For My Fellow Creators Who Stay On The Grind

I’ve been a freelance writer for 10 years. I started out working for The Atlanta Voice Newspaper back in 2006, and I’ve been able to build a pretty decent career as a “hired gunslinger” when it comes to the written word. With the guidance of awesome folks like Maurice Waters, Tony Cade, Mark Stancil, and Dennis Malcolm Byron, I’ve been able to grow in this freelance world of journalism and comics.

The freelancing has provided me with some awesome opportunities, and put me in front of people that I never thought I’d ever be in the same room with. I’ve had a chance to interview such hip hop icons as Ludacris, Chuck D, and Andre 3000. I’ve had a chance to do client work on such award nominated/ critically acclaimed series like the CDC’s Kabi Chronicles: The Edge, Barron Robert Bell’s Radio Free Amerika and William Satterwhite’s Stealth: The Life and Times of Allen White.

Heck I even parlayed my love of comic books into doing a phone interview with one of my writing inspirations, the late great Dwayne McDuffie, for a story I did on black comic book creators with The Atlanta Voice Newspaper.

So when I say I’ve been blessed/ fortunate to have the career that I’ve had, that’s an understatement. I’m extremely grateful for every opportunity that has graced my pallet, not even including the creator owned comic book work that I’ve done.

But I want more. 🙂

This is what I'd love my 9-5 to be: writing full time, or something close to it. :-)

This is what I’d love my 9-5 to be: writing full time, or something close to it. 🙂

I want to do this full time, or at least close to it. I want to be able to provide for my family, and still parlay this love of the written word into my primary 9-5.

Is that greedy? Is that unrealistic? Maybe so, in today’s economic climate. But I’d be damned if I didn’t say I didn’t want more.

And you know what? I don’t just want it for myself, I want it for my fellow Tessara Guild members John McGuire, Amanda Makepeace, Chad Snok, J Edward Neill. For the kick ass poet/ rapper I know as I my little brother, Brandon Jeffrey, a.k.a OB. For my director/ writer/ Jane of all Trades cuzzo Gabrielle Hawkins. I want it for my ride or die brother in arms Sean Hill. For Barron Robert Bell. For Tony Cade. For Mark Stancil. For Takeia Marie. For Tanya Woods. For Maurice Waters. For Nicole Kurtz. For Deon Brown, William Satterwhite, Vincent Christie, Bobby NashAshton James Mason, and heck, everyone else I know I’ve missed because I’m apparently suffering early onset memory loss.

I want our collective love and passion for the fields of writing, art, comics, filmmaking, etc., combined with our strong worth ethic to parlay into something where we can do this for our 9-5’s. Because, hell we deserve it, and we are constantly putting in the work and drive to get there.

What I wanted to do with this post was give a shout out to my folks who grind at the 9-5’s that they have to work, to get to where they want to work (or at least closer to where both career’s bring in equal amounts of income).

Two songs that I love that I feel capture this idea of a creator doing what they have to do, to do what they love, are Lupe Fiasco’s Hip-Hop Saved My Life (feat. Nikki Jean), and Ace Hood’s Hustle Hard. I’m a hip hop/ rap fan so both speak personally to such a drive to find a way to do what you love, so you can take care of those you love, and still enjoy what you’re doing.

This post is for those folks like myself who would rush out at 5:00  pm on the dot to do an interview with someone halfway across the country. For those people who stay up to 1:00 am in the morning to knock out final edits on a personal project, or client work, knowing you have to be up at 6:00 am that day for your other job. Or for those who become true weekend warriors to put the final touches on an awesome piece of art, realizing that Monday brings yet another day of the main job that puts food on the table, and a roof over your families’ head.

And hey, reaching such a level can be done. I look at those creators who are doing what they love full time, 24/7 and feel driven to get to where they are, while also being extremely happy for them. Not for the reason of making a crazy amount of money. Nope, I simply want to get to a point where I actually love what I’m doing full time.

Heck, at least close to full time would be great, so I’m not choosy.

So to all my fellow “after 5:00 pm/ weekend/ up to all hours of the night/ holiday warriors-creators” I salute you with a Captain Benjamin Sisko toast. You, and all of your work is mad’ appreciated yo’.

Now get back to creating so we make these dreams a reality.

Benjamin_Sisko_toasts_the_good_guys_zps274bf4dc

Captain Benjamin Sisko approves this message

Painting with Darkness – Part XI

It’s been a little while.

I’ve been focused less on art and more on invading the universe with my latest novella.

So anyway…

I recently decided to go over the top with another shadowy dark city painting. I love using the black & white color scheme…and I love eerie, otherworldly images.

Thus was born ‘Dead and Dreaming,’ the latest of my acrylic paintings:

* * *

1

It all started with a blank 16″ x 24″ canvas. I blended water, black, white, and a splash of glow-in-the-dark paint. While I’ve yet to expose the painting to enough light to activate the glow paint, I noticed this particular blend made the swirled pattern go on super smooth. Those white dagger-like things…well they’re the first of many towers to come.

2

The most daunting parts of this painting? 1. Using a bookmark as a straightedge to get most of the towers with nice, flat sides. 2. Doing the math to make sure a large percentage of the towers were directed at the right angle to ‘surround the swirly abyss.’

3

So…after I added all the white towers, I moved in with my preferred color: black. I wanted the dark towers to be taller and more swordlike, almost as if they wanted to reach all the way into the swirly abyss. The effect was a trippy, alien cityscape. I was pleased.

4

You might have to enlarge the image to see it, but this is where I started to add shadows and ghostly windows to every…single…tower. I’ve done paintings like this before, particularly with The Emperor’s Vision, but the added challenge here was rotating the painting to make sure I didn’t miss a tower.

5

The finished painting. Hundreds of towers. Thousands of tiny windows. About 12 hours of painting time. I’m ecstatic pleased with the result. After a few matte coats of varnish, this one is going up on my wall until it sells.

The original canvas for Dead and Dreaming is now available for sale right here.

Prints and other materials are available for sale on my Society6 page.

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

J Edward Neill

Earth Magic and Forest Dreams

This week I finished a new painting for my Earth Rituals series, Forest Dreams. It’s actually the second painting I’ve finished for this series, but the first can’t be shown due to an NDA (Non-disclosure Act). It’s been a strange experience not being able to share that painting. I feel it shows a progression of where I’m going with my art, leaving this new painting without an anchor. Alas, it is, what it is. After a rough month and a half in my every day life, it felt good to truly dive into this painting. I hope it touches you, as it has me.

Forest Dreams by Amanda Makepeace

Earth and magic,
Roots and stones,
Azure circles sown.
Whispers and wings,
Tendrils and leaves,
Forest dreams weave.

This painting, like Signs and Symbols, is set in the dream forest. But unlike the young man’s journey, which only brought him to the space between the two worlds, here we are fully immersed. The young woman is a fae, dreaming her magic into the earth. Her magic gives rise to a blue fairy circle.

If you’re going to Dragon Con this summer, you can see her in the Art Show. I’ll also have limited edition prints available to order starting next week in my shop.

************

www.amandamakepeace.com

Support my Art on Patreon!

Two Years Later

Dragon Con 2016Two years ago, around this same time, I was preparing for my first convention as an artist. I’m doing the same now, for the same convention–Dragon Con. Genre art (fantasy, science fiction, horror) for me at the time was still a relatively new venture. I grew up on late 70’s and 80’s genre films. As a teenager I was consumed by Stephen King and other speculative fiction authors. You’d think this would be reflected in my art, but it wasn’t until 2012 that I began letting myself explore. A wall in my psyche came down and my art evolved. Two years later I was at Dragon Con and now another two years later I’m returning. In that time, I’ve continued to explore, evolve and learn.

I began thinking about what I truly wanted. What did I want to create with my art? What did I want to say? Did I need to say anything? That introspection gave birth to Renascentia. She is the first painting I felt connected to on a deeper level and I realized I need that connection. It reminds me of this quote I heard recently:

If you don’t feel anything for the painting your working on, your viewers won’t either.

When I brought Renascentia to Jordan Con in 2015, I realized the truth of these words. However, I still hadn’t figured out what I wanted. The vision in my head was still veiled in mist. It took nearly another year for me to begin piecing together what I now call Earth Rituals. I’m creating a body of work around this idea of connecting with the earth, but it’s not the only art I plan to make. I will continue to make purely nature art, delve into Sci-Fi, and whatever else catches my fancy.

Dusk OwlBut what have I done and learned over the last two years?

  1. I learned how to create art from direction.
  2. I ran a successful kickstarter and printed a book.
  3. I won Judge’s Choice from Todd Lockwood. O_O
  4. I signed my first contract with a small games publisher.
  5. I knew this already, but it was reaffirmed–true friends are invaluable.
  6. I will break my no dancing rule if you give me mixed drinks.
  7. I learned I don’t really enjoy game illustration.
  8. I learned you can be a part of a large community and still feel utterly alone.
  9. I learned there’s an art to using Instagram.
  10. I enjoy licensing art for book covers more than custom commissions.
  11. I learned I just want to create my own art, on my own terms.
  12. I guided my daughter through her last year of high school and into her first year of college.
  13. I was invited to be a member of Changeling Artist Collective.
  14. I launched a Patreon campaign that’s still going.
  15. I rediscovered my love of graphite and drawing.
  16. I’ve had a taste of being an art director (large project in progress now).

Ultimately, I’ve realized I’m not an illustrator, nor do I really want to be. Sure, there may be some overlap occasionally. If a project fits my vision and my style I might jump on board. But at the end of the day, I’m an artist. I think my art will always hover between fine art and the fantastic. In some cases it will sway back and forth between the two. That’s okay.

Forest Dreams WIP

From my current work in progress, Forest Dreams.

Why every web surfer should use StumbleUpon

You’ve probably seen this symbol before.

…and you’ve probably overlooked it completely.

untitled

This is Stumbleupon’s logo. Pretty neat, right? It sometimes appears at the bottom of web articles. Some sites use it, while others don’t. Maybe you’ve heard of it, but odds are you haven’t really tried it out.

It’s cool.

No worries.

I’m here to tell you why Stumbleupon is awesome. Not only for web surfers, but for authors, artists, and internet content creators of any kind.

First, some facts:

  • Here at Tessera Guild, Stumbleupon accounts for more than 50% of all our site hits. Meaning hundreds of clicks every day and thousands upon thousands every month. That’s a lot. It’s invaluable to us, generating tons of new visitors every single day with minimal effort on our part.
  • At my personal book/art site, DowntheDarkPath, Stumbleupon accounts for 30% of my site hits, which is still a large percentage. Once again, it’s invaluable.
  • Stumbleupon is fun and easy to use.

Now, we could spend hours talking about how great Stumbleupon is for web surfing. How quick and easy it is to set up a profile, choose specific interests, and wander off on a ten-year long click safari. All these things are great, and totally worth checking out.

But today I’m pitching it to authors, artists, and anyone who has ever published anything on the web.

So…

You say you’ve got a website. You’ve populated it with high-quality contents, graphics, and cool links to cool things. But…you’re struggling to get clicks. Facebook and Instagram earn you a few, while Twitter and Linkedin are graveyards. What other source can you possibly hope for to direct traffic your way?

Yeah. You guessed it. Stumbleupon.

untitled

I guess that’s an S and a U. Whatever. Decent-looking logo.

How it works:

  • People (usually content creators or readers) submit content to Stumbleupon with just a few clicks. Submitting takes between 3-7 seconds. Super easy.
  • Other people click the ‘Stumble’ button on top of Stumbleupon’s main page, at which point the site will redirect the person to a random article or website. Only…it’s not entirely random. The more likes a page has, the more likely it is to be ‘stumbled upon.’  Meaning, if you’ve got an article or blog that a lot of people click ‘Like’ on, it could go viral.  (This has happened to Tessera Guild multiple times, often resulting in 10,000+ page views in a matter of hours or days.)
  • By curating enough high-quality content on your website and adding some of it selectively to Stumbleupon, you could see residual visits to your page for many months.
  • More visits mean more exposure. And whether you’re selling something or simply trying to start a web-wide conversation, this is good news.

Oh. And here’s a huge piece of advice for people who use Stumbleupon to promote their stuff:

  • Don’t exclusively submit your own content. In fact, submit and like other people’s stuff more than your own. Also, if you can avoid it, don’t submit stuff that’s purely sales pitchy. Add funny, cute, informative, or awesome stuff instead. The sales or engagement will come from visits to your website…assuming you’ve got quality material.
  • Some people will say to ‘never’ add your own content. Nonsense. Just be super-selective.

Now it’s true…most people I’ve met have never even heard of Stumbleupon. They surf the web the old-fashioned way (with Google.) There’s nothing wrong with that. Google is awesome. It’s just that Stumbleupon refines the process, guiding surfers to random, fun stuff in a cool way. It also appears to have a tendency to ‘go viral’ more often than other outlets like Facebook or Twitter. And content with enough likes will keep getting hits indefinitely, meaning way more residual clicking than other social media.

Look, I’m just saying,

If you’re a surfer, give Stumbleupon a try.

Or if you’ve got something cool, smart, and engaging to submit, use it as another sharp tool in your exposure arsenal.

Oh, and here’s the one lil’ old article I submitted that convinced me to start stumblin’ forever.

LUB (Love you, bye)

J Edward Neill

WebImageFront

Instagram Art Giveaway

Instagram Art Giveaway

That’s right. I’m having a giveaway on Instagram! It’s my way of saying, Thank you. Thank you to everyone following me and taking the time to support my art. One lucky winner will receive the 4×5 inch watercolor painting shown in the image above. To enter, be sure you’re following me here:

http://www.instagram.com/amandamakepeace

Then, follow the directions in this post:

The deadline to enter is July 15th!

Art of the Fantastic

We all have favorites. Favorite movies, books, authors, etc. But does everyone have favorite artists? If they don’t, they should. The worlds of the imaginary and mythic are sometimes the most inspiring of all. They are dreams brought to life. Here’s a few of my favorites from living artists you can support now–today.

Artists: Marcela Bolivar, Brom, John Picacio, Stephanie Law, Reiko Murakami, John Jude Palencar, Charles Urbach, Michael Parkes, Omar Rayyan, and Lauren K Cannon.

Who are your favorite artists?

Ten Things Not to Do at a Literary Reading

Ten Things Not to Do at a Literary Reading

I’ve noticed that literary readings, like any live performance, are bound to have some glitches here and there. There are some very common glitches, though, in readings by professionals and amateurs alike, and I think they should be easily avoided.

If you’ve ever been to an open-mic, spoken word, or poetry event, then you’ll know what I’m talking about here. If you’ve never been, perhaps you can use this list to explain why you haven’t. If you’re ever behind that open microphone or featured on that stage, please don’t do any of the following things.

  1. Don’t Mention Your Rehearsal

Whether you did or did not remember to rehearse your reading beforehand, just don’t talk about it. Your audience would like to think that you are experienced, or at least competent. If you did rehearse, that’s great but it should be evident by the quality of your reading. If you skipped over a badly-needed rehearsal then there will be no need to restate the obvious. Maybe you don’t actually need to rehearse. This is unlikely but in any case, just don’t mention rehearsing. Instead, get on with the reading.

  1. Don’t Say, “I Just Wrote This”

This tip is mostly intended for the reader who wrote something in the moments leading up the performance. At an open mic event, this happens frequently, but it isn’t very polite. Taking notes while someone else is reading is one thing, but don’t completely ignore the other readers, just so you can scratch off something you “just wrote” and then read it immediately, unedited, to a live audience. There’s a way to present new, timely work, but this isn’t it. (An exception to this rule may be required, for example, if yesterday was a major historical event, or if an important  chapter in your life ended or began last night.)

  1. Don’t Riffle Through Your Papers

If you haven’t decided what to read and in which order, you’re not ready to read. Have a plan. Stick to it. Small deviations from the plan are probably inevitable at a live event but please don’t make the audience watch you thumb through your ratty notebook while you mutter to yourself about what you might or might not read.

  1. No Spoilers

Don’t explain each and every piece before you read it. If some initial context is needed, keep it to a minimum, providing only the very essentials. You should let your work speak for itself as much as possible.

  1. Don’t Diss Your Own Work

Believe or not, some writers actually announce to the audience that they don’t care for a work, and then proceed to read it to a live audience! This may seem to the writer like a kind of humility, but it has a very different effect on the audience. If you don’t even like the work, then an audience might think, ‘Why should anybody else bother to give a damn?‘ Similarly, you shouldn’t mention whether anybody else does or does not like the work, unless it’s a celebrity or a mutually despised tyrant. Just read the work, and allow the audience to make up their own minds in their own way.

  1. Don’t Speak Too Quickly

Especially where poetry is concerned, it is very important to give the words some room to breathe. If you have a time limit for your reading, it would be better to fill the time well than to fill it completely. Don’t try to cram too much work into your reading. Instead, choose the right number of quality words and read them slowly and clearly.

  1. Don’t Speak Too Quietly

Before speaking in public, take a deep breath and imagine you are speaking to the person who is furthest away from you. That person will appreciate being able to hear you. This rule applies with and without the use of a microphone.

  1. Don’t Sound Like You’re Reading

This one is difficult to define and to avoid, but it is the critical difference between a “reading” and a “performance”. To break this habit, it helps to make some audio recordings. Record yourself speaking naturally, and in conversation. Then record yourself reading a difficult text you have never read before. We’ve all had to suffer through difficult readings: at school, political and religious events, meetings at work. It’s not fun, so your performance should not sound like a “difficult” reading. It should sound natural, like conversation.

  1. Don’t Ignore the Audience

Look up from the page. Look out at the audience. Remember, this is a live event. You may be nervous, and afraid of the audience, but please don’t ignore them. They’re people, too, and you just might notice that they’re smiling, thinking about, or otherwise responding to your work. It is important to be aware of these things.

  1. Don’t Forget to Stop Between Pieces

The audience needs some time to move from one idea to the next, and you probably do too. Besides, if you pause for a moment, you might get some applause.

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This concludes my list of ten things not to do at a literary reading. For some tips on what you should do instead, try Adam Robinson’s article How to Deliver a Poetry Reading. For musicians, there’s a similar list: advice for musical performances by Thelonious Monk, in his own handwriting.

If you’ve got anything to add to the do and don’t list, please post in the comments!

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Dylan Pic

Dylan Kinnett is a writer, spoken word performance artist, and the founding editor of Infinity’s Kitchen. His writing seeks to alter traditional literary forms with the use of media, hypertext, and performance. He lives in Baltimore, Maryland.

His home base is http://infinityskitchen.com/

 

The Darkest Art Prints Ever

Whenever I’m not writing dark fantasy novels, philosophy books, or sci-fi books, I’m painting.

Acrylics. Giant canvasses. Spooky, surreal art.

The original paintings are for sale here.

But for those who want affordable prints, framed art, canvasses, and tapestries of my work, I’m selling them on the amazing art site, Society6. It’s a pretty awesome place. You should go there. Now.

Some of my most popular prints appear below. Click ’em to check ’em out. Also important, you can choose from several different sizes and formats for each one. Don’t be shy. Get as many as you want.

Last Autumn 4 Ghostscape Ghost Tree2 Pale Swamp

Ocean-6-300x221 The-Abyss-300x237

To look at ALL my available Society6 art prints, click HERE.

Love,

J Edward Neill

Ideas and (the lack of) Time

We’ve probably all wished at some point in our lives for a double of ourselves, to help us with our mounting To-Do list or just to be in two places at one time. There never seems to be enough time for everything. I’m continually blessed and plagued by ideas that I then have to prioritize. Do I have time for this? Is this more an experiment or is it part of my main vision? Sometimes side projects get put on hold, because I have to feed my soul and creative vision. That vision is the core idea of what I’ve been moving towards over the last ten years and it’s the heart of my art. Regardless, I’m still pulled toward these other ideas. Sometimes I jot them down in my sketchbook of ideas and that’s end of it. I can always return to them later. While others I start and then push to the side, hoping I can return to them later. Here are a few…

The Mystics

Yes, the steampunk fox everyone adores is part of a series of paintings. The Mystics are a fictional council, tasked with protecting the animal kingdom from human encroachment. I still want to continue with this series. I even have the fourth member sketched out, but… Time…

Rings of Magic

These are the pencil drawings for two of four small paintings I have planned. I even have the frames for these. Each ring has a story and a power someone has abused.

The White Crow

Remember these from Inktober 2015?! I said I was going to publish a book titled The White Crow. I’m still planning to publish this book. I promise.

I wouldn’t mind having a clone of myself–one connected to myself, so I was conscious of everything happening and also part of the decision making process. Science fiction, I know…


www.amandamakepeace.com

Painting with Darkness – Part X

After a short layoff, I’m back to doing terrible things with my paintbrush.

Dark cities, twisted terrains, and this time around, an eerie, abstract tree.

I call this one, ‘The Last Autumn.’  The original is for sale here, if you’re interested.

Now let’s talk about how The Last Autumn came to be:

Last Autumn 1

It all started with a 24″x 24″ super-thick white canvas. I used a straightedge, a level, and a twenty-year old pencil (yes, really) to divide the canvas into perfect halves. With my little wooden palette, I paired up acrylic golds, blacks, reds, yellows, and whites. I mixed them at random, and when I was done with the first coat, I poked golden dots all over the right side of the canvas. Voila. What you see above.

Last Autumn 2

For the left side, life got a little easier. I mixed gold, black, and umber, and went nuts with fast, broad strokes. Before it dried, I poked little white ‘leaves’ into the background. The difference between the two halves was stark. I loved what I was seeing.

Last Autumn 3

About 0.0003 seconds before starting with the right-side tree, I had a revelation. A. I wanted to flip the painting over so the darker half would be on the right and the red/gold half on the left. I have no idea why. It just felt right. B. I pulled out a sand-based gel with which to paint the tree. For those not familiar, the gel adds a texture you can see and feel when you’re up close to the painting. It’s so ridiculously fun to paint with; I suggest everyone try it.

Last Autumn 4

For the left side of the painting, I mixed pure black with more sand gel. I used four different brushes, starting big and working down to the tiniest branches using pretty much the smallest acrylic brush you can buy. It was tedious, but I loved it. Each flick of my wrist gave life to a new branch. The picture here is pre-varnishing; the sand gel takes forever to dry. The plan for this painting is to use a heavy gloss, which will make the colors pop and allow The Last Autumn to be a centerpiece for any room.

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Thanks for reading!!

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

To buy The Last Autumn, go here.

J Edward Neill

Author of Matrix-like A Door Never Dreamed Of.

And creator of the Coffee Table Philosophy series.

 

The Changeling Artist Collective

Changeling Artist Collective

change·ling

ˈCHānjliNG/

noun

  1. a child believed to have been secretly substituted by fairies for the parents’ real child in infancy.

Changeling. The word itself conjures fantastical visions and now it’s also the name of a new Artist Collective founded by Rachel Quinlan. I’m honored to be a part of an extraordinary group of fantasy artists. Each month we’ll be hosting themed auctions on our Facebook Page. The first auction, Bugs and Beasties, launches July 13th! You can also follow updates on Instagram, Twitter and Tumblr.

And now for what matters most–the Artists behind the Changeling Artist Collective! If you’re following our Facebook Page you’ll be introduced to these artists, one by one, in the coming weeks.

Rovina CaiKristina CarrollIris CompietCollette J EllisTiffany EnglandSam GuayEmily HareJana HeidersdorfJayde Hilliard-SimpsonMaggie IvyHeather Hitchman LambertEmma LazauskiAmanda MakepeaceSerena MalyonBelinda Jane MorrisFergal O’ConnorRachel QuinlanAngela Rachelle Sasser,
Anna K. SzalasTiffany TurrillAnja UhrenJabari Weathers, Ren Willows

 

7 Ways to step up your Indie Author Career

For many months, I’ve resisted writing this.

Author advice columns and ‘do-it-better’ blogs often come off as pretentious.

And that’s the last thing I want to do.

Even so…

After swimming in the shark-infested waters of self-publishing for many years, I feel it’s time I share a few nuggets of wisdom. About writing. About marketing. About presenting oneself to the literary world. Now…these aren’t gonna be your typical Stephen King-ish motivational tips or super supportive rays of sunshine. I’m going off the grid with some of these. Because everything else has been said.

Here we go.

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Audience

1.  Audience Building

We’re not talking about genres. We’re talking human beings, and we’re talking how you approach them after you’ve already written your masterpiece. So you say you’ve crafted a new work of erotica, an epic fantasy series, or a vampire romance? Fine. It’s all fine. Whatever floats your boat. The key to your success, assuming you’ve actually got the writing chops to write a good book, is to make people care. Spamming ‘check out my book’ ads on the net? Not gonna fly. Auto-messaging unsuspecting people on Twitter? Fail. The key here is to be interesting. You’re a writer, after all. When marketing, you’ve gotta use the same chops you used when writing the best parts of your book. Don’t be dull. Don’t be static. Build some awesome blurbs and engage people. Hand your business cards out at DragonCon. Strike up conversations with strangers at the bar who might like to read. Be your book. Live it.

Also…when audience building on the internet, use perfect spelling and grammar. It doesn’t matter whether or not you think it’s important. It is. Whenever an author posts a blog or funny facebook post with garbage grammar, it leaves an impression. And it’s not the one you want.

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Negativity2. Stay the F**K away from Negativity

You probably think I’m talking about other people’s negativity. I’m not. I’m talking about yours.

Let’s say you’ve got a website dedicated to your books, your art, your whatever. And let’s say from time to time you write interesting, relatable pieces about your life and your experiences (you should do both of these, by the way.) You wanna know what never to do? Project negativity. Ever. Like anyone else, writers have opinions. That’s all well and good. But for the most part, your army of loyal readers wants to hear positive (or least non-negative) stuff. Hate your neighbor? Cool. Shut up about it. Got a headache and some writer’s block? Nope. Another author crap on your book via Amazon? Deal with it. Sales in a slump? Don’t say a word.

It’s a slippery slope, negativity. Everyone feels they have a right to complain. Maybe they do, maybe not. But as a professional and as a person who wants others to feel good about your books, your persona, and your ability, I recommend keeping all but the most dire complaints to yourself.

Actually, I recommend this to everyone in the entire world. Not just writers and artists.

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3. Get Great Cover Art

To be fair, some people can get away with having bland, homemade, or just plain bad cover art. What I’m saying is: don’t assume you can. Now…it’s true cover art can get expensive. Artists will charge hundreds for good work, and they’ve every right to do so. It doesn’t matter. No matter your budget, you’ve got to find a way to put your (presumably wonderfully-written) book beneath a cover worthy of cracking open. It doesn’t have to be an epic Greek sculptor/Sistine Chapel wonder of the world, but it needs to look good. Or cool. Or crazy. Just not boring. Never…ever…boring.

Oh, and speaking of good cover artists, try Amanda Makepeace.

And speaking of great covers she created

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Ego 4. Shelve Your Ego (not your Eggo)

What’s that you say? Someone left you a shitty review on Amazon? You got a rejection letter from a publisher? An author refused to do a review-swap (which you shouldn’t have agreed to do anyway)?

What I recommend in these and a thousand other less-than-awesome scenarios is that you not get butthurt. Ever. Artistic endeavors of any kind, and indeed life endeavors, don’t care about your sensitivity. Anger, jealousy, vengeance, frustration, cats sitting on your keyboard and deleting an entire chapter…all part of the dance. Simply put, you’ll get more work done if you shrug off all the crap and vent it creatively, rather than on Facebook.

Tip: Your ability to find greatness might very well depend on your ability to carve through all the emotions…and arrive on the other side unscathed.

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Brush Off5. Brush off Compliments / Embrace Criticism

I’ll keep this one brief. Maybe. When seventeen of your friends read your book and tell you how awesome it is, ignore them. You heard me. Ignore them. Smile and nod, but let their words fall off your shoulders like yesterday’s dandruff. Why, you ask? Because while they mean well, their compliments don’t mean anything. Compliments and superlatives about your work won’t make you a better writer. Sunshine up your bottom might feel good, but it won’t lift you to greatness.

But criticism might. Your most valuable review on Amazon might be the single-star one. Your best asset might be the lone family member who tells you your ending doesn’t make sense, or that one of your characters is a whiny loser. When you free your ego (see #4) and become willing to embrace criticism, you allow yourself to grow.

If you need a metaphor, imagine a tree. The oldest, strongest trees are covered in knots, scars, and broken limbs. And yet the tree never complains. Not once. Not ever. It simply adjusts, heals, and keeps moving toward the sunlight.

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6. Create an Image & Stick to It

Perhaps you’re really good at writing horror. Or maybe you’ve got a knack for writing killer romance scenes. Or maybe your descriptive ability is out of this world.  Cool. Now what I suggest is that you use your strengths to create an image. Mine is sort of this dark, brooding philosopher thing. Yours should be whatever you feel represents you, whether a fluffy unicorn girl, a dominatrix, a vulgar comedian, or a quiet librarian genius. Whatever. It doesn’t matter as long as it’s yours.

The point is: craft your image and use it as a presentation point to the world. Don’t be boring. Tell the world what you’re about. Speak to them as though you were your characters. It’s like this: you can either flood your social media feeds with writing memes and coffee-worship, or you can become a living, breathing avatar for your work. I’m being completely serious. I’m not suggesting you try to fake your audience out. Far from it. I’m saying to grab them by their collars. Shake them. Entertain them. Because really, what else are we here to do?

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7. Demand Honesty

This is a two-part piece of advice. First and foremost, you’ve got to be honest with yourself. Can you look at your work and say, “This is the best I can write. This book is as ready for the world as it’s gonna get.”? If you can, boom. Kudos. Publish it. If you can’t, then the honest author in you has to be ready. For more work. And lots of it.

The second part: demand honesty from those who help you. This means reviewers, editors, other authors, beta-readers, friends, and family. If they’re brave enough to read your stuff, you need to be brave enough to look them in the eyes and tell them to be utterly honest in their criticism. And you need to mean it. Really mean it. Like Brad Pitt in Fight Club, you need to hear them say it three times. (Anyone remember that scene?)

Because the only conversations in life worth having are the blunt, brutally honest kind.

Everything else is fluff.

Now get to work.

And try to have fun while you’re doing it.

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J Edward Neill

Author of 101 Questions for Humanity

Author of the Tyrants of the Dead series

Where do you get your Ideas?

Signs and Symbols by Amanda MakepeaceWhere do you get your ideas?

If you’re an artist, writer, musician or anyone working in a creative field you’re bound to be asked. However, the question is a disguise for another. What they are really asking is how did you come up with this final work of art. The question implies there is some secret formula for making art–all it takes is that spark of inspiration. If that were true, we’d all be artists! Having ideas is only one part of the equation. The other half is a ton of hard work. Ideas are important though…and passion. Without either you don’t have anything to fuel the hard work. I’m always a little shocked when I hear an artist say they are struggling to come up with ideas. Maybe it’s just a foreign concept to me. I always seem to be brimming with ideas, so many that I must reign myself in so I stay focused. The well I draw from is all around me and inside me.

Are they struggling to find ideas or are they struggling to find that BIG painting idea? Are they too focused on the end result? When I think of ideas, I think of all the scribbles in my sketchbook and the notes that eventually lead to a painting. It’s a process. Even when I think I have a core idea for a painting, it always continues to evolve before I have the final artwork. I think some artists are looking for that stroke of genius, that masterpiece. This quote from Chuck Close sums it up well…

“The advice I like to give young artists, or really anybody who’ll listen to me, is not to wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work.”

“All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself. Things occur to you. If you’re sitting around trying to dream up a great art idea, you can sit there a long time before anything happens. But if you just get to work, something will occur to you and something else will occur to you and something else that you reject will push you in another direction. Inspiration is absolutely unnecessary and somehow deceptive. You feel like you need this great idea before you can get down to work, and I find that’s almost never the case.”

Just get to work.

Start by sketching something you love. What are you passionate about? Make list. I love nature, fantasy and myth. I also love horror movies, owls, crows and bones. I love taking hikes in the woods. My imagination is fond of mixing all of these together.

Sketches and Ideas

Spirit Owls by Amanda Makepeace

When I’m sketching the things I’m passionate about or getting out of the studio to embrace what I love, I can’t stop the ideas from forming. So if you’re struggling, stop sitting around. Take your sketchbook outside, or to a museum, or a busy town center or a cafe… Explore a new medium or tackle something you’ve never drawn before. Challenge yourself but remember, there’s nothing wrong with returning to things you’ve drawn or painted hundreds of times. You just might think of a new way to express that object or idea.

*****

Follow me online:

Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Patreon

amandamakepeace.com

There are no rules…

Hi everyone,

We’ve got something interesting for those of you who are artists, writers, poets, and bloggers.

Dylan Kinnett, the head honcho over at Infinity’s Kitchen, just sent out a call for submissions. He’s teamed up with Ink Press Productions to bring you more off-the-grid artistic work. And we at Tessera Guild couldn’t help but support the cause.

Infinity’s Kitchen is a publication specializing in experimental literary material. What does that mean exactly? Well…it’s got off-beat poetry, digital-age wordplay, word squares, and interesting pop art. And more.  It’s not what most of you are used to. And that’s what makes it cool.

In particular, the latest submission call (Active until June 17th) seeks anything artists and writers do in multiples. Like a series of images, a group of similar poems, a line of same-thought process Tweets, or short stories in the same setting. And these are just a few examples. The most interesting part of Infinity’s Kitchen is that there are no rules. If it’s cool, if it’s mind-bending, if it’s engaging, that’s what’s cooking.

Here’s the official submission sheet:

Inf Kitchen

And here’s the scoop:

Infinity’s Kitchen & Ink Press Productions are coming together to ask: What belongs on the internet? Send us your content and we’ll make it a book.

WHAT IS IT?

tweets / screenshots / commentary / instructions / recipes / maps / memes / clickbait / spam / lists / calendars / emails / embarrassing evidence / tattoos / whatever, it’s your content/

Submissions for the latest issue: open May 1–June 17

Send your submissions to:
inkpressproductions@gmail.com

I know I’ll be submitting.

Will you?

J Edward Neill

Fae and Unicorns and Bugs… Oh My!

June FaeYou were with me till I mentioned bugs, right? Hear me out! These are three fun art challenges happening in June. Like #mermay and #inktober, artists will be sketching/drawing/painting daily based on one or a combination of these themes. You’ll be able to follow these hashtags on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook:

#JuneFae – All things Fae: Fairies, Pixies, Brownies, Hobgoblins, etc.

#Junicorn – That’s right, a month full of unicorns!

#JuneBug – Bugs!!! Bugs aren’t your thing? Are you sure… The insect world is full of beautiful creatures like moths and butterflies.

These daily art challenges are open to everyone and it’s up to you whether you post daily or maybe weekly. Tag your posts with one or all of the challenge hashtags. Invite others to join in! Art challenges are a great way to explore new mediums, improve upon a skill or break out of a creative funk.

I’m going to use the challenge as part meditation and part art experiment. Much of my art tends to be detailed and leans more toward realism. For #JuneFae I’ll be creating spontaneous little tree sprite doodles with Walnut Ink (and occasionally with a little gold pigment added). These mini paint sketches will be a fun departure from my usual work! Below is a test sprite I doodled this week in preparation.

Tree Sprite by Amanda Makepeace

 

Here are some of my artist friends who will be participating too.

On Friday’s throughout June, be sure to also tag your #junefae art with #fairyfriday. Meredith Dillman will be sharing posts to her @FairyFriday Twitter account!

Why I don’t write negative reviews.

People who know me will say I’m cynical.

They’ll note my lack of optimism, my occasional indifference, and my somewhat dark view of humanity’s intentions. These observations are completely my fault. I’ve worked a bit too hard to earn a ‘cold’ reputation, and now I’ve got to live with it.

But…

Despite this image I’ve cultivated, there are traits neither my friends nor foes will ever observe in me. Things like anger, entitlement, a sense of vengeance, or a tendency to be judgmental. I’ve my share of failings, but these are not among them. I lack the genetic disposition to hate, to scorn, and to demand retribution. I just can’t do it. It’s not in me.

amazon-consumer-reviews

I will never be this guy.

So…

Like any American, I buy my share of stuff. Some of it is awesome stuff, like my writing chair, my epic-level pancake griddle, and the billion books I’ve collected for my son. Likewise, some of my stuff sucks. Like the patio umbrella I bought that rotted within a month or the DVD copy of Devil’s Advocate which turned out to be a blank CD (serves me right for getting excited about a $0.99 DVD.) In each of these cases, I spent money. Hard-earned money. And in each case I took my new possession home and installed it into my life.

But…

No matter whether my purchase turned out amazing or shitty, I didn’t let it affect my emotional state. Meaning; my pancakes were amazing, but not life-altering. My writing chair is so very comfy, but I don’t plan on living in it. And my Devil’s Advocate DVD is…well…still blank. I figure, no matter how great or terrible my purchases are, it’s not worth getting ecstatic or depressed about stuff. Because it’s just stuff, right? So even when my umbrella fell to pieces and my Xbox told me to F off when I slid Keanu Reeves and Charlize Theron inside, I didn’t get pissed. I didn’t rush to the complaint dept. And I definitely did not write any scathing reviews.

Ok.

There was one exception.

It’s story time.

Very recently, I moved. It wasn’t a fun move. I had to leave a dream home I loved for a third-story apartment in a complex with about two-square feet total of green-space. It took two weeks to complete the move. It sucked. Hell, it still sucks. But the worst part was my experience with a not-to-be-named moving company. Two guys showed up to help me carry all my aforementioned stuff out of my beloved house and into a cramped, third-story shoebox. And to be honest, these guys sucked worse than leaving my dream home. One of them quit in the middle of his shift. I’m serious. He looked at me and said, “I’m done.” The other guy was slow. As in slooowwwwwwwww. In the end, I ended up carrying way more of my stuff than both guys combined. It was amusing…in a way. If you think paying someone else money while you perform hard labor is funny.

A few days later, the moving company sent me a review request.

Oh, was I ever tempted. I could’ve crushed these guys. In the big blank thousand-character space requesting ‘customer comments,’ I could’ve named names and drilled these guys seventeen new holes in their asses. I could’ve told them everything they did wrong, and I could’ve clicked ‘No’ in the big fat box labeled ‘Would You Recommend Our Service?’

And so I did. I killed them. I slew them. The fires of their failure are still smoldering. Their manager has called me…oh…a dozen times to apologize. And I’ve ignored him. Utterly.

a-bad-craigslist-mover

It felt a little bit like this.

bad-moving-company280

…and a LOT like this.

But there’s two differences between reviewing a moving company and reviewing art, books, and movies.

1. I reviewed the moving company privately. For their benefit alone. No public slander. No single-star rating on Yelp.

2. There’s no opinion involved in reviewing someone’s skill at box-lifting. There’s tons of opinions involved in reviewing film, paint, and words.

Which brings me here…to Tessera Guild…and to my personal website, Down the Dark Path.

From time to time I write reviews. Movie reviews especially, like this one and this one, and a recent review of Neil deGrasse Tyson throwing down some science in Atlanta. If you’ve ever read my reviews, and you should; trust me :), you’ll notice one thing they have in common: they’re ALL positive. Not positive in a blow-sunshine-up-your-ass way. Positive in a I-want-to-share-something-amazing kind of way. I review stuff I love because to me that’s the only stuff worth reviewing. Sure, I pick at a few small failures, but overall my comments on other people’s creative work are glowing. Because I want to spread the love, not stifle it. Because my opinions are better served helping people than shitting on other artists’ efforts. And because, let’s face it, the world and everything in it has plenty of bad reviews already.

A few observations:

A great review of an awesome piece of creative work will do hundred times more cultural good than a horrific review of something shitty.

When I see extremely negative reviews of movies, art, or books, I find it hard not to yawn.

I have better things to do (and so do you, probably) than sling stones at other artists and writers.

Opinions of art, movies, and books are rarely objective.

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Look, I get it. If you spent $12 to watch a movie you hated, you’re entitled to vent about it. If you paid $9.99 for a crap novel on Amazon, you’ve every right to give it negative 47 stars. And if your umbrella rots while your lazy movers are carrying it, go nuts and complain to everyone. Scream into the heavens. Slap the cashier in the mouth. Burn down your local Wal-Mart. You’re allowed to do all of this.

But not me. I’m not allowed. I’ve banned myself from bitching. I’ve closed off the part of my mind that wants to nerd-rage about how such-and-such movie is awesome, but another one is trash. If I want bad reviews on stuff, I’ll just visit Rotten Tomatoes or post my selfies to Tinder. Sure, it’s fun to read a good rant, but it really doesn’t entertain me as much as it used to.

So if you see a movie review, a book review, or a commentary on a piece of art, and if you see I’m the one who wrote it, maybe you don’t have to read the review at all. You’ll know it’s positive when you see my name.

Unless you work for the moving company.

Then you’re screwed.

J Edward Neill

Author of A Door Never Dreamed Of

Creator of the Coffee Table Philosophy series

Finding the Words

I’m not a writer. When it comes to writing anything, even an email, I put a tremendous amount of thought behind it before I begin. I’m the same with talking. There is always far more I’m thinking than saying. This is who I am. Don’t be mistaken. I have the ability to talk for hours with friends on a topic I find interesting or one that sparks my passion, but sitting down to write a blog post… I’d rather go back to my drawing or painting. What do I have worth saying to the world? I find it easier to speak through art, or poetry, because in truth I have simple loves in life.

Photograph by Amanda Makepeace

Photograph by Amanda Makepeace

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Satin soft petals reaching toward
the clouds, sway aloft sturdy stalks–
To and fro, to and fro.

They lure me with luscious hues
To places unknown, and
Capture me with Spring incense,
A meadow inside my soul.

Lay me down midst the Aster and Sage,
So I may rest, may dream,
If lucky, live again.

© Amanda Makepeace

Post JordanCon Thoughts

I’ve been home three days now, but they’ve not been the best of days. I woke up Monday feeling rough and then realized soon enough I had a stomach virus. Today I’m better, but not quite back to normal. Not fun, especially after such an incredible weekend. Part of what I love about conventions is meeting up with friends I only see at conventions. I have a couple I don’t see but once or twice a year. So that is always a treat. I definitely had a little too much fun this weekend.

Photos…. I have very few. I’ve found that since I’ve begun attending conventions as an artist, I either don’t think about taking photos or I simply don’t have time. Here’s a very tiny collection, if you’re interested in seeking more out, the JordanCon Group on Facebook has a great gallery of images from this year’s event.

This weekend was my most successful convention to-date. I sold my largest, most expensive piece, Renascentia as well as, eight other pieces from my art show bay. As for the prints I brought, I only sold 1 of the Alchemist and 1 of Spirit Guardian, but all 4 of the limited edition Dawn and Dusk prints. Those were more expensive than the regular prints and smaller, so go figure. I obviously should have brought more. Live and learn.

Limited edition print of Dusk - Hand embellished.

Limited edition print of Dusk – Hand embellished.

Regardless, I’m kind of blown away. I don’t think I’ve ever sold so much art in one weekend. I came home with empty boxes! A few of the unsold pieces will go into my shop, but some of the pieces I will retire and others I’ll store for another show.

What was different about this year compared to last?

1. JordanCon hosted DeepSouthCon – It’s a travelling convention. Our attendee numbers were higher than last year and author Brandon Sanderson was there too.

2. I wasn’t an unknown. After winning Judges’ Choice last year I did gain new followers on Facebook from the convention, some of which became new fans of my art and in turn new friends. I returned to JordanCon this year feeling as if I was part of their family.

3. I was more active, socially. Last year, I didn’t really know anyone. This year, I had a few friends that helped me feel more comfortable. We all hung out a lot and went to various room parties where I met more people. I spent an hour behind John Picacio’s (Artist Guest of Honor) table, just chatting. And I was also a part of an event called Win, Lose or Draw. I’m hoping to be even more involved in the art show programming next year. Ultimately, I met and spoke with so many more people than I did last year. My lips are still chapped from talking so much!

It’s a little weird having a big blank space on my wall. But, I’m okay with Renascentia going to a new home. It was time. She helped me discovered exactly what I want to do with my art–what I want to say. It took a year, but now I have Earth Rituals about to begin. It’s an exciting time. 🙂

Painting with Darkness – Part IX

Maybe more than all my previous Painting with Darkness articles, this one has special meaning.

It’s the only piece I’ve done in the last three years that I didn’t work on in my epic painting studio.

And it’s the first I finished in my little shoebox apartment.

No matter…

Presenting my walkthrough of ‘Ghostscape.’

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Ghostscape 1

I hope you’ve got your reading glasses on. This is the soft pencil work I put on the canvas before a single drop of paint ever touched it. I’m not gonna lie; the geometry was challenging. See that circle in the center? It’s dead-on in the middle down to the millimeter. What’s special about it? To trace the circle I used the 60-year old mixer bowl my grandmother many times used to make my pancakes.

Ghostscape 2

Begin the darkness: First I swirled watercolor blacks and sepia tones in the background. Then I used a hard straight-edge to paint in the black ‘towers’ jutting out of the sphere. And then…I added even more sepia and filled in the center sphere to give it depth.

Ghostscape 3

More towers were needed. I realized I hadn’t added enough. Also, I darkened the center sphere. Also also also…I used pale watercolor blacks to slice in distant towers behind the hard, sharp foreground towers.

Ghostscape 4

What can I say? I wanted even MORE towers. In this shot, although it’s hard to see, I used whites to give the towers a reflective quality. Like they’re made out of polished obsidian or some hard, dark otherworldly metal.

Ghostscape 5

Now began the hard part. And by hard I mean TEDIOUS. Using a tiny brush and some titanium white paint, I started adding windows and doors to the towers. I imagined a ghost behind each window…and NOT a friendly one. At the time this picture was taken, I’d spent two hours just dotting in windows and adding texture to the towers.

Ghostscape 6

Ghostscape – the final image. I like how the ring of lower tower lights frames the center of the sphere. It’s kind of a never ending city swirling around a tiny, terrifying planet. So…anyone up for a vacation?

Now…the only question is:

Which way to hang it?

In other words, which towers should point up, and which should point down?

Hmmmmm…

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The original canvas of Ghostscape – Approx 24″ x 24″ – is available for sale for $300.00.  Reach out to me at JEdwardNeill@DownTheDarkPath.com if you’re an interested buyer.

Love,

J Edward Neill

Author of novels A Door Never Dreamed Of and The Hecatomb

Art Show: Jordan Con 2016 Tomorrow!

JordanCon 2016

It’s time once again for JordanCon! I’ve been consumed lately preparing for the Art Show. Consumed. I got behind earlier in the year when I was working on a painting for a secret project. I still can’t share that painting and it’s slowly killing me inside. Ha! But attendees at JordanCon will get a sneak peek if they buy one of my prints or an original from my bay. A crop of the painting is on the backside of my new business cards! I will be carrying some business cards on me too, if you’re brave enough to come up to me.

This year is a little different than last. I’m officially a Guest of the convention. Just a small guest, but a guest. Yay!! Saturday morning, attendees should head to the Washington room, across from the Art Show. At 11:30 a.m. four artists, including myself, will be playing Win, Lose or Draw. I promise you it will be hilarious.

Win, Lose or Draw at JordanCon

You can see almost all of the art I’m bringing to JordanCon in this public Facebook Gallery – JordanCon Art Show. I’ve pointed out which pieces will have prints in the print shop too. As always, I’m open to talking about my pieces if anyone is curious about my process and inspiration.

I’m heading out today around 5 p.m. for Atlanta. See you soon JordanCon!

Daydreams and Wanderings Anniversary

Daydreams and Wanderings

Friday, on April Fools Day no less, was the one year anniversary for the day my sketchbook funded on Kickstarter.  It was an experience I’ll never forget. The months afterward were just as exciting too. Holding my book’s proof in my hands. Opening my box of beautiful little books. Working on the sketches for my Kickstarter backers.

Daydreams and Wanderings Sketchbook

To celebrate the anniversary of my Kickstarter success I’m offering the remaining copies of my book for the early bird price of $15–originally only available during the Kickstarter last year. So if you missed out on my campaign, or want a second copy to gift to a friend, take advantage of this sale price. The sale runs till April 5th.

BUY YOUR COPY TODAY!

Here’s a look inside…

Pencils, Paint, and Pain – Tyrants of the Dead Art

It was long and difficult journey to publish my first three fantasy books.

I spent ten years writing them…then another two years in rewrites.

Along the way, I created and commissioned a ton of art for the series. Some of it was inspirational. Other pieces were meant as cover art, and still others for marketing.

Today I’ve brought a ton of it together. Think of this as a unified sketchbook. It includes pieces by the elegant Amanda Makepeace, the gifted Eileen Herron, and the super savvy Damonza.

Please enjoy the art of my Tyrants of the Dead series, which includes the novels Down the Dark Path, Dark Moon Daughter, and Nether Kingdom:

Ur Orig Sketch

Let’s start with a dirty little sketch I did. I sent it to Amanda Makepeace to aid her creation of Nether Kingdom’s cover art. You’ll see in the next pic how she took my humble idea and made it grand.

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Makepeace_DevourerofStars-500x358

Lady Makepeace’s full cover art for Nether Kingdom. This demonic dude is one of the Ur, the primary villains in the series. His skin is shadow, and his insides glow with starlight.

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Sarco

Here’s another bad, bad creature. This full-color piece was Eileen Herron’s vision of a Sarcophage (undead knight) who plagues the pages of book two in the series, Dark Moon Daughter. It’s one of my favorites.

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Dark Moon Daughter Createspace Kindle Front Cover LARGE

What’s this? Why, it’s the original Eileen Herron cover art for Dark Moon Daughter. I commissioned a full-scale painting, which still hangs in my bedroom to this day. Ultimately we went with something edgier and darker for the final cover, but I still love this piece.

 

DMD Warlock Image

This guy (in the lower right of the full painting above) is the only existing image of the malevolent Warlock. Ironically he was modeled after Eileen’s husband, who’s pretty much the opposite of evil.

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The Underhollows

Here’s a painting I did in 2015. I named it the Underhollows. It doesn’t appear in the books, but is meant to show what the world would look like if the villains won.

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Dark Moon Nether Kingdom Concept Dark Moon Daughter Interior Cover Art Cropped

Two Eileen Herron sketches of Andelusia, the series’ heroine.

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 IllyocHere’s a huge canvas painting I did called ‘Illyoc.’ It’s a bit abstract, I admit. It’s a view of the dark stronghold Malog, as seen from a balcony.

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NetherKingdomSKetchFUllCover

A conceptual piece Amanda Makepeace did. You can see how it’s the beginning of the Nether Kingdom cover. Pretty ghostly, yeah?

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Ur-Shadow-Sketch-390x500

Kinda looks like the killer from the Scream movies, yeah? It’s actually the first ever sketch of the Ur. Another Eileen Herron piece. Nice and creepy.

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Ande Cover 2 (GIMP)  Ande Full Body

These are shots of Eileen Herron’s original cover art for Down the Dark Path. Once again, she painted a large canvas for me which still hangs on my wall. The redhead is pre-darkness Andelusia. The guy with the flaming sword is Garrett Croft. The big red spiky ball was the concept for the evil Soul Orb. I love this painting. But as it turns out, it didn’t photograph well for the final cover. Check out the lone black lock of Ande’s hair. Hint…hint…

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Dark-Andelusia-Landing

Another Eileen Herron sketch of Andelusia. This is our heroine gliding out of the shadows. It’s a simple little drawing, but I’ve always been in love with it.

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Ande J Sketch Ande sketch DMD Ande11 Ande33

Early sketches of Andelusia by me (top left) Amanda Makepeace (top right) and Eileen Herron (bottom.)

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DepthsofUndergrave1md

A promo digital painting of Andelusia by Amanda Makepeace.

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BizCardBack

Here’s what the Soul Orb ended up becoming. This is just a sliver of Lady Makepeace’s cover work for Book I. And yes…those are bones!

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1 2 3 4

You’ve probably seen these before. I post them all the time. Book I is Amanda’s full cover art. The other three are paintings I did in 2015. The original canvas for Book II (Ghost Tree) ended up being a Christmas gift for a family member. The other two still hang on my wall at home. The painting for Book IV (Ocean of Knives) is epic-level huge, measuring in at 36″ x 48″. It took a month to paint!

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Dark_Moon_Daughter-InitialCover

 

This one was done by online professional, Damonza. He custom-did the entire thing based on a photograph of a woman I was dating at the time. That’s post-darkness Andelusia, and the eyes in the background belong to the Ur. This one is a fan favorite, probably because it’s so damn sexy.

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*furyonhoriz

Eileen Herron’s art for Down the Dark Path…the bookmark. That’s a Furyon knight, fully armored and standing in a storm. It’s a badass piece. I wish I could’ve found a way to make it work for a book cover. Maybe someday…

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 DarkMoonDaughterBackCoverFinalCreatespace

 This was the original back cover for Dark Moon Daughter, which I nixed after Damonza finished his sexy cover. This was my first ever attempt at making a back cover by myself. It’s not horrible (but not good, either.)

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The Emperors Vision

 Here’s The Emperor’s Vision, a painting I did in 2015. You can probably see the similarity to Book IV’s cover art. This is meant to be the dark city of Morellellus, in which the very first passages of Down the Dark Path open. It’s still one of my favorites. It was among the very first things I painted for the series.

Ocean 6

Finally, I did a piece called Ocean of Knives. It’s an expansion of The Emperor’s Vision. Same city, same concept, but four times the canvas space.  This painting would quickly become the cover art for Down the Dark Path – Book IV in the mini-series.

Also, here’s a bunch of sketches I did wayyyyy back in the day.

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I hope you enjoyed this glimpse behind the scenes.

Love,

J Edward Neill

Are you an artist, a writer, or just a badass with words to say?

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, Fridays, 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 the contact link. Or send an email here.

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

 

Petite Works Group Show Walk-through

My painting Bone Magic is currently in a group show at Eight and Sand Gallery in Seattle. It’s a little show, for little works of art. Take a look!

Petite Works Group show Eight and Sand Gallery in Georgetown Seattle.

A video posted by Alexandria Sandlin (@cherrybonesalex) on

Petite Works Group ShowBone Magic is a 4×5 acrylic painting on Arches Watercolor board. The painting has been sealed with a gloss varnish. I attached an actual vertebrae from my personal collection to the solid wood frame.

The exhibit runs till April 1st.

Bone Magic Frame

Inside one Artist’s Mind

Warning!

This blog post may disturb you or in the very least make you question the author’s sanity.

 

On any given day there are a multitude of random thoughts and questions that pass through my mind. This is but a glimpse.

  • Is that a hawk or a vulture? Vulture.
  • I want one of those for the studio.
  • I NEED that for my studio.
  • What would people think if I started collecting roadkill?
  • Coffee. Coffee. Coffee.
  • Ugh, this painting sucks.
  • I need to draw more skulls.
Not roadkill--found under my bushes.

Not roadkill–found under my bushes.

  • I should paint a skull.
  • I need to find more bones.
  • Will I ever find a shed antler?
  • Tea. Tea. Tea.
  • This painting isn’t looking so bad now.

Some of my collection

  • I really want to find a crow feather.
  • I love this painting. I bet everyone will hate it.
  • Should I cover my gray hair? Who cares!
  • Is this a coyote track?
  • I wish I could take this mini skeleton home with me.
Mini Skeleton

3 ft. Skeleton seen in my Rhuematologist’s Office

 

  • I should organize my _____ .
  • I love this paper. I need to buy it all.
  • I wish I could back this Kickstarter.
  • I wish I could attend _____ convention.
  • I should save this small scrap of paper. I might use it for something.
  • I should save ______, I might use it for something.

These aren’t the only things that cross my mind, but they are some of the most reoccurring thoughts I have. I have folders on my computer filled with photos of bones. Not long ago I was keeping some bones in my jewelry box. Okay. I’m going to go refill my coffee now.

www.amandamakepeace.com

Watch me Draw

I don’t have much to say lately… So instead of me rambling about nothing of great importance, you can watch me draw a Red-wing Blackbird.

This drawing was my piece for this month’s #BirdWhisperer project. Red-Wing measures 9 x 9 inches, graphite and color pencil on Bristol paper. He has a new home in New York.

One dead. Every night. Forever.

Let’s keep 2016 cold.

Nah. Let’s keep it chilling.

Introducing the cover art for my novella, The Hecatomb.

TheHecatombWeb

Hecatomb (n) – an extensive loss of life for some cause…

The Hecatomb contains four spooky short stories, including fan favorites Let the Bodies and Old Man of Tessera.

The stories are all set in the same world.

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

TheHecatombWebBack

The Hecatomb is now available for Kindles and in a deep, dark softcover!

Special thanks to Amanda Makepeace for helping me put my original painting into print.

See you soon…

J Edward Neill

Cats in the Studio – Revisited

Life is never boring with cats in the studio…

Drusilla is a very paws on cat in the studio. She likes to be involved in my creative process every step of the way.

It’s not all mischief and mayhem though, there’s plenty of quiet moments too. This may look like adoration, but she could easily be taking a moment to ponder her next move.

Adoration or Plotting?

What should I do next?

Hunter is more reserved, a silent stalker type. Thus, there’s less photographic evidence… But he’s here. Watching. Waiting. Always.

Take a look at the first installment of Cats in the Studio.