In the isolated mountain town of Marble Woods, the townspeople harbor a dangerous secret. It’s here, away from the civilized world, that they can experiment with human genetics that have the power to alter your mind and body. When Ryder Ashling, a down-on-his-luck longtime sufferer of nightmares, discovers the town, he thinks he’s found a cure, but bears witness to their research and its terrifying, inevitable unraveling.
In exploring the disturbing crossroads of genetic manipulation and lust for youth and control of the physical, Winters’ cautionary tale of the perversion of natural order and desire will entice and rattle readers in this thought-provoking tale of terror.
Targeted Age Group:: adult
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
Some nights I would wake up after having a good dream and think to myself “why can’t I have those kinds of dreams all the time?” I mean, wouldn’t it be better to have dreams of flying through the galaxy, hanging out with your favorite musicians, and eating all the donuts you want? I had the same thought when I woke up after a bad or mundane dream. Who wants to dream about grocery shopping, or seeing someone die, or being scared? This sparked the idea for Summoner of Sleep.
The character, Botanē, is hell-bent on perfecting not only the best kinds of dreams, but a very specific dream and he’ll do anything to obtain it. Dreams are prevalent themes in all my stories. There’s something so mysterious about dreams and where they come from and why we have them. Summoner of Sleep allowed me to really explore my own dreams and how they impact me on a day-to-day basis. I hope my story will do the same for you.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
I really enjoy writing about hermits and their inevitable insanity that follows. All three characters in Summoner of Sleep are insane in their own ways, but don't know it. The book originally started off with the main character, Ryder Ashling, who is plagued by nightmares about clocks, but then morphed into two additional characters to give different perspectives. I didn't have any of the characters really in mind when I started writing Summoner of Sleep. They truly evolved on their own as I wrote the story.
A figure appeared from the mist and ripped a thread from the center of his forehead. He screeched in agony, but then the end of the thread morphed into a black oozing mass. The figure squished the thick sludge in his face and laughed. Blinded, he wiped the burning slime from his face and ran. Eyes surrounded him. Thousands of eyes. Eyes like white, shining gems looking at him from above, below, and upside down. Eyes in black heads. Eyes that followed him as he flew through the emptiness. Out of breath, he peered over his shoulder at the eyes that had now transformed into clocks. Their chimes and rings echoed through the darkness. His pulse throbbed in his ears as he searched for a place to hide in the barren landscape. In an instant, the sky blackened with metal parts. Cold steel gears and sharp spokes pelted and serrated his flesh into ribbons. He choked on wallowing tears and slipped on his own blood. The clocks multiplied and descended upon him.
Ryder Ashling’s body burned like a bonfire, but he refused to let go of the quilt wrapped around him.
“Explain the meaning of this right now.” Julie’s gaze slashed
back and forth as she scanned the pile of clocks tangled in the sweat-soaked bed sheets.
“I already told you. The clocks came back from my dreams
“Tell me the truth. You and I both know that there’s no way
in hell clocks just appear out of thin air like that and end up in our bed in the middle of the night.”
“You think I just put them there?”
“You’re crazy,” Ryder said.
“Oh, I’m the crazy one? Who’s afraid of something as stupid
as a clock?”
“I told you about my nightmares before we got married. Why are you so surprised?”
“You told me you dreamed about clocks, not that they came
back with you.”
“I know…I know,” Ryder said through his clenched jaw.
“This has never happened to me before though. Can’t you just cut me some slack?”
“No. And you better do something about it.” Her face and
throat flushed as she darted out of the bed.
“What do you want me to do?” He wiped the sweat from
his brow with the quilt. “You know I’ve tried everything to stop the nightmares. Hypnosis, drugs, alcohol, sleep deprivation, meditation. All those disgusting sleeping concoctions make me queasy. You know that nothing works.”
She crossed her arms with a scoff. “I’ve put up with your
blood-curdling screams waking me up at all hours of the night. The welts, bruises, and scratches on your skin each morning. The sleepwalking. Getting phone calls at two in the morning from neighbors asking me to pick you up from their lawn. And now this. I can’t deal with this shit anymore, Ryder.” Julie strode across the bedroom.
“Where are you going?”
“I’m going to live in the guestroom. When you stop playing
these asinine jokes on me, then I’ll come back to bed.”
“Wait. I already told you. I’m not playing a joke on you. This is real. Please believe me. You’re my wife for Christ’s sake.”
Her wicked glance shot him dead, then she slammed the
door so hard their wedding picture sprung from the wall and
For the next hour, Ryder’s cries echoed through the cold
vaulted hallways of the Ashling house. He had cried two other times in his life. Once when his beloved beagle Bologna died, and once when his stepdad smacked him around for writing poetry. Tears poured from his eyes as he turned and stared at the mound of ticking clocks in his bed. He was too afraid to touch them, to believe they were real.
A sharp pain ached in his gut and Ryder rushed into the
bathroom and gagged into the sink, but nothing came up.
His hands struggled to grasp the medicine cabinet handle,
but he rose from the depths of despair to ease it open.
What concoction will numb my pain tonight?
His gaze zipped to a little brown vial with a tag wound
around the neck that read CURE.
Was this new or old? Who cares?
Ryder palmed the vial, closed the medicine cabinet, and
caught a reflection of his haunted face. The Botox hadn’t done a damn thing and neither had his weight gain powder.
He sighed and examined the contents of the vial in the light, then uncorked it, and took a generous whiff. Like an ancient diaphanous entity summoned from the past, the pungent scent burned the delicate membranes inside
his nostrils. Luminous colors, exotic tastes, and mesmerizing sounds enveloped him—a merry-go-round for the senses. It was pure glory in a bottle for a fleeting second, until a bone-freezing shock swept through his shaken body.
His limps started to stiffen as if rubber coursed through his
“J-Julie? Help. Julie.”
His cries fell like stones into the silence of the house.
His legs were like two wooden boards that tipped him into
the wall. Ryder grasped for anything he could to keep himself
standing—the bathroom curtains, the shelf, the molding, but then it spread to his arms. They were stuck directly in front of him and he couldn’t move any of his joints or fingers. He plummeted to the floor as everything disappeared into darkness.
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