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.
In the afterlife of the mountain, or the Death Dream, if you are the Blood of the Lion and you so choose, you can find a hidden path. That path will take you to a city locked away by the shamans, a place of banishment, a place forbidden. The City of the Elephants is here. Home to the unkillable warriors. Home to the monster Phose Modo. No one wants to go there. No one wants to face that horde or look into the maddened eyes of their king. But if insanity or circumstances beyond your control ever forced you down that road, you would have to face The Guardian of the Path.
I got the idea for The Guardian in 2004. I had gone through a lot of therapy. I was writing fantasy novels, and with all the drama out of the way, my mind was set to work on other things. One of its pursuits was this entity.
I knew very little.
I knew he was a warrior set there by the shamans and imbued with powers beyond a mortal man. I knew he was dedicated to keeping the world from ever having to face the evil of that city, and I knew I wanted to write him right then.
I was working on Chaste. The first draft of that book was 776 pages long, and I was about four hundred in. I was at a point where I was sick of my story and wanted more than anything to escape Chaste. It had become a drudgery and I was fed up. I wanted this new book. I wanted to work on my Guardian.
I had floated the idea of working on a second book by Bekah before, and she had been adamant that she would not allow it. The projects I started, I would finish. It was the law of the house. So, with The Guardian on my mind, I went back to the town of Chaste. I set my greatest desire aside and went to work.
When I finished Chaste, I flirted with The Guardian again, but the time was not right. I was more than ready to dig in, but there was a book that happened before The Guardian, and an entire world to build before I could do the character justice. I needed the world.
I needed to work.
It was seven years before I headed down that path again. Seven years of thinking of the day I would write The Guardian of the Path. Seven years of seeing him vague in the distance. Lurking, hulking, slithering and roaring. Out there, out of reach was the creature I had been obsessed with for years.
But I had work to do.
The series he belonged in was fledgling. I had to build up to him, had a lot of story to write. I couldn’t rush it. So in 2012, in the second book of the series, I began to build a myth. I started the rumor of a warrior who could not be defeated. I began the very first inkling of the elephant warriors.
I needed to build. I needed to work.
After that book was finished, my world split in two. A second series opened up and I needed to explore it. It was part of the larger piece, and in order to get to the Path, I needed to fight my way through that second series. I worked, I fought, and I began to lose a bit of myself with every word that was not about my Guardian and my Path.
I loved the work. It was my life and the greatest thing I had ever been a part of that didn’t wear a ring, or diapers, but the more I wrote, the further it moved. Because now the story was branching again. My story was splitting. I started a new series that was part of the puzzle, and with that new piece, I was opening another door that was not the Path or my Guardian.
Each series I closed out was a step toward my dream of writing this creature. Every step along the way I was earning it a little more. I learned there is a journey to a great scene, a winding road that must be taken. You can’t just jump ahead and write your favorite scenes. You can’t skip all the work and go straight to the win. I had more work to do.
In the end, The Guardian did not show up until the second-to-last book in that series, which happened to be the twenty-fourth book I wrote. Every word I had ever written to that point had carried me to the hidden path to the banished city. Every word I typed had gotten me closer.
In 2017, I had a party. It was humble. It was only my wife and the two men who came every Friday, Kraken and Sasquatch. We had been talking about The Guardian for years and that talk had intensified as those years went by. Words, and every word I spoke leaned in the direction of, or shattered in the face of, The Guardian.
Now I have written him. Me and Bekah are in hysterics. Kraken and Sasquatch are invited. I remember when I got in touch with Kraken, I told him that I had finally written The Guardian. And he lost his mind. His message was a flurry of typing as he told me how proud he was of me, and he stumbled on words of awe for me. He lifted up prism-like letters of inspiration he was staring through, and he said he would be there that Friday. Encouraged, I reached out to Sasquatch. “I finally wrote The Guardian.”
“You did what?”
“I wrote The Guardian, The Guardian of the Path. I’ve been talking about this for years.”
“Oh yeah, oh, oh, well…”
“I’m having a party. It’s not really a party, just we’re all getting together on Friday.”
“I don’t know, I mean, this Friday?”
“Yeah. When we normally get together. It won’t get in the way of anything.”
“Sure, yeah, um, okay.”
“I’ve been waiting for this since 2004.” I’m stressing it now. I’m fighting to impress upon him how important this party, this moment, is for me. Because I really don’t want him to fail me.
“Yeah, um, sure, I’ll be there. You know, Friday night, I’ll be there.”
He came late. I’m not shitting on him because he came late. The 8:00 nights turned into 8:05, sometimes 8:15, the occasional 7:50, and often 8:30. He walked in to a jubilant house. Kraken was there. Man, when you get that guy excited, it’s not like flipping on a switch, it’s like flipping on ten. You’re at the fuse box and you just pushed every circuit over. He’s excited about The Guardian, he wants to know more.
I baked a cake before they got to my house. A few bites of a pumpkin molasses cake and a very short speech, and Sasquatch looks at me as if confused. “What are we even celebrating tonight?” he says. My mind instantly clicks through all the times I have told him about The Guardian.
Kraken looks down at his feet because he does not want to say it. Bekah looks up at me confused because she thought I had told him. And I look Sasquatch in the eyes and say, “I finally wrote The Guardian. This is the birthday of The Guardian.”
He nods, gives a dismissive glance. I know he doesn’t understand. With a narcissist, if it doesn’t have to do with them, they just don’t understand. I’m used to getting kicked by those who have sworn they would care for me, so I look up at him. “I’ve had this character that I wanted to write about since 2004. I finally got to write him today. We’re celebrating.”
He nodded. “Good, that’s good. Congratulations. What kind of cake is this?”
I had told him three times of my victory, but it was not one of his. So it slipped his mind. But of the three people who came that night, every one of them was an artist.
The Guardian takes three forms: the leviathan, the colossus, and the man, and I begged them all to sketch out an incarnation of The Guardian. Each one took the time to do it. I framed them and hung them on the wall, because I had waited 13 years to write that one creature. Had fought my way through millions of words and over fourteen thousand pages, all so I could write him.
Well, Kraken’s favorite book is Moby Dick, so I told him to sketch me a picture of a leviathan. As his ability has grown and the years have passed, he’s complained so much about how he doesn’t like the shading on this one particular, uh, well, you know, an artist is never gonna be satisfied with their art. An editor once got ahold of Emily Dickinson and told her they wanted to create a book of her poetry. She asked for the publication date, and after she was told, she vehemently shook her head, “Oh, no that will not do.” These are not quotes, it’s something like this, and Emily says, “I need time to revise.” That’s Emily Dickinson.
And every time Kraken sees the leviathan he drew, all he thinks about is that one bit of shading. You should see the faces he makes, the way he shakes his head, the curl of his fists. “Just, just let me take it out of the frame, and give me, will you give me just…” Started off as ten minutes, then it went to five. Two minutes, and now I swear if I set him in front of that picture with a pencil, he would say, “I need a minute and a half. Let me fix this shading. Just give me a minute and a half.”
His head would lean down. When he draws, he shoulders pull forward over the table. And in two minutes, a minute and a half, he’d have that picture perfect.
Kraken drew the leviathan. The next was the colossus. I handed that sheet of paper to my wife. Well, by now you all know she was trained in drawing by Zhi Lin. She knows his fundamentals. She knows his refining. And she had read what I had written. Bekah’s interpretation of the colossus is the colossus.
And then there was the man, the final piece of the trinity. You’ve broken past the sea, you’ve crawled across the land, and you stand before mankind. And I asked Sasquatch to draw the final incarnation of The Guardian of the Path.
Let’s get past the argument that an artist’s work is worth money. Let’s get past the argument that Picasso made when he was stopped on the street and a man asked him to draw him something real quick. Picasso drew it and said, “blank hundreds of dollars.” Legend says the man said, “You drew that in three minutes.” And again if we listen to the whispering of myth, Picasso said, “You’re not paying for the three minutes, you’re paying for the blank decades of years it took to learn how to create this in three minutes.”
Man, did I butcher that quote. Sorry, Picasso. However, no matter how much I butchered it, it made an impact. And on I go. You get the point.
Sasquatch looked up at me as I asked him to draw the human incarnation of The Guardian, and he was furious. I was asking for his blank number of years thrown down on a piece of paper and I wasn’t gonna give him a hundred dollars. This was gonna be a free gift. I hadn’t paid any fees to Bekah and I hadn’t given Kraken any. Now I’m forcing Sasquatch, but I’m not. I’m not forcing him because as soon as he balked even a little, made some joke that was not a joke, about how much money I was gonna give him, I said, “Don’t worry about it. I’ll have Bekah draw it.” By then, Bekah was already done with her colossus. And I had shown it to him. Looking back on it now, I think maybe that’s why he didn’t want to draw The Guardian, because he knew his Guardian would be hanging on the wall next to hers.
He did it begrudgingly and handed it to me.
Here’s the reality check: I’m not the man on the street.
From 2014 until 2017, I had been giving Sasquatch every bit of artistic knowledge and every bit of my own ability when it came to the subject of art and creation. Every Friday, eight to midnight, for free.
I am what they call a creativity coach. I can help you get past the psychological obstacles that stand in the way of your writing. I can help you craft a process and a path that will lead you towards a finished novel. I can teach you how to train your mind and turn it into a world building machine. And for three years, I had been doing this on the visual artistic level, for Sasquatch.
My rate is $150 per hour.
When he looked at me with a scowl, thinking I was stealing his ability from him, on the day of The Guardian’s birthday, I looked at him. I noted his angst and I truly did not give a fuck. This seven minute drawing he had given me, I had earned hundreds of times over in the three years we had known each other.
Okay, let’s walk away from Sasquatch for a minute. Let’s flip all those breakers and spark our ass off of you should have seen Bekah’s colossus. My God, the character who has to deal with it is Brandon Beastscowl. After she drew that colossus, I’m telling you, I was glad that I had no Beastscowl blood in me.
Kraken’s leviathan shamed what I wrote, it shamed what I wrote. I thought in my interpretation of the leviathan, that I had captured a magnificent thing. And then you see Kraken’s leviathan, um, maybe you’ll notice it needs some shading, and the boat, the miniscule boat and man standing on that boat. And that is my Brandon, my Beastscowl.
I have two. On the birthday of The Guardian, after eating the pumpkin molasses cake, and explaining myself over and again to Sasquatch, I got two. Two true incarnations. Not of what I had written, but yet what I had imagined, for thirteen years. Let’s not look at the resentful seven minute drawing that a resentful man had given me. Let’s look instead at the colossus my wife had shown me and the true majesty of the leviathan with shitty shading. I have two because I’m gathering up all the work that Sasquatch has given me or I paid for, I’m gathering it all up and I’m gonna put it in a waterproof box and set it on his porch. I don’t want it anymore. I don’t want him anymore. You’re gonna find out why.
I learned a lot on my journey to the hidden path. I learned I had a tireless work ethic. I learned that both myself and my wife have untold potential for patience. But more than anything, I learned that if you want to write a piece, a book, a scene, or a series you have to earn it. You have to fight through it every day. Stay up past your bedtime. Cry a little. Bleed a little. Tape your finger. And you also have to live for it.
I wrote my Guardian. I struggled with him and my Brandon Beastscowl fought him. I encourage you to do the same.
This chapter is from Reality of the Unreal Mind, Vol. 3: The Keep, available on Amazon.