Stan Hampton, Sr. - Soldiers and Swimmers

Good morning everyone!  Today on Dreamspring we have Stan Hampton, Sr.!  Give him a big welcome and maybe win a copy of Danse Macbre, an anthology of short stories featuring Stan’s story "An Appointment in the Village Bazaar"!

Marion: Hello Stan!  Tell us about yourself!

Hello! I want to work in underwater archaeology, but I need to learn to swim better. I have already taken scuba diving lessons, and I love it. During an exercise we once had to float underwater in neutral buoyancy, I think it was called, without sinking or rising—I folded my legs as if sitting Indian style on the ground, put my hands on my knees, and closed my eyes. It was strangely wonderful, the sound of my breathing with the scuba gear, otherwise being enveloped within a silent, warm pressure. I did not sink but I found myself turning like I was going to stand on my head. I didn’t mind. I just enjoyed the silence and the warmth of the water.

Anyway, when I finally have my anthropology or archaeology or photography degree and I can swim better, I intend to go get scuba certified at Cancun. No certifying in some oily lake polluted by boaters, especially drunken boaters. Cancun—and of course I will go visit some Mayan ruins afterwards.

Yes, someday…

Marion: Ah, a dreamer!  A great trait in a writer!  If you could invite five writers, living or dead, to dinner, who would they be?

Bernard B. Fall (Street Without Joy; Hell in a Very Small Place), Cornelius Ryan (The Longest Day; A Bridge Too Far; The Last Battle); Anaïs Nin (Delta of Venus; Little Birds); Sîn-leqi-unninni (Gilgamesh); and Sappho (fragmentary poems are all that is left of her work).

Marion: When was the last time you just had to write, and what inspired that feeling?

The answer to that is last month, and I just had to write because I had had an idea in my mind for a long time. I kept putting it off and putting it off until I finally decided it was time to put the idea in writing. And I did. Now I have to edit the bloody novella. But that’s okay.

Marion: What’s your worst writing habit?  Something you know you shouldn’t do, but just can’t seem to stop?

Procrastination. Sometimes it is a very annoying habit, but I do not always do that. When I do procrastinate, I annoy the hell out of myself. When I do not procrastinate, I easily accomplish 1,000-2,000 words per day which is great. Not only that, but by meeting a goal like that every day, I not only make progress but have time to also deal with real life. Yep, procrastination is my worst habit.

Marion: You know, I find that writers sometimes label “lack of energy to write” as “procrastination.”  Maybe you just need to recharge after writing 1,000 to 2,000 words!  What’s the one thing you wish you were good at, but just can’t seem to master?

Grammar. I have a tendency to write the way I speak. I am not a bad speaker but when it comes to putting words on paper that is a different matter. Writing official documents I have no problem with, but fiction writing grammar, yeah, I wish I were better. I bet my various editors wish I were better too!
Marion: How do you ‘get into character’?  Are their certain characters you find it harder to write than others?

Female characters if they are more than just a “walk-on.” One of my favorite scenes from a movie is As Good as it Gets with Jack Nicholson. His character is a writer and when visiting his publisher’s office, a star-struck secretary asks him how he writes female characters so well. He responds with his zany trademark smile and replies (I am paraphrasing), “I think of a man. And then I take away accountability and reason.” Of course, that leaves the secretary speechless. I will not go that far, but frankly a few women do mystify me. It is more than their character, it is their thought process. However, most of the women I do interact with are in the Army National Guard. I find them to be professional, dedicated, knowledgeable, and skilled at their jobs. Weaknesses I have observed, I have also observed in male soldiers. Thus, I come back to wondering if there really is a “special way” to write a major female character. One of my publishers once told me that whatever personality traits I assign a character, male or female, they have to be true to those traits, and that is all there is to it.

Marion: I think that’s very true!  I think that a character is a character regardless of gender.  Most of the time what we mean when we say “I didn’t buy that character as a male/female” is that they didn’t meet our own culturally-influenced ideas of what a woman, or a man, should be.  I met a lot of people and many of them don’t fit into any rigid gender norm, regardless.  What’s your best book-related memory?  Your worst?

I cannot remember my best book-related memory. I can definitely recall my worst. I am a big fan of George Romero’s zombie movies. Back in the 90’s an anthology of zombie short stories inspired by his movies was published. I grabbed a copy. For the most part I really was not impressed by the stories. Unfortunately, I started having nightmares. I happened to be visiting Memphis in the early winter that year. The day we were leaving to return home I went to pack that book—I dislike throwing books away after spending money—and though I knew I left it out before breakfast, I could not find it. I tore the hotel room apart and it was nowhere to be seen. Of course, considering the nightmares I had been having, I was not heartbroken. By the way, the nightmares were not “zombie nightmares.” No, it was more waking up in the middle of the night at home and in Memphis with the feeling that I was not alone in the dark room. Or sometimes waking up and staring at the bedroom window with the feeling that something had been looking through the window at me while I was sleeping. There is not much that disturbs me, but the unknown—the unknown disturbs me.

Marion: Any parting words?

As far as parting words go, when I discovered that you had a blog—which I thought would be very art oriented considering your art skills—I immediately thought of a short story I wrote that was accepted for an anthology. “Danse Macabre: Close Encounters with the Reaper,” was published last year by Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy. My short story, “An Appointment in The Village Bazaar” is about an Army combat artist in Afghanistan. Granted, it is not a MuseItUp story, but nonetheless because of the art connection I thought of you. So please, enjoy the excerpt.

“An Appointment in the Village Bazaar.” Danse Macabre: Close Encounters with the Reaper
Unknown cover artist, let me know
if you know!

 “We isn’t in fuckin’ Kansas no more,” Sergeant First Class Robert “Chief” Nottingham, a half-Cheyenne Indian, chuckled from behind his dark ballistic eyeglasses and a puff of sulfurous smelling cigarette smoke, as Sergeant Caleb Justus staggered up the steep trail. Caleb stopped when he saw the rolling, rocky landscape of a thin forest with broken and splintered trees. Visible beyond the trees was a ruined village nestled below a low gray rise littered with skeletal trees. A chill wind moaned across the rugged, haunting landscape.

Behind them, such a deep contrast to the land before them, the valley they emerged from was a lush garden of green grass, brush, and trees.

“No shit,” Caleb, who usually didn’t swear, gasped as sweat, mingled with the cold thin drizzle that fell from gray clouds, trickled down his face. The platoon spread out and eyed an ancient narrow trail that wound through the trees to a wide, rutted path that led to the village.

As the soldiers slipped through the trees, Caleb thought they resembled unearthly creatures moving through a blighted medieval landscape; each wore a camouflaged Kevlar helmet, Individual Body Armor weighted down with heavy ammunition magazines, first aid kits and combat knives, and grayish-green Army Combat Uniforms with dark elbow and knee pads. Each wore the trademark dark ballistic eyeglasses that hid the eyes and gave the impression of emotionless, less than human faces. They carried M4 Carbines with Close Combat Opticals, M249 Light Machine Guns, and M203s, a 40mm grenade launcher mounted under an M4.

He knew that in their minds, and in reality, they were the meanest SOBs in the valley, or any valley. He felt safe in their presence. It was a much needed feeling after almost being killed by an Improvised Explosive Device three days before.

“Don’t know how much drawing you’ll get done on a shitty day like this,” Chief commented as he ground the cigarette under his boot heel.

“That’s why I brought my Nikon,” Caleb patted a black bag nestled against the side of his IBA and first aid kit. His drawing kit dangled against his right hip, just above his holstered 9mm pistol. “If I have to I’ll take photos, maybe do some color pencil drawings…”

Finally, thank you for having me visit your blog today. I appreciate it. And have a great week!

Marion: And thank you, Stan!  You’ve been a thoroughly charming guest!  Readers remember to comment and possibly win a copy of this fantastic anthology!


Wendy said…
Hi Stan and Marion,
Enjoyable interview. The experience during the scuba diving lesson would make a wonderful scene in a book or movie. That must have been magical. I hope you get your degrees and lessons completed soon and fill many new stories with experiences such as this one.
Anonymous said…

Hi. I appreciate the comment. And thanks for visiting the blog. Have a great day.

Marion Sipe said…
Thanks for dropping by Wendy!! And thank you Stan for visiting!

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