Day Unto Night
by TammyJo Eckhart
A Sumerian child named Ningai survives the murder of her entire family and cries out to her people’s gods, who answer her prayer in an unexpected way. Now, as the first of the Akhkharu, the living dead, Ningai embarks on a journey across the millennia to rebuild what she lost. The best of her offspring must maintain some shred of goodness to prove worthy to their Child-Mother while fighting the deadly impulses of their kind. Join their journeys across time in a series of interconnected stories from the earliest cities to a brutal future where humans are mere pawns in the hands of near gods. Like all of us, Ningai and the best of her children will stop at nothing to protect her family. Can they succeed before they lose what’s left of their humanity, or will all of humanity become enslaved to the Akhkharu forever?
I remember running.
I ran between their bodies as they did things to her that I didn’t even have words for. I ran over the cold stone floor, slipping on the cooling sticky substance that dripped from my mother’s still body. I ran over the door and my brother’s cold mass trying to block it. I ran over the earth and grass, matted from my father’s slaughter.
I remember running.
I ran until I fell into the Great Water, what you call the Euphrates, but we only called Puranum, and was carried until I could grasp a branch with my hands, tearing at it until my blood also covered the ground as I pulled myself up. I remember my pain.
The Child Vampire at the Center of Day Unto Night
By TammyJo Eckhart ©2021
When I was a child, vampires in fiction, be that in text or on screen, were primarily creatures in adult bodies. Every once in a while, you’d see a young human who was cursed to walk or crawl forever as a bloodsucker. Most writers have reasons for not including vampiric children that reflect the difficulties of surviving in a sunlit world among the overwhelming number of adult humans when one is so small. If a vampire is a creature of violence or sex, that too becomes another reason not to have children as vampires, because then you must tackle topics that will look like child abuse or even the reality that some kids commit horrific acts.
That all makes a lot of sense if you don’t want to upset your audience.
Some authors love to make their watchers and readers think, if not outright rile them up. They use a child vampire to elicit feelings of empathy, confusion, or even terror. What is Shori in Octavia Butler’s Fledgling? Can Claudia really have sexual feelings in Interview with the Vampire? What is Eli really hiding in Let the Right One In? Can friendship beat blood craving, as it does in Angela Sommer-Bodenburg’s series The Little Vampire?
While I was aware of all of those earlier child vampires when I created Ningai/Charity for Day Unto Night, none of them directly influenced her. Instead, I thought about the folklore of the vampire itself. What are the various strengths and powers that it can wield against nature and humans? Which of those things are supernatural, extraordinary, and not a function of the physical body? If they aren’t a product of the body, why would that be different for an adult, teenage, orchild vampire?
You see, I wanted to have a child vampire because I wanted to throw the world into chaos by turning on its head the idea of who has power. A lot of the time we think of parents as the ones with the power and authority; in many ways that is completely correct. Yet, we expect parents to sacrifice so much to care for their offspring, don’t we? Time, money, physical health, and sometimes their sanity.
As a child you don’t feel that way at all. You feel completely without power and at the mercy of the world. Or do you? Some children figure out how to get what they want by playing up their childishness and playing into the lower expectations and lowered defenses. There are subgenres of horror films and literature devoted to the child as villain, and they are scary if you can suspend your disbelief.
I wanted to craft that horrific child that a reader could also understand and empathize with. Feeling for her, cheering for her, was important, so that when she was terrifying, it chilled you to the bone, but you still hoped she won. I did that by thinking about why a child would do terrible things and might hide their strength and intelligence.
In part I did that through research on child psychology, particularly of trauma survivors, but I also drew upon my own history. Then I went and rewatched and reread a lot of those child vampires that others had created. They often fell short because the gap between vampire and child was so far that their innocence played as sweetly fake or their monstrous nature played as campy. Those writers and directors who portrayed it best showed it as a thin line, one that was crossed repeatedly back and forth with almost no major change in mood.
That’s tough to do. It required a lot of reading outloud, acting sections out, and sharing them with live audiences at conventions over the years to get feedback. I kept reading new studies on childhood trauma and brain development and going back to reread my work. I’d introduce the same sections to new groups at different conventions and even share sections online and ask questions. I made sure to use a childlike voice when I read to try to see what that did to the listener who otherwise might age up the character to cope with the distasteful idea of a child vampire.
I won’t spoil my book by describing how Ningai/Charity changes throughout the book. I do think that if you have the courage and you are at least 18years old, you will find her terrifyingly relatable. If so, I’m thrilled.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
TammyJo Eckhart, PhD, is the published author of science fiction, fantasy, contemporary, horror, and historical fiction. Her non-fiction works covering subjects ranging from history to alternative sexuality to relationship advice and the challenges of trauma recovery. She holds a PhD in Ancient History with doctoral minors in Gender & Sexuality and Folklore. Her blog, The Chocolate Cult, has been the go-to guide for chocolate lovers since 2009. She loves visiting conventions as well as organizations to read, sell books, or share her experiences and insights on various topics in the form of lectures or workshops.
Dr. TammyJo Eckhart’s Edgy World @thetammyjo
TammyJo Eckhart will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.a Rafflecopter giveaway https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js