In 2010, I dedicated myself to writing books. I wrote every day. Well, five times a week, and I got in the habit. You can get in the habit of anything—anything. I got in the habit of creating. At the time, I had dedicated myself to rough drafts. I was trying to teach myself how to write a story, how to master novels. So, I wrote new material every day. The ideas kept coming, and I kept writing.
It must have been three years later when it started getting out of hand. The work swelled and became more than I wanted. It came to life. It started to breathe, and it began chewing, little bites at first, gnawing at my sanity.
I was in between books. I had just written Eleacont and was taking a break. My breaks are usually two weeks long, but the next book was going to be the third in a series. It would continue a tale I had written 1,600 pages of. So, for reasons you can probably understand, I read those two books first.
Well, it takes a while to read 1,600 pages. I had taken two weeks off already, and then reading took another three. About two weeks into the reading, the work stomped its foot and roared.
At about 2 a.m., I was walking from my office to the bathroom when I saw smoke. With a sleeping wife and two kids in the house, my heart exploded into a sprint. The fear in my skin ripped at me, breaking out into sores of terror as I grabbed the door to the stairs and rushed. When I reached the living room, I froze and nearly screamed. It was not my house burning down. It was a character.
A character I had burned at the stake stood atop a stack of wood in my living room, burning. I could smell her flesh searing. She bucked and arched her back, fighting to get away from the flames mercilessly engulfing her. I stood in my living room, staring at the horror of my book now in my life.
I looked away. I had to. I am ashamed of having done it. I always told myself I would not flinch at the horrible things that happen in my work. But this time, I did. I looked away in grief and fear. When I looked back, she was gone.
Staggering, I went back downstairs to my office. I was spent, exhausted by the emotional turmoil. I told my wife the next day. She looked at me with no reaction whatsoever. About five minutes later, she asked, “Did she say anything?” I told her she hadn’t, and she nodded. We talked about it for a while but came to no conclusions.
The next night, I heard the soft cry of my youngest and I went to soothe him back to sleep. I opened his door and, in the corner, out of reach of the straining light, stood a creature. It was shaped like a short man, a kid even. It held a shadow that looked like a weapon. I stepped between my son and the figure, my terror almost crippling, and I fought to speak, to grab my son and run, to fight, maybe, anything. But I couldn’t. Fear had locked me up. When the shadow stepped into the light, it was worse than I could imagine. I stood before Aaron the Marked, a damaged, uber-violent character on the verge of psychopath. He snarled at me and my blood ran like ice. I could not bear his gaze. His snarl had unmanned me. When I looked away and then back at him, he was gone.
My son stopped crying immediately.
For days, they came. They found me everywhere I went. I saw them on the street. I saw them in the back seat of my car. They all looked angry. They looked as if they had decided they would take me back.
My only guess was that they had come to drag me back to work. I read those two books as fast as I could. When I started writing again, they were gone, a whiff of smoke on the breeze the only sign I had not been making it all up.
When I take a break, they show up. Two weeks they give me, then they come get me. They haunt my house. They sulk near my children. They leave puddles of blood in my office. They stare, stalk, and threaten me, until they scare me from the world of rationale and drag me back to their world.
I am a hostage of my own world, a dedicated slave to the realm I created and the characters that people it.
In January, I’ll sit down to write the sixth and seventh books in that series. Before I can, I have to read over 3,100 pages to remind myself of everything happening in the story. During that time, they will come for me. I can’t escape them.