My Imaginary Friends: #2. Gabe’s Necklace

My husband used to work in northern Sweden every winter. (Go to It Was a Bitterly Cold -22 Degrees) I flew up for a long weekend. On Friday he had to drive on a frozen lake, writing code for the braking system  that would become ESP, a safety feature now installed in cars everywhere.

I went exploring in downtown Arjeplog. The only tourists were people like me, family members visiting the car engineers.

It was March, a grand -6 degrees at the warmest part of the day, so I went to the Silvermuseet. I like museums anyway, and Arjeplog’s museum is a fun mix of artifacts from early settlers, a history of the now-closed silver mines, and the earliest presence of humans. I was the only visitor in the museum.

A tall glass case contained a runebomme, an old Saami drum. [1] When I moved closer for a look, lights clicked on and a recording of drumming began to play. I was surprisingly moved, and totally intrigued by the images etched on the drum hide. Animals, people, and boats were depicted.

The Saami Shaman Drum Kobdas (drum) is a sacred map. It contains drawings of people and the spirit gods and goddesses of Nature often centered around a symbol of the sun. They are used by the shaman (male and female alike) to awaken other levels of reality to guide families in their daily life, find the right path during migrations, locate things which are missing, heal diseases and help the community in times of crisis. They can also foresee the future and give guidance. [2]

The museum gift shop sold gifts made by local artists. I bought myself a necklace. It’s made with reindeer horn scrimshaw, embedded in arctic curly birch. I don’t wear it often, but when I do it always feels special.

Many years later I wrote a character named Gabe Burgess, who is given a similar necklace by his Norwegian lover as a remembrance before they part ways in Greece. I liked the idea of a burly man tucking the amulet into his shirt when he went traveling.

Eight-pointed snowflake

I thought my necklace was the image of a snowflake. Today, as I did some research to make sure this post’s information on the museum and the drums is accurate, I discovered this:

The image is really an early compass.

My world explorer Gabe has always worn a depiction of the points of the compass, guiding him safely home.

Perfect.

Saami compass

He liked the romance of travel, in every sense of the word. His destinations veered wildly from year to year. In the beginning, Gabe’s journeys were random. As a youth Gabe traveled with a heavy, framed backpack and headed often for the beaches. He spent a blissful month camping on the southern coast of Crete with a busty blonde from Norway named Berit. At the end of the four weeks he returned to New York City with Berit’s address and telephone number tucked inside his passport, and a talisman around his neck. On their last night together she had turned her head away from him and reached for the necklace tucked under her long hair.

She made him close his eyes as she placed a chain over his neck. “Go look in the mirror,” she requested, and obediently Gabe walked to the little oval mirror in their beach hostel. In it he found his own image (now much darker and even properly black after a month spent in the island sunshine), his neck encircled with an image on wood. He pulled the chain back over his head to examine it more closely.

Berit put her arms around his waist and stared over his shoulder at him in the mirror. “It’s Saami.” She explained, “It’s a snowflake with eight points to it, carved on reindeer horn. The wooden back is birch. It is to bring you luck, dear friend,” she added solemnly, and kissed the side of his temple. [3]

NOTES: Text and photos © Jadi Campbell 2020. [1] Arjeplog Silvermuseet. The Catholic Church destroyed the drums, outlawed their use, and persecuted the shaman (noajdde). Many drums were buried or hidden. “Of the thousands once existing, only 71 drums have survived with their skins intact[.]” Saami Drum [2] Quoted from Arctic Saami Style Kellamknives.com  [3] “Waiting” from Broken In: A Novel in Stories © Jadi Campbell 2012.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase Broken In: A Novel in Stories or my other books.

Signed by the artist

The Trail Back Out – Excerpt

As promised, here is an excerpt from my story The Trail Back Out. This tale was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award. The entire collection The Trail Back Out was named an American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Awards Finalist in the category  Fiction: Anthologies.

The Trail Back Out © Jadi Campbell 2020

I: Prelude: Rain and Fire

Each evening, while twilight shadows lengthened, Ken sat and stared into the fire. What a shame it had taken what felt like the end of the world for him to return to the Adirondacks.

Ken had been working on the oil fracking fields and living in a container. The evenings consisted of lengthy monologues from men alternately bored, or angry, or scared, arguing over every subject with a captive audience.

Why aren’t there any solitary quarters, he’d thought more than once. When a new wave of the mutated virus arrived, the corporation went into lockdown. All workers would quarantine with them or leave.

Ken looked around and couldn’t imagine sharing a room with any of the men for an extended period. He stopped at the head office to quit and collected his back pay. Ken gathered his things (simultaneously relieved and strangely distressed that they made a small bundle) and drove away.

He traveled cross country, always heading east, not yet quite sure where he was going. In some places he took temporary work; no matter where he stayed, in his free hours Ken helped register people to vote. Outside Kansas City he bought camping gear and stocked the trunk of his car with canned goods and nonperishables.

His internal compass pointed its needle at his personal true north. When he pulled into Cranberry Lake township in upstate New York months later, Ken’s eyes burned. He passed signs that stated simply, Forever wild. Ken had arrived in one of the loneliest places that an already solitary human being could go in an increasingly lonely world. He was glad; it beat being in a ghost town.

Wet winds gusted, but he was sheltered. He scratched his face and watched the flames. “Scritchy,” Grace used to tease. She’d rub her cheeks hard against his bristles. He was the picture of the backwoods loner: a misanthrope in layers of clothes that all smelled like campfire smoke and dried sweat, his tee shirt faded, the wool jacket stiff with dry mud and the smell of damp lanolin.

The perfect cliché. Shaggy hair, overweight, six feet two inches tall when he bothered to stand erect and wasn’t slouching so as not to intimidate other people.

No one to intimidate here. Ken had seen fewer and fewer people as the summer ended. In the last week he’d passed a total of two single hikers, a family, and a couple. Everyone had raised their hands in greeting and headed down the trail to the next pond or on their way back out.

On the day before, he had shared the wet trail for a few minutes with a female park ranger. He imagined how he’d looked: muddy boots, soaked hiking pants, brushing the rain out of his eyes.

He could picture himself, and suddenly Ken did. Across the fire a man stood in the shadows, with rain streaming off a poncho and dripping around his feet.

 “Sorry to break into your privacy like this,” the stranger said. “You were lost in thought. According to my map this was the nearest lean-to. I’ll keep going; it’s not dark yet.”

NOTES: © Jadi Campbell 2021.

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 and buy my books.

The Trail Back Out is longlisted!

I was longlisted! My short story The Trail Back Out was named a quarterfinalist for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award.

If you click on the link, 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Awards, you’ll have the same experience I did….. scrolling down and down and down to the T’s, wondering if the story made it or not.

An interesting experience. The next time I submit a piece, remind me to begin the title with the letter “A” !

Tomorrow I’ll post a bit of The Trail Back Out. I promise I won’t make you scroll for it.

NOTES: © Jadi Campbell 2021. The entire collection The Trail Back Out was named an American Book Fest  2020 Best Book Award Finalist in the category  Fiction Anthologies.

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

 

Interview with Alex Pearl

Follow this link for my interview with the witty EastEnder Alex Pearl! Among other things, we talk about stunt men, building teepees, and poisonous mushrooms….

Interview with Alex Pearl

NOTES: © Jadi Campbell 2021. Interview © Alex Pearl.

The Trail Back Out was named an American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Awards Finalist in the category  Fiction: Anthologies.  The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award. 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 and buy my books.

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.

My Imaginary Friends: #1. Strangers on a Train

I am ALMOST done with The Animal Kingdom thread – Posts #39 and #40 are on the way! As 2020 comes to an end, I’m starting a new thread on where some of my story characters originated.

As a writer I’m guilty of borrowing (okay: outright stealing) experiences of people I know. Some become vehicles for me to muse about the world. Years ago, my father and his girlfriend came to visit me in Germany. I couldn’t spend every day with them, so one morning I set them on a train to Trier. They spent all of that day with a stranger, an American who was working in Germany. When they finally parted ways, the last words the man said to them were “I love you guys.”

The man was African-American.

I thought about this story over and over after that visit. Dad told me, the train stopped on the tracks as railroad workers cleared away brush from a storm the night before. The train was stuck and the three of them sat for hours, swapping tales as they waited for the train to start moving again.

I loved my father dearly. He would talk to anyone, and he enjoyed meeting people and finding out about their lives. He is the example I hold up, to anyone who cares to listen, about how travel turns us all into better human beings. My dad saw most of the world after my mom died. They spent the last year of her life in Italy, and I like to think that his later travels were an homage to that final, wonderful year. After decades spent traveling, my father Bobbo, a pretty typical older white male, became truly worldly in his outlooks.

But, a black man who tells an old white couple that he loves them? What an extraordinary human being he must be.

As open as my father was, he had all the privileges of time and place and skin color. What fired my wonder and imagination was that a black man in this century would have the greatness of heart to tell white retired folks something so profound. Maybe it was the meeting of like-minded souls. Maybe it was the setting: a temporary encounter on a train in Germany, a country that continues to work hard to overcome prejudices.

Maybe at some point in his life he had made a conscious decision to take people as he found them. I wanted to put myself into his head and heart. I wanted to learn from him.

He is  the kind of human being I aspire to be.

Can you tell that I was captivated and moved by my father’s story of this encounter? A decade later, when I finally (finally!!) became a writer, I discovered myself writing his story. His name is Gabe Burgess. He’s the head bartender at JJ’s Bistro in my first book Broken In: A Novel in Stories. Gabe spends time every year traveling the globe.

He has secrets.

Gabe has a tender heart.

He retains the memory of a terrible experience which has refused to fade.

And in the chapter titled Waiting, one year he meets an old white couple on a train that breaks down on the tracks outside of Trier….

NOTES: © Jadi Campbell 2020.

In JJ’s, the bartender and a teenaged patron plan exotic trips. JJ’s chef meets several men who’d kill for her. Valuables and peace of mind literally get stolen. Couples celebrate, or split up. In a rainy night accidents happen and people vanish. These are the stories of people whose paths cross – or crash. The tales begin in a bistro and move on to Bangkok, a carnival midway, and the bottom of a lake, among other places. Broken In: whether totally random or according to plan, after tonight life will never be the same.

The following link get you there: Broken In: A Novel in Stories

Click here 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.

LIVE! The Green Under the Snow, from my new book The Trail Back Out

Starting NOVEMBER 13th AT 8PM! The Writers in Stuttgart’s live-streamed reading is back up on youtube, through the week! If you missed hearing us read in October, this is your chance. I read from my new book at about the one-hour mark in the program.

Click on this link to go there, and enjoy! The Writers in Stuttgart 

NOTES: © Jadi Campbell 2020. The Trail Back Out is finished and available for purchase. In my new collection of short stories, 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 my books and me.

Brideshead Revisited Revisited

I don’t know about anybody else, but last week I hit an emotional wall. Tuesday night I got up every few hours and went to check the news results. (I live in Germany, and we’re six time zones ahead.) When I woke up Wednesday morning, things in the USA presidential election were still undecided. Like the rest of the world, I was holding my breath – and about to turn into a permanent nervous wreck.

On that night, or maybe it was the next night, I stopped following the news reports. I honestly can’t remember which day I decided I needed a serious distraction.

And so, for the last five or six days, I’ve been revisiting Brideshead Revisited.

BridesheadDVD.jpg

I revere Evelyn Waugh’s book, which I read again and again with pleasure. I first saw the Brideshead Revisited BBC series on PBS television in the early 1980s. I loved the show so much that I bought myself the DVD set. Jeremy Irons, Sir Laurence Olivier, Diana Quick, Sir John Gielgud, Anthony Andrews, Claire Bloom – what’s not to love? The acting is wonderful, the scenery is beautiful, the story evocative and wistful. Jeremy Irons’ voice overs make Waugh’s writing sing.

“But I was in search of love in those days, and I went full of curiosity and the faint, unrecognized apprehension that here, at last, I should find that low door in the wall, which others, I knew, had found before me, which opened on an enclosed and enchanted garden, which was somewhere, not overlooked by any window, in the heart of that grey city.”

The first time I went to Europe traveling alone, I made a point of going to Oxford; I had fallen in love with the city depicted in the book.

“Oxford, in those days, was still a city of aquatint. In her spacious and quiet streets men walked and spoke as they had done in Newman’s day; her autumnal mists, her grey springtime, and the rare glory of her summer days – such as that day – when the chestnut was in flower and the bells rang out high and clear over her gables and cupolas, exhaled the soft vapours of a thousand years of learning.”

Last night (November 9th), during our second coronavirus lockdown, in the ongoing fight over the vote count, I sailed across the choppy, stormy Atlantic with Charles Ryder and Julia Flyte.

“Then something, some surviving ghost from those dead ten years – for one cannot die, even for a little, without some loss – made me say, “Love? I’m not asking for love.”

“Oh yes, Charles, you are,” she said, and putting up her hand gently stroked my cheek; then shut her door.

And I reeled back, first on one wall, then on the other, of the long, softly lighted, empty corridor; for the storm, it appeared, had the form of a ring. All day we had been sailing through its still centre; now we were once more in the full fury of the wind – and that night was to be rougher than the one before.”

My DVDs were formatted for early tv screens, and don’t look at all right on our wide screen television. But I don’t care. I watch one or two episodes each day, parceling out the pleasure, to make it last as long as I can.

“Sometimes, I feel the past and the future pressing so hard on either side that there’s no room for the present at all.”

“I felt that I was leaving part of myself behind, and that wherever I went afterwards I should feel the lack of it, and search for it hopelessly, as ghosts are said to do, frequenting the spots where they buried material treasures without which they cannot pay their way to the nether world.”

I am still deeply in love with Brideshead Revisited and Evelyn Waugh’s wise, melancholy voice. His words really are treasures, which pay my way to the nether world, every time I revisit.

NOTES: © Jadi Campbell 2020. Image courtesy of Wikipedia. All quotes from Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh. I will leave you with one last quote that says everything I care to about a particular political figure: “He wasn’t a complete human being at all. He was a tiny bit of one, unnaturally developed; something in a bottle, an organ kept alive in a laboratory. I thought he was a sort of primitive savage, but he was something absolutely modern and up-to-date that only this ghastly age could produce. A tiny bit of a man pretending he was the whole.”

The Trail Back Out is finished and available for purchase! In my new collection of short stories, 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 my books and me.

 

 

Hear Me Read Live, this Weekend with the Writers in Stuttgart

The Writers in Stuttgart are giving our first youtube (live streaming) online reading on Friday, October 23rd at 8pm (Friday at 2 pm EST). We normally give readings 3 – 4 times a year in theaters here in Stuttgart. During these strange days we’ve been holding our monthly meetings on Zoom and decided to take a chance on a virtual reading. The upside is that people can view it anywhere in the world. If you can’t make the 8pm time, our show can be viewed for 48 hours after it takes place. A description and the link are below if you and any one you know are interested:

On 23 October, 2020 the Writers in Stuttgart are celebrating the transatlantic relationship between the USA and Germany in honor of the 25th anniversary of the DAZ (the German/American Center) in Stuttgart. In their first live stream reading, the Writers in Stuttgart will explore American, German as well as a variety of other international perspectives on national, international and intercultural identities and the German-American relationship of past, present and future. Join the Writers in Stuttgart on 23 October, 2020 at 8:00pm (2pm ET Friday in U.S.) at

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCml9nOF5jfVJRjw4mIqsgCg

Stay safe & healthy, and I hope to see you this weekend.

Best Wishes,

Jadi

PS: I’ll be reading The Green Under the Snow from my new short stories collection, in the second half of the program.

The Trail Back Out is finished and available for purchase! In my new collection of short stories, 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 my books and me.