The Hermit Blogger Speaks

Again, this communique is long overdue by the rules laid down by the so-called professional bloggers dominating the blogosphere. But I’ve been busy with important facets of my life to boot daily, weekly, or barely monthly to this blog to keep anyone abreast of my art and writing “escapades.”

The book project is going well, though not on schedule. But that’s okay. I’m taking my time, developing the story, weaving and connecting the story and character threads and arcs, building the plots and their highs and lows, sanding the rough edges, and keeping my eye on the ending.

To do this my way and to keep it mine, I have to be a hermit from other writers. I don’t watch TV or movies while the final draft is in progress. I don’t read other books but my own. I don’t reach for books on writing because I don’t want to know anyone else’s rules on writing when I have those moments when I’m stuck. I need to work out the problems on my own. This is my project. I need to be selfish because it’s no one else’s name on the book when it’s done but mine.

It also means not visiting writers’ blogs, which sometimes results in missing great writing from someone who worked hard to communicate something important to other writers. But that’s how it goes. I don’t cut into my writing time by liking and following the latest good stuff. In fact, I restrict my time online to 30 minutes a day—sometimes less. That means my blog is ignored too often, and even my emails go unread for weeks.

But when the book is done…

I don’t place too big an emphasis on publishing, not like some writers I know. This year’s project will be an ebook and paperback product at Amazon. Later, it will go to other outlets. Meanwhile, I’ll catch up on some of the blogs I’ve missed and a few books I want to read. And start jotting ideas for my next project.

That’s Life

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Perhaps it’s age creeping up on me that makes me more of a grouch than the carefree, happy guy I used to be. I go to bed with aches, sleep fitfully, and wake up with more aches. I take painkillers so I can move and get to work on time. During the day, sleep takes longer to fall from me. Energy is a commodity I seek daily—it no longer sparks and burns upon my rise from bed. I stand on sore feet, walk with sore knees, and rest on a sore backside every chance I get. With age comes pain in many degrees; it’s a fact of life. Pain tests our temperament, emotions, and mentality. On a good day, I behave as well as I was taught to, holding my dignity and wearing it like polished armor on a king’s prized knight. On a bad day, I snap and flail and fall to the wayside, broken, miserable. On a bad day, I feel alone in my misery in a world full of aching souls. But in my awareness, I toast my fellow brothers and sisters and rally them to rise up, face their pain and go on. That’s life until the day we die, leaving behind others making their way along life’s journey, following in our footsteps.

Smashwords Interview

Here is my Smashwords author interview. You can click on the link https://www.smashwords.com/interview/CampbellAuthor or read it here at WordPress. I thought it would be a nice addition here.

When did you first start writing?

    Like many of us, I began writing at elementary school and continued in high school through encouragement and support from my teachers. They saw something I didn’t, so I never knew I could become a professional writer until I was at college, earning a degree in art.

Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?

    Yes. The year was 1966 and I was 9 years old. There were plenty of books, movies and TV programs about outer space, and Star Trek had just made it to the TV airwaves. My first story was about five astronauts landing on Mars and exploring the planet. There were no martians or any other life there except for the astronauts who ended up colonizing the place inside a glass city they built. I had a fascination of someday living on another planet.

What motivated you to become an indie author?

    I became an indie author when I was 13 and received a typewriter for my birthday. I wrote stories, mimeographed the pages, put them in binders (or stapled the pages if I didn’t have money), and gave my books to family and friends. (This is when I developed the characters and places I still write about.) And like I did all those years ago, I still give away my books. It’s delightful to know your work is appreciated when you see a smiling face and hear that person say “I loved your book. Do have any more?”
    I think many people don’t realize that a few centuries ago, many authors who had their own printing presses were indie authors. Those who wanted to spend more time writing, hired someone to operate the presses. And someone somewhere opened a printing shop and created the first publishing house, changing the way authors published their books.

Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?

    As I mention in my Smashwords bio, I grew up in a small town with lots of cousins who liked to tell ghost stories. I carried on the tradition when I began writing my books.

What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?

    I began marketing my ebooks with Amazon’s KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) program because they were the easiest to find. Their author page and my blog have helped customers find my books. But the most effective technique has been word-of-mouth.

How do you approach cover design?

    I’m an old-school graphic designer, so I use pencil and paper and begin with a dozen or more black and white thumbnail sketches of the story’s main theme. From there, watercolor on paper board is the easiest medium for me, so I do a mock cover in paint after I choose a final sketch. I scan the painting, work on it using Photoshop, and transfer it to Microsoft Word for the text. Then I transfer that back to Photoshop and clean things up for the final cover.

When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?

    I am always writing, it seems, even in my sleep. But when I do get away from writing and have time to relax, I enjoy watching baseball. I was an avid player in my youth, and I played softball in a men’s league for many years. I also read a lot of history, philosophy and biography books, as well as urban fantasy, and I snap wildlife photos and doodle in sketchbooks in my spare time.

How do you discover the ebooks you read?

    I’ve been a Kindle-holic since 2010, so I’m often browsing the books at Amazon. Before that, I surfed the internet looking for indie authors who published online. I recently joined Wattpad and began reading some of the many authors there. And now that I’ve discovered Smashwords, I plan to increase the number of ebooks in my online library.

What is your e-reading device of choice?

    Kindle.

What inspires you to get out of bed each day?

    The unfinished story. I have many. And it seems as soon as I finish one, I have added two more unfinished ones to my list.

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For my followers here who are members at Smashwords, check out my author page https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/CampbellAuthor.

My Pleasure Sharing

I made some changes to my blog and took down my copyright protection notice. This doesn’t mean my work isn’t copyright protected. You still cannot take my stuff without permission and get rich on it without cutting me in for a piece of the action. But I want readers and followers to know I have no problem if you copy and share my work with others. In fact, I insist you do. It has always been my pleasure sharing my work with others. That’s the reason I started this blog.

When I was a teenager and realized I was talented enough to show my art with artists who called themselves professional because their critics called them that, I knew I’d never be a “true professional” because I gave my art away instead of selling it. I still do. And that’s because I never think about making money when I draw or paint a picture. I only think about making art. So when someone likes my art, I give it to them. It makes us happy. Most people offer me money, but I always tell them payment isn’t necessary.

I enjoy giving away my works, whether art or writing. Forty-five years ago when I received a typewriter and wrote my first book on it, I mimeographed the pages, stapled them together, and gave the copies to anyone interested in reading my book. Its recipients were family and a few friends, but I developed a small fan following who were eager to read more of my stories. I felt like Sally Field receiving her Oscar and saying “I can’t deny the fact that you like me, right now, you like me.” We all have a need to belong, and that moment (knowing people liked my book) was a shining one for me.

Today, I continue giving away my art and books. It makes the recipients and me happy. My critics frown on this and say “If you give away your work, no one will take you seriously and you won’t make money!” But that statement isn’t true. The internet has made it easy for artists and writers to share their talents globally with others, and some artists and writers have made big money off this worldwide pass-along. But that’s because their work—their free work—was transferred from one interested person to another until the interest built so large that an agent said “I can make money from this” and fame and fortune followed.

Becoming rich and famous always seems to be the drumbeat for artists and writers. But I don’t draw and paint and write to those drums. I never have. I’m happy giving away my work. (And as soon as I correct mistakes made from bad advice, my books at Amazon will be free too.) It’s my pleasure … I do what I love doing. Just as it pleases me to come to this little blog and post artwork and stories free on the internet, for everyone to share.

Sunday Smiles

With February ending tomorrow, I look forward to sunnier days to end my winter blues.

I find amusing things to laugh at when Old Man Winter scares away the sun and keeps life dark and cold. Here are three favorite funny pieces I found during the winter that made me smile, chuckle, and even belly laugh.

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An odd phenomenon happens a lot at a store I work at. I call it the Retailers’ Law of Aggravation: As soon as you find a product you really like, the store will stop selling it.

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An octogenarian couple toddled into the local McDonald’s and ordered a Happy Meal. The wife carefully cut the hamburger in two and began to eat half. The husband respectfully sat and watched. The eating didn’t progress quickly, and soon the other customers near the couple’s table noticed the old man without any food, watching the woman eat. One helpful person offered to buy the man another meal. The offer was rejected with the explanation, “We share everything.” Eventually, another couple could stand it no longer and made the same offer. They received the same rejection: “No thank you, we share everything.” And so, the wife ate and the old man watched for quite a while. Finally, one bystander could no longer stand it and quizzed the man, “Why aren’t you eating? What are you waiting for?” To which the old man replied, “The teeth.”

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Many have probably seen these in a book called Disorder in the American Courts, of things people actually said in court, recorded verbatim and published by court reporters who had the torment of staying calm while these exchanges between attorneys and witnesses took place.

ATTORNEY: What is your date of birth?
WITNESS: July 18th.
ATTORNEY: What year?
WITNESS: Every year.

ATTORNEY: How old is your son, the one living with you?
WITNESS: Thirty-eight or thirty-five, I can’t remember which.
ATTORNEY: How long has he lived with you?
WITNESS: Forty-five years.

ATTORNEY: This myasthenia gravis, does it affect your memory at all?
WITNESS: Yes.
ATTORNEY: And in what ways does it affect your memory?
WITNESS: I forget.
ATTORNEY: You forget? Can you give us an example of something you forgot?

ATTORNEY: Now doctor, isn’t it true that when a person dies in his sleep, he doesn’t know about it until the next morning?
WITNESS: Did you actually pass the bar exam?

ATTORNEY: She had three children, right?
WITNESS: Yes.
ATTORNEY: How many were boys?
WITNESS: None.
ATTORNEY: Were there any girls?

ATTORNEY: How was your first marriage terminated?
WITNESS: By death.
ATTORNEY: And by whose death was it terminated?

ATTORNEY: Doctor, how many of your autopsies have you performed on dead people?
WITNESS: All my autopsies are performed on dead people.
ATTORNEY: Do you recall the time that you examined the body?
WITNESS: The autopsy started around 8:30 p.m.
ATTORNEY: And Mr. Denton was dead at the time?
WITNESS: No, he was sitting on the table wondering why I was doing an autopsy on him!

ATTORNEY: Doctor, before you performed the autopsy, did you check for a pulse?
WITNESS: No.
ATTORNEY: Did you check for blood pressure?
WITNESS: No.
ATTORNEY: Did you check for breathing?
WITNESS: No.
ATTORNEY: So, then it is possible that the patient was alive when you began the autopsy?
WITNESS: No.
ATTORNEY: How can you be so sure, Doctor?
WITNESS: Because his brain was sitting on my desk in a jar.
ATTORNEY: But could the patient have still been alive, nevertheless?
WITNESS: Yes, it is possible that he could have been alive and practicing law.

February Blues

February is a month that never excites me. It seems to be the month that dumps the most snow on the town I live in. It’s also the month of my birthday. My birthday gets less exciting every year because I have fewer people in my life to celebrate it with. It doesn’t help that many of my family and friends have moved to other locales, some of them permanently to the great mysterious we all face at the end of our life’s run.

I used to love winter. I was young and the cold didn’t bother me. Now my body hurts when winter comes. My body is telling me now that it’s time to move where it’s warmer, but not where it’s hot. I don’t like the heat. It upsets my asthma. Which is why I have to stay indoors near the AC during the summer when the humidity is high. Somewhere there’s a happy medium. I just haven’t found it yet.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not depressed. I don’t feel like I’m a failure and that the future is hopeless. I’m simply tired of being in pain every February. I know spring is right around the corner. I’m just impatient about it getting here. So, it’s probably a type of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) that generally arises when, no matter what I do, the frigid weather plays havoc with my body. I become the proverbial cranky old man when February comes around. Living with too much snow and suffering body pains from the cold means I cannot exercise like I want to. I don’t get enough sleep—a minimum of eight hours a night. And I don’t get out much to spend time with the few people left in my life who make me laugh.

Let’s face it. February is dark and miserable. No wonder Valentine’s Day is celebrated halfway through the month.

To counter February’s blues, I have long distance friends who give me great advice on how to cope. Now I watch the sunrise when I cannot see the sun. I also have picnics indoors because the snowfall outdoors is usually half my height. And I rearrange the same furniture in my living room that I rearranged in November so the Christmas tree could fit. (It’s also the best time of year to take down the indoor decorations and the tree. I sing Beach Boys songs about summer and surfing really loud while doing it.)

Pretending February hasn’t got under my skin helps me go to work every day in a better mood. Despite the pain, I can usually smile longer than a minute at a time. When I’m home during the day, I take naps without setting the alarm to wake up. I feel rested and energetic when I awaken, which makes me wish the snow was gone so I could go out and do something. And when I cannot sleep, I listen to the sounds of winter beat against the sides of my house and imagine it’s cleaning all the windows outside my home. (It isn’t, but that’s the power of pretending.)

Coping with February is a chore. But I am loosening up. I’m trying my best not to be a cranky old fuddy-duddy. After all, it can’t snow forever. Right?

Random Things About Me

Tomorrow is my birthday. I was born on the day and year Laura Ingalls Wilder died. She was 90. She was the author of the best-selling “Little House” series of children’s novels. A friend who believes in reincarnation says that her soul returned on the day I was born, which is why I became a writer. Unlike Wilder, I am a struggling author of paranormal tales set in fictional Ridgewood, Pennsylvania. If reincarnation is real, I will probably return as a snack food copywriter … or something just as boring. 😀

When I was 13, I met baseball legend Ted Williams. Our town’s boat manufacturer made a line of fishing boats that he endorsed. Whenever he came to inspect the boats, he always made time to visit with the neighborhood kids. And since I was one of those kids, I was fortunate enough to hear him talk about baseball. He gave us kids batting tips that helped me become a better hitter. I even used a Ted Williams autographed bat to hit with.

My father was a licensed disc jockey for my hometown radio station. He worked weekends and taught me enough that I became a licensed Deejay/radio announcer when I was 18. I went to Jacksonville, Florida for the horrible wintry winter of 1975–76 (it even snowed there, too) and met Ronnie Van Zant of Lynyrd Skynyrd who was with the band and promoting their album Nuthin’ Fancy for their hometown fans. According to Wikipedia, the group “originally formed in 1964 as My Backyard in Jacksonville, Florida[.] [T]he band used various names such as The Noble Five and One Percent, before coming up with Lynyrd Skynyrd in 1969.” I remember Ronnie talking about their beginnings, but it meant nothing to me then. At 18, I had the world ahead of me and I was itching to explore it.

I joined the Navy and moved to Gaeta, Italy when I was 19. The 2 years I lived there, I discovered that there are Great White Sharks in the Mediterranean Sea. Luckily, that discovery was made on land where fishermen displayed their catches. I traveled a lot while I lived in Gaeta, and I almost always traveled to places by train. But my lack of understanding Italian caused me to often board the wrong trains during my first year there. Several times after touring Naples, I boarded the wrong train and ended up in Rome. This wasn’t a big deal since I was traveling alone. But I boarded the wrong train at Rome once while traveling with a group of friends and ended up in Verona instead of Naples. It took me several months to understand the language and to board the right trains. All in all, it made traveling fun and adventurous.

Ted was the first celebrity I met; Ronnie the second. The third was actor George Peppard during a visit to Cannes, France and the French Riviera when I was 20. I’m not sure how tall he was, but he seemed to stand a foot shorter than my 6-feet 2-inches. I was surprised that he looked taller on TV, notably Banacek (1972–74), part of the NBC Mystery Movie series. (This was before The A-Team.) He told me during our meeting that the angle of the cameras made him look taller. He also shared that he was a pilot and a proud veteran of the Marine Corps. Before we parted, he told me to always strive for and do my best, no matter what I did in life. Great advice that I have never forgotten.

My favorite pastime is reading. It began with children’s books and carried over to comic books and eventually novels. My favorite comic book character was Peter Parker and his alter ego, Spider-Man. I once owned Amazing Fantasy, issue #15 of Amazing Adult Fantasy, August 1962, the first comic book that Spider-Man appeared in. My mom threw it away when she redecorated my bedroom while I was in the Navy.

As an avid reader of fantasy and horror—especially vampires (when they were still cool), I discovered the first Stephen King paperbacks when I was 19 and bought ’Salem’s Lot and Carrie. Though he wrote Carrie first, I read ’Salem’s Lot before I read Carrie. SL was and probably will always be my favorite King book, not because of the vampire in it, but because it really painted the small town atmosphere akin to my hometown.

My other favorite pastime is watching baseball games. I played the game a lot when I was a kid, and I went on to play men’s softball when I became an adult. There’s nothing more thrilling than the one-on-one competition between a pitcher and a batter. Though I saw many great pitchers over the years, the fastest pitcher I ever faced was a woman. She struck out every batter on my softball team and pitched a no-hitter game. That was the only year the league I was on allowed women teams to compete in tournaments. Too bad. Those ladies put us to shame. I hope my athletic granddaughter is reading this and will take to heart that girls can do just as well as boys … even better. It just takes work.

My hour allotted to write this blog is over, so I’ll stop reminiscing and try to figure out what I want for my birthday. My family keeps asking me. But I feel I have everything I ever wanted: To have a good and healthy life, and to have fun living it.