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.

The Animal Kingdom: 35

Here for your reading pleasure is Installment #35 of the ever-growing blog thread describing what to call groups of animals … See how many you can guess. Answers listed at the bottom of the page.

  1. The creep creeps, but isn’t creepy.
  2. An ugly is cute in a kind of ugly way….
  3. The consort consorted.
  4. The tribe hunted the tribe.
  5. A wobble does seem wobbly on its feet.
  6. Don’t you dare tell a buffoonery that they’re buffoons!
Grande Dame of the Buffoons, Semenoggoh Nature Reserve, Borneo
  1. Creep of tortoises [1]
  2. Ugly of walruses
  3. Consort of corgi
  4. Tribe of antelope
  5. Wobble of ostriche
  6. Buffoonery of orangutans [2]
Creep member creeping, Loro Parque, Tenerifa, Canary Islands

NOTES: [1] “All tortoises are in fact turtles—that is, they belong to the order Testudines or Chelonia, reptiles having bodies encased in a bony shell—but not all turtles are tortoises.” https://www.britannica.com/demystified/whats-the-difference-between-a-turtle-and-a-tortoise  [2] Sigh. Orangutan status: Critically Endangered www.orangutan.org.au © Jadi Campbell 2017. 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.

As of today, my first book Broken In: A Novel in Stories is 8 years old. And as of two weeks ago, my new book is finished and available for purchase! 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 on one of these links to order a copy:

The Trail Back Out: USA

The Trail Back Out: Germany

Information on Broken In: A Novel in Stories and all my books is available here:

Jadi’s Books Amazon Page: USA

Jadi’s Books Amazon Page: Germany

 

Five Things Friday from WIllow Croft

NOTES: Reblogged with kind permission from https://willowcroft.blog/

Interview with Author Jadi Campbell

Here’s this week’s “Five Things Friday” feature author, Jadi Campbell! I come up with five random questions and the author answers them. (If you’re an author and want to join in, email me at croftwillow (at) yahoo (dot) com.)

(Oh, and it’s Shark Week btw–go out and hug a shark!)

Willow: What’s your favourite snack food (and/or drink) while writing?

Jadi Campbell: There are writers who snack while they write? I forget to eat. At some point my stomach growls and I know it’s time to shove back from the computer desk and go make lunch — or dinner.

Willow: What’s your most distracting “nemesis” when you’re trying to write?

Jadi Campbell: In a word: everything. If I’m not in a writing groove, I will happily scrub the sink. I try to convince myself that when I’m not writing, look! I’m doing something useful! If I’m desperate enough to scrub a sink, imagine how enticing it is to go outside or meet my friends. PS: When I’m in a writing groove, that desire to clean the apartment mysteriously vanishes.

Willow: If you could live anywhere in the world(s) or even another planet (real life or fictional), where (and when) would it be?

Jadi Campbell: Any spot where I can write with gorgeous scenery and good food will do. I like our 1,200-year-old town in southern Germany. I have serious wanderlust, and my husband and I love to travel. The hardest part of the coronavirus is that we can’t go explore a new part of the world.

Willow: If you could choose what animal (or plant) you could be reincarnated as, what would it be, and why?

Jadi Campbell: The loon. Once you’ve heard a loon calling in the wild, that voice will inform your imagination forever.

Willow: If you woke up and you were trapped in a painting for eternity, which one would you prefer it to be?

Jadi Campbell: A smallish Picasso painting of a street haunts me. That winding alley was filled with melancholy, promise, and timelessness. I don’t remember what museum I saw it in, or even what country. I haven’t been able to find the painting in an art book, and I’m pretty sure I’ll never see it again.

Thanks again, Jadi Campbell, for joining in my “Five Things Friday” blog feature. Visit her website at http://jadicampbell.com/, and read on for more information about her and her books!

Jadi Campbell is the author of four books: Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded. The Trail Back Out, her new collection of short stories, is available for purchase on August 23, 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 on one of these links to order a copy:

The Trail Back Out: USA

The Trail Back Out: Germany

Information on all my books is available here:

Jadi’s Books Amazon Page: USA

Jadi’s Books Amazon Page: Germany

The Trail Back Out is Available for Preorder!

It’s finally done: my first book in 4 years!

From tales of Eddie, high on LSD and trapped by “What Died in the Fridge” or a compulsive gambler hiding during a Category Five storm in “Better Weather”, to the luminous title story of two strangers meeting by chance in the backwoods during a pandemic, I wanted to describe the pain and humor of being alive. Included in this collection are “Rules to Live By”, a funny and deeply thoughtful story about what we choose to teach our children. I wonder about our responsibility to others as a hunter is shot and left for dead in “The Green Under the Snow”. In “Do Dreams Float?” a wife considers a hit-man’s offer of revenge. And the eternal search for happiness is carried out by a gloomy little girl nicknamed ‘Princess Rain Clouds’.

I finished these tales during the coronavirus lockdown. These are descriptions of everyday life in strange times. Whether during the upheaval of the last century or the present COVID-19 crisis, The Trail Back Out will guide you through a labyrinth of questions about how to live and love.

The Trail Back Out will be published as paperback and eBook for Kindle on August 23, 2020. The version for Kindle is available now for preorder. Click on one of these links to order a copy:

The Trail Back Out: USA

The Trail Back Out: Germany

Information on all my books is available here:

Jadi’s Books Amazon Page: USA

Jadi’s Books Amazon Page: Germany

I wish you all a safe and healthy autumn.

Happy reading,

Jadi

How I Spent My Summer Lockdown

Being a writer almost always means feeling guilty about carving out time alone with a blank page of paper or a white computer screen. At the same time, being a writer means almost always feeling guilty for not creating time dedicated to empty paper/laptop.

And the corona virus crisis hit, and in March we went into lockdown….

I finally filled our balcony with planter boxes of flowers and herbs. We have more bees and pollinators than I’ve seen in years. Nature is loving this “Stop everything” business! And I got down to serious construction of Book #4, a collection of short stories.

This was lockdown, so it’s not like I could go anywhere else, right? Wasn’t the Universe handing me exactly the time and space I needed to write my next book? I took my pages or laptop out the balcony and went to work.

I don’t know about you other writers out there, but the Muse makes me toil for months on end before she grants me an audience. I write every day, drudge work, one word after the next for my daily quota. Trust me: this is not inspired writing. It’s showing up and doing the job. I spent a few months planting my ass in front of my computer or my pages to revise, thinking, “What the hell ever made me think this will be any good?”

I stayed committed to the writing, because past experience has taught me that it eventually (seldom right away, but, always, always, eventually) gets rewarded.

And one morning I was eager to get back to it. Half a day passed before I noticed how much time had gone by. I began to dream plot twists. The writing stopped being drudgery and even contained occasional flashes of inspiration.

Now, half a year later, I’m getting ready to publish. This is my corona virus book; I could even title it, How I Spent My Summer Lockdown.

I’m going to title it something else. I’ll keep you posted on when the new ten stories are ready to meet the world.

NOTES: Text and  Photos © Jadi Campbell 2020. To see Uwe’s  photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.

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

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

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

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

Meet the Author: Jadi Campbell

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

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

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

My Schizoid Loop

King Crimson is infamous for a song named 21st Century Schizoid Man.

Cat’s foot iron claw
Neurosurgeons scream for more
At paranoia’s poison door
Twenty first century schizoid man

Blood rack, barbed wire
Politicians’ funeral pyre
Innocents raped with napalm fire
Twenty first century schizoid man

Death seed blind man’s greed
Poets starving, children bleed
Nothing he’s got he really needs
Twenty first century schizoid man

Songwriters: Robert Fripp/Michael Rex Giles/Greg Lake/Ian Mcdonald/ Peter John Sinfield. 21st Century Schizoid Man (2004 original master edition) lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

That’s the opening soundtrack to days that are hard in lockdown. I’m fine most of the time. The sky is a blue I cannot remember ever seeing. Less pollution and few cars on the roads mean more and louder birds than before.

And I go for walks, and practice self-care. I love to cook, so that’s more than all right. I can take my time with elaborate recipes. Great way to channel my restlessness. Uwe and I live together in lockdown harmoniously most of the time.

Last night’s quiche

Some days, though,  I exist in a schizoid loop. I’m trapped in repeating cycles of WTF WTF WTF? Every couple of days I feel this: boom. I understand how we got to where we are right now. We’ve been pushing the envelope for decades. Why did we think we’d be exempt? Boom! But hard as I try, I cannot grasp how swiftly our world changed once that final roll of the cosmic dice was set in play.

We’ve been taken down by a virus, something you can’t even see without a microscope.

BOOM!

And fuck doing yoga, and meditating, and the crap version that’s all I can remember of the tai chi I learned from a Chinese man in my San Francisco neighborhood 40 years ago. What’s happening now overwhelms me. Forget trying to understand the point of view that claims we just need to get back to business as usual. That bullshit is literally killing us.

I gather myself back into a little ball and slowly unwind my cramped limbs and psyche. Writing helps more than anything. My first collection of short stories is taking shape as I try to deal with what’s happening.

I have friends with health issues who  live in  deadly serious lockdown. A few weeks into the self-quarantine the radio station I listen to played It’s All Too Much, a song from the Yellow Submarine album.  I’ve always loved this song! The Beatles were a big part of life’s soundtrack for my entire family, including my parents when they were alive.

My friend and her husband are Beatles fans too, and they turned me onto Radio Paradise in the first place. I was all smiles that morning, such fond associations and sweet memories all around. I thought, Hey, I’m gonna call her, and she answered her cell phone with a really cheery “Hi there!”

I lost it. I burst into tears and couldn’t stop crying. She hung on and waited for me to be able to speak, because that’s what friends do, and at some point my  crying jag stopped just as abruptly as it began. “That was not my plan when I dialed your number!” I said. “That’s the first time this has happened to me since this crisis began. I have a feeling it won’t be the last.”

And we had a really good laugh. I’m learning how to be less careful with my emotional balance, I figure if I need to weep then bring it on, because on some days crying is the single response that even approaches appropriate. I haven’t broken down since, but when I’m out for a walk and I see a family with little children in the distance, I feel those tears. Or when I hear from people I know in my present life, or from my past. Or anywhere else on the globe.

WTF WTF WTF?? I’m a hot mess, and that’s as it should be. If I find myself crying again, I’ll be in good company.

When I look into your eyes, your love is there for me
And the more I go inside, the more there is to see

It’s all too much for me to take
The love that’s shining all around you
Everywhere, it’s what you make
For us to take, it’s all too much

Songwriter: George Harrison. It’s All Too Much lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

Stay safe everyone. Stay healthy.

NOTES: © Text Jadi Campbell 2020.  © Photos Uwe Hartmann 2020. To see Uwe’s photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de. Source: LyricFind

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

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

My Interview With Shaz’s Book Blog

Hear ye, hear ye, I was interviewed. Read it here. Shaz’s Book Blog. Sharon describes herself as a bookaholic and she asks great questions! This is a very cool blog.

I worked on the answers in Costa Rica and sent them to her as soon as we got home, and I can’t grasp what that sentence even means now.

Stay safe everyone. Stay healthy.

NOTES: © Jadi Campbell 2020. A To see Uwe’s animal photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.

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

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

Hit and Run – 12

“Don’t put the lies on me!” Margaret began, but Lou refused to let her interrupt him now that he was finally describing the truth.

“Oh, come on. Admit it, Margaret. Thinking I had some tragic event in my past, or wait, even better, a tragic flaw somewhere in my own genes that a dead twin inherited and lived out to the bitter tragic end, rather than me – thinking those things made you look at me twice. Three times. But when you get down to it, the human condition is the same for everybody. We’re all either hit and run victims or slowly dying of chronic mortality.

“After the first story it just got harder and harder to tell the truth. I was going to cop to it, the very next time we met for a date, but you were so insistent on hearing about Joey. Suddenly you were interested in him, and really by extension, in me. The tragic survivor who’d lost the identical twin he was nothing like but boy were they close.”

“The factoids about twins and genetics?”

“Googled,” he admitted. “But the postcards are real. I did actually collect them in the dreams of making a Grand Tour.”

“You, not Joey,” she spat the words.

“Me, Joey, it’s the same thing, you mean you still don’t get it? Whatever you want to name Joey’s hopes and dreams: if I made them up, I realized something over the course of doing that. They’re all mine. My dreams, my hopes, my wishes for a life I didn’t have. You helped me see what I really wanted to be, but never had the courage to go after. Margaret, I changed my life because of you and because of Joey both! I even planned on buying us tickets for a Europe trip, the one I told you Joey always planned to go on, but more importantly the one I might have liked, too!

“Fuck me,” he cursed violently. “I’ve gone along being so content to be safe in a normal, middle class life. I like this life. I want a decent paying, steady job, and a partner to love. The house with the white picket fence. A shaggy dog, and the tire swing for the kids strung up in the back yard. All of it.

“I want all those things,” Lou repeated. “But thinking about Joey made me think about all the other things that might be out there, too.”

“He doesn’t even exist!” Margaret shrieked. “He’s a figment of your imagination! Worse, he’s based on a stuffed elephant.” She stuffed her keys back into her coat pocket and grabbed her purse. “I’m going to Ginny’s. Pack your things while I’m gone. I don’t think I want to talk to you or see you for a while.” Margaret made a wide circle around the part of the room where Lou stood, and the door clicked shut.

Lou crouched, picking up the fallen postcards on the floor. Carefully Lou collected the images. What he’d told her was true. In the course of constructing a more and more elaborate lie about an identical twin, who died, Lou had listed all of the qualities and personality traits he secretly wished were his. Oh, not the tragic genetic defects, of course; but even those had become precious. They had set his imaginary doppelgänger apart and made him special.

In the embroidering of their story, his and Joey’s, Lou had slowly inhabited that figure. At first he’d worried about convincing Margaret, afraid the deception would be noted. But she fell in love with him as the surviving, desolate half. Little by little, Lou did more than imagine himself in the role. Lou dug around in the dirt of his nonexistent twin’s grave. Out of the Petrie dish of that humus he rewrote his DNA code, twisting the strands anew.

What would you be if you could be anything? If you could rebuild your past, your family, the developmental arc of your genetic arrangement, what would it look like? Lou had dived into the conundrum and slowly constructed a human being who was still himself, boring, dull, predictable, good enough but not spectacular; and yet, so much more than the sum of his parts.

Lou retrieved the last postcard from underneath the coffee table. Lost in thought and regret, Lou shuffled them together and dropped them in a pile. God and Adam looked up at him, hands stretching out to meet.

NOTES: ©Jadi Campbell 2012. “Hit and Run” is the first chapter of my book Broken In: A Novel in Stories.  This story will run all month. Broken In and my other novels are available at Amazon as paperbacks and eBooks.

Click here for my author page to purchase my books.