http://www.childrenofthewells.com Fri, 21 Apr 2017 13:00:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 39205658 Copyright © 2014 stuartlem@hotmail.com stuartlem@hotmail.com http://www.childrenofthewells.com/wp-content/plugins/podpress/images/powered_by_podpress.jpg http://www.childrenofthewells.com 144 144 stuartlem@hotmail.com no no Scraps (A Story) http://www.childrenofthewells.com/scraps-a-story/ Fri, 21 Apr 2017 13:00:19 +0000 http://www.childrenofthewells.com/?p=1923 by Nick Hayden

This is one of a series of unpublished flash fictions that examine the character of Jaysynn’s siblings. This story concerns itself with an incident in his brother Bulon’s life. If you haven’t read The Fall of the House of Kyzercheck it out!

~~

Make the site ready for arrival. I will inspect it personally.

 

Wyn spotted the men from afar. A rabbit couldn’t approach his square of wilderness without his noticing from a mile off, never mind the column of dust trailing behind the strangers’ vehicle. He leaned, bent and wizened, on his hoe and waited. It took more than half an hour before the strange, boxy contraption rumbled to a stop near his warped fence and three men emerged.

“Guvment,” Wyn croaked. “You come to say my son’s dead?”

The lead of the three stepped through the broken gate, casting a disgusted look over the enclosed area. A dim shack cowered at one corner, with a rain barrel on one side and a splinter of an outhouse on the other. A few goats and chickens pecked around the scrub. A small well, no bigger than a dog curled up to sleep, shimmered in the sun, surrounded by neatly tilled rows of vegetables.

“Are you the owner of this property?” the head soldier asked.

“Yes, sir,” Wyn said proudly, showing his yellowed teeth. A gold crown sparked in the sun. “And my father before me and his before that.” He nodded to a few markers at the far end of the enclosure. “This here’s our land. It’ll be my son’s, if you ain’t come to say he’s dead.”

“This land is now property of the Thyrian government. You have until nightfall to move out.”

Wyn swayed and clutched the weathered handle of his hoe. “This here’s my land,” he said weakly. “I lived here all my life.”

“I’d suggest contacting your son. I’m sure he’ll help you find somewhere new to settle.” The soldiers stared at him expectantly. The two at his shoulders gazed around, bored.

“My wife–she died last year. She’s over there,” he pointed a trembling hand at the small cemetery, “waiting for me. I laid her there myself, promised her I’d come soon. I can’t leave. I can’t.”

“You will.”

Wyn’s knees gave out and he slid to the ground, where he sat in the dirt.

One of the other soldiers walked over to the well and peered into it. “It’s barely big enough to spit in.”

“It’s mine,” Wyn said. “It’s all I have, a square of life green beneath the sun. Why do you need it? Ain’t you got riches and wells the size of mountains? This is my land.”

“You will leave, or we will force you to leave.”

“My son,” Wyn said desperately. “He’s got an office in Thyrion. He’s got money. He’ll pay you. Give me a few days. We’ll work this out.”

The head soldier sighed. “Remove him.”

Wyn tried to stand. “No, no! You can’t! I won’t let you.” He grabbed the hoe and started swinging.

~~

Three weeks later, Bulon arrived in a military vehicle. It was bulky and uncomfortable but it was the only vehicle with a large enough battery to make it out to this Elthor-forsaken patch of land. It took only a moment to survey the property his men had acquired for him. Except for the fence, nothing remained except a black scar of ash.

“He didn’t say anything?” Bulon asked his escort.

“He just claimed the land was his.”

“Yeah, well his son wagered this trash heap in a card game and I won. Said there was gold buried here. He certainly had more money than a middling bureaucrat should.”

Bulon walked to the well and felt the power emanating from it. With delicacy he gathered in the magic and sent it out, into the ground, feeling out the resonance he desired. He closed his eyes, as if listening to a high-pitched frequency. He knew well the tremor of gold and silver, aluminum and tin, iron and copper. They sang to him in invisible voices, calling to him, and he gathered them together into safe places.

In widening circles he sent the searching waves of magic beneath the small plot. He reached out beyond the fence, straining to hear the whisper of riches.

He opened his eyes. “There’s nothing here. This place is worthless.” He took a deep, calming breath. “There is a small piece of gold, over by that mound there. Dig it up and retrieve it.”

“Yes, sir!”

Bulon returned to the vehicle, seated himself in the shade, and patiently awaited his crown.

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Meanwhile, Somewhere Else in the World http://www.childrenofthewells.com/meanwhile-somewhere-else-in-the-world/ Fri, 07 Apr 2017 13:00:24 +0000 http://www.childrenofthewells.com/?p=1927 by Nick Hayden
April 7, 2017

Last month, Timothy Deal revisited The Select’s Bodyguard, the first story in the Children of the Wells saga. This month, I’d like to revisit The Fall of the House of Kyzer by Nathan Marchand.

Early on, we here at CotW decided we wanted to have two concurrent plotlines. Doing so gave us a greater window into the world we were creating. While I constructed the technocratic city of Jalseion, and its two semi-obsessive main characters, Nathan Marchand was busy unveiling a different type of story.

Thyrion is the center of the Children of the Wells’ world, Lomara. It’s where the political and religious power is concentrated. It’s where the Cataclysm started. And it’s where we begin the journey of a character very different from Bron or Calea.

Jaysynn Kyzer, black sheep of the Kyzer dynasty, has no magic. He has no real authority, although he was born into the royal family. The Fall of the House of Kyzer is the story of his search for meaning intersecting with his empire’s struggle for survival. It’s a hero’s journey.

Unlike Bron and Calea, Jaysynn is more relatable. He’s insecure but he wants to do the right thing. He’s out of his depth, but he wants to find a way to help people. His challenge is to become the man his people need.

So, unlike The Select’s Bodyguard, which is intensely focused, we get a story set against a larger political background. We get a friend who might be a villain. We get hints about the Cataclysm. We get family strife. And we get tracing.

The tracing is really cool and completely Nathan’s addition. While Bron has his brute force, Jaysynn has his speed and gravity-defying, building-leaping acrobatics.

In the end, Nathan creates a story that explores the world of Lomara in a distinct way, setting the events of the Cataclysm in a larger political realm, while maintaining the focus on character that is one of our guiding principles here at CotW. Jaysynn is not like Bron or Calea, and Thyrion is definitely not Jalseion, and those are two of the biggest reasons the concurrent storylines appealed to us as writers. Hopefully, it appeals to you as well.

If you haven’t read The Fall of the House of Kyzer, give it a try. It’s the story of the underdog thrust into power–and the forces, internal and external, working against him. It’s the start of an adventurous series of novels, with more on the horizon. And if you have read it (or even if you haven’t), stay tuned for a new short story to be published in two weeks that gives further insight into the sort of corruption that worked its way throughout the House of Kyzer, and which disgusted Jaysynn so much.

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The Concert (A Story) http://www.childrenofthewells.com/the-concert-a-story/ Fri, 10 Mar 2017 13:00:33 +0000 http://www.childrenofthewells.com/?p=1920 This is the first in our series of short stories connected to our main novels. This story, by Greg Meyer, gives us a glimpse of Calea during her time as Guide of Section 4. Enjoy! And don’t forget to pick up The Select’s Bodyguard if you haven’t.

Jalseion- Section 4— Three Years Before the Cataclysm

The Aurelian Concert Hall buzzed with excited chatter. As the people moved down the aisles to find their seats, one concertgoer did not share the same fervor as the rest. Select Calea Lisan, Guide of Section 4, marched up the many flights of stairs to a private balcony like a child going to the dentist. Calea huffed as her elegant dress swished and bobbed with every step, glittering in the light of the fluorescent lights hung on the walls. If she hadn’t been accompanied by her two companions, Calea would’ve turned and made a daring escape back to her beloved laboratory.

“With the amount of money that’s spent on this place, is it so much to ask for an elevator?” said Calea as she reached another landing. Calea grabbed the railing and stomped up the last flight of stairs.

The grey-haired woman behind Calea chuckled as she followed. “At least you’re getting your exercise in for the day,” said Almetter, Calea’s public relations manager. Almetter was used to Calea’s tantrums, having been her mentor since the Select’s youth. After spending so many years mentoring the Guide as a child, Almetter was one of the few people bothered listening to for advice in matters Calea called “dealing with the needy people.” The concert program slipped from Almetter’s hand, but their third, silent companion swooped down and grabbed it for her.

“Thank you, Bron,” said Almetter to Calea’s bodyguard. Bron nodded and slipped to the back.

The three made their way into the balcony, and Bron helped Calea and Almetter through the balcony curtains before positioning himself at the entrance to stand guard. Calea tossed her hair back and leaned her head against her hand, checking her watch for when the performances would start.

“I need a drink,” said the annoyed Select before glancing back at Bron. “Do something useful and bring me a glass of wine.”

Bron shifted uncomfortably at the request and shook his head. “You’re not allowed to drink at public events. Not after the last time.”

Calea glared daggers at her bodyguard and leaned closer to him. “I don’t care what old Essendr and the others told you. I ordered you to get me a drink.”

“Calea, dear, they don’t serve drinks here,” corrected Almetter as the elderly woman settled herself in her seat. “Do try to have a good time. It’s a school performance, and we must support the youth of Section 4s musical endeavors.”

Calea grumbled as she sank into her seat, letting out an audible sigh for the others to hear. “Honestly, I don’t understand why you dragged me to this performance. Surely my talents for Section 4 are better spent working on my projects to improve the lives of the people. Not—” Calea sat straight in an elegant posture and spoke in an obnoxious tone, “Hearing the beautiful musical renditions of Section 4’s finest.”

Almetter smiled and waved at some of the crowd that were waving up at the balcony. “I told you earlier, by attending this little concert, you’re giving the youth program a much needed boost in attendance for potential donors. With enough donations, you’d be able to divert more of the Section’s budget towards your experiments. Now please behave, we must have our best faces on for the people.”

Calea looked down at the waving people and sat back, placing her chin on her hands as she stared at the stage. “Wake me up when it’s over.”

~~~

The lights dimmed, much to Calea’s relief, and the school music director took the stage. The director thanked all those in attendance, from parents to music lovers. The director made a special point to thank Guide Lisam and Liaison Ostrai for attending the concert, and a spotlight landed on Calea’s balcony. Almetter stood, grabbing Calea’s hand and helping the resistant Select up, and the two gave a wave—albeit a small one on Calea’s part—to the crowd below. The director introduced the first group of young musicians, made his way to the conductor podium, and began conducting a cello set.

“I hope they brought their wallets,” grumbled Calea. The elder Select hushed Calea and kept her focus on the concert below.

“Just relax and enjoy the music,” replied Almetter in a pleasant tone. Calea huffed and leaned back in her chair.

~~~

The next hour dragged on for Calea as performers cycled in and out, playing old classic pieces from Jalseion’s past. The frustrated Select found the concert a giant waste of her time. Calea was one of the rare breed of humans that found no pleasure in music, and believed the pursuit of music was for those who couldn’t find a practical place in society. Calea wished she had been able to sneak her notebook and pencil to continue her project, but Almetter discovered them in her purse and snatched them away like a teacher taking away a note passed amongst friends in class.

After the woodwinds finished their rendition of “The Roses in the Window” and exited the stage, two adults rolled a panorgan onto the stage. The panorgan had a large banner for the school in front of it, obscuring the top of the instrument behind the sign.

A young girl, no older than twelve, entered. The girl had flowing, shoulder-length amber hair, and wore a long, silver dress with a black feminine dress coat that went the length of her arms. The nervous girl ignored the crowd’s applause, focusing completely on the instrument in front of her. Almetter elbowed Calea and pointed out the girl as she waited for the applause to die down.

“If you only pay attention to one performance, make it this one,” said Almetter . Calea broke out of her sulking and glanced at the stage.

“A panorgan?” mused Calea. “If she’s playing that, then she must be in training to be a Select.”

Almetter nodded. Calea let out a huff. “What a waste of magic.”

“Her name is Hazellie,” explained Almetter, pointing at the girl’s name in the program. “Her teacher has been a close friend of mine for years. She asked me to bring you along as a favor.”

Calea leaned on her elbow and humored Almetter’s request, planning to use the act as leverage to get out of a later public event. The conductor raised his baton and set the tempo for the song.

After taking a deep breath, Hazellie extended her hands and began funneling the air around her into the pipes of the panorgan. A long, flutelike sound filled the concert hall as the girl held the opening note for a moment; the pitch shifting as Hazellie slowly curved her flat palms into cups. Hazellie moved her hands gracefully from one pipe to the next, creating a slow, sweeping vibrato that built note after note in a gradual motion.

As the sound grew lighter and airier, Hazellie suddenly switched the tempo of the song. As right left hand played deep and low notes, her left hand darted between the high notes. Though the audience couldn’t see Hazellie’s hands, the girl would place her hand over a pipe; wiggle her fingers for a moment before jumping to a higher pitch. The sound gave the impression of birds calling to one another on a bright spring morning. The lower notes acted as the melody of the song as the higher piping delighted the ears. Hazellie moved her hands back and forth constantly, never staying too long on one note before moving to the next.

Almetter clasped her hands together and watched with bated breath Even Bron glanced over at the performance and allowed himself to enjoy the song. Hazellie’s performance failed to break Calea’s stony exterior, but even she could appreciate the expertise of magic used to create the symphony of sounds.

Hazellie played faster and faster, building the song to its climax as both hands played rapid notes in a blur of movement. Finally, the girl played the final, long notes, ending the performance with two playful birdcalls to finish the piece.

The crowd erupted in thunderous applause, and Hazellie blushed as she stepped away from the panorgan and took a well-deserved bow. The conductor motioned Hazellie forward, took her hand, and they bowed together. As the two came up from their bow, the conductor raised her hand and made a sweeping motion towards Hazellie before stepping away and letting the girl take center stage. The conductor lifted his hands and hushed the crowd before nodding to Hazellie. Hazellie beamed and shifted in her spot as she prepared to speak.

“Thank you, your applause leaves me speechless,” began Hazellie, before the girl let out a laugh. “Well, not completely, since I’m obviously speaking now.” The audience, minus Calea, laughed.

“Most of you don’t know this, but about three years ago I was in a car accident. The doctors told me and my parents that I’d never play music again, because, well—I lost my left hand.”

Hazellie lifted her left hand and rolled the sleeve to her coat down, revealing a prosthetic hand that went down to her wrist. Some of the members of the audience gasped at the revelation of Hazellie’s injury. Up in the balcony, Calea pursed her lips and twisted her head towards Almetter.

“You—you brought me here for this,” spat Calea, digging her nails into the armrests. “How dare you trick me into this pity show.”

“Let her finish.”

The audience quieted again, and Hazellie continued her speech. “A few months later, I was fitted with this prosthetic hand and slowly regained the ability to play music again. I want to take this moment to thank the person who created the battery that allowed me to play that song for you.”

Hazellie turned towards the balcony where Calea and Almetter sat, and the spotlight once again fell on the two. Calea froze, shifting her body back towards the stage.

“Guide Calea Lisan, thank you for your contributions to the advancement of prosthetic limbs. If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t be here today.”

Hazellie smiled and motioned her arm up towards Calea. The crowed erupted in applause, as all eyes fell on the seething Select. Calea stared down at the annoying girl and the patronizing crowd before her. Calea felt Almetter nudge her again, and the Select resisted the urge to swipe away her mentor’s arm. All Calea could muster was a simple nod to Hazellie before sitting back in her seat and turning her head from the crowd. Hazellie stared up at the balcony in confusion before shifting back to the crowd and said a final thanks before walking to the backstage.

“I hate you,” said Calea, loud enough for Almetter to hear. “I hate all of this.”

“Isn’t it enough that you’ve forced me to come to this pity show?” growled Calea as she marched through the hallways in the back of the music hall, walking past old stage sets and props from concerts past. “I don’t want to meet her.”

Almetter led Calea through the hallways towards the dressing rooms in back. Bron tailed the two, both to protect them from danger, and to prevent Calea from making a daring escape.

“It would mean the world for her to meet you,” replied Almetter, taking a moment to smile politely at a stagehand. “It’s important for you to understand the ways your work has changed the lives of your fellow Jalseians.”

Calea brushed Almetter’s comment aside like an annoying fly buzzing in her face. “That’s what the reports are for. I’m satisfied with data, not sniffling little faces thanking me over and over. Besides—”

Before Almetter turned the corner at the end of the hallway, Calea grabbed her mentor’s arm with her prosthetic arm. Calea stared straight in Almetter’s face with a desperate look on her face.

“I don’t do children, Almetter. I just don’t. You’ve known that since I was a child. They annoy me.”

Almetter paused, pitying her protégé for a moment before placing her hand on Calea’s arm.

“I understand, this isn’t easy for you,” spoke Almetter with compassion. “But you two both have shared an experience that few understand. Talk to her, or just listen if you can’t speak, but show her that she’s not alone in her trials.”

Calea frowned at Almetter, staring straight in her mentor’s eyes for a moment before taking a deep breath and straightening herself.

“Three events, I want a pass on three public events of my choosing,” said Calea. Calea moved her arm away from Almetter and walked towards the dressing room with her head held high. “Starting with the Gala. I cannot stand that nonsense.”

“Not the Gala—” replied Almetter with a gasp, before letting her shoulders droop. “Very well, you can miss the Gala.”

Hazellie’s instructor stood outside the girl’s dressing room waiting patiently for Almetter and Calea to arrive. The woman noticed Calea and Almetter turn the corner, and the instructor smiled and waved at the two.

“Guide Lisan, thank you so much for coming to see—”

“Let’s get this over with,” spoke Calea as she brushed her hair out of her face. “She’s inside, I presume?”

“Yes, she’s very excited to meet you,” replied the instructor. The woman stepped aside and opened the door for Calea. Calea walked through, but stopped as Bron was about to follow.

“Please, I highly doubt a school girl is going to ambush me,” snarked Calea and brushed Bron back. Bron stepped back and positioned himself on the other side of the hallway.

Calea stood in the entrance as the door closed. Hazellie sat in a chair by a dressing mirror. The girl stood up and gave a friendly smile to Calea.

“Hello Guide Lisan, it’s a pleasure to finally meet you,” said Hazellie as she extended her right hand. “My name is Hazellie Avondale.”

“So the program said,” replied Calea, cautiously shaking Hazellie’s hand for a brief moment before letting go. “And just Calea is acceptable for this occasion.”

Calea sat on the couch in front of Hazellie’s chair. Hazellie smiled again before sitting down in her seat. Calea stared at Hazellie for a moment, slapping her hands on her knees.

“Well, Hazellie, what do you want to talk about?” said Calea. “And please, I don’t want to hear your endless accolades about my battery. You’ve said enough.”

Hazellie chuckled and placed her hand in front of her mouth. Calea looked confused for a moment and stared at the girl.

“Did I say something funny?” asked Calea.

“No, that’s not it,” answered Hazellie apologetically as she shifted nervously in her seat. “My instructor, she warned me it might be, um, difficult to talk to you.”

Calea leaned her head back in surprise for a moment before resuming her posture. “Is that so? Well, she was wise to prepare you.”

Hazellie nodded, and the two sat for a moment in silence. Hazellie averted her eyes before looking back up at Calea.

“Did you enjoy my performance?” the girl asked. “I practiced that piece for months, trying my best to get it down just right.”

Calea forced a smile at the girl’s question. Calea let out a chuckle and put on an air of elegance. “It was the most beautiful song in the performance, absolutely marvelous.” Calea shed her faux pleasantries and tilted her head at Hazellie. “That is what you want to hear, right? That you were the most special performer in the entire show?”

Hazellie frowned and shook her head. “No, I know you’re just saying that. I want to know what you really thought of it.”

Calea sighed and leaned against the sofa, placing her arms on the back of the couch. “You don’t want to hear what I thought of it.”

“But I do!” replied Hazellie firmly. “You inspired me to go back and play music after my accident after seeing what you’ve been able to accomplish.”

Calea drummed her fingernails into the couch fabric, debating her options. After waiting a moment, Calea looked directly into Hazellie’s eyes.

“I’ve heard better,” admitted Calea with a shrug. “Your timing was off at points, because you tried too hard to impress everyone with what you could do. Work on the fundamentals before you try to dazzle the audience.”

Hazellie said nothing, only putting her hands up to her mouth. The Select kept her eyes locked on Hazellie, trying to read the girl’s reaction. Calea fully expected for the waterworks to come out. It happened all the time to Calea. Someone would try and impress her, and Calea would send them away in a ball of tears. To Calea’s surprise, Hazellie moved her hands from her mouth and revealed a small smile.

“Thank you,” replied Hazellie, clapping her hands together once. “Thank you for being honest with me.”

Calea cocked her head in surprise and arched her eyebrow. “Excuse me?”

Hazellie leaned closer to Calea from her chair. “Ever since I started playing music again after my accident, I’ve always been told how talented I am, or how wonderful my music is. Sure, I’ll be told to work on this or that, but the others, they always give me praise. I mean, it’s nice to hear praise, but I don’t want everyone fawning over me because of my hand. I want to be told I did well because it’s the truth.”

Calea stayed silent, but nodded slowly at Hazellie’s words. The Select remembered her own time as a child prodigy, and all the people that endlessly sung her praises.

Hazellie extended her prosthetic hand out and wiggled her fingers one at a time. “Do you know why I play the panorgan? When I put my hands over the pipes and scrunch them or arc my fingers, I change the pitch of the note. You use your magic to, for example, hold fire in the palm of your hand. I choose to use my magic to make an inanimate object sing and delight a captive audience.” Hazellie glanced back at Calea and smiled again. “And it’s because of your work that I can make that music.”

Calea smirked at Hazellie and nodded, before extending her own prosthetic arm out and formed a ball of fire in the palm of her hand. With one swift motion, Calea snapped her hand shut and waved her arm back to her side.

“I might not share your passion for music, but I’ll tell you this,” said Calea. “Be better than those who have both of their hands. Play so well that people don’t even notice you don’t have your original hand. Show the people the talent that’s inside of you, so they praise you for your skill, not because of what you’ve overcome.” Calea paused, before standing up from the couch. “If you do that, then you won’t have to worry about if others are telling you the truth, because you’ll know it for yourself.”

Hazellie gave a firm nod and stood up as well. The girl reached out and gave Calea a hug. “Thank you, Calea, I promise I will.”

Calea wrinkled her face, moving away from the girl. “That is—enough appreciation.”

Hazellie let go, and Calea brushed off her dress before walking towards the door and opening it. Calea grumbled and pushed Bron away as he stood guard with his back to the entrance.

“Move,” ordered Calea as she shouldered past the bodyguard. “Let’s go, I’ve had enough entertainment for the year.”

Hazellie sat back in her chair and watched Calea and her entourage head back towards the entrance.

“I’ll play well, Calea,” whispered Hazellie as she kicked off her dress shoes. “I’ll play better than any panorganist that has both of their hands.”

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Updates, Reviews, and Stubborn Characters http://www.childrenofthewells.com/updates-reviews-and-stubborn-characters/ Fri, 03 Mar 2017 13:00:57 +0000 http://www.childrenofthewells.com/?p=1915 By Timothy Deal
March 3, 2017

Helloooo?

Oh hi! Thanks for taking a look at this blog! Good to know we’ve still got readers out there. Here, let me just blow some of this dust away and sweep up these cobwebs.

Yeah, we haven’t been as active around here the last month or two, but we’re still around and we’ve got some fresh content in the works. Of course, the big project currently in development is Bron & Calea #5, written by Children of the Wells co-founder Nathan Marchand. This will be Nate’s second novella for us, but his first foray into the tortured psychosis that is Calea Lisan. Pray for him.

In the meantime, author Greg Meyer will be offering his own take on the former Select in a short story to be released here on the site next week! This story will be a tie-in to The Select’s Bodyguard (Bron & Calea #1) and we hope to make it the first in a new series of short stories & flash fictions connected to each of our novellas. There are always side stories to be told in a shared universe like ours, so we’re looking forward to exploring more of its nooks and crannies this year.

But also, this series will give us the chance to take another look at each of our novellas, or perhaps for some of you, to introduce it for the first time. Our very first novella – not just for the Bron & Calea series but for Children of the Wells as a whole – is The Select’s Bodyguard. It was written by my podcast partner-in-crime, Nick Hayden, and his stylistic fingerprints are all over it. Inner turmoil, brutal danger, subtle ideas, a cast that includes academic elites and memorable commoners, and of course… stubborn, stubborn, strong-willed characters.

Anyone who’s read Nick’s work for the past dozen years or so can tell you he has a fascination with this type of character. From Makalos to Stuart Lem to Strin to Obed and now to Bron and Calea, Nick has a history of taking characters with a stubborn understanding of themselves and putting them through extreme trials to see if they break. Perhaps it’s his way of exploring how the incredibly obstinate person resisting God may need an incredibly painful experience to realize he can’t make it on his own.

Both Bron and Calea are hardcore, determined individuals in The Select’s Bodyguard, but Bron has a certain advantage in earning readers’ favor. Bron’s goal and determination – whether misguided or not – are heroic and honorable. Meanwhile, Calea is completely self-centered and pushes away anyone she deems unworthy of her. While she is clearly hurting on the inside, her hatred of receiving pity leads her to lash out at anyone who might try to get close.

This makes Calea a challenge for Bron, as well as for CotW readers and writers alike: How do you love the unlovable? Trying to understand the unlovable helps. Nick does a fine job in The Select’s Bodyguard of revealing Calea’s life bit by bit while simultaneously keeping a certain distance until the end. If you’ve not read it before, you might have to give it a try to see what I mean.

Along the way, you’ll witness a world in free-fall, beginning with the moments directly following the fateful Cataclysm that changed Lomara forever. Magic was the ecosystem, field of study, and way of life for the citizens of Jalseion, but when that magic disappeared, chaos destroys the city’s perfect order. In the midst of the upheaval, a crippled woman and her devoted bodyguard struggle to find a sliver of hope to grasp onto.

High stakes, deep characterization, and a modern fantasy setting plunged into an apocalypse. If all that interests you, give The Select’s Bodyguard a try!

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A Happy Story of Death http://www.childrenofthewells.com/a-happy-story-of-death/ Fri, 09 Dec 2016 13:00:15 +0000 http://www.childrenofthewells.com/?p=1908 by Nick Hayden
December 9, 2016

Advent wreath – waiting for Christmas
ASSY / Pixabay

The Saturday after Thanksgiving we made the six-hour trip from Peoria, IL, back home. By the last hour, all the kids (and the adults) were tired and bored and ready to be done. I put on the Muppets Most Wanted soundtrack and we bounced to the ridiculous songs. (The “Interrogation Song” is simply wonderful.) I was caught up, as I often am at unsuspecting moments when lively music is playing, in an almost aching sense of joy and expectation.

And it hurt, because while I felt a sort of inexpressible life, I knew it would pass, that it would drift away, and that I could not hold onto it. Next time I listened to those songs, it would not feel quite the same. The joy was destined to be short-lived. It was, by its very nature, transitory–and that is partly why it ached.

And, yet, I think this ache might be one of the truest marks of real joy. In a broken world, among fallen men, what else could real joy be but the merest glimpse of what we were destined for–and still are, if we will accept Jesus at his word.

When one of my friends read my new short story collection, Behind the Curtain, he joked that I should call it “Happy Stories of Death.” In many ways, that’s a valid summary. The stories circle around the search for something beyond–like that glimmer of joy with which, if you could just capture it and hold onto it, you would be happy to live forever. But these stories are filled with death and madness and deceivers, because the glimpse comes amid pain and confusion and the source of it cannot be found, really, in this life.

I’ve told my wife that sometimes I think I only really have one story to tell, and that I just keep attempting variations of it. That story is faith, man’s struggle to believe, the journey to fill the hole within, the quest to find God. Take Obed, from The Unremarkable Squire, who finds he serves one he doesn’t quite know yet; or Strin, from The Remnant of Dreams, trying to save all his people by his own efforts because he cannot believe in God; or Fitzwilliam Fitzwallace, from The Isle of Gold, who desires not only a drink of water, but to taste the experience of everything within the Sea; or Calea, from The Well’s Orphan, who is afraid to die, but doesn’t know why she lives. Everyone is looking for something, in fiction…and in life.

I started writing this blog only wishing to somehow collect my thoughts from my Thanksgiving trip home. But now that I’ve come this far I find myself thinking on Christmas. The answer to all my stories, to all the searching, is found ultimately in the stable, in the child who is somehow God, in the immortal man willing to suffer and die, in God seeking us out first.

That is where my stories are wrong. It’s good drama to have your hero search and overcome. But we aren’t the heroes. We’re the rebels. We aren’t looking for him; but he has found us. And He has offered us Himself.

Someday we will have Him completely. We will know as we are known. But for now, in this still-waiting world, we have glimpses. A moment of glorious happiness, tinged by sorrow, upon a road trip is one of them. Because everything will disappoint until we are with Him; and then we will dwell in the fullness of joy forever.

This blog was originally posted at Works of Nick.

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Melancholy Holidays http://www.childrenofthewells.com/melancholy-holidays/ Fri, 02 Dec 2016 21:28:08 +0000 http://www.childrenofthewells.com/?p=1903 by Nathan Marchand 
December 2, 2016

grumpychristmasHolidays are often melancholy times for me. Not just Thanksgiving and Christmas, but most holidays throughout the year. The only one that had managed to avoid this stigma was Halloween, but as of this year, it has now been tarnished—my grandmother, Ruth Sitton, died at age 94 October 31, 2016. She was my last grandparent, so, you could say, I’m a “grand-orphan” now. You can read my tribute to her here on my own blog.

Sadly, holidays have either been the days marking tragedies in my life or they serve as reminders of what I don’t have. When I was 12 years old, my Grandfather, Max Sitton (Ruth’s husband, obviously) died suddenly two days before Christmas. He and Grandma Ruth had just finished eating breakfast at a restaurant before coming to visit me and my family, as they always did, before having the big family gathering on Christmas Day. For many years, my Mom had difficulty celebrating Christmas because she associated it with her father’s death. She kept expecting other tragedies to befall the family around Christmastime. Unfortunately, that did happen. Five years ago, I was dumped by my then-girlfriend over the phone two days before Christmas. She was the first girlfriend I’d had close to the holiday season.

Because the patriarchs on both sides of my family have died, my extended families only get together on rare occasions. In fact, it often takes funerals to get us together. My mother’s side has been better about meeting together, but it still doesn’t happen as often as I’d like. It was a Thanksgiving tradition to visit my Dad’s side of the family at his parents’ house, but that went by the wayside when they died. Every year I hear people excitedly talking about seeing family—some of whom they only see at times like this—for the holidays, and it saddens me because my family just stays home.

It wouldn’t be so bad if my little branch of the family was, well, branching out. However, without going into detail, my immediate family has been dealing with a schism, which has left it divided. The holidays are when that division becomes most obvious and painful.

Then there’s the fact that I’m single. The holidays are often the times when one’s extended family meets your significant other, so they can see how they’d fit into the family. It’s a way to lay the groundwork for an expansion of the family. Plus, who doesn’t love doing holiday activities with your other half? Holidays are strangely romantic (even Halloween—yes, I know, I’m weird). But I’m alone. I watch others celebrate with their special someone—some even proposing at the holidays—and all I can do is imagine what that would be like. As bad as Thanksgiving and Christmas are when it comes to loneliness, don’t even get me started on the dreaded Valentine’s Day. I’ll rant for hours.

Something I’ve realized about myself is I’m sensitive to loneliness, There’ve been times in my life where I felt abandoned or betrayed by friends and/or family. Sometimes it was because life happened and we drifted apart. Other times, as I’ve said, it was deliberate. When those losses happen on or around special times, it not only sours the day, it often aggravates the sadness. Holidays have been shown to increase depression for many reasons. In my case, I feel lonelier.

A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
is God in his holy dwelling.
God sets the lonely in families
he leads out the prisoners with singing
Psalm 68:5-6a

Verses like this are comforting, if also a little sad. I’ve been blessed with a loving immediate family and wonderful friends (like my Children of the Wells cohorts) who always welcome me with open arms at the holidays. But I know not everyone has that. Holidays are not only times to celebrate, but opportunities to reach out. You or I can be the friend or family someone needs at times like these. It lets them know they aren’t alone, that they can still be included.

What greater gift could you give someone than companionship?

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Lessons from Looking Out a Window http://www.childrenofthewells.com/lessons-from-looking-out-a-window/ Fri, 25 Nov 2016 14:00:07 +0000 http://www.childrenofthewells.com/?p=1898 By Gregory Meyer
November 25, 2016

My wife and I are in Lexington to visit her brother and his family, which includes three energetic nephews. I had the opportunity to go to the eldest nephew’s school yesterday for a Thanksgiving party.

I hadn’t been back inside the halls of a public school in more than fifteen years, so walking down those halls yesterday felt strange, like a long forgotten memory returning to my mind. There was my nephew, sitting at his desk surrounded by other kids just as I was at his age. He has his whole school life ahead of him. Would they be good years for him? Would he look back at them fondly?

Sitting there as my nephew performed his poem with his class, my mind went back to many years ago when I first went to kindergarten and grade school. There were some good memories, but for many years it was a miserable time for me. I wasn’t the best student, and from how things were heading it’s perhaps surprising that I’m even writing this to you.

I bring this up because one distinct memory I have growing up was staring out the window and looking outside at the world around me. I would sit for hours looking outside the glass and watch as people drove past the school or walked their dog. I remember there was a cemetery across from my grade school, and I’d keep a watchful eye out for any translucent ghosts shambling up from their graves and heading for my school. Believe me, I’d be the first to know about it if it happened.

My teachers would catch onto my habit of staring out the window and move me to the other side of the room, away from my beloved window. Yet even here they couldn’t stop my imagination. I’d doodle on my papers and create my own worlds on good old College Rule notebook paper. They’d often be based on the cartoons I was watching at the time, but I’d still make them my special places to hide away from the world that demanded I conform to what they wanted me to be.

Even now, here at this Starbucks, I’ll catch myself staring out the window looking at the stone brick across the little drive-through beside me. My eyes are drawn upwards towards the plants sitting at the top of the brick, all still with their autumn leaves on them. At work, to clear my head, I’ll go outside on a walk and take in the scenery around me. After a few hours of mindlessly entering data, it’s good to refresh my mind and let my imagination run free.

See, there’s something that my teachers didn’t know back when I was a student. They assumed I was wasting my time when I stared out the window, but I wasn’t. I was stretching and expanding my imagination. While I had yet to pick up a pen (or keyboard) and write my first tale, my mind began thinking about adventures and far off places beyond the concrete walls of my school. Don’t get me wrong, the lessons I learned at school were important, but I was also learning things that a teacher couldn’t teach me with a textbook. My times gazing out of the window, playing in the backyard, or exploring my neighborhood were just as valuable to me as the time I spent in front of a chalkboard.

Like most kids from the 80’s and 90’s, I adored Calvin and Hobbes. I’d spend countless hours sitting on the couch with one of my Calvin and Hobbes books and read for hours. I felt a real kinship with Calvin and how he felt about being in school. Calvin struggled in school, never completed his homework, didn’t have many friends, and found himself in trouble more than out of it. I identified with Calvin more than any other character growing up, or as I think about it, even now. His struggles felt real to me, and he handled them much like I did.

But Calvin and I also had another thing we shared; we both had an escape. Calvin had these woods behind his house he could escape in with Hobbes. There he had many of his adventures, where he could be himself and use his imagination to his fullest. I didn’t have woods, but I had a backyard I could run around in and make my own. So I did, and with it I leveled my imagination stat. Here in this world I could be the hero, and I didn’t have to worry about things like math and gym class.

Even in my college years, I’d escape my dorm room with my CD player and go on walks out back in the woods behind my campus. This was out in the Ozarks, and I was surrounded by the beautiful hills and landscape of Missouri. It was beautiful, and to this day I can remember how the trees looked in autumn, the long abandoned married housing that was slowly falling apart, and the streams and caves I’d pass on my walks. I think even Calvin would’ve been jealous of the scenery at my disposal. The mystery and sense of discovery only fueled my imagination. I’d discover new things on my walks, like a long abandoned and rusted truck, or the ham radio shack hidden away from the rest of campus. It energized the adventurer in me.

I don’t get to explore much these days. The onset of adulthood and responsibility means I have less time to wander freely with my thoughts. It’s funny, though I’m old enough to drive myself anywhere I want, time and necessity dictates that I stay put at home or work. Gone are the days where I could ride my bike around town and discover the hidden places of my hometown. When I travel, I’m almost overwhelmed by this inward craving to dive back into my pondering wanderings, exploring and taking in new places at my own pace. Yet time is scarce, and before I can let my mental legs stretch and go off on their own, it’s time to move on.

I’d be depressed if I wasn’t a writer. I haven’t forgotten the lessons I learned from day dreaming when I was younger. They prepared me for this day, and I draw on those experiences when I craft my stories. I wouldn’t be the writer I am today without those times I had to myself. I only wish I had more opportunities to leave this bickering and spiteful world behind and go immerse myself in the world around me for the next great adventure.

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Tell Me A Story, Daddy! http://www.childrenofthewells.com/tell-me-a-story-daddy/ Fri, 11 Nov 2016 13:00:41 +0000 http://www.childrenofthewells.com/?p=1889 By Nick Hayden
November 11, 2016

Alexas_Fotos / Pixabay

We here at Children of the Wells began this project because we’re storytellers and we thought it would be fun to tell a longer, interconnected story together. We’ve sometimes stalled along the way, partly because, since we are storytellers, we each have other individual stories we’re also working on. (Excuses, excuses, I know.)

There’s a thing about being a storyteller that, for me, starts to make each project a drawn-out affair. I’ve gotten more and more concerned on writing well, on making things interesting, in editing completely, in somehow making the tenuous web that is fiction hang together. And this is very good. But it is sometimes paralyzing. So, now and then, it’s freeing to just throw the rules of well-structured fiction out the window and do things crazy and off-the-cuff.

Exhibit A is a live brainstorm my podcast partner-in-crime Timothy Deal and I did in the second half of Episode 70 of our podcast on storytelling.

But, more personally, it happens with my daughter Serenity. Her new favorite thing (though the Shopkins voices are still active) is for me to tell her a story. Usually, it needs to involve at least one Minion, since Despicable Me 2 is her current watch-it-every-day movie. And whenever I try to move toward an ending, she helpfully adds, “But there were still 200 problems in the world,” which is her way of adding conflict — because a hero’s job is never done.

The other day, as I had Wilbur the Minion solving one problem after another, I thought how fun it was to be completely ridiculous in storytelling. I mean, in one story, the sun had wandered off and Wilbur had to get it back, so he needed a magnet to attract the sun, and so first he had to gather lots of jalapenos (because they’re hot, you know, and you’re trying to attract the sun) and finally the sun came back. The end.

“But there are still 200 problems in the world,” she reminds me.

When it’s just you and a child eager to see her favorite character do things, foreshadowing, set-up, and payoff don’t matter, just the adventure and whatever cool you can pull out. (Which, I suppose, is true of some TV and movies, but never mind that.)

There’s a delightful playfulness about embarking on a quest for a banana or discovering Neptunian penguins or even just having Minions make robot clones of themselves because they’re tired of working. Between these recent stories and the many, many made-up bedtime songs (a series which include hordes of baby tigers whose number grew by five every night because my son thought it hilarious to have them run amok), I’ve certainly created my share of off-kilter, nonsensical and (apparently) delightful stories.

If there’s anything to learn here, it’s this: there is joy in any act of creation, and we are wired to play. Certainly, as a writer, I try to create with excellence and skill, but at the heart of all our novels and comics and multi-million dollar movies is the simple pleasure of gazing at the clouds to see what shapes we can find.

A person who can only see planets as hunks of rock and bananas as a source of potassium and Minions as bizarre little yellow Pez with eyes, a person who can’t see between and beyond the laws and atoms of the world, is a person who has ceased to be a child; and it is children who grow into complete humans.

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Join Us at Fantasticon Fort Wayne! http://www.childrenofthewells.com/join-us-at-fantasticon-fort-wayne/ Thu, 27 Oct 2016 13:45:39 +0000 http://www.childrenofthewells.com/?p=1883 by Nathan Marchand
October 27, 2016

s4-ep10-imageI’ve written several blogs about my annual trips to Gen-Con in Indianapolis, especially when I started selling Children of the Wells books there. This weekend I’m going to a local, smaller convention in Fort Wayne, Indiana, called Fantasticon. I’ll be selling all my books, including CotW volumes, but what makes this special is I’ll be joined by my partners in crime, Nick Hayden, Eric Anderson, and Jarod Marchand. With it being Halloween weekend, I may as well wear my Captain America costume and say, “Avengers assemble!”

Yes, that’s right—my cohorts will be with me. Nick will be selling his own books, including The Unremarkable Squire and a new short story collection, as well as Children of the Wells. Eric will be promoting his ministry Nerd Chapel and selling our devotional, 42: Discovering Faith Through Fandom. My brother Jarod will be selling his artwork, which includes some illustrations he’s made for my stories. This will be Nick and Jarod’s first times as vendors. Previously, Nick and I have gone to author fairs together and Jarod has been my assistant at Gen-Con. We’re all getting tables next to each other, so you can easily get autographs from us.

Fantasticon is a traveling convention that’s gone to several locations in Michigan (where it started) and Ohio since February. Fort Wayne is its first and only stop in Indiana. It’s being held at the Grand Wayne Center in downtown this Saturday and Sunday from 10am-6pm and 10am-5pm, respectively. Guests will include film directors Scott Russo and Scott Spiegel. A replica of the 1966 Batmobile will also be there.

According to the con’s website:

Fantasticon is a mid-size show created for true comic book and pop culture collectors and fans. The fans that come to our shows are true collectors that are looking for those rare items for their personal collections. Most leave very satisfied as we pride ourselves on having great dealers and artists at our shows. If you collect it, you will find it at a Fantasticon Show.

Fantasticon is proud to have a presence in multiple cities throughout the mid-west. Currently we are in five different cities, in three different states including Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana.

We also, are very proud of the fact that our admission price is the lowest of any other comparable shows. And the cost for being an exhibitor or artist at the Fantasticon is far less than any comparable comic cons out there.

Be there or be square!

 

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The Small-Time Artist http://www.childrenofthewells.com/the-small-time-artist/ Fri, 14 Oct 2016 13:00:01 +0000 http://www.childrenofthewells.com/?p=1879

StockSnap / Pixabay

The modern creator lives in a world of statistics–views, clicks, conversions, followers, sales. These things are vital for anyone striving to make their product viral or hoping to monetize their idea.

I have never been good at thinking this way.

I do not think it wrong for a person to pursue these things. If you believe in an idea and are committed to sharing it with others, it might even be necessary in our new Internet-saturated culture to obsess over these numbers. But I’m unable and/or unwilling to.

There are reasons why. Examining those reasons are not the purpose of this blog. I’d rather ruminate on a concept that has intrigued me now and again, a different way of creating. I’d like to consider the small-time artist.

I work for the family business. We’re caught somewhere between the old-school mom-and-pop store and the everyone-shops-on-the-Web new generation store. It’s been a rough transition, and I doubt we’ll ever fully adopt the new way of the business world–fast, cheap, superhumanly efficient, stylish, and ever-connecting. The Hayden family is not built that way. But straddling between these two worlds has given me some things to consider.

Is there such a thing as an ambition to remain small? If you’re good at something, you’re told to grow your product, double your revenue, reach the next 1000 followers, start a chain. But what if you own a office supply store on Main Street, Small Town, USA, and are content to serve a small clientele and simply make a living? Or, more to the point for us creative types, can a writer be allowed to simply create in his little niche, to create well, and not be eternally unhappy at his relative anonymity?

Where I live, we have fairs all over the place. You can see tractor pulls, pig wrestling, homemade crafts, instruments no one plays anymore being played, old songs being sung one last time, obsolete machines and techniques being taught to one more generation. No one (or very few) make a living at these things, but they communicate life; they hold a spice and variety that the modern world, with its infinite sleek choices, rarely does.

Often, these splashes of culture are inefficient, hodge-podge, informal, and eccentric. Is that inherently a bad thing?

The Internet can be a wonderful place; it connects us to innumerable experiences and opportunities that we might never otherwise come into contact with. But, I wonder, what would the world look like if more writers strove to write local, just as we’re encouraged by small businesses to “Shop Local.” Not they they would write about local events or in the local flavor, but that they would be more concerned about the handful of neighbors who could read their work than the millions out there who might, with enough social networking, finally read it.

In many ways, I straddle this divide in my creative life. Children of the Wells is on the web, hoping to spread its influence. But I’ve recently learned that writing a monthly flash fiction for the local four county advertiser is its own unique experience. There’s something to be said for some person you half-know stopping you at the BMV to say she’s read your latest story.

Of course, sometimes, I wonder what would happen if they’d pick up The Select’s Bodyguard as well.

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