New Ridgewood Map

Keeping abreast of my latest changes to my Ridgewood stories, I remade the territorial map to show the addition of Russell Ridge and Myers Ridge’s move.

Russell Ridge replaces Myers Ridge as the primary location of events. If you’ve read my “A Night of Hellhounds” short story, then you’ll know that Russell Ridge butts against Alice Lake, where Vree Erickson ends up when she falls from the cliffs.

“A Night of Hellhounds” is part of the Luminary Magic series of books. Have you read the book? If so, I’d love to hear what you thought of it. Was it interesting? Exciting? Not that good? Please let me know in the comments section below. Or leave a review where you purchased the book.

Anyway, I moved Myers Ridge to the west of Russell Ridge so that it’s farther from town and more “countrified” than Russell Ridge. My character Nick Corwin (name subject to change) lives there. He’s a featured character in my soon-to-be-released Green Crystal series. This series is a rewriting of my old Ridgewood Chronicles series from long ago and published for a while at Amazon and other major book markets. How many of you own a book or more from that series featuring a possessive green crystal? If so, be ready to be blown away by the new-and-improved green crystal and the problems it causes.

If interested, you can read the old green crystal series in the Books section of this site, specifically The Green Crystal Stories, featuring Vree Erickson, published 2012–2014 section. Here’s a quick link to the Books page: < https://stevenlcampbell.wordpress.com/books/ >

Happy reading. I hope to have release dates for the first two or three Green Crystal series books by the end of February, maybe the first of March.

Peace and love!

Another Year

Another December 31st, another year is ending. Here, in my cozy corner of our big planet, I’m ready with the new calendar going up on the wall to replace the old one now marked with appointments met (and some not met).

As I write this, my mind reflects on the past. It seems as if every year goes past us in such a hurry, which suggests a poem I wrote when I was a youngster at college. It’s more of a lyric than a poem because I structured it around a tune playing in my head at the time. I often wrote poetry that way and could have been a musician if I’d have pursued it. But making art was more important at the time, so…

The poem is called A Day Song.

Our eyes are fixing on the time
On moving hands and sacred signs
And chimes that ring the end of day.

Our minds are wanting time to slow
To have it stop and never go
To celebrate the day that stays.

Our time comes ’round in furrowed lines
In yellowed books and cellar wines
And bells that ring the end of day.

Our hearts are wanting time to slow
To have it stop and never go
To celebrate an endless day.

Old lips are thirsting springtime rain
To feel alive and young again
To taste the times we loved so well.

Our eyes are sad to see time go
To watch it run and always flow
To watch it pass and never dwell.

The end of every year stirs memories of accomplishments and failures. It’s what we do, then make resolutions to do better, accomplish more. While I write this, my mind reflects on my accomplishments and failures of 2021. My biggest failure was not blogging regularly.

I continued writing and stayed serious with my writing goals this year, though I did not post anything here during January. Thus, the month is a big goose egg in my blogging score.

In February, I posted two old Louie & Bruce comic strips from 1982 and received an achievement award from WordPress for blogging with them for ten years. I posted the news and earned a 3 for my score of posts for the year.

I scored a 2 in March for posting two more old Louie & Bruce strip from 1982, and a 1 in April for posting an apple orchard painting and the poem it inspired from 2006.

A Brief Pause in an Apple Orchard
A Brief Pause in an Apple Orchard, Oil Painting

I had nothing in May, which was a busy month of writing my books, designing book covers, replacing my old laptop with a new one, and learning some new writing and art apps that I put on it.

July was a busy blogging month, which I scored a 5 for posting more writing news, as well as reposting a poem about U.S. government’s calamities and a reflection of my stomach surgery in 2020.

I scored deuces in August and again in September. The four posts were about my writing and publishing endeavors. You can see several samples of my book cover art in the September posts.

If you’re still with me, October brought 1 post on Halloween (I love Halloween and frankly, the whole month of October) and another art post in November that features both wildlife and book cover art.

Day of the Fairies e-book cover

And now—ta dah! Today’s post scores me a 4 for the month. Three of them were shameless promotions of my e-book “A Night of Hellhounds” at Amazon. During those posts, I got in a serious quandary here at home over why my spellcheckers hyphenate e-book but not email. No one I’ve talked to knows why. If you do, please leave me a comment telling me why.

So, here we are at the end of this post—number 20 and the last one of 2021. Obviously, my goal for 2022 is to post more than twenty times before December 31st comes again. Another goal is to finish more books and to stay healthy. And it’s good health I wish upon you.

Have a wonderful day and (drumroll—the old end-of-year joke is coming) I’ll see you next year.

Free Book, Final Day

Today ends the free book offer of “A Night of Hellhounds” at Amazon (unless you’re a member of its Kindle Unlimited service). The book will return to its 99-cent price after midnight (Pacific time) until it becomes eligible again for a free offer in a month or two.

Go to https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09BFLJ563 to get yours.

I would like “A Night of Hellhounds” to be permanently free (or perma-free as I’ve seen it called), but I lack the wisdom and ability to get the folks at Amazon to cooperate. Therefore, I offer perma-free books at Smashwords, in case you’re interested in sampling more of my writing. Of course, there are plenty of free books here at my blog in the aptly titled and often ignored Books section at https://stevenlcampbell.com/books/.

My Smashwords page is https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/CampbellAuthor.

Happy reading.

Free Book, Day 3 of 5

Welcome to my post today about trying to interest people in reading my books.

I’m always excited to write a book that stayed with me and kept me excited from start to finish, through the many drafts, text formatting, cover art, and sleepless nights to finally share a good story with the world.

“A Night of Hellhounds” is such a book. I hope you’ll give it a read.

It’s a 3,000-word story featuring my favorite character, teenager Verawenda “Vree” Erickson, in which she is a descendant of witches known as Luminaries. Follow this safe link https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09BFLJ563 to go to Amazon and get a copy.

Did I mention it’s free?

Happy reading, my friends, have a great Christmas Eve, and stay safe.

Free Book, Day 1 of 5

Hi friends. My short story e-book “A Night of Hellhounds” is free at Amazon today to December 26. It’s a 3,000-word story featuring my favorite character, teenager Vree Erickson. During the tale, it’s Halloween night on Russell Ridge outside the small town of Ridgewood when lightning strikes her. She survives and soon encounters magic and hellhounds. When the hellhounds chase her to the cliffs of Russell Ridge, she finds her life is in peril and she needs magic to save her. It’s quite exciting and gives me goosebumps telling you about it.

The book is the first of the Luminary Magic series and does not end at a cliffhanger. I’m a bit put off with books that end that way. Books in serials end with cliffhangers; series do not. Authors need to specify that distinction to the buying public at their product pages. (I’ll get off my soapbox now.)

In the Luminary Magic series, Vree discovers that she is a descendant of witches known as Luminaries. That’s all I’m going to say about that until I publish the rest of the books in the series.

Follow this link https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09BFLJ563 to get a copy of “A Night of Hellhounds” … or two … or more!

By the way, I have free books at Smashwords too. A favorite is Old Bones: A Collection of Short Stories. Lots of magic and fantasy there. Follow the link https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/624675 to get yours.

Happy reading, my friends, and stay safe.

Getting It Right

I’m a perfectionist, whether I’m writing, creating art, learning how to consistently bat over .300 when playing softball, or being an all-around descent person. I’ve been this way all my adult life, and it was the force behind my determination to be an excellent wildlife artist waaaaaaaaay back in the 1980s. I began painting whitetail deer in the hopes of becoming a magazine and book illustrator, but my deer looked cartoonish (I was a cartoonist at the time!), so I painted hundreds of deer from 1983 to 1987 just to get it right.

Gouache on paper, 1985
Watercolor and acrylic on board, 1987

I’m a perfectionist with my books too, which is why I pulled my Green Crystal series from their Amazon home in 2015. Sometimes an author (and artist) has to say “Good enough” and get on with the next project. But sometimes that decision isn’t “Good enough” after all.

I’ve spent plenty time posting why the Green Crystal books weren’t good enough to stay in circulation, so I won’t repeat all that here. Let me summarize, however, that I’m pleased with what going back to the drawing board with them two years ago and starting anew has brought to light.

Although the first five books of the 8-book series are short stories, I spent a lot of time and TLC on character development that elevated their personalities and made me an acting child psychologist of sorts since my characters are 14 years old. And since they’re part of the overpopulated YA book department, they need to stand up well against their contemporaries.

If all goes as planned, I’ll have the first three books of my Green Crystal series available at the end of the year. I tweaked their covers again, so I’m sharing the art of the first two books—number three is still in progress.

Night of the Hell Hounds ebook cover
Day of the Fairies ebook cover

If I miss the mark on the release date, it’s only because the perfectionist in me found a good reason to hold up the publication. And that reason will be: to get it right.

ASIN: B00B1UOE7S Cover Reveal

I’m putting the finishing touches on the second e-book of the Green Crystal fantasy series, which stars Nick Andrews, a 12-year-old boy whom I featured in my previous post. The book, “Day of the Fairies,” is another short story, and it replaces the following books that I published at Amazon from 2013 to 2016:

Trespassing: The Ridgewood Chronicles, Book 2

and Trespassing: A Vree Erickson Novel

The novel moved to another series of books. (More about that in a future post.) As for the new book, I’m aiming for a Halloween release, so stay tuned for more info.

So, before I run off to put on my editor’s cap, here’s the new cover:

Day of the Fairies: A Ridgewood Chronicles Short Story

Okay, time for me to run. Peace, love, and good health, everyone!

ASIN: B00AY2K1H6

In January of 2013, I published an e-book short story at Amazon about a teenage boy who joins up with his friends and sits around a campfire and tells ghost stories. All goes well until hell hounds break up their party and chase the boy off the edge of a cliff. Spoiler: He lives.

The e-book was based on a short story I wrote in my ninth grade Creative Writing class about a teenage girl who camps on a ridge with her friends overnight and sees ghost dogs prowling the countryside.

The story went through several drafts because my English teacher wanted me to consider different points of view and gender relationships. We also studied various dramatic elements, which resulted in the girl dying and returning as a ghost in one version. In another version, a witch saves her from falling off a cliff and they become friends. I finished the course with a dozen drafts of a story that had begun with a girl and some ghost dogs and ended with a boy and some hell hounds.

”Hell hounds” became condensed to “hellhounds” during a rewrite for the 2013 Amazon book and I was happy with the plot and character results. I published more short stories that year and made them a series called “The Ridgewood Chronicles.” Then I took a long sabbatical during 2014 to plan and write a novel.

Self-publishing wasn’t new to me — I’d published several of my stories via desktop publishing, and I’d been making them available in PDF format at my website since the early 1990s. Whenever I made changes to my stories, I republished them as a new edition. But I went a step further with Amazon’s Kindle publishing program: I replaced my short story with the novel with the same title.

Hindsight is 20/20 and I learned that I should have published the novel as a separate book with a different title. But there was no manual at Amazon telling me about the ensuing difficulties of my readers getting the old book replaced by the new one on their Kindle readers. The same applied to when I changed the cover art in 2015. Past purchases stayed unchanged.

So, old readers had my short story and new readers had my novel. When people talked about Night of the Hellhounds, I didn’t know which story they referred to — the short or the long. It was confusing. So, in 2016, I changed the novel’s title to end the confusion. Or so I though, haha. I was wrong.

The book almost became Cursed. Hindsight: I wished I’d not changed my mind. Instead, I titled it Margga’s Curse — a name difficult to pronounce correctly. Margga is pronounced marj-GAH.

Margga’s Curse ran for a year before I took all my books off Amazon’s market. (It’s still available for free at Smashwords, ISBN: 9781311627582, but I plan to take it off that market next year.)

Some people who have the old Kindle versions of this book may hate me when I say this, but I’m publishing a new version of ASIN: B00AY2K1H6 — all brand-new, though it will have its old and original title: “Night of the Hell Hounds” — later this year. It’s a 3,800-word Halloween short story about 12-year-old Nick Andrews who loses his big brother to war. After the funeral, he discovers that his brother had access to magic via a computer program and a green crystal pendant that can send the wearer of the pendant to another dimension of reality. He ends up at a cemetery in Ridgewood where someone has stolen the sacred bones of its protector dogs and turned them into vicious hell hounds. He meets three others trapped with him inside the cemetery. One of those people is Vree Erickson, but she’s a minor character. This is Nick’s story and it’s the first book of the Green Crystal series, even though it’s listed as a Ridgewood Chronicles short story in the subtitle.

Because of Nick’s age and the story’s subject matter, Amazon will likely shove this in its Young Adult Fantasy section. I don’t write to an audience, so I didn’t write this to be a kid’s book. Though I don’t use profanity or explore sexual matter (a reflection of my childhood), I do explore dealing with death and the pain of loss that comes with it, the good and bad of escapism, and the desires of wanting to belong to friendships, wanting to be loved, and wanting to be happy in life.

I’m planning a Halloween release. Stay tuned for more info.

Peace and love!

Free Book Offer

My short story e-book “A Night of Hellhounds” is free at Amazon until midnight Pacific time. (Click this link.) It’s a fantasy tale because I enjoy writing fantasy stories. It’s at the top of my list of favorite things to do. Writing fantasy has been a passion for many years because it involves world building. I can get engaged in the creative development until the worlds appear in my dreams. The same is true about my characters. I have even dreamed new ones into my stories.

Over the years, people have asked me about my process of writing a story. I answer with: “I get an idea for a story, it festers in my mind with all sorts of situations, I dwell on my favorites and begin scheming a plot with a look on my face equal to the Grinch ready to steal Christmas from Whoville, and then start writing.” That’s it. No magic. Just an idea that I put into words that become a story.

In all its simplicity, I structure my stories no different than most other writers. I divide my stories into four parts as Act 1, Act 2 first half, Act 2 second half, and Act 3. Each story has a beginning event, an ending event, and a series of high and low events in between the two. Writing those in-between events is the adventure I enjoy the most, though staying on track to reach a good ending can add difficulty to the process. An ending should come naturally—a final piece to the story puzzle that fits nicely with the rest of the pieces, giving us an aesthetic composite. Some writers call this a “perfect ending” and stress over getting it “right.” Writing a “perfect ending” is not something I let ruin the joy I get from writing, though I do take it more seriously than the other parts of story writing.

All story writing involves getting the words written, editing them, and revising the parts until they work together as a whole. I love marrying those parts into a finished story. And I like calling the process a marriage instead of that old military standby: polishing. Polishing is some drill sergeant’s way of saying, “Write, write, write, every day, over and over ad nauseum until you can do it blindfolded, standing on your head.” I don’t do that. And I don’t “polish” my stories as if they were a pair of leather dress shoes. But I do write several drafts—sometimes as many as 10 or more—marrying my story elements into an enjoyable read.

Of course, not only am I marrying the elements to each other, I’m marrying me to the story. I do the same when I read stories by other writers and find I can’t put the stories down until I reach the end. There are others like me—we call ourselves “book lovers” and “author fans.” We love libraries and bookstores, and we collect our favorite stories and hold our favorite writers in high regard. And we dream of someday being a favorite writer to other writers, book lovers, and author fans.

If you read my stories, drop me a line. Tell me what you like and don’t like about my stories. I’d love hearing from you.

My Return To KDP

After a lengthy absence from Amazon’s publishing outfit Kindle Direct Publishing, I took the first Vree Erickson short story “A Night of Hellhounds” from mothballs and made it available again at Amazon.com as a new ebook.

The ebook is 3,000 words and approximately 16 pages long. It is priced at 0.99 US dollars at the US Amazon site and sports a new cover that I had too much fun creating. For this cover, I took away all hellhound and other canine references and concentrated on location—specifically Vree’s fall from the cliffs into Alice Lake.

The book is a quick read, hence the 99-cent price, and is available as an ebook only. I do not plan to publish paperbacks of my single short stories.

Go to amazon.com/dp/B09BFLJ563 for your copy.

Feeling the Rain

A year ago today, I was rushed into emergency surgery that saved my life from a perforated bowel.

During my weeklong stay at the hospital—first in a recovery room, then in a 24-hour observation room where my nurses kept watch for sepsis, I spent a lot of time alone. Covid restrictions allowed me one visitor, which was my wife who had to travel almost 40 miles to see me. When she and my nurses were not with me, I entertained by visiting the internet via my phone and perusing art and writing sites. One night, I found a long quote—perhaps a poem—by Walt Whitman about his desire to be closer to animals and nature. Being a wildlife artist for many years, I felt akin to that desire. So, with pen and paper, I jotted down a couple lines about animal life that intrigued me.

They do not sweat and whine about their condition, they do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins. Not one is unhappy over the whole earth.

The words took me back to the years I studied wildlife. Animal lives seemed so basic, so simple, which led me to practicing a similar simple life. My main purpose then was to care for my children. Although employment stole time from us, it gave me enough income to acquire necessities to keep them healthy and safe.

My children were long grown and raising families of their own when I left the hospital to finish recuperating at home. What had my purpose in life become? To grow old and die?

Beyond making purpose for a corporation by my employment to it, I decided to make purpose for me again. So I retired from the workforce and did a lot of soul searching for what I wanted to do.

I have been an artist—a good artist—most of my life. It brought me awards and recognition beyond my desires. And it brought me to a crossroad where I no longer felt challenged by it. So I spent the winter and most of spring looking at things that challenge me most.

One of my biggest challenges is writing well, mostly because I suffer a form of dyslexia that has hindered me most of my life. When I write well—and by that I mean something that reads coherently and moves my emotions long after I wrote it—the experience is an uplifting one, much like depicted in the illustration above.

I want to feel the rain when I write. And I want to feel it when I read it. That is my newfound purpose in life.

It will talk as long as it wants, the rain. As long as it talks I am going to listen. —Thomas Merton

Revisiting Characters

Plot is no more than footprints left in the snow after your characters have run by on their way to incredible destinations. ― Ray Bradbury

I was absent from my blog during May and most of June while I buckled down and continued preparations for the new and updated books I have planned for my Amazon KDP library. Part of those preparations is making sure my characters come across as people.

My stories happen in a place called Ridgewood, loosely based on places I have lived. Overall, the place is a straightforward small town in America where odd things happen to a select few. There is a plethora of history and information about Ridgewood at this blog, so go ahead and browse the archives.

I enjoy writing my own kind of fantasy fiction. My ensemble of characters is wholly my own creation loosely based on archetypes that attracted me as a reader. Again, there is a plethora of history and information about them at this blog, but there have been three significant changes I want to address.

  1. I have renamed Owen to Lenny and given the name to his kid brother. Lenny has taken on his old role and has the old persona of teenager Dave. He has a twin sister, Gaylene, who is Amy with a different name and family.
  2. Vree’s hometown is New Cambridge. She lives in Ridgewood when she stays with her paternal grandparents. Her parents are archeologists at New Cambridge University and are away from home often. Vree has no interest in archeology. Her paternal grandparents have the names Dave and Amy now and are not retired and living in Florida.
  3. Amy’s grandparents are Ben and Vera, the couple killed by a witch named Margga who has become Gianna. Ben and Vera’s last name is Russell, and Myers Ridge is now Russell Ridge.

My renamed cast has been a joy to place on stage and see them rehearse while I put them through the rigors of developing plot. As always, I let my characters develop the plot while I pay attention to the three main factors of characterization: the physical, sociological, and psychological. That’s all any writer needs to know to create characters that have personalities. Once you have that, then you understand how your characters approach and resolve conflict. And that means living with your characters, observing them while you put them through mock scenarios, and noting the results.

Vree is one of my star characters. She has been with me since I was fourteen years old. She has always been a shy, humble teenager.

vree-13-pencil-9x12-v6
Vree

No matter how much I try to change her personality, it stays relatively the same. I suppose this flies in the face of teachers of fiction who say that our characters must be different people after departing Act 1 and arriving at the conclusion of Act 3. How much change is rarely specified, but I cannot see her becoming an entirely different character when she rides her story’s denouement. I think any person whose personality changes that much during their story should be under psychiatric observation by the time it ends. That was a problem I had with many horror novels. The characters we got to know did not ring true when they became monsters.

Realism is an important aspect of good fiction. And just as in life, a person’s mode of thinking can change dramatically under the right circumstances. But a person with a healthy brain is not going to become someone with a different personality just because a book publisher wants it for mass market appeal and sensationalism. Abrupt change of character isn’t normal.

Every good story I have ever read has one major real aspect: Desire. The goal is to acquire something. The more unreachable it is, the difficult the task. The comedian George Carlin described acquisition as a football game. The goal is to acquire yardage to the end zone and score points to be ahead of the opponent when time runs out. Smart players achieve this by fooling their opponent, making them second guess their game plan, getting them to trip over their weaknesses. Everyone has desires/goals and we all have flaws to overcome in our efforts to get what we want.

All in all, a deep understanding of character is the key to creating better plots.

Thanks for reading.

Peace and love, everyone.