Down the Dark Path Home of novelist and painter J Edward Neill

When the Moon Comes Crashing Down

August 23, 2016 | Books!, Dark Moon Daughter, Down the Dark Path, Nether Kingdom, Tyrants of the Dead | Permalink

It’s the end of an era.

The final book in the Tyrants of the Dead trilogy is here.

Nether Kingdom

Now available for $0.99 (and £0.99 in the UK).

NetherKingdomWebLg

At the world’s edge, Andelusia awakens to the terrible realization that all her dreams have come to nothing. No matter that her father, the warlock, has fallen into exile. No matter that the enemies of mankind have retreated into darkness. 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.
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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Nether Kingdom can be read as a stand-alone novel, but in case you want the full, dark trilogy…

Soul Orb New DDP Cover Second Try Dark_Moon_Daughter-InitialCover

J Edward Neill

Free Books for Honest Reviews – A Door Never Dreamed Of

August 18, 2016 | A Door Never Dreamed Of, Free Stuff, Sci fi novella | Permalink

Hi everyone.

Here’s what’s up:

I’ve done several ‘free books for honest Amazon reviews’ giveaways in the past. Of the 80 or so people who accepted a free, signed softcover, only about 20 actually came through with an Amazon review.

That’s ok. I’m a glutton for punishment. :)

Which is why I have 10 more signed copies of my hit sci-fi novella, A Door Never Dreamed Of. I’m giving them all away for the promise of an honest Amazon review. (For funny guidance on how to write the review, click here.)

Want a copy? Hit me up either with an email, via Twitter, or via Facebook. 

DoorNeverDreamedPaperback1

J Edward Neill

The Little Book of BIG Questions

August 16, 2016 | Coffee Table Philosophy, Non Fiction, Science | Permalink

Thinkers, questioners, and science buffs, behold!

The Little Book of BIG Questions is here. It contains more than two-hundred unique conversation starters and thought igniters.

It’s the book for every coffee table. It’s meant to be read in the company of others…or all alone beneath a starlit sky.

Look, we all want to know the origin of the universe, the reasons why life exists, and the driving forces behind humanity.

Use this book to light the fire in your mind.

The Little Book Front Cover

 

The Little Book of BIG Questions contains 202 questions. It’s a compilation of Coffee Table Philosophy books 101 Questions for the End of the World and 101 Deeper, Darker Questions for Humanity.

For sample questions go here and here.

J Edward Neill

 

Seven Ways to Advance Your Writing Career

August 14, 2016 | Life, Writing! | Permalink

For many months, I’ve resisted writing this.

Author advice columns and ‘do-it-better’ blogs often come off as pretentious.

And that’s the last thing I want to do.

Even so…

After swimming in the shark-infested waters of self-publishing for many years, I feel it’s time I share a few nuggets of wisdom. About writing. About marketing. About presenting oneself to the literary world. Now…these aren’t gonna be your typical Stephen King-ish motivational tips or super supportive rays of sunshine. I’m going off the grid with some of these. Because everything else has been said.

Here we go.

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Audience

1.  Audience Building

We’re not talking about genres. We’re talking human beings, and we’re talking how you approach them after you’ve already written your masterpiece. So you say you’ve crafted a new work of erotica, an epic fantasy series, or a vampire romance? Fine. It’s all fine. Whatever floats your boat. The key to your success, assuming you’ve actually got the writing chops to write a good book, is to make people care. Spamming ‘check out my book’ ads on the net? Not gonna fly. Auto-messaging unsuspecting people on Twitter? Fail. The key here is to be interesting. You’re a writer, after all. When marketing, you’ve gotta use the same chops you used when writing the best parts of your book. Don’t be dull. Don’t be static. Build some awesome blurbs and engage people. Hand your business cards out at DragonCon. Strike up conversations with strangers at the bar who might like to read. Be your book. Live it.

Also…when audience building on the internet, use perfect spelling and grammar. It doesn’t matter whether or not you think it’s important. It is. Whenever an author posts a blog or funny facebook post with garbage grammar, it leaves an impression. And it’s not the one you want.

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Negativity2. Stay the F**K away from Negativity

You probably think I’m talking about other people’s negativity. I’m not. I’m talking about yours.

Let’s say you’ve got a website dedicated to your books, your art, your whatever. And let’s say from time to time you write interesting, relatable pieces about your life and your experiences (you should do both of these, by the way.) You wanna know what never to do? Project negativity. Ever. Like anyone else, writers have opinions. That’s all well and good. But for the most part, your army of loyal readers wants to hear positive (or least non-negative) stuff. Hate your neighbor? Cool. Shut up about it. Got a headache and some writer’s block? Nope. Another author crap on your book via Amazon? Deal with it. Sales in a slump? Don’t say a word.

It’s a slippery slope, negativity. Everyone feels they have a right to complain. Maybe they do, maybe not. But as a professional and as a person who wants others to feel good about your books, your persona, and your ability, I recommend keeping all but the most dire complaints to yourself.

Actually, I recommend this to everyone in the entire world. Not just writers and artists.

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3. Get Great Cover Art

To be fair, some people can get away with having bland, homemade, or just plain bad cover art. What I’m saying is: don’t assume you can. Now…it’s true cover art can get expensive. Artists will charge hundreds for good work, and they’ve every right to do so. It doesn’t matter. No matter your budget, you’ve got to find a way to put your (presumably wonderfully-written) book beneath a cover worthy of cracking open. It doesn’t have to be an epic Greek sculptor/Sistine Chapel wonder of the world, but it needs to look good. Or cool. Or crazy. Just not boring. Never…ever…boring.

Oh, and speaking of good cover artists, try Amanda Makepeace.

And speaking of great covers she created

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Ego 4. Shelve Your Ego (not your Eggo)

What’s that you say? Someone left you a shitty review on Amazon? You got a rejection letter from a publisher? An author refused to do a review-swap (which you shouldn’t have agreed to do anyway)?

What I recommend in these and a thousand other less-than-awesome scenarios is that you not get butthurt. Ever. Artistic endeavors of any kind, and indeed life endeavors, don’t care about your sensitivity. Anger, jealousy, vengeance, frustration, cats sitting on your keyboard and deleting an entire chapter…all part of the dance. Simply put, you’ll get more work done if you shrug off all the crap and vent it creatively, rather than on Facebook.

Tip: Your ability to find greatness might very well depend on your ability to carve through all the emotions…and arrive on the other side unscathed.

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Brush Off5. Brush off Compliments / Embrace Criticism

I’ll keep this one brief. Maybe. When seventeen of your friends read your book and tell you how awesome it is, ignore them. You heard me. Ignore them. Smile and nod, but let their words fall off your shoulders like yesterday’s dandruff. Why, you ask? Because while they mean well, their compliments don’t mean anything. Compliments and superlatives about your work won’t make you a better writer. Sunshine up your bottom might feel good, but it won’t lift you to greatness.

But criticism might. Your most valuable review on Amazon might be the single-star one. Your best asset might be the lone family member who tells you your ending doesn’t make sense, or that one of your characters is a whiny loser. When you free your ego (see #4) and become willing to embrace criticism, you allow yourself to grow.

If you need a metaphor, imagine a tree. The oldest, strongest trees are covered in knots, scars, and broken limbs. And yet the tree never complains. Not once. Not ever. It simply adjusts, heals, and keeps moving toward the sunlight.

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6. Create an Image & Stick to It

Perhaps you’re really good at writing horror. Or maybe you’ve got a knack for writing killer romance scenes. Or maybe your descriptive ability is out of this world.  Cool. Now what I suggest is that you use your strengths to create an image. Mine is sort of this dark, brooding philosopher thing. Yours should be whatever you feel represents you, whether a fluffy unicorn girl, a dominatrix, a vulgar comedian, or a quiet librarian genius. Whatever. It doesn’t matter as long as it’s yours.

The point is: craft your image and use it as a presentation point to the world. Don’t be boring. Tell the world what you’re about. Speak to them as though you were your characters. It’s like this: you can either flood your social media feeds with writing memes and coffee-worship, or you can become a living, breathing avatar for your work. I’m being completely serious. I’m not suggesting you try to fake your audience out. Far from it. I’m saying to grab them by their collars. Shake them. Entertain them. Because really, what else are we here to do?

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7. Demand Honesty

This is a two-part piece of advice. First and foremost, you’ve got to be honest with yourself. Can you look at your work and say, “This is the best I can write. This book is as ready for the world as it’s gonna get.”? If you can, boom. Kudos. Publish it. If you can’t, then the honest author in you has to be ready. For more work. And lots of it.

The second part: demand honesty from those who help you. This means reviewers, editors, other authors, beta-readers, friends, and family. If they’re brave enough to read your stuff, you need to be brave enough to look them in the eyes and tell them to be utterly honest in their criticism. And you need to mean it. Really mean it. Like Brad Pitt in Fight Club, you need to hear them say it three times. (Anyone remember that scene?)

Because the only conversations in life worth having are the blunt, brutally honest kind.

Everything else is fluff.

Now get to work.

And try to have fun while you’re doing it.

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J Edward Neill

Author of 101 Questions for Humanity

Author of the Tyrants of the Dead series

Preview – Darkness Between the Stars

August 9, 2016 | 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’ll be out in a few weeks…maybe a few months. Here’s a splash of the Amanda Makepeace cover art:

DarknessTesseraBanner

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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 to hit bookstores someday soon.

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

J Edward Neill 

The Circle Macabre is FREE

August 3, 2016 | Books!, Horror | Permalink

Erisa Stavrou, hunter of hunters, stalks her final prey into the sprawling city of Valai. She brings nothing but her shirt, her sandals, and her unbreakable blade.
She is the only one who can end the cycle of one dead, every night, forever.

She is the last hope to break The Circle Macabre.

The Circle Macabre Cover

FREE for a limited time.

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The Circle Macabre is one of four stories contained in the novella, The Hecatomb. It’s preceded by Old Man of Tessera, Let the Bodies, and The Skeleton Sculptor.
These stories can be read in any order.
It’s up to readers to decide which happens first.
…and which happens last.

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If you’d rather get the whole story in a single volume, grab The Hecatomb right here.

TheHecatombWeb-318x500

Until next time…

J Edward Neill

The Black Magic Woman

August 1, 2016 | Books!, Dark Moon Daughter, Tyrants of the Dead | Permalink

Andelusia knows she’s not like other girls.
More than ever, the night calls to her, the stars grant her serenity, and the shadows of black magic pool within her blood. In the dark spaces between her dreams, she feels the power of the ancient world awakening.
And as the enemies of mankind prepare for the world’s end, she must choose:
Fight them…
…or join them.

Dark_Moon_Daughter-InitialCover - Copy

Dark Moon Daughter

Available for just $0.99 for a limited time.

Dark_Moon_Daughter-InitialCover

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J Edward Neill

Breaking Dark Fantasy – The Tyrants of the Dead fantasy Trilogy

July 29, 2016 | Books!, Dark Moon Daughter, Down the Dark Path, Nether Kingdom, Tyrants of the Dead | Permalink

Ur Hand

Many years have passed…

And many books have I written…

And yet none are as sacred as these first three…

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It’s dark now. It’s raining in cold sheets. Thunder shakes the earth. Lightning tears away the night, at least for a half-breath.

It was on one such night, long ago, I dreamed of writing a story so deep and so dark as to challenge all books ever written.

And so I did.

And when it was finished, I named it Tyrants of the Dead.

Three books. Three individual epics. All woven together in the grandest tale I’ll ever dream of.

This is how it went:

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On Dec 26th, 2001, while lounging in my chair on a bitter winter’s night, I began writing. I’d had a dream, and I needed to get it out of my head. The first words I typed were, “Morellellus, oldest harbor of Furyon, was not always so gloomy.” Many of the tens of thousands of words in the Tyrants of the Dead series would change or vanish altogether, but not these. These have always remained the same.

And with that… Down the Dark Path, book one in the series, was born.

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The first and (by far) the longest book in the Tyrants trilogy, Down the Dark Path is at its heart a simple story about a young woman who wanders into a world-ending medieval war. It took me more than ten years to write, rewrite, rewrite again, and finally publish. By the time I finished it in 2013, it had become much more than a tale of a girl and a war. Over the years, I’d added darker and darker elements, including merciless warlords, traitorous knights, and sorcery of the blackest kind. To counter the themes of war and suffering, a love story blossomed in the middle, though whether the tale’s heroine, Andelusia, would ever survive to see her romance through became a question only answered at the utter end.

After completing Down the Dark Path, two things happened.

First, I considered letting one book be the end of it. After all, it was epic length, more than enough to consume three books in most modern fantasy trilogies.

Second, I decided that because it was so long, I wanted to offer it in a four-novella series. Four little books would be easier to wield than one vast epic, I figured.

And so these were born:

DDP 1 DDP 2 DDP 3 DDP 4

These four little novellas comprise all of Down the Dark Path. Meaning, book one in the Tyrants of the Dead trilogy can kinda sorta be four books, depending on how you read it.

Moving right along…

Remember how I mentioned I almost let this be the end of the story? Well…turns out the little feeling in my gut lasted only about two weeks. Shortly after publishing Down the Dark Path, I realized I wanted to create a true fantasy trilogy, and that I wanted it to be huuuuge.

And along came Dark Moon Daughter.

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A few facts about Dark Moon Daughter: It’s the shortest book in the trilogy, significantly shorter than the other two entries, but no less an epic-length read. ALSO…it can be consumed as a stand-alone novel or as a prequel to the third book in the series. Meaning readers don’t necessarily have to read Down the Dark Path to get into it.

In Dark Moon Daughter, I took the themes from Down the Dark Path and tightened them into a story about one person instead of many. The deeper I delved, the darker the plot became. A budding sorceress with a broken heart decides to leave an easy life behind in favor of chasing something…only she has NO IDEA what that something is. Turns out that something isn’t something good. It’s something very, very baaaaaaaaaaad.

Something like:

Andelusia knows she is not like other girls.
More than ever, the night calls to her, the stars grant her serenity, and the shadows of black magic pool within her blood. In the dark spaces between her dreams, she feels the power of the ancient world awakening.
And as the enemies of mankind prepare for the world’s end, she must choose:
Fight them…
…or join them.

I published Dark Moon Daughter in 2014. It was my favorite of the three to write, and ironically the least ‘dark’ in the series.

A few hours after successfully publishing Dark Moon Daughter, I found myself sitting in the shadows again. I was lonely without a book to write, and I needed to get immediately back to work. I’d long ago decided how I wanted the Tyrants series to end. And for all my love of such greats as Tolkien, George R.R. Martin, Rothfuss, and all the rest, I believed in my heart I could do fantasy endings better. And by better I mean more adult, more visceral, and darker than anyone had done it before.

Along came Nether Kingdom.

 NetherKingdomWebLgAt the world’s edge, Andelusia awakens to the terrible realization that all her dreams have come to nothing. No matter that her father, the warlock, has fallen into exile. No matter that the enemies of mankind have retreated into darkness. 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.

In Nether Kingdom, things go badly for every character who survived the first two books. A villain thought long-dead is resurrected. Planet-snuffing demons roam the ether, ready to remake everything in their image. No one is fully good. Plenty of people are dedicated to evil. For all of Dark Moon Daughter’s departure from pure wickedness, Nether Kingdom brought it back. I gave the bad guys a spotlight and shoved everything else into the shadows. And I really, really enjoyed writing one character in particular, whose name I shall not utter here.

I published Nether Kingdom in 2015. It concluded the Tyrants trilogy. But…and there’s always a but, it doesn’t mean I won’t come back to the series someday. I have plans long in the making that include a prequel AND a two-book sequel. The only challenge: living long enough to make it happen.

Maybe I will.

Maybe I won’t.

I hope you enjoyed this glimpse at Tyrants of the Dead. If you want a little more, I created a fun glossary of characters, places, and things from the series. Check it out.

I also hope you’ll read the books. Love them to pieces. And review the hell out of them on Amazon. :)

Until next time…

Love,

J Edward Neill

 

 

The Ultimate Bucket List (Updated)

July 29, 2016 | humor, Life | Permalink

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

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

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

Here’s my bucket update:

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50 Hard-as-Hell Bucket Stuffers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

14. Live long enough to see the Cubs play in (they don’t even have to win) the World Series. (Not yet. Though they’re looking pretty good this year.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Next update: December 2017!

 J Edward Neill

Author of the Tyrants of the Dead dark fantasy trilogy

Co -Author of Hollow Empire – Night of Knives

The Dirty Black Summer Book Sale

July 23, 2016 | Books!, Kindle Countdown Sale, Tyrants of the Dead | Permalink

You don’t want to go outside.

You’ll die out there. It’s 4,000,000 degrees.

Your only option? Curl up beside a lamp in an otherwise shadow-filled room…

…and read my epic fantasy novel, Down the Dark Path.

Which, by the way, is discounted to $0.99 (from $8.99) for the next few days.

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Down the Dark Path – Book One of the Tyrants of the Dead trilogy
Darkest of all dark fantasy epics.
When Andelusia Anderae leaves home in search of a better life, she accidentally plunges into the world-ending war between Graehelm and Furyon. The deeper she falls, the more she senses the dark powers rising within her, and the more she realizes she is not so different than the enemy. Love might not be enough to save her, for the Furyons are all-powerful, and the shadow within her desires her more than any living man ever will.

Down the Dark Path chronicles the struggles of six individuals during the Furyon invasion of Graehelm and sets the stage for the horrific powers lurking behind the war. For even as the Furyons threaten to end all life, the true enemy, the ancient civilization of the Ur, draws nearer to rebirth.

J Edward Neill

Win Awesome Stuff for Reading My Books!

July 19, 2016 | Books!, Kindle Countdown Sale | Permalink

The Deep, Dark Book Reading (and reviewing) Contest

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What’s it all about?

Well…

I’ve got a brand new in-the-box Kindle Fire and a $25 Amazon Gift Card. And I’m itching to give them away.

That’s right.

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How do you enter to win?

It’s easy. Anytime between right now and August 11th, 2016, you purchase, read, and write an honest Amazon review for any of the books at the bottom of this article. And you send an email right here with a link to your completed review.

What then?

On August 12th, I’ll choose two winners at random from all the entrants. The first winner will receive a free Kindle Fire shipped at no cost. The runner-up will receive a $25 Amazon gift card.

Any questions? If so, add them to the comments section below or send them here.

Oh…

Here’s the eligible books:

DDP 1 101 Questions for Humanity WebImageFront

 Dark_Moon_Daughter-InitialCover TheHecatombWeb

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Noteworthy stuff:

I’ll ship the prizes on August 12th.

Multiple reviews posted gives entrants extra chances to win.

I’m looking for honest reviews only. 1 star, 3 stars, 5 stars. Whatever. The # of stars will absolutely not influence the random prize drawing.

If the number of entrants exceeds 25, I will add extra prizes.

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Good luck.

And please enjoy whichever book you choose…

J Edward Neill

J’s Lil’ Book Chat – Part Deux

July 19, 2016 | A Door Never Dreamed Of, Books!, Coffee Table Philosophy, Videos | Permalink

Hey everyone.

Instead of words, I give you video.

About 4.5 minutes worth.

It’s me discussing A Door Never Dreamed Of, 101 Questions for the End of the World, and my new mega (not anymore) secret project.

It’s also my first video taken in my new apartment…which was way less weird than I thought it’d be.

Anyway…please click my big ole face to enjoy my latest video on Youtube:

Oh…and here’s some books:

WebImageFront DDP 1 101 Questions for Humanity

J Edward Neill

My Giant Cat Army

July 15, 2016 | humor, Life | Permalink

Ages ago, back when I lived in the real world, I had a crap-ton of cats. I mean…a lot…as in too damn many.

They swept in and out of my life like ocean waves. Sometimes the tide would rise (12 cats when I was a kid) and later recede (as I type this, only 2 are left.)

They’ve been a constant fixture in my life. I admit I’m not really sure what’ll happen when the last two go. Maybe I’ll get more, maybe not. We’ll see.

Look, I get it that dudes having cats is pretty much the end of the world.

F it.

Here’s a glimpse of my cat army, past and present:

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Let’s start WAY back, as in almost 20 years ago. This here is Pumpkin, codename: Mr. Bitch. He lost his eye due to surgery, but lasted many years afterward.

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The fun thing about Mr. Bitch was that even after he was fixed, he would try to have sex with all the female cats. They didn’t seem to mind. I guess you can’t keep some guys down.

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Here’s Mr. Bitch’s main concubine, Callie. Aka: Kong. As far as cat friends go, she was tops.

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Kong caught napping. This little cat would dream so deep she’d shiver. No doubt dreaming of Mr. Bitch gettin’ his groove on.

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This here is Giblet, codename: Jibby. And yes, that’s a human head she’s living on.

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Jibby was a nutty animal. Not quite right in the head. She eventually ran away. I still like to think she’s out there doin’ her thing. If she’s alive, she’s only 8 years old, so maybe…

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Now let’s talk about Chitlen, aka: Cheezy, aka: Chang. She was badly inbred and insufferably dumb. But damn she did funny stuff. Every time anything in the house would make a hissing sound, she’d go bonkers and meow…forever.

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Cheezy wrapped up in a Cubs blanket. Lil’ fatass could sleep anywhere, anytime.

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Introducing Angel, alias: Da Terre. She never really fit in with the rest of the troops. In an army, she’d be a spy, a sniper, a lone wolf. She may very well have been the smartest of them all. It’s probably important to mention this shelf was about 6 1/2 feet off the ground.

BaBa

I mean…I guess she was kinda pretty. A cameo Persian, they called her.

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Link and Melba. Named for the Zelda character and the toast. Found these two at a softball game. I think they were bro and sis, but who knows?

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That’s Cheezy on the right, and Braids (aka: T Nigs) on the left. I couldn’t even sit on the damn couch without them showing up looking for handouts.

 

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This one still lives with me. Noodle is impossibly stupid, but undeniably the nicest animal you’ll ever meet. Also, she smells bad.

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‘Derrrrrr, whad am I s’posed to do wit dat?’

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Now let’s talk about my BFF, my main cat, my little pardna in crime. This is Sticky, aka: Sticks, and even though she’s blind now, she’s still a lunatic.

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This is Sticky fighting UFO’s with her death-ray vision.

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She also makes for a great movie-time snack: Pretzels.

More Sticky action shots:

 IM000099 IM000098 Last Pics B4 Camera Erased 004 Last Pics B4 Camera Erased 003And random shots of the army at work…and asleep:

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I’ve had about 35 cats during various phases of my life. Alas, I don’t have pics of most of them (leastways not digital ones.)

Most of them have passed on.

But they’re still troops in my army.

And when I reach the point of having no pets anymore (probable considering my plan to move) I’ll still remember these little mofos.

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Sadly, in this book, all the cats are GONE.

See you next time.

J Edward Neill