By Kyle Jones | Contributing Editor
An alumni brother from Theta-Sigma Zeta at Drury University, Chris Wilson, has published his first work with Goldminds Publishing, a young adult fantasy novel titled Wards of Iasos.
Wards of Iasos is now available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble and is currently ranked #37 out of more than 200 titles in the Goodreads.com Tournament of Books 2017.
By day Brother Wilson works as an elementary school teacher, and he is also currently working on book two of his series.
Can you go into more detail on what the book is about, such as story, its content and your inspiration?
The Wards of Iasos (pronounced yah-suhs) is a fantasy novel about kids and teens who do not belong in the world around them. They are misfits, outcasts, weirdos. In the novel, I call them “Leftovers.” Just like leftover fried chicken, these kids are the leftovers of the world. So much so, that their parents do not want them. They are wards of the country of Iasos. Thus, the title of the novel, “Wards of Iasos.”
While this is a fantasy novel, it is very applicable to modern society. In the country of Iasos, all children around the age of ten go to the Iasos Unified Preparatory Abbey in the capital city of D’wyee. (The name of that city should sound familiar to educators as John Dewey is a famous educational philosopher.) The recruits are trained in everything they need to know to survive in a harsh environment: hunting, fishing, tanning, agriculture, medicine, self-defense, war, magick, (I purposely misspell “magick” and “wyzard” because I used those antiquated spellings in my book to give it a older feel) reading, writing, history, business, architecture, cooking, and the list continues. At fifteen, the abbey decides what a recruit is extraordinary at and specializes the recruit in that area. When they leave the abbey, the recruit is ready to be a contributing member of society. Those who are not successful are not allowed to live on the streets or be homeless. They are forced into slavery in a mine or other area. The government does this to address homelessness, poverty and crime.
The Leftovers have not been successful and are in danger of being slaves. They’ve been sent to Erlend Andvari, a dwarf with a purple mohawk and beard. He is their last chance. It is his job to help them find themselves, become successful at the abbey, and avoid the mines. His approach is very unorthodox and nontraditional. He, like the Leftovers he mentors, is something of an eccentric person and is not liked by the High Abbess of the abbey.
I am an intermediate teacher (fifth grade) and one of my skills is working with kids who are misfits, outcasts, weirdos. That’s because I was a weird kid growing up and I get them. I was a nerd who loved to play with his toys a little longer than the other kids. I loved play pretend and cartoons and I wasn’t interested in playing or watching sports. I am Scotch-Irish and I wear my kilt to school. I ride a motorcycle, play Dungeons & Dragons, still watch cartoons, have my toys displayed in my classroom, and I have come to embrace my geekness with pride. In fact, I use the words weirdo, nerd and geek proudly and talk about accepting our uniqueness with my students. I believe in taking those words back and taking the power out of them.
I wanted to tell the story of kids who the world has rejected. Families, friends, everyone who is supposed to care about them and love them has given up on these leftovers. The stories of people like this rarely get told. These are troubled kids. They are hurt, damaged. But they still have worth and goodness even if that goodness is hidden by anger, fear, or outrageous behaviors.
Fantasy is such an important part of my life and my development, so when given the opportunity to write a young adult novel for a publisher, I wanted fantasy, a place where I could build my own universe and express my passion for dwarves and dragons, wyzards and weapons.
Can you tell me a bit more about the Tournament of Books and what it means for your first novel to be ranked so high?
The Wards of Iasos moved from #97 to #24 on the Goodreads Tournament of Book for this year. However, just a week ago it was removed from the list because the publication date was outside this year’s contest parameters and Goodreads didn’t realize it for a while. It will be resubmitted for next year’s contest. I am really bummed, but am excited that it will get to participate next year.
What was your undergraduate experience like and what, if any, kind of influence did your time with the fraternity have on you professionally and now as an author?
In my first writing class, the professor came in and wrote on the board, “Everything Matters.” That stayed on the board for the rest of the semester. For writers, everything matters. Every experience, every feeling, every observation, every person we come in contact with is an opportunity for a story or story element. Characters, scenarios, conflict, interpersonal relationships––all of these things affect the writer. So my time with the fraternity was integral to who I am today, how I write, and what I write about. Live with 40-60 other guys for three years and a writer is bound to have fodder for stories and characters. Oh, the characters.
I loved my undergraduate experience at Drury College (now Drury University). As other brothers can attest, I have maintained several friendships with fraternity brothers. Right after graduation, I took a job as the managing editor of a newspaper. Soon thereafter, I hired a fraternity brother as a reporter. He is still with that newspaper. At my book launch, several brothers came and purchased a book and got it autographed. Those relationships are lifelong and are important. I have a fraternity brother that lives in California. Once a year, he comes back to Springfield, Mo. to visit family. He brings his teenagers to my house and us dads and our teens play Dungeons & Dragons for 8-10 hours. We eat, play, laugh and slay dragons. It’s something I look forward to every summer. Our kids, despite being in different states, stay in contact throughout the year.
With this being the first in a series, what are your plans for future entries?
I am already writing book two and I have three books planned in the series, with the opportunity for ancillary books contracted as an option. I write in the evenings and weekends when I am not grading student work and working on lesson plans. That’s hard on the family, but my wife and I have a teen daughter who is highly involved in marching band, theater, and other leadership opportunities, so she’s gone a lot. I would love to release a children’s picture book detailing the mythologies of my universe. Those creation myths and other stories show up in the books. Of course, I’m always exploring television or movie opportunities.
A brother of the Sigma-Beta Zeta at St. Mary’s University, Oscar Mendoza, and CreateSpace Publishing is pleased to announce the release of his latest book, titled The Book of the Dead: True Ghost Stories of Spirit Encounters.
Just in time for Halloween, The Book of the Dead takes a journey into the life of a haunted man.
A collection of short true short ghost stories that follows the early life of Oscar Mendoza from the age of five thru his early teenage years. Mendoza’s first hand story telling style gives the reader a unique perspective in what he witnessed as a child.
Mendoza has also had a successful 20-year career in medical technology as as software developer and is also the owner of a real estate investment company and managing partner of eco urban construction.
Can you go into a bit more detail on what else we may find in the book, such as story, its content and your inspiration?
Even in small towns, restless spirits and malevolent forces walk the streets. I knows this from personal experience.
I am medium and empath, and have seen spirits all my life. I realized at a young age that ghosts were attracted to me due to his psychic connection to their world. I can see, smell, and sometimes even touch incorporeal beings.
Due to this ability, I suffered from unsettling encounters since I was a child. I’ve seen everything from pig men to zombie clowns. I also have stories of encounters with baby-stealing brujas and nighttime ghouls. A walk down an alley led to a violent encounter, and a new childhood playmate was not what she appeared to be.
I can’t remember a time when I couldn’t see the spirits all around me. I do remember, however, when I first became unsettled by the experience. The year was 1980, and I was only four years old. I had been warned by my parents to never go down a certain alley in our town, but I decided to ignore their warning. When I walked down the street, I saw a crooked man slithering out from under an abandoned house. I escaped from the haunting’s malevolent grasp but came away from the experience respecting the intense power of spirits.
I inherited my remarkable abilities from my parents, and in this collection, I includes stories about their supernatural experiences as well as my own. My father tells a story of encountering a baby-stealing witch in his house one dark night. My mother describes a hate-filled intruder fascinated with her brother.
The Book of the Dead is the first of a series of my supernatural experiences. Readers can look forward to the next volume about the spirits he encountered later in my life.
What was your undergraduate experience like and what, if any, kind of influence did your time with the fraternity have on you professionally and as an author?
My undergraduate experience was amazing, both academically and socially. As a brother I became exposed to a wide range of brilliant minds with go-get-em’ attitudes. This energy deeply influences me. Lambda Chi isn’t just my fraternity but my family. Each of my brothers demanded excellence from each other, by not settling for being average but reaching new heights. They taught me not just to talk about doing something but to do it. I truly believe my time in Lambda Chi has influence my drive to succeed. I own two construction companies along with being a software developer. So now I am pursuing my passion to write books, and this is due to my constant drive to be the best at whatever I do.
What can interested readers expect when deciding whether to pick up the book?
This is my first attempt in writing a book. The stories I tell are unique, and they are told in a distinctive authorial voice that is consistent throughout, which helps to ground the reader and makes for an enjoyable reading experience.
His second time being featured in the Cross & Crescent for his “Mr. Finn” series, Trace Conger of Alpha-Omega Zeta at Ohio University, offers up his third novel to our brotherhood, The Prison Guard’s Son.
The Prison Guard’s Son, finds underground private investigator Finn Harding tracking down two child murderers after they are released from juvenile detention with new identities.
The plot might sound similar to true crime buffs or anyone familiar with the James Bulger case. British toddler James Bulger was only two years old when he was abducted and murdered by two ten-year-old boys in 1993. The two boys were released after serving eight years in separate detention facilities. Because of the heinousness of their crimes and fear of retribution, the English government assigned the killers new identities and secretly relocated them to parts unknown.
While the novel is inspired by the Bulger case, the similarities end with a child’s murder and the killers’ release. In the novel, the victim’s father hires underground investigator Finn Harding to uncover the killers’ new identities and locate them so he can levy the justice that was denied so long ago. Along the way, Finn clashes with a tenacious US Marshal determined to protect the killers’ new identities and crosses paths with an infamous triggerman hired to do what the courts didn’t.
“As a father myself, I wondered how far the fictional father would go to find those who murdered his son,” said Conger. “And Finn is just the type of investigator who would take such a case, knowing what would happen to the killers if he found them. What begins as a typical job for Finn quickly spirals into a moral struggle between revenge and forgiveness as he learns about what the two killers have been doing since their release years earlier.”
The Prison Guard’s Son is available in paperback and ebook formats through a variety of retailers. It’s the third book in the Mr. Finn series. Other books in the series include The Shadow Broker (2014) and Scar Tissue (2015).
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