Bouncing Between Bottles – Memoirs of a Tipsy Author

He promises to drain one bottle per chapter. That’s the rule. There’s no breaking it.
And while deep in his cups, J Edward Neill takes readers on a sometimes funny, often poignant journey. Playful yet serious, humorous yet honest, his bounce between bottles delivers readers on a stroll through everything. It’s a lighthearted memoir blended with sharp philosophy. It’s social commentary blended with powerful cocktails.

Dating. Religion. Politics. That one time J Edward and his friend built a dam and met the world’s most relaxed water moccasin…
It’s all here.
One bottle per chapter.
One chapter every night…

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Now available for every e-device worldwide. 

7 Questions for Single Parents

7 Questions

For Single Parents

…or really any Parent

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Timing is Everything

 You’re a single parent, right?

(Even if you’re not, you can still answer this one.)

When dating a new person, how long should a single parent wait before allowing their new lover to meet the kid(s)?

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Think Fast!

Using one or two-word answers only, describe what you’d do in each of the following scenarios:

  • Your child walks in after visiting your ex and claims they now believe the exact opposite of whatever your religious beliefs are
  • Your ex withholds two months of child support, claiming a financial hardship
  • Your two children (ages 10 and 15) announce they want to live exclusively with your ex-spouse
  • Your one child (age 7) announces they want to live exclusively with you and never, ever see their other parent

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The Answer is 84

 At what age should a child have the legal right to choose to live solely with one parent?

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Mecha-Ninja Tech-Savvy Godzilla Mom

From the following, choose one or more descriptions that would best fit your style of single-parenting:

Tiger (High discipline, emphasis on structure and academics)

Free-Spirited (Lower emphasis on structure. Let the kid do almost anything they want…within reason)

Soccer Mom/Dad (Athletics, exercise, and physical activity)

Techie (Video games & devices allowed. Emphasis on computer skills)

Skill Builder (Teach the kids to follow in your footsteps. i.e.; fixing cars, hunting, fishing, cooking, sewing, et cetera)

Culture Warrior (Teach the kids to become highly involved in society.)

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Fight Club!

 You’re a single parent of two boys, ages 8 and 10.

You’ve had it with their constant bickering and sibling rivalry.

Your ex-spouse isn’t helping.

How do you handle their disputes?

  • Every time a fight goes down, I break it up and dish out the appropriate punishment.
  • I get involved in the serious conflicts, but let them handle the small stuff.
  • Ignore them. What kids?
  • I hand them each a sword and tell them to fight to the death!

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All Fridays become National Holidays for Grocery Shopping and Mario Kart

Here’s your chance.

Create a new nationwide law that will apply only to single parents.

Your new law can be beneficial or punitive; it’s up to you.

If your law goes against single parents in any way, describe the penalty for breaking it.

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Bragging Rights

 Do single parents have the right to be extra-proud?


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So…

You like answering these kinds of questions? Go here.

Or maybe you’re tired of talking about your kids. In that case, go here.

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Unprepared

At some point today, I’ll be in a car driving up to Indianapolis on my way to Gen Con for the second year in a row. And even though I’ve known the dates involved or had my badge arrive and signed up for the various gaming sessions and paid for a hotel and all of it…

This kind of snuck up on me.

I guess as much as anything can sneak up on a person. But like anything you might have circled the calendar for or things you’ve been looking forward to, sometimes life throws you for a bit of a loop and decides that the best time to do a whole bunch of things is at the same time. That’s where I’m at right now, waiting until the night before to actually pack my stuff up and hoping I don’t forget anything. Deciding to write the blog two days before as opposed to the night before – nah, that wouldn’t be my style.

In my day job, where I’m a mild-mannered civil engineer, we’ve talked about organization and making sure to spin multiple plates in the air. And I do a decent job of it, but sometimes… just sometimes you need time in order to free up other time. Like in order to get your life in some kind of order, you must first throw everything into chaos because you must have the room to just stretch out.

It’s a bit like that with the writing I’ve been doing. I took a writing course a month ago and have been really, really trying to follow the steps in creating an outline for the next project. And it’s been a fun time trying to be in total brainstorm mode for this long. Compiling notes here and there. Basically trying to make sense of a bunch of chaos in my head. I’m trying to sift through the bad stuff to get into the good – sometimes with success and sometimes not. It has been a struggle to hold off on just diving into the story immediately. That’s what my creative (unrestrained side) wants to do. Jump in and figure it out as you go along. I’m fighting that urge.

I need to be organized for this to work the way I want to.

Which is a long way of saying that the last few weeks have been hectic and I’ve still managed to write about 5000 words of an outline for a book. I gave myself the month of July to really get into it, and tomorrow is August and somehow…

It snuck up on me.

Luckily, I have a long drive with some friends who are going to have to be my 1st outline beta listeners.

As schools start back, and life begins to speed up from the summer days, no matter what you are doing – every little step gets you a tiny bit closer to your goal.

 

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John McGuire has co-written, along with his wife, two Kindle Worlds novellas set in the world of Veronica Mars: Theft & Therapy and There’s Something About Mac.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Imagine a World Without ________

Reach deep.

And imagine…

 

You’re walking down a city street. All the cars speeding past you are grey and boxlike. They’re all the same, featureless, colorless, and they make no sound as they sweep down the streets.

You walk into a clothing store. There are no sections for men, women, and children. On every rack hang beige shirts, pants, and coats. The styles are drab and shapeless. There are no dressing rooms. There is no color. Other shoppers…even the cashier…are dressed in the same exact clothing. Everyone looks identical. You slap down your money and walk out with a grey bag full of the same clothes everyone else wears.

You’re hungry. Starving, actually. You walk into a restaurant without a name, a logo, or a menu. You step up to the counter and order the same thing everyone else is having. This is the city’s best place to eat, but you’re not impressed. All they offer are tasteless, watery noodles and flavorless bread. Everyone sits quietly and eats at grey tables. You can’t even remember why you picked this place.

Mmmmmm…watery noodles.

At home, you’re ready to relax after a long day at work. Your house looks exactly like everyone else’s, but luckily you remember which one is yours. After all, it’s got a number. You park your grey car inside your grey garage, and you walk through grey doors into a grey room. Your walls are barren. No photos of loved ones. No paintings. No color. You sit on your couch and turn on your TV. There’s only one station. It’s the same two people wearing the same two suits talking about the same thing they did yesterday. There’s no Food Network, SyFy Channel, Game of Thrones, or Discovery Channel. It’s just two people discussing the value of nothing. What else is there to watch?

Nothing.

You’d like to go to the movies. But there’s no such thing.

You’re thinking of taking a stroll through a museum. But no one’s ever thought to build one.

You’re hungry for a gourmet pizza, a scrumptious slice of cake, and a nice cocktail. But there’s no chefs, no bakeries, and certainly no bartenders.

Perhaps I’ll just lie in bed and read a book, you think. It’s not like there’s anything else to do. 

But there are no books. Because there are no authors. And even if there were, all the covers would look the same…grey and black. You wouldn’t know which one to read. It’d be impossible to choose. At this point, you’d settle for a magazine, a newspaper, or a funny website with cute comics on the internet. It sucks, because these things don’t exist. You’ve never heard of them. You can’t even want to want them.

You’re bored. You’re distraught. You step outside for a walk. It’s strange walking through your town. The houses, buildings, shops, and stores are all white boxes. No one bothers with windows…there’s nothing to see. You can’t tell the difference between the car repair shop and the bank. They look exactly the same. No one ever bothered to be an architect. No one knew it was possible.

There’s one thing left that’ll save you. You run back to your trusty radio. It’s a grey box like all the others. You flip the switch and turn the dial to your favorite station. The sound greeting your ears? Static. Dead, dry noise. There’s no rhythm in it. There’s no beat, no catchy hook. It’s just static.

Always crackling. Always the same.

And you’re emptier still.

That evening, your kid comes home from school.

“What did you do today?” you ask. “Learn anything interesting?”

He shrugs. He doesn’t care much about school. He learns the same things every day: math, chemistry, and science. That’s all well and good. But he never has any good stories. It’s because there aren’t any. He’s happy because he doesn’t have to write book reports, but sad because he’s never read a book. There’s not much going on at his school. No sports. No chess club. No band camp. Why have extracurricular activities if there’s no such thing?

He doesn’t even know what a crayon is.

Actually, neither do you.

You’re walking down a hall.

The walls are barren. Everyone you pass is wearing pale sackcloth. Everyone looks the same.

It’s silent in this place. The only sounds you hear are footsteps and your own breathing. They haven’t even bothered to pipe lame elevator music into this place. Why would they? There’s no such thing.

There’s no color here. There’s nothing to do but eat your noodles, sleep in your white bed, and drive to work in your simple grey box.

What is this place?

Where am I? you wonder.

It’s simple.

This is a world without art. Without color. Without chefs, architects, or artisans. Without painters, writers, or musicians. Without photographers, sculptors, or comedians. Without gardeners. Without dance. Without movies.

Without meaning.

Support an artist today.

Without them, we are nothing.

J Edward Neill

Peacebuilders and Comics

This past Friday, Robert Jeffrey and I journeyed down to south Georgia in order to participate with the campers at the Peacebuilders Camp at Koinonia Farm. From the website:

Peacebuilders Camp at Koinonia Farm is a unique overnight summer camp in rural south Georgia where youth ages 11 to 15 spend a week together learning how to work toward peace and justice. Campers enjoy games and sports, laugh with new friends from diverse backgrounds, go on field trips, learn about human rights, make a difference for others through service projects, and explore the stories of peacemakers past and present.

Our task for the day was a pair of workshop sessions with the kids to talk about How to Make a Comic. This was a part of the concept of being able to Express yourself. The kids got to sit down with C-Grimey, a DJ from Chattanooga, TN for a chance to make a rap song or sit with us talking comics.

While we have a Powerpoint Presentation which breaks down the different aspects of a comic book: from developing characters and a script to working with artists, inkers, colorists, and letterers. We talk about how the medium is great because it is so collaborative. And that same fun you get from just talking to your friends about ideas or artwork you’ve done makes it very much a shared experience.

After that, we provide the campers with some blank pages with blank panels already drawn on them. When we did the Workshop for the first time this past December we provided the kids some example one page scripts so they could practice drawing that way, but as that session rolled along, we realized the better ideas just flow out from them as they want to tell their own stories. So this time we told them that while we had some examples, they should feel free to just wing it.

From the two sessions we got:

A lesson about what to do if your friend trips over a rock (the answer is to ask the rock for help!).

A cover piece of The Green Lantern: John Stewart.

A breakdown of the helicopter scene in Suicide Squad between Harlequin and Joker.

The best tagline ever – “It’s so stupid, it might just work.”

Learning that one of the kid’s favorite movies was the Purge (remember, he’s between 11 and 12 years old)!

Deadpool was another favorite.

In addition, we had a couple of copies of Route 3 and The Gilded Age trades on hand, and it definitely warmed my heart when I saw the kids reading through during the lunch break. We ended up leaving the copies so hopefully not just the campers last week, but the others this week and next could enjoy them.

Really though, my hope is that a couple of the kids will end up pursuing their comic dreams. We told them to practice every day because a year from now they will be better than they were. Who knows, maybe I’ll be buying one of their comics before too long!

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John McGuire has co-written, along with his wife, two Kindle Worlds novellas set in the world of Veronica Mars: Theft & Therapy and There’s Something About Mac.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

When In Doubt, Learn Something New

The Grind. Day in and day out the same things. Days blurring together to the point that you legitimately might not know what day of the week it is. The 4th this year, while coming in the middle of the week is very weird, also allows for some grounding and rest and recharging.

But it is not the only way.

Over the weekend, I attended a two-day, online writing course. And by attended, I mean I stumbled out into the room where we have our computer set up and watched and listened and took notes. After the two days were over, I was so jazzed about the ideas I had for my next project that every free moment has been me jotting down ideas on spare scrap paper and spending the last two nights up way too late trying to get every crazy idea out of my head as best I can.

Which I’m only realizing this now, but sometimes we just need to go back to the beginning and remember that while we may know a lot of things, we can still learn brand new things.

As an indy writer, there are so many little bits and the piece you pick up along the way that it very much becomes the bright and shiny thing. And even if you know how to do something, it never hurts to take those steps back and reevaluate your approach.

And really, that’s what can recharge you the easiest and best overall. The daily grind of work, home, work, home and fitting in some sleep somewhere in there can weigh on you.

Years ago, as Terminus Media was beginning to get off the ground we had weekly meetings in the back of a comic store. I’d show up at 5 or 6 and we’d go until 9 or 10 talking, swapping ideas, looking at new artwork. All of it got you pumped. It inspired you to create new things, and it challenged you to try to one-up the previous week’s notable stories. Yeah, there was plenty of times where we didn’t know what we were doing and yet those days, even when an outsider might think that nothing was learned by the people in the room… if you really paid attention, you’d find one thing.

Those are the invaluable moments. And as much as this day off from work to hang out with friends and family is welcomed… it is not the only recharge you should allow yourself to enjoy.

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John McGuire has co-written, along with his wife, two Kindle Worlds novellas set in the world of Veronica Mars: Theft & Therapy and There’s Something About Mac.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

10 WAYS TO EXERCISE WHILE DOING EVERYDAY ACTIVITIES

You’re busy, right? Really busy.

Aren’t we all?

What you need are ways to squeeze in a little exercise into the gaps of ordinary life.

Here’s ten simple exercise solutions. Try a few or do them all.


1. Park in the Farthest Spot Available

It’s funny how people operate. The fittest guy or gal, even when driving to the gym for a vigorous workout, will usually pick the closest, most convenient parking spot. It makes zero sense when you think about it. Forget about driving around the mall or the airport trying to find the best spot. Park way, way out there, and burn some calories on your way in/out of wherever you’re going.

Another bonus to this tactic: never having to fight with other drivers over parking spots.

 

Look at all that exercise waiting to be had. 

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2. Take the Stairs Instead of the Elevator

Three floors up? What’s the problem? Bypass the herd waiting outside the elevator doors and sprint for the stairs. As far as time spent, taking the stairs will cost you…what? An extra 5 seconds per floor?  Instead of standing idly inside a big metal box, you can stretch your legs out nicely.

Bonus: Carrying luggage while scaling the stairs.

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3. Take the Stairs Two at a Time

Ever notice how close stairs are to one another? It’s almost like they were built to accommodate children and octogenarians. So why are you, a robust thirty or forty-something, taking them one at a time? Come on, man! Move those legs and climb at twice the speed!

Bonus: Taking stairs two at a time…while on an escalator

I’d climb stairs with her ANY day.

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4. Do One Set of Pushups Every 20 Minutes (while doing household chores)

Stop. Drop. Give me twenty.

You’re doing laundry? Do a set of pushups after hitting ‘Wash’ on the machine. You’re waiting for pasta to boil on the stove? Do another set. You’re waiting for your computer to boot up? Drop to the floor and knock yet another set out. I’ve been doing this for years, and sometimes at day’s end I look back and realize I’ve banged out 500 pushups. You don’t have to do 500. Just do what suits you…while setting aside only a fraction of the time you would have for an actual trip to the gym.

Bonus: Set weekly pushup goals. Then shatter your own records.

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5. Buy a Push Mower

Sometimes I peek out my front door and see my neighbor (who’s twenty years younger) riding around his tiny little yard on a $1,500 John Deere mower. And sometimes I see my other neighbor, a former marine, striding slowly behind his self-propelled mower. First of all, these machines cost way more than a typical walk-behind mower. And second of all, these guys are mowing outside on a beautiful summer day…somehow getting no exercise at all. You can get a push mower for $150-$300. Slap on a mulcher (bagging your grass will slow you down) and get going! Studies show that with a medium-sized lawn, you can walk 1-2 miles while mowing.

We have another word for all that walking: exercise

Mow your way to fitness.

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6. While Playing Video Games, Ride a Stationary Bike

This one is among my favorites. I’m a video game nut (see this and this) and yet there’s possibly no activity in the world that’ll kill fitness quite like plopping on the sofa and not moving for hours on end. Solution? Buy a stationary bike and pump out the miles…while crushing your favorite games. I’ve found that the higher energy level the game requires, the faster you’ll tend to bike. Once, while playing Zelda – Breath of the Wild, I biked for two-and-a-half hours without really even noticing.

And afterward, I’d gotten both a gaming fix and a really satisfying workout.

Bonus: Play Mario Kart while on a bike and pretend you’re racing along with the game. Seriously. It works.

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7. Take the Printer out of your Office

Humans are always striving to increase their level of convenience. But at what cost? This suggestion isn’t just about printers or other office hardware. It’s about purposely not obsessing about convenience. So you’ll have to get up and walk thirty steps every time you print something? Big deal. Just do it. So you’ll have to carry your laundry upstairs? I’m not sure I see the problem.

Force yourself to move. Get out of your chair. Savor every step you have to take.

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8. Carry Hand-Baskets in the Store instead of using Shopping Carts

What’s that you say? A shopping cart with just six things inside? Nope. That’s hand-basket territory. You know what a hand-basket is, right? The little things with handles stacked just inside the grocery store entrance.

Bonus: If you must use a shopping cart, push it all the way back into the store rather than into the cart corral

This woman makes me proud.

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9. Install a Chin-Up Bar in a Household Doorway

They don’t cost much. They’re surprisingly safe. And chin-ups are an awesome way to tone your shoulders and boost your core strength. My suggestion is this: install a bar in a doorway you pass through 5-6 times every day. And then…every single time you pass through that doorway…pump out 5-10 (or more, if you’re buff) chin-ups. Even if you can only do 1-2 chin-ups per pass, it’s fine. They’re quick, and it’s a fantastic exercise.

Hrrrrnnnnggggg!!

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10. Walk Faster

No, don’t be a fast-walking robot. Just be swift. While taking a stroll at the park, pick up the pace a little. While watching the kids play at the park, walk brisk circuits around the playground. Slogging along through grocery stores, parks, and parking lots is the same as sitting in traffic. Get off the surface roads and onto the highway. Move those feet and get your heart-rate rising!

Bonus: On moving sidewalks, actually walk. (Most people just stand there and let the sidewalk float them into oblivion.)

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You’ve started exercising your mind.

Now click here and pump some iron with your brain.

 

Wait…why exactly do authors need reviews?

Let’s turn back the clock a few years.

…just for fun.

For argument’s sake, let’s say it’s 1999. Everyone’s prime concern is Y2K, and whether or not our computers are going to self-destruct on New Year’s Eve.

In other news, the human population on Earth has surpassed six-billion people. Two idiots just shot up Columbine High School. SpongeBob SquarePants has hit children’s faces everywhere. And J.K. Rowling just published Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

What a year, 1999.

Feels like centuries ago.

So about that J.K. Rowling Harry Potter book. How’d J.K. get so famous, anyway? Did she debut on Amazon with ten-thousand five-star reviews? Did Dumbledore himself hand-deliver her new book to readers across the world?

Nope.

See, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban wasn’t a self-published book. J.K. (deservedly so) had a traditional publisher, just like pretty much every other author on the planet in 1999. Between a powerful marketing team and an already fervent fan-base, J.K.’s new book couldn’t fail. It wouldn’t have mattered if no one on the planet left her an Amazon review. Her success was all but guaranteed.

Guaranteed to succeed….despite the wonky cover art.

Here we are, two decades later.

Everything is different.

Why?

It’s simple…

Back in 2007, the game changed. Amazon.com (you’ve heard of Amazon, right?) debuted a little something called Kindle Direct Publishing, or KDP. What’s KDP, you ask?  It’s a program that allows anyone to publish anything at any time. Writers who would never have come close to publishing a book suddenly had access to publish ALL their books. Instantly. The five companies who’d previously controlled nearly all the publishing in the world shivered in their boots. The market they’d cornered for decades had suddenly opened up.

…to everyone in the world.

And so began the flood. Authors, poets, and illustrators invaded KDP in force. At first, tens of thousands of new, self-published books hit Amazon. And then…millions more. Anyone who wanted to publish something, no matter the quality of their writing, had an easy outlet to push their novels onto the scene.

Sounds great, right? Freedom for authors everywhere! The creative masses, liberated!

Yes!!! Now I can publish my new book series, ‘Gary Cotter and the Jailer of Kazakhstan!’

So…

Doesn’t KDP sound like the most amazing thing ever?

Well…yes.

And no.

When the flood of new books hit the world, everything seemed great. Writers were no longer shackled to the five big traditional publishers. Thousands of fantastic new books landed atop the market…which never could’ve happened without KDP.

But along with thousands of good books came tens of thousands of really bad ones.

Poorly edited books.

Books with misleading descriptions.

Books with horrible art, lousy plots, and just plain crappy writing.

A new challenge arose. Readers who’d long been funneled into book-buying decisions by the big five publishing companies faced a whopping armada of new titles. “Which books are good?” they asked themselves. “How do I know if this epic sci-fi thriller is amazing…or total crap?? Which new authors are legit, and which ones are just here to make a quick profit???”

The answer lies in the stars…

No, no, no. Not THOSE stars.

THESE stars.

Before Amazon, before KDP, the average reader would’ve almost never posted a book review. Reviews were something handled by professionals, most of whom worked for newspapers, magazines, and other periodicals. Readers’ only engagement with books was to buy them, read them, and maybe tell a friend or two about them. That’s it. Nothing more.

But it’s not 1999 any longer.

It’s not even 2007.

Nowadays, we’re in a new era. Self-published books outnumber traditionally published works. Thousands of new novels hit the web every single day. Many are sub-par, but many are just as good…in some cases even better…than what you’d find in bookstores around the world. And yet many of the best books by the most talented writers fall into the shadows. Why? Because no one reviews them. No one clicks the little ‘write a customer review?’ button.

No one cares.

So why should you?

Why should readers, having already paid for and read their book of choice, give any thought to posting a review for a book they enjoyed?

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Here’s why:

Like any product on Amazon, more reviews means a brighter spotlight.

In the case of a good book, a brighter spotlight means the author (of the book you just enjoyed) is more likely to produce additional good books.

Which is what we all want, right?

Without the marketing power of a traditional publishing house, the burden falls on the author to promote his or her own work.

And the biggest promotional tool available? The Amazon review system. 

Even better, the average review takes 60 seconds or less to complete. Don’t believe me? Check this super-fast tutorial.

There’s even a handy tool to help readers decide how many stars to give.

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It’s simple, really.

If readers want good books, it benefits them directly to leave honest reviews for what they read.

Otherwise, the market will continue to be invaded with sub-par, poorly-edited clutter.

…which no one will be able to distinguish from genuine, well-written books.

I’m a reader, too. And as a reader, I’m heading to Amazon to leave an honest review for every book I can remember reading.

And I’m doing it today.

I urge you to do the same, fellow book-lovers.

Get in there. Click a few stars. And move on with your lives.

Sincerely,

J Edward Neill

 

 

 

 

The Day I Decided to Start Running

I remember one Friday.

A smoking hot Friday in the dead of July.

A hazy Friday.  A humid southeastern US Friday.  A Friday that promised to be hotter than Lucifer’s jockstrap.

Most Fridays like this one, I’d have been busy in my workshop painting. Or writing. Or mashing buttons on my Xbox controller.

But this Friday was my first truly free day in a long time. My son was away at summer camp. I didn’t have any plans. Any lunch dates. Any ideas. Somehow, someway, none of my borderline-alcoholic buddies had rung me up for a long afternoon of pounding scotch and making fun of my non-existent dating life.

In short, I had no effing idea what to do.

I guess maybe I should’ve known it was going to be a different sort of day.  I’d woken early – long before the crack of dawn. And I never wake up early. Bright-eyed and bursting with directionless energy, I’d trotted outside my tiny apartment and breathed the already-warm air.

I’ve been locked up in here too long, I thought.

It’s time for something different.

Flashback to a few years prior. A ex-girl of mine, a marathon runner, had mentioned a trail she liked to run. “In Suwanee,” she’d said. “Beautiful, wooded trail. Eight miles one way.” Back then I’d never cared much about running. I mean, I worked out and all, but usually in my garage. Or my attic. Or in an overpriced, sweat-scented gym. It’s not that I didn’t like the outdoors, just that I’d never much cared for sprinting along smoking hot sidewalks in the brutal Atlanta heat.

It hit me then.

I’d no idea why, but the idea of running bounced into my thoughts.

I remembered what my ex-girl had said. No, not that time she said I was an ‘real sh*thead.’ I remembered something else. The trail she’d talked about. The Suwanee Greenway. The place runners go to run when they don’t want to pound pavement.

And I realized I lived in Suwanee now. I’d just moved there. Not two weeks prior.

I gotta find this trail.

Today.

When I get ideas into my head, I go overboard. It’s either a fault, a virtue, or maybe both. Like that time I started a foam-sword fight club behind my house. Or joined an MMA gym and pounded my hands against heavy bags every day until they bled. So now, as I realized I might live near this fabled Suwanee running trail, a new idea took shape:

I want to run.

A lot.

I crashed into my computer like a breaking Pacific wave. My fingers moved like the wind, my search terms as sharp as seagulls’ beaks. ‘Suwanee Greenway running trail’ I hammered into the keyboard.

“0.1 miles away” said Google Maps.

I’d had no idea. I was pretty much an idiot. Sitting outside my apartment door, not a hundred meters beyond the stand of pine trees behind my parking lot, sat the Suwanee Greenway trail. It’d been there all along.

In a flurry, I popped into my ugly orange sneakers, slid into an even uglier tank top and shorts, and sped out the door.

I’d never been a runner before. I liked to keep active, don’t get me wrong, but I’d never felt the urge to run. Not in the summer heat. Not in the woods. Not alone. There seemed no reason to run other than to feel my heart hammer against my ribs. To get shin splints. To hurt.

And then I found it. I found the Greenway. The fabled land of trees, creeks, and north Georgia swamps.

The Greenway. A few hundred yards beyond my door.

You know those disclaimers? The ones saying ‘Consult a doctor before beginning any new exercise routine?’ Nah. I don’t listen to ’em, either. My feet hit the trail and within moments I’d forgotten everything else about my week. About my plans. About my life.

Yeah, it was hot. And yeah, the humidity made me feel like I was a macaroni noodle tumbling in about-to-boil water. But I didn’t care. Suddenly, as if my sneakers had worked some strange magic, I felt the pendulum move inside me.

I’m going to run.

I want to be a runner.

Forever.

I overdid it on that first fateful day. I ran six brutal miles in one direction, and walked six miles back. By the end, my breaths were ragged, tortured things. My calves were knotted up like old oak trees. My skin, which I’d forgotten to cover in sunscreen, sizzled the same as bacon in a cast iron skillet.

But I felt good.

No, not just good.

Trans-effin-cendent.

Let’s talk about the Greenway. It’s a place I wished I’d found a decade earlier, but was happy to discover when I did. They call it the Greenway because all eight miles hunker beneath the trees. In some spots, in the heavy shade beneath birch trees, the air is a full ten degrees cooler than in the sun. In others, the trail is almost dark even during midday, and the leaves so dense as to blot out the sun entirely. Parts of the trail are paved in wooden planks, and others with a softer-than-concrete asphalt/rubber hybrid. And in many places, the Greenway runs alongside creeks, small rivers, and a sopping wet marshland stocked with geese, ducks, bluegill, herons, and even the occasional beaver.

The Greenway – flanked by marshland on both sides.

Twelve miles later, I spilled back into my apartment. My body ached. I was cramped, hungry, thirsty, and tired. But I also felt sublime.  The ‘runner’s high’ my ex had talked about turned out to be a real thing. I felt as if I were floating among the clouds, my sneakers like Hermes’ winged shoes, my muscles singing with pain and pleasure.

Sure enough, not long after I finished my first run, a buddy called me. I rehydrated…and then spent the rest of the evening out on the town committing treason against my liver. I’m sure I didn’t once shut up about my experience on the trail. To my buddy’s credit, he just smiled and nodded.

He understood.

On that day, something had changed.

It was as if I’d reached back into my childhood and stolen some of the freedom my ten-year old self once experienced.

Out there on the Greenway, I’d been in heaven. No phone. No bills to pay. Not a care in the world beyond the next place my ugly orange sneakers landed.

Since that day, and for the last four years, I’ve been out there running. I use the Greenway most days, but also a number of other nature trails. In autumn, when leaves blanket the ground and the wind begins to bite, I’m alone in a season of my own. In spring, when every bird in the universe descends onto the marshes, I run to their raucous music of their honks, quacks, and cheeps. Most times I keep moving fast. But some days I stroll along without a care. Some evenings, I’ve only got enough daylight for three little miles, while others I head out early to conquer the entire trail. I prefer to run when I’m alone, but on particularly pleasant days I’ll find other people running with me, walking their dogs, or wheeling their twin babies along in awesome bicycle/stroller hybrids (here’s to you, bicycle/stroller guy.)

The absolute best days are the first days of the Atlanta winter…just before twilight…when crickets, owls, and leaf-stomping squirrels surround me. No one else is on my trail. No one else exists in the entire world. It’s just me and the road ahead.

And I’m as close to Heaven as I’ll ever be.


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I run, and I also drink wine.

Join me on my bounce between bottles right HERE.

 

 

 

Ode to Free Comic Book Day

I’ll be at Challenges this Saturday with brand new copies of the Gilded Age Graphic Novel!

This Saturday is the annual Free Comic Book Day event. It’s a time where the comics industry hopes to bring energy and excitement into the comic book stores by coordinating and putting out free comic books (hence the name). Whether you read comics back in the day, never read comics before, or have been reading them for over 30 years there is apt to be a comic being given away that might interest you (yours truly).

I always try to snag a couple of the kiddie comics to give to either my niece or nephews or kids of friends. As someone who’s been reading for so long and as someone who creates comics, I think it is my job/duty to try and pass along that same love to the next generation. And the thing is I don’t know if it will work at all. I figure it might take doing this every year and still not have any luck swaying the next generation. I’m still not sure why it clicked in my own head all those years ago. Technically it took four tries before I actually began picking up comics on a monthly basis.

The first time I remember even seeing a comic book had to have been when I was 4 or 5. I would sometimes get babysat by a woman whose husband had a bin in one of the rooms filled with comic books. They were neatly stacked up and I can recall seeing some of the crazier comics that existed back in the 70s: Ghost Rider and Man-Thing come to mind. I didn’t try to look through them… maybe I wasn’t supposed to touch them, but I did stand there at the edge and look at the covers with some wonder and awe not knowing exactly what it was these magazines represented.

The second time was when I picked up an issue of Transformers from the hospital gift shop (my mother was a nurse there). I was pretty much locked in on Transformers, constantly watching the show after school. Always conspiring on what I might be able to get when Christmas came around (sadly relatives thought Go-Bots were the same thing – I’m surprised I didn’t yell at them to try to get them to understand the difference!). I read that comic over and over again. Maybe it was because the cover said it was the last issue of a 4 issue limited series, but it never occurred to me to even seek out more issues. This really should have locked me in but it didn’t.

The third time was my elementary school’s book fair. Armed with a little bit of money, I stumbled across a collection of comic books. Again, not knowing the characters, I grabbed one that looked interesting – Fantastic Four. The story was in the middle of a story-arc about a little boy and what only could be the devil and these heroes who had to fight… demons? Again, it never occurred to me to seek out more issues.

And maybe that would have been it. I would have had 2 comics to my name and a bunch of money in my pockets from then on. I watched the Spiderman and His Amazing Friends comics, fascinated whenever some new hero might show up on-screen. In later years I would come to realize how many members of the Marvel Universe made little appearances on the show. After Spiderman, the Hulk cartoon came on and I watched that. I’d seen the Superman movies, watched episodes of the live-action Hulk, the 60s Batman and Robin, and the Wonder-Woman live-action shows.

Still, I didn’t seek them out. Maybe I didn’t know where you’d buy them?

On top of all of this, my dad read comics when he was a kid, but before I started collecting I don’t think we ever talked about it.

Then one day it happened. My step-father dropped me off to get my hair cut while he ran some errands and left me with $5 to go next door and get a snack and a drink. Next door was a 7-11. Needing to kill time, I wandered through the aisles trying to figure out what kind of candy I was going to get (I’m sorry… candies… plural). I wondered to the magazine rack and began looking when I saw a Spiderman comic book. Picking it up, I flipped through it amazed (pun intended) that Spiderman wasn’t wearing his traditional red and blues, but had a black and white costume that looked really cool.

Hmm… $0.75? OK. Sold! Wait, there are other comics? Who are the X-Men? And why are there two Avengers comics?

I bought all 4 and waited outside with my comics, soda, and maybe a candy bar (just one).

And it was over. I was hooked. It took 4 opportunities for the universe (maybe?) to ensure I went down that path.

Without comics, I don’t know if I would have read very much prior to 6th grade and meeting one of my best friends. Without comics, I wonder if I would have formed the same friendships which have lasted to this day. Without comics, I don’t know if I would be a writer of anything (the first thing I ever wrote was basically a comic).

So I’ll be out there on Saturday watching new faces light up to their first comic book and other faces light up to their 10-thousandth. You just never know when the magic is going to happen.

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

The 7 Instagram Personality Types

I recently decided to join the modern world.

And *gasp*  create an Instagram account.

I use it mostly to promote my art and post pics of my obese cat.

The longer I scroll through the thousands of daily photographs, the more I learn.

For instance, did you know nearly every Instagram user can be dropped into one of seven categories?

Yeah.

You’re welcome.

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The 7 Instagram Personality Types



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THE FOODIE – Pretty normal, I guess. I mean, most people like to eat their dinners. But some people, I’m assuming gourmet chefs mostly, prefer to dress up their food to look better than most supermodels. The Foodie type of Instagram user makes a pretty compelling argument. When faced with the choice of eating a brick-oven pizza or simply photographing a brick-oven pizza, I always…  Wait. No. I think I’ll just EAT it. Thanks.

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THE ANIMAL LOVER – This archetype of social media user is without a doubt the most common. In fact, most Instagram users are Animal Lover types in addition to whatever other type of user they might be. Whether it’s dogs, cats, sleeping dogs, sleeping cats, gifs of dogs and cats, funny-faced dogs and cats…the variety is almost endless. My day definitely isn’t complete unless I scroll through Facebook and Twitter and Instagram to find at least a 50% ratio of dogs & cats compared to every other type of post. Hey, I get it. My cat’s cute, too. Only she’s too fat to fit in a single photo frame, so I’ll make a nine-part Instagram photo series to encompass her beautiful body. K?

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THE SCRIBBLER – The number of artists (and photographers) who flock to Instagram is staggering. It’s what drew me to the site, and what keeps me there. Every day, I find dozens of amazing drawings, paintings, tattoo art, and sculpture to die for. But…and this is a BIG but…to get to the good stuff, one must pass through legions of Scribblers. Yeah, you got it. We’re talking hundreds and hundreds of actual third-grade pencil pieces. For my own protection, whenever posting art of dubious quality, I always tag it with #WIP (work in-progress) so my followers won’t know just how much I really suck.

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THE SEIZURE-INDUCING GIF MAKER – Oh boy. Now we’re getting somewhere. I’m not sure what compels people (mostly ladies, sorry) to make half-second long repeating gifs of themselves gesturing aimlessly into the void. I’m not sure I wanna know. If you stare at the wrong gif too long, I’m convinced you’ll catch cancer. Or Ebola. Or maybe you’ll just die a little bit inside. Whenever surfing Insta videos, I always make sure to keep a bottle of Ibuprofen handy. Because I’m going to get a headache. It’s only a matter of time.

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THE MODEL – Yes, you’re beautiful (or so heavily filtered no one can tell the difference.) I get it. We ALL get it. It doesn’t matter where I tumble on Instagram, I see you there in my feed, looking hot, wearing almost nothing, covered in tattoos, doing something funny with your mouth. Look, I’m not complaining. NO one is complaining. But the philosophical part of me wonders what you (yes YOU, model girls) get out of posting dozens of hot selfies every day. Is it validation? Cash? An unending stream of creepy dudes DM’ing you for sex? I’m assuming you get all three. I’m just wondering if it’s worth the effort. Maybe the old saying is true – if a hot girl bounces through the forest and no one’s there to see it, did she really happen?

 

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THE WANNABE MODEL – For every one person willing to put in maximum hours working out, tanning, dressing up in uncomfortable-looking bikinis, and applying the best possible filters, there’s ninety-nine more people who say, “F it. I’m doing this my way.” I’m talking about you, girl who just woke up and took a 6AM selfie. And you, guy in the gym who’s obviously on steroids. And yes, you too, single mom of three kids who’s just fishing for a compliment (or twenty.) Look, we can’t all be beautiful. Despite the hashtags #everyoneisbeautiful #plussize #bringingunibrowsback and #Igaveupworkingouttenyearsago, perhaps it’s best if we leave the modeling to the most willing to sell their souls for cash most beautiful people out there.

 

 

 

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THE PERFORMANCE ARTIST – You’ve seen them. They perform glorious physical feats, leap to incredible heights, and paint themselves with peanut butter and hot dogs. I admit I’ve watched some pretty cool ones. Like the guy who stood on his motorcycle seat while going 100 mph, or the other guy who fell off his motorcycle while going 100 mph. I’ve seen a girl beat a tree to death, a dude somersault over two cars, and a woman bounce her boobs to the beat of Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller.’ Narcissism, man. It’s a beautiful thing sometimes.

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RUNNERS UP:

THE MUSICIAN  Usually a DJ for some crappy downtown club, he really, really, really wants you to check out his mixtape.

THE LONELY MOM – “Hey, guys! I’m stuck at home with seven children. And I’m going to Snapchat bunny ears onto ALL of them!”

THE CAPTION QUEEN – Usually…and I’m only being honest here…it’s a teenage girl posting a pic of herself looking sad while complaining about tomorrow’s math test.



For more fun, here’s my list of Top 7 Facebook personalities.

And I did one for Twitter, too.

Stay tuned for next week’s HUGE article, ‘The Zero Types of Linked-In Users’

J Edward Neill

 

Things I want my son to know

Being a dad isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

It’s much, much better.

Long ago, in the months before my son rocketed into this world, I dreamed of all the challenges I would surely face. I was younger then, and full of doubt. Let’s be honest…I was frightened. I thought to myself, ‘Raising a kid is going to be the hardest thing I ever do. How can I possibly be a guide for another human being? Everything will change. And it’ll happen in ways for which I can never prepare myself.’

Well…

I was wrong. And right. And everything in-between.

Not long after my one and only son (the G Man) arrived, I realized three things:

  1. I’m not frightened to be a dad – I’m thrilled
  2. This is going to be far more exciting than I’d expected
  3. Also…I’m about to be a single dad

Just like that, it happened. The G Man was only two-years old when he and I found ourselves thrust out of our suburban paradise and into a tiny apartment. Suddenly, his life completely changed, and all my expectations for child-rearing flew right out the window. It wasn’t as terrifying as it sounds. The word I use to describe it: spectacular.   We were broke. We were cramped into a tiny space. We lost all our previous friends and family.  We were two dudes on a tiny island.

And it was mostly awesome.

Somehow, we survived. Three-thousand trips to the local park. A million-and-a-half hours spent poolside. Strep throat. The flu. A few hundred band-aids. A rescued Japanese maple tree. Four-hundred thousand fish sticks. And several Christmases, just me and him, waking to our annual two-man treasure trove of gifts.

And then there was the day he decided he wanted to grow a ‘Devil lock.’ Thank you, Glenn Danzig & The Misfits…

Here we are, five years later. We’ve left our tiny apartment and moved into a slightly-bigger-than-tiny-house. We have cats. Most weeks, we treat ourselves to Taco Tuesdays and breakfast-for-dinner Thursdays. We do all the ordinary dad/kid stuff, only we do it alone instead of within a typical family unit.

This is our life.

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It’s a Tuesday night, and the G Man is relaxing on the couch. He’s in the middle of reading literary classic, Calvin & Hobbes – Attack of the Deranged Mutant Killer Monster Snow Goons. Meanwhile, I’m in the background painting something on a canvas. It’s a pretty typical evening for us. We skipped Taco Tuesday in favor of our latest dinner invention, a little something G Man calls, ‘Chicken with onions in its butt,’ which tastes even better than it sounds.

During a lull in my painting progress, I lean back in my chair and consider the night. As far as weekday evenings, it might not get any better than this. Our bellies are full. We’re listening to an uber-relaxing album – Slayer’s Seasons in the Abyss. It’s almost bedtime. But not quite.

What’s next? I wonder.

The G Man is at his most impressionable age. I remember being his age (seven) and it was the same for me. Everything my friends told me, I tended to believe. Everything I saw on TV, I absorbed as if it were utter truth. As I look upon him now, I understand his vulnerability. The things he learns during his next few years, he’ll carry with him for the rest of his life.

This is the task for which I was born, I think. I must become both teacher…and student.

The G Man looks up at me. He sees me staring in his direction, and he’s annoyed.

“What?” he asks.

“Nothing,” I reply. “Just thinking.”

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And it’s true. I think too much.

Some of the things I worry about:

  • Will the G Man get bullied?
  • Will he be a bully?
  • Will he like sports?
  • Or science?
  • Or both?
  • Will he continue to be hard on himself?
  • Or will he find the same confidence I did?
  • Will he keep reading books?
  • Or will he become an iPhone zombie – addicted to social media, selfies, and rabbit-eared Snapchat filters?
  • Will he think critically? Will he study every situation based on its own merits?
  • Or will he see something on the internet and automatically believe it’s true?

These, and a thousand other questions stew inside me. But like all things, they quickly pass. I can’t yet answer these questions. And ultimately, no matter the subtle lessons I try to instill in my son, he might very well do the opposite of what I teach.

And it’s ok.

When I look around myself, I realize we’re in a tough world. Actually, it’s always been tough. As a whole, humanity has a tendency to group-think, to segregate into specific herds, and to compel each other to believe what the rest of their chosen herd believes. It’s not particularly healthy. To be honest, it’s poisonous. The worst part of this isn’t what the adults decide is truth. It’s that the adults tend to pass the herd-mentality on to their children. They don’t teach their children how to think – rather they teach them what to think.

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Believe what mommy and daddy believe.

Go about life the same way.

Love the same things.

HATE the same things.

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As I look upon my son, I understand something. All the small lessons I worry about on a day-to-day basis…they’re just that – they’re small. The real lesson is singularly large.

It’s this:

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BE WHAT YOU WANT TO BE

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You want to be Link? Fine. But you might want to wear shoes. Hyrule isn’t always the softest place to walk.

Be what you want to be. Easy to say. Sometimes hard for parents to accept, and often even harder for kids to comprehend. For me, what this means is my son doesn’t have to live up to my expectations. He doesn’t have to follow in my footsteps. If he doesn’t want to go to college, fine. If he decides he wants to become a god-fearing, bible thumping preacher, ok. Go for it. If he looks at his life and decides what he really wants is to be a beach bum who smokes weed all day and kicks sand in society’s eyeballs, I’ll shut up and deal with it.

It’s not a parent’s job to mold children into perfect little statues. Quite the opposite.

It’s not even our job to prepare them to become a integral part of society. Society doesn’t care about people. Only people care about people.

It’s our job to open our children’s minds to possibility, to teach them to adapt, to accept risk and reward, and to know the difference between belief and truth. Above all these, it’s important to teach them how to think critically, especially when dealing with us. We aren’t the unfailing gods and goddesses our children think we are. It’s ok to let them see us fail. Actually, it’s essential.

And sometimes the best way to teach these lessons isn’t with ‘we need to talk’ conversations, but instead through subtle everyday interactions:

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He asks a question? I ask my son the question right back.

He wants to discuss a topic about which I know very little? I admit I don’t know and we research the facts as a team.

He asks for my help with something? I challenge him to resolve the problem by himself.

He asks for a tough answer regarding religion, politics, or sex? I don’t surround him with my own biases, but instead open the door for him to decide on his own.

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I realize this thinking is in the minority. A quick observation of other parents reveals a wide spectrum of techniques, many of which include healthy doses of indoctrination. That’s fine. It’s the way it always has been and always will be.

As for the G Man and I…we’ll be doing it our way.

We’ll have plenty of questions. But not always the answers.

We’ll be individuals, not clones.

And we’ll definitely invade Hyrule while wearing shoes.

Our new heavy metal album cover…

For more stories about me and the G Man, go here.

J Edward Neill

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Define “Fine”

THE GOOD PLACE — “Everything Is Fine” Episode 101– Pictured: Kristen Bell as Eleanor — (Photo by: Justin Lubin/NBC)

Fine – adjective – Of high quality

Fine – adverb – in a satisfactory or pleasing manner; very well

Both of these definitions lead me to believe that if you were to say that something was “fine” or that you thought the food was “fine” you would be paying it a compliment.

However, in my house there are two other definitions:

Fine – adverb – Adequate. Not great, but not bad. Ok.

That is my usage of Fine most of the time (pardon the rhyme). It is how I let someone know that the thing is pretty much average.

Fine – 4-letter word – See $#$%$ and @#$$#

That is how my wife hears the word. To her, it has become synonymous with terrible, bad, unfortunate, and about 100 other things which convey “BAD”. And no matter how much I’ve tried to explain myself – that I’m merely using it in lieu of saying things are OK – she doesn’t really believe it.

But here’s the thing: most things are just Fine to me.

When I go to a restaurant I can think of about 2-3 times where I was so blown away by the food I thought to myself that “this is the greatest X thing I’ve ever eaten”. I hear other people talk about restaurants and a particular cut of meat or a certain dish that they all say is the best in the city, the best in the state, oh, you have no idea how good it tastes.

It’s fine. It’s never as good as all of that. It’s decent enough. Never bad, but never mind-blowing. Just Fine.

(Maybe it is my taste buds. I don’t ever season things… I like fairly bland food.)

Or even when things turn the other way – maybe they food quality has decreased… eh, I bet it is still Fine, but you’ve convinced yourself it is the worst horrible really bad thing you could have encountered.

Most days of work are like that too. I try not to get too up or too down about the day job. I come in, do my work, and then I leave it all behind me as soon as I get to the car. And while there are certainly days I want to pull out my hair or days where I’m just not in the mood to work… most of the time it is just Fine.

Movies/TV Shows – Tons of them fall into this category. Books, too. Many times I’ve walked out of a movie and liked it enough, but if I wouldn’t tell you to rush out to see it… it’s probably just Fine, too.

Writing… my writing… I don’t want it to be fine. It doesn’t have to be spectacular or the next great American novel or any of that. I am by no means a perfectionist (or at least that is what I tell myself), but I need it to be better than OK. I think if you create anything you have to want it to be “More”. More than the previous book they read. More than the last meal they had. Just More.

So I struggle with word choice and sentences and read and reread things I’ve written and sometimes there is a passage or a chapter or even a couple of chapters where I recognize that the piece is better than Fine. That’s where, I think, you have to push yourself. You have to try to limit the number of Fine sections. You can’t be just “adequate”. You want to aspire to the very first definition… “Of High Quality”.

That is something worth aspiring to.

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John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

My Review of 75 Random Things – Part 2

My Review of 75 Random Things – Part 2

(Every item on this list was suggested by friends and strangers on the internet.)


Season 1 of the TV series ‘Fortitude’ Great acting. Super interesting buildup. Vastly disappointing ending.

Jack Daniel Honey – Not bad for a party drink. It’s mildly palatable and inexpensive. But once you try higher end whiskey, you’ll never want to drink Jack Daniel anything again.

The city of Chicago – I miss living there, but only during non-winter seasons, which means pretty much only half the year. I have a feeling I’ll end up returning there one day.

The Song ‘Too Many Dicks on the Dance Floor’ by Flight of the Conchords – Hilariously sums up trying to land a date by going clubbing.

Washing Dishes by Hand Instead of using a Dishwasher – Dishes get cleaner. Not much more work. Saves money. Ends arguments about how to stack dirty dishes. Sign me up.

Peeps – As a child, I loved Easter for the sole reason of devouring entire boxes of sugar-coated marshmallows. As an adult, same.

Putting Peeps into Burritos – No. Just no. Stop.

The TV Nature Series, Blue Planet – You think outer space is fascinating? Wait ’til you watch this series and see what lives on the ocean floor. Awesome, awesome show.

Russia’s Influence over the U.S. Election – I don’t know what they did. I don’t care. The kind of people influenced by stuff they read on Facebook? They were going to vote the same way regardless.

Dreadlocks – They look cool, but smell kinda like mildew.

Seat Warmers in Cars – For the ladies, I hear they’re great. But for guys, they burn warm all the wrong parts.

My New Cat ‘Bacon’ – Athletic. Mean. Bitey. Adorable.

Bacon, the bitey cat

My Recently Departed Cat, Sticky – Athletic. Scratchy. Sweet. Blind. And now she’s planted beneath a Japanese Maple tree.

Sticky laser eyes, fire!!

Text Messaging w/ Old People – Pretty much the most painful thing ever. Hurts my eyes to read the awkward things my dad types into his phone.

The Movie ‘Game Night’ starring Jason Bateman & Rachel McAdams – Pretty damn funny. I’ve come to realize anything with Jason Bateman will be good. Ditto Rachel McAdams.

Twizzlers – Yes. The perfect candy for…everything.

Aussie Licorice – It’s sticky like honey and tastes like engine oil. No thanks.

Sting (the musician) and his latest tour – Did you know tickets are $600? Nope.

Small Talk – Does anyone really want to talk about the weather? Or the latest TV show? Or how your cousin’s mom’s former roommate is doing? No. Let’s skip to something deeper, kay?

The Book ‘The Wise Man’s Fear’ by Patrick Rothfuss – I loved book one in the series ‘The Name of the Wind.’ But book two? Dreadfully slow. Wanders to strange places while making the main character utterly unlikeable.

DYI Plumbing – You might save thousands. Or you might end up doing your laundry in the backyard and taking showers using a teaspoon.

Robert Mueller – FBI Special Counsel – Sounds like the most difficult job in America. Dude gets slandered on a daily basis.

Ménage a Trois Wine – The California Red is good. The Rose is even better. The Silk and Dark varieties are pretty bad, kind of like drinking wine-drenched cotton balls.

The Introvert vs. Extrovert Discussion – It sometimes feels like an excuse for people to talk about themselves at length on the internet. It’s ok to be either or even both. Most people really don’t seem to care.

Cracker Barrel Pancakes – Too dry. Also, they’re super stingy with the syrup. Bring the whole bottle, baby.

The video series ‘The Lion’s Blaze’ – I will never be as flexible as the skinny dude. Never.

What. The. Fuck?

The Kids’ Movie ‘Early Man’ – Pretty funny. A bit sentimental, but refreshingly devoid of cynicism.

Drinking Organic Milk in place of Ordinary Milk – Prepare to spend a TON more on milk. But the flavor difference is worth every penny.

The Restaurant ‘Outback Steakhouse’ – Terrible, dry cuts of beef. You’d eat better steaks and save money just by pan-searing them at home.

James Veitch’s ‘This is what happens when you reply to spam’ comedy sketch – Freaking hilarious. We all want to do this, right?

Men Peeing While Sitting Down – Why would anyone want to sit on a toilet unless they absolutely had to?

The Art of Allen Williams – Dark and beautiful. He’s a wizard with graphite and a master of artistic anatomy. Just go here.

Fake Fingernails – Ladies, I have just one question. Why?

Beards – Love ’em. But had to shave mine off for the summer. Too warm for muggy days in the Georgia heat.

The Movie ‘Sicario’ starring Emily Blunt & Benicio del Toro – Probably the most intense movie I’ve ever seen. That ending…wow. You owe it to yourself to watch this late at night with zero distractions.

Angry Orchard Hard Cider – Good when on draft. Not particularly tasty out of a bottle.

The #_____LivesMatter Movements – My position is that no lives matter. Yes, really. None of us have any real value to the universe, so technically we should all treat each other equally. (But we never will.)

The Album ‘Kingdoms Disdained’ by Morbid Angel – Thumpy, ferocious, and superior to most metal albums of the modern era. Even so, not much variety within the album. Basically eleven very similar tracks.

The Theremin, a musical instrument – Weird and haunting. Search for ‘Armen Ra Theremin’ on Spotify and see where it takes you.

Clara Rockmore playing the theremin, publicity shot c. 1930

Finding Stray Girlfriend Hairs all over the House – Women shed more than cats. Or dogs. Or any mammal on Earth. I need a scientist to explain this phenomenon.

The Movie ‘Cloverfield Paradox’ – Not bad at all. Interesting premise, good actors, sharply suspenseful. But somehow in the end a bit unsatisfying. The whole experience feels like one big cliffhanger.

The Album ‘Sleep’ by Max Richter – Soft, serene music meant to help people relax and sleep. The tracks are repetitive and atmospheric, and yet soothing. I use this album for writing epic fantasy and sci-fi books, but if you’re an insomniac, you might want to try it for yourself.

Bras – If I were a woman, I’d like to let my ‘girls’ fly free. Ladies, you have my sympathies.

Aberlour Scotch – One of the smoothest, brightest, and flavorful scotches you’ll ever drink. Try the 16-year and live happily ever after. Here’s my complete rundown of the best scotches on the market.

The Movie ‘Swiss Army Man’ w/ Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe – It goes strange places right from the beginning and never truly comes back to something meaningful. That said, it has some pretty hilarious moments.

7-String Guitars – I don’t like playing on any other kind. Saves me the trouble of re-tuning my strings.

Bing (the search engine) – Sometimes I end up on Bing accidentally. I shudder and click right back to Google.

Homewood Suites Hotels – You’d be surprised by the number of active prostitute rings thriving in various Homewood Suites’ rooms. Yes, really.

Being an AuthorDon’t do it. Seriously. It’s not a path to happiness.

The Video Game ‘Super Mario Odyssey’ for the Nintendo Switch – My kid was alllll kinds of hyped up to play this. But after an hour or two, he came to the same conclusion I did while watching him play. Boring. Same old, same old. Everyone else loves this game. We don’t get it.

Yep. More of these guys.

The Renaissance Festival – Good, cheesy fun. Nightmarish parking. If you go, go when it’s cool outside.

Match.com – Boring

Plenty of Fish – Same as Match, but even duller

Bumble – Pretty damn good

Tinder – Gross

The Album ‘Thinking in Textures’ by Chet Faker – Smooth. Relaxing. Although not particularly inspiring.

Magic, the Gathering – The best game ever created. Great art. Great rules. Constantly evolving. Better to play face-to-face than over the internet, however.

Ketchup – Hey, if you like it, that’s ok. Some people get too uptight about other people’s condiments.

Teachers Carrying Guns in Schools – Do it if you want. Turn every school into the Wild West. My kid won’t be attending.

The Video Game ‘Ghost Recon Wildlands’ – Quietly one of the best shooting games ever made. Realistic, balanced, and addictive.

Bartenders Who Know Everything About Their Customers – A wise policy on the bartenders’ behalf to maximize tips. But I once knew a woman who told her bartender too much (she was cheating) while not realizing the bartender was BFF’s with her husband. Be careful what you talk about, people.

Anal Bleaching (Special thanks to the person who suggested this) – I get it for porn stars…sort of. I just want to know who came up with the idea in the first place. Sasha Grey?

The City of Deerfield Beach, Florida – If you like volleyball, sand, drinking, and pretty girls, you’ll love this neat little beach community.  If not, try Naples.

Deerfield Beach – See you on the sand!

Bangs – Easy hairstyle to maintain. But at what cost? 🙂

The Restaurant ‘PF Chang’s’ – The food is really good. The drinks are amazing. The wait-staff is bad. Really bad. And I’m the most merciful diner ever. The lesson? Don’t hire and underpay teenagers if you want to appear upscale.

School Shootings – They will continue ad infinitum. It’s who we are as Americans now. Knowing this, I won’t be sending my kid to public school. I suggest you rethink your kids’ education, as well.

Nude Body-Painting – It can be pretty cool, maybe even sexy. But definitely not in overheated rooms. And an age limit is advisable.

The #MeToo Movement – Every single woman I know has a horror story of sexual abuse. Every. Single. One. Which means a huge number of guys are involved. Scary, right?

The Album ‘Seasons in the Abyss’ by Slayer – The best heavy metal album ever made. Try not to bob your head during ‘Skeletons of Society.’

Melania Trump – She signed up to ride the Tilt-a-Whirl and ended up on the mother of all roller coasters.

Bagpipes – Well-played, they make beautiful, mournful music. Poorly-played, they seriously injure eardrums.

Kids Using Foul Language at Home – I’m cool with it. Sometimes. Words are just words. They’re harmless if you want them to be.

Ren & Stimpy – I’d like to personally thank this show’s creator John K. for guiding me through my early childhood. Here’s the complete collection. Worth every penny.

Cream of Wheat – Totally devoid of nutrition. Totally amazing when served with milk and honey.

Next Door Neighbors Who Walk Around Topless – If he can do it, so can I.

 



For the original ‘My Review of 75 Different Things,’ go here.

For my review of life and humanity in general, try this.

J Edward Neill

My Review of 75 Different Things

This week, lacking any genius ideas, I’ve decided to review exactly seventy-five things.

These things aren’t related. They’re completely random.

They could be movies, television shows, art, cultural phenomena, beer, or maybe even my neighbor’s dog…

Please enjoy…

*

My Review of 75 Different Things

 


The movie ‘Annihilation’ w/ Natalie Portman – Pretty good, but kinda slow in parts. Also, Oscar Isaac has a different haircut in every movie he’s in.

James Vietch is a Terrible Roommate Sketch – Thanks for making me buy my kid a huge box of wholesale rubber duckies.

The Netflix original film ‘The Ritual’ – Liked it. Questions: Can the monster not leave the woods due to the sun? Or is the big beastie forever confined to the forest?

The Gun Control Argument (Everywhere in the US) – Even if you pass sweeping gun laws nationwide, we’re still fucked. This country is absolutely saturated with weapons. You’re 40 years too late to make a difference.

Pornhub – If all the best porn is free and readily available on a giant, hugely popular website, how do porn actors make money??

Plastic Forks, Straws, Cups, Bags, and Takeout Containers – Ban that shit. Immediately.

The Book ‘What I Talk About When I Talk About Running’ by Haruki Murakami – This is how memoirs should be written. Relatable. Honest. Quick. Elegant.

Crawlspaces – Never, ever, ever buy a house with a crawlspace. Go basement or go slab.

Turning 41 Years Old – My knees hurt. Stupid flag football league…

The movie ‘Ex Machina’ starring Alicia Vikander – I actually reviewed this for real. Go here.

Divorce – Best decision ever. Why do people get married twice?? Someone please explain.

Flight of the Conchords – Season 1 & 2 – ‘Business Time’ is the funniest song I’ve ever heard.

Veganism – You eat your greens. I’ll eat a bunch of livestock. We’ll get along just fine.

Apothic Red Wine – It’s really only ‘meh’ good. But at $7.99 per bottle, count me in.

Single Fatherhood – Goodbye, social life. Hello, Legos!

The latest two Star Wars movies (Episodes VII & VIII) – Not even remotely entertaining. Maybe I’m just old. Or cynical. Whatever.

The ‘Rogue One’ Star Wars movie – Easily the best Star Wars film ever. Disagree? Fight me. 🙂

Mellow Mushroom Pizza – F’ing amazeballs. Why don’t they deliver??

The Children’s Book ‘The Rainbow Goblins’ illustrated by Ul Del Rico – If you have kids, read this book to them. Over and over again.

Heavy Metal band ‘Slayer’ Announcing their Farewell Tour – All great things must come to an end. …sniffle…

Politics – If you support one party wholeheartedly, you’re kidding yourself.

The Netflix series ‘Round Planet’ – The funniest take on a nature show ever.

‘Witcher 3’ the Video Game – Still the best game I’ve ever played. (And I’ve played too many.)

Balvenie Scotch – If you’ve always wanted to try scotch, but you weren’t sure where to start, Balvenie is where you want to be.

Balvenie 17 Doublewood – smooth as silk

Mad Max – Fury Road – The best action movie ever made. Sorry, Die Hard.

The website Etsy – I thought it was only for girls. But I joined it and it changed my life. Ignorance wasn’t bliss.

Selfies, GIFS, and Snapchat – Are we really this bored with our existence?

Feminism – I support it sometimes. Sometimes not. Trouble is; if you ask 100 people what it means, you’ll get 99 different answers.

Elon Musk proposing a voyage to Mars – If I weren’t a dad, I’d volunteer for the first expedition. Not that I think it’s noble or anything. I just want to drink scotch on another planet.

The Glut of Superhero and Comic Book Movies – Please stop.

Daylight Savings Time – Please stop.

The Album ‘How the Gods Kill’ by Danzig – The best blues/metal album ever made.

Vladimir Putin – Dude has the whole world wrapped around his finger.

Facebook – Use it for entertainment only.

Twitter – Same as Facebook, but prepare for more anger.

Instagram – Use it only if you have more interesting photos than selfies. (Selfies are ok if you’re stunningly good-looking.)

LinkedIn – Don’t bother using it.

The Movie ‘IT’ – So when’s part two coming out again? I’m not sure I can handle the wait.

Amazon Planning a new ‘Lord of the Rings’ Series –  Intriguing. But can they top Peter Jackson’s LOTR movies? Probably not, right?

‘Wat? Who be Amazon??’

Peter Jackson’s ‘The Hobbit’ Trilogy? – The decision to use almost exclusively CGI monsters over real actors killed all three movies for me. Disappointing.

Pandora and Spotify asking me to ‘Click the Image’ during ads – Ha! As if I’m anywhere near my phone while the music’s playing.

Chick Fil-A Waffle Fries – Still the planet’s best.

Chick Fil-A Lemonade – I think I just got diabetes.

DragonCon – Fun, but only if you can find a spot away from the throbbing masses of people. Good luck.

The Art of Terese Nielsen – Awe-inspiring. Just go look at it here.

Kentucky Fried Chicken – I found a chicken’s head in my 3-piece meal last year.

Bill Steer, Guitarist for Heavy Metal Band ‘Carcass’ – The best guitarist you’ve never heard of.

Conan O’Brian Driving Mad Max style to Comic Con – I want to cook my hot dogs like he does.

President Trump – People making fun of him on the internet won’t make him go away.

NFL Football – At some point, it became more of a product than a game. And now I can’t watch it anymore.

The Wrecking Bar, Atlanta – The best craft cocktails you’ll ever have.

Wrecking Bar

Self-Driving Cars – Please let these be everywhere by the time my son turns 16.

The Video Game ‘Zelda – Breath of the Wild’ – Great, great game. Abrupt, unsatisfying ending.

The Soundtrack to ‘Interstellar‘ by Hans Zimmer – I listen to this whenever I’m painting.

The Soundtrack to ‘The Prestige’ by David Julyan – I listen to this whenever I’m writing.

Domino’s Pizza – Better. But still not as good as Pizza Hut or Papa John’s. Which admittedly isn’t saying much.

Kneeling During the National Anthem – Unless you stand every time you hear the anthem (including on the radio or TV) your anger doesn’t matter.

Cracker Barrel – Thanks for turning me into a Stewart’s Orange Soda junkie.

Being a White Guy in Modern-Day America – I sunburn too easily.

‘Cosmos’, a series hosted by Neil DeGrasse Tyson – You owe it to yourself (and your kids, if you have any) to sit down and watch it.

The Movie ‘Grandma’s Boy’ – Somehow, it’s still my go-to ‘I don’t know what I want to watch tonight’ movie.

The City of Atlanta – Great food. Good people. Plenty of stuff to do. But the traffic is completely unbearable.

Hobby Lobby – A great store to get bargain art supplies. But the store’s vibe never fails to creeps me out.

The Nintendo Switch Video Game System – Love Zelda. Love the concept. Pretty much nothing else noteworthy. Hopeful for the future. Maybe.

Hi there. I’m a system with ONE good game. Buy me.

The Electoral College – I don’t care who won or lost the election. The E.C. is archaic. America can do better.

The Movie ‘Kubo and the Two Strings’ – My kid and I had no idea what we were getting into when we hit the theater to see this. We were blown away.

The Word ‘Goetia’ – Bear with me on this one. I needed a word to describe some of my art. And somehow I found one. No, I don’t summon demons…usually.

Granny Smith Apples – Does anyone else think they’re too sour?

The Book ‘Dune’ by Frank Herbert – I read it as a young man. And then again as a college student. And still again in my 30’s. I just re-read it a few weeks ago, and I’ve come to realize that while I love the book, it’s not the epic work of great fiction I once believed. It’s slow. It’s often tedious. And Paul comes off as fairly implausible. Whatever. It’s still good.

The Movie ‘Blade Runner’ starring Ryan Gosling – Everything a sci-fi movie should be. Dark. Gritty. Serious. Also, Ana de Armas.

Ron White – The funniest comedian alive today. Better than Tosh.0. Better ever than Richard Lewis.

Electric Cars – Can they please be affordable without looking like ugly shoeboxes?

The Big Green Egg Grill – Give me a $50 Weber charcoal grill, and I’ll cook you the steak you deserve without spending $800.

The Lego Ninjago Green Dragon set – Four hours of my life…gone. But at least my son hasn’t destroyed it yet. Oh wait…yes he has. 🙂

Waffle House – Without a doubt, they have the friendliest (and sadly, the lowest paid) staff of any restaurant in town. I always tip them 25%…sometimes more.


If this list annoyed you, maybe this will annoy you even more.

For 75 MORE randomly reviewed things, go here.

Love,

J Edward Neill

Why I Can’t Bring Myself to do Commissioned Art

“Can you paint a portrait of me, but as a sexy, armor-wearing warrior queen? And thirty lbs. lighter?”

No. And you mean forty-five lbs.

“Can you paint my dog? He’s really cute. Look how his tongue hangs out the left side of his mouth. I really want to capture him in a painting.”

No. Your dog isn’t cute. Also, you have no money.

“Can you paint a lovely little orange barn with a giant Florida Gators logo on the side?”

Instead of that, can I paint a giant dark tower with a logo of a massive alligator demon devouring the souls of the innocent?

“Can I wait until you finish painting my commission to pay you anything?”

No. Go download something free off the web.

Ashes for Ande – A commissioned piece. Never got paid, so I kept it.

I know why artists do commissions.

At least…I think I do.

For artists who have a strong foothold in the industry, who sell every single painting they create, and who can demand a high commission fee, doing custom-to-client work can be lucrative.

For everyone else, not so much.

In the past, I’ve entertained commission work. The orange barn with the Gators logo? Yeah, that was a real commission I did. I spent a ton of time and materials in an effort to make it perfect. I delivered, and the buyer paid me as promised. Only trouble was – I lost money on the sale. I invested far more time than I could ever hope to recoup. And more than the money, I lost self-respect.

I paint demons. Towers. Dark trees. Mysterious women.

Not college football logos on cheesy barns.

In my humble experience, I find more reasons to turn down work than to accept it.

Oh, you want examples?

Last year I painted a huge wood panel piece for a buddy of mine. I quoted him my fee, spent most of two full nights sharpening the image, and delivered earlier than promised. Now, I love this guy like a brother. But here we sit, six months later, and he still hasn’t paid. I’m not willing to lose a friend over the issue, and so I don’t mention the money anymore. Though I do feel a little pain whenever I see the panel hanging on his living room wall.

No, I’m not bitter.

If anything, he helped me.

I’ll explain.

When I sit down late at night, a fresh canvas before me, a glass of scotch in hand, and my paintbrush whirling, I’m in my element. I’m right where I want to be. Whatever I’m about to create will bring me great enjoyment. It could be something grand – a giant mural of skulls. Or something simple – a swirly drip-painted tree. It doesn’t matter. I’ll love it because it’s mine. No one told me to do it. No one cares whether or not I succeed.

But…

If I’m creating the piece for a commission sale, none of this is true.

I’ll feel pressure to make it ‘perfect’ as if perfection is something that exists in art. I’ll feel hurried. I won’t feel like a creator anymore, but rather like a business. It’ll become work instead of pleasure. Rather than savor every moment, I’ll want the process to end as quickly as possible.

I’ll hate it.

I want to paint this…

…not this.

What’s weird is..

Even though I’ll strive to make the commission look fantastic, I won’t do my absolute best work. My creative engine will go idle, and my brush won’t move with the kind of freedom to which I’m accustomed. That’s just the way it goes. With freedom comes passion. With rigid expectation comes pain.

Not a week goes by without at least one person requesting some kind of work from me. “Draw me a tattoo?” they’ll ask. “Paint a forest scene for my wife’s bathroom.” “Paint my portrait, only not exactly like me. Make me look better.”

Some people want me to do this work for free. Or at rock bottom cost. Or they want to wait until I’m done to decide whether or not they’ll pay.

To a degree, I understand these approaches. Art is a luxury to most people. More important things exist, like utility bills, car payments, and food on the table.

The solution feels simple.

Don’t do it. No commissions…ever. No worrying about other people’s ideas, needs, and wants. Make art a meditative, peaceful thing, a creative avalanche instead of a business goal. Separation from commission angst means not worrying about whether or not I’ll get paid. It means growing my skill organically, not forcing myself into styles I either haven’t yet mastered or have little interest in studying. It means painting at a self-chosen pace, not hustling to push something out the door I never wanted to do in the first place. And it means a friendly but firm “No” to everyone who asks the question, and then peace of mind afterward.

Commissioned J Edward art

 

Non-commissioned J Edward art

Is it a bad idea to say, “No commissions! Ever!” Yeah. Maybe. I’m probably eliminating a segment of the population who might otherwise be interested in my style.

Am I going to lose sleep over it? No.

I’d rather be broke and free than wealthy and enslaved.

This philosophy applies to much more than art.

It’s life, man.

J Edward Neill

 

 

 

Why Must I Art?

 


It’s 11:30 PM on a Monday night. The wind howls against my glass-paneled door. The branches of an old oak scrape against the roof. A little black cat named Bacon makes figure-eights around my ankles.

My concentration never breaks.

I’m in a zone, and nothing in the world can touch me.

It’s on nights like these, with a glass of scotch in hand and a Hans Zimmer soundtrack thrumming, I’m happiest. My rickety wooden easel stands before me, and my paintbrush flies. I can’t quite remember the exact moment I decided to start making art again. As a kid and a teenager, I’d done the same, but many years have passed since then. I’d almost forgotten what it feels like to shut the world out and make pictures.

What am I doing here?

Recapturing my youth?

Striving to be the next Van Gogh or modern-day Michelangelo?

Gunning for likes on Facebook?

Nope. None of these.

The music drops off into a somber violin piece. It’s something by Olafur Arnalds. I’ve just messed up while drawing the curve of a woman’s lower lip, and my eraser is on the move. Lower lips are hard sometimes, especially when drawing them from a side-view perspective. But I’ll get it right. Another sip of Balvenie, and I’ve fixed it. Instead of pouty, she looks deadly serious. Just wait til I add her horns:

Princess Oblivia

I don’t have to do art. I want to. I do it because I love it, I think. But sometimes, just sometimes, I feel like an imposter. I’m not classically trained. I don’t have a specific job in the field. No one will ever ask me to illustrate their comic book, draw their company logo, or paint a portrait of their dog. It’s a good thing, too. Commissions can mean big money for some artists, but I just can’t do it. I can’t. I paint what I want to paint. If that’s not good enough, so be it.

And I definitely don’t want to paint someone’s dog.

It’s late now. Late, late. My kid, the G Man, has curled up on the couch and fallen asleep with his favorite book in hand. It’s a Calvin & Hobbes anthology. Everyone’s kid should read it. The art is neat, Calvin is hilarious, and there’s a bit of philosophy paired with every little panel. Bill Watterson (Calvin & Hobbes’ creator) is pretty much a genius. With a few pen strokes and splash of philosophy, he’s made his art come alive. He fills a need we didn’t even know we had.

And maybe that’s why I’m painting. To satisfy some philosophical need. To ponder my existence while I paint. To separate myself from the world so completely that nothing else exists besides my tiny atmosphere of music, liquor, and art.

My phone is silent. I don’t want to hear it ring…or even vibrate. The world can go ahead and end. I’ll be happy if I’m the last to know.

I don’t have cable TV, satellite, or Netflix. I don’t want to consume everyone else’s creativity. I need to embrace my own.

I’m tired. I’m tipsy. The bones in my hands sing with pain from pounding on a punching bag earlier in the day.

But my paintbrush is steady.

…and the table beside me is a mess.

Truth is, when I decided to start creating again, art wasn’t my first choice. Some thousand years ago – or maybe it was only fifteen – I decided the best way to escape was to write books. Long books. Sloppy existential fantasy books no one would actually want to read. If I’m honest, I did it to escape my marriage. My life. My responsibilities. Everything.

But writing didn’t bring me peace. Turns out, while making words is great for the mind, it tends to injure the soul. Long stretches of solitude tucked away in a black room can unsettle even the most steadfast heart. And the time commitment, often several months for even the most pedestrian-length book, is all-consuming. It hurts. Sometimes a lot.

Art, on the other hand…

In a few hours, one can draw something beautiful. And one can be at utter peace while doing so.

Given a full night, an artist can conceive a surreal world and splash it onto a canvas. While sipping wine, listening to music, and carrying on a rich conversation with anyone in the room.

And in a week…well…

Art can be whatever its maker desires. It’s a quick commitment, short and satisfying. It’s a month-long project, with each session bringing a creator visibly closer to the ecstasy of completion. It’s a study of pencil strokes, the movement of watercolor across paper, or the feel of broad lashes of a brush thick with scarlet paint.

I’m no fan of poetry. At least not the kind that uses words. But perhaps art is poetry of another kind. The poetry of motion. The passion of turning shapeless blobs of paint into visible, touchable emotion.

…or sometimes just pretty girls with demon horns surrounded by coins.

Lately I’ve been co-painting. I’ve paired with a fellow artist to create things I’d have never thought of on my own. It’s just another reason making art is sometimes a more powerful elixir for one’s self than writing literature. Writing or painting by oneself can be self-restricting. It can lead one to fall into a creative vacuum.

But art made in the company of other artists…it’s like a conversation in a crowded room. It’s fluid. It allows ideas to flow uninhibited. She sculpts something, and I give it color. I draw a tree, a woman, or a demon, and she makes it real.

If you’ve never tried it, invite your friends over to paint with you. Pour something delicious into a glass, silence your phones, set Spotify to random, and fall into your art together. Doesn’t matter how seriously you take it. Chances are, you’ll feel all your stresses melt away.

Maybe that’s the reason. Maybe…

Melting the world, escaping into a 16″ x 20″ piece of stretched canvas, forgetting about your pain, your job, your mortgage. Maybe it’s not about the actual art, but the catharsis. The quick creation of worlds more appealing than our own. Or the exorcism of our fears by painting something terrifying…and realizing our imaginations are more powerful than reality.

My co-artist, Tahina. Her smile is divine. Her hat is…questionable.

It’s morning now. I’m crawling out of bed, and I’m slow to greet the world. My head hurts, my knuckles are sore, and it’s cold in here.

I don’t really want to wake up.

But I know if I do, there’s a canvas downstairs awaiting me. It’s blank and ready to be filled with shadows.

Once I pick up my favorite brush, I’ll be hooked. The sun will rise, the music will play, and I’ll fall away from this world.

…and into my own.

*

J Edward Neill

The Song of Your Life

I may have written about this scene before, but it bears repeating. In Before Sunset, Ethan Hawke is on a book tour where he is talking about his next project: this idea of a song transporting you back in time. How it grabs you and can make you remember things you’d forgotten – all of it locked within a song.

I love that idea. And I know that music has had a big influence on my life. Even as I write this blog, Alice in Chains is grooving on the speakers beside me (Jar of Flies). But each of the songs below have a specific meaning in the time and place for me and to this day, hearing the song means having this little memory attached.

***

1988 – The Beach Boys – Kokomo

I’m standing beside my sister as she dials the number to the local radio station. For some reason, even though I’m 12, I don’t seem to understand that there might be multiple radio stations out there, so we’re dialing the “Oldies” station. We get through and my sister asks to hear a Madonna song. There’s a pause and then they say “We don’t play Madonna.”

“Oh.”

Still desperate to hear something from that decade. “Well can you play Kokomo by The Beach Boys?”

Pause. “Yes, that we can play.”

1997 – Limp Bizkit – Stuck

Driving back from Virginia with Lee and Egg, we’d gotten this sampler tape from Limp Bizkit when they’d opened for Korn in Athens, Georgia. Fred Durst was handing them out to anyone who would take them, and after seeing them play Faith, well I figured what the hell.

The sampler had two songs on it: Counterfeit and Stuck, but I can only hear Stuck in my head as we played the damn song probably 50 times on that trip. And with every play, Egg’s “metal voice” would come out with the word “STUCK!”

1996 – Deftones  – Teething

The original Crow soundtrack might be one of my top 10 cds of all time. It is amazing from front to back, and instantly takes me directly to the film and the feeling it tried to invoke.

Now… the second Crow film was… it was not good. But I saw the soundtrack, and I knew that Korn has a song on it. But it was the song directly after that one which grabbed me on the very first listen. I might have run out that following weekend to find their cd and ever since they’ve been my second favorite band – all because I had hopes the second Crow soundtrack would match the first.

1992 – Pearl Jam – Yellow Ledbetter

There once was a time, before the internet, where in order to find out about new bands and new songs from bands you loved you had to go to a record store and HOPE to find something. Sometimes that meant getting bootleg copies of concerts or imports from Europe.

In Pearl Jam’s case, it meant finding the Import version of the Jeremy single which had not just one, but two b-sides: Footsteps and Yellow Ledbetter.

I may have paid around $20 for those two songs, but it didn’t matter. To have those meant I had everything Pearl Jam had done (little did I know how wrong that idea was even in ’93). Regardless, that 3-song cd didn’t leave my cd player for a good while.

1993 – 95 South – Whoot, There It Is

It’s Spring Break and the Grunge bug has taken me over. But I’m down in Florida for a couple of days visiting one of my friends from South Georgia and he’s much more into Hip Hop. So that’s what we listen to as we drove south, and as we drove around the beach town (which I forget which one it is), and as we are just hanging out at the hotel with some girls also staying there.

It was also cold, maybe in the low 40s (for Florida that might as well be negative numbers). And there we all were huddled together for warmth. Nothing came of that evening, we went home the next day, but it’s one of the first moments in my young teenage life where I didn’t feel completely awkward or tongue-tied.

When I got home I bought the single of this song on tape.

***

Of course, being a teenager almost any music would key off on some very important and interesting events whether you’d planned it that way or not. Still, these moments… these songs, silly or not, hold a candle for a memory inside my head. And I’m grateful for it.

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Selling the Last of my Shadows

This gallery contains 14 photos.

 The ORIGINAL canvas art for J Edward’s most popular paintings are now available. The paintings are here. Interested buyers should reach… Read more

Tales from the Cubicle – Part 3

I’m always amazed by the stupidity you can sometimes encounter at work. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised since you can encounter stupidity everywhere in life. But more and more I think of the stuff that just makes no sense when a coworker/boss interacts with you in some strange way. I’ve written about a handful of my own here and here, but I thought I’d branch out and collect some others from people I know (names changed to protect the innocent!).

Consider That A Gift!

One of my friends is beyond dedicated to their job. Whether it is because of their own bit of crazy or because they are actually… cough… dedicated, this person will always go the extra mile for the company. Obviously, the benefit of doing our jobs is the fact that we get paid every couple of weeks, but sometimes… just sometimes, you’d like to be appreciated for what you do.

Cut to a scene many years ago where, we’ll call her Nancy, Nancy has put in a ton of work over the past 2 weeks. Over 90 hours in about 9 days, but had requested that particular Friday off well in advance. Of course, since she’d already put in more than what her hours called for, she chose not to put any PTO down. Her boss sees this, knows about the Friday off and comments that he didn’t see any vacation time on the timesheet. To which she replied, “Yeah because I got my hours in… you know, working on the weekend.”

His reply was “Well… don’t worry about it. We’ll consider it a gift.”

Yep… that guy knows all about employee morale. Definitely makes you want to go that extra mile when you reward a person with something they’ve already earned!

You’ve Got Nothing to Worry About

Another friend was at a company that wasn’t doing very well. Even with his limited experience (this was his first job out of college), he knew that things were spiraling in a downward direction. But one of the big wigs from the parent office was coming into town to help clear everything up and put everyone at ease.

And he did clear everything up. Bigwig told them all that things were a little rough right now, but the outlook was good going forward. It seemed convincing, even if the numbers told a different story, but our hero was willing to believe him in this at the very least.

Until he closed the meeting – “So don’t you worry about it. I mean, I’m not worried. When I hop back on the plane to head home, I’m not going to be worried at all with a drink in my hand.”

Drink in your hand… not worried, huh?

So yeah, the Atlanta office was closed about 6 months later. But there was nothing to worry about.

It’s only sexist if you finish your sentences

That same friend sat in on a meeting where his coworker Vicky was going over one of the clients and talking about how she was experiencing some difficulty with the project manager.

Who was a woman.

I only mention that because of what the boss said to her.

Boss – “Well, you know how it is sometimes with women.”

My friend leaned in, realizing something amazing was about to be said.

“Women don’t always take direction well from other women.”

Vicky was now staring at the Boss, unsure what he was going to say, but pretty sure it was not going to be something he should be saying.

“You know, they’d rather take direction from a man.”

It was only then that the Boss looked at Vicky and maybe the lightbulb went off in his head.

“Because… you know…”

Obviously, trailing off is not only useful in sitcoms but just as useful in the real world too.

***

I’ve been lucky in the last couple of jobs that I haven’t had to deal with Dilbert’s Boss, but it also means needing to rely on the kindness of others for their stories!

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

In the Future, Retread the Past

We come to the beginning of the year and with it a chance to reflect on the previous year’s accomplishments and failures and set those goals for the following year. Every year I set out goals, but manage to only hit a small portion of what I had planned for the coming year. Sometimes the reasons are other projects which suddenly demanded my attention and other times it is a time squeeze or not managing my time just right or perhaps I’m setting my goals too high?

The thing is that each of these projects are like open boxes in my mind. If I’m not careful I’ll continue to open new boxes… which is great! However, if you never close any of the boxes, that can be worse than not having them in the first place.

2018 has to be about closing boxes so that new boxes can be worked on. And a big piece of that puzzle was actually accomplished late last year with the Gilded Age Kickstarter funding. Shutting the box (completing the graphic novel) doesn’t mean I’m finished with the Gilded Age, but instead means I have something I can point at and feel that sense of accomplishment we all get when we complete those large tasks.

The Look Back – 2017

Reviewing my previous to-do list is a little depressing because I can feel the frustration of my previous self. 2017 was to be the end of this “5-year plan” where… well I don’t exactly know what it is I was expecting.

The White Effect

I have one more path for this book before I do self-publish it. I entered it into the Angry Robot open submissions during the holidays. One way or another this must become a box that gets closed.

Edge of the World

Not much movement here. I still need to finish my self-edit. I would still like to send out query letters.

S.O.U.L. Mate

Above, I mentioned that having too many open boxes is better than the alternative, but in this case, the old Writer’s Block came to visit me. It was surprising considering I had the book outlined out… until I realized I didn’t have parts of it outlined out… and that brought me to a screeching halt.

The Gilded Age

This is where I can pat myself (and all those who supported the Kickstarter) on our collective backs. After helping out on the Route 3 Kickstarter, I was both excited and worried about launching my own. But when I finally pulled the trigger… it was even more nerve-wracking than I would have thought!

Regardless, this is a big success, and I’m looking forward to holding the trade in my hands.

Veronica Mars Novella 2

This was published earlier in the year and somewhat showed me that everything is timing. When the Kindle Worlds had just launched, we were pretty much ready with the 1st novella… and while it didn’t break the bank, it was a consistent seller, a handful here or there every month. This novella was released a couple of years later. There wasn’t a new book or movie or really much in the way of Veronica Mars news, and the sales of both books prove that out.

I’m still extremely happy to have published the story.

Short Stories

This was a very nebulous one and I did finish up a couple of stories, but they are still on the hard drive, so maybe I’ll give myself half credit.

Blogging

Another success story in that I still didn’t miss a week (though I came close a couple of times), but the other aspect was to be a little more focused with the Kickstart the Comic series or the Behind the Comic series… and I think I did a better job of it. My blog is probably still a little too scattered, but I like that.

Plus, I also launched a second blog over the summer in Steampunk Fridays… and let me tell you it is both a blessing and a curse to have a focused blog. Sometimes it means you have plenty of things to write about, interviews to run, reviews, or Kickstarters, and other times there is next to nothing happening. Very feast or famine.

I took the last couple of weeks off for the holidays, but I’m hoping to keep at it in the coming year.

Looking Ahead to 2018

What are my goals this year? How about forward motion on closing those open boxes? How about opening new boxes? How about publishing another book? How about selling books at conventions?

How about a little of all those bits and pieces? Things I’d like to work on in the coming year:

The Gilded Age

The White Effect

The Edge of the World

S.O.U.L. Mate

The Crossing

Ravensgate

Short Stories

The Next Big Idea for a Novel Series

Hollow Empire Season 2

You Must Be This Tall To Ride

Entropy

Lightning

The blog(s)

Something I didn’t even have an idea was on the horizon

I want to be excited by the paths I choose. I want to have some success. I want to get the books into people’s hands and have them love the ride.

So what are you doing this year?

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Celebrating 1,000 articles!

Last week, we published our one-thousandth article.

That’s one-zero-zero-zero.

…and here we never thought we’d hit one-hundred.

2017 has been one hell of a year for Tessera Guild. We secured a full-time gaming blogger, Egg Embry. We expanded our Steampunk Fridays series. And we inspired readers with hundreds of paintings, books, crazy lists, and life-bending stories.

With an eye on doing even more in 2018, here’s five of our most popular articles of 2017:

*

6 RPG Kickstarters you should Back

Egg Embry erupts onto the Kickstarter coverage scene with his biggest compilation of upcoming games ever!

*

Nightmares, Horros, and Visions

Amanda Makepeace primes us for Halloween with a stunning collection of Zdzisław Beksiński art.

Nightmares, Horrors, and Visions

*

How Playing D&D Reshaped my Entire Life

An author acknowledges his complete and utter nerd-dom, while also crediting it with inspiring his writing career.

 

*

Tales From the Loop – Thoughts About the Best Game I Played at GenCon

John McGuire gushes about a new amazing game at the famous GenCon convention.

 *

*

My Mother – The Horse Diver

A woman remembers fondly her mother, a famous horse diver (not kidding!)

My Mother – The Horse Diver

*

Come back soon for more articles about art, gaming, movies, books, and life – every single day!

And please enjoy your holiday season.

Sincerely,

J Edward Neill

Closing Threads for the End of the Year

A Grab Bag for this week (also known as Random Thoughts from John).

***

December becomes a mad scramble for me every year. Not because of Christmas parties or because of fighting the people at the Mall over the last whatever it is I’m at the Mall to get, and not because every day ends up having something “to do” if left up to the wife.

OK. It is a mad scramble exactly for all those reasons… plus one other one:

Trying to get random bits and pieces of writing in order by the end of the year. You see, every year I write a blog post that lays out the year – what I want to accomplish, what I expect to accomplish, what I could accomplish if I cloned myself… but it is a little pie in the sky. I mean, I put everything on it (because you should dream big, right?), and since I started doing it 3 or 4 years ago, I find myself entering December with unfinished business.

Suddenly I have to squeeze a year’s worth of wants and goals into 31 days of crazy.

Yeah, it never works out.

***

Die Hard is one of the greatest Christmas movies of all time.

I believe this, somewhere deep in my soul.

Yet, we had a potluck lunch this week and end up putting it on as the holiday movie. And while it takes place at Christmas, John McClain does write “Ho Ho Ho” (now I have a machine gun) on the dead guy’s shirt… maybe (and this is only a maybe), maybe it isn’t something that everyone else agrees is a great Christmas movie.

I mean, they are wrong, but it is very odd to hear rapid gunfire and cursing while celebrating the holidays with co-workers.

***

I once had an interview that took place during a Christmas party. I’d just graduated from college and the interview was right around 1, and the company was in the middle of exchanging gifts. So I had to sit there and smile and not focus on how awkward the whole situation was. I mean, just reschedule the interview for an hour later or an hour earlier or something.

To top it off, I didn’t even get an offer from them, which if they were trying to figure out how I might “fit in” with their group – my thinking would be to say that maybe, just maybe, there would be a better way to do it.

And if you are going to bring an interviewee into the gift exchange, maybe give him/her something. It’s bad enough that we’re there, at least then we’d leave with something.

***

Random Thoughts Done for now. Back to wrapping up Kickstarter business and watching odd movies at the “wrong” time!

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

My life as an 8-year old misfit

“Sorry,” the pastor tells me. “You’ll have to sit in the back pew again.”

It’s ok.

The holy wafers don’t look all that tasty.

It’s about ten o’clock on a Wednesday morning. I’m at school, shuffling my way to the back row of wooden pews. Outside, the weather is warm and inviting. Spring is in full force. The school year is almost over.

But for now, I’m stuck in here.

Oh right. I forgot to tell you. I’m at a private Catholic school. It’s called Holy Family. I’ve been attending this school my entire life. It’s a pretty great place most of the time. Our classes are small. Our teachers are strict, but fair. And they’re really good at teaching.

The one small complication: I’m not Catholic. Nor do I believe in God.

I’m also the only student among several hundred who hasn’t been baptized.

Of all the stunning gothic churches in the greater Chicago area, it figures that the one I’m in is ugly. From my seat, I can see stained-glass windows, the pastor’s dais, and the little metal box they call the tabernacle.

But this place has no towers, no sharp spires reaching for Heaven, none of the classic Catholic architecture.

It’s cold. It’s boring.

It’s municipal.

I can’t wait for Communion to end so I can go to recess.

The other kids file past me. They’re all wearing their special uniforms. Their robes are white and black, their shoes fancy. But for me, it’s the same yellow shirt and navy pants I wear every day.

It’s cool. They’ll have to change clothes before playing kickball today. I won’t.

Lounging in the back row, squinting to see what’s happening up front, I stick out like a sore thumb. When my friend Tricia walks by, I make her giggle, but both of us are quickly silenced by Sister Alvina. The nuns here are all-powerful. No one giggles on Sister Alvina’s watch.

Not even me.

Communion continues. It’s a quiet affair, considering the room is stuffed with parents, kids, altar boys, and nuns. I’m not really sure what the fuss is all about. I guess I’m not all that curious, either.

The kids march up to the pastor in single file, eat a pale wafer, and sip some red juice. The pastor says, “Body of Christ, blood of our savior…” and some other important-sounding stuff, and then it’s done. Next kid up. Next soul in line for Heaven.

Is it really this easy? I wonder.

Is that all it takes to get into Heaven?

If I didn’t love this school so much, I’d have begged out of this place.

My friends are being indoctrinated.

And they don’t even know it.

Oh well.

If today was the only day I had to sit in the back pew, everything would be fine. I can get over one little day. For an eight-year old boy, I’m as patient as they come. If I can sit still for twenty more minutes, I’ll be out there in the sunshine, kicking the hell out of rubber balls.

But this is the tenth time I’ve been stuck in here. Watching the other kids. Not allowed to dangle my finger in the holy water. Not permitted to wear the sweet-looking holy ropes. Not sure whether the red stuff in the pastor’s cup is Kool-Aid or actual pinot noir.

I might not know what pinot noir is yet, but I’m pretty sure I could use some.

If my dad were here, he’d probably remind me for the hundredth time about his decision not to have me baptized.

“…let you make your own choices,” he’d have said.

“…can change your mind when you’re older.”

The last few kids march past. They’re mostly Irish, just like me. They’ve got names like O’Conner, McDonnell, and Thompson. They don’t look at me today. I don’t look at them.

Everyone knows the deal.

I’m not allowed to play with wafers and sip fake wine because no one splashed me with the magic water. It’s all good. Any sense of curiosity I feel is dulled by my exclusion. The nuns don’t pity me, which is good.

But…

I’m pretty sure they’re wary of me. As if I’ve got a disease. I don’t belong here, and everyone knows it.

Finally, it ends. The pastor utters a few holy words, and the kids disperse. Across the aisle, Tricia’s parents smile and glow. I’m just glad none of my family are here. My expression isn’t something they’d be proud of.

I’m hovering in the grey space between sleepiness and boredom. It’s written all over my face.

A few minutes later, I’m outside. There’s not a cloud in the great blue sky. A field of suntouched grass awaits me and my classmates. We’re not thinking about holy wafers and blood-wine any longer.

It’s time for kickball.

And yet, as I await my chance to crush the bouncy red ball into oblivion, I can’t help but wonder. It’s something Sister Alvina said. It’s something Miss Calvin has repeated. And though they’d never admit it, it’s something most of my family has signed up for.

Since I’m not baptized, I’m not really a Catholic.

And if I’m not a Catholic, I’m going to Hell. You know – that place where the souls of the damned burn for all eternity.

I wonder if the other kids believe it. I question, even though they’re willing to play kickball with me, whether or not they think I’m going to roast forever in a fiery pit.

I guess it’s easier if we don’t talk about it.

* * *

To continue the story, go here.

50 Things I Worry About

I’m not a person who worries about much of anything.

After all, worrying helps nothing. It only adds to one’s suffering.

And yet…here’s fifty things that concern me almost every single day:


I sometimes wonder whether I’m spending enough time with my son.

…or whether I’m actually the helicopter dad I try so hard not to be.

I worry I don’t read enough.

…that I don’t home cook my dinners more often.

…and that I sip too much wine.

I’m pretty sure my cats are at home destroying my furniture right now.

…the fat one probably barfed on the floor again.

I wonder if I’ll end up single, alone, and locked away in a big empty house by myself.

…and yet it concerns me that the idea of being alone is so very appealing.

I’m sure I’ll suffer from ’empty-nest syndrome’ when my son grows up.

And I’m positive I’ll struggle with an existential crisis when it happens.

I worry I’ve outlived my usefulness.

…except to scotch distilleries. I keep those guys in business.

I’m concerned I wasted my youth in the pursuit of pleasure.

…and yet if I were young again, I know I’d do the same things all over again.

I worry I don’t tip well enough. Even 20% feels low sometimes.

I sometimes worry that I don’t worry enough. Is being indifferent the truest form of immorality?

…and if it is, I should probably worry that it still doesn’t much matter to me.

I sometimes suffer from FOMO. (Fear of missing out) I want to do everything and be everywhere.

I’m concerned I chase Friday at the expense of Monday through Thursday.

And I’m really concerned about the huge pile of pancakes I devoured on Sunday.

I worry that it’s all meaningless.

But I push myself harder every day, and for what?

I’m not tall enough.

…or buff enough.

…or able to do all the athletic things I could do just five years ago.

And I worry sometimes these facts make me less of a man.

I worry that I’m smart enough to understand most of the world’s problems…

…but not nearly intelligent enough to solve them.

I worry about the 3,000 calorie steak dinner I ate last night.

…and the just-as-huge spaghetti platter I plan to cook tomorrow.

If I blow off being creative in favor of playing video games, I worry I’ve wasted a precious night.

But when I spend a whole week working myself to the bone creating, I sometimes think I’m missing the point.

I’m concerned about my quiet urge to sell my house and leave all my possessions behind.

But I’m more concerned about having to give up my grill if I leave, which means I’m probably staying.

I worry I don’t spend enough time writing.

…or am I writing too much, and thus falling out of touch with reality?

I definitely spend too much time thinking about money.

And too much time spending it.

And not enough time saving it.

I fear for my eardrums. All that heavy metal can’t be good.

I worry for my guitar, which I haven’t played in weeks.

…and my wardrobe, which I haven’t improved in years.

And of course, I worry about my stupid blind cat. She’s 18, and it’s only a matter of time before she becomes incontinent.

…which means I’m worried about my floors.

I’m not really worried about politics or religion or people fighting about it on the internet.

But I do wonder whether someday a lunatic who does worry about these things will end up killing me.

I’m mega worried about my son turning out to be too much like me.

Or that he’ll end up liking country music.

Please.

Anything but country music.


If you like lists about 50 things, try this one.

And if my worries have you thinking, get some of this.

J Edward Neill

…guy who writes too much.

…or maybe not enough.

A Quick & Easy Workout Routine for Writers, Artists, or really anyone

Judging by the title, you probably thought this would be an article about exercising your brain, your writing chops, or your editing skills.

Nope.

This is all about running, pushing, punching, and picking up heavy things.

I know. I’ve been there. As a teenager, I was skinny as a whip. A weakling. A fragile little artist. The exact opposite of this guy.

And then I discovered iron. And it changed my life.

Look. I get it. Spending gratuitous amounts of time sitting on your ass hammering out novels isn’t exactly a great way to sculpt your abs. And while reading is a great workout for the mind, it’s not particularly heart-healthy. In fact, most of the jobs humans do these days aren’t conducive to maintaining muscle tone and blood flow.

As writers (and artists, like me) we have an obligation to our fans, don’t we? To live long, healthy lives and pump out the most possible books? To operate our keyboards with freshly-toned forearms? To appear at book signings and art shows with swelling biceps and toned calves?

Ok. Whatever. You get the point. Here’s two sample weekly workout routines from my personal regimen. One is a light workout regimen for people who have no real equipment. The other is a more serious setup for those who either have gym memberships or can arrange an area with a small amount of equipment in their homes. I’ve been doing an advanced version of the second workout routine for about three months now, and it has truly energized me without taking up much of my day.

I recommend doing these workouts before writing, painting, or whatever your creative pursuit might be. A happy body tends to mean a clear mind.


Workout 1 – For beginners and those who have little or no equipment

Monday:

6 sets of pushups (do as many as you can until reaching failure)

6 sets of crunches (at least 20 per set, but no more than 80)

1 set of burpees (at the end) If you don’t know what a burpee is, look it up here. Do them until utter exhaustion.

Tuesday:

Run for at least 20 minutes or walk briskly for at least 40.

Wednesday:

4 sets of crunches

4 sets of pushups

2 sets of burpees

Thursday:

Run for at least 30 minutes or walk briskly for at least 50.

Friday:

Off day. Enjoy some pizza or something

Saturday:

8 sets of pushups

…and that’s it.

Sunday:

6 sets of crunches

Run for at least 20 minutes or walk briskly for at least 40

* * *

Easy, right?

Remember, before starting any workout routine (light or serious) get in a good 10-15 minute stretch. Here’s another good starter routine, including some great tips for beginners.

In place of running (in colder climes or urban areas) I recommend using a stationary bike. Here’s the one I use. It’s served me well for five years now, no maintenance required.


Workout 2 – For those who either have equipment at home or visit a gym

Monday:

15 minutes of vigorous punching bag work (use MMA gloves if you’ve got ’em) Here’s the bag I use.

4 sets of 60 crunches

Tuesday:

4 sets of push ups. (Try to do the same amount during each set)

2 sets of 60 crunches

4 sets of dumbbell bicep curls (try to do at least 10 reps with each set – you’ll quickly figure out what weight dumbbell to use)

4 sets of chin ups (do each set to exhaustion) Here’s the bar I use at home.

Wednesday:

Run for at least 30 minutes (or use an elliptical machine/stationary bike) or walk briskly for at least 45 minutes.

Thursday:

10 minutes of vigorous punching bag work

4 sets of 60 crunches

4 sets of dumbbell rows/10 reps per set (here’s how to do rows)

Friday:

Take the day off. You’ve earned it.

Saturday:

4 sets of dips. If you don’t know what a dip is, check this video.

4 sets of dumbbell bicep curls

4 sets of pushups

4 sets of chin ups

Sunday:

Run for at least 40 minutes (or use an elliptical machine/stationary bike) or walk briskly for at least 50 minutes.


Adjust as needed to suit your style.

But definitely put in the work.

Your body (and your mind) will thank you for it.

*

Other tips:

Get up and take a 5-10 minute walk for each hour of writing, painting, or sitting

Ditch the coffee. Drink water.

Eat after your workout, not before.

And yes, mowing the lawn (especially if you’re using a push mower) counts as cardio. 🙂

*

J Edward Neill

…author, artist, and gym rat

 

 

Brand New Ridiculous Book – 101 MORE Reasons to Break Up

Oops, I did it again.

Over six weeks during a rainy autumn, I collected hundreds of break-up stories from friends, strangers, Facebook pals, random people on Twitter & Instagram, and several tipsy folks at the local bar.

And then…just because…I cleaned the stories up and put them into this book:

Every story is true. Some are anonymous. For others, the storyteller’s name is proudly displayed.

Sample break-up stories from the book are here.

The original 101 Reasons to Break Up is here.

5 Brutal Break Up Stories

Five Reasons to Break Up

True Life Tales of Splitsville


 

*

Fish are Friends, not Food

Our marriage basically ended because my wife tried to force our son to become vegan.

She wanted him to eat things like grilled portobello mushrooms and tofu steak. You try telling a six-year old he can’t have fish sticks.

Oh, and she totally ruined Taco Tuesdays.

– Jonathan

*

Up to her Elbow

I pretty much lost it when…during a night of hot sex, she balled her hand into a fist and said, “Look where I can put this!”

Some things, you just can’t un-see.

– Anonymous

*

Hotel Calipornia

She said she’d landed a role in a local student film. I told her I’d happily give her a ride to the set location, but she insisted she’d be fine.

It didn’t take long for me to figure out what was up.

Turns out the movie set was a hotel room.

And her co-stars were naked.

Just google ‘student porn’ on one of those sites and you’ll probably see her. She’s the one making annoying horsey sounds.

– Anonymous

Alms for the Poor

She kept giving away all our money to the homeless people in our neighborhood.

I can appreciate a little generosity, or even a lot. But she once gave a guy $300 just so he could buy drugs. Which meant we had to struggle for the next two weeks to buy food and gas…while some kid sat on a corner and did meth.

 I told her to go work in a soup kitchen or something. And then I left.

– Wrecker

*

Downward Dog

She dumped me because she said I wasn’t dedicated enough to yoga.

I couldn’t keep up with six days per week, two hours per day of planking in the company of hipsters and jobless housewives.

Also, the music they play at the yoga studio is awful New Age crap.

Now I’m sitting at a bar drinking beer with some guy who’s willing to put my story in his book.

I win.

– Anonymous


 

If you want to read nine more epic break-ups, go here.

For 101 more break-ups, get into this.

10 Things I Miss Most About Role-Playing

It’s no secret.

I can pretend to be a sports-loving, cave-dwelling, meat-eater.

But it wasn’t always so.

Once, long ago, I dwelled in the lands of swords & sorcery. At the tender age of eleven, my uncle passed along a set of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons books, and I was hooked.

Every dorky image you’ve seen of role-players on the internet…they were me. Every nerd stereotype, I conquered.

And no, I don’t care. I loved every second of my dice-rolling origin story.

Here’s the ten things I miss most about role-playing back in the day:

* * *

The Clatter of Dice on the Table

As a little kid, I thought dice were six-sided and used only by gamblers in the seediest corners of Vegas. Who knew they came in such a huge variety of shapes, sizes, and colors? My favorite set was sparkly green. And damn, that twenty-sided die rolled more 20’s than should’ve been legal. As a game master, I crushed many players’ dreams with my dice. Just ask Egg Embry, king of role-playing wanna-lancers.

*

Role-Playing for Days Without Stopping

When we played, we played. No tiny two-hour sessions for us. My little group of four would sometimes convene on a Saturday afternoon, head down to the basement, and emerge late Sunday night. No, we didn’t have girlfriends. Yes, we had more fun than everyone else on the planet. Sometimes, if my entire crew wasn’t available, I’d run a session with two guys, then head over to the third player’s house and game until the wee hours.

Pure. RPG. Heaven.

*

Creating Art for the Game

Some D&D players show up with the simple goal of advancing their character and hoarding treasure. Not our group. We created worlds, and we lived inside them. To aid the process, some of us created art to support our fantastical visions. Hell, I bought a giant art book and populated it entirely with drawings, sketches, and hand-painted maps. Did we take it too far? Nah. Instead of watching movies, we directed our own stories inside our minds.

The Underhollows – A painted scene from our campaign.

*

Eating Pizza & Drinking Mountain Dew

If I ate today like I ate back then, I’d be 300 lbs. Fortunately, the body of a fourteen-year old is resilient. We chugged gallons of carbonated sugar water and ate boxes upon boxes of Little Caesar’s pizza.

…and we didn’t gain a damn pound.

More importantly, the caffeine we imbibed fueled our bodies better than a thousand Haste potions. If we’d have had an IV, we could’ve stayed awake for weeks at a time, rolling dice and avoiding life beyond our basement.

*

Painting Miniatures

Nowadays, my young son plays with the remnants of what was once a mighty lead-pewter army. He doesn’t know about the hundreds of hours involved in painting and perfecting thousands of his tiny miniature monsters. He doesn’t really care.

Honestly, we didn’t really need the miniatures to play our style of game. Most of the fun lived in the actual painting. It’s not like video games, in which everything is programmed for you. When you take the time to add color and life to your very own miniature character, it becomes something sacred.

And ‘effing badass.

*

Creating New Worlds

The guys (and gals) who participated in my campaign won’t ever know the work I put in behind the scenes. I didn’t just design simple treasure hauls. I invented a universe, and I loved every minute of it.

I probably should’ve been studying for school.

Nah.

In folders ancient and dusty, I have hundreds of maps, sketches, character drawings, stories, and massive overarching plot outlines. I planned our game sessions well in advance, carefully constructing multiple scenarios to accommodate whatever crazy choices the players might make.

Some of those sketches and outlines, I turned into fantasy novels later in life. Others remain in hiding, likely never to see daylight again.

Sniffle…

*

Drawing Dungeon Maps

Along with world-creation came the fun (though often tedious) job of mapping out dungeons.

Take a left turn, fall into a pit of spikes.

Go straight, fight a pack of bloodthirsty Necrophages.

Head down the stairs, prepare to meet your doom.

Armed with reams of graph paper and a knack for being cruel to my players, I designed dozens of dungeons. Some were simple. Others were bottomless. Several were never traversed, and still lie hidden, chock full of gold (and death.)

Think this is complex? You ain’t seen nuthin’, rookie.

*

Seeing the Joy on Players’ Faces

For as insidious as I tried to be, I genuinely wanted my fellow gamers to succeed. After all, I’d laid the trappings of an epic world, and if the players’ characters died, they’d never have the chance to explore it.

They’ll never know it, but I loved it when they outsmarted me.

And when they reached the end of a plotline, it felt like we finished one movie in a thrilling series.

Only…instead of having to wait a year for the next installment to arrive, we simply kept playing.

It’s like leveling up in a video game, only a million times more euphoric.

*

Creating New Characters

In our deep, dark basement (or my dad’s musty living room) I sometimes wonder how many new characters we made. For us, making a new character wasn’t just writing statistics down on a sheet of paper; it was more about inventing a new persona. If the idea behind role-playing is to escape our mundane reality for a while, then there’s no greater method than to step into the mind of someone else.

Elves. Dwarves. Cantankerous old wizards. Midget lizard-folk clerics. Whatever floats your boat.

We played ’em all. Some died. Some lived. Some went down in infamy.

But all will be remembered.

*

Storytelling

Ultimately, gaming (at least the way we did it) isn’t about rolling dice, collecting treasure, or slaughtering goblins. It’s about creating a living world, not unlike a book, into which one can wander for days on end.

For the players, it’s all about exploration. Discovery. Advancement.

For me, it’s about telling a story. And not just a lonely, beginning-to-end tale, but a flexible, ever-changing universe.

Like the butterfly effect, one motion by one player can change everything.

Sigh…

I only wish we could’ve finished the story. We stopped well before arriving at the end. It’s probably my fault for being long-winded.

Oh well.

If reincarnation exists, I’m coming back as a fourteen-year old dungeon master.

With a shitload of Mountain Dew.

*

If you like role-playing inspired stories, go here.

If you like cheesy RPG art, try this.

J Edward Neill