Dylan Marlais Thomas + The Blarney Stone

Dylan Thomas  was born on October 27, 1914 in Swansea, Wales, United Kingdom. Dylan was a poet, reporter, playwright, radio broadcaster, author, master of the English language…. In college I was required to read Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce. It was good, but I found it self-serious and a bit pompous. Then I discovered Thomas’s glorious answer, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog. I was hooked.

Dylan Thomas was a notorious drinker. He died too young, at age 39 on  reading tour. In honor of this artist who is impossible to categorize I am reprinting the post I wrote after my writers’ group did a reading in an Irish pub.

The evening did not go as planned. – Jadi

I’ve belonged to a writers’ group since 2011. How did I survive so long without the company of my crazy peers and fellow wordsmiths? I have no idea what I did before I hooked up with these people.

Over the years the group has included writers of short stories. Essays. Erotic (really erotic) poetry. Autobiographies. Plays. Novels. Urban fantasy. Flash fiction. Song lyrics. Wistful thinking (how a member explained what he writes, and I loved his description).

We come together to share and critique works-in-progress. We use writing exercises to loosen up our creative muscles. And we’re committed to public readings.

Two roosters singing at a microphone, isolated Stock Photo

A little café named Wir Sind Babel was one venue. A brightly lit coffee house with marble floors and comfy chairs was another. And a third one…. well, that venue gets a blog post all its own.

An Irish pub I’ll call The Blarney Stone seemed like the ideal spot. The bar’s slowest weeknight was the perfect time.

We could use a side room for our event. The space resembled a library room filled with bookcases, a perfect setting for our brilliant words. Even better, the owner promised us  if we could total 50 people we’d get the main room – they often feature live musical acts and the entire bar was already wired to hear us. He had a microphone we could use! Sweet!

A Toast Master offered to be our MC. He’d read short bios to introduce each reader. We printed up fliers for the tables and info sheets to hand out ahead of time. It was all perfect…

Doesn’t this sound too good to be true?

That Tuesday we arrived with high expectations. Our side room grew too small for all our friends and guests, but the main room was already filled with patrons who, sadly, were not there for our earthshaking literary creations.

Every chair was taken and people sat and stood everywhere. Waiters and waitresses had to slither their way with plates and drinks through the crowds. Then we realized our side room had no door, and that meant no barriers against the noise levels that kept increasing.

No worries. We were as cool as the collective cucumber, because we had the ultimate secret weapon: the microphone. The first reader began to recite her piece.

The m crophone we were loan d began sh rt ng out w th ever sec nd sente ce and nex with ev ry thi d word. It g t wors . The m ke beg n to let o t awf l and ear splitt ng sccccrrre eee ee ech hhhhiiiing fee eeedb ck. We checked that the batteries were fresh and the wiring solid. We tried holding the mike in different parts of the room, closer to our lips, away from our mouths, up in the air. We recited louder, and then more quietly; none of it made a difference.

At that point every writer in the room knew we’d been rat f cked. Without saying much (not that we could have heard one another anyway over the noise in the pub) we had that group moment of grokking that this evening would not be the literary triumph we’d all awaited.

The first reader gamely made it through her piece. The second reader performed in a different corner of the room. When it was my turn to read I lay the mike down on the pult and basically yelled out my story, observing every pause, emphasis and careful nuance I’d practiced. No one heard a word over the pub din.

But I am so very proud of all of us. We observed grace under pressure. We went forward despite impossible conditions (and false promises made to us). We made the best out of the debacle… and it really brought us together as fellow failed performers.

The pub owner got more than fifty extra paying guests on what was his slowest night of the week! I’d like to say he bought us a round of drinks to make up for it. I’d really like to say that our words triumphed over noise decibels. But no, that night the gift of gab got stuck in a malfunctioning microphone.

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Our next public reading was not held in an Irish pub. The first moral of the story? To get over stage fright, sometimes you have to scream. The second moral to the story? Don’t mess with writers, because at some point we will write about you and what you did.

In memory of Dylan Thomas, 27 October 1914 – 9 November 1953

NOTES: Text and book cover © Jadi Campbell 2014. Previously published as The Gift of Gab. Images courtesy of dreamstime.com

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out

Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was  semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts and Finalist for Greece’s 2021 Eyelands Book of the Year Award (Short Stories). The Trail Back Out was American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies, Runner-Up for the 2021 Top Shelf Award, 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist for the Independent Author Network, and awarded a 2021 Wishing Shelf Red Ribbon. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award.

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

Today’s Birthday: Lena Kathren Headey

Lena Kathren Headey was born on October 3, 1973 in Hamilton, Bermuda. She is, of course, the superb actress who portrayed Cersei from Game of Thrones. Cersei’s beauty and willingness to plot and then ruthlessly destroy her enemies are balanced by her deep love for her children and her inner insecurities. She is absolutely magnificent and I will never forgive the producers of the show for leaving her gazing pointlessly over the ramparts of King’s Landing for most of the final season. What a betrayal of her character’s intelligence, and what a waste of her talents!

In her honor I am reprinting the post I wrote after my visit to King’s Landing, aka Dubrovnik. – Jadi

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I’d wanted to see Dubrovnik for years.  It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site. Dubrovnik is one of the most intact – and surely one of the most beautiful – walled cities on the planet.  It was strategically built on the Adriatic coast, has spectacular scenery, and provides settings for one of my favorite shows, Game of Thrones. It had to be perfect!

Note to Self: In the future, question any place that sounds too good to be true. It usually is.

20160624_09525320160624_120324Aw, come on. King’s Landing! Cercei’s Walk of Shame! Tyrion sightings!

This trip was going to be awesome!

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I frequently meet a friend on her way back through Europe as she travels around the world. We travel well together, enjoy exploring new spots, and always have great luck with our plans. We’ve never booked a bad hotel.

Note to Self: Always and never are adjectives doomed to fail at some point.

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I flew to Dubrovnik a day early and went hunting for the hotel. I dragged a suitcase up the stone stairs of narrow alleys. And down the stone stairs of narrow alleys. And then back up the stone stairs of narrow alleys. No sign over the doorway, no answer when I repeatedly knocked. Not one person who could give me any information.

It was really hot, humid and sticky, and overcrowded with tourists now heading to the outdoor restaurants for supper. I sat beside my suitcase on the hard stone steps, trying to stay calm (forget about cool or collected – at that point I was drenched in sweat). I dug out the phone number for the hotel contact.

Note to Self: Never, ever leave home without your cell phone fully charged and that list of phone numbers close at hand.

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“You’re here?” a male voice exclaimed. “Someone will be there with a key in ten minutes.” I was still waiting over half an hour later.  A pleasant young man finally arrived. Why hadn’t I called when I arrived at the airport to let someone know to come meet me?

Note to Self: They never suggested that we do this. Regardless, it was their guests’ fault.

He let me into the hotel… a home converted into apartments. We’d requested separate beds; the room only contained one. I didn’t mind sharing, but the hotel room furnishings were neither as advertised nor promised.  The air conditioner had been installed so that it blew directly into the head of the bed.

Note to Self: Check carefully when booking rooms. Sometimes Southern and East Europeans have loose definitions for things, including accommodations and measurements of time.

What about the included breakfast? I asked. No worries, I just needed to head down the steep stairs a few streets, turn into the main road, and find the café the hotel apartment rooms had made arrangements with to feed guests.

Relieved to finally be in my hotel lodging I showered, changed clothes, and went out to find dinner. No time left for sightseeing.

The next morning, I eventually found the café after going in the wrong direction and hungrily gazing at a half-dozen other breakfast spots. “Where’s your voucher?” the waiter asked. “Uhh, I wasn’t told I needed one,” I stuttered, and retrieved the hotel booking invoice I luckily had with me. The waiter vanished with it and consulted a colleague. He returned with a different menu with fewer choices. I ate a passable breakfast and headed off to walk the city walls.

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The wall is everywhere

Now, this was more like it! Not a bad view in any direction and it was early enough not to feel the oppressive heat already settling on the city. What a shame there were so many other people crowding the ramparts.

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Back at the room I waited for my friend to arrive. One of the young men showed up and insisted, “No, you don’t need a voucher for breakfast, regardless of what the café says. And you should have waited and walked the city walls late in the afternoon when the cruise ships have left again.” So why didn’t he tell me this yesterday? But, I thought, it would have meant traversing the walls for two hours in 90-degree peak afternoon heat, so I didn’t speak up.

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He wouldn’t let me pay with a credit card. Cash only. We’d have to wait until his associate came the next day as my friend hadn’t arrived yet. When we paid, he couldn’t make change. He promised to bring it by later; if we weren’t there, he’d put the money they owed us under the room door.

The man and the money never showed up.

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The last morning, I tried to get out of bed and thought I was going to throw up. I had developed benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) from the extreme heat, not enough fluids, and cold air blowing on my face all night.

Just before we checked out I wrote a curt note indicating where to have the money deposited that they still owed us. As we were leaving we ran into a cleaning woman. “Oh! The boys couldn’t make it over yesterday. They asked me to give it to you.” We then headed off to the airport with money we no longer had any time to use.

Note to Self: Make sure to carry lots of small bills to make change next time you go back. If you ever go back. 2nd Follow-up Note to Self: Cash-only vacation options are a really bad idea. 3rd Follow-up Note to Self: Do Not Sleep Directly Under an Air-Conditioner. Ever.

20160624_102135I remind myself Dubrovnik is all romantic corners and silly tourists taking selfies.

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20160624_101129and the European Cup soccer matches!

Croatia's flag flying proudly for the soccer tournament
Croatia’s flag flying proudly for the soccer tournament

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I’ll tell you another time about how I almost didn’t make it on our plane going home. Or why my friend was late getting to the hotel room. She’d been charged $600 for her rental car, dinged when a gang tried to scam her with a staged accident.

I shall be forever grateful that we were there together. We even laugh about parts of the trip to Dubrovnik, and figure those few days used up more combined residual bad travel karma (and available cash) than any trip we’ve ever gone on.

Note to Self: Re-read this post before planning the next trip!

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My Writer’s Identity Began Ten Years Ago….

For the last ten years I’ve called myself a writer. I feel better able to claim the title on some days than other days. And there were decades of my life when I despaired of being able to write at all.

I was one of those little kids who knew very early what I wanted to become: I was going to be a writer! And then life happened, an income to be earned, and rent and bills to pay.

I had so many self-doubts. Who was I to think I had enough talent? What did I know about life, anyway? Whatever I did know, it couldn’t be enough to write a book….

So I went out into the ‘real’ world and forgot about my very first, exhilarating dream.

Or did I?

I wrote freelance for Massage Magazine for a decade and I’ve always kept a journal, but in my mind those activities never qualified as actual writing. Gods, I was dumb.

About twelve years ago I decided to re-read all those old journals in consecutive order, from beginning to end. By the time I got to the fifth one moaning about ‘Woe is me, how I wish I could write a book’ I was ready to hurl the journal and myself across the room. Enough whining!

I started to write in earnest, I found and joined the Writers in Stuttgart, a writers’ group  that meets monthly. On September 5, 2012, I self-published my first book. On this day ten years ago, I held the first copy of Broken In: A Novel in Stories in my hands. As I held it I literally felt my heart and my body and the room and my life begin to expand and glow. I was filled with a joy that has never really abated since.

Writing remains easy some days… less easy on others. I still have those self-doubts. Those, I think, will never really go away; I’ve learned to regard them as healthy. They’re reality checks. But you know what? The only question I ask myself these days is    ******What took me so long?*******

Don’t wait to start on your dreams. Whatever they may be, no matter how impossible. Part of our soul will only feel complete if we are following whatever Muse has chosen us.

Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Happy Birthday!

NOTES: ©2022 Jadi Campbell. My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out

Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was a semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts and a Finalist for Greece’s international 2021 Eyelands Book of the Year Award (Short Stories). The Trail Back Out was American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies, Runner-Up for the 2021 Top Shelf Award, 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist for the Independent Author Network, and 2021 Wishing Shelf Red Ribbon. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award.

Broken In: A Novel in Stories went on to become a Semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts and was a Finalist for Greece’s 2021 Eyelands Book of the Year Award (Short Stories).

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

Edgar Rice Burroughs + Dad’s Childhood Books

Edgar Rice Burroughs was born on September 1, 1875 in Chicago, Illinois. My father owned all  of his books when he was a boy. They were red, cloth-covered hardback editions that cost a dime apiece. When I was young I read my way through Dad’s copies of everything in the Tarzan of the Apes series and Burroughs’ books about Mars. Ray Bradbury would later state that those books inspired countless scientists to dream of visiting other planets. In Burroughs’s honor I am reprinting a portion of a chapter I wrote, paying homage to his book Thuvia, Maid of Mars. – Jadi

Charlene pulled the wooden lid back and peered in. Sure enough, Linda’s missing photograph of Rob and herself laying on their sofa was on very top of the box, just where Carl had claimed it would be. Underneath lay a jumble of boy’s treasures, the usual collection of any adult. Charlene lifted the picture out carefully, the old photo thick and heavy in her fingers. Careful as well of her husband’s privacy, gently she placed the lid back and returned the box to its place at the bottom of the closet floor.

Charlene began to dial Linda’s number on her cell phone as she turned back to the room to retrieve the photograph. The image of Linda and Rob looked up at her from the red bedspread, stained a color like wine in the bright afternoon sunshine from the window. Linda would be relieved to hear it was safe and sound.

Charlene picked the photograph back up and more photos fell and fluttered down to the bedspread. Apparently they’d stuck to the back of the first photograph after years of laying in the darkness of Carl’s treasure trove.

Charlene stared down at photos she’d never seen and hadn’t known her husband possessed. The first one was a gray photo, slightly blurry and out of focus, taken from the railing of a ship. A whale’s flukes were just visible in the background. The only elements clearly in focus were Rob’s huge grin and outstretched hand, pointing excitedly at the gigantic mammal.

Two photographs were close ups of a radiant, exhausted Linda holding Jennifer, their newborn baby. The infant couldn’t be seen through the swaddling of the baby blanket wrapping her, but it was clear these were photographs Rob had snapped as he welcomed home his wife and first born child in the middle of winter, snow piled at either side of the front doorway.

Charlene fanned the photos out on the bed and she sat down. She looked the images of a baby in winter and felt frozen. What in the world? Charlene dropped the cell phone. The phone call to Linda would have to wait.

Carefully she put the photos in a perfect stack and set them on the mound of the pillow on her side of the bed. She pulled the box back out of its hiding place and placed it in the very center of the bedspread where she’d have the most room. Her heart pounding, Blue Beard indeed! Charlene reopened her husband’s childhood box.

Charlene grimaced as she looked down into a jumble. It was a random collection, the emotional residue of any small boy’s life. But this didn’t explain what the photographs belonging to Linda and Rob were doing there. She began to slowly remove objects to review each of them more carefully.

The sun moving across the bed winked at her when light glinted off ruby glass in the box. Charlene gasped out loud as she recognized the eighth Venetian cordial glass that had gone missing so many years ago. The last time she’d seen it was at the dinner party to introduce Carl into her circle of intimates. In all the years since, she’d thought two glasses had broken. Carl had never bothered to correct her assumption and now Charlene knew why: that night, he stole one of those glasses.

Charlene sat very still. Then, with one swift motion, she upended the box and dumped its contents out onto the bed. A golf ball rolled off the spread and bounced over into a corner. She retrieved it and turned it over in her palm, biting her lips. It was signed in red ink with the name Jack Nicklaus, 1980.

“I hate golf,” Carl claimed; he found the game mind numbingly boring to watch on television, and not much of a sport to play in real life. Charlene thought, What’s he doing with a golf ball signed by the man considered to be the greatest PGA Championship player of all time?

Terry Rundell, she thought with the next breath. Terry and Carl worked together, and Terry was an absolute golf freak. Charlene had no actual proof that her husband stole the ball. But she knew. In light of all the other tokens she was looking at on the bed, Charlene knew.

Suddenly they were no longer random. With her fingertips Charlene picked up the single, ominous pearl colored silk stocking she’d overlooked. Charlene draped it over her left forearm and held it out in the sunlight in front of her where she perched on the red bedspread. One stocking. One. Stolen from a clothesline, maybe. Or filched from the back of a dresser drawer from a house where they’d been invited for dinner, or drinks, or an innocuous social gathering. Who had it belonged to, and what was it about the woman to compel Carl to steal her stocking?

Her mouth twisted in disgust and she dropped the silky, filmy thing into a pile. She continued to sort through the other items.

An old paperback had landed on the bed half-opened. Its cover was yellowed, the edges of the pages cracked and cuThuvia Maid of Mars-1920.jpgrling. Charlene placed it with the cover up in front of her. Thuvia, Maid of Mars, by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Her brain racing, Charlene recalled that Edgar Rice Burroughs had written the popular Tarzan series. This book must be one of his potboilers.

She turned cautiously to the first page. For Timmy, as promised! With love from Grandpa Brent was written on the flyleaf in an old man’s shaky, old-fashioned penmanship. Underneath he’d added, Xmas 1966. It had to be the treasured present of a boy from Carl’s grade school class, or later. Charlene knew adults have even stronger emotional attachments to items from their childhoods than children do. Well, wherever Timmy might be, this book left his possession years ago. She placed a tender palm on the cover as she closed the book and set it by the crumpled stocking.

– from the chapter “Carl Possessed” in Broken In: A Novel in Stories

In memory of Edgar Rice Burroughs, September 1, 1875 – March 19, 1950

NOTES: ©2014 Jadi Campbell. Previously published as Thuvia, Maid of Mars. Edgar Rice Burroughs, Thuvia, Maid of Mars & A Princess of Mars, A. C. McClurg Publisher, 1920 (Photos from Wikipedia). Photos Uwe Hartmann 2020. To see Uwe’s photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out

Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was a semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts and a Finalist for Greece’s international 2021 Eyelands Book of the Year Award (Short Stories). The Trail Back Out was American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies, Runner-Up for the 2021 Top Shelf Award, 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist for the Independent Author Network, and 2021 Wishing Shelf Red Ribbon. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award.

Broken In: A Novel in Stories was a semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts, and named a Finalist for Greece’s international 2021 Eyelands Book of the Year Award (Short Stories).

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

Top Shelf Award!

The Trail Back Out was just named a Runner-Up for the 2021 Top Shelf Award… this is the fifth (5th!) accolade my book has received.

Use this link to see the books listed for the prize!

2021 Top Shelf Awards

The Trail Back Out was named a 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist for the Independent Author Network, Finalist for the American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award, and awarded a Red Ribbon by the 2021 Wishing Shelf Book Awards of England. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award.

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

 

Stephen King Kept Me Up All Night

‘Salem’s Lot terrified me when I first read the book. I took it with me a few weeks ago, on a train heading to Munich.

It still scares me.

This copy is just about ready to fall apart

I read ‘Salem’s Lot when the book first came out. I was in college and found a copy at an used bookstore, I think, and picked it up on a whim. My roommate was away that weekend and I wanted a break from my text books. I wanted something to read for fun.

“There was a ruined church along the way, an old Methodist meetinghouse, which reared its shambles at the far end of a frost-heaved and hummocked lawn, and when you walked past the view of its glaring, senseless windows your footsteps became very loud in your ears and whatever you had been whistling died on your lips, and you thought about how it must be inside, the overturned pews, the rotting hymnals, the crumbling altar where only mice now kept the sabbath, and you wondered what might be in there besides mice – what madmen, what monsters.” page 203

I ended up locking all the doors and windows, turned on all the lights, and stayed up until 4:00 a.m. to finish the book. I was too scared to turn off the lights – no way I would fall asleep before I read to the end.

I brought the book to my parent’s home the following weekend where one of my sisters discovered it. That night she had to walk the dog; it was already dark outside and my sister went upstairs and fished a crucifix out of Mom’s jewelry box. Because she was that scared. Next, my parents read ‘Salem’s Lot. They actually sat together on the couch and read it in tandem, because neither one of them was willing to wait until the other had finished it.

“If a fear cannot be articulated, it can’t be conquered. And the fears locked in small brains are much too large to pass through the orifice of the mouth. Sooner or later you found someone to walk past all the deserted meetinghouses you had to pass between grinning babyhood and grunting senility. Until tonight. Until tonight when you found out that none of the old fears had been staked – only tucked away in their tiny, child-sized coffins with a wild rose on top.” page 204

We talked about that book a lot. What made it so frightening. About how Stephen King’s writing is contemporary and literary both. How he expresses those fears that cannot be articulated. Now, as a writer myself, each time I reread ‘Salem’s Lot I’m in awe of his control and mastery of language.

I left my battered copy on the bookshelves of a Munich hotel. Since then, I’ve entertained myself as I picture how some innocent traveler is going to pick it up, in need of something to read to while away the time, and will lay in that hotel bed afraid to go to sleep.

“His eyes strayed to the windows, which showed only blackness….”

NOTES: ©2022 Jadi Campbell. – ‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King, 1975. ‘Salem’s Lot is my favorite of Stephen King’s books, closely followed by The Shining.

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out

The Trail Back Out was honored as 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist for the Independent Author Network and with a Red Ribbon by the 2021 Wishing Shelf Book Awards of England. In addition, The Trail Back Out was an American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was a semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts, and a Finalist for Greece’s 2021 Eyelands Book Awards. Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award.

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

Today’s Birthday: Jacinda Kate Laurell Ardern

Politician Jacinda Ardern was born on July 26, 1980 in Hamilton, New Zealand. She is leader of the Labour Party and currrently serves as New Zealand’s 40th Prime Minister. Ardern has successfully navigated the COVID-19 crisis and led the response to the Christchurch massacre, a mass shooting motivated by racial and religious hate. She was only 37 when she was elected, making her the world’s youngest female leader. Her emphasis on social equality and the environment are wildly popular. In her honor I am reprinting the post I wrote after we visited amazing New Zealand. – Jadi

Most of our time in New Zealand I felt the landscape was alive. Especially on the North Island, I had the eerie sensation of standing on a very active volcano. The ground steams in places, thanks to the underground hot springs everywhere.

Three things remain fresh in my memory: Maori culture and architecture; the crisp Sauvignon Blancs that were all we drank; and the utter alive-ness of the nature.

The charming city of Rotorua contains all three.

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Maori kapa haka performance
Whaernui
Wharenui

We could view the wharenui (meeting house) of the Māori people from outside. I was taken by the use of local materials, symbolism, and the symmetry and beauty of every traditional building.

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The Kiwis make great wine. When it comes to bottled grapes, I’m amused by the jargon. My own descriptions used to run to statements like, “A naughty little vintage. If this was a small child, I’d spank it and send it to bed without supper.” I loved it when I discovered that New Zealand’s Sauvignon Blancs are described as releasing a heavy whiff of cat pee when you first open the bottle. (I’m not making this up. Wine expert Jancis Robinson remarks, “Indeed one branded Sauvignon Blanc on sale in Britain is actually sold under the brand name Cat’s Pee on a Gooseberry Bush.”) * Yuck! If that’s the first impression you get from a wine, what could make anyone want to go past just opening the dang thing?

It was worth the adventure to try one.

We bought a bottle and opened it in our hotel room. Phew-ee! Sure enough, there was a heady stink of feral cat which thankfully faded immediately. I dared to fill a glass, took a sip… and was greeted by an explosion of quince, green apples, citrus fruits, kiwis and gooseberries. Those Sauvignon Blancs are so delicious that I never even bothered trying any other grape varietal while we were there. Why mess with kitty litter box perfection?

And then there is the natural world.

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We visited parks where everything burbled, bubbled, exploded or engulfed us in clouds of steam.

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We did all of the hiking loops and were wowed by the spectacle of shooting geysers, blubbering springs, and mineral ponds containing colors I had no idea normally appear in Nature.

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In one park gift shop I purchased mud for facials that someone dipped out of a pond on the park grounds. No small feat as most of the park waters are at boiling point!

Seriously. Someone was dumb enough to want to find out, "Just how hot is this spring?" The park has to post signs warning people not to step here.
Seriously. Someone was actually dumb enough to want to find out, “Just how hot is this spring? Can I really cook my ankles in it?”

The park had to post signs warning people not to step in the springs. I say, let Darwin’s theory of natural selection and Nature take their course…

NOTES: *www.jancisrobinson, waiotapu.co.nz ©2014 Jadi Campbell. Previously published as Steamy Rotorua! All photos © Uwe Hartmann. More pictures from New Zealand and Uwe’s photography may be viewed at viewpics.de.

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out

The Trail Back Out was honored as 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist for the Independent Author Network and with a Red Ribbon by the 2021 Wishing Shelf Book Awards of England. In addition, The Trail Back Out was an American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was a semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts, as well as a Finalist for Greece’s 2021 Eyelands Book Awards. Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award.

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

 

Today’s Birthday: Annelies Marie Frank

Anne Frank was born on June 12, 1929 in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. Her unexpectedly discovered journal The Diary of Anne Frank is a testament to the endurance of the human spirit. In honor of her life I am reprinting my first post about Stolpersteine, the Stumbling Stones laid throughout the world to remember the lives of those killed by repressive regimes. – Jadi

***

She placed her unbandaged left hand over his on the table top. “Don’t think I’m only a cynic. If I lost my faith in nations, I find huge bravery and kindness in individuals. I kept my faith – and how can that be, after what religion did to my country? But I did. I believe in God. You saved my life so I am saved again. It’s more than a woman could hope for.” She squeezed his hand. “How long do you stay in Stuttgart?”

For the first time his regret about leaving had to do with a person and not with his phobia. “I should take a train tomorrow. Actually, I’m scared to fly,” Guy admitted. “I was in a forced landing once. I’m afraid of being in another.”

“Why fear a statistic chance? Why worry about an abstraction?” Nadia’s shoulders rose and fell in the Eastern European’s shrug, a slow, weary movement that expressed the futility of every question. “Think about the poor people who are in tsunamis. Or a war zone, where real fear is to think, how do you keep walking on the street as a rocket hits somewhere near, or you hear thwack!, and the person in front of you falls down? First you think, this time it isn’t me. It took years for me to stop looking over my shoulder. Stuttgart is civilized, but even here I stumble over Stolpersteine.”

“Over what?”

“Stolpersteine.”

Guy shook his head. “Never heard of it.”

“Them. Come, I will show you. There are some up around the corner.” Nadia refused to explain further.

She insisted on paying the bill and tucked her arm in his as the two of them headed up the Königstrasse. She led him to a stop in front of a store. “What do you see?”

Guy saw Europeans out Christmas shopping, happy people laughing and drinking glühwein, store windows filled with beautifully displayed consumer goods. Was it something special about the storefront? He shifted his weight and his heel came down on an uneven spot in the cement. When he glanced down, Guy saw gold cubes embedded in the sidewalk. He squatted to get a better look. Königstrasse 60, a stone with the name of Clothilde Mannheimer, another beside it for Jakob Mannheimer.

Nadia crouched down next to him. “The Mannheimers lived in this building. They were moved by train to Theresienstadt and died in the concentration camp there,” she translated. “These are their Stolpersteine, their stumbling stones. Wherever we go, we stumble over reminders of the past. The stones make sure we don’t forget the dead, these make sure that people today can’t push the dead from our memories.”

Guy traced the imprint of the names. The little golden cubes were weightier than their size. “Are there more?”

“All over Germany. Other countries, too. The Stolpersteine groups wish to mark the last free place where the persons lived, not where they were sent. Sometimes a family asks for a stumbling block; sometimes a local group did research for victims. And Stolpersteine are for everyone. Especially the Jews, but also the Behinderte, the ones with handicaps,” she corrected herself, “the mentally slow or physically handicapped. And gypsies, Communists. All were killed or did have to leave.”

“Knowing all this it wasn’t hard for you to become a German citizen?”

She gave another slow Eastern European shrug. “I gave up my old passport a decade ago. It was less hard than I expected. My home country is one in the heart.” – from the chapter What A Guy in Tsunami Cowboys, longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award.

A newly laid Stolperstein
A newly laid Stolperstein

In memory of Anne Frank, 12 June 1929 – February or March 1945

NOTES: Text and Photos Copyright © 2015 Jadi Campbell. Previously published as Stolpersteine 1: Tsunami Cowboys’ Stumbling Stones. Uwe’s photography may be viewed at viewpics.de.

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out

Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. The Trail Back Out was honored as 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist for the Independent Author Network and with a Red Ribbon by the 2021 Wishing Shelf Book Awards of England. In addition, The Trail Back Out was an American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was a semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts, as well as a Finalist for Greece’s 2021 Eyelands Book Awards.

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

 

Today’s Birthday: Peter Matthiessen

Environmental activist, writer, wilderness traveler, Zen Buddhist student and teacher, Peter Matthiessen was born May 22, 1927 in New York City, New York. He was a CIA officer in his early 20s, one of the few acts of his life that he regretted. He co-founded The Paris Review, one of English language’s most important literary journals. His book Shadow Country won the National Book Award for fiction, and he won again in nonfiction for The Snow Leopard. He remains the only writer to have won in both categories.

A friend gave me The Snow Leopard when it first came out, and I’ve reread it over and over in the decades since then. Matthiessen movingly tells how, after his wife Deborah Love died of cancer, he accompanied the naturalist George Schaller in search of the elusive leopard on the Tibetan Plateau. The book is travelogue, natural world description, and a meditation on life and death.

In his honor I am reprinting a post I wrote after visiting a site with 10,000 Buddhas…. – Jadi

Pam on the path

My sister Pam and her family lived in the New Territories. This part of China is on the mainland north of Hong Kong. While Hong Kong is the most densely and vertically populated city on the planet, the New Territories were still relatively quiet. The landscape consists of steep, lush jungle peaks that end in bays and inlets.

Hong Kong Island
The vertical density of Hong Kong
The view from my sister's apartment in China's New Territories
The view from their apartment near Sai Kung

The region is growing, and changing fast. The bus from the apartment passes villages on hillsides or tucked into hamlets and harbors. Floating villages of traditional houseboats are minutes away. And then the high rises suddenly appear, row after row after row.

There are lots more that look just like these
There are lots more that look just like these
It’s not far to Man Fat Tsz, the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery in Sha Tin. The monastery was founded by the devout layman Venerable Yuexi (the Chinese月溪法師; pinyin: yuè xī). Building began in 1949 as Yuexi and his disciples carried everything up from the foot of the mountain. For eighteen years they constructed the buildings – along with 12,800 Buddha statues.

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You head up through a bamboo forest where statues line both sides of the path to the monastery.

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There are roughly 500 Arhan [1] statues in plastic, painted gold. Each one is unique.

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Their expressions represent the experience of enlightenment. Other statues await once you reach the summit. I felt like I was in a tacky Buddhist Disneyland.

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So did you hear the one where the Buddhist monk, the Catholic priest, and the Jewish rabbi enter a temple…

 

Then I got to the top and entered the main temple. Before the altar is a glass case; it contains Venerable Yuexi’s preserved body! His body (still perfectly intact) was exhumed eight months after his April 24, 1965 death. Yuexi was next embalmed with Chinese lacquer, his head and face covered in gold leaf. [2] The Diamond Indestructible Body of Yuexi’s robed corpse sits in the lotus position. I was oddly moved by his preserved body: with the sight, I had a glimpse of religious truth.

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That feeling became surreal as we headed back to the bus stop.

This pagoda appears on the HK$100 banknote
This pagoda appeared on Hong Kong’s $100 banknotes

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We climbed down a different set of steps past my least favorite creatures: wild monkeys.

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And from the meditative hillside of Ten Thousand Buddhas, we neared and then entered the shopping mall complex at Sha Tin.

Sha Tin shopping mall
Sha Tin shopping mall

As I say, the New Territories has both the traditional and the modern. They all line the same path.

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NOTES: [1] To quote Wikipedia, “…in Theravada Buddhism, an Arhat is a “perfected person” who has attained nirvana. In other Buddhist traditions the term has also been used for people far advanced along the path of Enlightenment.” [2] Taking pictures inside the temple is not allowed.

In memory of Peter Matthiessen, 22 May 1927 – 5 April 2014

Photos and Text © 2015 Jadi Campbell. Previously published as Adventures in China’s New Territories 1: Ten Thousand Buddhas. Uwe’s photos of our earlier trips to Hong Kong and mainland China and his photography may be viewed at viewpics.de.

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out

The Trail Back Out was honored as 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist for the Independent Author Network and with a Red Ribbon by the 2021 Wishing Shelf Book Awards of England. In addition, The Trail Back Out was an American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was a semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts, as well as a Finalist for Greece’s 2021 Eyelands Book Awards. Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award.

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

 

My Imaginary Friends: #12 A Man + His Snake

We based our first trip to India around getting to Hampi. It takes time to reach on India’s famously bad roads, and we’d see lots from the windows of our little tour group bus. That visit to Hampi coincided with a Nandi Purnima, an auspicious and joyous full moon holiday. Nandi is the bull who accompanies the god Shiva, and believers were adorning the statue of Nandi in front of the temple.

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The chariot of the god, a mere 50 or 60 feet high

Out on the streets the crowds grew larger and deeper. At some point I lost sight of Uwe and the others from our group.

This is the snake handler Kim and I both saw

Events became more and more chaotic, and the crowds, snake handler and gigantic chariot of the god all made their way into my third book Grounded. I let a minor character named Kim take the trip I had….

“In the middle of the road a clump of pilgrims whispered among themselves, pointing. A man crouched in the dirt. He was perhaps thirty years old, mustachioed and handsome. Thick hair brushed across the white bands smeared on his forehead. He wore a peach-orange cotton shirt and pants. The man knelt, barefoot, on all fours on a rug. A big copper pot dappled with white streaks and red dots balanced on his shoulders. A string of beads wound around the pot’s lip. A long cobra slid clockwise over the beads, flicking an orange tongue. Hands darted out from the crowd to touch the snake and drop coins into the pot.” – from my book Grounded.

What Kim experiences left a permanent indelible mark on both of us.

NOTES: © Jadi Campbell 2021. All photos © Uwe Hartmann. To see more of Uwe’s photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.

Grounded is my third novel. My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out. Books make great gifts!

Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. The Trail Back Out was honored as 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist for the Independent Author Network and with a Red Ribbon by the 2021 Wishing Shelf Book Awards of England. In addition, The Trail Back Out was an American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was a semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts, as well as a Finalist for Greece’s 2021 Eyelands Book Awards.

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