What Seeds May Lie in Dreams: An Interview

In this interview, I talked with Sandra R. Campbell, author of The Butterfly Harvest and Dark Migration, about her just-released novel, The Dead Days Journal. Prepare to enter a radically-upended world… (Excerpt included at the end)

How would you describe The Dead Days Journal

The Dead Days is tragic tale of fear, family and love: a story about facing your fears and believing in yourself. Leo Marrok and her father Vincent are forced to face their worst fears, and the choices they make will either increase their chances of survival or destroy them completely. This story shows how family bonds can be twisted and torn, that blood is not always thicker than water, and how the people you love and trust the most are often the ones who will destroy you. There is also a love story intertwined in all the chaos that demonstrates how your initial perception of someone can be changed by their actions. Outside appearances are not a representation of what is in someone’s heart. The old adage: never judge a book by its cover, applies to the relationship developing between Leo and the creature she calls Halloween.

Judging a book by its cover can be dangerous, for sure. It sounds like you’re tackling some darker themes. Did you initially know this was the direction you were going to take the story, or is it something that evolved from the characters?  

Vincent Marrok was always meant to be a dark character. A man without limitations is dangerous. Not to mention, a man who suffered a lifetime of animosity and excommunication due to his albinism. Add in a lawless world, where the only rules that apply are the rules he makes. At some point, he’s going to cross the line between what’s truly moral and what he believes to be right. Lucky for me the characters were all onboard and helped in creating a story that explores the darkest side of humanity. 

I’m going to ask you a question that I know authors tend to laugh about, but because readers often ask it, it means there is general interest in gaining an understanding. So, here goes: where do you get your ideas? 

I’m not laughing, but your readers may laugh at my answer. As cliché as it sounds, I had a dream. A family is trapped in a house with their enemies breaking down the doors. The father orders his daughter to flee the house. But her only escape is to jump off a cliff to her death. Just as she’s about to leap, she is rescued by her pursuer. This scenario is a far cry from the current story, but the dream planted the first seed. If a dream sticks with me until morning, I use it. The subconscious mind is a powerful tool for a writer.

Do you have plans for continuing this story? 

Yes, I listed this book as Volume 1, so readers know there is a sequel coming. Book 2 will be the final resolution of The Dead Days Journal.

 sandra9 (1) The Dead Days Journal is available now. To learn more, visit Sandra R. Campbell at http://www.sandrarcampbell.com/. Here’s a special excerpt for your reading pleasure: 

I’m alive, but I should be dead. I’m moving but not walking… Someone’s carrying me.

The sounds of the forest were all around me, except there wasn’t a single footstep rustling the forest floor. I only sensed the movement through the person who held me—superior strength and superior grace. I felt his powerful strides advancing as he clutched me to his solid chest, the strong arms that cradled my damaged body.

Can the dead dream? No.

There was no way of knowing how long I’d been unconscious. My memories were slow, spotty, coming back in short blasts of terror that started with the recollection of my father’s demands for a grandchild. I remembered running away, being attacked by a man in a mask, and waking up on the ground alone, the hungry beast dropping out of the tree.

Are the attacker and the monster one and the same?

I tried to recall the struggle. I’d stabbed the strange monster in the gut and made it bleed.

I hurt it.

The monster had retaliated by taking a chunk out of my neck.

It hurt me back.

I cringed as I remembered the terror and the agony I felt while it fed from my vein. An odd sort of throbbing in my neck quickened as my heart raced. How am I still alive? Panic stole my breath and uncontrollable twitches jerked at my limbs. The arms holding me tightened in response, restraining my erratic movement.

Something slid past my lips into my mouth. I tried to turn my head, working to keep my mouth clamped shut but failing. Nothing stopped the intrusion, which I thought to be a finger, from the size and feel. Whatever he forced me to eat left a sticky residue on my tongue that tasted sweet and bitter, like a bad dessert wine. I wanted to open my eyes to see who carried me, but I couldn’t. So I tried to call out, several times, but nothing came out of my mouth.

He’s taking me somewhere I don’t want to go.

“Is she going to be okay?” It was a man’s voice, a voice I knew. I’m not in the arms of the monster. Jack must have heard my screams. He saved me and now he was taking me home to Ben. A sob of relief pushed past my lungs to escape my mouth.

*Excerpted with the author’s permission from The Dead Days Journal.

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Author Takes on Alzheimer’s Disease in Debut Novel

Ellen_picI introduce to you Ellen Smith, debut author of Reluctant Cassandra. I had the opportunity for an advance read, and it is an intriguing story (and includes a cute dog!) that I thoroughly enjoyed. Ellen takes on big issues, drilling down to what they mean on a very personal level. Here’s more:

What is Reluctant Cassandra about?

Unwilling clairvoyant Arden McCrae must learn to stop avoiding her visions of the future and tackle life head-on. As her family and her town begin to fall apart, Arden discovers the strength she never knew she had.

Would you say this is a book about change, then, and how we handle change?

I would say so- in fact, I’d take it one step further. I think the book explores the conflict of when to move forward versus when to fight for what you had. Each of the characters explores that dilemma to some degree, and Arden most of all.

Does Arden use her clairvoyance as a crutch?

In some ways she does! Arden has visions of the future, but she also has the ability to sense the truth about the past. She runs the local antique store, and we see her depending on her ability to hear the stories behind her antiques in order to make sales. Arden is much more uncomfortable with her visions of the future, though!

Julianne Moore just won an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award and several others for her role in Still Alice. What do you think surprises people the most about Alzheimer’s disease?

I think the most surprising thing is how different the effects of Alzheimer’s can be from one person to another. A number of people have said they were surprised by how quickly (or how slowly) their loved ones progressed through each stage. Others were very surprised by the personality changes their loved one went through while dealing with the confusion and frustration of living with Alzheimer’s.

What intrigued you about this disease that made you want to write about it?

When I first thought of Arden’s character, I wanted to see how she would react to a situation where she was moving forward but someone she loved was sliding back into the past. When I started doing research on Alzheimer’s disease and how it affected the patient and the whole family, the characters really started to develop.

Reluctant Cassandra will be available June, 2015. Visit Ellen Smith at http://ellensmithwrites.com/

WIP Blog Tour

1) What is the name of your character? Is he/she fictional or a historic person?
Naomi is a fictional character going through the motions of living her life, when the collective life everyone has known disappears over the course of a few days.

2) When and where is the story set?
The story is set in present day during the last days of summer on the eve of a deadly hurricane and what appears to be a multi-pronged terrorist strike. It takes place mostly in the Annapolis region and shows how people respond to something catastrophic that the vast majority are not prepared for—being self-sufficient.

3) What should we know about him/her?
Naomi Chassen has modern-day anxieties that stem from work and relationships. When she finally has all the reason in the world to be anxious, she actually finds her strength—as the worst is happening and she’s dealing with it, learning to think quickly and react rather than wasting time overly worrying about all potential outcomes.

4) What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life?
The main conflict is at first Man versus Nature, and then Man against Man in an apocalyptic setting, with people making decisions on how to handle survival: work together as a collective or find a way to profit from the situation. In particular, one person is hell-bent on stymying the town’s efforts to hold things together—targeting Naomi.

5) What is the personal goal of the character?
Naomi’s personal goal is to survive and try to help others do the same, especially a little boy—a stranger’s child—who has come under her care due to a need she sees and steps up to handle, while balancing the creation of an interdependent unit with her friend and her boyfriend as they strive to manage being blockaded in their area, unable to escape, the effects of a biological attack heading their way and civic order beginning to break down. The situation becomes dire as a mentally unbalanced man fixates on Naomi and begins to blame her for his own situation.

6) Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?
The title is Edge of Undoing, and I blog about related topics HERE.

7) When can we expect the book to be published?
The novel is moving into the revision stage, so 2015 is the goal for publication.

Failure of Imagination

 

Image courtesy of antpkr / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of antpkr / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

As part of my research for a book I’m writing, I am reading “The Great Deluge,” by Douglas Brinkley. I’ve actually been reading this book for some time, taking it in small bites for a multitude of reasons. One of those reasons is that it will serve as material for just a section of my book, so I don’t need to complete it within any particular time frame or bump other reading material to accommodate it. A second very big reason is that I can’t read it too close to bedtime, when I normally do the bulk of my reading, because it’s highly likely to give me nightmares.

 

The book is an incredibly precise accounting of the lead-up to the storm and its aftermath. Anyone near a television during those days who watched from safety outside of the storm’s devastation no doubt can still recall the searing images of a city devastated, many of its people stranded and losing hopeif not their lives. Brinkley, a consummate historian, tells the story with the in-depth parsing of events that only a skilled historian can achieve, while also weaving a story that draws you into its grip from the first paragraph of the first chapter.

 

A lot of blame was slung around after Katrina had moved on, and much of it rightfully so. What I can’t help but conclude—and the book makes starkly evident—is that a failure of imagination was one of the greatest underpinnings to the human consequences of this disaster. Sometimes we forget that true horror lies not just in books and movies. Or maybe we want to forget, which is why we ignore our imaginations, allowing them to fail at the very time when life—potentially our own as well as othersmay depend on it.

Two Weeks to Rites: Story Origins

Writers are often asked where they get their ideas. Actually, no one has ever asked me that – but I’ve had many very nice offers to write various individuals’ stories because their lives have been so interesting. I aspire to be the person who tells a writer that I’m so interesting, my life absolutely must be written about. With a straight face. However, with proper editing and generous flights of fancy, we’re all interesting, right?

But I digress…

Tomorrow is the release of the web series, Two Weeks to Rites, I am working on with my writing-partner-in-crime Sandra R. Campbell. The idea for our series has its origins in a seemingly innocuous picture: we were taking photos to put on our new site, and we noticed something odd in the picture taken of me. (Something odder than just me.) It looked like a copse of dark woods was just behind me. But, when the same area was viewed in real-time with our eyeballs, it was just a couple of skinny trees. They didn’t even have enough girth to cast a shadow.

And so, our story was born. Whether these “dark woods” will figure into our story or not, you’ll have to wait and see. There have been many twists and turns the tale has taken, and I have to say that it has been an exciting writer’s journey so far.

So if this were Aesop’s fables, I’d have to make sure I underscore the lesson: keep your eyes open, and remember to also occasionally squint to gain a different perspective, because you never know what you’ll see.

Please join us tomorrow, www.waterfrontwriters.com, for the release of the first chapter of our series.

Thanks for stopping by!

Reading Nook

Early Eclectic Reading Nook

Early Eclectic Reading Nook

Who knew a simple reading nook could be such a draw to a diverse range of ages and interests?

I created a little reading nook for myself in my postage stamp-sized living room. It’s where my big TV used to sit, the focal point of the living room. When I canceled cable in hopes of reading and writing more, I realized that the area was wasted space. With only a DVD player hooked up to the TV, why was I still paying homage to this box?

So, the TV was removed, I reclaimed bits and pieces from around the house and made a very, very cozy area for reading and relaxing. There’s not a lot of wiggle room, but when you’re immersed in a book or magazine article, there’s generally not a lot of thrashing about.

When I first set it up, my son emerged from his man cave and informed me that I’d have to share that space. Really… more appealing than a man cave?

My sister was over for the holidays and is the harried mother of two high-voltage monkeys. She sat down and informed me she would leave the kids with dad at times and come over to sit and relax there.

And recently over at a friend’s place, I noticed he set up a replica of my nook. Imitation is, after all, the sincerest form of flattery. I also noticed how quickly I gravitated to that chair, laying claim and using the ancient code of guest treatment to my advantage.

Business wisdom says to fill a need, so I’m thinking of setting up a reading-nook shop. Just create little reading cubbies, serve coffee or tea, cookies and cakes, and people could rent some quiet space, a respite from a frenzied world. Won’t you come visit and relax a bit?

Where’s your favorite place to curl up?

Bookshelf Bonanza

An ideal book space

I love visiting a Facebook site called “No, I do NOT have too many books!

Featured are dream photos that any book lover would enjoy: books stacked, arranged and otherwise stuffed in ways that span the spectrum of book storage. Some photos show the simply utilitarian method, shelves stocked, every last inch of space taken with barely an air pocket between books. Other photos show amazing creativity, such as would make an architect sit up and take notice: books stacked in igloo-style shapes, mazes and doorway arches.

I veer toward utilitarian, shelves jammed from one end to the other, though I admit I am averse to stacking books in horizontally atop the vertical ones. My bookshelves are scattered throughout my home, but my dream space is the picture I am including today.

Since I do not have the space for it in my home, I use this picture as my computer’s wallpaper, and anytime I need to escape into my “ideal” book space, I just minimize my various screens and inhale the would-be scent of a whole room crammed with books.

What type of book owner are you?