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.