The Ills

Because I’m working diligently on the long-delayed sequel to my first self-published novel Beware the Ills, I decided to do a little reflection on my experience with the book and how it sort of came to be. Without a doubt, beyond all the amazing monsters I have created in The Greenland Diaries and in my short story collections, Beware the Ills is my favorite story. It is my shining star for a few different reasons.

First, the narrative voice of the novel is dark, overpowering, and poetic. You’re locked in the perspective of this mystical killer who knows little about himself other than his extreme effectiveness at taking the lives of anyone who sets foot on his island. You learn about his origin as he does, which uncomfortably seatbelts you to every battle and duel he encounters on a speck of land constantly consumed by war.

Second, the “antagonist” Haukter, who is without a doubt the best “villain” I have ever created. At the end of the book, the final confrontation between the two characters is fantastic, a 15 page battle through the frozen woods. I can’t give away more details because of the spoilers. Ugh. I really want to. I can’t. But still. I can’t.

Third (there are more than three reasons for this being my favorite, but I don’t want to write some boring, ultra-long blog post about why I love something I made) is that I was finally able to put my education to use with writing. I was a classically trained creative writer. I studied writing and literature in college, worked my way up to the high-level courses, and spent my time refining my craft through workshops with my peers. Part of my voice was hammered together in this literary forge of analyzing Chekhov and Shakespeare. Another portion was bred in the 16 Bit light of Final Fantasy and Zelda, which gave me a deep love for the fantasy and horror genres. In Beware the Ills, under my own control, I finally brought the two worlds together in a story, fulfilling a promise to my own identity I had always been afraid to make.

I could go on forever about why I love it, but I’m typical Midwesterner and don’t like to do anything too audacious.

I have mentioned this in other blog posts, but when I did pull the trigger and self-publish Beware the Ills, I was in one of the darkest pitfalls of my life. I had just gotten out of a seven year relationship. I had gone into tremendous amounts of debt to try and buy happiness with material goods and food. I was living in my parent’s basement at age 28, working as a student worker security guard at community college I was attending. Life had not worked out the way I envisioned. I even contemplated committing suicide the winter before Beware the Ills was published. So in July of 2013, I was sitting downstairs reading about other author’s successes, and I spontaneously decided to self-publish a completed novel I had sitting around for years on my desktop.

That novel was Beware the Ills.

Beyond just finally getting something out there into the world, the experience was worth more than the writing. By no means is the book a success. It barely sells, I make no money from it, and I can’t survive off it whatsoever. However, self-publishing this book taught me how to complete a project, and that I had the ability to do anything as long as I was willing to learn and work. It opened a door into conventions for me to meet other writers. I learned what I liked and didn’t like about self-publishing. All in all, it changed my life.

Now, six year later I’m writing the sequel to it. I’m married, have four children, released nine books, and write fulltime for a very, very meager living. I’m not always happy. Things are not perfect. However, they’re still light-years better than the crap I was surviving before. This Living Cage will be my first trip to the cursed island of Beware the Ills in years. I’m about 40 pages in to writing it. So far, so good. It was like I wasn’t even gone. I’ll be posting more updates about the story and whatnot, but for this post I just wanted to talk about how different things are for me.

Thank god things changed.


The Wait of the Demon King

“Why are you here? You should be out on the cliffs. I heard the knights and the Guardian routed our first attack. They locked shields like cowards, and stabbed our grunts down to pieces. It was sick to watch. Our counterattack broke them up, but now there is a melee on the rocks. The sky will reflect blood tonight,” the king said.

He was an older Ill. He wasn’t bent or twisted by the centuries, but still tall and sturdy, and dressed in black armor in case the humans breached the subterranean gates. He shaved his head like the Ill king’s before him. It was something the past rulers did. Nobody really knew why.

“What? Oh yeah, sorry,” Tyrule said. He was dangling his giant green feet off the edge of a rickety bridge overhanging an abyss. The caverns were full of unfinished structures of rotted wood and leather.

“Every time, Tyrule, every single time the horns blow and the shields clatter you linger here in our catacombs. The women and children are gone. They left to the Deep End. They’re too far away to enjoy the war properly,” the king said. He sat down next to Tyrule, who was the champion of the Ill clans. He was tall, lanky, and wielded a battle ax the size of small horse.

“I’m tired. We have these battles and we never see the human’s homes, and they never see our caverns. Nothing moves. We’re like a wave washing up against the shore. We eat away at the sand, but then we roll back. Nothing changes,” Tyrule said. His voice was surprisingly low for such a giant.

The king laughed and rubbed the forearm of Tyrule tenderly. Nobody dared touch the champion unless it was ordered by the king. It was another way of controlling the living death that was Tyrule. Once in a century you get a physical specimen like Tyrule, who haunts the humans firelight as a living legend,and will be woven into their tapestries long after he is gone.

“There is nothing to this world but life and death. The humans don’t see our life for what it is. They don’t see our tunnels, cities, and palaces as beauty or progress. They don’t respect the strength of stone or the solemness of the dark. To them we’re just abominations, and over the centuries it hasn’t changed,” the king said. His voice was slightly robotic. He’d said this statement once before. He was tired of these conversations.

“There has to be some end to it. There has to be an ending point. How can we survive with a knife always at our throats? How can we do it if we like the knife at our throats?”

The caverns shook. Dust sprinkled down in fibrous rain. The torches along the caves danced back and forth, like they too wanted to be free.

“You hear that? They’re throwing rocks at us. Launching from the base of the mountain with their catapults. They can’t even lift the weapons they want to kill us with. They’re bugs. We eat bugs. It is how we stay alive,” the king said.

Another tremor echoed against the stone walls. You could almost hear the dull roar of metal grinding on flesh outside.

“Do you know what they call you? They call you the Demon King. You’re the royalty of nightmares. I don’t even get that type of respect,” the king said.

Tyrule laid back against the planks of the rotted platform. He counted the veiny cracks of the earthen ceiling above his head.

“You’re family is out there, Tyrule. You’re family is in here. You want them to die? Think of how many families will be abandoned with every sword slash,” the king whispered.

It was far enough along in the battle for the ultimate guilt.

Tyrule sighed, and rubbed his red eyes like he was wearing glasses.

“Some day,” he said, sitting up.

He walked towards the edge of the cave where a tunnel would lead him to Roc’s Gate, the last door into the daylight. He dragged his ax behind him reluctantly, like a little boy with a toy stick. The king smiled as he walked away. It would be another battle won for the Ills.

Tyrule stopped, and turned back towards the bald king. A rock collided with the mountain. A torch fell free and clanged in the dark like a metal skeleton. It didn’t faze his king. He could see his grinning fangs in the shadows.

“The Demon King,” Tyrule whispered.

In anticipation of my new collection of short stories, Moya, I have started to share some free fiction to sort of set the tone for the anthology. The story is from the same universe as my novel Beware the Ills. Here you get the perspective of the Ills. Moya will have another short story from the same world. To reserve a copy of Moya right now and get a FREE GIFT please click HERE for my store. Thank you everyone for reading and have a great day. Offer expires in one week!