2020 Is Almost Over!

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

The brown throated sloth 2020 ANIMAL OF THE YEAR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Animal Kingdom: 39

We’re getting close to the Grand Finale. This week I give you Installment #39 of my blog thread describing what to call groups of animals … See how many you can guess. Answers listed at the bottom of the page.

  1. Ooh, Kindle’s kindle kindles cute thoughts!
  2. The field raced across the field.
  3. The crowd crowded the bulrushes.
  4. The flotilla followed the flotilla.
  5. But of course a stripe has stripes.
  6. You might need a toke to imagine a tok.
Red-winged Blackbird Breeding male (Red-winged)
Red-winged Blackbird Breeding male (Red-winged) https://macaulaylibrary.org/photo
  1. Kindle of kittens
  2. Field of racehorses
  3. Crowd of redwings
  4. Flotilla of swordfish
  5. Stripe of zebras [1]
  6. Tok of capercaillies [2]

NOTES: [1] Zebras status: Vulnerable. [2] The group of Old World grouse or tok makes a great track! “Their toe rows of small, elongated horn tacks provide a snowshoe effect…These so-called “courting tacks” make a clear track in the snow. The sexes can be distinguished very easily by the size of their footprints.” Wikipedia And even better, the capercaillie population is listed as Least concern.

Text © Jadi Campbell 2020. Photo redwinged blackbird courtesy All About Birds  © Phil Kahler. To see 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.

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

 

My Imaginary Friends: #1. Strangers on a Train

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

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

The man was African-American.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He has secrets.

Gabe has a tender heart.

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

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

NOTES: © Jadi Campbell 2020.

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

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

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

 

Brideshead Revisited Revisited

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

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

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

BridesheadDVD.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

The Animal Kingdom: 38

And we have another fine offering, just in time for the Halloween Blue Moon! I give you Installment #38 of my blog thread describing what to call groups of animals … See how many you can guess. Answers listed at the bottom of the page.

  1. Once the weather turns cold, this rush rushes off.
  2. A wing on the wing casts one big shadow!
  3. A rake is hardly rakish,
  4. And a wisp isn’t wispy.
  5. But does a bellowing bellow?
  6. I doubt the flink will flink this link!
Rush member in no rush, Alsace, France
  1. Rush of migrating birds
  2. Wing of dragons
  3. Rake of colts [1]
  4. Wisp of snipe [2]
  5. Bellowing of bullfinches [3]
  6. Flink of cows [4]
Flink, Sardinia, Italy
This herd may contain a rake… northern Thailand

NOTES: [1] Everything you ever wanted to know about horses but were afraid to ask….: “In horse racing, particularly for Thoroughbreds in the United Kingdom, a colt is defined as an uncastrated male from the age of 2 up to and including the age of 4.” Wild 1 to 2-year colts are driven from their herds by the herd stallion. Once driven out, they usually form a bachelor herd. “They stay with this band until they are mature enough to form their own herd of mares.” A foal is a horse of either sex less than 1 year old. A yearling is either sex, aged 1-2. A filly is a young female horse. A mare is an adult female horse. A stallion is an uncastrated adult male horse. A gelding is a castrated male. A rig or ridgling is an incompletely castrated male horse. Wikipedia.org [2] A snipe is a slender-billed bird from the sandpiper family. [3] The name bullfinch comes from its stocky shape and thick neck. [4] Flink refers to 12 cows or more. And, according to the Urban Dictionary, to flink is the act of forwarding a web link or address to someone electronically.

 © 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.

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

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

 

Led Zeppelin and the Funeral

We went to the funeral at the end of the summer. The deceased was an avid climber and hiker, husband, father, and grandfather. He was my husband’s boss and I liked him from the instant he introduced himself to me. He’d immediately asked how I liked living in Germany. I really like his wife, too.

We met on occasional evenings to share slide shows of each other’s travels. I vividly recall a show from their trip to Ladakh and the mountains of northern India. The perspective in his photos were taken at an  impossibly steep angle looking down from the tops of the peaks they climbed. Another image that remains with me is his photograph of a surreal parade of a string of camels, transporting salt across an African plain.

He was retired and they still had lots of plans. But he was diagnosed with ALS, and died a little over half a year later.

***

Over a hundred people came to the funeral. We were all reeling from his swift passing after the news of the diagnosis at Christmas. Due to coronavirus precautions, the family sat in the chapel and the mourners stood outside; a loudspeaker enabled all of us to follow the service. The pastor spoke of his community engagement, his occasionally blunt and acerbic honesty (I had never experienced my friend as anything other than gentle, so this insight surprised me), and his love of the world.

Bible passages were read. Tears from Heaven from Eric Clapton played during the service, and a song from a German band. Eventually it was time to follow the family members through the chapel to the gravesite. Uwe and I waited as people filed in a socially-distanced manner into the chapel.

A final song began. “There’s a lady who’s sure, all that glitters is gold….” Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven was playing. I arrived at the altar’s flowers and flickering candles. The song’s soaring music peaked as I passed the big portrait of our friend, bearded, wind-blown hair, – and a crazed genius grin on his face. I know I was both elated and teary-eyed.

if you don't know what this is...i don't know you. | Zeppelin art, Led zeppelin iv, Led zeppelin
Led Zeppelin (The Hermit) by Derek Velasquez

I had never, ever expected to hear Led Zeppelin at a funeral. That song was an absolutely glorious and fitting way to bid farewell and offer closure.

NOTES: © Jadi Campbell 2020. My German friends tell me that they’ve all been to funerals where Stairway to Heaven played. This was my first, and I’m still moved as I try to write about it.

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

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

The Animal Kingdom: 37

Something unpronounceable, northern Thailand

I give you Installment #37, yet another offering to my blog thread describing what to call groups of animals … See how many you can guess. Answers listed at the bottom of the page. Definitions on this installment are tricky!

  1. This potential volery hates voleries!
  2. The wrack wrecked my kittens’ definitions.
  3. Does the grind get its name grinding against things?
  4. Yup, whoops whoop it up….
  5. A badelynge isn’t bathing.
  6. The lodge lodged in their lodge.
Me being careful not to dislodge lodging, back trails of Cranberry Lake, Adirondacks. This remote beaver-dammed pond appears in the title story to my book The Trail Back Out
  1. Volery of birds (in an aviary) [1]
  2. Wrack of kittens [2]
  3. Grind of whales (bottle-nosed whales only)
  4. Whoop of chimpanzee
  5. Badelynge of ducks (on the ground) [3]
  6. Lodge of beavers [4]
Avoiding the volery, Oregon coast

NOTES: [1] Volery is only used for the group of birds and the aviary that encloses them when they are encaged. [2] Wrack is also used for baby rabbits. [3] Click here to hear how to pronounce badelynge…. youtube.com. Also a play on words because ‘bad’ is the German word for bath. [4] Ah, the lodge! Animate object, inanimate object and verb, all in the same sentence. The last time I was able to pull off this stunt was with whales #22  and foxes #7. © 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.

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

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

 

The Animal Kingdom: 36

Flurry at Wilhelma Zoo, Stuttgart, Germany

Hard to believe, but today I give you Installment #36 of my epic blog thread describing what to call groups of animals … See how many you can guess. Answers listed at the bottom of the page.

  1. A glide glitters as it glides.
  2. The salon took over the salon.
  3. The warren warrants another look.
  4. The flurry’s flurry reflected on the pool.
  5. A huddle has no need to huddle!
  6. The dappled dopping dipped and dived.
  1. Glide of flying fish
  2. Salon of poodles
  3.  Warren of wombats [1]
  4. Flurry of flamingos
  5. Huddle of hippos [2]
  6. Dopping of ducks (diving)
Warrenless
Diving dopping, Tokyo, Japan

NOTES: [1] With a tiny range, wombats are critically endangered. Only 200 Northern hairy-nosed wombats remain. wombatfoundation.com [2] The ‘river horse’ is endangered. worldwildlife.org © 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.

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

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

 

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