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Top 10 Dark Fantasy Novels of the Last Decade (Part One)

If you’re like me, you enjoy a little drama and murder mixed into your fantasy novels. Fortunately for us, many authors share the same thirst for fantasy stories that aren’t just dungeons, dragons, and happily-ever-after. Nope. We like our fantasies with some real dark consequences and reminders of the shadier parts of society, and the world at large, even in a fictitious setting.

Dark fantasy is not like other fantasy subgenres. These books tackle the darker side of the fantastical while also pointing out problems of the human condition or society. Sometimes there isn’t a horrific monster or antagonist, but an inherent evil of people or aspect of humanity that becomes the primary adversary.

If you have yet to embark on the fascinatingly sinister and downright dastardly side in this significant portion of fantasy literature, I would like to give you some recent grimdark exhibits from the last decade that readers rave about.

Here are some of the top dark fantasy novels of the past decade that may pique your interest.

1.   Free the Darkness by Kel Kade

When it comes to learning about the darkness of humankind, the young warrior named Rezkin may be a great character for reflection. He is a primary outlier of civilization after being brought up in seclusion within the northern wilds of the Kingdom of Ashai. After his world is destroyed, Rezuki must venture out alone to follow the last survivor of a battle that took his home. This remaining warrior might not only know of Rezkin’s identity but also who is responsible for the destruction of everything he knows. 

undead warrior casting a spell, digital art style, illustration painting, lots of warriors all around with dark tentacles in the background

Traveling across Ashai, Renzkin remembers his master’s last dying words to “kill with a conscience” and “protect and honor your friends.” Having been isolated all his life, the young warrior doesn’t know much about friendship or conscience. But driven to obey his last orders, Rezkin extends his protection over a motley crew he meets along his journey.

Strange things happen in the kingdom as dangers find their way through the world and begin to not only threaten Rezkin and his friends, but perhaps all of Ashai.

2.   The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

The world is ending again. 

In one day, three terrible things come to pass. Essun, an extraordinary woman in a small mundane town, who comes home to find her son killed and her daughter kidnapped by her husband. Meanwhile, the innovative civilization of Sanze collapses, leaving its citizens to be murdered by the order of a madman. But worst of all, across the heart of the vast continent known as the Stillness, a red rift manifests over the earth, creating darkness and an unlivable wilderness. 

The man standing near the panoramic window on city with starry sky background

Now Essun must pursue what is left of her family across a dying world without common comforts like clean water, sunlight, and limited stockpiles while war rages over the Stillness. But fighting doesn’t deter Essun. She will stop at nothing to rescue her daughter, even if that means casting the world into further darkness.

3.   Kill the Queen (Crown of Shards #1) by Jennifer Estep

Usually, it is your wealth or bloodlines that determine your station in life in most general societies, but in Bellona, magical powers determine your worth. That said, Lady Everleigh’s lack of magic condemns her to a life in the shadows of the royal court within the kingdom steeped in gladiator tradition. Seventeenth in line for the crown, Evie is mostly forgotten on the court. 

Everything seems bearable until her cousin Vasilia, the crown princess, assassinates her mother the queen and takes the throne by force, then she attacks Evie along with the rest of her family. By a stroke of luck, Evie’s immunity to magic keeps her out of death’s clutches and she escapes the massacre. 

Now destitute, Evie goes into hiding within the ranks of a troupe of gladiators. Though this group uses their magic and skills to entertain more than protect, they are actually trained warriors skilled in the art of war. But one sticks out of the pack more than the others­–Lucas Sullivan, a powerful magier with secrets of his own. Uncertain where her destiny will guide her- Evie begins training with them until she can decide what to do. 

But as Vasilia forces her will over the kingdom, conflict begins to stir bringing the possibility for a war dangerously close to reality. Faced with such turmoil and suffering, Evie sees that her fate is now obvious: she must become a gladiator and kill the queen. 

4.   Warprize by Elizabeth Vaughan

Xylara is the Daughter of the Warrior King, Xyron. With her father dead and her incompetent half-brother on the throne, the kingdom is in danger of falling to the warring Firelanders. 

Unable to take over the throne herself, Xylara is trained to be a healer. But her conscience will not let Firelander warriors die. She delves into learning their language and customs and tries to be a presence of comfort despite them being her enemies.

Xyara never expects her acts of kindness would lead to the mysterious Firelander Warlord calling for her in exchange for peace. 

5.   A Throne for Sisters (A Throne for Sisters #1) by Morgan Rice

Sophia is desperate to leave a horrific orphanage with her sister Kate. They dream of a better life, even if that means moving onto the streets of the ruthless city of Ashton. 

Though the two girls are best friends, their life goals couldn’t be more different. Sophia longs to be courted and fall in love with a romantic noble. While Kate likes to fight, dreaming of one day becoming a master of the sword and longs for adventure. 

Though they are opposites, both girls share a binding secret—they can read minds, which proves to draw in more danger than luck. 

On their quest, they struggle to survive while they search for a new home. Tough choices lay ahead, some of which can bring them the greatest prosperity or deliver them into the lowest depths of despair. 

My final thoughts?

Fantasy may be a great way to pass the time, but learning more about darkness, both within and outside of ourselves, brings an interesting new flavor to the storytelling mixture. This keeps dark fantasy fans coming back for more every time.

If you love these books or plan to add them to your Amazon wish list, then you may also enjoy a brand new grimdark, high fantasy about brutal vengeance, necromancy, and a touch of magic. Check out my new book: Raven Queen, Arise (Book one of the Temple of Vengeance series). Pre-order your copy HERE!

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What is Dark Fantasy?

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What is Dark Fantasy as a genre?

Dark fantasy is a sub-genre of fantasy fiction and is becoming increasingly popular within the reader and bookish communities. It is characterized by borderline horror aspects that are dark, gritty, and create a gloomy world and aesthetic. However, it is distinctive from horror in the sense that the main aim of the writing is not to scare the reader. In fact, dark and gory details become quite normal as you keep reading because they play well into the overarching plot and theme. Eventually, there is nothing “surprising” about the horrific elements and scenes, because it’s masterfully woven into the plot and development of characters. The reader gets the idea that the darkness displayed is not at all strange or out of the ordinary at all.

With horror, however, a scary event or scene is supposed to trigger a horrified response in the reader because it’s surprising, uncanny, or the complete opposite to what they would expect to be normal in that world or setting. The scary events are are many times contrasted with a very ordinary scene for this reason (just a normal day going to the park, but with a nightmarish jumpscare that will keep readers up all night, for example).

Horror as a genre displays the greatest terror the writer’s world could possibly offer.

Dark fantasy, on the other hand, is supposed to display “tip of the iceberg” elements of darkness that are very normal to the writer’s evil realms.

Dark fantasy (sometimes interchangeably called Grimdark) is supposed to make readers think, “Geez, if this is just a normal, daily occurrence in this fiction world, it must be a very, VERY dark place.” That is a huge part of dark fiction’s appeal: the way evil and terrible things are commonplace and normal. It’s beyond intriguing— it’s addictive! So let’s dive into some examples of how exactly Dark Fiction manifests itself, shall we?

Characters that are considered “Grimdark”

Characters and beasts in Dark fantasy are more depraved than typical fantasy books, and the main characters are usually anti-heroes who don’t get the fairy tale happy ending (sorry, not sorry). There’s a certain… unashamedness the comes with these characters, as well as the authors who craft them 😉

Zombies don’t come to attack the city to be destroyed by a set of heroes, the main character IS a zombie, with a horrific twist to their already sinister plan to rule the city. And a great writer will make you wonder, “How far am I really from being that kind of villain? What is evil anyway? Is it not an innate part of who we are that cannot be totally eradicated?

Dark fantasy makes you think and ponder life from a different viewpoint than we are used to with fantasy fiction. In fantasy fiction, characters have a Disney-like optimism that is not only barf-worthy, but it can also appear—well… fake. Readers of dark fantasy appreciate a realism you don’t find in many genres. The reality that humanity can be very dark. The main character might be physically disfigured even to mirror their more twisted view on life itself based on very realistic things that happened to them. Basically, grimdark writers recognize that many people have an evil side to them crafted by many events that don’t control, that is annoying to ignore and constantly turn into “good-ness.” Grimdark characters provide a nice change in pace and expectations—good does NOT always win, and we like it that way 🙂

Settings that make readers squirm

Dark fantasy settings are hellish and deeply flawed. The places the characters live and interact with are decaying and/or pose formidable threats to all inhabitants. There is very little relief from the squalor around them, and that helps spur on the common themes of hopelessness we see in dark fiction writings. Many times in fantasy fiction works, the world around the main characters builds hopeful relief from the evil and terrible events happening to them. Not so with dark fantasy. These works of fiction drive home the horror by adding scenes or settings that make the reader truly wonder what next evil twist is coming and when. Sometimes the setting isn’t a focus at all, as the author wants to keep the horrific events and plot happening as the focus. Either way, there is a noticeable lack of Narnia/ Middle Earth/ Asgard-like settings.

Morality

Morality is a topic that is an undercurrent to everything you’ll read in the dark fantasy genre. Most characters in dark fantasy are considered to be “morally grey” at best. Many times this arises from an almost humorous focus on the reality that leads to a pessimism we can all relate to. The morality in these books is NOT chivalrous. There is no golden rule. There is no drive to unrealistically, perfectly put all preferences and needs aside for others. However, morally debase actions are not necessarily condoned. Many times the morally grey actions we see help us question institutions that support unhealthy patriarchy and religious hierarchies that continue and many times support the questionable things the characters are living out, or are victims to. As mentioned before, these books are meant to get us thinking. Why do evil people prevail in the real world? Why do dark institutions keep staying in power? How does this direct the paths of these interesting, quirky characters?

Ambiguity

It’s important to note that not everyone agrees on the boundaries that label a book “Dark Fantasy.” I’ll end with a definition by Goodreads that keeps all our opinions in check since there can be so many interpretations of this incredible genre. Just know that this area of fantasy fiction, where high fantasy incorporates horror elements, is growing and becoming a full-scale fiction genre in its own right.

“Dark fantasy is often used as a synonym for supernatural horror. Some authors and critics also apply the term to high fantasy stories that feature anti-heroic or morally ambiguous protagonists. Fantasy works by writers typically associated with the horror genre are sometimes described as ‘dark fantasy.’ Conversely, the term is also used to describe ‘darker’ works by authors best-known for other styles of fantasy.”— Goodreads definition.

Raven Queen

This book is the result of years of acknowledging, appreciating, studying, and enjoying the darkest elements we see and experience all around and inside us. It would be remiss to go through life ignoring our deepest midnight instincts. What is life if we aren’t experiencing darkness to contrast with light?

The Raven Queen is my first high fantasy in the Temple of Vengeance series, a quadrilogy of epic releases featuring the assertive anti-heroine Illyria and containing more swords, sorcery, and sex than the law allows.

Rising from a mass grave with scars from her brutal murder, crossing back into the living world with her trusted raven guide, oh and a partnership with Death himself… you don’t want to miss this exciting, ultra-dark fantasy coming October 2021. Pre-order the book on Amazon today! —Dave Reed

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J.R.R. Tolkien—One of the Most Iconic Creators of All Time

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John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, better known as J.R.R. was born on January 3, 1982, in South Africa to English parents. As a boy, he attended King Edward’s School located in Birmingham where he transcended modern and classical languages. In 1911, he studied Old English, Germanic, Classics, Finnish, and Welsh languages at Exeter College, Oxford. John’s natural yet shocking ability of understanding philology later resulted in his creating languages of his own!

Tolkien’s academic career took off when he became a lexicographer for the New English Dictionary. Contributing to help draft the English Oxford Dictionary wasn’t something that most writers had the opportunity to do. With everything in mind, we can slowly start to see just how unique Tolkien was as an author. While at Oxford, John became committed to creating languages that he visualized would be spoken by elves and enjoyed creating dark fantasy and grimdark tales. Tolkien was heavily influenced by the Welsh and Finnish languages which resulted in the birth of a new language that would later be used in a high fantasy setting for mythological, folklore creatures. 

Once this new language was established, J.R.R. decided that he wanted to factor the “Elvish” dialect into his stories of lost tales. Tolkien was a member of the Exeter College Essay club where he first introduced The Fall of Gordon to an encouraging audience. The remainder of his career was spent at Oxford where he then retired during the year 1959. Many universities and colleges believe it’s important for professors to publish books and other writings of the research they’ve conducted or else they will be seen as failures – luckily, that was not the case for Mr. Tolkien. John had produced the highest quality of educational writings including one of his most prominent lectures about the epic fantasy, Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics.

There was a particular moment in the summertime when Tolkien was grading a mile-high pile of exam papers from his students at Oxford University. He began to craft a story in his head. Of course, grading papers wasn’t the most exciting thing in the world—it was exhausting. I can see why Tolkien began to trail off into his imagination. As he was paving his way through this never-ending stack of work, he found a blank sheet of paper and proceeded to scribble, “In a hole in the ground lived a hobbit”. Did John even know what this so-called hobbit was? An even better question would be, “Why does it live in a hole?” The Hobbit blossomed into a story that he began to tell his children about a small, human-like creature who lived in a world he liked to call Middle-Earth.

Almost a decade later, The Hobbit or There and Back Again was published by George Allen and Unwin, which is not a part of HarperCollins publishing firm. Tolkien’s story was an instant success because the style in which the book was written was so charming and truly like no other. The small, innocent characters in the story desired to live their life without any issues, which is why it’s believed this book influences younger audiences to identify with them. J.R.R. took the reader on a magical journey that flowed effortlessly, making the story easy to follow. The famous book is not only known for its little people but its high fantasy, morally-compelling, imaginary world. The Hobbit is still very popular to this day and is a prominent, lovable classic.

A dagger with a red-tinted hilt and a dark background having an ominous look

Stanley Unwin, one of the publishers of Tolkien’s The Hobbit, was astonished by the amount of success and praise the book received that he urged Tolkien to create a sequel. John knew he wanted to expand on the history of Middle-Earth, and he was determined to do just that. Tolkien would spend months writing his new book and then decide to take a few months off just so everything would be in perfect order—he didn’t want to rush this. After almost a decade, 12 years to be exact, John Tolkien had finally completed what would be one of the best-selling books of all time; The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien’s new collection was published almost five years later. This novel sequence consisted of three parts, including The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King.

Readers were on the edge of their seats until Tolkien’s new literature was released. Unlike The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings trilogy did not reach its peak popularity until the books became available in paperback. Once paperback copies became available, book sales increased significantly due to the books being more affordable. The Lord of the Rings displayed a modern presentation of most races in its fantasy fiction world. Over 60 years later, this epic series has been translated into over 25 different languages and has sold over 100 million copies.

Both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings writings were transformed into a series of films in the early 2000s. There were three movies for The Hobbit and three movies for The Lord of the Rings trilogy. The essential characteristic that makes both the books and movies so powerful is their black-and-white morality or the battle of good versus evil. The Hobbit was depicted as a lighter, softer, and more of a grey-and-gray morality story compared to the trilogy. The Lord of the Rings is a story where the heroes must earn a happy ending, Middle-Earth begins to fade, and the ending is bittersweet. This type of high fantasy had birthed many genres and games such as World of Warcraft and Dungeons and Dragons

Tolkien preferred to be called a creator rather than an author—and it’s clear as to why. The languages, geography, maps, people, and calendars in his story made the readers feel as if they were a part of this mythological environment. In September of 1973, Tolkien passed away from a chest infection at the age of 81. In 2010, he was ranked by Forbes as the 3rd top-earning dead celebrity. The amount of creativity, imagination, and depth that was channeled into Tolkien’s work resulted in him being known as “The Father of Modern Fantasy”.

If you enjoy high epic fantasy such as LOTR, then make sure to check out Raven Queen, Arise. It’s my first dark high fantasy book in the Temple of Vengeance series, a quadrilogy of epic releases featuring the assertive anti-heroine Illyria and containing more swords, sorcery, and sex than the law allows.

Rising from a mass grave with scars from her brutal murder, crossing back into the living world with her trusted raven guide, oh and a partnership with Death himself… you don’t want to miss this exciting, ultra-dark fantasy coming October 2021. Pre-order the book on Amazon today! —Dave Reed

Monstrous Momentum

Big doings here at Monster HQ. Book one of the Temple of Vengeance series is in copy edits with the lovely and talented Shayla Raquel. The talented and gracious Janey Merry has joined the team to manage the looming Kickstarter in September for the limited edition hardcover of Raven Queen, Arise and other cool swag and merch. Plus, I think I was just introduced to the assistant of my dreams—we’ll see if she agrees when we talk next week.

The book page is up except for all of the content warnings, which my daughter is helping me navigate to make sure that I’m being both sensitive (not my strongest suit) and comprehensive. I plan to have those done long before the Friday 01 October 2021 release date, but there’s a LOT of other work to do, too.

The book map for Raven Queen, Avenge (Temple of Vengeance Volume Two) is complete for draft zero. I wrote chapter one and promptly threw it out. I love the words and I needed to write them, but they weren’t where the story starts. So, today, I’m back to square one and writing the chapter one that I think will be the “real one.” Time will tell, as will my many critique partners and editors. (Most people believe novel writing is a lonely sport—and it feels that way much of the time—but producing a quality book is a team effort and I could never do it alone.

If you’re looking for help with your own novel, check out BookShaman.com.

And So It Begins

This past week, I found the woman I think will be my editor for Raven Queen, Arise. After chatting for an hour or so, I think we’re on the same page with regards to what the book needs and how we’re going to go about it.

(Yes, I’m a Story Grid Certified Editor. Yes, I did edit my own work. Yes, I still need to hire a professional editor to edit my own books. You always need other eyeballs and brains to help.)

As a high Relator, I picked somebody that I’ve met in person at a writing convention and who I think will work well with my neurological wiring. I also picked someone who is relatively different from me in order to get a truly outside perspective. And I picked someone who loves my niche.

I thought I needed a copy edit and ultimately a proofread prior to the launch. Given her review of the current m/s, she agrees. She’s going to give me a sample edits next week and then we’ll contract for terms. Yay! 🥳

This is great, since I’m planning to launch the preorder next month (April) as soon as the cover designer has her way with the painting I commissioned for the cover. I’m looking forward to getting her sample edits with anticipation and…trepidation.

In the meantime, I am developing the foolscap for book two: Raven Queen, Avenge.

Grim & Terrible & Beautiful

For the record, I have no idea how I got sucked into Carnival Row. It’s tone and aesthetic are about my speed, but…

I generally hate all things Victorian. I’m not really a fan of steampunk. I won’t even state for the record how I feel about fucking faeries. But…

The first season of this show was grim and terrible and beautiful. It was fascinating. It was amazing. Every bit of it. Well done, Orlando and crew. Well done.

They managed to intertwine some fabulous noir-type detective Crime plot, flashback to an frenemies-to-lovers Courtship genre during a brief War story followed by a second-chance Courtship romance, all wrapped up in an occult Thriller. Not to mention a Political plot, a Morality > Testing plot wrapped in a Forbidden Love story, and what looks like the commencement of a Society genre for Season 2.

Needless to say, I was impressed. And I didn’t expect to be.

I’ll definitely watch Carnival Row again, and look forward to the next season.

Needful Misfortune

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The tragedy. The cautionary tale. The prescriptive tale. They’re all synonyms to me. They describe the importance of bad things happening in fiction. Sometimes to good people. Sometimes to bad people. Sometimes karmically due. Sometimes unfortunately raw and undeserved.

So it is with everything that happens in Jemisin’s The Fifth Season. I loved this book for all its tragedy and terror. And for the wonderful world building and spectacular weaving she did with the story! (But that’s praise to be lauded again another day.)

We human developed such tales early on for a variety of reasons. As many, perhaps, as there are people. Schadenfreude? Warning? Education? Remembrance? Memorial?

I think, in our modern world, more than teaching moral lessons and reinforcing the pillars of civilization, tragedies give us much needed perspective.

The importance of a grateful nature is often discussed in spiritual circles and metaphysical terms. However, I propose that stories of misfortune cultivate in us something more practical: contentment. They remind us that our lot in life could be worse.

I believe this is one of the eternal draws to dark fiction: it reminds us we are still alive. While we yet live, there is hope.

Light + Shadow = Hero

Heroic agency in literature and in life is often discussed as a dual nature: light and shadow. The tension is typically drawn between a creative force and a destructive force. In this construction, a hero is a two-sided coin with a light side and a dark side.

There’s even a pop culture meme about a legend attributed to the Cherokee about two wolves living inside a person, one dark and one light. The metaphor goes that you should feed your light wolf and starve your dark wolf. And, of course, an obligatory counter-meme attributed to Odin in the Norse tradition feeding both and having two wolves to fight his enemies. I personally like the Odin version a little better, but it’s got problems, too.

There’s a better way to think about heroic agency.

Human thinking is full of binary. Yes. No. Good. Evil. Male. Female. Dark. Light. Us. Them. Human. Monster. It’s pervasive in science. It’s widespread in the humanities. Either. Or. On. Off. It’s intrinsic to our language. Blame the so-called duality of man.

Most attempts to challenge binary assumptions stem from an intrinsic bias toward one half of the dichotomy and against the other, like the Cherokee legend of two wolves. Many arguments fall into this “politics of demonization” category. In this formulation, only one of the two options of “valid” and “other one” is beyond the pale. I’m not judging, just observing. We’re all guilty of it anyway, whether we admit it or not, to ourselves or out loud to others. It’s not usually a useful argument to have, in my opinion. Nor do I think it can add new dimension to our thinking of heroism with its narrow, one-sided perspective.

A frequent alternative argument to binary conception is the case for relativism. Rendering everything into a spectrum or onto a circle upon which every position is of equal value isn’t any more useful. Again, in my opinion, for the purpose of discussing heroic agency. Heroism isn’t a single point on a sliding scale nor a single stop on a merry-go-round.

I’m going to marshal an argument of synthesis instead.

A hero isn’t just an either-or. Neither is a hero just a continuum. In physics terms, a hero is a particle and a wave at the same time. The distinction between an effective hero and the rest of the cast. Genius is often described as the ability to hold a paradox in mind. In story, the hero is the genius with agency. To succeed, a heroic figure must engage both luminary and shadow agency. At. The. Same. Time.

My primary problem with the Odin deconstruction of the Cherokee legend is that it removes the agency from the hero and puts it external to the hero (inside the wolves, in case that wasn’t clear.) The entire point of story is to teach us when and how to deploy our agency. It’s how we think and how we communicate. Story is what makes us human. Story is how we become better humans.

I see heroic agency as a two-edged sword. One edge may be light and one edge may be dark, but they are fundamentally part of the same tool. You cannot successfully use one edge without the other. Heroic agency is a tool, not a being like a wolf, which keeps the agency where it belongs. Inside the hero. Although the protagonist is the one to demonstrate this, every character in every story possesses the potential for agency.

Even you.

Beautiful Monsters

Every monster is at least a little scary, but not every monster is ugly. I happen to think everyone is beautiful in their own way. Take me, for example. I’m an ogre with delusions of magi, and I’m cool with that package. I don’t even aspire to troll level handsome. I embrace my fire plug form and appearance.

But some monsters are gorgeous… Sometimes their beauty is part of their danger. Sometimes, it’s a byproduct or even a remnant of a monstrous transformation. Often, the destroyed beauty is even more striking than the original unmarred being.

Speaking of beautiful (before and after) monsters, I got concept art today from the wonderfully talented Caterina Kalymniou for the Raven Queen, Arise cover. It’s just a simple concept sketch, and I’m over the moon. She captured Illyria in (dead) body and spirit climbing out of a mass grave with her raven guide, Tourak. The composition is even better than what I’d hoped for.

The scene depicted (currently chapter four in this draft) is the last threshold Illyria must cross in her journey from the underworld back into the sun-kissed lands. Before she begins to inflict all her needful darkness upon her unsuspecting enemies.

As artists go, Caterina’s not cheap, but she’s very much worth it. We’re not even done with the first book yet, but I already know I’ll be commissioning the cover art for the other three in this quadrilogy from her.

Demons vs. Mental Health

For the record, I’m not your parent, counselor, attorney, father confessor, shrink, or any other authority on your life. All I do is tell you entertaining stories. Please bear that in mind. Or be careful about baring your mind. Or both. You have been warned.

I’mma also state for the record that I don’t think these two things are mutually exclusive. (Demons and mental health—in case that wasn’t clear.) However, as a consumer of both modern mental health care as well as more metaphysical practices, I will state emphatically that if you need help, GET IT. There’s no shame and there should be no stigma associated with getting professional mental or spiritual help of any kind. I believe everyone should, whether they think they need it or not.

Especially if they don’t think they need it. Both kinds.

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My own journey along the path toward stability and happiness has been decades in the making. Angry is such an inadequate adjective to describe my teens and twenties… I attribute much of my personal progress to my lovely warrior-queen. Her long-suffering patience has been saintly. In many ways, we have grown up together in the decades of our marriage. Tempus fugit.

Neurologically-oriented nutrition and counseling also played a key part. Dr. William J. Walsh has some amazing lectures on the subject on YouTube. His book Nutrient Power is the foundation of my daily supplement, medication, and nutritional regime. When I’ve got the proper amount of sleep and nutrients, it becomes much, much easier to generate the creativity necessary to work on my stories for you.

Speaking of creativity, my primary goal in every story I tell, demons included, is to make the many worlds we share better for everyone. My creed is simple:

Better stories make better people.

Demons, angels, servitors, archons, avatars, and other spirits feature prominently in my fiction. Personally, I see their influence everywhere. If you don’t, that’s cool. We can imagine together that they do in fiction.

Their direct action is often a casual agency in my stories. Sometimes, they’re even the heroic agent. Because I don’t subscribe to an exclusionary, binary philosophy (in my fiction) about the nature of such beings, I often use the terms interchangeably. For me, there’s no functional difference between a demon or an angel, nor any intrinsic nature of good or evil. I don’t believe life is simple or binary most of the time.

Beings are not good or evil.

Only their intentions and actions are.

In fiction as in life, we characters exist inside complexity that we strive to make sense of. We often do this by trying to simplify complicated order into obvious order through religion, philosophy, and other tautologies. As we are in life, fictional characters deploy story to understand the past, endure the present, and predict the future.

The quality and utility of the stories we tell ourselves are the measure of our mental health.

I suppose this is a long-winded disclaimer to say, “Don’t take my fiction too seriously.” If you find a good life lesson in my stories, remember that when you act on it, you’re making it your own. At that point, it’s no longer my story. It’s yours.

What story are you telling yourself?