Tag Archives: writer

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.

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/

Writerly Collaboration

Image courtesy of Evgeni Dinev / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Evgeni Dinev / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I enjoy spending time with people, talking and sharing ideas, laughing, being outdoors, EATING, drinking wine or brew… but by nature, I’m more the lone wolf. My grandmother taught me as a little person how to entertain myself. I have enough reading materials to keep me busy a couple of lifetimes, and enough writing ideas… well, best not to jinx it.

When it comes to writing down those ideas, the words come in fits and starts, like a water faucet pulling from a near-dry well in an abandoned cabin. Maybe it’s because my day job requires that I write, that by the time I get around to “my” writing, my brain is in “hibernate” mode.

So it has been a twist to my worldview to discover that, collaborating with another writer on a story, I don’t have the fit-and-start thing going on… it’s more of a we-struck-oil gusher that I have to curb so I don’t dominate the storyline. Maybe there isn’t as much pressure having a writing partner.

For one, if you get stuck, they can get down into the weeds of a story with you and give that nudge to get you moving. Second, if you lose the thread of continuity, you have a second set of eyes to find it. Third, there’s a fair measure of accountability going on, because when I get the draft to work on, I know my writing partner is waiting… so I don’t have the luxury of trite, cliché or even wildly-creative excuse-making.

I enjoy collaborating, and our latest installment of our shared effort Two Weeks to Rites, which so far has been a blast, is now posted. Go to: http://waterfrontwriters.com/

Thanks for stopping by for a visit! Back to my wolf den…

Gerbil Brain, Mental Exhaustion, Backlogged Output

The Dreaded Trickle

The Dreaded Mental Trickle

I don’t understand or relate when people say they are “bored.”  Maybe they mean “ennui” – a perfect word for listlessness, compliments of the French.  Now, THAT I have suffered from, a sort of existential dissatisfaction.  But my ennui stems from intellectual overload.

My problem is not a lack of interesting things to think about and write about… rather, there’s an overload of ideas.  I have them stacking up and backing up.

It’s not writer’s block.  It’s more a case of having a hyper gerbil loose upstairs, scampering around first on its wheel, spinning, spinning, spinning, before leaping off and thrusting its nose into every nook and cranny it can find, not staying in any one spot for too long.  And that’s what is maddening: it has proved too elusive to capture and contain.

So unfortunately, instead of a geyser of output, I am suffering the dreaded mental trickle, where output has slowed to the pace of a drought-plagued stream.  In continuing my gerbil-brain’s current mixing of metaphors and ideas just in this post, I feel like I’m looking over a box of chocolates, and there are so many choices that I’m exhausted from the very effort of trying to make a decision and need to lie down.

Any ideas for harnessing the gerbil, settling down and getting that output flowing again?