Free Real Estate

Just another day in the life of a powerful but clueless wizard and the princess who (barely) tolerates him.

This scene takes place at the end of the second arc of my original fantasy novel, The Demon King. In this segment of the story, Balthazar attempts to learn how to control the weather and ends up harnessing ancient forces at the limits of human comprehension. He uses his newfound power for silly nonsense that does not benefit him or anyone else, but you have to admit that floating islands are cool. And, as Ceres says, it’s free real estate.

This comic was written by me and illustrated by Mjoyart on Twitter (and elsewhere). I wrote the script and sketched a set of rough thumbnails, and Meghan was able to turn my stupid joke into something truly magical. Meghan posts Pokémon and Legend of Zelda comics and fan art on Twitter, and I highly recommend checking out her online portfolio (here) to see her original storyboards and animation projects. Her art is fantastic and never ceases to amaze me, and I’m very lucky to have been able to work with her!

The Demon King, Chapter 8

This illustration of Ceres is by Sali (@salisillustrations on Instagram and @saliechelon255 on Tumblr), who creates beautiful digital paintings based on books and anime, including Studio Ghibli movies and the Harry Potter novels, alongside her original work. Her characters are fashionable and expressive, and they always fit perfectly into their richly detailed environments. Sali has a talent for drawing fancy wizards, and it was a pleasure to be able to work with her on this illustration for The Demon King.

The eighth chapter of The Demon King is the culmination of Ceres’s first character arc. It echoes her introduction, in which she glibly treats murder as the only viable option to a tricky political problem, but now the reader is able to see the deliberation that leads to her decisions.

I’m interested in female political leadership, especially at high levels, when an executive’s position is just as symbolic as it is practical. It’s my impression that, whether it’s Hillary Clinton or Kamala Harris or Tsai Ing-wen or Angela Merkel, there’s an expectation that a woman needs to be perfectly competent and capable while still being both “rational” and having all the charm and charisma of a male politician. This is impossible in real life, of course, but it’s fun to exaggerate these pressures and expectations in fiction to see where they lead.

In any case, the prompt I gave the artist was “a beautiful fairytale princess quietly plotting murder.”

Although it’s still rough around the edges, I’m posting the first draft of The Demon King on AO3, and you can find it (here).

The Demon King

I spent the month of August working on my book project and two academic essays, but I can’t stop thinking about the novel I want to write. I’m starting to get a sense of the story progression and the major twists in the plot, and I’m also beginning to visualize a few of the dramatic high points. Although I’m sure I could (and I will) write pages and pages of chapter outlines and character details, what I’d like to do first is write something resembling a pitch. I’m still working on this summary, but I thought I’d share what I have so far…


People say that a tall and terrible tower rises from the dark heart of a wasteland swarming with evil, and that a dark lord reigns over the monsters of his hideous domain from the top of this tower. Balthazar is that dark lord, and he’s doing the best he can. Despite his godlike power, he just can’t get people to stop pestering him with administrative annoyances.

The biggest thorn in his side is the kingdom of Whitespire, which is ruled by Princess Ceres. Ceres is beautiful, flawless, and adored by her subjects, but she has an unpleasant habit of sending “heroes” into the wasteland to fight the demon king. Balthazar is nothing short of invincible, and no ordinary hero has the slightest hope of defeating him. Ceres knows this, which is why she uses Balthazar as an excuse to rid her kingdom of dangerous upstarts and dissidents. Balthazar knows exactly what’s going on, but he tolerates it. In fact, he and Ceres are in regular communication. Although they get on each other’s nerves, the demon king and the princess are secret allies and perhaps even something resembling friends.

This state of affairs is disturbed by rumors that a hero has drawn the Dawnsword sleeping deep in the caverns under Whitespire Castle. This sword is an ancient relic believed to have been forged by the very goddesses who created the world. The rumors that a hero has drawn the legendary sword prove to be true, and before long this hero appears in the wastelands, demanding the right to challenge the demon king. Balthazar has the hero escorted to his tower, only to find that she is all of ten years old. The girl can’t seem to remember how she drew the sword, where she came from, or even her own name. Not knowing what else to do, Balthazar decides to care for her until he can figure out how to destroy the Dawnsword, which is indeed the only weapon capable of harming him. He calls the girl Hero, and the name sticks.


Balthazar is a wizard whose power is without equal among mortals. He built the tower that rises over the wastelands through the sheer force of his will, and the scale of the monument has attracted other nonhuman races to the territories he has claimed. He is a competent administrator but not a particularly nice person. He’s called “the demon king” not just because of his fierce temper but also because he is a rare full-blooded demon. Despite being large and muscular, Balthazar finds violence distasteful and often leaves the dirty work of dealing with invading “heroes” to his four generals. His hobbies include dressing in flashy outfits and reading trashy romance novels. He’s in his late thirties but looks much older.

Ceres, the radiantly beautiful princess of Whitespire, is in her thirties but looks much younger, an illusion she goes to great lengths to maintain. She has inherited the magical abilities of the royal bloodline, but she’s careful not to draw attention to the true extent of her power. As the public face of the monarchy, Ceres seems to be a paragon of wisdom and virtue, but she employs a number of confidants to conduct her business from the shadows. In fact, Balthazar may be one of the least unsavory people who knows her true face. Ceres is constantly under a great deal of pressure, and she has a bit of a drinking problem.

Hero is a rude and savage girl of unknown origins who seems to be roughly ten years old. She managed to draw the sacred Dawnsworn that has been sleeping under Whitespire Castle for hundreds of years, but no one knew anything about her before she suddenly appeared at the castle gates claiming that she would be the one to defeat the demon king. Although Hero is generally good-natured, she fights with the skill of an experienced warrior, and she possesses extraordinary powers that tend to manifest at inopportune times. She worships and adores Ceres but only barely tolerates Balthazar.

Demon King Cares for Wayward Child

I’ve written a lot of fanfic during the past two years, and I just finished up a huge project that got some great feedback along the way.

I’m starting to think about “the next step” after fandom, and I think I’d like to get more into comics. I just approached two artists to ask about commissioning some short fancomics, which will hopefully help me get a bit of practice. I’m very nervous about this; but I also feel that, if I have good ideas and the resources to bring them to fruition, then I should go for it!

I’m also starting to think about original projects. I’ve been playing with an idea for a novel that I’m currently referring to by the title “Demon King Cares for Wayward Child,” and it goes something like this…

There is Demon King who looks like a huge buff meathead but is actually a powerful wizard. He lives in a tower in the wastelands of a high fantasy kingdom. There are nothing but ruins (dungeons and such) in this area, but the understanding within the kingdom is that he has taken territory that does not belong to him and is threatening the border. He does indeed have secret nefarious plans (involving elder gods or something of that nature), but he doesn’t really care about the kingdom at all and simply sees himself as keeping the peace by providing a sanctuary of sorts for other monsters.

One day a hero comes to slay the Demon King, but it turns out that this “hero” is a ten-year-old girl. She’s somehow managed to get her hands on a magical sword that could technically defeat him, but how it came into her possession is something of a mystery. In any case, it turns out that this girl doesn’t have anywhere else to go, so the Demon King decides to keep her with him in sort of a Dread Pirate Roberts “I’ll most likely kill you in the morning” situation. Not killing the girl turns out to be a challenge, as she’s headstrong and a complete savage.

Meanwhile, the Demon King is corresponding (via magic?) with the reigning adult princess of the kingdom. The princess doesn’t particularly see him as a threat, but she also doesn’t want her kingdom to have to go to war with him. She’s been trying to put it off as long as possible, and in the meantime she blames everything that goes wrong on the Demon King. They are awful and catty and cruel to one another, and it’s very clear to their respective minions that they’re totally in love.

The four intersecting storylines are therefore the Demon King’s progress toward his secret nefarious plot, the identity of the child hero and the provenance of her sword, the growing tensions between the castle and the tower, and the love story between the Demon King and the princess. What pulls everything together, however, are the shenanigans of the child hero and the over-the-top angry responses of the Demon King.

This still needs some polishing, as well as named characters and a better title, but I’ve been amusing myself by imagining the plot as a series of four-panel gag manga. Perhaps I could write both the novel and a comic strip simultaneously…?