The Kingdom 20: The Underworld

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.

A land of utter desolation and horror.

The land of plenty, the promised land, a home for the wayward who have been wandering for decades and have finally found peace.

The Tower of Love.

A pit of torment and the home of Hell.

Place of nightmares and dream.

Prison and freedom.

The Home of the Lunatic.

The Underworld.

I’m going to try to capture the room I am sitting in right now so you can see what my wife has built me and see the level of her devotion to my craft and my world.

Well, the first office I had was in the house of the Forest. It was a side room where Bekah and I worked. She had a tiny desk in the corner where she quietly earned every dollar we used to eat, drink, pay for a roof and buy everything else. I had a desk two times bigger than I needed. I had a laptop and a six-foot-four-and-a-half-inch desk. You guys do the math.

This was way back when I was buying a bunch of shit writers just don’t need, because every show and movie I watched told me that they were the things writers have to have. And in the corner of the office, on a tiny desk, Bekah is quietly earning all the money I will spend to make myself look as much like a writer as I possibly can.

The pristine truth that all real writers will tell you, is that what I needed was a computer, a surge protector, a plug in a wall, a table and a chair.

What I didn’t need was a real leather case to carry papers that I never bought. I didn’t need a tiny dictionary and thesaurus. I didn’t need thirty pencils. Two packs, by the way. A travel pencil sharpener. How dull can a pencil get on the road? I didn’t need a third paper tray. Or a second, or a first. I didn’t need as many pens as I had. I didn’t need to go to the office supply store every day for two weeks to spend this woman’s money on things that I either gave away or are taking up valuable room in my office closet.

I didn’t need four reams of loose-leaf paper that I still haven’t used sixteen years later. I shit you not, the edges are starting to yellow, which I think is kinda cool. My plan is to wait for another fifteen years and then start writing unimportant things on it in cryptic ways, which won’t be hard because most likely I’ll be crazy, hide all my scratchings in a massive waterproof, airproof, fireproof safe, with a combination no one knows, that I say is buried in the backyard somewhere, so there’s some kind of mystique around my death. And it will give my descendants something to plot and plan over. The last piece of yellowed paper will have some kind of smile on it and a quote from one of my favorite movies. “Why so serious?”

Write that down, Bekah. We have to make sure to do that. Write that down.

Scratch that, I just wrote that down. Crap. The kids are gonna read this. There’s no way I’m gonna be able to inspire them to go digging up the backyard. How about this, I’ll write the final chapter of Reality of the Unreal Mind on those yellowing pieces of paper. I’ll put it in that safe, and I’ll bury that combination.

Bekah, remember that. Write that down.

Wait, scratch that. None of these people want to read a book after they know the last chapter is missing.

I’ve got an idea. I don’t know why I didn’t see this before. It’s the epic poem I talked about earlier. I’ll write it on those pages. I’ll put it in that safe. I’ll bury that combination. And the final work of Jesse Teller, the one we agreed we’d never speak about again, the path to it will be buried in the backyard somewhere. I would like to picture that there’ll be a Guardian on that path.

So many writers are so busy trying to be “writers.” They have in mind a moody pub. Or a dark coffee house. They want a coat. A writer’s coat. I have one of those. Yeah, never wear it. The writers trying to be “writers” don’t need twelve journals. And they probably don’t really, really need a tape recorder that will capture their valuable thoughts the moment they come to them.

I will say it would be fun to shut an entire party down, all the talking, all the laughing, so you can pull out your little handheld recorder and speak into it with some sort of vague nonsense you won’t be able to put into any context later.

“Everybody, everybody, I need silence. Just wait, please, nobody talk. Music, shut off the music. YOU HAVE TO SHUT OFF THE MUSIC! Everybody freeze. Don’t look at me. I just had a thought. Don’t distract me.” (Of course, I give this whole speech without losing that thought, but still, I demand silence.) I fumble through my pockets. I look up at Bekah from across the room. “Where is it? Where is it?”

She’s the loving, supporting wife, so she does not shake her head and sigh. And I am not discouraged when she and six or eight different people simultaneously say, “Inside coat pocket.”

I nod to them, throw a hand in the air for silence, grab my recorder, fumble frantically as I push the record button. I hold it to my mouth with a shaky breath, head down, and say, “And the bread is purple. It’s purple from the flour from the soil. And there’s nuts. I just don’t know.” I look across the fully silent party at Bekah, and she loves me and encourages me, so she has her practiced curious face. I look across the room to the six or seven people who have leaned their heads back, staring up at the ceiling—the six or seven people who have seen this so many times—and the other twelve to thirteen people staring at me with confusion on their faces.

I grab the recorder with both hands and I say, “And there’s a nut. And the nut is called…” And I say it. I say Hank. But of course, the tape is so tiny, and I do this so often, that it clicked off before Hank. I stop the recording, hold my hand out over the party, and I sigh. I put it back in my inside writer’s coat pocket. And everybody in the room knows the recording shut off before Hank. I hold both of my hands out over the party, and I nod and say, “I’m sorry, I’m just so sorry. But you see,” my left hand is held splayed in the air, my other hand a fist. I beat my chest as I lower my head, “I’m a writer.” I have to practice it, though, because the “I’m a writer” part has to sound properly tortured.

I walk across the room on practiced shaky legs until I get to Bekah. These days she always seems to be across the room. And I lean close, but not too close, so I can whisper, but not quietly. “These people don’t realize it, but they have probably just witnessed the spark of genius.” I look up at Bekah. “Do you think I should tell them?”

“No, honey, I think they get it.”

And Bekah needs another drink.

It is fun to have all of these things. But no one needs them.

Second office was on Latoka. It was a huge room with one wall dedicated to Bekah and the opposite wall dedicated to me. I got some work done there. I wrote 550 pages of Chaste there, 400 pages of the original draft of Liefdom there, and wrote 115 pages of Tribes of the Mountain, which would be the sparking point for the entire first act. I did that there. But my main goal was the wall. Decorating the wall with every bit of every little piece of pageantry, in order to feel inspired, was not really necessary. That wall had everything from fake flowers to fake constellations on it, so many trinkets that it was a thing to behold, and I spent most of my time beholding it.

Third office was a tiny room where my desk, Bekah’s desk, and a huge treadmill sat. We could barely get in there.

Fourth office was the dining room to the same house, when Willow was born and needed a bedroom.

That was a mess. The entire room was taken up by my desk and hers. Mostly mine. But by this time, I was streamlining.

I got a lot of work done there. Wrote Perpetual Child there. Wrote Eastgate, Nyst, and half of Onslaught. All together in the two and a half years I worked in that office, I wrote 2,572 pages, which is 818,133 words. I consider this the cradle of my career. It was here that I played my last game of World of Warcraft, when I decided I needed to be spending all my time writing or preparing to write. It was here where I sat after Bekah told me I had to do something or dry up, and I tried to come to terms with what my future could be. And it was here where, terrified and barely able to swallow, I began the first words of my first epic-length novel. I had my first victories here. I had my first break with reality here. This was the place where everything began.

Every time I release a book, I close my eyes, picture this office in Milwaukee, and I think about how far I’ve come. And for just a moment, I wipe away all thoughts of how far I have to go, how many books I still have to write. I allow myself to forget all the cons, all the lectures, all the cover reveals, all of it. When I release a book, I’m closing my eyes and thinking of this office. All I’m thinking about is how far I’ve come. And I embrace that distance as a victory. I don’t stay there long, because just like Kraken, I’ve got miles to go before I sleep. This office is in Wisconsin, so there is frost surrounding it. And there, nestled in that small, warm piece of victory, the world of ice around me, I celebrate. Then back to the road.

It was a very good office for being a terrible office. But we knew that one day I would have to have an office with a door that closed and locked. I would need an office where I controlled the lighting. I’d have to have an office where I could sit for years and pound out what was to come. I’d need a place in the dark, in the mist, by the shore, distant foghorns and seagulls asking for food.

We closed on the house in Springfield while we still lived in Milwaukee. We had the kids stay with her parents and we closed. Then we drove to Milwaukee and, in one and a half days, packed up half the house, got in the truck, and came home. To this day we will look at each other and say, “I can’t believe we got it all done.”

But when we closed on the house, even though we knew we needed to get back to Milwaukee and pack up the last of our stuff, even though we knew it would be an impossible job to get done in the time we had, we still took the time to buy magnetic paint and paint my wall before we went back.

See I was in the middle of Onslaught and our priority was getting the book done. In order to do that, I needed my office set. It was all that was important. We unpacked other things when we got to it, but the office was step one.

When we got back to Springfield, the magnetic paint hadn’t taken. The magnets didn’t stick. The fumes had been so noxious when we painted the wall, and such an assault on the lungs, that I just threw my hands up and said fuck it.

But Bekah did not take that. That thing within her, the Leviathan, flowing and plotting in the trenches, rose to the surface of the water. And it was not to be stopped. I was too weak, I couldn’t handle another night with lungs full of fumes. And I walked away, telling her not to do it. But this is Rebekah Fucking Teller. And this is a wall in a room. One is prepared for this battle, the other has no hope.

So she bought all the paint again and alone she made it work. Eight coats of paint went on that wall to get it to where it could hold a magnet. I helped with four.

Bekah did eight.

Then she had to paint the entire room. I had picked out the colors. She knew I was not choosing a color that was dark enough and she mentioned so gently, lightly she caressed, maybe we need the room to be darker. But I was adamant, and so she backed off. She knew she would have to do the entire job all over again. But she let me do it. She put hours into both paint jobs and she got it done.

Then the bookshelves.

Here is a bit of a hint. Your office does not need to be stuffed with books in order for you to write. If they inspire you, go nuts. But for the most part, those books can be put anywhere in the house. Frees up space for other things in your office.

But it’s your decision. I’m not making that call for you. But think about it before you spend three hundred dollars on bookshelves that you will soon move out into the living room.

Never did she complain. But we stayed on schedule. We kept moving on it. And she let me settle once my office was finished.

It took a full two weeks to get the office to where I wanted it. But I couldn’t just sit down and write after that. This room I had to have was too shiny new, too exciting for me to concentrate in. I had needed this room for so long that just being in it was intoxicating.

So for a full two weeks I spent every free moment in my office trying to wear the shine down enough that I could get in it and work.

And it was a success. The book ended well. It is loved by most who review it. And since that day, I have been killing it.

The office has an original painting Bekah made for it as a trophy after I finished book three of The Madness Wars. It has so many great pictures and figures and bottles. It is a place where people can walk in and just stare at everything around them. But that is not what it is for.

The office has two comfortable chairs. One is a recliner. The other a swivel. I don’t have to have either of them but they add so much. I can talk to people in here and hang out with my wife. I can talk to my sons. And this room is so much more amazing because of those two chairs. But I don’t need them.

Just like I don’t have to have the figurines or the bottles, the pictures, none of it.

I need the original work done by Bekah. I have to have this chair, and I need this desk, with this computer, and this plug, in this wall.

I don’t have to have the Amazon Echo. I don’t need the name plates of the books I finish that I print off and laminate every time I finish one. I don’t have to have the posters of Harley and The Joker on the door. I don’t need space to hang my growing hat collection, or the desk blotter that has graph paper on that I take nonsense notes on. I don’t have to have any of them.

But imagine having them all. Imagine having a room with every comfort and every inspiring thing. A place to entertain and a place to show off what you have done. Imagine you have a locking door and you have the posters. Imagine that all of that is important to your wife. Every comfort I have named was placed here or allowed here by her.

Because she wants me to want to be in this room. She wants me craving this place. Wants me to spend time. I have now been writing for sixteen hours straight. I have been pounding out words, and this is most likely my biggest day ever, and I will explain why but the only reason I can put this type of time in on one day is because this is The Underworld. This is where the god of my world works. This is where it all is built, torn down, and built again.

I will show you two more bits to show off how dedicated my wife is to making this room what I want.

At one point, it’s late, kids are in bed. I’m gonna stay up writing, it’s during my cool down book. The book is called Legends of the Exiles. It’s a collection of novellas about four women in a barbarian society. It’s pretty insane. So, I am sitting across from her. I’m in the swivel, she’s in the recliner. We both have a beer. Hers is warm, she’s been sipping it. I’m on my third. She looks at me and calmly says, “Do you need anything else?” And I ask her what she’s talking about. And she says, “For the office? Do you need anything for the office? I’ll buy you anything you need.”

I’m shocked. I’m so in love. I’m so in love. I look at her and I say what do you mean? And she says, “Anything, big or small. Do you need anything for this room? If you do, we’ll work it out.” I say, eventually I’ll need a new computer, but I’ve got my computer. Recently you bought me a desk. I’ve got my two chairs. Almost every inch of this wall has been covered. No, I don’t need anything. She looks at me and smiles, “Rug?”

No, I’m good. I don’t need anything. I don’t want you spending any more money on this room. I’m good here. Everything’s fine. And she looks at me. It’s a hard look, it’s a soft look, it’s hot and cold but not warm. And she says, “Never make it about the money. We can always work out the money. Never make it about the money.” And I look at her, smile and I say, Bekah, baby, I don’t need anything else for this room. We’re fine.

That’s the first thing I wanted to tell you. The second is this. Nine months later, I came to her. I think we were still in the same room. I think I was still on my third beer, working up the courage. She had about two inches left of hers and it was warm. I tried to smile when I said, “I need something.” She looked at me softly and said what do you need? I said, “I need something for this office. It’s big. If you don’t want to do it, you don’t have to.” She stared at me silently for a moment. She grabbed her beer, threw her head back and drained it. Slammed it down on the end table, looked at me and said what do you need? And this is what I asked for.

She painted a section of the wall behind me a different shade as the rest of the room. She then took a yard stick and a marker and drew in lines enough to make a grid. She numbered the length with stickers displaying years before and after The Escape. She printed off and laminated cards for every continent and every realm in my world to mark the height. Then she had custom made tiny two-inch by two-inch cards of five different colors. When she was done with all this, her entire body hurt for days. The entire time she was doing it all, she was aggressive and unrelenting.

So I can nail a card, with an event written on it, in the corresponding year and location. Then with every book I write, she spins cord of different colors around the nails to show where my mind has been, to create a Lunatic’s wall of twisted complexity.

She did all this on a whim from me. Every now and then, she would smile and laugh and say, “You better use this.” But always smiling and laughing.

The Underworld is being moved next summer. I am going upstairs and the boys get the basement. We will turn their rooms into two smaller offices for me.

Two offices. I think I will call them Heaven and Hell. (But I didn’t. I called one The Veil, and the other, Dimlot.)

When that happens, she will have to do all the painting again. The magnetic wall. She will have to draw all the lines again, and all of these trappings will be moved upstairs.

But here and now I sit in the Underworld. This is where I do all the work.

It is a gift of love from my wife, my biggest fan. The woman who has dedicated herself to creating and supporting a man capable of doing what I do.

It’s a gift of love from my wife. A gift from my soulmate.

This room is ever growing. Years ago she had looked at me and said, “Do you need anything else for your office? Does the Underworld need a fourth river or another Sisyphus?” Because this room is a gift of love from my wife. And just like me, she has a vision. But it’s not the same. I have a vision of a fantasy world, of books beyond books and stories beyond stories. And that’s what I see when I stand in this room.

But that’s not her vision at all. Bekah’s vision when she stands in this room, my wife’s vision when she stands in this room, when my soulmate stands in this room, she sees in its paintings, its stretched threads, its bottles and magnets, she sees the fulfillment of my life and my possibilities. She sees a place with an anvil where I can call down lightning, and I can create what she always knew was in me.

She heard the rumble of that thunder one day, in a tiny little apartment the first time we played DnD. The first time we talked about our future.

“What the hell was that?” she said. Her eyes were wide. She seemed about to break into pieces and shoot off into the air at the same time. I did not know if she was mad at me, but the look on her face did not speak of anger. It was something else that gripped her, but I did not know what.


“What the hell was that? I have never seen anything like that before in my life.” She stood up then sat right back down.

“That was Dungeons and Dragons. A dark game for sure. I should have reined it in a little. That was bad. Not a good first game.” Artist looked at her but still didn’t see anger. The game had been harsh. Filled with darkness and horror, but it had bursts of brilliance. It was not one of my greatest games, but it was fun for me. Bekah was experiencing something else.

Because the night I ran the first game for Bekah, in the distance, she heard fee, fi, fo, fum. And as I talked to her, on my breath, she could smell the blood of an Englishman. I rest now in the Underworld. I scream, wail, weep, and laugh maniacally now in the Underworld.

It’s a creation of my wife.

Because she knows I have a golden goose.

And she is desperately in love with the giant.

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

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