A Thought for Every Thursday – Three Questions for the Dead

Welcome to A Thought for Every Thursday.

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This week we’ll dig a little deeper.

…with a spade.

…in the dirt.

Answer me these questions three:

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Necromancy

 Suppose you’ve lost a child or a beloved spouse.

But you have a device capable of resurrecting them.

The only cost to using this device: you have to kill someone else firsthand.

Use it?

Or throw it away?

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Infinite Murder Machine

 If your child (or someone equally important to you) were in mortal danger, exactly how many people would you be willing to kill in order to save them?

These people aren’t actively trying to hurt the one you love, but are obstacles to survival.

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Closing up Shop

You’ve been assigned an almost overwhelming task.

Your current religion or belief system notwithstanding, you’ve been asked to create a new afterlife for all of humanity.

This afterlife will apply to everyone who dies from today until the end of time.

Describe in detail the post-death experience you’d create.

Will there be different afterlives for different people?

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Past A Thought for Every Thursday entries are right here.

If you like these kinds of questions, try these on for size.

If you prefer something gentler, go here.

See you next Thursday!

J Edward Neill

Five ways I refuse to market my books

Everyone will agree.

The hardest part about self-publishing isn’t the writing. Long hours of hammering out words are inevitable no matter what avenue an author takes to launch their books into the market.

No…the true challenge lies in an author’s self-presentation to the world. It’s how a writer markets oneself. It’s the image they create, the test of their willingness to engage the rest of humanity.

To truly take the next career step, modern authors have to leap out of their comfort zone. That means shaping a presence on social media, talking to (sometimes unsavory) people, learning all kinds of software, and getting (and appearing) comfortable with all aspects of self-promotion.

That said, for this author, some things cross the line between palatable and icky.

And here’s my list of things I’m just not gonna do:

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No Hashtags

Yes, I know they help people search you out on Twitter and Instagram. And yes, I realize it might help them find my art and books.

But…

I figure just as many (if not more) people will be so annoyed or disgusted by hashtags they’ll choose not to be interested in all things me.

Because really, hashtags are that obnoxious. Am I right?

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No Review Swaps

Yeah, this is still a thing. People ask me for them all the time. “Hey J Edward, can you review my vampire porn novel and I’ll pretend to read your book about the two dudes who destroy entire cities when they fight?”

“No thanks.”

First of all, I don’t have the time. Second, Amazon cracks down on that kind of thing. And third, other authors don’t handle brutal honesty like I do.

I realize how many reviews this has cost me. And because of the value of reviews, I realize it’s cost me money. Doesn’t matter. I can’t bring myself to do it. Despite the thousands of high-quality self-published authors out there, many thousands more (the majority of the industry) don’t have the fire or commitment to pump out high-quality books.

Meaning more than likely I’d get stuck reading trash.

Nah.

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No Paying to Enter Writing Contests

It’s my personal oath to never enter a writing contest requiring a payment. Writing contests in general are governed by arbitrary rules and judged in a questionable manner. More often than not, the organization holding the contest is more interested in turning a profit and/or getting their own name out there than they are in helping authors earn legit recognition.

Even some of the free-to-enter contests employ some pretty questionable tactics, though at least they’re free.

To other writers, I’d recommend doing some serious research before entering any contest you encounter on the net.

And to readers, I’d cast serious doubt on any author whose bio begins with the phrase, “Award winning…” It probably doesn’t mean what you think it does.

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No ‘Best-Selling’ BS

If I had a nickel for every time I saw an author boast ‘best-selling’ credentials, I’d have…well…a lot of nickels.

It probably sounds elitist for me to say this (it’s definitely not intended that way) but some authors need to cut the crap. Showing up a few times in Amazon’s top authors lists or having a really big sales day doesn’t qualify as ‘best-selling.’ While it’s true the major literature publications (NY Times, USA Today, etc) aren’t the only people qualified to choose who’s best-selling and who’s not, there’s just too much exaggeration in the industry.

I’ve seen authors boast ‘best-selling’ in bios containing multiple grammatical errors.

I’ve seen authors with one published book and no published reviews declare themselves ‘best-selling.’

I’ve seen…never mind. You get the picture. Until I’m a household name with a fixed place in a steady market, I’ll be the last author alive to shout ‘I’m best-selling’ to the world.

Lies do not become us.

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No Spam

There have been days when I’ve opened up Facebook and Twitter to the usual parade of politics, cat pictures, poorly-lit selfies, and cute babies. And there are other days when I open up my social media to find fifteen consecutive book ads…all posted by the same person.

Look, I love it when another person shares or reposts something of mine. It makes me oh so happy. But…it doesn’t mean instant and incessant reciprocation. Nobody on this earth cares to see an endless timeline of vampire were-hooker book ads in place of actual cool content. Actually, let me rephrase. I don’t want to see it. So I’m careful about what I share, meaning my stuff and my supporters’ stuff. The goal is to inform and entertain, not to drown.

Three Facebook book ads per week from me, max. And that includes sharing other authors’ work. As for Twitter, go nuts. No one reads retweets anyway. 🙂

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More things I can’t bring myself to do:

 Post memes about writers’ problems (They’re all so bad.)

Demand reviews (Politely ask once, then move on with your life.)

Shave on a regular basis. (Sorry, this guy stays scruffy.)

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Now you know all my weaknesses. Go forth and exploit them. 🙂

J Edward Neill

Painter of Shadows

Writer of books about star-destroying space vampires

 

A Thought for Every Thursday – Human Algebra

Welcome to A Thought for Every Thursday.

Every Thursday we’ll pose a question (or several) regarding a specific current event, a modern moral issue, or a philosophical conundrum. Instead of answering it ourselves, we look to you for the resolution.

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Human Algebra

Please complete the following equations using only one word in each blank space:

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______________ + ______________ = Happiness

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_______________ + ______________ = Sorrow

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_______________ + ______________ = Evil

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_______________ + ______________ = Love

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Keep your answers to yourself OR share with the world.

It’s your call.

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Past A Thought for Every Thursday entries are right here.

If you like these kinds of questions, try these on for size.

If you prefer something gentler, go here.

See you next Thursday!

J Edward Neill

The most anonymous memory ever

Quite by accident, I stumbled upon a story written by a young woman.

I remember the woman’s name, but she didn’t sign her story. She left it on a wrinkled piece of paper atop a blank canvas. I probably wasn’t supposed to find it.

The woman is gone. But the story she left behind made me wonder who she really was.

This is what I found:

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There are many variations to the story.

Even from birth, circumstances surrounding my entrance into this world seem to be a fluid variation of fact. I no longer try to separate out one version from the next. Instead, I allow my mind to melt each version together…overlapping layers of possible realities.

Despite not being born yet, I could see all.

My aerial view of the camper gives me the ability to see everything. Hear all. Feel everything. I don’t exist yet, but I am the collection of memories that will later be told to me…the texture of my own childhood to come. I fill in the blanks with rich color and smell. Disembodied, I float above the bed my mother lies upon. Bright swatches of velvet and satin fabric hang on the walls. The smells of bay leaves and rosewater perfume mix with my mother’s perspiration. 

This is home.

Her cries of childbirth are gently hushed by the mirages of the midwives huddled around her bed. Their phantom limbs carry damp cloths to her head, soothing her discomfort. The conflicting stories of whether my mother was alone during my birth has given these three woman a transparency that allows me to give them life or melt them back into the camper’s upholstery. The story of my father’s reaction to seeing me for the first time is a gentle whisper floating in the air.

“She looks more like a cauliflower than a baby…”

I can detect a hint of garlic cloves and olive oil on his breath. A tabby cat slumbers in a corner of the camper with a dead snake it caught in a strawberry field. Some versions of this memory give life back into the snake, flinging it upon the bed in which my mother cradled me. The cat is filled with pride over the present it’s gifted to the newborn. It flings the snake’s wriggling body across the room by a screaming woman, where it dissipates into the wood…and where it becomes a faint outline in the rough grain.

***

I want to know more, but her story ends here. Perhaps I’ll find her one day and ask her what happened next.

J Edward Neill

Storysmith and Painter of Darkness

 

Ode to Azaleas

Sometimes we forget that our parents were once teenagers as well. Everything always seems like it could only ever happen to you personally… but we all struggle with the same things.

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Ode to Azaleas

By: Mickey McGuire

February is supposed to be the month for lovers. Even though this is now March, I wrote this as a special tribute to all those young couples out there grappling with the intricacies of modern relationships. However complicated the relationship is, it still boils down to that famous line in the movie Notting Hill by Julia Roberts to Hugh Grant:

“I’m just a girl standing in front of a boy asking him to love her.”

By the beginning of seventh grade, I was a towering 5′ 10” with a size 11 foot. In a classroom of boys who were at most five foot nothing, I had virtually no prospects for any of those boys I had grown up with showing any romantic interest whatsoever… unless they wanted to stand on a stool to give me my first kiss.

Sometime during the fall of that school year, a new boy moved into our community and joined our class. He was ruggedly handsome for a seventh grader, blond with blue eyes, soft-spoken, and TALL- probably six foot. I cannot pinpoint in my memory when I realized he was interested in me. I had a peculiar feeling before Christmas break he was actually staring at me and smiling once in a while. All that break I was giddy with excitement of the remote possibility there was a boy who actually liked ME, not the other girls in the class.

Once we returned to school after break, it was obvious the interest was a reality- we were a “couple.” My first real crush would last all of the remainder of seventh and all of eighth grade. The definition of being a “couple” was quite different in 1969- 1970 than it is today. Our relationship consisted of looks, smiles, occasional hand-holding, sitting near each other, and passing notes. Even putting his arm around my shoulders on the bus was met with stern looks from our teacher.

One spring morning I walked into class to my desk and found a gift so unexpected that I still tear up thinking about the sweetness of the gesture. There on my desk lay a huge bouquet of the most beautiful pink and white variegated azaleas, still dewy and fresh from just being picked from his mother’s bushes. Thinking back on that moment, I realized then I might be special- worthy of his attention as well as others with bouquets and promises and happiness and romance.

I did not marry my first crush. He wasn’t even the boy who would give me my first kiss behind the piano at our eighth-grade dance. His father left his family for a younger woman sometime during eighth grade. After that, he just wasn’t the same. Of the four children, I think he suffered the most from the desertion and added responsibility being the oldest. He would eventually drop out of school, get in trouble with the law related to drugs, and wander aimlessly from one relative or part-time job to another. Occasionally, our paths would cross throughout my high school years; we would date a few times, and then he would disappear again.

I have thought of him often and wondered if he found happiness. Through the grapevine, I heard a few years ago he attended his grandmother’s funeral in our hometown. He had married and had five children as well as a whole slew of grandchildren. I was happy for him- such fond memories of our summer afternoons together in my living room listening to 45s on my stereo- “Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress,” “Layla,” the Stones, Simon and Garfunkel, Chad and Jeremy-a sweet boy who would eventually figure things out- always kind, polite, nonjudgmental, never a mean word.

Yes, he eventually did kiss me right there dancing to those 45s.

I wished him well then and now. I wonder if that 14-year-old boy knew how special his gift would be that spring morning- a bouquet of dew-filled azaleas for his 13-year-old sweetheart. That morning she understood sweetness and spontaneity between a boy and girl and a promise of potential happiness in the future.

That giant of a girl would find her mate years later in college, have three children and a happy life. But that morning, the gift of those azaleas would be her first and most special memory of young love- that simple gift of flowers representative of innocence, simplicity, tenderness, and acceptance.

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Mickey McGuire is the mother of published author John McGuire, a registered NICU nurse, retired high school teacher, an artist, and passionate student in this game of life.

A Thought for Every Thursday – Our Footprint

Welcome to A Thought for Every Thursday.

Every Thursday we’ll pose a question (or several) regarding a specific current event, a modern moral issue, or a philosophical conundrum. Instead of answering it myself, we look to you for the resolution.

It’s all in good fun.

Here we go…

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This week is all about humanity at large.

I want to know how you feel about other people, the effects humanity has upon the world, and the meaningfulness of human activity.

They’re big questions.

You can handle them.

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Human Mathematics

 Choose which of the following people is most and least valuable:

A hard-working mother of five children

A powerful, yet honest and fair politician

A 45 year-old childless man who plays video games all day

An inmate on Death Row

A child with utterly debilitating Down’s Syndrome

All of these are people are of equal value

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Lions, Tigers, and Humans

 Is man the most dangerous animal?

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With Sugar on Top

 What is mankind’s greatest achievement?

What about yours?

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Past A Thought for Every Thursday entries are right here.

If you like these kinds of questions, try these on for size.

If you prefer something gentler, go here.

See you next Thursday!

J Edward Neill

Tips for Dating Artists

…Tips for Dating Artists…

A completely unscientific exploration of the perils of sleeping with art junkies.

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#1. Consider dating someone else. As in, someone who might love you more than they love blank slabs of canvas and empty sheets of paper. 🙂

#2. When planning dates, dinners, or long nights on the couch watching Netflix, consider the odds of having to do many of these things by yourself. Master the phrase: “Dinner reservations for one, please!”

#3. “Five more minutes,” actually means thirty more minutes. The formula used when determining how much longer an artist will be involved in their latest stick-figure drawing masterpiece is:

Time They Stated multiplied by 6 = Actual Time Until They Emerge from the Darkness

#4. The love of your life’s studio will either look like this:

…or this:

…there is no in-between.

#5. Your lover can never have too many brushes. Or pencils. Or sticks of charcoal.

#6. If you leave a coffee mug out in the open, it’s no longer a coffee mug. It’s a paintbrush caddy. Deal with it.

#7. Keep them away from the kitchen sink and master bathroom at all costs. Detour them to a guest bathroom, preferably one with a sink whose color is something other than white.

#8. After hugs, make-out sessions, lovemaking, or accidental shoulder bumps in the basement, check your entire body and all your clothing for unexpected paint spots (and other stains.)

#9. If you decide to have children, consider that one day you’ll probably come home to this:

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#10. When critiquing their art (which you should avoid at all costs, but which you’ll be forced to do every day of your life) compare your beau’s latest art to someone famous. Or…if you want to break up, just make a stink-face and walk away without saying anything.

#11. Google the terms ‘abstract‘ ‘surrealism‘ ‘impressionism‘ and ‘realism.’ Use these terms when describing your lover’s art. While the odds are they were aiming for one of these, what they created is most likely another. But they’ll appreciate your lingo.

#12. Unless your beloved artist is really, really talented, don’t ever ask them to paint your portrait, draw you, or sculpt you. Trust me, you’ll regret what you end up looking like.

“Honey, I feel like my hands look a little…off.”

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#13. If you date someone who paints with oils or draws with graphite, set aside a special room (or five) for them, and make sure it’s a place you don’t care about. Actually, if you have the money, buy them their own house to work in.

#14. If one of your lover’s clients suggests that a piece of art should be created free ‘for the exposure’ you owe it to your lover to kill that client and bury them in an unmarked grave.

#15. The minimum number of paper towel rolls to keep handy is 17.

#16. They’re probably not cheating on you with all the people (subjects) you found on their camera.

Actually, they probably are.

I’m only kidding.

Or am I?

🙂

Think this was funny? Try my Tips for Dating Writers.

J Edward Neill

Crippler of canvasses

Author of billions of books

A Thought for Every Thursday – The Human Lens

Welcome to A Thought for Every Thursday.

Every Thursday we’ll pose a question (or several) regarding a specific current event, a modern moral issue, or a philosophical conundrum. Instead of answering it myself, we look to you for the resolution.

It’s all in good fun.

Here we go…

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The Human Lens

Sixth senses aside, everything you know about the world, you know through the subjective lens of your human brain.

Meaning you only truly know what you see, hear, smell, touch, and taste.

You’ll never know what it’s like to see the world in the same way a cat does, or a bird, or a whale, or a bacterium.

Meaning you’ll only ever experience the universe from a human point of view.

And more specifically, your human point of view.

So…

Does this mean your experience of reality is unique, almost isolated in its filtered-through-a-human-lens nature?

Or does this mean that physical reality itself is different for every single living thing?

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Past A Thought for Every Thursday entries are right here.

If you like these kinds of questions, try these on for size.

If you prefer something gentler, go here.

See you next Thursday!

J Edward Neill

A Thought for Every Thursday – Grassroots, Groceries, and Guilt

Welcome to my weekly series, A Thought for Every Thursday.

Every Thursday I’ll pose a question (or several) regarding a specific current event, a modern moral issue, or a philosophical conundrum. Instead of answering it myself, I’ll look to you for the resolution.

It’s all in good fun.

Here we go…

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I’ve been thinking…

As pretty much the worst person in relationships on the planet, it’s only natural I wrote a book about being single.

The idea being: you write what you know about.

So this week I thought we’d get a little relationship-ish.

And throw out some questions about dating life.

I call these questions Grassroots, Groceries, and Guilt…


Grassroots

 Which of the following do you think offers you the best chance of meeting someone amazing and firing up a long-term relationship with them?

Finding someone in a bar

Being introduced to someone via a mutual friend

Linking up with a new person using a traditional online dating site

Swiping someone right on Tinder

A blind date

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Groceries

 You’re dating someone new. You’re definitely feeling a connection.

Aside from the initial attraction, choose two of the following traits you really, really want them to have:

They’re super financially responsible

They’re great with kids

They’re amazing in bed

They’ve got a fantastic sense of humor

They’re really good at domestic stuff (chores, cleaning, etc.)

They’ve got a commitment to staying physically fit

They’re passionate about something you care a lot about

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Guilt

 The internet makes it oh so easy to cheat.

That is…depending on how you define cheating.

Let’s say you’ve been dating someone for three months. You’re steady, but not in love. Yet.

Would any of the following make you feel guilty?

You watch porn without them

You spend a lot of time chatting up cuties on social media

You never mention him/her on any of the sites you frequent

You swap sexy selfies with someone you meet on the internet

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Past A Thought for Every Thursday entries are right here.

If you like these kinds of questions, try these on for size.

If you prefer something gentler, go here.

See you next Thursday!

J Edward Neill

Did I just fall off the face of the earth, or what?

I’ve never heard a Beyoncé song (that I know of.)

I haven’t seen The Walking Dead.

It’s been at least a decade since I bought an album anyone reading this article has heard of.

I can’t remember the last time I read the news, tried craft beer, or understood a hashtag cause.

Anyone else feel me?

Every day that goes by, I’m lost deeper and deeper in an ocean of information. My friends ask if I’ve seen or heard the latest ______, and I’m a deer in the headlights. I’m like, “Huh?” And my friends are like, “Duuude.” I haven’t seen the latest show, heard the new kickass song, or kept up with whatever the Kardashians are up to. (Are they still famous?) I feel like I should ask for help, reach out to friend, or crawl out from under the rock I’ve apparently been living under.

Nah.

“Huh? Whaaaa…?”

Look, you probably think I’m about to start a big rant against modern culture and all its evils. Nope. I don’t have enough data to make a case for or against whatever the world has become. The only rant I could dream up would be an essay arguing the infinite darkness of social media. But whatever. That’d be pretty hypocritical, wouldn’t it? Especially since I’m about to post this commentary on Facebook and Twitter.

What I do wanna know is: how the heck did I get here?

I’m not that old.

I don’t have an ‘our generation is better than yours’ complex.

I don’t tell stories about wading through the snow to get to school and eating rocks for dinner.

You’d think having a son would compel me to brush up against modern culture now and then. After all, he’s at that age when Justin Bieber must start to seem cool. Or when the latest ‘thing’ must be purchased. Or when we just have to watch some crazy new show. But no. All junior wants to do is hang with his weird dad (me) and roast marshmallows in the fire pit, play board games all night, and watch movies that haven’t been famous since the 80’s (Gremlins, Willow, Sword in the Stone, et cetera.)

Anymore, I’m not sure whether I’m rubbing off on him or his indifference to modern stuff has reinforced my own.

And I’m not really sure it matters.

What started this thought process? Well… I’m glad you asked. Just the other day, I overheard some friends chatting it up about the Grammy awards. (And yes, I know what those are.) At the big Grammy celebration, some pregnant lady killed it with her performance and everyone thought she was a queen. Not just any queen, but THE Queen. Turns out the Queen was Beyoncé. (And it turns out the program I’m using to write this knew to put a ‘ over ‘e’ in her name – which is really weird to me.) Also, the guy from Metallica’s microphone failed, prompting Lady Gaga (whom I know of via her Super Bowl gig) to save him. And lastly, some blonde lady (Adele?) gushed so loudly about the aforementioned Queen some people questioned her sincerity.

Ok, cool, I thought. Sounds pretty entertaining.

Wait. No it doesn’t.

To all of this, I listened wide-eyed and confused. And then I realized that although I’m not terribly old, my tastes are pretty much ancient. It’s almost as if my love of music, culture, art, and books stopped somewhere in the late 80’s – early 90’s. And I can’t explain it. It’s not as if I don’t want to find new music to love. It’s not like I find modern music disastrously boring on some random whim. And life sure would be more fun if I had any inkling to enjoy The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, and ________ <—- (insert superhero tv show here.)

Does anyone else experience this?

Anyone?

What the F does this meme even mean??

If I think about it, I don’t particularly miss the cultural era in which I grew up. The 80’s were straight up strange, with all the long hair, horrid pop music, and low production television. The 90’s might’ve been even worse, dragged into despair by depressing grunge music and not-quite-awesome-yet video games.

But I guess I didn’t realize my situation until the new century rolled in and forcibly stopped me from caring.

I don’t remember when it happened, but at some point all the music on the radio turned me off.

Until I stopped listening entirely.

Next came TV.

And here’s the whole story behind that.

More recently, the wave of superhero movies and bombastic action films flew right over my head.

Leaving me almost alone in the theater watching this.

I guess I can’t really complain; living under a giant rock has its benefits. I have tons of extra time. Peace and quiet are my domain. And then of course there’s all the money I save by not having cable and never going to a concert starring anyone famous. But the drawbacks are…well…I’m not sure. I’m left out of discussions regarding politics, news, movies, television, et cetera. And while I don’t particularly mind sitting in my quiet corner, it tends to halt conversations when I admit I don’t know a damn thing about whatever’s being talked about.

Me. As in my face. Always.

It’s almost intentionally ignorant, right?

It’s cultural abandonment.

It’s a willful disregard for humanity.

And now, after all these years, I still have no idea what happened.

Do you?

J Edward Neill

Builder of better coffee tables.

Under-the-rock artist.

Anti-Meme Fridays – Bad Word Porn

Welcome back to Anti-Meme Fridays.

After a brief vacation and a few months of posting A Thought for Every Thursday articles, we’re here with some fresh new meme-hate for your entertainment.

Here’s how it works:  The first meme is always pulled from Facebook or Twitter, and its logic deconstructed in the most sarcastic way possible. The second meme is anti-motivational and/or funny. Because…really…that’s all a good meme should aspire to be.

It’s all in good fun.

Mostly…

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Meme 1 (Bad)

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Of all the memes out there, of all the spammy, unfunny, overused things people post on the web, these are my least favorite of all.

The random saying meme.

Let’s break down this one specifically.

Based on the number of times daily I see “I love ____ kind of people” memes (about 10-15 times per day) I have to assume there’s a crap-ton of weird people, black sheep, odd ducks, and rejects out there.

Which means…these people aren’t really rejects. Because apparently everyone loves them.

Here’s a thought for you: we’re all rejects in a way. We’re all alone. We all have our eccentricities. And we all have weird stuff about us. These things don’t imply a beautiful soul. More likely they indicate our upbringing, our insecurities, and our social anxieties.

And while some of these things might endear us to others, plenty of people’s strange and oddball tendencies are just plain unlikeable. Or scary. Or even ugly.

I guess what I’m saying is, instead of posting a meme announcing your love of weird, otherwise unlikeable people, maybe just message your buddy Bob or your girlfriend Sally and tell ’em you wanna hang out.

And leave my timeline unsullied.

🙂

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Meme 2 (Not quite as bad)

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I’d like to think we can all appreciate a dick joke.

Right?

No??

Fine.

Whatever.

* * *

That’s all you get today.

Past Anti-Meme Fridays.

Farewell for now.

J Edward Neill

Oh, here’s a few of my deadly serious books:

WebImageFront  

 

Why you need to push Big Shiny Red Buttons – A Book of Ridiculous Scenarios

In Big Shiny Red Buttons, a variety of fun, serious, and absurd scenarios awaits you.

More than a hundred buttons are dying to be pushed. The only question is: will you push them?

Suppose something terrible will happen if you don’t? What if pushing a button would bring you great prosperity, but cause harm to someone else?

Every scenario is different. Some will make you laugh, while others will force you to think. Some are serious, and some flat out absurd.

So how many buttons will you push?

And how many lives will be changed if you push them?

Want to start pushing buttons right now? Go here!

Want a few samples? Scroll down!

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Sample Buttons!


Sell your Soul Button

 Whenever pushed, this red (but flecked with gold) button deposits $1,000,000 into your bank account.

The only price: it also shaves three years off your lifespan every time you push it.

So…

Will you push it?

How many times?

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The Combusti-Button

One tap of this big round button will destroy any one cultural phenomenon.

Completely.

Examples: memes, Facebook, hashtags, a specific music type, a specific slang word, a new fashion, et cetera.

You only get to use it once.

Wanna push it?

Whatcha gonna combust?

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The Duplication Button

One press of this unassuming button can be a powerful thing.

If you use it, any one person in the world will adopt your moral code, your intellect, and your view of the world. They’ll still be themselves physically, but their mental state and beliefs will resemble yours.

You only get to push it once.

Will you?

If so, who’s your target?



Big Red Shiny Buttons – the most fun you’ll ever have in a book.

Enjoy!

J Edward Neill

Creator of Coffee Table Philosophy

Painter of Extreme Darkness

AP World History And Waffles

There are times when I think about what my friends and I got away with in high school. And then there are some of my mother’s stories about her students. This might be my favorite.

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AP World History and Waffles

By: Mickey McGuire

I became a RN in 1978 at the age of twenty-one- my first major career path. By the time I reached my forties, I had practiced nursing more than twenty years, a major portion in the pediatric/neonatal field. Needless to say, I was burned out with the profession by then and had been contemplating a career change for some time.

The direction to take- the next fork in my life path- manifested itself in a dream. Never underestimate the power of dreams. Sometimes when you simply put the intent out there, the universe answers. In the dream, I saw myself as a social studies teacher in front of a classroom. When I woke up, it was crystal clear what I needed to do. I spent the next three years as a forty- something nerd getting my B. A. degree in history and social sciences.

My first job was teaching high school government to seniors and world history to sophomores later my preps would include several electives as well. By my fifth year of teaching, I was assigned an AP World History course, the most difficult to teach and prepare. I was determined to teach it perfectly and give these students their best chance for passing the AP exam. This teaching  intensity proved to ultimately be my undoing, and the reason this story is logged into those hysterical teaching days never forgotten by me or any of the teachers on my hall.

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“Those words- AP and waffles- are two words that you probably would not expect to see in the same sentence. I know that I’ve been remiss in my blog writing, but as Millie explained in her blog, we’ve been BUSY!! (Millie is my best friend and reading specialist at our school. There was a time we both wrote education blogs.)

So, I have to tell you the story that happened just today. This week has been horrendous- so much to do- absolute brain overload. All teachers know that saturation point; your brain cannot deal with one more detail (Grades due next week, recommendations, meetings, parent conferences, daily schedule changes, writing a curriculum audit, planning a mock trial for my Practical Law classes, and actually teaching). I planned my lesson for AP World History 6th period, wrote and structured my notes, copied two readings for a group activity to conclude with, and was ready to go when they arrived. They all filed in, talking and chattering away, and reluctant to settle down.

I said my famous line:  “Today is a day I am not in the mood for any crap!”

Instant silence!

Wow, relieved, I began. A few minutes into the warm-up, I heard the first “beep.”

I looked around, told him/her to turn off their watch, and continued. I explained the pros and cons of the design of the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan by a map. I launched into the stages of Spanish conquest. Suddenly again, I heard another “beep.”

I turned around and said to turn off that phone or watch, please. The kids sat there with blank looks on their faces, and no one offered any explanation. I plowed on, completely in the zone- asking questions, students answering correctly, everything great.

“Beep.”

I ignored it this time.

Finished with notes, I distributed the readings and gave instructions. Everyone was reading, making notes, and preparing to report on their findings on the treatment of Native Americans in Latin America.

“Beep.”

I could not figure out where that noise was coming from!

Now here I must mention that I let the kids eat in class anyway. They are always munching on cookies or sandwiches. I don’t pay attention to what they’re eating. As I’m sitting at my desk getting ready for the next stage of the group activity, one of the students comes to me and puts a waffle and syrup on my desk!!!

“There’s your waffle, Mrs. McGuire,” he said.

Now I’m generally fairly observant of my surroundings, but I have to say, I was oblivious to the waffle-making going on. As I finally looked closely toward the back of the room, what did I see but a waffle station! I had missed all the tell-tale signs: the waffle iron, the Bisquick mix, cooking oil, syrup, as well as the uncharacteristic, consistent silence during the lesson. I also missed the waffles being passed around as each one finished cooking. I also missed smelling the waffles cooking and the sweet smell of syrup. Thank goodness, this was the AP students and waffle-making, not sex or drugs in the back of the room!

Oh, by the way, it was a perfect waffle!”

***

Teaching proved to be the hardest job I ever had but also the most rewarding. Unfortunately, I did not realize that perhaps going through the mood swings of menopause and herding teenagers might just be too much for even the most sane. After eight years, I decided to leave the teaching profession before I was completely sucked dry emotionally.

People ask me even now why would I give up the salary of nursing for the pitiful pay our educators earn in this country. My response stands: I had the wonderful opportunity to realize two dreams in my life, being both a nurse and a teacher.

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Mickey McGuire is the mother of published author John McGuire, a registered NICU nurse, retired high school teacher, an artist, and passionate student in this game of life.

How to get more views of your Facebook posts

Hi there.

Ever posted anything on Facebook? Yeah. Me too. Cat pics. Snarky comments. Photos of my kid punching me in the face while I’m wearing a sombrero. Books and paintings I’m trying to promote. Yep. Pretty much everything.

Thing is, Facebook isn’t the same playground it used to be. Not even close. A few years back, if you used your  page to promote something or share an awesome photo, a large percentage of your friends and followers would see it in their timelines. You really didn’t have to do anything special to reach an audience, even if you were selling something. If your cat pic was good enough or your art amazing enough, almost everyone would eventually see it. The algorithms were simpler, the interface easy to learn.

Sadly, this isn’t true anymore.

With the rise of Facebook marketing, junk like this takes up more of our feeds than ever.

Not sure if you’ve noticed, but nowadays pretty much everyone’s timeline is sprinkled (liberally) with ‘Suggested Posts’ and ‘Sponsored Ads.’ Scroll down three or four posts into your feed and you’ll see them. Sometimes it’s junk marketing, sometimes car ads, and sometimes random products or services Facebook’s algorithms thought (usually mistakenly) you’d be interested in. But there they are, fixed on your feed for days, sometimes weeks, taking up a spot once held by actual content from your friends.

Now, if you’re just sharing a cat photo or a political rant, this change probably doesn’t bother you all that much. Facebook knows who your top engagers are (the people you interact with the most) and it’ll usually spread your posts to those people first, and then grow the audience depending on how much interaction you get. If your video of a cat attacking your ceiling fan doesn’t get quite as many likes as it did a few years ago, you probably won’t be too upset by it. You might not even notice.

But…

Suppose you’ve got something you really, really want (or need) to be seen. Something you’re promoting, selling, or just something important you want your friends and followers to view.  You want max exposure, right? You want more people than usual to see this special post. What’s the best way to do that?

Now we’re talking.

First and foremost, let’s discuss how NOT to gain maximum exposure for your big important post. Here are several common mistakes people make when posting something they really want to be seen:

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Things NOT to do:

 


Post a link to an article or website without writing anything in the ‘What’s on your mind?‘ field (or for business pages, the ‘Write something’ field)

Hit ‘Like’ when people comment on your post rather than replying with actual words

Post a link to something when a picture or text will suffice (Links only get max exposure when people are clicking on them, not just ‘liking’ them.)

Share something without adding comments

Post a photo with words or text blocking out parts of the image (Facebook hates this.)

Spam a bunch of posts in a small amount of time (Typically only the most popular one will get good exposure)


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Pretty simple, right? Now let’s talk about the things you should do when you’re trying to get max exposure.

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GOOD things to do:


When using the ‘share’ feature to draw attention to a post, add a comment at the top

Whenever people comment on something important you’ve posted, respond with comments of your own in addition to likes (if likes are warranted)

If you post multiple things per day, space them out

If you have the option, post pictures or text instead of links. If you need to post a link, make sure you write something clever, funny, or otherwise appealing to accompany it. You’ll need people clicking your link in order to get max exposure

If you’re paying to boost a post via your business page, use small, well-defined target audiences. Narrow down your age range, geography, and similar likes as much as possible

Always use good spelling and tight grammar. (Sloppy spelling and grammar can sometimes lead people to think posts are spam or clickbait)

Engage friends and followers in regular conversation. Research shows that interacting with someone on a regular basis (via their timeline, not Facebook messenger) will enable them to see your posts more often


 ***

You want these.

…more than you want these.

So now that we’ve covered the basics of working within Facebook’s algorithms to get max engagement, let’s talk about a few other approaches. Assuming you’ve got something awesome and share-worthy, there’s still more you can do to get likes, comments, and most importantly (for some users) clicks.

Lesson 1: Beware Facebook fatigue

Have you ever gone on your feed and encountered a big pile of shared memes, pics, and posts…all by the same person? Yeah, you know you have. Don’t be that person. You’ll get unfollowed (and sometimes even unfriended.) But more importantly, people will tend to scroll past your posts. If spamming memes and quotes makes you happy, by all means do it, but don’t expect people to care all that much. One high quality post per day will defeat ten hastily put together posts. You don’t want to wear your audience out, do you? Nope.

Lesson 2: Carefully choose your tone (mostly for business page users and marketers)

If you’re on Facebook just to share family pics and silly, fun stuff, you don’t really have to worry about this part. But if you’re on a mission to promote something or you’re trying to focus on earning respect and gaining attention, it’s in your best interest to watch your tone. Stay away from frequent negative rants. Don’t often stray off-topic. If and when you get criticized (and you probably will at some point) don’t counterattack. Be cool, calm, and confident. And stick to your message, whatever it is.

Lesson 3: Don’t be self-centered

To get more engagement, likes, and views from your followers and friends, you have to give. If you post tons of stuff, but seldom click, like, or comment on other people’s posts, chances are you’ll get tuned out over time. Try starting up a conversation on someone else’s thread. Odds are you’ll have fun and possibly earn a few friends. It’s really that easy.

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Getting love and earning happiness on Facebook isn’t hard. You’ve just gotta play by their rules while staying as interesting as you can. When you do, the experience is better for everyone.

Though of course, Facebook could change their algorithms tomorrow and render this entire article obsolete. Let’s hope they don’t do that for a while.

Speaking of Facebook, hook up with me here and let’s talk each other’s ears off.

Love,

J Edward Neill

Writer of books and painter of shadows

My Seven Most Anticipated Video Games of 2017

Whenever I’m not writing fantasy novels or splashing paint on canvasses, I’m gaming.

Ok. That’s not entirely true. I want to be gaming, but more likely I’m chilling with my young son, doing laundry, or building giant fires in my backyard pit.

So…

I’ve decided that in 2017, I’ll get a little more screen time in.

And get back to my gaming roots.

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My Seven Most Anticipated Games of the coming year…

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horizon-dawn-zero

 

Horizon Dawn Zero

This PS4 exclusive looks like a beautiful riot. The details are still coming out, but it appears we’re looking at a giant open world (like Skyrim) with crazy enemies (like Borderlands) and amazing graphics and combat (like Witcher.) The best thing? It’s due out in February!  After failing hard at Dark Souls (I quit after the first boss) I need a fresh RPG/action game to get me back in the groove of not hating my controller.

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preyPrey

In reading the preview for Prey, one is reminded of hit shooter Dead Space. Got aliens? Check. Got a creepy space station? Check. Word is that Prey will have some customizable features, and the player will be able to steal the aliens’ abilities. Also…no levels. Just one big continuous run of terror. If it’s half as good as 2016’s Doom reboot, it’ll be awesome.

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the-last-of-us-2

 

The Last of Us – Part 2

Ok, so the release date of this one may or may not be in 2017. So what? It’s known only that it’ll take place five years after the original, and that the theme will be similar to the game we know and love. Post-outbreak…post heartbreak. Games like this balance out the typically hyper-violent fare made for gaming adults. Embrace it. It’s a good thing.

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vampyr

 

Vampyr

The promo for this game hooked me with the following line: “It’s up to you to decide whether to kill enough people to become powerful beyond belief, or heal London’s citizens and blah, blah, blah…” You mean I get to be an evil, soul-slaughtering denizen of the night? Sign me up now!

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mass

 

Mass Effect – Andromeda

Having spent nearly a billion hours playing the original Mass Effect trilogy while crushing Reapers and chasing Miranda, it’s not like I can resist playing the next installment. Word is, the new game takes place 600 years after Commander Sheperd’s glorious victory. Plot details are scarce. But can you imagine how good this game will look on the latest-gen consoles? I. Can’t. Wait.

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crackdown-3

 

Crackdown 3

Confession: I just replayed the original Crackdown on my ancient Xbox 360. And I loved it the same as ever. Even if Crackdown 3 weren’t coming out on a pretty new console with (likely) amazing new features, I’d play it. I could spend a lifetime hunting down Los Muertos gang members just to hear them insult me while throwing grenades at my face. My only request: they’d better bring back agility orbs. Because…“Skills for kills, agent. Skills for kills.”

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zelda

 

The Legend of Zelda – Breath of the Wild

They say it’ll be an open world resembling the original NES game. They say it’ll have fewer tutorials and less hand-holding. They say it’ll be friggin’ epic.

I’ll be buying a Nintendo Switch solely for the purpose of playing this game. I don’t really care if Nintendo publishes another game on their new console that I’ll like (they won’t.) Zelda is the kind of game I can play over and over again with my kid. We’ll team up to figure out dungeons. We’ll wait for Ganon to cackle. And we’ll be in heaven.

See you soon, Link.

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Think you’re a gamer god? Take this quiz and prove it!

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More video game goodness:

The Top 3 Video Games of Each Decade

My Top 6 Video Games of All Time

My Top 7 Video Games of the Modern Era

J Edward Neill

 

50 Things the Universe probably doesn’t care about

Take a nice deep breath.

Promise yourself you won’t get offended.

Accept the smallness of everyone and everything.

And enjoy…

50 Things the Universe probably doesn’t care about

meteor

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All the stars, galaxies, and interstellar dust in the universe probably don’t care about politics.

Or which party you voted for.

Or why you voted for them.

Actually, the universe probably doesn’t care even if you didn’t vote at all.

The infinite cosmos likely doesn’t mind whether people are fat or thin, introverted or extroverted, hot or not.

…though it might just care a tiny bit about its occupants being smart or stupid. Maybe.

The immense void in which we live doesn’t care what sports team we like, which TV shows we watch, or what brand clothing we buy.

…but it’s possible judgmental people are more likely to get hit by meteors. (May or may not be a factual statement.)

If the universe is careless enough to let millions of humans starve, suffer awful diseases, and endure being torn apart by war, it definitely doesn’t care about celebrities, fashion, or the complaints of wealthy people.

The galaxy isn’t much affected by humans making fun of the leaders and politicians they don’t like – it knows those same people probably aren’t doing anything about it.

The interstellar abyss doesn’t care who you sleep with.

Or why.

Or where.

Unless that person didn’t consent.

In which case the universe will probably f**k you over during your next life.

big

I’m totally watching YOU.

If the universe is cruel enough to guarantee Earth’s sun will die and utterly annihilate everyone within a few billion years, it definitely won’t mind if you have another glass of wine tonight.

…as long as you take a walk outside to admire the stars afterward.

While it’s true several epic-level disasters in Earth’s history extinguished nearly all life on the planet, it doesn’t mean mass extinctions need humanity’s help. (That species you just trampled to death might’ve been the one to survive the next disaster.)

If it takes light millions and millions of years to cross the Milky Way, there’s no way our galaxy gives a rip about the five extra seconds you waited in traffic today.

…though it’s possible the person in front of you will get cancer for making you miss a light while they were checking Facebook on their phone.

Speaking of which…

The universe doesn’t pay any attention to Instagram.

Or Twitter.

Or Facebook.

But the cosmos is especially disinterested in Snapchat. Actually, whenever a human uses a Snapchat filter to add dog ears to themselves, the universe might just nudge all of us closer to death.

Nothing in the void cares about whether or not we believe in science. It knows the laws of physics better than we do, and it’s fully aware we prefer using science to make weapons and iPhones more than food and shelter.

It’s possible the universe doesn’t care one bit about all of humanity. But it definitely won’t care if we destroy ourselves before we even escape our lonely little solar system.

All the galaxies combined aren’t particularly interested in what skin color humans are. They know we all die the same in the cold dark vacuum of space. 🙂

The great cosmos is unlikely to be concerned with whichever god or goddess people worship. However, it’s probably amused at humanity’s hubris in assuming we know anything about how we came to exist.

Realistically, the universe won’t much mind if you:

Kill someone.

Steal things.

Or abuse your fellow humans.

But nor will it care when those same humans turn the tables and abuse you, steal from you, and stamp you out.

In its infinite wisdom, the universe saw fit to teach humanity about fire, agriculture, and beer.

…but it stopped paying attention after it saw people burning themselves with fireworks while drunk and eating corndogs.

The multiverse and every dimension between don’t care about your comfort, your lifestyle, or your money. Those things all burn the same in the fires of a star.

The cosmos is only mildly bothered that ships in the Star Wars movies still make sounds in the airless void of space. Actually, it stopped being offended right about the time it saw Jar Jar Binks.

The universe doesn’t care about how sexy people think they look when they take selfies. It knows it’s prettier.

dd1

Honestly, the great dark cosmos doesn’t mind anything any one particular person does. It knows humans only live to be 0.000000000001% as old as stars.

Nothing in the universe cares what we call ourselves: kings, queens, poets, popes, warriors, saints, presidents, or fuhrers. The universe is patient enough to know titles and positions are just make-believe things.

Although the universe probably knows a good scientist when it sees one.

If the Milky Way and its other galactic buddies were to admit twenty things they liked about Earth, none of them would be you.

But one might be your kid.

Nah, probably not. 🙂

Since we’re all made of the leftovers of stars dying, we’re all pretty much stepchildren (since our sun isn’t the one who made us.) Which means the universe would probably feel bad for us. If it cared.

…which it doesn’t.

None of the vast powers in all of creation care how many marathons you’ve run, how much you can bench press, or how smart you think your dog is. It knows all your bumper stickers fade and crack in the sunlight.

If the universe overheard you talking at the water cooler about how well the local sports team played last night, it would probably interrupt you to say, “But did you see that supernova last night?! Pretty cool, huh?”

The only human device to make it completely out of our solar system is the Voyager I spacecraft, which happens to contain music, film, and culture all from an era older than most people on Earth. Meaning, even if something outside our solar system one day discovers Voyager, it’ll think we all like jazz music and don’t know about cool things like modern civil rights and Netflix.

Or, in an even worse scenario, since the first radio wave images sent from Earth originated from Nazi Germany, any aliens out there catching our signal will likely be horrified by us.

And the universe will just shrug.

Because it knows us better than we know ourselves.

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I was inspired to write this when I finished this.

Which in turn inspired this.

Remember…don’t take things so seriously. If you’re reading this, you’ve probably got it pretty good.

J Edward Neill

A Thought for Every Thursday – How you gonna roll?

Welcome to A Thought for Every Thursday.

Every Thursday we’ll pose a question (or several) regarding a specific current event, a modern moral issue, or a philosophical conundrum. Instead of answering it myself, we look to you for the resolution.

It’s all in good fun.

Here we go…

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In the modern world we live in, many different people have many different ideas about how to be romantic, whether or not to get married, and how to handle intimate relationships.

If you asked a room of 100 different people, you might get 99 different opinions regarding the ‘right’ way to do things.

What if we simplified the equation?

What if we asked you how you like to get around…?

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Getting Around

 

From the following scenarios, choose the most appealing to you:

  • Be happily married to one person for your entire life. Never once have an affair
  • Be happily married for twenty happy years, but also enjoy a twenty-year period of single-dom, during which you have sex with at least ten different partners
  • Never be married. Have as much freedom and as many different sex partners as you desire
  • Insert a different answer here _________________

Well?

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Past A Thought for Every Thursday entries are right here.

If you like these kinds of questions, try these on for size.

If you prefer something gentler, go here.

See you next Thursday!

J Edward Neill

A Thought for Every Thursday – Consequences, consequences

Welcome to A Thought for Every Thursday.

Every Thursday I’ll pose a question (or several) regarding a specific current event, a modern moral issue, or a philosophical conundrum. Instead of answering it myself, I’ll look to you for the resolution.

It’s all in good fun.

Here we go…

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The Fear of Consequence

Morality is a slippery concept.

Good and evil have shaky foundations.

The point is: what’s considered good and noble in one culture isn’t always viewed likewise in another culture.

Moreover, left without supervision, individuals tend to take a lot more liberties with morality. If the authorities aren’t around, people will assault, loot, and murder more than if there’s a police car nearby with its lights blazing.

Which begs the question:

Are people ‘moral’ only because they fear punishment if they’re not?

If the concepts of authority and law didn’t exist, and no punishment awaited disturbers of the peace, would the world gravitate toward violence and entropy?

If so, does that mean morality only exists beneath the fear of consequence?

What say you?

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Past A Thought for Every Thursday entries are right here.

If you like these kinds of questions, try these on for size.

If you prefer something gentler, go here.

See you next Thursday!

J Edward Neill

Answer the Universe

This past weekend the NFL regular season came to a close, and for the first time since 2008, the Miami Dolphins have made the playoffs (apparently “next year” was this year). Aside from being happy to actually have someone to seriously cheer for this coming weekend, it got me a little reflective. I’ve watched nearly a decade worth of games where my team might have been in the mix only to fall short or, and this is more likely, they haven’t been in the mix at all.

Miami_Dolphins_2013

That’s a lot of football. Actually that’s a lot of mediocre football.

Strange then that I suddenly am thinking of all that “bad” time to be a fan when this is the time to enjoy the ride we’re currently on. I think back to J Edward Neill‘s post from last Fall where he swore off the NFL in order to regain the most precious of commodities: TIME.

(I know he slipped at least once…)

Every team comes into the season with a list of things they want to accomplish. It may start with:

Improve upon last year’s team.

Win the division.

Get a first round Bye.

Be the overall #1 seed in the playoffs.

Win your conference.

And at the top of the list is win the Superbowl.

That’s not to say that they actually are able to even compete for such an honor, but it is still there. Heck, there are a bunch of the above which are probably above and beyond a team’s LEGITIMATE goals. The key is that they still write them down. And it isn’t because they want to set themselves up for failure if things don’t go their way. No. They do it so that there is something to aspire to.

target-bullseye

Last week I put up my annual look back/look ahead blog post. Here’s the thing, that post is like 98% for me, 1% for my family (in case they might be wondering what it was I actually do during these late nights), and maybe 1% for anyone else reading the blog. I use it in order to get a grip on what the previous year might have had in store for me (or not). The look ahead is about setting goals for myself.

Maybe setting too many goals?

That’s fundamentally OK to do. If the NFL teams only set their goal on getting 1 more win next year, well that’s probably doable, but then what? You get that additional win and stop? Or do you shoot for the moon on the off-chance you can actually get there?

This is what I’m trying to get to. This is the type of work output, the type of word count I need to get to in order to have the level of success I want to have. So you get a list of things which either seem like they haven’t been accomplished or there are just too many things on the LIST to possibly get done.

There is some truth to that. Like so many other people I have various levels of responsibilities in work and life. Sometimes there just isn’t enough time. Then again, maybe I just didn’t use all that free time as wisely as I could/should.

Regardless, I want to say YES to things. Can I write the 1st draft to this novel? Yes! Can I edit this 2nd draft of a different novel? Yes! Can I write this comic script? Yes!

yes

I want to say YES to myself.

Think about the whole idea of Resolutions in conjunction with the birth of a new year. Right now if I were to do a search on New Year’s Resolutions I bet I’d get a ton of blog hits where it was describing potential goals or perhaps telling you how to accomplish your proposed goals. But also think you’d find some people who want to mock the very idea of the goals. They might consider it a waste of time to even bother. “Everyone puts all this nonsense out there and within a week or a month or 6 months it will all revert back to who you were before the pledge.” Yet, I’d say we’re all doing it on some level even if we don’t say it aloud or write it down. There is something you want to accomplish this year, right? You may not want to call it a Resolution, but it probably is.

And it’s OK.

The kicker to all of this is that sometimes you set the bar impossibly high and you get there. Sometimes the ball bounces your way. So put it out there. Put it into the universe! Have 50 projects. Have a plan.

There’s nothing wrong with striving for more.

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John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

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

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

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

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

My life as a single dad (while making art)

Let’s be clear about one thing: I wouldn’t have it any other way.

But with that said, single dad art-making ain’t always easy.

Almost six years ago, my son (the G Man) burst into my life. He was the Kool-Aid Man breaking through the brick wall of me. Upon his arrival, I prepared myself for sleepless nights, hours upon hours of crying, and the end of all my life’s plans. But as it turned out, none of that really happened. The G Man slept astoundingly well. He rarely cried. And as for my life’s plans, they turned off the path by a few degrees, but were hardly shattered.

Surprise, surprise.

But there were two things I didn’t count on.  The first, me almost immediately becoming a single dad after G Man burst onto the scene. The second, finding out my son was also my best bro, my comrade-in-arms, and someone who never wanted to leave my side.

Which, as a writer, painter, and 1,000 mph blogger, wasn’t something I was fully prepared for.

me-n-g-at-ren

We destroy our turkey legs as a team.

Yeah…so…while it turns out my writing and painting didn’t slam to a halt, they changed. A lot. Let’s start by talking about sleep. As a young dad, I’d always had this notion that my son’s bedtime would be…oh I don’t know…8:30ish. Nah. Not so much. I admit when I meet other people’s kids, I’m alllllllll about them being in bed early. But with the G Man, I find myself allowing him to stay up late. Like late, late. So instead of waging war over arbitrary bedtimes, I dim the lights, turn on the music, and dive deep into conversations I never thought I’d have with a five-year old.

Things like:

What will happen when the sun runs out of hydrogen to burn

Why didn’t Sauron from Lord of the Rings make a second One Ring

And why didn’t evolution grant sharks the ability to fly

And so the months went by. G Man turned 3, 4, and 5. 8:30ish bedtimes became 9:30ish. 9:30 became 10:30. Chunks of late-night time I’d once devoted to painting, writing deep, dark novels, and meditating morphed into something else, something just as sacred yet completely different. While I’d never judge other parents for putting their kids to bed early, I just couldn’t do it with the G Man. I begun to crave playing silly games, watching kids’ movies, and teaching him how to master Zelda – Twilight Princess. “I’ll just sleep less,” I told myself. “I’ll start writing at midnight. That’ll work. Right?”

lobster-1

Trying on lobster costumes at approx 11PM at Target. Who needs sleep anyway??

Now don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t all roses all the time. By staying up all hours with the G Man, my production eventually took a hard hit. I started writing fewer than half the words per night than I used to. I finished maybe four paintings per month instead of ten. My sleep suffered, not because of staying up late building Lego armies, but because I still pushed my output to punishing depths. I swore off sleep in favor of creating things. Later and later, I stayed awake each night.

But it turns out the human body has its limits. I couldn’t keep pace forever. My mind and my work begun to crumble. I suppose a more reasonable person might’ve said, “Hey, it’s ok. You’ve earned a break. Be at peace with creating less in favor of more face-time with junior.”

F that. I want it all. 🙂

sombrero

That’s me running on zero sleep (and margaritas.)

There’s an everyday equation we all must follow in life. It’s something like X + Y + Z = 24 hours. X is made up of the stuff we have to do each day. It’s work, chores, commuting, and other obligations. X is the hardest to change. Most of the time, it is what it is. The weekday value of my X is approximately 13. That’s a lot, but I’m aware some people have it much worse. As for Z, it’s exactly what you think it is: sleep. Some people can get by on 4-5 hours. Others need 8-9. The more sleep one gets, the better one’s mind functions. Therefore, Z can directly influence the quality of the rest of the equation. My Z value is about 7 hours.

That means, on any given weekday, my X + Z value is somewhere in the 20 range.

Which means I have about 4 hours left over for Y.

What is Y, you ask? Y is free time. Y is options and choices. Y can be consumed by entertainment, exercise, planning fancy meals, et cetera. Or, as in my case, Y can be reserved for art. For writing. For creating. In any artist’s life, having a kid complicates the value of Y. It’s a complication I’m grateful for, and yet it remains. My single dad Y isn’t the same as a lot of other artists’ Y. Even when I’m free to embrace Y, I’m not really. G Man is always at my side, tugging, talking, wanting to listen to music together, needing to engage in conversation.

So I’ve made a compromise. During Y time, we paint together.

And if I need to write, he reads.

It’s a solution I stumbled upon about a year ago. And it was completely by accident. One day, as I tried to paint while G Man was discussing the anatomy of stumpy T-Rex arms, we stopped talking long enough for him to ask a simple question:

Can I paint, too?”

Yes. Hell yes. In that instant, I became a tornado of movement, laying out a dropcloth, handing him a palette, splashing out some colors to paint with. It took a few times for him to acclimate, but after a few weeks – and ever since – he’s been a painting machine. He even painted the cover of one of my books. Yes…seriously!

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Are they tropical trees? Wind turbines? Monsters’ hands reaching skyward? Hell if I know. It’s still better than anything I’ve painted.

The painting problem: solved. A full 1-2 hours every day of Y value: freed up.

But what about writing?

Figuring out a way to write during G Man’s waking hours was more challenging. And yet…  The solution conveniently turned up mere months removed from the painting revelation. Four words: Goosebumps, Deep Space, and Ninjas. Into his hands, I poured R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps books, National Geographic magazines with lots of Hubble deep space images, and that silly series of ninjas-in-the-6th-grade books. Boom. Just like that, my Y time was defragmented. My painting output doubled. My writing was back on track.

And at the same time, G Man’s creativity soared. His reading skills improved drastically. His paintbrush moved with a mind of its own. (Only two spills so far.) He started asking for quiet time instead of demanding father-son Lego time. I was able to earn a tiny slice of Y freedom without planting my kid in front of a TV or kicking him outside.

Parenting is hard. This, I understand. What works today for me (and everyone else) might not work tomorrow. Soon enough, things like Little League, sleepovers with friends, and learning to drive will force some Y time to become X time. Ultimately, whatever becomes of my freedom, however small the slice gets, I’m ok with it. Because I’ll only ever get one chance to have a five-year old punch a sombrero off my face.

And that’s pretty cool.

Here’s some of the stuff G Man allowed me to paint.

And here’s the book I finished on his watch.

Love,

J Edward Neill

 

The death of 2016 – It wasn’t ALL bad

From the staff at Tessera Guild, we’d like to wish you a…

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2016 was one helluva ride, right?

Almost everyone famous ever passed away.

A reality TV guy became the U.S. president-elect.

And the best Star Wars film ever came out.

Meanwhile, the team at Tessera Guild punched out hundreds of articles on art, books, creativity, philosophy, and life, some of which you liked…and others you loved. 🙂

Here’s our top seven picks for 2016’s best, most engaging Guild articles:

My Mother – The Horse Diver

circa 1955: A diving horse and her rider disappearing in to a swimming pool with a splash. (Photo by Three Lions/Getty Images)

circa 1955: A diving horse and her rider disappearing in to a swimming pool with a splash. (Photo by Three Lions/Getty Images)

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Killing Your Darlings or Editing My Overused Words

writing

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Vanity Press: What Kickstarter RPG Rewards Are Available? – Slaughter at Splinterfang Gorge & Luminous Echo

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Inside One Artist’s Mind

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Three Little Sunsets in Florida

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Interview with Brandon Easton, screenwriter for Marvel’s Agent Carter, Part 1

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And finally, included because it’s totally ridiculous (and totally true)…

Porn searches leading to our (totally) non-porn website!

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* * *

Here’s to everyone having an amazing 2017!

The Tessera Guild Team

J Edward Neill

John McGuire

Egg Embry

Robert Jeffrey II

 Amanda Makepeace

Chad J Shonk

A Thought for Every Thursday – Soul Food

Welcome to my weekly series, A Thought for Every Thursday.

Every Thursday I’ll pose a question (or several) regarding a specific current event, a modern moral issue, or a philosophical conundrum. Instead of answering it myself, I’ll look to you for the resolution.

It’s all in good fun.

Here we go…

 * * *

Soul Food

First, a few definitions:

Soul – sōl/ (noun) – the spiritual or immaterial part of a human being or animal, regarded as immortal.

Mind – mīnd/ the component of a human being or animal that enables them to be aware of the world and their experiences.

Despite our many technological advances, one thing science has yet to define and/or locate proof for is the existence of souls.

Also hard to define are the processes of thoughts, feelings, and perceptions.

So which is more likely?

Souls and consciousness are physics-based, and will one day be completely explainable by science?

Or

Souls and consciousness operate under separate parameters and are not bound by any known laws of physics?

* * *

Past A Thought for Every Thursday entries are right here.

If you like these kinds of questions, try these on for size.

If you prefer something gentler, go here.

See you next Thursday!

J Edward Neill

Resolutions, 2017

It’s gone… just like that. 2016. That bitch of a year that saw so many artists and creatives who touched our lives through various mediums pass on… it’s really only a couple of days left now. And it comes to me that I need to write my look back and then look forward for the new year.

And what I’ve learned is that the old saying “best laid plans” and all of that doesn’t always mean that you actually hit all the goals or even enough of the goals to feel like the year might have been a success.

But I feel like I’ve been creative. I feel like I’ve pushed some projects forward, but the madness of not quite getting to where you want to be, what you wanted to have produced is there as well. I can only blame myself for (most of) the things I haven’t managed to finish. So there while be boxes unchecked for this past year which will slide to 2017.

Writing Dark

The Look Back – 2016

The White Effect

The goal was to send it out. To try to find someone who might take a second or third look. Maybe, possibly, perhaps find a crack in the business.

I spent most of the beginning of the year sending out queries to various agents, and when that failed, looked to contests that might get me in front of editors. The ones who responded decided to pass.

That’s a little bit of a dagger. Death by a thousand cuts as it were. I was mentally prepared for that, but I’m not sure I was emotionally prepared for it.

The Edge of the World

Nope. Didn’t finish a second draft. Didn’t hire an editor. Didn’t do anything…

But I am in a different place with it than a year ago. I want to send it out. I want to see if maybe this one is the one.

Maybe I’m a glutton for punishment.

S.O.U.L. Mate

About 1/3 of the way through the first draft. This is both my big accomplishment and also another failure as I wanted to be done with it as well.

Where the hell did the year go?

The Dark That Follows 2

No update on this one.

The Crossing Comic

No update on this one.

Mystery Comic

Never got off the ground. Such is the way of these things…

Blogging

This is still on-time, every week. I’m not the machine that Mr. Neill is, but my hope is always that I make myself an asset for Tessera Guild.

Mystery Book

I did write a book this year. It was a present for my wife, and it took the majority of December to pull it off, but I got it done. I’m proud of that.

Short Stories

I continued to work on a handful of shorts, but didn’t get any of them to the finished point. Sigh.

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The Look Ahead – 2017

So in light of a year where not as much writing was done as should have/could have been… what’s the plan for 2017? Do I pull back a bit on the expectations? Do I try to set things up as being more realistic?

Nah. I need to push. I need to push myself.

The White Effect

Hire editor. Get published this year. Enough is enough. Time to polish this one and put it out there.

Edge of the World

Draft 2. Query Letters. It no one bites, find some other options. Worst case… hire editor. Get published by end of the year.

S.O.U.L. Mate

Finish 1st draft. Finish 2nd draft.

That seems realistic.

The Gilded Age

There is talk of a Kickstarter to help with the print costs in the Spring. Talk about maddening… this project shouldn’t have taken as long as it has. Could it be? Can it be? Done?

We shall see.

Short stories

See under blogging, but I need to finish up the few I have which are very close.

Veronica Mars Novella 2

Got delayed and pushed back. We’re soooo close at this point. So close. It will be published.

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Blogging

Obviously I want to continue to not miss a week. The best thing about Tessera is that it provides me with an absolute reason to sit my butt in the chair and get the work done. It puts me on a schedule. Yes, the hope is that someone likes what I blog about and maybe checks out a book, but it’s as much for me as it is for anyone else.

This year I’d like to push it a little more. Find a way to have some regular columns. Maybe try to do a Kickstart the Comic once a month. Maybe a Behind the Comic every month.

I’d like to get some of my fiction writing on here. There is no reason not to possibly serialize something for Tessera. Maybe I just need to set my mind to it.

 

As per normal, I’m probably biting off more than I can chew, but… but… you never know. Maybe this is the year that I hit all my goals and some.

 

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

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

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

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

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

A Thought for Every Thursday – Angels vs Demons

Welcome to the latest installment of my new weekly series, A Thought for Every Thursday.

Every Thursday I’ll pose a question (or several) regarding a specific current event, a modern moral issue, or a philosophical conundrum. Instead of answering it myself, I’ll look to you for the resolution.

It’s all in good fun.

Here we go…

* * *

For this week’s thought, let’s get a little personal. In modern society, there’s a tendency to label things (and people) as good or evil. No shades of grey. Just good or bad with little leeway.

Only…that’s silly.

It’s likely that in the history of humanity, no one has ever been 100% good or 100% evil. Even the best of us have done questionable things, while even the lowest and most corrupted of us have probably (even if accidentally) done something to help another person.

Now the question is: which of your voices is stronger?

How good and evil are you?

To solve this riddle, I designed a simple exercise called ‘voices.’

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Voices

Imagine a little angelic version of you lives on your right shoulder. This mini-you represents all that is good, wise, and optimistic in your life.

Now imagine a devilish version lives on your left shoulder. This little demon represents your impulsive, dark side.

Give each one a voice.

If they could talk, what would they say?

*

* * *

Past A Thought for Every Thursday entries are right here.

If you like these kinds of questions, try these on for size.

If you prefer something gentler, go here.

See you next Thursday!

J Edward Neill

Ultimate Wish List

When I was a kid the Christmas Catalogs were the end all be all of what might be available for the holiday season. I’d spend hours flipping through the pages, looking at the various Transformers I could never deem to actually ask for. I mean it was one thing to ask for multiple $5 or $10 or even a $20 toy, but I want to say that this:

omegasupreme

Cost over $100 easy. Didn’t matter that it might have been the coolest thing EVER.

Now that I’m older we call flipping through the catalogs Black Friday ads or at this point just going to Amazon.com and seeing if anything strikes my fancy. And sure, these days if I really wanted that $100 toy it wouldn’t break the bank. So like everything else we must aim a little higher. If money were no object… maybe a Brewster’s Millions situation or say I won the lottery tomorrow, but maybe it wasn’t a lottery win where I could buy an island, just enough to get some higher end toys and see how the “other half” lives.

(Note, this is about “stuff” not experiences. Yes, I’d love to travel with my sudden imaginary wealth. This isn’t about that.)

brewsters_millions

3D Printer

$3-8,000

Years ago CD Burners were this mythical thing. Having the ability to copy someone’s cd directly instead of saving it on a tape? Having that extra space for easily transferring files back and forth. These were the pipe dreams of a younger day. But I spent about $200 on a cd burner while I was in college because no one else had one on the hall. And it got used to make copies of anything and everything.

This item though… what would I actually do with one? Probably dick around with it. Maybe make miniatures. Maybe make game pieces. I’m sure I could figure out something once I actually had it.

That’s not the point of the list. I don’t have to have an actual purpose designed for it.

avengers-4

Avengers 4

$6,000

For the uneducated, this is the Silver Age debut of Captain America. After spending two decades trapped in ice, a fledgling team of Avengers finds and revives him. What you might think of as the “core” team really comes to fruition in this issue. An idea that a lost relic from another age of comics could not only come back, but eventually be the heart and soul of that team…

While I own just over 10,000 comics, I’ve been in the process of trying to collect a full run of the Avengers books. The oldest issue I have is #9, and the bulk of my run really begins in the 130s and up. This would really be a true linchpin of any collection.

wsop-logo

Entry into the World Series of Poker Main Event

$10,000

We (my wife and I) play poker once a week at a restaurant. I have no illusions that this makes me anything other than someone who likes the game enough to play every week.

However…

There are stories all the time about some person no one ever heard of before suddenly has a nice run in the tournament. I’m thinking “I could be some person”.

 

Superbowl Tickets

$6,200

I know I discounted experiences above, but this is one of those that I could never justify the money other than within this blog. Vacations, even to exotic places, can still happen in my real life.

Mostly this is about experiencing the atmosphere, seeing a game the whole world is watching…

And maybe cheering on the Dolphins?

R2-D2 Moving Frig

$8,000

Because sometimes the real refrigerator is too far away.

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

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

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

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

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

 

Change Out The Calendar

new-years-day-2017

When I was younger I did the same thing every New Year’s Eve. As the clock began its approach to midnight, I’d start to get melancholy about what the previous year was leaving behind. I felt like I had to internally verbalize them. I would walk through every major accomplishment for myself and anything that had captured my attention in the world that year (to various degrees as when you are 8 or 9 you don’t really know much about the “goings-on” of world politics).

In this I was able to say my goodbyes, somewhat convinced that if I didn’t do this that the people and places and events might not mean as much to me in the future. Imprinting some aspect of those memories deep within the well of my brain’s knowledge. That somehow I was beginning to see Time with a capital “T” as this freight train rolling along and most of us its passengers for as long as it will have us.

So while many people were looking toward the future with hope and joy and just that tingling sensation because “This year is the year!” I was this kid who fretted and worried that because the calendar had changed it meant everything before no longer mattered in the same way it had only a few minutes before. That somehow the tether was broken and nothing could get it back.

Change is worrisome no matter if you are 6 or 60.

father-time-and-baby-1909

Those images of the Old Man and the New Baby troubled me. Everyone was ready to discard the old man. He’d had his life in the sun, but he was past his prime. It was time to embrace the new.

I always felt bad for that old-timer. Just by virtue of not being shiny and new it meant that his day in the sun was long since passed? Somehow that couldn’t be fair. He should be honored for what he gave, what he accomplished, and that meant taking a small amount of time to recount those things – if only to myself, well then I was going to show the proper respect to the passing of another great man.

I continued doing this for a long time during my teens. Year after year of saying this weird form of prayer by cataloging exactly what had come before. For me this was entirely about the past and not the future. Anyways, my future was marked by the end of the school year, something which didn’t occur until June.

Something changed in my twenties though. I don’t remember doing the mantra much during that decade. Maybe I did it once or twice, but that’s a complete guess. And I’m not entirely sure why it happened (or more to the point, didn’t happen). Perhaps it was because I was out and about many of those midnights with friends and the distraction was enough to  keep me from focusing on that negative of the calendar turnover. Maybe when you are on your own the world looks a bit different. Maybe because I was in a different school which didn’t have a clock measuring the days before I was gone (unlike high school).

My habit returned in my thirties, not every year, but enough that I notice them. Days long gone suddenly have a meaning that I wasn’t expecting.  You start creeping to the tipping point where you are closer to death and birth and again Time wants to crush you. It wants to figure you out, make you its bitch… if you’ll let it.

I think they really kicked in during what my wife and I called the black year (even if that year was stretched out over about 18 months). Multiple deaths with grandparents on both sides passing, our first pet as a couple dying (after 7+ years), and both of us getting laid off from our jobs (though, thankfully not at the same time).

When it came time to say my mantra during those years it was with a bit of hope and disgust. Finally, I wanted to kick that Old Man out on his ass. I wanted to forget everything about the bad and good of the previous year. As if not doing the mantra would make it so that these things would not have happened. The mantra was to look forward at potential possibilities.

2016 has been noted for the many celebrity deaths where the people were, in some cases, icons of their industry. I think for many of us this might be the first time we’ve ever had that happen to people who were a part of our lives through their music or their work on the various large and smaller screens. People we “grew up with” are now gone from the world. A true reminder of our own mortality.

california-highway

In the next couple of weeks it’ll be time to say goodbye to 2016. And while for most it will be done with a middle finger, I think I’m going to let myself take those moments again. Speak my mantra, and try to really record what I saw and what I felt leave us throughout the year. Not in an effort to hang on to the past, but in order to truly move on to a new path.

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

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

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

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

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

The Ultimate Get to Know Someone Trivia

So you say you want to know your friends and significant others better?

You say you want to understand them?

Easy.

Just make them answer all the questions below. And then, after they reply, send them all your answers.

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It’s The Ultimate Get to Know Someone Quiz

* * *

What is your favorite nickname?

And your least favorite nickname?

Were you bullied in high school? Or were you the bully? Explain.

How old were you when you had your first alcoholic beverage? And what was it?

Have you ever been arrested? If so, why?

And if not, why not?

What’s the most embarrassing thing you’ve ever done?

And what’s the thing you’ve done you’re proudest of?

well-thats-embarrasing_o_1198717

Ever won a fight?

Ever lost one?

Ever wanted to fight someone really badly, but walked away? (Details!)

Pretend you have to explain human reproduction to a ten-year old. How would you do it?

What’s the worst movie you’ve ever seen?

How upset would you be if a friend told you a harsh truth about you? (About your appearance or your personality.)

What’s the nerdiest thing you’ve ever done?

And what’s the most badass thing?

Ever done something truly charitable?

And how did it feel?

hand-serving-soup

Is it ok to lust after someone?

To what degree?

What’s the sickest you’ve ever been?

If you could fight anyone in the world to the death, who would it be?

Be honest. Would you win?

As a little kid, what was your favorite pet’s name?

And how did they die?

Describe how you feel about sports in three words or fewer.

Describe how you feel about video games in five words or fewer.

Coffee or tea?

Beer or wine?

On a scale of one to ten, how artistic are you?

If higher than a 7, explain.

What was the last concert you went to and how much did you enjoy it?

Name your least favorite food of all time.

giphy-facebook_s

In how many minutes could you run one mile?

What about a kilometer?

…yes, those were actually math questions.

Name a historic war whose purpose and outcome you would have supported.

If the zombie apocalypse happened tomorrow, state how many days (realistically) you would survive.

Justify your answer. ^^^

How many TV shows do you need to watch every week?

On a scale of 1-10, how emotionally involved in politics do you get?

Also on a scale of 1-10, how much are you willing to discuss your religious (or non-religious) affiliation?

Are you a humble person?

Explain. ^^^

What’s your personal comfort food?

How many countries in the world have you visited?

Can you say a curse word in a language other than your own?

Do you believe in luck? Good? Bad? Or both?

ht

If you can, name two awesome things about your home town.

And two not-so-awesome things.

What one law you’d like to see repealed?

Who’s one person you’d like to see brought back to life?

Have you ever won a contest, a sporting event, or a televised game show?

What’s one word you’d feeling very uncomfortable saying out loud? (use asterisks if you don’t want to type it.)

What skill do you possess that you’re probably better at than most people?

If someone wanted to corrupt you, what’s something they could offer to turn you to the dark side?

If you can, name one thing you’d like to see banned in your home country.

easter-banned-title

You’ve been put in charge of creating a new national holiday. Name it and assign one day of the year you want it to be observed.

Do you think you’re smarter than the average person?

Stronger? Faster?

Is it sometimes ok to be loyal to someone even when they’re doing wrong?

How long (in minutes) do you spend in your average shower or bath?

Describe the perfect day in terms of temperature, climate, wind, and appearance of the sky.

If you could afford to hire a maid to do most of your cleaning, laundry, and cooking, would you?

Is it ok to judge someone’s character based on one or two of their deeds?

What’s the best book you’ve ever read?

If you could master one skill (any skill in the world) in just one day of study, what skill would it be?

Name one thing that disgusts you.

Which of your family members is most likely to embarrass you?

Name one item on your personal bucket list.

If a famous author wrote a book about your life, what would the title be?

* * *

The Ultimate Get-to-Know-Someone Quiz is now a book released under the same name.

If you prefer deeper, darker questions, satisfy your quiz & questions fetish right here.

J Edward Neill

A Thought for Every Thursday – How far are you willing to believe?

Welcome to the latest installment of my new weekly series, A Thought for Every Thursday.

Every Thursday I’ll pose a question (or several) regarding a specific current event, a modern moral issue, or a philosophical conundrum. Instead of answering it myself, I’ll look to you for the resolution.

It’s all in good fun.

Here we go…

* * *

Two Worlds

 *

Human beings experience some pretty strange phenomena.

Things like déjà vu, synchronicity, placebo effects.

Despite the belief (or hope) that these effects are spiritual or otherwise outside the realm of explanation, most of them have causes rooted in science.

And yet…

A few phenomena exist that have yet to be fully explained.

Things like ghosts, past-life memory, ESP.

Which leaves us with three distinct possibilities:

These things don’t really exist. People make them up.

These things do exist, but have scientific reasons we’ve yet to find.

These things do exist, but have causes outside the realm of science.

Which one do you think is most likely?

And why?

Walk to the light

*

* * *

Past A Thought for Every Thursday entries are right here.

If you like these kinds of questions, try these on for size.

If you prefer something gentler, go here.

See you next Thursday!

J Edward Neill

My Mother: The Horse Diver

Another month, and a little more insight to my own family’s past. I only wish that I had an actual picture of my grandmother to show along with the following…

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My Mother: The Horse Diver

By: Mickey McGuire

 

My mother was the best cook who ever lived. I also knew her to be the most critical person whom I have ever known, and, in her later years, one of the most fearful and paranoid. On her good days, she liked to laugh and joke. She loved to fish- both salt and fresh water; she was the first to drop her line and the last to leave. She wrote short stories, poetry, and a book about life in the Okefenokee Swamp.

She tried to be a good mother- nurturer to me she was not. In all fairness though, I saw her warm and fuzzy side as a grandmother to my children. Although our relationship was complicated at best, I never doubted her desire to see me succeed at a level which surpassed hers.

On the days her demons rose to the surface, she drank vodka- sometimes a weekend binge a month, other times many months would pass without any drinking. The realization of her drinking for the day assaulted my nose and sensibilities as soon as I opened the door in the afternoon after school- Momma asleep/passed out in the bed and the rest of the house a cold vacuum where sadness and pain lived.

I never saw her take a leisurely walk or do any form of formal exercise. Does pulling a wagon with fishing equipment count? She smoked two packs of Kent cigarettes a day, ate fried Southern food on a regular basis, drank off and on her whole life, and still lived to be 79.

That was the mother I knew. Married already for twenty years, my parents adopted me in their forties. I was the baby who would surely fill that void in my mother’s life.

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But there was another person I never knew. Families have their share of stories and legends, and my mother had a crazy one- she was a horse diver in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in the summer of 1933 when she was seventeen. At that time, the diving show on the Atlantic City Steel Pier had been in existence since 1928. The horse diving show had been the creation of William “Doc” Carver in the 1880s. Originally a traveling diving show, it had become the primary attraction of many carnival acts on the Boardwalk.

 

horse-diving

 

This was a show not for the faint of heart or spirit. A pretty girl sat on the back of a huge horse and dove 40-60 feet into a 12 foot pool. That depth was just enough for the horse to reach the bottom of the tank and push-off to swim to the surface. Different horses dove four times a day, seven days a week for the price of a one dollar admission to see this remarkable feat- definitely meeting the criteria of an extreme sport by the standards of that time. Divers made $50- $125 per week, a fortune compared to the normal $15 per week in a department store.

How would a seventeen year old girl from Waycross, Georgia, ever be a horse diver in Atlantic City, New Jersey, you might ask? That summer my mother had gone to stay with her older brother and his wife in New Jersey, a place where my uncle had found better job opportunities as a welder in the shipyards. My mother’s cousin Marie was already a temporary diver for the show. The star diver Sonora Webster Carver- also a Waycross girl- had been blinded on one of the dives in 1931, and, according to her autobiography, had needed rehabilitation and time to learn Braille. So the summer of 1933 could have very well been a period of transition where many different divers were used in the shows. According to Sonora’s sister Arnette French in the autobiography A Girl and Five Brave Horses, “If you rounded all the riders up, we’d fill Convention Hall- we were the stars of the Boardwalk.”

circa 1955: A diving horse and her rider disappearing in to a swimming pool with a splash. (Photo by Three Lions/Getty Images)

circa 1955: A diving horse and her rider disappearing in to a swimming pool with a splash. (Photo by Three Lions/Getty Images)

According to Momma and Sonora Carver’s autobiography, you had “to keep your head tucked to one side, so that when the horse raised his head as he jumped up at the bottom of the pool, you wouldn’t get smacked in the face.” That would have been the least of my worries. How would you have the nerve to jump on the back of that gigantic animal and then jump off a stand 40-60 feet in the air into 12 feet of water? What about being thrown off or kicked in the head under water? There were documented bloody noses, black eyes, broken cheekbones, collarbones, and teeth. Amazingly, no diver fatalities ever occurred. Sonora Carver’s blindness was the worst of the injuries, and she continued to dive despite her blindness for many years.

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How does one person meet adversity and thrive despite it while another is haunted by her/his demons?  How did my mother evolve from having this courageous spirit and complete recklessness of youth to being beaten down from the disappointments in her life? If she could be a horse diver, she could have accomplished anything. I do believe life is about choices and consequences. She could have taken that job with Western Union and had her own career. She could have moved to a big city. She could have divorced my father. She chose to stay in the marriage, to live in the small town, and be a housewife. The life she chose would eventually lead to her becoming my mother, all the good and the bad of it. She was the mother I was supposed to have. I am who I am because of it.

I wish we could have had a different relationship… but we did not.

Instead of thinking about what might have been, I love to think about my mother dressed in that sequined bathing suit, waiting for that nearly one ton animal to reach the top of the ramp- her red hair flying- fearless and carefree- her future ahead with so much promise.

 

Credits: Carver, Sonora. A Girl and Five Brave Horses. Amazon Digital Services LLC, 2016.

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Mickey McGuire is the mother of published author John McGuire, a registered NICU nurse, retired high school teacher, an artist, and passionate student in this game of life.