2020 Is Almost Over!

Are you holding your breaths? Are you all waiting for 2020 to end? Are you even remotely interested in revisiting the Year from Hell? I almost skipped the annual looking back review but couldn’t resist. And then I discovered I had to do a review, because basically I can’t remember a damned thing from the last 10 months except that the days went really fast despite being in a lockdown, my waistline expanded, and it is a miracle I got anything done at all.

The brown throated sloth 2020 ANIMAL OF THE YEAR

I started off my 2020 blog talking about travel, from my impressions of the unrest in Hong Kong at this time last year: Ho, Ho, Ho, Hong Kong, Hong Kong 1, Hong Kong 2 , and the coolness that is Costa Rica: What the Heck is a Quetzal? and Hummingbirds.

I’m working on a new thread, called (rather creepily, I know) My Imaginary Friends. The first installment (even more creepily) is  Strangers on a Train.

Things got weird fast as COVID-19 trampled all our illusions of being in control. Me and La Corona, or Things Are Different Now, an especially intense period I call My Schizoid Loop, Notes from the LockdownMore Things are Different Now (aka: The Sloth), How I Spent my Summer Lockdown. Then, because a year of a global pandemic isn’t enough, the world added the insanity of the US election. I had to call a halt in Brideshead Revisited Revisited.

On those days when it all felt like too much (i.e., pretty much every f*cking day) I scheduled the soothing words and photos from my never-ending blog thread about groups of animals. The Animal Kingdom:  33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38.

But – I did the one thing the lockdown demanded when it took away everything else I can do out in the world: I wrote. And, wow! I was named for two book awards, for Tsunami Cowboys 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award longlist, and my new short story collection The Trail Back Out I’m in Good Company!

Book bloggers are something very special in the blogging galaxy. They give a voice to those of us who might otherwise go unheard. I did a batch of interviews with these wonderful book bloggers: Shaz’s Book Blog, Curled Up With a Good Book, Five Things Friday from Willow Croft, JQM Literary Spotlight Presents Tsunami Cowboys, JQM Literary Chat Part 2.

I met virtually with my writing group and we did our first on-line virtual reading. You can catch me reading a short story from my new book here: Live Reading of The Green Under the Snow. I read at about the one-hour mark.

And somehow life went on, and I kept reminding myself that this is just life and death on steroids. I wrote A Cast of Thousands: Day 1, Day 2, in which I went to a two day wedding in India, and the funeral service for a friend Led Zeppelin and the Funeral.

Of course, no year is complete without a posts about food. I gave you Let Them Eat – Elk? and a post about leftover cold pizza as the breakfast food of the gods Cold Pizza! YUM!

Stay safe, stay healthy, and get ready for the collective global sigh of relief when 2020 is finally done! We made it, you guys!!! HAPPY NEW YEAR !!!

NOTES: © Jadi Campbell 2020. All photos © Uwe Hartmann. To see more of Uwe’s animal photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de. Fun animal names from en.wiktionary.orgwww.writers-free-reference.com, Mother Nature Network and www.reference.com.

In The Trail Back Out  two strangers meet in the woods. Children wear masks. A gambler hides in the cellar during a Category Five hurricane. A wife considers a hit-man’s offer. Princess Rain Clouds searches for happiness. An entire village flees, a life is saved, and a tourist in Venice is melting. Everyone keeps trying to make sense of strange events far in the past or about to occur. Let these characters be your guides. Join them on the trail back out – to a familiar world, now unexpectedly changed.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and buy my books.

I’m in Good Company!

It is my honor to announce that my new book The Trail Back Out was named a finalist for the 2020 Best Book Award in the category of Fiction Anthologies!

Past winners of the Best Book awards have included Amy Tan, George Saunders, Clive Barker and Ann Lamott. I am in very good company indeed. This is the 17th year these awards have been handed out in the publishing industry. It’s an extra honor for me because The Trail Back Out is the only self-published book in my category.

Click on this link to see the list of finalists and the winner. http://americanbookfest.com/generalfiction/anthologies.html

Life is short and art is long. This award is a reminder of why I keep trying to write my best work to give to the world. And I have an extra message to anyone who writes (which, since I’m here in the fine world of bloggers, means all of you….): if you have ever wondered about joining a writers’ group, do so. I belong to the Writers in Stuttgart. In my group are writers of poetry, autobiography, novels, plays, vignettes, short stories, songs, and stories. I workshopped many of the stories in my book with the other members, and the feedback of my peers definitely made my writing better.

Stay safe and healthy, everyone. And Happy Thanksgiving wherever you are!

—Jadi

NOTES: © Jadi Campbell 2020. In The Trail Back Out  two strangers meet in the woods. Children wear masks. A gambler hides in the cellar during a Category Five hurricane. A wife considers a hit-man’s offer. Princess Rain Clouds searches for happiness. An entire village flees, a life is saved, and a tourist in Venice is melting. Everyone keeps trying to make sense of strange events far in the past or about to occur. Let these characters be your guides. Join them on the trail back out – to a familiar world, now unexpectedly changed.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and buy my books.

In which I am interviewed by Curled up with a Good Book

Head on over to Curled up with a good book and read my interview with Michelle Whitham (Chelle). You’ll learn new things about me!

Meet the Author: Jadi Campbell

NOTES:  Photos © Uwe Hartmann. To see Uwe’s pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.

SPECIAL NOTE: If you try to comment in the wordpress.com reader and get the message “Sorry – there was a problem posting your comment”, click on the title of this post to get to jadicampbell.com and post your comment there. Sorry for the ongoing problem.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

Tsunami Cowboys is Longlisted!

My second novel Tsunami Cowboys was just named a semifinalist in the ScreenCraft Cinematic Book competition. Over 1,200 books were considered. Here is the official notice. Click to go to the link and see the list of books still in the running, including mine!

Announcing the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Competition Semifinalists 

The One Page Play Festival

I’m over the moon that New English American Theater festival is presenting two of my plays. This is a brand-new form for me as a writer and I had a blast trying my hand at comic drama. If you find yourself in the Stuttgart area for any reason, come on out to the show!  David Burmedi, Director of the One Page Play Festival, explains how the festival came to life.

Click to see more. If you make it the show, don’t forget to cast your votes! Signing off from somewhere over Cloud 9,

Jadi

NOTES: © Jadi Campbell 2019. My one page plays are Baby You Were Great and Bank on It  ©2019 Jadi Campbell. All rights reserved.

Click here for my author page to learn more about my books and me.

Dinner with Guillermo

I’ve written before about travel karma. [1] You know, that sense of crushing inevitability when the tour bus arrives late because of the traffic, and it’s crowded, and the guy in the seat behind you won’t stop whining, and you’re about to turn around and open your mouth and give him something to really complain about. Travel karma is a bitch.

It can also be awesome. Uwe and I spent a too-short week on Gran Canaria, and we ate twice with Guillermo Ramirez. But let me back up.

Eating is a major aspect of traveling with my spousal unit. If you see us poring over the guide books, we’re probably checking out the historic, cultural, and Nature highlights of wherever we are.

Okay, kitsch sneaks into the mix sometimes too

I can guarantee you we’ve already scoped out all the good places to eat! Gran Canaria was no exception, and Uwe found a highly praised locale kitty-corner to our hotel. Hungry, on Thursday we headed over to Restaurante de Cuchara and entered a small family restaurant, probably 12 tables max. The owners greeted guests like old friends (most of them were) and only the owners’ handsome son Guillermo spoke English. He took it upon himself to serve us each course – which he was also cooking – and explained each dish with pride. The meal was great. I’ve retained a little of my high school and college Spanish (moving to Germany and having to learn Deutsch highjacked most of the foreign language area of my brain). But I could read the flier on our table that said Restaurante de Cuchara was serving a special six-course menu on Saturday.

Even before we finished dinner, we’d made a reservation for the coming Saturday. We got the last free table.

On Saturday night Guillermo again brought each course to our table and told us how he’d prepared them. Our meals cost a grand 30€ apiece.

Here are some of the dishes we ate those nights: A fermented, champagne-style gazpacho. Rabbit in a roll that you ate with your hands. Melt-in-your-mouth croquettes of suckling lamb. Grilled Canarian cheese with tomato jam. Quail stew with chickpeas. Cod fish Bras style. Canarian pork cheeks stew. Duck breasts. Pickled cucumber on edamame purée.

I was dying to ask him a question. When he came with our desserts I said, “We’ve been wondering if we might ask you, where did you train as a chef?” He smiled. “NOMA, in Copenhagen. I worked for a while in Bangkok, too.” NOMA! We knew NOMA has been repeatedly rated the best restaurant in the world. [2]

Guillermo was back on Gran Canaria for a few months, helping out in his parents’ restaurant. This particular dining experience was a way to show off what he could do with local ingredients and creativity. I told him that I blog and would be writing about him. I added, with absolute certainty, that I think he’ll be famous someday. His cooking is that good.

No, I didn’t receive a discount for saying I’d write a rave review. And yeah, travel karma. Sometimes you hit it just right.

NOTES: [1] I wrote about travel karma in a post I unimaginatively titled Travel Karma [2] NOMA was rated the Best Restaurant in the World in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014.

I have no idea if Señor Guillermo Ramirez is still in the kitchen, but here’s the contact info for this tasty restaurant. Restaurante de Cuchara, C/. Alfredo L.  Jones, 37; Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. Tel: 928 26 55 09. Their website: Restaurante de Cuchara

6 October 2018 update… Note to anyone lucky enough to be heading to Gran Canaria: Guillermo informed me that he’s opened a new restaurant named Picaro. Here is the link: Restaurante Picaro If you are in Las Palmas, go!

Text © Jadi Campbell 2018. Photos © Uwe Hartmann 2018. Uwe’s photos of our trips and his photography may be viewed at viewpics.de.

Click here for my author page to learn more about my books and me.

Rocket Fest (Bun Bang Fai!) – Part 2

Last week I wrote about the Bun Bang Fai. This is another installment of a new feature for this blog: I’m transcribing my entries from an old travel journal. I hauled out the journal I kept then to make sure that my memories match up with the facts. I use a travel diary to record first impressions and get down the details to go over later (like now, years later). As I said with the last one, enjoy, and let me know if this post is something you want to read more of in the future. — Jadi

“13 March. We stumbled into a rocket festival. The guide asked us if we’d like to stop and look around – a large wooden platform had been erected in a clearing so teams from some 30 surrounding villages could shoot off home-made rockets! The three categories were for small, medium and large and a village head scored them for height and at the end of the third day would give out awards, ranging from a house to a water buffalo.

It’s all pre-Buddhist, pre-recorded time: a wish to impregnate the skies so that it begins to rain. Food stands set up all alongside the one road, a band stand with live music and people dancing before it, a big pavillion for sitting and partying with lots of tables and chairs. The village teams cross-dressed and parading around with their rockets, lots of silly play-acting and laughter.

Pretty in Pink, or is that Pretty as Pink? A team carrying in their rocket for the competition

Check out the stylish red outfit

Depending on the region the 3-day festival takes place just before the start of the rainy season. For example, our guide’s home village has their rocket ceremony later, in May. The fest goes on somewhere in Laos from March through May.

We were the only foreigners. People noticed us certainly but other than a very drunken pair of pals who semi-interviewed us in English, no one ogled or jostled or tried to sell us anything.”

Our presence was simply accepted.

They were lovely in every way

NOTES: ©Jadi Campbell 2018. All photos © Uwe Hartmann. To see more of Uwe’s photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.

Click here for my author page to learn more about my books and me.

Rocket Fest (Bun Bang Fai!) – Part 1

We were in Laos and Vientiane for the first time, and only had a couple of days there. So we booked a car and driver and a guide, and left the city for a day. On the way back, we drove down a road filled with stands selling food and drinks. “It’s a rocket festival,” our guide exclaimed. “Would you like to stop and see it?”

Hell yes, we’d like to stop and see it! A cardinal rule of travel is that when the unexpected beckons, follow your curiosity….

Just one of dozens of stands with mouth-watering smells rising

We got closer and the scene grew busier, and more and more interesting. A platform had been erected and people danced as musicians played.

What really drew our interest were the large numbers of men in dresses and skirts, wearing make-up. It was still the afternoon, and most of them were already hammered.

These two were students, and asked permission to practise their English with me. I said yes of course

We’d stumbled into a Bun Bang Fai. The title breaks down this way:

  • Bun (Lao: wikt:ບຸນ) merit (Buddhism) is from Pali Puñña merit, meritorious action, virtue, and Sanskrit पुण्य puṇya virtuous or meritorious act, good or virtuous works.
  • Bang (Lao: wikt:ບັ້ງ) (alternative spelling bong บ้อง,) is a cutting, specifically of bamboo.
  • Fai (Lao: ໄຟ), is Fire (classical element). [1]

The Bun Bang Fai is a 3-day traditional festival that takes place just before the rainy season throughout Laos and eastern Thailand (the Isan Thai). The highlight is on the final day – the day we stumbled in – when rockets are shot off. But the rockets have to be home made (“Honey, do you remember where  I put the gunpowder?”), and teams compete to shoot off the best rocket, with prizes given out for beauty of vapor trail, height, and size.

No. I’m not going there.

However, you as the reader can and should, because this is one bawdy fest.

Phallic items, anyone?….

Students had dressed up as reporters and ran around the grounds ‘interviewing’ the crowd. They were interrupted by a group of women parading by, repeating a phrase over and over in loud voices. Our guide grinned as he translated. “They’re saying, ‘Ladies rocket! Ladies’ rocket!'” he told us. Since the rocket competitors are usually men, they’d built their own rocket and were carrying it in to be registered.

“Ladies’ rocket!!!”

Once their rocket is registered,  the  teams have to climb a scaffolding to tie the rocket on, and shoot it off themselves. Alcohol, crowds, and home made rockets… what could possibly go wrong?

See the bamboo structure at the back of the photo? Rockets will be flying from here very soon…

I’ll post Part 2 next week.

NOTES: [1] wikipedia.org/wiki/Rocket_Festival ©Jadi Campbell 2018. All photos © Uwe Hartmann. To see more of Uwe’s photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.

Click here for my author page to learn more about my books and me.

Christmas Markets

It’s time again for the Weihnachtsmärkte. Stuttgart’s Christmas Market runs from 29 November to 23 December. Uwe and I always go to drink a glühwein with friends. You should, too!

The Christmas Market began as a short winter market. [1] Europe has held seasonal markets for centuries. Vienna, Austria’s Dezembermarkt dates all the way back to 1294/1296. But a Weihnachtsmarkt is special, and signals the beginning of the Advent season leading up to Christmas. This tradition is found in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the Alsace region of France. [2]

The Stuttgarter Weihnachtsmarkt

Medieval guilds tightly controlled who could produce or sell wares, so each city market was unique and had a distinct, regional flavor. This remains true today. At a German Christmas Market, you’ll find these items for sale at open-air booths:

  • Tin, blown glass, wooden, and straw ornaments
  • Round wooden presses or molds for cookies known as Springele
  • Nutcrackers
  • Gebrannte Mandeln (candied toasted almonds)
  • Magenbrot and Lebkuchen gingerbread (Lebkuchen is often sold in beautiful and reusable decorative tins)
  • Eierpunsch (eggnog)
  • Candles

  • Clothes, including hand knit hats and gloves and scarves
  • Hot sausages and
  • Glühwein: a magical drink of mulled wine served from huge brass vats, with a shot of liquor added if you want to get extra-warm [2]

Our city of Stuttgart’s Weihnachtsmarkt is famous for its decorated booth roofs.

The market attracts more than 3,000,000 visitors each year! Tour busses pull up and unload shoppers from all over Europe. The Weihnachtsmarkt takes over several piazzas downtown; the 3x weekly Wochenmarkt for fresh produce and flowers moves to the Königstraße, the main pedestrian street.

A huge carousal, lit up and spinning
This larger-than-life nutcracker eats a constantly revolving nut

I try to go a couple times each year. I head for the weekly market for fruits and vegetables and then meet a friend for a Bratwurst and a Glühwein. Or I arrange to meet Uwe after work.

We wend our way through rows of booths, enjoying hearing so many different languages along with the local Schwäbisch dialect.

Stuttgart’s Christmas Market

NOTES: © Jadi Campbell 2017. Last photo courtesy of Wikipedia; all other photos © Jadi Campbell 2017. [1] Also called Christkindlmarkt, Marché de Noël, Christkindlesmarkt, or Christkindlmarket. [2] The tradition has since spread to Romania, England, and other countries. [3] Nothing is worse than a glass of hot Glühwein if the weather refuses to get properly cold. It’s just, wrong, on too many levels….[4]

NOTES on NOTES: [4] ….and nothing is better than a starry winter night, a hot mug of Glühwein, snow gently falling as you stand with your sweetie, the sounds of talk and laughter of other Weihnachtsmarkt visitors all around you as carolers sing in the courtyard of the 16th century castle across the plaza. Prosit, und Fröhe Weihnachten!

Go to my earlier post A Guy Goes to a Christmas Market to read an excerpt set in the Stuttart Weihnachtsmarkt. Click here for my author page to learn more about my books and me.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas_market

http://www.germany-christmas-market.org.htm

http://www.german-way.com

http://www.christkindlmarktleavenworth.com