect-Brochure-Small-728x1024I don’t know Tara Miele very well. But I do know her husband, Dakota Skye cinematographer Brett Juskalian. Right after Dakota Skye Tara made a lovely little film called The Lake Effect and has since then made a couple other films (I’ve lost track) for the Lifetime Channel.

Tara is a talented writer and I’m happy her career as a filmmaker is taking off.

Oh, and also, fuck her.

 

An old collaborator of mine, Charlie Ebersol, with whom I worked on many projects that never quite got off the ground (see my tale about pitching a show at the Sci-Fi Channel), has been hired to write a sequel to Space Jam. Charlie is more of a producer than writer, and it’s not a project I would necessarily kill to be a part of, but still. It’s a big opportunity.

I wish him and his brother all the luck with the film.

And, yes, fuck him.

One of the first friends I made upon moving to Los Angeles was a funny kid from Tulsa named Bill Hader. I don’t need to explain to you who he is. If you don’t know, just Google him. I’ve heard Mel Brooks praise him. Mel. Brooks.

tumblr_mc87t2scyu1rqrnlao1_500

He also does a pretty good impression of me.

Fuck him.

Even within this very guild, on this site, my friends are bugging the shit out of me. J. Edward Neill, having released Down the Dark Path last year, has just finished the follow-up. This would be less impressive if his books weren’t approximately seven million pages long. Likewise, John McGuire just put his first book, The Dark That Follows (we like the word “dark” in our titles, don’t we?) up on Amazon but I also happen to know that he’s currently revising his second novel, having already finished the first draft. Plus, John has some comic books out in the world, with more to come, and that’s awesome.

Fuck both of them.

I, of course, don’t mean any of the profanity I have hurled at my friends and peers above. Good people, all of them. Some of them amongst my favorite people.

Wait. No. I do mean it.

Fuck all of them.

Envy is a hell of a thing.

I’m not a religious dude but if Morgan Freeman has taught me anything (other than how hard it is to be a penguin, how to smuggle a rock hammer into the slammer, how to be the quartermaster for a vigilante, how love is worth dying for, how not to storm a Civil War fort, and how to embrace my inner Master Builder), it’s that Envy is one of the Seven Deadly Sins.

Brad-Pitt-and-Morgan-Freeman-in-Seven

You remember those. I think they go: Being Fat, Being a Child Molester, Being a Lawyer, Being Pretty, Being a Hooker, Envy, and shooting Keyser Söze.

Envy. That big green monster that sometimes beats me senseless worse than…

i3r38XmIrCPRY

“Puny Self-Worth”

I like my life. This is not about that. I wouldn’t trade places with anyone not named Clooney or Timberlake and only then if I can take a few people with me.

This is professional envy. Comparing where you are at in your career to that of your peers. I know better than to give into it, but I’m a human being and not a very good one at that.

Of course, envy leads to doubt.

At 25, I hadn’t done X. At 30, I wasn’t even close to accomplishing Y. At 35, I had pretty much given up on Z.

40 is coming on really fast and I’m out of fucking letters.

And what do people tell you when you’re feeling green? Not with seasickness. Not with lovable singing felt frog-ness. But with the feeling of wanting what someone else has…

They say “Keep your head down and do your work.”

And I say—

I’ve been swearing a lot this post, huh? Well, you fill in the blank.

giphyI have gotten so much better over the years in dealing with this. A while back I wrote a piece on here about Livin’ Small, based on the mentally of my friend Jonah Matranga. It’s about being happy with what you have and embracing what you have accomplished, not what you haven’t. It’s a perspective I cherish. And try to hold to.

But I can’t always. Sometimes it stings. Badly. Sometimes it sears a hole in my heart.

Sometimes in makes me hate my friends.

Because they’re not as smart as me. Not as talented. I’ve read his stuff and I’m such a better writer than him. I could absolutely do a better job behind the camera. What’s so special about her? What’s so important about him?

WHY DOESN’T ANYONE REALIZE THAT I’M THE BEST PERSON IN THE WORLD AT WHAT I DO?!?!?!?!?!?

That is what envy can do to. Take all my insecurities and turn my brain into a hornets’ nest. The awful thoughts I keep just beneath the surface, born of doubt and fear and narcissism and frustration, they seep out of my pores and turn me into something I don’t like very much.

That’s my secret, Cap…

83366-bruce-banner-transforms-into-h-BhDR

…I’m always an asshole.

It’s not an original tale, a writer struggling with egotism and doubt. Hell, they’re job requirements. They can fuel you. Only someone with an enormous ego thinks their thoughts are worth people paying money for; only someone full of doubt needs the love of millions of strangers to validate them as people.

Like I said, though, this has gotten a lot better over the years. I can actually now feel genuine joy at my friends’ successes. Sure, it’s joy laced with a little vitriol, but it’s joy all the same. I want everyone I know and love to do well at whatever they do. But it is hard when what they do is also what I do. Because I can’t help but measure myself up to them. And, rightly or wrongly, every step they take forward feels like a step back for me.

I also know that there are people that envy me. Not everyone is lucky enough to have a produced feature film in the world, no matter how small and indie. Not everyone has the time, endurance, or will to write a novel. Some people are better writers than me, but many are not.

What has been the point of this? I don’t know. Do I get off on exposing this jealous and angry part of myself? Maybe. Am I using this as an outlet to vent my frustrations? Certainly. If you take anything from this, other than a deep dislike of me, I hope you check out the work of my friends that I listed above. They’re all talented and hard-working people. And they’re good people.

Boy, I’m in a bad fucking mood.

I promise next week I’ll be a better person. Because, luckily, this feeling will fade and I’ll go back to this:

Snapz-Pro-XScreenSnapz0023-1024x572

No, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go keep my head down and do my work.

How it all began…

Malog J Sketch

 

 

 

Quite by accident, this week’s blog…

 If not for a cup of chance, I’d have drowned Tessera in an entirely different ocean of bones. But an old friend stumbled upon a twenty year-old folder I thought I’d lost ages ago, and I found myself unable to resist writing about it. Not that twenty years is all that long, but to me, still a wee lad, two decades feels like an eon.

I haven’t always been a writer. Well…maybe a little, but not in the way I am today. Long ago, in the primeval soup of early creative-dom, I fancied myself an artist of a different kind. Not with quill, ink, and keyboard, but with markers, pencils, sketch books, and posterboards. I airbrushed T-shirts, made huge Slayer banners (signed by the band!) and silkscreened dark, crazy images onto every bit of cloth I could find. Those were different days. My stories lived on the tips of my fingers, not in the cavernous void inside my skull.

And then one day I started sketching.

I can’t remember the exact moment. It must’ve been cold outside, or rainy, or both. My mind wandered realms both dark and mysterious during those days. I’d already dreamed up the stories and characters which would later become haunt the pages of Down the Dark Path, but I’d gone no further. Lacking the skill or the means to write an epic fantasy, I likely locked myself in my room, climbed on my captain’s bed, and started drawing the images that’d been locked away in my mind’s dungeon. I wasn’t particularly good at it. I hadn’t attended but a few art classes, and while the teachers had taught class I’d never done anything but daydream. I was a novice, an oaf, a blunderbuss of smudgy pencil rubs and cheap not-meant-for-real-art pens. Even so…

So without further ado, I humbly offer my earliest fantasy scribblings. These are the images I first dreamt of when mortaring the bricks of my first epic novel in my mind. I beg only that you forgive their simplicity, and perhaps appreciate the strange glory of passion without talent:

Grae Knight J Sketch

 

My first try at a Graehelm knight. In retrospect, he needs a saddle, but what did I know? Ignore the tree and tower in the background. They were part of a different sketch crowded on the same page.

 

 

Wraith Sketch 2

 

 

– Look at this ghoulish guy. He’s one of my favorites. He never actually appears in any of my novels, but I like to think he could. He’s reaching out for you. He doesn’t want you dead. He wants you to join him.

 

Wraith Sketch 1

 

 

– Another dead dude. A precursor to the Furyon warlords. I always liked the head of his spiked flail. Imagine getting whacked by that thing…

 

 

Undead J Sketch

 

 

 

– Ok, so maybe one spiked flail head wasn’t enough. Here I sketched two. And if you couldn’t already tell, I really liked (ok, still like) imagery of undead warriors. This hasty little sketch is cartoony and anatomically goofy, but I still thought it belonged. Maybe he’s an undead guardian of the Furyon fortress of Malog. Or maybe he’s a Sarcophage, whom we don’t meet until Book II…

 

 

Grimwain J Sketch

 

– I drew this guy with but one villain in mind. Here lies Grimwain, the Sleeper, the mover of all the world’s pieces on the chessboard of doom. His hood should be deeper, but I feel I nailed his beard, his collar, and his white, starry, and soulless gaze. He doesn’t appear until Book II.

 

 

Ande J Sketch

 

– In the beginning, the heroine Andelusia Anderae inhabited a role far less ‘benevolent’ than who she eventually became. She was harder, grittier, more roguish and fantasy trope-like . This was my first conceptual sketch of her. Clumsy? Yes. Are her boobs too big? Probably. But something in my teenage mind saw a rare emotion in her eyes, and thus was born the Dark Moon Daughter.

 

 

 

Thank you for indulging me. I’ve a ton more sketches, some of which I might hurl up on Tessera should even a mild clamor arise. It’s strange to think that once, so many years ago, I wanted to be a painter, a sculpter, and a fantasy artist god. Thank goodness I kept my day job, right?

Until next time,

J Edward Neill

 

 

 

 

 

Spectrum Fantastic Art Live

‘Spectrum Fantastic Art Live is the Sundance of Illustration.’ – Gregory Manchess

I won’t be there but my tiny oil painting, Phoenix and the Unicorn will be!

Phoenix and the Unicorn by Amanda Makepeace

Last month I entered a contest via Jon Schindehette’s site The ArtOrder. Artists were invited to submit a 3×3 inch painting in traditional medium for possible inclusion in Jon’s exhibit booth at Spectrum Fantastic Art Live 3. Read more

Cover Reveal – Dark Moon Daughter

DMD Slider 1

 

 

 We will bend the Father and bury his children. We will curl the roots of every tree and strip the clouds from heaven. This is what we adore: the midnight, the bottom, the end.  – Excerpt from the Pages Black, lost text of the Ur

 If I’m extra happy this week, don’t blame me. Blame my cover artist, Eileen Herron, for rocking out the new cover art for Dark Moon Daughter. I’m thrilled with her vision of the next installment in the Tyrants of the Dead series. My dark little heart beats a little faster every time I see it. My underwear definitely needs changing.

So let’s break this down a bit. The first sliver of the cover (above) gives us a glimpse of Andelusia doing battle. The pale, multi-eyed, razors-for-fingers beast in the upper right is the Mortician, one of many wicked creeps our heroine (or villainess, depending) must contend with. In the upper left, we’ve an image of the moon, only not the moon you’re used to seeing. In Ande’s right hand, she wields the fabled Ur flame, an errant drop of which can melt a city…or the world. Look closely and you’ll see the Ur language on her forearm. This is why I love Eileen’s style. With so little room in which to work, she includes elements I’d have never thought of. Hell, in Down the Dark Path I even changed a chapter based on what she painted.

DMD Garrett v Sarcophage

 

 Our next slice of the painting gives us Rellen Gryphon doing battle with a Sarcophage. (What’s a Sarcophage, you ask? – You’ll have to read DMD when it comes out!) I like the classic, almost Dungeons and Dragons appeal to Rellen’s handsomeness, as well as the horror of the masked and armored monster he’s fighting. Not to be missed is Andelusia’s leg. What’s an all-powerful witch to do without showing a little skin, right?

 

 

DMD Warlock Image

 

 At the painting’s bottom we have one of the antagonists. It’s a great smirk he’s wearing, isn’t it? I happen to know the guy Eileen used as a model, and she really captured a part of his inner evil here. The shadows swirl around him, hiding the rest of his body. It’s appropriately mysterious. What’s this guy doing down here? Why’s he smiling so deviously? The reasons are many…

 

 

And now, the final product in all its glory. There’s tons going on here, from small story elements to hidden visuals only the keen reader will spot:

DMD Original Cover

 For any writer, cover art is key. For me, it’s doubly so. I wanted movie poster appeal. I wanted many story elements colliding. I wanted a sexy girl, a terrifying monster, and shadows galore. Eileen delivered. I hope you like it as much as I do.

If you like the cover, just wait ’til you read the book.  Dark Moon Daughter – Due out any day now… Forget about elves, dwarves, dragons, and vampires. Let’s go deeper. Let’s get darker. Let’s go all the way to the bottom.

Until next time,

J Edward Neill

 

How to write Dark Fantasy Novels (and shave decades off your lifespan)

Skull Party

 

 

Look at these guys. They’re dead, but still having a grand time of it. Makes me want to start hosting poker nights at my place. There’ll be just one rule: everyone has to dress up as their favorite dead person. For one night a week I can pretend I’m having a drink with Poe, Shakespeare, Attila, and Stalin. Who’d want to dress up as Stalin’s bones? I’m not sure, but I know some pretty strange people.

Ok. Look. This isn’t really a how-to article. I’m in no position to tell anyone how to do anything short of throwing footballs, kicking things, and losing at video games. I’m writing this week to take myself down a notch, put a lid on the can, and cork up my fountain of sunshine.

I write better when I’m in a terrible mood.

There. I said it. I’m sure I’m not the only one. What is it about creative people that allows them to make masterpieces out of misery? I’m not saying I’m capable of creating a masterpiece, but I think you get my point. Why are the best novels full to the brim with tragedy, suffering, and death? Why are history’s finest artists at best obsessive, at worst sociopathic? Why is human misery so appealing? Go click on a news site. Go google murder, kidnapping, terrorism, war, or Bieber. It’s a never-ending worldwide horror story. Why, why, why?

I don’t know. That’s why I’m asking you.

A few years ago, while riding a half-year span of dumb-stupid-happy, my writing crashed and burned. I couldn’t even spit out a page a week, to say nothing of my current pace of five pages per night. I was just too damn pleased with life to concentrate on dragging my readers through the abyss. It was awesome, but it sucked. I mean; if darkness renders us blind, intense sunshine does the same, right? Try seeing through your car window while driving directly at the rising sun. Can’t see a damn thing no matter how you adjust the visor, can you? You’ll think you’re on the road, and meanwhile you’re about to run over a line of kids on their way to the school bus. All the sun’s fault. Maybe vampires are on to something.

So tonight I’m sitting beside a dark-shaded lamp, surrounded by silence, floating on a cloud of gloom and doom. I’m pissed off. I’m bored. I’m willing to fight anyone who dares come through my door. My morbid sensibilities smolder inside me. It’s perfect. It really is. After I finish this blog, I’m betting on 2,500 words and a satisfying night’s sleep. Here’s the proof: right beside my ugly old recliner, my Buddha statue is smiling at me. ‘How much did you write tonight?’ I ask him. ‘Nuthin’,’ he says. ‘I’m more of an eater these days.’ And over there on the wall, the knights on their murals look peaceful in their repose. ‘You guys ever paint anything?’ I ask. They’re so damn happy they don’t even bother to answer. See what I mean? What artist does his best work while feeling bubbly? None, I tell you. You need passion, fury, wrath, and darkness. To cast a shadow, you need light, and something big to block most of it out.

They say all good things must come to an end. Whew. Thank goodness for that. If I’d have stayed on my bus to happyland, I might’ve given up writing altogether, and that would’ve been a different type of low. Maybe I’m wrong about this whole sad-makes-awesome thing. Maybe Fred Rogers and Barney the F’ing Dinosaur really are on to something, but I doubt it. How does one make beautiful, tormented art without knowing how it feels to walk alone in the night? The answer: they don’t. Sometimes, to create you must first destroy.

What’s it all mean? Well…maybe tomorrow I’ll be even gloomier than tonight. Why not? If it helps me finish my latest book and write deathier, bloodier, and grimmer stories than ever before, I’m game. I’m ok with that. What about you?

Until next week,

J Edward Neill

Fantasy Art Prints from Amanda Makepeace

The Price of Magic by Amanda Makepeace

One of the drawbacks to creating digital paintings is the idea that these are massed produced artworks, or not true art at all. I’m not going to argue what is and what is not art. I’d rather create something and share it with people who appreciate art in all its forms. However, the idea that digital paintings are something massed produced and easily created is nonsense. I spend hours working on sketches, thinking about colors, and eventually painting. So inevitably, I’ve been working on some big changes to how I market and sell my art. The answer for me Limited Edition prints.

limited edition

 noun

: a special book, picture, medal, etc., for which only a small number of copies are produced and sold

The prints you’ll find in my new shop are all limited edition prints and they are larger than the standard prints I sold in my Etsy shop. Editions sizes will vary. As an example, I’m selling both prints of Forest Guardian and Spirit Guardian (the enhanced version). However, there will only be fifteen prints made of Spirit Guardian, whereas Forest Guardian will have thirty.

There’s also been an upgrade in the paper. I decided to go with Somerset Velvet, 100% cotton rag and acid free. It’s a common choice for fine art prints. Prints are long-lasting, rich in detail and color and all signed and numbered. Essentially you are buying a collectible piece of art; hence, the price increase. Prices for my prints will range anywhere from $25.00 to $60.00. I’ve already sold 1 of the 15 Spirit Guardian prints. Be sure to follow my Facebook page for announcements on new prints to the shop.

Stone of Knowing DetailWhere is my new shop?

Big Cartel!

http://amandamakepeace.bigcartel.com/

Will I be selling any traditional artworks?

Yes. I do plan to eventually sell original drawings and the occasional watercolor or oil painting.  I’ll also be selling one-of-a-kind canvas prints for my digital paintings. When I say one-of-a-kind, I mean a one off canvas print–the only one in existence.

Will I still offer open edition prints?

Possibly. I may still sell these, but only at conventions or other events. If I do, they will be smaller in size and printed on standard matte or lustre paper. If you want something more original, a work of art, hold out for the limited edition.

Forest Guardian

Forest Guardian I by Amanda Makepeace

“But he is not always alone. When the long winter nights come on and the wolves follow their meat into the lower valleys, he may be seen running at the head of the pack through the pale moonlight or glimmering borealis, leaping gigantic above his fellows, his great throat a-bellow as he sings a song of the younger world, which is the song of the pack.”

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Inspiring Young Creatives

I’m in the zone right now. The one where I don’t want to stop painting. I don’t want to do anything that will disrupt my rhythm. I imagine all creative people experience it and the torture when they do have to stop. That drive to create is always there, even when I’m tired. Last night, after clearing a couple TV shows off our DVR, I headed back upstairs to paint just a bit more before bed. But that never happened. Instead, at ten o’clock in the evening I gave my daughter a drawing lesson. In the last year she’s begun drawing more and more and showing signs that she’s inherited the artist gene from her mother and grandmother. I always try to make the time to show her how I do things not because I’m her mother, but because it’s the right thing to do for any young creative person. So when she asked me last night if I’d show her how I draw a tiger, I said of course.

Beginnings of a Tiger Read more

Print Sale on Etsy

I’m planning a reorganization of my Etsy shop in March, at which time the shop will go into vacation mode for a month (maybe more). Until then, you can get 40% off your purchase of $15.00 or more. Seriously. Truly. I wouldn’t lie to you. Yes, this is an insane sale but several artworks in my shop now will no longer be available. I’m calling this a Pre-Spring Cleaning Sale. Use the coupon code: ILOVEART at checkout to receive your discount. Here’s a sampling of the amazing deals to be had.

The Dragon’s Egg Wood Mounted Print – Regular price: $65.00 – With coupon: $39.00

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Stone of Knowing – Part 4

Stone of Knowing by Amanda Makepeace

Here it is at last, my first new painting for 2014, Stone of Knowing. Since I began sharing tidbits about this painting I’ve been asked whether these ravens are actually Huginn and Muninn–Odin’s ravens from Norse mythology.  While I didn’t intend for them be I think my subconscious had other ideas. Thought and Memory find a Stone with the power to control a person’s mind. Seems apt or maybe serendipitous, either way I approve! Read more