Down the Dark Path Books, Paintings, and delicious darkness from J Edward Neill

Shadow of Forever – Sci-Fi Adventure – Now available

July 27, 2017 | Books!, Darkness Between the Stars, Sci Fi | Permalink

Earth is no more.

Every human settlement in the galaxy has been destroyed.

…except one.

On a planet far from home, Joff Armstrong counts the years until the Eaters of the Light return.

He knows it’s only a matter of time. He ended one of their worlds, but thousands more remain.

No one believes him.

No one understands the coming darkness.

And so, as humanity’s twilight nears, Joff will steal his way into the stars.

Alone.

One man against legions of star-killing undead.

Searching for a way to stop the darkness between the stars.

Shadow of Forever

Now available in ebook and softcover formats.

Shadow of Forever is the sequel to Darkness Between the Stars.

The story is by me – J Edward Neill

The art is by Amanda Makepeace.

A preview is here.

Fall into the shadows tonight

J Edward Neill

What’s the value of a few little lives?

July 27, 2017 | Life, Philosophy, Short Stories | Permalink

I’m nine years old, and life is pretty good.

For an early September day in the ‘burbs outside Chicago, the weather is stunning. The winds are milder than usual, and the great northern chill has yet to descend. My classmates and I adore it. A mob of us have just walked a few miles to school. We pour into the hallways just before opening bell. It’s a private school, and so the boys are dressed in matching gold shirts and dark pants, while the girls wear classic plaid skirts.

We look pretty slick, all things considered.

But…

The moment we pile into our classroom, we can tell something’s up. Miss Calvin’s late, and she’s never late. I hear people talking out in the hall. One of the voices comes from a man, a tall man. He’s wearing a police uniform.

That’s weird, I think.

After a few minutes, Miss Calvin and the policeman enter our room. No one asks us to settle down; we’re already quiet.

“Morning, kids,” the policeman says. He towers over Miss Calvin. He towers over everything.

“I’m from the JPD, the Joliet Police Department. Your principal and several of your parents have asked me to talk to you today.”

This is no big deal, I figure. We’ve had police visitors before. The message is always the same: don’t do drugs, don’t talk to strangers, look both ways when crossing the street.

I almost check out.

Almost.

“Kids, I’m here for a special reason today,” the officer continues. “You see, there’s been some trouble, and since so many of you walk to and from school, we think it’s important to have a little talk.”

At this point, the class is riveted. Even I, the class clown, am itching to hear what he’s about to say.

“Two children from the public school have gone missing.” He drops the bomb.

Gasps.

Open mouths.

Incomprehension.

“Both children were nine years old, and both were last seen approaching a late model Chevy Nova. It’s a smaller model, olive green. Other children have reported that the man driving this vehicle called the kids into his car while they walked home from school.

“And neither of the children has been seen since.”

He lets it sink in.

And then he goes on to explain that if any of us see a green Chevy Nova, we’re to get away as fast as possible. Most of us don’t know what a Nova looks like, but he describes it in detail:

“Small.”

“Sporty.”

“Loud engine.”

He also describes the alleged man inside the car. I’m only half listening anymore. Being a young kid, I’m sure this whole event will end up having nothing to do with me. I’m afflicted with the same sense of invulnerability most nine-year olds feel.

The only thing nagging me: the officer never tells us anything about the missing kids.

Not even their names.

The officer departs. The rest of the day is normal. We work on our multiplication tables. We play kickball. I manage to not get into any trouble. Everyone’s whispering about the man in the green Nova, but only for a while. Without knowing the missing children’s names, it’s hard for us to be afraid. The kidnappings are a thing that didn’t happen to us.

They happened to someone else.

We’re safe. Right?

A few days pass. Everything goes back to normal.

The weather stays nice. In fact, it’s perfect. We can’t remember the last time September stayed so warm, so sunny, and so ideal for walking to and from school. Late in the month, the same as every afternoon, I decide to walk home with my friends, Stephanie and Brenda.

We’ve walked this route hundreds of times.

Only…we’ve never walked it with a green Chevy Nova trailing us.

As we turn onto Lilac Lane, it’s Brenda who spots the car. Stephanie and I are too busy plotting out our afternoon’s mischief. We’d never have noticed a thing.

“You guys…” Brenda shakes us out of our daydreams. “Look.”

We glance to our left. There, just beyond a row of young oaks, gliding along the street at maybe five miles per hour, we see the ugly green car. We can’t believe it. It’s almost not real.

Brenda doesn’t wait for Stephanie and me to make up our minds. She bolts away from the road, skirt swishing as she vanishes between two houses. Within seconds, she’s gone.

Brenda’s pretty smart.

The car rolls closer. I’m trying to play it cool, as if my indifference can save me. Stephanie says something to me, but I tune her out. I think she’s shouting my name. It doesn’t matter. She takes off in the same direction as Brenda. Her house is the opposite way. I’m not worried for her. Everyone in our neighborhood knows everyone.

She’ll be fine, I figure. She’ll get home.

Still in disbelief, I finally give the ugly green car a good look. The man inside is older. He’s wearing a hat.

He looks exactly like the creeper the policeman warned us about.

I think I see him stop and start rolling down the passenger side window.

And I’m gone.

I’m a fast runner. Faster than Brenda and Stephanie. Faster than anyone in my class. In my neighborhood, among houses I know better than anyone, the old man has no chance of catching me. I’m gone in five seconds. I don’t even know which way I’m running. What’s important is that he’s gone, too.

You’re not stuffing me in your trunk, buddy, I think.

Not today. Not ever.

The next morning at school, we hear the announcement over our classroom speakers:

The man in the green Nova has been caught.

He’s in jail now, charged with several kidnappings. Not just the two kids from the public school. Several more.

The streets are safe again. Brenda, Stephanie, and I agree never to tell anyone about what happened.

But the thing that nags me for several weeks afterward:

No one ever says the names of the missing kids. I’m sure it’s mentioned on the news, but at our school, within our insulated bubble, no one ever speaks of it again.

It’s as if those kids never existed.

As if, because we didn’t know them, their lives weren’t as important as our own.

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The story above is true.

For more like it, go here.

 

 

J Edward Neill

Three Dark Fantasy Epics…in One

July 23, 2017 | Books!, Dark Moon Daughter, Down the Dark Path, Nether Kingdom, Tyrants of the Dead | Permalink

Deep readers, consumers of dark fantasy, lovers of epic tales…

My massive trilogy, Tyrants of the Dead, is now available as a three-book Kindle set.

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The Tyrants series contains three epic stories. Each can be read on its own or as part of a larger, darker adventure.

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Of course, the individual books are available on their own:

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Down the Dark Path is book I in J Edward Neill’s Tyrants of the Dead trilogy. When a young woman leaves home in search of a better life, she plunges into a world-ending war. The deeper she falls, the more she senses dark powers rising within her, and the more she realizes she is not so different than the enemy.

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Dark Moon Daughter – Book II in the series. Three years have passed since the Furyon war, but the memories of her time in Malog haunt Andelusia every night. When an emissary from a distant land arrives in Graehelm to beg her aid, she sees a chance to uncover the meaning of her inner darkness…and learn the source of her unnatural powers.

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Nether Kingdom –  Book III. At the world’s edge, Andelusia awakens to the terrible realization that all her dreams have come to nothing. When the shadows in her heart cause the seasons to change and deadly storms to sweep across Thillria, she knows what will come. The Black Moon will descend. Grimwain will return. The Ur will rebuild their haunted civilization atop humanity’s graveyard. Unless she alone wages war against the nether kingdom, the world will burn.

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Tyrants of the Dead

Darkest of ALL dark fantasy trilogies.

J Edward Neill

 

New Beautiful Girl Sketch – Nadya

July 23, 2017 | Art! | Permalink

For my latest round of short stories, I’ve decided to sketch my own cover art.

It’s a challenge.

…and I love it.

This next piece is a sequel to this.

Here’s a quick progression:

Nadya – or at least half of her. I started with strictly pencils, sketching her face on a huge sheet of watercolor paper. Surprise, surprise….watercolor paper is excellent media for fine pencil sketches, especially realistic pieces.

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I used a blend of charcoal, graphite, and dark pencil lead to deepen Nadya’s eyes and hair. Here’s my arsenal….

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The red will probably feel stark and out of place. It definitely contrasts with her face. But soon (very soon) it’ll be on a book cover. And it’ll make a bit more sense. At least…I hope so.

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Nadya, the Deathless – a character in the novel Hollow Empire.

Thanks for stopping by. More paintings are soon to come.

Prints are available here.

For purchase inquiries, hit me up on Facebook, Twitter, or via email.

If you like these, you might also like these.

J Edward Neill

Painter of shadows

Author of darkness

Lys & the Heart Stopper

July 19, 2017 | Books!, Hollow Empire, Short Stories | Permalink

Lys & the Heart Stopper

A new $0.99 short story

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Imprisoned as a little girl, Lys awakens in the world’s lowest prison.

She’s to become a concubine to a faceless noble in a land far from her native home. But when fate intervenes, she seizes her only chance at freedom.

To save her long lost caretaker, she means to cross the wasteland of Vhur, in which the diseased Iritul have hunted humanity near to extinction.

No distance is too great.

She’ll do anything to rescue her friend.

Even if it means a confrontation with the deadliest man alive – The Heart Stopper.

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Lys & the Heart Stopper is a standalone short story in the Hollow Empire – Night of Knives universe.

It’s available now on Amazon.

J Edward Neill

2 New Asian Inspired Paintings

July 16, 2017 | Art! | Permalink

I suppose I’ve always been fascinated by Asian style art.

Trees. Landscapes. Buildings. Dragons.

…all so different from Western work.

I tried to let it inspire me while painting a duo of large acrylic canvasses.

Did I succeed?

You be the judge…

Tower of Souls

Tower of Souls was sort of an accidental painting. I painted a deep gold background while having no idea what to focus on as the subject.

And then it came to me. An eerie tower…full of ghosts.

As ever, it was a true pleasure to paint with bold blacks and deep, rich ambers.

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Winds of Forever

For Winds of Forever, I tried to be a bit more focused. I wanted to do a bigger, bolder version of this. The blues remind me of a perfect winter day. No clouds. A chilling breeze. A sky drifting into forever.

Pretty sure I’ll keep Winds of Forever for my private collection.

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Thanks for stopping by. More paintings are soon to come.

Prints are available here.

For purchase inquiries, hit me up on Facebook, Twitter, or via email.

If you like these, you might also like these.

J Edward Neill

Painter of shadows

Author of darkness

Spilling water on paper

July 13, 2017 | Art! | Permalink

My co-painting collaborator has been down and out lately.

While she’s under the weather, I’ve been busy with my new favorite style.

…watercolors.

Here’s a few I’ve slathered up. Please enjoy:

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Stygian Tree

For Stygian Tree, I wanted a slightly Asian theme. Bold colors, stark lines, graceful curves. This painting was both fun and rewarding to create.

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Diabolos

A friend asked me to paint/draw a tattoo. It’s a request I’ve often received, but usually avoided. Drawing tattoos doesn’t really pay, and then there’s the whole ‘this will be on someone’s skin forever’ pressure.

But…

With Diabolos I made an exception.

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Daemonic

Using a similar style to Diabolos, I popped the cork on a bottle of Apothic Red wine and went nuts on a huge sheet of watercolor paper. I let the paint flow as it willed, and Daemonic was born.

Sometimes the most interesting pieces arise from a total lack of planning…

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Magi

Who’s everyone’s favorite Egyptian god? Anubis, that’s right! This one’s huge, and it sold mere moments after I posted it. Truth is…I’ll miss it. I had visions of framing it above my bed.

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Hallowed Slopes

Trees. Mountains. A minimalist style. If I’m being honest, I painted this one while deep in my cups. I still like it. But perhaps it’s missing something?

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Gravity

For ‘Gravity’ I decided to use an intense blend of greens, blues, and blacks. I’m not sure I’ve ever had more fun painting. I pretty much went wild with the brush, using huge, wavy strokes to create the gravitational waves.

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Shadow Walk

And finally, here’s one I’m not quite done with. We’ve got an Asian-looking tower, some deep blue hills, and the hints of twilight clouds. The plan is to darken the sky considerably.

…and make the moonlight furious.

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Thanks for stopping by.

Prints are available here.

For purchase inquiries, hit me up on Facebook, Twitter, or via email. Most of my watercolors are $20. (They’ll need to be mounted and framed.)

If you like these, you might also like these.

J Edward Neill

Painter of shadows

Author of darkness

Reality is Best Served…with Red Wine

July 8, 2017 | Art!, Books!, Philosophy | Permalink

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. For two weeks.
At least…that’s the idea.

Available now!

Out now!

3 New Paintings – Deadly 3D Girls

June 27, 2017 | Art! | Permalink

Collaboration is the name of the game.

Sculptor T. Morrison & I have been doing it in spades.

She invents wild ideas, sculpts them with lightweight spackle, and I add deep, dark backgrounds. She even did a funny tutorial.

Our latest pieces have been getting ever darker. We held a challenge via Facebook to select a new painting’s theme, and the people decided on Itsy Bitsy Spider. (Sleeping Beauty was a close second.)

Only thing was…

We decided Itsy wasn’t so itsy after all…

Itsy

Around the same time, we wanted to do a painting with a gypsy girl. She had to be strong. We decided she also had to be a vampire.

And so…

Blood Gypsy

And then we went straight up spooky, crafting a haunted woodland no one would dare enter.

Would you wander here?

Gravewood

We’ll continue pumping out paintings as fast as we can sell them. We’re currently working on a Frankenstein piece, and then there’s the huge skeleton-filled tower we’re conceptualizing.

You should keep coming back for more.

Our prints are available here.

For purchase inquiries, hit me up on Facebook, Twitter, or via email.

If you like this painting, you might also like these.

J Edward Neill

Painter of shadows

Author of darkness

Shadow of Forever cover art reveal!

June 18, 2017 | Art!, Books!, Darkness Between the Stars, Sci Fi | Permalink

There once was a boy who took to the stars…

He sailed into the darkness…alone.

…and waged war against the horrors he found.

And now, Joff is back.

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Now available – the sequel to Darkness Between the Stars.

Shadow of Forever

Cover art by Amanda Makepeace

Shadow of Forever

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A one-chapter preview is here.

Book 1 – Darkness Between the Stars – is here.

Find more of Amanda Makepeace’s art right here.

J Edward Neill

Sketching Pretty Girls

June 15, 2017 | Art! | Permalink

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

New 3D Painting – Enchantress

June 12, 2017 | Art! | Permalink

Artist T. Morrison and I have decided to smash our art styles together.

She invents wild ideas, sculpts them with lightweight spackle, and I add deep, dark backgrounds.

We’ve had a few successes. She even created a funny tutorial.

Our latest piece – Enchantress – was definitely the most challenging. She labored for days sculpting it. I agonized over the color palette for what felt like eons.

And then we did it. Here’s the progression:

It started with a pixie girl. Check out that hair!

T’s shroom detail is amazing. Are they poisonous? Wanna eat one?

Over several glasses of wine, and while simultaneously editing my latest book, I splashed colors all over her. I worried about messing her up.

Finally! With a tree and a million tiny mushrooms, I finished the background. She’s a riot of color, isn’t she? Quite a contrast to my usual dark art.

Enchantress is 16×20. She took about three days of intense sculpting and detail work. Prints are available here.

For purchase inquiries, hit me up on Facebook, Twitter, or via email.

If you like this painting, you might also like these.

J Edward Neill

Painter of shadows

Author of darkness

 

Shadow of Forever – A preview

May 31, 2017 | Books!, Darkness Between the Stars, Sci fi novella | Permalink

Ghosts

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 “She’s getting what? To who?”

The rain thundered against my house’s glass walls. Rivers of water slid down the panes, blurring the greyest afternoon I’d ever seen. With her arms crossed, Callista floated above the table while wearing a too-big smile.

“You heard what I said.” She feigned a yawn. “Your sister’s getting married.”

I sucked in a deep breath and leaned back in my chair. I felt calmer at once. It wasn’t as if I’d spent much time with Aly in the last several years. Whom she married and why wasn’t any of my business.

“I guess I thought she’d never do it,” I said. “I mean…you know how Aly is. She’s a loner. She’s always working, always doing her science.”

Cal floated down and sat on the table’s edge. She looked absurdly beautiful, especially with the grey rain dimming the world beyond her.

“I don’t think it’s love.” She stretched out her legs. “Not that I really know what love is like. I got the impression, without cheating and reading her eyes, she’s marrying him for business’s sake.”

I retreated into thought.

I thought she’d marry the young man who used to bring her flowers. If anyone, it should’ve been him.

This can’t be for love.

After what happened to us, she doesn’t want children.

I guess it’s ok…

…if this is what she wants.

“They’re moving to Arcadia?” I asked Cal.

“Moving?” Cal shook her head. “Nope. They’ve already moved.”

“Am I invited?”

She smiled. “I am your invitation.”

I stood and walked to the window. I had to step over piles of clothes, eating containers, and a mound of soggy towels. I wasn’t much for cleaning up after myself. My only visitor ever was Cal.

And she doesn’t judge me.

“When?” I asked as I gazed into the rain.

“Seven weeks,” said Cal. “It’s going to be lavish, whatever that means.”

“It means I’ll have to shave,” I murmured.

“And maybe dress in something other than a twenty-year old tunic,” Cal added with a grin.

A gust of wind caught the rain beyond my window. The day was as dark as twilight, and the sheets of falling water moving as though alive. I lost myself for a moment. In the spaces between the rain, I imagined eyes. In a peal of thunder, I swore I heard voices.

“Maybe she’ll listen now.” My voice was almost a whisper.

“Listen? What do you mean?” Cal floated to the window.

“If she’s marrying him, she’ll be wife to the governor. She’ll have his ear when he makes policies. She’ll be…influential.”

“Joff, don’t—”

The thunder rolled, low and powerful. I touched the glass with my palm and imagined monstrous shapes moving in the rain. They weren’t there, not really.

And yet I see them.

“Don’t take it lightly,” I said. “If anyone can help make people believe, it’s Aly. She knows.”

“Everyone knows,” Cal argued. “It’s just—”

“They don’t understand,” I interrupted. “To them it’s just a story. It’s not real.”

Cal let out as long a sigh as a little blue nano-girl could. She knew exactly where my mind had wandered.

“The last time you tried to argue this with her, you two didn’t speak for a year,” she reminded me.

I know, I thought.

“And Aly, she’s the only person on this planet as stubborn as you,” Cal added.

I know that, too.

“So just how is it you’re going to change her mind? How, with nothing new to show her, will you convince her?”

I wish I knew.

“I have…information.” I pulled my mind out of the rain. “Two-thousand three-hundred thirteen more stars have gone missing since we talked. And it might be even more, but I’m only working with one orbital scope. No telling how many other stars they’ve destroyed.”

Lightning flared beyond the window. The rupture of cold white light burned shapes into my eyes. I caught myself shivering.

The Strigoi.

They’re out there.

They’re—

“Joff?” I heard Cal say my name. “Joff, are you listening?”

I blinked, and the shadows fled my mind. I was just Joff again, standing in my kitchen. The only light in the house came from Callista. There were no Strigoi, at least not out in the rain.

“Sorry.” I wiped the sweat from my forehead.

“As I was saying, it’s not just about Aly,” Cal continued; she must’ve been talking the entire time I’d stared into the rain. “You’re asking an entire planet to mobilize against something they’ve never seen. You want four-million people to leave their lives behind and go to war.”

“Their lives…” I mumbled. “You mean the ones they won’t have.”

Cal went silent. In part, it was because she knew I was right. The Strigoi, eaters of the light, were out there. We’d seen them butcher hundreds of people on the planet Ebes. We’d heard their voices echo in the void. And we’d killed them together, burning away one of their planets using the only thing that truly caused them pain.

Sunlight.

But Cal also went silent because she knew there was no point in arguing. We’d done the same dance several hundred times. I’d always tumble into a dark state of mind, and she always tried to pull me out.

By then, she knew better.

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For the rest of Cal’s time at my house, I didn’t mention the Strigoi. I knew she hated it. All it ever accomplished was to put us both in foul moods.

So for her sake, I did my best to imagine a future without all the darkness. That afternoon, after I filled my belly with food, we took a walk in the rain. The worst of the storm had passed, and the warm drizzle felt as good as any shower. Even though I expected the wind and falling water to disrupt Cal’s nano-light, she fluttered through the storm with ease.

“How do you do it?” I asked her. We were tramping across a muddy field in the thick of the rain.

“I can survive in the vacuum of space.” She flitted between rain droplets as though dancing between swords. “I can turn myself into a stream of particles and travel down nearly any energized conduit. You think a little rain should bother me?”

“I just thought…well…” I stammered. “My dad used to say electricity and water were no friends of each other. And I found it out for myself one day. I used a powered wrench to fix a nut on a tractor’s coolant line. The line popped. So did the wrench.”

Cal laughed. She scattered herself into a few hundred-thousand nodes and then retook her perfect shape farther down the path. I’d seen her do it countless times before. It never ceased to amaze me.

“Now you’re just showing off,” I said. “You must be glad to have your old body back.”

“I am. But didn’t you just call me a wrench?” she laughed again.

“Yeah. I guess I did.”

Most nights, we’d have stopped walking at the green river. But that eve, just as the rain began to die, we crossed a narrow bridge and entered the fields beyond. I didn’t mind being soaked to my bones. It felt liberating, as if I’d washed away the morning’s darkness.

In the day’s last light, I looked across the fields. I saw the remnants of all the work I’d done to help the people who’d lived in the village near my home.

I saw the tops of the drain pipes we’d laid, exposed after years of heavy rain.

I glimpsed the lines we’d carved in the soil, the pattern of the farm that once had grown.

The crops were mostly gone, having long ago weeded over. It was the trouble with farming on Sumer. The rains were so heavy and the crops grew so quickly that within a decade all the nutrients were sapped out of the dirt. And without much animal life to provide natural fertilizer, most farms wore out their usefulness far swifter than they would’ve back on Earth.

“It gets old sometimes,” I said as Cal and I meandered along the riverbank.

“You mean being human?” she quipped.

“No. I mean thinking of everything like a farmer would. I can’t walk anywhere without thinking about soil densities, nitrogen levels, and drainage.”

“Uh oh.” Cal made a face. “Is this where you tell me another story about farm boy life? About tractors and griddlecakes.”

“No, I guess not,” I grumped.

“I’m only kidding.” She circled me and sat on my shoulder. “You can tell me any story. You know I like to hear them.”

“Nah. Not tonight.”

Together, we sat on the riverbank. The last of the rain died and the fog slithered away into the dark. I pulled off my boots and dipped my feet in the river. Back home, on an Earth that was no more, the water would’ve been frigid. But the little green river swirled around my ankles, warm and pleasant.

“You think Doctor Abid ever imagined us sitting here like this?” I kicked up a little plume of water.

“Oh. Him.” Cal made a sour face. She’d never forgiven her creator for sending us into space, alone and likely to die. “I don’t think he imagined anything for us…other than dying.”

“You know, by putting us in the Sabre and shipping us off to Ebes, he saved us,” I pointed out. “If we’d have stayed on Earth, if someone else had gone in our place, we’d be dead. Just like…you know…Mom and Dad. Just like everyone.”

“Does that mean you’re thankful?” Cal looked at me.

“No. I mean, not exactly.” I couldn’t think of the right words. “It’s not like he did it to help us. There’s no way he could’ve guessed what would happen.”

Cal offered a slender smirk. “Well then there’s your answer. He didn’t imagine us here. Not on Sumer. Not sitting by this river. Not alive. Not together.”

“You’re right.” I nodded. “I’m sorry. I’ll never bring him up again.”

She didn’t answer. But I knew she was happy to hear it.

* * * 

Later that night, as I roamed around the lower level of my house and clean up my messes, Cal drifted down the stairs and into the room. I worked by the light of three blue lamps, in whose light she floated and danced. Within one of the lamplights, she hovered longer than the others. The shadow she made on the pale wall was the same size as a person.

And for a moment I watched her.

Wishing.

When she left the light, her shadow vanished. She had a serious look in her eyes. She’d been upstairs for hours, no doubt plotting whatever she was about to say.

“Your sister’s getting married.” She flitted around me as I carried off a pile of clothes.

“Yeah. I heard.”

“She’s moving on with her life.” Cal ignored my sarcasm. “She’s making happiness for herself. She’s joining the rest of humanity.”

I dropped my clothes at the bottom of the stairs. There was no sense in avoiding Cal. She had something on her mind and she meant to share it.

“I know where you’re going with this,” I shambled back into the light.

“Well…” She crossed her arms. “I want to know what you’re going to do with your life. You’ve talked for years about dying early because of the Strigoi poisoning, but that hasn’t happened. Not even close. You have all these reasons for staying out here and being a hermit. And I…I just want to see you happy. This obsession of yours isn’t healthy. After Aly’s wedding, I think you should live in the city with me. We don’t have to move to Arcadia or anywhere fancy. But I think you should be with people again.”

“With people…” I murmured.

“Yes.” I could tell she was upset by the way the light in her body intensified. “Besides, I’ll have a body in a few months. A real one. It’s almost finished. I’ll be as human as you. Same voice. Same face. You don’t have to…you know…love me. But we should live close together. You should talk to other people. You should live a full life. I want it for you.”

I hadn’t expected her outburst, but I should have. For years, she’d dropped not-so-subtle hints about the hopes she had for my life. It was hard to see her so upset.

I stopped moving, stopped thinking, and gazed across the room at her.

“I like it out here. It’s peaceful,” I offered.

“No.” She shook her head. “You like it out here because you can walk in your field and stare at the sky all night. You like it because no one questions you or challenges you. You like it because you don’t have to be human. You get to pretend you died on Earth with everyone else. Well, guess what? You didn’t.”

I might’ve been angry.

But Callista was right.

*

 

 

* * *

Ghosts is the second chapter of upcoming science fiction novel, Shadow of Forever.

The first chapter is here.

Shadow of Forever is the sequel to sci-fi hit, Darkness Between the Stars.

It’s available right here.

Both books are by J Edward Neill

Both covers are by Amanda Makepeace.

Care less. Be Happier.

May 31, 2017 | Life, Philosophy | Permalink

Don’t take the title too seriously.

I’m not suggesting you stop caring about your family, your friends, or your personal welfare. Nor am I saying you should be indifferent to things that really, truly matter.

But everything else?

That’s up for debate.

Maybe you’ve heard of it. These days, there’s a little thing called the internet. The big ole triple-dubya is pretty cool, right? It’s the fastest delivery system of information ever made. Crappy bandwidth notwithstanding, it delivers info at the speed of light. The trouble is, when I say ‘information,’ I’m using the term loosely. Because you see, the word itself implies a certain factual quality. Or at least it should. Or maybe it used to. But information doesn’t imply truth anymore, does it? Just because someone, no matter their credentials, publishes something to the ‘net doesn’t mean it’s true. Or unbiased. Or even based in reality.

Information isn’t information anymore.

It’s just characters on a screen. Usually hammered out by someone with an agenda.

And thus, maybe you should care about it less than you do.

Yawn a little more. Care about the internet a little less.

*

Think about these:

How many times have you seen an article stating someone famous just ‘destroyed‘ someone else famous? Meaning, they said something on the ‘net and everyone else chimed in with, “Oooooo…nice burn!”

How often have you read (or maybe even posted) a rant about some inconsequential (to everyone else) matter?

What percentage of your social media is consumed with one ‘side’ blasting the other?

How many people have you witnessed become aggressive, name-calling, angry, or just plain hyper-opinionated?

*

Let me answer for you: Every day. Too often. More than 50%. And almost everyone at one point or another.

Ah, the internet. Such a glorious place to live. But just because it provides a vehicle for everyone to speak to everyone else doesn’t mean humanity is suddenly enlightened. It just means it’s easier for us to run our mouths. To learn a little bit about a topic and claim we know everything.

The internet gives us a way to talk about stuff we don’t know much about.

So…

What’s a person to do?

Stop caring.

That’s right.

Just stop.

Or maybe…yawn a LOT more. Care about the internet a LOT less.

Here’s the thing about everything. With a few exceptions, everyone on Earth lives for themselves. I’m not saying everyone is selfish, just that everyone does what’s right and what works for them. Despite globalization, despite everything, most of everyone’s time is consumed with working, sleeping, eating, and surviving. Just like it was ten years ago. Just like forever.

Know what I mean?

Example: A politician threatens to shut down a coal mine for the noble pursuit of cleaning up the environment. Sounds good, right? Sounds progressive. But…do you really expect the coal miners and the vast network of people who depend on the coal industry to vote for this politician? No, you shouldn’t. The guy whose paycheck depends on shoveling coal into a furnace doesn’t care about noble pursuits or clean-air acts. They care about food. As in, on their table. They don’t care what Twitter says. And they certainly don’t care about you or me. When it comes to it, they’re gonna vote (if they care enough) for the person who opposes shutting down their mine. Even if it pisses you off. Even if it flies in the face of everything everyone else believes.

And so it goes. ‘Round and ’round the world.

People live for themselves.

If one group of people struts around the internet, trolling, name-calling, and otherwise tearing another group of people to shreds, does it matter? Is anything gained? And if the other group gets defensive (as is to be expected among humans) and fires back with verbal missiles of their own, does that mean anything? No. Aside from stinging a few butts, it doesn’t matter. At all. At the apex of the word-war, facts, truths, and hard scientific data lose all relevance. No progress is made. People’s hearts and minds don’t change. The battle is an illusion.

You wanna know why?

Ok. I’ll tell you.

Every person on every side and in every corner of every discussion is an individual. Lump ’em in a group all you want, but they’re doing what works for them. For their lives. For their families. There are no Red states. There are no Blue states. Those things are just colors on a map. What is there? Well…there’s a ton of people living their lives, doing whatever it is they think is best for themselves. It doesn’t matter what names you call them (deplorables, libtards, rednecks, elitists, et cetera.) Individuals don’t care, and nor should they. They’re trying to live the way they want. And in most cases, they’re living the only way they know how.

So what’s a person to do?

I’ll say it again: stop caring.

And while you’re at it, stop judging.

Yawn…wait….was there an election?

Ignorance. There’s a lot of it out there. In fact, everyone is ignorant. You’re ignorant. I’m ignorant. Humanity is ignorant. We know only what we see with our own two eyes, and sometimes even those deceive us. Like it or not, everything else is unknown to us. You might read about it or think you understand it. You might dive deep into some article you found online and claim to know about it. Guess what? You don’t. You can’t. You’re human, and the scope of your awareness is purposely limited by your biology. It’s in your DNA, baby. You’re meant to care about you and yours. And not much else.

Unless you’re IN it, you don’t really know it.

It’s a harsh reality, but the idea of unity and world peace are in fact, completely ignorant. Humanity will never be unified longer than a few moments at a time. The idea of peace on a planet with seven-billion human-beings (and climbing) is nonsense. We’re all too ignorant. We’ve no idea what it’s like to live anyone’s life other than our own. And yes, it’s true; some people are more ignorant than others. Some people are isolated, uneducated, extra-extra biased, or just plain unintelligent. And no, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t make you or me better than them.

Pointing out the weaknesses of others has yet to result in meaningful progress.

And yet so many of us do it.

Once a human being has reached a certain threshold, once they’ve decided they no longer care what’s outside their bubble, it’s over. It’s done. It’s finished. The odds of a person changing their mind due to anything other than a life-changing event are almost nil. Fiery words exchanged on Facebook don’t change us, and actions don’t really change us nearly as much as we like to think.

You know what changes people? Trauma. The hard stuff. People being torn out of their lives and thrust into entirely new bubbles. Harsh life experiences are far more important than anything anyone can dish out online. The only way to chip away at ignorance is to live IN a situation. All the way. For a long while. And suddenly, after that happens, you’re in a new bubble. It might be a different bubble than you used to live in, but it’s still a bubble. And it might be you forget about your old bubble. It might be you become ignorant to something you used to understand.

So what should you do about this? How loud do you need to yell for the world to see your point-of-view? To shrug off their indifference and start caring about what you care about? To move closer to your bubble?

Nothing. Stop trying. Go play in the yard with your kids. Go work at soup kitchen. Take a walk alone in the forest. Pick flowers for someone you love.

And when you find yourself surfing the internet, surrounded on all sides by armies of ‘information,’ go forth with a new purpose.

Don’t be distracted by all the things everyone else tells you to care about.

Don’t get sucked in to the idea of ‘sides.’

Don’t start thinking your point-of-view is any more important than anyone else’s.

Because it isn’t.

Once you accept the smallness of yourself…and once you deny your urge to scream at the world for being horrible, only then can you be at peace. And only then can you stop caring about all the things that don’t matter.

…and start caring about the things that do.

J Edward Neill

Artist and Author.

For more deep thoughts, get into this.

New Painting – Escape

May 21, 2017 | Art! | Permalink

Finally, after two weeks without rain, a storm washed over my little suburban house.

My garden needed it. My trees were happy.

But more than anything, my creativity blossomed.

And I painted a story about a lost city, a dark cave, and a cold, cold sky…

Escape prints are available here.  The original is 16″ x 20″.  Reach me here for purchase inquiries.

If you liked this painting, you might also like these.

J Edward Neill

Painter of shadows

Author of darkness

New Huge Painting – Grave Towers

May 13, 2017 | Art! | Permalink

I’m wandering in a strange artistic realm.

Somewhere between this and this.

On a rainy Saturday, with a glass of scotch in hand and Chris Isaak roaring in the background, I decided to consume my largest remaining canvas.

…and paint green clouds, dark terrain, and tall, hollow tombs.

Introducing the Grave Towers:

The final painting. Bleak and green. Were I a better photographer, you’d get the deep shading and details.

This is the background, which I painted on a chilly Friday night. Some people have told me they prefer it without the towers. Meaning…I’ll probably paint a tower-less version soon.

Grave Towers prints are available here.  The original is 36″ x 18″.  Reach me here for purchase inquiries.

If you liked this painting, you might also like these.

J Edward Neill

Painter of shadows

Author of darkness

New 3D Art – Haunting

May 13, 2017 | Art! | Permalink

Usually…

I prefer to work alone. The quieter, the better. If I can hear a mouse squeak, a human sigh, or a sound other than the wind at night, sometimes it’s too much for my creative self.

But this time I stepped outside my comfort zone. I worked with up and coming artist T. Morrison on a rare piece. And my efforts were rewarded.

She sculpted using lightweight spackle. I splashed with acrylics and watercolors.

And we made a little piece we like to call ‘Haunting.’

 

*

Haunting prints are available here.  The original is 18″ x 18″.  Reach me here for purchase inquiries.

If you liked this painting, you might also like these.

J Edward Neill

Painter of shadows

Author of darkness

The Starving Artist and His Kid

May 2, 2017 | Art!, humor, Life | Permalink

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

With that said, single dad art-making ain’t always easy.

Almost six years ago, my son (the G Man) burst into my life. He was the Kool-Aid Man breaking through the brick wall of me. Upon his arrival, I prepared myself for sleepless nights, hours upon hours of crying, and the end of all my life’s plans. But as it turned out, none of that really happened. The G Man slept astoundingly well. He rarely cried. And as for my life’s plans, they turned off the path by a few degrees, but were hardly shattered.

Surprise, surprise.

But there were two things I didn’t count on.  The first, me almost immediately becoming a single dad after G Man burst onto the scene. The second, finding out my son was also my best bro, my comrade-in-arms, and someone who never wanted to leave my side.

Which, as a writer, painter, and 1,000 mph blogger, wasn’t something I was fully prepared for.

me-n-g-at-ren

We destroy our turkey legs as a team.

Yeah…so…while it turns out my writing and painting didn’t slam to a halt, they changed. A lot. Let’s start by talking about sleep. As a young dad, I’d always had this notion that my son’s bedtime would be…oh I don’t know…8:30ish. Nah. Not so much. I admit when I meet other people’s kids, I’m alllllllll about them being in bed early. But with the G Man, I find myself allowing him to stay up late. Like late, late. So instead of waging war over arbitrary bedtimes, I dim the lights, turn on the music, and dive deep into conversations I never thought I’d have with a five-year old.

Things like:

What will happen when the sun runs out of hydrogen to burn

Why didn’t Sauron from Lord of the Rings make a second One Ring

And why didn’t evolution grant sharks the ability to fly

And so the months went by. G Man turned 3, 4, and 5. 8:30ish bedtimes became 9:30ish. 9:30 became 10:30. Chunks of late-night time I’d once devoted to painting, writing deep, dark novels, and meditating morphed into something else, something just as sacred yet completely different. While I’d never judge other parents for putting their kids to bed early, I just couldn’t do it with the G Man. I begun to crave playing silly games, watching kids’ movies, and teaching him how to master Zelda – Twilight Princess. “I’ll just sleep less,” I told myself. “I’ll start writing at midnight. That’ll work. Right?”

lobster-1

Trying on lobster costumes at approx 11PM at Target. Who needs sleep anyway??

Now don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t all roses all the time. By staying up all hours with the G Man, my production eventually took a hard hit. I started writing fewer than half the words per night than I used to. I finished maybe four paintings per month instead of ten. My sleep suffered, not because of staying up late building Lego armies, but because I still pushed my output to punishing depths. I swore off sleep in favor of creating things. Later and later, I stayed awake each night.

But it turns out the human body has its limits. I couldn’t keep pace forever. My mind and my work begun to crumble. I suppose a more reasonable person might’ve said, “Hey, it’s ok. You’ve earned a break. Be at peace with creating less in favor of more face-time with junior.”

F that. I want it all. 🙂

sombrero

That’s me running on zero sleep (and margaritas.)

There’s an everyday equation we all must follow in life. It’s something like X + Y + Z = 24 hours. X is made up of the stuff we have to do each day. It’s work, chores, commuting, and other obligations. X is the hardest to change. Most of the time, it is what it is. The weekday value of my X is approximately 13. That’s a lot, but I’m aware some people have it much worse. As for Z, it’s exactly what you think it is: sleep. Some people can get by on 4-5 hours. Others need 8-9. The more sleep one gets, the better one’s mind functions. Therefore, Z can directly influence the quality of the rest of the equation. My Z value is about 7 hours.

That means, on any given weekday, my X + Z value is somewhere in the 20 range.

Which means I have about 4 hours left over for Y.

What is Y, you ask? Y is free time. Y is options and choices. Y can be consumed by entertainment, exercise, planning fancy meals, et cetera. Or, as in my case, Y can be reserved for art. For writing. For creating. In any artist’s life, having a kid complicates the value of Y. It’s a complication I’m grateful for, and yet it remains. My single dad Y isn’t the same as a lot of other artists’ Y. Even when I’m free to embrace Y, I’m not really. G Man is always at my side, tugging, talking, wanting to listen to music together, needing to engage in conversation.

So I’ve made a compromise. During Y time, we paint together.

And if I need to write, he reads.

It’s a solution I stumbled upon about a year ago. And it was completely by accident. One day, as I tried to paint while G Man was discussing the anatomy of stumpy T-Rex arms, we stopped talking long enough for him to ask a simple question:

Can I paint, too?”

Yes. Hell yes. In that instant, I became a tornado of movement, laying out a dropcloth, handing him a palette, splashing out some colors to paint with. It took a few times for him to acclimate, but after a few weeks – and ever since – he’s been a painting machine. He even painted the cover of one of my books. Yes…seriously!

51ndbtzpsyl__sx331_bo1204203200_

Are they tropical trees? Wind turbines? Monsters’ hands reaching skyward? Hell if I know. It’s still better than anything I’ve painted.

The painting problem: solved. A full 1-2 hours every day of Y value: freed up.

But what about writing?

Figuring out a way to write during G Man’s waking hours was more challenging. And yet…  The solution conveniently turned up mere months removed from the painting revelation. Four words: Goosebumps, Deep Space, and Ninjas. Into his hands, I poured R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps books, National Geographic magazines with lots of Hubble deep space images, and that silly series of ninjas-in-the-6th-grade books. Boom. Just like that, my Y time was defragmented. My painting output doubled. My writing was back on track.

And at the same time, G Man’s creativity soared. His reading skills improved drastically. His paintbrush moved with a mind of its own. (Only two spills so far.) He started asking for quiet time instead of demanding father-son Lego time. I was able to earn a tiny slice of Y freedom without planting my kid in front of a TV or kicking him outside.

Parenting is hard. This, I understand. What works today for me (and everyone else) might not work tomorrow. Soon enough, things like Little League, sleepovers with friends, and learning to drive will force some Y time to become X time. Ultimately, whatever becomes of my freedom, however small the slice gets, I’m ok with it. Because I’ll only ever get one chance to have a five-year old punch a sombrero off my face.

And that’s pretty cool.

Here’s some of the stuff G Man allowed me to paint.

And here’s the book I finished on his watch.

Love,

J Edward Neill

This article is a mirror of my original Tessera Guild spot.

100 things you should probably think about

April 27, 2017 | humor, Life, Satire | Permalink

I’m not sayin’.

I’m just sayin’.

* * *

100 Things You Should Probably Think About

A rare compliment is better than everyday flattery.

Don’t fistfight the person who cuts you off in traffic. Fight the one who says you can’t do something. And fight them with your mind, not your hands.

Patience is a virtue, but sometimes you need to do stuff right f’ing now.

Wine is healthier for you than soda.

Stainless steel looks cool, but definitely isn’t stainless.

Win or lose, there’s a six-month post-election limit on leaving political candidate bumper stickers on your car.

Be the one who tips too much.

Think of meteorology the same as telling ghost stories around a campfire. Both contain fiction designed to scare people.

 Don’t drive around looking for the best parking spot available. Get some exercise; park in the farthest spot imaginable.

Try not to do a movie on the first date. Go somewhere you can look them in the eyes.

The five minutes after you start doing something are easier than the five years you procrastinated before doing it.

Insulting the things other people love doesn’t make the things you love more awesome.

Consider being friends before lovers.

You can be a cat person and a dog person. It’s possible.

Kids these days want the same things as kids during previous generations’ days. They just chase it differently.

Never be ashamed of the music you love.

The best time to order pizza delivery is immediately after grocery shopping.

Valentines Day is a fraud if you want it to be. But extremely romantic if you care to try.

Odds are you probably already have everything you need.

Always keep Ramen noodles handy.

No one really cares whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert. As long as you’re a decent human being, it’s all good.

Sometimes the grass is actually a LOT greener. Sometimes not. Flip a coin.

Try taking MMA classes. Not to learn how to kick people’s asses, but instead to gain the confidence to know you can.

If you have to drive after drinking heavily, pound water for 90 minutes and stay in the fast lane. 🙂

It’s possible the only purpose of life is to live.

One learns much more in defeat than in victory.

Instead of lite beer, why not just drink water? It’s cheaper and has the same effect.

Try not to jump on the bandwagon of manufactured causes.

Consider collecting experiences instead of things.

The Big Green Egg is a fantastic grill, but steak still tastes better when cooked over charcoal.

It’s cool to be weird, off-the-grid, or eccentric. But it loses some of its luster when you talk about it too much on the internet.

Everyone can be corrupted. The trick is knowing exactly what ruins you and staying the hell away from it.

The coldest winds don’t blow through mountains or forests. They blow through the human heart. Luckily, the same is true for warm wind.

Forget sharks. Be afraid of jellyfish.

For every person who loves a thing, someone else is offended by that same thing. Fuck it.

Good luck changing anyone’s political belief system.

Resting Bitch Face (RBF) doesn’t always mean what it looks like. But sometimes it does.

The best kind of diet & exercise plan is one you can do for the rest of your life.

Survival of the fittest no longer really applies. But it might someday. So it’s probably a good idea to keep doing pushups.

Odds are someone is stalking your Facebook page right now.

Odds are even better someone currently has a huge crush on you that you’ll never know about.

The government will never be the super-efficient machine we want it to be. If it were, millions of people would be out of work.

There’s no such thing as ‘morning people.’ There are people who hate mornings and those who hate them slightly less.

It’s entirely possible there’s no such thing as right or wrong.

The key to finding happiness is embracing its elusiveness.

If you’re nervous about trying a new food, get tipsy first. Everything tastes a better with little liquor. Everything except key lime pie.

Mile number five is a thousand times more satisfying than Mile zero.

Almost everything you click on the internet is designed to take your money. (Oh, the irony.)

A sure mark of intelligence is the reservation of judgment.

All men are probably not created equal.

If you’re not willing to do it today, you probably won’t do it tomorrow either.

 You’re probably not going to meet the love of your life on Tinder.

Everything is ok when consumed in moderation. Except Red Bull and Pabst Blue Ribbon. And Meth.

Anger solves nothing. Ever.

Disappointment is for children. Not adults. (Kinda like Trix cereal)

 If you can’t be happy while you’re alone, you can’t be happy.

At least once in a while, live like you’re in a Budweiser commercial. Be up for anything.

You’re not finished being a parent until you’re dead.

 If you really, really hate doing something, find something else.

Jealousy isn’t a good look. For anyone.

Being involved in politics takes more than ‘liking‘ something on Facebook.

You can decide whether or not to be offended.

If you vote for the lesser of two evils, you’re still voting for something evil.

Never vomit into a running fan. (Seriously, I saw what you did to my A/C unit)

Wisdom isn’t gained automatically with age.

A good mate should also be a good roommate.

Intelligence is rarely earned in classrooms.

The only one who cares about your complaints is you.

When interviewing a prospective employee, focus on their personality, not their resume.

It’s ok to do the opposite of what the internet says.

Teach your kids how to lose and they’ll figure out for themselves how to win.

Never argue with someone you don’t care about.

Don’t be the one who says, “I never saw that coming.”

It’s ok to be stupid sometimes. We’re all stupid now and then. But it’s never ok to be willfully ignorant.

If everything were fair, life would be boring.

If you see something beautiful on the internet, distrust it.

Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.

Boasting is for jackholes. But shit-talking is perfectly acceptable.

Teach your children how to think. Not what to think.

Cornhole shouldn’t be played on hills.

Being passionate isn’t the same as being a loud-mouthed douchebag.

Those who trumpet their sufferings are usually the most deserving.

Follow the Two-Text Rule: If you send two texts to last night’s date and they don’t answer, don’t send another until they reply. In other words, don’t be a stalker.

The cost of convenience: experience

Wedding rings will tarnish. Dresses will fade. Cars will break down. But fake boobs last forever.

Taking things personally gives other people power over you.

Pick just three things in your life to say never to. And never say never regarding anything else.

Nudity is natural. But graphic sensationalist violence is more fun.

When eating noodles, the point is to make as much noise as possible.

The sooner you apologize, the better.

In order to be granted city status, a township must have at least three Mexican restaurants.

No one deserves immediate respect. Everyone has to earn it.

The deepest evil one can do is to manipulate someone else to do evil things.

Try not to play Beer Pong with crappy beer. Use a good craft beer or cider. Or better yet, play Wine Pong.

It’s healthier not to have an opinion.

Three Cokes per day will kill you as surely as one pack of cigarettes per day.

If you’re not the first one to offer help to someone in need, you might as well be the last.

Never refuse an honest gift.

The correct spelling is f-o-o-t-b-a-l-l.

Sometimes the best answer you can give is, “I don’t know.”

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If you’re upset now and want to start some arguments, read this.

If you’re into smart, friendly philosophy, check this out.

 This article is a mirror of a post on popular blog Tessera Guild.

 

J Edward Neill

New Painting – The Forever Furnace

April 26, 2017 | Art! | Permalink

I’m going through a stretch of painting alien worlds and eerie landscapes.

In that vein, I just finished a fiery new piece.

I used all the reds, yellows, golds, and umbers I could find.

Presenting ‘The Forever Furnace.’

Click to bring up a super-detailed view.

Forever Furnace is 12″ x 24″.  Reach me here if you’re interested in the original.

If you liked this painting, you might also like these.

Prints of my most popular paintings are available here.

J Edward Neill

Painter of shadows

 

5 Ways I Just Can’t Sell Myself

April 25, 2017 | Books! | Permalink

Everyone will agree.

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

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

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

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

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

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No Hashtags

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

But…

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

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

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No Review Swaps

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

“No thanks.”

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

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

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

Nah.

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No Paying to Enter Writing Contests

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

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

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

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

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No ‘Best-Selling’ BS

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

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

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

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

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

Lies do not become us.

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No Spam

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

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

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

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More things I can’t bring myself to do:

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

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

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

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

J Edward Neill

Painter of Shadows

Writer of books about star-destroying space vampires

New Beautiful Girl – The Sorceress

April 23, 2017 | Art! | Permalink

No man dares to cross her.

No death is deep enough to bury her.

Please enjoy The Sorceress:

I really enjoyed drawing her. She’s based on a friend who was brave enough to pose for me.

She’s about 18″ x 24″. Pencils on watercolor paper (which tends to hold graphite really well)

Here’s an early pic of her face:

And a snapshot of her on my easel:

The original is available for $60.

She’s available in a variety of print sizes at Society6.

If you like The Sorceress, you might also like these.

J Edward Neill

How to Date an Artist

April 13, 2017 | Art!, humor | Permalink

…Tips for Dating Artists…

A completely unscientific exploration of the perils of sleeping with art junkies.

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#1. Consider dating someone else. As in, someone who might love you more than they love blank slabs of canvas and empty sheets of paper. 🙂

#2. When planning dates, dinners, or long nights on the couch watching Netflix, consider the extremely high odds of having to do many of these things by yourself. Master the phrase: “Dinner reservations for one, please!”

#3. “Five more minutes,” actually means thirty more minutes. The formula used when determining how much longer an artist will be involved in their latest stick-figure drawing masterpiece is:

Time They Stated multiplied by 6 = Actual Time Until They Emerge from the Darkness

#4. The love of your life’s studio will either look like this:

…or this:

…there is no in-between.

#5. Your lover can never have too many brushes. Or pencils. Or sticks of charcoal.

#6. If you leave a coffee mug out in the open, it’s no longer a coffee mug. It’s a paintbrush caddy. Deal with it.

#7. Keep them away from the kitchen sink and master bathroom at all costs. Detour them to a guest bathroom, preferably one with a sink whose color is something other than white.

#8. After hugs, make-out sessions, lovemaking, or accidental shoulder bumps in the basement, check your entire body and all your clothing for unexpected paint spots (and other stains.)

#9. If you decide to have children, consider that one day you’ll probably come home to this:

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#10. When critiquing their art (which you should avoid at all costs, but which you’ll be forced to do every day of your life) compare your beau’s latest art to someone famous. Or…if you want to break up, just make a stink-face and walk away without saying anything.

#11. Google the terms ‘abstract‘ ‘surrealism‘ ‘impressionism‘ and ‘realism.’ Use these terms when describing your lover’s art. While the odds are they were aiming for one of these, what they created is most likely another. But they’ll appreciate your lingo.

#12. Unless your beloved artist is really, really talented, don’t ever ask them to paint your portrait, draw you, or sculpt you. Trust me, you’ll regret what you end up looking like.

“Honey, I feel like my hands look a little…off.”

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#13. If you date someone who paints with oils or draws with graphite, set aside a special room (or five) for them, and make sure it’s a place you don’t care about. Actually, if you have the money, buy them their own house to work in.

#14. If one of your lover’s clients suggests that a piece of art should be created free ‘for the exposure’ you owe it to your lover to kill that client and bury them in an unmarked grave.

#15. The minimum number of paper towel rolls to keep handy is 17.

#16. They’re probably not cheating on you with all the people (subjects) you found on their camera.

Actually, they probably are.

I’m only kidding.

Or am I?

🙂

Think this was funny? Try my Tips for Dating Writers.

J Edward Neill

Crippler of canvasses

Author of billions of books

This article is a mirror of my original Tessera Guild spot.

The Dangers of using Powdered Graphite

April 11, 2017 | Art! | Permalink

I’d painted hundreds of canvasses.

I’d gone through a thousand tubes of acrylic paint, wrecked dozens of brushes, and cleaned up countless spills.

None of it prepared me for the horrors of using graphite.

You see, I wanted a change. Not that I’d grown bored of using acrylics and watercolors; I hadn’t. It’s just that I’d seen some epic works by Allen Williams and others…and frankly I felt I needed to expand my horizons.

So I hit the local Hobby Lobby, snatched up some charcoal pencils, graphite sticks, tortillions, and two small jars of the most devious substance on Earth – graphite powder.

Pure. Beautiful. Evil.

The powder looked harmless enough. A fine black grit neatly tucked into a plastic cylinder, I wasn’t worried about how to use it. I figured I’d start experimenting, pound out a few dozen pieces, and learn on the fly.

I should’ve done more research…

It’s not that I spilled any; I really didn’t. It’s not that I was clumsy with it; I wasn’t. But the thing is…once rubbed in, stepped on, or lightly dusted across any surface, graphite powder embeds itself.

…into my hands.

…onto my drop cloths.

…on my patio.

…in my shower.

After a few hours of coating a canvas in dark, dark powder, the stuff was everywhere. I always work barefoot, and my toes and heel became black as midnight. I like to push charcoal and graphite around with my fingers to texture it, and so my hands resembled a coal miner’s. I like to breathe, thus the inside of my nose was coated with a fine layer of darkness.

The piece I created was only meant to be experimental, to get a feel for how the powder works.

You could say I learned my lesson.

Introducing ‘The Nameless Tree.’ It’s my first (and possibly last for a while) graphite powder piece.

The Nameless Tree is approx. 20″ x 30″.  The original is for sale for $250.00.

The tree was created by removing excess graphite with a pair of soft erasers. It took about an hour to coat the canvas, another hour to carve out the tree, and a full day to clean the corrupting graphite from my deck, my floors, and my skin. As I type this, I still have powder embedded beneath my fingernails.

Live and learn…

If you like The Nameless Tree, you’ll probably like these.

And if you like quizzes, you’ll love this.

J Edward Neill

 

New Painting – Apocalpyse Vale

April 5, 2017 | Art! | Permalink

After a looooong stretch of working with graphite, charcoal, and pencils

…I’m back to dipping my brush into colors.

Presenting – Apocalypse Vale, a little piece I painted with alien worlds and eerie landscapes in mind.

Apocalypse Vale is 12″ x 24″.

Here’s a funky super-color version:

If you like Apocalypse Vale, you might also like these.

Prints are available here.

J Edward Neill

Painter of shadows

Extremely prolific author