Photosynthesis-Jimmi Campkin

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I cannot fly but your words whip the wind under my arms.  Just a smile and wink, just a poke in the ribs and a kick in the shins, and I am no ones.  We stare at the dead brown leaves stuck to my shoes as we kick through the dead drifts, and I wait for something profound.  You are too busy staring at the end of a bottle, pointed towards the sky, as a telescope for the stars.

I get it.  You aren’t scared by thunder anymore it makes you feel alive.  You’re strapped to a table, waiting for the electricity to hit.  I made sure the knots were tight around your wrists and ankles, as I tied you to the bed and opened the window to the storm, but you still insisted on more.  More!  I Want More!!  I am no weatherman.  I am no God.  So I filled pint glasses with water as you screamed up at a disappointing belt of nondescript cloud, threw them across your writhing torso, and wondered when I might see the calm eye of this storm.

I remember when you pushed a sewing needle between the webs of my fingers and you told me; we can’t be calm and safe…we are the autumn leaves that cling to the branches and turn green again.  I have no idea what this means.

Probably it doesn’t matter; but it does.  I am directionless and you offer me a path…the wrong one, but a path nonetheless.

© Jimmi Campkin

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Brakes-Jimmi Campkin

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When I look into her eyes I see the violence of a life disappointed – the crush of society and the comedown of feeble Men. I see those pupils glowing amber in the sunset and red for the rest of the time. I know about the Bowie knife inside her jeans and I know about the expulsion from school as a teenager for trying to hang a boy who lifted up her skirt.

In arguments, I see her sometimes reach for the blade, but she toys with the hilt as a stress relief. She tells me I’m fucking other women, I tell her she’s destroying other men, and neither of these things are true. She only kills boys – those not worth losing sleep over – and the rest of us have to keep our guard up.

She told me; I have this weird dream where I wake up paralysed, and I feel my flesh melting into the bed, and then through the floor, and then I somehow become… I dunno….at ‘one’ with the world. I can hear plants growing and the soil turning and the plates of the Earth floating and bumping. And then I wake up, and I realise I can move, and I feel sad. She looks at me with an invisible question hanging between us. I wish I knew the answer she needed. I wish I knew the question.

One day I will confess the big ‘L’ I feel about her….

I want her always, so I can ‘Live’.

©️ Jimmi Campkin

Original photograph by Jimmi Campkin

Candice Louisa Daquin’s Review of For You, Rowena

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For you Rowena – Kindra M. Austin

Review by Candice Louisa Daquin

I’ll begin by saying, it’s not easy to write a review of a book that you don’t want anyone to know the twists and turns of, because then what do you write about? With this novel I feel almost possessive, usually when you read a novel you really want others to read, you share what you most liked about it, but with a suspenseful and taut thriller that’s incredibly hard to achieve without giving key ingredients away. The reason this would be so devastating is that this novel builds brick by brick and so to read it out of sequence or know anything of what is to come, would spoil the crescendo.

Instead let’s talk about what I can make mention of without any spoilers. If you haven’t read a novel or poem by Kindra Austin then you may not know she’s a woman who absolutely doesn’t hold her punches. Think back 100 years, women couldn’t and wouldn’t do that, but even now, sometimes there is an apologetic politeness or restraint in how women describe the world. When you read someone who is willing to just BE on the page, then you know you have found the truth.

What is truth in fiction? Truth is reading the novel breathlessly and then when you put it down finished, you have emptiness, a feeling of wanting to go back, find the characters again, and inhabit them once more. Truth is relating so deeply to the carved souls of those people written on a page, that they become hyperreal to you. Just like Cathy and Heathcliff were to their generation of readers, we’ve moved on and we can use profanity and be honest about our frustrations as women; we can talk about sex and anger and rage and emotion and do so at a deeper level than we could when we were censored.

Women writers were really censored? You bet they were. And those who did speak truths did so through oblique metaphor rather than carnage on a page. Male writers however had many years of spilling it before women could join the fray and as such, they established themselves as the first of their generation to really ‘tell it like it is’ and women were usually not even part of the conversation. I’m not men-bashing by stating this, but women labored under a longer societal pressure to conform and behave and when they were freed, well fiction like this was born.

Are we talking Capote wearing a dress? By no means. A woman’s truth may be as visceral but it’s entirely different. The emotional landscape is vivid in an intensely feminine way, positively reflective, it goes deeper. The smut and sordidness of life may be equally explained but where a woman can be often two dimensional in male authors work, a woman can explode and show all her layers when a woman writes her.

Lately I’ve been fortunate enough to read some excellent male authors who did sterling jobs of creating female characters that I as a woman could relate to, but this is the first novel I’ve read in some time where I literally crawled beneath the skin of the two female lead characters. If I look up now, I may see them sitting at the table with me, I will smell them as I leave the room, and hear them laughing. They are so uncannily present I believe, it would be challenging for a man to write them with that much alacrity. Just as I could not write a man as well as some of the male writers I know. Does that limit the female and male author to their respective genders? Absolutely not. It simply gives a woman an opportunity to present female characters so fleshed out and present that its astonishing, in a world where male authors are still the dominant force (especially in the thriller genre).

Speaking of genres, I expected this novel to be a thriller of sorts, a psychological mystery. But it really defies any labeling in part because it is wickedly original and flies in the face of being nailed down as one thing or another. I read some female written gothic fiction once that almost reminded me a little, but still didn’t have its edge. At once disturbing, and familiar, you are not sure whether you want to run or continue to read, but you end up reading because of course you do, that’s inevitable. You’re a thing possessed.

I start a lot of novels and put them down, by the first fifty pages I am bored and don’t care what happens to the characters. So often that heady MFA format and predictable collection of characters (the genius who is dysfunctional, the bad-ass girl who happens to be gorgeous) are too routine. When reviewing a book you obviously can’t put it down even if it bores you so it’s always a fear reading a book that it may end up to be insufferable. This wouldn’t be the case here; if I had every novel ever published to read, I’d still want to read For you Rowena. Maybe the simplest way of reviewing this book is to tell you why.

For you Rowena is among other things, a love story, the kind you won’t be expecting and haven’t yet experienced. It has elements that all of us who have ever been caught emotionally in more than one allegiance will understand. In that, it is a very classic tale like Anna Karenina because we, all of us are suckers for love stories with tragic and painful experiences that we can relate to our own love histories, and those that go beyond anything we have experienced we live vicariously with, because ultimately, would anyone be as interested in reading a love story that has no tribulation and only happiness? Alas we are creatures of disturbance and as such, we demand emotional upheaval and not just calm waters. I’m not sure why that is, but an author worth her salt will need to ‘bring it’ and Austin brings it plenty. Hell, she sets it on fire and then invites you to dine on the embers.

Aside that beckoning lure, For you Rowena is also a masterful psychological expose of what makes us humans tick, emotionally. Something few of us really understand without referencing other experiences and looking back in hindsight. Austin gets the emotional jungle we live in, what we crave and we destroy and how we hurt those we love and we do things that make no sense but at the time they are what sustain us. Austin presents us with people we can peer into and discover things about ourselves, sometimes disquietingly. Her characters are shockingly realistic, at the same time there is a fantasy overlaying that and a mystical beauty to Austin’s descriptions of the world about her, which creates a deft juxtaposition between narration, description and dialogue.

Immediately after finishing, my first thought was how visual For you Rowena was. I could literally SEE the scenes and the characters as if they existed on film. It takes a lot to paint so vividly the entirety of a story, not just a realistic dialogue but the full fleshing of person’s you’ve created and then manipulate those creations into coaxing the reader into a sympathetic lasting relationship. Often times you can walk away from a character, you can say ‘I really don’t care what happens’ but that’s impossible here. It is equally impossible NOT to relate to their respective trajectories and the arc the story takes, you are sucked in and kept there, holding your breath until the end.

It would do no good to quote from For you Rowena because everything is within a context and doesn’t survive on its own. That is the intensity of the write, and to say this is simply about love or relationships or murder or desperation or frustration would in no way reveal the heart of this novel. As with any well written novel that stands the test of time, it is the relationship formed with the central characters, our sympathies, anger, and emotional investment that define our impression of the novel as a whole. Does it stand out in a literary sense? I believe it does, because Austin knows the nuance of novel writing requires that fine balance of character versus scene versus dialogue and she gracefully navigates the reader through a very intense hate/love storyline without once losing us.

On a personal note, any of us who have loved passionately and been unsure of our decisions can really sink our teeth into this tale, as Austin presents the quixotic ficklety of human nature, its treacheries, its alliances, and ultimately, its surfaces and depths. I wrote four pages of notes as I read, but I used nothing of them in my review, because they were more my impressions formed from the gut-punch of this book than something I could usefully employ. The ruin and recovery of people is written in the same intoxicating quality as I would expect to find in any memorable novel, adding only a modern flourish. Indeed there is even symbolism, redolent in the significance of broken things, and small observations that speak of loss.

Will it be a novel for everyone? I’m sure some will find the ugly nature of passion disquieting, but more likely there is something missing in all of us that we can discover in For you Rowena. If you have ever had a terrible ache, or shame, and not known how to articulate it, or understood yourself, what led up to its creation, this novel will explain those attachments, as it will bring you right to the edge of understanding how someone can kill. The horror of that and its shocking banality is vividly captured by a writer who can wield a psychological intuitiveness within her characters that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up.

Perhaps when you have read this you will see why I cannot speak at length about those characters and that story, just as we cannot casually open Pandora’s box. A novel that bewitches us will invariably defy breaking into its composite pieces, it works as if by magic, though the skill required to make those pieces harmonize and fit together is invisibly sewn into every page.

Plainly put, I loved reading this novel. It created in me such an admiration for its authoress and a real fired up passion to find more books that gave me that bequeathed thrill. I found nothing predictable about it, and everything original. For you Rowenaliterally grabbed me by the throat and held me until the reckoning, and what a reckoning it was.

 

Stalker-Jimmi Campkin

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I lay in bed, setting fire to pieces of books. The smoke dances around my fingertips as the words dissolve and are set free into the fresh air.  Maybe humanity will change, or maybe this is futile destruction.  I feel the air waltzing around the hairs on my legs and arms as I dream of stockinged legs, like broken pillars either side of my hips, and the wet, vibrant warmth of her embrace on a humid summer evening.

When we last embraced, her dry lips scraped against mine in the fetid atmosphere of a subway, surrounded by the desperate, depressed, and drunk.  In that artificial neon miasma, her curls caught the light like scythes in an autumn sunset.

Taunted and haunted by memory, I feel too depressed to go downstairs and face the world with its textures, shadows and reminders.  Instead I stay upstairs in the glow of unattached memory, looking out my window and into the infinity of the sky and the clouds; I listen to crackling old vinyl that smells of time capsules. I wish I knew where I could find purpose.  Even the thrill of the chase would be better than stagnation and regret.

When I sleep, I dream about walking in black and white on the middle rail of a five wide railroad with steep concrete walls on either side.  An old Diesel train clanks up to me, pulling six coal trucks and a guard van, seemingly empty but filling the air with the stench of dry charcoal and oil.  Inside I can hear children playing games, although I can’t see them.  The cab is black as a moonless night, and tar oozes from the steps leading in.  I don’t see the driver, but I feel eyes staring down at me with disdain and suspicion.

Someone emerges from the van to the rear and stumbles on the ballast towards me as I stand, breathing in the fumes.  Dressed in a muddy blue uniform and with no arms, the sleeves sewn up to the shoulders, the Guard waits in front of me and tilts his head as though trying to see under my jaw.  I can see soot and dust in the creases of his face, and his jet black eyes reflect back the faces of people I once knew, cramming for attention as though scrambling for the only window in an airtight box.

He shakes and trembles, and as I try to reach out and hold his arm he jerks me away violently, breaking my forearm in the process with a shock I feel down my spine and into my ankles.  I stumble and collapse to one side, resting my good arm on the rail of the next line.  The guard shambles back into his van; and the train begins to grind away from me, the children’s voices growing in terror and intensity, as I feel the rail under my elbow vibrate.  I know something is coming, and I realise that I don’t want to move.

For You, Rowena(release date 31 August)

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What lines would you cross for the one you love?

Rowena is a Helen of Today, dangerously coveted; she’s a paradoxical woman searching for self-certitude through pleasures of the flesh. Only one amongst her myriad of lovers can save Rowena from herself.

This is a story of human connection and its devastating power.


In three days, I release my third book, a novella titled, For You, Rowena. I’m honored to announce that Allane Sinclair has yet again created a cover that encompasses a universe I’ve imagined and put to paper. I couldn’t ask for a better collaborator than Allane. As always, I hope my words serve justice to the emotions that scream from her artwork. Allane Sinclair is the real deal, folks. She pours every bit of her soul into her work, and it shows.

For You, Rowena, at its core, is about self-preservation, true love, and the roads a person might travel to claim that love as their own, despite the obstacles; it’s about abusive relationships, self-exploration, redemption, and revenge.

For You, Rowena is not written in the narrative style of Magpie in August. Though two different animals, I hope that those who’ve read Magpie will recognize both the strengths and vulnerabilities I’ve instilled into the main women characters of Rowena.

For You, Rowena is scheduled for release on 31 August, 2018 in paperback and Kindle format via Amazon.