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

Shadow of Forever cover art reveal!

May 24, 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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Coming soon – the sequel to Darkness Between the Stars.

Shadow of Forever

Cover art by Amanda Makepeace

Shadow of Forever

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Earth

is

no

more.

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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

May 24, 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 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.’

 

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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

Shadow of Forever – A preview

May 5, 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.

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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.

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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’ll be out in the first half of 2017.

Both books are by J Edward Neill

Both covers are by Amanda Makepeace.

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.

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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?”

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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. 🙂

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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!

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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.

Three Dark Fantasy Epics…in One

April 28, 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

 

100 things you should probably think about

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

I’m not sayin’.

I’m just sayin’.

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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.”

* * *

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

Painting with Darkness – Part XIV

March 25, 2017 | Art! | Permalink

Lately I’ve moved away from standard acrylic, oil, and ink paintings.

…and into pencils, charcoal, and graphite.

Away from trees, dark towers, and spooky cityscapes.

…and into beautiful women.

And so, Painting with Darkness Part 14 is all about a little (actually it’s huge) graphite canvas I’m calling Mother of Midnight.

Here’s a few progression shots:

mom1

Just her face…

mom2

NSFW? Not quite…

mom3

Adding some clothes. Sort of. And no, that’s not an afro. It’s a hood.

mom4

Shadowing coming along. Needs face work, background, and texturing.

mom5

Almost done. Working with graphite is fun. I went a little nuts with the swirls.

mom6

Before final touch ups and eye shading…

Just her face.

And here’s the final painting:

IMG_0258

If I learned one thing during this piece, it’s that graphite is super hard to photograph. It’s highly reflective, meaning any backlight at all bounces into the camera lens, which tends to wash the photo out.

The actual canvas (24″ x 48″) is extremely detailed, which some of these pics might not reveal.

Live and learn.

* * *

If you like this Painting with Darkness entry, check out the other thirteen: I, II, III, IV, V, VIVIII, IX, X, XI, XII. XIII.

To dive into the series that inspired this piece, click this.

Until next time…

J Edward Neill

The Hecatomb – An Extensive Loss of Life

March 23, 2017 | Books!, Horror | Permalink

Hecatomb – ‘heka’tom/ (noun) – An extensive loss of life for some cause.

or…

The name of my terrifying new novella, NOW available.

Hecatomb front cover hi rez

In a drowned village, on a dark shore, in a city of white stones, an ancient evil stalks.
It has no name, no face, and no desire but to see the death of everything…
…and everyone.
Down through the ages it exists, sleepless and void, a relic from the world before humanity.
One dead. Every night. Forever.
Until nothing remains.

J Edward Neill

Released – Darkness Between the Stars

March 17, 2017 | Books!, Darkness Between the Stars, Sci fi novella | Permalink

Little Joff always dreams of the stars.

He knows something is out there, but he’s not sure what it is.

Because there is something out there.

And one day, after all the dreams of his childhood fade, Joff will sit on a ship as it spirals through the void.

Alone.

With all the time in the world to count the stars.

And measure the darkness growing between them.

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 – from J Edward Neill, author of A Door Never Dreamed Of

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Darkness Between the Stars

Now available on Amazon.

A free preview is here.

darknesskindle

The cover art is by Amanda Makepeace. Find her here.

Free ARC copies are available for reviewers. Find me here.

J Edward Neill

Author of A Door Never Dreamed Of

The best looking video games ever

March 17, 2017 | Video Games! | Permalink

Ever daydream of being somewhere other than wherever you are?

Well?

Maybe you fantasize about slumming at a beachside tiki bar?

Maybe you daydream of sitting in the backyard on a warm night, soaking up a pitcher of sweet tea?

Or mayyybe sometimes you dream of nestling on a couch with all the lights off, controller in hand, television ablaze with an amazing video game?

Yeah. You know you’ve thought about it. It’s ok to admit. I’m right there with you.

Yeah. That’s Skyrim, not reality.

Let’s take a moment to appreciate where we are these days. We’re in the golden age of video games, and that’s no exaggeration. As far as new forms of art (yeah, video games are art) games are advancing leaps and bounds ahead of other industries. Hollywood movies are kinda stagnant. Television is all reality shows, zombies, and superhero/crime drama.

But games…well.

Every time a new year rolls around, we get to swim in a shiny ocean of faster, prettier, more artistic gaming entertainment. For $60, you can either take your family to see a single 2-hour movie at the theater OR you can buy a game like Skyrim, Witcher, or Zelda -Breath of the Wild and create stories of your own via your console of choice.

Breath of the Wild

And so here we are. Another new year. After a powerful 2016, which saw a waterfall of hot, stunning titles roll over the precipice, we’re primed for what could be the most beautiful year of games ever. And I don’t just mean good games like I’ve listed here, but gorgeous, artistic, crazy-good looking titles. Like sharp and futuristic Mass Effect 4 and noir-looking Vampyr.

Which begs the question: what are some of the most beautiful game titles of all time?

Well…for starters:

Limbo

Zelda – Wind Waker

Witcher 3 – Wild Hunt

Metroid Prime 3 – Corruption

Mass Effect 3

 

Ori and the Blind Forest

Beyond Good and Evil

The Last of Us

Halo 3

Inside

Half-Life 2

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A while back (and I mean WAY back) game-devoted site IGN did an article focusing on the best graphics ever. Now I don’t mean to be picky, but great graphics don’t always translate into superior beauty. Yes, realism is nice. And yeah, a poppin’ frame-rate is great. But sometimes it’s not the sharpest, most advanced games that strike an artistic chord.

Take Playdead’s Limbo and Inside, for example. Neither game was a technological achievement, but both were atmospheric, subtle, and beautiful. And let’s not forget Wind Waker, now more than a decade old, using cel-shading to give gamers a whole new perspective of Link. Both were risky moves by their developers, and both paid off.

Speaking of developers, they haven’t always had the tools they do today. Take one look at my progression of best games ever, and you’ll see the jumps we’ve made in graphical power.

Which begs the question: which old-school games are the most beautiful?

What about….

Zelda – Majora’s Mask

Quake

Neverwinter Nights

Myst

Knights of the Old Republic

***

Admittedly, it’s slim pickings if you go much older than the mid-90’s. Games back in the day had to be fun first, pretty last. That’s not to say old-school games don’t have moments of beauty, but the highly pixelated graphics usually meant the beauty was due to the story or the atmosphere.

And that’s the true test, isn’t it?

A fun-to-play game can be good, but it’s the rare game that makes us think and feel, and thus it’s the rare game that’s truly beautiful throughout.

Games can be art. Art can be games. The better developers gets at making them, the more the line will blur.

And that’s a good thing.



 

You say you’re a video game god? Find out the truth by taking this quiz.

J Edward Neill

Creator of Coffee Table Philosophy 

Painter of Darkness

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

Tiny Painting – Callista

March 12, 2017 | Art! | Permalink

My latest fix has been painting portraits of beautiful girls.

Some are friends. Others…well…

I enjoy the challenge of capturing certain expressions, especially the look in a serious woman’s eyes.

So…

Recently I sketched, inked, and watercolored a girl appearing in my latest novel Darkness Between the Stars (and its upcoming sequel Shadow of Forever.)

Here’s the sketch:

Callista Pencil

She’s tiny, only 6″ x 8″.  Even so, I toiled for hours getting the cold light in her eyes right.

And here’s the final version, with a few inks and watercolors added:

Callista hi rez

If you like Callista, you might also like these.

Prints are available here.

J Edward Neill

Painter of shadows

Extremely prolific author

New Painting – Firebirth

March 8, 2017 | Art! | Permalink

I rarely paint composition pieces.

Actually…this is my first one.

Introducing ‘Firebirth’ – a little painting about a dragon, an egg, and a burning forest…

Firebirth

Firebirth – 16″ x 20″ – Watercolors and acrylics on canvas

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

More fires to come…

J Edward Neill

New Painting – The Hecatomb

March 3, 2017 | Art! | Permalink

Not exactly forever ago, I wrote a novella.

I called it The Hecatomb. To support it, I decided to paint my own cover art. I’d done cover art before, but usually only for smaller, cleaner, non-fiction books.

Here it is:

TheHecatombWeb

It’s ok…I guess. I’ve never truly been satisfied with it. It lacked the sharpness I desired. I left it alone for a while, but always felt the itch to change it.

And so recently, I did…

Here’s the new Hecatomb painting, sharper, more vivid, and greener than its predecessor:

Hecatomb hi rez

Much more satisfying, at least to me.

Recently, I formatted this piece into The Hecatomb’s new cover art.

Hecatomb front cover hi rez

The original (without lettering) is 16″ x 20″.  Prints are available here.

Meanwhile, if you like this style, you’ll probably like these.

See you soon with more dark, ethereal art.

J Edward Neill

Remember

February 26, 2017 | Books!, Darkness Between the Stars, Sci fi novella | Permalink

Remember 

It was always hot beneath Sumer’s two suns.

At night, when the blue and crimson stars slid beneath the horizon, the heat had a way of lingering. The high green grass beyond my house soaked up the day’s warmth, and the rains that had fallen each day became a nightly fume, blanketing the fields in steam, roiling in grey clouds off the little green-watered river.

Even so, I liked to walk at night.

It was calm, and I could be alone.

Most evenings, after the rains ended and the clouds cleared off, I liked to dim the lights in my little glass house and stroll out into the fields. Most people who’d lived in the village nearby had moved on to more fertile grounds, something I’d been helping them do for almost twenty years. By then, I was one of only a few dozen people left, and my plot of land was a good two kilometers from the others.

It could’ve been a peaceful life.

I might have lived out my days alone and content.

I could’ve grown fruit in the summer and Earth-like crops during winter. It’s not as if anything on Sumer would’ve stopped me. The hot, wet planet didn’t have any animal life other than the species’ the Exodus people had introduced. It was all plants, all forests and farms and dark green rivers.

The world was a garden. And I was its farmer.

And so, on a night some twenty years after I’d first landed on Sumer, I prepared for my walk the same as every evening. I strapped on my thick boots and threw a towel over my shoulder. I had to wear the boots whenever I walked in the high grass between my house and the green river. Some of the blades were sharp enough to take a toe off, and my legs were already marked with hundreds of small scars. The towel was for my sweat, which would start streaming down my forehead the moment I left the cool confines of my simple glass dwelling.

I wasn’t as young as I’d once been.

I was as fit as ever, but twenty years of building pipelines and digging irrigation trenches beneath the grueling sun had taken their toll.

Or maybe it’d been something else that had aged me.

The stars were many that night. I waded through the shallow fog, alone and silent. Like so many eves, I felt as if I were the only living soul on the planet.

Or in the universe, I thought.

But as it turned out, I wasn’t as alone as I expected. At the green river’s edge, I stood in the starlight and gazed across the water.

And my heart skipped a beat when I heard her voice behind me.

* * *

Remember is the introduction to my upcoming book, Shadow of Forever.

Shadow of Forever is the sequel to this, which I think you’ll like.

Look for more Shadow of Forever excerpts in the future.

Until then…

J Edward Neill

Preview – Darkness Between the Stars

February 20, 2017 | Books!, Sci fi novella | Permalink

It’s true.

I’m done writing philosophical books for now.

I’ve got no plans to publish anything else like this weird little thing.

And I’m pretty much out of horror ideas.

So it’s like this. I’m getting back to my roots. It’s time for more darkness, more shadows, and more end-of-the-universe type books. It’s my bread and butter. It’s my dice-move on the dance floor.

My new book? It’s called Darkness Between the Stars. It’s out now. Here’s the Amanda Makepeace cover art:

DarknessKindle

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Oh…and here’s the entire first chapter:

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Earthbound

  

Many years before they selected me to save humanity, I knew who their choice would be.

Maybe that’s why they picked me. Maybe they planted the idea in my head when I was only a little boy. Or perhaps it was a simple matter of me guessing right. But somehow I knew.

I’m meant for something else, I remember thinking.

I’m not destined to be earthbound.

Those were strange thoughts for a six-year old boy. No, they were beyond strange. They were surreal. It was the year 4901, and I had no concept of what those feelings meant. I didn’t know anything about deep space travel, the Thousand-Year War, or humanity’s exodus from Earth. Everyone else in the world knew about these things, but not me. Not little Joff.

All I really knew were my father’s wheat fields, my mother’s love for me and my sister, and my teddy bear, Alpo, who was missing his right arm.

Alpo’s story was a funny one. He was named after an aluminum can. And it wasn’t just any can, but a three-thousand year-old one I found in the dirt in one of Dad’s fields. ‘Alpo,’ it said in faded yellow print. Maybe that’s why Dad used to say our fields were the most fertile of all. Something about being on a landfill. Something about wheat growing better on top of thirty-century old garbage.

Whatever.

I didn’t care. I was six years old. The same night I found the ancient can, I sprinted home and renamed my teddy bear. Everything in the world seemed right.

Those were the best of days. We were happy, all of us. We lived in a valley with mountains on three sides. Our fields of golden wheat swayed to breezes that never stopped. All around our little stone house, pale streams tickled the earth, clean and crisp as anything. Life wasn’t always easy, but it was quiet. Our family was untouchable, a last island floating on an ocean of technology.

Although weren’t entirely isolated.

A city lay just outside our valley.

By modern standards, Donva was a small town. To a six-year old boy who’d rarely been beyond his valley, it was awe-inspiring. They’d named Donva after the woman who’d first suggested a settlement there. Like most cities back then, it was all blacks and whites. Not the people, mind you. The buildings. Skinny dark towers jutted skyward from its heart, while warrens of pale, impossibly clean dwellings sprawled in the towers’ shadows. People lived in the little white houses and worked in the big black spires. Donva was so tight-knit that almost everyone walked everywhere. The only time anyone took a train or a hover-truck was to leave the city entirely, which most people rarely did.

I remember one of my earliest visits.

We were in the car on a warm, sunny morning. It was Mom, my sister Aly, and me. We weren’t piloting one of those fancy, matte-grey hover-trucks, but instead we rode in a combustion engine car. Yes, those. The same kind they say fouled the air centuries ago. And so rare in 4901 that only a hundred or so existed, while even fewer actually worked.

So when we rolled into town on a shiny white road everyone else used for walking, we got the best looks from people. They smiled, waved, and stopped to say hello to Mom. They didn’t begrudge our pretty chrome prize, but instead welcomed the sight. It was the way things were in Donva. It wasn’t like the big cities, the scary cities.

I’d have had more fun that morning if not for Aly. She always made it a point to start little wars with me every time we were in the car. That day was no exception.

“You’ll never get to sit up front,” she told me for the thousandth time.

“Yes I will,” I argued. “I’ll be bigger than you someday. Dad says so.”

“But I’ll always be older.” She made a face. “Which means the front is mine. Forever.”

I felt myself getting angrier. If there was one thing I hated, it was injustice. Aly saw me grinding my teeth and grinned at me. I waited for Mom to stop our brewing battle, but she didn’t. I think she wanted us to fight it out without her help.

“We’ll run out of gas someday,” I told Aly. “Dad’s big tank will go dry. Then we’ll have to walk. There won’t be any front seats. You’ll see.”

She laughed at me. “It’ll be funny, you on your skinny legs. You’ll get half a kilo, and Mom will have to carry you. Isn’t that right, Mom?”

In her fancy black shades and wide-brimmed white hat, Mom didn’t say a word. She turned the wheel and drove down a side road. I think I saw her shake her head, but from the back seat it was hard to tell.

“I’ll break your dolls.” I decided to fight dirty.

“I’ll tear Alpo’s other arm off,” Aly shot back.

“I’ll steal your books,” I huffed.

“I’ll chop off your hair while you’re sleeping.” She smirked.

“Oh yeah…well…I’ll steal your skypad,” I dared.

Aly’s mouth fell open. Mom slowed the car and took off her sunglasses. I knew right away I’d gone too far.

“What did I tell you about the skypad, Aly?” Mom stared at my sister, calm as a cloud before a storm.

Aly glared at me. If she’d have turned any redder, her head might’ve burst.

“If your father catches you with it, he won’t even bother to sell it,” Mom continued. “He’ll throw it in the combine and grind it into powder. You know how he feels about those things.”

“But Mom—” Aly tried.

“Tomorrow we’re coming back here,” Mom cut her off. “You bring the pad. We’ll sell it, and you can use the money for whatever you want. But no tech. No vids, no sprites, and no dream-makers.”

“Mom—”

“Non-negotiable,” said Mom.

And that was the end of it.

We kept driving. Aly hated me, and I didn’t say another word. I hadn’t meant to get her into trouble. I’d just blurted out the thing I knew would win the argument. I’d always been good at winning. Not so much at surviving the aftermath.

If Aly was heartbroken, she had every right to be. Our father’s disdain for technology was legendary. He didn’t like vids, which usually just spouted ads for other tech. He really didn’t like sprites, which floated around people’s heads and played whatever media their users wanted them to. And he really, really disliked dream-makers, which were known to be addictive, so much that some people never slept right after just a few days of using them.

But above all those things, Dad didn’t like skypads. Skypads were like pieces of almost indestructible paper. You cold bend them, stick them to walls, wear them, whatever you liked. And using a skypad, with the right hacks, you could connect to and view everything. If you wanted to watch a signal from a satellite on the far side of Earth, you could do it. If you fancied eavesdropping on feeds from near-orbit space stations, it was easy to make happen. But worse than anything, if you wanted live video of world news, which Dad despised, all you had to do was click a button, and every channel in the world opened up beneath your fingertips.

I was sure all Aly used her skypad for was to vid-chat with her friends, but that wouldn’t matter to Dad. He assumed the worst of most technology. And therefore he’d banned it from our household.

That night at dinner, Aly and I sat in silence at the table. Dad heaped potatoes and greens on our plate, and both of us nibbled. It didn’t take long before Dad noticed us.

“What’s on your mind, Joff?” he asked me.

“Nothing,” I fibbed.

“Aly?” he pried.

“Nothing.”

Dad took another bite. He knew something was up. But as was ever his way, he didn’t get angry.

“Nothing?” he said while he chewed. “The funny thing about nothing is that it’s always something. You went to Donva today. That’s something. You brought home salt, spices, and a new kettle. That’s something more. And I’m sure you both saw your mother’s new hat. It’s beautiful, isn’t it? That’s definitely something.”

Aly dropped her gaze to the floor. I knew what she was thinking. And I also knew our father.

He knew about the skypad.

He’d already found it.

“Just tell him, Aly,” I whispered.

“Tell him what?” She stared a hole through me.

“You know…”

Dad gave both of us The Look. We knew what it meant. Whenever he broke The Look out, it meant he wasn’t going to say another word. No one at the table, Mom included, was allowed to speak, eat, or leave until The Look was answered.

And on that night, the only right answer was for Aly to admit she’d been hiding a skypad in her room for almost three months.

I wanted to answer for her. My sense of justice told me that the sooner we fessed up, the better. But The Look that night was less for me and more for Aly. Dad wanted her to fess up, not for me to protect her.

I’m not sure how long we sat there and waited. The steam stopped rising from our potatoes and our greens got cold. Aly looked to Mom for an escape, but Mom just sat there with her hands folded in her lap. She and Dad were a wall. There was no getting around them, no climbing over. The only way to get through was to tell the truth.

“I…” Aly’s voice cracked. “I have a skypad. And I know what you’re going to say, but…it’s not what you think. I don’t care about watching the fights in the wasteland. I don’t hack into the space stations. I just talk to Sara and Melina. That’s all.”

“And?” Dad still wore The Look.

“…and sometimes steal a show from the satellites. But nothing gory, Dad. No war feeds.”

I knew she’d told the truth. Not because I believed her, but because Dad lifted his cup and took a deep swig of warm milk. He wouldn’t have done it had Aly lied. It would’ve gotten a lot worse.

“So…does that mean I can keep it?” Aly asked.

Our father let out a great gust of air. I sensed he was just a little sad.

“No,” he said.

“But why?” Aly pleaded. “I’m not using it for bad stuff!”

“I know you’re not. But the answer’s the same. It’s done, Aly. It’s gone.”

She looked angry at first, then stunned. I think her plan had been to blame me for everything. But it was obvious Dad had known all along. He’d destroyed the skypad while we’d been in the car arguing about it.

Which meant it wasn’t my fault.

 

* * *

The next months were a strange time.

The same as every day, we worked in the fields. It was summer, which meant keeping up the irrigation trenches, feeding the chickens, and doing lots of maintenance on our aging machines. Dad was teaching me to be a blackthumb, which meant I had to learn all about machinery, and that I came home every night with oily hands and dirty clothes. At six years old I probably should’ve been attending school in Donva with Aly, but Dad didn’t want that for me, and I didn’t mind.

“We’ve got enough tech designers and programmers to last ten generations,” he’d say. “So here you’ll work, learning machines. And if ever you need a job in one of the cities, you’ll be the best damn blackthumb they could hope for. You’ll be a master, and you’ll command whatever salary you want.”

And so I watched, worked, and learned all the things my father wanted, even though being a blackthumb wasn’t what I cared about. I did it because Dad wished it and I loved him, though in my heart I wanted something else. I didn’t know exactly what that something else was. But I felt it inside me, a dream smoldering in my mind, a hot thumping in my chest that wouldn’t go away.

I suppose, if I’d understood it better, I would’ve tried to snuff it out.

I don’t know if life would’ve been different. Maybe they’d have picked someone else.

Maybe not.

It wasn’t until near my seventh birthday, on a cold winter’s eve after a long day’s work hauling wood down from the mountains, I learned something about why my father was the way he was. I don’t know why I decided to go to the storage barn instead of rushing home to dinner. Tired as dirt, I wandered off the path and dropped my last stack of firewood against the barn’s outer wall.

And then I pushed the sliding door open and walked inside.

The barn was dark inside. We didn’t have any animals in it; the cattle were in a different barn. I slid inside to escape the howling wind and catch my breath before dinner, and I pushed the door shut behind me. The smells of old wood, of tools that hadn’t been used since summer, and of cold, hard soil drifted through the air. I reached out for the old bench that sat just to the door’s left, and I sank onto it, limp as a dishrag.

If I’d had a blanket, I might’ve slept the night in the barn. I was that tired.

Yet no sooner did I lean back against the creaky old bench than I smelled something else. It wasn’t wood or rusty tools or dirt.

Smoke, I know.

What’s that old saying Dad made up? About smoke and fire?

I stood back up. I don’t know why I did it quietly. Most of me knew no one else could possibly be in the barn with me.

Or could there be? I wondered.

I followed my nose. Soundless as a falling star, I crept through the darkness. I’d been in the barn a thousand times in my life. I knew where the door to the tool room was.

Five steps forward.

Turn right.

Seven steps through the narrow hall.

Now touch the door.

I reached out and touched the planks to the tool room’s door. They were warmer than I expected, and the smells wafting between the cracks caught me right in the nose. I put my ear to the door and listened. A voice, so far away, made its way to me. It wasn’t Dad or Mom, or even Aly. The voice was too small, almost like it came from…

…a skypad.

I can’t remember just when I’d learned to be so stealthy. Maybe it was part of having an older sister and knowing how to sneak past her bedroom without her coming out to chase me. But somehow, someway, I pulled the door open wide enough to see inside.

And Dad didn’t hear me.

In the little room, in the quiet heart of the old barn, he sat there on a stool, his workbench laid out before him. An old-world cigarette dangled between his fingers, but he wasn’t smoking it. Nor was he working. He had his back to me, and over his shoulder I saw the skypad’s soft blue glow. He’d stuck it to the side of our red toolbox. I saw it plain as the sun shining, a crown of wrenches standing just behind it.

I stood there and I watched. My shock at seeing Dad so absorbed in the very thing he’d always said he hated didn’t last. I guess I wasn’t really surprised. Maybe I’d known all along.

The program he’d found, The Dusktime Dispatch, flickered on the skypad’s screen. It was a blurry image, doubtless stripped from a satellite thousands of miles away. To hear the voices talking, I had to tune out the entire world, which was easier than I expected.

“What we’re looking at is all that remains of the city they used to call Lun-dun,” announced a man in a flak-jacket and a black beanie hat.

“Yes, Lukas. We know that,” said the newsman.

The two men appeared in separate frames on the skypad. On the right, the newsman sat in a too-clean office somewhere in a vast city. Meanwhile the man in the black beanie, Lukas, occupied the left frame, its edges burning bright red from the approaching sunrise. Lukas looked brawny and a bit dangerous. The skeletal remains of a vast city, which must’ve been a thousand times the size of Donva, stretched out behind him. The sight scared me more than a little.

Lukas adjusted his black beanie and continued:

“Now, as we’ve talked before, today’s the day we’re sending a team into Lun-dun to test the Exodus craters for radioactivity. It’s our hope, after all this time, the levels of poisoning might’ve dropped well below critical toxicity.”

Me being not quite seven years old, I shouldn’t have understood all those fancy words. But I did. I’d read all of Aly’s school books a dozen times, probably while she was hiding and watching the very same skypad Dad and I were watching now.

“When does your team depart?” the newscaster asked.

“In one hour,” said Lukas. “They’re suiting up in their safety gear now.”

“Well…” The newscaster looked concerned. “We’ve talked about this before, about the ERM, the Exodus Reclaiming Mission. But what we’ve never really discussed, Lukas, is exactly what you and your team hope to reclaim. Now that you’re there, and now that we’ve got every skypad in the world tuned to this feed, what can you tell us? Can you say what it is you’re looking for?”

Even on the grainy little skypad screen, I swore I saw Lukas hesitate. It wasn’t even a flinch. It was something about the way he breathed.

Whatever he says next will be a lie, I thought.

“Resources,” said Lukas. “Of course, much of Lun-dun was burned away during the Exodus. But there’s still resources. Precious things beneath the craters.”

“What precious things?” The newsman sounded skeptical.

I didn’t know why, but in that moment I wanted to hear Lukas’ answer more than anything I’d ever heard in my life. I didn’t just want to know; I needed to.

And that’s the exact moment Dad flicked the ashes off the end of his cigarette and glanced over his shoulder.

“Joff?” he said.

I didn’t know how to answer. I just stood there, frozen the same as the icicles hanging off the barn’s roof. I’d figured he’d known I was there. After all, he’d always known everything.

But this time it turned out I’d truly surprised him.

And worse, him facing me meant the skypad was blocked and I couldn’t hear what Lukas said.

Oh God. I shivered. Dad’s never gonna trust me again.

* * *

Look for Darkness Between the Stars on Amazon.

In the meantime, if you liked this little chapter, you’ll definitely like A Door Never Dreamed Of.

J Edward Neill 

Two New Paintings – Worldheart and Emme – the Pale Queen

February 20, 2017 | Art! | Permalink

I’ve been staying up extra late this year.

…painting, writing a sequel to this, and painting some more.

The writing pays the bills, but it’s the painting that makes me oh so happy.

Here’s two of my latest:

Worldheart

I call this one Worldheart. I had no specific plan when I painted it…other than to add a whole bunch of writhing roots and vines. I really like the dark and powerful greens. This one was so fun to create I’m thinking of buying a huge canvas to paint a deep crimson version.

Worldheart is 16″ x 20″.  It’s available on Society6.

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And next, Emme – the Pale Queen:

Emme-the-Pale-Queen-hi-rez

As practice for my next big series of painting pretty girls, I painted Emme. My latest style is minimalist color, focusing on texture, shading, and the challenge of painting human expressions.

Emme came out nicely, I think.

She’s 16″ x 20″.

If you liked these two pieces, you might also like these.

J Edward Neill