Monday, August 13, 2012

Ancient Memories by Youngblood Hawke: Interview & Excerpt

Taylor Hardin and her daughter lived an idyllic life on a farm in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. She was a newly discovered landscape artist, her paintings suddenly in demand and regularly on display at one of Washington DC's most exclusive galleries. Her name was becoming a household word throughout the art world and, most of all, her paintings regularly sold for thousands of dollars. The newly found fame and money allowed Taylor to live happily with her 14-year-old daughter, Diana.
Her life was perfect.
Then it changed forever.
Taylor found her life revealed and ripped apart: her life, her being, her very soul was peeled away one layer at a time until all that was left was an ancient memory that would rip the happiness out of her life, dash it against the rocks scattered in the sands of time, and wash her peace away, much as the sand on the seashore is washed away into the bottom of the sea and lost forever.

Taylor arrived home just as the school bus was leaving Diana at the long driveway. The orange bus pulled away and Taylor motioned for her daughter to get in. After the talk she had just had with Pat, she was nervous and upset. Was her daughter some sort of devil child.
It couldn’t be possible.
But when Diana slid into the seat beside her all of Taylor's fears were suddenly swept away.
"Hi, Mom," Diana said happily as she closed the door. She scooted across the seat and threw her arms around her mother, giving her a big hug. "I love you, Mom."
Taylor kept her foot on the brake and returned her daughter's hug.
"And what brought this on so suddenly?" she asked overwhelmed with relief. "Whatever it is, I like it."
Diana shrugged. "I've been bad lately, Mom. I don't know why I get into these bad moods. I don't like them. And I just want you to know I love you."
"I love you, too, Babe."

Taylor gunned the Cherokee and threw up dust as they drove along the dirt drive to the old farm house. A fenced field lined both sides of the driveway, though years had passed since they last held the cattle her uncle used to raise. She brought the car to a halt in front of their house. Timothy's old pickup was parked over by the fence, and she knew that he would soon turn up for a chat and to let her know what he had accomplished during the day.
As they were climbing the steps to the porch, Diana spoke again.
"Is Mrs. Moore mad at me again?" she asked. "I've been trying to pay attention in class, really, Mom. But I'm still having a lot of trouble. It's not like it used to be. School used to be so easy for me. Now I just don't want to be there. Why do you think that is?"
Taylor was aware that Diana knew of her meeting with her teacher, but until now she hadn't seemed overly concerned. Until recently, she had been a gifted student, always making high grades. Taylor really believed that Diana was trying to maintain her concentration and her grades in school. She decided to answer her daughter's question as honestly as she safely could.
"Mrs. Moore is worried about you, honey. She's worried about these dark moods of yours, and she's worried because you and Melanie are no longer friends."
A cloud came over Diana's face. "She told you about that? Melanie's no fun anymore."
"What do you mean?
Diana just shook her head. "I don't know. She thinks I'm supposed to be happy all the time, and I just can't be."

Taylor pulled her daughter into her arms.
"Why, honey? Is it because of Daddy?"
For a moment Taylor was worried that Diana would storm off to her room, but to her amazement she collapsed into a chair at the kitchen table, buried her face in her arms, and began to sob. Taylor went to stand behind her, feeling helpless. She stroked her long, blond hair gently. “Diana?”
"I guess so."
"Do you want to talk about it? It might help. We both loved Daddy, and we were both hurt when he died."
"I just can't talk about it with you, Mom. I get so mad sometimes - at me, at you, at the world. And I keep having these dreams...nightmares..."
"What nightmares, honey?"
"I can't talk about them. I really can't."
“I think you need to. Not just the nightmares, but everything. .Mrs. Moore thinks you should see a psychiatrist and so do I."
"A shrink? Mom, no!”
"Just to talk to someone, totally confidentially. It might be just what you need.”
“No shrinks, Mom, please!" Diana sounded almost desperate. Abruptly she pulled from her mother’s arms and ran to her room.

Deep inside Diana knew that her mother was right: she did have to talk to someone. But she knew that she felt that way only because she was having one of her good days. She liked these days better...days when she loved her mother and felt good about herself. She liked being able to hug her mother and tell her she loved her. And she liked hearing her mother say the words in return and hold her closely.

She liked this a lot better than the other days when she was angry...the days when she hated. When she hated she was so filled with rage that she scared herself. On those days she hated everything around her. That dark side of her was what had driven her and Melanie apart. And that dark side of her, that seemed to creep into her body out of the darkness of the night while she slept, possessed her totally when it was there. It brought with it troubling dreams that she only seemed to understand in some deep inner part of her being. But when she awoke in the mornings, the understanding was gone and could not be retrieved. She sensed the understanding more than she actually knew it. But even from the very first time the dreams occurred she knew with dread that someday understanding would come, and she feared it. The dreams had been coming for a long time, then the nightmares had begun. The awful, awful, nightmares that seemed so real that she tried not to think about them haunted her every waking moment. Even on the days when the dark side had her she tried not to allow herself to think about the nightmares. And the scary thing was that this dark side seemed to be growing stronger. And as it grew stronger, her anger grew stronger. And the anger that grew the strongest was the anger at her mother.
She didn’t remember when the anger began, that darkness in her soul made her hate the world. But she knew it had something to do with the dreams, as though there were a dark voice in her soul that told her what she must do. She could not bring herself to do its strongest bidding, but the hate would not go away. She hated herself, she hated life, and she hated her mother.
But this day she would not think their thoughts, and instead enjoyed this wonderful day and the way she loved to feel her mother's arms around her, she knew that days like today was the way she wanted her life to be. She did not want the other..
She felt her mother's arm placed suddenly and tenderly around her shoulders.
"We'll face this together," Taylor said.
Her mother made her feel so comfortable. Life was good on days like this, and she wanted nothing to change that. She did not want this dark side of her to come between her and her mother. She squeezed her mother's hand, then they heard approaching footsteps, and she knew Timothy was coming.
"Afternoon, Missy," Timothy said. "Been straightening up around the barn today. Been needing it for a long time. Lot of junk in there."
"I know," Taylor replied.
She had told Timothy some time ago that just as soon as he could get to it she would like the barn cleaned up. There was still junk from before she inherited the farm, items that she remembered being in the same spots when she had been a child. They had untouched for years.

"I got a bunch to haul off, but I'll have to borrow a big truck 'cause it's too much for my pickup. I'll have it all gone by the end of the week, though, Missy. Don't you worry."
Taylor laughed. "I know you will, Timothy. Even when I was a kid you always did exactly what you told me you would do.”
At that compliment, Timothy's face changed into one big grin. Taylor had been one of his favorite people ever since she was a small child visiting the farm. He remembered those many years before and suddenly his face turned solemn. For a moment he hesitated, not at all certain he should say what he was about to say.
“What is it, Timothy?”
"There was a lot of real old stuff there, Missy," Timothy said hesitantly. "Something I should show you. Don't know if you want to see it, though. You come to the barn with me."
"All right, Timothy." She spoke hesitantly. It was obvious something was wrong.
"Mom, I'm going on to my room and get started with my homework," Diana said.
"That's fine, honey." She smiled at her, hoping her cheerful mood would last. "I'll be back in a few minutes."
Taylor followed Timothy across the back of the yard toward the barn. He walked in grim silence, almost as though she weren't by his side.
“What's the big mystery?" she asked, unable to contain her curiosity.
"You not going to like this, Missy. It's from back then."
Back then. For a moment the expression had no meaning for her, and she was confused. Then, like the stab of a bloody ice pick that drained the life from a warm body, she felt a chill of apprehension sweep across her.
Back then.
Of all people alive on earth, only she and Timothy knew about back then, and not once since she had inherited the farm and returned there to live had either of them ever mentioned it. Not once.
The sun was bright and high enough in the sky so that the barn's tin roof cast a silver glare into their eyes. And just as she noticed the glare from the tin roof ahead, another glint of shining light reflected by the sun caused her to look to her left. There, not far away, lay the pond.She jerked her eyes away from it. It was the one place on her farm that she never went near, never looked at except by accident
Until now.
As they neared the barn, Timothy stopped just outside the door.
"There's something I found in here today," he said whispered. He stopped himself, hesitated as though he didn't want to continue.
Taylor had to prompt him.
"Found what?"
Timothy shifted from one foot to the other.
"I'm not sure about this, since I never seen it," he said. "But do you remember when you were just a little girl and Dane killed the puppy?"
Taylor tried to respond, but all she could manage was a quick nod of her head. Timothy’s question had brought memories rushing back that she had spent her entire life trying to forget. . Sometimes she even tried to convince herself that it had never happened. The only physical evidence of that dreadful summer was the limp in Timothy's leg.
And now memories came rushing back of Pooch, her little puppy that lived and died that summer at the age of four months.
Timothy noticed her white face and he changed his mind.
"It's nothing, Missy. It's nothing. Let's go back to the house. I should keep my mouth shut."
Taylor grabbed his shirt and stopped him as he started past her.
"No!" she said. "What is it?"
Timothy looked at her for a long moment, nodded then led her into the barn.
"I remember you were just a little girl and Dane was so mean to you," he said softly. "You told me how she killed the puppy. Do you remember telling me?"
Taylor nodded. She remembered.
"You told me how she cut off the puppy's legs and put them in a box."
Taylor's own legs began to tremble.
Timothy walked into one of the stalls and lifted a small box off a shelf at the back.
He turned to face Taylor. Taylor's stomach drew into a tight knot. Her eyes were fixed on the metal box he held. She had seen it buried under a rock across the north field more than twenty years ago. Taunting her, Dane had buried it the day before she died, and she had forced Taylor to watch. Taylor felt her heart pounding furiously in her chest. Of all people alive, only she knew about the box and where it had been buried. And she knew what it contained.
The legs.
Dane had cut off Pooch’s little legs. Taylor never knew how Pooch died, or where Dane disposed of the body. She only knew that Dane had confessed to killing her puppy and dared her to tell her parents. Then she gave her the legs in the tin box.
"This way we can give Pooch a proper burial," Dane had said. She had laughed as she saw the tears in her younger cousin's eyes. To nine-year-old Taylor, Dane was the most evil person on earth. As the two youngsters spent their summers together, Dane was always cruel to her. There was an evil side to Dane that she never showed in front of grown-ups.
Timothy slid the top back off the box, and Taylor fought back a scream. The legs were there, two tiny bones.
"I found the box in the loft today, up there in a corner. But it wasn't hidden. It was right out in the open. I don't know why I haven't noticed it before."
"It was buried!" Taylor gasped. "Nobody but me knew where it was!"
Timothy had an explanation.
"It's been here all these years and nobody noticed it because this is the first time the barn has really been cleaned. You told me about Dane burying it. She must have dug it up after you left and brought it back to the barn."
"No," Taylor exclaimed. "That happened the day before she drowned. I know she didn't go back there and get the box." Taylor trembled as she remembered. "She drowned the next morning."
Timothy shook his head.
"No. It has to be that way. She had to go back and get it or how could it be here?” he asked.
They looked at each other in perplexed silence. There was no logical explanation for what they had just found.

Welcome Youngblood. Thanks for stopping by today and giving us this opportunity to find out a little about you.  How did you start your writing career?

I didn't grow up wanting to be a writer. Actually it was an accident that happened while I was in college studying civil engineering. One of my required courses was technical writing. One of the requirements for passing the course was to select an engineering subject and write a full technical report which was a major part of our final grade. Over the course of the semester we had written numerous small pieces describing objects, and my writing must have impressed the professor. When she assigned the technical reports she kept me after class to talk privately. She asked me if I would write a short story instead of a technical report. So I wrote an absolutely horrible short story for my final grade. When my first novel was published in 1978 I gave her a copy and thanked her. Without this one piece of encouragement I would probably have spent my life as a civil engineer.

Does your wife read your stuff?

My wife is my sounding board, my editor, proofreader and best and worst critic. She reads a lot and I have found her opinions invaluable.

What would you consider to be the best book you ever read?

Without a doubt the best book I have ever read is The Spy Who Came In From The Cold by John le Carré. It was the most intricately plotted book I have ever read. I read it many years ago and have never read another book that I felt to be its equal.

What are the most important attributes for remaining sane as a writer?

I recently wrote a blog that I feel dealt with that very question. It is still available to read on Goodreads. I want to quote the final paragraph as to answer this question.

An interesting story about the artistic insanity involves the late great actors James Dean and Dennis Hopper during the filming of Rebel Without A Cause. Dean and Hopper got into a heated argument about which one of them was the craziest. They each wanted to be acknowledged as being crazier than the other, because they believed that to be a truly good actor you had to be somewhat insane.
That's where books come from.

Do you have a favorite quote, quip or saying?

"When I die I want to regret the things I've done, not the things I haven't done.

What was the scariest moment of your life?

This happened only a few years ago. My wife and nine-year-old daughter and I were visiting my grandfather's farm in Texas where I spent many of my childhood summers. I was walking across the fields with my daughter showing her the places I used to play. We were about a quarter of a mile away from my car when a huge black pit bull rose to his feet amid some high weeds about 100 feet away. The weeds hid the dog until it stood and I had no idea it was there. It began walking slowly towards us in a very awkward manner and I knew right away the dog was sick. As it drew nearer I could see the slobber dropping from his mouth just like the dog in the movie Cujo. I had seen rabid dogs before as a kid on this very farm and I knew instantly it had rabies. I tried to lift my daughter to safety on a high tree limb, but she was young and afraid to be left alone in the tree and refused to let go of me, so she stood on the ground behind me. We were extremely vulnerable because I had no weapon. Fortunately I found a long stick with a fork at one end.

The dog walked right up to me and into the fork of the stick, slinging his dripping saliva everywhere. It tried to push its way to me by pushing the stick, and kept moving its legs as though it were walking, but going nowhere. My daughter was behind me screaming and I was afraid she would run. The dog kept walking in place, trying to push past me. It was the most frightening thing I've ever known because I knew that my daughter was the target, she was the prey. It finally stopped, walked about 10 feet away and sat down watching us. With the stick in one hand and holding my daughter by the other we began the long walk toward the car with the dog beside us every step of the way. I kept myself between the dog and my daughter. I knew that if we ran the dog would attack. I could tell the dog was out of his mind and he never took his eyes off my daughter. I will never forget those empty eyes and big gobs of white saliva dripping from his mouth My daughter and I made it back to the car and I put her inside with relatives and locked the door. The dog had stopped bout 100 feet away and would not come close to the car, so I began walking back to him with my stick, because by that time I was really pissed. I was the aggressor now and I walked rapidly toward him and he turned and ran.

I learned later that a man living nearby was a professional hunting guide. He kept and trained the pit bulls to hunt and kill Texas’ Javelina, an especially dangerous type of wild hog that runs wild across most of Texas. The thought that that dog, trained to kill and was stalking my daughter, still sends chills up my spine. We were extremely lucky.

Yes, you were!  My gosh! I think in a similar situation I’d end up as dog food.  How absolutely terrifying!  On to happier subjects, I hope…Tell us about your current release and your next release.

My current release, Ancient Memories, is a paranormal thriller with an unusual plot. It is the story both of a serial killer and a story of reincarnation. The protagonist, a young artist named Taylor Hardin, becomes the focal point of a series of murders in a small town in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley. Eventually the murders and reincarnation make a very unusual story of revenge.

I'm currently working on two other novels which will be released very close together. One of these is another paranormal novel with a working title of The Shroud. This is a story about cloning, and I call it the story of the "second most important event in the history of the world".

The next book, which will probably be released first is entitled The Judas Ring, a more traditional international thriller about a man and woman who were running for their lives. Both the American intelligence community and an international terrorist organization want them dead. An intriguing thing about this book is that I am writing it solely with voice recognition software. There is no typing on the computer at all. So far as I know The Judas Ring will be the first book ever written using voice recognition software.

What is something people would be surprised to know about you?

Many years ago when I was in my early twenties I took nearly 3 years out of my life and hitchhiked around Central America, Europe and parts of the Middle East. I was a great fan of Ernest Hemingway and had read his book on bullfighting, Death In The Afternoon. The book gives very detailed instructions on the art of bullfighting. I lived in Spain for quite a while and managed to talk one bullfight promoter in a small Spanish town in letting me get into the ring and fight a bull. I lived through it but I was roughed up a little. The message I learned was that if you really want to do something, don't use a self-help book.

Hawke began his unorthodox life at an early age. As a teenager still in high school he applied for and received a mineral concession from the government of Venezuela to search for gold in the jungles near Angel Falls, the world's highest waterfall. Prohibited from going to Venezuela because his passport application could not be approved and issued without his parents' approval, he was forced to complete high school and graduate from college with a degree in civil engineering. Following a brief stint as an engineer, Hawke decided he wanted to be a writer and wanted life to be an adventure. Thus began a nearly three-year sojourn that began in Mexico, where his bus once came under automatic weapons fire, to its end in London where he flipped a coin to decide whether he should get married or go to Tangier. He didn't go to Tangier.

When Europe beckoned he spent months hitching around the continent while sending back stories of his exploits to his hometown newspaper. He wrote stories ranging from the hardships of a struggling young writer who covered himself with newspapers to keep warm while sleeping in the weeds, to a once-in-a-lifetime experience of fighting a bull in Spain. While living in London he worked security at Sotheby's , the world famous auction house, and once served as a security guard for former British Prime Minister Ted Heath. Providing security at Sothebys, Hawke came into contact with numerous celebrities including Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithful. In London he also came to know some of the world's most infamous mercenary soldiers, the African mercenaries that best-selling author Fredrick Forsythe dubbed "the Dogs of War".

Hawks first literary success came in London, where he was once featured in an article in LORDS, an early spin-off of PENTHOUSE magazine. At the time, he was a professional gambler, and LORDS featured Hawke in an article about a horse race betting system Hawke had developed. However, one day at the track he bet and lost all his money and had to peel potatoes for two months to support himself. Once he returned to the U.S. he worked as an investigative newspaper reporter and a regular contributor to several national men's magazines, with short stories and articles about his European adventures.

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1 comment:

Autumn said...

The book sounds amazing, adding it to my TBR pile. Wow on the Author Bio! Hawke you have sounded like you have had a lot of adventures in your life. Thank you for the interview.