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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Would Anyone Like A Free Epic Fantasy Read?

The Cover to UW: Before Red Morning, Available for Free On Smashwords

Okay, so here's the deal. On November 3, 2014, I'm going to release my epic fantasy novella Universal Warrior: The Ring of Asarra exclusively to Amazon, for the time being. This is my debut work; the first title I'll ever charge people to read.

I'm hoping to use this title to establish myself as an author and as such, I'm hoping to give away a few copies in exchange for reviews on Amazon. I have five copies available for free, and the only thing I ask in return is for an honest review on Amazon. 

If you'd like me to return the favor with a review of your work, let me know. I'd be happy too.

If you're interested in reviewing, please leave a comment.

Thanks very much for reading.

Friday, October 10, 2014

An Interview With Epic Fantasy Author James Neal

The Official Cover to "Of Blood and Blade" by James Neal

So what’s your name, and where are you originally from?

My name is James Neal, and I hail from Camdenton, MO. If you don’t know where that is, I’m not offended.

What’s the title of your book?

The title is Of Blood and Blade. It’s the first book in the Cards of Chaos series.

How’d you arrive at this title?

This title is well over 10 years old. As soon as I decided to write a novel, I decided I wanted to make it as violent as possible. While the original version of the story was indeed bloody and violent, as a story it was crap. This version has moments of intense violence, but the story is much meatier that the original.

What genre would you classify this title as?

Of Blood and Blade is definitely high fantasy. According to modern nomenclature, since the main characters are teenage boys, it fits under Young Adult as well.

Distill the story into two sentences. What is it about?

A martial king-to-be and a theatrical usurper to the throne clash, just as a mysterious stranger begins manipulating each of them into yet another game. The search for the legendary Cards of Chaos begins, and the price for each player will prove to be steep.

"The greatest thing about Derisma is that, while realistic, you get the feeling that anything can happen...and a lot of wonderful and horrifying things do come to pass."--James Neal, on Of Blood and Blade

Tell us a little about your protagonist.

Grier Solemn has been training since childhood to be a warrior, and he lives that code to the point that several of his subjects and peers believe he doesn’t wish to become king. Though untrue, Grier does learn that maybe he isn’t quite as ready for the throne as he believed. He will learn what it means to be responsible and accountable for his actions. He will also discover that those actions will always have a direct effect on his kingdom, and it will be in one of the harshest ways possible.

Tell us a little bit about this world.

Derisma is a 75% manufactured world. It’s not based on Earth, magic takes place on a fairly regular basis, and it has its own mythos and religions. Several humanoid races exist here, most of them you’d find in general fantasy texts. I didn’t try to twist the elves or dwarves into something fresh or new, or give them powers beyond recognition. What I did do, was give those stereotypes a reason to exist within the context of this world. The elves live in the woods for a reason. Dwarves live in mountains because they love creating huge monoliths dedicated to their ancestors. The greatest thing about Derisma is that, while realistic, you get the feeling that anything can happen…and a lot of wonderful and horrifying things do come to pass.

What inspired this title?

The honest answer? Magic: The Gathering inspired the overarching storyline. A few friends of mine introduced me to the card game when I was 19 years old, and despite my every attempt not to love it, I was quick to get hooked.

In the original storyline, everybody and their mother had “Cards,” which performed various magical feats. When I was done with the original story, I even asked Wizards of the Coast (who created the card game) if they would help me publish the story like they did with R.A. Salvatore with the Drizzt novels. Not only did they say no, but told me if I attempted to publish the story, I would deal with their lawyers in court. Yikes.

Instead, I let the book sit on the shelf for years, forgotten, until one of my friends asked me if I was still working on it. My friend’s interest rekindled my passion, and I decided to rewrite the whole thing from scratch. Now, there are only ten Cards, each one insanely powerful, and the only thing in common with Magic: the Gathering is the fact that they are called “Cards.”

Will there be a sequel, or more adventures in this world?

Oh definitely. Of Blood and Blade only scratches the surface of what is going on with the Cards of Chaos. I’ve already started working on the sequel, tentatively titled Of Rogue and Ruin. This time around, it won’t take me a decade to write the novel.

Also, I plan on releasing short story anthologies that take place in Derisma’s past. If fans start sending in fan-fic, I may even help publish those under the Cards of Chaos label. We’ll have to see how that works out, but it would be cool.

When and where can we expect this title?

The ebook launches on Amazon only, on October 15, 2014. As I have already been asked several times, I will be working on getting paperbacks made early next year, but there is no set date for that project just yet.

Given any thought to your next project? Care to share anything?

My next project deals with animation. I’m putting together an animation bible for my webcomic, Mandy and Murder-Bear, and will be sending that out to different studios ASAP. Just click the link if you’d like to read it.

On the publishing side, I’ll be working on the Cards of Chaos series for the foreseeable future. Once that’s done (if?), I have ideas for a story called Iriquois. I also want to write a heavy steampunk adventure, but that is still baking in the oven right now.

Anything else you’d like to share?

I just want to give a huge thank you to everyone who is, and has, backed me on this project. Avery, you know you’re one of those people. My wife, Dawn, for accepting that I needed to accomplish this dream. Then there are the countless others who said, “Okay, you have no idea what you’re doing. Do this, and see if it helps.” To all of you, it has helped.

I hope new people discover this title and are entertained by these characters, and can connect with them. If I did my job, readers will get to live outside the norm for a little while, which I believe is what continues to make writing a worthwhile passion.

James Neal also shares his thoughts on life over at his blog American Dirt. You can also find him on Twitter at @BloodandBlade. Check it out for more info on the man behind the world and keep a lookout for of Blood and Blade, which will be released on 10/15/2014!

Thanks for reading!

Friday, October 3, 2014

"This Is An Evil Night..." A Preview of UW: The Ring of Asarra

(c) 2012-2014 Akting Out LLC

The following is a modified, unedited excerpt from the forthcoming epic fantasy novella "Universal Warrior: The Ring of Asarra". 


What was supposed to be a routine patrol of the city's borders resulted in the deaths of three people, one of whom was on the road to recovery. Now, in the after of a terrible, unexpected end, those who witnessed the passing are left to deal with the aftermath.

Lightheaded, dizzy and in utter shock, Maeghan took two steps back and fell to her rear, spellbound by the corpse. She wanted to cry, scream out, but a ball had wedged itself in her throat, making even breathing a chore.
She coughed, collapsing her head into her hand. “This is an evil night.” She mused darkly.
For a moment, Kres didn’t speak. Leaning against the far dresser at the foot end of the table, he also found himself enthralled by the body. “I don’t understand,” He breathed, “I just don’t understand. How can this one be gone? A moment ago, we were all talking and can this be?
Maeghan shook her head. With moistened eyes and cracked voice she replied, “I don’t know.”
“What do we do now?”
Maeghan sighed and pushed herself to her feet. “Well,” she began, trying to remember the next step and distance herself from the event, “We have to tell Nootau. He needs to know.”
“What about the parents?”
Maeghan shook her head, wiping her eyes. “No.” She stated, “No, our friend was one-half Sier, and honored those traditions. We will do the same by not bringing bad news by moonlight.”
Kres nodded. “Okay, but we should at least tell Nootau.”
“You go ahead.” Maeghan nodded, “I need to see a friend.”
Kres frowned.
Maeghan shook her head, exasperated, “Please, Kres. You go to Nootau. This is something I must do.”
“Alright.” Kres finally agreed. “Let’s meet back here in ten minutes.”
“Twenty minutes,” Maeghan requested, “I need just a little time, please.”
Kres nodded. He then turned to the dresser behind him, bending over and opening the lower drawer. He pulled a long, white sheet forth and closed the drawer. As Maeghan approached the head of the table, Kres flung the cloth over the body.
Maeghan caught the corners of the sheet and the two allowed the sheet to gently cover the corpse.
They both took a brief moment to acknowledge the loss, and then Maeghan exited the infirmary first and headed to the right, towards a particular residence. It was her direst wish, at that moment in time, to be granted a respite from the presence of death.

UW: The Ring of Asarra will be released November 3, 2014. Keep following for updates.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

No More Pop-Ups, Please

You remember the early days of the internet? When you could barely type in a URL before you were flooded with so many ads for unwanted crap that you were forced to hard-reset the computer?

Blessedly, for the most part, that spam is a thing of the past, thanks to a plethora of quality adblockers that can be found for most browsers.


My fellow marketers, writers, creatives, and other ambitious people, I humbly put before you a request.

Like a lot of people these days, I follow your wonderful websites via mobile device.

So imagine my pinch-and-zoom frustration when I'm perusing one of your articles only to get that annoying square, dead center of my screen, prompting me to sign up for your newsletter.

Now, don't get me wrong; I understand the need to get your name out there, but there are so many other ways to do it. Place an invite at the bottom, or top, of each post, for example.

The most recent offender, who shall remain nameless, wasn't even a prompt to sign up. It was a prompt to follow this individual on social media, which I already do.

So please, in the name of all that is holy, stop, stop, STAHP with the pop-ups. This is 2014, people, and with the surplus of options available to us, there's just no excuse for it anymore.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Ed Sheeran - I See Fire (Paragon Axis Remix)

Yes, I'm still hooked on this song, and this is my new favorite version.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Ranking the Batman Films of the Past Thirty Years

With Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice well into production and images of Ben Affleck's Batman now publicized, I thought I'd take a moment to review all of the Batman films since Tim Burton's Batman, ranking them from worst to best.

Batman and Robin (1997)

Arguably the worst film of the franchise, this monkey turd of a film marked the sad end to Batman's cinematic heyday and a low point in Joel Schumacher's career. A study in storytelling gone wrong, this movie tarnished Batman's onscreen reputation with its cheesy lines, poor script, and George Clooney's infamous Bat-nipples.
I think we'd all just like to forget this ever happened.

Batman Forever (1995)

This may have been rated the worst film of the franchise until Batman and Robin came out in 1997. Joel Schumacher directed a cheesy, more comedic outing of the Dark Knight. It featured a well-known cast that included Jim Carrey as the Riddler (one of the film's better performances) and Tommy Lee Jones as Two-Face, who did the best he could with what he had to work with. This was meant to be a psychological evaluation of the dysfunctional relationship between Bruce Wayne and Batman, but gaudy set pieces, an average script and poor direction made this one of the more forgettable adventures of the Dark Knight.

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

It was difficult to decide if this film should be in the top three, ahead of Batman Returns. The ending of Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy attempted to blend elements of Batman stories Knightfall and No Man's Land. The result was a mixed bag.
By no means a bad movie, The Dark Knight Rises was such a radical departure from any canon that a great many fans felt alienated even from the first two films. Still, it featured Christopher Nolan's trademark, real-world storytelling, putting the spotlight not only on the main character but the supporting cast and the world itself. It was harrowing to watch Bane completely overtake Gotham City and featured a plausible real-world scenario should a major city come under siege.
The Dark Knight Rises was a satisfactory conclusion to Christopher Nolan's take on Batman. Not spectacular, not great, but good.

Batman Begins (2005)
Christopher Nolan's re-imagining of Batman catapulted the Dark Knight to commercial and critical success. After an eight-year hiatus, Batman Begins told an origin story loosely based on canon and set in a very modern world.
This was the first Batman story ever presented that made us ask; "What if this actually happened?" We are given a glimpse into the lives of the Wayne family before they are abruptly snuffed out, we see a bright and beautiful Gotham go dark as its most prominent citizens are murdered. We see the actual trial of the killer. We even see a vengeful Bruce Wayne who was ready to murder the killer himself, so lost is he in his quest for revenge. The road to becoming Batman was far from focused and we get to see his every pitfall and mistake as he becomes the Dark Knight. Easily the best origin story of any superhero on film and one of the best Batman films ever produced.

Batman Returns (1992)

Batman Returns is a perfect example of a sequel done right; reunite the cast, add the right people for the right roles (this film introduced me to Christopher Walken), and let the director do his thing.
I'm hard-pressed to find another sequel outside of the Star Wars universe that lives up to its predecessor. Tim Burton is at his gothic best returning to the Dark Knight as we know him today. Michael Keaton's performance cemented him as the Batman for an entire generation. I loved Michelle Pfeiffer's tortured, haunting turn as a timid secretary turned vigilante seductress. Danny Devito as the Penguin was awesome, watching him balance Cobblepot's aristocratic attitude with malice and humor.
As far as I'm concerned, the Batman films of the nineties could've ended here.

Batman (1989)

About how many films can we say are responsible for a generation of entertainment? Tim Burton's masterful take on the Dark Knight gave rise to the film adaptation of the comic book. It made the dark, moody Dark Knight mainstream. It paved the way for Batman: The Animated Series and Kevin Conroy's twenty-year run of vocalizing Batman.
Michael Keaton is arguably the only actor to ever successfully pull off the airheaded, nonchalant Bruce Wayne as well as the master detective and martial artist that was Batman. Jack Nicholson's Joker was incredible; a gentleman, a comedian, a homicidal clown, and so perfectly played by Jack Nicholson. Until the number one choice came down the pipeline, this was the perfect Batman film and certainly the superhero film that defined a generation of storytellers. 

The Dark Knight (2008)

Arguably the greatest Batman film of all time, this film works on so many levels it's difficult to enumerate them all. The world of Gotham City is incredibly and vividly fleshed out, so much so that it could be used in other films that don't include Batman. Christopher Nolan's masterful take on the Dark Knight is a psychological examination of the universe's key characters, set in a disturbingly plausible world.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

So I Did The Ice Bucket Challenge...


So this is me, doing the ice bucket challenge. I will be donating a portion of the sales of the Ring of Asarra to the ALS Association too.

Thanks for reading/watching/laughing.