A Burial

A Burial

Every month at The Confabulator Cafe, we write flash fiction based on some sort of prompt. This week, the prompt, a pretty intense painting, was provided by Lawrence-area writer and painter David Dehetre. 

I started with a shotgun in a little red wagon, and the result was “A Burial.”

You can read it now at http://www.confabulatorcafe.com/2012/08/a-burial/

Enjoy, and thanks for reading.

Rise Above the Tears

Rise Above the Tears

My Grandpa Joe’s death had a big influence on my life, as well as my writing. There are a lot of readers of this blog that originally came here as a result of that influence. This week, I wrote about his death at The Confabulator Cafe. Feel free to check it out. http://www.confabulatorcafe.com/2012/08/rise-above-the-tears/


The Invisible and the Forgotten

I didn’t give them much of a thought this morning. You probably didn’t either. Yet, they were there the entire time. I woke up in the house they built, cooled by the recently-repaired air conditioner. The warm shower woke me up thanks to the hot water they made possible. I got in the car they manufactured and drove down the road they maintain.

I stopped to get gas along the way. Gas they transported in tanks they built. I got to my office. They had taken my trash. I made my coffee, ignorant of the miracle of clean, filtered water at my beckoning call. I checked my email, not seeing an amazing infrastructure that allows me to contact a colleague on the east coast instantaneously.

There is a class of worker that is being forgotten in our country, and they are the ones we rely on the most. According to recent studies, employers are having a hard time finding skilled labor. They can’t find the sort of skilled welders, engineers, machinists, and other manufacturing personnel that they need to operate. Vocationally trained applicants are becoming rare.

Should we be surprised? A generation of children grew up being told that blue-collar work is some sort of last resort, and that they should be working with their minds, rather than their hands. It’s a shame, because this country was built by hands.

My dad is a master auto technician, and taught vocational technology classes for awhile. He told me about a couple of instances when parents would bring their kid in to see what he did. My dad would ask, “So you want to be a mechanic?” The parents would answer. “Well, he’s never done very well at school.”

This bothered my dad a lot. He knew that a modern auto technician requires certain skills, including geometry, math, and computer skills. A person becomes a good auto mechanic because he loves fixing cars, not because he never did well at school.

Recently, my dad told me that he has a trust in his will that will act a scholarship for high school graduates pursuing vocational fields. I have a lot of respect in his desire to support the blue-collar workers who will come after him.

There is a long tradition of blue-collar workers in my family. Mechanics, welders, repairmen, loggers, farmers, construction workers, truck drivers…they have been well-represented within generations of Campbells. My father always made sure that my sister and I helped him work on our vehicles, but I didn’t retain much of it. I seemed to lack that particular aptitude. I remember telling my mother that when I was older, I would just pay someone else to do it. Unfortunately, too many of my generation thought the same thing. Every time something breaks, I wish I had the skills of my father or grandfather and knew how to fix it, or even just where to start.

I’m not downplaying my talents. I don’t regret my academic education. The arts are important. Education is important. But so are vocational skills. Too many people have forgotten that. I hope they remember, before it is too late and the world begins to fall apart around us, with no one left who knows how to fix it.

“Perfect 10” is now available in Insomnia Press, Issue 1

Awhile back, I found an open anthology looking for submissions based on Walt Whitman’s “I Sing the Body Electric.” I re-read the poem and started writing a story of obsession. It went much darker than I originally planned. Too dark, in fact, to submit to the anthology that originally inspired it.

The story is called “Perfect 10,” and it appears in Insomnia Press, Issue 1. You can view the entire issue, as well as download and print your own copy at http://issuu.com/insomniapress/docs/insomniapress1#download.

Be sure to follow Insomnia Press  at www.insomnia-press.com, and on Twitter @insomniapress.

They are a good bunch of guys and they do what they do out of love for the horror genre.

Thanks for reading.

It’s the Hard Knock Life and Free Fiction

It’s the Hard Knock Life

Being a writer is tough, and sometimes writers are tempted to quit. Sometimes they do quit. This week, The Confabulator Cafe is all about quitting and what brings a writer back again.


Also, my short story from last weeks post at The Confabulator Cafe is now available here. Check the page links on the right for “Scratched” or click here:


Olympic Imagination

The Olympics are an amazing thing. I’m not necessarily referring to the athletic feats accomplished, even though they are spectacular. They are amazing in how they develop a sense of national pride and teach admiration for dedication.

A lot of the athletes at this year’s summer Olympics will never be rich because of their sports. Sure, these days, there are NBA players, although if the league has their way, that will soon change in favor of competition at a World Basketball Classic type tournament that the owners can use for financial profit. However, a majority of the athletes work day jobs, paid a majority of their way to the Olympics, and will go back to normal lives as soon as the games are over.

For some, such as gymnastics and diving, they will find their careers winding down early in their lives, replaced by athletes who are younger and more capable of the impossible feats they make look so easy.

Fencers aren’t looking at millions in professional leagues, neither are judokas, wrestlers, or many other athletes. Still, they come out every four years, and they represent their countries proudly. I have an immense amount of pride in how most of them represent my country. And now, as the father of a four-year old who has never seen the Olympics before, I have an immense appreciation for the inspiration they have given my son.

Every night, we have been watching the Olympics. He watches and sees that hard work and personal goals can be their own rewards. We have set up our own events at home. The living room became archery and shooting ranges. The basement, where I normally practice martial arts, became a boxing and taekwondo arena, the bed a wrestling and judo mat.

Now, when he runs, he gets down in invisible starting blocks and takes off on the sound of an imaginary gun. He says he is going to swim in the Olympics and he is going to go faster than everyone. He takes part in imaginary medal ceremonies, using medals I won, and sings an imaginary national anthem while covering his heart with his hand. He knows our flag, and he points it out wherever he sees it.

I know this influence won’t last forever. I know that it will be another four years before the summer Olympics will come along again. Still, there are worse things to learn as a four year-old, and in an era when so many people seem to be afraid to express pride in their country, I am thankful that we have the Olympics to make it okay again.

The medal count in London continues to climb. We see amazing feats as records continue to fall. We hear about countries that steal children away from their parents and put them in sports camps at young ages. We hear rumors of countries that only show appreciation for gold, and who punish failure. Yet, our society of free choice continues to perform well. The young men and women we sent to London continue to prove to be our finest.

I would like to personally thank all of the athletes competing at the London games this year.  Your performances have been amazing. Your example has been generally unfaltering. But your influence on my son has been priceless.


Flannery O’Connor reads “A Good Man Is Hard to Find”

Flannery O’Connor reads “A Good Man Is Hard to Find”

Most people know I hold a special place in my heart for the Southern Gothic writers, particularly Flannery O’Connor. This link is awesome. O’Connor reads the story at Vanderbilt. There is something about hearing it in her deep southern accent that makes it all the more potent.