The death of 2016 – It wasn’t ALL bad

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


2016 was one helluva ride, right?

Almost everyone famous ever passed away.

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

And the best Star Wars film ever came out.

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

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

My Mother – The Horse Diver

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

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


Killing Your Darlings or Editing My Overused Words



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



Inside One Artist’s Mind



Three Little Sunsets in Florida



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



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

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


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Here’s to everyone having an amazing 2017!

The Tessera Guild Team

J Edward Neill

John McGuire

Egg Embry

Robert Jeffrey II

 Amanda Makepeace

Chad J Shonk

My Top 7 Video Games of the Modern Era

A billion years ago, I hurled up a list of my Top 6 Video Games of all time.

¬†It’s time to expand on that idea. Refresh it. Modernize it.

Since the birth of my son, my¬†availability to play games has been seriously reduced. As in, it’s fallen off a cliff. I used to be an addict, throw giant Halo parties, and stay up way past everyone’s bedtime.¬†But now when I add in writing and painting, I’m limited to about 3.5 minutes of Xbox time every other night. I even go to the local arcades just like the arcade places in toronto once in a week to play some of my favorite games.

Even so…

I manage to squeeze a little in.

Here are my top 7 games from the last five or so years. These aren’t¬†my favorites¬†of all time, but they’re pretty damn awesome. After writing a few thousand words, slathering up a new canvas, or pounding down a few drinks, I reward myself with these. They’re like¬†little electronic elixirs. They’re delicious.




#7 – Plants versus Zombies (The original)

Don’t judge me. I know it’s a kids’ game. I get that it’s easy, cute, and totally contrary to the super-grim stuff I usually like. Despite all this, PvZ had me hooked within 3 seconds of meeting Crazy Dave. If Walking Dead had pea-shooters and potato mines, I might watch it. Nah…prolly not.




#6 – Halo – The Master Chief Collection

Normally I’d never consider a shooter for a top game. I liked Borderlands and Gears of War and all, but only as time-killers. Halo is somehow different. What I really love about the¬†entire series is the story, the smoothness, and the ability to kill get killed by my friends for hours on end while pounding whiskey. And now that they bundled all the games into one giant package (which an awesome friend gave me as a gift) I’m hooked again.


Shadow Complex

#5 – Shadow Complex

For the uninitiated, Shadow Complex is an old school side-scroller set in the near future. It’s a splash of Metroid, a dash of Contra, and a tiny droplet of Mega Man. It’s too short a game to be considered higher than spot #5, but it’s still awesome for what it is. Quick, dirty fun. You get to blow stuff up and use your brain at the same time. Hard to beat a puzzle game that includes rocket launchers.


Half Life


#4 Р The entire Half-Life series (On the Orange Box)

Ok. So I know I said I didn’t much care about shooters. You got me there. But Half-Life is more than a shooter. It’s got the best (and most tragically¬†human) story. It’s got a physics engine rivaling super-modern games. And it’s got headcrabs. I mean…who doesn’t want a game with headcrabs? And giant, skyscraping robots? And a protagonist who uses a fucking crowbar? Half-life = #winning


#3 – Limbo

If Limbo were a full 10-15 hour experience, it might take top honors. The first time I saw the spider, I shat myself. The game only lasted a few hours (if that) but I must’ve died 4,000 times. It’s all so bloody perfect.¬†Limbo has the atmosphere, the puzzles, and the perfectly-paced action to keep a dude like me hypnotized. It actually helped inspire a few of my paintings, including this one.


# 2 – Thief 4

I might get killed for this one. Back in 2004, I fell in love with Eidos’ Thief, Deadly Shadows. The game’s¬†whole mythology hooked me. So when the newest Thief came out, I gobbled it up. Well: The game was buggy, easy to get lost & confused in, and sometimes unfair. Didn’t bother me a bit.¬†Thief retained the shadowy atmosphere of the original game. I got to steal gold from assholes. I got to swoop down from rooftops and maul unsuspecting guards. If they still cried out, ‘Taffer!’ right before dying, I might’ve bumped this game to #1. And the real catch: I couldn’t even finish it. My Xbox crashed and deleted my save data before the end. One day I’ll return to it. One day.



#1. The Witcher III РWild Hunt

In the history of ranking video games, this¬†decision is easiest of all. The Witcher III is the perfect game. It has a sprawling landscape that feels even huger than Skyrim. It has deadly, precise combat. It has magic, alchemy, and character customization unrivaled in the business. It’s got a killer soundtrack, beautiful graphics, and a storyline that feels like an entire trilogy of really good movies. I wish I had more time to drown in this game. It’s as good as anything I’ve ever played…or am likely to play in the future. If you like RPG’s, get it. If you like video games at all…get it.

Honorable Mentions:

Mass Effect 3 (Like playing a great sci-fi movie)

Doom 3

Portal (The cake is a lie)

Games Everyone Else Loves that Bore Me to Tears:

Dragon Age Inquisition (The first one was the only good one)

Minecraft (They made tedium into a game)

Grand Theft # 5,000,000, Assassin’s Creed # 700,¬†and¬†Maddon 3016 (Yawn)

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So. You say you like video games? Test your knowledge with this quiz.

J Edward Neill

My Top 7 Words of 2015

Bone Letters


Welcome to the third annual edition of Top 7 Words. For the next hundred or so years, it’s a safe bet to expect one of these to spring up in your face annually. I¬†briefly considered making this year’s theme about the Worst Words of 2015, but I figure everyone already hates¬†bae, yolo, and¬†thot¬†enough to pretty much cover it.


And so…


1. Deflate – to release the air or gas from something inflated

Unless you’ve lived under a rock for the last seven months, you know that my son and I deflated the footballs used by Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. But seriously, as a football nut and a regular user of NFL footballs, I laugh to myself every time I hear about a pro QB taking the air out of his balls.¬†Why? Because unlike many of them, I like my balls (no pun intended)¬†inflated to¬†the point of bursting. Just ask the KGFL.¬†They all hate me for it.

2. Bachelorhoodthe state of being a bachelor

Because honestly, who’d want to live any other way? I’m mostly kidding. I know marriage has its good points. Married guys live longer, get more action, have more money, and enjoy a host of other benefits. And yet here I am, the only unmarried guy on my entire block. Seriously. Thirty + houses…and I’m the sole bachelor. It feels somehow liberating, somehow kingly. When my neighbors sigh and tell me Friday night will¬†be spent watching Netflix (again) with their never-put-down-the-cell-phone wives, I feel freer than ever in my life.

3. Proliferateto increase in number or spread rapidly

In 2015, my writing career took leaps and bounds above previous years. I published nine books, more than fifty web articles, and sold hundreds of stories here in the US and abroad. I feel like a virus, infecting my host (Earth) with reckless abandon. Aside from all that, I love the word proliferate. It implies something is unstoppable, maybe even invincible. Yeah. That.

4. Winethe fermented juice of grapes, made in many varieties, such as red, white, sweet, dry, still, and sparkling

Every time I open my Facebook or Twitter profiles, I see the word wine. I’ve begun to think my kid is the only one who doesn’t drink the stuff. For dinner. At midnight. For breakfast. Whatever. I love the stuff, but that’s not why I love the word. I’m amused by¬†housewives whose every other meme is wine-related. I smirk every time I see a woman’s dating profile with a ‘I love wine’ mention (because almost all of them do.) Apparently the world is always drunk…or at least¬†trying to be.


5. Undertonesan underlying quality or element; undercurrent

About a year ago, I started painting. A lot. I try (and often fail) to imbue my canvasses with specific undertones. I want viewers to feel the rain, sense the cold, and shiver as though whatever they see is haunting.


6. Feministadvocating social, political, legal, and economic rights for women equal to those of men

Before I start, let me say I’m not anti-feminist. Equality is awesome.¬†Fairness is a something usually worth striving for. That said, I like the word feminist because when someone else uses it, I can predict without fail where the conversation is going. Admit it; so can you. Either people will leap to profess their feminist support, crush someone else for not being feminist enough, or (if they’re brave) start an argument about how the world was better during the Mad Men era. Me? I’m not political enough to even touch the whole feminism discussion. The rest of the world has it covered.



7. Swipeto move a finger or fingers, or a stylus, across an area on (a touchscreen) in order to execute a command

During my brief tenure on Tinder (and other similar dating apps) I’ve learned this much: Swiping left is shallow…but fun. I’ve pretty much swiped left for the entire Atlanta metropolitan area. Hell, I don’t even log on with the hope of meeting anyone. Never really have. I just swipe left a few thousand times and continue yucking it up with my friends. Pointless. Stupid. Entertainment.

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Enjoy this? Check out My Top 7 Words of 2014 and 2013. Previous editions were darker in tone than this year. Whatever…

Check out my chilling short stories Old Man of Tessera and Let the Bodies. In which I use real words.

J Edward Neill

What Dead Men do During the Holidays

Undead Turkey



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

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

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

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So what do dead men do during the holidays?

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


J Edward Neill

Author of the Tyrants of the Dead dark fantasy trilogy

Co -Author of Hollow Empire – Night of Knives

Author of The Sleepers and Old Man of Tessera