Plagues & Paupers – Hollow Empire – Night of Knives

Long ago, the empire of Vhur was the world’s most powerful.

But that was before the Lichy plague. Now, twenty years and millions of dead later, only a few cities remain. The survivors walk a fine line between staying alive and crumbling into the grave.

Come the Night of Knives, even these last few might perish…

Hollow Empire Slice

Hollow Empire – Night of Knives

A six-part series now available for Kindles graveyard-wide.

Hollow Empire Front Cover

The Kindle Version (Episode 1 is FREE!!!)

Also available as a beautiful softcover with artwork by Amanda Makepeace.

Hollow Empire Front Cover

The haunting softcover edition…

When everything else rots around you, you’ve only got one choice…


* * *

Co-Authored by J Edward Neill and John McGuire

How to write Dark Fiction (and shave decades off your life.)


 Look at these guys. They’re dead, but still having a grand time of it.


Ok. Look. This isn’t really a how-to article. I’m in no position to tell anyone how to do anything short of throwing footballs, kicking things, and losing at video games. I’m writing this week to take myself down a notch, put a lid on the can, and cork up my fountain of sunshine.

 I write better when I’m in a terrible mood.

There. I said it. I’m sure I’m not the only one. What is it about creative people that allows them to make masterpieces out of misery? I’m not saying I’m capable of creating a masterpiece, but you get my point. Why are the best novels full to the brim with tragedy, suffering, and death? Why are history’s finest artists at best obsessive, at worst sociopathic? Why is human misery so appealing? Go click on a news site. Go google murder, kidnapping, terrorism, war, or Bieber. It’s a never-ending worldwide horror story. Why, why, why?

I don’t know the answers. That’s why I’m asking you.

A few years ago, while riding a half-year span of dumb-stupid-happy after publishing this and this, my writing crashed and burned. I couldn’t even spit out a page a week, to say nothing of my current pace of five pages per night. I was just too damn pleased with life to concentrate on dragging my readers through the abyss. It was awesome, but it sucked. I mean; if darkness renders us blind, intense sunshine does the same, right? Try seeing through your car window while driving directly at the sun. Can’t see a damn thing no matter how you adjust the visor. You think you’re on the road, and meanwhile you’re about to run over a line of kids on their way to the school bus. All the sun’s fault. Maybe vampires are on to something.

Being happy is overrated.

So tonight I’m sitting beside a dark-shaded lamp, surrounded by silence, floating on a cloud of gloom and doom. I’m pissed off. I’m bored. My morbid sensibilities smolder inside me. It’s perfect. It really is. After I finish this blog, I’m betting on 2,500 words and a satisfying night’s sleep. Here’s the proof: right beside my ugly old recliner, my Buddha statue smiles at me. ‘How much did you write tonight?’ I ask him. ‘Nuthin’,’ he says. ‘I’m more of an eater these days.’ And over there on the wall, the knights on their murals look peaceful in their repose. ‘You guys ever paint anything?’ I ask. They’re so damn happy they don’t even bother to answer. See what I mean? Artists do their best work when they feel shitty. They need passion, fury, wrath, and darkness. To cast a shadow, they need light, and something big to block most of it out.

They say all good things must come to an end. Whew. Thank goodness for that. If, after publishing my first few books, I’d have stayed on my bus to happyland, I might’ve given up writing altogether, and that would’ve been a different type of low. I mean…I suppose it’s possible I’m wrong about this whole sad-makes-awesome thing. Maybe Fred Rogers and Barney the F’ing Dinosaur really are on to something, but I doubt it. How does one make beautiful, tormented art without crawling through the lowest sewer of one’s imagination? The answer: you don’t. Sometimes, to create you must first destroy.

What’s it all mean? Well…maybe tomorrow I’ll be even gloomier than tonight. Why not? If it helps me finish my latest book and write deathier stories than ever before, I’m game. I’m ok with that. I don’t want to live forever. I want to make something beautiful…and then get the fuck outta this place.


For more morbid philosophy, check this.

To scare the shit out of yourself for $0.99, go here.

J Edward Neill

(From my original article published via Tessera Guild – 2014)

The Study of Darkness

A few weeks ago, I received an encouraging reception for my latest painting, ‘The Emperor’s Vision.

Which made me want to share how this dark canvas came to life.

When I started working on this one at summer’s beginning, I knew I wanted to paint another companion piece to my fantasy series, Down the Dark Path. I wanted something stark, something to fit my mood. And with it being summer, I felt I wanted to paint something anti-seasonal…meaning a canvas I’d usually wait til winter to finish because of its cold, almost bitter tone.

Moreover, this canvas was the last of a big pile given to me by my patron, whose name I dare not utter here. So I figured I’d do something special…something they’d appreciate.

Thus I began:

Darkness 0

In the beginning, indecisiveness claimed me. The 20″ x 30″ canvas sat for three weeks looking like this. See that pale line left of center, it’s from an accidental varnish spill. No big deal, I figured.

Darkness 1

Finally, I started adding shapes. At this stage, I wasn’t sure whether or not to go completely abstract. These weird little darknesses gave me all sorts of ideas. Never mind the sepia tone. That’s just from my shitty camera.

Darkness 2

About one week from finish, I decided to go mega-gloomy. No color. No signs of life. Just a pale river leading to the sea and an ocean of daggerlike towers. Readers of my fantasy series might recognize this place as Morellellus, gathering place for the Emperor’s grand army.

The Emperors Vision

The finished product. My camera is crap, but the colors here are pretty close to the real thing. The pale lights are windows. The shadows are long and lean. It’s no place I’d want to live…what about you?

 I hope you enjoy ‘The Emperor’s Vision.’ For more of my canvas work, nose around over here.

To get into something even darker, check this out:

J Edward Neill


Now available – 101 Sex Questions!

101 Sex Questions

Probably the closest I’ll ever get to writing erotica…for now101 Sex Questions is laid out the same as the Coffee Table Philosophy series, only it’s not really meant for your coffee table (unless your coffee table is awesome.)

 It’s meant for the 18+ crowd. It’s sexy, but not raunchy. It’s designed to get you in the mood, but in a different way than 50 Shades of Whatever.

Get your copy today. And get the most bang for your buck. Literally.

101 xxxy Questions Front Cover

For a sample of what you’re in for, check here.

If you like your philosophy cleaner (and darker) check these out:

101 Questions for Midnight Front Cover 101-Questions-for-Humanity-333x500 101 Questions for Men Cover 101 Questions for Women Cover untitled-200x300

J Edward Neill

5 Sexy Questions

Without sex… 

…hot sex, boring sex, sex so good you need oxygen afterward… 

…none of us would be here.

101 xxxy Questions Front Cover

The following is a tease from my latest Coffee Table Philosophy entry, 101 Sex Questions. These 5 questions are among the tamest in the book…by far.

18+ only. Have fun.

* * *


 Suppose you’re planning a Sex Trap for your partner.

When they get home, you’ll have it all waiting: the lure, the setting, the diabolical plan to fall upon your unsuspecting prey and make them yours.


Describe your perfect trap.


50 Shades of _________ 

A famous author has just written an erotica novel based on your sex life.

Give it a title.


Lust Buster 

Do you believe mind-blowing sex more often happens between two people who are in love?

Or can great sex happen consistently between people without any deeper connection?



Is sex purely physical?

As in; while it might make the participants feel great for a while, is it ultimately just two people smashing their private parts together?

Or is sex (at least sometimes) a deeper experience?

As in; can it connect two people on a spiritual level and possibly even enlighten them?


That Thing With Her Mouth

 Name one thing that if your lover does during sex or foreplay that you’re powerless to resist.

In other words, after they do it, you become theirs.

* * *

101 Sex Questions is similar to the rest of the Coffee Table Philosophy series…only it’s not.

It’s a huge departure for me, who usually descends into bone-crunching fiction and sharp, dark philosophy.

Available now in Softcover and Kindle formats.

J Edward Neill


Creepy Prequel – Old Man of Tessera

In six days, I’ll have a creepy short-story surprise for everyone.

While you’re waiting, you might want to snatch up the prequel, a haunting little tale:

Old Man of Tessera

In Tessera, nothing and no one are as they seem. 

One goes missing…every day…




Now available.

Only $0.99 for Kindles and e-readers underworld-wide.

J Edward Neill

Something for the day to die upon…

 The return of darkness is a planned event, a spoke in the universal clock waiting to be ticked… 


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.

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.

Nether Kingdom

Now Available via AmazonFree signed copies to the first five reviewers!!


Book III – The chilling conclusion of the Tyrants of the Dead trilogy

Cover art by Amanda Makepeace

2015 Tessera Guild Publishing

Painting with Darkness – Part III

After four weeks of slaving over a huge canvas, I’ve finally finished my new painting, ‘Brothers.’

It’s acrylic and watercolor on a white 42″ x 28″ canvas.

It was fun to paint…and sublime to finish.

Here’s the progression:

photo 1

Key to any canvas painting is prepping the background first. Here I’ve already drawn the tree brothers with light pencil. And thus I began adding reds and yellows for the setting sun background.

photo 2

Almost done with the background watercolors. Didn’t matter if they bled into other areas. The plan was always to put darker, bolder colors on top.

photo 3

Now the real fun begins. The tree on the right will eventually get the ‘all black’ treatment. But his brother on the left just gets a ‘lil taste of the darkness.

photo 4.4

The white space in the middle/bottom was going to be the hard part, I knew. So here I concentrated on the gnarled angles of the black tree. My knife-edge brush was key.

photo 5

The base coat of the black tree is done. Once I started with the roiling flames of the fire tree, my 4-year old son was rapt. He voted on his favorite, and the fire tree won.

photo 6

The Brothers begin to take true shape. Now I went back and darkened up the background a bit. The setting sun didn’t look as blood-red as I’d hoped.


photo 7

I wish I had a better camera. Had to use my iPad under sub-optimal lighting. Even so, if you look close you can see the detail in the craggy hills behind the trees.

Brothers Finished

Finished at last. Darkened the flames in the fire tree. Added grey watercolor shadows to the black tree. Touched up the razor hills with whites and blacks. Applied two coats of clear varnish. Well worth the effort. Suits my mood to perfection.

 While writing philosophy, dark fiction, and literary fiction are my true loves, I’ve got to admit…

painting is just as satisfying.

Until next time,

J Edward Neill

Ancient Discovery – The Meaning of the American Dream

A few years ago, I penned a quick essay for a European friend and high-school teacher. Its purpose was to educate a class of students, few of whom had ever been to America, on the meaning of the so-called American dream.

I recently stumbled across that essay. Looking back, I can hardly believe I wrote something so non-cynical and free of sarcasm.

Accidents will happen.


Smeagle the Eagle

The American Dream – A Not So Simple Definition

If one believes historian James Truslow Adams, the American Dream is the unique and substantive quality of America ‘…which has lured millions to our shores.’  Of course it’s not nearly as simple as that.  There are myriad ways in which one might define the hopes and dreams of an American, and while many are optimistic, others are just as pragmatic, even cynical.  For as much as one man or woman might believe America is a land of endless opportunity, of boundless hope and liberty, there will always exist another who believes the opposite.  No two views are likely to be the same.

Let us begin by describing the classical view, the idyllic American life as imagined in hearts and on paper, if not in reality.  There exists an idea, however unattainable, that all American men and women possess equal opportunity for success, material gain, and personal fulfillment.  Whether an American hails from the poorest city slum or from the farthest rural meadow, the ideal would preach that we are all the same, that no matter our pedigree we might hope to scale the rungs of happiness in whatever form that happiness might take.  This is not a utopian view, but simply a giver of hope, an unspoken possibility that because of the freedoms intrinsic to the Constitution, we might all aspire to be greater than we presently are.  This view of the American Dream would not have us believe that every man and woman is destined for fantastical prosperity, but instead that any person, no matter his or her beginnings, can hope for better than they have.

There also exists a more realistic view, a sensible way of believing in the American Dream without necessarily contradicting the idyllic hopes of our forefathers.  The practical American man or woman might say that the Dream exists not in the forefront of every American’s mind, but instead upon the very periphery of our collective consciousness.  While liberty, happiness, and success are possibilities, they are not always available or deserved.  This view stresses that while one might grasp for all things wished and hoped for, without hard work and good fortune such dreams might never come to fruition.  This view is not incompatible with the other, nor does it discount the great freedoms granted at America’s founding.  It aims instead to promote the spirit of striving hard for success, rather than see America’s hopes and aspirations founder while waiting idly for good things to come.

There are those who say the American Dream is dead, that the fantasy of America’s youth has given way to the cynicism of maturity.  Only the individual knows for certain.  This dream, likes so many others, lives solely in the hearts and minds of the people.

– J Edward Neill

circa 2009


Painting with Darkness

Used to be, the term ‘starving artist’ implied romanticism. Just hearing it, one can imagine an eccentric painter in a room full of wet canvasses, a poor poet reading by candlelight in a downtown dive bar, or a writer surrounded by unbound manuscripts after forty gallons of coffee and seven sleepless nights.

Used to be. Not anymore.

A long time ago, I woke up to the idea that I’ve never fit this bill. I’m neither starving nor a particularly eccentric artist. My writing quarters are neat and quiet. My painting studio’s walls are barren except for one antique lithograph of a sinking ship. And I’ve never been to a poetry reading in my life. Nor am I likely to. Unless she’s cute.

Fast forward to now. I’m still not starving, but I’ve recently taken up painting again. Acrylic painting on big canvasses. Way outside of my airbrush and a t-shirt comfort zone. It all started when a friend gifted me an old easel, a bundle of brushes, and a box of paint. Remember Javier Bardem from the movie Vicki Cristina Barcelona? He’s the brooding painter with an epic studio, mad talent, and armies of gorgeous girls at his beck and call?

Yeah…well. That’s not me. Not even close.

These are my early painting results.

Disclaimer: Painting is hard.

Cold Tree

I call this one ‘Cold Tree.’ It’s actually the only thing I’ve painted thus far I don’t hate or wish could be a lot better. It’s a tiny little painting, only 8″ x 10″.

New Moon Wolf

In ‘New Moon Werewolf’ I blatantly stole the idea from a bottle of wine a girl gave me. Only I took out the moon. Because werewolves deserve more than one night a month.

Fire World

Took me two canvasses to get ‘Fire Planet’ close to the way I dreamed it. My kid is the only one who likes it. According to him, it’s the planet Metroids come from. SR388 or somesuch. He painted his own version on a paper plate, but as it sold for $100,000 at an auction, the buyer won’t let us post it here. (That last part is a total fabrication.)


Ur Underhollows

The Underhollows took me a week to finish. This photo makes it look washed out, but in reality it’s dark and gloomy. It’s my first full-size canvas effort. It’s supposed to be a companion piece for my upcoming dark fantasy novel, Nether Kingdom. I’m trying to convince my boss to let me hang it up in my office. Wish me luck.

Come to think of it, I really, really like painting. It satisfies creative urges at a much faster pace than writing epic novels, and it’s kid-friendly in that junior and I can paint together (he’s not really into half-million word long books yet.) So for now, during the little spaces between working, writing, cooking, and getting tackled by a three year-old, I’ll keep kicking out art for everyone to make fun of. Despite the fact that I’m not starving (yet) or Javier Bardem.

Buy these to support my habit.


J Edward Neill

History of the Ur

Ur Hand For those involved in the Tyrants of the Dead series (and those who will be) I present to you: The History of the Ur.

Every villain needs an origin story. Every monster needs a little light shined in its direction, so as to cast a darker shadow. The Ur are no different.

What are they?

In the Tyrants series, what the Ur truly are is touched on only lightly. That said, the Ur are best described as demons. Not in the biblical or classical sense. They’ve no wings, pitchforks, or desire to possess your grandmother’s dolls. They’re diabolical interstellar shadows. They move from star to star, swallowing every planet in darkness, building black towers on every surface, and turning oceans to deathly broth. Once a planet is blanketed in shadow and every living thing smoked out, the Ur eject clouds of star-snuffing darkness from their towers. The darkness consumes the planet’s star, and the Ur move elsewhere.

Where do they come from?

From the void. From the realm before such things as time and consciousness. The Ur always have been, always will be. At peace before the universe began, their slumber was disturbed by the birth of trillions of stars. The Ur despise the invading light and all the creatures depending on it. They wish a return to the utter darkness that was, to the infinite emptiness before light and life arrived.

Can they be destroyed?

No. Not in the common sense of the word. Being neither alive nor made of any tangible substance, they cannot be killed. However they can be rendered powerless by sunlight, driven back by powerful sorcery, and imprisoned. Thus far, the only race to successfully resist the Ur longer than a few breaths is mankind.

 What are their powers?

Before the coming of the stars, the Ur had no real power. But afterward, when the need arose to snuff the destroying starlight, they created a terrible form of magic. After encountering life (particularly mankind) they used their black magic to corrupt, enslave, and destroy. Because of the Ur, there is no ‘good’ magic. All magic come from the Ur, and thus all of it is meant for wicked ends. Ur Knight NK Cover Sketch Ver 2 - Copy

What do they look like?

They can take any form they wish, so long as that form is lightless and black. To terrify mankind, the Ur typically appear as shades. Ten feet tall, demonic claws and teeth, their eyes blazing with the light of annihilated stars, they are as fearsome a sight as is possible to imagine. A single Ur, given a cloudy, starless, pitch-black night, is capable of ending millions of lives.

Why did they build artifacts such as the Soul Orb and the Mountain of Malog?

Stretched thin throughout the void, the Ur needed dark engines to empower their magic and ensure their continued dominance. By capturing the fleeing souls of murdered life forms, they fueled their artifacts indefinitely, needing only a few hundred of their number to maintain dominion over each world. The Soul Orb is the worst of these creations, as it’s meant for living things to use while unknowingly destroying themselves.

Are there any ‘good’ Ur?

In the Tyrants series, no. However…a two-book prequel is in the works. And it may be revealed that not all the Ur are utterly irredeemable.

 How can mankind ever hope to defeat the Ur?

They can’t. They can only hope to hold them off and survive for as many generations as possible. For even if one Ur is driven back or imprisoned, billions more roam the darkness between the stars…

* * *

I hope you enjoyed this snapshot of the bad guys. For more backstory and fun, check out the complete Tyrants of the Dead glossary. Ur Orig Sketch

The Ur appear in the 2015 novel, Nether Kingdom.

…the darkest of ALL dark fiction books.

J Edward Neill

Ten Real-Life Settings For the Tyrants of the Dead Movies

As I sit in the dark and daydream terrible things, my mind wanders to the far-off hope of finishing the screenplay for the Tyrants of the Dead series. It’s ever in my thoughts. It’s not quite a realistic goal, but it’s more than just a dream. Previously, I imagined the cast here and here. But to capture all audiences everywhere, I’ve come to understand that the setting is of utmost importance. In Tyrants, readers explore snow-capped mountains, dismal swamps, glorious medieval cities, and grounds hallowed long ago by the Ur.

It’s a lot to digest.

Given the rampant use of CGI in modern film-making, I’d like to dial it back a notch. Budget notwithstanding, and actors’ travel concerns set aside, I’d prefer to use the most realistic locations available. Nothing is as magnificent as what nature already offers. Nothing…

And so I offer the ten locations I’d use as settings for the darkest fantasy series of all time:


Gryphon CityMonreal, Spain

Let’s start with a happy place. Gryphon, with all its white houses and cobbled lanes, is a sanctuary in which our heroes rest briefly before wandering back into the abyss of war. Monreal is a gorgeous medieval hamlet surrounded by green thickets. Sounds like a match.


Moors Eye

Mooreye CityPingyao, China

Now let’s head to Gryphon’s vile neighbor. The Moor’s Eye, home of traitors and scene of countless murders, has high walls and towers not unlike Pingyao. Think China will let us borrow it to catch a few shots? Think they’ll let us hang black banners from the walls?



Graehelm PrairiePalouse Prairie, Idaho

To get anywhere in Graehelm, one must travel grasslands far and green.  To get anywhere in Idaho, one must travel grasslands farther and greener. Just look at all that grass!




Grandwood ForestCalaveras State Park, California

 The world’s biggest trees. Acres and acres of giants dominating all the small sights below. Of all the places, Calaveras is one I actually plan to visit before I die. Anything that makes man feel smaller =  good.



Nightmare Forest


 Nightmare ForestAokigahara Forest, Japan

Speaking of woods… Nightmare is the setting for Andelusia’s black magic awakening. Unspeakable horrors wander the glooms, sniffing out mortal creatures to dine on. Aokigahara is perfect. For those who’ve never heard of it, it’s the eerie forest in which many Japanese commit suicide every year. No CGI needed, folks. This place is spooky enough as-is.



The UndergraveMammoth National Cave, Kentucky

Vaulted ceilings ribbed with daggerlike lime formations. Narrow corridors to march men to their deaths in. It’s like nature knew what I needed…and spent millions of years crafting caves to fit it in. Happiness is being three days underground without food, light, or hope. Right?



MormistHimalayan Forest

Mormist is the scene of peace and war, of tranquility and slaughter. In what landscape more glorious to film it than the verdent slopes and white-crowned peaks of the Himalayas? None, I say.




The Selhaunt – North Sea

Many a wise mariner fears the choppy, deep, and bitterly cold waters of the North Sea. Such a fine, dark, dreary body of water will serve perfectly to mirror the Selhaunt. Nobody wants to cross either unless they have to. And they will.  



CornerstoneWiencke Island, Antarctica

It’s too pretty a place to serve as a vast Ur graveyard, you might think. But cap a special colored lens on the camera, and I say no place could be better. In Cornerstone, pale snow drifts across dead stone, concealing stairwells that lead to tombs for millions. Commence filming during Antarctica’s long twilight, and find perfection.



MalogBig Sky Mountain, Montana

At last we come to it:

The obsidian citadel, larger than all the fortresses of men combined, was as hideous as it was massive. Its body looked as though hewn from the belly of the world’s most massive mountain, a place where the sun never shined.”

Malog is where the worst villains in the series reside. Ghosts, ghouls, all manner of bad, bad men. Sure, we’d have to cheat a little and CGI it to look like obsidian. And we’d have to pock it with a few thousand haunted windows. But even so…

* * *

Will it ever happen? Who can say?

One can always dream…

 J Edward Neill

Author of the Tyrants of the Dead dark fantasy trilogy

Co -Author of Hollow Empire – Night of Knives

Down the Dark Path


Summer sucks for writing

North Georgia. Circa the dead of summer. SkullMelt

It’s hot out there. It’s sunny, muggy, steamy. My insides are cooked. My skull is melting…

I’m more or less taking a vacation from writing this weekend, but before I dump ice over my head, shut my laptop down, and take my long-awaited rum runner/margarita bath, I have a few things I’d like to say:

Summer is terrible for writing. Especially writing horror and dark fantasy. Especially for me.

During early spring, late autumn, and winter’s dregs, it’s easy. I look out my window and see clouds. I open my door and feel the wind and rain wash over me. I hear the leaves crunching beneath my boots, the sound so very like bones breaking. It’s easy for me to get in a writing mood. The night comes sooner. My phone is quieter. My kid, bless his wee fiery heart, can walk outside and play without turning into hot, crispy bacon. Mmmm…bacon.

But in summer, it’s pure chaos. Everyone wants to party. There’s always a pool needing invading, a cool drink requiring sipping, and a friend whose barbeque needs to find its way into my belly. Summer is a big, loud, hot, sweaty mess. I love everything about it, except that it makes sitting in the dark, alone with my imagination, a little trickier. I could probably wage war against all the distractions and max out on my silent time, but…nah. I’ll just play both sides. I’ll bake all day and write all night. Instead of a haunting Hans Zimmer soundtrack, I’ll crank up Danzig’s Dirty Black Summer. Instead of candles, I’ll open the windows at midnight and let the white hot starlight in. I’ll party and I’ll write. Sleep is for dead men.


Since I’m shorting the blog world several hundred words this week, I’ll make it up to you with a few links. These are my favorite Tessera Guild articles of all time. Some are mine; some belong to my guildmates. We’ve been around long enough now that even if you’ve already read these, you might enjoy a recap. I know I did:

Top Ten Villains of All Time

John R McGuire’s Grab Bag

Amanda Makepeace’s Zen Time

Longing For Rain

Chad J Shonk’s Summer is Coming. Baseball is Here.

Now I just need to find a way to get back to the beach, if only for a day or two.

See you on the flip side,

J Edward Neill

Sketchbook for Tyrants of the Dead (Part II)

Happy f’n holiday, everyone.

A few months back, I shared a few sketches I drew ages ago during the inception of Down the Dark Path. Each sketch depicted a fragment of the story as I’d originally dreamed it. My pattern was: I dreamed it, I drew it, and years later, I wrote epic fantasy novels about it. It sounds simple. Not really.

Recently, I dug up about forty additional sketches. Most (read…all) I sketched during my early twenties. They’re simple, sometimes juvenile, and somewhat faded by years spent moldering in an ancient paper envelope. Even so, to this day they reflect my early conceptual visions of the Tyrants of the Dead series. If I were a true artist, I’d spend my time painting reimagined masterpieces for each one.

But I’m not.

So you get sketches…

Gryphon Inn


We begin with a tower deep in Grandwood. It’s ten stories high and is topped by a wizard’s laboratory. I named this tower Gryphon. About ten years after this sketch, I wandered back to it. I decided Gryphon needed to be an entire city, not one lonely tower in the woods. And so Gryphon, home of Rellen, was reborn.





Knight 1

This was my original concept sketch for Rellen Gryphon, one of the heroes of Down the Dark Path and Dark Moon Daughter. Rellen later lost his halberd, became younger and blonder, and sat atop a horse instead of a bizarre, long-snouted mutant mule, but his pose…reining up to watch the Furyon horde draw near…still belongs to him.



The Whisperers

Long ago, I only had the vaguest notion of what the bad guys in the Tyrants series looked like, but this is how they began. I’m not spoiling anything, because the modern-day Ur look very little like this trio. And yet, somehow…I still remember the night I dreamed them. White eyes… Pale as death… Whispering black thoughts into fragile minds…




Nothing fancy about this dude. Every other sketch I created in the beginning just happened to be of a ghost, a ghoul, or a skeletal horror. I suppose this guy could be the murderous spirit who shows up in the swamps of Furyon. You’ll just have to read it and decide for yourself.


KiraniSexy Elf.


It’s no secret. Women are usually more pleasant to draw and dream of than zombies, ghosts, and stone towers. These two ladies were characters who lost their spots in Down the Dark Path during the great 200k-word ‘let’s make this novel more serious’ culling. Even so, I remember them. These drawings do them no justice.



Soul Orb Sketch J.


Now we’re getting somewhere. This is my first sketch of the Soul Orb. (The final version graces Down the Dark Path’s cover.) Notice the ghoulish faces at the Orb’s base and the demonic eyes gazing out of its center. This is among my favorite sketches.



Night Wisdom

My original concept for Dark Moon Daughter’s antagonist, the Warlock. He later lost the horns and the jewelry, but kept the hood. Because…you know…every diabolical wizard needs a sinister cloak to hide behind.







What are YOU looking at

And lastly, a bit of adolescent fun. The original Andelusia was sassy, sneaky, and completely willing to use her beauty to snare men’s adoration. Here she seems to be saying, “What are you looking at?” And yes, she’d have used that knife. You probably had it coming.



That’s pretty much all the sketches I have. Maybe someday, after I write my fiftieth novel and my ideas cease to flow, I’ll get some art lessons.

I could definitely use ’em.


J Edward Neill

Author of the Tyrants of the Dead dark fantasy trilogy

Author of The Sleepers and Old Man of Tessera

Down the Dark Path