Progress continues with The Vampire of Rome, not as much as if my muse were actually around, but the word count continues to rise. I have hit 40k, which usually means I am close to 2/3 done, but this story feels a bit closer to the mid-point, Brother Sebastian and crew have had to deal with zombies, ensorcelled monkeys, Scarecrows, Elves, betrayal, mobsters, and a Spector, but so far not a single vampire. That will, of course, change very soon. It is interesting, in that for me a story free-flows. I work out some rough concepts, magical Bavarian midget wrestling troupe is threatening Omaha what will Brother Sebastian do? Or four teens are held captive by talking Great Dane who threatens their lives unless provided Scooby Snacks, how would you conduct a rescue?
|You want Scooby? Come at me Bro|
And I'm off writing. Some crazy people do what is called an outline, where they write the story in brief, and then they write it, and then they write it to flesh out weak spots a third time. Since I was never a goody-goody in school, nor do I yearn to write a story multiple times, I avoid this OCD like behavior. I will admit, sometimes I get stuck, writing before the ideas flow. But I enjoy writing, and outlines, punch points, predictable plot points defined by the page count, leads, in my case at least, to formulaic writing.
Enough about me lets get on with my guest – she writes, she sings (two songs dedicated to me, eat your heart out Rick Gualtieri and Stephen King), and she's been known to dress as Starbuck from Battle Star Galactica.
I am talking, of course, about Jessica Marie Baumgartner and her newest book Embracing Entropy. Take it away Jessica -
As Earth dies, leaving its inhabitants struggling to survive, an alien race offers an unimaginable option: to relocate humans to their own planet on the far end of the universe. The Campbells, one of the last surviving families, quickly realize humanity’s hope for survival may come with a price. Accepting a new way of life, acclimating to a new atmosphere, and trying to fight against a universe that seems set on tearing them apart offers many struggles. Can the Campbell’s make it through, together?
I used to have nightmares about this. I would wake up screaming as they forced me to leave. People giving up; abandoning Mother Earth. The thought alone caused my heart to race, my under arms to sweat.
Here I stand clutching my children, one on each side, as we prepare to be torn away from everything that’s tangible. Before me, a gargantuan structure glares from above. This beast, this ship is supposed to save humanity, or at least what’s left of it.
I’ve lived through mass devastation. It’s hardened me enough. But leaving? It still scares me.
We have no idea what’s out there for us.
My husband has faith in the alien colony that is aiding us. They made contact just in time. Said they had revolutionized their space program and stumbled upon our signal.
I don’t know what I believe.
As the line moves forward, I pull my girls along. They stumble ahead with fright, carrying their backpacks strapped to their bodies. Our packs are the only human luggage allowed on the crowded craft. But that’s not what they’re worried about.
It’s not the new race they fear. Or even the new world. It is the missing presence of their father.
He has his duty. He’ll stay with his men until we pilgrims are secure, then meet up with us in a smaller craft. I’m glad for it. They’ve already had to break up some fights. People get pretty riled up in situations like this. It’s good to have someone who remains behind to keep order for a while, and to try and find any last survivors before leaving.
Finally we’re ascending the dock and I’m able to see our temporary home. It’s nothing like I imagined. The smell is what draws my attention first.
“Eww mommy.” My youngest daughter, Gwen, pinches her nose.
The odoriferous enclosure is beyond human comprehension. I’ve smelt plague pits, leaking sewage, the rank smell of sea life left to rot on beaches. Although this isn’t as horrendous, it does make my eyes water. Despite the nausea I’m fighting, I grind my teeth. “Gwen, these people are saving our lives. Don’t insult them.”
“No,” I demand, and watch her eyes swim as she lets go of her nose.
“Look.” My eldest, Maddi distracts us as she points to one of the aliens.
I spot them as the line moves up – the Cih’lnarians. We’ve glimpsed them from afar before. Closer, they’re not as unsightly. Definitely not of this world, but the lack of symmetry in their bodies is more becoming inside boundaries built for them.
The contrast of the human official standing beside the alien as we enter sends my thoughts spinning. Cih’lnarians are about a foot taller than humans, with grey skin, and lop sided features that often give them the look of melted wax. Still unused to these new people, I do begin to compare facial expressions as the man converses with the alien beside him. They seem to smile the same.
The ship itself looks off. Doorways, landings, stairs, none of the usual architecture is visible, just walls. Walls everywhere, but none of them reach the ceiling. It’s a network of big squares, meant to contain us, to keep us out of the way. I don’t know what I expected. Our own officials gave the craft a once over and approved.
Group by group, each living boundary is divvied out. When it’s our turn, the alien in charge of us hands me a chip with a symbol on it, and points the way. As we walk along, we can see that none of the cubicles have doors. There are light beams that penetrate up from the floor to create a boundary. It offers a slight comfort, but anyone could walk in. I desperately hope that the neighbors opposite us are reasonable enough. One sliver of hallway between strangers can leave a person feeling exposed.
I’d heard about this. The Cih’lnarian culture doesn’t know the ideals of living separate. They consider themselves one being; like a single hair growing from our bodies. Very seldom do we concern ourselves with the individual follicles unless there’s a problem. They’re only concerned with the greater good.
I admire their lack of selfishness, but it makes me feel insignificant.
Reaching our new living space amplifies this feeling. The small square room is plain and simple. Three walls alone protect us.
Gwen runs to a corner and jumps onto the stuffed bags meant for sleeping. “We can all snuggle up together.” She smiles.
Maddi rolls her eyes. “Just don’t drool on me, okay?” She tosses her pack aside.
I linger at the opening and take in the grey walls that reach around to hold other families. I try to be grateful. At least the girls are.
My wrist starts vibrating. I’m still getting used having the wrist transmitter. I click the side and my husband’s face comes onscreen. His image is miniscule but the calm in his voice gives me courage. “Allie, it’s almost time.”
“I know Adam.” I could say a lot more but fear it’ll make me cry.
“We’ve got things secured pretty well. I’ll be right behind you.”
“Daddy!” Gwen reaches over and Maddi scoots close to me. We huddle around the device.
“Hi girls.” He flashes them a grin.
“Dad, do we really have to sleep together?” Maddi’s complaining already.
“Enough.” I give her a threatening look and then sigh to my husband. “Miss you already.”
He laughs. “We’ll be exploring new reaches soon enough.”
“I’m all ready daddy.”
“That’s good Gwen. You help make the trip fun. And Maddi?”
“Please try to give your mom some peace.”
They all look at me.
“I love you.”
He makes me feel whole. Our family is complete with him. I stare at his face trying to imagine touching him again. “I love you too.”
“Gotta get back.” His happy expression is a little forced but I’m glad to see it.
The screen goes blank and I rub its smooth surface.
The aliens may smell and have no concept of personal space, but they share their technologies openly. Their transmitters are supposed to keep Adam and I connected for the entire journey. Even after his smaller craft docks, we can communicate when working different jobs here. It’s amazing to have a race come as saviors, but it’s astonishing to have their complete confidence outright.
Sometimes I fear we’re not worthy.
Maddi sulks over and throws herself on the cushy bags in the corner. Gwen tugs on me asking to be picked up.
“You know, you’re getting a little big for this.” I squeeze her tight.
She’s only five. I realize that she probably won’t remember our home planet when she gets older, so I resolve to hold her whenever she wants throughout the trip.
We both scan the room. There’s a table and chairs against one of the temporary walls. On the other side of the room sits a shelf for our belongings. The corner opposite Maddi is basically a giant wash basin. We’ll squat there to relieve ourselves and stand there when we choose to wash.
We’re already used to conserving our resources, so I figure the daily bucket of water will be plenty. It’ll hydrate us, and once a week we’ll sponge our bodies with a slight portion.
I made sure to pack an able pair of shearers and a nice sharpening stone to keep our hair close to our scalps. My grandmother used to speak of the long flowing tresses that ladies once wore. It’s one of my few memories of her. Her tone held a remarkable reverence that left me spellbound as she seemed to miss that kind of beauty.
It sounded nice, sitting down to brush each other’s hair, but honestly I have no use for such rituals. Watching over my family takes enough time.
Many people have given up on those ties. Some think it cruel for anyone to birth more children, but Adam and I couldn’t suppress our familial desires.
Survival is our highest aim, but how can we survive without future generations?
These girls are everything to us. Our hope. Our life blood.
We settle in and wait. After days of travel and standing in line to enter the ship, we’re exhausted. The simple comfort of rest takes over and I find myself glad that we’ve been given the opportunity for a new life.
After a while, the floors begin to shake. I sit with my girls and keep them close. My wrist vibrates and I activate the screen to receive the message that we’ve been waiting for. “Attention passengers, our journey is about to begin. Please do not be alarmed if you feel some strange shifting.”
I pull my daughters against me and try to remind myself that this is our last hope.
“We’re really leaving?” Maddi’s soft brown eyes question mine.
Despite my own apprehensions I must reassure her. “Of course. Just think of all the opportunities that lay ahead.”
“Opportunities? Mom, I’m nine.”
“Thanks Maddi, I’m pretty sure I remember that.” I laugh rubbing her scruffy head.
Gwen takes my other hand and lays her face in it. “Well, I can’t wait. Do you think we’ll get to explore the ship before we get there?”
“I don’t know, maybe.” The idea doesn’t appeal to me.
Cih’lnarian space vessels lack artistic architecture from what I’ve seen. There are no windows, few passageways. They trust their pilot to do his job. Unlike humans, they harbor no desire to look out. They need no reassurances.
It must be nice to have that kind of trust, but the thought unnerves me.
We’re expected to stay calm, and put our lives in the care of a culture completely unlike our own. Our instincts are different. Our lives are more complex. How will we assimilate? Thinking about it only raises more questions.
I get a little lightheaded from the climb as the force of flight makes my body grow heavy. But instead of feeling queasy or frightened when the pressure changes, it’s a welcome distraction. Yes we’re leaving, but right now I can just lose myself in the ascent. I focus on comforting my daughters and being there for them.
The trip is estimated to last approximately three months. It seems short to me. Traveling distant reaches of space should take longer right? I don’t know, my knowledge of the physics behind this journey is limited.
I’ve been told that we’re going to live on a planet that the Cih’lnarians call Znaji’b. Pronouncing the alien tongue is one of my major goals. I don’t know how many light years away the planet is, or how fast we’ll be traveling. None of that’s my concern. My head’s been filled with times and dates and things that I’m not even sure will make sense once we leave our own solar system.
Remembering my daughter’s birthdays, my anniversary with Adam, measuring time on this craft will be difficult enough. We’re leaving the sun. Artificial light will mimic it, but you can’t replace it. There’ll be many changes and adjustments ahead.
For now, I nestle close to my girls and rest. We must be out of the Earth’s atmosphere because the ride grows steady. At least the hard part’s over; we’ve left and there’s no going back.
Jessica is the author of: The Embracing Entropy Series, Siren’s Snare, Tale of Two Bookends, and My Family Is Different. Her stories have been featured in numerous publications such as Everyday Fiction, The Lorelei Signal, Fiction on the Web, The Horror Zine and many others. She is a member of the St. Louis Writer’s Guild and is always weaving new worlds in the webs of her tales.
You can find Jessica at these places. And if you're very nice, sending her pictures of you buying and reading her book, leaving reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, she might even dedicate a song to you.
Main Character’s Motivation?
Well this trilogy has 3 main characters, but this trio of women are family. They are most concerned with stepping up and doing what’s best for their loved ones which proves difficult when traveling through space, and facing war.
What are their strength’s and weaknesses?
I love this question. When I write I don’t think about writing or follow my rough outlines to a T, I let the character’s carry the story. The Campbell women draw from the strength of each other to keep from falling apart. That helps them to do what they need to do even in crisis situations. Weaknesses are more fun, when you rely on others to prop you up it can also lead to self-doubt when having to face issues by yourself. The Cambell women share a tendency to doubt themselves to the point that each of them struggles with the fear of madness.
Philosophical issues in the story:
This trilogy begins with The Campbell’s leaving Earth. It’s a dying planet and they feel they have no choice. As they acclimate to life with a benevolent alien race, the harsher aspects of human nature begin to gnaw on the humans. The question of whether or not we are a destructive force in the universe comes up many times.
This isn’t something that can be proven or dis-proven really. Humanity have been known for greatness and many opposing atrocities. But The Cambell women draw on their heritage and their familial bonds to try and succeed.
Any offbeat or 80s refrerences?
In book w, Perfect Chaos, Gwen (the youngest daughter) Keeps saying Aye Aye captain, to her Cih’lnarian commander. He doesn’t understand the phrase as there are no seas on the planet he is from, but she has fun teasing him with it.
When did you start to write this and why?
Jan 1st 2015. I usually take December off writing and I sat down with this thinking it would be a good short story for a space anthology I had heard about. The original idea was only supposed to be 5k words. Clearly she grew much bigger than that. Haha When I finished book one I was around 30k and realized that there was more to be written.
What’s your next book?
That’s a great question. I have 3 unpublished novels, 2 of which I’m polishing right now, but I’m almost positive that a collection of my horror and dark fantasy stories, Depths of the Dark, will be my next published work. I had one of my current publishers read a couple of the stories and she went nuts over them. It’s almost ready, just need to finish the last tale and get some artwork back from the very talented Dash Crowley who has humbly agreed to do some pictures for it.
When will it be available?
The goal right now is this fall. Maybe sooner.
Embracing Entropy sounds like a fun story. My recommendation - get your copy now, and make sure you leave a review when you finish.
Speaking of fun stories, before you get caught up in American warrior monks Purging vampires in Rome, start with the early years when things were not so dark. Ha ha ha I crack myself up sometimes.
Junior Inquisitor Book One
Amazon - http://goo.gl/D6KrbX
Inquisitor Series - http://goo.gl/mJtTf8
Soulless Monk Book Two
Smashwords - https://goo.gl/NXw3Gr
Amazon - http://goo.gl/p9fBn0
Inquisitor Series - http://goo.gl/5lCyaX
The Witch’s Lair Book Three
Amazon - http://goo.gl/ZRO6Jw
Smashwords - https://goo.gl/MokJnC
Inquisitor Series - http://goo.gl/mJtTf8