I am extremely honored and very definitely pleased to announce that my first book Broken In: A Novel in Stories is currently a semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award. See the list here: Hidden River Arts News
Writers have strange solitary lives and we really do hunch over our desks at all hours, snarling at people to keep away… until moments like this one. Writing honors are rare and seldom! This is the first award listing that Broken In has garnered, and the third of my books to receive one!
When I was a kid, we spent every summer in the woods. On the day school let out, either early in the afternoon before lunch time, or ten to fifteen minutes before the end of the school day, a scratchy announcement came over the school’s intercom. “Will Jadi, Pam and Barbara Campbell please collect their things and come down to the Principal’s Office?”
All the other kids watched us with round-eyed excitement. “You and your sisters got called the Principal’s Office, what’d you do, you guys must be in biiig trouble!” they chanted.
My parents would be standing at the front doors to the elementary school, chatting with the principal or his secretary. Out in the street the VW bus waited, packed to the gills. If that microbus was a fish, it would have been a stuffed bass.
Tiger the cat lay on the front dashboard. We got a dog a few years later and the family dog and cat accompanied us everywhere.
Once the kids had been collected, my parents drove to the camp we called home from that last day of school until the week before school started again.
My father was a research entomologist. He and his Forest Service crew set traps in the woods to see what might be eating gypsy moths. Each year those traps yielded a flying squirrel (one glorious year, two of them). Dad brought them back to the cabin where we’d set up a cage for the creature we inevitably named Rocky.
The campsite we returned to every June had a screened-in porch that filled the side of the building looking at the lake. We put Rocky’s big cage there, built him a nest up by the warmth of the bricks of the back of the fireplace, and let him out each night when he woke up.
Watching Rocky fly through the air of that porch was better than any t.v. show.
Years later, I wrote about a little girl visiting her cousins. They always have critters, and she meets a flying squirrel for the first time. His name, of course, is Rocky. – Jadi
Hannah and her brother clustered with their cousins in the cabin’s screened-in porch. “What’d you catch this summer?” she asked.
Dom was carefully lifting a cardboard box out of a wide mesh wire cage. “A flying squirrel! We named him Rocky. Right now, he’s sleeping. Flying squirrels are nocturnal. That means they wake and get active at night.” Dom pointed at the wall. “Rocky likes to fly around the porch. We helped Dad build a home for him!”
Hannah saw that Uncle Aaron, with the help of the children, had erected platforms around the backside of the fireplace.
“And he really flies?”
“No, Princess,” Dawn answered. “Rocky has webs of skin between his legs and torso. They spread when he leaps to give him flight conductivity.” Like all the Schroyers, Dawn’s speech became pedantic when she got the chance to explain something. But Hannah wasn’t listening. Exclaiming, she crowded close as Dom gently lifted a tiny furry body out of the box and handed the creature to Ryan. Large black eyes looked at her.
“He kind of looks like a chipmunk. Can I hold him next?” Hannah put out a hand.
Ryan shook his head. “Mom says, never disturb him during the daytime. But we wanted to show you him. Tonight when he’s active we’ll let him out of the cage for a while. When Rocky gets used to you, he’ll eat out of your hands!”
“What else have you got?”
“Alive or dead?”
Hannah looked at Dom in horror.
“She means animals that are living, as in, breathing,” Jake prompted.
“You remember the ranger camp on the north end of the lake?” Dom asked. “Dad knows the head ranger. He brought us Rocky. Remember how last year they brought us a flicker with a broken wing?”
“So, this year we have Rocky, one diamond back turtle, and three frogs,” Dawn listed proudly. “We had a garter snake, but Mom made me let it go already. We put all the others in the fish cage out by the dock for the summer; we’ll let them go later. We have to keep Bello away from the frogs, though! That dumb dog thinks he can eat them!”
Hannah listened, tasting a familiar sour jealousy. Her father was allergic to cats. And dogs. And anything with feathers. They had talked Fred into a tank of guppies one Christmas, and before Easter the fish had floated belly up, covered in lurid, fuzzy moss. That was her family’s single venture into pet ownership. – from my short story Princess Rain Clouds in The Trail Back Out
I create back stories for every single one of my characters, even the most minor figures.
Fred Podolski was a thumbnail sketch of a character in my novel Tsunami Cowboys. All we know is that someone dreams about him driving a truck in pea soup fog in the early morning hours. Fred causes an eleven car pile up.
Fred Podolski. What did Ronnie know about him, anyway? He was related to Gus, the owner of her favorite downtown café. When she went in at lunch for a bowl of soup, sometimes Fred sat at the front counter chatting with his brother or sister-in-law.
Fred had a solid build and a ruined back. He always had on driving gloves, his sensitive long fingers poking through the soft leather. That was the extent of their connection, or so she’d thought. The dream informed her otherwise, letting her know that karmic threads attached them. Those threads had twitched mightily in the gray hour just before dawn. …. She went back one last time over the dream’s images. Ronnie re-viewed a freeze frame of giraffes and lions, the crates of animals dumb and placid, upside down in cardboard boxes. Fred would be on a ‘crackers and cookies’ run. He’d bash into a blue Subaru head on. – from the chapter Precognitious
Six years later I wrote a book of short stories titled The Trail Back Out. I returned to Fred and his life in Princess Rain Clouds. What happens if you’re a man whose job entails that you’re on the road most of the time? What if you have kids, and a wife with a family who doesn’t like you very much and doesn’t hide that fact? – Jadi
Late that afternoon, before the sun sank, the fathers and kids erected tents. Jake and his father tamped tent stakes into the root beds of thick grass while Hannah watched. Fred’s handsome face was red and the skin around his eyes was tight. He flexed his fingers. He disliked using his hands for anything but driving, and even then he always wore driving gloves.
Fred wrestled with the tent in frustration.
“Need some help there, Fred?”
“Christ, Aaron, don’t you ever mow this place?”
“Nope. It’s lakefront property to a cabin in the woods, Fred, not a lawn in the suburbs,” Aaron answered mildly. He was preoccupied with the Weber grill, prepping it for the meats to come. And he pushed rocks into place for the fire pit, making their circle bigger. “Somewhere you’d rather be?”
“Honestly? I swear to God, Aaron, if I wanted to erect a tent, I would have moved to Maine and bought stock in goddamn L.L. Bean.”
“Hey!” exclaimed Jake. “Dad! Did you get a new tattoo?”
“I want to see it too!” Hannah moved closer and her father rolled up his shirtsleeve to show them the red Celtic knot on his right forearm.
Uncle Don scrutinized it. “Nice,” he commented. “But, a Celtic design? Sure and begorrah, it’s the Clan Podolski out of Ireland’s Glenballyemon.”
Hannah giggled. “You talk funny, Uncle Don!” – from the short story Princess Rain Clouds in The Trail Back Out
I’ve been a massage therapist for well over 30 years. The pandemic put a temporary end to that part of my activities. I may be a massage therapist again in the future; we’ll see.
I massaged some really interestingly tattooed bodies through the years.
Around 1988, one of the first tattoos I ever massaged has remained maybe the most intense and in some ways most frightening tattoo I’ve ever seen up close. A young woman had a skull, snakes crawling in and out of the empty eye sockets, inked on the breast above her heart. When I think about her now, I know that tattoo was a claiming of some dark and needed power. I have never forgotten the intensity of the energy she radiated.
I massaged a soldier of fortune with a Thai demon on his shoulder. “He has my back,” the guy told me.
One of my closest friends worked for decades as a trial lawyer. She always dressed up to go into court. She has an eternity knot tattooed on the top of her foot, and the image is elegant and discrete.
My nephew owns two bars/bistros in Hong Kong. Niko recently got himself inked with Native Americans on each arm to honor Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys. His left shoulder depicts Mount Hood and a Haida eagle. On his right forearm is a pineapple: it’s the traditional symbol of hospitality, he told me. I didn’t know this, and appreciated the fine work even more.
When it came time to write my first book Broken In: A Novel in Stories, I gave my character Jeremy tattoos. His tattoo images were inspired by the massage clients I have been honored to touch over the years. His chapter is titled, Punctured.
The ink on his body is his fate. – Jadi
The first time they slept together and she saw the tattoos she said, “It’s like being at the movies. Or inside the pages of a very Technicolor comic book. Oh! There’s the snake in the grass!” Jeremy was amused, knowing she was being flippant to mask her nervousness and the erotic appeal of his colors on her skin.
Abigail traced the outline of the demon turned towards her on Jeremy’s shoulder. She marveled again at the detail in the scales. It was such a small tattoo compared to the crouching tiger. She moved her small hand and placed it on his thigh where the tiger waited. “A tiger in my tank,” she murmured in wonder, just loudly enough for him to hear. It drove him wild.
-from my chapter Punctured in Broken In: A Novel in Stories
Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase Broken In: A Novel in Stories and my other books. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was a semifinalist for the international Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts.
When we were kids, my youngest sister Barb would sidle up next to me and say my name. It didn’t always come out as “Jadi”. Instead, Barb sometimes got a wicked, mischievous gleam in her eyes, leaned in close, and quietly whispered, JJ.
The way she said it made my name sound French. JJ sounded slippery and oozing sexiness, funny and veryembarassing, all at the same time.
We might be walking down a road, and when I heard this slithery “Hey, JJ”, I knew my sister was calling me. (More than once I crossed the street because I was so mortified someone would hear her.)
Each and every time I think about it now, I grin. This story is (as I realize many years later), one of those between-siblings episodes that are funny and much, much more embarassing when you are young.
To honor Barb and her evil sense of humor, when I wrote my first novel I was determined to get that name in there somewhere….
JJ’s Bistro is where the events take place in Broken In: A Novel in Stories. The food, of course, is delicious – and French-inspired! – Jadi
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.
Broken In: A Novel in Stories was a semifinalist for the Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts. Click here for my author page to learn more and buy my books.
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.  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. 
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.
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. – Jadi
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.
-from my chapter Waiting in Broken In: A Novel in Stories
Broken In: A Novel in Stories was a semifinalist for the international Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts. Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.
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.
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.”
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.