Oh the Weather Outside is Frightful

This cold has got me discombobulated, scattered, wondering if I’m getting sick or just need more sleep (like a bear).

I’m not a fan of winter. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind the actual time of year in and of itself. I like the holidays, having time off, spending some of it with family, and using it as a good time to simply recharge.

But the cold… ugh. I cannot stand the cold. And yet I know that some people love it so that they can drink their hot chocolate and snuggle in front of the fire. It allows them to wear jackets and scarves and layer up until they don’t even know what to do with themselves.

1532_Randy_ICPMAD_40

And I live in Atlanta, so it pretty much never gets as bad as those in the north have it (seriously, why do you do that to yourselves… move south). But even a little bit of it where we are touching freezing at night is more than enough for me.

However, thanks to a wonderful wife, I spent this last weekend in warmth. I was able to wear shorts in December. A cool breeze whistled past me and I didn’t run for shelter from it, but embraced it as an old friend.

The benefits of being in Miami, apparently.

miami

On the list of items on my personal bucket list, if I actually took the time to write it out like Mr. Neill did a few weeks ago, would be to see a Miami Dolphins game in their home stadium. At 38 years old I finally got my chance to do just that.

I’ve been a Dolphins fan my entire life, yet it seems odd when people ask me if I am from Florida… as if I’d have to be from the place that the team resides to root for them. My old college roommate harassed me about that very thing many a weekend. Regardless, I always end up telling them the same thing. That when you live in south Georgia for much of your early life the one AFC team you get to see was the Dolphins. This was well before Jacksonville ever had a team, so week in and week out those were the games I got to see. Almost the same time I started watching the NFL, Dan Marino became the quarterback of the Dolphins which meant that most years they were in the playoffs – easy to root for. And the Atlanta Falcons were mostly awful during this time, so why bother with the team that was going to lose most of their games. I mean, today the NFL is the most popular it has ever been and much of that is due to the passing game – Marino was doing all of this 20 years ago.

Miami_Dolphins_2013

But that wasn’t the only story.

You see, in a parallel world to this one there is a version of me typing up this exact same blog, but with one startling difference – that version of me is a (hated) NY Jets fan.

How do I know that is happening in this other world? Because the very first game that I ever remember watching took place on January 23, 1983 when the Miami Dolphins placed the New York Jets in the AFC Championship game. In my world, the Dolphins won the game 14-0 and became MY team. A silly decision made over the course of a few hours one afternoon when I was 1 week before turning 8.

So I know that in the parallel world the Jets ended up winning. And I have nothing but sympathy for that version of me, because the Jets are a train wreck and pretty much have been since that day. They’ve made a couple of runs here or there, but it always seems they quickly slide back to being awful. And while I was watching Marino break records, that version probably couldn’t have watched very many of the Jets games in the first place – needing to be content with the small blurbs in the local papers to figure out who was even on the team.

Another little thing, another weird decision by a younger me, that caused me to fly south for the winter, even if only for a weekend.

Sadly the game didn’t turn out the way I would have liked it (with a Dolphins’ win), but I sat there in the stadium among my fellow Dolphin fans, yelling and even singing a little of the Dolphins song (a terrible thing that once you have it in your head can never be extracted). So I thank my wife for the gift.

Even if it did add another item to the old list: to see them Win at home.

 

***

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. Each episode is only $0.99. But you can go ahead and purchase the full novel (all 6 episodes) right now for $4.99 with the above link!

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

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

What Dead Men do During the Holidays

Undead Turkey

 

 

During Thanksgiving week, it used to be a tradition of mine to get my ass to Florida (St. Augustine, Clearwater, Naples…) and eat entire restaurants out of business. Those were my holiday-cations, and they were epic. I’d lay siege to huge buffets, soak up gallons of wine and cocktails, and float atop heated pools like a bloated corpse. I was an ICBM, and the beach was my target. Sometimes I even followed it up with a encore Christmas trip. Can you say…awesome!?

Sadly, miserably…those days are done. Anymore, I’m a holiday zombie.

Holiday Zombie (Noun) – Any human, lacking purpose, who sits on the sideslines during the holidays and rots. 

So what do dead men do during the holidays?

1. Black Friday – We complain about it. Then camp out Thursday night to buy a video game we could’ve bought for $3 more on Amazon. I’m completely kidding. I’ve never braved Black Friday in my life. With my luck, I’d sleep right through the sales crush…or get arrested for disorderly conduct.

2. Laugh Inside – We feel ever so slightly left out due to lack of social interaction (guess who didn’t get invited to the ugly sweater party?) but secretly relish the fact that we have no real holiday responsibility. While the living are out buying SUV’s full of presents, enduring hours and hours of Jingle Bells, and road-raging, we zombies are grilling brains (or ribeye steaks) in our backyards. In the snow. While drinking heavily.

3. Gift Failing – For the one or two people we actually love enough to gift gifts to, we buy something sweet only to fail miserably with the wrapping paper. Afterward, we curse the people who are good at wrapping (we all know someone whose sole life-skill is wrapping gifts). And then, looking down upon our failure, we give up and buy a gift bag. Thank you, gift bag inventor. Without you, children worldwide would know my horror of wrapping paper.

SantaFromTheGrave

What Santa looks like to the average three-year old. …and you wonder why they cry.

4. Damn Cards – We get plenty of holiday cards, but send none. Because, you know, we’re dead.

5. Well…maybe the Stove Top counts – We do things that have absolutely nothing to do with Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Years. Like watch metric tons of SEC football, eat meals of Stove Top stuffing and Little Caesar’s pizza, drink Texas margaritas instead of egg nog, and write dark fantasy novels. Just normal stuff, really.

6. No ties either. Or Starbucks gift cards – We quietly bemoan that no one buys us anything cool (or anything at all) for Christmas….and then realize we didn’t need anything anyway. We suffer five minutes of angst, but follow it up with, ‘Thank gawd Aunt Selma didn’t buy me more knee-high socks.”

7. Laugh Inside again – We get sucked into attending a holiday event or two. We dress up, wear too much perfume or cologne to mask the dead smell, and shamble out our doors. And then, while grandpa’s getting wasted, the kids are screaming, and your co-workers are banging in the guest bathroom, we’re both bored out of our minds and smugly satisfied. (That everyone else’s life is just a bit more messed up than our own.)

So here’s to you, fellow single guys, lonely co-workers, cat ladies, introverts, Wiccans, divorcees, and vegans. The holidays are brutal. But I’m right there with you. Hanging out on the fringe, making mean-spirited fun of everyone brave enough to enjoy themselves.

LUB,

J Edward Neill

Author of the Tyrants of the Dead dark fantasy trilogy

Co -Author of Hollow Empire – Night of Knives

Author of The Sleepers and Old Man of Tessera

A Jumble of Bones

skelly 

Dear Santa,

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

Can I have a few presents anyway? Pretty please?

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

My list:

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

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

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

 

Moving right along…

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

oldmantesseracover1sm

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

Speaking of books…

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

Ur Hand

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

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

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

Catch you later,

J Edward Neill

Author of the Tyrants of the Dead dark fantasy trilogy

Co -Author of Hollow Empire – Night of Knives

Down the Dark Path

Why no one should ever become a writer

Write well.

Write often.

But never write for more than a hobby.

 

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

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

And then one day I decided to write a book.

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

Wrong.

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

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

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

BoneMountain

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

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

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

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

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

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

See? Told you.

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

And neither would I.

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

Think twice. You’ll thank me later.

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

Love,

J Edward Neill

Top Nine Most Inspiring Things Ever

 

Top Nine List of Things That if They Don’t Inspire You, You’re Just an Awful Human Being 🙂

Disclaimer: It’s true, being a black-hearted SOB, I struggle to find inspiration. However, after I started digging deep, I realized that while inspirational posters make me ill, happy couples hurt my eyes, and cute puppies only make me think of Chinese food…somewhere deep inside I want to be inspired like the rest of humanity.

So here you go:

ChicagoAtNight

Chicago at night. (Or whatever huge city is closest to your heart.) I recently returned to my home city, and found it huger, bustlier, and more delicious than ever. I’m a wilderness lover, but there’s something about epic urban sprawl that makes me shiver in a good way.

 

 

Deep Space

I mean…holy shit.

Outer space. I recently watched Interstellar (in the aforementioned Chicago.) I won’t stuff a review down your sockets, but I will say that the thought of all those stars sprinkled into the void is quite possibly the most inspiring and terrifying thing ever. Just watch the tv series Cosmos and tell me it doesn’t make you feel small.

 

 

 

  CloudsSun

 Clouds. As kids we saw faces in them. As adults, they change our moods based on their thickness, their movement, and their greyness. Clouds are the personality of the sky, and rain the Earth’s most raw emotion.

 

 

  Music

 Music. I’m tempted to go on about how contemporary music will destroy the universe, but no…not today. I prefer massive guitar solos, bottomless soundtracks, and booming orchestras, but whatever works for you, works for me. Unless it’s Bieber. Or Miley. Or Toby Keith. But whatever else.

 

GManSpidey

And yes, that’s the G Man. He’s shooting webs. In case you wondered.

 

 Kids. All of ’em. I was reminded of how awesome kids are during this year’s Halloween. While we adults worry about how slutty or funny our costumes should be, kids roam the neighborhood free of concern, hunting for the next piece of candy.  I just wanna be ten years old again, my pillowcase brimming with taffy, candied apples, and cash (yeah, they used to give out hard cash in my ‘hood.) Anyone else with me?

 

 

 

 

 

ALightInMoria

A good movie watched alone. I’m on a kick of going to the movies alone. And while it’s awesome to have a friend or date to watch a good flick with, it’s downright awesome to do it solo. For those who haven’t tried it, I heartily suggest you try. You don’t have to share your popcorn. You don’t have to field questions about the plot or whether the female lead is hotter than your date. Alone in the theater, you can just sit your ass down and melt into the story.  

 

PrairieForever

Big ass open fields. Or whatever landscape does it for you. I love the woods and the mountains, but there’s something about an open prairie or endless field that leaves me feeling utterly vulnerable to the sky. Vulnerability is good for the mind, especially for artists. Unless you let the world in, you’ll never put anything out.

 

images

The Moon. Not to be confused with outer space, the Moon is something special. It pulls at us figuratively and literally. It’s there during the day sometimes, but holds dominion over the night. Once I finally finish my not-so-super-secret project of disabling all the streetlamps in my neighborhood, I’ll be able to see the Moon all the better. Anyone got any industrial strength wire cutters?

Ur Knight NK Cover Sketch Ver 2 - Copy

Yes, it is what you think it is. And yes, it’s coming soon.

 Finishing a plan long-laid. Ever built something that took days instead of hours? Ever invested years into a project? What’s it feel like when you’ve finished? Pretty…f’n…amazing, right? For the Tyrants of the Dead series, I wrote 1.1 million words and later pared it down to 700k. It’s taken me the better part of 12 years to complete. In a few months, the final book comes out. Satisfaction on a stick.

 

Until next time,

 J Edward Neill

Author of the Tyrants of the Dead

Co -Author of Hollow Empire – Night of Knives

Author of The Sleepers and Old Man of Tessera

 

It’s the Little Things

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

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

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

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

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

And a Child Shall Lead Them…

October is more than half over and yet I don’t feel like I’ve gotten much of my horror business done for the month. And I was doing so well a couple of weeks ago. I had watched a couple of movies with the horror bend to them, but since catching about 1/2 of the remake of The Hills Have Eyes, I’ve seen nothing that would disturb my soul. Nothing which would freeze the blood in my veins.

But a movie did come on the other day which set my mind spiraling back to a simpler time… to a time when I was much younger. The first time I remember being truly afraid.

ChildrenoftheCornPoster

The TV glowed from its perch atop my dresser.  My room was wrapped in complete darkness other than that solitary light (and perhaps what little could trickle under the door from the hallway). At the elderly age of 10, Saturday night meant that my bedtime could be extended to at least midnight, and if I was careful about the volume, I could push it past if need be.

This night, though, was a little different. I had become fascinated with horror movies earlier in the year. Somehow, perhaps with the help of HBO streaming into our household, I’d managed to watch Nightmare on Elm Street. The sight of those knives on the end of Freddy’s fingers shook me up, in a way I had never understood before. I didn’t know that a movie could do such things.

It was a gift.

So now, there I was, alone in my room, preparing to watch another horror movie. Something called Children of the Corn. Whether it was the soundtrack of the movie, the basic premise of an entire town’s worth of adults missing – leaving only the kids in charge… a thought which certainly seemed interesting to this 10 year old.

Or it could have been that the villains turned out to be the kids. Whatever it was, I was entranced. Completely enthralled. I glanced at the clock, seeing that it was well past ten o’clock and the sounds from outside my room had died down at some point during my seclusion. That was ok by me. I loved the idea of being there and letting the fear wash over me.

Being only a one story house, my room sat facing the subdivision road which ran in front of our house.

Somehow, between the movie and the soundtrack and the sound of my own breathing, another sound filled my ears… from outside the house.

My heart slammed faster in my chest, but I did what every 10-year old would naturally do: I pulled the covers up to just below my eyes. That age old idea that the monsters in the dark can’t possibly get you if you are protected by an inch of comforter. I closed my eyes and blocked out everything else. Surely it was just something from the movie that I’d heard.

Under the Bed copy

And then it came again.

There was no doubt in my mind that time. It had come from outside. I needed to figure out what it was. The idea of being afraid of something on a television screen suddenly became a distant memory. I slid from my place in the bed, slinking down to the floor beside it. Keeping low, I crept towards the window. Even while every synapsis in my brain fired to tell me to run out of the room, to go pound on my parent’s bedroom, and to let them deal with it… I continued until I was at the window. Slowly, I raised myself up, peering just over the window sill.

Outside he darkness chose not to reveal any potential secrets. Growing a little bolder, I managed to get my whole face up to be able to look.

And a light flashed directly in my eyes.

Flashlight

Somewhere I heard a scream, and my own fight or flight instincts kicked in. Had I been stronger, my door might have come off the hinges with the force I ran out of the room. Then I heard the scream again, only this time I understood that I was the one making the noise. Turning the corner, I found my mom in the living room and I proceeded to tell her everything I could through gasps and wheezing. I needed her to understand that there was something outside my window… that this wasn’t just the overactive imagination of a 10 year old who was watching scary movies.

I need not have worried. She hugged me, smiled, and said, “Your step-father is outside. He probably did it.”

The next sound I heard was one of laughter as my step-father rentered the house. His whole body shook as he relayed what he had seen. In light of this knowledge, I crept back to my bedroom, shut the door (but left a crack open), turned off the tv, and hid under the covers once more.

***

It’s that same fear that sometimes still gets me when it is very late and I am all alone in my house. A stray sound at 3 in the morning on a Friday night… I still find that I am comforted by ducking under the covers.

Perhaps there is some magic in that thought after all.

 

***

John McGuire

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

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is currently in week six of its 6-part release. Each episode is only $0.99. But you can go ahead and purchase the full novel (all 6 episodes) right now for $4.99 with the above link!

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

The Ultimate Bucket List

buy-absinthe

Yes. It’s on the list.

 

 

Yep. It’s true. We’re not getting any younger.

I know some might say bucket lists are cheesy, unrealistic, or just plain foolish.

Doesn’t matter to me. I’ve made one. Fact: I’ve posted an exact copy of it on my fridge. Also fact: I’ve only put things on the list that A: I haven’t already done, and B: I can’t just walk out my front door and do.

Because a real bucket list should be hard as hell to complete. Otherwise, why bother?

So here’s my list. Fifty items strong. Some of them are fun, others shallow, and still others straight from the heart. I’d love it if you’d post your top bucket items in the comments section. If nothing else, I can steal borrow your ideas.

50 Hard-as-Hell Bucket Stuffers

1. Go caving in Kentucky. As in way deep in the earth. As in if I get lost, the rest of the bucket list is screwed.

2. Write a book twenty books. Yes seriously.

3. Hold a four-minute plank. (Kinda stuck on two minutes right now)

4. Read the entire LOTR trilogy to my kid. As a bedtime story. Because bedtime stories should be epic.

5. Perform a meaningful charitable act. As in a weekend at a soup kitchen. Or ten weekends. Whichever.

6. Escape office life before it kills me. The dude from Office Space had it right. We weren’t meant to live like this.

7. Spend the night in a haunted house. Or a sanitarium. If only to know whether all the Ghost Hunter-type shows hold water.

8. Climb a mountain. A real mountain. Preferably something volcanic.

9. Be an extra in a movie. (Free food!)

10. Plant at least ten trees that will outlive me.

11. Make one of my books into a movie. Even if it’s a pitiful ten minute-long Youtube flick.

12. Wander the Scottish Highlands. Confound the locals with an over-the-top William Wallace accent.

13. Teach my grandkid(s) things to annoy their parents. (Need you on this one, G Man.)

14. Live long enough to see the Cubs play in (they don’t even have to win) the World Series.

15. Play lead guitar in a band. Even if for just one night.

16. Paint something stunning.

17. Eat Maine lobster. While in Maine. And on the same trip, eat Maryland crab. While in Maryland.

18. Try my hand as a quarterback coach. For kids.

19. Road trip through Sonoma, CA.

20. Be ripped when I’m 50. Wait. Forget 50. Be ripped when I’m 60.

21. Try every food I hated as a kid to see if I still hate them. (I will.)

22. Win a costume contest. While wearing something truly terrifying.

SkullBucketReal

Bucket lists are hard.

23. Go to a Super Bowl (as long as the Packers aren’t in it.)

 24. Buy a dinghy. Wake up at the ass-crack of dawn. Take my son fishing. Return home at dusk.

25. Live tech-free for 30 days straight. No cell phone. No laptop. No tablet. No TV. (This might be the hardest item on the list…)

26. If space travel to Mars is perfected, I’m there. I want to be the first person to write a book about the Red Planet while on the Red Planet. If space travel isn’t perfected, change this bucket item to: drink a Texas margarita while in Texas. Those are equal, right?

27. Drink a bottle of absinthe. With friends. In Europe. Preferably in Copenhagen.

28. Completely overhaul my wardrobe. Because if Joan Rivers were still alive, I’d be on her worst-dressed list. Seriously. I’m like a twelve year-old up in here.

29. Live in London. For a week. A month. However long it takes.

30. Tour every major pub in Dublin, Ireland. Alone. No friends for this trip.

31. While we’re on the subject of pubs, build a ‘pub room’ in my house. Neon signs, futbol banners, stools, pool table, low lights, cute bartender. The works.

32. Start an herb garden. No, not that kind of herb.

33. Grow a Mephistopheles beard. Pointy and black.

SkullBucket

Thank goodness for skull buckets.

34. Learn how to make wine. (Gonna need something to drink after the Ebola-pocalypse.)

35. Learn to play the cello.

36. Help someone else fulfill their own bucket list.

37. Shave my cats to look like lions.

38. Spend an entire summer living on the beach.

39. Teach my kid to beat me at chess. Bow humbly when he does.

40. Rescue a turtle. (You know…the ones who try to cross the expressway.)

SkullBuck

Seriously. There’s a huge market for these things.

41. Leaving this space blank _________________________ for someone else to suggest a bucket list item.

42. Find a clear night and a place from which I can see the Milky Way. Marvel hopelessly at the sky and wonder it’s all about.

43. Find the recipe for my dearly departed grandmother’s homemade stew. Cook it for a big group of friends and family.

44. Kiss a beautiful woman in Paris. Corny, I know. Don’t care.

45. Make myself useful. Save someone’s life.

46. Invent a new board game. Nothing complicated. Something like checkers or othello.

47. Remain apolitical. Even if I make it long enough to be a crotchety old wizard.

48. Start the tradition of giving gifts on my birthday.

49. Try sushi.

50. Pay for all this stuff with a thriving writing career.

 ***

That’s it. I’m tired. I’ll start making this stuff happen tomorrow.

 J Edward Neill

Author of the Tyrants of the Dead dark fantasy trilogy

Co -Author of Hollow Empire – Night of Knives

Author of The Sleepers and Old Man of Tessera

Down the Dark Path

 

J Sporting News

SnapThis1

What does this image have to do with the post? Absolutely nothing.

 

It’s hard being a sports fan. Damn hard.

Sometimes I wish I could stop, turn off the TV, take a long walk, and ignore the plights of all my favorite teams.

No. That’s not even a little bit true. I never wish that.

 I’m a diehard Chicago fan (except for the Sox…hate those guys.) I bleed Cubbie Blue, live and die by the health of Derrick Rose’s knee, love and hate Jay Cutler, and boil with pride for the Blackhawks. But whatever team you like, whatever city you’re from, odds are you know how hard it is. To watch someone else’s team carve deep into the postseason, to endure your hated rivals hoisting a trophy, to be excited at kickoff…and completely gutted by the middle of the third quarter. It sucks something awful. We’ve all been there. 

Such is a sports fan’s life.

So let’s start by talking about football. My personal favorite, the NFL. Violent. Barbaric. Crueler on its players than any other game. Gloriously inglorious. Perfect and imperfect.

I love it.

Over the last few years, I’ve heard, read, and endured hundreds of reports and sound bites regarding the health of the NFL’s players. About concussions, CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy,) ragged knees, spinal injuries, and retirements ruined by pain. About how someday it’ll all come crashing down. I’ve followed Peter King’s columns, SI.com, and the metric ton of non-news news ESPN heaps upon us every day.

‘Wear better helmets,’ some cry out.

‘Too violent!‘ claim others.

‘They knew what they were getting into! Look at how much money they get paid!‘ many fans will declare. 

Ultimately, who really cares? Not me. And statistically speaking, not you either. NFL ratings are higher than ever in the history of the game. If any of us are really all that bothered by a game played by wife-beaters, drunk-drivers, and future invalids, it really doesn’t show up on Sunday (Or Saturday, Monday, and Thursday.) This being the case, we should all stand up and ask sports reporters around the USA to let it go. Let’s talk about the game and only the game. Let’s let the drama die. Scrutinize any cross-section of Americans and you’ll find out all sorts of awful details you didn’t want to know. The NFL is no different. If it dies one day due to its violent legacy, so be it. But until then, most of us have proven we still love it when someone gets de-cleated on the gridiron. Especially if it’s Aaron Rodgers

CutButt

“This game is hard. Especially when you turn the ball over four times in two quarters.”

 Ok baseball, you’re up next. I’m here to say that I love you. Your purity, your pace, your elegance.

But you’re really getting on my nerves.  

I want to talk about a number. The number is 162. The amount of games each team plays (not including Grapefruit/Cactus League games.) Used to be I loved that on any given day from April-September I could turn on the boob-tube and watch the Cubs get crushed. Used to be I craved the feeling that the season would never end.

Not any more. 162 is just too many damn games. By a long shot.

Would it be blasphemy to say that the average MLB game doesn’t mean a f’n thing? Is it weird that even the most spectacular win or heartbreaking loss only amounts to 0.61% of each season? What if I told you that if each team played two three-game home-and-away series’ with every other team in their half of the league, the season could be a brisk, snappy 84 games long? Does it really take 162 to decide which teams aren’t even the best, but simply worthy of entering a three-round tournament that could take up to 19 more games to find a winner? No. It doesn’t.

Why are NFL and College Football games so damn thrilling? Because each one can make or break a season. Lose one NFL game and that’s 6.25% of your season. Lose a college football game and that’s 8%. Gone. Done. Untouchable. My plea to the MLB is to chop the season in half. Please. Run two 82-game seasons every year if you have to. Have a World Series in July and another in October. But for the love of god, don’t make me watch Cubs baseball (games 108-162) in August and September. We’re already 17 games out. What’s the fucking point?

 End baseball rant. Truth is; I’m really enjoying the postseason. The one-game Wild Card playoffs are kinda sorta what inspired my shorter season hopes. And how about that Royals v A’s game?? Needed new underwear after that one.

 Ok. So lets talk about the upcoming NBA season. Anyone? Ugh. Never mind.

What about hockey? Are Patrick Kane and the boys gonna dig deep and make another Cup run? Or will it be the Kings? The Bruins? Hello? Anyone listening? Oh, that’s right. I live in Georgia, home of exactly seventeen NHL hockey fans.

Good sports things going on right now:
Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Alex Smith, Steve Smith Sr., Alshon Jeffrey, Antone Smith, Eric Hosmer, The f’n Orioles, Derrick Rose’s knee (for now,) the Yellow Jackets, Notre Dame, the Gators sucking, Jeter’s final at bat.

Bad sports things going on right now:

Wife/GF beaters (don’t even deserve mentions,) UGA Football, Oregon Football, everything happening in Jacksonville, FL, the Texas Rangers, the Chicago Bears defense, almost every NFL team’s defense, Geno Smith, sideline reporting, NFL halftime shows, beer commercials, car commercials, mutha f’n GEICO commercials, the Cardinals being in the NLCS, the Packers being in first place, and Lebron getting traded to another team in the same goddamn division as the Bulls.

That’s it for now. Go buy this and this.

Love, 

J Edward Neill

Whatnot and more Whatnot

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

whatnot

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

*******

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

My Halloween Cemetery

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

The Genome by Sergei Lukyanenko

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

Hunter the Pirate

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

Trick or Treat

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

http://amandamakepeace.com

http://makepeacestudios.etsy.com

The best things about autumn

Trees

The way the trees looks like this. Fiery leaves scattered across every surface imaginable.

Rain

The long days and nights of nothing but rain. Cold, cold rain. No other rhythm like it in the world.

burningleaves

The way burning leaves smell. Huge piles of ’em. All the smoking, grey clouds they emit. The way you can smell it from miles away.

 

windtwilight

Twilights like this. The barren branches sleeping beneath the burning skies. The last birds escaping.

 

Punkin

Pumpkins still glowing long after the night has settled. Nothing eerier yet strangely as comforting than a craggy-toothed punkin’ smiling as you enjoy an evening walk.

Cricket

The way the insects sound. It’s different than in spring (fresh and waking) or in summer (cicadas always whirring). In autumn, crickets own the night.

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The wind blowing through the dry, dead grass. In some places, it’s ceaseless. In others, meandering.

Clouds

The way the sky looks like this most of the time. Leastways where I come from…

ComingFire

Listening to music like this. Especially at night. Bonus points if you can name this particular album.

 

HalloweenMovie

Watching movies like this. Curled up on the couch alone or with a friend. There’s no better season for horror than autumn.

Creepy Costumes

Dreaming of being the most terrifying kid in the neighborhood on All Hallows. And maybe just pulling it off. We’ve got nothing on the way our great grandfathers used to do it.

Nothing beats autumn. It’s the best season for writing, the best season for existing. Summer is great for sports, spring for de-hibernating, and winter for all things indoors, but autumn……sips of Scotch on the back patio, bbq’s, meaningful football, All Hallows, walking in the drizzle, sleeping with your windows open, listening to the wind, black cats, fallow fields, cawing crows, spooky twilights, grey dawns, crimson leaves, crackling fireplaces, roasted marshmallows, camping, creeping, raking, burning, and watching the world get ready to sleep.

I’m glad you’re here, autumn. Let’s do this.

J Edward Neill

 

 

Life, Art and One Lucky Winner

Giveaway Winner

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

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

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

Make a Wish by Amanda Makepeace

Make a Wish by Amanda Makepeace

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

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

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

You Take the Good, You Take the Bad

I touched on one thing a few of weeks ago that I wanted to explore a little bit. Basically the idea that out of bad things we should make the best of them.

When life gives you lemons, make lots of lemonade.

Every dark cloud has a silver lining.

silver

I wonder if it isn’t just crap we tell each other to ensure that we get out of bed in the morning.

4 years ago I got laid off from my day job as an engineer. For those of you who have never had the opportunity to take an unplanned vacation where you are stressed a whole lot of the time… let me tell you, it is not worth it. Basically you have this time where normally it would be great. Catch up on sleep, read a book, watch tv, and just veg out. I mean, you’ve been at it for how long now, you might deserve some free time again. But the underlying stress is awful. And at some point there are only so many hours in a day you can look for jobs.

But I digress. Out of that time I ended up writing the first draft of the book that would become The Dark That Follows. I had never written anything that long before. Prior to those moments the longest thing I had ever written was a movie script that was about 100 pages and around 48 pages of a comic mini series. Let me say that writing 200+ pages of a novel is an entirely different beast.

I definitely made some lemonade.

Here’s the question though… why? Why did I need that bad thing to happen before I made an opportunity out of it? Couldn’t I have done the same thing while I was employed (sure I could and have been ever since that point). Still that was the thing that gave me a kick in the pants I surely needed.

So why do we wait for these moments? Why should it take sometime bad to happen for us to reevaluate how our lives are progressing?

Top-Dog-The-Science-of-Winning-or-Losing

My favorites are the blessing in disguise. I’m more referring to the phrase itself, somewhat of a cliche nowadays, rather than the possible religious implications behind it. It might as well be a case where all we are doing is just trying to reassure someone that good times are coming. There is a commercial on tv in Georgia (perhaps other states who have the lottery are running something similar). The conceit of the game is that you win if you match all the numbers (like a normal lottery) OR if you match none of the numbers (so now they have us hoping for a negative return… just weird). And while I am amused at the commercials, it is such an alien thing to hope to not win… but not just don’t win, you need to LOSE completely.

I mean, what in the world are you supposed to be cheering for then? That’s like rooting for your team to tie or something. And while there are spots where that might be a good thing. It is completely alien to my own brain patterns. I (people) are programmed to Win.

So why is it that we must decide to find the silver lining only in the bad things? Can’t they just be bad things and then we move along? Do we need to find lessons in these moments of terrible? Would it be the worst thing in the world to just brush ourselves off and stop obsessing over whatever the bad thing was?

Just once I’d like to learn my lesson from something really good happening!

Of course, that is easier said than done. I think that it might be (must be?) that we all get caught up in our lives. Going to work, hanging out with friends, dealing with family… you know, Life stuff. But that becomes a daily thing. And then it becomes a weekly thing. And then summer is over and Christmas is here and we all stand around thinking “Wow, that year sure went by fast.”

The bad might just be a shock to the system that breaks us of that routine. Maybe we’ve drifted a bit from whatever path we’re supposed to be on and that’s the moment we can really do a bit of self-correcting?

Of course, unlike those people in the Lottery commercial, I’m not looking to have the bad thing happen. And I wish I could steel myself against it, but that never works. So all I can do is just take that extra moment when it happens and use it to the best of my ability. Not the best answer, but the only one I have.

Mostly I’m reminded of why there has to be bad things by two of the greatest philosophers of our time.

beavis550

Beavis: Hey Butthead, how come some stuff sucks, and some stuff is pretty cool?

Butthead: Because Beavis… if everything was cool… how would you know what sucked?

Exactly.

 

***

John McGuire

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

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

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

A Day in the Life (GIF Edition)

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

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

Destroy Everything

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

Demon Cat

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

Coffee

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

Cooking before I've had enough caffeine.

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

Tumblr

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

I can paint anything!

I can paint anything.

This isn't working how I imagined.

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

Everything I paint is crap!

Everything I paint is crap!

I don't let those negative thoughts stop me.

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

PerfectMy masterpiece. Muahaha!

Doubt

An hour later…

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

Cleaning

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

khaleesi

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

Reading

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

amandamakepeace.com

Split Bill (My mental vacation)

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

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

the_thinker

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

 

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

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

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

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

mooncloud

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Destiny

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

4. Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor

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

2. Willow

3. Legend (Despite Tom Cruise)

4. Animated version of Sleeping Beauty

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

My Top 3 favorite book covers ever

200px-The_Stand_cover

Dealer

The_Two_Towers_Book_Cover_1965_(Ballantyne)

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

J Edward Neill

Author of the Tyrants of the Dead dark fantasy trilogy

Author of The Sleepers and Old Man of Tessera

Down the Dark Path

My Top Seven Words of 2014

HaBones2

 

 

 <— creepy

 

Back in 2013, while plundering the bottom of my mind for the finishing touches on my dark fantasy trilogy, I plopped this little article on the web. Turns out it was a pleasure to write, so much so that I’ve decided to churn one out every year forever. I don’t have another long introduction about how I’ve been busy mining the abyss for skulls, crushing nuns’ dreams, or plotting to rip the sun out of the sky.

So I’ll just get to it.

1. Unctuous – excessively or ingratiatingly flattering; smug

I liked this word so much I made it into a villain for my latest book, Nether KingdomUnctulu, the oily, slick-tongued, loathsome servant of Grimwain, defines unctuous to a tee. The word makes me ill just to think of. Say it with me; Smug. DisgustingUnctuous.

2. Tatters – a torn piece; a shred

tatters

 As in tatters of flesh, tattered clouds, tattered ribbons of dead men’s bones.  You get the point.

 

 

 

3. Masticate – to soften or reduce to pulp by crushing or kneading; to chew

No, not the other mast…ate word. I mean it in terms of, “The ragged, grey-toothed wights masticated the soldiers’ remains until only powder remained.” You know. Something grim like that. 🙂

4. Abattoir – a slaughterhouse

Ok. Maybe I’m getting too grisly here. Still, I like the imagery this word conjures up. It feels ghoulish, grotesque, and maybe a little…meaty. As in Texas Chainsaw Massacre. As in a haunted, metal-roofed, broken-windowed building none of the kids are brave enough to sneak into.

 5. Guile –  insidious cunning in attaining a goal; crafty or artful deception

I like this one as well as its opposite – Guileless (sincere; incapable of lying).  We all know people with varying levels of guile in our lives. We’d all be better knowing fewer. I’m not sayin’. I’m just sayin’.

6. Hodor – Hodor

hodor

Now, I’m not nearly as big a Game of Thrones fan as I used to be, but even so, who doesn’t love a word that means everything and anything? Think how much easier reading and writing would be? Hodor, Hodor, Hodor. It’s the ‘I am Groot’ of the fantasy genre. Actually, Guardians of the Galaxy is fantasy, too. So yeah. They both work. By the way, Hodor is guileless. Just sayin’.

7. Selfie – a photograph that one has taken of oneself; usually a sign of narcissism

Some things you just have to love to hate. Selfie is on this list because if viewed in the right light, it can tell you a lot about the person who uses it. Just imagine: “I never take selfies.” or “All I take are selfies.” I bet if you heard someone say either of these sentences, you’d start judging instantaneously. That alone makes this wretched word powerful. And powerful is good…if used to crush Kim Kardashian.

Until 2015,

J Edward Neill

Dragon Con Review

Last week I talked about heading down to Dragon Con over Labor Day weekend. This weekend I tried to make some new memories.

The first thing that always occurs to me is how big the con has gotten since I first went down to it so many years ago. I will say that I believe Atlanta has scheduled a few too many things for Labor Day weekend (maybe). Since we weren’t staying on site (something we’ll hopefully remedy next year), it meant that trying to get into that 10 AM panel presented not only some highway issues…

atlanta traffic

But also actually making our way to that early panel in light of the parade. The sidewalks packed with people, we struggled to reach the Whedonverse panel over at the Westin, only to find it packed.

Boooo!

No problem, we’ll just go to our back-up TruBlood panel… across the street… across a sea of bodies in costumes.

Hmmm.

Which brings us to our first real story. We’re pushing through the mob, but are unsure how we’ll actually get to the Hyatt when behind us we hear a guy asking to get through… carrying a young woman in his arms, passed out from overheating. Of course we make room, as do many of the others lined up on the sidewalk. As they pass, she lifts her head and smiles before resuming her previous “unconscious” state.

Though, Karma is a thing, because the parade was over less than a minute later, so all their deceit got them nothing.

Terminus Media had a panel on Saturday night at 10 PM to discuss the motion comics we’d been working on for the CDC, and to talk about the motion comics side of things in general. Myself and Robert Jeffrey II (a contributor to Tessera) were a part of the panel. About 15 people showed up, and even though there was no real rehearsal, I think we acquitted ourselves pretty well.

It is always weird to see something you had a hand in creating being shown on a screen for others to see (in a good way). Hopefully we did a decent enough job that Dragon Con will invite us to do more next year.

Ran into (literally in couple of cases) a few friends I had not seen in a while. As I touched on last week, that’s one of the biggest and best things about the con – reconnecting. Finding out how everyone is doing. This year I also got to show a complete con newbie around. And she enjoyed it enough that she went ahead and got her 4 day pass for next year.

Aside from not being able to get into the Whedonverse panel (luckily we did get into the Agents of Shield panel on Sunday which had plenty of Whedon love) and not being able to see Cary Elwes (another capped line), there was one big “problem”. The Dealers room is a bit of a nightmare to deal with. I know they are expanding again next year, but there were multiple times that people couldn’t get into the building or into a room because it had reached capacity. If Dragon Con is going to keep getting bigger, they need to figure out a way to handle that.

stock-footage-loopable-seamless-cyclic-animated-sequence-with-expanding-circles-usual-for-presentations-movies

Expand, DCon, expand.

Second story of the con – We are ready to leave for the night. It is about 11:45 Saturday evening. I am finished with the Terminus panel and am looking forward to getting home, to bed, and then back again the next day for more fun. We only have to get down the outside stairs of the Hyatt, which for some reason the DCON staff decided to block (with their bodies) so as to allow a line for one of the late night panels to move through.

Now, I don’t have a problem with this if it takes a minute or two. When it takes 10 minutes then maybe you need to pause that line and let the queue of people on the stairs out to where they might be able to get to meeting spots, late dinners, gaming, or home (in our case). What kills me is that they finally did have to pause that line because I think we were about to storm through them. Not the best way to end the night.

Oh, and I did have one huge regret.

C. Thomas Howell had a panel (along with Cary Elwes) and not only did I not know about it, I didn’t know he was there at all. Those that know me know of my fierce love of 80s movies that include C-Tom (as I like to call him).

Yes, they know about it even if they don’t understand it!

Anyway, I just wanted to let him know that he still holds the distinction of being in the greatest volleyball movie of ALL TIME – SideOut.

Sideout

Summer did, in fact, get hotter!

A bold statement, for sure, but one I stand by. Regardless of the fact that I’m not sure there are other volleyball movies!

So that was a bit of my Dragon Con for the year. I can’t wait to see what next year brings!

***

John McGuire

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

The Dark That Follows is now available in print here or on Amazon!

 

Dragon Con Memories

We’re days away from another year of Dragon Con. As you may or may not know, I’ll be at the Terminus Media panel on Saturday night at 8pm. I’m not 100% on what we’ll be discussing, but it should be a fun time to mix it up and talk with some of the local independent comic people around Atlanta.

Dragon Con 2014

Dragon Con is this weird thing for me because it has always been there. I believe the very first time I went I was 15 or 16 and Chad’s dad dropped us off and then picked us up some time later. It is where I first realized that there were these comic book conventions, and where I got my very first comic autographed (issue 300 of Amazing Spider-Man by Todd McFarlane). We were only there for a few hours, but my mind was blown, and I resolved to come back again the following year.

ASM-300

Of course that promise was blown away the very next year when family commitments meant I couldn’t attend and ended up missing a DnD session run by Tracy Hickman (of Dragonlance fame). For the weeks afterward my friends all made sure to let me know what I missed out on.

A year later the Magic the Gathering frenzy had taken over. You had to wake up early, stand in line for some crazy amount of time, and if you were lucky you would get 1 pack of Legends. Now I know that must sound crazy to think that the current set could not be bought at any random comic store, but it was the world we were living in.

The years went by and most of the time I tried to ensure I’d go at least two of the three days. And then when it became a four-day con, I pretty much stuck to  the two days anyway. At the time it felt like they were expanding just to do it… I mean, I could see 90% of what I wanted in 2 days, why bother with 3.

But then a curious thing happened… friends began to move away or maybe they lost interest into going. And soon that group of 10 or so that made it where no matter what panel you wanted to go see or what deal was going on in the Dealer’s room – you’d know about it and have someone to share in the experience. I don’t know about you, but doing things by myself means there is no one to nudge when you see that “cool thing”.

And not long after that, I was the only one going to con… and it became strictly a 1 day thing for me.

I carried the flag for those “dark” years for my group of friends. Sure, I might see a couple of people I knew, but that old core group was nowhere to be found… and it lessened things a bit.

Then came Firefly and Serenity.

ImageDayFireflyMotivational

For most of this time my wife avoided Dragon Con. It was something I think that amused her from a distance. That “thing” John did around Labor Day. Every year I’d ask and nudge and hint that I thought she’d have a great time if she just did 1 day with me.

And she always put it off. Maybe next year. Maybe next year.

Then came Firefly and Serenity. And a panel at Dragon Con with pretty much the whole damn cast.

And I had her.

And she came to Con, and saw the panel, and then saw that Charlene Harris and TruBlood was there and sat in on another panel. And we spent the evening watching the costume contest with some good friends in their room on closed circuit enjoying room service.

That’s all it took.

And suddenly I wasn’t alone anymore. I had my best friend to nudge and point at a cool costume and to experience things with and just enjoy this piece of my own life with her.

Soon enough some of the other friends have drifted back (here and there) to the con. And I get to meet up with newer friends as well… guys and gals I may not have seen in months.

It’s glorious.

At the end of Dragon Con I’m always hit with a slight melancholy. No matter how much I enjoyed myself or even on those years I was bummed out about being by myself… I would still get it. That idea of all these people who shared some passions with me… all these people who said fuck it, I want to enjoy what I want to enjoy and not worry if I look or act silly during these 4 days. I love that about Dragon Con. I love people watching. I love going to panels and seeing tv and movie stars talk about their projects and getting excited about the next big thing. I love going to writing panels in an effort to glean as much information from people in the “know” as possible.

sad panda

It makes me feel not so alone. Because, for a long time there us nerds were out in the wilderness. It wasn’t cool to say that you played DnD or Magic or read comics or liked Anime or played computer games. And for 4 days Dragon Con offered an oasis for those of us who wanted to feel apart of something bigger than just us.

So yeah, at the end of the day on Sunday (most likely I will not be down there on Monday – we’re using it to recover) I’ll get that funny feeling in my stomach that another one of these has ended, and it will be another year before I get the chance to do it again. I’ll be tired, my feet may hurt, and my wallet will likely be lighter, but even with that slight sadness I know that it is only a matter of a little time before we get to do it again.

Hope to see you this weekend!

***

John McGuire

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

The Dark That Follows is now available in print here or on Amazon!

Ten Commandments for writers (or any artist, for that matter)

MosesJunk

 

God has given us these fifteen – Oy! Ten…ten commandments!” – Moses – History of the World, Part I

For any writer, artist, athlete, musician, or human being with any accidental creative intent, I recommend the following list. In my limited, brief, relatively ridiculous experience, these etched-in-stone rules will help (or possibly confound) any man or woman who takes their craft at least somewhat seriously.

1. Thou shalt not have a but a shadow of thy former social life. – Seriously, who needs friends or lovers when you could be sitting on your couch in sweats, agonizing over how much your latest work sucks?

2. Thou shalt possess a cat or dog who sits on thine work and distracteths from the task at hand – Because, you know, it’d be too much trouble for them to sit on the fucking couch like most normal pets.

3. Thou shalt never clicketh on Facebook, Twitter, or any website ever – If you do, you’re fucked.

4. Thou shalt set aside one hour per day to exerciseth, lest thine body turn to jello – Unless of course you’re going for the George RR Martin look. (Because everyone knows success as a writer = scruffiness + BMI x beard length) Yes, for the ladies, too.

5. Thou shalt paint, write, and sketch while tipsy, yet fixeth it all while painfully sober(ish) – They say alcohol and drugs bring out the creative juices.

        5.1 They’re wrong. It just makes fixing your F ups all the more tedious.

SugarSkull

Look! A bamboo skull iPhone case! If I buy it, I’ll waste 20 minutes of productive time…and blow my profits from the last 700 books I sold!

6. Thou shalt be no less than three months late for thine deadlines – At best.

7. Thou shalt sleep no longer than five brokeneth hours per night. Three if you have kids, a spouse, or *gasp* a day-job. None if you’re attempting a social life.

8. Thine bank account shall never explodeth, nor erupt, nor even runneth over – Unless you’re fully decked out with the aforementioned beard, in which case you’ll be swimming in cash. And then, after you’re bearded and rich, you’ll never get laid again. (You’ve got a reputation – and a beard – to uphold.)

9. Thou shalt die alone – Relax. I’m kidding. (But not really.)

10. Thou shalt only know joy when thine project is completeth – And then, because you’re a masochist, you’ll start a new project, looking for that one sharp-as-a-sword ray of sunshine to gleam upon your work once again. Dumbass.

 I could probably stretch this list to 100, but…

Until next week,

J Edward Neill

Author of the Tyrants of the Dead dark fantasy trilogy

Author of The Sleepers and Old Man of Tessera

Down the Dark Path

5 Things I Miss Most from the UK

In 2004 I married a Brit. My daughter and I pulled up roots in the US to live abroad in England (2004 to 2008). We had some hard times, but also many wonderful memories. I regret none of it and given a chance I’d move back in a flash! While living in London I was finally able to come out of my shell, to unfurl my wings creatively. I attended Kensington & Chelsea College for a short course in the Visual Arts; where for the first time I was required to show a portfolio as part of the application. I painted my first piece for the cover of a book. I also discovered the first place in the world where I didn’t feel out-of-place. My daughter and I often talk of the things we miss most, like friends, the museums and the book shops! Here are several more, in no particular order:

 

Outdoor Markets

French Market at Poole Quay

 

Outdoor markets are not confined only to London and other big cities in the UK. I took this photo at the French Market at Poole’s Quay, when I lived there from late 2006 to 2008.

The Cafés

Caffe Nero

I miss my Caffè Nero lattes. I miss them, very much. Don’t judge me. Starbucks, you’re okay but nothing beats Caffè Nero. While Starbucks does have a presence in the UK, I rarely visited one. There are an abundance of café‘s in the UK from big chains like this one to small family owned cafés.

The Gardens

Kew Gardens outside London

There are gardens everywhere. I took the photo above at Kew Gardens, outside London, but there are gardens gracing  many cities across the UK, large and small. Parks and gardens are loved and people flock to them. I wish we could see more parks instead of shopping centers that end up vacant.

Food Standards

 

Sainsbury's Fresh Bread

 

Let’s just say the UK has certain standards the US seems to neglect or simply not care about when it comes to the food it sells its citizens. Many of the additives you hear about in the news here are banned from UK foods. Banned.

Education

Avonmore Primary School - © Copyright Phillip

The school above may not look like much, but it has an excellent record. This is the school my daughter attended in London. When she arrived she was far behind other students her age. In the US she would have been starting the First Grade, but in the UK it was Year 2. That’s right. Their equivalent of Kindergarten is called Reception and it begins at the age of 4 years, their Year 1 (at age 5) is a far more advanced than our Kindergarten. But the amazing teachers and staff at Avonmore Primary had her caught up in no time. They taught my daughter to read and there was no stopping her after that.

Top 10 challenges of being an only child

I can’t recall the last time I answered to anyone.

I’m spoiled rotten in a sense, having obligations that are entirely under my control.

No sibling rivalry, no gift-giving nightmares, no Thanksgiving dinners. No blow-up family fights, no jealousy, no summers stocked with weddings and in-laws.

But long stretches of silence, sometimes deep and dark.

It’s true. All of it. Despite having four half-brothers and sisters, I’m essentially an only child. Strange, I know. I was raised completely separate from the rest of the crew, and thus enjoyed (and suffered) all the peculiarities of being number one all the time. My son is likely destined for the same fate, with all the good and the bad that being an only kid entails. It’s with this in mind I’ve decided to list the Top Ten Good and Bad Things about being numero uno.

And here we go…

1. Fewer people in your life –  I’ve heard friends talk about how they ‘couldn’t imagine life without my siblings,’ and yet I’ve eavesdropped as those same friends carved their brothers and sisters’ behavior to tatters. For my son, I wish he had a friend and confidant other than me and his cadre of Lego Stormtroopers, but I also love that he lives in relative peace, not having to endure the constant tug and pull of a little brother or sister. For me as an adult (sort of) it’s like being on an island. The beach, trees, and water are all mine, but no one else is here. I happen to love it, but perhaps that’s because I’ve never known any better.

2. Large amounts of time to contemplate – My favorite part about being an only is having the luxury of max me-time. Non-only friends have told me the exact opposite (that their favorite part is always having someone to talk to). Both arguments have merit. However, I tend to believe it’s easier to develop a creative passion when alone. An only has no choice in the matter. If he wants to play Hungry Hungry Hippos, he’d better invent his own competition. That’s all I’m sayin’.

3. Selfishness – See also narcissism. Booting one’s self from the center of the universe is no easy task. Learning humility and patience are challenges easier faced with siblings on hand. Need I say more?

4. Maximum one-on-one time with mom and dad – For the little ones, this a good thing. It’s a true luxury to be able to approach mom or dad for whatever you need, whenever you need it. Also, bonding opportunities (at a premium in households overrun with children) come hourly. It’s true that as an adult, I worry about all-my-eggs-in-one-basket syndrome, and if-he-turns-out-to-be-a-serial-killer-I-don’t-really-have-a-plan-B, but I wouldn’t trade my uninterrupted, five-hour long conversations with the G Man for the world.

 

Turkeys

Who’s really the kid here? Him? Me? Hell if I know…

 5. Holidays – While it’s true that I and some of my only-child friends share a snicker every time we hear about family gatherings gone awry, that’s hardly the whole story. In secret, while other huge families full of brothers, sisters, in-laws, and hordes of children are gathering for backyard-shaking parties, I’ll admit to sitting on the sidelines and being green with envy. ‘Looks pretty fun,’ I’ll tell myself. ‘Maybe I’ll sneak in and pretend to be someone’s cousin.

6. Empathy – From personal experience, this one is tough. Being an only child can boost creativity through the ceiling, but it can also result in ruthlessness. Growing up in a quiet household without any sense of other people’s feelings tends to leave one a little behind in the race. Kudos to you only-children who’ve managed to catch up. If you’ve got any pointers, I’m listening.

7. Sportsmanship – Until I developed a circle of friends in my teens, I had none of this. If I didn’t destroy my competition in every way possible, I went home hating the world. I see evidence of crappy sportsmanship in other only-children. I have to believe it’s due to never getting our asses kicked enough by older brothers or being humbled by having to play fair with younger sisters. Parents of only-children, beware. Teach them how to lose. It’s a key life skill.

Punchout

Your lunch money, or else!

8. A Shoulder to Cry on – Everyone needs this at some point in their lives. And if that person has a parent or spouse with whom to share sorrows, that’s great. But there’s nothing like a sibling (or so I’m told) for leaning on during tough times. They were there with you. They know what it was like.  Common experiences create common ground. My advice to other only’s; marry into a big family and be cool to your in-laws.

9. Vacations – Which is better: Riding alone with mom and dad or riding with someone to torment on the way to the beach? I don’t have the answer. I’m asking you. If anyone wants to experiment by riding with me in the backseat while Clearwater-bound, let’s do this.

10. All the Things I Haven’t Thought of – Here’s the thing; since I’ve never fought on a battlefield stuffed with siblings, sometimes I feel like there’s an entire world of experiences I’ve missed. Don’t get me wrong. I’d never trade being an only. It’s awesome. It’s epic. It’s do-whatever-I-feel-like-tastic. But still…I can’t help but be curious. As a side-note, and something I never noticed before today, every book and story I’ve written is populated almost exclusively with only’s. The heroes, the villains, the characters in the backdrop. Only’s, all of them save two. I guess that means I’m biased, eh? Maybe it’s time to step outside my comfort zone…

 

Love,

J Edward Neill

Author of the Tyrants of the Dead dark fantasy trilogy

Author of The Sleepers and Old Man of Tessera

Down the Dark Path

Put Me In Coach, I’m Ready to Play

The following is about baseball and me betraying my math inclined side of my brain.

But mostly it is about baseball.

Of all the sports, I believe that Baseball is the one most steeped in mysticism. There is a magic about it, sure, but more than that, I think there is something to all the superstitions and whatnot. More than any other sport, it is the one that focuses so much on numbers. As science has gotten better and better, they have managed to distill the game into an algorithm. And the math side of my brain loves this idea – solving baseball.

We have movies celebrating this idea.

field-of-dreams

But the other half of my brain wonders about sucking out the mystery of the game. Where a nobody can turn into a somebody, if only for one at bat. Where we value a player because he only fails 70% of the time. Where a pitcher can attempt to do something that only 23 other players have ever done: pitch a perfect game. Think about that. In over 100 years only 23 people have played the game perfectly. I look at the list and see names that are steeped in lore, but there are other names on there who I don’t immediately recognize.

How do you solve for that?

At some point tomorrow night (I’m writing this sometime on Monday) I’ll be settling in to watch the Baseball All-Star Game. I don’t always watch the All-Star game. As much as I love baseball, the game doesn’t mean the same to me it did years ago…

Wait – this isn’t one of those things where I say such and such was better back in the day. It wasn’t better. In fact, it was pretty much the same. The difference is that I’m not 10 anymore. The thrill of seeing an Atlanta Brave in the game is still cool, but there was something more to it when I was younger. The one thing I seemed to be able to count on was Dale Murphy being on the tv at some point during the All Star Game. As bad as the Braves were (and boy were they awful), I knew one of our team would be out there.

1986DaleMurphyDonrussCard1

I have this card upstairs.

Which is why I’m always amazed when I hear the sports talk machine complaining (bitching) about the fact that each team has to be represented. So that means 15 of your spots are automatically taken. They say that someone is going to be left off the team that deserves to be there… and maybe they are right. But considering the sheer amount of injuries that happen to players, it is not that uncommon for 3rd, 4th, or 5th alternates to get invited to play as well.

So that “loser” from the “loser” team, did they really take someone’s place? Not really.

Just like when the NCAA Basketball tournament has to decide on cutting the 67, 68, & 69th teams, there is always going to be someone annoyed at a choice.

Here’s my counter argument that throws stats and logic out the window. An argument that tries to look at the purpose of this mid-summer classic.

And no, it is not because “this time it counts”. That is the dumbest thing about the All-Star Game. Home field given to the league who wins… ugh.

I think back to a time when I was happy to see that at least Dale Murphy was going to be on the All Star team. There would be one player from MY TEAM who would make it worth while to watch.

In a time when baseball’s ratings get trounced by the new American pastime (football), why would you want to exclude ANY fan base from watching the game? It wouldn’t make any sense.

More than that, who is to say that the “loser”, that one guy who was the last one to make the team… what if it just happens to be a magical night for him? Don’t you think there will be some 10-year-old out there who sees that and forever falls in love with this silly game of hitting a ball with a stick?

left-brain-right-brain

Logic and stats and numbers be damned when it comes to baseball. Something else moves the ball through the grass. Some bit of wind carries a fly ball higher and farther than it was supposed to go. And the guy who wasn’t supposed to be there… well, maybe tonight is his night.

We shall see.

 

***

John McGuire

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

The Dark That Follows is now available in print here or on Amazon!

Half Way There

At the beginning of the year I wrote a blog post talking about my goals for the year. We’re just over half way through 2014, so I thought it would be a good time to check in on this year’s goals and note any other happy writing things.

To-Do-List_604

Comics – This was a big section of the blog mentioning future issues of Gilded Age, Tiger Style, and Entropy. Sadly there has been little to no movement on these (not my fault, I promise!). Some of it has to do with funding, some to artist timing, and others to the grand thing that is life. I still have some hopes to see a Gilded Age #2 at some point in the Fall, and that Entropy #1 could get underway as well.

This is going to have to fall under the old “fingers crossed” bit.

NovelsThe White Effect – It is my goal to have this book out this year. I believe that will still happen, though again, the year is speeding by. As soon as I finish my current project, this will become my all-consuming focus. I’ve been looking for editors for this tale, so I should have one lined up by the time I’m done with the 3rd draft.

Hollow Empire – Life has intruded on this one more than anything else on this list. I still need a last editor eye on my portion of it, but that had to be delayed while I was out of work (not expecting that one – hard to pay for editing when you have no job). Now that I am returned to the path of the employed, this is getting done and soon.

SONY DSC

That’s a whole lot of incomplete. So what things have I been doing, if not the above?

Edge of the World – The current Work In Progress. This is what I’m happiest about. I just passed the 1/2 point in the novel and I’m very much digging the story. I’m liking it so much that I keep finding new things and avenues to explore within the world. New characters have made themselves known and demand to have some page time. And I’ve experienced that magic moment when you write something and then have it tie into something else you weren’t entirely expecting… like magic.

Blogging – Still haven’t missed a week. This is on track for 27  weeks (now 28).

Website -I have a website now. And while I didn’t do the heavy lifting (a heap of thanks to Tanya Woods for that), I have been trying to keep it updated. This should have been on the list, but wasn’t, but I’ll count it as a win.

4 Shorts to online magazines – I haven’t submitted anything, but I did complete a short story (Piece by Piece) and posted it on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords (and at the latter 2 it is completely free – and you can also find it here and here for download). So another positive step forward.

Kindle Worlds Novella – When I capped off the Jan 1 blog, I said there probably will be something that pops up that wasn’t even on my radar back in January. This Veronica Mars novella was definitely one of those. With my lovely wife as co-writer, we got this out there at the end of April. So that was another one in the win column.

The Dark That Follows – Lastly, my debut novel finally exists in PRINT (here)! Another one that should have been on the list. Regardless, this was a cool day.

2010-Biodiversity_countdown (1)

So that’s it, as far as I can tell. 6 months in and the one thing I’ve really learned is that I need to get my butt in gear. There’s plenty of time left to do what I set out to do, but that time is going to speed by if I’m not careful.

 

***

John McGuire

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

The Dark That Follows is now available in print here or on Amazon!

 

Lemonade on the porch

Lemonade on the porch

Noun

1. A state of contentment.

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

3. The whole point of it all.

LemonadeOnThePorch

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

 

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

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

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

Book Bucket List:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 J Edward Neill

Author of the Tyrants of the Dead dark fantasy trilogy

Author of The Sleepers and Old Man of Tessera

Down the Dark Path

 

Summer sucks for writing

SkullMelt

North Georgia. Circa the dead of summer 2014.

It’s hot out there. It’s sunny, muggy, steamy. The 4th of July is right around the corner. My skull is melting…

I’m more or less taking a vacation from writing this weekend, but before I dump ice over my head, shut my laptop down, and take my long-awaited rum runner/margarita bath, I have a few things I’d like to say:

Summer is terrible for writing. Especially writing horror and dark fantasy. Especially for me.

During early spring, late autumn, and winter’s dregs, it’s easy. I look out my window and see clouds. I open my door and feel the wind and rain wash over me. I hear the leaves crunching beneath my boots, the sound so very like bones breaking. It’s easy for me to get in a writing mood. The night comes sooner. My phone is quieter. My kid, bless his wee fiery heart, can walk outside and play without turning into hot, crispy bacon. Mmmm…bacon.

But in summer, it’s pure chaos. Everyone wants to party. There’s always a pool needing invading, a cool drink requiring sipping, and a friend whose barbeque needs to find its way into my belly. Summer is a big, loud, hot, sweaty mess. I love everything about it, except that it makes sitting in the dark, alone with my imagination, a little trickier. I could probably wage war against all the distractions and max out on my silent time, but…nah. I’ll just play both sides. I’ll bake all day and write all night. Instead of a haunting Hans Zimmer soundtrack, I’ll crank up Danzig’s Dirty Black Summer. Instead of candles, I’ll open the windows at midnight and let the white hot starlight in. I’ll party and I’ll write. Sleep is for dead men.

Mmmm…bacon.

Since I’m shorting Tessera several hundred words this week, I’ll make it up to you with a few links. These are my favorite Tessera Guild articles of all time. Some are mine; some belong to my guildmates. We’ve been around long enough now that even if you’ve already read these, you might enjoy a recap. I know I did:

Top Ten Villains of All Time

John R McGuire’s Grab Bag

Amanda Makepeace’s Zen Time

Longing For Rain

Chad J Shonk’s Summer is Coming. Baseball is Here.

Now I just need to find a way to get back to the beach, if only for a day or two.

See you on the flip side,

J Edward Neill

 

 

 

New Studio Assistant

 

These week I hired a new studio assistant. She knows nothing about brushes, paints or Photoshop but I’m sure she’ll be a quick study. Drusilla is eager and full of creative drive. I met her at the dog groomers over the weekend and I knew then she’d make a perfect edition to the creative family. She’s already begun learning about colored pencils and of course, brushes. I’m going to have to watch her with those–she keeps trying to munch on them.

Drusilla MakepeaceDid I fool you?! Probably not. If you follow me on the web anywhere I’ve been posting photos of this little angel almost non-stop. She’s just too precious!

And, she looks just like Shadow. It was a little surreal when I walked into the dog groomers Saturday morning and saw her sitting near the door. My heart clenched and I tried not to look at her. It must have been fate. She’d been found inside a car engine and she has the scars on her nose to prove it. The small, very friendly kitten, was also severely underweight. I brought her home and within days she was gaining weight and running around the studio.

Up until yesterday, we were not positive on whether she was actually a she and that was partly due to her weight and overall scruffiness. The Veterinarian confirmed yesterday we indeed have a little girl and except for some tummy bugs, she was in good health.

I can’t take credit for the name, but I also didn’t need any convincing. Drusilla was my mother’s suggestions. And yes, she is named after that Drusilla. 😀

Drusilla is already taking after Shadow. She likes to sleep right up near my face and she lunged and hissed at the dog yesterday. She’s a fighter and a survivor, but also incredibly loving. I still miss Shadow terribly but this little look-a-like warms my heart. Before long she’ll be sitting in my lap, snoozing as I paint.

Drusilla

For fellow Buffy the Vampire Slayer Fans, you may be interested in my videos from Dragon*Con 2012. I have two videos from a panel with actors Juliet Landau (Drusilla) and Spike (James Marsters). Here’s Part 1, check my profile for Part 2.

Time to Put the Brush Down

Follow the smell of oil paints, the trail of art frames and pencil shavings–that’s where you’ll find me. It’s non-stop right now. I’ve been busy embellishing prints for Dragon*Con, working on a oil painting (what was I thinking??), and amassing a collection of frames for the art show. I love it! But every artist must venture forth from the studio to the real world. What keeps me sane amidst the rush of creativity?

1. Walking – I started a new routine of walking the circle of our neighborhood. It’s just shy of 2 miles. Unfortunately, I had to put that on hold when I took a small tumble down our stairs. No broken bones, but I do have a bruised tailbone that is still causing me pain two weeks later. I’m hoping to get back to my walking routine next week.

2. Longmire is back. – Wait. Did you think I only watched Science Fiction/Fantasy type shows? I do have other loves and this is one of them. You can’t go wrong with me if you put together a crime show, set in the west, with a strong Native American cast (not that you can tell from the photo below). Katee Sackhoff is in the show too. She’s been a favorite since BSG. The big guy there, who plays Walt Longmire, he was an agent in the first Matrix film. Seriously! And of course there’s Lou Diamond Philips. When Longmire isn’t on I’ve been re-watching Fringe from the beginning. How I miss that show!

Longmire Cast

3. Comics – I’ve been devouring them lately. It’s what I find most relaxing before I shut my eyes at night. Here’s a peek at what I’ve read and what I’m still reading. I’ve read so much lately that I couldn’t easily post them all.

Digital:

The Gilded Age by John McGuire  Saga Vol 1  Latverian Prometheus

Paper:

 

 

Journey into Mystery: The Complete Collection Vol 1  Loki: Agent of Asgard  Trees  The Wicked + The Divine

 

Walking, a little TV, reading comics and of course studio time–that’s my life right now. 🙂

A New Chapter (sticks and bones)

Realms_Art_Pile_of_Human_Bones_Vue_25_0_imgM

 

 

 

I’ve missed ye, old bones.

I’ve been so busy of late, I’ve neglected you.

Never again. I promise.

Now that my whirlwind of new releases is over, and now that this and this are darkening the internets, life is somewhat back to normal.

Check that. Life is completely not normal at all.

For so many reasons: personal, professional, diabolical, the corners I’ve turned have led me to a new realm of space and time. My old comfort zone of sit back and write is lost…and a new zone being born. I have less than half the amount of time to write as I used to. My hours of peace and quiet have turned to minutes. Life tugs at me from all directions, popping my arms and legs from their sockets, stretching my creativity to its limit. I have marketing to do…endless marketing. I have a kid to raise, a home to inhabit, and little wars everywhere to win.

My response to this challenge? Do better. Write more. Logic be damned, I will become the machine my inner artist wants me to be. I’ll scrape off life’s barnacles and sail faster than ever. I will, I will, I will.

So then, my two weeks of self-imposed writing vacation are over. Books one and two of Tyrants of the Dead are published. It’s time now for my penultimate project, my coup de fantasy gras. I’ve decided that once I’m finished with book three, I’ll never again write an epic fantasy series. I’ll stick to traditional length fantasy, and I’ll continue branching off into sci-fi and horror…and maybe even *gasp* erotica (though I still need a model to shoot the cover art for that whole idea) but my days of writing 400k word-count epics need to end. For sanity’s sake.

Which leads me to book three: Nether Kingdom. With Nether Kingdom, I expect to knock all my previous efforts off of their darkest novel of all time pedestals. I’m aiming high (and not just word-count wise). I don’t want a nice, clean wrap-up to the series. I don’t plan to mail it in. Just because NK is my last planned epic doesn’t mean I’m not gearing up for it to be my best work ever. I’m trying to redefine the genre, punch every expectation in the mouth, and give Tolkien himself a run for his money. I want my villains to make my readers sick to their stomachs, my heroine to scrape rock bottom, and every character in-between to love and hate as hard as any real-life human could ever dream of. I want to plunk fantasy, sci-fi, literary fiction, and horror into a blender and spin out a liquor so frosty and delicious the patrons at chateau d’ J Edward will never want to return to their dreary days of Twilight, 50 Shades, and the 700,000 varieties of sexy gay vampire steampunk currently drowning the market.

Ur Shadow Black and White

Eileen Herron’s Ur sketch. Aka; a glimpse of the world’s end.

Thus it begins. As of tonight, I’m sitting down to carve up NK‘s 300k words into something less…paper weight-ish. I’ll cast some long shadows, sprinkle some grave-ash, and light some violet Ur fires. I’ll do the same every night for the next six months or until all that’s left of me are bones. I’ll still write for Tessera and over here, and maybe I’ll fire off a short story sequel to this, but otherwise I’ll not be side-tracked. No booze, no sex, no fist fights with hobos or long, slow trips to the beach. I’ll be a machine. I’ll date my characters. I’ll get drunk off the words.

Because…in the end…this is what makes me happy.

Love,

J Edward Neill

Update {March 3rd, 2017} – Nether Kingdom, the final book in the Tyrants of the Dead series, is complete. Read it here.

Taking the Next Step

“Seize The Moment because you never know if that moment will ever come your way again. I know that when I look back at my life, I will see the memories of all the little adventures that I didn’t let pass me by.” – Cody Atencio

Sometimes, even when we don’t think we’re ready, we have to take the next step. That was me four months ago when I finally decided to take the plunge and apply to the Dragon*Con Art Show. The idea, the seed, was planted when I met artist Charles Urbach during the last year’s convention. I’ve talked about our conversation and the encouragement he offered at length, but I was still on the fence as to whether I should apply or not. I decided to take a leap and wouldn’t you know it, it was one of the best things I’ve ever done.

Dragon*Con is a Juried Art Show. It’s not an Artists Alley you see at some typical Fantasy/SciFi conventions. This year’s jurors were Michael C. HayesPatrick J. Jones and Thomas Kuebler. Wow. Wow. Wow. That made me even more nervous but I’d already decided to ‘seize the moment.’ After an excruciating month of waiting, where I’d told only a handful of people what I’d done, I received notification that I’d passed the jury selection. I was in shock. I think a part of me is still in shock. I celebrated with my family two weeks later when I received notice again that I was to be placed on the Art Show Floor.

To think. . . I almost didn’t even apply.

Let’s be honest now. As much as my friends and family lather me with compliments, I know I’m in the infancy of my digital painting skills. Some things I have a strong grasp of and others I’m not quite there yet.

One painting from February 2013 and one from November of the same year.

But I’m learning and I like to think I’m improving, but the message here is stop waiting for your dreams to come true. If you want something, ‘seize the moment,’ go after it with a passion. When I stopped by Charles’ table last year he took a look at a few of my paintings, and asked me, ‘Why aren’t you here?” (Or something close to that.) I’m sure at the time I looked like a deer in headlights. He said, even if you don’t make the cut the experience is valuable. It’s a process all artists have to go through as they are trying to make their way in the world. I know this but I was stuck in thinking I needed to hone my skills more–I was convinced I wasn’t ready. I kept telling myself I needed another year. I was wrong. Even if I had not passed the jury, the experience has helped me grow. The juror comments have helped me grow.

Comment #1:  Nice work! Keep working on your anatomy and you will go far.

Comment #2:  Human facial anatomy needs work. More expression. Even if the subject is in repose more facial definition and distinction would be helpful.

Her Domain by Amanda Makepeace

Her Domain, 2013

So what is the next step?

I’ve made the cut. I’m in the Dragon*Con 2014 Art Show and now that I am, I am pre-approved for future Art Shows. Next year I’m going to have a bazaar table in the Art Show room. That’s my goal. From now until then I’m going to ‘seize the moment’ again and work to improve my human anatomy. I’m going to do whatever it takes, legally, to keep growing.

As for this year’s Art Show. . . I will be attending Dragon*Con all four days. I will be lurking around the show and I will be available to talk art, illustration, Fantasy, etc. To keep up with where I’ll be and when I suggest following me on Twitter. I’m not always super active there but I will be during the convention.

Don’t Fall for the Trap

Charles de Lint quoteIt’s easy to lose sight of our path. It’s easy to paint what everyone else is painting. It’s easy to think I’ll never be as good as “them.” It’s easy to fall into the trap.

If you aren’t painting for you, you’re stifling your own creative voice. This makes you unique, what sets you apart from other artists. There are dozens of artist/illustrators I admire, and there is a small part of me that hopes and wishes I might be as great as them one day. But focusing on that won’t get me anywhere. As much as I admire Todd Lockwood, Cynthia Sheppard, Dan Dos Santos, and Cory Godbey (to name only a few), trying to be them is a trap. Read more