Here we go again. Welcome to the blog blast of the section that I call The Kingdom from the book Reality of the Unreal Mind, Vol. 3: The Keep. The Kingdom is an explanation of the work itself. You can’t understand any writer unless you know their work. So Friday we began at 6 p.m. and I will release one blog every two hours and fifteen minutes. That means we’ll finish the story of my work and its future, my work and its past, at 7:30 on Sunday evening. There are some crazy things in here. Some setbacks we never could have made it past without the people who care about me. There are some crazy things in here. Plans that I have and things that I’m doing that, simply put, are impossible. But everything’s impossible until it’s finished, until it’s been done or accomplished. There are some crazy things in here. Dreams so wild and so immense that to think they’re within reach you have to be a little unhinged. And while reading this small collection of blog posts, you’ll hear the rantings of the Lunatic of Fantasy. You’ll find in these posts the past, present, and future of the writing of Jesse Teller.
They all cross over each other, you see. You have to see the problem with that. They all cross over. You read one book and you haven’t seen it all, but you think you have. The next fills in more space. The next, more. Then four series later you are still neck deep in the world of the first book. It is never ending. The words keep coming. But this was different.
The book was The Great Hall, and I had been building to this one. Seven years earlier I had introduced a character, had created a kid. That kid existed within a series I was calling Tribes of the Mountain. Eastgate had him, Nyst had him, but then I did the most ridiculous thing.
I sent him away.
He left his homeland and wandered off into the world. So I followed him, wrote what he was doing as he traveled, while I was writing more Tribes books about his homeland trying to survive without him. One book, one series, then four, all lined up to tell the story of what this kid was doing while his homeland was embroiled in war and their way of life was failing.
Then Peter Redfist came back.
I had written his travels, had written what his people had gone through without him, and then he came back. And the kid and I were at The Great Hall, the final book.
To say this was a big deal is not getting it right. Not getting it right at all. This was monumental. This was the climax of five series. This was the culmination of all my work. This was me setting down the finale, finishing a tale 4 million words in the telling. Literally. All of it came to this book. It was an epic-length novel, and I was seven hundred pages in.
We had a party for my son. Birthday full of friends, loved ones. I was sitting in the living room, my mind in a haze and I heard my wife talking to her friend, and her friend asked how the book was going.
Everyone had been watching. All my loved ones knew this was the book. This was the one we needed to see. This was the finishing of the opus. When that woman asked how the book was going, my wife’s reaction was, “He’ll finish tonight.”
The words hit me like cold water. They froze everything about the day. Every thought, every movement. I had a moment when I could see everyone in that room sitting below me, could witness all of it. Because she is never wrong about these kinds of things.
She can predict. She has her fingers in the swell. She knows the creatures moving below the surface of my waters. She has swum with them. She is the only power who has been below. When she speaks on the inner workings of my mind, she does so with perfect knowledge.
But I was far from done. Lifetimes away from finished. I sat there trying to pare it all down. Had a handful of fight scenes. Had three climaxes. A wedding. A funeral. Another wedding. A dread march. An impossible problem I had not figured out yet. And I had the final fight. The boy against the unbeatable foe.
This fight scene alone would take a month to plan for a sane writer. This boy had to use everything he learned in his travels. Had to come to a realization, a truth. He had to overcome what to me was an impossible obstacle.
And then there was all the cool off.
This was the end of a seven-book series in itself. If we count everything that had gone into telling this story, we are talking about the capstone book to a 28-book collection, all spanning five different series, all telling one massive story.
“He’ll finish tonight.”
The party was not over until 8 that night. When the party trailed off into the haze, I looked at my wife and hugged her. I kissed my children, and I went to my office.
I stood over my desk, staring at it for a long time. See, this was the scene. This was the setting for the greatest feat of work most writers would ever do in the entirety of their career. This was where things would come apart. This bit of real estate here would be where I called the story down from the heavens and hammered it into a tale. Like a blacksmith calling down lightning to his hammer to aid him in crafting his master work, this small section of my life would be the landscape where it would all come to a peak.
I had woken up that morning from a dream. There were cowboys and a gold mine, and in the end I was on my knees and a revolver was put in my face. When I looked up, the gunman was a blur. Only the barrel of the gun was in focus. In my dream it was all I could see, all that mattered. Then from the haze beyond the barrel, I heard a gunslinger speak. It was a voice I’d heard before. Back then, so many years ago, when this story takes place, I had no name for that voice. No idea who it was with a gun to my face. But I know him now.
See he only needs ten minutes. Artist’s muscle car has his foot on the gas. He’s not afraid of Assassin, he’ll call him a fucker to his face. As we were revising this just now, same tapestry-covered room, same big slumbering dogs, when I got to this description, the gunslinger behind the gun came into focus. He winked at me. And I remember the sound of the gun.
You see Artist might be a muscle car, but sometimes he’s a revolver.
“If you can sing Seven Spanish Angels, I’ll let you live,” Prince said.
Bam! Gun shot!
So I did the only thing it made sense to do after my wife’s proclamation, her prediction. After my wife had told me and that woman that I was going to finish The Great Hall that day, the only thing that made any sense was Ray Charles and Willie Nelson. I sat at my desk, pulled up YouTube, and found Seven Spanish Angels. Here they were,Willie Nelson and the unforgettable Ray Charles. There was a message here, in this song, a message for me. I had not thought about Willie Nelson and Ray Charles for years. Didn’t even remember the name of the song, and hadn’t heard it for decades.
And now, the piano.
She knew the gun was empty, and she knew she could not win. But her final prayer was answered when the rifles fired again.
There were Seven Spanish Angels at the Altar of the Sun. They were praying for the lovers in the Valley of the Gun.
I pulled it up and I started laying it down, pulled the document on my screen and started laying my story on the Altar of the Sun.
Six hours in, my pinky finger on my left hand started to ache. It started to throb. It started to cramp. I grabbed a roll of medical tape and taped it straight.
Ten hours in, the headache came.
Twelve, the back started to wail. The wrists, the legs.
Fifteen hours in, I saw the first of the tracers out the corner of my eye.
Twenty hours in, I turned off the lights. I had the air conditioner wailing, and a diffuser pouring incense into the air in a mist.
Twenty-four hours in, the room had become a harbor. I was near the shore of the story, staring into the blinding light of a lighthouse guiding me home. I was in a fog, the mist in my office making the room humid. The sound of my sons now getting ready to go back to bed came to me like a distant fog horn. The sound of dogs barking, the distant cries of seagulls screaming for a scrap.
I called down lightning for another four hours before it was all over. I saw men and women I had killed standing around my desk glaring down at me. In the corner of the room sat the boy he had been, weeping at the gravity of it all. In the sky above my desk stared down the eye of an angry god I had killed in the telling of my tale. The ground vibrated with the pounding of the battle drums. All around me blood and bile. And the shore, and beyond that the vastness of water. The vastness of the sea that only my wife, the Leviathan, can swim.
When I finished The Great Hall I headed for the door to tell my wife it was done and I collapsed to my knees in the middle of my office. I wept. I sobbed. It was done. My work had come to an end. The story of Peter Redfist had been told.
I’m not sure how long I knelt on the floor weeping, not sure that I ever got up. I can feel the carpet under my knees now as I sit at my desk writing this chapter.
In the end, she was right. I did finish. It took 24,253 words to finish that book. That shakes out to be about 88 pages. I had written for 28 hours. By the time I went to bed, I had been up for 36.
The story is told. I had to go a little insane to tell it, but Peter’s story is at rest.
I’m not done by a long shot. There is more story to tell. In the end, these 25 books and the three that came after are me setting the world up for a massive climactic eruption. Should it be my world? Should I say that I’m setting my world up for a massive climactic eruption? We could say that I’m setting the world up for my massive climactic eruption. But I don’t end after the story of my world’s been told, 74 books written, I don’t end. I have plans beyond writing. So what do I say?
These 28 books are the set up for a massive climactic eruption. But so is the end of this one.
For the most part, Jesse Teller’s story’s gonna be finished after The Keep is released. There’s so much to look forward to with the life that comes after readers find my books. But The Keep is really the last thing you need to know in order to understand. So in a way, this book is the massive climax. I don’t know. Was it marrying my wife in 2005? Was it holding a red-haired, blood-covered baby in 2009? Was there some kind of climactic event for the world the day Katherine died? Because that changed everything. A new man rose from that dirt after digging that hole.
I invite you to look back, look back at your life. How many times has it climaxed, have you reached a pinnacle? There are those of you who feel like you’ve already peaked and everything is downhill from here. But I’m giving serious thought to going back to college, getting my Master’s, maybe a Doctorate, becoming a teacher, and that has nothing to do with my work. Or maybe it has everything to do with my work. I don’t know.
There was a climactic event not so long ago when Guardian took a bottle of Fighting Cock and a camp chair, sat at Katherine’s grave, and finally reached peace. There’s been so many. In your life, you can see so many, too. This is a wild departure from what we were just talking about, the boy, Seven Spanish Angels, the unbeatable foe, the shore and the cold mist, the distant sound of seagulls. I wouldn’t call it a tangent, though. Maybe I’m finally getting to the root of it, with my two slumbering dogs.
I can tell you this. Your life is not a movie. You may think it is, and you may feel like it is. That at some point, it reached a peak and it ended. You were big in high school or you were at the top of your game in college. But that’s not the way it works. I can tell you I was never more attractive, I was never more physically fit, than the night me and my wife first started dating in 1997. I had the respect of the professors in 2000, but I peaked when they gathered together, made one phone call after the next, when they tested me to get me into a graduate-level class.
Physically peaked, romantically peaked, financially peaked, I think by now you can see that when we talk about climaxes and we talk about peaks, it pisses me off. As a storyteller, in both the writing and oral traditions, I can tell you a climax comes directly after the one before it and prepares for the one to come. So here we go, here’s my statement, and then we can get back to the Valley of the Sun. I don’t care what situation you’re in, how old you are, what came up behind you or what you think is your future, there is some arena in which you have not peaked. There is some story in your life that has not climaxed yet. My boy taught me that when he faced the unbeatable opponent. I thought I was done and there was so much more to tell. He truly showed me.
So if you suffer from that, if you think you peaked in high school, and you’ll never again be as happy as you were, put this book down. Walk into the bathroom. Look yourself in the eye and say, “There’s more to come. It’s not over yet.” Then come back and start planning for the next act. Don’t give up on life, because life hasn’t given up on you.
The work has slowed. I’m back to sanity. I’m just a man now. No longer a sea. No longer a blacksmith. I’m just a man hitting a keyboard.
But just out of focus is the haze. Just out of ear shot is the Valley of the Gun.
On the wing are Seven Spanish Angels.