Painting Soundtracks

I can be a bit obsessive when it comes to music. I frequently listen to albums on repeat, especially when I’m working on art. Music helps me stay focused and inspired. Here’s a little taste of what I listen to in the studio…

If I’m working on something a little dark or Sci-Fi, I will often listen to the album Drink the Sea by The Glitch Mob.

I have several albums I love listening to while I’m painting a fantasy piece. If it has a mystical aspect to it I’m guaranteed to listen to Seven Lions.

If the piece is more nature based I might listen to Of Monsters and Men.

Then sometimes, I just listen to whatever is calling to me, like Masterplan, Bon Iver, Florence + The Machine, Placebo, M83, Blackmill, Metallica, Evanescence and many more.

 

Where do you get your Ideas?

Signs and Symbols by Amanda MakepeaceWhere do you get your ideas?

If you’re an artist, writer, musician or anyone working in a creative field you’re bound to be asked. However, the question is a disguise for another. What they are really asking is how did you come up with this final work of art. The question implies there is some secret formula for making art–all it takes is that spark of inspiration. If that were true, we’d all be artists! Having ideas is only one part of the equation. The other half is a ton of hard work. Ideas are important though…and passion. Without either you don’t have anything to fuel the hard work. I’m always a little shocked when I hear an artist say they are struggling to come up with ideas. Maybe it’s just a foreign concept to me. I always seem to be brimming with ideas, so many that I must reign myself in so I stay focused. The well I draw from is all around me and inside me.

Are they struggling to find ideas or are they struggling to find that BIG painting idea? Are they too focused on the end result? When I think of ideas, I think of all the scribbles in my sketchbook and the notes that eventually lead to a painting. It’s a process. Even when I think I have a core idea for a painting, it always continues to evolve before I have the final artwork. I think some artists are looking for that stroke of genius, that masterpiece. This quote from Chuck Close sums it up well…

“The advice I like to give young artists, or really anybody who’ll listen to me, is not to wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work.”

“All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself. Things occur to you. If you’re sitting around trying to dream up a great art idea, you can sit there a long time before anything happens. But if you just get to work, something will occur to you and something else will occur to you and something else that you reject will push you in another direction. Inspiration is absolutely unnecessary and somehow deceptive. You feel like you need this great idea before you can get down to work, and I find that’s almost never the case.”

Just get to work.

Start by sketching something you love. What are you passionate about? Make list. I love nature, fantasy and myth. I also love horror movies, owls, crows and bones. I love taking hikes in the woods. My imagination is fond of mixing all of these together.

Sketches and Ideas

Spirit Owls by Amanda Makepeace

When I’m sketching the things I’m passionate about or getting out of the studio to embrace what I love, I can’t stop the ideas from forming. So if you’re struggling, stop sitting around. Take your sketchbook outside, or to a museum, or a busy town center or a cafe… Explore a new medium or tackle something you’ve never drawn before. Challenge yourself but remember, there’s nothing wrong with returning to things you’ve drawn or painted hundreds of times. You just might think of a new way to express that object or idea.

*****

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20 Things I’ve Dreamed About

Not so long ago, I lost my dreams.

Meaning; I stopped having them.

Entirely.

I think I know the reason why. But reasons aren’t always important. Instead I think I’ll catalog some of the ones I remember. For my sake. And hopefully for your entertainment.

* * *

A lot of people describe having falling dreams. I can’t remember ever having one of those. But I used to have falling ‘up’ dreams. As in I keep falling toward outer space. I don’t die out there in the stars. I just keep going. Trippy.

Remember the cool spherical submarine James Cameron took down into the ocean deeps? I dreamed that. Except the sub went way, way down. Not just the seven miles into the Marianas Trench, but a hundred miles deeper. I can’t really recall what I saw down there, but it was fascinating…and terrifying.

I once dreamed I met two men in Israel. They each offered me a different power, but the catch was I’d have to use it to help them do nefarious things. One power was to slow time for everyone else besides myself. The second was to become as heavy (in terms of weight) as I desired, while maintaining the same size. Both would make me unstoppable. I did bad things. I chose the weight power, then used it to steal the time power from the other guy. Oddly enough, this weird little dream inspired my new book, A Door Never Dreamed Of.

Ever seen the movie, The Fountain? Pretty good flick. I dreamed I was the dude in a space bubble, and I dreamed it fifty times, maybe more. I was utterly alone, forever floating. I was immortal. It was kinda cool, and supremely lonely.

I had a baaaaad nightmare when I was eight. My recently departed grandfather visited me, only he was rotting, eyeless, and nasty. His guts were hanging out. He looked like the dude from the old Metallica video, The Unforgiven. Yikes.

Less a dream and more an observation. I’ve never heard music of any kind during any dream I’ve ever had. Is that unusual? Do you guys hear tunes while you sleep?

I used to have a specific night terror as a boy, then later as a teenager (after several years of not having it.) In the nightmare, a skeletal shadow hovered over me as I slept. It woke me, whispered horrible things to me, and promised one day it would destroy me. Not just my body, but my soul. I decided later in life to make this critter the bad guy in my way-too-F’n-long fantasy series, and haven’t had the nightmare since. Hmmmm…

I had a recurring dream about a genie in a bottle. No…not the Christina Aguilera song. The genie asked me what my one wish was. (It was BS I didn’t get three.) My answer was always the same: The Power of Persuasion. Meaning anything I suggested to any person, they listened to. It was the ultimate Jedi mind trick. Sometimes I used the power for good. Sometimes just to get laid. Other times I took over the entire planet, upon which I established a seriously dark, tyrannical empire. Fun!

First dream I remember having: I’m in a car driving down a long road I’ve been down before, but can’t remember where it is in real life. Graveyards sleep on either side of the car. It’s not scary at all. There’s someone singing to me in the front seat. It’s soothing, but kinda dark.

The worst nightmare I’ve ever had (worse than rotting grandpa and shadow demon) was definitely this: I’m relaxing in my childhood bedroom. I have earphones on, but no music is playing. I’m at peace, but suddenly every single light in the world starts going out. I can sense the lights dying one by one. And then the outage comes to my house. It’s slow. It’s agonizing. And when the last light dies (a lamp beside my bed) I expire.

I dreamed this one almost exactly as I ended up writing it. I’m a boy at a zoo for aliens. I’m with my family. Everything seems fine, until it doesn’t. If you care, the story is here.

Ever played the game Metroid? Basically it’s a story about a woman alone on a planet full of things that want to kill her. For almost a year, I had a similar dream. Earth needs me to go to this weird planet and blow it up. No one can go with me. After training, I land on this eerie place and wander into some caves. Sadly I never get to finish. I like to think I completed my mission. Guess I’ll never know.

In a completely non-sexual way, I had a recurring dream about a red-haired woman. She was like my sister or something, and I was completely obligated to follow her around, protect her, and to not under any circumstances fall in love with her. All of this I did in a medieval setting. No modern conveniences at all. The girl later became part of the inspiration for the heroine (Andelusia) in my dark fiction series.

Clouds 2

In one of my favorite dreams, I soar through clouds that look much like these. I’m utterly free, no cares in the world. I like to think we’d all love this dream.

I dreamed once, maybe twice, of a great, dark city. The city was newly-made, shiny and black. It wasn’t really modern, but nor was it from the old world. The city lay on a black shore upon which oil instead of water washed up in waves. I wandered the city for years. And found no one. So I painted it here.

Had a dream that the Russian government asked me to end a war. All I had to do was assassinate the president of their rival nation. I did terrible things in this dream, but perhaps the saving grace is that I never got to the end. The Russians didn’t win, and I always had the sense that they were the bad guys to begin with. (Disclaimer: I don’t believe this in real-life.)

I used to have persistent (and weird) dreams of being Lucifer from Paradise Lost. I fight God, lose, and fall. Except Hell in my dreams isn’t scary or hot. It’s peaceful, albeit cold.

Ok. Yes. I’ve had the typical I’m the best NFL quarterback in the world dream. I mean…it’s been a while. Forgive me, ok?

This one sounds like a nightmare, but it never really was. As a ghost, I wandered the world for hundreds of years after my death. I couldn’t touch or really affect anything. I figure I should’ve been lonely, but somehow I wasn’t. It was kinda interesting observing how humanity evolved. I only wish I could’ve remembered all the cool tech I dreamed up. 🙂

The last dream I remember having before my dreams stopped: walking through the rain on a forested mountainside. So very peaceful. If that was the last one I ever have, I’ll take it.

* * *

Here’s a book that wasn’t inspired by any dreams.

And here’s one almost entirely dream-made.

See ya.

J Edward Neill

 

Top Nine Most Inspiring Things Ever

 

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

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

So here you go:

ChicagoAtNight

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

 

 

Deep Space

I mean…holy shit.

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

 

 

 

  CloudsSun

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

 

 

  Music

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

 

GManSpidey

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

ALightInMoria

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

 

PrairieForever

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

 

images

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

Ur Knight NK Cover Sketch Ver 2 - Copy

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

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

 

Until next time,

 J Edward Neill

Author of the Tyrants of the Dead

Co -Author of Hollow Empire – Night of Knives

Author of The Sleepers and Old Man of Tessera

 

Every Day is Exactly the Same…

I read a fair amount of writing blogs. Blogs on self-publishing. Blogs on productivity. Blogs on the book industry. And sometimes in all the noise I think one essential thing gets lost. When you are a creative of any stripe, be it writer or artist, there is one truth among everything that you do.

BestWrite

You have to take it one day at a time. You have to put your butt in the chair and block out that thirty minutes, that hour, that half a day, however long it will take you to actually get something down on paper (or computer if that’s your thing).

I write about this for me as much as anyone else. I want to remind myself of the goals I’ve set so that I can hold myself accountable when the end of the year comes. I want to know what I need to do, and what I should be doing.

So many times over the years I’ve seen talented people, writers and artists both, say one thing with their voices, but show something entirely different with their actions. They say they want to do X thing for a living, but then don’t want to commit the time necessary to actually accomplish those goals.

And I know, your busy. We are all busy. We spread ourselves thin with work and family commitments and that crazy thing called sleep. People have hour plus commutes, each way, every day. Hey, I’m grateful for my job, but you do get to waste 1-2 hours in your car every day.

Ask yourself what your priorities are. Where did you waste time today? Could you chose to study your craft instead of one of those time sinks. There are so many ways to make sure that you don’t get your work in today.

Hey, I get it. I struggle with it too. Some nights I have to drag myself to the computer, launch Scrivener, and then will myself to do the work. And I am not successful every night. Sometimes I am tired. Sometimes I am not creative or I am stuck on a scene.

And sometimes I just don’t want to do it. I’d rather play Magic Online or watch a movie or even fire up the XBOX and play Madden for a couple of games.

south park playing games

Those things are going to happen.

But…

But… if you are a writer and wrote 250 words a day. That’s effectively 1 page. So if you wrote 1 page a day, then at the end of a year you’d have a book. 365 pages is a solid book. It would probably take you all of 15 minutes to write that 250 words. Heck, you could probably do that while you were sitting at your desk during the day. Or during lunch. Or maybe even construct it in your head as you drive home.

I mean, you want to do this for a living, right? That’s what you said.

1 page a day. That’s all. Much like economics, this stuff compounds with time.

If you are an artist (say for comics)… if you drew one page this week. And then did that for 52 weeks, you’d have 2 comic books in a year. Yes, I understand that it takes longer to draw than write, but 1 page a week. What if I put it another way? What if I said for you to do 1 Panel a day. Most comic pages are 6 panels. That’d give you your page a week. 1 Panel is all it takes.

I mean, you want to do this for a living, right? That’s what you said.

Little things add up to be big things.

Pile-of-paper-CO2-Savings

This could be you!

I think there are plenty of people out there who want to write a book. A lot of times when I’m talking to people and the fact that I’m also a writer (in addition to being an engineer), most people mention that they’d love to write a book.

They’d love to write A book.

And that’s awesome. Honestly, I think that the more voices that are out there, the better off we all will be. No one has your combination of experiences. No one sees the world like you do. So if you want to give this Word thing a shot – go for it.

But that’s not what I want. I don’t want to write A book.

I want to write 100 books.

And I don’t want just one comic book to come out.

I want to have written a 1000 comics.

That means that I have to squeeze the juice out whenever I can. It means that the tray beside my computer is filled with scraps of paper that I’ve written on during the course of the work day. Bits of dialogue for the project I’m currently working on. The idea for a short story that will get filed away. Even story beats for the next novel I’m going to write.

You have to find that little bit of extra time. Maybe it means you wake up 15 minutes earlier every day (heaven forbid) or maybe you stay up 15 minutes later?

Ask yourself if this is a hobby or if this is a career? Do you want to do this or do you just like saying that you will do it… eventually, you know, down the line. Are you going to look back in a year and think about the wasted time and why didn’t you get started on that novel/comic/painting last year? Last month? Yesterday?

And if you are wanting to do more than 1 thing, you know what happens when you finish that one? You start on the next one.

So what’s the plan? What do you want to be?

Now show me the proof.

 

***

John McGuire

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

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

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

Collecting Inspiration

When Pinterest first popped up on the web I had zero interest in signing up for another social site. All I saw was a place to share shopping wishlists, recipes, and fashion trends. Sure, some artists were pinning items from their Etsy shops, but I just didn’t see the value. I’m going to be blatantly honest… I really don’t care much about celebrities lives, fashion trends, DIY home improvement, etc. My wardrobe is proof of this! If I’d left it at that I would have never seen the bigger picture. I wasn’t thinking outside the box. My opinion was changed when I saw author Emma Pass using Pinterest for her writing. She created boards for her books. She pinned covers, character inspiration, places, etc.

I might not be interested in redecorating my living room or finding that perfect outfit, but I’m always inspired by hidden beauty, nature, magical places and dark places. So I began collection inspiration. Here are three of my boards, a general Inspiration Board, Dark Places and History, Myth and Lore. I also have boards for Magical Places, Science, Nature and Magic, Natural History and many more. I don’t use Pinterest in the hopes that what I pin will go viral. I use it like a visual bookmark, so that I can return to it and be inspired. The images I pin can be the starting point for my own painting ideas.

Follow Amanda Makepeace’s board Inspiration Board on Pinterest.

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Follow Amanda Makepeace’s board Dark Places on Pinterest.

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Follow Amanda Makepeace’s board History, Myth and Lore on Pinterest.

Pinterest is good for saving all those redecorating ideas and recipes but it can be so much more.

A Little Luck

I want to try something for the blog. I’m not 100% on how it is going to work, but… I like the idea of demystifying things. So how do you come up with the stories you write? Just like this:

Royal Flush Poker cards & Chips

My wife and I play poker at one of the local restaurants nearly every Sunday evening. It works out well because it is something we are decent at and enjoy together. But I had a lot of time to think about Luck when a hand didn’t go my way (“Bad” Luck) and suddenly I was out of this week’s tournament. In my mind the fact that my opponent ended up winning the hand when (once we got all the chips in the middle) he only had about a 25 % chance to win tells me I had some bad luck in that hand.

Sometimes I wonder if I don’t just have bad luck in many other hands. But as many poker players (and more than one mathematician) would tell you, sometimes you are just in a bad stretch, but eventually things will regress back to the mean. Or to put it simply, things will average out.

24420873-bad-luck-unlucky-day-or-bad-fortune-misfortune

But let’s face facts, we remember the bad beats in cards and in life more than we remember the times when we got “lucky”. It is very easy to bemoan our fates when those negative thoughts keep coming up. When we know that the other shoe is bound to drop. We’re the types of people who when you say bad things happen in 3s, we are quick to point out items 4,5,& 6.

We compete to figure out who has it worse. We’ve all been in those conversations:

Me – “I blew a tire today so I was late to work.”

You – “Yeah, my car wouldn’t start today, so I ended up having to call in sick. And after repairs and everything I’m out $1000.”

Me – “O.K. You win!”

Though, let’s be honest. I’m going to talk about some other instance of something bad happening to me today while I was at work, because I cannot concede defeat that easily, right?

It’s the same in stories. One of the ideas I’ve heard is when you are writing figure out what your character wants and then put an obstacle in front of them. So maybe they have to get across the state for some meeting of the minds which will solve all their problems… oops! your tire blew, and because you didn’t have a spare you missed the meeting and now the aliens are going to invade (or something). In a lot of ways it seems like Bad Luck is almost the thing that can keep your hero from winning their story.

But I think the other side maybe works too well. Sometimes it is too much good Luck running amuck. It’s gotta be believable. It’s gotta be something where you don’t scratch your head because the solution was not just impossible, but beyond lucky.

Star Wars – If you were a character who didn’t understand the Force, but knew the events that led to the destruction of the first Death Star, wouldn’t you think that Luke was literally the luckiest man alive? I mean he closed his eyes and took the shot. “One in a million, kid!” What a stroke of luck.

Of course, we the viewer, know the truth of the situation.

StarWars_Scene3

One Lucky S.O.B.

The Hobbit – Bard ends up hitting Smaug in the one spot where he is vulnerable. Yes, maybe he is just “that good”, but I know  when I read the Hobbit, that was my biggest problem with it. So one arrow fired by someone not in the main group was going to be the thing to end the evil of this dragon? How lucky!

So there is a fine line to walk. You must make it so that your character has to struggle a bit, perhaps they bemoan their fate (their Luck), but most of the time they are going to triumph in the end. Overcoming the odds.

Overcoming the odds… sounds like they got lucky to me.

Something else that puzzles me about luck… Is it possible that there is an amount of luck that each person has? Can it be measured? Is it like matter in that it cannot be created or destroy, but merely transformed?

There’s an 80s movie with Richard Dryfuss called Let it Ride (a personal guilty pleasure movie). In the film, he’s a compulsive gambler (horse racing in this instance). There’s a line in that movie that’s always stuck with me:

“You could be walking around lucky and not even know it.”

That’s a profound thought. What if we have some amount of luck which ebbs and flows on a daily basis? What if we could predict when those cycles were so that we only played poker or craps or blackjack on the days when our own personal luck meter (for lack of a better term) was in the positive rather than in the negative? Maybe that’s why there is something to be said for the idea behind “beginner’s luck.” Those are people who have not burned through their luck for a particular luck based game. So that first time they play… well, it’s like they can’t lose because they really can’t.

I have a friend who I have joked with over the years about his luck. I’ve seen it in action before to the point that it is now a matter of fact that it will happen. It’s like he has a super-power where he can manipulate the odds into something a bit more in his favor. And obviously it doesn’t work every time, but it works enough for me to notice. It works enough for me to wonder if there might not be something to it.

Here’s the key thing, he doesn’t waste it. When we play games of chance, he isn’t always winning. In fact, he probably wins at an average rate. What you might expect any person to win who plays Settlers every once in a while. Does he know what he’s doing? Does the Luck?

I think there is something to all of that. Could I steal someone else’s luck? What would that look like? How might you go about taking something like that? Is there such a thing as taking too much? I mean, if you reduce all their Good Luck and only leave the bad… well, they’d probably get hit by a random object from the sky (oh, and if you are going to do that, make sure that you are nowhere near them afterwards).

writing

And this is how ideas begin to form. A bad beat in poker becomes something more… but where to go? This feels like there is something there. Buried underneath, waiting for a story to be told. The only question now is whether I can exhume it anytime soon. Or perhaps it is destined to be filed away for a while.

 

 

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John McGuire

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

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

My Writing Process (Blog Tour Entry)

I loathe chain emails. I’m not sure if they existed in paper form, but the thing which always killed me was the warning at the end. Like something out of a Steven King novel: “If you dare break this chain of old, a thousand locusts will descend upon thy host until only misery and bones are left to thee.”

Chain Letter

 

I snub my nose at such dire warnings. And I’m insulted that you feel that the subject manner itself is not good enough to spur me into action. There are many things that are difficult in this digital age, forwarding something on is not one of those things.

(Though I wonder if some of my recent bad luck is a result of not sending along that latest one… hmm, maybe I should rethink my stance.)

But a Chain Blog Tour? Well now, that is a horse of a different color. And when a fellow Guild-mate taps you then you do your best to appease the chain-blog gods. So with that in mind a little something to say about J Edward Neill.

I’ve known Mr. Neill since high school, brought together by a shared love of basketball and roleplaying. For the many years I thought about writing a book, he was sitting in his dark cave (or mountain top or volcano fortress) actually putting pen to paper, fingers to keyboard to create his fantasy opus: Down the Dark Path. And much like in sports where they tell you to play against better competition in order to get better at your craft – I use him as one of my gauges. Of course, this week he’s come out with Book 2: Dark Moon Daughter… so my work is cut out for me.

 

writing

What am I working on?

Sometimes I feel like the question should be “What am I not working on”, but let’s see:

The White Effect – My science fiction story about a man who finds that his world is rebooting, and he is one of the lucky (unlucky) ones who realizes what’s happening. It is currently with BETA readers with my next draft being targeted for late summer.

Hollow Empire – Serialized Dark Fantasy is all I’ll say about this one until it is out. This one is done, I’m just in the process of getting a final proof-reader edit on it. This process has slowed due to some recent life developments, but I’m hoping (and I’m sure my co-writer hopes as well) to have this one all wrapped up in the next month or so.

Gilded Age – My Steampunk creator-owned comic series through Terminus Media. Issue 2 is set to have final inks and colors begin any day now, and in the meantime I have final edits on issue 3’s script.

Entropy – A post-apocalyptic comic series set at the Ends of the Universe. Co-written with Robert Jeffrey II (see below for more on him), we merely wait for the artist to be unleashed upon this project.

The Edge of the World – A story in the vein of Journey to the Center of the Earth where our heroine seeks to find her missing uncle. I am 15,000 words into the first draft of this one.

 

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

With my comic writing, and The Gilded Age in particular, I’m trying to write character based stories and create a world from them as opposed to plopping them into a world. With my novel, The Dark That Follows, I’d say that it differs from “standard” urban fantasy in that it isn’t a romantic story where you wonder will they/won’t they. Instead it is about a man in way over his head just trying to do the right thing.

 

Why_charlie_brown_why_title_card

Why do I write what I do?

As you can see above, I’m a little all over the place with regards to genre (for better or for worse). I guess I just follow that old rule of write what you’d like to read, and since I don’t just read fantasy or science fiction or urban fantasy or super-heroes exclusively my brain ensures that almost everything I work on is something different from the thing I wrote before. I take everything I’ve read, everything I’ve watched, everything I’ve ever heard and put them through the grinder of my brain and then something comes out. If it is interesting and moves me, then I write about it, if not, I move onto the next project.

 

How does my writing process work?

It starts with music. Something to write to. Recently it has been 10 Years, Chevelle, and Deftones. Once I have the right mood set I generally have a decent idea of what needs to happen within the story, so much more plotter than pantser. For a comic script I tend to write out a 1-2 paragraph summary of the major story beats and then start writing dialogue. Only after most of the dialogue is written do I go back and fill in every panel’s description and manipulate the pace of the comic. After a couple of passes I send it on to my editors, do one more pass with their notes, and then end up doing a FINAL-FINAL pass during the lettering stage as I can see the whole picture (literally) and see if something needs to be added or subtracted.

With my novels I have the story beats, but I write out-of-order most of the time, jumping from one scene to another and then piece things together like a puzzle. After that first draft is done I follow Steven King’s advice and put it in the drawer for 6-8 weeks to gain perspective. After that time I do my second pass, and if I’m happy with that version I might reach out to a couple of BETA readers for thoughts. Another draft follows that and then the editor. And then the final draft.

But at some point I do say “pencils down” because while we can tweak and refine our work forever, it doesn’t mean we should. Release it into the world and move onto the next project.

 

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Artist Highlights (or Next on the Tour):

Robert Jeffrey II: Robert is an Atlanta-based freelance writer whose portfolio includes a multitude of work in the arenas of print/web journalism and comics. His work with Atlanta-based Terminus Media includes comics (his creator owned/ 2014 Glyph Comic Award winning “Route 3” and “Daddy’s Little Girl”, “Terminus Team Up”, and B. Robert Bell’s “Radio Free Amerika”) and contracted client work including custom comics and animation scripting/editing duties for clients such as the Center for Disease Control and Nitto Tires.

Robert’s life long dream is to win a pop-locking battle to save a community center.

 

Sean Taylor: Bad Girls, Good Guys, and Two-Fisted Action is the official writing blog of Sean Taylor. But it’s not just a place to promote his stuff. It’s a resource (he hopes) of information about writing and creating genre fiction, literary prose, comic books, and just about anything else you can create with pens, pencils, paper, or word-processing software and a printer. On this site, you’ll be able to find publishers calling for submissions, tutorials about the craft of writing and editing, interviews with other writers, links to helpful and fascinating articles about the art, craft and business of writing and publishing, etc. — and of course, yes, you’ll also be able to keep up with whatever Sean has his writerly little paws involved in too.

 

 

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John McGuire

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

New Art: Exploring Space

I’ve always been drawn to nature, wildlife and the fantastical. Those same themes are what show up in my art 95% of the time. The other 5% is reserved for Science Fiction and Horror. I’ve painted space scenes on canvas with acrylics and I’ve painted them with my Intuos in Photoshop. Space is wondrous. Space captures the imagination. I took Astronomy in college, just because I could. Though I’ve never been there I feel I know it, as we all do, through images from the Hubble Space Telescope. Read more

Life Outside the Studio

Break the MonotonyBefore begin, I should apologize to those few friends I have. This is why you rarely see me. I love my friends, but I’ll admit I’m not very good at staying in touch. I do try though, believe me!

Given the choice, I’d be a recluse, an artist voluntarily confined to the studio. I don’t watch a lot of television. I’m not on the PTA of my daughter’s school. I’m not into most sports. I don’t go to church. I don’t like talking on the phone. I can only handle socializing for so long. I cherish my solitude. I’d be fine with letting my own birthday pass me by if I could be left alone in my studio to paint.

Yes. I’m an introvert. But it’s a misnomer to say introverts are shy, antisocial creatures. True, once upon a time I was paralyzingly shy, but I grew past it. Nowadays my solitude and silence is by choice, but I wouldn’t underestimate my quiet demeanor. I am anything but quiet on the inside. Painting quells that inner fire and colors are a feast I devour daily. But every artist, whether they are introverted or not, has a life outside the studio. As much as I love my peace and quiet there are times I crave interaction, and while Read more

Clearwater Chronicle

Clearwater 2013 View from WindowI recently made the long drive to Clearwater, Fl.  And no, it doesn’t mean I love George Zimmerman.

I made this little journey with two goals in mind. The first: to see an old friend who’d arrived in the States from Denmark. The second: to carve a few days out of my routine life and recapture some mojo for writing. Both, I think, proved successful.

Beach at twilight

I wish the water looked just like this for far longer than three minutes each night…

While walking the beach each morning, day, and night, I tried to pay better attention than during previous vacations. I picked my gaze up out of the water (which was too cold for swimming anyhow) and observed my surroundings. And wow, the things I saw:

  • On the first day, after a grueling round of sand 2v2 volleyball, I watched as a British family near the water argued. Ah, the Brits. Their colorful language attracted the attention of everyone within a half-mile. But the real action started when the mother walked right up to her foul-mouthed daughter and punched (not slapped) her right in the chops! No one could believe what had happened. The daughter howled. The dad…laughed. The mom unleashed a stream of profanities I haven’t heard since the last time I watched Snatch. It…was…awesome… More importantly, I can’t get enough of the way the Brits drop the F bomb
  • That night, I saw The Counselor. Now, without getting too deep in spoilers, I’ll just say I love it when the bad guys win. It’s rare in movies, but utterly realistic. The monologues delivered by several characters were deeply philosophical. No one would ever talk like that in real life, but it didn’t matter. Truth is truth, especially grim, hard truth. Movie Review – A
  • On the first night in my hotel, I arrived in my room on the top floor. I had an ocean view, just as requested. The dark water was spread out beneath my window, roiling beneath the stars. I thought to myself, “This is perfect. I’ll get tons of writing done tonight.” But…just as I sat down by the window, the hotel’s elephantine AC system kicked on atop the roof, making my room shake as though a helicopter were landing three feet above my head. I’m all for white noise, but this was absurd. “My night’s ruined,” I feared. “And besides, the concierge is a dead man.” And yet, as it turned out, I was able to tune out the sound of my room shaking and write an entire chapter for Hollow Empire, my joint venture with John McGuire. Strange indeed
Dark Water

The ocean. At night. What else do you need?

Falling Star over ClearwaterOther random events I observed while walking the city:

  • A homeless guy pretending to be a broke tourist. I’d seen him try his little game the previous day, so when he walked up to a young woman and said, “My wife and I are in town for the weekend, but we lost our credit cards. Do you think you could spare me some cash? She really needs her coffee,” I laughed a little bit inside. Sorry, homeless guy, you need to work on your approach. Begging for coffee money isn’t going to cut it
  • A woman with a giant (I mean enormous) tramp stamp of a volleyball. I’ve seen bad tattoos, and then I saw this. It was huge, as in actual-size huge. Just…no…
  • A dude at a Halloween (Best non-holiday holiday ever, btw) party dressed as Christian Grey. His costume: 50 grey-shaded sample paint cards from Home Depot duct-taped to an otherwise unremarkable shirt. While he didn’t win the best costume prize, he won the admiration of every woman at the party
  • Jesus playing Sweet Home Alabama on guitar…with an actual crown of thorns worn over a head full of dreadlocks…drinking Fruit Loop flavored vodka. Yes, really

What does any of this have to do with regaining  mojo for writing? In a nutshell: people-watching. Observe the interesting things people do, listen to the crazy things they say, and add the experience to the card catalogue in your brain. Or, if people-watching doesn’t inspire you, try walking along the ocean at night. If that doesn’t bring you peace, you may want to try vicodin.

Next week I get serious, delivering an excerpt from Dark Moon Daughter, Book II in the Tyrants of the Dead trilogy.

Much love,

J Edward Neill