About the Books

Ye Olde Rucksack

The pack I’ve been living out of for the last 2+ weeks with another 1+ weeks to go, is a Granite Gear Stratus Access 4500. I bought this in 2001, maybe 2002, from an outdoor gear store in Orono, Maine, called Alpen Glow. I think it’s still in business.

This giganto pack hasn’t seen a ton of use, but when I have needed it, it’s been perfect. It’s size means you can put a lot of crap in it. Meaning, it gets real heavy real fast and it’s easy to overload because there’s so much room and extra gear straps to lash things to it.

It’s first major use came when I was doing research on Maine islands for grad school. I remember it being so heavy with my research and personal gear that I couldn’t pick it up and just put it on. I had to lift it to a chair or something then get into it that way. Once I had it strapped on, I was good to go.

So for this UK trip, I was careful with my packing since I would be wearing it a lot more traveling place to place and being on foot for primary transportation. Plus, there is a right way and a wrong way to pack these things. Infrequently needed items go in first, on the bottom. Fast-access items like rain gear get lashed to the outside of the pack or placed in the very top.

This pack has a great feature where you can completely open up the front of the pack to access the contents and pull stuff out without it being only a top load. Top load means if you have something packed at the bottom, you have to pull EVERYTHING out through the top first to get to it. With this pack, you just undo the exterior straps, pull down the bilateral zippers on the sides, and undo the interior straps (as needed), and you can pull out what you need. LOVE this feature. I used a smaller top load pack for Germany last year, and I developed a powerful dislike for top loading packs.

The publicist suggested I bring five copies of Echoes of War with me to the Ireland WorldCon. The last thing I wanted to do was schlep five novels around with me in that pack for three weeks before ever hitting Dublin, but that is exactly what I’m doing. Yeah, that pack is freakin heavy with those books in it, but I’ll be able to finally unpack them in a few days when I arrive in Ireland. Five books doesn’t sound like much. Strap them to your back and walk around with them to train stations and bus stations and through the grocery store and then let me know what you think.

In my UK travels I’ve seen a lot of Osprey packs. Osprey is a great, well-known brand and one I have shopped before. I was sorely tempted to get a new pack for this trip, but I had to keep reminding myself that I already had one. I know mine is aged and heavy, but there’s nothing wrong with it. The new rucksack framing is much lighter in the newer models (especially on the Ospreys I’ve been stalking) and they’re designed for better airflow across your back. Mine does get hot and there isn’t much airflow, but again, it’s pushing two decades.

Overall, I love the giant rucksack. I feel much like a turtle when I put it on because it is very close to me wearing my house on my back right now in these travels. I may eventually upgrade to a newer pack, but I’ve fallen in love with this pack all over again from the day I first saw it in the shop. Bonus points for the pack because I do love the black and yellow combo.

–images taken by me, 2019, Scotland

About the Books

Living out of a Pack

It’s been a week since I’ve been living out of a pack while traveling Scotland and I wanted to do some gear reviews as I go.

I saw good reviews for these Eagle Creek Compression Sacks through Pack Hacker and decided to give them a go. Some people also call them packing cubes. These are super light weight and thin, and the fabric holds up well. The zippers, however, are complete crap. They’re thin and pop open with the slightest insult. You can zip back over where it popped open to get it to re-seal, but the zippers are rather frail.

Compression bags are made for–wait for it–compression! Put crap in them, squish ’em down to save space. These kinda do that. You can put stuff in them and compress them down, but the zipper may not hold well for you. I will say they’re great for organizing gear, but compression and durability it’s a big fat NOPE.

I have some other packing cubes (they aren’t compression bags because they’re mesh) by L. L. Bean, that I like too. They’re heavier material and since I’m living out of my pack for a month, I brought the lightweight Eagle Creek ones on this trip instead. Before I left Boston, I was already having some zipper issues so I threw some Ziploc freezer bags into my pack just in case. Glad I did!

For true compression for space saving, I now use the Ziploc gallon and quart freezer bags. Work like champs. Granted, I can’t get a pair of jeans or three T-shirts in a Ziploc, but I can work around that. Socks and undies go in the Ziploc for compression and the other clothes now go into the Eagle Creek medium bag. The small Eagle Creek is now a first aid kit of sorts plus charging cables.

If you want organization and light weight but no compression – Eagle Creek.

If you want organization and slightly heavier weight and more durably built without compression – L. L. Bean.

If you want lower capacity but true compression – Ziploc freezer bags. And you can use the heck out of the Ziplocs for organization. These are my new go-to system for compression and organization. And I re-use the heck out of them too. Once the ones I use for compression get battered enough and get holes so they no longer stay compressed, they switch over to organization detail. I can get dozens of uses out of one baggie.

I’ll do a review of my 18 year old multi-day back pack coming up. Wasn’t so sure I’d picked the right pack at the start of the trip, but it’s turning me into a convert. 🙂

About the Books

Lost in Montreal

The sabbatical has begun!! Last Friday I wrapped up my final day of work around noon and kicked things off by unpacking/repacking my truck. To swing three months of living on the road, I need to be organized. Plus, I needed to make room for the camping gear I was going to pull out of storage to put in the truck.

I left MA Sunday morning for ME and stopped at the storage unit to pick up the camping gear on Sunday among stormy clouds and a good dumping of rain. (It ALWAYS rains when I need to do a gear swap. ALWAYS!) This makes the stop turn into a “just grab it and throw it in the truck!” And that’s what I did. Later I met up with friends for lunch in Augusta, ME then got back on the road. I arrived at my friends’ house in Newport, ME to camp, and thankfully the rain had stopped. So I could re-sort my crap without everything getting wet. Bonus points were when my friends let me crash in their camper overnight, so I didn’t have to deal with a wet tent the next morning when I had to be up early to get back on the road.

Oh, Canada!

I arrived in Montreal Monday early evening, got checked into the AirBNB, and left to meet up with a friend. I really did get a bit lost at that point, but I eventually figured out where I needed to go.

Yesterday I met up with a local guide for a walking tour of the city which was fantastic! I found a sports bar after, relaxed, then watched some soccer. I retreated back to the AirBNB for a rest then went back out to Montreal’s Notre Dame Basilica for the laser/light show inside the cathedral called Aura. This event is a MUST SEE when in Montreal. I was in awe the entire time. You can find their website here and they have a short video posted of a sample. Truly magnificent show.

The photo above is one I took before the show started. You can’t take photos while the show is in progress, but you can get some before and after.

Today is relaxing, writing, reading, watching soccer, and enjoying a semi-down time day before I start driving again tomorrow to be back in MA for the weekend then ME again next week. (I know, it’s the not the most efficient means of traveling to ping-pong back and forth south to north to south to north again, but hey, I’m on my sabbatical.) Efficiency isn’t the purpose of this break. It’s to have fun and I am doing just that!

Top photo is by me of Montreal Notre Dame in the daytime added to a Canva template (still learning how to use that software).

About the Books

A Different Curve

So I’m still trying to sort out WordPress’s new writing layout. If I messed with the thing more than once a month, I’m sure I’d become more proficient with it sooner rather than later. But once a month works with my schedule, so that’s how it will be.

The different type of curve comes as a result of softball. It’s NCAA softball tournament time, and productivity tends to end up in the crapper as a result. I am proud to say I’ve done a mostly decent job this season keeping things rolling on the writing side and getting a hefty dose of softball watching in.

Echoes of War News

The ARCs arrived in Maryland at a friend’s house just before I got into town, so that worked out well. I have started mailing/distributing them and the publicist is off to the races doing her thing. At first I was shocked by the publicist price tag when I signed my contract with Smith Publicity months ago, but now I understand why it costs so much. I just started getting their formal status reports, and quite frankly, I no longer wonder why the price tag was where it was. My publicist is BUSY! It is seriously impressive. I feel like Super Slacker typing this and watching softball at the same time. 🙂

I did another read through of the novel, this time using the ARC to sniff out any final typos to be cleaned up. I finished that read and sent the short list of fixes to the publisher today.

To give you an idea of the publicist’s talent, here’s part of the press release she put together:

Echoes of War

Book One in the Echoes Trilogy

By Cheryl Campbell


“Campbell’s sci-fi debut doesn’t pull any punches. The world is bold and exciting, the characters are relatable, and Campbell expertly weaves enough twists and turns into the story to keep you guessing. If Echoes of War is any indication, this trilogy is shaping up to be an exciting ride.”

— Kris A. Hiatt, #1 bestselling author of the epic fantasy series ‘Saga of The Wolf’

What if a single act of kindness were the tipping point to begin the end of a decades-long war?

In Echoes of War [September 10, 2019, SparkPress]– the first book in an edgy new post-apocalyptic sci-fi series from award-winning author Cheryl Campbell — Dani is a scavenger living on the fringes of society in Maine, gathering enough supplies to live another day… or so she thinks.

In truth, Dani is not just another war-displaced civilian. She is an Echo — a member of a nearly-immortal alien race. Dani, along with other human and Echo civilians, avoids the Wardens, a splinter group of genocidal Echoes leading a decades-long, human-hunting war against anyone who resists their rule on Earth. 

When Dani risks her own well-being to save a human boy from a violent kidnapping, a chain of events is sparked which forces her to revisit events and people from past lives that she can’t remember — and to step out of the shadows and play her part in the David vs. Goliath-esque battle. But her attempts to change the bleak future facing humankind will lead her to the center of a violent confrontation that even she may not survive…

Set in real-life towns, cities, and landmarks in Maine and Massachusetts which will be immediately recognizable to anyone who has lived or spent time in New England, Echoes of War is a fast-paced, militaristic sci-fi thriller which follows a complex female protagonist as her already-messy life gets thrown into even greater chaos.

“I love a conflicted hero, and Dani is a bit of a walking disaster” shares Campbell, who is making her adult science fiction debut with the release of Echoes of War. “She’s foul-mouthed, stubborn, explores relationships with men and women — unsure of what she wants or needs, and makes a lot of mistakes. But even though she’s a member of a hated alien race, she exhibits tremendous humanity and kindness.”

“Dani’s external story arc is simply to survive,” Campbell continues, “but her internal desire is to belong to and believe in something bigger than herself. I think that internal drive resonates with a lot of people and will draw others to this story.”

A must-read for fans of Martha Wells’ The Murderbot Diaries, Robert D. Armstrong’s World Apart series, and cult favorite TV shows like The Rain and Colony, Echoes of War will be released on September 10, 2019 with SparkPress in paperback and e-book formats, and available for purchase wherever books are sold.

Yep. My publicist rocks!

Images from AdobeStock, Licensed to Cheryl Campbell

About the Books

Learning Curves

The beauty of this being my first rodeo with using a publisher is it keeps things interesting and yes, sometimes a bit stressful. There are a lot of unknowns, and sometimes that learning curve seems like a vertical line. By nature I ask a lot of questions, and I can’t seem to ask enough about this process. Everything is brand new.

For instance, it just took me several minutes to figure out how to do a new post on this site. I’ve done 166 posts in the last 6 or so years. WordPress updated their layout in the month that has passed since my last post, and for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out how or where to start writing the new post I wanted to create for today. What had been a completely intuitive process before suddenly turned into a “wtf is this?” moment. That was an unexpected snag, but I obviously figured it out or you wouldn’t be reading anything from me right now. Yay, progress!

Burnt Mountain News

I finished the rewrites of One in the Chamber this past weekend and got the new version uploaded to Amazon and Smashwords. If you’ve read the book, nothing major has changed. I fixed my frequent point of view shifts in it which is an amateur way of writing. Sure, OTC was my second novel, and I was absolutely an amateur still at that time. But I’ve learned a lot since then and decided a re-write was warranted. That re-write took MONTHS of work, but it is finished and I’m glad I did it.

The award ceremony for my SciFi category win in the New England Book Festival for When Heroes Fall never materialized. The organizers bailed on the Boston ceremony and turfed it off to lump into their NYC and California ceremonies. Screw that! I don’t write for award certificates or ceremonies, but that first ceremony for me was important. So I was more disappointed in the organizers leaving all the other NE Book Fest winners shit out of luck for a local ceremony. Bad form, guys. Bad form.

Echoes of War News

I got an email last week that a mention of Echoes of War made it to the SparkPress blog on a post they did for the 300th anniversary of Robinson Crusoe. Very cool stuff and the link is here:

I had applied for a writing retreat that was taking place in July in Maine, but I didn’t get accepted. Oh well. That won’t stop me from writing, and I’ll just do it from another location in Maine instead of the retreat location. It’s all good.

I still don’t have ARCs yet, and I don’t know when I’ll get them. That continues to be a mystery and a question I’m still waiting to hear back from the publisher. I’m trying to remain patient, but if you know me at all, you know I don’t let the grass grow under my feet. Waiting and wondering aren’t things I like to do. I prefer to be on the move, informed, and making progress. But while I wait, I will be working on some other things with the website and writing.

April 27 marked my one year anniversary of being a nomad. In a way it’s hard to fathom it’s been a year already. In another way, it feels longer. I’m not planning to do this for another year though. Fall is looking like a good time to snag an apartment in Maine and get my stuff out of storage and get me into a landing pad for a bit. Plus it’ll be easier to start land shopping in Maine for a buy in 2020 if I’m not scattered all over the planet. 🙂

You can pre-order your copy of Echoes of War at Amazon, IndieBound, or BN.