Writing Excuses 10.48: Project in Depth, The Devil’s Only Friend

Spoiler Alert! We’ll be discussing the latest John Cleaver book from Dan Wells with author, podcaster, and unrepentant bacon-lover Dan Wells! If you haven’t read it, and you want to be surprised by it, stop listening and grab a copy now!

If you have read it, we apologize on Dan’s behalf for any emotional scarring you may have experienced. Now… give the episode a listen, and learn how Dan managed to do that to you.


This episode was engineered aboard The Independence of the Seas by Bert Grimm, and mastered in an orbital communications array by Alex Jackson.


We are on a ship. Set a story that doesn’t really fit on a ship onto a ship.

The Devil’s Only Friend, by Dan Wells, narrated by Kirby Heyborne

7 thoughts on “Writing Excuses 10.48: Project in Depth, The Devil’s Only Friend

  1. Great episode as always! But since it wasn’t addressed here, I’m forced to ask a question that has been nagging at me for weeks… What would have happened if Elijah had gotten hold of Brooke? I imagine help for her, and interesting things for him. But none of the characters in the book even thought about it, which made me kind of crazy.

    But the book was awesome anyway. The best one yet!

  2. Ah, dammit. Guess whose NaNoWriMo novel has a plot twist that hinges on stolen memories? Now I really have to read this one even more since I have to see if I’m too close or not.

    Either way this is an excellent episode and it definitely sold me on the book! Can’t wait to read it.

  3. Dan’s talk about his time in Germany made me wonder if there’s a Bundeskriminalamt statistic on violent crimes available that I should check out, but then I remembered that Dan lived at least 150 km away from me, in an area where none of my close friends or family live … but on the other hand, Sarg niemals nie!

  4. [That is fifteen], Swirl thought. [ Two more to go.]

    The fairy advisor, Swirl, gritted his teeth and held his breath in anxiousness as the young, fairy prince almost flew head first into a half-empty water glass.

    “Careful, Starry,” Mrs. Port shouted, but little good it did, as all the noise and dancing in the room made hearing near impossible. The heavy-set fairy frantically waved her chubby arms at the young prince. “Dear heavens, the boy’s going to get KILLED.” She fanned herself with both hands and made the stones on her fingers jingle.

    “You worry too much,” the chief fairy said as his aged and gleaming eyes watched through bushy eyebrows. “The boy’s fine.”

    “You call THAT fine?”

    They did this every year—the Fairy Ritual. It was the initiation for young fairies to become full grown—and this year happened to be the young prince’s chance to perform. The chief—his grandfather—was a spectator just like the rest of them. Which made it that much more important. And right now the chief grandson was finally performing the task that would lead him into adulthood. He had to set flowers in the customary circle, each one but the last facing the west. Of course, any well respected Ritual would take place in the forest, or in a open field under the moon. Some even were set by the enchanted lake.

    Not this one.

    Of all places they could safely perform the ritual, this year’s ritual was on a ship—a cruise ship. With HUMANS on it! Everyone on the fairy council objected, but the senile old fool overruled them all, laughing his crackling old laugh all the while.

The rest of the dozen or so fairies hid in the corner of the room, tucked away from human eyes. They darted back and forth in the tiny space of air, just as nervous and fearful as he for the young prince’s safety. The chief seemed to be the only one enjoying himself.

    Swirl’s wings shook with increase nervousness. “Sir,” he said, “as your advisor, I humbly ask that we post-pone this. For the safety of the prince.”

    The chief waved him off. “Nonsense, nonsense. See there, the boy’s about to put down another one.”

    The fairy prince hovered over an empty table with discarded silverware, and clumsily set down the lily, making an effort to hold the others in his short hands.

    One particular human male was dancing too close for Starry’s comfort, and Starry wouldn’t be able to dodge.

    “Sir, I think we should stop it.”

    “Hmm…” Starry got close again, and this time he was almost stepped on but—thankfully—tumbled out the way.

    “Sir?” he pleaded.

    “It’s fine, it’s fine,” he said in a low whisper, scrunching his scraggly stout beard that nearly covered the entire length of his body—a full 3 inches. “My grandson is of noble stock. We are spry fairies, we are. He’ll make it.”

    Swirl looked back and forward. He was the advisor, and it was his duty to protect the young prince even at the cost of his shame. He got into flight-ready position and looked behind him at the other fairies, determination in his eyes.

    The other fairies nodded behind the chief’s back for him to go with the same determination in their eyes. Forced to stay silent throughout the ritual. They knew the prince was in danger.

    He gave a quick nod back and was off. His wings beat at a frenzy pace as he darted for the prince. He wouldn’t outright interfere, he would just protect him. As the prince made the next stop, Swirl went straight for the human who was dancing too close to Starry. [Oh please make it in time.]

    To any human, it would look like a random lily floating in the air, something from a bouquet falling. But in reality the young prince was deliberately weaving back and forward with intense concentration lined on his face, carrying something too big that would fall and break at any moment.

    He landed on the fold of the suit and immediately a strong—too strong—perfume assaulted his nostrils. It smelt of smoke and sawdust. He almost buckled headlong into the opening that led to his back—but caught himself just in time. Humans were such smelly creatures. Swirl held out his hand and with a poof blue dust hit the human squarely in the face. The human blinked and staggered back to his seat for support. Starry was then able to avoid him, his grip still firm on the lily.

    He let out a breath. Over in the corner Mrs. Port had fainted.

    The flowers were beautiful, if he had to admit. And if he had to admit, the prince was doing a marvelous job of placing them. Too good. At this point, if he continued, the entire ship would be transported to the fairy realm (it only took turning the lilies toward the east instead of west)—and wouldn’t that be something. They were using lillies instead of heather—as festive was the most inconspicuous tactic. And seeing as they were on a ship full of dancing humans, they needed to be as inconspicuous as possible. Most humans thought that mushrooms and heather were the only organisms that could form the fairy ring. Such foolishness. There were many objects and flora could be—and were—used. The simple flowers held power that was often overlooked. But they were FAIRIES. They saw the magic in all things.

    One more lily to go, and Starry had to place it int the center of the stage. He zipped to the stage with a speed of a hornet, but Swirl saw with horror a human swinging a voice pole like he was stirring magic. If that hit Starry, then the young prince could be seriously injured.

    Swirl tried to fly to him, but he was too far ahead. He could only watch.

    Starry saw the pole but head straight for the center, his goal of placing the last lily in sight. Starry made it to the center, but just as Swirl feared, the pole hit his wings and the young prince gave a squeak as he spun, the flower dropping out of his hand. The lilly was going to turning, but which way would it stop—if it twisted in toward the east, then they would be transported.

    Swirl held his breath.

    The pole made another arc…and it turned the lily—just in time. The lily pointed west.

    Suddenly, all the lilies that formed the circle inside the room of the ship lit up in a bright display of gold and white, gently lifting and floating in the air. Swirl’s eyes sparkled in front of the beautiful display. [He did it.] Swirl heard the “oohs and as” among the humans as their heads turned to the flowers floating around.. They no doubt thought it was part of the show. Little did they know what they were part of.

    Swirl let out yet another deep sigh. There would be no transporting of humans today. He gave a quick congratulations to himself and then scanned the floor to see where the prince had fallen. But to his surprise the prince was already running back to the group of fairies int the corner. He flew to them as well.

    “I did it grand-shine!” Starry said with a smile that melted the hearts of all the fairies. The prince reached out his arms.

    The chief bent down as Starry jumped. He wrapped the young fairy in his arms and swung him.
    “So you did, my boy!” “So you did, Well done!” He laughed a grand old laugh.

    Swirl looked at the fairies. Looks of relief were on many of their faces. They were celebrating. Nervous laughter, tired fist pumps, and half-hearted “hoorays” went about. Some of the other fairies were still fanning themselves.. Mrs. Port was still passed out.

    “See here, Swirl.” The chief said pointing an bony finger at Swirl’s chest, “I told you the boy’s a natural.”

    “I never doubted for a minute, sir.”

    “Of course not,” He turned back to Starry, “And now we must prepare for the celebration—and next years ritual, of course.”

    “Of course, sir.” Out the corner of his eye he saw other fairies rolled their eyes. Swirl gave a tired chuckle. There would be a Ritual, as is proper. But one thing was certain:

    They wouldn’t be taking the cruise next year.

  5. Great episode, as always. I love hearing the “behind the scenes” stories and inspirations about your books. However, confession: I will not read this book for my own mental and emotional well-being. I loved “I Am Not a Serial Killer,” but when I got to the end of “Mr. Monster,” I couldn’t take any more. I salute you for your amazing writing, Dan, but you give me nightmares.

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