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.
The Trail Back Out was named 2021 IAN Book of the Year Finalist (Short Story Collection) by the Independent Author Network. As if that wasn’t enough, I cannot believe I get to write this: a week later I was listed for another award! My first book Broken In: A Novel in Stories is now a finalist for Greece’s international 2021 Eyelands Book of the Year Award (Short Stories). Two awards in one week, I am in the kind of time continuum writers dream of! I keep crying with joy and laughing in disbelief. I’m I shock!
Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award.
Along with being named 2021 IAN Book of the Year Finalist, The Trail Back Out was named a 2020 Best Book Award Finalist in Fiction: Anthologies for the American Book Fest. And, in addition, the title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award.
Broken In: A Novel in Stories was also a semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts.
Click here for my author page to learn more and purchase my books.
Here is what readers will find: The chapters are casual but carefully arranged spokes, radiating out from a rainy evening. At first glance it’s the story of an accident near JJ’s Bistro involving a drunk driver and some parked cars. With each chapter, the picture grows more complex. Each character faces the challenge of being broken in, one way or another…. Gabe is the mixed-race bartender with a sore heart. Lisa is about to confront the hyper-sexual reality of Bangkok. Rob died, because ambulance and police were all racing to the scene. A burglar schemes to steal Jeff’s sanity. A star chef knows it’s her fault that a man is dead. Jeremy should tell his wife he has an incurable disease. Sally mourns her missing children. What seemed so clear cut (a rainy night, bistro patrons, an accident) is an event with layers, and consequences, and after-effects. The circles will go on rippling long after the reader finishes the book.
I am honored, awed, and humbled that my short story anthology just received its third distinction. I was notified that The Trail Back Out was selected as a Finalist for the 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award (Short Story Collection) by the Independent Author Network. Go to this link for the finalists and winners:
The Trail Back Out was also named a 2020 Best Book Award Finalist in Fiction: Anthologies for the American Book Fest. In addition, the title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award.
I’ve been going for long walks on the trails in the woods and orchards here, trying to absorb the news. The Trail Back Out is available for purchase and download.
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 Broken In just received a seconddistinction, which will get its own post!
Click here for my author page to learn more and purchase my books.
Here is what readers can expect: From tales of Eddie, high on LSD and trapped by “What Died in the Fridge”, and 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, the stories 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. The author examines our responsibility to others when 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”. In ten stories, Campbell paints vivid 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 guides the reader through a labyrinth of questions about how to live and love.
When I was a kid, we spent every summer in the woods. On the day school let out, either early in the afternoon before lunch time, or ten to fifteen minutes before the end of the school day, a scratchy announcement came over the school’s intercom. “Will Jadi, Pam and Barbara Campbell please collect their things and come down to the Principal’s Office?”
All the other kids watched us with round-eyed excitement. “You and your sisters got called the Principal’s Office, what’d you do, you guys must be in biiig trouble!” they chanted.
My parents would be standing at the front doors to the elementary school, chatting with the principal or his secretary. Out in the street the VW bus waited, packed to the gills. If that microbus was a fish, it would have been a stuffed bass.
Tiger the cat lay on the front dashboard. We got a dog a few years later and the family dog and cat accompanied us everywhere.
Once the kids had been collected, my parents drove to the camp we called home from that last day of school until the week before school started again.
My father was a research entomologist. He and his Forest Service crew set traps in the woods to see what might be eating gypsy moths. Each year those traps yielded a flying squirrel (one glorious year, two of them). Dad brought them back to the cabin where we’d set up a cage for the creature we inevitably named Rocky.
The campsite we returned to every June had a screened-in porch that filled the side of the building looking at the lake. We put Rocky’s big cage there, built him a nest up by the warmth of the bricks of the back of the fireplace, and let him out each night when he woke up.
Watching Rocky fly through the air of that porch was better than any t.v. show.
Years later, I wrote about a little girl visiting her cousins. They always have critters, and she meets a flying squirrel for the first time. His name, of course, is Rocky. – Jadi
Hannah and her brother clustered with their cousins in the cabin’s screened-in porch. “What’d you catch this summer?” she asked.
Dom was carefully lifting a cardboard box out of a wide mesh wire cage. “A flying squirrel! We named him Rocky. Right now, he’s sleeping. Flying squirrels are nocturnal. That means they wake and get active at night.” Dom pointed at the wall. “Rocky likes to fly around the porch. We helped Dad build a home for him!”
Hannah saw that Uncle Aaron, with the help of the children, had erected platforms around the backside of the fireplace.
“And he really flies?”
“No, Princess,” Dawn answered. “Rocky has webs of skin between his legs and torso. They spread when he leaps to give him flight conductivity.” Like all the Schroyers, Dawn’s speech became pedantic when she got the chance to explain something. But Hannah wasn’t listening. Exclaiming, she crowded close as Dom gently lifted a tiny furry body out of the box and handed the creature to Ryan. Large black eyes looked at her.
“He kind of looks like a chipmunk. Can I hold him next?” Hannah put out a hand.
Ryan shook his head. “Mom says, never disturb him during the daytime. But we wanted to show you him. Tonight when he’s active we’ll let him out of the cage for a while. When Rocky gets used to you, he’ll eat out of your hands!”
“What else have you got?”
“Alive or dead?”
Hannah looked at Dom in horror.
“She means animals that are living, as in, breathing,” Jake prompted.
“You remember the ranger camp on the north end of the lake?” Dom asked. “Dad knows the head ranger. He brought us Rocky. Remember how last year they brought us a flicker with a broken wing?”
“So, this year we have Rocky, one diamond back turtle, and three frogs,” Dawn listed proudly. “We had a garter snake, but Mom made me let it go already. We put all the others in the fish cage out by the dock for the summer; we’ll let them go later. We have to keep Bello away from the frogs, though! That dumb dog thinks he can eat them!”
Hannah listened, tasting a familiar sour jealousy. Her father was allergic to cats. And dogs. And anything with feathers. They had talked Fred into a tank of guppies one Christmas, and before Easter the fish had floated belly up, covered in lurid, fuzzy moss. That was her family’s single venture into pet ownership. – from my short story Princess Rain Clouds in The Trail Back Out
I create back stories for every single one of my characters, even the most minor figures.
Fred Podolski was a thumbnail sketch of a character in my novel Tsunami Cowboys. All we know is that someone dreams about him driving a truck in pea soup fog in the early morning hours. Fred causes an eleven car pile up.
Fred Podolski. What did Ronnie know about him, anyway? He was related to Gus, the owner of her favorite downtown café. When she went in at lunch for a bowl of soup, sometimes Fred sat at the front counter chatting with his brother or sister-in-law.
Fred had a solid build and a ruined back. He always had on driving gloves, his sensitive long fingers poking through the soft leather. That was the extent of their connection, or so she’d thought. The dream informed her otherwise, letting her know that karmic threads attached them. Those threads had twitched mightily in the gray hour just before dawn. …. She went back one last time over the dream’s images. Ronnie re-viewed a freeze frame of giraffes and lions, the crates of animals dumb and placid, upside down in cardboard boxes. Fred would be on a ‘crackers and cookies’ run. He’d bash into a blue Subaru head on. – from the chapter Precognitious
Six years later I wrote a book of short stories titled The Trail Back Out. I returned to Fred and his life in Princess Rain Clouds. What happens if you’re a man whose job entails that you’re on the road most of the time? What if you have kids, and a wife with a family who doesn’t like you very much and doesn’t hide that fact? – Jadi
Late that afternoon, before the sun sank, the fathers and kids erected tents. Jake and his father tamped tent stakes into the root beds of thick grass while Hannah watched. Fred’s handsome face was red and the skin around his eyes was tight. He flexed his fingers. He disliked using his hands for anything but driving, and even then he always wore driving gloves.
Fred wrestled with the tent in frustration.
“Need some help there, Fred?”
“Christ, Aaron, don’t you ever mow this place?”
“Nope. It’s lakefront property to a cabin in the woods, Fred, not a lawn in the suburbs,” Aaron answered mildly. He was preoccupied with the Weber grill, prepping it for the meats to come. And he pushed rocks into place for the fire pit, making their circle bigger. “Somewhere you’d rather be?”
“Honestly? I swear to God, Aaron, if I wanted to erect a tent, I would have moved to Maine and bought stock in goddamn L.L. Bean.”
“Hey!” exclaimed Jake. “Dad! Did you get a new tattoo?”
“I want to see it too!” Hannah moved closer and her father rolled up his shirtsleeve to show them the red Celtic knot on his right forearm.
Uncle Don scrutinized it. “Nice,” he commented. “But, a Celtic design? Sure and begorrah, it’s the Clan Podolski out of Ireland’s Glenballyemon.”
Hannah giggled. “You talk funny, Uncle Don!” – from the short story Princess Rain Clouds in The Trail Back Out
As promised, here is an excerpt from my story The Trail Back Out. This tale was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award. The entire collection The Trail Back Out was named an American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Awards Finalist in the category Fiction: Anthologies.
Each evening, while twilight shadows lengthened, Ken sat and stared into the fire. What a shame it had taken what felt like the end of the world for him to return to the Adirondacks.
Ken had been working on the oil fracking fields and living in a container. The evenings consisted of lengthy monologues from men alternately bored, or angry, or scared, arguing over every subject with a captive audience.
Why aren’t there any solitary quarters, he’d thought more than once. When a new wave of the mutated virus arrived, the corporation went into lockdown. All workers would quarantine with them or leave.
Ken looked around and couldn’t imagine sharing a room with any of the men for an extended period. He stopped at the head office to quit and collected his back pay. Ken gathered his things (simultaneously relieved and strangely distressed that they made a small bundle) and drove away.
He traveled cross country, always heading east, not yet quite sure where he was going. In some places he took temporary work; no matter where he stayed, in his free hours Ken helped register people to vote. Outside Kansas City he bought camping gear and stocked the trunk of his car with canned goods and nonperishables.
His internal compass pointed its needle at his personal true north. When he pulled into Cranberry Lake township in upstate New York months later, Ken’s eyes burned. He passed signs that stated simply, Forever wild. Ken had arrived in one of the loneliest places that an already solitary human being could go in an increasingly lonely world. He was glad; it beat being in a ghost town.
Wet winds gusted, but he was sheltered. He scratched his face and watched the flames. “Scritchy,” Grace used to tease. She’d rub her cheeks hard against his bristles. He was the picture of the backwoods loner: a misanthrope in layers of clothes that all smelled like campfire smoke and dried sweat, his tee shirt faded, the wool jacket stiff with dry mud and the smell of damp lanolin.
The perfect cliché. Shaggy hair, overweight, six feet two inches tall when he bothered to stand erect and wasn’t slouching so as not to intimidate other people.
No one to intimidate here. Ken had seen fewer and fewer people as the summer ended. In the last week he’d passed a total of two single hikers, a family, and a couple. Everyone had raised their hands in greeting and headed down the trail to the next pond or on their way back out.
On the day before, he had shared the wet trail for a few minutes with a female park ranger. He imagined how he’d looked: muddy boots, soaked hiking pants, brushing the rain out of his eyes.
He could picture himself, and suddenly Ken did. Across the fire a man stood in the shadows, with rain streaming off a poncho and dripping around his feet.
“Sorry to break into your privacy like this,” the stranger said. “You were lost in thought. According to my map this was the nearest lean-to. I’ll keep going; it’s not dark yet.”
Two strangers meet in the woods. Children wear masks. A gambler hides in the cellar during a Category Five hurricane. A wife considers a hit-man’s offer. Princess Rain Clouds searches for happiness. An entire village flees, a life is saved, and a tourist in Venice is melting. Everyone keeps trying to make sense of strange events far in the past or about to occur. Let these characters be your guides. Join them on the trail back out – to a familiar world, now unexpectedly changed.
Click here for my author page to learn more and buy my books.
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.
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!
Starting NOVEMBER 13th AT 8PM! The Writers in Stuttgart’s live-streamed reading is back up on youtube, through the week! If you missed hearing us read in October, this is your chance. I read from my new book at about the one-hour mark in the program.
The Writers in Stuttgart are giving our first youtube (live streaming) online reading on Friday, October 23rd at 8pm (Friday at 2 pm EST). We normally give readings 3 – 4 times a year in theaters here in Stuttgart. During these strange days we’ve been holding our monthly meetings on Zoom and decided to take a chance on a virtual reading. The upside is that people can view it anywhere in the world. If you can’t make the 8pm time, our show can be viewed for 48 hours after it takes place. A description and the link are below if you and any one you know are interested:
On 23 October, 2020 the Writers in Stuttgart are celebrating the transatlantic relationship between the USA and Germany in honor of the 25th anniversary of the DAZ (the German/American Center) in Stuttgart. In their first live stream reading, the Writers in Stuttgart will explore American, German as well as a variety of other international perspectives on national, international and intercultural identities and the German-American relationship of past, present and future. Join the Writers in Stuttgart on 23 October, 2020 at 8:00pm (2pm ET Friday in U.S.) at
Stay safe & healthy, and I hope to see you this weekend.
PS: I’ll be reading The Green Under the Snow from my new short stories collection, in the second half of the program.
The Trail Back Out is finished and available for purchase! In my new collection of short stories, two strangers meet in the woods. Children wear masks. A gambler hides in the cellar during a Category Five hurricane. A wife considers a hit-man’s offer. Princess Rain Clouds searches for happiness. An entire village flees, a life is saved, and a tourist in Venice is melting. Everyone keeps trying to make sense of strange events far in the past or about to occur. Let these characters be your guides. Join them on the trail back out – to a familiar world, now unexpectedly changed.
Click here for my author page to learn more about my books and me.