Largo: Part One

When the drum first started, neither sister wanted to do anything but hide. It was easier that way. They’d watched a few other survivors try to blast apart the monsters wandering the shadows with their guns and bullets, but almost every time the shapes would simply shrug off their popping steel and powder and dive into their bodies with their claws, until the earth was carved out with their bone and bile. The people would scream at first, but it would go wild and liquid as their flesh came apart. Most of the time the girls had watched people die at night, which was great to have that dark blot out the gory details. The sounds of their demises still echoed in their nightmares though, which had dominion with or without the drum.

The girls were on vacation in Florida with their family when the apocalypse hit. Their parents loved the Sunshine State. It was their favorite place to take their kids. Now that the girls were older, Disney World and Universal Studios were echoes to their adolescent past. They were more interested in getting the perfect tan, taking pictures of the lagoon outside their hotel, and sneaking sips of liquor off extra drinks their parents would order. Key Largo was the perfect spot for them. It was picturesque; emerald-fire water with flour-white sand, craning palm trees with jade leaves, and turning waves that never rolled high with frothy violence. It was like living in a postcard you’d find spinning in a metal rack in the corner of a gift shop.

Then the drum hit, and even though the beach maintained its natural beauty from the explosion of greenery, the ripped apart cars and buildings, and the streaks of devastation along the highway down the keys, both Hilda and Freya were tired of this forsaken paradise.

“Why do you think mom yelled your name first when it happened?” Hilda asked her sister. They were sitting on some lawn chairs behind the hotel on the sand, facing the turquoise bay. The chairs were permanently fused to the sand by vines and flowers, despite them sitting on a bed of sediment. The entire natural world had been turned upside-down when the drum happened.

“What? When?” Freya replied. She was in a pair of shorts and a pink shirt. She was blond and blue-eyed, just like her older sister. Their parents were Norwegian, and both girls looked it. They were four years apart but often people thought they were identical twins.

“You know when, when the sound happened and the monsters showed up. They came bursting through every door, one-by-one, until they reached us. Then mom yelled your name to run, and I just did, and we jumped off the balcony and hid in the palm trees next to us,” Hilda said.

“Oh, I see. I don’t know. She was playing cards with me. I was right in front of her. She just said my name.” Freya said.

Hilda stood up and placed her hands on her hips. She was wearing black tights with a green top. The skin on her legs was covered in bug bites. She was warm but trying to protect herself from the Florida sun. The heat of the summer hadn’t gone away with the rest of civilization.

“Just curious,” she said, letting her hair down to tie into a more complete ponytail.

“No more of this favoritism, Hilda? You know they loved us both the same. She just said my name because I was there,” Freya said, standing up.

“I didn’t say that. When did I say that,” Hilda said, walking down the beach. The shadow of the hotel was looming over them. It was a square building with white siding and balconies like vertebrae. Every window was shattered. There might be more shards of glass than there were grains of sand.

“Besides, she’s dead anyways,” Freya said, following her.

“We need to hide. It’ll start soon. She’ll be coming out. Where do you want to go today?” Hilda said.

“Anywhere but the dumpsters,” Freya said.

Yup, this is the long-awaited Greenland Diaries serial I have wanted to start for FOREVER. It is up and running, and I’ll try and update it weekly. If you’re like: “What the hell is this Greenland Diaries stuff?” Well, you can click HERE to learn more about this universe and story. It is my most popular work by far. 


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.