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.
Eastgate was done and Artist wanted more.
I can’t tell you exactly what it was like to write Eastgate. See, I didn’t have the story. I didn’t know what was going to happen. I had the first 115 pages of Tribes to guide me but the big question I had was that Tribes was maybe a quarter of a book, and what was going to happen when I got to the end of that and had no source material? Would I have to take breaks, and work three times a week? Maybe two?
I was at the time focusing on my work ethic in therapy so what happens when I am out of story and I have to flounder for a while?
Well I found out when I came to the edge of the Tribes of the Mountain ledge that I could just fly right off. The story came when I told it to. It was kind of scary.
One day I had no idea what I was going to write. Kell has to get from the street into the dungeon of a castle, get out two prisoners, and escape. Can’t fight his way in, he has two other people with him. He needs a plan. But I didn’t have one. He needs to come up with something. I had been working on it since my last writing session and I had no ideas.
I sat in front of my keyboard wanting to write but unable to think of anything to do. Shade had no ideas, so in his desperation, he just started typing.
Out came words.
I remember Kell thinking to himself that he had three plans. But I didn’t know what any of those plans were. So I just sat at my desk watching my fingers type, trying to figure out where it was coming from and where it was going.
Soon he decides on a plan and runs off. I don’t know where he is going, but he does. And when I asked Artist, he had no idea either. We watched as our fingers typed and the story played out before us.
So when I finished that book, I had gone from 2,000 to 3,000 words a day, I had accepted a huge project, and I had found out that whether I knew what I was going to write or not, it didn’t matter. None of it mattered. It would all just come. My ability was limitless. I was getting better as a writer. I knew I had a ways to go, but for now I was progressing as best I could expect from myself, and I had nothing I could do but keep working that muscle.
I finished Eastgate December 15th. About halfway through January, I began Nyst. Nyst took me about four months to write. It came out to be 1,100 pages and brought the story to the point where Peter Redfist, Jordai Stonefist, and Aaron the Marked are walking off of the Mountain. They are headed into the world to learn the Wisdom of the Kings, and now the Mountain has to go on without them.
Artist is ready for the next book in two weeks, but Prince won’t let him write it.
“Absolutely not,” Prince said. He was sitting on the chair in the living room looking up at the sky where Smear Lord of Ire was hovering with softly flapping wings.
“I am ready. I want to write the next book,” Smear said. “Get out of my way and let me do my job.”
“No way, and if you try to write it without my permission, I will delete everything you write as you write it,” Prince said.
“Why?” Smear roared. So much resonance, around him the Wasteland and rocks cracked. In the distance, spouts of fire, and Prince yawned.
“Because you hate that story,” Prince said.
Smear looked at Prince like he was crazy, but he knew he was not. Smear had finished Nyst and was glad to be done with it. He was not looking forward to writing book three at all. He had gotten to the point where he hated the characters. Hated the setting. He was sick to death of it. And let’s look at why.
We had just written 1,900 pages of one story in eight months. We had lived that story for eight months, that Mountain. We had cried with them. Lost with them. Hated with them, and rejoiced with them, and we had our fill. None of us wanted anything to do with that civilization ever again.
But every one of us was terrified of what that meant.
“I have to write,” Artist said. He dropped out of the sky. He dropped the roof back on the house. And he dropped his head on his shoulders. “If I quit, I might not be able to start again. What if I am only able to write without planning it because I have trained myself to, but if I don’t keep that going it will stop forever? I have to write!” Artist said.
“I know,” Prince said quietly.
“What are we going to do?” Artist said frantically.
“Give me a few days. I’ll figure it out. Until then, go build something in the Wasteland. Go tell a child a story. I don’t care what you do. Dance the mamba, get smacked, get Bekah’s hips moving if you have to—that’s the only way to get you to really mamba. Think about Love. She wants a moment of silence after the dance. After Nyst, let them all think, let Heart think, let T think, let Bekah think, about whether they want to applaud or not. Love wants silence after the dance, and then a smattering of applause. Just leave me alone. I want no hallucinations. Get some rest and some isolation from the body. When I’m ready for you, I will call on you.”
The next day was some sort of meeting at Rayph’s school. He was in four-year-old kindergarten and we had some thing we had to do at his school that night. On the way there, Prince came out.
“Can’t write book three,” Prince said.
“Okay,” Bekah said.
“He is not ready. Needs to breathe off the mountain.”
“What do we do?” Bekah said.
“Let me start something new,” Prince said. “Now listen, I am not—”
“Okay, what would you start?”
“I’m not saying that we are giving up on the series.”
“I know. You need a break from the Mountain. You need to start something else. You want to keep writing. Artist wants to keep writing. Shade, all of you, need to keep writing. You are on a roll. The best thing to do is to move on.”
Prince sighed. “Thanks for understanding. I’m still learning. I’m not good enough to submit yet. Even after Kell, there’s more to learn. I need a little more time.”
“Listen to this very carefully.” We had gotten to the school and she grabbed my head and forced Prince to look her in the eye. “Look at me. I am never going to tell you what to and what not to write. That will never happen. I won’t tell you when to write. I trust you, Prince. You have this under control. Tell me what you want to do, when you have it figured out, and I am there. For anything you need. But you don’t have to convince me that you are not giving up on The Mountain, because I know that.”
“I want him to follow Peter.”
“Off the mountain?”
“Tienne. I want to do the Drine/Tienne war,” Prince said.
“Sounds good. Let’s do it.”
“I don’t know how long it will be.”
“Does it matter?” Bekah said. “We will keep writing the Nation of Three, and when it feels right, we will submit. Until then, practice, and keep writing.”
We wrote Onslaught. We moved to Missouri in the middle of the book. Had to take a month off on each side. A month before we got there, and a month after to set up my office. Then we were back at it. When we were done, we had written 900 pages.
We stood over it, and Bekah and I looked down at the pages.
“What do you know about it?” she asked calmly.
And Adam was deadly calm. After writing Onslaught, Adam was at rest.
“It’s going to be four books long. I don’t know what the series will be called yet,” Adam said. “Prince wants to go back to the Mountain.” Adam looked at the huge stack of papers in front of him. “You with me?”
“’Til the end,” she said.
Now it’s a few years later. We have written the third of the mountain books and the second of the Drine/Tienne war, which we still don’t have a name for. We are not ready to go to the war again, and we can’t turn around and do a fourth Mountain book yet.
We write Mestlven, that comes before the Mountain or Onslaught. Mestlven is the first of the Break Books. A book where we can write to get our feet under us, to get our bearings. I’ve written Mestlven, but that only took a month and a half, and then we are looking at a blank screen again.
“What feels right?” Bekah said.
“A new series,” Adam said. “I want to break off and start a new series.”
“Which series? Do you have any ideas?”
“Oh yeah.” Bekah slapped her hands together and rubbed them. The look in her eyes wild and hungry, and that face, her face was doing all the things it does when it’s starving and it needs meat. “Now you’re talking.”
Song, the first of the Manhunters books, was written in a month and a half. Then a two-week break. Prince set a pattern. Between books we get two weeks off. By the end of week one, I’m still gasping and crawling. Halfway through week two, I’m clawing at a wall and spitting out notes. And after the two weeks, we are looking at a blank screen again. It has been a little over a year since we have been to the mountain and we are ready to go back. But as we gather up our story threads, and read the last three books, we see there are way too many point of view characters for this book. We have thirteen. Thirteen point of view characters for one book.
But as we look at it sideways, we can see that five of these take place in the afterlife. The other eight on the Mountain.
“What if I wrote two epic length books at the same time?” Adam asks Bekah.
“How would you do it?”
“We line the characters up randomly on the wall. Notes for all thirteen. Then every day I do the next one in line, whether that means I jump books or not. I work on both of them and we are on our way.”
“Can you do that?”
And for a moment, I doubt. Maybe it’s an impossible plan. I remember feeling cold.
“I mean, I know you can do it,” Bekah said, “but are you ready to do that?”
There was a music video in the early ’90s called “November Rain.” A heavy metal singer falls in love with a model and she dies in a car crash. By the end of the video, somebody has come to put flowers on the grave of both her and the rock star. At this moment in the video, in a six-foot hole emanating light from the top, spurred to motion by the footfalls of those who would place flowers, the heavy metal singer naked, curls up in the corner, covers his face with his trembling hands, and that’s the end. That’s the end of the video. That’s the end of the song “November Rain.”
“I mean, I know you can do it,” Bekah said, “but are you ready to do that?” From that light, in that grave, came a hand. It wasn’t Slash’s hand. It was a soulmate’s hand. And the heavy metal singer reaches up, clasps that hand that’s out of his grave, his grave of doubt, his grave of maybe this is insane, his grave of she’s never going to agree to this, and he’s back in a living, vibrant green world. With this conversation, she just has to walk him past the stones and out of the cemetery. Bekah just has to walk me back to her car and tell me it’s all gonna be okay. And she needs to whisper to me a secret.
You are Jesse Fucking Teller. If you can think it, you can do it. How can I help?
I bounced between books and it started to make sense. A character would die in one and show up in the other. Flak Redfist needs healing, so he is stored in the afterlife while he gets that healing. He has three chapters in the afterlife book, then he pops back into the Mountain. I am doing a thing I have never heard tell of before, and it is not easy.
About six hundred pages in, I need out. I need air. I need to stretch. I need to see the sun again. After six hundred pages, I need to escape.
“I can’t do this anymore. I need a break,” Adam said.
“No, I want to be working. I need to get away from the story. I need to think outside of the Mountain for a while.”
Book two of The Manhunters is written. Then back to my monster, uncertain that I can get it done at all. But unwilling to stop.
See, I can’t stop now. I need to be working all the time. I get started on the two epics again, and in seven months, I have written two epic length novels and a three hundred and change page novel.
Things are starting to pick up.
Every now and then I would get stuck. I would feel torn between killing a character or letting them live. I saw both paths and had no idea what to do.
The first time this happened, I was talking online to Heart. I asked her to flip a coin for me.
“I need to know if this character lives or dies. Flip a coin,” Artist said. “I won’t tell you what either side means, but I will decide on my end and I will let the coin make the decision.”
Heads. And the dude is supposed to die. But I am nervous and I am not sure if this is right, so later I’m talking to T when I ask her to do the same thing.
“Flip a coin.”
“That is how you are going to decide?” T asked.
“Well I did this with Heart last night and I still can’t commit. If I get the same answer from you, then I’m onto something.”
Heads. And I write the death. The next time I need the coin, T still has it. She has not spent it, and she has kept it on her all the time. I get ahold of her in the middle of the afternoon.
“You got another coin?”
“Same coin. I’m ready.”
“Flip?” But Adam is unsure. Last time this was Shade who did this. So he makes T flip it twice and judges the outcome between. Heads. Then tails.
And we realize that the coin is never wrong. Bekah starts to trust the coin and we have a new tool in the box.
The Drine/Tienne war became known as The Madness Wars. The Mountain series still didn’t have a name. I have written five mountain books, three Madness Wars and two Manhunters books. I have Liefdom, Chaste, and Mestlven done, and I am without a direction to turn. So Adam does not hesitate. He does not stop to ask Bekah because he doesn’t have to.
“I am going to start a new series,” he says.
“What is it called?”
“The Burdens of Beasts.”
Two books into this, I start the next series. When I write the first of this series, I see it folding back over the Burdens of Beasts book. A character is introduced in book two. A side character. Nothing with staying power, but now he will be in book two of this new series. I realize that when I lay them next to each other in order of events. It will go:
Burdens one. New series one. Burdens two. New series two. Burdens three. New series three. All lined up, so many characters jump from one book to the next as they make one straight line through both series. All lined up to the Mountain. After these six books, we’re standing at the foot of the Mountain. And I can smell the one that rules the Mountain’s foul breath.
“What is happening here?”
So I look at it. And I see it. I weep at its horrifying beauty.
I have written five different series. All of them tell a story. One great story. But if you pull them apart and slide them in chronological order, you can see that although it branches and sways with other tales and other things, it all lines up as one group of people is moving through the world. This one group passing through all five series on their way to the great end of the first act.
I’m not sure how I did it. At times I was jumping way out front. Eight years at a time jumping ahead of events. I meant them all to be different. I meant them to stand off alone. But the same thing kept happening over and over again. They began to do the impossible.
It is beautiful in its simplicity. It is terrible in its methods. But this is a new thing. No one has ever done this before.
No sane man or woman ever could.
This chapter is from Reality of the Unreal Mind, Vol. 3: The Keep, available on Amazon.