Nickle Brickle’Bee is odd, even by his own standards. While most boys are starting to get hair under their arms, Nickle starts growing whiskers on his chin. By the time he is twelve, he can grow a full beard. Then one day, Nickle finds himself swallowed by the earth and taken to the center of the world where he finds a massive magical city called EarthWorks that is governed by a myriad of powerful creatures. Between horrifying monsters, Elves that rule with pomp and power, Fairies that are in open rebellion, a greedy Dwarf Warlord, and an indestructible but blind adversary, Nickle finds himself in the middle of a power struggle that could mean the end of this new world.
Targeted Age Group:: 9-16
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
When I was a little kid, I spent only half my time living in reality, as my parents can attest. The rest of it my time was spent in the world of EarthWorks–a magical land of Dwarves, Elves, Wizards, Demons, and anything else that could be imagined. It was not until much later, when I shared some of my adventures with my kids, that I realized what an interesting place my "little kid-self" had created. With my kids encouragement, I began to put words to the adventures I had lived. Eventually, EarthWorks went from just my imagination to the pages of a book.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
Creating the characters in this novel was the most fun of all. Between Cythia Mallet, Edward Thunderhoof, and Shemway Darkfiend, this novel has a host of interesting characters who push the plot along. But the real joy for me is constructing situations where the protagonist, Nickle Brickle'Bee, has hard choices to make, where internal conflicts are so intense, it makes the reader second guess exactly what they would do if they faced those same dilemmas.
The Death of Hector
Between the last night of the old year and the first day of the new one, a man named Hector lay dying on his bed. He had blue eyes that twinkled in the weak light of the room. Long silver hair flowed from the old man’s head and crowded in around him, almost as if he was swimming in it. It was not his strange sickness that was finally finishing him, nor was it old age catching up. This man was, in fact, as healthy as a four-hundred-year-old man should be.
But his time had run out. The three wisest scholars of EarthWorks knew this end would come, they even planned on it, but now as it was happening, none of them felt prepared. And so a host of Healers were summoned to the bedside of Hector, each one doing the best they knew how, yet each one failing in their own right. After their many attempts, they were sent away like a flock of disappointed school children.
Instead of sending for his closest friends to replace the Healers’ presence, Hector sent for his closest enemies—his great-great-great-great-grandchildren, who, by the way, were not that great. There were five of them—all of them thirsty for the power they thought they deserved.
Jane Hawthorne was the first to arrive, or so she thought. She stepped into the small windowless room and peered into the darkness. When her eyes finally adjusted, she sat next to her great great great great grandfather’s side, patting the old man’s hand. Jane Hawthorne was tall and slender. She could have easily been athletic, but a lifetime of book reading prevented it. She was smart and ambitious—or so said the whispers in the dark. From the top of her head, a nest of black hair twisted down in worm-like curls until it reached her neck.
“Oh, great Hector, it is I, Hawthorne, your firstborn granddaughter and the first to arrive here this night—”
Before Jane Hawthorne could finish, a large man exploded through the small front door. The sudden entrance was so forceful that it snapped one of the hinges and sent it swinging to the side. The man stood in the doorway, his barreled chest puffed up like a threatened lion. His arms were thick and leathery; his eyebrows were bushy and unkempt. It took a moment for the large man’s eyes to adjust to the dimness of the room, moments longer for his small brain to register the scene. “Hector, it is I, Brutus. I hope I’m not too late—”
“Be quiet, fool,” Jane hissed. “He sleeps.”
“He does not sleep,” answered a third voice. Another man stepped out of the shadows, revealing a well-built frame with a set of sharp eyes. The man was not as tall as the other two, but he seemed twice as sure-footed. A large scar dripped down the man’s left eyebrow until it reached the bottom of his chin. It had been a horrific wound when it was first inflicted, but now, it was nothing more than a purple reminder of a horrible past. “He was in the midst of conversation when you came in, Jane.”
“Yes,” the dark figured replied.
“What are you doing here?”
“I would ask you the same question,” Locke said as he took another step forward, “but I already know the answer. You came to see if it was your poison that finally finished the old man off.”
“It’s not like you’re any better than the rest of us, or have you forgotten your sins as easily as you remember mine.”
“I am not perfect, I’ll readily admit it, but I at least learn from my mistakes.”
Before Jane Hawthorne could reply, another man galloped into the quickly shrinking room. This man was dressed differently than all the rest, having a mix of colors on him that were so bright it forced the other three to squint. Hobbes was short and chubby. He had a fat nose and a smile that was as contagious as the flu. The man had been drinking, there was no doubt about it; how much he had been drinking became the question on everyone’s mind.
Jane Hawthorne straightened up. “Hobbes, you intoxicated wretch, how in the world did you find the right place?”
“I was looking for a urinal—so you tell me if I found the right place.”
“Well, this is no urinal,” Brutus barked. “And if you turn it into one, I’ll rip your arms off and force you to clean up the mess.”
Jane Hawthorne arched her eyebrows and rubbed her forehead. “How will he be able to clean it up if he has no arms?”
Brutus’ only response was a blank stare.
Hobbes weaved back and forth through the room on his wobbly legs. “Why aren’t the rest of you as drunk as me? The old man is finally dead; it’s time to celebrate! He must have made the Selection.”
“He’s not dead,” Jane Hawthorne hissed.
“He can hear you,” Locke added.
“Well, I hope he can,” Hobbes said as he gave a slight bow towards Hector.
The other three individuals rolled their eyes.
“What?” Hobbes shrugged. “All of you wanted him gone more than me, and now that he lies on his death bed, you pretend that you did not? Liars! Hypocrites! Wolves are more loyal than you three.”
Jane cleared her throat. “Actually, wolves are very loyal creatures.”
Hobbes frowned. “What? What do you know; I’m the one who’s drunk!”
Just then, the door slowly slid open, revealing a man clothed in one of the blackest robes ever made. The color was so dark that it seemed to carry the very essence of the night sky. From the middle of the hood, two large eyes peered out, watching each of the others with care. The already dark room turned even darker as the figure stepped forward, a loud clanking sound followed with each step. The man stopped mid-stride and looked at everyone in turn. “Well, is the old crank dead?”
“No,” Locke replied.
“Not quite yet,” Jane Hawthorne added.
“I hope he will be soon,” said Hobbes.
Dante put a cold hand on Hobbes, who could not help but shiver. “So anxious, my festive fiend. And why do you think he will Select you after everything you have done?”
Hobbes shrugged the hand from his shoulder. “I have done the least evil of any of us—everyone knows that. While the rest of you have plotted and pretended civility, I at least did not play the part of a hypocrite. Hector knows I hate him; he knows I don’t trust him. If I’m guilty of anything, it’s of a truthful heart and the courage to speak my mind.”
Locke cleared his throat as Hobbes mentioned the word “courage.”
The colorful man turned around and faced the noise. “All of you are crazy—including you, Locke. Do you think you can fool Hector into believing that you have changed? Do you think he can’t peer into your soul and see the Demon within? You can’t trick the old man for he is the wisest fool of us all—don’t you remember? For he knows all.”
Dante let out a long slow breath, which sounded like a violent wind being squeezed through a narrow crack. “If he is as wise as you say, then he already knows why we are here. Let’s be done with this business.”
The five figures turned their gaze back towards the broken body of Hector.
“You can’t kill me, Dante, not even now,” Hector whispered. “But don’t worry, I won’t be alive much longer; there’s no need to add my blood to your already bloody hands. Come closer, all of you. I wish to share with you the most powerful secret I have ever carried.”
The others pressed in all at once, pushing each other for a closer position to Hector. Hobbes elbowed Locke, who in turn, shoved Brutus. It became a pushing match for the space around the bed. Soon they were so close to Hector that the old man became stifled by the stale breath that came at him from five directions.
“Don’t stand that close,” Hector said. “Give me a little more room than that. I won’t Select one of you based on how close you are to me when I die.”
“Then how will you Select one of us?” Brutus asked in his sluggish voice.
Hector closed his eyes and took in a deep breath. His body then went very still. Moments passed. Jane Hawthorne gave a slight yawn. Then Hobbes yawned. It was only a moment later before another one was yawning, and then another. The yawning became contagious and skipped around the room to each one in turn.
Locke tried to glue his mouth shut, but a yawn forced its way out. He tried to pretend like he was opening his mouth to talk, but the others were not fooled. “Maybe he’s fallen asleep.”
“Maybe he’s dead,” Brutus added.
Jane Hawthorne shook her head. “He can’t die until he’s made the Selection—you know that, or at least you should.”
Suddenly Hector stirred, his body gaining new life. “Silence. I need all of you to swear to me a vow of silence. Only three people know what I’m about to tell you, and after I’m gone, there will only be two. I can’t tell you everything since I too am held to a sacred oath, but what I tell you now, must be held close to your hearts. You will find that in repeating these words to other people who are not present in this room, you will forget them completely. They will be lost to you as a leaf is blown free from a tree by a winter wind. If you hold to this agreement, I will impart the most important information I have ever carried.”
Two of them nodded, another wiped their brow.
Locke swallowed. “What about the Selection?”
“The Selection does not matter now; I made the Selection two hundred years ago. The only thing that matters now is what I’m about to tell you.”
Hobbes gave a loud laugh, one that echoed sharply off the small walls around them. “You mean you chose someone a long time ago? That’s your news? That generations have been waiting for the Selection and without telling anyone—”
“Ease up,” Locke said. “Let him speak.”
There was a long pause before Hector finally continued. “In the exact moment of my death, a child will be born. This infant shall appear as nothing, he will be treated like he is nothing, but in his eyes, you will find the key to Everything. He will have the power to bring forth new life; he will have the power to save our people. We stand on the brink of a cliff, a precipice so high that if we fall, we will never recover. This child has the power to stop the evil wave that will soon crash against our crumbling society.”
Dante shrugged. “Save us from what, old man? Our people are stronger now than they have ever been. We’re not falling apart.”
“Oh, Dante, you lean too much on the power of your flesh. None of your mortal strength can stop the immortal tides of darkness that will be set upon you. It will not be many more years before your only hope lies in the heart of a child. You must find this child and aid him in the task he was sent to perform.”
“How will we know him?” Jane Hawthorne asked.
“Who cares?” Hobbes interjected. “One out of billions of babies are born and—”
“Silence,” Locke hissed. “Let Hector finish.” He turned his gaze back towards the old man. “How will we recognize this child?”
But Locke’s question remained unanswered, for Hector, the wisest fool of all, spoke no more.
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