Five ways I refuse to market my books

Everyone will agree.

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

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

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

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

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

*

*

No Hashtags

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

But…

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

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

*

*

*

*

No Review Swaps

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

“No thanks.”

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

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

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

Nah.

*

*

No Paying to Enter Writing Contests

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

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

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

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

*

No ‘Best-Selling’ BS

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

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

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

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

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

Lies do not become us.

*

*

No Spam

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

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

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

*

More things I can’t bring myself to do:

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

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

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

*

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

J Edward Neill

Painter of Shadows

Writer of books about star-destroying space vampires

 

The most anonymous memory ever

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

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

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

This is what I found:

***

There are many variations to the story.

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

Despite not being born yet, I could see all.

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

This is home.

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

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

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

***

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

J Edward Neill

Storysmith and Painter of Darkness

 

Tessera Guild at the Atlanta Sci-Fi and Fantasy Expo 2017 – March 11 and 12

Come meet the members of the Tessera Guild at the third annual Atlanta Sci-Fi and Fantasy Expo on March 11th and 12th, 2017.

North DeKalb Mall in Decatur, GA. Admission is free.

Robert Jeffrey IIJohn McGuire, and Egg Embry, along with Sir Leland Beauchamp, will host four panels over the two days:

 

I AM BlackSci-Fi.com
Saturday, March 11th from 3:00 to 3:50 EST

Hosted by Robert Jeffrey II as well as William Satterwhite

“Since its inception BlackSci-Fi.com’s goal has been to be “the premier site for the latest updates on Sci-Fi, Sci-Fact and Fantasy entertainment, news, people, places, and events and the measure of their impact on the African-American community, while also seeking to inform and inspire the imagination of individuals who aspire to live beyond the boundaries of everyday life”

Join Editor-in-Chief Robert Jeffrey II, and contributing writer William Satterwhite as they discuss the in’s and out’s of working for BlackSci-Fi.com, the websites goals and future plans, while touching on the general state of Black speculative fiction.”

 

You wrote something. Now what?
Saturday, March 11th from 5:00 to 5:50 EST

Hosted by Robert Jeffrey II as well as Bobby Nash and Milton Davis

“Join writers Bobby Nash, Milton Davis, and Robert Jeffrey as they discuss what happens after (or during) writing a book (novel, comic, short story, etc). Enjoy this insightful look into each writers path to becoming a published author followed by a Q&A session.”

 

John McGuire co-hosting: Freelance Writing and the 9 to 5

Freelance Writing and the 9 to 5
Sunday, March 12th from 3:00 to 3:50 EST

Hosted by John McGuire, Robert Jeffrey II as well as Nicole Kurtz, and William Satterwhite

“The Ups, the Downs, and Everything Between
By day, mild-mannered 9 to 5-er, but by night they create worlds! Join freelance writers as they discuss keeping a balance between the daily rigors of their 9-5s and writing careers.”

 

Sir Leland Beauchamp co-hosting: Dice, Kickstarter, Cash-in

Dice, Kickstarter, Cash-in
Sunday, March 12th from 12:00 to 12:50 EST

Hosted by Egg Embry and Sir Leland Beauchamp

“Role-play, write-up, and crowdfund your RPG adventures!
Have an original adventure, series of monsters, or tabletop game? Interested in crowdfunding its publication? Join Egg Embry and Leland Beauchamp for a a beginner’s guide to monetizing your tabletop RPG products. We’ll create a D&D creature to take through a hypothetical Kickstarter (idea to pitch to funding to production to delivery to what comes next).”

 

Egg Embry co-hosting: Dice, Kickstarter, Cash-in

For directions to North DeKalb Mall and this free convention, visit the ASFE website here.

 

 

* * *

 

 

Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer™

Wanna-lancer™ Checklist T-shirt available at Cafepress

Missed the show? Interested in being a wanna-lancer? Start with the official Wanna-lancer Checklist t-shirt or wall clock or ice tea glass!

 

 

* * *

 

 

Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press. His purchases have been published by:

Why Collaborate?

Every day that I keep at this – the writing, the editing, the story-telling – I’m hopefully getting a little better. But much like an athlete who trains by themselves, eventually they must turn to others in order to truly gauge how good they are, where their deficiencies might lie, and what things they can do to simply improve overall. They say you can never improve unless you are playing with people who are better than you are.

It’s not that much different on the writing side. Except that writing lends itself more to the solo aspect. You could go days or weeks or months without any feedback on the next project you’re writing. The only comfort you gain is knowing the story is progressing. That, too, can be just as maddening.

I think it is why I not only like to collaborate, but I seem to seek out such opportunities whenever I can.

During the earliest days of Terminus Media, when it was just a group of 5-6 guys trying to figure the whole “writing” thing out. Times where we might not even know what we did not know. Every week was a new potential project, every week was a new idea presented by someone at the table, and we did our best to foster that sharing. You could see where other people were having problems, and hopefully, not make the same mistakes on your own work (you inevitably did, of course).

I started to learn how to accept (constructive) criticism by sharing my words with others. I learned that the best way to learn was to DO the work. If there was a project that needed something written, the following week was spent figuring out how to actually write a short film script, or a TV script, or a comic script.

One week I had no idea and the next, knowledge replaced the nothingness.

Years later, Mr. Neill and I were talking about a serialized possibility. Here we both were trying to finish novels or start new ones, but there was something about getting our heads together and seeing what could happen.

Hollow Empire happened.

The biggest benefit, unseen by me (and probably cursed by Jeremy later) was editing. You effectively add a partner in this realm as well. Hopefully their strengths can fix your weaknesses and vice versa. Perhaps you are a little too sparse in your descriptions and your partner too sparse on the dialogue – now’s the perfect opportunity to learn from each other.

In those first drafts, which Jeremy edited to the bone, my prose got a little tighter. When I got new chapters in from him, it forced me to push to get better. I wanted him to be excited when my emails came rolling in. We all need to be pushed. Having a partner, someone you are accountable to, means that when you aren’t hitting your deadlines then you’re letting someone else down. Building the world through these characters in a way that makes the whole work really about those characters more than about the “Big Events” which may be going on around them.

Getting better with every keystroke.

In the last couple of years, I’ve worked with Robert Jeffrey on a pair of projects. Each of us bringing some ideas to the table and we settled on one idea from each list: The Crossing & Entropy.

The thing is that with another head there, you obviously have double the potential ideas. However, you are really forced to push your own ego aside… for the betterment of the story. When it is only you, it means a singular vision, but it also means you’re pretty much confined to whatever the old brain comes up with. With another person contributing ideas, you have more opportunities to find the best idea. You’re no longer insular… BUT you have to be willing to allow the other person to have that idea. If you are the type of writer who can’t deal with writing “someone else’s story” then you might as well stay a solo act.

To live in someone else’s world where much of the original idea was someone else’s, but you could still be a cog in the machine and help it get further than it could have done on their own. The ability to make something better than one person simply through the ideas being shared and passed back.

But the best part is being able to lean on someone else to help carry a bit of the workload. And when Writer’s Block threatens to show up, you simply give your co-writer a call or email. That way they can talk you off the ledge, getting you back to work all the sooner.

The dirty secret about all of this, whether it is short stories, novels, comics, film, or whatever… it doesn’t have to be such a lonely pursuit. You DON’T HAVE to go it alone. You can help your fellow creators, and they can help you as well.

Hopefully each learning a little bit more through the experience.

 

***

John McGuire

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

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

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

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

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

The death of 2016 – It wasn’t ALL bad

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

hny

2016 was one helluva ride, right?

Almost everyone famous ever passed away.

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

And the best Star Wars film ever came out.

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

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

My Mother – The Horse Diver

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

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

*

Killing Your Darlings or Editing My Overused Words

writing

*

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

screen-shot-2016-09-21-at-9_49_58-am-384x500

*

Inside One Artist’s Mind

table2-500x375

*

Three Little Sunsets in Florida

untitled-3

*

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

agent-carter_612x816-375x500

*

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

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

pigs

* * *

Here’s to everyone having an amazing 2017!

The Tessera Guild Team

J Edward Neill

John McGuire

Egg Embry

Robert Jeffrey II

 Amanda Makepeace

Chad J Shonk

Resolutions, 2017

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

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

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

Writing Dark

The Look Back – 2016

The White Effect

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

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

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

The Edge of the World

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

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

Maybe I’m a glutton for punishment.

S.O.U.L. Mate

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

Where the hell did the year go?

The Dark That Follows 2

No update on this one.

The Crossing Comic

No update on this one.

Mystery Comic

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

Blogging

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

Mystery Book

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

Short Stories

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

blue-five

The Look Ahead – 2017

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

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

The White Effect

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

Edge of the World

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

S.O.U.L. Mate

Finish 1st draft. Finish 2nd draft.

That seems realistic.

The Gilded Age

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

We shall see.

Short stories

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

Veronica Mars Novella 2

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

blogging-image

Blogging

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

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

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

 

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

 

***

John McGuire

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

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

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

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

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

Sadly, There Is No Easy Button For You

Spam has taken on a new meaning for me ever since I decided to publish The Dark That Follows and start writing a weekly blog. Then again, spam has probably morphed over time regardless to what I’ve done. It just seems I’m paying attention to some of it more than I might have been in the past.

no-junk-mail

“Click here to sell more books today!”

“Learn how to drive more traffic to your blog!”

“The only way to write 10k words in a minute!”

“Make her excited-” erm… OK, maybe not that one. But you get the point.

According to when and where I actually come across these potential articles/blog posts/click-bait/random something else all determines as to if I’ll actually click on them. Yes, many times I stumble across them while I’m in the midst of some other internet rabbit hole, but most of the time I search these damn things out.

Why?

I mean, I’m not dumb. I get what they are doing. However, I also am in this weird place whereby I want to learn the secrets they supposedly have to share. I keep thinking that while I might not be Shakespeare or Twain or insert your favorite author here in talent level, there are literally hundreds of authors who have figured all of this out while not… well, they try, but…

OK, let’s face it. A lot of them aren’t very good at actually stringing two words together. Ask them to put more than four or five in a row with punctuation? Well, that’s the end of that idea.

But they have it figured out. Right?

easy-button

They’ve found the magical EASY BUTTON! So I click on their link and read and try to find that nugget of information which will blow my mind. That knowledge where just prior to it I was only a monkey and now afterwards I am able to use tools and make a fire. This is the type of stuff I’m looking for.

It eludes me.

I do everything wrong. Or in the wrong order. Or I’m impatient. Or I’m too patient. I don’t have enough time to write. I have too much time to write. I goof off. I don’t goof off. I should reach out to more people. How do you reach out to more people? Get involved with a group. I did that, nothing’s changed.

My mind becomes a barren wasteland full of left over billboards which say the above… dotting the horizon with their mocking attempts to “HELP” me.

***

A side story – When I applied to go to Georgia Tech there was a little spot on the form where you could put a Major or you could put Undecided. Now when I filled this out, I was in the midst of thinking I wanted to be a computer programmer. As such, during my senior year in high school I took a Computer Programming class. I’m pretty sure I was doing well in the class (well enough), and the last thing I wanted to do was put Undecided. That might make it seem like I didn’t have my shit together (I was 18… of course I didn’t have my shit together). So I put Computer Science down.

Fast forward to my first quarter at Tech. I’ve long since given up the idea of going into computers. By the end of the year I just didn’t feel like I “got it”. It was hard to explain, but I figured out I wanted to go into Civil Engineering.

And that’s when I found out that because Civil Engineering was “Full” I couldn’t transfer in. However, I could have done so if I had been Undecided.

<Slaps head.>

So I went and talked to the head of the department during the Fall. He told me to come back during Winter Quarter. So I went during Winter Quarter… still no openings. Come Spring I was beginning to wonder if I needed to escalate this foolishness. Maybe reach out to someone else (not sure who I was going to reach out to, but something needed to be done!).

I knew the classes I needed to take. Nothing prevented me from taking them. As long as there was an opening in them, you could enroll in pretty much any class. When I went to talk to the new head of the department he gave me more of the same song and dance.

<I wonder if this was the same game the insurance companies do when they immediately deny anything you apply for thinking that most will stop there?>

At that point I’d had enough of the run around. I remember shaking his hand, thanking him for his time, and letting him know that I would see him that Summer to have the same conversation. Furthermore, I knew the classes I needed to take to become a Civil Engineer, and that was the path I was going to head down. So whether he let me in then or in a year I was going to get in.

He blinked. Asked me if I was telling the truth about my classes that quarter (I was). There was a pause, and then he asked to see my form to transfer into the School of Civil Engineering.

***

wall-crack

I wrote the above to remind myself that this writing gig is just the same.

I’m stubborn.

This is my gift. This is my curse.

I will bang my head against that wall until the wall collapses.

***

John McGuire

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

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

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

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

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

Behind the Comic – Anatomy of a Panel

behindthemusic-thumb-3

One panel.

How much can we cram into one panel? It’s one moment of a story. Yet, in a medium where you might only have 5-6 of them on a page, and then perhaps only 20-24 pages total… there’s not a lot of room to waste. Every panel has to have a purpose within the story.

gildedage0204_pencils-panel-1

 

The Gilded Age

At a time where the Industrial Revolution collides with the twilight of magic, the vaudevillian Branning Troupe, made up of actors and carnival folk, moves throughout Europe performing its acts. And each member has their own desires and secrets…

Issue #2

Page 4 – Panel 1&2

The Team

Pencils – Sheldon Mitchell

Inks – Rich Perotta

Colors – Tom Chu

Letters – Khari Sampson

Concept

A slight cheat, but as you can see, these two panels are really pieces of each other. Much like on TV or at the movies where I wanted to try to emulate that idea of transferring from a previous moment to this moment… here and now. Then we pull out to see this man: Silas Gideon. As much as anything else, and even though we see him on the first 3 pages, this is our real introduction to the man for whom this story is about.

So what do we see?

A gun, empty glasses, a mechanical arm, a long face, and scars… lots and lots of scars. This is a man who, as the previous pages would show, has been through wars. More than that, this is a man who is weary. Perhaps someone who has to find a bit of sanctuary inside the bottom of a glass. Someone who knows the way of the gun and is tired of it.

The Script

Page 4 Panel 1

Inset panel.  Close-up on Silas’s eye.  Now.  He is older (forty-something), so the years of service, battle, have aged him.  There is an intensity that occupies his face… his “being”.

Narration – Greece, 1881

Page 4 Panel 2

Pull back and see that he’s staring at his own reflection in a dirty old mirror (the kind that would sit on top of a dresser), the edges of which have already turned a milky white.  He should have his fair share of scaring along his chest, old bullet wounds, knife slashes, and other untold ones.

Here you can see what I wrote. These were the things I was trying to convey to the artist. I try to explain something more than just the image that I have in my own mind to the artist. My hope is to give them a glimpse of what I’m thinking. Technically I could have said “Close-up on Silas’s eye.” and that would have probably been enough. However, I need to add more (for my sake as much as anything). Talk about the battles. Talk about the intensity.

In panel 2, I’m trying to convey more about what is around him because panel 1 is about him (why I coupled these two panels together here). I spent most of my time with the scaring, because I believe, more than anything, this scarring is just an external image of what he is internally fighting for every day.

gildedage0204_lettered-panel-1

 

The dialogue that was included in the image above is not in the script. Actually, it is in the script, but was listed under Panel 3. The letterer shifted it to this panel which is an interesting choice. Sometimes they’ll do that so as to fit my words on a page, but Khari Sampson is adept at reading the script, seeing the images, and acting as a final eye on the project. Here the shift adds to that little bit extra to a panel that might have been needing just a little bit more.

It’s spoken by someone off-stage (someone we’ll meet in the very next panel, in fact).

“Does it bother you anymore?”

What? Life? Death? All of it? That’s our question. That is a heavy line for a man who might not know what answer to give.

***

Comics at their core are collaborative. They must be. You take an idea, give it shape with words, the artist turns those words into a visual, the colorist blending colors in and out of the shapes, and the letterer finding a way to fit sometimes way too many words into the space of one panel.

Every piece needing to work in conjunction so as to build a story.

***

John McGuire

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

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

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

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

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

My Beef with all the Quotes on the Internet

Quotes, quotes…everywhere.

We see them on our Facebook feeds, on people’s T-shirts, on bumper stickers, and on the walls of houses and offices across the land.

Some are funny. Some are dull. Some have a grain of truth, while others are contradictory. And many quotes are credited to people who never said the quoted phrase to begin with. But no one really cares. If it sounds cool, it becomes cool. And that’s all people really want. Right?

I get it. I get the allure. People like mottos. They enjoy direct, easy-to-understand life-messages they feel are attainable. People want goals. They crave wisdom for themselves and their families. And maybe more than anything, they want something simple. The more bite-sized a quote, the better. Fewer words implies fewer opportunities for the meaning of something to be mistaken. Also, having a short and nifty quote really helps when you want to hang a framed version of it on your living room wall. Or stick an inspirational magnet on your fridge. Or stamp your Facebook feed with something awesome someone might have said.

But I’m here to tell you something:

Internet quotes suck.

*

Actually, let me rephrase:

Almost all quotes suck.

Is that crude? Yeah, probably. Maybe, “Internet quotes suck,” is my internet quote. Whatever. I’m pretty sure no one will frame it and slap it above their fireplace, so it’s ok. Where was I? Oh, right. I was just about to explain why quotes suck and you shouldn’t try to live your life using words someone else said.

Let’s go over a few examples:

famous-quotes-18

Since no one really knows what the future will hold, it’s pretty much impossible to truly prepare for it. Yes, it’s possible to get ready for tomorrow’s day at work or to plan for a specific event a few weeks or months down the road. But sometimes, a lot of times, even the best-laid plans change drastically or fail miserably. And then what have all our preparations wrought? The answer: nothing. It’s a cool sounding quote, but until we perfect time-travel, the future will devour us all.

3-famous-success-quotes-entrepreneurs-should-l-mainiw

Suppose someone is trying to become a man of value, whatever that is. If they achieve it, isn’t that success for them? Meaning, they tried to become a man of success after all?

famous-quotes-by-famous-people-07-2

Thanks, Eminem. But what if you stood up for something awful? What if your enemies are people you’ve betrayed? What if the only reason you have these alleged enemies is because you’re an A-hole, not because you stood up for some greater cause?

*

*

Maybe you see what I’m talking about. Maybe not. While some of these quotes might have virtue in specific situations for specific people, they’re hardly wisdom for the masses. Besides, how many people actually follow the quotes they slap on the internet, on their cars  and on their walls? Not many. People who get stuff done in life spend more time doing than talking. Right?

thomas-edison-famous-quotesYeah right. Tell that to slaves. To people who work three jobs for paltry pay. To the guy who cleans the toilets. To the teacher who busts her butt only to get cursed out by her students’ parents. Or just read the evil sign posted outside Auschwitz that once boasted Arbeit Macht Frei…aka ‘Work sets you free.’ I think I know what good old Edison meant (if he actually said this.) But then again, some people believe Edison stole several ideas from Tesla rather than work on them himself.

ansel-adams-famous-photographers-quotes-860x688

While I’m not definitely hating on photographers (because it’s a beautiful art form) let’s be clear about something:

The camera made the photo. Nature made the photo. The universe made the photo.

The photographer may have captured it, but he didn’t create it.

aaeaaqaaaaaaaamzaaaajda2nmu0m2yzlwjlnmqtndi5my04owvjltdkntizzgflntm4oq

Nelson Mandela was an awesome dude who suffered immeasurably in life.

But this quote (if it was really his) really just bolsters the idea that humanity is innately powerful.

Here’s a hint: we’re not. We’re floating on a tiny blue dot in an ocean of darkness. Our fear is definitely that we’re inadequate. Because in so many ways, we are.

*

*

Ok. So maybe I’m a little cynical. Or maybe I’m just having fun tearing down a few quotes. Or mayyyybe I’m just exhausted of seeing humanity speak a few eloquent words only to completely ignore the message in the end. Fine. Whatever. Since we’re already here, let’s do a few more.

14463291_581690542016394_6664521756873294265_n

I know quite a few dedicated religious folks. And while I love and respect many of them, the terms unsinkable, undefeatable, and unshakeable are not the words I’d choose to describe them.

Plus, did anyone ever hear of the Crusades?

138

Love ya, Harry. But that’s not what those two words mean. At all.

famous-quotes-and-sayings

What if you died? What if you’re flat broke and there’s no one to help you back on your feet? What if you honestly gave it your all, but were defeated utterly in the end?

It sounds poetic to say failure only happens when you quit. But sometimes people just fail because…life. And sometimes there’s no poetry to it.

famous-abraham-lincoln-quotes-on-slavery-leadership-life-civil-war

It’d be nice if the world worked this way. And sometimes it might.

But as long as such things as politics, war, and religion exist, there are just too many enemies who have no interest in ever becoming friends.

I mean, just consider this year’s election. Nuff said.

*

*

Quotes, quotes…everywhere. But the fact is: life’s wisdom isn’t earned by a photo and a few clever words on the internet. It’s measured in terms of experience, knowledge, and a willingness to endure heartache, triumph, and change. It’s earned throughout the long, slow decades. It isn’t clicked on, retweeted, or posted on walls.

Our wisdom is inside us. And words, no matter how smart they sound, will never quite capture it.

* * *

 

Want to coin your own quotes instead of using someone else’s? Try this.

Prefer to think before you speak? Go here.

J Edward Neill

 

 

10 Ways Not To Sell Books

Don’t…

button-1182750_1280

1 – Think that by putting out one book, your work is all over.

It’s a hard lesson to learn, but the work doesn’t end when you write “The End” on your manuscript. And it doesn’t end when you press publish on the Amazon dashboard.

No, now you have to figure out how to get people to actually download/buy the damn thing. How to convince them to actually read the book. And then get them to leave a Review.

Start that all over again.

2 – Randomly put out one book, and then nothing else for over a year.

If someone takes the time to read one of your works, finish it, and like it – then you need to be able to point them into another direction: another book. Having only one thing in your catalog puts far too much pressure on that title to over perform.

3 – Not have some kind of series of books.

Having more than one book in a series means that if you hook someone with book 1, you’re going to make a sale of book 2 and 3 and so on.

4 – Genre hop.

This ties in with the above. When you hop around genre’s you may get to tell all sorts of stories, but it may make it where your books can’t help each other. What if you have done a romance and then a science fiction and then an epic fantasy? The amount of cross-over readers for those three genres are going to be small.

Editing

5 – Bother to edit.

Odds are you aren’t coming up with pure gold spun from your fingertips. You’ll need to hone and refine those words on the screen. Follow that up with some outside help. Another set of eyes will go a long way to reducing any number of dumb mistakes (and there will be plenty).

6 – Post only to Amazon.

Why? Why would you potentially limit your exposure?

7 – Post your eBook EVERYWHERE.

Why? Why wouldn’t you go exclusive with Amazon? Do you not like money?

Everyone with an opinion has one on this: do you go WIDE or NARROW. Long term going WIDE means you’ll potentially get more eyes on your stuff. People who don’t go to Amazon for their reading experiences. Short term (and medium term), going exclusive with Amazon may mean more eyes up front = more potential money sooner.

8 – Spend too much time and money on advertising.

There is this thought that the single best bit of advertising you can and should do for your book is to write the next book in the series. So every moment you delay, is a potential reader possibly not finding you.

books-messy

9 – Print too many copies of their book.

Having your book in print is an amazing thing. As much as I appreciate how eBooks have changed the landscape, there is something amazing about holding your own book in your hands. Still, you should be realistic on your sales. And maybe you should order in the 10s as opposed to the 100s.

10 – Think that you have all the answers…

Because no one has any idea what the “Right” way to do any of this. For every person with a terrible concept, cover, lack of edits, etc. holding them back – others are chugging right along having only spent about five bucks on a cover and no editing whatsoever.

joker-all-apart-of-the-plan

There is a very fine line between doing something stupid and having it all be “a part of the plan”. There is a finer line between experimentation and making a mistake. Whatever you do, make sure you have a reason for doing it. That way, even if you’re wrong, you can at least know why you went down that particular path.

***

Full disclosure – I have done some (much), if not nearly everything on the above list. I have done them willingly. No one had to twist my arm to ensure it would happen. I have my own excuses. Some legitimate. Some probably (definitely) not so legitimate. I’ve genre hopped. I’ve had way too long go between books. I’ve published only on Amazon and then gone wide with something else. I’ve tried some advertising and no advertising.

Luckily (for my readers), I have had editing done. That one is/was/will be a deal breaker for me.

I’m still learning. Still making those mistakes.

I’m mostly waiting for the EASY BUTTON, myself. That’ll make this whole process that much easier.

(That’s probably #11 right there.)

***

John McGuire

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

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

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

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

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

Could My Brain Be Evil?

The month of October is the absolute perfect time for that favorite pastime of mine: watching horror movies. I love the bad ones that everyone else hates and somehow only takes a couple of friends mocking it to make it seem all the better. I love the classics that everyone agree on as being the best of the best. New, old, black and white monster movies to slasher flicks to haunted house stories…

I love horror movies.

***

October is also a different kind of month for me. It is that last month which promises to be productive for writing before the hectic natures of November and December appear to rip every last bit of free time from me until the new year. Much like when you were in school and you had two weeks to turn in that report, but you decided to put things off day after day, because there was always a little more time there… before you know it, the thing is due and you’re up until four in the morning, blurred vision, just trying to get something on the page.

That’s how it is with my various projects.  And no matter how much I have accomplished over the last 9+ months, it’s never as much as I would like to have accomplished. I come up with plans and calendars and self-imposed deadlines, and still I feel like I’m always rolling that damn boulder up the hill.

Sheer horror.

***

tmnt-kraang

That’s when it hit me. Maybe my brain is evil?

That is the only conclusion you could possibly come to in all of this. We’ve been told throughout cinema how we can get so focused on the results that we rush headlong without actually doing all the little pieces of work. I mean, I’ve watched The Fly. I’ve read Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I’ve read a Superman comic with Lex Luthor. You can think you’re taking a good turn before you realize it has all been a lie from the very beginning.

Maybe that guy upstairs, rattling around in my skull, is both the architect of my salvation and also the cause of all my sorrow? He plays both the angel and devil on my shoulders. I just don’t realize that they are one in the same.

If this was a courtroom drama, I would go ahead and present my case (so that’s what I’m going to do).

1 – He conspires against me as I sleep. I know that now. There is a plan I’m not privy to where he has detailed the entire downfall of my writing career. And before you think that maybe I’m just being paranoid (his fault again), let’s look at the evidence:

2 – He loves a blank page. Every time I go to start a new project he likes to linger on that first, completely clean page. Subtle little thoughts of what could appear there managed to fight off those first instincts, but that is only because of the larger plan he has awaiting me.

3 – He makes sure that I forget my good ideas, even when I write down the most obscure titles. I’m pretty sure that the title of this blog doesn’t match my original intent (but I’ll show him!).

candle

4 – He’s the one that makes me think the last thing I wrote is no good. Ideas of “scrap the whole thing and rewrite it from scratch” run across my brain like the stocks at the bottom of all the news channels. Every line I write can’t be the worst thing he’s ever read, it’s just not possible (right?).

5 – He is the master of distractions. Oh, he knows every sports team that is playing and when they are going to be on TV. Or every internet site that we “probably” should check out – for “research” purposes. Time is just a con game for him, and he is damn good a manipulating it.

inside-out-guilt

Guilt – From Inside Out’s cutting room floor

6 – He’s best friends with Guilt. Together they form a powerful duo that will not only cause you to stay up too late staring at the screen, hoping for inspiration (who, as I understand it, is just outside the front door – if only I’d let her in).

7 – He’s into torture. At 2 in the morning, when the barest trickle of something which very well might be readable, starts to show up – that’s when the yawns come. That’s when I need to go to sleep.

8 – He invites the Beast to visit. Writer’s block. Knowing he could step in and save the day, but it is too much fun for him to watch me drown over and over.

***

It must be the same reasoning that causes me to like all of those horror movies. My Brain loves a good tale of woe and scares. Luckily for me, I’m onto him now. Maybe I can throw him off guard, stay a little bit ahead of him, and when these last couple of months start-up I can set a new momentum. Force him to play catch-up for once.

***

John McGuire

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

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

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

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

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

 

Things I Wish Someone Would Have Told Me

I’ve squirreled away bits and pieces of information. The type of things you wish you didn’t have to learn the “hard way”. Various little lessons. There is still tons more to learn, but this is where I’m at today.

 

You can do multiple drafts.

I’m pretty sure that unless you have sat down and actually written something that this whole process is like stage magic. You know in your heart of hearts there is a logical explanation on how these books get written, but damned if you can’t see through the trick.

magic

And then when you start writing… well, it isn’t very good. Sure the idea might be fine, but those two sentences you put together over there – yeah, those are garbage. Soon enough you may believe your whole approach is terrible. Why are you even bothering? I mean, haven’t you read X author? Her stuff is amazing! I bet the genius just falls from her brain into the computer like that.

But like the magician, I’m here to tell you that there isn’t always going to be magic in the first draft. Luckily the first draft is just that. It means you can go back and correct it. These aren’t the days of the typewriter and trying to use white-out in order to clear up your mistakes.

Instead we have this amazing thing called the backspace.

You can change and update and tweak and fine-tune for as long as you want.

 

(Almost) Never show anyone your first draft.

Seriously. I’m not kidding. Really there shouldn’t be a parenthesis in this section because even my wife doesn’t get to read the 1st draft (she probably does read something closer to a 1.5 draft). I suppose if you have a writing partner, and they are the ones effectively doing the 2nd draft then maybe it might be… it’s still a terrible idea.

Writing Dark

Let me spare you from what will happen (almost) 100% of the time:

The person reading doesn’t understand that this is the first draft (it’s the magic trick bit from above – no one has told them the secret), so every bit of the feedback you may get is going to be about spelling errors or grammar related things. They are going to talk about the plot holes (which you know about and will fix in that crazy Draft 2) you can drive a truck through.

But 95% of what you get isn’t going to help you very much. In fact, I’d argue that it will only discourage you no matter how nice they are about it.

I’ve done it one time ever and will never do it again.

 

Their way isn’t your way.

When you read blogs or articles or books or hear people talk about their craft… I always think I must be doing it wrong. They write 5000 words a day. They write 1 million words in a year. They write up-teen (an official number, honest) of books in the last couple of years.

Dreams Road Sign

I mean who could be happy with their own output when everyone else is doing it so much better, so much more efficient, and more effective than I could ever attempt to do it?

What’s the point of bothering at all? If it takes me a year to write a book. If I have two books that still need to be properly edited. If no agent wants my stuff?

That’s the mess going on in my head most days. That’s the shit I have to make sure to force back down into the dark recesses of my mind or it will paralyze me.

Look, it is great to have goals, but they have to be realistic. And they may only work for YOU. If you can only write 100 words in a day, it just means that you will take a little longer to get to 1000 words than the guy who writes 5000 words a day.

Just gotta keep repeating that to myself. Remind me that I’m still on track… not your track, but my track.

 

There is no such thing as having time to write.

I’ve been thinking about this a little bit over the past few months. Sometimes lamenting not having enough time in the day (again, let’s move to Mars where we’d get an extra 4 hours a day!). In a bit of synchronicity, Gail Simone (@GailSimone), writer of Wonder Woman and Red Sonja and Birds of Prey (among tons of other things), talked on Twitter this week about an encounter with a woman who commented that “she’d love to write, but who has the time?”

time slipping away

Every day is a struggle with the writing thing. Whether it is due to an abundance of distractions or life or just general laziness, it becomes this thing that I block time out for and then never get quite as much done as I would have liked to. But I’m learning, every day. Sometimes it is a technique, sometimes it is a breakthrough on how to write a bit of dialogue, and sometimes it is staying up way to late in order to finish this week’s blog.

Guess what – welcome to life.

People have things to do. We all have commitments. All that stuff above is my own set of excuses. What it really means is I have to make a choice about where I spend my time.

Do I put my butt in the chair and go to work or do I allow that time to be co-oped by some other activity? Because it is up to me most of the time. Life is about choices.

I chose to write.

***

John McGuire

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

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

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

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

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

What This Blog Looks Like Now Will Shock You!

Good things take a while. Bad things arrive instantly wherever they are not wanted.

Projects drag on for much longer than you ever thought possible. And I have the patience of… well, something with a lot of patience. There is a fine line between patience and stubbornness. Most times, I’m not sure I understand the difference. Either way, I do my best to remain upbeat about the little hiccups. I try not to worry about the medium-sized issues which tend to pop up every now and again regardless of the project you might actually be working on right then and there.

But when it all goes sideways. When Lucy pulls that damn football out from under you just as you prepare to strike the goal.

lucy-football

That’s the moments that make you wonder if the Thing is ever going to actually happen.

I worry about what other people think. Not in the way you’re probably thinking. More in the writing itself. I wonder if people have it in the back of their minds that “oh, it’s nice he’s doing that comic book thing. Oh, that’s good he did that novel thing. But…”

And the “But” could be any number of things, but in my mind what the “But” signifies is that age old question so many writers tend to want to worry about – Am I a real writer?

Said with the same emphasis Pinocchio might have used when he asked if he was a real boy.

pinochio

You see, to my friends and family I wonder if they view this as a Hobby? Dreaded word that is. That maybe I’m just staying up until 2 in the morning because I got nothing better to do. That maybe I’m kidding myself in this pursuit.

So I want to have those moments where there is something tangible. Even if they might not “get” what I’m doing with the various comics, when I hold up a copy of the book there is something tactile they can see. And maybe they don’t have any idea of the work that went into it, but it is there.

Now, some/most/all of this might just be in my head. Stephen King said that (at least I think it was him) if you got paid for something you wrote and it was enough to pay for a utility bill – that’s it. You’re a “Real Writer”.

And I have managed to do that. Multiple times.

Yet doubt is there.

And then the doubt kicks into overtime when a couple of things don’t go my way. Earlier this year I sent a pitch and sample chapter(s) to an assortment of agents who represent Science Fiction for my novel The White Effect. Nothing, no takers. Earlier this month I entered a contest #Pitchwars with the same novel and got the same result (as in, I didn’t get anywhere with it).

Yesterday I found out I wasn’t accepted into the DC Comic Workshop.

Now, I understand… in my head, that these things are long shots. That the good things take time to happen.

But… it gets hard. Lucy needs to let me hit that ball from time to time.

dragoncon

Then maybe it is fitting that this week, along with Robert Jeffrey, I’ll be participating in my second ever Dragon Con Panel to talk about a project that at multiple times I was 100% sure was never going to see the light of day. Because that’s just how these things go. Sometimes it is good to be wrong.

The panel (4 PM on Friday) is going to discuss the KABI Chronicles, a motion comic Terminus Media did for the Centers for Disease Control (yes, THAT CDC), to create a series of stories that could both entertain as well as teach teenagers and young twenty-somethings about STIs and HIV. Something that we started working on 5 years ago. Something that went from 3 episodes to 7 episodes. Something that was delayed and then restarted and then delayed and then…

Something that I helped to write. Something I helped to create.

And now it is out there.

Nice timing…

***

John McGuire

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

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

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

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

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

J Edward’s Big Fat Author Video

Hey everyone.

This week, instead of words, I give you video.

About four and half minutes of it.

It’s just me discussing A Door Never Dreamed Of, 101 Questions for the End of the World, and my new super (not anymore) secret project.

It’s also my first video taken in my new apartment…which was less weird than I thought it’d be.

Anyway…please click the link to enjoy my latest video on Youtube:

Oh…and here’s some of my stuff:

WebImageFront DDP 1 101 Questions for Humanity

J Edward Neill

Every BAD review I’ve ever gotten

Hi everyone.

I’m J Edward Neill, author, painter, and guy who likes to walk around in the rain.  I’ve written a lot of books. A lot. Some of them are huge, as in more massive than LOTR. Others are tiny, and meant to make people talk and laugh.

I try to please my readers. I really do. I want them ALL to have a great experience whenever they crack the cover of a J Edward book.

But…

You can’t please everyone. Not even close. Some readers will be indifferent, and others only mildly interested. And still others will be so non-entertained they’ll take to the internet to write a negative review.

A lot of writers hate this part of the job. They’ll say they don’t mind a bad review or two, but then when it happens to them, they’ll be indignant, even angry. I’ve watched the cycle play out hundreds of times. It’s actually pretty amusing.

As for me, I cherish bad reviews. “Wait, what?” you ask. Let me explain. First, a bad review gives me a glimpse of what I need to do better in my craft. If a reader puts together a thoughtful diatribe about how bad one of my characters sucked or how long-winded a chapter was, it’s an opportunity for me to improve. Secondly, and 500% more awesome, is that I simply like reading bad reviews more than good ones. It’s fun for me in a way I’m not sure most writers understand. I savor the crappy reviews as much as I do the good ones.

Hell…I’m considering writing something truly awful just to see how many bad reviews I can collect.

And so…

Here’s every bad review I’ve ever received. Each one is three stars or fewer. Each one appears on Amazon, Goodreads, or a similar site.

* * *

2.0 out of 5 stars

By Shirley  on March 8, 2016

Format: Kindle Edition (Down the Dark Path)

“Too bloody.”

*** Shirley’s right. It’s pretty bloody. Especially at the end. (Which means she read the whole thing. Cool.) 

* *
*

Format: Kindle Edition (101 Questions for Women)

“The author claims to have put on his filter in order to save the book from becoming chauvinistic drivel. While I appreciate the gesture, the book still is fairly chauvinistic and not too enlightening philosophically. The questions show a clear bias (e.g Do readers think of feminism as: a) somewhat useful b) silly c) much too confrontational) with the moderate path being laughably mainstream. Critical thinking and philosophical content (dilemma, insights etc) are incredibly thin. In short, the book focuses on the otherness of women from a masculine perspective. While this might help one feel special and while men frankly discussing their worldview can be rather enlightening in itself, I wouldn’t recommend the book to any woman interested in philosophy.”

*** I can’t disagree with her. (I’m assuming the reader is a woman.) This book is def biased based on my masculine point of view.

*** *

1.0 out of 5 stars

no charge

 on December 17, 2015

Format: Kindle Edition (Down the Dark Path)

“ok so far..cool thing is free.”

 *** If this is the worst review I ever get on this book, I’m fine with it.

** *

Eugene rated it 2 out of 5 stars 

(Down the Dark Path)

“The only complaint I have for this book is that it’s too damn long. I actually got so frustrated that I skipped a few chapters just to get to the end. The author changes perspectives (by that I mean switching to events happening elsewhere) at the most inopportune moments. So that’s two complaints I suppose. Oh, well. At least it gets better in the second book.”

*** Now this is a constructive review. After reading it (and others like it) I actually went back and chopped tens of thousands of words out. I did a total rewrite. Took a year to finish. Ouch, but worth it.

** *

Ok. This next one isn’t a review, but a collection of ratings. There’s a lady on Goodreads named JoAnn. According to her Goodreads profile, she’s rated 1,396 books, including 11 of mine. Every book she rated of mine: 1 star. Her average rating for all 1,396 books she’s rated, 1.93 stars. I’m thinking JoAnn is an ex-girlfriend or something. Thanks for stopping by, JoAnn!

* *

2.0 out of 5 stars

By kmcmur02 on September 6, 2016

Format: Kindle Edition | 101 Questions for Couples

It’s fine for getting some new questions but it’s very heteronormative and the questions largely focus around your relationship to each other, but not necessarily about how you as a couple relate the the world at large.

It’s pretty repetitive.

It also assumes some traditional gender roles, which didn’t really work for us, so we ended up skipping a bunch.

*** I guess the guy and girl on the cover didn’t give the theme away. Our bad.

* *

2.0 out of 5 stars

on December 15, 2015

Format: Kindle Edition| (Hollow Empire)

“I did not like it–it did not hold my interest so I only read a few chapters.”

*** I blame my co-author, John R McGuire. Just kidding. Love ya, John!

* *

Ok.

So…

That’s it. That’s all of them.

Wait…you thought I was gonna have a ton of bad reviews?

Sorry to disappoint.  I’ve got a living to make. Bad reviews are FUN, but they don’t draw readers in.

Not like these do:

WebImageFront DDP 1 101 Questions for Humanity 415+yIHxswL__SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

J Edward Neill

 

 

June Grab Bag

Sometimes I only have the barest nuggets of ideas for the blog. Things which wouldn’t fill a full post, but maybe have passed through my mind in, and I need to get them out of there so that new ideas will take their place.

***

I’m just tired of the lie. Not a month goes by without me hearing the lie, and it has now gotten to the point that I don’t know if anyone realizes they are lying anymore. But I have to call BS on them all.

Stop saying when you were young people didn’t get participation trophies.

Just stop it! Stop lying to the world or to yourself for whatever reasons you think you might have. I grew up in the 1980s and had a handful of baseball and basketball trophies for… that’s right: PARTICIPATION!

trophy

And unless you are in your 50s or older I’m guessing you did too. But somewhere alone the way you’ve forgotten. Or perhaps you haven’t forgotten and need to make some point or another and it fits your narrative.

Just stop it! Enough is enough!

***

Why is “sleeping in” considered lazy but going to bed early is considered the “thing to do” by society? If I’m up until 3 in the morning writing or even if I’m goofing, and then sleep to noon it’s something that people might talk about. However, you getting up at 6 in the morning – read the paper, watch the morning news – effectively “goofing”, but going to bed at 9 at night is awesome? By my count we’re awake the same amount of hours.

alarm-clock

The only thing I can come up with is staying up all night is associated with the young and carefree days of your teenage years or your twenties, but waking up early is something adults do because they must go to work.

You’re not more responsible, and I’m not less responsible (well at least not because I stay up late at least).

***

After going to Heroes Con in Charlotte, NC this year, I’m amazed that Atlanta doesn’t have a Comic Book Convention of comparable size. And no, Dragon Con is not it. It might have been twenty years ago, but it has morphed into more of a Geek/Nerd Culture Con (and I go every year, so I’m good with it). I’ve watched as Heroes has slowly expanded over the years, but it still seems to have an impressive turnout not only from dealers but from the artists and writers themselves. So many Independent creators are there. It is always nice to be surrounded by such a room full of talent.

 

But every time someone seems to get the idea of doing a dedicated Comic Con here it lasts for maybe two years before disappearing into the ether once more. Some kind of Halley’s Comet of Conventions. I just don’t understand.

***

Editing is for suckers. That’s my thinking. It sucks, and I don’t want to do it anymore. It is soul crushing and never ends, and I don’t want to do it anymore.

Crap. I have two books still to edit, and now I’m starting another.

What is wrong with me?

writing

***

Character names. Like many things they are either there, fully formed in my head before I put one letter onto the page or they simply don’t exist. In the later’s case, I find myself searching through various name databases in order to squeeze something so that I can start calling the characters in my new book by something other than XXX, YYY, & ZZZ (and that XXX is a spitfire, let me tell you).

Of course, it can’t just be any old name, but it has to be one which fits the character… that many times I haven’t quite figured out myself. I mean, this is the thing that I’m going to saddle XXX with, I need to make sure that it represents what I want it to represent… that’s a lot of pressure on something which could be picked willy nilly.

But, yeah, the current book doesn’t have ONE named character yet. Luckily I’m only a chapter in. Unluckily I am a chapter in and no one has a name yet.

Well, at least I know what they look like and how they act.

***

Rants done. Random thoughts registered. Brain cleared.

***

John McGuire

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

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

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

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

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

The Complete Backstory of the Tyrants of the Dead Trilogy

Many years have passed…

And many books have I written…

And yet none are as sacred as these first three…

TheOrbOfSoulsSliderBizCard

*

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

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

And so I did.

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

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

This is how it went:

* * *

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

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

Soul Orb New DDP Cover Second Try

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

After completing Down the Dark Path, two things happened.

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

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

And so these were born:

DDP 1 DDP 2 DDP 3 DDP 4

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

*

Moving right along…

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

And along came Dark Moon Daughter.

Dark_Moon_Daughter-InitialCover

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

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

Something like:

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

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

*

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

Along came Nether Kingdom.

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

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

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

Maybe I will.

Maybe I won’t.

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

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

Until next time…

Love,

J Edward Neill

Stealing History

It’s dark right now. This blog is technically an hour late, though, since many of you wouldn’t see this until tomorrow, that’s not really my concern.

I’m having one of those couple of weeks where the day job is a bit more stressful than normal. A task that has been ongoing for what feels like years, but is really more like months is looking like it has come to an ending. But what that does really is “fry” me a bit as I keep trying to finish that last 10% of the project and it continues to snake away from me, doing its best to ensure that I’ll be back at trying to “finish it up” tomorrow.

night-913046_1280

What this really does is make my evenings want to be less productive than I’d like. You know, that thing you actually have fun doing suddenly becomes the last thing you actually want to sit down and think about?

I need a jump-start, that’s what I need. Something that will just clear away the other stuff and reset me mind for the writing.

***

You know what I’m enjoying right now? Hardcore History by Dan Carlin

Deep down I believe I have an addictive personality. When I’m into something I want to be “INTO IT”. I don’t just want to lurk around the edges of it. No, I want to jump into the deep end and learn and follow internet rabbit holes and stay up way too late figuring the thing out.

I’m in the middle of his series of podcasts on the Great War and by “in the middle of” I mean I’ve listened to about 10-12 hours worth of so far and still have about 6 hours to go (I think it is a 5 or 6 parter).

I found out about this podcast last weekend. I’ve probably listened to close to 20 hours at this point. I’ve entertained (re: bored probably) my wife with some of the little anecdotes he drops into the episodes. You see, this is the thing about history: it can be stale and end up as a bunch of dates and events that you memorized for that one test back in high school and then you let it disappear into the ether. Like a fish you didn’t want to eat in the first place.

<I actually like the dates and events, but that’s a different issue.>

***

I knew this podcast was for me while listening to the episode about the Spanish/American War. Now, I have to admit, prior to the podcast I knew 3 things about that war:

1 – Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders fought in it

2 – The United States won.

3 – My favorite story from history actually comes out of this war. I remember reading it in the back of some history book and just loving it. And then Dan Carlin said he had a favorite story from the war… and it was the same one.

The story is this – at some point during this war, the Spanish forces are in retreat and the American commander – who just happened to have served in the Civil War on the Confederate side was now wearing the Blues – he gives the order to chase after them by saying “We’ve got those Yanks on the run!”

I just love the idea that in the din of war, he got a little confused or had a flashback.

But I knew I’d found the right podcast for me when he told that story.

***

This podcast makes it a story. You start to know the players in the telling, and then, like one of your favorite novels or tv shows or movies, history takes a left turn when you were expecting something else and it makes you wonder “Are they making this shit up?”

old-letters-1082299_1280

It builds and builds and maybe you know bits and pieces, but it will introduce the horror through first hand-accounts. He makes use of quotes to help illustrate the overall story.

But it is making me think about my own writing. Thinking about how to present things in the current projects. Too often I think I forget that there is tons of sources out there that can give me a better idea than any fictional work might be able to. What I mean is that when I’m writing an action scene and it isn’t flowing the way I want, then I’ll go to a book or two on the bookshelf and see how XXX author did it. I’m not looking to copy, but I want to see the techniques. How did they convey exactly what they wanted to convey.

They say you are supposed to write what you know. And that is true. I believe everything we write is from some piece of our own souls/memories/experiences and can only improve by taking it from our first-hand accounts.

I’ve written some fantasy, and the thing with fantasy you are going to write about death and carnage and war. And I’m lucky not to have experienced those things. So what do you do? Listening to the Great War and hearing the horrors those men went through described sometimes in ways I would have never thought of myself. Again, not that I want to lift their words, but it helps to hear those stories.

Still learning… still trying to figure it out for myself. Every day something new, hopefully.

I guess I could claim that it is writing research and that wouldn’t be a complete lie, but it’s more that I’ve gotta jump in on these. My iPod yelling at me that I have plenty of other podcasts that I still need to listen to…

***

John McGuire

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

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

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

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

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

7 Ways to step up your Indie Author Career

For many months, I’ve resisted writing this.

Author advice columns and ‘do-it-better’ blogs often come off as pretentious.

And that’s the last thing I want to do.

Even so…

After swimming in the shark-infested waters of self-publishing for many years, I feel it’s time I share a few nuggets of wisdom. About writing. About marketing. About presenting oneself to the literary world. Now…these aren’t gonna be your typical Stephen King-ish motivational tips or super supportive rays of sunshine. I’m going off the grid with some of these. Because everything else has been said.

Here we go.

*

Audience

1.  Audience Building

We’re not talking about genres. We’re talking human beings, and we’re talking how you approach them after you’ve already written your masterpiece. So you say you’ve crafted a new work of erotica, an epic fantasy series, or a vampire romance? Fine. It’s all fine. Whatever floats your boat. The key to your success, assuming you’ve actually got the writing chops to write a good book, is to make people care. Spamming ‘check out my book’ ads on the net? Not gonna fly. Auto-messaging unsuspecting people on Twitter? Fail. The key here is to be interesting. You’re a writer, after all. When marketing, you’ve gotta use the same chops you used when writing the best parts of your book. Don’t be dull. Don’t be static. Build some awesome blurbs and engage people. Hand your business cards out at DragonCon. Strike up conversations with strangers at the bar who might like to read. Be your book. Live it.

Also…when audience building on the internet, use perfect spelling and grammar. It doesn’t matter whether or not you think it’s important. It is. Whenever an author posts a blog or funny facebook post with garbage grammar, it leaves an impression. And it’s not the one you want.

*

Negativity2. Stay the F**K away from Negativity

You probably think I’m talking about other people’s negativity. I’m not. I’m talking about yours.

Let’s say you’ve got a website dedicated to your books, your art, your whatever. And let’s say from time to time you write interesting, relatable pieces about your life and your experiences (you should do both of these, by the way.) You wanna know what never to do? Project negativity. Ever. Like anyone else, writers have opinions. That’s all well and good. But for the most part, your army of loyal readers wants to hear positive (or least non-negative) stuff. Hate your neighbor? Cool. Shut up about it. Got a headache and some writer’s block? Nope. Another author crap on your book via Amazon? Deal with it. Sales in a slump? Don’t say a word.

It’s a slippery slope, negativity. Everyone feels they have a right to complain. Maybe they do, maybe not. But as a professional and as a person who wants others to feel good about your books, your persona, and your ability, I recommend keeping all but the most dire complaints to yourself.

Actually, I recommend this to everyone in the entire world. Not just writers and artists.

*

3. Get Great Cover Art

To be fair, some people can get away with having bland, homemade, or just plain bad cover art. What I’m saying is: don’t assume you can. Now…it’s true cover art can get expensive. Artists will charge hundreds for good work, and they’ve every right to do so. It doesn’t matter. No matter your budget, you’ve got to find a way to put your (presumably wonderfully-written) book beneath a cover worthy of cracking open. It doesn’t have to be an epic Greek sculptor/Sistine Chapel wonder of the world, but it needs to look good. Or cool. Or crazy. Just not boring. Never…ever…boring.

Oh, and speaking of good cover artists, try Amanda Makepeace.

And speaking of great covers she created

*

Ego 4. Shelve Your Ego (not your Eggo)

What’s that you say? Someone left you a shitty review on Amazon? You got a rejection letter from a publisher? An author refused to do a review-swap (which you shouldn’t have agreed to do anyway)?

What I recommend in these and a thousand other less-than-awesome scenarios is that you not get butthurt. Ever. Artistic endeavors of any kind, and indeed life endeavors, don’t care about your sensitivity. Anger, jealousy, vengeance, frustration, cats sitting on your keyboard and deleting an entire chapter…all part of the dance. Simply put, you’ll get more work done if you shrug off all the crap and vent it creatively, rather than on Facebook.

Tip: Your ability to find greatness might very well depend on your ability to carve through all the emotions…and arrive on the other side unscathed.

*

Brush Off5. Brush off Compliments / Embrace Criticism

I’ll keep this one brief. Maybe. When seventeen of your friends read your book and tell you how awesome it is, ignore them. You heard me. Ignore them. Smile and nod, but let their words fall off your shoulders like yesterday’s dandruff. Why, you ask? Because while they mean well, their compliments don’t mean anything. Compliments and superlatives about your work won’t make you a better writer. Sunshine up your bottom might feel good, but it won’t lift you to greatness.

But criticism might. Your most valuable review on Amazon might be the single-star one. Your best asset might be the lone family member who tells you your ending doesn’t make sense, or that one of your characters is a whiny loser. When you free your ego (see #4) and become willing to embrace criticism, you allow yourself to grow.

If you need a metaphor, imagine a tree. The oldest, strongest trees are covered in knots, scars, and broken limbs. And yet the tree never complains. Not once. Not ever. It simply adjusts, heals, and keeps moving toward the sunlight.

*

6. Create an Image & Stick to It

Perhaps you’re really good at writing horror. Or maybe you’ve got a knack for writing killer romance scenes. Or maybe your descriptive ability is out of this world.  Cool. Now what I suggest is that you use your strengths to create an image. Mine is sort of this dark, brooding philosopher thing. Yours should be whatever you feel represents you, whether a fluffy unicorn girl, a dominatrix, a vulgar comedian, or a quiet librarian genius. Whatever. It doesn’t matter as long as it’s yours.

The point is: craft your image and use it as a presentation point to the world. Don’t be boring. Tell the world what you’re about. Speak to them as though you were your characters. It’s like this: you can either flood your social media feeds with writing memes and coffee-worship, or you can become a living, breathing avatar for your work. I’m being completely serious. I’m not suggesting you try to fake your audience out. Far from it. I’m saying to grab them by their collars. Shake them. Entertain them. Because really, what else are we here to do?

*

7. Demand Honesty

This is a two-part piece of advice. First and foremost, you’ve got to be honest with yourself. Can you look at your work and say, “This is the best I can write. This book is as ready for the world as it’s gonna get.”? If you can, boom. Kudos. Publish it. If you can’t, then the honest author in you has to be ready. For more work. And lots of it.

The second part: demand honesty from those who help you. This means reviewers, editors, other authors, beta-readers, friends, and family. If they’re brave enough to read your stuff, you need to be brave enough to look them in the eyes and tell them to be utterly honest in their criticism. And you need to mean it. Really mean it. Like Brad Pitt in Fight Club, you need to hear them say it three times. (Anyone remember that scene?)

Because the only conversations in life worth having are the blunt, brutally honest kind.

Everything else is fluff.

Now get to work.

And try to have fun while you’re doing it.

*

J Edward Neill

Author of 101 Questions for Humanity

Author of the Tyrants of the Dead series

Interview with the Nicest Author Ever

In the business of creative networking, it’s common to meet a ton of nice people. They’re everywhere, and they WAY outnumber the trolls.

But sometimes, every once in a while, you meet someone who’s nicer than nice, who’s sweet, calm, and utterly pleasant to talk with.

One such uber-nice person is Regina O’Connell. She’s the author of several books, including Wren and Saving Wihe, and she’s the subject of this week’s Tessera Guild creative interview!

* *

Without further ado…

*

Hi Regina! Welcome to Tessera Guild’s latest author interview. Rumor is you’ve got a brand new book, Saving Wihe. We’re dying to know what it’s about. Give us the scoop?

Saving Wihe is the second book in the trilogy Wren’s Journey. Wren is a young Witch who is on a quest to save Wihe from the evil priest, Nye. She is joined by her grandmother, a few close friends and her wolf, Maicoh. They are on the run, planning the rescue and finding the freedom they all desire.
 

Soooo…you’re pretty popular on the web. Tell us all about yourself. Give up the goods on where you’re from and how you got into writing books:

Well I am originally from Jackson, Michigan. I have been living in Bend, Oregon for the past eleven years. I am a proud mother and grandmother! I started writing books in high school. My first was a children’s book which I also illustrated for my youngest brother. I wrote many children’s books throughout the years for my own children and now my grandchildren. I never tried to publish them though!
 

We’ve seen images for your previous book, Wren, all over the planet. Is Wren your first published piece? Tell us ALL about it!

Yes, Wren was my first! I wrote it for my son. He told me I should write a book. Initially I thought I would write about a young boy, but then I thought I’d do better writing from a girl’s perspective. But I still wanted it to mean something to my son, hence the magic singing! My son has an amazing voice!  Wren is young, a little self-absorbed and totally loyal to her family and friends. She faces loss and heartache with the help of her grandmother and friends. The book is a fast-paced adventure that I hope people will love.
Wren

As an indie author, what do you find most challenging about marketing your work?

Marketing without money!!!! I so love social media and the author friends I have met! We help each other! I don’t know what I’d do without them!

Let’s say someone wanted to get in touch with you to get a copy of Saving Wihe for reviewing purposes. Where’s the best place to reach you?

Facebook: https://facebook.com/ReginaOConnellAuthor

OR

Twitter: https://twitter.com/regina_oconnell

Check out this cover!

51jn1r3uiyL__SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

Regina

And here’s Regina mugging with her son. Look at that smile!

That’s it for this week. Be sure to give Regina’s latest book a read (and of course, a review!)

For more Tessera Guild creative interviews, follow this link.

Until next time.

J Edward Neill

Sequels That Never Were – The Crow

The Crow: The Devil’s Mask

Setting: Washington, D.C.

Time: The Near Future

 kuala-lumpur-398792_1280

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

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

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

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

dragon-34167_1280

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

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

Bird and man fall as the bullet impacts.

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

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

Screams of pain fill the room.

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

death-161695_1280

The Crow whispers, “I’m sorry Laura.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Tell everyone ‘Hi’ for me.”

The chamber echoes with gun fire.

Fade to black – Narrator’s voice

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

the crow fire

***

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

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

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

***

John McGuire

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

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

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

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

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

There are no rules…

Hi everyone,

We’ve got something interesting for those of you who are artists, writers, poets, and bloggers.

Dylan Kinnett, the head honcho over at Infinity’s Kitchen, just sent out a call for submissions. He’s teamed up with Ink Press Productions to bring you more off-the-grid artistic work. And we at Tessera Guild couldn’t help but support the cause.

Infinity’s Kitchen is a publication specializing in experimental literary material. What does that mean exactly? Well…it’s got off-beat poetry, digital-age wordplay, word squares, and interesting pop art. And more.  It’s not what most of you are used to. And that’s what makes it cool.

In particular, the latest submission call (Active until June 17th) seeks anything artists and writers do in multiples. Like a series of images, a group of similar poems, a line of same-thought process Tweets, or short stories in the same setting. And these are just a few examples. The most interesting part of Infinity’s Kitchen is that there are no rules. If it’s cool, if it’s mind-bending, if it’s engaging, that’s what’s cooking.

Here’s the official submission sheet:

Inf Kitchen

And here’s the scoop:

Infinity’s Kitchen & Ink Press Productions are coming together to ask: What belongs on the internet? Send us your content and we’ll make it a book.

WHAT IS IT?

tweets / screenshots / commentary / instructions / recipes / maps / memes / clickbait / spam / lists / calendars / emails / embarrassing evidence / tattoos / whatever, it’s your content/

Submissions for the latest issue: open May 1–June 17

Send your submissions to:
inkpressproductions@gmail.com

I know I’ll be submitting.

Will you?

J Edward Neill

The Agonizing Art of Writing Book Blurbs – Challenge Accepted

In the late moments of the day, when the wife and the cats have settled into sleep, I sometimes find myself struggling to come up with the next week’s blog (in between editing one novel and trying to finish up a novella at the moment).

Leave it to Mr. Neill to help a Guildmate out. He wrote a bunch of 1-sentence blurbs for each of his books, and then challenged anyone who happened to read his post to do the same for their own works. As this is a skill I certainly could use work on…

Well, Challenge Accepted…

The Dark That Follows by John R McGuire

 The Dark That Follows – A fortune teller comes to realize that his latest customer no longer has any future left.

HollowEmpireEP1

Hollow Empire – Twenty years after the Great Lichy Plague wiped out fifty percent of the population, the next generation struggles to find their way in this dark and desolate land.

BeyondtheGate

Beyond the Gate – A country surrounded by an oppressive Fog, where nightmares and monsters live, these are the stories of the Ruddermouths, the Sky Captains, and of the children of the festivals.

Machina Obscurum

Machina Obscurum – Dark tales of death, betrayal, and the end of all things.

VMars_SAM

There’s Something About Mac – When Cindy “Mac” Mackenzie’s younger biological sister goes missing, it is up to Mac to track down the missing teen.

PIECE-BY-PIECE-COVER

Piece by Piece – Jason Mill’s fortune reading becomes an exercise in the Butterfly Effect as he examines a myriad of possible futures for his latest client.

The Guilded Age

Gilded Age #1 – Hannah Lancaster leaps at the opportunity to help the Branning Troupe’s Stage Magician, only to discover that his latest trick might be played on her.

TGA02_cvrsPRESSb_Page_1

Gilded Age #2 – When you are known as the Fastest Gun, there will always be those who want to challenge for the crown.

tigerstyle-tessera

Tiger Style #1 – A kid with a Robin Hood complex discovers that he’s targeted the wrong “Rich” men, and these are willing to do anything in their power to reclaim a mystical artifact.

Terminus Team-up #2 – Amber Fox’s journey to the Gilded Age takes a detour through time as her companion seeks to understand how era’s end.

That definitely used a few different writing muscles. If you like any of these, click the pic and head to Amazon to pick up your copy today!

***

John McGuire

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

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

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

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

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

You Have Permission To Fail

Something I’m always amazed by is both how little and how much people pay attention to the worlds that their stories take place in. That both makes sense and totally makes no sense.

What do I mean by that?

You can tell when an author is more in love with her world than with the actual characters propagating it. When they’ve clearly spent hours and hours on the connections of the history of the world rather than getting to the story they want to tell.

annual-report-203762_1280

In fact, it is the type of thing that can completely paralyze a potential author. Especially if you are a plotter and outline things. In order to have that road map, you might convince yourself the only way to truly understand where things could possibly go is by chasing that rabbit hole all the way back in the timeline. Instead of knowing only your lead characters, you need to know who their parents are and by extension who their grandparents were.

And it doesn’t only happen in the fantasy or science fiction stories, but can be just as much of a problem in stories set during modern times.

The thing is, you need to know a little of this stuff entering into a story, but when you try to do all the extra, one of two things are happening:

You’re procrastinating on doing the actual writing. It’s not that you need to figure out the line of succession for the President of Earth in your world (heck, you might need that information), but by focusing on that type of… stuff, you ensure no progress will be made on the story. Instead of letting people know how far along in the process, you tell them, “I’m still doing research.”

procrastination

Or, perhaps, it is that you actually do need to have the information, but you don’t know how you are going to apply it to the story you want to tell.

The secret is, the best way to build might not be from having the constellations figured out or trying to figure out what the President had for breakfast two weeks ago.

I like to think of myself as an outliner. I love the idea of calling myself an outliner at least. But what it really means is that I have a very general idea of what the book/comic/story is all about and start jotting something down in order to begin to massage it into something worth bothering with. And slowly, over the course of months sometimes, the thing begins to become… something.

The question I always have to remind myself of is whether or not I’m delaying because of true and honest reasons or because I’d rather be screwing around than doing the hard part (you know, typing the pretty words into the computer). Am I such a slave to having everything in its correct sequence and if that doesn’t happen there is just no point?

No, what you need to do is bring a little Pantsing into your life. You’re too rigid, not willing to see where it all goes. So, start small. Figure out one little thing about the town where your main character is from. Or a couple of the people she is going to interact with.

And then go and write about it.

cloud-705728_1280

Remember, it’s fine. And even though you are putting words up on the screen (or in your notebook) that may not always make sense, it’s my opinion that you are allowing your brain to almost subconsciously tell you what you really want to write about.

Every writer has had that moment where certain pieces of a story somehow start to tie together in a way that you never had planned out from the beginning. A thread appears, then another, and then another until you see how it could all fit together. So you go back and add a paragraph four chapters earlier to help grow the thread… until it gets to the point where a potential reader would never even know the difference of what started in the manuscript and what was added latter.

That’s a little of the “magic” of writing.

But behind that is the need to allow yourself to possibly write absolute dreck. Because sometimes who the town’s mayor is actually very important. And sometimes what he had for breakfast could make or break your story.

However, even with all those things being true… these words on the screen can be changed and tweaked and deleted and added and refined until you are happy with them. Write a hundred words you hate. Hit the backspace key and watch your problems disappear.

***

John McGuire

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

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

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

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

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

The Midnight Circle

Announcing:

The Midnight Circle

A dark lovers’ tale by Jaylene Jacobus

Clara Winters, a non-practicing witch, has been living the life of an old woman in the body of a twenty-two-year-old ever since fated to everlasting life in 1919. With the unexpected death of her beloved aunt, the easy life on her southern plantation is over. Grief awakens hiding ghosts—in the form of age-old magic and thirsty vampires.

The Midnight Circle is available for download on Amazon.

Tap into it right here:

TMC-smallest

If you pick up The Midnight Circle, please leave an Amazon review. Authors love those. 🙂

Also…

Visit Jaylene Jacobus’s website.

And follow her sharp Seattle humor on Twitter.

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

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

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

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

Have fun!

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

Dark Moon Boobs

“Read between these…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

That was fun.

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

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

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

Love,

J Edward Neill

The American Dream – A totally non-sarcastic essay

A few years ago, I penned a quick essay for a European friend and high-school teacher. Its purpose was to educate a class of students, few of whom had ever been to America, on the meaning of the so-called American dream.

I recently stumbled across that essay. Looking back, I can hardly believe I wrote something so non-cynical and free of sarcasm.

Accidents will happen.

Enjoy:

Smeagle the Eagle

The American Dream – A Not So Simple Definition

If one believes historian James Truslow Adams, the American Dream is the unique and substantive quality of America ‘…which has lured millions to our shores.’

Of course it’s not nearly as simple as that.

There are myriad ways one might define the hopes and dreams of an American, and while many are optimistic, others are just as pragmatic, even cynical.  For as much as a man or woman might believe America is a land of endless opportunity, of boundless hope and liberty, there will always exist another who believes the opposite.  No two views are likely the same.

Let us begin by describing the classical view, the idyllic American life as imagined in hearts and on paper, if not in reality.

There exists an idea, however unattainable, that all American men and women possess equal opportunity for success, material gain, and personal fulfillment.  Whether an American hails from the poorest city slum or from the farthest rural meadow, the ideal says that we’re all the same, that no matter our pedigree we might hope to scale the rungs of happiness in whatever form that happiness might take.  This is not a utopian view, but simply a giver of hope, an unspoken possibility that because of the freedoms intrinsic to the Constitution, we might all aspire to be greater than we presently are.  This view of the American Dream would not have us believe that every man and woman is destined for fantastical prosperity, but instead that any person, no matter his or her beginnings, can hope for better than they have.

There also exists a more realistic view, a sensible way of believing in the American Dream without necessarily contradicting the idyllic hopes of our forefathers.  The practical American man or woman might say that the Dream exists not in the forefront of every American’s mind, but instead upon the very periphery of our collective consciousness.  While liberty, happiness, and success are possibilities, they are not always available or deserved.  This view stresses that while one might grasp for all things wished and hoped for, without hard work and good fortune such dreams might never come to fruition.  This view is not incompatible with the other, nor does it discount the great freedoms granted at America’s founding.  It aims instead to promote the spirit of striving hard for success, rather than see America’s hopes and aspirations founder while waiting idly for good things to come.

There are those who say the American Dream is dead, that the fantasy of America’s youth has given way to the cynicism of maturity.  Only the individual knows for certain.  This dream, likes so many others, lives solely in the hearts and minds of the people.

– J Edward Neill

circa whenever

J Edward is the author of sci-fi thriller, A Door Never Dreamed Of, fantasy epic Down the Dark Path, and the ice-breaking Coffee Table Philosophy series.

Ten Quick Observations About the Writing Bizniz

It’s a quirky industry, writing books.

Some take it seriously. Others not so much.

Some work with an entirely homegrown approach. Others hire professional muscle to do their dirty work marketing. Most use a mix of the two.

One of the biggest vehicles for so-called ‘indie’ authors (I hate that term) is social media. Twitter, Facebook, Linked-In, Tumblr, Instagram, and my personal sneak-attack source, dating sites, including Tinder and Bumble. (Don’t laugh…it works.) There are many ways of publicizing a book, but most cost money and/or require authors to either sell their work for pennies or list it for free. Such is the world we work in.

In this new environment, everyone has a strategy. Or at least, everyone probably should. There is no silver bullet for literary success. Much of what we do involves throwing our work into the wind and hoping someone catches it.

And so…

The following are my somewhat satirical thoughts on what authors do and how they do it.

* * *

untitled

1. What’s with all the memes?

Look, I get it. People nowadays communicate their feelings via memes. It’s cute, I guess. At least for a little while. To research this observation, I scrolled up and down the pages of some of the authors whom I follow. What did I find? Memes. Tons and fucking tons of memes. Most of which pretty much said the same things, including: Quotes by Stephen King, how much writers surf the web while they’re supposed to be writing, and how you can tell so-and-so is a writer because (insert some stupid stereotype here.) Ok. That’s all well and good. But while these people are busy posting memes, some of us are writing giant fucking circles around them. It’s also probably worth noting that if one’s audience is primarily made up of readers, one should probably target the commentary at them, not to other authors. Readers probably don’t give a rip about how much you surf Facebook while you’re writing vampire porn. Just a thought. 🙂

Pie Chart

If this is what you do when you’re ‘writing,’ it’s time for a new career choice.

 

2. Spamming on social media will only go so far.

Like anything involving people, images and links will only cut so deep. To really get people’s attention, you have to engage their minds. Authors shouldn’t want followers; authors should want fans. The best way to capture the hearts of your audience is to be in the moment with them. Talk to them. Show them how you’re a real person and you give a shit. Your product is only as awesome as you are. Whenever I see a writer or an artist having a conversation with their audience, I crack a smile. Whenever I see a pile of memes or spammed Amazon links, I shake my head.

3. Content, content, content

The state of the indie art seems to be: write book/pitch book. And then: write another book/pitch another book. I guess this approach might work if you’re A. A fucking badass author, or B. Lucky to  hit the right genre at the right time. But in case you’re not a badass or lucky, I suggest you spend a LOT more time creating content. And by content I mean shit that engages the audience, but doesn’t make a direct pitch at selling them stuff. Write about your life, your experiences, or just some funny stuff your cat did. But don’t expect to just write a book and sell 10,000 copies based on the work itself. Create content that has nothing to do with salesmanship. Entertain audiences for free…and then maybe they’ll consider forking over cash to buy your stuff. I dunno. Just a thought.

4. Your cover art is beautiful. Your book sucks.

There’s a famous saying. Goes something like, “Never judge a…” Oh hell, you know what I’m talking about. The modern state of the business is this: Kickass cover art is available to everyone. Good (and truly great) artists are out there, and they’re willing to take authors’ cash in exchange for creating cool-as-hell book art. The ish here is that for every one awesome storyteller selling his or her book for pennies on Amazon, there are ten people who couldn’t word their way out of a 1st grade creative writing class. Meaning…there’s some dude out there who just shelled out $500 for a sexy vampire slut on his book cover, but who didn’t spend a damn dime on getting the same book edited. His grandma and his sister’s barely-literate coworker were the only ones who read it before he hoisted his book, Vampire Sluts from Hell, onto Amazon. And yeah, you just bought that shit for $5.99. This probably sounds like sour grapes. It’s not. All I’m saying is…don’t judge a book by its cover…and don’t buy Vampire Sluts from Hell.

222

“That book was awful. It was two hours of my life I’ll never get back.” “Well, you prolly should’ve looked past the boobs on the cover.”

 

5. No, I don’t want to ‘check out’ your new book.

Name a sales pitch that would grab your attention. Now name one that wouldn’t stand a chance. Chances are, if you saw a product on tv stating simply to ‘check out’ some new product, you’d gloss over that shit. (Imagine the Dos Equis ‘most interesting man’ if all he said was, ‘Check out this cool beer.’) If an ad features a unique take or maybe something funny, you might actually look into the product. If not…you won’t. And that brings me to this: if an author is trying to sell something, they should never ever use the words ‘check out’ in the sales pitch. Seriously. Never. Pretty much 40% of the book ads I see (or ads for any kind of art, really) use the exact phrase “Hey, check out my new ____.” Really? Is that supposed to grab a reader’s attention? Hint: it doesn’t. Try harder. Actually, since you’re all my competition, don’t. Ha.

Also…try not to use superlatives. Nobody’s book is the bestest ever of all time. 🙂

6. I can feel the love.

There’s at least one good thing that has come of the ‘indie’ author movement and the rise of online self-marketing. It’s called teamwork, and I’m happy to say I see it every day. People who would otherwise be stuck on lonely little art islands are now able to talk, vent, and most importantly, help each other. Artists can collaborate at the speed of light. It’s easier to have a voice than ever before. And yeah, I know I said I’m in competition with every other author in the world, but even so… Twenty years ago we were all slaves to the big publishers. Now…fuck those guys. Other authors and painters might be my competitors, but at least we’re all on the same battlefield. Now excuse me while I go retweet my twenty favorite writers and painters. Even if it involves a bunch of bullshit memes. 🙂

7. Why, why, why all the man abs?

Ok. This isn’t a serious question. All I’m asking is for all my cool-as-hell female authors to occasionally put an image up on the internet I can share for you that doesn’t include Captain Situp and his 74-pack abs. (In fact, I’m pretty sure that’s the title of at least half the romance novels out there.) But seriously…that shit’s intimidating. I do a fuckload of crunches every day, but I can’t live up to these dudes. I can’t in good faith share an image that makes me look pathetic. Now boobs, on the other hand…

abs

Jesus Christ, man. Eat a pizza or something.

 

8. We all need a better work ethic.

Myself especially. I mean…what excuse do we have? Thanks to computers, super-fast internet, and this wonderful little site called WordPress, reaching audiences is easier than ever before in the history of mankind. I’ve published 23 books in the last few years, which a hundred years ago would’ve taken most of my lifetime to finish (not to mention try to sell.) And yet here I am, knowing that if I worked harder, I could’ve done more. Look, I’m not gonna pitch statistics to you. Every writer in the world worth his or her salt will confess to needing to do more. It seems convenience is a double-edged sword. Technology gives artists the tools, but is utterly distracting at the same time. What’s the answer? Hell if I know. Smash your tv and dump your girlfriend, maybe? Worth a shot. 🙂

9. Automated Replies kill your business, not grow it.

See # 2 in this list, way up there near the top? Well there’s this sector of modern art marketing dedicated to using auto-replies instead of actual human engagement. I don’t know about you, but when I see an auto-reply for anything, not just books or art, I lose interest immediately. What it says is that I, the customer, am not worth a moment of personal time. What it also says is that the offending artist believes that the first contact with me should be a sales pitch, and usually a pretty boring one at that. Honestly, when trying to connect with new people online, I’d rather they not answer me at all than send me an auto-reply. That shit is annoying. Please stop. Thanks.

10. Despite all the mess, the writing world is a better place today.

You wanna know why? Because nowadays, if you’re a good storyteller with a tale to tell, you’ve got a shot. You’ve got some power. Your ability and effort matter. Ten little ole years ago, this just wasn’t true. So even though there’s a ton of straight-up awkward stuff going on in the biz, there’s also a lot of good. And to me, that good is great.

 * * *

Hey look, I’m breaking my own rules. Eat some of these delicious words. And be happier for it.

J Edward Neill

The Agonizing Art of Writing Book Blurbs

A while back I got mega sarcastic with a list of alternative movie blurbs.

And later I roasted myself in public by making fun of all my books.

This time I’m keeping it serious.

If only to illustrate the pain and suffering that accompany writing blurbs (and query letters…and synopses) I’ve challenged myself to write one-sentence descriptions of all my books. The real challenge: giving readers a feel for what the book is about. One sentence. Not too vague. Catchy. Not cliché.

I challenge all my writer friends to do the same.

And all my readers to enjoy this.

Darkness Between the Stars – While gazing at the night sky, the world’s loneliest boy sees the stars begin to disappear.

Big Shiny Red Buttons – The most absurd scenarios imaginable stacked between 100 pages.

Hollow Empire Front Cover

Hollow Empire – Night of Knives – After a plague wipes out most of a medieval nation’s population, five lost souls must survive the horrors that follow.

1

Down the Dark Path – Book I – A young woman leaves home to make a better life for herself, only to wander into the heart of a horrific, world-consuming war.

untitled

Old Man of Tessera – The lone survivor of a deadly storm finds the city of Tessera, in which nothing and no one are what they seem.

 The Hecatomb – A ghoulish monster and its offspring stalk cities at night with the aim of killing every last human in the world.

101-Questions-for-Humanity-333x500

101 Questions for Humanity – The original entry in the Coffee Table Philosophy series asks short, simple questions with aim of provoking thoughtful answers.

101 Questions for Midnight Front Cover

101 Questions for Midnight – The stakes are raised and the questions darker than ever in this fun, engaging ice-breaker book.

2

Down the Dark Path – Book II – A woman follows her lover into a battle he can never hope to win.

DoorNeverDreamedPaperback1

A Door Never Dreamed Of – In a distant Earth future, two young men on opposite sides of an apocalyptic war collide.

3

Down the Dark Path – Book III – After invading and crushing his rival’s homeland, a war-crazed emperor sends his cruelest warlord to butcher the last of his enemies.

101 Questions for Women Cover

101 Questions for Women – Written with women in mind but accessible to everyone, 101 Questions for Women focuses on love, lust, and the breakdown of traditional gender roles.

101 Questions for Men Cover

101 Questions for Men – Geared for men, this entry in the Coffee Table Philosophy series asks questions about sex, relationships, and much more.

4

Down the Dark Path – Book IV – As a world-ending conflict reaches its climax, a young woman must choose whether to join the winning side and become queen or sacrifice everything to betray her kidnappers.

SleepersImageForBlogging

The Sleepers – A wealthy student in a far-distant future is tasked with destroying an alien world to save humanity.

LettheBodies_BlogLg

Let the Bodies – A little girl suffers alone while everyone in her city vanishes.

101 Deeper Darker Cover

101 Deeper, Darker Questions for Humanity – 101 dark questions to test your morality, challenge your ethics, and entertain your friends.

101 xxxy Questions Front Cover

101 Sex Questions – Lovers and laugh-seekers alike will find entertainment in this sexy sidekick to the Coffee Table Philosophy series.
  Dark Moon Daughter New Kindle CoverDark Moon Daughter – Young Andelusia Anderae is seduced by a messenger and convinced that her budding black magic is the key to saving thousands of lives.

NetherKingdomWebLg-331x500

Nether Kingdom – At the world’s edge, a sorceress awakens to the terrible realization that she alone can stop an invasion of otherworldly horrors.

41X6vKWTtJL__SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

444 Questions for the Universe – Meant to entertain for hours, 444 Questions is a grand compilation of serious yet fun questions.

The Little Book of BIG Questions – Science and morality collide in the ultimate conversation-starting book for smart people.

101QSP

101 Questions for Single People – In the modern world of swiping left and never looking back, 101 Questions for Single People asks readers about every facet of love, lust, and human romantic connection.

Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows – A leper dedicates his life to saving children, a woman accepts the rarest of all murder contracts, a girl suffers insanity in a space colony, a train-hopping duo crosses through dimensions, and much, much more…
*The Ultimate Get to Know Someone Quiz – A delightful crash course of fun questions to ask spouses, significant others, family, and friends.

 

* * *

There might be no better way to grab a reader’s attention than through a good blurb.

…and no easier way to lose it with a bad one.

See you on the flip side.

J Edward Neill

Notes from a (mildly) successful author

Last year I sold just over three-thousand books.

Using Kindle Unlimited alone, readers devoured about 18,000 pages of my written works.

Does that sounds like a lot?

It isn’t.

But nor is it insignificant.

So here I find myself, two years after starting my self-publishing journey.

Let’s be honest; I’m stuck squarely in mediocrity.

It’s not a terrible place to be, I guess. I’m not beating myself up about it, but nor can I pat myself on the back. To be honest, I don’t know what I expected in terms of success. When I started this journey I didn’t have a well-crafted plan, a true marketing focus, or an end-of-line goal. It was just me, a small pile of fantasy books, and a notion that a few people might like to read them.

And yet…

The more I wrote, the more I wanted.

And suddenly the idea of mere modest success didn’t sit so well with me.

Let’s jump back in time a bit. Last year I was at a friend’s house party. I was there alone, no date, but most of the others had significant others. As I sat on the couch, cocktail in hand, I people-watched. Cute girls, I observed. Young dudes. But WTF? Everyone is on their cell phone. An idea struck me right then and there. A non-fiction book. Something I’d never even considered before. Something simple to read at parties, break the ice, and pry people’s noses out of their devices. In that moment, the 101 Questions for Humanity series was born. I published the book in less than a month…and all of the sudden sales started to rise. (Special thanks to the UK for buying the hell out of these.)

So. Yeah. A non-fiction book. By a guy who’d only ever written deep, dark fiction. At the time I wrote it, I still didn’t have a plan. But I did have the drive. Know what I mean?

That was about eight months ago. And today here I am, still pounding out words. I’m floating in the grey space between not-at-all-successful and full-time-pay-all-my-bills-writer. I imagine this is where most of my contemporaries sit. We don’t make enough cash to quit our jobs (yet) but nor are we the sort to publish one or two books and sell them only to sympathetic families and friends. We pay our utilities with our royalties, but not our mortgages. Our sales charts look like roller coasters, neither flat-lining nor reaching the grand plateau of holy-shit-I-made-it.

Mosher

It feels a little like this. Battling for crowd supremacy. Sparring with a thousand other people who want the exact same thing.

I guess, given that I’ve only been at publishing two years, and taking into account I have a kid, a terrible day job, and an aggressive social life, I should probably be happy with being in Middle-Land. It’s not so bad. I could walk away right now holding my head high, thinking to myself, well, I wrote more words and sold more books than 99% of the population. I could probably give up the art and never look back.

But if you know me…and more importantly if you know human nature…sometimes settling for mediocrity isn’t in the cards.

I’m going to write until I’m dead. That’s just how it’s gonna be.

A while back, I penned a piece about enjoying healthy competition with your peers. I launched it with writers and artists in mind, but really it applies to everyone. The idea is this: if you want to be better than everyone else, you have to BE better. You have to live it, own it, breathe it. And when you find yourself swimming with ten thousand other fish and you’re aching to either push on or quit and try something else, you’ve got a tough decision to make. Existing in mediocrity ain’t easy. It’s hard to push yourself to the limit, harder still when you learn the fruits of your labor are smaller than you hoped for. You can quit and be happy. You can keep on keepin’ on, content with being in the middle. Or you can roll your sleeves up and get ready to fistfight the entire world. It’s your call, really.

Look, this is not where I get motivational. I don’t have any advice to speed anyone on the way to success. That’s not really my thing. But…I do have a few observations:

Being in the middle of the pack doesn’t suck after two years. It probably will after ten.

Having modest success feels a half a click better than having none…but ten clicks worse than earning big success.

Consumers of books and art don’t usually need perfection. They want to be engaged. They want an emotional response.

If you can keep giving it to them, you’ve got a shot.

My point is that swimming with the crowd won’t kill you. It’ll sting a little every day you’re stuck in it, but it’s not like swinging and missing completely.

Or is it?  

*

The End

* * *

Sudden stops are my kind of thing.

Sudden heart-stops, too.

Until next time.

J Edward Neill