Joe Mund has memories of a place he’s never been, a beautiful city called Verum set against the backdrop of a lush green forest. For years, he has sought this place, his troubled wife, Eleanor, at his side. At last his journey has brought him to Tockland, the ruins of a once-great empire, where dangerous, plague-ridden scadglings roam the dusty landscape.
Joe is closer to his destination than ever, but unwittingly he finds himself caught up in a long-simmering conflict between scadglings and the human scavengers who call the ruins home. The last miles of his journey are filled with peril, for in Tockland there are many secrets beneath the earth, waiting to be revealed.
Targeted Age Group:: 16+
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
Joe Mund is a man driven by discontent. Though he has a lovely wife, and they have managed to make a nice life for themselves, Joe is convinced that somewhere out there is some other life that will make him happy, some beautiful place that will make everything perfect. I see this same kind of discontent in the lives of many people. They do no appreciate what they have, convinced that something better must be out there somewhere. In seeking that mysterious something, they sometime lose even what they already have.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
Joe Mund is a character I first created for a short story way back in 1994. He gets to mirror the theme of the novel, and his obsessed personality was created accordingly. Other characters are created to give a range of flavors to the story. My personal favorite is a lonely young man named Pradeep.
As they passed alongside the brick wall, Joe caught a hint of some sound, whispers swept over the road by the wind. Eleanor seemed to have heard it as well, for she took a stumbling step and glanced at the wall. Where an old window had crumbled out of its place, a large opening remained, elongated and crooked like a gaping mouth. A shadow passed by, and Eleanor, startled, lurched to the side and bumped into Joe.
“Gun,” she muttered. “Gun.”
Joe just started to slide the backpack off his shoulders when the first man appeared. He was tall and thin, long black dreadlocks spilling out from under a loose knit cap. He wore what appeared to be a very crude attempt at a uniform, a green suit jacket with scraps of metal pinned to the breast, ribbons stitched on top of the shoulders, copper wire wrapped around the ends of the sleeves. His pants were frayed corduroy, over which he had on a long pair of scuffed leather boots.
“Greetings, my good travelers,” he said in a voice that was surprisingly soft and even musical. But one hand was in his pocket, and the other was tucked behind his back. “Headed east, I see, and along my very own highway.”
As he was speaking, the second man appeared, fat and pink-cheeked and sweating, a baseball cap on his head. He, too, wore a crude uniform, a blue jacket with cheap pseudo-medals, though he’d had to leave it unbuttoned to give his prodigious gut room to distend.
On his heels came a third man, hunched, hulking, a heavy brow shading dark eyes, a nose like a mutilated turnip over thick lips and a scruffy, leathery chin. Greasy tangles of reddish hair hung in his eyes, but his uniform was an old tuxedo jacket, shirtless underneath, the sleeves rolled up past his elbows, with a bright four-pointed silver star pinned to the collar.
“Allow me to introduce myself and my compatriots here,” the first man said. He brought his hand out from behind his back, revealing a large rusted machete. He used it to gesture down the line. “As for me, I call myself Admiral Vinegaroon, and I collect the tolls on this here road. No one passes by without my express permission, you see, because it’s my road and my land and my everything.”
About the Author:
Jeffrey Aaron Miller is a 1997 graduate of the Creative Writing program at the University of Arkansas. He has held a wide variety of jobs over the years, including but not limited to social worker, bus driver, postal carrier, pastor, tire salesman, and content writer, but through it all, he has remained a storyteller. He is the author of numerous novels in the genres of science fiction, fantasy and YA. He resides in Northwest Arkansas with his wife and children.
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