Spooktober

I love Halloween.

Seriously, all the spooky thing around this time of year is some of my favorite things to experience. It’s cooler outside — flannel is awesome — and it’s a time to start wearing hoodies, and blue jeans without sweaty repercussions… I mean, the list goes on and on.

My family always participated pretty heavily in Halloween. I mean, of course, attending a private school as a young man led to stories of how Halloween was Satanistic, and all that crap, but it never really defined us. To go along with how much I enjoyed it, trick’or’treating was the best thing. When I was young, it was still a big deal around the neighborhood… everyone did it! And half of them did it by themselves. It’s kind of sad, but as I grew older, fewer and fewer houses and kids did it until none did it at all. Then, of course, fear-mongering led to trunk or treating…

I went off on a tangent there.

Anyway. My family participated so strongly that we would decorate our whole front porch with black plastic sheeting, black lights inside, and spooky music. I remember standing on my front porch and decorating the house with my mom, and playing Thriller and Monster Mash on repeat. I still love those songs to this day.

Of course being scared is actually pretty awesome, too. As an adult, realistic fear sucks. You know, being jobless, losing a family member, not being able to pay your bills. All that sucks bad. But the unrealistic ghost and apparition stuff is a different story. It’s fun! So, as an adult we go looking for all the extra spoopy stuff to enjoy in person. Haunted House attractions are some of my favorites, too. Jaycee’s Haunted House was the best when I was kid, but it got shut down for some reason… may have just been how dilapidated the house was. Warehouse 31 is my current favorite, followed closely by Sloss Fright Furnaces and Atrox Factory.  There are a few more in the area, but those are without a doubt my favorites.

I may have a penchant for Pumpkin Spice, as well.

Photo by Leximphoto on Unsplash

I have a DeepSense

DeepSense is an AI built to judge you.

 

Seriously, the creators over at DeepSense made an AI bot that analyzes your Twitter feed and tells people what they want to know about your personality based on your posts, likes, activity times, and several other factors. What it was actually built for, is allowing businesses to analyze potential hires and to see if they would be successes in a team. If I were to hire people, I think it may actually be interesting to base some of your decisions on their Twitter feed. Doesn’t seem too crazy right?

I ran my own handle, of course, @TGNeal, and I read through what they said. My wife and my best friend both agreed that it was pretty accurate. I disagree with saying that I’m slightly emotionally sensitive and temperamental. But what do I know?

 

Stupid bot…

 

Check it out, though. Might teach you something you didn’t know.

 

 

UPDATE: Their website is down right now, because of traffic. Will update when it’s back online!

 

 

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

 

The Dragon Prince

Fantasy shows and movies are in short supply.

I know I’ve posted several times about shows on Netflix, in particular. My favorites are Sherlock, Californication, and Comedians in Cars getting Coffee. Obviously those share no similarities except that they air currently on Netflix. Considering what I watch regularly, finding something new is always invigorating and it’s a true pleasure when it really scratches an itch.

This new show is The Dragon Prince, and it aired for the first time on September 14th. I had heard whispers here and there, and decided to check it out. Let me say, animation has never been something that scares me off. I enjoyed Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and Star Wars: Rebels, and a few other animated series and movies. Usually anime, at that. Anyway, I watched the first episode yesterday, and I finished the series today. If that doesn’t tell you how much I liked it, nothing will.

The series follows the lives of several races and kingdoms across the continent of Xadia. Without spoiling anything, there are humans and several types of elves, and a litany of magical creatures spread throughout the world that the show only begins to touch on. There’s magic of course, and dragons. I’ll bet the name gave that away, didn’t it.

The characters are diverse and lovable, and have real emotions and reactions. The villain is easy to dislike, especially once you’re onto his game. The plot is sound, easy to follow, and the lore of the world is slipped into the story as it progresses. It’s a delightful choice for a show.

I’ve been told since I started it, that the creators of the show are the same that made Avatar: The Last Airbender, and the story has much of the same influencing. I’ve not watched Avatar, but I’ve heard it’s a worthy watch. If it truly is anything like The Dragon Prince, I may give it a watch.

As a fantasy reader and writer, the story really engrossed me. It’s not common, as much as it is familiar. It’s easy to follow because of its familiarity. You know the characters before you even really know them, if that makes sense. The King, the Princes, the forces of darkness, and the good that rises to meet it. It’s the story of the hero, but from a different angle, and it’s the journey that all high-fantasy characters must overcome.

I really am not sure that I can boast enough about the show; I was so pleasantly surprised at how well the show captivated me, and made me love everything about it.

You really should give it a try.

 

Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash

Drachenara: The Embers of War

I suppose there’s no shame in a little self-promotion.

 

I released Drachenara, my first novel, back in July of this year. To increase interest in it, I’m now releasing a prequel short story called Drachenara: The Embers of War.

book cover.jpg

 

Drachenara has done well, but if I ever plan on being a nighttime author with a day job, I’ll have to sell more, and more often!

So, without much fluff, or further adieu, download your free copy of my short story below!

PDF Format: Prequel – T.G. Neal
Kindle Format: Prequel – T.G. Neal (Courtesy of Google Drive)
EPUB Format: Prequel – T.G. Neal (Also, courtesy of Google Drive)

 

Weathering the Storm

Weather is always such an important part of a story, in my mind. They say that battles are all about the sounds and smells, but a good story of any sort has to tell me about the weather.

I’ve grown up in the south, where we have two seasons: winter and summer. We start with winter, where we have this damp cold that just soaks into your body. As someone who has visited other colder climates, there’s something about cold humidity that just… latches onto your bones. Then we have about three days of cool nights and warmish spring, and BAM! It’s summer, and you’re sweating after being outside for thirty seconds. After three months of roasting, we have three days of fall, where the leaves are crisp and you can smell it in the soil, and then it’s cold again.

Honestly, I’m exaggerating a little, but it’s more correct than I wish. Furthermore, I wish we had more snow. That being said, it’s not the seasons I mean. Sure, it’s important, but not like a steady rain to set the mood. One of my earliest roleplays with my wife online, back when we were only dating, and she was placating my creativity, we roleplayed two characters named Rykk Wraith and Madison Jade. Now, in the background, Rykk was a well-traveled human warrior and merchant, and Madison Jade was an Elven princess who was running from her past. Rykk paid for a room at a tavern for her for several nights before the two traveled on together. At a dainty little tavern at a small village, seeking shelter from a storm outside, Rykk played the piano for her in the upstairs, by firelight, and won her heart. Easy right? My young mind was a simple thing. Still to this day, though, the sound of rain, thunder, and Fur Elise, makes my heart flutter.

If you think about it now, you can probably think of several moments in mass media of some type where weather set the tone of the scene. Was it a foggy night, somewhere on the moor, and the hero or heroine was in danger? Was there a sweet embrace in the rain? Even Hans Christian Anderson used weather in stories like the Little Match Girl, where snow was the detriment of the girl. I’m just that the list can go on and on.

Just the other day, I read a really interesting article talking about how bad weather can make us feel nostalgic. Summarizing the article found here, scientists linked bad weather like rain, thunder, and wind, to feelings of optimism and social connectedness. In my mind it makes sense on so many levels. For one — one big one, to me — what happens when the weather gets bad? Well, we all gather ’round and wait it out. It forces us to talk, to bond, to socialize. In the world of modern technology, most of us do so from behind a screen.

What about the smell of weather though? The word petrichor is one that I like to bring up in casual conversation when no one’s expecting it. Not really, but it is a word that I learned and use every chance I get. If you didn’t know, or were too lazy to follow my cheesy wikipedia link, petrichor is that smell you get right before rain. It’s the scent of soil disturbed and moistened by rain. Wet dirt. It’s the smell of wet dirt. But it’s a smell you can probably smell right now, because of your familiarity to it. And if you can’t, I’m sorry for you. It brings me so much joy when I think of the smell; like summers as a kid, playing outside, having to run from an approaching shower that can’t last more than an hour in the heat. Or baseball games, playing in the mud.

Nostalgia.

Weather triggers nostalgia, and these base human emotions that tie us down. Or lift us up. It somehow does all of these things, and we’re often to blind to the joys of it, because of the inconveniences.

Do me a favor. Two favors actually: One, read one of your favorite books and pay attention to how the author uses the weather, or watch a movie and do the same. Two, pay attention to the weather next time it’s anything besides sunny. Feel it.

 

You can thank me later.

 

Photo by Max Brinton on Unsplash