Monday, August 21, 2017



Visions of a Dream focuses on the spiritual fire that ignites Alexander the Great's actions as he learns from the other cultures he comes into contact with. His closest relationships vie for his love but they also provide the steel he needs to be sharpened spiritually and emotionally, for before he conquers the world he must first conquer his own mind. He is inclusive of all people, all cultures, and all religions and he lives that belief. Alexander's relationships with his fellow man knows no restrictions, nor does his love of the sublime.


Things you love about writing:
Getting lost in the story, finding different and lovely ways to use language.
Things you hate about writing:


Hardest thing about being a writer:

Being pulled out of the story.

Easiest thing about being a writer:

Building worlds.

Things you need in order to write:
Hope, love, mystery; inspirational pictures that have an untold story inside them.
Things that hamper your writing:

Nothing; I write in my head if I don’t have access to pen and paper or a computer.

A few of your favorite things:

The elliptical that my son Brad gave me for Christmas, my writing journals, my Bible, a necklace that my daughter Meranda gave me for my birthday . . .
Things you need to throw out:

Things you love about where you live:

Things that make you want to move:

Things you never want to run out of:
Shampoo, chocolate, soap, cleaning supplies, water.
Things you wish you’d never bought:
Plastic Easter eggs.

Words that describe you:

Smart, determined, resourceful.
Words that describe you but you wish they didn’t:
All PTSD symptoms - detached, scared, and especially hyper-vigilant.

Favorite foods:
Vegetables, chocolate, wheat.
Things that make you want to throw up:
Red meat, fats.

Favorite music: 
Songs my kids and I sing like “Good Morning" (from Singin’ in the Rain); I have a soft spot for ‘80s alternative rock and punk; lots of current music that my kids listen to.
Music that make your ears bleed:
Elevator music.

Favorite beverage:
Something that gives you a pickle face:

Favorite smell:
A campfire in the forest, coffee/latte.

Something that makes you hold your nose:

Something you’re really good at:

Something you’re really bad at:
Balance, seeing, reaction time, coordination, socializing.

Something you like to do:
Write, hug my kids, write in a coffee shop or library.

Something you wish you’d never done:
Cook (I always burn or cut myself).

People you consider as heroes:
My oldest daughter (who served in Afghanistan), ALL of my kids for different reasons that suit them particularly; Congressman John Lewis.

People with a big L on their foreheads:
Bigots, racists, ignorance, immaturity (in an adult).

Last best thing you ate:
Cottage cheese and tomato.

Last thing you regret eating:
Pepperoni pizza.

Things you’d walk a mile for:

My kids.
Things that make you want to run screaming from the room:
bigots/racists, presumption.

Things you always put in your books:
Passion, soul, mystery.

Things you never put in your books:
Something boring.

Things to say to an author:
Never stop learning and seeking inspiration.

Things to say to an author if you want to be fictionally killed off in their next book:
You didn’t dig deep enough.

Favorite places you’ve been:
Guadalajara, New York City
Places you never want to go to again:

Favorite books:
Wuthering Heights, the Bible, Shakespeare, Rumi, Kabbalistic literature.

Books you would ban:
Commentary, hate-speech literature.

Favorite things to do:
Watch my kids do their favorite things (sports or crafts), write, study for my literature courses (in my Master’s Degree program in English Literature).

Things you’d run through a fire wearing gasoline pants to get out of doing:
Crossing a street on my own (because of my reaction time and sight).

Things that make you happy:

My kids.

Things that drive you crazy:
When my kids avoid doing what they need to, neighborhood feral cats that congregate outside our house.

Most embarrassing moment:
When my daughter Meranda and I got caught in the rain and we ran down the sidewalk to get back to the store (I can’t run).

Proudest moment:
My oldest kids’ proms and graduations, my oldest daughter’s wedding, my oldest son and his girlfriend as part of their friend’s wedding party.

Best thing you’ve ever done:

Have seven children.

Biggest mistake:
Listened to people I shouldn’t have.

Most daring thing you’ve ever done:
Recovering from my 1990 severe brain injury and paralysis and trying to live with the PTSD from that day.

Something you chickened out from doing:

The Character of Baphomet in Visions of a Dream


by Justine Johnston Hemmestad

Ancient Greek meaning links the name of Baphomet to wisdom and knowledge, which alludes to the purpose of this young woman’s character in Alexander the Great’s story. She is one of the only fictional characters in my novel Visions of a Dream, and my goal is for her to be a wise challenger for him, to sharpen him as only her courageous and intellectual spirit can. She’s more than a fictional character; she’s a literary device that off-sets Alexander when he needs challenge, and compliments him when he needs healing – she draws out the spiritual story that I want to tell. Alexander’s treatment of women, through my knowledge of the history in Arrian, opens doors wide to his own factual character, and I explore that aspect of him. When the kingdom he establishes, both within himself and externally, begins to crumble Baphomet strengthens him with her insight to the truth.
Their relationship begins on unsure footing. Little could Alexander have known when he entered his tent one Persian night that the young woman who waited to kill him would become the most important and provoking person in his life. Baphomet’s initial hatred for him is founded on cultural differences and revenge for the wartime deaths of her brothers, but these things become the threads in an intricate tapestry of lessons that they learn together while trekking East with Alexander’s army.
In the midst of their challenge, Alexander receives guidance in dreams about his mission – a seer called Aristander accompanies the army and deciphers the meaning of such omens. The woman in Alexander’s dreams binds him even more tightly to Baphomet and her purpose in his life. He identifies the voice of the woman in his dreams with Baphomet’s voice, an identification that sinks deep within his soul and never wavers. When he struggles between life and death or feels the sharpest uncertainty, the woman of his dreams comes with a revelation of knowledge in symbols and metaphors.
Egypt introduces a new era of Alexander’s and Baphomet’s friendship, a self-awareness that blends into willingness to learn about the cultures and religions that surround them, and most importantly, the god that those cultures worship – for though gods appear different with different names, Alexander believes them all to be one, a belief that Baphomet holds as well. Their friendship continually evolves while Alexander’s other friendships within his army receive less of his attention – mirroring the interest and unity he feels with new cultures while not favoring his original Macedonian and Greek soldiers as they expect. Though his friendship with Baphomet is always sensuous, they embark upon different levels of unity within their entry into each new land, mirroring the wisdom of the land itself. To unfold the historical accuracy in Visions of a Dream, I venture into the various ancient religions of each culture – but significantly, I strive to show each culture’s way of worshiping, which was one of the most distinct ways I could remain true to the land itself.
Baphomet’s character reins all the beliefs and ways of worship in, and works to understand them with Alexander. But even while Baphomet is eventually separated from Alexander by his own uncharacteristic act of rage, she is learning about worship in the different lands that his army enters into.

Part four (of four parts) of Visions of a Dream is in Baphomet’s point of view, welcoming a new enlightenment from a different perspective, a mystery within an enigma, to symbolize the land of India. There is a noticeable difference from the first three parts because Baphomet is completely emotionally attached whereas Alexander’s emotions are tainted by the disconnect in PTSD (the first mention of the emotional stress of war is from the Battle of Marathon one hundred years before Alexander). We see Alexander through Baphomet’s objective eyes, rendering him more human than he thinks himself to be. She essentially saves his story when he falls by giving him hope that extends beyond his lifetime.


Justine Johnston Hemmestad’s TBI recovery story is in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Recovering from Traumatic Brain Injuries, and she truly hopes it can help others going through medical trauma. She began college in the mid-2000s, part time as she and her husband raised 7 kids and she continued to research and write Visions of a Dream. She has earned her BLS from The University of Iowa and is currently working on a Master’s Degree in Literature through Northern Arizona University and she hopes to teach creative writing and literature in the future.

Connect with Justine:

Website  |  FacebookTwitter  |  Goodreads

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