The Kingdom 6: Cogs and Springs

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 today we begin 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.

My Great Uncle Johnny Canny was a genius. He had little in the way of education, as he was a country boy who spent his school days working on his father’s farm. He had little in the way of books to read or conversations to learn from. He had little in the way of climbing out of farm mud or walking out the mouth of a coal mine. But everyone is a genius somehow, and with Johnny, it was working with his hands. From a young age, he could fix things—taking things apart and putting them back together at six or younger. So, when he went to his Aunt Ruthie’s house and saw her Coo Coo clock was broken, he ached to take it apart and see what was in it.

Her father had carried it from Germany when he immigrated, the only real possession he’d had, and she was not about to let anything happen to it. It was right twice a day and, for her, that was enough. The entire family was dirt poor and this heirloom was too valuable to be chanced to a nine-year-old boy and his promises.

One day, while my grandma and Johnny were at her house, Aunt Ruthie needed to go to town. She made sure to reaffirm that Johnny was not to touch that clock. She grabbed her hat, pulled herself into her truck, and disappeared around the bend for the half-day jaunt. Johnny immediately pulled the clock down and got to work.

He had a butter knife and a pocket knife, and with these tools, he began breaking down an antique clock. My grandma came in from the farm, raging that she was doing all the chores her aunt had given them by herself. She stormed into the kitchen and froze in terror.

There on the table sat hundreds of tiny cogs and springs—tiny, so as to be barely seen, and too numerous to count. They covered the table, the surface of all six chairs, the floor and parts of the counter. As she watched, Johnny slowly, meticulously pulled more and more from the corpse of the clock.

“Johnny Canny,” she yelled. “What have you done? Aunt Ruthie is going to kill you. She is gonna beat me for not stopping you! We are, both us, dead fools!”

But Johnny couldn’t look up. He extended his hands, his eyes locked frantically on the clock before him. “Shut your mouth. I got it,” he said, with a voice otherworldly in its calm. “Don’t make me look atcher screaming face. Got this all in hand. Git now. If I look up, I will lose it all.”

And he was right. Johnny was in the moment. His nine-year-old mind had the clock mastered. There, with his head down working, he had an intricate map of every sprocket, every wheel. He knew it all, and should he lose his train of thought for just one moment, it would all be gone, smoke on the wind, a brief puff before every cog, every screw, spring, rod, blew away to just a collection of ragged hopeless copper on the floor at the foot of the table.

I am writing 71 books that, when all finished, will tell one story. They span sixteen series and hundreds of plots and subplots. I have it all in my mind—hundreds of characters and scores of settings all laid out before me. When I am working, it is one spring, one cog at a time. When I am in the work, walking the world and breathing in the sights, there is nothing else, no distractions, just clarion thought and a power trembling on the verge of godhood. But I am not a god.

Johnny knew, and his story has taught me. If I look up for a moment, if I let myself get distracted and walk away for an instant, it will all blow away. The books I have planned, the books I am writing, are all spread out where I can see them. I just pray I never have to look up.

When he put it all back together, Johnny had fixed that clock. But he didn’t look up until the last cog had been placed and he had stretched the last spring.

But we got hit. The whole world got hit. Dolphins in the clear blue streets of Venice. We drove the highways on rides just to get out of the house, and there was nobody out there. At first they called it the Coronavirus, then COVID-19. And I couldn’t write anything but Reality of the Unreal Mind, Volumes 1, 2, and 3.

You know, I did take one break. The medical field got hit so hard, T was assigned to a COVID wing. She was scared. She was in danger. I was scared for my friend in danger. My work has always seen her through, so I promised. I gave her my word: “I will write every day that you are on that wing. There will always be new Jesse Teller material at your side. I can’t save you from this pandemic.” I remember I was weeping when I said it. “I can’t save you. But when you look at your computer, you will see me at your side bandaging what I can. I will not leave you on the field alone.” I wrote 750 pages in 26 days. She had new work, she had a distraction, she had dark fantasy and characters that she knew.

I was a tiny bandage, a Band Aid, to the cuts she was suffering. T’s still with us. The COVID wing did not take her. I can’t take credit for that. I won’t even try. But I do take credit for this: I didn’t make her do it alone. Every night she knew that I was at my keyboard pounding, calling down thunder on a desk of iron.

Well, those days ended. Fantasy kind of walked to the edge of the yard and looked over the fence, because in our house, it was not being written. There’s train tracks back there at the end of the yard, and fantasy just watched over the edge of that fence for a train that never came. I wrote short stories for the Silent War of the Sour Eye series. These kept me breathing. It was hot out there by that fence, so Bekah would run iced tea out to fantasy every time I wrote one of these short stories.

We brought fantasy into the house, put aloe vera on their sunburn, and they whispered to us another kind of story. I’m not ashamed of it, I don’t think I should be. I wrote an erotic fantasy series, ties into my world, and even though it focuses on sex and everything that comes with that, the series is still built in my world, and it still fits. It explains something none of us ever had a chance of ever hoping for an explanation of. Adam wouldn’t touch it. I don’t blame him. It was written by Shade and the lover of the Master of Monsters, Lenore. Erotic fantasy. At times, monster fantasy.

Then it walked from our house back out into the yard and it looked over the fence for the train that hasn’t come yet. Fantasy was warm in the winter. There’s too much hell, there’s too much fire in my work for it to go cold. When spring hit, fantasy could be seen among the reaching weeds and the occasional spatter of flowers. That’s when fantasy left its spot, looking for a train that wasn’t gonna come. It went to a spot in our yard filled with clover, and it laid down. That’s where it’s laid ever since, staring up at the sun that turns into the dusk, that turns into the night. Stars streaking across its vision until the coming day. Fantasy smells the clover. Fantasy holds out hope. But as far as it goes in my house, in my office, fantasy is way out of reach.

“Finish the damn book!” It was heard in my head two weeks ago. It was Prince. I could smell his musk in the air. Musk is wrong, it’s not sweat either. Does he wear cologne? Let me ask you, the reader. Does Prince wear cologne? Bekah’s taking dictation. She just whispered, “I bet he does.”

“Finish the damn book!” I heard in my head and I knew immediately what he was talking about. I knew instantly that he was talking about this book, which had been written over a year ago, and I had been clinging it to my chest, crying naked under a ceiling fan on my bed, unwilling to part myself from it.

“Finish the damn book!” And he’s talking to Adam. Adam is standing in the other room. The clock has been taken apart and is waiting for a butter knife and pocket knife. There’s so many cogs. They’re all over the table, the chair. My fantasy work, so complicated and heaving, and I’m in the other room, wrapped around the book screaming under a ceiling fan. I hear his voice again and I smell, we’re gonna call it cologne, on the air and I hear him say, “Finish the damn book!” Because you can only scream so much, and hugging a thing like this, a thing so filled with teeth and covered in claws, can only do damage to you.

Prince looks at me hiding in Aunt Ruthie’s sitting room. I’d like to say I’m in a hospital bed recovering from the pandemic. Most likely though, I’m on a fainting couch. And Prince towers over me, his cologne filling the air, and says, “Finish the damn book!” He points to the room with the disemboweled clock, and says to me, “Get back to work.”

Did you know fantasy smells like clover?

This chapter is from Reality of the Unreal Mind, Vol. 3: The Keepavailable on Amazon.

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