Hollow Empire – Episode 5 AND Complete Softcover Edition!

In the aftermath of a horrific plague, the nation of Vhur teeters on utter annihilation. Its cities lie in ruin. Its king hides in his tower. Its people rot in their graves. Surrounded by death and suffering, four survivors struggle to live their separate lives. But the lords of Vhur have different plans in mind for them. For soon must come the Night of Knives.
 
With elegant cover art by Amanda Makepeace

The softcover edition of Hollow Empire – Night of Knives

Complete Season One – Episodes 1-6

HollowEmpireFront1

 

Or pick up Episode 5 – e-version

HollowEmpireEP5

Both available now!

 

All Hallows Book Sale

Autumn…

Halloween…

…my favorite time of the year.

Because I’m crazy, I’ve decided to discount several of my novels. From today until Halloween at midnight, the Kindle and e-versions of Down the Dark Path AND Dark Moon Daughter have been reduced to an epically low price of $0.99 each. Both books are normally $6.99. Yes. I’m out of my mind. I know it.

So for those on the fence about investing in the darkest fantasy series ever, please push over your tombstones, crawl out of your graves, and get some. Here. Now. Today.  

Soul Orb DDP Cover Slightly Brighter

The tale of Andelusia Anderae and the world-ending struggle between Furyon and Graehelm…only $0.99.

Dark Moon Daughter New Kindle Cover

Seeking the source of her budding powers, Andelusia journeys to a land at the edge of the known world…only $0.99.

 

And for readers with non-Kindle e-readers, head on over to Smashwords and use these coupon codes to get either book for (yeah, you guessed it…) $0.99!

Soul Orb DDP Cover Slightly Brighter

Use Coupon Code HP95A to get Down the Dark Path for $0.99!

Dark Moon Daughter New Kindle Cover

Use Coupon Code DQ75B to get Dark Moon Daughter for $0.99!!

At 12:01 AM Nov 1st (Halloween’s unfortunate demise) prices will return to normal.

Much love,

J Edward Neill

Episode Three – Hollow Empire – Night of Knives!

HollowEmpireEP3

 

In case you’ve missed it, Episode 1 and Episode 2 are out already.

But if you’re caught up…

Episode 3 of Hollow Empire – Night of Knives is on the market. Snag the Amazon Kindle version here. The Smashwords version will be out in a few days.

In Episode 3: Vadim stares down a hard, hard truth. Nadya faces the Gallows Boys. Cassidy and Isidora race for Othis. And poor Murgul the Maggot learns just how Luka healed all his children.

Pick it up. Our grimmest episode yet…

J Edward Neill

New Release – Hollow Empire – Episode 2!!

HollowEmpireEP2

 

Hear that? The thumping hearts, wailing widows, and dead men’s screams? That’s right. Episode 2 of Hollow Empire – Night of Knives is out!

A few teasers

After saving Jericho from public execution, Vadim and his fellow riders set off on the Long Ride…

Nadya of the Bashir meets an unsavory vagabond and sees her first Iritul face-to-face…

Cassidy and Isidora ride for their lives…

An entire city screams for Murgul the Maggot to die…

Catch up with part two of the six-part Hollow Empire series, available now for Kindles everywhere.  If you’ve got a non-Kindle e-reader (or if you simply prefer Smashwords) the Smashwords edition is here.

J Edward Neill

Hollow Empire – Lessons Learned

My second novel-length project made its first real steps this past weekend. Hollow Empire’s first Episode came out on Friday night to a Kindle reader near you for a whole $0.99. For that you get to meet the characters, get immersed in the world, and get left on one heck of a cliffhanger for… another 2 days. Because that’s when Episode 2 comes out. And then a week later Episode 3 comes out. And so on for 6 straight weeks.

HollowEmpireEP1

Check it out on Amazon here!

Last month I talked about how the project began (in the various emails sent back and forth between Mr. Neill and myself). You can find that here.

The thing about this project was that while we had a bit of a road map, this was different than the way I normally write. Typically I’m working in solitude, late into the night, trying to hit my goals for the night. But even before that I have an outline of some sort set out. It might not have all the twists and turns laid out, but it gives me enough road signs that I know where I’m heading.

It’ll be months working on that 1st draft. A draft that no one else can see (not even Courtney). It is in this draft that I become unafraid to suck. Unafraid to write down everything that my brain might only be tangentially trying to tell me. It all goes in… because I know that when I sit down for Draft 2, I can easily cut the chaff from the wheat.

Or something.

Hollow Empire worked a little differently. Initially we set up goals of turning around the episodes every 3 weeks. At that point I’d send J my 3 chapters and he’d send me his 3 chapters and I’d spend a night or two on edits (and he’d do the same).

Let me say right now that J got the short end of that stick. Especially at the beginning. His chapters were pretty clean overall. A few grammar things, a misspelling or three, and maybe a tweak of some plot (mostly that was me asking questions like this: “Wow, this thing you introduced was cool, how does that work?”).

Editing

Mine were a little rougher. Mostly because, while I did give them a writer edit before sending them on, they were probably closer to 1st draft form than 2nd or 3rd draft form. I can only imagine what J thought when he read that first chapter.

Hopefully it wasn’t a “what have I gotten myself into” situation. 🙂

I believe that by the 5th and 6th episodes I’d cleaned up some of the bigger mistakes, crutches, etc. that I was using (or he’d given up by then).

I’m fairly new at this, but I have to believe that even the JK Rowlings and Steven Kings still learn things with each project they write. Maybe they aren’t the HUGE things anymore, but I have to hope that there are still techniques to figure out… an envelope to push.

And I’m still at the point where everything is HUGE realizations. Writing Hollow Empire, getting that instant feedback, and then doing the edits immediately showed me a different perspective on how my work… worked.

I wasn’t expecting that when I agreed to the project.

The other big thing I learned was that 3 weeks isn’t as long as you think when you have a day job. You see, I was under the assumption that since my nightly goal is 1250 words and our portion of each episode was about 7000 words… well, you do the math. That should be only 6 days. Figure 2 more for any edits. Even if I only write 5 days a week, that’s only half the time.

time slipping away

Well to mis-quote Top Gun: My brain was writing checks that my body couldn’t cash.

I hit the first deadline, no problem. Heck, I had a whole spreadsheet set up with due dates and how long edits would take and so on. By Episode 2 I only barely hit the date, and I’m pretty sure by Episode 3 I was a little late. And so on.

That being said, I would set up the same schedule the next time (3 weeks). Some of the delays were from not knowing the characters quite yet. Some of it was trying to  make sure that I hit the goal posts I’d set up in our initial story meeting. And some of it was vacations and work. At 3 weeks per episode we’d still be done in 4 months. Which leads me to the 3rd thing I learned.

The speed of the project made me a faster writer. More pure. I wrote my characters into corners in one episode and then had to figure out how in the world they were going to get out of that situation. And while that made for some longer nights than I would have liked, I’m hopeful that the end result of not agonizing over every last sentence captures a feeling with the readers.

What I’d like to know now is whether this experiment worked. How do the readers react to those moments and cliffhangers and everything else? Can we make it so they are hyped for a new episode to come out on Friday night?

I guess I’ll have to wait and see.

***

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.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is currently in week one of its 6-part release. Each episode is only $0.99.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

 

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

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.
 
 
 
 
 
 

Books that Have Stayed with Me

For those of you who don’t know, I’m on Tumblr, and there’s an awful lot of tagging posts that pop up on my dashboard every day. When you tag someone, you’re asking and/or challenging them to most often share a list. Yesterday I was tagged to share ten books that have touched me in some way. I thought I’d share them here too. Some of these books made my cry, some terrified me, some enlightened me and some fed my soul. Several of these books I read a decade ago or more and I they still sit on my shelf. What ten books would be on your list?

CO-OP Gaming: The Best Way To Game

First, let’s get the business out of the way.

If you want to read some quality comic books head here and here.

I’m kind of biased, but I think they’re the bee’s knees. 🙂

So, I’m here tonight (or this morning, considering what side of the world you’re on) to talk video games with ya.

Specifically co-op games.

A lot of people love playing sports games, role playing games, third person action-adventure games, first person shooters (FPS), and the lists go on and on. A little mustached plumber and his brother have pretty much cornered the market in most of the above categories, though I haven’t seen Mario busting a cap FPS style in a goomba’s butt.

That’d be awesome to watch.

Mario brings sunshine. And pain.

Mario brings sunshine.
And pain.

I’m getting sidetracked.

Co-op games.

Jason Rybka of About.com defines co-operative games as “a game in which two or more players team up to achieve a specific goal, playing side by side, either via LAN, split-screen, or via the Internet. More specifically, co-op is a multiplayer game play type. The literal translation is co-operative. Co-op games are widely popular and are increasingly becoming an included game play option in many games.”

Robert Jeffrey’s definition of co-operative games: games which allow you and a group of friends to collectively kick the butt’s of hordes of zombies/ super villains/ stereotypical y cheesy 80’s-90’s street toughs, while having a fun time.

The idea of teaming up in person with a group of friends, random strangers at an arcade (ahhhh, those were the days), or via online gaming, is a fun one for me. I understand the single player experience. I get it. Heck, I even love the competitive aspect of an FPS or fighting game. I’ve spent countless hours getting my butt handed to me in epic Halo death matches, and Marvel vs. Capcom bouts.

But to me, planning, and strategizing with a group of guys and gals to complete a game can lead to some extraordinary gaming experiences.

Special Co-Op Handshake. All the cool kids do it.

Special Co-Op Handshake. All the cool kids do it.

I don’t consider myself an expert gamer at all, just a guy who likes to have a good time with a wireless controller.

Wow, that didn’t sound right at all.

Um… well as I think of a way to clean up that creepy statement, read ahead and check out the first two entries on my list of my four favorite co-op games/ gaming experiences.

4. Streets of Rage 2/ Sega Genesis/ Release Date: December 20, 1992

The cover of this game says it all.

The cover of this game says it all.

After my brother and I got our NES system, the next game console that we received a few years later was the Sega Genesis. The mighty, mighty, SEGA! Note: you’ve got to yell SEGA like that guy from the commercials.

The system of Sonic. Altered Beast. Toe Jam and Earl. Sewer Shark (actually that was the Sega CD).

And Streets of Rage 2.

Oh hellz yeah.

Streets of Rage 2 was the shiznit. Sure there had been Double Dragon before, and other such brawlers. But for me the Streets of Rage series was something special. Was it the stylish R&B, electronica/techno laced soundtrack (that I can still nod my head to even now)? Was it the aforementioned stereotypical multi-ethnic street gangs with dumb names? Or was it the fact that each game in the series had a plot which sounded like a bad Steven Seagal movie?

It might’ve been all of the above. Who knows?  But what stood out to me (and I’m sure my brother can agree with this) was the awesome butt whooping’s that you could lay down.

First off, every fighter in this sequel (Axel Stone, Blaze Fielding, Eddie “Skate” Hunter, and Max Thunder”) KICKS-MAJOR-ASS. And has an awesome name.

Choose wisely......

Choose wisely……

Whether it’s Axel knuckling up on some punks, Blaze kicking butt oh-so gracefully with skull crushing kicks, or Max Thunder using his hulking frame to tear through the baddies, you got to button mash to your hearts content.

And don’t think I’ve forgotten about Skate. My homey Skate.

Skate sizing up the competition.

Skate sizing up the competition.

This dude was fighting on roller blades.

ROLLER BLADES.

Skate doing what he does best: knocking dudes out.

Skate doing what he does best: knocking dudes out.

I know I turned into an 11 year old with that statement, but hear me out.

This was a kid, a black kid who was kicking butt to save his kidnapped brother. And in an industry where a lot of heroic characters of color weren’t in great abundance, this was awesome for my brother and me to see.

Skate could pull off awesome moves like jumping onto the back of a thug, and commence to dropping blow’s like small anvils on their heads. He had this fantastic special move where he’d flail his arms like a madman, while hurtling towards the bad guys on his roller blades.

Blaze was always my personal favorite in the series, but Skate came a close second.

I'll admit, she was my video game crush. Don't judge me.

I’ll admit, she was my video game crush. Don’t judge me.

So we would spend countless hours beating up various baddies in the hopes of defeating Mr.  X, and saving the day. Whether it was avoiding motorcycle riding grenade tossing Mad Max rejects, or fighting evil kick boxers, my brother and I enjoyed fun times with cracking skulls and taking names.

So definitely, if you’re in the mood to team up with another friend, to just knuckle up and beat some bad guy butts, you can find the title on XBOX Live Arcade, and Steam.

Go with the dynamic duo of Blaze and Skate and you won’t be disappointed.

Honorable Mentions: Street Team: The Video Game, Battle Toads, Double Dragon, Golden Axe, Castle Crashers, XMEN Arcade, TMNT Arcade

3. Marvel Ultimate Alliance/ Xbox 360/ Release Date: October 24, 2006

Remember as a kid when you use to team up with your neighborhood friends, choose a superhero, and kick all sorts of imaginary bad guy butt? Remember how awesome it felt to strap a towel around your neck, jump from tree’s, do fake karate, and shoot imaginary laser’s from your fists?

Awesome, right?

Fast forward a number of years, and now you can do that from the comfort of your couch, sans towel wrapped around your neck.

Okay, maybe you still wear the towel.

Hey, if Linus can rock it for as long as he has, so can you.

Enter stage left, Marvel Ultimate Alliance. Alliance allows you to choose from an impressive lineup of Marvel heroes and heroines, including such stand out characters as Spiderman, Blade, Captain America, Wolverine (as if that dude doesn’t get enough screen time already), Ms. Marvel, Mister Fantastic, Colossus, Luke Cage, Doctor Strange, Thor, Storm, and the list goes on, and on, and on.

Notice Blade in the top right trying to look cool as a cucumber.  A half human/ half vampire cucumber.

Notice Blade in the top right trying to look cool as a cucumber.
A half human/ half vampire cucumber.

You want the Fantastic Four? You got ‘em.

You want an X-MEN themed team? You got ‘em.

You want the mighty, bi-coastal Avengers? You-got-em.

Sweet Christmas! That's a lot of characters!

Sweet Christmas! That’s a lot of characters!

With a host of baddies to fight, and levels potmarked with Easter Eggs which die hard Marvel fans can appreciate, this game is a beauty to behold.

The fighting system is excellent, and as you gain more experience your abilities grow in awe inspiring fashion. Being able to do team combos is an added plus, and gets you wanting to reenact scenes from “The Avengers”.

Spidey and company going buck wild.

Spidey and company going buck wild.

Don’t even get me started on the awesomesauce that is “alternate costumes”.

So many Storm's.......

So many Storm’s…….

Myself and a group of friends pretty much waded through this game over a series of weeks, XBOX controllers in hand, staying up to the wee hours of the night. A personal favorite of mine is Storm (going back to the X-MEN Legends days, another title you should give a shot for the PS2). This goddess of weather tornadoed and chain lightning’ed her way through Dr. Doom, Ultron, the Winter Soilder and a host of other evil-doers.

You can more than likely find a copy of this with most online video game retailers (Amazon.com), or used video game retailers.

Honorable Mentions: XMEN Legends, XMEN Legends: Rise of Apocalypse, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2

Gonna stop here for the evening as my eyelids are steadily drooping.  I’ll drop my last two favorite co-op titles your way next week. Thanks for following me down my video gaming memory lane.

The official Tyrants of the Dead glossary

Three Books

Six Nations

Dozens of Characters

One Civilization bent on Mankind’s destruction 

 

TheOrbOfSoulsSlider

 

Welcome to the official Tyrants of the Dead glossary. Herein you’ll find descriptions and blurbs for every major character, place, historical event, and artifact appearing in the Tyrants’ trilogy. This appendix is for all the folks who’ve read the books and for those who are thinking about it. Fear no spoilers! No major event taking place in any of the three books will be revealed.

Scroll down to begin!

 

********************* 

 

CHARACTERS:

Andelusia Anderae – A young woman from the tiny Grae village of Cairn, Ande (as she’s known to her friends) dreams of a life that is not hers. She is the title character in Dark Moon Daughter.

Archmyr Degiliac – Also known as the The Thillrian, The Pale One, and the Pale Knight.  The son of a hated Thillrian lord, Archmyr murders so many of his father’s rivals as to be branded a butcher and forever exiled. He comes to prominence after being captured by the Furyon Empire and recognized for his ruthlessness.

Arjobec – A captain in Furyon’s legion, the aging Arjobec serves as a guide and oftimes moral compass for his master, Dacin of Dageni.

Bruced (Bru-sed) – Fiercest warrior of Gryphon, but soft-hearted and loyal. Bruced’s hatred of the Grae province of Mooreye is legendary.

Dacin of Dageni – The youngest of the Furyon warlords…and the most powerful. Dacin was raised in the brutal Furyon province of Dageni, largest of the slaver colonies. He defeated the hated Davin Kal in the span of three years, and is swiftly recognized by the Furyon Emperor as the warlord most capable of destroying Graehelm.

Daedelar – A swarthy Thillrian captain-for-hire, Daedelar boasts of having once sailed to Cornerstone and back.

Dank – Also known as Dancmyrcephalis or the Little Man, Dank is an advisor to House Gryphon, a well-traveled sage, and (as some believe) a sorcerer dabbling in black magicks. His oaths to himself far outweigh any promises he makes to Graehelm or its lords.  

Emperor Chakran – Furyon’s suzerain. To seize the Furyon throne, Chakran allies with Malog, rumored stronghold of the world’s last (and most wicked) sorcerers. Chakran desires the rebirth of Tyberia, a legendary nation he believes is his birthright to rule.

Emun Gryphon – Lord of Gryphon, and most popular of Graehelm’s Councilors.

Garrett Croft – Friend of Rellen, and most feared soldier of Mormist. To earn redemption for crimes against Graehelm, Garrett makes an oath to Emun Gryphon to forever protect the Gryphon household.

Ghurk Ghurlain – A captive in Thillria’s dreaded Sallow province, Ghurk is the son of a powerful Thillrian lord.  

Grimwain – A swordsman and fallen knight. After being exiled from Romaldar for making threats against the Romaldarian king, Grimwain travels east to the Mohrlahn, seeking the aid of the Anderae.

Jacob Nure – Nephew to the ailing Grae king and renowned for his martial prowess, Jacob is closest in line to the throne.

Jix – A diminutive Thillrian man in the service of King Orumna. Jix is tasked with fulfilling many of Orum’s strange requests.

King Orumna – The most corpulent and ineffective king Thillria has ever known. King Orum prefers to eat his way to prosperity than do anything to advance his kingdom.

Lord Ahnwyn – Lord of the Graehelm stronghold of Gallen Hold. Leader of the famed Triaxe Knights. Warden of the south.

Lord Lothe – Lord of Graehelm’s Barrok province, and the general of Graehelm’s northern army.  

Lord Tycus – An ambitious Thillrian lord. Tycus is often fair, but just as often harsh.

Marid of Muthem – A young soldier in the employ of Duke Ghurlain, Marid is woefully in love with Andelusia.

Marlos Obas – A cranky captain of the Gryphon guard, Marlos is appointed by Rellen to lead a cadre of soldiers to Mormist.

Myklokain – Rumored to be a member of Grimwain’s family, Myklokain is long-dead, but not.

Nentham Thure – Lord of the hated Grae province of Mooreye. Tall and crow-beaked. Councilor Nentham is universally disliked by his peers and rumored to have designs on Graehelm’s throne.

Nephenia of Yrul – Daughter to a high Yrul lord, Nephenia is married off to a Romaldarian noble in the hopes of gaining Yrul’s complicity during the war to come.

Ona – A mysterious and stunningly beautiful young woman from far southern Thillria.

Rellen Gryphon – The only child of Emun and Sara Gryphon, and the youngest of the high captains in Graehelm’s military.

Revenen – The Lord of Malog. Eldest of the Archithropian line.

Saul of Elrain – After Saul’s family is displaced by raids from the north, Saul bargains with Elrain’s king. In return for the promise of his family’s safety, he accepts the grueling task of delivering an important letter to the lords of Graehelm.

Sara Gryphon – Emun Gryphon’s wife, and the wisdom behind many of his policies.

Ser Arjobec – A Furyon captain, guide, and among the most trusted of Dacin’s advisors.

Ser Endross – Hardiest (and luckiest) of Ahnwyn’s knights, Endross is perhaps the noblest soul in all of Graehelm.

The Ur – An ancient civilization from beyond, beneath, and between the spirit realm, the Ur desire vengeance against mankind for removing them from power.

The Uylen – A race of cursed humans living in a haunted Thillrian forest. In recent years, it’s rumored the Uylen have wandered far from home seeking fresh prey.

The Warlock – The son of a powerful Archithropian decendant, the Warlock’s plans for Thillria are far-reaching.

Thresher – A masked iron knight in the service of Romaldar, the terrifying Thresher accompanies Unctulu and relentlessly hunts Romaldar’s enemies.

Unctulu – A loathsome servant of Romaldarian lords, Unctulu is entrusted with the care of the Needle, an ancient Ur artifact.

Vom – A powerful pupil in Revenen’s care, Vom trails Emperor Chakran throughout the war to ensure the Emperor follows Malog’s plans.

Wkhzl – A weary old shopkeeper in the Triaxe fortress city of Kilnhome. The strange relics contained in his store are like no other in the world.

Wrail – A wicked man from the nation of Romaldar, Wrail claims to possess powers of the Archithropian line.

 

DepthsofUndergrave1md

 

PLACES:

Archaeus – Capital city of Romaldar. Filled with white marble towers and elegant stone dwellings. Archaeus is also home to the dreaded Wolfwolde.

Cairn – A small village in northwestern Graehelm. Andelusia’s home. Cairn is a peaceful place, but harbors more than a few dark secrets.

Dageni – A smoking, pitted, volcanic province of Furyon, Dageni is home to tens of thousands of slaves who toil to extract precious Dageni ore.

Darken – A stinking, swampy forest in southwestern Furyon. Darken was once the site of an Archithropian burial ground, and is avoided by all wise folk.

Denawir – Capital city of Thillria. Denawir’s gardens are legendary, but less so its king, Orumna.

Elrain – Far north of Graehelm, Elrain’s colonies surround a massive lake. Scholars postulate Elrian was the site of the earliest battles between Archithrope and Niviliath.

Furyon – Not quite the foul, reeking realm Graehelm’s lords predict, Furyon is a land of beauty and deep culture. Until, that is, Emperor Chakran remakes it to serve the war against Graehelm.

Graehelm – The largest of the modern nations, Graehelm is ruled by both a king and an oligarchy of councilors. The Grae lands are largely inhabited by the decendants of Niviliath, the losers of an ancient war against the Ur-worshipping Archithrope.

Grandwood – The vast forest in Graehelm’s heart. Home to the hugest trees in all the world. Grandwood itself is larger than most smaller nations can claim.

Gryphon – The home of Eumn, Sara, and Rellen Gryphon. The old-world city is placed strategically between the Graehelm capital and the troublesome Mooreye province.

Illyoc – The largest city in Furyon. During the Emperor’s rule, Illyoc is transformed from a peaceful trade hub into a stronghold of war, complete with vaulting black towers and cathedrals to house Furyon’s nobles.

Malog – The black citadel of Furyon. Home to the direct decendants of Archithrope. Not built by mankind.

Midnon – A black fortress hidden somewhere in Thillria, Midnon is the Warlock’s stronghold.

Mooreye City – With seven gates and mighty walls, Mooreye City, citadel of Nentham Thure, has long been a source of worry for the rest of Graehelm.

Morellellus – Furyon’s prime trade port, and the harbor for its armada of warships. Morellellus was once a simple trade port, but has been completely remade by Chakran into a fearsome city.

Mormist – The mountain and forest realm of eastern Graehelm. Mormist is the buffer land between Graehelm and the sea (and Furyon).

Romaldar – A realm of vineyards, rolling hills, and silver lakes. Romaldar’s people have always envied Graehelm, but have long lacked the power to make a meaningful challenge to their northern neighbor.

Sallow – In Thillria, no place is more feared than Sallow. Its twisted trees and slate-capped mounds have long sheltered the dark, dismal Undergrave.

Shivershore – Southernmost province of Thillria. Hard to reach, harder to endure. Lying next to the Selhaunt Sea, Shivershore lives up to its name.

The Cornerstone – An island created by the Ur. A twisted, magical place where nothing ages. The site of the bottomless pit built by the Ur to ensure the doom of mankind.

The Nether Chamber – A dungeon far below Romaldar’s capital city, Archaeus. Thought to be a breeding cavern for the spirits of the Ur.

The Undergrave – A network of caverns below Thillria. The caves run too deep to be man-made, and yet…

Thillria – Weakest of the world’s nations, Thillria’s sometimes brutal climate and lack of resources render it uninvolved in the affairs of more powerful lands.

Triaxe – Mountainous home of the sturdy Triaxe knights. Southernmost vassal of Graehelm. Triaxe is also home to Erewain, largest mountain in the known world, and the legendary site of mankind’s final battle against the Ur.

Verod – A crumbling castle in westernmost Mormist, Verod was once home to a huge Graehelm garrison, but no longer.

Yrul – A great valley surrounded by sharp, jagged peaks, Yrul is home to a proud, strong people who are hated by most civilized lands.

 

Grae Map Public View File

 

EVENTS OF HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE:

Archithropian War – The two thousand year-long war between rival nations, ended only after millions of deaths, countless cities turned to ash, and entire swaths of landscape brought low.

Destruction of Davin Kal – The precursor to Graehelm’s invasion. Emperor Chakran ordered the death of the Davin Kal as training for his protege, Dacin of Dageni. 

The Rebuilding of the Five – Legend tells that during the Archithropian war, the lords of the east, having failed to subdue Niviliath after a thousand years, chose to unearth and remake five artifacts of the Ur and use them to destroy their enemy. In truth, only one was remade. The others were simply found…and used

The End of Tyberia – Little is known about the supposed realm that once stretched from Elrain to Thillria. Scholars say it was a powerful kingdom fractured and divided by Graehelm lords of old. This claim alone is enough for Emperor Chakran to propel Furyon into war against the Grae.

 

BizCard

 

ARTIFACTS AND RELICS:

The Ur Blade – Though never called by its true name in the books, the Ur Blade was fashioned to be the destroyer of all other swords. When used in battle,  the Ur Blade can summon Ur fire and draw upon its wielder’s passion in such a way as to make them nearly invincible.

The Eye – Some believe The Eye was one of the five artifacts left behind by the Ur. This is untrue. The Eye was fashioned by men, and is merely inhabited by the Ur.

The Greyblade – Fashioned from a fallen meteorite by a master Romaldarian weaponsmith, the Greyblade is given to a powerful knight during his search for Grimwain.

The Moonblades – Grimwain’s twin swords. Pale as milk. Almost translucent. Utterly unbreakable.

The Needle – Several Needles have been found since the fall of the Ur, each with a different power. One in particular, the largest and most deadly, is unearthed by a Romaldarian knight in a graveyard under the moonlight.

The Orb – Rebuilt twice since the fall of the Ur, the Orb of Souls was the prime weapon of Archithrope and of Malog. The giant black sphere, lined with pale tines at its base, feeds upon death in order to enslave the living and ultimately ensure the Ur will be resurrected.

The Pages Black – A book of ten pages, each containing a different and increasingly more horrific power. The Ur despise the Pages, for the powers therein belong to them, and yet they adore whenever a mortal uses one of the spells.

The Tower – A common misconception is that Malog is also the Tower. Untrue. The Tower lies in Thillria, existing as a conduit for the Ur to influence mankind, among other things.

Wkhzl’s Dagger – A knife given freely away by the shopkeeper Wkhzl. It’s not meant to harm the living, but has a different purpose entirely.  

 

 ************************

Copyright 2014 – All rights reserved

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

 

Nether Kingdom – Prologue

What follows is a free excerpt from Nether Kingdom – Book III in the Tyrants of the Dead trilogy.

The first two books are available here and here and here.

Nether Kingdom is by far my darkest work yet. In writing it, I plummeted into my mind’s lowest caverns, wandering paths I never knew existed.

The full version of Nether Kingdom will arrive in time for Christmas 2014, just in time to darken the holiday season.

I hope you enjoy this excerpt.

 *** 

Servants of the Sleeper 

A

An hour before dusk, they came to Mooreye.

    As the sunlight drew back from the crumbling towers and broken streets, the two stalked the grounds as though they were the city’s new masters, free to despoil the kingdom of the dead. They moved like smoke, soundless as spirits, drifting through alleys and hollowed homes. The shadows of a thousand burned-out buildings lay heavy on their backs, and save for the plaintive caws of the quarreling crows, all was quiet in their wake. Mooreye lay dead, a tomb for the fallen, a stark reminder of what the Furyons had done.

    Just before nightfall, the pair began their work. Their stage was Mooreye’s grand courtyard, in whose center a pale tower speared from the weeds, and whose sides were fenced with iron spikes taller than any man. The first of the graverobbers, a bulbous beast of a man named Unctulu, licked his lips and wormed into the loam, his fingers like hungry larvae searching for their next meal. Nearby, Thresher drove his rusted spade into the dirt, sloughing aside huge gobs of soil. Their work was rapid and inelegant, for none were near to question it. No one had been to Mooreye since the Furyons destroyed it, and none were likely to come after the robbers’ work was finished.

    No man, no matter his origin, could claim such hideousness as Unctulu. As he knelt in the twisted grass and speared his maggoty fingers into the earth, his sparsely-toothed grin split his face like a festering scar across a pale, misshapen melon. Worse was his cadaverous skin, quivering over his bones, flapping beneath his half-rotted raiment of leather and rags. His only possessions were his bag, stuffed with all manner of moldering food, and his belt lined with some twenty cork-sealed vials, clinking constantly as he dug. Unctulu was heedless of the sweat rolling from his hairless, malformed head, and unaware of the gurgling, toad-like sounds oozing from his throat. Had anyone asked him, he would have told them he relished his disgustingness, that it was ‘not ‘Tulu’s job to be pretty.’

    Compared to his companion, Thresher seemed a titan, moving ten times more dirt than Unctulu. He said nothing as he tore great shovelfuls of soil away, and he never tired. Thresher’s face lay hidden behind an eyeless, featureless iron mask, and his body beneath rusted, lobstered mail. How it was Thresher saw the world, and how he exhumed so swiftly, none would dare ask.

    “Ah, Thresh, this is too easy, yes?” Unctulu gurgled. “A month more and we’ll be back home, feasting like kings. Well, you might not feast, but I will.”

    If Thresher heard, he gave no sign. Wordless, he continued to dig. His armor groaned and shuddered, but he moved as though completely unencumbered, gouging out great chunks of black earth with each stroke.

    “Slow, slow.” Unctulu patted a mound of soil. “I can smell it, can’t you? The grave’ll be as shallow as the Sleeper said. Easy work, after so long to get here.”

    Five shovelfuls more and Thresher hoisted his spade over his shoulder, laying it to rest beside the steel greatsword on his back.

    “Good, good.” Unctulu lapped up a strand of escaping saliva. “Yes, yes, this is the spot. Pale bones, we’ve found. Right where Master said.”

    The evening sky dimmed to a deep, somber gray. Burbling, Unctulu rummaged through his bag and produced a spherical lamp. “Yes, Thresh. Much better.” He stoked the lamp until it glowed like a tiny moon. “My eyes…not like yours. Need a little light for digging.”

    In the lamp’s pallid light, Unctulu clawed a last few fistfuls of dirt away from the hole Thresher had dug. “Look, look.” He shivered with satisfaction.

    “This is the one.”

    Half-covered in rotted clothes and decomposed beyond recognition, the corpse beneath Unctulu’s fingers was laid out in awkward fashion. “Buried right where he died.” Unctulu’s smile broadened. He dug the dirt out from between each rib, each spinal disc, each brittle bone from collar to knee. Smacking his lips, he removed a vial from his belt and poured its contents along the length of a protruding hip. The foul liquid fumed and sizzled, melting the rest of the dirt away. “Now, now,” he cackled. “Looksey, looksey, Thresh. What have we here?”

    Greedily, he ran his fingers along a leather belt looped around the corpse’s hip. Two empty scabbards were affixed to the belt, one to each side. Unctulu tugged the belt and scabbards loose, afterward dousing each with a second phial of black liquor.

    “See, see…” He slid one finger across the faint symbols etched on the scabbards’ steel caps. “The Raven. The crossed swords.

    “The marks of the Pale Knight.”

    The scabbard and belt were no ordinary items. The courtyard was no ordinary plot of land. The dry, dead grass and all the streets of Mooreye had been the site of a great and bloody battle. “Every grave, every cairn.” Unctulu grinned hideously, “Grae or Fury, dead and gone. But not this one. Of all the corpses here, this one’s different. Thillrian, he is. The worst of them, right where he should be.”

    Unctulu rose. Beside Thresher, hulking and silent, the bloated man stood a full head and half shorter. “Now is the time, Thresh.” He looked up. “Give me the item.”

    Thresher reached for the plate covering his left shin, finding a narrow seam betwixt the joining of two greaves. With fingers locked in a coal-colored gauntlet, he withdrew the object hidden therein. The night trembled, the breeze stopped blowing, and the last of the day’s light faded away.

    The object was to blame.

    It was a gnarled, needlelike tine, thick as a man’s thumb at its widest and sharper than any dagger at its point. Long as a thighbone, it looked fashioned of polished obsidian, but in truth its make was unknowable. When Thresher held it high, it made the shadows move, stirring the darkness like stew inside a cauldron.

    Unctulu looked longingly at the tine, his throat welling like a toad’s. “It’s time, Thresh. Remember what we’re here to do. Now and only now, you’re to let me have it. If I don’t give it back, you’re to butcher me, but otherwise I’m to use it.

    “Just. This. Once.”

    Thresher released the tine. Unctulu grasped it from its thicker, duller end and waved it from side to side as if to carve a lesion in the night. When Thresher reached for his sword, Unctulu grimaced. “Oh, all right. Well and well. Good and good. I’ll play nice.”

    Thresher left his sword in its scabbard. Sniffing the air and swiping the saliva from his chin, Unctulu hunched over the exhumed cadaver. “If you’d eyes, Thresh, I’d tell you to close them. This’ll not be pretty.”

    Unceremoniously, he stabbed the tine into the soil, wounding the dirt next to the corpse’s ribs. The tine punctured soil and loose stone as though they were water, sinking down to half its length. Gurgling, Unctulu left it in place, sharp end pointed to the heart of the earth, the other aimed straight at the star-pricked sky.

    “A long way we marched,” he drooled. “And all for one man. How many nights have we blackened the road, Thresh? How many times did the Grae almost catch us? I’d sooner raise up the whole city than this one cruel carcass. But it’s as the Master wishes, and so we’ll do as we’re told.

    “We’ll bring him back.”

    The tine lay half-buried in the loam. Mist arose from the punctured earth, the grey vapors swallowing the open grave and slinking across the bones like a tongue. Unctulu’s lantern light played across the mist. It gleamed white at first, then blue, then lavender. Unctulu held his breath as the vapors thickened, the mist winding in ever tighter circles around each bone, adhering to the marrow like mortar.

    “Look, Thresh. It’s working.”

    A tremor rattled the courtyard. The grasses near the grave withered and turned to ash. Where once the cadaver’s brittle bones had lain bare to the night, fresh tendons reknit themselves, and muscles, raw and red, took shape. Layer upon layer, pale flesh stitched itself atop a template of veins and sinew. Organs pumped to life, and a new heart spasmed, thumping a black rhythm in a body eight years dead.

    Faster than Unctulu could swallow ten breaths, the body became whole. The deep shadows lessened, and the night’s natural sounds resumed. Unbroken, the tine expelled itself from the dirt and rolled to a stop at Unctulu’s feet.

    “Disgusting, wasn’t it? It’s different watching it happen to someone else.” Unctulu snatched up the tine. “Ah…well…I suppose you’ll want this back.”

    Thresher snared the black tine and slid it back into his greaves.

    The body stirred.

    The man in the grave seized a sharp breath and exhaled.

    “Look at him.” Unctulu gave a three-toothed grin. “Not jealous, are you Thresh? Seems eight years in the dirt leaves a man in better shape than eight hundred. Worry not. You’re still prettier.”

    Thresher tilted his head. Behind his iron mask, thoughts unknowable roiled.

    “You want to know?” Unctulu asked.

    Thresher remained still.

    “Of course you do,” said Unctulu. “This’ll be the last of the ones Master raises, leastways for now. No one wanted him during his first life, and no one but Master wants him now. Look at him, whiter than his bones, waking up from his nightmare. Well…if his dreams were rotten, he deserved it. More than any other, I’d say. More even than me.”

    Thresher tilted his head again.

    “That’s right, Thresh. Don’t you know who this is? This be Archmyr Degiliac, mass murderer, ruin of the Furies, butcher and raper and slaver. The Pale Knight, they called him.

    “And they’ll call him worse yet.”

***

Copyright 2014 – J Edward Neill – All rights reserved

 

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

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

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

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

Well? What if?

DragonSB

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

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

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

maleficent2

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

Fallen at Maleficent’s hands:

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

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

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

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

Who gets to live:

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

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

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

Maleficent’s crow. Dude worked too hard to die 

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

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

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

J Edward Neill

Author of the Tyrants of the Dead dark fantasy trilogy

Author of The Sleepers and Old Man of Tessera

Down the Dark Path

Lemonade on the porch

Lemonade on the porch

Noun

1. A state of contentment.

2. A time in one’s life during which a person reflects upon all they done in life and finds satisfaction.

3. The whole point of it all.

LemonadeOnThePorch

This guy has the right idea. I’ll see ya in a few years, buddy.

 

Used to be, I thought happiness meant something entirely different. Perhaps I was entranced with the American ideals: money, a big house, a beautiful wife, long vacations on the beach, etc. I wouldn’t say I was obsessed with materialism, but certainly I was clueless about the truth of what happiness really is. Lemonade on the porch isn’t a thing, a place, or a person. It isn’t something you hope for, dream of, or want for tomorrow.  It’s something you have to make for yourself. It’s something you have to try to earn today, because tomorrow will be different. Or it might never come at all.

And so, once again, I’ll turn to books. Books will be my lemonade, and the porch my castle in the sky. Hell, I don’t even own a porch right now, but no matter. I’ll pretend I do. I’ll sit somewhere and pretend the stars are wheeling over my head. I’ll wander vagabond-like to every park bench and gazebo in Georgia. I’ll invade your porch when you’re not looking. Because, you know, there’s something special about the written word. A good book can provide instant serenity, while two hours spent writing can satisfy the mind in rare fashion. When life gives you lemons, grab a book and find a porch. You’re welcome.

Here’s the part where I’d normally get all long-winded about life, death, love, and darkness. Nah. I’m done. Instead I think I’ll jot down the top ten books I want to sit and read in a comfy chair with an icy beverage at my side. Think of it as a bucket list, but for books. Because no matter what horrors real life might bring, one can always escape. Simply crack a cover, wet your thumb, (or turn on your Kindle) and start reading. Peace will find you.

Book Bucket List:

Sideways – Rex Pickett – Because it’s about two dudes looking for lemonade on the porch. I mean…c’mon. And because it’s sitting on my bookshelf…on its side.

Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte – The Tom Hardy movie turned me on to this one. Enough tragedy to make anyone feel better about their life.

The Chronicles of Narnia series – C.S. Lewis – I read these as a kid. Time for a re-read. Odds are an adult read will make them feel completely different.

Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger – I can’t believe I haven’t done this one yet. Time to see what all the fuss is about.

The Hunger Games trilogy – Suzanne Collins – I’ll pass on Twilight, Harry Potter, and Divergent, but something tells me I’ll find value here. And yes, I know. I’m sorry.

War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy – I fancy myself an epic novel writer, but I’ve got nothing on Leo.

Les Miserables – Victor Hugo – Another one the movie sold me on. If the book is even half as good…

Dracula – Bram Stoker – If only because everyone tells me it’s about as grim a novel as is possible to write.

Atlas Shrugged – Ayn Rand – I know the premise. I know the controversy. I’ll consume this for the same reason I read the Bible.

The Silmarillion – J.R.R. Tolkien – Already read it several times. Doesn’t matter. Gonna do it again.

So anyway, what’s on your bucket list? Wanna make a million dollars? Climb a mountain? Live to be a thousand? I recommend none of these. Go for lemonade on the porch, whatever it means to you. And go for it today.

Next week, the What if? series returns.  I’ll adapt the original animated Sleeping Beauty and Angelina Jolie’s recent Maleficent into a dark fantasy novel. It’ll be fun. I promise.

 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

 

Sketchbook for the end of the world

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

Otherwise…let’s dance.

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

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

But I’m not.

So you get sketches…

Gryphon Inn

 

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

 

 

 

 

Knight 1

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

 

 

 

 

The Whisperers

 

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

Hmmm…

 

 

 

Ghoulish

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

.

.

.

.

.

KiraniSexy Elf

.

.

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

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

..

..

Soul Orb Sketch J

.

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

.

.

.

.

.

.

Night Wisdom

.

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

.

.

.

.

.

.

What are YOU looking at

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

.

.

.

.

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

I could definitely use ’em.

Love,

J Edward Neill

Author of the Tyrants of the Dead dark fantasy trilogy

Author of The Sleepers and Old Man of Tessera

Down the Dark Path

What if…I rewrote The Lord of the Rings

This week marks the first entry in my new ‘What if…?’ series. If only to agitate, exhume, and pontificate, I plan to explore popular books and movies with purpose to pretend remake each of them as if I’d been the author, director, producer, etc. I’d like to think most creative types have asked themselves, “What if I’d written that? What if creative control had been mine?” Well…what if…? Let’s do this.

My only disclaimer: this is for fun. I intend no heresy. Well…maybe a little.   

And so

Lord of the Rings. J.R.R. Tolkien. The first and most powerful of all fantasy series. Take a glance at how many books, movies, tv shows, and friggin’ cosplay conventions are LOTR-derivitave. This is where modern-day fantasy literature began.

What if I had written it?  What if…instead of a sometimes high/sometimes dark/sometimes strictly narrative fiction novel, f’n J Edward Neill had sat down and written it entirely as a dark fiction trilogy? What if, what if, what if…?

640px-The_one_ring

Let’s start with what feels obvious to me. In LOTR, you’ve got some seriously terrifying bad guys. You’ve got nazgul, orks (rumor is J.R.R. wanted to spell it with a ‘k’) a balrog, evil wizards, fell beasts, etc. But more than any of them, you’ve got Sauron, aka a flaming eyeball in the sky. In J Edward’s version of LOTR, Sauron gets a full third of the narrative. He gets dialogue (perhaps from the Witch King’s perspective). He gets backstory (front and center instead of in the appendices). I don’t have a giant list of scenes I’d cut out to make room for more Sauron, but no matter. I’d add a fourth book if needed. The easiest way to darken up Tolkien’s masterpiece would’ve been to add 700% more Dark Lord, and that’s where I’d start.

Still here?

 The second way I’d cast a shadow over LOTR: more good guys need to die. Let’s start with Gimli and Legolas. Their unexpected friendship is a metaphor for all the strange alliances required for the good guys to have any hope of defeating Sauron. And so…one of them must die. My money is on Legolas. And my choice of death is via nazgul, at the Black Gate, right in front of Gimli. Let Legolas’s diminutive friend watch him go down in a blaze of glory, and let Gimli forever cherish their friendship after a nice, long spell of mourning. It’s possible (maybe even likely) that my desire to see Legolas go down has something to do with Orlando Bloom. No matter. It’s a war (the last and greatest of all Middle-Earth wars). The good guys get off too easy.

Who else needs to die? Frodo Baggins. I know. I’m sorry. Slap me silly. Kick me in the shins. I get that Frodo essentially dies when he sails away from Middle-Earth, but I’d have done it in a much more literal sense. Whether by falling into the crack of doom with Gollum, death by sheer sadness after losing the One Ring, or being speared with Sauron’s departing shadow, I’d have snuffed Frodo at the very moment of the Ring’s destruction. With every hobbit making it back to the Shire, the good guys get off too easy again. “You didn’t seriously expect him to survive Mordor?” someone could’ve asked Gandalf. “No. It was only a fool’s hope,” he would’ve answered again. And it was. We should all be punished for our foolishness, not just the poor, misunderstood antagonists.

A few quick-hit ways to continue darkening the series up:

Tom Bombadil: gone

Nazgul: win a fight or two (instead of constantly losing)

Minas Morgul: we get a glimpse inside

Gondor: utterly annihilated

Witch King and Gandalf: fight (with the Witch King fleeing back to the battle)

Moving right along. To really F with the reader, and to maximize the good guys’ suffering, I’d have ramped up the battle at the Black Gate. Tolkien made it well and truly dire. I’d had written it direr. I’d have butchered the good guys almost to the last man standing before the One Ring is destroyed. Legolas: dead. Gimli: wounded. Aragorn: wounded. Gandalf: holding the horde at bay for just…one…moment…longer. Leave the good guys with maybe a few dozen brave souls, and no more. I’d have wanted the reader to wonder, “He won’t really kill them all here? Will he?” Maybe I wouldn’t. Maybe I would.

In ending the series, and with an eye toward leaving the reader with a subtle feeling of dread, I’d let Saruman live. Sure, Grima can try to kill him, but I’d give the original White Wizard a pass. He can creep off to the north, broken staff on the mend. His heart will be filled with vengeance, anger, and always the memory of Sauron’s voice in his head. Tolkien’s version works perfectly for a happily ever after ending, but any dark fantasy worth its salt needs a shadow of a threat to remain, therefore reminding the reader that conflict always was and always shall be.

640px-The_one_ring

I’ve got a certain Rolling Stones’ song in mind…

There you have it. Don’t get me wrong: LOTR is perfect as-is. I wouldn’t really change a thing. It’s all just speculation. And by speculation I mean; painting rooms black and making hearts jump.

Tune in for next week’s What if…? segment, during which I rewrite 50 Shades of Grey as a horror novel. Just kidding. Maybe.

J Edward Neill 

Grab Bag – June Edition

This week has been a little scattered. Lots of little things, some bigger things, and a glimpse at possibly really big things. As such, I don’t really know if any one topic feels right for this week’s blog piece. So instead I want to make sure I catch everyone up so that we’re all on the same page.

 

Hey I have a short story up for FREE!

PIECE-BY-PIECE-COVER

The short story, Piece by Piece, which I debuted on this very site here (for free), is now not only available on Amazon (for $0.99), but also available on Smashwords – and soon will be on your Kobo, Barnes and Noble’s Nook, iBooks, and and assortment of other ebook reading sites (all for free as well). So for any of you who might have wanted to have the short on your ereader, but didn’t want to deal with a Kindle or Amazon… well, I’m trying.

My plan was always to try and get a sample of my work out into the world for free. The old give you the first taste for free and then maybe you’ll want to read more about Jason Mills (the main character in Piece by Piece) in my novel, The Dark That Follows.

 

Hey I did an Interview!

smashwords-vertical

In conjunction with getting the short up on Smashwords, I also have an interview up on the site. Technically I announced it on Tessera on Monday, but it never hurts to remind you guys and gals in case you missed it.

 

Hey I’m up for an award!

HHS-INNOVATES-TILE-AND-LOGO-400x47

For the past 2+ years I’ve been working with Terminus Media on a Motion Comic Project for HIV and STD Awareness. I was one of the three main writers on the project having written 4 of the 10 episodes. It’s been one of those things that I’ve not really been able to talk much about aside from the bare bones (it’s hard to really explain to people what you mean by “Motion Comics”, but I’m hopeful that in the months to come I can talk a little bit about the process, from my end at least.

But the biggest reason to bring it up at all is that the project has been nominated for the  HHS Innovates People’s Choice Award. They have a blurb on the project and you can watch a brief sample of what we’ve been working on here. Most importantly you can vote for our project here!

And there is nothing stopping you from sharing this with your friends as well. The voting ends this week.

 

Hey I thought this was an interesting article!

collage-of-elmore-leonard-books

Elmore Leonard wrote this over a decade ago and was recently linked to on Warren Ellis’s email thingy. While we may not be Leonard, we can at least take a moment and see what is what.

For better or worse I try to strive hard for the last one “Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.” Some days I do better than others. Though I kinda feel like this one thing could be a whole blog post unto itself (makes mental note that he will promptly forget).

 

Hopefully next week I can also announce having my book in print. I have the proof copy and everything looks pretty good, so… until next time.

 

***

John McGuire

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

Dark Moon Daughter – Softcover Release

The Furyon war has ended.

Graehelm is at peace.

and yet…

The enemies of mankind grow stronger.

Andelusia Anderae knows she will be a part of what is to come.

She dreams it.

She feels the darkness pumping in her blood.

She loves two men.

But neither so much as she adores the night.

Come the hour, she must choose.

Use her power to battle the darkness…

or join them

And watch the world die.

Shrine

Dark Moon Daughter

Softcover Edition

Now available via Createspace and Amazon

Autographed copies available by request

J Edward Neill

My Writing Process (Blog Tour Entry)

I loathe chain emails. I’m not sure if they existed in paper form, but the thing which always killed me was the warning at the end. Like something out of a Steven King novel: “If you dare break this chain of old, a thousand locusts will descend upon thy host until only misery and bones are left to thee.”

Chain Letter

 

I snub my nose at such dire warnings. And I’m insulted that you feel that the subject manner itself is not good enough to spur me into action. There are many things that are difficult in this digital age, forwarding something on is not one of those things.

(Though I wonder if some of my recent bad luck is a result of not sending along that latest one… hmm, maybe I should rethink my stance.)

But a Chain Blog Tour? Well now, that is a horse of a different color. And when a fellow Guild-mate taps you then you do your best to appease the chain-blog gods. So with that in mind a little something to say about J Edward Neill.

I’ve known Mr. Neill since high school, brought together by a shared love of basketball and roleplaying. For the many years I thought about writing a book, he was sitting in his dark cave (or mountain top or volcano fortress) actually putting pen to paper, fingers to keyboard to create his fantasy opus: Down the Dark Path. And much like in sports where they tell you to play against better competition in order to get better at your craft – I use him as one of my gauges. Of course, this week he’s come out with Book 2: Dark Moon Daughter… so my work is cut out for me.

 

writing

What am I working on?

Sometimes I feel like the question should be “What am I not working on”, but let’s see:

The White Effect – My science fiction story about a man who finds that his world is rebooting, and he is one of the lucky (unlucky) ones who realizes what’s happening. It is currently with BETA readers with my next draft being targeted for late summer.

Hollow Empire – Serialized Dark Fantasy is all I’ll say about this one until it is out. This one is done, I’m just in the process of getting a final proof-reader edit on it. This process has slowed due to some recent life developments, but I’m hoping (and I’m sure my co-writer hopes as well) to have this one all wrapped up in the next month or so.

Gilded Age – My Steampunk creator-owned comic series through Terminus Media. Issue 2 is set to have final inks and colors begin any day now, and in the meantime I have final edits on issue 3’s script.

Entropy – A post-apocalyptic comic series set at the Ends of the Universe. Co-written with Robert Jeffrey II (see below for more on him), we merely wait for the artist to be unleashed upon this project.

The Edge of the World – A story in the vein of Journey to the Center of the Earth where our heroine seeks to find her missing uncle. I am 15,000 words into the first draft of this one.

 

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

With my comic writing, and The Gilded Age in particular, I’m trying to write character based stories and create a world from them as opposed to plopping them into a world. With my novel, The Dark That Follows, I’d say that it differs from “standard” urban fantasy in that it isn’t a romantic story where you wonder will they/won’t they. Instead it is about a man in way over his head just trying to do the right thing.

 

Why_charlie_brown_why_title_card

Why do I write what I do?

As you can see above, I’m a little all over the place with regards to genre (for better or for worse). I guess I just follow that old rule of write what you’d like to read, and since I don’t just read fantasy or science fiction or urban fantasy or super-heroes exclusively my brain ensures that almost everything I work on is something different from the thing I wrote before. I take everything I’ve read, everything I’ve watched, everything I’ve ever heard and put them through the grinder of my brain and then something comes out. If it is interesting and moves me, then I write about it, if not, I move onto the next project.

 

How does my writing process work?

It starts with music. Something to write to. Recently it has been 10 Years, Chevelle, and Deftones. Once I have the right mood set I generally have a decent idea of what needs to happen within the story, so much more plotter than pantser. For a comic script I tend to write out a 1-2 paragraph summary of the major story beats and then start writing dialogue. Only after most of the dialogue is written do I go back and fill in every panel’s description and manipulate the pace of the comic. After a couple of passes I send it on to my editors, do one more pass with their notes, and then end up doing a FINAL-FINAL pass during the lettering stage as I can see the whole picture (literally) and see if something needs to be added or subtracted.

With my novels I have the story beats, but I write out-of-order most of the time, jumping from one scene to another and then piece things together like a puzzle. After that first draft is done I follow Steven King’s advice and put it in the drawer for 6-8 weeks to gain perspective. After that time I do my second pass, and if I’m happy with that version I might reach out to a couple of BETA readers for thoughts. Another draft follows that and then the editor. And then the final draft.

But at some point I do say “pencils down” because while we can tweak and refine our work forever, it doesn’t mean we should. Release it into the world and move onto the next project.

 

whos next logo

Artist Highlights (or Next on the Tour):

Robert Jeffrey II: Robert is an Atlanta-based freelance writer whose portfolio includes a multitude of work in the arenas of print/web journalism and comics. His work with Atlanta-based Terminus Media includes comics (his creator owned/ 2014 Glyph Comic Award winning “Route 3” and “Daddy’s Little Girl”, “Terminus Team Up”, and B. Robert Bell’s “Radio Free Amerika”) and contracted client work including custom comics and animation scripting/editing duties for clients such as the Center for Disease Control and Nitto Tires.

Robert’s life long dream is to win a pop-locking battle to save a community center.

 

Sean Taylor: Bad Girls, Good Guys, and Two-Fisted Action is the official writing blog of Sean Taylor. But it’s not just a place to promote his stuff. It’s a resource (he hopes) of information about writing and creating genre fiction, literary prose, comic books, and just about anything else you can create with pens, pencils, paper, or word-processing software and a printer. On this site, you’ll be able to find publishers calling for submissions, tutorials about the craft of writing and editing, interviews with other writers, links to helpful and fascinating articles about the art, craft and business of writing and publishing, etc. — and of course, yes, you’ll also be able to keep up with whatever Sean has his writerly little paws involved in too.

 

 

***

John McGuire

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

New release: Dark Moon Daughter

Dark Andelusia Soaring

        Tonight I’m reminded of one of my favorite literary quotes:

“End? No, the journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path, one that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass, and then you see it.”

“See what?”

“White shores, and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise.”

I leave it to you to find the source of this gem.

No, I’m not dead. Not just yet.

I’ve been working on this one for so long, it hurts in a very real, physical sense. I was a young man in my twenties when I wrote Dark Moon Daughter‘s first chapter. I was fresh, full of hope, bright-eyed, sun-shiny, and so forth. And now I’m a bitter, black-hearted old man. Ok. That’s probably overkill. But it’s true; seeing both sides of the coin is enlightening. It’s hard to write about darkness, shadows, and bone-crushing defeat until you’ve experienced a bit firsthand…and stood up stronger afterward.

And so, without further ado, I present:

DMDCoverCS3

Click me. Buy me. Read me. Love me.

I loved and sometimes hated every moment of writing Dark Moon Daughter. Yes, seriously. An adventure, it was, and not always easy. I climbed mountains tall and snowy…and wandered caverns dark and deep. Writing and editing this one felt like a relationship with an onery, passionate woman, and now I’m happy to let her soar free as a falcon. As of today, the Kindle version is on sale for a mere $6.99.  In a few days, the softcover version will be out on Amazon (and for those who live near enough, via me directly). Also, for the first five people willing to post an Amazon review (any amount of stars) I will hand over a signed softcover edition. I’ll even pay shipping if needed. You know where to reach me.

Dark Andelusia Landing        A little background on Dark Moon Daughter:

 – At only about half as long as Down the Dark Path, she’s more in the realm of traditional fantasy novels. For those terrified of my first epic’s staggering word-count, fear not. DMD is shorter and focuses primarily on three characters instead of six

 – The front cover is a painting hanging on my living room wall. Eileen Herron, a supremely talented sculptor and painter, braved an unedited copy of the book to prepare for the painting. Eileen also drew up the sketches in this post, each a dead ringer for the image of Andelusia…and the Ur

 – I began writing Dark Moon Daughter in 2003. I was miserable after the Chicago Cubs blew a 3-1 series lead over the Florida Marlins, and thus decided the only way to recover was to write a supremely dark, gut-wrenching novel. Weird, eh?

–  While a spiritual sequel to Down the Dark Path, ‘Daughter does not require the reader to know DDP through and through. But without a doubt, the third and final book in the series, Nether Kingdom, will demand a reading of Dark Moon Daughter. It’s almost like a mini two-part series rather than a trilogy, but ‘trilogy’ sounds better, so that’s what I’m calling the three books combined

– Dark Moon Daughter is definitely the least dark entry in the series. I like to think of her as a gateway drug. Inject a little Andelusia, Grimwain, and Ur into your veins, and you’ll be unable to resist coming back for more

Ur Shadow Sketch

A simple Eileen Herron sketch and an accidental preview of the Ur, who will haunt the pages of Nether Kingdom aplenty…

Supporters of fantasy, lovers of the night, eaters of words, I hope you’ll snag Dark Moon Daughter soon and give her a spin. She’s quite a catch.

Love,

J Edward Neill

 

 

Free Short Story Time: Piece by Piece

I’m trying to figure out this publishing thing. I’ve got the book, got a comic, got a little novella, but I know I need to do more. The chances of anyone having just one thing out there in the void and suddenly hitting it big are pretty low. And that’s fine with me. I know it is a marathon and not a sprint (to borrow that old cliche’). Still, the projects I’m working on don’t really feed the beast of The Dark That Follows. And while I have ideas for the sequel, I’m not ready to really dive in (too many other projects that must get done).

So how do I fix that? How do I get potentially more eyes on this book I wrote without writing another book in the same world?

writing

An aside… when the four of us teamed-up to form this little spot in the corner of the internet we talked about doing a short story for the site. Something that might even be able to use the name Tessera in its title or as its inspiration.

Jeremy jumped in, both feet first, because that man is a machine. Maybe in an effort to make everyone else look bad (jerk!) or maybe to light a fire under our collective asses, he wrote Old Man of Tessera (free on this here website!).

I’d been thinking about a story, but I really wanted it to tie into The Dark That Follows somehow. Have a place where they could get the short for free and if they liked what they read, maybe they’d check out the book. Something extra. And a story began to shape itself in my mind.

A short story.

This is the old two birds one story idea. And while I didn’t name it Tessera or Tesserization or Tesselation or… (well, you get the idea), it does take a little bit of inspiration from trying to see a bigger picture from little bits of information.

PIECE-BY-PIECE-COVER

So without further ado, I present to you Piece by Piece. You can find it here on the site, and shortly you should be able to find it for free download on the various other platforms… but you can get it first!

 

***

John McGuire

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

 

Caption Contest (Part 3 of 10,000)

Oops! A week without skulls! What has the world come to?!

This week, let’s dip back into freebie-ville. It’s simple. You blow up the comments section with a funny caption of my favorite animal in the entire world (her name’s Sticky Buns). Whoever makes me laugh the most wins a free, signed, softcover copy of Dark Moon Daughter, which releases in about two weeks. It’s pretty easy to make me laugh. So if more than one of you bust my gut, I’ll consider multiple free copies.

 

IM000021

Sah-wing and a miss!

So let’s review. You make fun of this: IM000021 and if you win, you get this:  Dark Moon Daughter Final Front Cover Large (600x900) (600x900)

Contest ends on Midnight -Friday, April 4th.

Boom.

Love,

J Edward Neill

 

How it all began…

Malog J Sketch

 

 

 

Quite by accident, this week’s blog…

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

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

And then one day I started sketching.

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

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

Grae Knight J Sketch

 

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

 

 

Wraith Sketch 2

 

 

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

 

Wraith Sketch 1

 

 

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

 

 

Undead J Sketch

 

 

 

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

 

 

Grimwain J Sketch

 

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

 

 

Ande J Sketch

 

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

 

 

 

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

Until next time,

J Edward Neill

 

 

 

 

 

Making Monsters

Sarcophage

 

 

 

He was three-thousand winters dead, as deaf to Andelusia’s bleating as a coffin full of bones. His very presence was evil, his breaths curling like smoke from beneath his iron mask. As he dragged her through Midnon, his passing withered moths and turned bowlfuls of red apples to ash… – Reference to Mogru, Servant of the Warlock – Dark Moon Daughter

 

 

Few things in a writer’s life are as satisfying as creating a villain everyone can root against. Trust me. I know. While there’s plenty to be loved about the nuanced, tragic villain, (see here) sometimes a story calls for a simpler brand of evil. I’m looking at you, Zombies, Terminators, Orcs, and Godzillas. I’m inviting you to the dance, Nazgul, Octoroks, Balrogs, and all the skeletal guys from Evil Dead. Strip away elegance, reason, and humanity, and you’re left with bad guys worth despising. Authors need these kinds of monsters sometimes. Readers crave them. After all, the main antagonists require cannon fodder. They need spawn. They need an evil army with which to take over the world.  

The picture above is an Eileen Herron sketch of Mogru, one of many soulless villains in my latest fantasy novel. I can’t say I’ve ever had as much fun as I did when writing about this particular monster. For as much enjoyment as I gleaned from penning other villains, Mogru took the cake. He’s soulless. He’s indestructible. He’s a skeletal Terminator, only he prefers six foot-tall swords rather than machine guns. How can he be stopped? Well…he can’t be. Writing about every crackle of his bones and every hapless good guy he carves to tatters was pure pleasure. Every writer needs a Mogru. Every reader will find him easy to hate.

So how does one carve away just the right amount of personality to craft a wickedly good monster? It’s delicate work, to be sure. Take away too much, and you’re left with a cardboard, video-game cutout of a bad guy. Add too much flavor, and you’ll be stuck with a Jar Jar Binks or a BeBop and Rocksteady. What you’ll need, and what readers appreciate, is the just enough/not too much approach.  If the minion must talk, keep it brief and sharp. He’s a minion, after all; his master should do most of the talking. If it’s a monster you’re making (and it is; that’s why we’re here) describe it, but not too in-depth. Our imagination should make the horror in our minds, not two pages of extrapolation about whence he came. More than anything, focus on action. Use words as the monster’s weapons. The skeletal knight shouldn’t walk, he should shamble along, dragging his rusted sword through the muck. The dragon shouldn’t simply fly, but soar through halos of smoke belched from his foul gut. The maggoty goblins should slither and skulk, wandering the glooms in search of children to devour. See what I mean? Hell, just writing those three little sentences made me want to make a new monster.

Some of my favorite baddies in literature/film:

White Walker

 

 White Walkers (The Others) – Game of Thrones (The book and the show) – We don’t get much of them, but the tastes we do get leave us salivating for more. Raising the dead, living in the frozen wastes…you’ve got to love their deathy style.

 

 

Alien

The Xenomorph – Alien & Aliens – They’ve no personality, which makes them perfect. They’ve nothing to love, nothing to live for save to spread across the galaxy. Loathsome. Horrifying. Killing one is nothing, since there’re thousands more coming.

 

 

 

Nazgul

 

Nazgul – Lord of the Rings – Scaring the shit out of Middle-Earthlings everywhere. We know just enough about them to terrify us, but not so much as to burn away their mysteriousness. Definitely easy to root against, though I admit getting teary-eyed when Eowyn butchered the Witch King.

 

 

There you have it, my shout out to all the lesser evils of the world. What’s a master without a minion? What’s a wicked wizard to do without an undead host to serve him? If nothing else, monsters give the good guys something to do. And thank the stars for that, else their heroic lives would feel woefully boring.

It’s dark now. I’ve a rare moment alone to work. I think I’ll sculpt a new villain. You’ll see her soon enough.

J Edward Neill

A Long Time Ago… We Used to be Friends…

My wife is obsessed.

I’m getting ahead of myself.

If you were a writer and you happened to know a Chemist, the best thing for you when you need to insert a generic scientist into your story MIGHT be to make that character a Chemist. I mean you have the access to that knowledge (so your story can be a little more authentic). It just makes sense.

Veronica_mars_intro

With the TV show Veronica Mars, I have access to an expert as well.

Now I’m not 100% on this, but I’d be willing to bet that she’s watched the show (3 seasons and 60+ episodes) more than anyone else on the planet (at the very least she has to be in the top 1% of Veronica Mars fans when it comes to watching episodes) (which probably means I’ve watched every episode 6 or 7 times). We own the DVDS and she’s manged to wear 2 of the seasons out from the repeated play (yeah, I didn’t know that could happen either with DVDs). When the SOAP Network (RIP) began showing the series in order during a 2 hour block every day (and then on the weekends as well) there was many a day I would come home from work to find V-Mars playing on the TV. Think about it, she’d watch episodes with commercials in them because she loved it so much (well, maybe there was a bit of laziness in there as well, not wanting to hunt down that particular episode).

A little obsessed…

So when Veronica Mars had a chance of returning to the world through a movie with their Kickstarter Campaign about a year ago, it was never a question of IF we’d be supporting the project. The only question was “how much would we pledge”. And when they passed 2 million dollars she squealed like a teenage girl. Then the countdown was on, and on March 14, 2014 at 7:15 we sat in a theater, about 1/2 full, and watched Veronica appear on the screen for the first time in about 8 years.

We also have a digital copy of the movie. Don’t ask how many times she’s watched it (I ran out of toes and fingers counting).

Amazon-Kindle-Worlds

Then when Veronica Mars was announced as being a part of the Amazon Kindle Worlds program, whether we were going to do a project was secondary to who the story would focus on, when to place it…

For those that may not know, Kindle Worlds is a way for you to write Fan Fiction in a world in a more legit manner. They license the properties and open them up to anyone to contribute. Whatever your opinion of fan fiction might be, it still strikes me as a kinda cool way to be more apart of the world(s) we all know and love.

With this opportunity and this particular World, my wife and I had to do something.

And that led us to Mac.

Veronica Mars

 

Mac is Veronica’s friend. She’s sorta the Q to Veronica’s James Bond. And since we weren’t going to write about Veronica directly she jumped out at us.

Collaboration is always tricky when writing comics or prose or whatever, but collaboration with your spouse… well, it was actually fairly easy. We spent a couple of weeks after the initial announcement in early February just talking about plot lines, possible angles to take. Which characters would appear? Which season would we set things? And so on. Then once we had the rough beats for things I started writing and over the course of about 2 weeks pounded out the first draft. She read it in 2 parts, the first 3 chapters and then the last 3 chapters. I then took her edits and did another pass on the story with her sitting beside me to really go over any places I had questions about.

The final step, after multiple drafts, was to read it aloud. I’ve read about other writers who do this in order to make sure that the sentences aren’t too awkward. The idea being that if you stumble over it as you read it aloud, then it probably needs to be rephrased. I gotta say, that after doing it I not only noticed more than a couple of odd sentences, but also caught a couple of simple errors, double words, that sort of thing.

So maybe there is something to this technique.

Anyway, we hit submit on the novella Sunday evening and last night I got the email from Amazon that it was now live! Right Here!

That’s right, you can now read a Veronica Mars story by me and the wife, if you happen to be into that sort of thing. And you should be, especially if you were ever a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Joss Whedon appeared in the show and at one point said it was his favorite show on tv (at least while it was on the air). So that’s gotta count for something, right?

dana-whedonverse

This guy likes Veronica Mars, you should too.

And now a little excerpt from the novella (just a taste)…

Get away from Beaver. Now. He’s a killer. I’m in the lobby.

The words scream at me from my phone. Veronica’s attempt to help me. To save me.

It’s been two weeks, and I’m not sure exactly what those words mean.

Oh, I understand the big things. The newspapers had part of it, and Veronica filled me in on the rest. Beaver was the one who killed all those people on the bus. Beaver tried to set Veronica up. And that night, he tried not only to kill her, but almost killed her dad with the bomb, which blew up Woody Goodman’s plane.

Get away from Beaver. Now. He’s a killer.

The words are in English, and yet they make no sense. Nothing about that night makes any damn sense. Try as I might I can’t wrap my head around it. What was supposed to be a special night became a nightmare. Since then, the days have been the better part of a blur. So I sit here at Java the Hut and stare at my cell phone, hoping through sheer force of will the phrase will make a little sense at some point.

I’m not holding my breath though.

He’s a killer.

What does that even mean?

***

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.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

am.

Cover Reveal – Dark Moon Daughter

DMD Slider 1

 

 

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

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

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

DMD Garrett v Sarcophage

 

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

 

 

DMD Warlock Image

 

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

 

 

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

DMD Original Cover

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

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

Until next time,

J Edward Neill

 

Harry Potter for #TBT

I began reading the Harry Potter books when my daughter was three or four years old. They weren’t books I had to think my way through. I read them to laugh, to escape, to have fun.The first four books I read before I moved to the UK 2004, another two while living in London and The Deathly Hallows when I returned to the US in 2008. Several memories stick out over course of those eight years.

1. I watched the first film on a flight to Paris in 2002.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

In 2002 I graduated from the University of Georgia, a few years off my original target but I graduated nonetheless. I’d left college in 1997 due to a slew of bad choices, then married and had the child doctor’s weren’t sure I’d ever have. After my short attempt at marriage ended, I wanted to finish my degree, not something all single mother’s would have the courage to attempt, but I beat Cancer, it couldn’t be as difficult as that, right? The trip to Paris was a gift from my mother and step father for beating the odds.

The seats, on my first international flight, had monitors built into the back of the headrests. When I found Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone on the movie list I could hardly contain my excitement. I’d not seen the movie because I didn’t have anyone I thought would want to see it with me. I wasn’t as brave then as I am now. With the earphones plugged in, I escaped into another world. It was my half contained giggles throughout the movie that eventually pulled my mother into the films too.

Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban2. I took my daughter to see The Prisoner of Azkaban in London.

My daughter wasn’t reading the books yet, but she’d caught onto the Harry Potter craze. (Up until a couple months ago we still had our VHS copies of The Sorcerer’s Stone and The Chamber of Secrets.) When we moved to London in 2004 The Prisoner of Azkaban was still out, little did I know how creepy the Dementors would be! But it didn’t phase her one bit. She’d obviously inherited my iron will. This also happened to be our first movie going experience at our local Odeon on High Street Kensington. I’ll never forget it.

3. My daughter and I read The Deathly Hallows together (or rather simultaneously).

Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows

When we moved back to the US in 2008 my daughter decided it was time for her to read all of the Harry Potter books; which is an easy task for a child who can read a 300 page book in one sitting. I’ve seen her read three such books in one day! While she caught up, I re-read The Half-Blood Prince. Then we both read The Deathly Hallows. Until Part 2 of the film released, we both felt as if we belonged to a secret club. My mother has seen the movies, but not read the books. Yes, she’s one of those people. My daughter and I were careful not to give anything away, but when she wasn’t looking we gave knowing smiles. We knew the truth (about Snape).

And now, you know the truth. It was my fault. I sucked my entire family into the wizarding world of Harry Potter!