Darkest Days of Summer Book Sale

You don’t want to go outside.

You’ll roast out there. It’s 4,000,000 degrees.

Your only option? Curl up beside a candle in an otherwise shadow-filled room…

…and read my epic fantasy novel, Down the Dark Path.

Which, by the way, is discounted to $0.99 (from $8.99) for the next few days.

Soul Orb New DDP Cover Second Try

Down the Dark Path – Book One of the Tyrants of the Dead trilogy
Darkest of all dark fantasy epics.
When Andelusia Anderae leaves home in search of a better life, she accidentally plunges into the world-ending war between Graehelm and Furyon. The deeper she falls, the more she senses the dark powers rising within her, and the more she realizes she is not so different than the enemy. Love might not be enough to save her, for the Furyons are all-powerful, and the shadow within her desires her more than any living man ever will.

Down the Dark Path chronicles the struggles of six individuals during the Furyon invasion of Graehelm and sets the stage for the horrific powers lurking behind the war. For even as the Furyons threaten to end all life, the true enemy, the ancient civilization of the Ur, draws nearer to rebirth.

J Edward Neill

Deep, Dark Book Reading Contest

The Deep, Dark Book Reading (and reviewing) Contest

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What’s it all about?

Well…

I’ve got a brand new in-the-box Kindle Fire and a $25 Amazon Gift Card. And I’m itching to give them away.

That’s right.

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How do you enter to win?

It’s easy. Anytime between right now and August 12th, 2016, you purchase, read, and write an honest Amazon review for any of the books at the bottom of this article. And you send an email right here with a link to your completed review.

What then?

On August 13th, I’ll choose two winners at random from all the entrants. The first winner will receive a free Kindle Fire shipped at no cost. The runner-up will receive a $25 Amazon gift card.

Any questions? If so, add them to the comments section below or send them here.

Oh…

Here’s the eligible books:

DDP 1 101 Questions for Humanity WebImageFront

 Dark_Moon_Daughter-InitialCover TheHecatombWeb

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Noteworthy stuff:

I’ll ship the prizes on August 12th.

Multiple reviews posted gives entrants extra chances to win.

I’m looking for honest reviews only. 1 star, 3 stars, 5 stars. Whatever. The # of stars will absolutely not influence the random prize drawing.

If the number of entrants exceeds 25, I will add extra prizes.

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Good luck.

And please enjoy whichever book you choose…

J Edward Neill

 

Evaluation M-047

I have something different to share this week–a Throwback Thursday. Not an image, but words. In 2011, I wrote a short piece of fiction (flash fiction) for StoryADay. It won honorable mention in a contest they held that year. I always intended to return to this story, to breathe more life into the world and characters. It’s an odd feeling reading something I wrote five years ago. I have to stop myself from editing the little eyesores. So many things scream at me when I read this piece. Maybe it will be incentive to dive back into the words.


Evaluation M-0147

Evaluation M-047

She wouldn’t break eye contact. A film of anxiety glistened across her forehead. In her hands she turned over a small trinket, again and again—a good luck charm. She’d need it. The baggy hand-me-downs didn’t hide the frail condition of her body, nor her spirit.

I glanced at the paperwork in my hands.

Mary Emerson – 8 yrs – Sole Survivor of Glendale

Eight years old is too young to be a trainee, too young to be sitting the across the table from me tonight. I’m the evaluator. I’m the one who gets to choose who will stand watch in the night. It’s the job no one wants.

Each evaluation begins with a simple statement: This is not a test. But the young are eager to please. When I was a child pleasing our elders involved passing Math, or cleaning our rooms without being asked. Now, childhood ends when you can aim and shoot a target at fifty feet. This ghost of a girl wasn’t ready.

I made motions to cross her name off the list, when her small voice broke the silence.

Chocolate!”

That’s what you miss the most?”

Chocolate. I tried to hide my amusement. When was the last time I’d had chocolate?

No, wait,” she said. “Batteries!”

Better answer. Why?”

Because, batteries generate electricity and we can use them to power machines, like flashlights and Thomas’ defibrillator.”

Eager and intelligent, she could be a malnourished version of me ten years ago. I’d been twelve and eager too. I’d sat with a group of ten other children, in the rain, shivering, waiting to be called inside. The room had been dark, like this one, but instead of a single candle there’d been a single dim light bulb.

Damn. I miss those generators.

Okay, next question. You’re on the wall. You spot Leuks. What is the first thing you do?”

Her fingers squeezed the life out of the trinket in her hand. I’d had one of those too, a lucky rabbit’s foot. The silly souvenir was a gift from my father.

I confirm with my binoculars. If there really are Leuks, I ring the bell four times.”

I pretended to make a few notes. There was no right or wrong answer, only reactions to measure.

Next question. Leuks breach the wall. What do you do?”

Tomorrow could be the day. A raid now would obliterate this settlement. I wish my brother were here. Were we fighting the inevitable?

Ma’m?”

I tore my thoughts away from what I’d lost and focused on her fear filled eyes. Her need to prove herself had hidden the truth. But now I saw the jagged nails and torn cuticles. Who had she lost?

What is it, Maggie?”

Ma’m, are we are going to make it?”

What?” Then I heard them. The bells were ringing. Shouts and screams began to pierce the darkness. Stay calm.

Of course, we are,” I said and forced a smile.

I pulled a tattered white rabbit’s foot from under my collar and placed it around her neck. We all dealt with the stress in our own way. Some survived. Some became shells of their former selves. Some heard the call of the blood.

© Amanda Makepeace

The quest for book reviews – A Door Never Dreamed Of

It’s my top-selling book of all time.

It’s a deep glimpse into the darkest corner of humanity’s future.

It’s about two sides squaring off against with the entire world at stake. There is no evil. There is no good.

There is only…

A Door Never Dreamed Of

DoorNeverDreamedPaperback1

All I ask is if you pick up A Door Never Dreamed Of, you kindly leave an honest review on Amazon.

Oh, and here’s a quick and easy guide on how to review a book in 60 seconds or less.

Open the door tonight…

J Edward Neill

Funny. It doesn’t feel ‘Dark.’

Ok.

I’m done writing philosophical books for now.

I’ve got no plans to publish anything else like this weird little thing.

And I’m pretty much out of horror ideas.

So it’s like this. I’m getting back to my roots. It’s time for more darkness, more shadows, and more end-of-the-universe type books. It’s my bread and butter. It’s my dice-move on the dance floor.

My new book? It’s called Darkness Between the Stars. It’s now available to buy right here.

Here’s a splash of the Amanda Makepeace cover art:

DarknessTesseraBanner

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Oh…and here’s the entire first chapter:

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Earthbound

  

Many years before they selected me to save humanity, I knew who their choice would be.

Maybe that’s why they picked me. Maybe they planted the idea in my head when I was only a little boy. Or perhaps it was a simple matter of me guessing right. But somehow I knew.

I’m meant for something else, I remember thinking.

I’m not destined to be earthbound.

Those were strange thoughts for a six-year old boy. No, they were beyond strange. They were surreal. It was the year 4901, and I had no concept of what those feelings meant. I didn’t know anything about deep space travel, the Thousand-Year War, or humanity’s exodus from Earth. Everyone else in the world knew about these things, but not me. Not little Joff.

All I really knew were my father’s wheat fields, my mother’s love for me and my sister, and my teddy bear, Alpo, who was missing his right arm.

Alpo’s story was a funny one. He was named after an aluminum can. And it wasn’t just any can, but a three-thousand year-old one I found in the dirt in one of Dad’s fields. ‘Alpo,’ it said in faded yellow print. Maybe that’s why Dad used to say our fields were the most fertile of all. Something about being on a landfill. Something about wheat growing better on top of thirty-century old garbage.

Whatever.

I didn’t care. I was six years old. The same night I found the ancient can, I sprinted home and renamed my teddy bear. Everything in the world seemed right.

Those were the best of days. We were happy, all of us. We lived in a valley with mountains on three sides. Our fields of golden wheat swayed to breezes that never stopped. All around our little stone house, pale streams tickled the earth, clean and crisp as anything. Life wasn’t always easy, but it was quiet. Our family was untouchable, a last island floating on an ocean of technology.

Although weren’t entirely isolated.

A city lay just outside our valley.

By modern standards, Donva was a small town. To a six-year old boy who’d rarely been beyond his valley, it was awe-inspiring. They’d named Donva after the woman who’d first suggested a settlement there. Like most cities back then, it was all blacks and whites. Not the people, mind you. The buildings. Skinny dark towers jutted skyward from its heart, while warrens of pale, impossibly clean dwellings sprawled in the towers’ shadows. People lived in the little white houses and worked in the big black spires. Donva was so tight-knit that almost everyone walked everywhere. The only time anyone took a train or a hover-truck was to leave the city entirely, which most people rarely did.

I remember one of my earliest visits.

We were in the car on a warm, sunny morning. It was Mom, my sister Aly, and me. We weren’t piloting one of those fancy, matte-grey hover-trucks, but instead we rode in a combustion engine car. Yes, those. The same kind they say fouled the air centuries ago. And so rare in 4901 that only a hundred or so existed, while even fewer actually worked.

So when we rolled into town on a shiny white road everyone else used for walking, we got the best looks from people. They smiled, waved, and stopped to say hello to Mom. They didn’t begrudge our pretty chrome prize, but instead welcomed the sight. It was the way things were in Donva. It wasn’t like the big cities, the scary cities.

I’d have had more fun that morning if not for Aly. She always made it a point to start little wars with me every time we were in the car. That day was no exception.

“You’ll never get to sit up front,” she told me for the thousandth time.

“Yes I will,” I argued. “I’ll be bigger than you someday. Dad says so.”

“But I’ll always be older.” She made a face. “Which means the front is mine. Forever.”

I felt myself getting angrier. If there was one thing I hated, it was injustice. Aly saw me grinding my teeth and grinned at me. I waited for Mom to stop our brewing battle, but she didn’t. I think she wanted us to fight it out without her help.

“We’ll run out of gas someday,” I told Aly. “Dad’s big tank will go dry. Then we’ll have to walk. There won’t be any front seats. You’ll see.”

She laughed at me. “It’ll be funny, you on your skinny legs. You’ll get half a kilo, and Mom will have to carry you. Isn’t that right, Mom?”

In her fancy black shades and wide-brimmed white hat, Mom didn’t say a word. She turned the wheel and drove down a side road. I think I saw her shake her head, but from the back seat it was hard to tell.

“I’ll break your dolls.” I decided to fight dirty.

“I’ll tear Alpo’s other arm off,” Aly shot back.

“I’ll steal your books,” I huffed.

“I’ll chop off your hair while you’re sleeping.” She smirked.

“Oh yeah…well…I’ll steal your skypad,” I dared.

Aly’s mouth fell open. Mom slowed the car and took off her sunglasses. I knew right away I’d gone too far.

“What did I tell you about the skypad, Aly?” Mom stared at my sister, calm as a cloud before a storm.

Aly glared at me. If she’d have turned any redder, her head might’ve burst.

“If your father catches you with it, he won’t even bother to sell it,” Mom continued. “He’ll throw it in the combine and grind it into powder. You know how he feels about those things.”

“But Mom—” Aly tried.

“Tomorrow we’re coming back here,” Mom cut her off. “You bring the pad. We’ll sell it, and you can use the money for whatever you want. But no tech. No vids, no sprites, and no dream-makers.”

“Mom—”

“Non-negotiable,” said Mom.

And that was the end of it.

We kept driving. Aly hated me, and I didn’t say another word. I hadn’t meant to get her into trouble. I’d just blurted out the thing I knew would win the argument. I’d always been good at winning. Not so much at surviving the aftermath.

If Aly was heartbroken, she had every right to be. Our father’s disdain for technology was legendary. He didn’t like vids, which usually just spouted ads for other tech. He really didn’t like sprites, which floated around people’s heads and played whatever media their users wanted them to. And he really, really disliked dream-makers, which were known to be addictive, so much that some people never slept right after just a few days of using them.

But above all those things, Dad didn’t like skypads. Skypads were like pieces of almost indestructible paper. You cold bend them, stick them to walls, wear them, whatever you liked. And using a skypad, with the right hacks, you could connect to and view everything. If you wanted to watch a signal from a satellite on the far side of Earth, you could do it. If you fancied eavesdropping on feeds from near-orbit space stations, it was easy to make happen. But worse than anything, if you wanted live video of world news, which Dad despised, all you had to do was click a button, and every channel in the world opened up beneath your fingertips.

I was sure all Aly used her skypad for was to vid-chat with her friends, but that wouldn’t matter to Dad. He assumed the worst of most technology. And therefore he’d banned it from our household.

That night at dinner, Aly and I sat in silence at the table. Dad heaped potatoes and greens on our plate, and both of us nibbled. It didn’t take long before Dad noticed us.

“What’s on your mind, Joff?” he asked me.

“Nothing,” I fibbed.

“Aly?” he pried.

“Nothing.”

Dad took another bite. He knew something was up. But as was ever his way, he didn’t get angry.

“Nothing?” he said while he chewed. “The funny thing about nothing is that it’s always something. You went to Donva today. That’s something. You brought home salt, spices, and a new kettle. That’s something more. And I’m sure you both saw your mother’s new hat. It’s beautiful, isn’t it? That’s definitely something.”

Aly dropped her gaze to the floor. I knew what she was thinking. And I also knew our father.

He knew about the skypad.

He’d already found it.

“Just tell him, Aly,” I whispered.

“Tell him what?” She stared a hole through me.

“You know…”

Dad gave both of us The Look. We knew what it meant. Whenever he broke The Look out, it meant he wasn’t going to say another word. No one at the table, Mom included, was allowed to speak, eat, or leave until The Look was answered.

And on that night, the only right answer was for Aly to admit she’d been hiding a skypad in her room for almost three months.

I wanted to answer for her. My sense of justice told me that the sooner we fessed up, the better. But The Look that night was less for me and more for Aly. Dad wanted her to fess up, not for me to protect her.

I’m not sure how long we sat there and waited. The steam stopped rising from our potatoes and our greens got cold. Aly looked to Mom for an escape, but Mom just sat there with her hands folded in her lap. She and Dad were a wall. There was no getting around them, no climbing over. The only way to get through was to tell the truth.

“I…” Aly’s voice cracked. “I have a skypad. And I know what you’re going to say, but…it’s not what you think. I don’t care about watching the fights in the wasteland. I don’t hack into the space stations. I just talk to Sara and Melina. That’s all.”

“And?” Dad still wore The Look.

“…and sometimes steal a show from the satellites. But nothing gory, Dad. No war feeds.”

I knew she’d told the truth. Not because I believed her, but because Dad lifted his cup and took a deep swig of warm milk. He wouldn’t have done it had Aly lied. It would’ve gotten a lot worse.

“So…does that mean I can keep it?” Aly asked.

Our father let out a great gust of air. I sensed he was just a little sad.

“No,” he said.

“But why?” Aly pleaded. “I’m not using it for bad stuff!”

“I know you’re not. But the answer’s the same. It’s done, Aly. It’s gone.”

She looked angry at first, then stunned. I think her plan had been to blame me for everything. But it was obvious Dad had known all along. He’d destroyed the skypad while we’d been in the car arguing about it.

Which meant it wasn’t my fault.

 

 

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The next months were a strange time.

The same as every day, we worked in the fields. It was summer, which meant keeping up the irrigation trenches, feeding the chickens, and doing lots of maintenance on our aging machines. Dad was teaching me to be a blackthumb, which meant I had to learn all about machinery, and that I came home every night with oily hands and dirty clothes. At six years old I probably should’ve been attending school in Donva with Aly, but Dad didn’t want that for me, and I didn’t mind.

“We’ve got enough tech designers and programmers to last ten generations,” he’d say. “So here you’ll work, learning machines. And if ever you need a job in one of the cities, you’ll be the best damn blackthumb they could hope for. You’ll be a master, and you’ll command whatever salary you want.”

And so I watched, worked, and learned all the things my father wanted, even though being a blackthumb wasn’t what I cared about. I did it because Dad wished it and I loved him, though in my heart I wanted something else. I didn’t know exactly what that something else was. But I felt it inside me, a dream smoldering in my mind, a hot thumping in my chest that wouldn’t go away.

I suppose, if I’d understood it better, I would’ve tried to snuff it out.

I don’t know if life would’ve been different. Maybe they’d have picked someone else.

Maybe not.

It wasn’t until near my seventh birthday, on a cold winter’s eve after a long day’s work hauling wood down from the mountains, I learned something about why my father was the way he was. I don’t know why I decided to go to the storage barn instead of rushing home to dinner. Tired as dirt, I wandered off the path and dropped my last stack of firewood against the barn’s outer wall.

And then I pushed the sliding door open and walked inside.

The barn was dark inside. We didn’t have any animals in it; the cattle were in a different barn. I slid inside to escape the howling wind and catch my breath before dinner, and I pushed the door shut behind me. The smells of old wood, of tools that hadn’t been used since summer, and of cold, hard soil drifted through the air. I reached out for the old bench that sat just to the door’s left, and I sank onto it, limp as a dishrag.

If I’d had a blanket, I might’ve slept the night in the barn. I was that tired.

Yet no sooner did I lean back against the creaky old bench than I smelled something else. It wasn’t wood or rusty tools or dirt.

Smoke, I know.

What’s that old saying Dad made up? About smoke and fire?

I stood back up. I don’t know why I did it quietly. Most of me knew no one else could possibly be in the barn with me.

Or could there be? I wondered.

I followed my nose. Soundless as a falling star, I crept through the darkness. I’d been in the barn a thousand times in my life. I knew where the door to the tool room was.

Five steps forward.

Turn right.

Seven steps through the narrow hall.

Now touch the door.

I reached out and touched the planks to the tool room’s door. They were warmer than I expected, and the smells wafting between the cracks caught me right in the nose. I put my ear to the door and listened. A voice, so far away, made its way to me. It wasn’t Dad or Mom, or even Aly. The voice was too small, almost like it came from…

…a skypad.

I can’t remember just when I’d learned to be so stealthy. Maybe it was part of having an older sister and knowing how to sneak past her bedroom without her coming out to chase me. But somehow, someway, I pulled the door open wide enough to see inside.

And Dad didn’t hear me.

In the little room, in the quiet heart of the old barn, he sat there on a stool, his workbench laid out before him. An old-world cigarette dangled between his fingers, but he wasn’t smoking it. Nor was he working. He had his back to me, and over his shoulder I saw the skypad’s soft blue glow. He’d stuck it to the side of our red toolbox. I saw it plain as the sun shining, a crown of wrenches standing just behind it.

I stood there and I watched. My shock at seeing Dad so absorbed in the very thing he’d always said he hated didn’t last. I guess I wasn’t really surprised. Maybe I’d known all along.

The program he’d found, The Dusktime Dispatch, flickered on the skypad’s screen. It was a blurry image, doubtless stripped from a satellite thousands of miles away. To hear the voices talking, I had to tune out the entire world, which was easier than I expected.

“What we’re looking at is all that remains of the city they used to call Lun-dun,” announced a man in a flak-jacket and a black beanie hat.

“Yes, Lukas. We know that,” said the newsman.

The two men appeared in separate frames on the skypad. On the right, the newsman sat in a too-clean office somewhere in a vast city. Meanwhile the man in the black beanie, Lukas, occupied the left frame, its edges burning bright red from the approaching sunrise. Lukas looked brawny and a bit dangerous. The skeletal remains of a vast city, which must’ve been a thousand times the size of Donva, stretched out behind him. The sight scared me more than a little.

Lukas adjusted his black beanie and continued:

“Now, as we’ve talked before, today’s the day we’re sending a team into Lun-dun to test the Exodus craters for radioactivity. It’s our hope, after all this time, the levels of poisoning might’ve dropped well below critical toxicity.”

Me being not quite seven years old, I shouldn’t have understood all those fancy words. But I did. I’d read all of Aly’s school books a dozen times, probably while she was hiding and watching the very same skypad Dad and I were watching now.

“When does your team depart?” the newscaster asked.

“In one hour,” said Lukas. “They’re suiting up in their safety gear now.”

“Well…” The newscaster looked concerned. “We’ve talked about this before, about the ERM, the Exodus Reclaiming Mission. But what we’ve never really discussed, Lukas, is exactly what you and your team hope to reclaim. Now that you’re there, and now that we’ve got every skypad in the world tuned to this feed, what can you tell us? Can you say what it is you’re looking for?”

Even on the grainy little skypad screen, I swore I saw Lukas hesitate. It wasn’t even a flinch. It was something about the way he breathed.

Whatever he says next will be a lie, I thought.

“Resources,” said Lukas. “Of course, much of Lun-dun was burned away during the Exodus. But there’s still resources. Precious things beneath the craters.”

“What precious things?” The newsman sounded skeptical.

I didn’t know why, but in that moment I wanted to hear Lukas’ answer more than anything I’d ever heard in my life. I didn’t just want to know; I needed to.

And that’s the exact moment Dad flicked the ashes off the end of his cigarette and glanced over his shoulder.

“Joff?” he said.

I didn’t know how to answer. I just stood there, frozen the same as the icicles hanging off the barn’s roof. I’d figured he’d known I was there. After all, he’d always known everything.

But this time it turned out I’d truly surprised him.

And worse, him facing me meant the skypad was blocked and I couldn’t hear what Lukas said.

Oh God. I shivered. Dad’s never gonna trust me again.

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Look for Darkness Between the Stars in stores now.

In the meantime, if you liked this little chapter, you’ll definitely like A Door Never Dreamed Of.

J Edward Neill 

 

The Sister Series Superstar – Leanne Davis

On an otherwise quiet afternoon, while fishing in a blue lake beneath the summer sun, we caught a fish.

Only this was no ordinary fish.

This was Leanne Davis, author of The Sister Series and The Seaclusion Series, both of which are huge.

And this is no fish story. If you like to read, and you want to catch some top-notch fiction, just go right here.

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But first…read our exclusive interview with Leanne!

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So…Leanne…you’re kind of a big deal. (No blushing allowed.) Let’s talk about your uber-successful The Sister Series. Give us the goods on what it’s about and why you decided to write it:

… So kind of you to say so… but I’m very small fish in the big pond of authors on Amazon. But it has allowed me the privilege to write full time for a living, and I am SO grateful for the opportunity.
Anyway, The Sister Series is (so far) a seven book series that will be ten books when I’m done with it.
This series came about when I had just finished writing my Zenith Trilogy which chronicled a rock band living in downtown Seattle. I had already written my Seaclusion Series which is about a handful of families in the small town of Seaclusion. I wanted something different. And I found it. I had this idea of a soldier and girl… but it didn’t go exactly as I first planned. It became a much involved story than I first intended. The beginning of this book has Jessie Bains kidnapped and being held prisoner in Mexico. Though the time spent there is short; the shock of what happens to her follows her through the rest of her life. She suffers from PTSD, something that I show her dealing with through several books and it spills around to those she loves. The premise of this book and series came about when I happened onto the subject of drug trafficking at the United States border which led me to Mexico, and eventually to how prevalent sex trafficking is, and how it has become tied into the drug cartels. From this research I started to design the overlying theme of this series. The concept for Jessie’s kidnapping was inspired by some of the stories I found and as horrifying as my fiction is, the real stuff is literally sickening. The rest of the series has grown into different relationships and storylines, but the starting book set the tone for the series as my most serious, dark and emotional.
The Sister Series is about the emotional scars and battles that are often hidden in people.
Rape. Drugs. Abuse. Violence. Pain. Betrayal.
And how they can be overcome.
Love. Joy. Family. Forgiveness. Faith. Hope. Redemption.

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The overlying arc of this series is exploring the lives, loves and familial connection of two sets of sisters and their daughters. Each book is a separate story but related to the other books. The series focuses on these women’s trials, tribulations, dreams and their individual quest for acceptance, love and happiness.

You’ve cracked the top of the charts with several of your books. First of all, congrats! Second, wanna share your marketing strategy with the aspiring masses?

Thank you! I’ve had the privilege of some really amazing days in the trenches of Amazon. It’s not often or for long, so when it happens, you will find me taking lots of screenshots of my books as if it’s my child at their first day of school!
My strategy… luck? Seriously, I think a lot of it was due to luck and being in the right place at the right time. When I released The Other Sister it was often picked up as a ‘dark romance’ through Goodreads and when free in the Amazon store. Dark romances, a few years ago, was a relatively new concept of these really intense, almost sadistic romances. My book is not actually dark like that, but the premise sounded like it, so it helped propel interest to it that led to a lot of downloads. From these downloads the book garnered quite a few reviews. It was because of these reviews I was able to use marketing services such as BookBub to run book ads. The large number of downloads from the exposures from these outlets introduced my writing to most of the core readers who follow my books.
When I was picked up by my publisher (The Wild Rose Press) they sent me this list of fifty ways to market as an author. The number one marketing tool was to: write another book. I took that one to heart. I’m much more apt to be found writing another novel than marketing on twitter, Facebook or even blog interviews (look at me doing it now!). I decided that I could do: I can write a lot of books. At any given time I have up to ten novels I want to write. My ideas and characters and desire to write them down is only limited by my physical time to write and edit them! So that is probably my number one marketing strategy, write, write and write some more.

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What kind of stories inspired you to write The Sister Series and The Seaclusion Series?

Often news stories. Which isn’t the typical ‘romance’ inspiration. It’s not the facts that inspire me but it’s pondering what the emotions behind a certain event or experience would make someone feel and the affect it might have on the rest of their lives and relationships. That’s usually where my stories pick up… with my characters dealing with some underlying issue. I like to write about difficult subject matters, I especially like to explore unlikely personality matches or situations and see if I can’t twist the story around to end happily. I take on a lot of untraditional characters for romance heroes and heroines. I’ve written about a drug dealer, several PTSD survivors who aren’t coping well, alcoholics, and even cheaters, just to name a few. I really hate stereotypes so I enjoy seeing if I can’t go against them.

What do you find most challenging about being a modern-day writer?

Time. Exposure. Piracy. Reviews. Sales. The list goes on!
I also think social media, binge watching TV shows and movies… you know everything electronic, distracts potential readers and are our biggest competitors.  I think we authors compete more with other forms of entertainment than we do each other. Many blame the “glut” of new authors and novels as the challenge—as if a flood of books is a bad thing—when I believe it’s merely less readers reading.
The other challenge, as with most authors, is getting “found” on the behemoth Achilles Heel of all authors: Amazon.
The catch-22 of Amazon. I sincerely love Amazon in so many ways. I would not have a career without it, let alone the sales I’ve had or even begin to sustain it. Amazon allows me to publish what I want, when I want to, how I want to and also have the potential of readers.
The catch being, I don’t control it. Why are some books successful? Others release to crickets. I’ve had both. I didn’t do anything different marketing-wise. So if I could find the seemingly mythical formula, I would be a rich author. But in this access to readers, I also hand over all my exposure to Amazon and only Amazon. All my eggs are literally in their basket. They have a lot of control over my career and that is never a smart long term business plan… but at this point there is no better one to have. So… huge catch-22.

Looks like you’ve got a book coming out pretty much now. 🙂 It’s called The Broken Sister. What’s it about and when can readers grab their copy?

The release date was June 20th to Kindle! It is the seventh book in the Sister Series and takes on the daughter of the main character from The Wrong Sister (4th book in the Sister Series).  This book deals with a twenty-year-old college junior being drugged and date raped. She doesn’t remember it, so she doesn’t know what to do in the aftermath of it. As an added twist to this story, her love interest is the brother of her rapist, and she just doesn’t know it… yet.

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To be more official, here is the blurb:

Something happened to Kylie McKinley during her freshman year in college. Something no one knows about. The thing is: she can’t remember it fully, so what could she possibly have to say about it? Why, then, does it keep screwing with her head so much? When another, far braver girl than she comes forward with a story that is eerily similar to Kylie’s own, she begins to see she can’t keep silent forever. Bolstered by this girl, Kylie finally finds the necessary strength after two years of indecision to do something about it. But will it be enough to finally end the silence that has almost broken her?

Then she realizes exactly whom her accusations will pit her against.

Tristan Tamasy has long term plans to be the next head of the Tamasy legacy. Tristan is smart, focused, cultured, and ready to expand their family’s corporation. Tristan is nothing like his younger brother, whose antics have lately started disrupting everything. Now, Tristan has been commissioned for damage control after two girls start making noise against his brother. That’s when he meets Kylie McKinley. From the start, she challenges the road he has chosen for his life. After he starts to realize she might be telling the truth about his brother, his integrity to do what is right conflicts with his loyalty to the family he’s been groomed to protect. It tests everything he believes about himself and threatens to squelch the feelings he has for the one woman he should never want.

Again, thank you for hosting me here today!   (We were happy to have you!)

*

The Broken Sister is now available right here!

 Connect with Leanne:
Website: http://leannedavis.net/Blog/
Amazon Author Page
Facebook Author Page
Twitter: @leannewrites

 

* * *

Enjoy this interview? Be sure to check out ALL of Tessera Guild’s best creative sit-downs right here.

Interview compiled by J Edward Neill

The Complete Backstory of the Tyrants of the Dead Trilogy

Many years have passed…

And many books have I written…

And yet none are as sacred as these first three…

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*

It’s dark now. It’s raining in cold sheets. Thunder shakes the earth. Lightning tears away the night, at least for a half-breath.

It was on one such night, long ago, I dreamed of writing a story so deep and so dark as to challenge all books ever written.

And so I did.

And when it was finished, I named it Tyrants of the Dead.

Three books. Three individual epics. All woven together in the grandest tale I’ll ever dream of.

This is how it went:

* * *

On Dec 26th, 2001, while lounging in my chair on a bitter winter’s night, I began writing. I’d had a dream, and I needed to get it out of my head. The first words I typed were, “Morellellus, oldest harbor of Furyon, was not always so gloomy.” Many of the tens of thousands of words in the Tyrants of the Dead series would change or vanish altogether, but not these. These have always remained the same.

And with that… Down the Dark Path, book one in the series, was born.

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The first and (by far) the longest book in the Tyrants trilogy, Down the Dark Path is at its heart a simple story about a young woman who wanders into a world-ending medieval war. It took me more than ten years to write, rewrite, rewrite again, and finally publish. By the time I finished it in 2013, it had become much more than a tale of a girl and a war. Over the years, I’d added darker and darker elements, including merciless warlords, traitorous knights, and sorcery of the blackest kind. To counter the themes of war and suffering, a love story blossomed in the middle, though whether the tale’s heroine, Andelusia, would ever survive to see her romance through became a question only answered at the utter end.

After completing Down the Dark Path, two things happened.

First, I considered letting one book be the end of it. After all, it was epic length, more than enough to consume three books in most modern fantasy trilogies.

Second, I decided that because it was so long, I wanted to offer it in a four-novella series. Four little books would be easier to wield than one vast epic, I figured.

And so these were born:

DDP 1 DDP 2 DDP 3 DDP 4

These four little novellas comprise all of Down the Dark Path. Meaning, book one in the Tyrants of the Dead trilogy can kinda sorta be four books, depending on how you read it.

*

Moving right along…

Remember how I mentioned I almost let this be the end of the story? Well…turns out the little feeling in my gut lasted only about two weeks. Shortly after publishing Down the Dark Path, I realized I wanted to create a true fantasy trilogy, and that I wanted it to be huuuuge.

And along came Dark Moon Daughter.

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A few facts about Dark Moon Daughter: It’s the shortest book in the trilogy, significantly shorter than the other two entries, but no less an epic-length read. ALSO…it can be consumed as a stand-alone novel or as a prequel to the third book in the series. Meaning readers don’t necessarily have to read Down the Dark Path to get into it.

In Dark Moon Daughter, I took the themes from Down the Dark Path and tightened them into a story about one person instead of many. The deeper I delved, the darker the plot became. A budding sorceress with a broken heart decides to leave an easy life behind in favor of chasing something…only she has NO IDEA what that something is. Turns out that something isn’t something good. It’s something very, very baaaaaaaaaaad.

Something like:

Andelusia knows she is not like other girls.
More than ever, the night calls to her, the stars grant her serenity, and the shadows of black magic pool within her blood. In the dark spaces between her dreams, she feels the power of the ancient world awakening.
And as the enemies of mankind prepare for the world’s end, she must choose:
Fight them…
…or join them.

I published Dark Moon Daughter in 2014. It was my favorite of the three to write, and ironically the least ‘dark’ in the series.

*

A few hours after successfully publishing Dark Moon Daughter, I found myself sitting in the shadows again. I was lonely without a book to write, and I needed to get immediately back to work. I’d long ago decided how I wanted the Tyrants series to end. And for all my love of such greats as Tolkien, George R.R. Martin, Rothfuss, and all the rest, I believed in my heart I could do fantasy endings better. And by better I mean more adult, more visceral, and darker than anyone had done it before.

Along came Nether Kingdom.

 NetherKingdomWebLgAt the world’s edge, Andelusia awakens to the terrible realization that all her dreams have come to nothing. No matter that her father, the warlock, has fallen into exile. No matter that the enemies of mankind have retreated into darkness. When the shadows in her heart cause the seasons to change and deadly storms to sweep across Thillria, she knows what will come:
The Black Moon will descend.
Grimwain will return.
The Ur will rebuild their haunted civilization atop humanity’s graveyard.
Unless she alone wages war against the Nether Kingdom, the world will burn.

In Nether Kingdom, things go badly for every character who survived the first two books. A villain thought long-dead is resurrected. Planet-snuffing demons roam the ether, ready to remake everything in their image. No one is fully good. Plenty of people are dedicated to evil. For all of Dark Moon Daughter’s departure from pure wickedness, Nether Kingdom brought it back. I gave the bad guys a spotlight and shoved everything else into the shadows. And I really, really enjoyed writing one character in particular, whose name I shall not utter here.

I published Nether Kingdom in 2015. It concluded the Tyrants trilogy. But…and there’s always a but, it doesn’t mean I won’t come back to the series someday. I have plans long in the making that include a prequel AND a two-book sequel. The only challenge: living long enough to make it happen.

Maybe I will.

Maybe I won’t.

I hope you enjoyed this glimpse at Tyrants of the Dead. If you want a little more, I created a fun glossary of characters, places, and things from the series. Check it out.

I also hope you’ll read the books. Love them to pieces. And review the hell out of them on Amazon. :)

Until next time…

Love,

J Edward Neill

Sequels That Never Were – The Crow

The Crow: The Devil’s Mask

Setting: Washington, D.C.

Time: The Near Future

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Night. A crow soars through the city streets of Washington, D.C. In the distance there are fires burning, the results of the latest riots. While the crow continues its flight, the narrator, a woman’s voice, speaks.

“Sometimes, when a person has died a horrible death their soul is too sad to cross over to the other side.  Then sometimes a crow comes to guide the spirit back to right the wrongs that had been done to it.”

The crow lands on a rooftop and scans the surroundings until its gaze rests upon the White House.  The building is only half standing. Only a few of its flags remain waving in the night breeze, and those are dirty and tattered. The crow continues on to the White House.

Interior of the White House.  A large black man sits at the head of the long hall. Beneath him is his throne, a patchwork of various pieces raided from the old seat of the Republic. Beside him, one to either side, are two women in various states of undress. Throughout the hall are an assortment of thugs and hired guns ensuring that their “King” is in no danger. Above the leader rests lays a rifle with a scope. And around the leader’s neck is a Yin-Yang necklace.

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The front door to the hall opens (slow motion style) and some measure of slower techno/metal song begins to play (only slow at first and then building throughout the scene. Through the entrance stalks our hero, The Crow, with his bird flying in just above him.

The music is in full swing as the Crow lays into the men.  Throughout the fight we cut back to the leader who merely looks at the rifle above him as if he is trying to decide something. Eventually he takes it down, raises it, puts his eye to the scope, and sets the cross-hairs targeting the crow (the bird).  The Crow (the guy) is about to pummel the last of the King’s men when the gun is fired (this coincides with the stoppage of music).

Bird and man fall as the bullet impacts.

The King brings his weapon down to his side and makes his way over to the would-be hero. “Very good.  One, two … nine of my men total you were able to get to.  I think that is well beyond the record.”

As the Crow begins to stand the King raises his weapon again and shoots the Crow’s kneecap.

Screams of pain fill the room.

Over The Crow’s shoulder, the two women walk up beside their leader.  The one on his right holds a revolver, and the one on his left holds a red mask in her hands.  The each hand their items to the Leader. He slowly places the red devil mask on.

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The Crow whispers, “I’m sorry Laura.”

The King cocks his head to one side and raises the gun to the mask’s lips.

“No, no, no.  Tell Laura that you’ll be with her in a moment.  Tell her that I sent you home.”

At that moment a crow flies up from behind the King and lands upon his shoulder.

Wide-eyed, the Crow mutters out, “You’re…”

The King merely nods and levels the revolver at the Crow.

“Tell everyone ‘Hi’ for me.”

The chamber echoes with gun fire.

Fade to black – Narrator’s voice

“And sometimes the person doesn’t want to go back.”

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***

Years ago, after being disappointed in the second Crow movie (after loving the original so much), Chad wrote up a pitch for a sequel to the Crow. And like many things when you get writers to start riffing on a subject, a story appeared to me. I jotted down the notes I had for it while at work, typed it up, and sent it out that next night.

But because I’m a pack rat and never throw anything out (idea or otherwise), this is one of those bits of story I keep trying to reuse in other forms… sometimes it seems like a decent fit, and sometimes it just doesn’t work and the story goes into the folder on the computer not to be looked at again…

But I was looking through that folder this evening and came across the document again, so I thought I’d share it. Not that this is all of it, just what would be in a movie right before the credits kicked in…

***

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.

The Empire is HOLLOW

This Friday the 13th…

Curl up with shadowy medieval tale, Hollow Empire – Night of Knives

Once, the empire of Vhur was the world’s most powerful. But that was before the Lichy plague. Now, twenty years and millions of dead later, only a few cities remain. The survivors walk a fine line between life and the grave.
And come the Night of Knives, even these last few might perish.

Episode Two is free for the next five days!

And Episode One is always free!!

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If you prefer the feel of cold, dead trees beneath your fingers, the complete paperback edition (Episodes 1-6) is here.

J Edward Neill

Author of sci-fi hit A Door Never Dreamed Of

And creator of the Coffee Table Philosophy series

The First and Last Lines of Everything I’ve ever written

Just for fun, I thought I’d share the first and last sentences of all my books.

Some of these will sound ridiculous when looked at side-by-side. Or…as my son likes to say…ridonkulous.

Others will probably come across as ominous. Just the way I like it.

Have fun!

* * *

Nine hundred years ago, humanity believed it had attained perfection. This is what I am meant to do. – from A Door Never Dreamed Of

I knew it’d be a mistake the moment it was over. Nor did she wake when two pale figures strode to her side and carried her away. – from Machina Obscurum

I still remember the eve I came to the city of Tessera. Until everyone in the world is dead. – from The Hecatomb

Hello. “Everything,” I tell him. – from Let the Bodies

It is cold outside, as ever it is in Shivershore. They are watching. – from Dark Moon Daughter

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“Read between these…”

The sea roils beneath my bedchamber. A hand, fat and stinking, reached across the little house’s threshold. – from Nether Kingdom

I once lived a normal life. And they did. – from The Sleepers

Morellellus, oldest harbor of Furyon, was not always so gloomy. Better that I should live long beyond today, and never again take a sword into my hands. – from Down the Dark Path

Which of the following do you think offers you the best chance of meeting someone amazing and firing up a long-term relationship with them? Float between relationships however and whenever you want? – from 101 Questions for Single People

The 7 Deadly Sins are: Envy, Pride… What’s something you’ve thought of, accidentally or otherwise, that might terrify the people who know you? – from 101 Deeper, Darker Questions for Humanity

If you could be the last woman alive in a world fully populated by men, would you? If you could ask all the men in the world one question and have them answer completely and truthfully, what would it be? – from 101 Questions for Women

If you could be the last man alive in a world fully populated with women, would you? His best course of action is to live them. – from 101 Questions for Men

Choose another place and time in history you’d like to live in. What is your Question for Humanity? – from 101 Questions for Humanity

How many dates with a new person do you require before you… Give an exact number. – from 101 Sex Questions

Imagine your worst enemy is kneeling before you. Will everything humanity has accomplished come to nothing in the end? – from 101 Questions for Midnight

Let’s start with a softball question. Or a bad thing? – from 444 Questions for the Universe

On the morning the hunt began, we’d had a hundred men. And when she killed me, it didn’t even hurt. – from The Skeleton Sculptor

You… none of you… are godly men. And I’m bringing the Heartstopper with me. – from Hollow Empire – Night of Knives 

* * *

That was fun.

Now…if you’re a reader, post the first and last sentences of your favorite book in the comments section below.

If you’re an author, do the same for your novel(s).

And to read all the words between the sentences, go here.

Love,

J Edward Neill

One dead. Every night. Forever.

Let’s keep 2016 cold.

Nah. Let’s keep it chilling.

Introducing the cover art for my novella, The Hecatomb.

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

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

The stories are all set in the same world.

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

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

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

See you soon…

J Edward Neill

Down the Dark Path – Deadly Little Discount

This week only.

Down the Dark Path

Mega-discounted for Kindles underworld-wide!

When Andelusia Anderae leaves home in search of a better life, she plunges into the world-ending war between Graehelm and Furyon. The deeper she falls, the more she senses the dark powers rising within her, and the more she realizes she is not so different than the enemy.

Love might not be enough to save her, for the Furyons are all-powerful.

And the shadow within desires her more than any living man ever will. 

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Down the Dark Path – Epic Fantasy for Adults

J Edward Neill

J Edward’s Alternative Book Plotlines

So…

A few weeks ago I got super sarcastic with my list of alternative movie blurbs.

So now that I’ve made fun of everyone else, it’s time I put my own face in the cannon.

Here’s everything I’ve ever published, but with smartass descriptions.

Enjoy!

Hollow Empire Front Cover

Hollow Empire – Night of Knives – Five homeless people with crappy hygiene do their best to avoid living normal lives. The five include an overweight leper, two lovers who refuse to have sex, and the world’s most negligent mom.

 

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Down the Dark Path – Book I – A redheaded girl decides the best way to improve her social status is to follow a murderer into the woods. Meanwhile, a guy with a beard builds a shitload of boats.

 

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Old Man of Tessera – A teenager runs away from home and shacks up with the first guy he meets, who happens to be a creepy octogenarian.

 

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101 Questions for Humanity – An asshole who never studied philosophy in college decides to ruin everyone’s buzz by asking complicated questions.

 

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101 Questions for Midnight – The aforementioned asshole shows up really late and craps on the party. This time he brings a pile of immoral, morbid questions to pester everyone with.

 

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Down the Dark Path – Book II – Rather than live happily in a beautiful city where everyone loves her, a lonely woman stalks a clueless soldier directly into the battle he’s trying not to fight. The soldier’s friend (his hopelessly lousy wing-man) starts killing everyone with a purple sword.

 

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A Door Never Dreamed Of – Two racists decide to impress their girlfriends by using high-tech gadgets to slaughter a bunch of people who can’t even move.

 

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Down the Dark Path – Book III – A bearded douchebag uses his sword to turn his enemies’ country into Seattle. Meanwhile, five guys try to end a war by marching through a swamp and bitching endlessly about the weather.

 

101 Questions for Women Cover

101 Questions for Women – A sexist pig attempts to disguise his chauvinism by approaching women with inappropriate, misogynistic questions.

 

101 Questions for Men Cover

101 Questions for Men – Too terrified to go out and get laid, a guy poses questions about sex and beer to other guys.

 

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Down the Dark Path – Book IV – After ruining a bunch of people’s lives, a woman decides to marry a creepy old wizard. In a petty act of revenge, her boyfriends and their cohorts sneak into the wizard’s house and start breaking his stuff.

 

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The Sleepers – After a family trip to the zoo, a rich kid lets his dad talk him into genocide.

 

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Let the Bodies – A little girl counts her grandpa’s money while watching everyone else die.

 

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101 Deeper, Darker Questions for Humanity – Not content to ruin just one party, the asshole returns with the goal of depressing even the most optimistic people.

 

101 xxxy Questions Front Cover

101 Sex Questions – A sex-addict with no relationship skills breaks into normal people’s bedrooms and begs to watch them do nasty stuff.

 

  Dark Moon Daughter New Kindle CoverDark Moon Daughter – Thinking it’ll be the life change she needs, a red-headed woman dyes her hair black and starts having an affair.

 

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Nether Kingdom – Fully gothed-out, a woman wanders the countryside in search of her dad’s house. Meanwhile, a guy starts a war just so he can have a séance in a cave.

 

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444 Questions for the Universe – The party-wrecking A-hole returns, compiling a crapload of philosophical BS to annoy and frustrate his friends.

 

Machina Front Cover

Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows – A morbidly obese guy runs a day-care center, a pothead decides to get pizza, a woman starts dating the dude she murdered, an arguing couple kills in the name of train-hopping, and much, much more…

 

* * *

I’d love to say these were all jokes and none of these descriptions are accurate.

But let’s not kid ourselves…

See you soon!

J Edward Neill

Down the Dark Path – Resurrection

With new art comes new possibilities.

 Introducing ALL NEW cover art for the Down the Dark Path four-book series.

They’re slick. They’ve got terrifying new covers. They’re bound in feels-amazing-beneath-your fingers matte.

1 2

3 4

Book I preserves most of the original Amanda Makepeace art, but books II, III, and IV are darker than ever.

Drown in the darkest of all dark fiction series’ today.

J Edward Neill

Best Works Featuring “Regular Folks with Super Abilities”: Part 1

2016 is going to bring no shortage of superheroes and super-villains on both the large and small screens. We’ve got Batman vs. Superman, Daredevil: Season 2, The Suicide Squad, Luke Cage, Agent Carter: Season 2, Captain America: Civil War, and the list goes on and on.

I’m personally a huge fan of such stories, in all mediums, and as a geek/ fan of pop culture I think that we’re living in a golden age of comic book storytelling, both on and off the pages of comics.

What I’m also a huge fan of are those stories of everyday people blessed/ cursed with awe inspiring abilities who don’t necessarily decide to put on a cape and tights to save the day. Folks who find themselves caught up in a set of crazy circumstances, while trying to continue to live their lives.

Pay the bills. Deal with relationship issues. Keep a job.

Now I’m not saying that these stories don’t eventually go the way of your typical tale of super heroics, but most of the one’s that I’ve become a fan of haven’t necessarily gone this route. As in the case of comic books, there’s a huge amount of action and adventure, with a smattering of some of the best elements of great science fiction.

Sometimes some of these examples start off as solid science fiction, but wind up playing within the spectrum of  the “regular folks with powers” sub-genre.

At the root of most of these works is a focus on how the characters involved decides to work with the abilities they’ve been either blessed or cursed with. There’s no immediate call to save the day, though we eventually get there in some of these cases.

For a while there have been a number of really notable examples of movies, novels, television programs, and comics that have played within this arena. There have also been some that have been not so stellar.

This will be the start of a list that I’ll try to add on to as I come across more examples of what I think is a pretty interesting sub genre of the tights and fights area of fiction.

4400

The 4400 (Television Series)

The USA Network for me was always the home of comedies like Psych and marathon broadcast sessions of dramas like Law and Order: Criminal Intent. It wasn’t a network that delved too much in the fantastical, at least at the points where I had cable.

So color me surprised when The 4400 dropped. I’m planning on doing another post that will go into detail on the awesomeness of the television series. Needless to say USA surprised me in a very good way.

The 4400 told the story of a group of 4400 individuals who disappeared worldwide over the years, beginning in 1946. In 2004 they are brought back to a Seattle, Washington beach and a division of US government agents are tasked with figuring out what happened to them, why they’ve been brought back, and to basically watch over them.

What is soon revealed is that a large amount of these individuals have abilities, and the show then becomes a mixture of X-Files meets X-Men. For the first season we follow a pair of agents, Agent Diana Skouris and Agent Tom Baldwin who tackle a sort of “ability” of the week story line, while we also watch how this plays out on the larger story being told.

The show ran for 4 seasons, with an abrupt cancellation in the last season. There have been four novels set within the continuity of the TV show which builds the world even further that should also be checked out.

Though the show focused on the concept of people with abilities, as mentioned before, these individuals weren’t trying to be superheroes. You have people who abused their abilities for selfish gain, saw the abilities as a blessing, or even tried to use them for committing disturbing acts.

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For example there was one episode during the first season where one returnee attempted to use his ability to simply save his neighborhood, after seeing the state of decay it had experienced in the years that he’d been away. But even then, you see the effects of what happens to an untrained individual who, though they had a set of “super” abilities, paid the consequences of the harsh reality he’d attempted to change, good intentions be damned.

The story grows in scope over the later seasons as we see the true purpose for these individuals being brought back, and definitely throws in a large amount of sci-fi elements. But at the core of this larger story we always come back to how these abilities are affecting these normal, everyday folks who are in essence caught out of time.

Chronicle (Film)

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Simple synopsis of Chronicle: A group of teens at a party find a glowing rock, investigate, experience nose bleeds, black outs, and develop telekinetic abilities.

And everything else afterwards is f&^%$ing awesome.

What works about this movie is this simple synopsis. Only towards the end of the flick do we get some obligatory, grandiose hero vs. villain fight. Don’t get me wrong, it’s awesome, but that’s not the strongest part of the flick.

No, before then we simply get a tale of kids gaining super abilities, and just being kids.

They get a handheld camera, and just do what teens nowadays would do: show off, and have fun with these new found abilities. Whether it’s pulling pranks at a grocery store, or just flying through the Washington state skies, the teens are just enjoying these awesome abilities.

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We have the popular nice/ intelligent dude (Steve/ Michael B. Jordan), the middle of the road likeable guy (Matt/ Alex Russell), and the sympathetic outcast (Andrew/ Dane DeHaan). Through the gifting of these abilities an unexpected friendship organically grows between the three, and makes you enjoy these characters even more.

In addition to this focusing on the budding friendship between the trio, we also get a really good example of something that I’ll tackle in Jumper: a focus on what a person who has been physically/ mentally abused might do with such a set of abilities.

One of the strongest, and depressing character arcs that we see in this movie is Andrew’s, played masterfully by DeHann. He’s the butt of everyone’s joke at high school, he’s the kid with the alcoholic father who verbally and physically beats him down it seems with every single day.

Imagine what a kid like that might do if granted god like abilities? Put on an outfit and fight crime?

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Nope, he’d be more inclined to probably F’ ‘ish up, as he lashes out with a huge well of pent up pain and frustration that’s been building over the years.

Andrew probably should’ve seen a counselor in the years before the events that play out in Chronicle, but that’s not the case. Even as his new friends try to intervene and help him to see the awesome guy that they see, it’s too late.

That’s why this story works extremely well for me. You have a kid who doesn’t go the typical route that teenagers endowed with abilities might go in the world of super heroic tales of do gooders.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit the dude gets a bit too super villain-esque at the end, but the build up to that, and even the final fight make up for this.

Chronicle is a great movie, featuring a believable take on teens gaining super abilities that shouldn’t be missed.

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 Jumper by Steven Gould (Novel)

First, let’s start with this: get that movie out of your head. The one featuring that guy who played the whiny Anakin Skywalker, and Samuel L. Jackson with yet another weird wig.

The movie was fun in spots, bad in others, but got too convoluted and grandiose in the story that it was trying to tell. Nice special effects, but kind of “blah” at the middle.

Jumper, the novel was much, much, much more in terms of a sci-fi story about a kid who discovers he has the ability to “jump”, or teleport. But David Rice, the stories protagonist, doesn’t do this for the sake of fighting crime, or saving lives (at first). For a large chunk of the book this kid is running from an abusive relationship.

David’s mother left him when he was a kid, fleeing the abuse that her husband was tossing out. Rather than eventually be continually hurt by him, or worse, she decides to leave the household, unfortunately leaving David to be the sole receiver of David’s ass-hat of a father’s abuse.

So when David discovers that he can teleport, he becomes the ultimate runaway kid. And you do nothing but root for him the whole time that he does this. Imagine being able to wondrously get away from a person who does nothing but berate you, hit you, psychologically just break you down to the point where you just want to die.

That’s where David is at in the book, and we see his growth into a stronger individual as the story plays out, the further away he gets away from his father.

Later on in the story David does use his abilities for good, but this is only after he suffers a personal tragedy of sorts. Throughout the book he’s constantly escaping the crappiness that life had heaped on him, and it makes for a compelling story.

Just as Jessica Jones focused on what someone with super abilities who had been psychologically and physically abused might deal with that, I think Jumper does the same in telling a science fiction based story of a runaway who is trying to simply escape a set of crappy circumstances.


 

That’s it for this round. I’ll add more in upcoming weeks to this list. Thanks for checking it out and happy viewing/ reading.

End of Year Check-In: Writers Edition

I like writing. I love writing. Writing kicks all kinds of butt.

Writing for me has always been a way to get these crazy ideas out on paper, to give them some type of life. Ideas of those who save the day, and those who seek to destroy said day. Characters who struggle internally with self doubt, and those who are so full to the brim with cock-assurredness that they drown on it.

Writing about anything and everything is what I like to do. It’s my trade, and I’ll continue to do it for as long as I can.

So in keeping with this, I’m going to do a rundown of some of the writing that’s come and gone in 2015, and what’s slated for the future. Sit back, relax, and read on!

                                                                               2015

 

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Route 3 #3

What began way back in 2013 has now been completed in 2015. 🙂

And I’m darn proud of it.

My wife has been extremely influential in keeping me going with this series (and everything else that I write), and for that (and many other reasons) I love this woman a lot. Living with a creative type is not the easiest thing to do, and I commend her for it. Love you T’.

Without the help of John, Tony, Mark, Tanya, Pete, Sean, Ann, Omi, Anthony, Vincent, Khari, and the whole Terminus Media crew, this book could never have come to fruition in the awesome way that it has. I can’t thank these folks enough.

As of this writing, the third issue seems to be doing fairly well in terms of the reception. Feedback has been pretty positive, as folks are either jumping onto this series for the first time, or have been down with the Route 3 cause from the beginning.

With the completion of this initial story arc, I’ve completed the first part of my goal with telling Sean Anderson’s story. Here’s hoping to have many opportunities in the future to build the story of this potential hero in the making.

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Radio Free Amerika # 3

Once again, major props to creator/ writer/ artist Barron Robert Bell for giving me a chance to play in his sandbox known as Radio Free Amerika. 2015 saw the release of Radio Free Amerika # 3, and a limited print run of the Radio Free Amerika graphic novel, Radio Free Amerika: Season 1.

As in the case of the Route 3 series, the third issue wraps up the first story arc of Mose B and his crew as they struggle to fight the good fight. Reception to the book has been pretty kick butt, and word continues to spread about the series.

On the writing front, it’s been an awesome opportunity to help lay out a world spanning story of war, hip hop revolutionaries, and important current event topics.

Stealth: Vol. 1, The Life and Times of Allen White (Prologue)

stealthTo be asked to help tell the origin story of a hero that you admire is a once and a lifetime opportunity. So when William Satterwhite, creator of the webcomic Stealth, approached me about writing the origin story of Mr. Allen White, a.k.a Stealth in an original graphic novel, I jumped at the opportunity

Add to this the artistic awesomeness known as Jamar Logan, and we’ve got a winner on our hands.

In 2015 we released a 19 page prologue opening the larger story, and once again, the reception we’ve received has been awesome.

The book has  superhero fights, it has an emotional moonlit conversation in a graveyard, it has a little bit of everything. Heck I’ve even got a scene in the book that got my little brother sort of choked up.

 

 

Machina Obscurum

Machina Obscurum: A Collection of Small Shadows

Once again, I’ve got to say thanks. First to my Tessera Guild crew for accepting me into the fold, way back when, and secondly to Jeremy Neill for sending out an invite for me to contribute to Machina Obscurum: A Collection of Small Shadows.

As a kid I started off writing prose. These pursuits began with a time travel novel which will never see the light of day, and numerous short stories afterwards. I kept up with writing short stories in high school, submitting some of them to my literary magazine. Fast forward to college and afterwards, and the focus then became the journalism.

Fast forward a bit more and now I’m writing comics, while still doing the freelance journalism. Prose unfortunately took a back seat, but the desire to go back to what I’d started with stuck with me.

The CrossingSo then comes Mr. Neill with his offer to contribute to an awesome anthology, and I thought to myself “sit your butt down and write”.

Enter stage left The Crossing: Moonlit Skies. This is a short story set within the larger events of The Crossing, which is a comic book series Mr. McGuire and I are collaborating on. The short is filled with adventure, and a bit of action set on a world far, far away.

 

 

 

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BlackSci-fi.com

During the back half of 2015 my output with BlackSci-Fi.com picked up in a big way. Maurice Waters is doing awesome work with his creation, and I’m just grateful to be able to hitch a ride on this awesome website.

The stories that I’ve written have run the gamut. I’ve been able to write about the personal experience of a cosplayer who was featured on a variant cover of the new Marvel Comics series Sam Wilson: Captain America. I also had an opportunity to review a gut wrenching yet timely anthology titled, APB: Artists Against Police Police Brutality.

So all in all I’m really looking forward to what 2016 will bring in the way of future opportunities.

 

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Tessera Guild

This year was a good one with my blogging pursuits, though it could’ve been extremely better. The goal has always been 2-3 Friday posts per month, and I need to start doing better with that.

The great thing about this website (aside from the awesome folks I write with here) is that I can write about any of my creative or nerdy interests. This year was no exception to this, and hopefully my output displayed the fun I find myself constantly having with writing for this website.

To top it all off, I just realized this was my first full year as a Tessera Guild contributer. 🙂

2016

 

 

DATC

Dark Universe II & The City II

My plan is to contribute to the second installments of each of these awesome anthologies, after being invited to play around in these universes.

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Route 3: Vol 1

Next year will bring the collected Vol 1 of issues 1-3 with a brand spanking new cover, bonus Route 3 content, with the ultimate goal of bring the book to a comic book store near you.

Rdio Free Amerika Season 1

RFA: Season 1

Terminus Media’s first collected trade paperback (extra content included) will be released in comic book stores in early 2016, and I’ll be grinning from ear to ear when I see this and Route 3: Vol. 1 on a comic book shelf.

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The Crossing

John McGuire and I are going to wrap this puppy up with a nice bow. Clean up the pitch. Knock out the first issue. Get it to a publisher.

In addition to this I’m brainstorming an original novella set within this world, which will flesh out the early days of Crossing, The Right Stuff style. I had so much fun with the short story, that want to keep things going with the prose in addition to comic book series.

Kaboom. Magic.

Stealth: Vol. 1, The Life and Times of Allen White (Graphic Novel) 

The hope is to have this entire project completed by the mid to late 2016. Jamar’s killing it on the upcoming book as shown below, and I’m focusing on adding to/ refining the current script.

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peyah_with_mask2 (2)The Best (Title is definitely subject to change): So guys and gals, you’re getting an exclusive preview of artwork from a comic that I and the talented Takeia Marie are partnering on. Without giving up too much, the story features alien zombies, futuristic guns, kick butt space vehicles, and an intergalactic war.

Don’t worry, we’re not taking the Michael Bay approach and jettisoning a great story, and strong character development.

We’ve got that on lock.

With me on the scripting duties, Takeia on the art, with us both building the story of this world, we’re going to kick sooooo much butt with this.

Below (and above) is concept art done by Takeia of one of our stories main protagonists, Peyah, and some of the hardware that she’ll be using.

I’m having a ball writing this, and I hope it’s reflected in the final product.

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Terminus Team Up: Amber Fox  vs. Terra Force:  A cleaned up version of the first issue in this awesome series (with new colors/ cover/ logo) will be released for the first time digitally this year featuring my scripting duties, Sean Hill (Dark Shaman, Route 3) on pencils and inks, and Lauren Brown on the brand spanking new colors.

Did I mention the awesome new cover? 🙂

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BlackSci-fi.com: Still reporting on a host of topics for the website. Assisting with a major overhaul of the webpage, and there will be an announcement soon about my work with the website coming soon.

BSF

 


 

Well, that will wrap everything up for now. The list is definitely subject to change with additional projects, so I’ll keep everyone posted.

If you want to purchase any of the projects mentioned in the 2015 portion of the post, or even from my earlier work, head to http://robertkjeffrey.wix.com/robertkjeffrey. Thanks for the support, and spread the word.

2016’s here.

Deadly Pre-release * A Door Never Dreamed Of

On New Year’s Day, a new breed of science-fiction touches down:

A Door Never Dreamed Of

When the Door between worlds opens, humanity’s last war begins…

 

Want more? Here’s a preview.

The important part: If you’ve got a Kindle, you can pre-order it TODAY.

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Cover art by Amanda Makepeace

See you soon.

J Edward Neill

Star Wars : My Thoughts Before We Wake

featuring art by the late great Ralph McQuarrie

Star-Wars-Concept-Art-New-Hope3

I’m writing this from the past.

All the way back on Tuesday, December 15, 2015.

Because today, Friday, December 18, is a big day. For me. For a lot of us. I wanted to write this post ahead of time. Before today. Before it happens. Before we see it. Before the Awakening. Before the results of all this hype and hope and speculation and excitement are known. Will we be disappointed today? Will we be thrilled? Will our prayers be answered? I don’t know and for the purposes of this post, I don’t want to know.

So I’m writing this from the past. star_wars_r2d2_c-3po_ralph_mcquarrie_desktop_1920x1080_hd-wallpaper-1054461

Last night (for me, here in the past), The Force Awakens had its premiere at the Mann’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood. Which means that people have seen it. A large group of people, a lot of them famous, a lot of them on Twitter. And, while I trust that none of them are going to run and tweet “Oh my God! Han Solo is just Dexter Jettster wearing a Mission Impossible Mask!”, I have deleted Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and any other social media app off my phone; deleted the bookmarks in Google Chrome. From Monday until Saturday, I am in as much of a media blackout as is possible in this day and age.

Because I don’t want to know.

I’m not a spoiler-phobe. I actually find that trend more than a little annoying, as I wrote about a while ago HERE. Do I want to know the story? The surprises? The ending? Fuck no. But mostly, I don’t want to know what people think about the movie. I don’t want to read Kevin Smith tweeting “HOLY SHIT STAR WARS IS SO GOOD!” or Patton Oswalt saying “Bad news guys…”. I don’t want to know what the critics have to say. Not a single fucking one. Not because I don’t like critics, but because I have no interest in what other people think about the movie.

I only care about what I think about it.

Two reasons for this:

1. There are at most a dozen people in this world whose opinions on film I actually respect. Who I can talk movies with in a way that satisfies me. Whose praise or condemnation of a film can actually sway my desire to see it. Does this make me a snob? Fuck yes. I embrace being a snob. I don’t care what most people think because I think I know better. It’s an ugly truth about me but a truth all the same. I feel that way about all movies; with Star Wars I feel it tenfold.

2. Knowing the general consensus on a film’s quality undoubtedly taints your experience in watching it for the first time. If the praise is effusive, often times you are disappointed by what you see because it was merely “good”, not “amazing” as every keeps saying. For me, I call this the Something About Mary effect. Conversely, if the word on the film is bad, if people are ripping it, if the cursed Rotten Tomatoes (boy do I hate Rotten Tomatoes) rating is low, you go into it expecting bad and you look for the bad. All you can see is the bad. And you don’t want to feel like an idiot for liking something that everyone else hates. Or you can go the other way. You’ve heard the film is bad, you go see it, enjoy it, and think “That was much better than everyone is saying. I don’t get it.” That happened with me on The Dark Knight Rises. The word wasn’t great on it but when I saw it I enjoyed it. Looking back, I realize those low expectations inflated my opinion of the film. I bought it on blu-ray the day it came out and haven’t been able to watch it all the way through even once. I find it mediocre and disappointing.

star-wars-mcquarrie3I don’t want to walk into the theater today with that baggage.

I’m bringing in enough with me as it is.

Because, well…

I love Star Wars more than you.

Since I don’t know who you are, dear reader, it’s understandable if you find that statement laughable.

But I love Star Wars more than you because Star Wars is my thing.

And it has been since 1980.

When I was four years old, my parents let me stay up to watch the network television debut of Star Wars. It was hosted by Billy Dee Williams (which is how I know it was around 1980), from a badly mocked-up version of what I would later learn was the Mos Eisley cantina. (Did you know it was owned by a Wookiee named Chalmun? Of course you didn’t. No reason you should. But I do. Because Star Wars is my thing.)

Like so many people, the first time seeing George Lucas’s Star Wars changed my life. I was never the same after that. I had, at the age of four, fallen truly, madly, and deeply in love.

I obviously don’t remember every detail of that night, but I remember enough. I remember the opening shot of the Blockade Runner (the Tantive IV) and the Star Destroyer (the Devastator) coming over the top of the screen and thinking the child’s equivalent of “holy shit!”. Being terrified of Darth Vader. I remember the cantina, obviously. Ben cutting off Ponda Baba’s arm. Meeting Han Solo. Seeing the Falcon for the first time. I have very strong memories of the trash compactor and, after that, the image that probably stuck most in my mind: Luke and Leia swinging across the chasm in the Death Star. Of course, the getaway fight with the TIE Fighters was amazing (“Don’t get cocky!”).

But what left an indelible impression on me was the final assault on the Death Star, later known as the Battle of Yavin. It enraptured me in a way I had never experienced. Starting with the scene in the briefing room where they break down the plan (I have this thing. Don’t know what it is, but my favorite scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark is when Indy uses the chalkboard to explain to the guys, one of them the actor that played Jek Porkins in A New Hope, how the Staff of Ra worked. Don’t know why that is.) and then of course the visuals, the action. It was so damn exciting and tense. I had no idea what was going to happen next. I had seen very few movies, so it never occurred to me that of course the hero was going to save the day. I was four. I didn’t know that it was an automatic thing in movies like this. I was terrified for Luke every step of the way. He’s just a kid from a farm! This is so dangerous! How is he going to make it out alive?

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Ships crash. People die. Darth Vader starts mowing down Y-Wings in his funky looking fighter (TIE Advanced x1). It was all too much.

Then Luke switched off his targeting computer.

I stopped breathing.

Then, it happened. The moment that brings me chills every time I think about it, let alone see it. Seriously. Right now, seeing it in my head, I’m getting that feeling.

Just when it looked like Vader was going to shoot Luke down. Just when the Rebellion was about to be blown to oblivion, a miracle happened.

“Yahoo!”

The Falcon came down out of the sun and saved the day.

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They came back! Han and Chewie came back! If you were an adult, you probably knew it would happen. Because that’s how movies work. The cynical loner always grows a heart and comes back to help. But as a child? I had no idea it was coming.

And when it did, I felt it for the first time.

The jolt. The shiver. The surge.

For all I knew, at that moment, 35 years ago, it was The Force Itself.

That feeling, you know? The potent injection of emotion that seems to shoot up your spine when you see, hear, read something that just hits you in a place you never knew you had. It’s the white soldiers cheering “give ‘em Hell!” to the 54th Massachusetts as they leave to die attacking Fort Wagner. It’s a brave vampire slayer leaping to her death to save both her sister and the world (“She saved the world. A lot.”). It’s the “Ode to Joy”, when that damn chorus comes in and the bliss crackles like electricity under your skin.

I was paralyzed with… I don’t know what that feeling is. It’s a cocktail of emotions, universally known but undefined. Just that… rush. That feeling.

It was the first time I had felt it.

It was riding my first roller coaster.

It was losing my virginity.

Drinking my first beer.

I have George Lucas to thank for that. And I thank him, as all fans should, for giving us this gift.

I also wanted more.

star_wars_movies_atat_ralph_mcquarrie_fan_art_1280x800_wallpaper_wallpaper_2560x1600_www-wallpaperswa-comThe first Star Wars trilogy was an enormous hit. Millions and millions of people are fans of the films. Made Lucas a brand of his own, the most successful independent filmmaker in history. The original trilogy is beloved the whole world over. Especially The Empire Strikes Back, nearly universally considered the best of the films.

But my love affair didn’t stop in 1983 when Return of the Jedi was released. I didn’t think “Well, that cool thing is over. On to the next thing.”

I was in love. I still wanted more.

And to get more, I had to dive deeper. And there wasn’t a whole lot there.

I’ve seen the two pretty-awful Ewoks TV movies more than a dozen times each. Why? Because they were Star Wars. Same with the “Droids” and “Ewoks” cartoons. I read the seven available Star Wars spin-off novels, including the very enjoyable Han Solo and Lando Calrissian series. I read the lackluster Marvel comics.

But between 1983 and 1991, it was slim pickings for a kid who wanted more of his favorite thing.

But in ’91, a novel was published. Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire. It took place 5 years after Episode VI and heir-to-the-empire-coverstarred all of the original characters, and introduced a few new ones, including one of the great Star Wars villains (hell, characters) of all time. Soon after, in the world of comic books, Dark Horse got the Star Wars license and released “Dark Empire”, which took place a year after Heir to the Empire. It was a bleak story about Emperor Palpatine rising from the dead to take one last stab at conquering the galaxy.

With those two pieces of fiction, the entity that would eventually be called the Expanded Universe was born. It would live and grow for almost a quarter of a century.

And I experienced all of it. Every novel. Every comic book. Every video game. Every role-playing game. Every encyclopedia. Star Wars became much more than three movies for me.

Even through the Special Editions and the Prequels, the Expanded Universe thrived. The novels and comics kept coming. Some were great. Some sucked. Most were in the middle somewhere. But the Star Wars galaxy continued to grow outside of the movies. In the case of the prequels, it often times eclipsed it in terms of quality. When 2005 was over, and Revenge of the Sith had come and gone, Star Wars wasn’t over for me like it was for so many others. I hadn’t abandoned it because of the quality of the prequels. Because to me it was so much more than six films. The movies were the most important aspect, sure, but I enjoyed the prequel era. While Lucas’s movies were bad (at times horrible), with several great moments, they spawned so many interesting stories between the cracks. In comics. And fiction. And in the spectacular “Clone Wars” television show.

I can imagine losing faith in Star Wars if all you know is the films. I don’t begrudge anyone for being done with the franchise after the prequels. Nor do I blame people for hopping back on in hopes that The Force Awakens is awesome. Please, come back to Star Wars. But also understand that some of us never left. Not out of blind loyalty, but because we’re fans. Not fans of the Star Wars movies; fans of Star Wars as a whole, the entire multi-media giant it has grown into.

MCQ-dagobah

Now George Lucas is out. Disney, Kathleen Kennedy, Lawrence Kasdan, and J.J. Abrams are in. The Force Awakens takes place 30 years after Return of the Jedi.Everyone is excited to see what things are like, what’s happened, what’s going, three decades after the death of the Emperor and Darth Vader. So am I. Except, I’ve already seen it. The novels hit “30 years later” a long time ago. In the (now defunct) Expanded Universe, a lot happened in those years. Weddings. Births. Deaths. New villains. New heroes. Wars. Adventures. Tragedies. Triumphs. A fully fleshed-out timeline that has been built upon that first wonderful Timothy Zahn novel.

None of this has any bearing on The Force Awakens. This is a new timeline. A new vision. One that only includes the films and animated TV shows as “canon”. And I’ve come to terms with that. It’s fine. It’s all make-believe bullshit anyway. But it will be impossible for me to not bring all that (fictional) history with me. That knowledge is in my DNA. It’s part of what makes me me.

J.J. Abrams is without a doubt a Star Wars fan. But, if I had to guess, not the same type of Star Wars fan as I am. He loves Star Wars and I think he is going to make a film that represents it well. Except, his Star Wars is not my Star Wars. My Star Wars galaxy is so much bigger than most people’s. The question is really going to be, for me, is “is what J.J. loves about Star Wars the same thing I love about Star Wars?”. Maybe, but maybe not.

RMQ-CarkoonSkiff

What do I want this new movie to be?

I want it to be a good story.

I want it to feel like Star Wars.

I want the Kurosawa screen wipes between scenes instead of dissolves and cuts.

I want Harrison, Mark, and Carrie to be Han, Luke, and Leia.

I want Rey and Finn and Poe to be great characters that I will enjoy watching carry on the saga.

I want it to feel old and new.

I want someone to say “I have a bad feeling about this.”

I want John Williams to make me bawl like a baby.

I want it to pay homage to George but not be an homage to George. There’s a difference. Ask Bryan Singer.

I want Kylo Ren to be badass.

I want Captain Phasma to be badass-er.

I want it to be its own movie but also earn the title “Episode VII” and feel like part of the greater saga.

I want it to be good.

I want it to be great.

I want to love it.

ralph-mcquarrie-star-wars-original-artwork-concept-lucas-films-9

What do I not want?

I do not want Luke Skywalker to be evil.

That is the one thing that could turn me off of Star Wars for a very long time. Make me lose faith in the new regime. I think it would betray the original films, the films that everyone behind The Force Awakens say they are trying to do right by.

“Where’s Luke?” has been the refrain as the hero of episodes IV through VI has been absent from the poster, the trailers, the TV spots, and the toys. “Where is Luke?!?”

There could be many reasons why they haven’t shown Luke Skywalker in any of the promo material. Maybe he’s not in it that much. Maybe he’s only in scenes that are later in the film and they don’t want to spoil anything. Maybe his entrance into the movie is so motherfucking Orson-Welles-in-The-Third-Man-awesome that they want to hold onto it. Make us wait for it. Because when I see Mark Hamill playing Luke Skywalker, 32 years after he did it last, I’m going to cry. The quality of his reveal will determine whether I just get misty-eyed or curl up into a sobbing ball on the floor of the theater. I want his entrance to floor me. I want to feel like a kid again.

He could also be a bad guy. That would be a legitimate reason not to reveal him until we see the film, as some have speculated. I really hope that’s not true.

Because I don’t know what I’d do. They would have to do it REALLY well to keep me watching.

They could have Jar-Jar and Wickett talk about midichlorians for two hours and I’d still be there for Episode VIII. But making Luke the bad guy…?

Let’s hope not. MCQ-emperor

As this posts, 1:20 pm, EST, I am sitting down with my father and brother at the Regal Cinemas Atlantic Station theater in downtown Atlanta to watch The Force Awakens in IMAX 3D. The last time I saw a Star Wars film in the theater with these two people that I love: 1983. So that, in itself, will be special.

If you are reading this within two and a half hours of me posting it, I am currently sitting in a darkened theater with an appropriately StarWarsian mix of hope and fear. I don’t need this movie to be good. If it’s not, I’ll still be a Star Wars fan tomorrow. I’ll be sad Star Wars fan, sure, for a while, but I’m not walking away. When my baseball team has a bad game, a bad season, even a bad decade, I don’t stop wearing their caps. I don’t stop rooting for them, watching their games, going to see them when they come to town. And even if the last year was horrible, I still start the next season with hope that they’ll get it right this time.

I feel the same way about Star Wars. In all of pop culture, there is nothing that is nearer to my heart. That’s why I wanted to write this before seeing the film. To express my undying love. No matter what I am experiencing at this very moment, I will be a Star Wars fan tomorrow.

As for my opinions on The Force Awakens, I will express them. On Saturday I will be recording another episode of the NEEDLESS THINGS podcast where we will have a round table discussion about the film. The episode will be available online soon after the film comes out, if you really want to hear me talk about it. I’m sure I’ll have one or two or five hundred things to say.

I may even let the other panelists talk. If I’m feeling generous.

Thank you, George.

Good luck, J.J.

It’s time. You psyched? I’m psyched.

Let’s do it. Here we go.

Punch it, Chewie.

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May the Force Be with You,

Chad J. Shonk
December 15, 2015

It’s the End of the World…

Monday. Another small step in an effort to blanket the electronic devices of young and old was released for consumption. 9 authors contributing a variety of short tales or excerpts from their own worlds appeared in a collection called:

Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows (Get it on your Kindle right now!)

Machina Front Cover

In which, I have three pieces of the overall collection. Two shorts and an excerpt from my very first novel The Dark That Follows.

You can get it here. For FREE! (Our gift to you.)

As I’ve only read one of the other stories in the book, I’m looking forward to seeing what sort of tales they’ve managed to spin.

Mine?

Well, I like to consider the two stories I’ve submitted: Til the Last Candle Flickers & And I Feel Fine as 2 parts of my Apocalyptic Trilogy. They are siblings of a sort to be sure (not the actual characters) in the themes of love and loss at the end of everything. And yet they represent very different things about that end. They are Alpha and Omega.

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Till the Last Candle Flickers came about from the idea of Preppers. You know, those guys and gals who are so sure we are on our way to some kind of apocalypse that their hobby is to be as prepared as possible. In some ways I think they have to be spiritual ancestors of those Cold War survivors with their fallout shelters.

But with this short I wanted to look at what can happen on the front end to someone who is so sure that all of our world will be gone soon. How would other people treat him? Do you close yourself off to everyone just so that you don’t have to lose them when it goes down?

How long can you go on like that?

Comet

And I Feel Fine is the other end of things. The Bad Things have come and gone and then more Bad Things have taken their place. And when it seems like there is no good left for you… when the world is surely trying to kill you on a daily basis… maybe that is the time to ensure there is a record left. A small snippet of how things were in those days, so that if there are survivors they might know a little bit more about this generation of people.

I call these two pieces of a trilogy, which would beg the question: “where’s the 3rd piece?”

Good question. I don’t know. I have ideas about it, but these two demanded to be written down. The words flowed in a way that let me know I was onto something worth finishing.

Hopefully you feel the same when you read them.

 

***

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.

22 Shadows hit the Streets

Winter is coming…

And with the cold season’s arrival, it’s time to gather ’round the fire and read until the world thaws.

We’ve got just the remedy:

Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows

Now available

With 22 sci-fi, fantasy, and deadly modern short stories by: J Edward Neill, River Fairchild, John McGuire, Chad J Shonk, JL Clayton, Phil Elmore, Roy T Dodd, Robert Jeffrey II, and F Charles Murdock

Machina Front Cover

The sexy matte-black SOFTCOVER. A bounty of fantastical tales to steal your nights away.

 

Machina Front Cover

The electrifying E-BOOK. Drown in the deep, dark waters of your Kindle.

Get yours today.

J Edward Neill

Tyrants of the Dead Giveaway!

Down the Dark Path – Book II

The darkest of all dark fantasy epics…

FREE this week for Kindles across the underworld!

In Book II, Andelusia journeys to Mormist, and the rain begins to fall.

As the Furyon shadow deepens, Emperor Chakran unleashes his greatest weapon…and his most terrifying servants. The war to destroy Graehelm sweeps across the mountains. Andelusia must decide: Flee certain death. Or remain by her lover’s side.

Little does she know that her choice will tip the balance of all things. And not for the better.

Part II

If you take the plunge into the shadow, please leave an honest Amazon review.

If you’re seeking Part I, look no further.

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J Edward Neill

Things I Have Learned

This past weekend I finished the first draft of the novel I’ve been working on since last year: The Edge of the World. It currently clocks in at over 118,500 words (approx. 474.5 pages is what I ended up calculating – forgive the numbers, I’m an engineer by day – it’s kind of hardwired into my DNA).

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Throughout the last year it has kind of become just this THING I’m working on. The answer to the epic question that writers tend to get asked (“Hey, what are you working on these days?”). But in some ways it also became this thing that I had to wonder if other people were thinking:

“Wow. He’s been working on that for a while. Is he really doing anything or is he playing XBOX?”

“Wow. He’s been working on that for a while. Is he ever going to finish it?”

“Wow. He’s been working on that for a while. I’ve put out 100 books in that amount of time. God he’s slack!”

Or something to that effect. I don’t know how others really judged it, or how long people really thought it might take (writing a book, I mean).

It certainly took longer than I expected. For comparison I’d say that the first drafts of the other books I’ve worked on went something like this:

The Dark That Follows – 65,000 words – 4 months

Hollow Empire – 45,000 words – 4 months

The White Effect – 95,000 words – 9 months

The Edge of the World – 118,500 – 16 months

Why did those extra 23,500 words take an extra 7 months?

We’ll get back to that in a second. Because I think I’ve learned something with each novel I’ve written. At least that’s the way my mind has tried to analyze each book.

The Dark That Follows by John R McGuire

 

The Dark That Follows

What did I learn?

How to write a book.

It’s an extremely simple answer, but it’s the truth. I’m not saying I learned ever trick I need to know. I’m not saying its a perfect book by any stretch. BUT, it showed me that I had the ability to string words together in some kind of coherent way.

However, the biggest thing it taught me was that I could actually do it. I could sit down with a completely blank page and the barest of bones for a story and FINISH IT. I mean, how many people out there have that idea for a book floating around in their brains? How many of those have started the thing only to abandon it at some point later?

How many finish the damn thing?

 

The White Effect

What did I learn?

Though not out yet, I actually wrote this prior to Hollow Empire. But with it I think I took all the bits and pieces that came with my first book and put them to a better use. It was the difference between Kindergarden and Middle School.

And I proved that I could do it again. A small thing to some people, but an enormous thing to me. You see, if I really want to do this for the long haul, then one book was never going to cut it. One book had to be just that: ONE BOOK. And then there had to be a second, and a third, and so on.

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Hollow Empire

What did I learn?

Collaboration. It’s a word that applies so very much to writing comics. You have so many people working on to bring those things to life. Writers need Pencillers who need Inkers who need Colorists who need Letterers who need Editors who need…

I think you get the point.

So I certainly knew how to collaborate, but to sit down with someone and build a world, a setting… to divide up and then write these characters’ stories. And to then see what the other guy was doing while you were doing your thing. To edit each other. To steal from each other. So many times during the writing there would be moments where I saw something J Edward Neill had written and though “That’s a really cool idea. I wonder if I can use/mention/address/etc it?” (And hopefully he had the same opinion on some of my ideas.)

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The Edge of the World

What did I learn?

There is a big push pull among writers that I read about in a myriad of blogs week after week:

Are you a Pantser or are you a Plotter?

For those that don’t know what the hell I mean by those.

A Pantser is a person who “flies by the seat of their pants” when writing. They may only have the vaguest of ideas about what the book is about, where it is going, and how it is going to end. But they trust in their abilities to find the story somewhere deep within them.

A Plotter is someone who actually creates a road map. An outline. You know, that thing your teachers always wanted you to do before you wrote those papers and you hated? Yeah, one of those things. But there are benefits to having that road map in that it is very hard for things to go off the rails. In theory, you have done enough planning that you’ve figured out the bigger plot holes and know how to avoid them.

As to the debate, I say do what you want. What works for you? Then do that. The Dark That Follows was “pants’d”. The White Effect was “plotted”. Hollow Empire had probably a 60/40 split on pants vs plot. And The Edge of the World was very much plotted except in those places it wasn’t.

Which brings me back to those pesky 23,500 words that took an extra 7 months. Early in the draft I use my word count as a gauge on how things are going (told you – engineer). I strive for 1250 words a night (approx. 5 pages). I’ve found that if I hit that number often enough I feel good about the book, and more importantly I feel good about the progress I am making. But with this book I would hit sections that I hadn’t quite mapped out more than maybe a brief sentence. “A thing happens to get our heroes back together.” I figured I would have the answer to what the “thing” was by the time I got to that point.

And sometimes I did. But there were times I still didn’t know. So I skipped ahead and wrote the next scene. Or maybe I skipped two scenes and then wrote the next three after that. Regardless, by the end of this “run” I probably had 60,000 words in 6 months time, but I had so many gaps that suddenly it was affecting things later on.

You see when you leave a section blank and write something later you have to assume certain things. Things the characters might have experienced or learned from an episode. But without knowing what those lessons might be… well, it was almost like being hamstrung on it. Which would be an easy thing to address. Just stop skipping around and write those skipped chapters. No more proceeding until they are all done.

Yet, I didn’t realize that it was a problem until I had written everything else and then needed to go back and fill in. And suddenly the process bogged down. Granted, the book wasn’t the only thing I worked on during this time, but that matters little when you feel like you are getting nothing done on the book. Frustration led to more slowness… and the biggest thing was not Writer’s Block, but maybe the Beast’s cousin visited me. My word counts for the week slowed to a crawl.

Luckily, I made through the weeds and carved a path. I finally hit a groove again in the last couple of months. The words flowed and I kept churning them out. Finally this last week I realized how close I might be to the end.

And then it was done. Following Mr. King’s On Writing advice, I put these drafts in a drawer for a couple of months and work on other things in the meantime… it helps you be able to look at the thing with fresher eyes (always a good thing). Given the holidays, my guess is that the next time I really sit down to edit this book it will be 2016. And I already have some things I know will need to be added or subtracted… but for now…

I’m done.

 

***

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 recently released anthology Beyond the Gate, which is free on most platforms!

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

So What’s He Going To Buy With All That Gold?

Currently in rotation on HBO are all the Hobbit films. And while I’m not the biggest fan of the book, I find I’m watching bits and pieces of the movies here and there as I flip through the channels. However, there is one scene that I must turn to and watch in its entirety every opportunity I get:

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Smaug.

Smaug slowly revealing himself from under a treasure trove that would invoke Dragon Sickness on Thorin. Smaug talking with Bilbo, toying with him, showing him exactly how impressive he might be. And the extremes he goes to prove that the dwarves will never retake the mountain.

I love every minute of it.

Yet, the other night I was watching these sequences and a strange thought popped into my head:

Why does Smaug (or any dragon) need all that gold? And it isn’t just him – so many of these creatures throughout our myths are guarding a treasure horde. It is a staple such that in Dungeons and Dragons it is not questioned. The only questions anyone has any real concern to answer are: how much is the horde worth? Are we powerful enough to kill the beast guarding it?

But I feel like there is more to this idea.

***

The cavern shone whenever the tiniest glint of light broke through. In those instances, the gleam would bounce from coin to coin, making them sparkle. It would illuminate the lighter colored gems so they became tiny lanterns dotting the golden mound. Under this light the true spectacle could be seen. Appreciated. Gold and diamonds and coins and gems and… a myriad of skeletal forms cooked to a crisp inside their metal armor.

That same treasure acted as a beacon to some. Bands of adventurers who wove odd stories about how the dragon claimed their birthrights… their home. How every coin buried there was theirs to recover. Indeed, all of it would be restored to its rightful owners.

Yes, the cavern might have once belonged to dwarves or mountain men or even an orc herd, but it was the dragon’s now and had been for decades. It was his home. And more importantly, so were the riches it used as a bed.

For while the previous owners certainly contributed to its girth, not everything was from a singular conquest.

***

Krench moved into the cavern. Ever a creature of habit, he made sure to bring along a lantern, even if the act was worthless. At the outer chamber a familiar warmth ran down his leg. Long gone were the days he might have made excuses for such an action. How it could have been explained away as an involuntary response to the immense fear coursing throughout his body.

If his nephew smelled the urine, he did not show it. For that, Krench was grateful. There was far too much left to teach the lowly creature for them to become bogged down in such a trivial thing.

“The thing that no one understands is exactly what the Great Wyrm does with all his riches. The outsiders believe he simply slumbers on them. They make up superstitions where he extracts some form of nourishment from the metals in the coin allowing him to generate his awesome flame. They suppose he is vain and loves the way the gold and silver flicker in the darkness.

“Does that even make any kind of sense? It is up there with those who claim he stole the entire amount.

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“Lies! And I have the numbers to prove it.” Krench patted the large book tucked under other arm. “A quick reading of this would inform everyone that of his original horde, only thirty percent was from what the dwarves possessed. Then there was the twenty-five percent in tribute from the lizard men. Another ten percent from random caravans he assaulted when bored. The last thirty-five percent an investment with the orcs that paid him quite well upon their successful campaign against the elves.”

The tunnel tightened enough that they both were forced to duck. His nephew passed through the narrow opening first and took the lantern and book from him while he made his way. Holding the items, the younglings resembled him decades earlier. His mind would be a swirl, a jumble mass of expectations, questions, theories, and who knows what else. To his credit, no questions were posed, but Ketch knew the sermon was far from finished. There was just too much to prepare him for. To explain how the world really worked.

“Once a week the Dragon’s Accountant must journey here to give a full account on all his holdings.” That got the boy’s attention. “I know your question: how would his horde ever change? He’s sleeping on the lot of it.

“And that’s the secret. He’s not. That’s small level thinking. For a creature such as this, who counts his life in decades or even centuries, you must expand on all of that. And this one has holdings as far east as Silverpool, as far north as the great seas… where ever money might exchange hands the likelihood is very high some of the coin originated here.”

“That inn located at the crossroads of Madras and Danan. Where all the caravans stop. Where lords and ladies and even princes have stayed… he owns a fifty percent stake. The blacksmith shop in Butte has worked out a nice living for himself because of a certain anonymous investor.

“A fleet of ships supporting the Merchant Guild in Silverpool.

“And the latest Duke of Parthan, who somehow found enough of a foreign inheritance to afford the new title and the lands which come with it.”

Krench let it all sink in.Watching his nephew’s eyes dart back and forth, a mind at work. After a few moments, a toothy grin emerged.

“Not to mention the coinage itself. Think about it, most of the coinage will be old. Then after a time it will be very old. Then ancient. Kingdoms and empires rise and fall in the blink of an eye (well, from His point of view). They mint new coins, phase out the old ones… and no one wants to have worthless coins. So periodic exchanges have to occur. In small enough amounts not to arouse suspicion, but in enough transactions so that you actually gain some ability to pay for what you want to invest in.”

The first of the outer doors appeared at the end of the tunnel. Remnants of the previous owners. A loose stone along the right side of the door, halfway down, provided the opening mechanism. Krench pushed until he heard the click and the engraved doors shifted open.

“What people don’t understand is dragons are ancient creatures. On a long enough timeline, barring random adventurers stumbling in and murdering them in their homes, they might well live forever. Even the ancient elves appear to wither in the eyes of dragons.

“But forever is a long time. And while they may share more in common with cats in their sleeping habits- they still wish to be entertained. And with the level of money they possess… well, pulling the strings on some of the humanoid peoples is a pleasant distraction.

“More than anything else, he knows history will repeat itself if you let it. So he can push and pull. Nudge things along for the better. Well, for his better.

“You see, dragons have gotten a horrible reputation as being evil. But what no one will tell you is the word is made up. They simply don’t realize have the perspective to appreciate everything as it moves and twists and turns. The elves… yes, they might, but the lower races, the dwarves and humans and halflings and gnomes and orcs… the lot of them just don’t live long enough. So they make up new stories to explain the world around them. And more often than not they only have the vaguest of memories as to what came before. The devastation, the wars, the armies… evil.”

They were getting lower now, the tunnel’s slope increased to the point Krench had to hand the lantern over to his nephew. They both stumbled a bit, but neither lost their footing. A hundred feet or so later things flattened out once more, and he took the burden back.

“Of course, they don’t know about the art. Creatives need funding as well. Ancient dragons need songs and maybe stories to be written about them. To be retold for the next generation. And who’s going to pay those bards to make such beautiful art? He is.

“Exotic animals? Seems strange, but my father explained it to me. Some days you want beef and some days you want Minotaur. Nothing wrong with either. And when you exist at the top of the food chain and have this level of wealth…”

Richard_Caton_Woodvilles_The_Battle_of_Towton

Richard Caton Woodville, Jr. [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

“My great-grandfather realized one undeniable truth: wars cost money. Conquests. Paying armies to conquer the world. It’s a terrible business plan. First you outlay all of that money on the mercenaries. You pay to feed them. To forge weapons for them. To build the forges. To build the siege equipment. And all of that work and gold guarantees absolutely nothing.

“Up to that revelation, the Dragon’s Accountant merely handed out the sacks of gold to the mercenaries and kept a log of it all in the book. But it was a drain on the coffers, and no amount of caravans would cover the loss. That pile he sleeps on will surely drain until he’s sleeping on stone like some commoner. No! That would not stand! So he dared to pose a single idea: if the Great Wyrm really wished to take over the kingdom, then why not buy it instead?”

Careful to turn the key two times to the left and then once to the right (no one wanted a face sprayed with acid from a trap set to keep the undesirables out), Krench led them into the cavern proper. Pausing to let the younger of them take the sight in, he pushed his spectacles back up his long snout. Long ago the glitter was enough to nearly blind him. Too many restless nights were spent trying to determine exactly how one might extract such a mass from the mountain. When his own father passed the Book onto him, he spent more than enough time to understand how moving even one coin was as important as the whole of it.

Later, when he took a full account of the book, Krench realized some of the investments had gone sideways. A small war between human kingdoms, a great flood, and suddenly there was a loss to report for the fifth year in a row. Such a glorious day filled with fire to signify the passing of duties to the next Accountant.

“Krench…” The Great Wyrm stretched out his name so that it appeared to come from everywhere and nowhere all at once.

The two of them moved over to the large platform where he would deliver the latest news. As they climbed the steps, crafted so long ago by rough dwarvish hands, he pushed the book into his nephew’s arms. There was no need for it anymore.

Dragons were patient creatures, but above everything else they did not like to lose money.

 

***

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 recently released anthology Beyond the Gate, which is free on most platforms!

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

The Stiletto

The Stiletto

* * *

I knew it’d be a mistake the moment it was over.

But I did it anyway.

He was a ghoulish old king. He’d extorted, terrorized, and murdered to fill his coffers. His brothers were thieves. His wives…both of them…were daggers in every man’s back.

His subjects hated him. His enemies feared him. The ground he walked turned black beneath his boots. His bathwater reeked of death.

Every family who’d even a chance at sniffing the throne, he’d exiled, poisoned, or butchered. When his cousin’s coup d’état failed, the ghoul burned the usurpers’ children alive, drowned his cousin’s mother, and hung the collaborators’ bodies from gibbets so high even the crows dared not a single sniff.

It was time for the King to go. Everyone knew it. Everyone wanted it. His black towers had too long stood like knives on the kingdom’s throat.

When the three exiles came to me on autumn’s second eve, I knew what they wanted. One carried a chest of silvers. The other dropped a satchel of ingots on my table. The third stood in my doorway, the moonlight shining on his back. He was a weathered, ancient thing. Twenty years in the sand had done him poorly. I smirked, my dagger folded against my wrist in case he did something stupid.

“Lady Lusia, will you?” he asked.

“Will I what?” I pretended not to know what he meant.

“The Ghoul…the King…the hundred-year old nightmare haunting the eaves of every house in Lyrlech. Will you?”

“No.” I glanced out my window. I couldn’t see the black towers, but I knew they were there.

“Why?” asked the weathered man.

“He’s only a few more years left in him,” I scoffed. “Not worth it. I’m too pretty for the gibbets.”

“You don’t understand, Lusia,” he sighed. “If he dies, his brother becomes king. It’ll only get worse.”

I considered it for a moment, then countered, “Exactly. If I kill the Ghoul, it does nothing. The noose around our necks just gets tighter.”

“But Lusia, his family will be there. His brothers. His sons. His grandchildren. All under one roof for the first time in years.”

“So?” I smiled.

“You can save us,” he pleaded. “You’re the best. Everyone knows it. The Stiletto, they call you. You’re the only one who can deliver us from darkness.”

“You’re right,” I smiled. “I can. But I won’t.”

I got tired of waiting. I flicked my knife and split the three men neck to belly. They died quietly. Their blood drained onto the floor, but the night moved none at all.

I knew it was a mistake the moment it was over.

…but the Ghoul had paid me well.

 

* * *

The Stiletto, along with a volcano of other dark, eerie, and fantastical tales, appears in:

Machina Front Cover

Machina Obscurum features a host of writers doing their best to darken your world with short, deadly stories and quick-as-knives fiction.

It’s available right now.

J Edward Neill

Second Star to the Right and Straight on ’til Compton

StraightOuttaSomewhere (3)I think every young filmmaker has a handful of dream projects in their back pocket. Not only dozens of original ideas but also ones based on preexisting content: an adaptation of a novel or comic book, someone’s life story, a sequel to a beloved franchise, a tale from history, a (gasp) remake of a classic film. Projects filed away under the “When I make it big, I’ll use that clout to get one of these things made” category. Some of these projects you are sure will rock the box office; others, that you don’t really think will make any money but, if all goes well, will net you some critical acclaim.

The two big dream projects for me could not have been more different in tone and subject matter:

I wanted to do a live-action, semi-serious, sticking-to-the-book version of JM Barrie’s Peter and Wendy

…and a biopic about Eazy-E and the creation and dissolution of legendary hip-hop group N.W.A.

And they both got made.

But not by me.

It’s weird seeing these films come to fruition; it’s even weirder watching them. You can’t help but think about what you would have done differently, what they did better than you, what they fucked up entirely. It’s not a crushing feeling; I never got close to making either one a reality. But it’s… strange.

peter-pan-wendy-03What attracted me to JM Barrie’s 1911 novel Peter and Wendy was that it was a version of Peter Pan I had never seen, knowing only the Disney interpretation. The book was darker than the animated film. More violent. More powerful. With a bittersweet message about childhood, both celebrating it and recognizing our need to shed it. Peter himself was full of contradictions: he was charming, fun-loving, sometimes feminist (“Wendy, one girl is more use than twenty boys.”) optimistic and brave, but also selfish, mean, forgetful, and super-duper violent.

Which all made sense to me. Little boys are terrors. When I was a child, I may have used a stick or wooden sword to fight pirates (or Darth Vader. Let’s be honest here.) but I was imagining a real blade. I wasn’t knocking people over. I was running them through. Cutting off their heads. Killing bad guys. In Barrie’s novel, that’s what Peter does. He kills bad guys. It’s not the bloodless, G-rated action of the Disney film.

The novel has several other dark tropes that few Peter Pan adaptations have yet to explore. Peter’s role as an Angel of Death, tasked with holding children’s hands on their way to heaven. His hatred of adults, parents especially, and how he genuinely wanted them dead. The slaughter of the Indians, an aspect of the story that I admit feels racist here in the 21st Century. And the famous Peter Pan quote, when stranded on an island left to die, a line that has forever stuck with me as probably the most positive outlook on death I’ve ever heard:

to-die-would-be-an-awfully-big-adventureAnd then there’s the end. I’m not going to get into it, but the last chapter of Peter and Wendy is sad and beautiful and a real reminder that Pan is a boy who will NEVER grow up. Which is the main reason why I hate Spielberg’s Hook. I know it’s beloved by the generation after me, and that’s fine, but it’s a bad film, hands down, my Peter Pan purist proclivities aside. But more than anything: Pan doesn’t grow up. He isn’t a child. He’s a demigod, an angel, an imp, maybe even a devil. He will live forever, as the final lines of the novel tell us:

“When Margaret grows up she will have a daughter, who is to be Peter’s mother in turn; and thus it will go on, so long as children are gay and innocent and heartless.”

Gay and innocent and heartless. That is Peter Pan to me. I have yet to see him on screen.

30521196_1300x1733I’m not going to offer a full review of PJ Hogan’s 2003 adaptation, Peter Pan. I have only seen it once and did not care for it. It got a lot right, especially in the first half hour or so. But then it fell apart for me. And, while it did incorporate a little bit of the adult edge I was looking for, it didn’t go far enough. But when that film came out, I knew my chances of making a film out of Peter and Wendy had just been cut drastically. And then when it failed at the box office, it showed that maybe a big-budget Peter Pan movie wasn’t commercially viable.

We’ll see if Joe Wright’s film, simply called Pan, will be different when it comes out this year. It’s apparently a prequel or something which we know ALWAYS bodes well, right? (see: Prometheus, The Thing, Star Wars, Hannibal Rising). But I doubt it’s the film I would have made.

And, man, the film I would have made is so good. It’s still there, in my head, scene by scene. I could still write it, legally. In 2007 the rights to the novel basically became public domain, leading to a series of disparate book series’ that I have not read. And maybe one day I will. Or maybe one day I’ll come up with a different take on one of my favorite stories, a new way to bring it to life.

Straight_Outta_Compton

“You are now about to witness the strength of street knowledge.”

In the late 80’s, when I was 13 years old, I got hold of a cassette tape I shouldn’t have. It was called Straight Outta Compton, by a band called N.W.A., which I soon learned stood for “Niggaz wit’ Attitude”. It scandalized me, excited me, educated me, and, quite frankly, scared the shit out of me. Especially the song “Fuck tha Police” and the shit storm that came with it.

The group’s frank and often gratuitous depictions of life on the street in a city I had never heard of called Compton, a place so far removed from suburban Atlanta that I couldn’t imagine ever going there, was eye-opening, sure, but it was also dirty. The non-stop assault of profanity, violence, and sex was exceptionally titillating to my white, sheltered, adolescent mind.

Just the use of the word “nigger” (or “nigga” or “niggaz”, technically), which my parents had raised me to strike from my vocabulary forever (“Forever. Forever? Forever ever. Forever ever?”), was scandalous. And, I admit, intriguing. This was a bad word used to describe black people. Why would these guys talk about themselves that way? I sort of understood it, but not really. Not for a long time. But I knew it was controversial and adult and, in the back of my brain, powerful. I just couldn’t tell you why.

18280-n-w-a-1680x1050-music-wallpaperO’Shea “Ice Cube” Jackson. Lorenzo “MC Ren” Patterson. Eric “Eazy-E” Wright. Antoine “Yella” Carraby. Andre “Dr. Dre” Young. These are guys whose faces and voices I’ve known since puberty. I can recite all of Straight Outta Compton (the album, not the movie. I guess we have to differentiate now) as well is its companion piece, Eazy-E’s Eazy-Duz-It, word for word. Still, to this day.

"See you at the crossroads."

“See you at the crossroads.”

When (SPOILER) Eric Wright died of AIDS in 1995, it shook me. I was mostly listening to heavy metal and grunge, but I had never forgotten N.W.A. and their 5’ 5” superstar (“Niggaz [his] height don’t fight.”) . I knew the group had broken up and there had been bad blood. If you were alive in the early 90s and remember Dr. Dre’s The Chronic coming out, it was impossible not to know. But Eazy was a part of my adolescence and he was gone.

I wanted to make a movie about Eazy-E and the formation of N.W.A. I did some reading and found that there was a lot of drama to be mined. The music would be center stage, of course, but there were also political, financial, racial, sexual, and societal themes to be explored. Were these men artists pretending to be gangstas or gangstas who stumbled into being artists? I wanted to explore that question.

And, morbidly, films about actual people are more satisfying if they have a definite ending. And by that I mean death. It’s fucked up, I know, but it’s true. And the more tragic that ending, the more drama you can conjure. And (SPOILER) Eazy’s death was tragic, to be sure. He was destroyed by his own reckless behavior, sure, but dying of AIDS made Wright an icon of the 1980s. He not only helped birth a style of music that rules the airwaves over 25 years later, but he was struck down by the 20th Century’s Black Death, just at the point where we were starting to understand it. As Eazy said, from his hospital bed, after being told he had AIDS: “But I ain’t no fag.” That was the attitude then. For a lot of people.

I tried to pitch this movie to anyone who would listen. Every one of my L.A. friends knew about it. But I was never able to get through any doors of consequence. People I did get to talk to weren’t interested. Plus, there was the matter of clearing the music, an incredibly expensive process that meant the film could never be made independently. I still held out hope for 15 years. Just like with Peter and Wendy, I had the whole movie in my head and “damn, that shit was dope!”

maxresdefaultRight now, for the second straight week, F. Gary Gray’s film, Straight Outta Compton, is on top of the box office charts. I was both excited and nervous to go see it. I mean, the subject matter is obviously attractive to me, but, motherfucker, I wanted to make this movie. And I was weary that the film was produced by Dr. Dre and Ice Cube. That meant that rough corners were going to be sanded down. Certain less-than-flattering things would be omitted. I was especially worried about how the film would depict Eazy, who would have been my protagonist.

I really liked the movie.

It’s odd. It’s not at all the movie I would have made but it’s also exactly the movie I would have made. It doesn’t look like the movie in my head. Doesn’t feel or sound or flow like it. But it covers the exact story beats I would have. Its Point A is my Point A and its point Z is my Point Z. It told the story I wanted to tell, just not in the style I wanted to tell it in.

And that’s fine. Because I liked it. And a lot of people seem to feel the same way.

(Especially after the mind-blowing clusterfuck that was the Biggie Smalls “movie”.)

I do wish it had explored a little more of the dark side of things, especially the famous incident involving Dr. Dre and Dee Barnes, an omission that is getting a lot of press over the last week. It should be in the movie. It really should. The first step to atonement is to acknowledge what you’ve done. Dre has done that in the press this week, releasing statements that seem genuine. But it would have been much more powerful to explore these themes in the film. Let it all hang out. Show your ugly side. The movie has to stand on its own and Dre’s history of domestic violence isn’t something that should be discussed in a press release.

osheajacksonjr_withicecubeBut the performances are great, especially by O’Shea Jackson Jr, who not only looks like his father but does a spot-on impression. The music is of course awesome. The cinematography interesting. The script could be better and sometimes the “bio-pic-ness” of the thing hurts it, with its need to make sure you understand who all these people coming in and out of the story are. Hey guys? I’m at a movie about N.W.A. I know that guy is playing Tupac. I am aware of his music. No need to point him out to me.

Surprisingly Eazy, the drug-dealer turned hip-hop mogul and star, comes across as the one of the biggest heart. He’s actually the soul of the movie. This makes me happy. Because that was going to be my way in, too. Through him. And when (SPOILER) Eazy dies, I was shaken, teary, even though I knew it was coming.

The only thing that pisses me off about the success of Straight Outta Compton (the movie) is… its success. It’s making BANK. All those years I was told no one wanted this movie. That it would be too expensive to get the music rights. That who cares about some gangster who died of AIDS? And now it’s ruling the Summer box office. Beating the crap out of more traditional Summer movies. I TOLD YOU, YOU MOTHERFUCKERS.

the-devil-in-the-white-city-by-erik-larson-book-cover-960x1459Do I have more dream projects in my head? Of course. Novels I want to adapt (not telling you which ones). Life stories I want to tell. Historical incidents I’m dying to recreate. And I will hold onto them, along with the countless original ideas I have in my head, until the next one gets knocked down by someone who got to it before me.

One of my favorite books, well, ever, is Erik Larsen’s Devil in the White City. I would love to make it into a movie. Recently, it has been announced that Leonardo DiCaprio will be starring in the adaptation, with our greatest living filmmaker, Martin Scorsese, behind the lens. I will defer and gladly give up that dream. Because while I think one day I could match the talents of PJ Hogan or F. Gary Gray (both accomplished, not taking anything away from them), I will never-ever come close to Mr. Scorsese. So make that movie Marty. I can’t wait to see it.

 

I don’t know how interesting this has been. I just had this gut reaction to seeing Straight Outta Compton (the movie) that made me sit down and write my first blog post in forever. Sitting there, watching a movie I have dreamed about a thousand times, not looking at all like the film I would have made but enjoying it all the same.

Now that I think about it, that’s probably how I’m going to feel about The Force Awakens, too, because I know I have at least 3,263,827 Star Wars movies in me.

And I’m not giving up entirely on Peter and Wendy. Some dreams die harder than others.

Preview – A Door Never Dreamed Of

I’ve begun work on something new.

It’s called A Door Never Dreamed Of.

For the moment, I’ve expelled just about all the dark fiction I can handle.

This new project will be completely different than everything I’ve done before.

  • It’s not an epic novel. Or a short story. Or a philosophy book
  • It’s not part of a series. Just one novella. No spin-offs
  • It’s the book I’ve always wanted to write

Disclaimer: In a serious race against time, I’m trying to finish the first draft of A Door Never Dreamed Of before the NFL football season hits. Once touchdowns start happening and the Chicago Bears start sucking, I’ll be helpless. The local pub with the massive TV will replace my crusty old writing chair. I won’t be able to help myself.

But honestly, I’m cool with the deadline. Because I’m dying to get this story out.

And this is where we fall off the reservation.

If A Door Never Dreamed Of showed up in your local bookstore, you’d probably find it in the Science Fiction section. It’d sit next to books about spaceships, galactic wars, and aliens. You’d look at the awesome Amanda Makepeace cover art and think, ‘Ooooo…spiky space station. Fun!’

JupiterEventTeaser1

A small sliver of the cover art – ‘The Jupiter Event’ by Amanda Makepeace

But genres are limiting. Art is static. And first impressions are usually wrong.

And A Door Never Dreamed Of won’t have space battles, flying spaghetti monsters, or intergalactic alien sex.

So what’s it about?

Two boys who’ve never met

Each given the power to destroy one another

Facing off with all of humanity at stake

With only one little door between them

I truly believe once you read A Door Never Dreamed Of, you’ll come to see things my way. You’ll forget all about genres. You won’t care that it’s a denomination of book you usually wouldn’t read. And what I really hope is that maybe, just maybe, you’ll see a deeper theme at work. You’ll understand where all our modern technology is leading us. You’ll see the scary places we might go if we continue hurtling toward the apex of human advancement. And you’ll shudder for what the future generations of humanity might one day become.

And so…

 Coming in Autumn 2015

A Door Never Dreamed Of

A new novel by J Edward Neill

And seriously, check out Lady Makepeace’s awesome art site. Click around. Buy something.

And when you’re done, check out my terrifying short stories Let the Bodies and The Sleepers.

Poverty & Pestilence – Hollow Empire – Night of Knives

Hollow Empire Slice

Long ago, the empire of Vhur was the world’s most powerful.

But that was before the Lichy plague. Now, twenty years and millions of dead later, only a few cities remain. The survivors walk a fine line between staying alive and crumbling into the grave.

Come the Night of Knives, even these last few might perish…

Hollow Empire – Night of Knives

A six-part series now available for Kindles graveyard-wide. Episode 1 is FREE!

Hollow Empire Front Cover

The Kindle Version (Episode 1 is FREE!!!)

Also available as a beautiful softcover with artwork by Amanda Makepeace.

Hollow Empire Front Cover

The haunting softcover edition…

When everything else rots around you, you’ve only got one choice…

…survive.

* * *

Co-Authored by J Edward Neill and John McGuire

Checking In: Writers Edition

Taking a cue from my fellow Tessera Guild member, John McGuire, I’m going to list out my writing related to do list for current/ upcoming projects. These run the gamut from super heroic tales of daring, to action adventures spread across alternate dimensions and space.

Superheroes and sci-fi?

I know, I’m a big nerd.

Comics:

Promo R3#3 2

A scene from Route 3 # 3.

 

Route 3 #3/Vol. 1: After getting the final draft edited by the esteemed Mr. McGuire and my Editor in Chief @ Terminus Media, Tony Cade, the book is now 9 pages in at the pencils/ inks stage.

I’m kind of biased on this front, but Sean Hill is killing it on the art duties, and I’m looking forward to seeing Omi Remalante’s masterful colors applied once this is all done.

Promo R3#3 1

A scene from Route 3 # 3

Setting aside any further delays, I’m hoping for a late September, early October release for the book. The final plan will be to compile issues 1-3 into a trade paperback (Vol.1), and get them into comic book stores and book stores all across the country, and *gasp* maybe even the world.

This issue will round out the first story arc of Route 3, and hopefully I’ll get a chance to tell more stories of Sean Anderson’s journey in the future. Once the book and collected edition drop I’ll be in overdrive mode promoting, while also continuing to generate ideas for future tales.

The Best: A zombie outbreak set against the backdrop of an intergalactic war. That’s the most basic pitch for a 10 page short that I’ve written in collaboration with the esteemed Takeia Marie.

zombie-horde-the-walking-dead

Zombies. And even more zombies.

 

You know those artists that once you see their work you really want to have an opportunity to collab with them? Takeia’s one of those creators, and I think she’s the best person to bring this space based action-horror hybrid to life.

The story will focus on two soldiers and a seemingly impossible mission they’re tasked to take on. Here’s hoping that this will turn out to be a small drop in a wider pool of awesome storytelling opportunities, because I’d love to widen this world out a bit more.

I had a lot of fun with this one, and hopefully it shows.

Radio Free Amerika: Season 1:  So yeah, I got my first graphic novel/ trade paperback released. 😀

Cover for Radio Free Amerika: Season 1.

Cover for Radio Free Amerika: Season 1.

Still kind of on cloud 9 on that front. Not coming down anytime soon.

It’s too cool for school up here.

My co-writing duties on B. Robert Bell’s Radio Free Amerika have been collected in a really nicely bound book, collecting issues 1-3. I’m really proud of how the story, and just the book overall, came out. By year’s end/beginning of 2016 you should see the collected edition at your local comic book store, books stores, libraries, bodegas, outer space, other dimensions. Just everywhere.

Barron and I will continue to generate ideas/ start scripting for Season 2, while spreading the word about Season 1. The plan is to try and get the trade in as many hands as possible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

-Stealth: The Life and Times of Allen White: A while back, I was hired by the

A page from Stealth: The Life and Times of Allen White.

A page from Stealth: The Life and Times of Allen White.

talented William Satterwhite to bring the origin of his character, Allen White, a.k.a Stealth, to life in the pages of an original graphic novel.

William’s web comic, Stealth, is a fun action packed tale of super heroics that deserves

to be checked out. So, to say I was beyond ecstatic to help tell a new story featuring this character was an honor. Add to that, the book is being drawn by the talented Jamar Logan. I think we’ve got a bonafide hit on our hands.

A sort of “issue 0” is scheduled to be released later this summer, which will serve as a preview of sorts, giving fans a look into what the future holds for our creative effort. Continuing to put the final touches on this script.

 

 

 

 

 

-The Crossing: John McGuire. Robert Jeffrey II. Sean Damien Hill. Alternate dimensions. High paced action. A story of loss and betrayal. What’s not to love?

parallel_world_by_ayronstorkarynx-d48sl11

Inter-dimensional travel: the only way to travel.

 

Still working on applying final edits to the pitch for this sci-fi adventure that my fellow Tessera Guild/ Terminus Media writer in arms and I have come up with.

John: I’ll get the edits to ya by this weekend. I swear.

Next will be finding a publisher for the book. But once we find a home for it, you all are going to need to hang on to your seats. Like, “get some seat belts installed in home” type of action.

Also working on a prose novella set within this universe, so stay tuned.

Blogging/ Journalism

-Tesera Guild: My commitment is to up my postings to 2-3 Friday’s a month, so get prepped to see more of my random rants on this page.

Comics, sci-fi, life musings, you’re gonna get ‘it all.

BLACKSciFi_4WEB-BlackSci-Fi.com: I’m honored to write for this awesome website, and things are going to be picking up A LOT on this front over the next few months.

Within my capacity as contributing writer for the website I get a chance to speak about a well established and constantly growing arm of this awesome genre we call sci-fi. Whether it’s prose, comics, movies, video games, etc, I’ll have articles coming down the pipeline about the work that African Americans are contributing and have contributed to the science fiction arena.

And as always, you can visit me here for a rundown of past projects, maybe buy some books,  and get updates about anything else I have coming up.

If you just want to chat, that’s cool too.