Bards and Scribes: The Cannibal

Jesse Teller is mentally disabled. He suffers from PTSD from an abusive childhood. He is bipolar, suffers from daily to hourly hallucinations, and has DID (multiple personality disorder).

He has been a member of the self-published fantasy community for four and a half years now, has published fourteen books, with plans to publish countless more.

Jesse Teller is not a sane man. He has been declared mentally unfit and is a certified madman. This blog series is a glimpse into the way he sees a small handful of his peers and a look into his own mind.

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The Cannibal

Disclaimer: The Cannibal is going to hate almost everything I say about him. He is a humble man and will not allow himself to agree with me at all. However, I am a man. A free man who is allowed his opinion and is allowed to express it. This is my opinion I speak now, and not his.

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The Cannibal likes to keep a garden.

The Cannibal prefers video chat because he likes to look at you when he speaks to you.

The Cannibal thrives in the cold and shuts himself away high in the corner of North America in the wilds of Canada.

Do you see? Everything I say about this guy is terrifying. All I have to do is call him The Cannibal and he chills your blood. I do this for two reasons. One is a chilling scene from one of his novels. The other is, I need you to fear and respect this man because he is the king of self-published grimdark fantasy, crawling out of the dark and roaring in the community. He is a master of darkness when he writes. And I want you to see that.

Now, I am not sure about the garden thing. We never spoke about growing anything. And I don’t think he eats people, but again it never has come up. But The Cannibal is not to be ignored. He has given me hope and guidance and I call him a friend.

Let’s back up and get a run at this.

I was waiting to be announced. When I told my wife what I meant, she said that never happens, but I told her she was wrong then I sat by and waited. When I was announced, it was a reviewing god who did it.

He read Chaste and said, “Jesse Teller is a new voice in Grimdark fantasy, and if you like your books dark and bloody as hell, then he might as well be your new favorite author.” This was said on a well-respected and highly critical blog by the guy who sets the bar and runs the blog himself. Booknest is huge and its master had just announced me.

I expected to be picked up. Expected the fantasy world would read that and come seeking me and my work, but it fell to nothing. We used the quote to try to get big reviewers to take me seriously and they all walked away. We quoted him and asked him when the next book came out if he wanted to read it, but all of that fell flat, too. I was announced to no fanfare and began to fall into obscurity.

Every now and then a reviewer would pick up one of my books and give it an excellent review, but when we asked them if they wanted to read the next, they would agree and shelf it. No traction, no readers, no reviewers stalking me. But people were talking and I was talking back.

I began to give my spiel. Began talking about my master plan and my magnum opus, and everyone laughed at me. Because it sounds ridiculous. Any writer will tell you that my career, as I have set it, is impossible. And when I tell them what I am doing no one takes me seriously.

One night I was exhausted. I had been up writing for twenty-four hours and was shocked and dazed, and a comment was made, and I broke. I started talking about my productivity. Started telling them what I was doing and I told them I had written five series. I told them I vowed to never publish a book in a series until all in that series was done, and I made the ludicrous vow that I would publish a new book every April 15th and October 5th. A guy grabbed the comment, posted it on a major fantasy discussion page, and I was ripped into by a pack of jackals.

They said my books had to be terrible. They told me I could never do what I was pledging to do and still create quality. They asked, who writes five books before they publish any? They got that wrong, it was five series. One woman asked what would happen when the outlines stopped and I found myself in the middle of a series with no ending for it. Again, they had gotten it wrong. They are not outlines; they are fully written novels. They tore me apart. The Alchemist defended me. A few caring hearts defended me, but for the most part I was a joke.

A traditionally published writer came out and pounded on me for a while. None of these people had read any of my work. But there was meat on the ground and everyone wanted to tenderize it for a while.

See I am The Lunatic. No one wants to believe what I am saying.

In the self-published fantasy world it is all about lists. Top ten reads of the year. Greatest female grimdark writers of the decade. Greatest series. Darkest writer. The world around me compiles as many lists as they can, and most of them ignore The Lunatic.

But they are starting to see I am off in the distance building a mad construction. They are starting to see I am keeping my promise and, as more reviews trickle in, they are getting quiet. Reviewers are helping. They don’t read the books, but they have started hosting blogs I have written on their sites. They talk about me in certain circles and they all see I am quietly building something they have never seen before.

One reviewer said if I had been published twenty years ago he truly believed I would be a legend by now. He talks about me all the time. Gets ahold of me to chat but still has never read my books.

A few readers have read all of it. They see the intricacies of what I am doing. They come to leave reviews at the base of my construct, but when they yell about me and tell everyone to read me, few listen.

One more bit before we get back to The Cannibal and why he is so important.

In self-published fantasy it is all about reputation. Let’s say you read another writer’s work and they are your friend. If you sing its praises, even though you did not like it, the readers you are trying to impress will judge your vision of quality. You say a book is good and it is not, your potential readers think, “This writer does not know a good book from a bad.” They don’t even take the time to read what you wrote, thinking you have bad tastes.

So when The Cannibal stepped out of the gloom and spoke about Dead Girl, it stopped my heart.

We knew almost nothing about him. He was dark. His book as dark as they came. He was good. There was a hushed whisper when reviewers spoke his name. He had published Kings of Paradise and the story behind its creation was rippling out before it.

See The Cannibal had a good job, a job he had trained for. But he saved his money and quit his job to crawl into his basement and create his masterpiece. He was good. So good as to be one of the best. And even as he broke the gloom and stepped out into the light of the fantasy world, everyone watched with bated breath for what he would do next.

Dead Girl is a novella I was giving away as a freebie in my newsletter. We had it up on Goodreads and we got a few reviews for it, but again only dust was blowing around my work and it was easy to set me at the bottom of your To Be Read pile and put it off.

Dead Girl is dark. It is about a girl who is molested and how she deals with her abuse and the horrors that come after it. It is so heartbreaking and so uplifting. It is maybe the most beautiful thing I have written if you take it by itself and when The Cannibal started to make his name, he took Dead Girl and stepped off into the darkness again.

When he came back, he praised it. That year when they asked for the greatest reads of the year, no one mentioned me except The Cannibal. He stepped forward to make his list and his comment said this and this alone.

Dead Girl by Jesse Teller.

Then he walked away. But I pulled close.

When I think my work is crap, when I am left off lists and ignored by my peers, I go to The Cannibal.

Because he is the king of us. He came out with a trilogy quickly and decisively and it is breathtaking. Set it before us all and walked away. The Ash and Sand trilogy is the very best self-published fantasy you can find. No one is doing any better. Ask the reviewers who lay accolades at his feet. Ask anyone who takes their fantasy seriously, and they will whisper the name of The Cannibal.

And he is my friend. He counts me as his equal. Asks me for advice and he gives it. He is there for me every time I reach out for him. 

The Cannibal knows me. The Cannibal is watching. And The Cannibal has my back.

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Author Bio
Jesse Teller fell in love with fantasy when he was five years old and played his first game of Dungeons & Dragons. The game gave him the ability to create stories and characters from a young age. He started consuming fantasy in every form and, by nine, was obsessed with the genre. As a young adult, he knew he wanted to make his life about fantasy. From exploring the relationship between man and woman, to understanding the qualities of a leader or a tyrant, Jesse Teller uses his stories and settings to study real-world themes and issues.

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