Win a free sci-fi book – Darkness Between the Stars – No Strings Attached

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A Scary Short Story Collection

In the old world city of Ellerae, one person goes missing every day.
Poor little Mia doesn’t stand a chance.
Or does she?

Let the Bodies – A creepy follow-up to chilling tale, Old Man of Tessera – appears in anthology book UnCommon Evil – Release date Feb 20th, 2018.

Preorder Uncommon Evil right here.

Why Must I Art?

 


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

My concentration never breaks.

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

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

What am I doing here?

Recapturing my youth?

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

Gunning for likes on Facebook?

Nope. None of these.

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

Princess Oblivia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But my paintbrush is steady.

…and the table beside me is a mess.

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

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

Art, on the other hand…

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

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

And in a week…well…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe that’s the reason. Maybe…

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

My co-artist. Her hat is…questionable.

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

I don’t really want to wake up.

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

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

…and into my own.

*

J Edward Neill

Selling the Last of my Shadows

This gallery contains 14 photos.

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

Thursday Art Assault – New Cover Art for A Collection of Shadows

Whoa…

Whoa…

Whoa!

Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Shadows has all new cover art:

Cover by Tahina Morrison & J Edward Neill

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Tread lightly into ancient, forbidden realms.

Wander into the futures of apocalyptic worlds.

Know what it feels like to face the darkness alone.

Machina Obscurum contains twenty-two short tales by nine masters of fiction. Within these pages lie stories of men and monsters, of lonely souls and far-distant places. No matter what whets your appetite: sci-fi, horror, fantasy, or hard, dark realistic fiction, A Collection of Shadows has it all.

Contains stories by J Edward Neill, John McGuire, Chad Shonk, River Fairchild, Jennifer Clayton, Phil Elmore, Robert Jeffrey II, F Charles Murdock, & Roy Dodd.

Thursday Art Assault – A Girl Standing in the Wind

We started with this…

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And ended with this…

Decided against the tattoos…

*

Here’s another angle…

Appears darker in this lighting setup.

*

Hither the Wind – Tahina Morrison & J Edward Neill

For more 3D art pieces like this, go here.

For previous art assaults, go here.

 

Coming Soon – Life & Dark Liquor

Sometimes I write drunk and revise sober, and sometimes I write sober and revise drunk. But you have to have both elements in creation — the Apollonian and the Dionysian, or spontaneity and restraint, emotion and discipline.”

– Peter De Vries, Reuben, Reuben

*

And so I shall.

At least two cocktails per chapter.

…to soften the senses and open doors long-shut.

*

Coming soon…

Life & Dark Liquor

‘Sequel’ to Reality is Best Served with Red Wine

**

Having survived winter in the Chicago suburbs, J Edward Neill descends to Atlanta, where summers are mercilessly hot and every evening invites new adventures.

In the Deep South, he discovers new places, new friendships, and new cocktails.

Alternatively calm and stormy, exuberant and lonely, his latest bounce between bottles digs into the life of an ordinary author living in a strange and unpredictable world. Life and Dark Liquor is both a memoir and philosophical piece, ranging through topics both small and grandiose:

Single fatherhood.

Holding on to relationships.

Searching for creativity.

Marriage, divorce, and the hardest parts of being human.

And what’s more…

J Edward sips scotch, bourbon, and deep, dark whiskey with every chapter. No topic goes untouched.

No cocktail is spared.

 

*

Life & Dark Liquor

Coming in August 2017

 

The Book of Wine…and Life.

In J Edward’s latest book, he promises to drain one bottle of red wine per chapter.

That’s the rule. 

There’s no breaking it.

 And while deep in his cups, he takes readers on a sometimes funny, sometimes poignant journey.  Playful yet serious, funny yet honest, the bounce between bottles takes readers on a stroll through everything. 

Dating. Religion. Politics. That one time J Edward and his friend built a dam and met the world’s most relaxed water moccasin…

 It’s all here.

One bottle per night.

Every night.

At least…that’s the idea.

Now Available!

   
* * *

Reality is Best Served with Red Wine

Anecdotes and philosophy by J Edward Neill

Grinding Away in a Creative Life

It’s sunny outside.

It’s the kind of morning of which I like to dream. Not cold, but not quite warm. No clouds. No wind. I can hear the birds and smell the honeysuckle. It’s perfect.

It’s enough to make me want to freeze time and wander the morning for a few thousand years.

I should be working, but I’m not. I’ve just finished publishing another pair of books, and I find myself slogging through a short story about which I’m only somewhat passionate.

Sometimes, when I hit a lull like this, I pick up my paintbrush and spread out a few shadows. Maybe a colorful tree. A mournful maiden. Or maybe something terrifying.

Not today. I’m not in the mood.

I really just want to hang with the cat.

This is where I’m at:

Eaters of the Light, my sci-fi/romance/thriller series? It’s published.

My goal of finishing thirty canvas paintings at this point in the year? Exceeded.

The latest entry in my ridiculous ‘Reasons to Break Up’ trilogy? Slapped together and shipped.

It’s been a good year so far. But I want more.

Some people talk about creative exhaustion. About writer’s block. About procrastination, lack of direction, and boredom.

Nah. Forget all that.

I’ve got 99 problems, but none of ’em are those.

My cardinal sin? Setting reachable goals.

Yeah. Oops.

It’s like this. Some mountains in life are meant to be climbed. You say you want to save $1000 bucks for a vacation? Boom, you did it; now get in the car and head to the beach. Land a big promotion at work? Achieved. Need to step outside and mow your lawn? Nice, you’re finished…hopefully with a cool glass of bourbon awaiting you inside.

But artistic goals – are those really meant to be conquered? Of this, I’m not so sure. Is there ever a point at which an author sits down and says, ‘You know…I think I’m done. No more books. I’m just gonna drift away into the sunset .’ Do painters, sculptors, and photographers one day just set down their tools and declare their life’s work complete? I mean…maybe. Maybe some people can do it. Maybe the best of the best reach a point of contentedness, and afterward float away in the clouds with a satisfied smile on their faces.

Maybe.

But somehow I doubt it.

My son – the G Man. He’s not impressed.

Last night, for the first time in forever, I didn’t create. My brushes sat in a Mason jar full of water, soaking up nothing. My new short story ‘Nadya the Deathless’ laid untouched on my century-old laptop. I didn’t draw. I didn’t write. I didn’t wander outside beneath the perfect stars to dream up a new and exhilarating story.

I just sat there in the gloom of my basement. With a bowl of Progresso soup. Vaguely watching a movie. Not really thinking, moving, or existing.

For a while, maybe an hour, I floated in the stillness. Near the end, a scary idea crept over me. I thought perhaps I’d made a grave error in setting goals that were too easy to achieve. ‘Aim low, and you’ll hit your target,’ I realized. ‘Shoot for the moon, and though you’ll never make it, you’ll get to die trying.’

I opened my eyes. The back door was open, and the moths fluttering inside to get at the room’s only lamp. My cats dozed beside me, savoring my rare moment of inactivity.

It was then I knew my low-goal setting hadn’t been some tragic thing.

I can make a new goal, I realized. Something lofty. Something impossible to reach.

Something I’ll be proud to die trying to do.

So let’s talk goals.

Absurd goals.

Quest to drop the One Ring into Mount Doom kind of goals.

Right now I’ve got thirty-two published books. My new goal – one-hundred.

Right now my painting store is stocked with one-hundred nine original canvas paintings. New goal – three-hundred.

Season one of Hollow Empire is finished. New goal – finish three full seasons.

This giant fantasy trilogy, the one I published five years ago, has begun to gather dust. New goal – sell one-thousand new copies…and write a sequel.

And my most ambitious goal, the one that’ll allow me to sniff retirement, is to sell one-million copies of this little tome. (Right now I’m only at thirteen-thousand copies sold.)

Challenges, challenges…

Insurmountable.

Unlikely.

Delusional.

This should be fun.

It’s still sunny outside, although maybe a bit warmer now. And there’s just a few things more I want to share before I wander outside.

My art partner, Tahina Morrison, with whom I’ve created nearly one-hundred sculpted paintings, is leaving town. It was inevitable, this change. It’s humanity’s natural ebb and flow.  As I sit in my little chair and think about the challenges that will arise in her absence, I can’t help but smile.

We did good work together, she and I.

We had a blast.

 

Furiosa

Twilight Shaman

 

Horned Queen

*

These are just a few of my favorite collaborative pieces. In Tahina’s absence, I realize my painting goals will be even more difficult to achieve.

So be it. Challenge accepted.

Now then…

I think it’s probably time.

Time to open the door and step out into the sunlight.

Time to stop talking about goals and start realizing them.

Time to feed my cats.

Thanks to all my readers for sticking with me. Thanks to all the art collectors who’ve invested in me, and who happily stick my canvasses on their walls. And special thanks to Tahina and the G Man, without whom the last two years would’ve been infinitely less rewarding.

Goodbye for now.

I’ll be back.

 * * *

Readers will want to check out this book here. Trust me…you’ll be happy you did.

And dark art lovers might appreciate this piece, which I created based on an actual skull sitting in my living room.

J Edward Neill

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Love of Drawing Beautiful Women

Ages ago, I was a student in a small Atlanta art school.

I wasn’t searching for a degree. Or a job. Or to become the next Boris Vallejo, HR Giger, or Picasso.

I just wanted to learn how to draw. Particularly people. Especially beautiful bodies and faces.

After I finished school, I ended up getting married, having a kid, writing books, and falling out of touch with the artsy young dude I’d once been.

But…

Over the last year, my world has stabilized. Once full of turmoil, I now enjoy relative peace.

Which means more time to paint. Sketch. And draw. Usually while sipping red wine beneath the setting sun.

One of my favorite topics has always been the female face. It’s elegant in a way no other subject matter can match. That’s not to say I don’t love all other forms of art, just that I find relaxation in the challenge of painting human expression.

So today I’d like to share some of my work. Some of these are what I’d consider ‘failed’ pieces, being not up to my standards. Others are small successes. While I still consider myself to be a weekend warrior (at best) I’m getting better with each piece.

…and enjoying every second of the process.

* * *

Here’s a recent tiny (6″ x 8″) piece I did. I almost, almost, almost left it the way it was on the left. The mere suggestion of a face is sometimes enough. Nevertheless, I ended up finishing it up and naming it Callista, after a tragic character in this book.

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Here’s another one I almost left alone after the initial sketch. Valeria’s look is completely different before and after I added the crazy watercolors. On the left, she looks pensive, maybe even regretful. On the right, she looks more like a warrior princess. I sometimes struggle with loving/hating a piece after I move beyond the initial sketch phase. Still, despite the unusual color scheme, Valeria is framed and hanging on my wall.

*

After finishing this one, titled Ashes for Ande, I suffered no such post-color regret. The sketch looked ok, but the inks and dark acrylics worked out really well. This painting popped off my brush with ease. I had a character in mind (from another of my books) and the outcome matched what I’d imagined. Ashes for Ande might be my favorite. Maybe.

*

Mother of Midnight is and probably always will be the most challenging thing I’ve ever painted. The sketch alone (performed on a 24″ x 48″ canvass) took a week. The deep graphite, inks, and shading took another twelve days. I still haven’t snapped an ideal photo of Mother of Midnight. The trouble with photographing graphite is that it tends to reflect light, thus dulling the image. Oh well. Here she is:

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For this tiny (6″ x 6″) piece, I imagined a dryad leaving her ancient forest behind. I sketched her, inked her, and then let the golden watercolors drip. Her name is Sylpha. You like?

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Emme, the Pale Queen is a portrait I did for a friend. My latest gig has been to draw real-life people, but with subtle fantasy elements added.  In this case, she got a few green face tattoos and a whip of black hair tightened to her throat. I really liked how Emme’s eyes turned out. Her look suggests complete confidence.

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The Sorceress is a piece I tried (as in really tried) to sketch and swear to leave alone. I made myself promise not to go in afterward with colors and inks. Apparently, I can’t keep my oaths.  A few days after I finished the sketch, I sipped too much wine and broke out the color. For a little abstract addition, I left half of her hair untouched. She looks dangerous, no? And I’m glad I smashed my promise. I like her better now.

*

Ah, the treacherous nature of adding color. This is one piece I wish I could go back and redo. There’s something about her face that’s not quite right. Even so, I couldn’t bring myself to trash this one (titled ‘Last Glance’.) If for no other reason, I hold on to her to remind myself I have lots of room for improvement.

*

For a true challenge, try sketching the intricate musculature of a woman’s shoulders and lower back. It’s no easy thing. For ‘Blood Princess’ I wore a few pencils down to nubs. And now she’s undressed to kill.

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This is my most recent piece, titled Angelic. The original sketch was fairly NSFW, but after I added an ethereal gown and some ghostly yellow-gold watercolor, she’s slightly SFW. Maybe. For a real challenge, I used almost every media available to me, including pencils, inks, graphite powder, charcoal, acrylics, and watercolors. Next up: framing her.

*

For even more paintings (most of which aren’t women) go here.

To start a conversation with anyone on the planet, get into this.

J Edward Neill

 

Skull Buckets and Big Old Bucket Lists

Ages ago, I published my personal mega-bucket list.

It included 50 things I wanted to do before I die. Some were realistic. Others…not so much.

So here we are, centuries (ok, only 18 months) removed. I’ve completed a few of my self-challenges and completely whiffed on many more.

Here’s my bucket update:

* * *

50 Hard-as-Hell Bucket Stuffers

1. Go caving in Kentucky. As in way deep in the earth. As in if I get lost, the rest of the bucket list is screwed. (I haven’t even seen a cave since making this a bucket list item.)

2. Write a book twenty books. Yes seriously.   (Done. Actually it’s 23 now. My next goal is 100. Realistic? Who cares?)

3. Hold a four-minute plank. (Kinda stuck on two minutes right now) (Did several five-minute planks. And then…promptly was hospitalized with costochondritis. For real. Google it.)

4. Read the entire LOTR trilogy to my kid. As a bedtime story. Because bedtime stories should be epic. (We got about two chapters in. Tolkien puts kids to sleep.)

5. Perform a meaningful charitable act. As in a weekend at a soup kitchen. Or ten weekends. Whichever. (Not yet. I’m a bad person.)

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

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

8. Climb a mountain. A real mountain. Preferably something volcanic. (I climbed a giant f’n waterfall. Does that count?)

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

10. Plant at least ten trees that will outlive me. (And then promptly had to sell the land I planted them on. 😐 )

11. Make one of my books into a movie. Even if it’s a pitiful ten minute-long Youtube flick. (Nope. Though I did make a four-minute Youtube clip.)

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

13. Teach my grandkid(s) things to annoy their parents. (Need you on this one, G Man.) (Update. He’s only five-years old.)

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

15. Play lead guitar in a band. Even if for just one night. (Turns out no one I know really likes death metal.)

16. Paint something stunning. (For me, this is as close to stunning as it’ll get.)

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

18. Try my hand as a quarterback coach. For kids. (Nope.)

19. Road trip through Sonoma, CA. (Closest I’ve come is touring the wineries of North GA.)

20. Be ripped when I’m 50. Wait. Forget 50. Be ripped when I’m 60. (I’m pretty shredded now, but I’m still a looooong ways from 50.)

21. Try every food I hated as a kid to see if I still hate them. (Yep. Turns out I liked most of ’em. Who knew? Except beets. I still hate beets.) 

22. Win a costume contest. While wearing something truly terrifying. (Win! Some creepy monster mask is all it took.)

SkullBucketReal

23. Go to a Super Bowl (as long as the Packers aren’t in it.) (Alas, I’m considering giving up my love of football.)

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

25. Live tech-free for 30 days straight. No cell phone. No laptop. No tablet. No TV. (I wish….)

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

27. Drink a bottle of absinthe. With friends. In Europe. Preferably in Copenhagen. (Planning this one soon.)

28. Completely overhaul my wardrobe. Because if Joan Rivers were still alive, I’d be on her worst-dressed list. Seriously. I’m like a twelve year-old up in here. (I have mostly new clothes. I still dress like a teenager. Whatever.)

29. Live in London. For a week. A month. However long it takes. (Nah. Not yet.)

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

31. While we’re on the subject of pubs, build a ‘pub room’ in my house. Neon signs, futbol banners, stools, pool table, low lights, cute bartender. The works. (I was in the midst of doing this when I sold my house. I suck.)

32. Start an herb garden. No, not that kind of herb. (See # 31.)

33. Grow a Mephistopheles beard. Pointy and black. (Partial credit. I did the beard. Didn’t dye it black.)

SkullBucket

34. Learn how to make wine. (Gonna need something to drink after the Ebola-pocalypse.) (I’ll need a house and a yard.)

35. Learn to play the cello. (Nope.)

36. Help someone else fulfill their own bucket list. (My friends don’t like to take risks.)

37. Shave my cats to look like lions. (Ha. Nope.)

38. Spend an entire summer living on the beach. (Does five days in Ft Lauderdale count? No? Boooooo.)

39. Teach my kid to beat me at chess. Bow humbly when he does. (Halfway there. He knows how to move the pieces.)

40. Rescue a turtle. (You know…the ones who try to cross the expressway.) (Lucked out and did this one with a pretty girl!)

SkullBuck

41. Leaving this space blank _________________________ for someone else to suggest a bucket list item. (All the suggestions have been…ahem…adult film related. Thanks, guys.)

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

43. Find the recipe for my dearly departed grandmother’s homemade stew. Cook it for a big group of friends and family. (Did it! And for double points, I used the same mixing bowl she used when I was a kid.)

44. Kiss a beautiful woman in Paris. Corny, I know. Don’t care. (There’s a shortage of beautiful women in Duluth, GA.)

45. Make myself useful. Save someone’s life. (Half credit. Saved my kid another hundred times.)

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

47. Remain apolitical. Even if I make it long enough to be a crotchety old wizard. (Yeah. I’m claiming this one. In the most vicious political season yet, I still DGAF.)

48. Start the tradition of giving gifts on my birthday. (Maybe next year when I’m not so broke.)

49. Try sushi. (Tried it. Didn’t like it. Oh well.)

50. Pay for all this stuff with a thriving writing career. (Working on it!)

 ***

Next update: December 2017!

 J Edward Neill

Author of the Tyrants of the Dead dark fantasy trilogy

Co -Author of Hollow Empire – Night of Knives

Behind The Scenes of The Crossing: Moonlit Skies

Machina Front Cover

 

On December 8th, I’ll have a story called The Crossing: Moonlit Skies published in the short story collection, Machina Obscurum- A Collection of Small Shadows.

Before we jump into this, let me give a little bit of background.

Rewind a few years ago: my fellow Terminus Media/ Tessera Guild teammate, John R. McGuire, and I joined forces and each brought a concept for a story to the table, to collab on together.

For a while I’ve played around with the idea of doing a comic book mini-series which dealt with cross dimensional hopping, high-adventure style. 🙂

So during an initial meeting at Appelebee’s (you’ve got to have great food to generate great ideas. I think Stephen King said that….. yeah we’ll go with that), I brought a concept called The Crossing, which delved into the aforementioned dimension hopping adventure concept. I’d fleshed out some characters, a story, and with the awesome writing/ plotting talents of my writing brother in arms Mr. McGuire, we came up with what I think will grow into an awesome comic book mini-series, heck, franchise.

PARALLELEARTHS

 

We’ve currently got a pitch that we’re prepping to get to publishers.

A kick ass artist in Sean Hill.

Two awesome writers.

A dimensions spanning story.

High adventure.

A diverse cast.

Magic. 🙂

But until we find a home for the series, I’ve had an itch to continue to play around in this universe that’s kept me up many nights.

Enter stage left The Crossing: Moonlit Skies. Sort of an “interlude” within the larger story being told in The Crossing, we get a snapshot of the crazy, and tense multiple dimension travels that series our protagonists find themselves caught up in.

QC

Ever since watching Greg Rucka expertly wind his world of Queen and Country between comics and prose, I’ve wanted to try my hand at doing the same. Having an opportunity to expand the larger story of a property across many mediums, with original stories, is a goal that I’ve wanted to accomplish, and The Crossing: Moonlit Skies is the end result.

 Many thanks to Jeremy for allowing me to add this story to the mix of Machina Obscurum: A Collection of Small Shadows.

Dec 8th. Mark your calenedars.

 It’s going to be bumpy ride. 🙂

The Stiletto

The Stiletto

* * *

I knew it’d be a mistake the moment it was over.

But I did it anyway.

He was a ghoulish old king. He’d extorted, terrorized, and murdered to fill his coffers. His brothers were thieves. His wives…both of them…were daggers in every man’s back.

His subjects hated him. His enemies feared him. The ground he walked turned black beneath his boots. His bathwater reeked of death.

Every family who’d even a chance at sniffing the throne, he’d exiled, poisoned, or butchered. When his cousin’s coup d’état failed, the ghoul burned the usurpers’ children alive, drowned his cousin’s mother, and hung the collaborators’ bodies from gibbets so high even the crows dared not a single sniff.

It was time for the King to go. Everyone knew it. Everyone wanted it. His black towers had too long stood like knives on the kingdom’s throat.

When the three exiles came to me on autumn’s second eve, I knew what they wanted. One carried a chest of silvers. The other dropped a satchel of ingots on my table. The third stood in my doorway, the moonlight shining on his back. He was a weathered, ancient thing. Twenty years in the sand had done him poorly. I smirked, my dagger folded against my wrist in case he did something stupid.

“Lady Lusia, will you?” he asked.

“Will I what?” I pretended not to know what he meant.

“The Ghoul…the King…the hundred-year old nightmare haunting the eaves of every house in Lyrlech. Will you?”

“No.” I glanced out my window. I couldn’t see the black towers, but I knew they were there.

“Why?” asked the weathered man.

“He’s only a few more years left in him,” I scoffed. “Not worth it. I’m too pretty for the gibbets.”

“You don’t understand, Lusia,” he sighed. “If he dies, his brother becomes king. It’ll only get worse.”

I considered it for a moment, then countered, “Exactly. If I kill the Ghoul, it does nothing. The noose around our necks just gets tighter.”

“But Lusia, his family will be there. His brothers. His sons. His grandchildren. All under one roof for the first time in years.”

“So?” I smiled.

“You can save us,” he pleaded. “You’re the best. Everyone knows it. The Stiletto, they call you. You’re the only one who can deliver us from darkness.”

“You’re right,” I smiled. “I can. But I won’t.”

I got tired of waiting. I flicked my knife and split the three men neck to belly. They died quietly. Their blood drained onto the floor, but the night moved none at all.

I knew it was a mistake the moment it was over.

…but the Ghoul had paid me well.

 

* * *

The Stiletto, along with a volcano of other dark, eerie, and fantastical tales, appears in:

Machina Front Cover

Machina Obscurum features a host of writers doing their best to darken your world with short, deadly stories and quick-as-knives fiction.

It’s available right now.

J Edward Neill

Preview – A Door Never Dreamed Of

I’ve begun work on something new.

It’s called A Door Never Dreamed Of.

For the moment, I’ve expelled just about all the dark fiction I can handle.

This new project will be completely different than everything I’ve done before.

  • It’s not an epic novel. Or a short story. Or a philosophy book
  • It’s not part of a series. Just one novella. No spin-offs
  • It’s the book I’ve always wanted to write

Disclaimer: In a serious race against time, I’m trying to finish the first draft of A Door Never Dreamed Of before the NFL football season hits. Once touchdowns start happening and the Chicago Bears start sucking, I’ll be helpless. The local pub with the massive TV will replace my crusty old writing chair. I won’t be able to help myself.

But honestly, I’m cool with the deadline. Because I’m dying to get this story out.

And this is where we fall off the reservation.

If A Door Never Dreamed Of showed up in your local bookstore, you’d probably find it in the Science Fiction section. It’d sit next to books about spaceships, galactic wars, and aliens. You’d look at the awesome Amanda Makepeace cover art and think, ‘Ooooo…spiky space station. Fun!’

JupiterEventTeaser1

A small sliver of the cover art – ‘The Jupiter Event’ by Amanda Makepeace

But genres are limiting. Art is static. And first impressions are usually wrong.

And A Door Never Dreamed Of won’t have space battles, flying spaghetti monsters, or intergalactic alien sex.

So what’s it about?

Two boys who’ve never met

Each given the power to destroy one another

Facing off with all of humanity at stake

With only one little door between them

I truly believe once you read A Door Never Dreamed Of, you’ll come to see things my way. You’ll forget all about genres. You won’t care that it’s a denomination of book you usually wouldn’t read. And what I really hope is that maybe, just maybe, you’ll see a deeper theme at work. You’ll understand where all our modern technology is leading us. You’ll see the scary places we might go if we continue hurtling toward the apex of human advancement. And you’ll shudder for what the future generations of humanity might one day become.

And so…

 Coming in Autumn 2015

A Door Never Dreamed Of

A new novel by J Edward Neill

And seriously, check out Lady Makepeace’s awesome art site. Click around. Buy something.

And when you’re done, check out my terrifying short stories Let the Bodies and The Sleepers.

10 Questions for Women

The following 10 questions are from my Coffee Table Philosophy book, 101 Questions for Women.

Books I and II in the series can be found here and here.

10 Questions for Women:

***

Feminism 

A cultural way of existing everyone should embrace?

An over-simplified method of pitting men and women against one another?

Or a concept you personally don’t put much thought into?

No Dating Until You’re 50

 What is the most valuable life lesson a mother can teach her daughter?

What about her son?

Explain the differences, if any, in the lessons you’d teach one or the other.

 The Matriarchy 

Suppose you were queen of the world and everyone in it.

Name three cultural/ideological changes you’d put into place.

Global Fight Club 

In your opinion, are men inherently more violent than women?

If yes, is it due to:

The environment we live in?

Testosterone?

Human instinct?

If women were, on average, physically stronger than men, would they be more violent than men?

But will he take out the Garbage? 

Whenever you meet an attractive man for the very first time, what is your first and most instinctive thought?

 The Few and the Many 

Imagine the world will end in five years.

The government’s plan is to construct one spacecraft for each family. Each ship can hold a family of four. The ships will fly to a nearby star system and drop you off on a habitable planet.

The problem: You and your spouse have four children.

 Stay on earth and wait for the end? Leave two kids behind?

Or convince your spouse to send the kids alone without you?

Back to the Beginning 

In your estimation, for how many years after your death will the memory of you and all that you’ve done linger in the world?

In other words, considering the way you’ve lived your life, how long will people remember you?

What about the residual effects of knowing you? How long will those last?

Consider that the lessons you taught others might be retaught…forever.

The Laminated List 

Imagine you and a significant other have an agreement allowing you each to make a list five names long.

Each name must be a celebrity. If either of you meets someone on of your list, you’re allowed to have sex with them.

Suppose your mate actually meets a celebrity on his list. Are you really ok with him sleeping with her?

What if you met someone on your list? What then?

No Pink Bullets Here 

Pretend you’ve been given the authority to rewrite the rules of warfare. In other words, the power is yours to decide how armies engage, how prisoners are treated, and which weapons are lawful and unlawful to use.

Now describe how you think the next World War would go down with your rules in place.

The Object of Everyone’s Desire

If you could be the last woman alive in a world fully populated by men, would you?

***

101 Questions for Women

Front Cover 101 Questions for Women

Available now!

J Edward Neill

101 Questions for Men Cover101 Questions for Humanity

101 Questions for Humanity

Surprise New Paperback Release!!

J Edward Neill dives headfirst into philosophical non-fiction with his latest book:

101 Questions for Humanity

101 Questions for Humanity

Designed to provoke, question, and challenge, 101 Questions for Humanity is the supreme coffee table book for armchair philosophers. Crack it open during big parties, small gatherings, or lonely nights on the couch. Entertain yourself…or twenty friends.

One philosophical challenge per page…101 pages.

Once you taste one question, you’ll want to devour them all!

To get a feel for 101 Questions’ content, check out the popular blog, 10 Questions for Humanity.

101 Questions for Humanity

Now available on Amazon

J Edward Neill

Ten MORE Questions for Humanity

PaperTigerChasing

For the original 10 Questions for Humanity, go HERE.

For my new philosophy book, 101 Questions for Humanityclick here!

As for today, you get ten MORE questions. Because…thought provoking.

***

A Moment of Omniscience

If you could ask ONE question of the universe and have it answered utterly and completely, what would it be?

This One’s Rhetorical

Why do so many people get so angry about politics?

No Judgments, I Promise

From the following, choose the worst thing you could possibly be addicted to: Alcohol, Drugs, Sex, Gambling…or TV…

 UFC 666: Jesus versus Superman

If you could lock any two historical figures (dead or alive) in a cage for a fight to the death, which two would you pick?

 That Song by The Clash

A fascinating new planet is discovered far from Earth. You can journey there safely and live out your life, but it’s a one-way ticket for you and whomever you take. Do you stay or go?

Stepford Wives (And Husbands)

Let’s say science perfects an absolutely lifelike robot for use as a spouse. And let’s say this beautiful, intelligent, customized-to-you robot will do anything and everything you ask. You buying one?

Continuing the Shallow Theme

Perfect body? Perfect face? Or perfect intellect?

Crimes Against Ourselves

Considering everything, does humanity deserve to exist?

In the Battle Between

Is there any such thing as absolute good or evil?

Back to the Future

You’ve built a time machine. It only goes one direction in time. Do you want to see how it all began? Or how it all will end?

***

Disclaimer 1: In observance of Tessera’s no politics, no religion policy, please eat salt after reading this

Disclaimer 2: I know the answers. I’m more interested in what you have to say

To support all of my bad habits, check this out: 101 Deeper Darker Cover

Love,

J Edward Neill

All Hallows Book Sale

Autumn…

Halloween…

…my favorite time of the year.

Because I’m crazy, I’ve decided to discount several of my novels. From today until Halloween at midnight, the Kindle and e-versions of Down the Dark Path AND Dark Moon Daughter have been reduced to an epically low price of $0.99 each. Both books are normally $6.99. Yes. I’m out of my mind. I know it.

So for those on the fence about investing in the darkest fantasy series ever, please push over your tombstones, crawl out of your graves, and get some. Here. Now. Today.  

Soul Orb DDP Cover Slightly Brighter

The tale of Andelusia Anderae and the world-ending struggle between Furyon and Graehelm…only $0.99.

Dark Moon Daughter New Kindle Cover

Seeking the source of her budding powers, Andelusia journeys to a land at the edge of the known world…only $0.99.

 

And for readers with non-Kindle e-readers, head on over to Smashwords and use these coupon codes to get either book for (yeah, you guessed it…) $0.99!

Soul Orb DDP Cover Slightly Brighter

Use Coupon Code HP95A to get Down the Dark Path for $0.99!

Dark Moon Daughter New Kindle Cover

Use Coupon Code DQ75B to get Dark Moon Daughter for $0.99!!

At 12:01 AM Nov 1st (Halloween’s unfortunate demise) prices will return to normal.

Much love,

J Edward Neill

Softcover Edition of Dark Moon Daughter!!

The next few weeks promise to be new-release heaven. 

So let’s get it started with:

Book II in the Tyrants of the Dead trilogy

Sequel to the darkest of all dark fantasy epics

As the enemies of mankind plant the seed for mankind’s end, Andelusia must decide:

Fight them…

…or join them.

Dark Moon Daughter – Alternate Art softcover edition now available (and on sale!) via Amazon:

Dark Moon Daughter New Kindle Cover

And in 2015, the trilogy reaches its terrifying conclusion with Nether Kingdom.

Read on.

J Edward Neill

Release Day – Dark Moon Daughter – New cover art!

Dark Moon Daughter – Book II in the Tyrants of the Dead trilogy

New ebook cover art now available!

Dark Moon Daughter New Kindle CoverA little background on the new cover: Andelusia Anderae, part-time heroine in the epic-length Down the Dark Path, takes center stage in Dark Moon Daughter. That’s the Black Fire roiling in her left hand. And yes, that’s the first official image of an Ur in the background. Note the white eyes (like stars). If you look closely, you’ll see its mouth opening up behind Andelusia as if to devour her.

The ebook version of Dark Moon Daughter is now available on Amazon here. Just click Andelusia’ cleavage…or the Ur’s eyes:

Dark Moon Daughter New Kindle Cover

The Smashwords version is here:

Dark Moon Daughter

By J Edward Neill
Price: $6.99 USD. Words: 164,630. Language: English. Published: July 9, 2014. Category: Fiction » Fantasy » Epic
Andelusia’s magic is meant only for suffering and death. One flicker of black fire, and the world will burn. One word uttered, and the Ur will butcher every living thing. In her heart, she knows what she must do. Fight them… …or join them.
 

 

* * * * *

 
New cover art for the softcover version will be out any day now. Look for updates here at Tessera AND at my Down the Dark Path web abyss.
 
 
 
 
 
 

Hollow Empire – Those Initial Steps

On March 23, 2013 I received the following email from J Edward Neill:

“My final round scooped. Weak. But seriously, if you want to try your hand at the serial story blog thing, I’m all in.”

The first part of that line refers to Magic the Gathering, so not really important to our discussion right now. The second refers to a conversation I had with J about a podcast I’d been listening to “The Self-Publishing Podcast” and how two of those guys had been on a tear with serialized fiction (which if you are at all interested in independent writing, you should check out the podcast). The format basically was about 15,000 words per episode (which equals about 60 pages), six episodes make a season (apparently we are on an English schedule)… leaving you with 90,000 words for the book (360 pages). They released them on a weekly basis, cliffhangers at the end of episodes (just like some of your favorite tv shows).

breakfast_serial_forum_183

No, not this kind of serial!

And I thought it could be duplicated.

So a couple of days later I got that email. And I replied on March 25, 2013:

“Serial – I’d be down.”

There was tons more included. Talk about potential schedules, the idea that this book could help not only cross-pollinate our works, but also generate content for our virtual book shelves. The one thing I am sure of in this writing thing is that if I only have one book, then it is much harder for anyone to find me. But if I have another book, I’ve increased my odds. And by co-writing it, I only have to do 1/2 as much work to get to the full novel.

Right?

Anyway. At that point we had no idea what this was going to be besides the barest of formats. Genre? Who knows. I only knew that we probably wanted to avoid vampires and zombies since they seemed to be running rampant throughout fiction and tv and movies.

J mentioned “a superhero theme, but waaaay back in time… fighting against ancient evils in a fantasy dark ages setting.”

I took that and wrote the following:

“125 years ago the last of the Great Wars were fought and the beginning of King XXX began. And the Age of Peace spread throughout the lands that he had conquered. Much like Alexander in our own world, this King spread his kingdom to the far reaches of the known world, but unlike Alexander, he lived to a ripe old age. Long enough to ensure that his heir would be ready to rule after him, long enough to make sure that the new lands remained within the kingdom. Trade increase, prosperity increased, etc.

10442Jollain_The_Plague_of_Frogs

20 years ago marked the beginning of the Outbreak in YYY. hey stacked the dead along the walls until they reached the top, and then they began a new corpse wall. The spread like wildfire throughout the world; the downside to having increased contact with the far reaches meant that no one could outrun it. The population of the world decreased over the next 10 years by 50%. Small villages now are ghost towns, empty of all life, as those who survived journeyed to the cities for protection, cure, help.

Now we deal with a medieval world which has begun to pull itself out of the apocalypse. They are trying to figure out where they stand. But there are peasant revolts, coups, kingdoms which quarantined themselves and have not been heard from in the last dozen years.

Plague_doctors'_beak_shaped_mask

<Insert Project Name> – Dark Fantasy – Not saving the world, not saving the day… just saving yourself.”

That’s all it took and we were off to the races. We began to flesh out the pieces of the world and the people who survived the end of the world. We came up with our four Points of View, each choosing to write two of them. We’d be each other’s first editor. And when it was done we’d have something greater than the one could possibly do.

I must admit, I wasn’t sure how it was going to work out. I’ve collaborated plenty on the comic book side of things. Heck, the whole format is about that very thing. Writers and artists working together to achieve something they could not have done alone. But this was something else.

And it worked (at least I think it did, you’ll have to read it and be the judge). I think we’ve not only managed to flesh out a world, but we’ve done it by using the characters as our vehicles to get there. They determine so much of what the world is going to look like.

The best part, though, was getting that new chapter from J. There would always be something new one of us would include in a chapter that the other one would want to add to their own story. So many emails and conversations seemed to begin with “X thing is cool… how exactly does it work so that I can use it.” Those surprises made it fresh in a way that working by yourself sometimes can’t be.

I’m excited to release this new creation into the world. I can’t wait to have people give it a read and let us know what they think.

And by the way, Mr. Neill also has given a little bit of teaser for Hollow Empire here.

***

John McGuire

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

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

Upcoming Release – Hollow Empire

Something new lurks on the horizon…

In 2013, I teamed with John R McGuire for an ambitious new co-project. We called it the Dark Fantasy Project, an appropriately ominous moniker for the grim, grave-licious tale we’d begun to weave. Truthfully, the DFP was my first attempt at co-anything. I felt jittery about working with someone not named me. I worried that our vision might never meet in the middle.

My fears were unfounded.

We’ve crafted a tale rivaling anything we’ve written before.

Fast forward to 2014, and the DFP nears its release. Only it’s not the DFP any longer; it’s Hollow Empire, a six-part serial novel. We’re excited. If you like quick reads or full-length novels, you should be excited, too. In the coming weeks, we’ll release Hollow Empire in serial e-form (six episodes at only $0.99 each!) and in a complete softcover format available on Amazon and Createspace.

Get some.

Here’s a bone-licious teaser of the back cover art, crafted by Tessera’s own Amanda Makepeace. It sums up Hollow Empire’s tone. Just wait ’til you see the front cover.

HollowEmpireBackText1

What is Hollow Empire, you ask? Think post-apocalyptic, post-catastrophe world, but instead of zombies, nukes, vampires, or futuristic technological holocausts, think the other direction. What if the apocalypse happened during medieval times? What if, instead of scavenging for ammo, fuel, and the odd crossbow bolt, mankind were forced to scratch out their lives by the sword? And by the sword, we mean literally. What if surviving in this grave new world meant not reclaiming the life you lost, but simply trying to make it to the next hour without being carved to tatters by outlaws, captured and tortured by bloodthirsty aristocrats, or eaten alive by wild, flesh-craving animals? What if, what if, what if…?

Hollow Empire follows the lives of four unlucky people as they claw their way across the ruined nation of Vhur. We call them unlucky because it might’ve been better for their sakes if they’d already died. We’ve got Vadim, a highborn soldier with only a fragment of his former life to cling to. There’s Nadya, an outcast mother with nowhere to hide. We’ve got Cassidy, a Walker charged with doing God’s dirty work. And finally there’s Murgul, a broken, twisted, and heart-rendingly simply soul who craves only a few moments of peace in his sad little life.

Survivors, all of them. Each with only a thread of their former lives remaining.

Here’s our world. We call it Vhur.  See all those cities marked ‘Lichy Ruins’? Dead…all of ’em. Surrounded by graves. Haunted by handful of survivors and packs of vicious Iritul.

Vhur World Map

So keep your eyes peeled and yours breath held.

Hollow Empire – September 2014.

From the authors of Down the Dark Path and The Dark that Follows.

J Edward Neill & John R McGuire

* * *

Until next week,

J Edward Neill

Author of the Tyrants of the Dead dark fantasy trilogy

Author of The Sleepers and Old Man of Tessera

Down the Dark Path

Nether Kingdom – Prologue

What follows is a free excerpt from Nether Kingdom – Book III in the Tyrants of the Dead trilogy.

The first two books are available here and here and here.

Nether Kingdom is by far my darkest work yet. In writing it, I plummeted into my mind’s lowest caverns, wandering paths I never knew existed.

The full version of Nether Kingdom will arrive in time for Christmas 2014, just in time to darken the holiday season.

I hope you enjoy this excerpt.

 *** 

Servants of the Sleeper 

A

An hour before dusk, they came to Mooreye.

    As the sunlight drew back from the crumbling towers and broken streets, the two stalked the grounds as though they were the city’s new masters, free to despoil the kingdom of the dead. They moved like smoke, soundless as spirits, drifting through alleys and hollowed homes. The shadows of a thousand burned-out buildings lay heavy on their backs, and save for the plaintive caws of the quarreling crows, all was quiet in their wake. Mooreye lay dead, a tomb for the fallen, a stark reminder of what the Furyons had done.

    Just before nightfall, the pair began their work. Their stage was Mooreye’s grand courtyard, in whose center a pale tower speared from the weeds, and whose sides were fenced with iron spikes taller than any man. The first of the graverobbers, a bulbous beast of a man named Unctulu, licked his lips and wormed into the loam, his fingers like hungry larvae searching for their next meal. Nearby, Thresher drove his rusted spade into the dirt, sloughing aside huge gobs of soil. Their work was rapid and inelegant, for none were near to question it. No one had been to Mooreye since the Furyons destroyed it, and none were likely to come after the robbers’ work was finished.

    No man, no matter his origin, could claim such hideousness as Unctulu. As he knelt in the twisted grass and speared his maggoty fingers into the earth, his sparsely-toothed grin split his face like a festering scar across a pale, misshapen melon. Worse was his cadaverous skin, quivering over his bones, flapping beneath his half-rotted raiment of leather and rags. His only possessions were his bag, stuffed with all manner of moldering food, and his belt lined with some twenty cork-sealed vials, clinking constantly as he dug. Unctulu was heedless of the sweat rolling from his hairless, malformed head, and unaware of the gurgling, toad-like sounds oozing from his throat. Had anyone asked him, he would have told them he relished his disgustingness, that it was ‘not ‘Tulu’s job to be pretty.’

    Compared to his companion, Thresher seemed a titan, moving ten times more dirt than Unctulu. He said nothing as he tore great shovelfuls of soil away, and he never tired. Thresher’s face lay hidden behind an eyeless, featureless iron mask, and his body beneath rusted, lobstered mail. How it was Thresher saw the world, and how he exhumed so swiftly, none would dare ask.

    “Ah, Thresh, this is too easy, yes?” Unctulu gurgled. “A month more and we’ll be back home, feasting like kings. Well, you might not feast, but I will.”

    If Thresher heard, he gave no sign. Wordless, he continued to dig. His armor groaned and shuddered, but he moved as though completely unencumbered, gouging out great chunks of black earth with each stroke.

    “Slow, slow.” Unctulu patted a mound of soil. “I can smell it, can’t you? The grave’ll be as shallow as the Sleeper said. Easy work, after so long to get here.”

    Five shovelfuls more and Thresher hoisted his spade over his shoulder, laying it to rest beside the steel greatsword on his back.

    “Good, good.” Unctulu lapped up a strand of escaping saliva. “Yes, yes, this is the spot. Pale bones, we’ve found. Right where Master said.”

    The evening sky dimmed to a deep, somber gray. Burbling, Unctulu rummaged through his bag and produced a spherical lamp. “Yes, Thresh. Much better.” He stoked the lamp until it glowed like a tiny moon. “My eyes…not like yours. Need a little light for digging.”

    In the lamp’s pallid light, Unctulu clawed a last few fistfuls of dirt away from the hole Thresher had dug. “Look, look.” He shivered with satisfaction.

    “This is the one.”

    Half-covered in rotted clothes and decomposed beyond recognition, the corpse beneath Unctulu’s fingers was laid out in awkward fashion. “Buried right where he died.” Unctulu’s smile broadened. He dug the dirt out from between each rib, each spinal disc, each brittle bone from collar to knee. Smacking his lips, he removed a vial from his belt and poured its contents along the length of a protruding hip. The foul liquid fumed and sizzled, melting the rest of the dirt away. “Now, now,” he cackled. “Looksey, looksey, Thresh. What have we here?”

    Greedily, he ran his fingers along a leather belt looped around the corpse’s hip. Two empty scabbards were affixed to the belt, one to each side. Unctulu tugged the belt and scabbards loose, afterward dousing each with a second phial of black liquor.

    “See, see…” He slid one finger across the faint symbols etched on the scabbards’ steel caps. “The Raven. The crossed swords.

    “The marks of the Pale Knight.”

    The scabbard and belt were no ordinary items. The courtyard was no ordinary plot of land. The dry, dead grass and all the streets of Mooreye had been the site of a great and bloody battle. “Every grave, every cairn.” Unctulu grinned hideously, “Grae or Fury, dead and gone. But not this one. Of all the corpses here, this one’s different. Thillrian, he is. The worst of them, right where he should be.”

    Unctulu rose. Beside Thresher, hulking and silent, the bloated man stood a full head and half shorter. “Now is the time, Thresh.” He looked up. “Give me the item.”

    Thresher reached for the plate covering his left shin, finding a narrow seam betwixt the joining of two greaves. With fingers locked in a coal-colored gauntlet, he withdrew the object hidden therein. The night trembled, the breeze stopped blowing, and the last of the day’s light faded away.

    The object was to blame.

    It was a gnarled, needlelike tine, thick as a man’s thumb at its widest and sharper than any dagger at its point. Long as a thighbone, it looked fashioned of polished obsidian, but in truth its make was unknowable. When Thresher held it high, it made the shadows move, stirring the darkness like stew inside a cauldron.

    Unctulu looked longingly at the tine, his throat welling like a toad’s. “It’s time, Thresh. Remember what we’re here to do. Now and only now, you’re to let me have it. If I don’t give it back, you’re to butcher me, but otherwise I’m to use it.

    “Just. This. Once.”

    Thresher released the tine. Unctulu grasped it from its thicker, duller end and waved it from side to side as if to carve a lesion in the night. When Thresher reached for his sword, Unctulu grimaced. “Oh, all right. Well and well. Good and good. I’ll play nice.”

    Thresher left his sword in its scabbard. Sniffing the air and swiping the saliva from his chin, Unctulu hunched over the exhumed cadaver. “If you’d eyes, Thresh, I’d tell you to close them. This’ll not be pretty.”

    Unceremoniously, he stabbed the tine into the soil, wounding the dirt next to the corpse’s ribs. The tine punctured soil and loose stone as though they were water, sinking down to half its length. Gurgling, Unctulu left it in place, sharp end pointed to the heart of the earth, the other aimed straight at the star-pricked sky.

    “A long way we marched,” he drooled. “And all for one man. How many nights have we blackened the road, Thresh? How many times did the Grae almost catch us? I’d sooner raise up the whole city than this one cruel carcass. But it’s as the Master wishes, and so we’ll do as we’re told.

    “We’ll bring him back.”

    The tine lay half-buried in the loam. Mist arose from the punctured earth, the grey vapors swallowing the open grave and slinking across the bones like a tongue. Unctulu’s lantern light played across the mist. It gleamed white at first, then blue, then lavender. Unctulu held his breath as the vapors thickened, the mist winding in ever tighter circles around each bone, adhering to the marrow like mortar.

    “Look, Thresh. It’s working.”

    A tremor rattled the courtyard. The grasses near the grave withered and turned to ash. Where once the cadaver’s brittle bones had lain bare to the night, fresh tendons reknit themselves, and muscles, raw and red, took shape. Layer upon layer, pale flesh stitched itself atop a template of veins and sinew. Organs pumped to life, and a new heart spasmed, thumping a black rhythm in a body eight years dead.

    Faster than Unctulu could swallow ten breaths, the body became whole. The deep shadows lessened, and the night’s natural sounds resumed. Unbroken, the tine expelled itself from the dirt and rolled to a stop at Unctulu’s feet.

    “Disgusting, wasn’t it? It’s different watching it happen to someone else.” Unctulu snatched up the tine. “Ah…well…I suppose you’ll want this back.”

    Thresher snared the black tine and slid it back into his greaves.

    The body stirred.

    The man in the grave seized a sharp breath and exhaled.

    “Look at him.” Unctulu gave a three-toothed grin. “Not jealous, are you Thresh? Seems eight years in the dirt leaves a man in better shape than eight hundred. Worry not. You’re still prettier.”

    Thresher tilted his head. Behind his iron mask, thoughts unknowable roiled.

    “You want to know?” Unctulu asked.

    Thresher remained still.

    “Of course you do,” said Unctulu. “This’ll be the last of the ones Master raises, leastways for now. No one wanted him during his first life, and no one but Master wants him now. Look at him, whiter than his bones, waking up from his nightmare. Well…if his dreams were rotten, he deserved it. More than any other, I’d say. More even than me.”

    Thresher tilted his head again.

    “That’s right, Thresh. Don’t you know who this is? This be Archmyr Degiliac, mass murderer, ruin of the Furies, butcher and raper and slaver. The Pale Knight, they called him.

    “And they’ll call him worse yet.”

***

Copyright 2014 – J Edward Neill – All rights reserved

 

Dark Moon Daughter – Softcover Release

The Furyon war has ended.

Graehelm is at peace.

and yet…

The enemies of mankind grow stronger.

Andelusia Anderae knows she will be a part of what is to come.

She dreams it.

She feels the darkness pumping in her blood.

She loves two men.

But neither so much as she adores the night.

Come the hour, she must choose.

Use her power to battle the darkness…

or join them

And watch the world die.

Shrine

Dark Moon Daughter

Softcover Edition

Now available via Createspace and Amazon

Autographed copies available by request

J Edward Neill

Triple Bill: A new release, an upcoming release, AND a blog tour

It was a dark and stormy night…
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No really. It’s dark and storming outside. I’ve got the extended version of Return of the King thrumming in the background, a three year-old slumbering beside me, and an eerily chilling mid-May gale rattling the windows of my tiny apartment. It’s quite perfect, really.
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Sleepers
So let’s get this started. I’ve got a fresh new release simmering on Kindles and e-readers. The Sleepers, my latest quick-hit short story sci-fi horror, is out now. Originally, The Sleepers was meant to be a full-length novel. 160k words, I dreamed, an epic sci-fi saga if ever there was. But in a rare fit of realism, I decided committing another year to an already loaded schedule would’ve been foolish. So I trimmed out about 154k words, carved away all the clouds, and cut to the quick and brutal chase. The result is another tale in the vein of Old Man of Tessera.
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Shrine

A shrine for DMD. Yes, the blades are real. Yes, they’re sharp. Yes, they’re but a tiny fraction of the armory hanging from my walls…

 Next up, the imminent release of Dark Moon Daughter – Book II in the Tyrants of the Dead series. I’d hoped to release it about a month ago, but difficulties with the cover art resolution slowed the process a bit. Being hand-painted, photographed at a dozen different angles, and touched up via every graphics program known to man, the cover and I have waged a mini war for several weeks now. But now it’s done with. By May’s end, the sequel to the darkest, epic(est) fantasy novel ever will hit stores in softcover and Kindle formats. Next week’s blog will be fully dedicated to the story behind Dark Moon Daughter…and the upcoming final book in the trilogy, the chilling, world-ending Nether Kingdom.
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Last but hardly least, I’m trying my hand at a blog tour. A few weeks back, the talented and sharp-witted Michael Munz gut-shotted me on the web. While I’m still sharpening my teeth on the necks of Twitter, Facebook, Tessera Guild, and Down the Dark Path dot com, it seems other forces lurk in the shadows, plucking a few lucky souls out of the void.
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A little bit about Michael:
An award-winning writer of speculative fiction, Michael G. Munz was born in Pennsylvania and moved to Washington State in 1977 at the age of three. He studied writing at the University of Washington, and currently dwells in Seattle where he continues his quest to write the most entertaining novel known to humankind and find a really fantastic clam linguine. Check out his slick website here. Gauging from the titles of his books, Michael appears to be not so different from me, a lover of grim themes.
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Now, the essence of the blog tour:
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What I’m Working On:
Now that I’m finished with The Sleepers and Dark Moon Daughter, I plan on taking two weeks off to vegetate, after which I’ll crawl to the very bottom of my mind’s dungeon. Nether Kingdom, Book III in the series, awaits me in the darkness. It’s already in final draft phase, but I’ve cover art to commission, trimming to do, and extra shadows to stuff between each page. I’m more excited about this book than anything else I’ve written. It’s a culmination for me, the pinnacle of the blackest mountain.
I…can’t…wait…
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How Does My Work Differ From Others of its Genre:
Obviously I choose some pretty dark themes. I like writing about antagonists, about the reasons they turned wicked, and how easy it is for good people to wander into evil behaviors. It happens in real life all the time, only we tend to gloss over the why and how, instead focusing on the cut-and-dried, you’re either good or you’re bad point-of-view. I’m willing to say most fantasy novels drill into the plot more than the characters. I prefer character pieces, little dots of light against dark backgrounds.
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Why Do I Write What I Do:
Most of my characaters and plots are dreamed. As in literally. I dream them. The concept for the Tyrants of the Dead series: dreamed up in one night. (The character names and personalities came later). The Sleepers and Old Man of Tessera: also dreamed up in single nights. What typically happens after I have an involved dream (or nightmare,) is that it sticks with me until I write it out. Everything I put to paper, I do it to expel it from my overcrowded head. I love my dreams, but I fear what might happen should I stop writing them away. ‘Stay ahead of the train,‘ I tell myself. ‘Or it’ll run me over.’
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How Does My Writing Process Work:
I’ve read a lot about other writers’ processes. Some of it is fascinating stuff. Others not so much. Truth be told, my process is boring. I dream it. I write it. I edit the crap out of it. I release it. It’s slow, but satisfying. I prefer to write at night, surrounded by candles, wine, and eerie soundtrack music, but none of these things are required. I don’t ever suffer from writer’s block. I don’t typically agonize over outlines or character sketches. I just let the words fall out. I love the intricacies of language, conversation, and conflict, and so, like the ocean, the waves of ideas never really stop crashing against me, the shore.
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Artist Highlights:
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John R McGuire
A fellow guildmember and North GA dweller, John is a novelist and a heavy hitter in the local comic book scene. His latest release, The Dark That Follows, is all over Amazon. I like to compare John to Atlas. He bears the weight of many worlds on his shoulders, but still keeps holding it up.
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River Fairchild
River’s book, Diamonds and Dust, sits in the on-deck circle of my books to read. River is quite a character, zinging pretty much everyone and everything (deservingly so) via Facebook and Twitter. Check out her website here, and show her some love.
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Amanda Makepeace
Another fellow guildmember, Amanda is an artistic machine. Aside from the great marketing and cover work she’s done for yours truly, she paints and sketches her way across the natural world with an eye toward the fantastical. Check out Amanda’s ever-growing portfolio here.
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It’s late. I mean late, late. Time to fire up a small glass of Scotch,  turn RotK off, and head off to bed. If I’m lucky, maybe I’ll dream up a new book…or three.
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Until next time,
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