A Clean Well-lighted Place

Joined at the hips but not at the brains

All blood spills and flows from the strains

The suits walk in, compassion walks out

Why’d you have to go and make me scream and shout

I don’t expect perfection, but why’d I have to fall from grace

When all I ever wanted, was a clean well-lighted place


Feeding the poor, comforting the weary

Are some people’s children, other people’s theory

All the shifting feet, moving up and down

It’s hard to keep firmly on the ground

I don’t expect perfection, but why’d I have to fall from grace

When all I ever wanted, was a clean well-lighted place


As the sun sets, it all seems strange

The indifference in the winds of change

In the free market, faith costs most of all

When your beliefs are in a free fall

I don’t expect perfection, but why’d I have to fall from grace

When all I ever wanted, was a clean well-lighted place


The cynicism of age, and the ideals of youth

Are searching for common ground, and the simple truth

The white picket fence, and the willow tree

Are searching for a home, and a way to be free

I don’t expect perfection, but why’d I have to fall from grace

When all I ever wanted was a clean well-lighted place

© Copyright 2017 J.S. Campbell

Buy the book on Amazon Kindle here –

The Dream House

   We turned down our new street with Beth smiling and Tommy and Amanda in the back seat screaming “we’re home.” I was not sure how far ahead of the moving trucks we were. At least we would have a chance to just look our home over once more before we filled it with our life. A man and a woman walking a setter waived as we drove past. The road ended with a dead-end and there were only a few other homes on the street which was one of the selling points for us. There was the age difference though, our home being almost one hundred years old and the others all being built in the last few years. Our realtor had told us that it was once a large estate and that parcels were sold off over time with a stipulation on when anything could be built. Anyway, we were happy to have the street’s crown jewel, a magnificent Victorian.

The loose rock in the long driveway crackled as we turned in. The driveway was about three hundred yards long and wound around to the right of a beautiful stand of large maple trees. You could not see the house from the road. It wasn’t until you rounded the maple trees that our home could be seen. A hawk flew in front of our CR-V and landed up high in the tree farthest in from the drive. “Wo-o-o-o, did you see that?” Tommy asked. “Yes, I imagine we’ll see plenty of birds and animals out here Tommy” Beth answered.

We rounded the stand of trees now and the house stood, in the distance, on three acres of land. The grand front porch stood out to me, and Beth agreed this was a fine outdoor space. We were pulling up now just in front of the house. The front door was centered, with large windows on each side. The roof of the porch was ornamented with spandrels. Ornate woodwork adorned the entire exterior in classic Victorian fashion with the crowning turret on the left end of the house.

Tommy and Amanda had already unfastened their seatbelts and were out of the CR-V. Amanda yelled “we are going around back to the tire swings!” “Go on in, I’ll be around back” Beth said looking back in the car at me. She turned and headed around to the back with Amanda and Tommy. I was still sitting in the car and turned my attention back to looking at the front of the house. I got out, closed the car door, and headed up the steps of the front porch towards the front doors. When I placed my foot on the boards of the porch, I had a twisted déjà vu moment. The house seemed very familiar like I had been here before, but that was the only thing that was familiar.

The feeling quickly passed and I slid the key in and turned the knob to the right opening the front door to my dream house. I entered the foyer with doors to the library open to the right. Straight ahead was the main stair case that led to the upstairs bedrooms and sitting rooms. To the left was a side hall that went back towards the second stair case that led to the turret. I turned my attention back to the right, and entered the library. I immediately noticed the portrait hanging next to the fireplace. “Why in the world did they leave the portrait?” I said aloud to myself. It had to be a family member, a stoic woman, with no smile, bright eyes that looked through you, short hair. No one ever smiled in portraits of that era. Something to do with long exposure times, I was once told. Her dress had a lace white collar. Why would they have left it, I thought to myself this time. Beth didn’t like it so I would have to take that down before she comes in with the kids. I walked back through the rear library doors to another large room, I believed to be used as a formal dining room. I walked to the rear of that room to the window and looked back at Beth, Tommy and Amanda playing on the tire swings.

I turned and headed back to the library. A cold chill came over me as I entered the room. I now noticed a book at the far corner shelf. I hadn’t noticed it before and there were no books that I remembered when we first toured the house with the realtor. I went over to the book and pulled it off the shelf. There were no markings on the spine so I opened it. It seemed to be a diary or journal, very old, worn, with browned pages. As I flipped through the pages, I heard, no, I felt whispers. I could not tell if they were of a man or a woman. I could not tell what the whispers were saying nor could I feel the presence of anyone. The hair on the back of my neck was standing up now. It was if electrical static was filling the room. I flipped the pages back and forth looking for any indication of who’s diary this was. I was interrupted by a sound coming from the left end of the house.

I called out “Beth?” There was no answer. I walked out of the library, through the foyer and called again, “Beth?” There was no answer. I heard footsteps on the left staircase that led up to the turret. There was a small room up there that the kids loved when we had shown them the house for the first time. I called up the stairs, “Hello?” There was still no answer. A door at the top closed, or at least that is what it sounded like. I was feeling pretty freaked out, but thought Beth must have been playing on my natural fears that she always played with to give me a good scare. I headed up the stairs at a quickening pace, but slowed as I got to the top. I stood motionless and silent, listening. I heard nothing.  

I slowly opened the door that I thought had just been closed. There was a woman with her back to me. I said, “excuse me, hello.” She turned slowly. It was the woman from the portrait. She started towards me. “Welcome home darling, where have you been?”

I rose up, quickly with a gasp, waking Lori up. She turned to me. “Are you, all right?” “What’s the matter?” I wiped the cold sweat off my forehead. “Yes, I am ok, it was just a dream. The recurring one about the house.” Lori said “The same house as always? Different location and family as always, and the same woman as always?”

“Yes” I said.

“Did you figure out who she is this time?”


We both tried to get back to sleep.

The End

Summer Reads

The best Summer read for me so far is . I also read it in the perfect setting in Hatteras NC. I had just been finishing up Islands in the Stream and this informative book about Hemingway’s time in Bimini and sport fishing was the perfect compliment to that. The author, Ashley Oliphant, expertly weaves stories of Hemingway’s time in Bimini with the history of sport fishing as well as some interesting background on her study of Hemingway’s work. After reading about her lecture regarding To Have and Have Not, I definitely plan to give that another read. Her writing style was informative and very engaging. Reading the book made me want to plan a visit to Bimini and renew my interest in fishing.

Special Free copy to blog readers

Today only, you can get a free copy of my short story on Amazon at the below link. If you click on Buy, the price today is 0. Would love a good review on Amazon if you like the story. Here is an excerpt.

“Time. I was having real trouble with the concept of time. How long had I been lying here? I was starting to fade. Time seemed to speed up. The time seemed to slow down. My thoughts were fragments, difficult to string together or hold for any length of time.”


A Day at the Beach

I am very excited to announce the publication of my short story A Day at the Beach on Amazon. I hope you will enjoy it and I am hard at work on a collection of poetry coming soon. Below is an excerpt and here is the link to Amazon.

Time. I was having real trouble with the concept of time. How long had I been lying here? I was starting to fade. Time seemed to speed up. The time seemed to slow down. My thoughts were fragments, difficult to string together or hold for any length of time.

That Time I Wrote to Tom Shales

This event had its origins back when I was a kid that had just finished getting braces. The orthodontist told my parents that I would be in some pain for the first night and may have trouble sleeping. The end result was that I could stay up and watch our TV all night, which then consisted of four channels and only old movies were what I could find. By chance it was a marathon of Frank Capra films. Now I had no idea of who he was at the time, but I loved all the movies, and the movies made me forget about the pain I was experiencing with my teeth. I started talking about the movies I had watched to one of my older brothers and he told me “oh, those are all directed by Frank Capra.” Two things struck me, which were that the director is the creative force of a film, and that I loved Frank Capra movies.

As I got older, reading about, and studying films and film-making became a serious hobby for me. My favorite all time movie became It’s A Wonderful Life (Black & White Version). I saw in it, more than just the happy Christmas movie a new audience had made it. In 1986, I read that a book was published, The It’s a Wonderful Life Book written by Jeanine Basinger. It was a nice companion book for the movie and I enjoyed reading it and adding it to my growing collection of film books. I also noticed that Tom Shales had a review for the book in the Washington Post which I was interested to read. Mr. Shales didn’t seem to like the book very much, knocking it for not being critical enough of the movie as I recall. I was incredulous, thinking, does he not understand that the book was meant as a companion book, not a serious critique?  In my opinion at that time and still today, I feel that a critic should judge the product (book, film etc.) on the merits of what it was trying to accomplish, not what the critic thought it should be trying to accomplish. It would be like giving a bad review to Blazing Saddles because it wasn’t dramatic enough.

So, it was at this time that I decided to write to Mr. Shales telling him what I thought of the book review and how I thought he should be writing reviews. I also did some research and found an address where I could send a copy of the letter with my own note praising the book to Jeanine Basinger.

I never did hear back from Mr. Shales but I did receive a very nice letter back from Jeanine Basinger thanking me for the kind words and the defense of the book.

The story, like a Frank Capra film, had a great ending. I corresponded several times more with Jeanine Basinger learning much about film, the Frank Capra Archives and she relayed a letter that I wrote to Frank Capra to him for me. I received word back that he was touched by my words and thanked me for being a fan.

I would highly recommend her book as well as her other books on film including A Woman’s View: How Hollywood Spoke to Women, 1930-1960 and I Do and I Don’t: A History of Marriage in the Movies. For a couple of serious essays on It’s A Wonderful Life, I would recommend A Certain Tendency of the Hollywood Cinema 1930-1980 and American Vision, The Films of Frank Capra.

It’s all about the story, and its ok to end it

There are many great shows being produced now and others that people love, I believe more because they begin well enough and then become one of those shows you must love to be cool. A case in point for me is Orange is the New Black. The first season developed fantastic nuanced multi dimension characters and placed them in a cohesive interesting set of storylines. Then came the second season when the show meandered and characters were dumbed down to one dimension. But the cat was already out of the bag so to speak. It was already one of the shows you “had to love”. Someone on the radio mentioned once that many original ideas or stories are written for a specific timeframe and then when they become a thing, the scramble is on to keep it going. As hard as it is sometimes, I would like a show to say what it needs to and then bow out.

Another example is Stranger Things, fantastic “first” season. Well-drawn out characters, well portrayed, and a fun throw-back storyline that is familiar but so well done it doesn’t matter. That is the key, a story, simply told well. To me, the season told what it needed to and there is nothing more to say. I will tune in to the second season initially to see where it goes, but other than the one scene where Will goes Alien on us, the story has been told. The End.

Some shows have all the “elements”, but without a compelling and structured story, what is the point? I was so excited for Vinyl. What could go wrong? Great cast, interesting period in music and Scorsese! Well, lack of a compelling story was my issue with this show. Sure, it has the text book Scorsese items, but those only work when integrated into a something that draws you in. Vinyl was more about “hey look at all this inside music stuff we can pack in.” Even with that, it would have been ok if the story was there.

One of the best recent examples of a simple story told well is Rectify, no frills, no mega-stars, no familiar soundtrack songs, no flashy camera gimmicks, no gratuitous violence needed (what draws many to Game of Thrones, but that’s for another post), just a simple story that completely draws you in, with complex multidimensional characters throughout. If you haven’t watched it, I would highly recommend it as the perfect example of a good story told well.

Opening to book in the works

It was on my 23rd birthday that I found out about the Mind Reading Organization. I remember it very clearly. I was at work, and Brian Williams was on the news. He looked right at me and told me and only me about it. Then the people eating at the restaurant where I worked began speaking to my thoughts. I had difficulty focusing my mind after that. Soon I became aware that the Mind Reading Organization had an office right next to the restaurant that I worked at. Their compass and square logo was right there on the front of the building. I quit the restaurant that day…..