A bad dream awoke Nancy Campbell, Labadie, from her sleep several years ago and immediately sent her searching for paper and pen to capture the thoughts in her head.
What she wrote down was a conversation between two people, but those words turned out to be the inspiration for a fantasy novel and possibly even the start of a series.
“The Cost” introduces readers to Eormengrund, “a world where the magic of a mind has more power than Smith, Wesson or Winchester,” Campbell writes. “Get ready for an adventure of epic proportion, where nothing is totally what it seems.”
The very first chapter drops readers into a fight between good and evil.
“Two generations ago Ahleri, the greatest Sword the world of Eormengrund had ever seen, left the known confines of Kimala to journey far to the north where demonkind was rumored to live,” the book’s back cover reads. “He never returned. But he opened a door that would lead to conflict for those who followed him.
“Now, deep in the mountain of Kimala, the current Sword and Shield wait. They have carefully and painstakingly set a trap for the greatest demon known to humankind. If they succeed in their plan, they believe peace will finally return. If they fail, they will have opened the way for demonkind to enter the small city of Claxbury, Ky.
“Jason McCarthy simply wanted to join his aunt Jessie and cousin Lucy for their weekly lunch. What he found instead was a note filled with mystery and smeared with something red,” the summary continues. “Jason’s mind raced to scenarios of kidnapping and disaster . . . Little did he know that he was being drawn into a fantastic world of mystery and magic.”
Throughout the 339-page book, chapters alternate between Eormengrund and Claxbury.
“The fun part about this book is it’s ‘the good guys win, bad guys lose’ kind of thing, but you never know who the good guy is and who the bad guy is,” said Campbell. “A bad guy is not necessarily going to be bad, and a good guy isn’t necessarily going to be good. So that was fun, it was fun doing that.”
Began With ‘Moby Dick’ and ‘Lord of the Rings’
Campbell’s love of fantasy goes back to when she was 13 or 14 years old and first read “Lord of the Rings.”
“I loved it — all the fantasy, the elves, good versus evil; it was wonderful!” she remarked.
As a child, she also was awed by the storytelling skills of her grandfather, the late Wilbert Horn, who actually wrote three books of his own in the late ’80s relating family stories and history.
Campbell served as an editor for all three of those books, which he self-published.
In college in the 1970s, Campbell studied animal science, but her true love was always in writing. One of her favorite assignment was in an English literature class where they read the classic “Moby Dick” and and studied the relationship between it and “Lord of the Rings.”
“In ‘Moby Dick’ you finally see the whale at the very end of the story, but in ‘Lord of the Rings,’ you never meet Sauron, the bad guy. You never see him,” said Campell.
It was a lesson in character development, and it made her want to write her own book someday. When she finished school in 1977, she was determined to write the next great American novel, but the need for a steady income forced her to find more traditional work.
She took a job working as a secretary and later as a respiratory therapy and eventually her dream of writing a book was kind of lost.
By the early 2000s, Campbell was honing her skills as a storyteller writing fanfiction for “Stargate,” a science fiction story based on a film by the same name.
Fanfiction refers to original stories written by fans of a particular book, TV show or movie using characters from that book, TV show or movie.
She also did a lot of beta reading for other writers to help them improve their stories.
Campbell said she wrote maybe 20 fanfiction stories. Most were short stories, 10-20 pages, but some were actually short books. The experience ended up being an excellent way to sharpen her writing skills.
“I worked with a lot of different editors, and they were very, very picky,” said Campbell.
“There’s nothing quite as laser sharp and focused as someone who is a fan reading your book and saying ‘No, that character would never had said that or done that.’ You learn pretty quickly how to stay in character . . . it causes you to focus more on what you’re doing.”
After that intense dream mentioned earlier, Campbell began writing a story that was “totally mine — my universe, my characters.”
But the progress was slow — five years from start to finish. In writing the story, Campbell communicated with friends she had made online, including one who lived in England. She would send them chapters seeking feedback, and they were not shy about letting her know what worked and what didn’t.
Waited 10 Years to Publish
Campbell finished the book around 2007, but then put it on a shelf.
“My goal was to write the book, but not necessarily to publish the book,” said Campbell, with a grin.
Then she retired, and she felt an renewed urge finally to see the book in print.
Campbell spent five months editing the story, and she again shared it with friends who helped her clean up everything from typos to loose ends to plot sequence irregularities. When all of that was complete, she looked into finding a literary agent who could shop the book around to traditional publishers, but that seemed like a long shot.
So Campbell decided to self-publish “The Cost” using Amazon’s KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing). She found the process fast and fairly easy.
“The Cost” was published in May 2017.
The title of the book was originally the title of the first chapter. It refers to the cost all of the characters pay for the actions that they take — good or bad.
“You’re always going to have to pay the piper some how. It’s always going to cost you someway,” said Campbell.
The image on the cover is more of a mystery, to readers at least. Campbell won’t reveal what it is or what it’s supposed to represent.
“That’s the big secret. It is a shadow, I’ll tell you that much,” she said.
Feedback From Readers
Different readers have told Campbell that “The Cost” reminds them of stories by Stephen King, as well as the “Harry Potter” and “Lord of the Rings” books.
She is humbled by that kind of praise.
“How much better can it get than that?” she asked.
The criticism that she’s heard is mostly about the type: It’s too small. And the pages are too big.
She understands that now, but her intent was to make the book as affordable as possible. She will keep that in mind, however, for future titles.
Some readers also have commented that the story can be slow to get into because of so many “weird” names that they don’t know how to pronounce.
“I understand that,” said Campbell, noting people also tell her, “Once you get so far into it, then you can’t put it down.”
A preview of the book is available online at Amazon.com. More than just a blurb or the first chapter, the preview of the Kindle version includes more than 50 pages.
More to Come
Campbell hasn’t started writing the second book in what she calls the “From the Shadow of a Dream” series, but she does already have a working title, “Ride a White Horse.”
“It’s about things that happen in (‘The Cost’) and the natural progression of that. It’s a separate, stand alone book, not a continuation, but a lot of the characters will be the same. It’s just the next chapter in their lives,” said Campbell.
She also has an idea for the third book, a story that will concentrate on the character Ahleri.
Campbell has no timeframe for when either book will be finished. She currently is in the last year of schooling for a homeopathy program.
Copies of “The Cost” can be purchased through Amazon.com.