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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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.

The Number One, Must-Have Survivalist Tool

Doomsday Housing Plan / Image courtesy of Duron123 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Doomsday Housing Plan / Image courtesy of Duron123 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I attended a Preparedness & Survival Expo in August.  One excellent speaker, Jay Blevins, who has been featured on National Geographic Channel’s “Doomsday Preppers,” talked about the 6 foundational aspects of prepping. At the top of the survival list?

Having the proper mindset.

This means having the will to survive, even when things get downright ugly, insecure and uncomfortable–and in the event of a ‘doomsday’ scenario, they inevitably will.  Having a strong mindset allows you to handle being outside of your comfort zone and losing your creature comforts.  That’s not a bad life skill to have for just everyday scenarios that can be their own scaled-down, personal version of doomsday, such as job loss.

I know I’ve gone soft in terms of handling anything outside of my comfort zone.  I’ve been running my writing consulting business by day, and working on my own writing on the side, including a collaborative effort at the Waterfront Writers website.  I’ve noticed that the outdoors features prominently in my stories.  Maybe that’s because lately, my outdoors pursuits have fallen by the wayside, and I feel the lack of connection with nature in my life and that sense you get of being able to find your way if needed.  In my comfortable world, this present shifting of priorities has been a good thing on the one hand, but also a mini-trauma–one I can luckily undo by shifting priorities around a bit so I can re-connect to the outdoors.

One thing I used to do to get out of my comfort zone is to go camping.  I didn’t go camping this year–and I realize that isn’t sufficient preparation for having a survivalist mindset when it’s only car camping.  But there was no way I was going to get my son to backpack, so I was always happy to just get the little gamer that far out of reach of a game console.  I have, however, had survivalist scenarios occur while car camping, such as camping next to neighbors where I wasn’t sure about their survival prospects after I’d listened to hours of their noisy shenanigans well into the night.  But I digress…

In a doomsday scenario, you may have only the bug-out pack on your back, and the only fire pit and picnic bench at your disposal will be what you create out of what you find.  And with that, you’ll need a mindset that accepts the situation and flows with it.

Car camping does serve to take me out of my self-created bubble world and remind me that I still have a lot to learn about self-reliance–and that means above and beyond earning a living.  My mindset is just fine for the daily dramas of life.  But you can always be mentally stronger, and it’s an area I want to explore more in-depth.

But not tonight.  I need a hot bath, a steaming cup of tea and then a little television.

How about you: do you feel you’d be mentally prepared should complete chaos and anarchy occur? Leave a comment! And if you don’t mind, go take a look at the website I’m collaborating on – we have four chapters posted for our new web series.  Help me justify my ‘gone soft’ condition on the Waterfront Writers

The Lambasting League

When you read articles online, do you have a tendency to zip through so you can get to the comments section at the bottom?

Okay, I confess… I do.

And I don’t know why. I always come away feeling as if I need to reshower for the day. It seems a good many of the commenters go out of their way to be snarky or downright nasty. You have your few positive-thinking souls, and those who lead with logical arguments, but it seems the majority want to create a new national sport of lambasting anything and everything within their sphere.

I’m glad these lambasters aren’t judge, jury and executioner, or we’d suddenly have a population deficit.

It seems there are a lot of frustrated wannabe critics in the world. They aspire to influence huge swaths of humanity… and the only way they can think to do it is to thrash and trash something. One of my other favorite places to read scathing comments are those reviews you find for restaurants. You may have just wanted to look up how late some local establishment is going to be open, but then you see a couple of highlighted stars and a number of reviews and you think… what is it I don’t know about this place that maybe I should know?

What you read is enough to keep you inside living on rice and eschewing all human contact.

I don’t care if some of these folks are reviewing their local dollar burger joint… I can almost visualize them, their noses stuck in the air so high it’s a marvel they can see their computer screens to type. They are just sooo deadly serious and foo-foo in their reviews. I often have to double-check the website I’m on: did I click on a back issue of Bon Appetit or a come-one/come-all review site?

“The ketcup packets had a slightly squished consistency that suggested the high fructose corn syrup was heated just below the range of sugar before carmelizing into a smear of red paste…”

Welcome to the Lambasting League of Life Haters. By the tone of this post, I think I may have inadvertently joined the ranks!

 

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?