Writing Update: Price Changes, Revisions, and Patreon

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I feel like it’s been a minute since I’ve talked about In the Land of God. Has it? I don’t know, but it sure seems like it. Not that I expect you guys and gals and everyone-in-between to be keeping tabs on my one and only novel the way I do, but on the off chance you do and have some questions, here are the answers.

Revisions:

Thanks to a helpful aunt with a keen eye, I’ve made some corrections to the first edition of In the Land of God. Nothing too major, and nothing that fundamentally changes the plot, just some grammatical mistakes that slipped through the cracks, and a few added/removed phrases that worked/didn’t work. Also, due to a formatting change, I had to increase the price of the paperback to $12 (USD) to maintain the expanded distribution, but at the same time I’ve changed the price of the eBook. Which brings me to…

eBook Version:

If you have bought an eBook version of In the Land of God prior to Monday,  or purchased a paperback copy at any time, let me know here, or drop me a line at the following email address:

jonesada@mail.gvsu.edu

It’s a PDF copy of the novel, and it is e-reader friendly. For the paperback purchasers who want the revised version of the manuscript, all I ask is that you take a picture of your copy with the barcode and I’ll send that file your way. Again, it’s nothing drastically different in terms of content, just a better product.

Speaking of the eBook version, I have reduced the price to $0.99 (USD). I know that some would argue that lowering the price seems to indicate a cheapening of the content, but in my opinion it’s simple economics. You and I both know that if we see something priced at less than a dollar (even if it’s a cent) we don’t have too many scruples with clicking “buy.” And at the same time, I felt that it was fair to reduce the price of the eBook to $0.99 since I had to raise the paperback price by two dollars.

Patreon:

The final bit of business and what constitutes as “news” for me is that I have started a Patreon page. For those of you who don’t know what Patreon is, it’s basically a way for independent content creators to make a little cash on the side in the way of donations. Right now, if you pledge $1 you get a free copy of the eBook, and it keeps the content free. Now, for someone who might be thinking, “But Adam, is this going to mean the end of the blog?” (some might say, “Oh thank God.”) my answer is a resounding no. I do this for fun (and maybe getting some book sales). The $1 pledge comes down to being a token of appreciation. I will never, never, NEVER figure out a way to throw up a paywall. Without getting too deep into my personal ideology, I don’t think that people should be extorted when it comes to creative content. If you enjoy what you consume, then I think you should pay for it, but at the same time I don’t believe there should be barriers to independent creatives. It hurts the audience and it hurts the artist.

In the Land of God is available on Amazon as a paperback and eBook.

You can click here to get updates about In the Land of God on Facebook.

Like I said, I’m active on Patreon, and if you want to donate you can click here.

Feel free to leave comments below, or click on the blue bird to find me on Twitter.

Until next time!

A lute continua (the struggle continues)

We Stand on Guard : Water! Giant Robots! Occupied Canada! (A review)

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I can’t remember the last time I’ve done a book article that wasn’t about my own, and I don’t think I’ve ever done a single book review, but there’s a first time for everything, right?

Plot

We Stand on Guard is a six-issue series published from July – December 2015, and is now compiled in a single graphic novel. It’s the culmination of writing by Brian K. Vaughan, art by Steve Skroce, and coloring by Matt Hollingsworth. The story begins in 2112 in Ottawa, Ontario. After the White House is destroyed the United States invades Canada for revenge and…freshwater? I wouldn’t necessarily call this “SPOILERS!!1!1” since it’s a predictable scenario. By the 22nd century, the United States has run out of freshwater and decided to invade the Great White North and uses the attack as justification for invasion.

The story follows Amber, a child when the invasion happens, and is surviving in the Northwest Territories in 2124 when she comes upon a band of Canadian resistance fighters called, “the Two-Four.” Most of the story takes place in, and around, their underground base near Great Slave Lake. There is also another plot involving one of the resistance members being taken prisoner by the occupying Americans.

That’s all I’ll really say about the plot to avoid any significant spoilers.

Social/Political Commentary

The premise of the story is one part the Iraq War, and another part War Plan Red, a military war plan created by the U.S. military in the late ‘20s and early ‘30s for a possible war with the British Empire, and the focus of military action would have been Canada. War Plan Red is actually referenced in We Stand on Guard, but more as a historical precedent than as the actual operation used in the novel.

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War Plan Red Image Source

We Stand on Guard seems like it was trying to make a point about the United States’ behavior in the places it has occupied, specifically Iraq. There are detention camps, special forces, psychological torture, and guerrilla warfare. Basically, it turns Canada into Iraq.

Canadaraq?

Iranada?

Caraqada?

Anyway…

It doesn’t shy away from making the occupation forces out to be typical bad guys, and the resistance fighters to be the typical good guys, and while it’s an interesting concept it ignores the possibility for a deeper and more thoughtful dialogue. Now, someone might think, “But Adam, it’s a comic book! It doesn’t have to be nuanced!”

To that I say, Watchman, V for Vendetta, The White Donkey, and Maus. Just because it’s a graphic novel doesn’t mean it has to be mindless.

What it does well, though, is showing what happens to an occupied and brutalized populace, and makes them more approachable by stripping away anything foreign or unfamiliar. The Canadians look like Americans, behave like Americans, talk like Americans, which brings the idea of occupied/occupier closer to home (figuratively and literally).

Characters

The problem is that I didn’t feel anything for these characters, at least nothing that made me feel too invested. All the characters look like they had been models before the war, and there’s one scene where you get a butt shot in a shower of the main character, and she looks oddly healthy for living in the Northwest Territories. Of course, there’s the obligatory, “grizzled old man,” because it can’t be a war story without that. Aside from that, all the characters are pretty similar. One dies? Okay. A bad thing happened to another character in the past? Fair enough. Part of this is because there are multiple plot-lines, and it never feels like you spend too much time with one character. This would have done better as either a longer series, or a longer graphic novel, because at least then there would be a better chance to connect with the characters. Oddly enough, the one character I liked the most was a side character, and I didn’t feel too much about Amber. She’s a generic protagonist. On the one hand, it’s disappointing that a female protagonist is so blah, but on the other hand it’s strangely satisfying that her gender didn’t have to be a focal point. So that’s cool.

Visual

Since it is a graphic novel, it would be good to talk about the visual aspect. Look, I don’t know much about drawing, and I sure as hell can’t do it myself, so take the next part with a grain of salt. I thought visually, it was satisfying to look at, but nothing that made me take pause and marvel at its originality. It’s good comic book art, what else is there to say? One part of the visual aspect that I can’t decide if I liked, or not, were the moments of violence. It definitely affirms that it’s a war story and tries to be honest about the brutality of war, but at the same time it feels like it was done for the sake of being “mature” and “edgy.”

Writing

Circling back to the writing aspect, it’s an action story, and a pretty uniform one at that. Outgunned underdogs get their hands on some enemy tech, there is a climactic battle, and all is right with the world. The end felt so incredibly rushed that I looked to see if there is a sequel The dialogue follows this formula, and I feel like it was created with, “Mad Libs: Action Movie Edition.” Exposition, banter, lightly seasoned with choice expletives (to remind you this is a mature graphic novel), makes it run together and not really give any of the characters their own voice. There is also one character, a Quebecois fellow, who speaks exclusively in French Canadian, and there is no translation given. I pretty much skimmed his lines, saw if I recognized any words, and pretty well figured out what he’d said based on context. The strange thing is he plays a significant part at the end of the story that made me scratch my head and wonder if they had felt it necessary to shoehorn in a significant part for the First Nations/Quebecois guy.

Nationalism

Now, the one part of this whole novel that mildly irritated me was that it felt like it was trying to be a piece of “Canadian Exceptionalism” much like American media is drenched in “American Exceptionalism.” Obviously it’s not terrible to be proud of your heritage, but it also seemed like it was stooping to a level of mindless nationalism. Part of me hopes that it’s subtle satire aimed at American readers like myself. There were also two lines that stuck out to me that made me consciously roll my eyes. One of the characters, descended from Syrian refugees, mentions how Canada brought in way more refugees than the United States did. It’s a fair point, but the context it’s used in felt like the writer was doing it to say, “Take that America!” The other line is a character talking about Canadian heroes, and one of the names mentioned is that of the Trudeaus, meaning Pierre and Justin. Pierre did a lot of good for Canada, and Justin seems like a good leader (especially in comparison to our own…), but elevating him to the status of hero? He appears to be a good man, and a pretty conventional Western leader, but hero? Who knows what will happen, but talk about the cart before the horse. I get that the dark satire of Starship Troopers (the movie) inspired this, but it felt like it forgot that it was trying to be tongue-in-cheek.

Conclusion

I saw this at a local bookstore, noticed the cover, and thought, “Huh, this looks interesting.” But the cellophane wrapping prevented me from flipping through and seeing if I wanted to sink money into a book that I’ll read in one sitting, and possibly never read again. As luck would have it, the local library had a copy in circulation, and I’ll be honest, I’m glad I didn’t spend money on it. It read like a watered down version of The Man in the High Castle, and instead of making you sympathize with, but question the “good guys,” and make the “bad guys” out to be human too, it just turned it into a juvenile, black-and-white morality, action story.

That is not to say I’m upset that I read it.

The problem is not that it’s terrible, but it’s a book I read once and will probably never read again. I can appreciate the work that goes into a graphic novel, or any writing for that matter, but We Stand on Guard is just too generic to warrant spending money on it. Maybe I’m just being cynical and someone else would find the premise extremely shocking and inventive, but ultimately it felt like a darker, grittier reboot of Canadian Bacon.

Worth a read if you can find it at a library and have an hour or two to kill.

Agree? Disagree? Feel free to leave a comment.

Thanks for reading.

Like what you read? Click here to donate at Patreon. It’s only a $1!

Writing Update: Great Lakes Commonwealth of Letters; eBook Giveaway; Print Discount

Writing Update: Great Lakes Commonwealth of Letters; eBook Giveaway; Print Discount

In the Land of God is FREE on Kindle from March 14-18. 50% off with discount code on the Createspace store. Check below for details!

Update! As of tonight, In the Land of God has risen to the #11 spot in “Literary Sagas” under the “Top 100 Free” eBooks on Kindle, and #38 in the “Historical Fiction” category under “Top 100 Free.”

You know that saying about plans, and mice, and men and how they often don’t go exactly as planned?

Well if you don’t, I’m in a little situation like that. Not, “my challenged friend killed my employer’s son’s wife” situation, but something that made me say, “Dammit, me!”

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First the good news!

This past Wednesday I met with one of the people in charge at the Great Lakes Commonwealth of Letters. For those of you not from the Grand Rapids area (or if you are from the area and don’t know what that is), it is a place for writers to work and sell their work. I’ll be making In the Land of God available through them as well as the usual channels, and in due time it will be available on  their online store and at their location in downtown Grand Rapids. I’ll make sure to keep you all posted when that happens.

Speaking of availability, back to the bad news.

Last week, I mentioned that I would be doing a promotional deal for In the Land of God, and…

It didn’t happen.

Mea culpa.

To make it up to everyone, I will be running two separate promos.

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The eBook version of In the Land of God will be FREE from March 14 – March 18.

You can go to Amazon and download it for FREE from tomorrow through Saturday.

(The other promotion is for the print version.)

Go to the Createspace store and enter the following code for 50% off the list price.

2KGQ6Z4D

(Expires March 31)

Feel free to follow me here, or click on the Twitter logo up top to follow me there. You can also “like” In the Land of God on Facebook.

Also, feel free to leave a comment below, and if you pick up a copy of In the Land of God, reviews are always welcomed.

Thanks for reading.

A luta continua!

 

 

Writing Update – 2/24/2017 (New purchases & interviews, and New projects)

First off, I want to thank recent (and semi-recent) purchasers of In the Land of God. I also want to thank whomever left the recent five-star review on Amazon. I don’t know what is more affirming, seeing a new sale (hurray, people were willing to pay for my work!) or seeing a positive review of something I wrote (hurray, strangers don’t think my work sucks!)

I also want to thank Grand Valley TV for a chance to be interviewed by Kyle Bindas (which should be ready to watch in the near future), and the Grand Valley State University Book Club for the chance to speak at their meeting on the 16th. I honestly can’t decide whether the speaking event was exciting, or nerve-wracking. Maybe a little bit of both? Exciting-wracking? Nerve-exciting? I don’t know. You’d think a writer would be better at concision and precision.

Anyway…

Now that the Oscar-style thank you speech is out of the way, on to new business.

For those of you that don’t know, I wrote a post a while back about my next novel and an upcoming anthology of horror stories. To elaborate, the next novel that I’m working on (sort of) is a tragic romance set during a future global conflict. It is set over the course of a summer and consists of three, interconnected plot lines. One plot focuses on a soldier caught up in the war, a priest who is confronted with the reality of his nationalism, and a young couple fresh out of high school grappling with the harshness of their coming-of-age. I’m sure it sounds all very pretentious and gloomy, but hey, it’s a story I’ve been kicking around in my head since high school and I figure there’s no time like the present to write it.

The other project, the anthology of horror stories, will come from myself and the cover artist for In the Land of God, Micah Chapin. To give an idea of what it will be like, the plan is to have stories that range from Weird Fiction (a la H.P. Lovecraft sans overt racism), to existentialist horror, to apocalyptic horror reminiscent of the 1950s and 1960s. I’ve written a few of the stories, and truth be told I haven’t talked with Micah about that project in a minute, but there’s more headway with that project than with the second novel.

Part of it is good old procrastination, and part of it is just…life getting in the way. Wrapping up my college career, work, and just living tend to be pretty big obstacles to getting writing done (not that I would trade any of them for more time to write. Although a Faustian deal for better time management skills would be alright. I kid.)

Perhaps the biggest reason those projects have gotten neglected is because I just banged out the rough draft of something I’ve never done before, and no, it is not fan fiction. After being inspired by Hamilton (it’s so damn good) and current events, I decided to try my hand at writing a play. Why a play? Well, why not? That’s not much of an explanation, though. Here’s a better one. I want my writing to have a cinematic feel, I think cinematic writing is easier for modern audiences to digest. That’s not a dig, the reality is we live in an extremely visual society, and we have for the better part of a hundred years. Why not make your writing accessible for your audience? Now, that doesn’t mean I won’t take a paragraph or two to wax philosophic, but the majority of the story should create a vivid film in a reader’s head. Plus, if I’m being honest, it’s more fun to write that way. Where were we? Oh, right, writing a play. Anyway, my takeaway from the rough draft is that it’s a completely different animal. The formatting is different, the conventions are different, even the process of getting the final product in the open is a different beast. I self-published In the Land of God not only because of principle, but because it was feasible to self-publish. You can’t really self-publish a play. I mean, you totally can, but the real name of the game is getting the play produced. That’s easier said than done, and it means either throwing my hat into the ring for a contest, or finding a theatre willing to produce the play. The other difference is that getting a play produced is different than getting a novel published. Sure, a novel relies on a lot of moving parts (an editor, possibly an agent, a publishing platform, people to get the novel into the hands of readers, readers in general), but a play, right out of the starting gate requires more people to make it a reality. It sounds like I’m pulling a 180 in terms of my philosophy, but in all honesty it doesn’t feel that way. I still love the independence of writing, but I also realize that it’s a different situation because it’s a different genre. Apples and oranges, spaghetti and pizza.

Anyway…

My point is, I wrote a play, and it feels pretty good to have done something and done it so quickly. It still needs work, and it needs to be expanded (it’s only about 61 pages long at the time of my writing this), but it feels like I have something. Part of me wants to embark on writing a musical, but at the same time I feel like a toddler that took his first steps and got so excited he signed up for a marathon.

If you have any comments, leave ‘em below, and you can follow me on Twitter by clicking the link up top. Also, if you have any tips when it comes to getting a play produced, feel free to leave them below (trust me, any help is greatly appreciated).

Thanks for reading.

A luta continua

In the Land of God is available on Amazon as an eBook and paperback.

 

In the Land of God Chapters IV – VI

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For those of you who don’t know, I published a novel (see above). For those of you who know that, but don’t know this, I’ve started to serialize it on my blog as a way of a) drumming up publicity and b) providing it free to readers who couldn’t otherwise read it. In the Land of God Chapters I – III are already available, and I plan on continuing this until it’s available in its entirety on my blog (or until there are cries of, “Please, stop!“) If you like what you read, it’s available on Amazon as an eBook and as a paperback.

IV

 

 

Since they had moved to New Canaan, Abraham and Sarah had planned on returning to Chicago for the birth of their child. Near the end of the harvest season Sarah’s belly had grown to the point that she didn’t believe it could grow anymore. When Abe wasn’t tending to Sarah he was making preparations for the next sowing season. He had bought the necessary equipment, but lacked a crucial part: the seed.

He could have bought from a supplier in town, but he had a better idea. One night after dinner he turned to Eli and said, “How would the people around here feel about selling me seed?”

“That depends. How much are you willing to pay, and how much do you need?”

Abe showed Eli the projections he’d scratched on a piece of paper.

“Well Abe, you need quite a bit, that much is plain to see. That part shouldn’t be a problem, most of these farmers have a surplus after the harvest. The real problem is they’re going to charge you a lot.”

“I’m willing to pay it.”

Eli shook his head, “No, you’ll pay more for their seed than you would pay the supplier in town. They’ll do it out of spite, try to send you a message, it’s not financially responsible.”

Abe leaned toward Eli, “The money’s not an issue, this is about building friendships. I can’t have an entire town of people hate me and my family. I thought if I did this, maybe it could build some trust.”

Eli leaned back in his chair, “Even so, they’re going to sell you the lowest quality seed they have.”

“It doesn’t matter. I believe that if I show them I’m willing to work with them, then maybe they’ll work with me.”

Eli sighed and handed back the paper to Abe, “I’ll tell you one thing Abe, you’re a Romantic and an optimist. Fine, I’ll write up a list of people. We’ll go out tomorrow and see what happens.”

“Thank you Eli. Maybe if you come with me it’ll look better.”

Eli smiled, “Well, for most people, but I can think of one person that won’t want to see me.”

“Who’s that?”

“Don’t worry about it. Go, be with Sarah, I’ll write up that list.”

After Abraham left the living room Eli went into the kitchen to begin working on the list. He started with his closest friends in New Canaan, then worked down to acquaintances, then farmers he knew by name, and at the far bottom of the list he wrote one name: Phil South. He considered scratching it out, or tearing off the bottom of the paper, but decided to leave it. Abe needed to learn sooner or later, better this way than through conflict.

 

Phil South had moved to New Canaan shortly after Eli. He came with a wife, a young son, and a drinking habit. He came from a wealthy family, and unlike Abraham that privileged lifestyle imbued him with a pernicious laziness. When Phil arrived in New Canaan he bought some land from Eli, the same land that Abraham and Sarah now occupied.

The New Canaanites had tried to welcome him into the community, but he rejected them. Their poverty, their ignorance, and their work repulsed him. He came to New Canaan with the hope that with a little money and influence he could build an empire, then employ the locals to do the work for him. This never happened. The New Canaanites, despite their lack of education understood disdain and arrogance. Phil rejected them, and in turn they rejected him. Phil and his family became pariahs, left alone to either die, flee, or make amends.

Phil never swallowed his pride, so the shops in town never worked with him. His tools became rusted and useless, so it became hard to work the field. He knew nothing about farming, so most of his crops died or grew up weak and shriveled. On top of all of that his drinking problem never abated. The only shopkeeper that dealt with him was the owner of the general store, and that was because Phil bought a fifth of whiskey every other day.

All of these things caused Phil to be unsuccessful. He tried to sue Eli, claiming that Eli had sold him fallow land, but given the circumstances nobody believed him. He lost the case and became a laughingstock. At best known as the town drunk, and at worst known as the rich, arrogant city-boy that couldn’t have a single, good harvest.

After awhile his wife left him. She fled in the night while Phil was in a drunken stupor, at least that’s what people said. Nobody knew exactly where she went, but there were rumors that she’d gone back to the city to be with some rich suitor. Phil and his son lived together on the farm after that, but once the son turned eighteen he left too, never to return. Most assumed he had run away from home, off to join his mother in the city, but two men knew the truth: the postmaster and Eli.

Any hope for Phil vanished after his son left. He didn’t bother with growing any crops, and in short order the house fell into disrepair. As Phil collapsed, so did the integrity of his property. Weeds sprang up, thorns choked out the other plants, and he rarely left his house except to get food and drink. He took no interest in the outside world, except one summer when he heard the growl of a motor in the distance. Over the next few weeks he peeked out his windows or watched from the backyard as an old man and a young man cleared the land south of him and built a farm.

 

The next day, Abe and Eli got into the car and began making the rounds. They zoomed from farm to farm, negotiating with each farmer. None of the men seemed receptive, but they couldn’t turn up a good deal. It didn’t matter to Abraham that the farmers marked up the price, what mattered is he was establishing connections; a name with a face, a human attached to a concept. It didn’t hurt that Eli came with him.

By the afternoon, Abraham’s car struggled to haul two grown men and the bags of seed in the back. They had to stop back at the farm a few times to unload the seed, refuel, and check on Sarah. Near the end of the day they had only one name left on the list of farmers.

“Looks like Phil South is the last name on the list, who is he?” Abraham asked Eli.

Eli kicked the dirt with a boot and said, “Eh, he’s the farmer to the north, just across the pond.”

“Let’s go talk to him, I’ve talked to everyone else, might as well get him too.”

“We have enough seed Abe, I don’t think we need to talk to Phil.”

“This isn’t about getting more seed, I’d just like to meet him and if he’s willing to sell then I’m willing to buy.”

Abraham walked toward the car and Eli grabbed Abe’s arm. “Abraham, are you sure you want to meet him?”

Abe studied Eli, wondering what the old man hid from him. “Of course I want to meet him, he’s my neighbor. Why shouldn’t I meet him?”

Eli sighed. “No reason Abe, no reason.”

Abraham went inside and told Sarah about meeting with Phil, while Eli paced outside hoping for Abe to change his mind. Abraham returned and noticed Eli’s anxiety.

“You ready Eli?”

He nodded and said, “Let’s drive there. I don’t think Phil would appreciate us walking across his property.”

Abraham shrugged and prepared the engine. He climbed into the driver’s seat and Eli into the passenger’s seat. They drove away from the farm, across the bridge that spanned the creek, and up the next road. When they arrived at Phil’s farm, the first thing Abraham noticed was how sad everything looked. The farmhouse’s peeling paint and broken window on the second floor. The barn threatened to collapse, its roof sagging and defeated. Rusted tools and farm equipment were scattered around the dusty, weed-infested yard. The field beyond the house contained nothing save dirt and a few withered stalks of dead corn.

“Doesn’t seem to farm much,” Abe stated.

“No, no he doesn’t.” Eli paused, “Park on the road, Abe, it’ll be better if we do.”

Abraham shrugged and agreed. They stepped out of the car and began walking up to the decrepit house.

“We don’t need to do this, Abe.”

“I want to, he’s my neighbor and he deserves to know me.”

Eli shook his head and said no more.

Before they reached the house the front door swung open. In the doorway stood an old man. His face worn, wrinkled, and tired. His hair was white and patchy, and he squinted his eyes even in the late afternoon light. He appeared weak and ready to collapse like everything else on his property, but he also seemed ready to fight; a beaten dog filled with enough will to hate. The old man leaned against the door frame and scowled at the men approaching the house.

“Who the hell are you and what do you want?” he growled, his words dripping with whiskey.

“Phil, it’s me, Eli,” he responded with caution. “Your new neighbor, Abe, came with me. He wanted to meet you.”

The two men walked up to the front porch. Abe extended his hand to Phil, but Phil scowled at the gesture. Abraham let his hand fall to his side and he stepped back.

“Eli…” Phil said, his voice trailing off. His eyes grew tighter as he probed his brain trying to attach a memory to the name.

His eyes widened as he recognized the name, “You rotten, old bastard,” he growled. “What business do you have being on my property? Coming for more of my money?”

“That’s not what we’re here for,” Eli responded, keeping his voice even and calm. “Abraham here just wanted to introduce himself, and see if you wanted to maybe sell him some seed.”

Phil laughed, “You think I’ve got seed to sell you? Hell, does it look like I’ve got seed to sell you?” His humorless smile vanished, “Besides, I wouldn’t sell to you two anyway.”

Eli glanced at Abraham hoping he kept his mouth shut, and Abe stayed quiet. He raised his eyebrows and folded his arms over his chest.

“So, you wanna be a farmer, city boy?” Phil asked Abraham. “You gonna be a farmer like the rest of us?”

“That’s the plan.”

Phil scoffed, “Why the hell would you wanna do something as damn stupid as that?”

“I didn’t want to raise a family in a city. I thought it’d be safer, and easier to raise a family in the countryside.”

Safer?” Phil said with an incredulous laugh. “Oh, that’s funny city boy!”

Abraham pressed his lips into a thin line and took a sharp breath through his nose.

“You think it’s so bad in the city, so trying. Wait until your crops fail, wait until you get a debt you can’t pay off, and wait until these people turn their back on you.” He pointed at Eli, “This one sure will, I’ll tell you that. You won’t last a season down here.”

“Is that so?” Abe retorted.

Phil smirked, “I know it, I bet Eli here sold you bad land like he sold me bad land.”

“Listen here you lying son of a bitch,” Eli snarled. “I didn’t sell you bad property. You’re just a miserable drunk that was too lazy to make a go of it.” Eli looked into the house seeing the filth and piles of garbage, “I’d be surprised if you could wipe your ass on your own. I thank God your wife and son aren’t here to see what you’ve turned into.”

Don’t you dare talk about my family like that!” Phil screamed. “Don’t you ever bring up my wife or son!” His voice broke as he spoke the words. “You’d never understand that kind of suffering…”

“You don’t have a monopoly on that suffering!” Eli shouted back at him.

Phil roared and hurled himself at Eli. The two men slammed onto the porch, clawing and punching at each other. Phil flailed around, his drunk swings no match for the directed, powerful assault unleashed by Eli. Phil kicked Eli in the stomach and broke free. He scrambled inside, reached around the corner, and grabbed something out of sight. Abe rushed over to help Eli to his feet, and as he did he heard a metallic click from the doorway.

Phil stood in the doorway, pointing a double-barreled shotgun at Abe and Eli. Abraham ducked and tackled Phil throwing him back into the house. The gun dropped to the floor and discharged with a thunderous boom. Both slugs went into the ceiling raining down dust and debris on the two men. Abe landed three quick punches on Phil’s face; the young man’s strength and adrenaline a vicious combination.

Abraham jumped up while Phil laid on porch clutching his battered face. He moaned as blood poured through his fingers and he sputtered unintelligible curses. Abe and Eli ran back to the car, looking over their shoulders every few seconds to see if Phil had regrouped. Abe cranked the engine while Eli stared at the porch, waiting for Phil to get back on his feet.

The old man rolled onto his knees, then slowly stood up.

“Abe, he’s back up!”

The engine roared and Abraham swung into the driver’s seat. He and Eli looked at Phil, and Phil  glared back at them. Blood soaked the front of his shirt due to a broken nose and punched out teeth. He stood still, a grimace on his face, allowing the haunting silence to fill the distance between them.

Abraham shifted the car’s gears and drove away from the farm, retreating to the relative safety of him farm, leaving behind a cloud of dust, tire tracks, and the genesis of a future conflict.

 

When Abe and Eli got back to the farm, Abe helped Eli inside and sat him down at the kitchen table.

What happened?” Sarah asked as she entered the kitchen.

“We’re alright, just get us some water and a damp cloth,” Abe responded.

After she returned and Eli collected himself they told her about what happened at Phil’s farm.

“Shouldn’t we do something, Abraham?”

“Go to the sheriff?” Eli asked. “No, they don’t get involved with feuds like this. They’d tell us to stay away from him, and him to stay away from us. They’d probably be annoyed that we bothered them over this.”

“He sounds dangerous though!”

Abe shook his head, “I think he’s just a crazy old drunk. Nothing worth being concerned about, right Eli?”

“I think you’re right Abe, but nevertheless it wouldn’t be unwise to take some precautions.”

“What kind of precautions?”

“We’ll put up a fence on the other side of the pond. Nothing too complicated, just a barbed wire fence to let him know he’s not welcome on this property.”

Abraham nodded, “Alright, we’ll go into town tomorrow.”

Later that night, while Abe and Eli sat at the kitchen table having a couple glasses of whiskey Abe confessed to Eli, “I wish we could just kill him and get it over with.”

Eli’s eyes widened. He never knew Abe to be a violent or drastic man, and the confession came as a shock. Rather than chastise Abe he said, “It would be easier, but it wouldn’t be justified.”

“When would it be justified?”

Eli took a drink and considered his response. “Well, if you caught him trespassing on your property I suppose then that wouldn’t raise too many questions.”

Abe nodded, satisfied with the answer.

“But Abraham, listen. It may not seem like it right now, but taking a man’s life, even the life of a man you hate as much as Phil, it’s not a trivial thing. Even if you believe it to be justified and righteous, you still took a man’s life, and nothing can bring that man’s life back. Do you understand?”

“I understand.”

Eli gave Abraham a sad smile and said, “Have you killed a man?”

“I haven’t.”

“Then you don’t understand.”

 

The following day, Abraham and Eli went into New Canaan. In the months that had passed since Abe and Sarah’s arrived in town the general attitude toward Abe had changed significantly. None of the farmers or shopkeepers scowled at the first sight of Abraham. Instead, they smiled and nodded or at the very least tipped their hat at him. He had yet to grow anything, which meant he wasn’t their complete equal, but they at least saw him as a fellow human being.

They entered the hardware store and t smelled of wood, metal and oil, clean and grounded aromas. An old man sat in a chair holding a newspaper, and the owner stood behind the desk.

“Abe, Eli, what do you need?”

Eli approached the counter, “You have any fence posts and barbed wire?”

“Thinking about getting livestock?”

“No, we’re just…making sure a neighbor knows his boundaries.”

The owner smirked, “Having problems with Phil South?”

Abe stepped in, “No problems, just some extra security.”

“Heh, well I doubt a fence is gonna stop him, but if you want to build a fence then I’m happy to sell to you.”

The owner gathered the materials and Abraham moved to pay him.

“You don’t owe me anything,” the owner said. “You’re an alright city boy, and I don’t wanna see anything happen to you. Phil South has been trouble since he moved here. Maybe if the drunk sumbitch’ll think twice about causing trouble if he slices himself trying to get through a fence.”

Abraham put his wallet back in his pocket, “I appreciate that.”

The owner waved his hand dismissively, “It’s not a problem. We have to take care of our own, don’t we? Besides, who else will?”

Abe smiled and nodded, “No one, I suppose.”

“If you want some extra protection I can sell you one of these,” the owner said, motioning to the various polished revolvers in the glass case.

“That’s alright,” Eli said, “I have something already.”

Abraham and Eli left the store and on their way back to the car Abe turned to Eli and asked, “What did you mean back there, about having something already?”

“I’ll explain after we get the fence set up.”

 

Back at the farm they hauled the wire and posts to the northern edge of the property. Eli held each post while Abe hammered them into the ground. The echoes sounded like gunshots ringing across the empty field. Once they set up the fence posts they unrolled the barbed wire with care, ensuring they didn’t cut their hands on the razor-sharp barbs.

In the distance they saw a figure emerge from Phil’s house. The figure began walking across the  open field, stopping every few steps to watch Abraham and Eli, a dark specter haunting their work; watching, observing, and planning his next move against the farm.

“Just let it be, Abe. There’s no point starting trouble if he isn’t causing trouble. He’s just watching us.”

“I don’t trust him.”

“As you shouldn’t, just ignore him. If we don’t bother to notice him then maybe he’ll go away.”

Abe and Eli returned to their work, trying to ignore Phil’s slow advance toward them. With the fence completed it stretched from the west tree line to the east tree line forming a concrete northern border.

Phil walked across the tall grass on the other side of the fence and approached the fence. He leaned on one of the posts and said, “I see you put up a fence, hope it’s not on my property.”

“It isn’t Phil, it’s a good twenty feet behind the property line. That means you’re on my property.”

Phil shifted his weight from one foot to the other, looking past Abe and Eli at the farmhouse.

“Suppose your woman’s pretty much ready to have your kid.”

“Phil, what the hell do you want?” Eli asked, stopping Phil from goading Abe into conflict. “You don’t want anything to do with us, and we don’t want anything to do with you. So unless you have a good reason for being here, I suggest you leave.”

Phil laughed and held up his hands in mock surrender. “I didn’t come here to start a fight, I just came to investigate what you two were doing near my property.” He paused then added, “A man’s got the right to do that, don’t he?”

Eli and Abe stared at him without replying.

Phil chuckled, “Are you two still sore about our little altercation yesterday?”

“You attacked Eli and tried to shoot us,” Abe said through clenched teeth.

“Well, you two did barge onto my property and got me all agitated.”

“We came over so I could introduce myself!”

Phil leaned back and said, “Huh, you city boys have a funny way of introducing yourselves.”

He smiled, waiting for Abe’s reaction. The heavy silence begged for a reaction. Someone needed to break the tension.

“Phil, get the hell out of here,” Eli said in a commanding voice.

“What are you gonna do Eli? Take me to court? Or maybe you’ll run away if things get too tough like you done before. What are you two gonna do to me?”

“I’ll kill you,” Abe said, his eyes fixed on Phil, his left hand gripping the sledgehammer. “If I see you on this land again, I’ll kill you, and I won’t think twice about doing it.”

Phil’s mouth spread into a toothless grin and he squinted his eyes, “Fine, that’s fair.” His grin turned into a scowl and he snarled, “But if I ever see you, or anyone from this farm on my land-”

“Just go, Phil,” Eli said.

Phil stopped talking and gave a slight nod to Abraham and Eli. He turned to walk away then spun around and kicked the nearest fence post. Abe lunged forward, but Eli grabbed his shirt to stop him.

“Better fix that post,” Phil muttered as he walked back to his house.

Abe and Eli watched him leave, repaired the fence post, then walked back to the farmhouse.

 

V

 

 

After eating lunch, Eli said to Abe, “Go out to the barn and I’ll meet you out there.”

Abe did as instructed and went out to the barn. It still smelled of new wood with the earthy aroma of the dirt faintly accompanying it. He sat down on the ground and leaned back against the wall. It was cool in the barn, and only a little light came in through the loft window and the gap between the barn doors.

A few minutes later the barn door swung open and Eli came inside carrying a small, polished wooden box. On the top of it was an etching of a bald eagle clutching arrows and an olive branch. Eli walked over to Abe and sat down beside him. Eli opened the box and extracted a shiny revolver, the kind issued to a young officer in the Grand Army of the Republic.

Eli held the gun in his hands, examining it, turning it over, opening the chamber and giving it a gentle spin.

“Did I ever tell you I fought in the Civil War?”

Abe shook his head.

“I was a lieutenant in the Army. My parents had money and they knew the right people. They got me a position as an officer and because of that I got one of these.” He held up the revolver for Abe to see it better.

“I never even shot the damn thing. I…ah, got hurt before I could even shoot it.”

Abe cocked his head, “The war ended before you recovered?”

Eli shook his head, “No, I got discharged once I recovered. The Army decided I’d given enough to my country already.”

“How did you get hurt?”

“I got hurt in such a way that it didn’t kill me, but it killed my future.”

Abe thought about what Eli meant, then finally understood. “Oh, that explains why-”

“Why I never married? That’s right.”

“I’m sorry that happened to you, Eli.”

Eli shrugged and said, “Me too. But that’s not why I wanted to talk to you.” He handed the revolver over to Abe, “I wanted to talk to you about giving you this.”

What? Why?”

“I’m an old man, Abe. There’s no telling when I’ll go, and I wanted you to have something to protect yourself and your family with. I’ll teach you how to use it, so in case something happens you’ll know what to do.”

Abe let the revolver sit in his hands, he treated it like a holy relic too delicate to be touched.

“It won’t break if you hold it by the grip,” Eli chuckled.

Abe’s fingers curled around the grip and he put his index finger on the trigger. Eli took Abe’s hand and said, “First lesson: don’t put your finger on the trigger unless you intend to pull it.”

Eli stood up and said, “Come with me outside, I’ll show you how to shoot it.”

The two men exited the barn. The sun had already made its way toward the horizon, a clear sign that fall and the winter approached. Storm clouds moved in from the west, the massive thunderheads gray and reaching high into the sky, one last storm for the season. Abe noticed the approaching storm, and despite not being a superstitious man he found it unnerving and symbolic of something. Storms could renew, but they could also destroy, and he wondered if the storm foretold of renewal or destruction.

Eli led Abe over to the line of trees next to the creek. He pulled a knife from his pocket and etched a target into the trunk then stepped back to inspect his work.

“It wouldn’t be good enough at West Point, but it’ll do for us.”

He walked back over to Abe and took the revolver from him. Eli pulled six shells from his pocket and methodically loaded them into each chamber. He held the gun with two hands, his forearms tensed, but relaxed at the elbow, his feet shoulder width apart. Eli exhaled and squeezed the trigger. The gun’s muzzle erupted with light and smoke and sound. He worked with the recoil allowing his arms to become parallel with his body. A bullet slammed into the tree sending splinters of wood flying in every direction.

He lowered the revolver and handed it over to Abe.

“It may look easy, but if you’ve never fired a gun before it’ll take some getting used to.”

Abe mimicked Eli’s stance, took aim, and fired. The bullet skipped off the side of the tree and hit the tree next to it. He lowered his arms and said, “Helluva kick on this thing.”

“You’ll get used to it. Try again.”

Abraham did as commanded. He took aim and fired again, this time the bullet struck one of the outer rings of the target.

“Better, at least you got inside the target this time.”

Abe fired two more shots, each one closer to the center of the target. The clouds darkened the sky over the farm, and a few errant rain drops hit the leaves at the top of the trees. Abe took aim one last time, centered on the target and pull the trigger. The bullet hit the center of the target causing a spider web of cracks to form. As soon as the noise of the gun dissipated, the sky seemed to return fire with a loud crack of thunder.

Eli inspected the target. “Good shooting for your first time. Now let’s get inside before the storm really hits us.”

They walked back across the open field toward the house, Sarah stood in the back door with both of her hands on her round belly. She ushered the two men inside and sat them down for dinner. With the dishes cleared away, and Sarah in the living room, Abe and Eli went out on the porch to enjoy the last storm of the season.

Eli turned to Abe and said, “I never really told you about my life before New Canaan, did I?”

“No, you haven’t.”

Eli rubbed his cheeks with one hand and said, “I guess I owe it to you to tell you about that.”

He leaned back in the chair and began his story. “I grew up in an old mill town in Massachusetts. My parents were wealthy people, claimed they could trace our lineage back to before the Revolution. Phil’s parents were…” he paused, mulling over how to continue the story, “They were wealthy people too. Phil and I were best friends. We did everything together, went everywhere together, and shared just about everything.”

He sighed before continuing, “The only thing he ever knew was out of bounds was this land, and my fiancée. She and I loved each other, Abe. That’s a rare thing in wealthy circles, but we did. We had plans to marry, but the war interrupted us.

My parents thought it would be fashionable for me to be an officer in the Army. It’d impress their Abolitionist friends, they’d look like good patriots sending their son off to fight the rebels.” Eli shook his head, “They didn’t give a hoot in hell about any of that, they just knew it would be good for their business. So, like I said, I became a lieutenant and went off to war.”

“What about Phil?”

“He was too young, his family…cared about him. I made it to the front and the first time I saw combat I got hurt, like I told you. Once I recovered and got home, I broke off the engagement. After that, I couldn’t stand to be around and have that constant reminder of what I’d been denied. I took my inheritance money and headed west.

On the way, I stopped in New Canaan, and thought it’d be a good place to settle down, so I did. Time passed, I started my business, and Phil contacted me. Said he’d gotten married and wanted to move here, so I told him I’d help him. I’m sure you’d understand my surprise when he showed up his arm around my old fiancee.”

Abraham sighed and leaned back in his chair.

“I wanted to stay professional about things, but I just couldn’t. I sold him the property, but I refused to help him. As a result, his farm failed. I guess it was my way of getting revenge. When he started telling people I’d sold him bad land that was it. I took him to court and won, but by then our friendship had already ended. That was just me twisting the knife a little more.”

Abraham nodded and looked down at the floor, listening to the gentle roll of thunder and the raindrops hitting the puddles. “I’m sorry Eli. It’s one thing to be betrayed by a stranger, but a good friend? The only thing worse would be a family member.”

“I always felt cheated. Like his life was supposed to belong to me, like his son was supposed to be my son, like I was supposed to share my bed with his wife.” Tears formed in Eli’s eyes. “After his wife left, people said she got sick of Phil and walked out, but I know the truth. When his son left and didn’t come home people said the same thing. I knew the truth and it damn near killed me.”

Abe paused for a moment before asking, “So, what happened to them?”
Eli patted Abe on the knee and said, “I’m sorry Abe, I’ve dug up enough skeletons tonight. I’d rather not dig up those too.”

“I understand…and I finally understand why this land meant so much to you.”

“It felt like, if I could just be close to them it would be like I was a part of their life,” Eli said in a choked voice.

The two men sat on the porch listening to the rain and the thunder and watching the flashes of lightning.

Eli turned to Abe and said, “Why did you come to New Canaan?”

“Sarah and I came from wealthy families in Chicago, bankers and industrialists. I never saw it, but I knew how they ruined lives, cared for people like they were just accounts, and how they cared more about their accounts than they cared about people. I knew that I didn’t want to raise my child around that.

I heard there was property for sale down here, and it seemed far enough away from that terrible business. I know it’s not perfect here, Eli, but at least down here I feel like I can be human, and more importantly my child can grow up feeling human. I always felt like an asset, and I know Sarah felt the same way. We didn’t want that life anymore, and we didn’t want that for our family.”

“I think you made the right choice coming down here. You, and Sarah, and I, we all grew up in that environment, and no child deserves that. It may not be easy for them, but it’ll be better for them.”

 

VI

 

 

The storm continued late into the night and grew in intensity. When Sarah got into bed she winced from the sharp pain that radiated through her abdomen. She hid it well, and dismissed it as a strong kick from the baby. Sometime around midnight she woke up from a peel of thunder and an agonizing pain that shot through her stomach. She sat up in bed and clutched her stomach.

Abe sat up beside her and asked, “What’s wrong?”

“I don’t know.”

The lightning flashed and the thunder roared and she groaned.

“I think the baby’s coming.”

“I’ll send Eli for a doctor.”

Sarah cried out then caught her breath, “No, the baby’s coming now. I need you to help me downstairs.”

Abe helped Sarah out of bed and onto her feet. Eli appeared in the bedroom doorway.

“What’s wrong with her?”

“She’s having the baby.”

Eli’s face turned white, then he said, “I’ll go downstairs and boil some water.”

He retreated from the doorway, ran down the stairs and into the kitchen. Every few feet Sarah bent over and cried as new pains rippled through her body. They reached the bottom step and Sarah almost collapsed.

She moaned, “Just let me have the baby here.”

Abraham hoisted her up and half-dragged her to the kitchen. Eli waited in the kitchen, his sleeves rolled up, and a pot of boiled water next to him. He helped Abe to lie Sarah down on the kitchen floor. She hiked up her dress and spread her legs.

Outside the storm raged on. Wind shook the house and rain lashed at the windows, the force of it threatening to destroy the house and everyone in it. Sarah’s cries matched the thunder, and every time she screamed louder the thunder rose to the challenge. Eli held her hand and wiped her brow while Abe knelt between her feet. Sarah tried to focus on staying calm and leveling out her breathing. She wasn’t sure if women had heart attacks during child birth, but she didn’t want to risk it.

She looked up and said between breaths, “I didn’t think it would happen this soon, is it too soon?”

Abe shook his head and said, “I don’t know.”

Eli tightened his grip on Sarah’s hand and said, “Don’t think about that, just focus on having the baby.”

She pushed, and pushed, and pushed until she thought she might pass out, then relief washed over as the baby left her. A small creature coughed then began crying. Before she had time to smile fresh pains gripped her body. She dug her fingers into Eli’s arm and pushed again, this time unconsciously, followed by another tidal wave of relief. Another miniature cough followed by more crying.

Abe wrapped his two sons in the same blanket, gently wiping their faces with a wet, warm towel. They squalled, their faces contorted and mouths agape. Eli helped Sarah to lay her head down. She wanted to see her children, but she needed the rest. The wind died down, becoming a gentle breeze, the thunder became a dull rumbling in the distance, and the rain a light tapping on the roof.

“Sarah, we had twins,” Abe said in a breathless voice. “They’re boys, two sons.”

Abe, usually not an emotional man, allowed tears to flow down his cheeks and catch in his beard. He held the babies to his chest and wept. Eli came over to him and patted him on the shoulder, and he cried too. He cried out of happiness and sorrow, overjoyed to be here for the birth of these beautiful things, and grieving that they could not be his own sons.

In a weak voice Sarah said, “I want to see them.”

Abe brought the two babies to her. She placed them on her chest. Their crying had lowered to a whimper. She placed one on each breast and they ate. Each boy looked the same: black hair, softness around the eyes like their mother, the rest of their face strong like their father. Despite their sameness, something set them apart. When the first boy came he cried, but it seemed out of a known necessity. When the second boy came he cried, but it seemed to be different than instinct. It seemed like an outpouring of emotion before any human knows emotion, a primordial wail.

“What should we name them?” Abe asked. The question directed at Sarah, but it also included Eli’s opinion.

Sarah petted the first boy’s head and said, “Isaac.” She switched hands to pet the second boy, but she frowned, “I don’t know about him.”

“Ishmael,” Eli said. Sarah and Abraham looked at him. “Ishmael. Abraham, Sarah, Isaac and Ishmael.” He shrugged, “Just seems appropriate.”

Abe and Sarah looked at their sons.

“Isaac…and Ishmael,” Abe repeated in a whisper. Sarah smiled and said, “The sons of Abraham: Isaac and Ishmael.”

 

In the Land of God Chapters I – III

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Here are the first three chapters of my debut novel, In the Land of God. It’s available for purchase on Amazon (and also available as an Amazon Unlimited title). Hope you enjoy, and feel free to leave feedback.

I

 

 

In southern Illinois, near the great artery called the Mississippi and the wooded hideaways of the Ozarks, there once lay a town named New Canaan. It’s gone now, just a collection of abandoned buildings, overgrown dirt roads, and the decaying reminders of a time when people lived there. It can no longer be found on a map, and it is never mentioned in public records.

In another time, New Canaan did exist, a sanctuary in the wilderness. A small collection of buildings and shops formed its main street; a post office, a library, a church, and a town hall that doubled as the only school along with various shops that served the citizens’ basic needs. On the edge of town there was an old bar, probably one of the first things built in New Canaan. It served as a second town hall where the farmers gathered to share information and opinions.

A collection of farms made a patchwork of the surrounding countryside, some of them owned by the descendants of original settlers, and others more recently developed. Shortly after that great national calamity known as the Civil War, a man came to New Canaan looking to make a new life for himself. He had been made a scarred victim of industrialized violence, and once he recovered he decided to leave the city in search of tranquility. He planned on going west and starting a farm, but instead he wound up in New Canaan.

Despite his unluckiness, his family had been very lucky, and as a result he inherited a great deal of money. He laid claim to the unclaimed land around town, established a property business in town, and began selling to anyone choosing to settle in the area. Years passed and his wealth grew, but money doesn’t prevent aging. He grew older and the amount of land he owned shrank. Nobody would remember him after he died. As a young man the thought didn’t trouble him much, but with the passage of time it haunted him. There was one piece of land that he wanted to make sure went to the right buyer.

It laid a few miles out of town, and he’d grown attached to it. He had no practical use for it. He didn’t hunt, he didn’t fish, and he never thought to build on it or farm it. Still, when he spent too much time alone in thought, or when he just needed to get away, he would walk to this land and take refuge there. He spent many afternoons sitting on a fallen log or a stump, basking in the glorious peace of the place, listening to the chirping birds, the hum of insects, and the bubbling creek that ran through the property. It was the kind of place that a good man would live and die for, it deserved more than to be worked until it could produce no more.

As the century ended he sold off most his remaining land except for that one piece he couldn’t bring himself to part with. He wrote to his living relatives, asking if they knew anyone interested in buying the land. They responded, saying that a young man from a wealthy family in Chicago might be interested in it, and they had given him the necessary contact information. The old man received a letter shortly thereafter from this potential customer who explained that he was interested in buying the land. They decided on a date to meet in New Canaan once the winter passed.

 

In the spring of 1900, there was one of those halcyon days that held the promise of tremendous things to come. Farmers came and went from New Canaan, buying material in preparation for the new sowing season. In a rural community like this, sowing season marked the start of the new year, not some date on a calendar. The old man had risen before dawn so that he could walk out to the property and be with it one last time. This was the day the young man was coming down from Chicago, and the old man accepted that by the day’s end the land might no longer be his.

After returning from the property he cleaned up, and dressed for the meeting; a white shirt, dress pants held up with suspenders, and black, shined shoes. He looked at himself in the mirror, the wrinkles on his face seemed more pronounced, his belly a little larger, and his eyes more tired. At noon he walked downstairs to the office and sat, watching the clock, waiting for the future to come through the front door. Outside, farmers bustled around buying new tools, making deals, getting things arranged. The old man chuckled, because these men that despised city life acted so similarly to the thing they hated.

The farmers stopped, and there came a low rumbling that rose to a roar outside his office. The old man jumped to his feet and ran outside just in time to see a young man and a young woman drive up to the front of his office. They rode in a black, square machine somewhat like a cross between a tractor and a carriage. The two people were dressed in clean, metropolitan clothing, but modest enough to offset the ruckus they had caused. Still, the farmers eyed them with suspicion. The couple left the machine and walked toward the office, hand-in-hand exuding an air of nervous positivity. They nodded and smiled at the farmers near them, and received glares, scowls, or curt nods in return.

The young man walked to the old man, offering him a genuine smile and extending his hand for a shake.

“You’re the man I’ve been talking to, right?” the young man asked.

The old man shook hands with the young man and returned the smile, “Yes, I am.”

“I’m Abraham,” and pointing to the young woman, “This is my wife, Sarah.” She smiled, and the old man gave her a light handshake.

“Pleasure to meet the two of you.”

“Y’know, I don’t think I ever caught your name in any of the letters, and I’d like to know a man’s name before I start doing business with him,” Abraham said without suspicion, but with honest interest in knowing the old man’s name.

The old man smiled and laughed a little bit, “I suppose that was rude of me not to tell you who I am. The name’s Elijah, but you can just call me Eli.”

Abraham smiled, “Well, in that case you can just call me Abe.”

Eli opened the office door, “Here, let’s all come inside and get out of the sun. I’m sure you’d like to rest after riding down from Chicago in that contraption.”

Abe gave a hearty laugh, “Oh, no, no we didn’t come down here on that. We took the train and had it shipped with us, we just drove over from Quincy.”

Eli laughed back, “Oh, of course, that makes a lot more sense.”

The trio walked inside, the shoes’ clicking making an echo as they struck the hardwood floor. They walked over to a large, beautiful desk that somehow also possessed a humility. Behind it sat a leather chair that seemed to be more of a throne than a chair. The office smelled of ink, coffee, and pipe smoke along with the faint smell of food. Eli pulled back the chairs in front of the desk so Abe and Sarah could sit. He walked around to the other side of the desk and sat down in the luxurious chair, his hands folded in front of him on top of a pile of papers.

“So! You’re interested in buying my last bit of land.”

“Yes, from what you’ve told me it would be more than enough to have a farm.”

“Are you thinking of farming it?”

“Well, yes, but I want it to be more than a farm, I want it to be the kind of place I can hand down to my children, and my grandchildren, and God willing my great-grandchildren.”

Eli smiled upon hearing that, “I think this land is exactly what you’d like, and I can already tell I’d be comfortable selling it to you, and that’s not a light decision for me. This is my most treasured property.”

Sarah cleared her throat and spoke up, “I don’t mean to be…intrusive, but if it’s so important to you, why not give it to your children?”

Abraham frowned at her, and Eli chuckled, “You may not have noticed, but do you see any pictures of a family?”

Sarah shook her head.

“There’s your answer.”

“Oh, I’m sorry…I just assumed, I thought…” Sarah stammered, her face turning red with embarrassment.

Eli laughed, “It’s alright. No, when I moved here…” he thought about how to best explain himself without giving away too much information, “Well, a wife and children just weren’t part of my plan I suppose.”

Abe and Sarah nodded, and he gave her a pat on the leg.

“Now, are you two thinking of starting a family?” Eli asked.

They perked up and smiled. Abraham said, “Actually, we learned right before we left that we’re expecting our first child.”

“That’s marvelous!”

Sarah smiled, “Yes, and that only made Abe want to come here even more. He doesn’t think the city would be a good place to raise a child, but he forgets we were both raised in the city.”

Abe cleared his throat, “It was different then.”

“Well, I can’t argue with you Abe,” Eli said to break the tension, “But how about we all take a look at the property before we make any agreements?” He glanced at Sarah and gave her a knowing smile, letting her know that he understood her reservations.

“How far is it from town?” Abe asked.

“Not too far, if an old man like me can walk there in a couple hours I’m sure it won’t take us long at all to get there in that gadget of yours.”

They walked outside and the town had fallen silent. Most of the farmers had gone back to work their land, and only a few older men sat on porches and stared at the trio emerge from Eli’s office. Abraham stopped for a moment, even in the town there was a natural, calming quiet. The sky not only seemed, but was, bluer, clearer, and everything had a purity and simplicity like it had been built just after the world had formed. He walked over to the automobile and helped Sarah and Eli up into their seats, then he started the engine.

It came to life and the whole car surged with energy. Abe turned to Eli and said, “Show me the way.”

Eli pointed to the road that led west out of town and into the country. Abraham nodded and pressed down on the accelerator. The car rumbled down the road, and Sarah placed a hand on her stomach. These new beginnings, the passengers in the car unaware that the life growing in Sarah, and Eli’s land already intertwined, set to unfold an inevitable series of events.

 

II

 

 

Outside of town the land flattened out. A bird could look down and see the patchwork of farms separated by lines of trees, places where men had made the untamed, virgin earth into places of order and productivity. On each farm stood a barn and a house. In the fields, the men and the sons of those men put seeds in the ground. Despite their cleverness, despite their machines, these people still relied on the bounty and mercy of the earth.

One square of land stood out from the rest. There was no brown field in this square, instead a tangle of strong trees, wild flowers, and tall grass dominated everything. The trees provided a haven for the birds, while the brush made a shelter for small animals that hid from the eyes of predators. A creek ran alongside the land’s western boundary that connected to a sizable pond on the north side of the property. Just beyond the southern line of trees ran a dirt road, and on the other side of the road laid marshland.

From down the dirt road a cloud of dust rose from the earth accompanied by a roar. Some of the birds flew away, and some of the ground animals fled to their holes, but the courageous animals stayed and watched with curiosity as this beast passed by. A young man with black, short hair, and a trimmed black beard sat in the driver’s seat. He had green eyes that radiated with a childish excitement, taking in all of the details of this brave new world. Beside him sat a young woman with a soft face, blue eyes, and coils of blonde hair. She too looked at everything around them with a slightly more analytical gaze than a voracious one. Behind the two younger people sat an old man who leaned forward and pointed to a spot on the side of the road.

 

Abraham maneuvered the car over to a flat spot on the side of the road, the wheels flattening the tall grass and the tires settling in the mud. Abe killed the engine and jumped out of car. He helped down Sarah first then Eli. The smell of exhaust passed away, and the fresh, intoxicating smell of flowers and dirt replaced it. Abe breathed deep filling his lungs with the natural aromas. A wall of healthy trees before him blocked his view of the clearing beyond them. A small path of flattened grass and trampled dirt passed between two trees.

“I’m guessing that’s from you?” Abraham asked Eli.

“Oh yes, I figured I might as well stick to the same path to get on and off the property. It’s just more convenient that way.”

“Is it all tall grass in there?”

“Mostly tall grass, but there’s a little plot of land where you don’t have to worry about ticks or anything.”

Abraham swept his hand in a half-circle to tell Eli to lead the way. Abe and Sarah followed Eli along the path. Eli touched each tree he passed, his fingertips grazing the tops of the blades of tall grass. Abe helped Sarah navigate the path, ensuring that none of her clothing snagged on vegetation or got caught on a tree branch.  The trees gave way to an almost endless sea of yellow-green tall grass, pockets of dark green bushes freckled with berries, and in the middle of it all an island of dirt. Two other tree lines marked the other borders, and on the far edge of the property Abe saw a shimmer of water. Beyond the water a field.

A gentle breeze washed over the clearing making the tall grass roll like waves. The leaves in the trees rustled making a chorus of oak, maple, beech and the odd pine. Eli walked over to the patch of dirt and sat down on a stump. A smile crept onto his lips, and he looked around at the property, then lifted his head to look at the sky. Abe and Sarah stood back, allowing the old man to have his moment. He realized his lapse of attention and jumped off the stump as if a shock passed through it.

“I’m so sorry about that, folks,” he apologized, dusting off his pants, “This place, it just…” He trailed off and shook his head, “Well, that doesn’t excuse me being rude, and to think I didn’t even offer it to the pregnant lady!”

“It’s alright Eli,” Sarah said with a smile, her voice telling of her sincerity.

Abraham knelt down and ran a hand over the dirt, his fingers probing the earth. His hand came back wet, he pinched and rubbed his fingers together. It smelled rich, it felt soft but durable. Perfect for growing.

“It’s good soil, isn’t it?” Eli said to Abraham, “I’ve had so many people ask me to sell them this land, but I just couldn’t do it.” He around at the trees, the vegetation, and stopped when he faced the adjacent farm. Eli closed his eyes and took a deep breath.

Abraham stood up and wiped his hand on his pants, “This place really is special to you isn’t it.” He worded it more as a statement of fact than as a question.

Eli opened his eyes and continued to look at the other farm in the distance, “Yes, I suppose it is,” he replied just above a whisper. He turned to Abraham, “I like to think of this place as something…well something holy I guess. Like it’s God’s own land, and that no matter who owns it someday it’ll have to go back to him,” he paused, “Does that make sense to you Abraham?”

Abe considered how to respond to the question. His family had been nominal Christians, in his opinion. They went to church to keep up appearances and maintain business connections, not out of belief in some higher power. His family worshiped one god, but it wasn’t the one Eli meant.

“It means you don’t know how long you’ll have it, so you should treat it like a gift that you’ll have to give back someday.”

Eli nodded in approval. He walked back to the stump and sat down.

“I don’t know how much longer I’ll be around, and I don’t really have anyone to inherit this land, or any of my belongings,” he thought for a minute then said, “How much did I say I’d sell this property for?”

“To be honest, I don’t recall.” It was true, Abraham couldn’t remember the price.

Eli looked at Abraham and Sarah with a thoughtful gaze, he leaned forward on the stump and said, “What if I gave this farm to you? I have no use for any more money, I have enough to keep me comfortable until my time comes, so I don’t want any money from you.”

“What is it you want?” Abe asked trying not to show his suspicion.

“I want to help you build your life here.”

The two men stared at each other, unflinching, trying to figure out if the other one told the truth.

Sarah touched Abraham’s arm and whispered, “Abe, let’s think about this, this is a big decision for everyone involved. Are you sure this is right for everyone?” As she stressed the last word she gently tilted her head toward Eli.

Abe looked at the old man, this lonely old man who just wanted to be included in something besides a simple transaction. A deep wellspring of empathy opened up inside Abe and he whispered to Sarah, “I’m sure.”

She didn’t say anything in return, but squeezed his arm and stepped back.

Abe walked over to Eli and said, “I’d still like something in writing, just so everything’s formalized.”

Eli’s face stretched with a warm smile, “Yes, of course, of course we can do that.”

Abe smiled back at him, “Alright then.” He stuck out his hand for a shake, but Eli stood up and wrapped his arms around Abraham instead. Abraham let his hands rest on the back of Eli’s shoulders, and as soon as he did Eli pulled away, deeply embarrassed.

He cleared his throat and looked away, but Abe patted him on the shoulder. In a strange way, this man felt more like a father-figure than his own father had. He didn’t cry at the funeral, not out of a show of masculinity, but because he truly couldn’t make the tears come. With this old man, this stranger, he knew that when the time came he wouldn’t be able to stop the tears.

Eli slapped Abe on the arm a couple times and said, “Let’s go back to town and get everything done. You two are welcome to stay with me if you’re planning on staying overnight.”

“We’d appreciate that Eli,” Sarah said, “You’re the only person we know for miles around.”

She hadn’t meant for it to be touching, but to Eli it came off as so trusting and faithful that how could he not be moved by the sentiment?

They walked back to the car, repeating the process from when they left town. Abraham climbed back into the driver’s seat, overcome with an exhilaration he hadn’t felt since he made the decision to come to this town in the middle of nowhere. How could this place, barely mentioned on maps, mostly unknown to the outside world, have such an impact on him? Maybe Eli was right that this land was sanctified touched by something divine, or maybe it was all in his mind. He knew it to be the latter, but wanted to believe the former.

Racing back to New Canaan he placed a hand on Sarah’s thigh. She looked over and smiled at him, but her eyes betrayed her nervousness. Abe squeezed her leg, and she placed a hand over her stomach while staring at him. Without realizing it, Abraham had set in motion a series of events that would last for decades and span continents.

 

III

 

 

After the group returned to town, Eli transferred the deed over to Abraham, making Abe and Sarah the newest residents of New Canaan. At first, Abe and Sarah discussed going back to Chicago for the rest of the summer to get their affairs in order. They planned on returning in the fall and starting work on building the farm.

“You’ve never built before, have you?” Eli asked Abraham, “Because you don’t want to start building in the fall, even down here.”

“So where can we stay?”

“You’re welcome to stay with me in town. You two can have my room and I’ll sleep downstairs.”

“We couldn’t put you out like that,” Sarah protested before Abe could agree. “Besides, we still need to go home and get our things, and get the money to build in the first place.”

“Well, if it’s money you’re worried about I’ve got that covered. A lot of people around here owe me some favors, so I’m sure I could get our hands on equipment and some building materials.”

Sarah mulled it over, and Abe jumped back into the conversation, “That’s very kind of you Eli, but Sarah’s right: we do need to go home, get our belongings, and say our good byes.”

Eli nodded, understanding, “While you go back to Chicago and take care of all that, I’ll go around and call in my debts. To be honest, it’s probably best if you two aren’t here for that part.”

While Sarah and Abe made the trip back to Chicago, Eli collected tools and lumber from the farmers and business owners of New Canaan. Every conversation went the same, “Why’re you helping them two?” and his response was always the same, “Why shouldn’t I?”

Around a week later Abe and Sarah returned to New Canaan by way of Quincy. They had rented a man and his cart to haul the belongings into town. To Abraham and Sarah, it wasn’t much, but to the people in New Canaan it seemed like a king and queen had descended on their small town. How dare they come in here with all their fancy furniture and suitcases full of uppity clothes! When they pulled up in front of Eli’s office he stepped outside and said under his breath, “You two sure know how to make an entrance.” He noticed the New Canaanites scowling at all of it.

They’re good, hardworking people, but their ignorance is exhausting, thought Eli.

No matter how much time passed, how many friends he had made, Eli believed the townspeople regarded him with suspicion. They believed he would turn on New Canaan if an opportunity presented itself, and many of them wondered if Abe and Sarah were that opportunity.

Abe and the cart driver hauled the furniture into the office while Eli collected the bags and suitcases. Once they completed that, Eli pulled Abraham aside.

“You two need to be a little more inconspicuous. These people don’t take kindly to outsiders, especially not ones as obvious as you two.”

Abe pursed his lips and looked out the window at the dusty main street.

“I’m not telling you this to scare you off, but you need to be careful. I have a place for you to put that automobile. If you leave it on the street then someone is gonna wreck it.”

Abraham wanted to charge out of the office and start raging against the New Canaanites for their unwarranted hostility. Sarah saw Abe’s temper flare and she placed a hand on his arm, “Abe, just listen to Eli.”

“Once they get used to you, and actually start to see you as people, then this won’t be a problem. It’s just better, for now, if we all keep to ourselves. I’ve probably upset my fair share of people just by helping you.”

Abraham complied and moved the car to the hiding place. Over the next few days Abraham bought more material to build the house and the barn. The shopkeepers didn’t know much about this newcomer or his wife, but he paid in cash, and that was better than most of the farmers in New Canaan.

Before dawn, Eli and Abe loaded tools into the car and drove out to the property. First they dug up the bushes and moved them to plots near the creek. The berries could provide a quick snack, besides, Abraham intended to get as much out of the farm as possible. Next, Abe and Eli tried to cut the tall grass with scythes, but the work proved harder than it seemed. After a few hours of work the sweat soaked through their clothes and both men gasped for air. Eli sat down on the stump and took out an old pipe, he packed the bowl and lit the tobacco. He cast the match aside, it landed in the grass, and soon a small fire started.

At first, Abe and Eli tried to stop the fire, then realized it could be used to clear most of the land. They dug a dirt perimeter around the tall grass to keep the fire contained, and by late afternoon the fire had consumed most of the tall grass. The field had become a scorched wasteland of dried and burnt grass, and much to Eli’s delight his stump had survived.

The two men walked through the smoldering remnants of the tall grass.

“It’s good for the soil. Fire can destroy, but it can also renew. This will be good for when we start farming next year.”

After all that day’s work they returned to town. Abraham hid the car and walked back to the office. The next day the men rose at dawn and drove back to the property. They cut down the southern line of trees and made a long, high woodpile back from the road.

“Why are we saving this wood?” Abraham asked. “We can’t use it for building.”

Eli chuckled, “You’ll want it when it gets colder.” The conversation about saving the wood ended with that statement.

With the land cleared, Abe and Eli cleared a spot for the future house, a place to set the foundation for future generations. An older farmer, one of Eli’s friends, helped bring out some of the building supplies. He stood by as Abe and Eli began to build the house, but the simple gesture of using his horse and cart to haul material helped Abe realize that at least one other New Canaanite accepted him.

As the house grew, so did Sarah. She radiated with a motherly glow as if she had already given birth to a beautiful child. Despite the hard labor of the day, the sight of Sarah bolstered the spirits of Abe and Eli. They ate dinner in Eli’s old office, went to their separate places to sleep, and the next day Abe and Eli went back to work on the property. By the end of May Abe and Eli had completed the bulk of the house. It still needed a roof, windows, and paint, but the walls were up and it resembled a living space. Sarah begged Abe to take her out to see the house, but he declined. He didn’t want her to see their new home until they could live in it.

On the ground floor a living room with a flight of stairs leading to the second floor, it waited to be filled with life, the fireplace cold and dark waiting for the winter. In the back of the house a kitchen waiting to be filled with the smell of good food and the sound of happy meals. The second floor had a bathroom and four bedrooms. Each bedroom waiting for its occupant. At the end of June Abe and Eli completed the house. They called on Eli’s old friend and he helped move the furniture. For the rest of the summer, for the rest of their lives, Abe, Sarah, and Eli would live in this house.

The chance to plant seeds had passed, but it didn’t bother Abraham; the summer had been productive enough already without worrying about a field of crops. While Abe and Eli had built the house, some of the nearby farmers had stopped by to view the progress. None of them approached the working men, and the working men never stopped to talk to the small audience of farmers. The farmers appreciated the uniformity of the house, it looked like the rest of the farmhouses; nothing ostentatious or arrogant and it didn’t come as a challenge to their own homes.

With the house complete, Eli reached out to some people he knew to sell his office. They dealt in land and were happy to buy an outpost like that, especially considering the price Eli offered them. It not only added to Eli’s account, but truly finalized his moving in with Abe and Sarah.

In July some of the farmers came to Abraham and told him they would help him raise a barn. The men worked without speaking, and with the project complete the farmers returned to their own lands. Nevertheless, it had been a diplomatic moment, an initiation that welcomed Abraham and Sarah as fellow New Canaanites. The significance of the act was not lost on Abe or Sarah or Eli. The rest of July and August brought great storms that swept over New Canaan. Harsh rains threatened to make the creek overrun its banks while harsh winds jeopardized the new buildings on the farm. The house groaned under pressure, and on some nights Abe, Sarah, and Eli retreated to the safety of the cellar. They huddled in the dark hoping that the house did not collapse on top of them.

The storms washed away the dead vegetation and ash, exposing clean, fertile ground ripe for farming next season. On the calm nights, Abraham sat on the stump in the field. He stared at the open land before him believing that it held unfathomable promise. How could he be so lucky to own all of this? Perhaps God had blessed him and readied him for success, or perhaps it had just been fortunate circumstances that led him to this place. Sometimes Sarah came outside and sat beside him, basking in the fading light of the day, watching the stars come out one by one.

On the peaceful nights, Eli stood in the backdoor and gazed at the farm on the other side of the pond. How long before he could tell Abraham about it? Abe had found peace, and after all the sweat and dedicated work did he deserve to have his peace shattered? Still, it was only a matter of time before that outside force from beyond the pond came to intrude on the tranquility whether Eli warned of it or not. For the time being he left it alone, allowing Abe and Sarah to enjoy the stillness of the farm, he didn’t dare disturb it. It would be like a gunshot in a church, a kick to a hornets’ nest, a trauma for a young couple that didn’t deserve it.

Upcoming Projects: Horror Anthology; Tragic Romance in WWIII; Serialization of In the Land of God 

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I’m sure some would tell me that working on multiple projects at the same time is insane, and I agree, but there’s nothing criminal with insanity as long as the insanity doesn’t harm anybody.

I’ve mentioned one project in the past, an anthology of weird fiction and horror fiction short stories that will be written with my cover artist/designer, Micah Chapin. One of the short stories, “The Watchers” is available for reading here (for free), and it will most likely be included in the final anthology. Nothing is set in stone yet, but we intend to open each story with an illustration, and the stories will exist in the same universe, or share a common theme. We hope that these stories will be entertaining, but also thought-provoking, making the reader question things like morality, mortality, and the reality of our existence.

The other project I’m working on is my next novel concerning a concept I’ve had since the end of high school. I don’t want to divulge too many details, but it’s a tragic romance set in the midst of a Third World War. More details will come as work progresses, but I’m pleased to announce that I have already written 10,000 words, words that I have forgotten about since they’ve been crammed into a digital drawer on my hard drive.

Why wasn’t that my first novel instead of In the Land of God?

This named (but unnamed) story is a bit more complex than In the Land of God. In the Land of God is fairly linear without too many deviating plot points; this story is neither of those things. Yes, it’s still linear, but it jumps around to more characters with each chapter focusing on a different story. These various stories interconnect at times, subtly, with less focus on dialogue and more focus on action and nonverbal exposition. To be quite frank, I’m astounded 17-year old Adam came up with the idea in the first place.

Chances are, it won’t be as long as In the Land of God since it takes place over the course of a summer instead of over the course of 30-plus years, which means it might be a faster novel to write. I’m hoping to have it ready to go by the beginning of summer 2017, but let’s not all hold our breath for that release. There’s still a fair amount of work to be done. I just know that it will be easier to complete with one novel under my belt. I’ll have to see what the winter looks like in terms of school, work, and life.

 

I’ll drop this hint: it would be appropriate for this novel to be released at the start of the summer.

 

The anthology…well, who knows when exactly that will be ready to publish? I haven’t talked to Micah about an estimated release date, but I’m hoping for a Halloween 2017 release date. That seems appropriate for this kind of anthology.

All I know is that it will be easy to bounce back-and-forth between these two projects. For the novel, I already have some written material and the same goes for the anthology. With the anthology, I can write one story then refocus my attention and write a chapter or two for the novel. Here’s the other positive: they’re both speculative fiction projects. Now, the novel is firmly rooted in reality (for the most part) and it will be literary fiction, but it will be easier to jump between mindsets considering the stories take place in unknown, alternate futures.

 

Well, alternate for the time being. We’ll have to see just how alternate a post-apocalyptic future is in the coming months and years.

 

Here’s one last project I plan on doing that involves In the Land of God: I plan on making each chapter available for free on here; each week a new chapter. I must figure out when I want to start the serialization, and the day I plan on releasing each new chapter. There are 42 chapters, some longer and some shorter than others, so it might make more sense to release two or three chapters at once as opposed to once a week.

I’ll just have to see what works out.

One last thing, I had a radio interview on December 1st and I still have to upload it to YouTube to embed in a blog post. That should be up in a few days (if not tomorrow).

Do any of these projects stand out to you? Any you don’t care about seeing? Make sure to leave your feedback in the comments section or find me on Twitter (@ahahnjones).

Thanks for reading, and I hope you stick around.

A luta continua.

In the Land of God is the debut novel of Adam Jones. It’s a story of multi-generational strife in a Midwestern family set during the First World War and the Great Depression. It’s available on Amazon as an eBook for $2.99 and as a paperback for $9.99.