Work in Progress: Her Last Breath

Her Last Breath Sketch

Final Sketch

I’ve slowly begun work on a new painting, tentatively titled Her Last Breath. When I begin a new painting project there are often keywords and phrases I’ll keep close by while I work. They help me visualize and focus on the idea behind the painting and the mood of the scene. I don’t usually share these thoughts with anyone, but as I’m moving toward a more defined direction with my art, I thought it might help the viewer to understand the unspoken story.

This is what I have tacked to the cork board above my desk:

Last Breath – Transformation – Becoming

She wears an ouroboros. The earth, roots and soil, are accepting her into the fold. Flowers sprout from her hair. She is leaving her human life to become a guardian. Her last breath drifts from her lips, warm against the cold air. Blood seeps from one nostril. Her skin pales but her eyes are vibrant. She is becoming.

Last Breath First Layers

The first layers of paint. (cropped)

The first layers of paint are in place. Now the fun begins! Follow me on Instagram for more progress shots.

Creative Interview With Comic Book Artist Sean D. Hill

Continuing in our creative interview series, next up to bat is comic book artist/ fine art illustrator Sean D. Hill. Sean is the talented artist behind the pencils/ inks of “Route 3”, ” “Jaycen Wise And The Secret of The Rose” and is the current penciller on Zenescope Entertainment’s critically acclaimed “Dark Shaman”. Let’s get things rolling!

Tell us about yourself, where you’re from and any training you’ve had in the visual arts, comics medium.

Well I’m from Washington DC, born and raised. As far as training goes my grandfather began showing me stuff from an early age. After that, when I was in 4th grade, I was introduced to an artist named Kofi Tyus.

Sean Hill's "Lineage"

Sean Hill’s “Lineage”

Kofi quickly become my mentor and I even got my first sketchbook from him. As I got older I went to an arts high school called the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, where my major was Visual Arts or VA as they called it. I had great teachers like Bill Harris, Cathy Cann, Mel Davis to name a few. I always wanted to be a comic book artist ever since the Spike Lee Levi’s commercial featuring Rob Liefeld.

I pretty much stuck to fine art until I started dating my wife, and she was going for a Media Arts and Animation major. I learned everything I know about comic illustration and storytelling from her and the classes I would sit in with her.

What is the first thing you remember drawing?

The first thing I vaguely remember drawing was KITT and Michael Knight from “Knight Rider”. I was obsessed with that show as a kid. I would show the pictures to Grandpa and he would tell me what I had to work on and then I would get excited to redraw it again because I’d learned something new.

A page of Sean Hill's work from Zenescope Entertainment's "Dark Shaman"

A page of Sean Hill’s work from Zenescope Entertainment’s “Dark Shaman”

Can you tell us a little about your process and your choice of medium?

I work mostly digital nowadays. I use Manga Studio 5 for my software and I draw on a Yiynova MSP19U, which is a screen that I draw directly on, which is  similar to a Cintiq.

I still do stuff traditionally though when I get the itch. My favorite traditional tools are my Pentel Brush pen that I never leave home without , and I love my Zebra G Pen nibs. The best Bristol I have ever used is still the 500 series Stathmore Smooth 4ply. It’s great stuff.

A page of Sean Hill's work from Zenescope Entertainment's "Dark Shaman"

A page of Sean Hill’s work from Zenescope Entertainment’s “Dark Shaman”

Are there subjects you find yourself drawn to again and again in your art? Are there any particular artists who inspired you to work in the comic book medium?

The stories I seem drawn to the most are ones with a lot of character development and a lot of action. I love stories that take in the aspects of blockbuster films also.  The artists who inspire me are numerous, though ones I think mentioning are Mshindo Kuumba, Ivan Ries, Lewis La Rosa, Brian Hitch, and Jason Fabok. It’s a pretty long list.

What are you working on now? Where can we go to view/purchase your work?

Right now I am working on the final issue of Zenescope Entertainment’s “Dark Shaman” mini series. It’s a story steeped in a lot of Timaucuan Native American lore which I love. You can order the books from your local comic shop if they don’t have them on the shelves already, or through the digital comic book distributor, Comixology.

I am also very proud of the work I have done on “Route 3” for Terminus Media which is available for digital download on Amazon, and the Comics Plus app.

Sean Hill's "Lineage"

Sean Hill’s “Lineage”

 

You can view all my work at:

www.nazirstudios.blogspot.com

https://m.facebook.com/sean.hill.777?ref=bookmark

http://instagram.com/seandamienhill

Vote in the Infected by Art Volume 3 Contest

It’s time to vote in the Infected by Art Volume 3 Contest! I went back and forth on whether or not I should enter this contest, but in the end I decided, what the hell. What could it hurt? I might be a little bummed if I don’t make the cut, but that will last about a minute and then I’ll be back to painting. There’s always next year. But it’s one of those situations where I decided I need to stop putting things off. I need to stop assuming I’m not ready and just take a chance. Below are there simple steps to take to vote for my entry, Her Domain II.

Step 1: Signup to vote at: http://www.infectedbyart.com/signup.asp

Signup to Vote

Step 2: Follow this link to my entry: http://www.infectedbyart.com/contestgallery.asp?cid=21&gid=9354

My Entry

Step 3: Click on my entry and then click on the green Vote button. That’s it! Voting ends Dec 9th. That’s in three days!

Her Domain II by Amanda Makepeace

 

Thank you!!

amandamakepeace.com

Bookmarks for the Fantasy Artist Part II

I know. I promised this second installment in November, but family time, turkey, unruly cats. . . I just ran out of time. But I’m back with more valuable bookmarks for fantasy artists. If you missed my first post on Informative Blogs, check out Bookmarks for the Fantasy Artist Part I. The bookmarks I’m sharing are from my Digital Art Resources folder; which is made of several more folders. I don’t have the definitive list. These are just the bookmarks I’ve collected so far. This month I’m sharing the contents of my Learning folder.

Learning Bookmarks

I call this my learning folder, but it could also be named Amanda’s eLearning Wishlist. The folder consists of two different types of sites: online schools and video lessons. As you can see from the photo above, I have more video lessons than schools. I haven’t bought these, so I can’t comment/review on their quality, but I probably will buy more than a few of them. Below is my top five from the folder.

Art Camp – Noah Bradley’s Art Camp. I’m giving serious thought to signing up for this 12 week course next year. It’s not cheap, but it’s doable. The only drawback… It begins in late May and ends in late August–the same time I’d be preparing for Dragon Con (if I pass the jury). So, that’s something to consider.

Los Angeles Academy of Figurative Art (Online Courses) – There’s a reason I’ve put LAAFA between Art Camp and SmArt School. Their Fantasy Illustration and Drawing from the Imagination courses are very tempting!

SmArt School – If I won the lottery, I’d sign up for SmArt School as soon as registration opened. It’s another distinguished school and it’s online!! But right now, it’s just not in my budget.

Visual Storytelling with Iain McCaig Vol.1 – This is just one video lesson from Gnomon I have bookmarked. These are very affordable. This one with Iain McCaig will be the first I buy, but first I need to get through the holidays!

CtrlPaint.com Video Library – Free. Absolutely FREE. Matt Kohr has an impressive and valuable library of videos for learning digital painting, fundamentals, and more. And they are all FREE.

There are two links missing from this folder. One is IMC – Illustration Master Class and the second is the TLC Workshops. I recently deleted them because there’s just no way I’m going to be able to attend unless my circumstances change drastically in the near the future. I’d rather focus on what I can do or at least work towards.

What learning resources do you have bookmarked?

amandamakepeace.com

Art I Like, Episode I: Michelangelo’s “David”

have you seen chad

“Have you seen this writer?”

I haven’t written a blog post on here in a LONG time. I can rattle off a litany of excuses: my schedule, my personal life, my daughter, my writing priorities. But the simple fact is I’m not a blogger. I don’t have 2000 words about my life to share every week. I don’t want to keep making lists, giving writing advice, things like that. My brain just doesn’t work that way.

But I still want to contribute. I still want to honor my commitment to my Téssera partners who have done an amazing job of keep this site going. So here’s what I’m going to do. This spot, my Tuesday blog post, is going to become a very simple and short thing called “Art I Like”.

Whenever I can, I’m going to write a short piece about something that inspires / entertains / moves me. Books, comics, TV, movies, video games, poems, and, in the case of this post, actual “art”. These won’t be long posts and I won’t be doing many movies (I talk about movies too much in my day-to-day, plus I may have another outlet for that coming up and don’t want to double-dip) but I will try to keep up. Make some contribution to this venture I have undertaken with three very old friends.

So, without further ado…

ART I LIKE, EPISODE I:

michelangelo-david-statue-006MICHELANGELO’S “DAVID”

Real brave choice, Chad. Starting off with one of the most famous pieces of art in the whole history of art history.

Yeah, well, shut up, Me.

We all know the image. A naked man carved of marble. A sling over his shoulder, looking defiantly at the biblical villain Goliath, ready for battle. It’s a widely replicated, referenced, and lampooned images in art. And what’s the big deal? It’s just a statue of a naked dude.

Itchy_&_Scratchy_&_Marge_96At least that’s what I thought.

Until I found myself in Florence standing in front of the real thing.

Sculpted between 1501 and 1504 by a 26 year-old who would centuries later become the namesake of a talking amphibian party dude wielding nunchaku, “David” is the most recognizable piece of Renaissance art this side of the “Mona Lisa” (which I’ve seen as well and is…well, just like everyone else says… dreadfully underwhelming).

I’m no art historian (not even close) but you can read about its fascinating history here.  All I can really talk about is how it made me feel:

It moved me to tears.

Four years ago my wife and I were doing the Italian tourist’s trifecta: Rome, Florence, Venice. Midway through the trip we hit the Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence, known solely for being the modern-day house of “David”.

Upon drawing close to the statue, which is at the end of a hallway lined with other aborted and half-formed Michelangelo sculptures…

David_by_Michelangelo_in_The_Gallery_of_the_Accademia_di_Belle_Arti…the 17-foot figure loomed closer and closer and when I finally stood in its shadow, only one thought came to my head:

“Do you know how fucking hard that was?”

The sheer level of skill stunned me. To take a block of marble –a shapeless, lifeless hunk of metamorphic rock- and sculpt it into the marvel standing in front of me, it was breathtaking. This was something created over 500 years ago and I don’t think any human living today could replicate it.

So, first and foremost, before observing the beauty of the piece, what hit me hardest was the skill and talent involved in bringing it to life. Not that “David” isn’t beautiful. It truly is. The art world (especially the art of current pop culture) has long been obsessed with capturing the perfect female form (or, in comic books or Barbie dolls or Pamela Anderson, the impossible female form), to see the male body depicted in such meticulous detail and care is refreshing. I know museums are filled with depictions of naked men, but “David”, in all his glory, so to speak, is above and beyond.

The other thing that strikes you about “David” (other than the talent needed to create it) is the emotional complexity Michelangelo brings to the legendary Biblical hero. When looking at the sculpture head-on, the traditional view (yes, the one with his manhood right in front of us), he looks ever the hero, what with all his muscle and his sling, standing up to the monster Goliath. You know the image. It’s on that awful apron that your least-favorite aunt bought you on that Mediterranean cruise she took:

david-apronBut a real perk of seeing the work in person is that you can walk around it. See it from all angles. And if you wander around to the right of the display (to David’s left) and look at his face, he looks frightened. I don’t know how to explain it, but he does. That, while he is willing to stand up to the Philistine giant, he does so with not only defiance and bravery, but with fear and reluctance as well. It is masterful work, being able to depict that kind of nuance in unmoving, unchanging, stone is beyond my comprehension.

I had expected to look at “David” for maybe fifteen minutes but had to be dragged from the building after nearly an hour of just gazing upon its perfection. Never in my life has a piece of art (talking fine art, not movies or books) moved me like that. I’m unsure if it will ever happen again.

Realizing that there was once a man (who was neither turtle nor ninja, but, being Italian, probably did like pizza) capable of bringing such a perfect and complex figure into existence from a chunk of dead minerals using only simple hand tools and his immeasurable talent, was a humbling, inspiring, and awesome (in the proper use of the word) experience, one I will never forget.

michelangelo-sculptures-13I have not done this great work justice. Who could? I only have the clunky English language with which to express myself. It’s like trying to explain the power of La Traviata or the Fifth Symphony or Kubrick’s 2001 with stupid boring words. Can’t be done, even for a (begin sarcasm) world class wordsmith like myself (end sarcasm).

If you ever find yourself in Italy (and I highly recommend that you do at some point), please, between the eating and shopping and eating and sight-seeing and eating, please take the time to visit the Galleria dell’Accademia (make sure to reserve tickets in advance) and gaze upon this masterpiece with your own eyes. I know you think you’ve seen “David”, but you really haven’t. I promise.

Next time I do this (whenever the hell that is; I’m trying folks, I really am) I’ll talk about something more accessible that won’t require a plane ticket and passport to experience. A book, a video game, an album, something. I don’t know what. I’m making this up as I go along.

But it might be a about my favorite poem of all time, written by a little-known alcoholic named Edgar.

Shop Art on Small Business Saturday

Shop SmallThis weekend, through Monday night, you can take advantage of some of the best deals of the season in my Etsy shop. Everything is 30% off, including the new Spirit Cards. Plus, if you’ve made a purchase from my Etsy shop in the past every purchase comes with a coupon code. This special thank you coupon will give you an extra $5 off your order. Sale ends late Monday night!

http://makepeacestudios.etsy.com

Turkeys and Dinosaurs

Happy Thanksgiving to those celebrating. I know I promised my next “bookmarks” blog post, but I decided to hold off till next week. Instead you get Dinotopia creator James Gurney talking about dinosaurs and birds. Think about that while you munch on your turkey leg today.

One Fantastic Week

One Fantastic Week

 

I’ve been featured this week on One Fantastic Week, a weekly web show run by Sam Flegal and Pete Mohrbacher. Each week, Sam and Pete (and a guest artist) talk about life as a self-employed artist, illustration, game art, conventions and more. Once a month they interview one of their supporters, old school, with a post on their website.

Check out my interview on 1FW!

A Jumble of Bones

skelly 

Dear Santa,

I’ve been a lousy kid. I haven’t been particularly good this year. Or productive. Or nice. I’d apologize, but I wouldn’t really mean it.

Can I have a few presents anyway? Pretty please?

This week’s entry is a mixed bag (of bones.) I’m starting if off with my private Christmas list. Mind you, I’m not actually expecting Santa to bring me any of this stuff. But perhaps if I write it down, you’ll read it and commiserate that you’re probably not getting anything cool either:

My list:

XBox 360 Version of Dragon Age: Inquisition (Origins rocked. The first sequel sucked. I wouldn’t have time to play it anyway. But hell…)

Several free nights at the movies. So I can see Nightcrawler, Horrible Bosses 2, Gone Girl, St. Vincent, and yes…even Mockingjay.

A new pair of MMA gloves. Because my old pair is ruined…and even writers need to beat the bejeezus out of things now and then.

 

Moving right along…

I’ve decided to do a little experiment with one of my short stories.  As of today, my popular short Old Man of Tessera goes up on Smashwords with a ‘pay whatever you like’ option. That means if you want to pay $0.00, you can pay $0.00, and I’m fine with it. If you feel like a few thousand words is worth $1.63, boom! you can pay exactly $1.63. It’s a neat-o option. Frankly I don’t care if I sell five hundred copies at $0.01. At this point, it’s all about getting my words in your face.

oldmantesseracover1sm

Click me. Buy me. $0.01 or $100,000.00…it’s your call.

Speaking of books…

In the last week, the cover art for Nether Kingdom – final book in the Tyrants of the Dead series – arrived on my doorstep. Graven out of the shadows by resident artist Amanda Makepeace, it’s the penultimate piece for the conclusion of my dark fantasy trilogy. I’ve showed fragments of it here and there already, and while I’m not yet prepared for the big reveal, I will offer a new glimpse today. That, and the promise of this cover being pretty much everything my dark little heart desires.

Ur Hand

The Ur…clutching hearts and seizing dreams since humanity dared its first breath.

The Ur appear throughout the Tyrants’ series (as well as in numerous other creative iterations of mine.) In the upcoming Nether Kingdom, they’ll make a final move to rebuild their haunted civilization atop the ruin of mankind. Someday I’ll write a short explaining how I dreamed the Ur in the first place. In the meantime, I can hardly wait to finish NK and get it out for everyone to see. It’ll be at least five minutes of bliss before I sit right back down and begin working on their origin story – Darkness Between the Stars.

Thus, as hoped for, the Jumble of Bones comes to an end.

Catch you later,

J Edward Neill

Author of the Tyrants of the Dead dark fantasy trilogy

Co -Author of Hollow Empire – Night of Knives

Down the Dark Path

Trying New Things

When I eat out, whether it’s Italian, Chinese, or Mexican, I usually get the same dish each time. I like what I like. That’s not to say I don’t ever try something new. When it comes to artists, we tend to associate a certain style or even themes with specific artists. Some artists are known for their dragons, some for their landscapes, etc. Artists who develop a unique voice in their art are recognizable from across a room. How does one find that voice? Time, practice, passion, and exploration. Trying new things, exploring, is essential to expanding our minds and skills as a creative individual. If you only paint or draw one thing, how can you evolve?

I consider myself on the cusp of developing a unified series of paintings. I’m not going to say I’ve found my voice–that’s for someone else to decide. But I am discovering what makes my heart pound a little harder. I feel as if I’m finally moving toward my goal. Then I go and paint this… Why?

Sunward Bound by Amanda MakepeaceI’ve never painted an airship. This shouldn’t be surprising. I’ve never had any desire to paint anything mechanized. Emotion and intuition are huge aspects of my process. When I think about painting a car or spacecraft I feel like I’m looking at a tax return form. Nature, magic, organic, tied to the earth–these things are in my veins. But it’s good to try new things. . . right? Yes!

This small painting challenged me to think in new ways. My brain and my muse fought me the entire way but I did it. I think no matter what stage you’re at with your art, it’s important to explore new themes, techniques and mediums. We need to flex those creative neurons. That doesn’t mean every experiment must be a masterpiece. But every experiment will help us grow and teach us something new. The journey is one part of developing that unique voice, of becoming.

Creative Interview with Fantasy Artist Angela R. Sasser

Welcome to the first creative interview at Tessera. Each month we’ll be interviewing creative individuals following their passion in art, illustration, writing, comics and more. This month we have artist Angela R. Sasser. We’ve not met in person, but we were both in the Dragon Con 2014 Art Show. Thank you for joining us today, Angela!

Dreaming Butterfly by Angela R Sasser

Dreaming Butterfly by Angela R Sasser

Tell us about yourself, where you’re from and any training you’ve had in the visual arts.

I’m a military brat whose dad was in the Army, so I’m from everywhere! We moved every two years of my childhood, just about. If I had to pick a ‘home’, it’d be North Carolina where I spent the majority of my childhood. I currently reside in Atlanta, Georgia where I work out of the 2nd bedroom of an apartment which we’ve turned into a studio.

I’ve had formal training as a Studio Arts major at the University of West Georgia where I learned a lot about figure drawing and using traditional media. The rest where digital art is concerned is all self-taught. I’ve been extending my education with classes like Painting Drama from the Oatley Academy and Proko’s Figure Drawing Fundamentals course. Fun fact, I also was a double major in English and have a masters in Arts Administration. My training and interests are pretty varied!

What is the first thing you remember drawing or painting?

I was an avid colorist as a child. I colored anything and everything and had a massive coloring book collection (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Transformers, He-man, you name it!). I imagine a Lady Lovely Locks or She-Ra coloring book was the first thing that I colored! And if coloring doesn’t count, the first thing I ever drew was probably a unicorn. I had quite the intense unicorn/horse phase as a child and used to write and draw my own stories about them anywhere that I could!

The Lotus Eater by Angela R Sasser

The Lotus Eater by Angela R Sasser

Can you tell us a little about your process and your choice of medium?

I’m not picky as far as medium, I use whatever helps me best tell the story. Some of my favorite media combinations include watercolor with color pencil detailing, ink lines with watercolor coloration, and even digital, which I’m actually doing a lot more of these days. I’m planning to experiment with new ways to combine traditional and digital, perhaps by doing graphite images first with digital coloration on top to help me preserve the texture of traditional art which is so delicious.

Kushiel's Dart by Angela R Sasser

Kushiel’s Dart by Angela R Sasser

Are there themes and/or subjects you find yourself drawn to again and again in your art?

My art has been in flux lately! I did quite a lot of angels and softer watercolor work for my Angelic Visions howto art book, but I’m currently moving towards more darker folklore and character-driven work. I find myself drawn to subjects that combine beauty with an edge of darkness. I want to create the kind of imagery that stays in the backs of your eyelids long after you’re done looking at it.

Keeper of Secrets by Angela R Sasser

Keeper of Secrets by Angela R Sasser

What are you working on now? Where can we go to view/purchase your work?

I’m currently working on images for a book cover portfolio to turn into some of my favorite fantasy publishers (ie. Tor, Wizards of the Coast, etc.) I’m also beginning to explore my own written worlds with illustrations of my characters and stories, which is something I have been wanting to do for years, but never felt I had the skill to do in the past. Oathbound emerged from this exploration of my own worlds.

Oathbound by Angela R Sasser

Oathbound by Angela R Sasser

You can find more of my fantasy work at www.angelasasser.com and more of my Art Nouveau work at www.angelicshades.com.

And if you like masks, I also create original leather crafted masks and accessories over at www.angelicartisan.com.

Why no one should ever become a writer

Write well.

Write often.

But never write for more than a hobby.

 

DemJBones It’s a saying I made up ages ago. And now I believe it more than ever. And yes, I know. It sounds hypocritical. I don’t apply the saying to myself. I’m just trying to help the rest of the world. As in you.

I remember the way life used to be. It was…oh…maybe fifteen years ago. I was a young buck, full of fire. My nights were free, my weekends wide-open, and my creativity shoved aside in favor of endless nights out on the town, countless hours of playing awesome video games, and *gasp* having actual friends I got to see more than twice per year. In retrospect, I was like a three-legged dog: clumsy, happy, and completely unaware of my missing limb. Those were probably the best years of my life. I say probably. I mean definitely.

And then one day I decided to write a book.

It was an innocent choice. At twenty-five years old, I never thought I’d finish one book, let alone twenty. I figured I’d try, fail, try again, and then wander away from it like I had so many other hobbies.

Wrong.

Speaking of hobbies, here’s a pile of hobbies you should consider rather than entertain even the vaguest notion of writing: playing guitar, painting, running, acting, watching tv, drawing, playing sports, cooking, baking, foodie-ing, collecting, gardening, eating, dating, breathing, jumping, fighting, counting toothpicks, rocket engineering, and running for president.  

Today, one-hundred and fifty thousand years removed from my decision to write, I realize there’s no going back. Ever. Never. I hear about other folks’ hobby and career choices. “Engineer,” they tell me. “Teacher. Taxi Driver. Lobbyist. Mortician.” And I realize that for every hour of the night they spend fretting over their jobs/lives, writers spend quintuple. A steel worker hurts, a teacher grades homework after school, a grocer frets about bills, but me, I live and die a thousand times every night. My dark little hearts soars with one sentence scratched out, and crumbles to dust with the next. I dream a new story in the night, and realize the next morning I’ll never live nearly long enough to write it.

Mind you, I’m not complaining about my choices. I’m merely suggesting a different career path for you. And for the readers, perhaps giving a glimpse of my envy. You feel me, right?

BoneMountain

That’s me standing atop a mountain of my own dead ideas.

When I wake at dawn of every day, my first thought is of writing.

When I sleep, I dream not of falling, fighting, or flying, but of tales beyond my ability to put into words.

When I go the park, I can’t just walk and be at peace. I see stories living in every tree, lurking behind every cloud, and wilting in every flower.

In a way, it’s a sort of madness. I could live for eons and never get it all out. I could fill every sheaf of paper in the world…and find it lacking.

The hardest part is the time invested. You’ll never get it back. Instead of existing in the living, breathing world (which is where you should be) writers are lost in the corridors of their minds. It’s fun to write a blog, cute to polish up a magazine article, and masterful to punch out a short story. But then the next idea comes…and the next…and the next. And before you know it, you’re lost in it. Your friends have forgotten you, your nights are lonely, and your significant other thinks you’re a ghost (because you are.) Domesticity and relationships don’t gel with writers’ self-haunting. Doubting the truth? Google the lives of some of the more famous novelists: Kurt Vonnegut, Ernest Hemingway, Charles Dickens, f’n Kurt Cobain.

See? Told you.

And the most f’d up part about it all? The catch-22? The double-reverse hypocrisy of the whole thing? …none of them would’ve ever had it another way.

And neither would I.

So I’m suggesting to you and any loved ones you know who are contemplating joining the club:

Think twice. You’ll thank me later.

If you’re curious, all my madness is stored right here.

Love,

J Edward Neill

Ravens and Owls for your Walls

Stone of Knowing II Framed

Love birds? Drawn to mysterious ravens and elusive owls? You’re in luck. I have two framed original mixed media paintings available to purchase. Stone of Knowing II (above) was last seen in the Dragon Con 2014 Art Show. The 16 x 20 inch painting features Odin’s ravens, Huginn and Muninn, discovering a magical relic, a stone of knowing.

Fly Fast II Framed The second painting, also from Dragon Con 2014, is Fly Fast II (11 x 14 inches). Who doesn’t love Barn Owls? These barn owls are messengers, flying fast into the fading light, to warn the next village the dragons are coming.

Both paintings are ready to hang with wire on the back. If you live in the US, make me an offer. I might say, yes!

You can get in touch with me at makepeace.arts@gmail.com. Mention the painting you’re interested in purchasing in the Subject line. Also, be sure to let me know you saw this post.

http://amandamakepeace.com
@amandamakepeace

Notes from my Nightstand

If you read my post last week, you know I have full schedule at the moment. Even so, I find time to read. Reading is my pre-sleep ritual. It’s how I wind down. Here’s what I’ve read over the last couple months and also what I’m reading now.

Books

The Martian by Andy WeirThe Martian by Andy Weir (Kindle)

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first men to walk on the surface of Mars. Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first man to die there.

The astronomy lover in me and young girl who grew up with a NASA cousin devoured this book. I can’t recall the last science rich novel I read. It was a treat! The Martian wasn’t all science though. There was plenty of tension, but Watney’s humor helped keep things balanced. The ending may not have been much of a surprise, but I was still gripping my Kindle till the end.

The book is already being adapted for film. Matt Damon is playing Watney. I’m not so keen on this choice and now that I’ve read the book, I’m not sure I even have a desire to see it as a movie. I already know what’s going to happen!

The Genome by Sergei LukyanekoThe Genome by Sergei Lukyanenko (Kindle eARC)

Five months after the horrific accident that left him near death and worried that he’d never fly again, master-pilot Alex Romanov lands a new job: captaining the sleek passenger vessel Mirror.  Alex is a spesh—a human who has been genetically modified to perform particular tasks.

More Science Fiction! This time from one of my favorite authors, Sergei Lukyanenko, author of the Night Watch series. The Genome was not what I expected but I still enjoyed the story. Reading translated works is sometimes a challenge. Translations can alter the original flow of a sentence or a scene, but I was able to overlook that here. What I enjoy most from Lukyanenko’s novels are his characters. The Genome is a quicky SciFi novel that weaves a galactic mystery (there’s a Sherlock Holmes spesh!).

 

What to read next… I’m never without options on my Kindle or even the bookshelves in my room. The top three books in my Kindle are: Beyond the Gate (featuring a story by Tessera’s John R McGuire), Engraved on the Eye by Saldin Ahmed, and The Imago Sequence by Laird Barron. All of these are short story collections.

Comics

My current pull list at my local comic shop features:

 

 Art Related

Fantasy IllustratorI always have art related reading materials close at hand, though they are not usually my first choice for bedtime reading. My newest purchase is the latest installment of Fantasy Illustrator from ImagineFX. This is the traditional media edition (pencil, oils, acrylics and more). I have never bought an issue of ImagineFX that didn’t teach me something. These magazines are worth every bit of that $17.99 (and more for the big issues).

It’s the Little Things

Hunter and DrusillaLife in the Makepeace clan is better than where it was a month ago, but not where I’d like it yet. This means I’m still following Hunter to the litter box room, just not quite as often, to ensure things are going smoothly (<- worse pun ever). It also means life is slowly returning to normal. Hunter has begun playing with Drusilla. He hasn’t felt like playing for over a month. Our frisky, lovable boy is making a comeback.

This is when reality taps me on the shoulder. It’s November. Two months have passed since Dragon Con. On the outside, I’m pushing forward, getting things done. On the inside, I’m slightly panicked and a little weary. What have been doing all this time besides caring for Hunter?

  • Working on a big commission (it’s in the final stages)
  • I put together a GoFundMe campaign to help with Hunter’s Vet bills.
  • I’ve been sketching pets as part of the GoFundMe campaign.
  • Helped my daughter put together a portfolio and helped her prepare for an interview for the Governor’s Honors Program.
  • I helped reseed our backyard and then managed the daily watering of baby grass.
  • I blogged for Tessera weekly.
  • I blogged twice weekly here.
  • I tried to blog weekly here.
  • I blogged monthly here.
  • Posting daily here.
  • I create the exhibit banners each month here.
  • Shipping orders from my Etsy shop.
  • Photographing my framed originals from Dragon Con.
  • Planning next year’s conventions. I’m going to be the Jordan Con Art Show!
  • Planning my next painting projects.
  • Revamping my website because it wouldn’t behave.
  • Catching up on every episode of One Fantastic Week.
  • I escaped from a room with a zombie. Seriously.

Should I go on? I could probably add more to this list… You get the idea. Some of these things are stress relievers and others are a bit draining. One turned out to be just what I needed. My creative friend Jane Gould was one of the generous contributors to my GoFundMe Campaign. Jane doesn’t have a pet, so she let me have free reign. However, she did plant a seed–dragon eye.

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Thanks for lifting my spirits, Jane! The little things are often the best remedy.

Bookmarks for the Fantasy Artist Part I

I’m a tab collector. As of this minute I have twenty-seven tabs open in Google Chrome (including this one). They range from Kickstarter campaigns to Art Show info for various conventions. Some of these tabs have been open for more than week because they need somewhat immediate attention and I don’t want them to get lost in my bookmarks. Others I will bookmark for later. I have a lot of bookmarks, more like a museum worth. I imagine I’m not the only creative person with a bookmarks folder like this one–folders within folders.

My Library of Bookmarks

 

Yeah. I might have a problem. At least it’s organized (for the most part). I thought I’d share some of my most valuable bookmarks in an on going (no where near regular) blog series. For this first post I’m going to share one of my smaller folders.

Informative BlogsInformative Blogs

I don’t follow a lot of Art or Fantasy/SciFi Illustration blogs. If I followed all of them I’d spend all my time reading blogs instead of painting. Some of these I’m subscribed to and others I rely on either myself to check them or Facebook to let me know there’s new content. Two of the sites I have bookmarked are open in my browser tabs right now.

The ArtOrder – Jon Schindehette’s fab website. “ArtOrder is a community of artists dedicated to the education and mentoring of the art community.”

His blog posts cover creativity, portfolio tips, business guides for artists, illustration goodies and more. He also conducts challenges/contests. That’s how my little phoenix painting ended up at Spectrum Fantastic Art Live this year.

One Fantastic Week – A weekly web show hosted by Sam Flegal and Pete Morhbacher.

Most weeks they have a guest artist that joins them in talking about fantasy illustration, conventions, marketing, and of course, their week. I’ve been catching up on the previous episodes and learning a ton! I’ve also started blocking out one hour on Tuesday mornings to watch the show live.

******

The other websites in that folder are just as information, but I’m going to leave that up to you to discover.

Muddy Colors – There’s an incredible Game of Thrones painting in today’s post.

Kelley McMorris – Kelley’s blog has supplied me with many excellent convention tips.

Gurney Journey – Doesn’t this need an explanation? It’s James Gurney’s blog. The creator of Dinotopia!

PACT – Professional Artist Client Tookit. This is a subscription site, but they do have free articles you can read.

CtrlPaint.com – I’ve mentioned this site in the past because of the amazing video library, but the blog is a great too!

Kiri Østergaard Leonard – If I was a better blogger my own blog would look more like Kiri’s. I’ve gleamed some valuable information from her posts.

As I mentioned, I can’t read all the blogs. But I do sometimes wonder, am I missing out? Is there a blog I should add to this folder? If you know of one, share it in the comments!

amandamakepeace.com

 

Whatnot and more Whatnot

The last week and a half has been exhausting. I feel like I’ve traveled through the Hell Mouth and back. After four days of trying to avoid a serious situation, things were pushed to the brink. I rushed my cat Hunter to the Vet at 11 p.m last Thursday night. I have the best Vet in world, one of those exceptionally caring individuals. He gave me is cell phone number and said call at any hour. When I called he was in bed, but got up, dressed and met us at his practice. Hunter came home on Monday night and he’s doing better, not 100% but getting there. I’m nowhere near 100% but I keep pushing ahead nonetheless, except when it came to this blog post. I had planned to put together a post on books with monsters, something fun for October, but I just stared at the screen. Not this week. Maybe next week, or the week after, but I can’t do it now. Instead, you get this random post about whatnot.

whatnot

used to not give the names of everything
Put your pot, the corpse and whatnot in the back of the car.
by eugenie March 01, 2004

*******

The example! I won’t be sharing anything about corpses in my whatnot post. The best I can do is share this photo I took of the cemetery in my front yard. 😀

My Halloween Cemetery

What else? I’m reading a digital ARC of a new (new to the US) book by Sergei Lukyanenko (author of the Night Watch series), originally titled Геном. His characters are always wonderfully complicated on the outside, but down-to-earth on the inside. I’m over 50% of the way through the book but I’ve been too tired to read the last two nights. 🙁

The Genome by Sergei Lukyanenko

Cats make superb pirates. All Hunter needs is a pirate hat and a hook.

Hunter the Pirate

I have two Etsy coupon codes running till November 1st. Trick or Treat, you choose.

Trick or Treat

Oh, and I did this… You can too. Just click on the link in the lower right of the image.

http://amandamakepeace.com

http://makepeacestudios.etsy.com

Life, Art and One Lucky Winner

Giveaway Winner

This morning, before the sun touched the horizon, I was outside looking up at the stars. I’d forgotten how impressive the sky is when you get away from the city and Metro Atlanta. While I admired the beauty before me, a shooting star zipped across my line of sight and I felt like I was 10 years old again. I smiled up at the stars and made a wish. I needed that magic moment. It’s been one of those weeks. If I’m honest, September was one of those months.

I worked very hard all summer preparing for Dragon Con and my hard work paid off. I sold two paintings in my Gallery and more than half of my prints in the Print Shop. I hope I haven’t jinxed myself for next year! Once Dragon Con was over and I could stop pushing myself so hard the true weight of my exhaustion bore into my psyche. Then it was one thing after another. That’s life. Drusilla needed to be spayed. We had a birthday party for my mother, and then in the last days of September, Hunter became ill. He’s on the mend now, I think we are moving in the right direction, but after losing Shadow last year I was overwhelmed. So, it’s not been the best of weeks. You can always tell when I get overwhelmed by my level of social media activity–I begin to drop off the radar.

I’ve been working on a commission, but it’s difficult paint/create anything when I’m emotionally compromised. Some people can work through those times–not me. I think my muse goes into hiding. When that happens I have to coax her back out. One way of doing that is to turn my focus away from the project at hand and paint something else–something small, quick, and spontaneous.

Make a Wish by Amanda Makepeace

Make a Wish by Amanda Makepeace

Make a Wish, painted this morning in Photoshop, inspired by my shooting star, has done the trick. I’m feeling lighter and ready to move forward again.

I suppose I should share the winner of my art print giveaway, right?

Congratulations, Melinda Dalke!! I will be in touch this morning. Melinda is a fellow artist at EBSQ. Check out her Facebook Page: Laughing Paws Art Studio.

Art Print Giveaway!

Almost a year ago, a few of my friends from high school and I decided to team up and create the Tessera Guild. To celebrate, I’ve decided to hold a giveaway here on the blog. One winner gets to choose an 8×10 (or similar dimension) matte print from almost anything I’ve painted over the years.

Art by Amanda Makepeace

 

There are multiple ways to enter via the Google form below. You can pick one or all. The total number of entries possible is five. I’ll be taking entries till October 2nd. On the morning of I will randomly pick a winner and make an announcement here. The winner will be contacted by email and given a link that will let them see the art available to choose a print from–yay! Oh, and this giveaway is open worldwide.

Good luck everyone!

A Day in the Life (GIF Edition)

My fellow guild mates thought a look into my typical day would make for an interesting blog post. Maybe. I wasn’t convinced. What if I put you all to sleep with my boring life? So I decided to spice things up, just a bit.

06:00 – I’m not a morning person. My alarm clock, a.k.a. my iPhone, sounds like an alarm you might hear if a nuclear reactor was in danger of meltdown. It’s the only digital alarm capable of wrenching me out of my slumber into the land of the living, but even then I’m not a happy camper.

Destroy Everything

By this time cats are already at the door in danger of becoming feral if I don’t heed their need for sustenance. Since adopting Drusilla I’ve had to shut my door at night if I want sleep. If I leave it open she pesters me almost nonstop. Her favorite ways to pester include, pawing my face, biting my nose, biting my toes, and burrowing under the blankets to attack my legs. Since she and Hunter have become best friends I don’t feel bad shutting her out and she doesn’t seem to hold it against me (she follows me everywhere).

Demon Cat

06:10 – Coffee is the only thing on my mind. The cats have been fed. The dog has been fed and put outside. Now is Coffee Time – Phase 1. I love coffee and I drink a ton of it, but I wouldn’t say I’m addicted. My coffee intake during Dragon Con was almost nonexistent and I functioned just as as well. On a typical day I drink my coffee out of a large travel mug and I drink 2-4 of those. I like to leisurely drink it throughout the morning, oftentimes when I’m painting or writing blog posts. During Phase 1 I usually check my emails and read the news headlines.

Coffee

06:53 – Coffee Time Phase 1 ends. I go downstairs at this point to make lunch for both my daughter and my mother. Yes. I make my mother’s lunch. I’m a good daughter. But I’ll be honest, it’s not my favorite task of the day especially before I’ve had my full caffeine intake.

Cooking before I've had enough caffeine.

07:45 By now my daughter is on her way to school and my mother has left for her job. I’m still in my pajamas, drinking coffee (Coffee Time Phase 2), and updating various social media sites. It’s a necessary evil but nonetheless draining.

Tumblr

08:30 – 15:00 My creative time is a mixed bag of nuts. Every day is an adventure.

I can paint anything!

I can paint anything.

This isn't working how I imagined.

This isn’t turning out how I imagined it in my head…

Everything I paint is crap!

Everything I paint is crap!

I don't let those negative thoughts stop me.

I don’t let this stop me. Paint, paint, paint!

PerfectMy masterpiece. Muahaha!

Doubt

An hour later…

15:00 I try to switch gears around this time. I have an hour before my daughter arrives home, so I do some typical domestic chores.

Cleaning

18:00 – Before I know it, it’s time for dinner.

khaleesi

20:00 My evenings are spent watching a couple television shows we’ve DVR’d and then I head to bed to read, usually for far too long.

Reading

If you’ve made it this far I salute you!

amandamakepeace.com

Split Bill (My mental vacation)

 Hey. How are you? This’ll be a rare rambling post from me. Apologies in advance.

So. What’s up in the world?  Anything interesting going on? Yeah, I know: ISIS, Ukraine, Ebola, Ray Rice, Jack the Ripper. But let’s get to what’s really important: Hollow Empire – Season 1 – Night of Knives. It’s finished. It’s out. In total, it’ll be six episodes (six chapters each) for $0.99 a pop. There’ll also be a complete e-version and a paperback edition. I co-authored it with this guy here. If you like post-apocalypic medieval fantasy westerns, you’ll like it. If you like deep characters wading through deeper shit, you’ll love it. This lady here did the art. And that’s all I’ll say about it for now.

the_thinker

What I’m doing most days. On a side note: ever notice how ripped the Thinking Man is?

 

Aside from Hollow Empire, I’m struggling a bit.

I’ve stopped dreaming at night, and it’s a problem.

I don’t have writer’s block. Not exactly. What I’ve got is a wandering muse. As in wandering off. I usually pull all of my deliciously dark ideas from the corridors of sleep, but now that my dreams have stopped…well…you see? Thing is; I used to dream all night, every night. Epic space operas, terrifying horror stories, tragic romances, end-of-everything dark fantasies…I had it all bouncing in my head after the lights went out.

But now, there’s nothing. I sleep a solid six every eve, yet my head-movies are gone. The world hasn’t ended just yet; I’m still chin-deep in editing a massive novel, which means I don’t need too much muse for the moment. But it’s fair to say I’m concerned. Worried. Troubled…

mooncloud

See that big dark spot on the moon. Yeah, that one. That’s where my mind needs to be at night.

And that’s why, after Hollow Empire and Nether Kingdom hit the market, I’ll take a little vacation. Not a real vacation on the beach, of course. That’s too much to hope for. I mean a mental vacation. Maybe I’ll play some Halo and some Dragon Age. Maybe I’ll double down on my chin-ups. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll even pick up my ancient Dungeons & Dragons books and stage a few goblin slaughters with some friends. That’s AD&D First Edition, bitches. We keep it old school ’round these parts.

But seriously, I need to start dreaming again, and soon. I have the ideas, but all the flavor and darkness come out at night…while I’m asleep.

Next up, a trio of lists. Read and enjoy:

The Top 4 upcoming video games I’d play if I didn’t have a three-year old

1. Dragon Age: Inquisition (Because it has to be better than the second installment)

2. Destiny

3. Halo 5: Guardians (Because, you know, I still haven’t beaten Halo 4)

4. Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor

My Top 5 fantasy movies of all time
1. Fellowship of the Ring (Sorry, Academy. The first film blew Return of the King out of the water)

2. Willow

3. Legend (Despite Tom Cruise)

4. Animated version of Sleeping Beauty

5. Dragonslayer (The original. Best. Dragon. Ever.)

My Top 3 favorite book covers ever

200px-The_Stand_cover

Dealer

The_Two_Towers_Book_Cover_1965_(Ballantyne)

This week was a jumble of bones. Skulls and ribs and tibias all mixed up. Next week will be more focused…maybe.
Until then,

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

Softcover Edition of Dark Moon Daughter!!

The next few weeks promise to be new-release heaven. 

So let’s get it started with:

Book II in the Tyrants of the Dead trilogy

Sequel to the darkest of all dark fantasy epics

As the enemies of mankind plant the seed for mankind’s end, Andelusia must decide:

Fight them…

…or join them.

Dark Moon Daughter – Alternate Art softcover edition now available (and on sale!) via Amazon:

Dark Moon Daughter New Kindle Cover

And in 2015, the trilogy reaches its terrifying conclusion with Nether Kingdom.

Read on.

J Edward Neill

Dragon Con Highlights

Dragon Con was, as always, hot, crowded and loads of fun. My time was more limited this year by my responsibilities to the Art Show and their programming. I may not have seen everything I wanted to see, but I loved every minute, including my Artist ribbon I proudly wore on my badge. You can read more about my Art Show experiences on my website and see more photos from the convention on Facebook.

John Picacio at Dragon Con 2014Here are my highlights from this year’s convention:

  • I did exceptionally well in the Art Show, especially with it being my first year.
  • I traded hello’s with Walter Koenig on the streets of Atlanta.
  • I stood behind Lou Ferrigno on an escalator in the Hyatt Regency.
  • My panel on Digital Painting was packed!
  • I played Loteria with John Picacio and won the second game.
  • I snagged a pile of free books from SFWA.org.
  • I bought a beautiful sculpture of raven’s skull, that I won’t be able to put on my shelf till Drusilla leaves her maniacal kitten stage behind.
  • I was able to meet up with or at least chat in passing with most of my friends. That’s amazing at an event this large.
  • I made some new artist friends via the Art Show.
  • I heard author Gail Z Martin say this in one of the last panels on Monday: “I don’t think being dead makes you a bad person.”

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.
 

 

* * * * *

 
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.

***

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