Greetings everyone and welcome to Natter and Review!
Today, our very special guest is Stan Hampton, Sr., a prolific writer and U.S. Army veteran.
N&R: Welcome to Natter and Review. Can you tell our readers a bit about yourself, please, and where the above photo of you was taken?
SH: Hello. My name is Stan, though I write under the name of SS Hampton, Sr. I am a full-blood Choctaw of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, a divorced grandfather to 13 grandchildren, and a veteran of Operations Noble Eagle (2004-2006) and Iraqi Freedom (2006-2007). I served in the active duty Army (1974-1985), the Army Individual Ready Reserve (1985-1995) (mobilized for the Persian Gulf War), and enlisted in the Army National Guard in October 2004. I was mobilized for active duty for almost three years after my enlistment. I continue to serve in the Guard, where I hold the rank of staff sergeant.
I am a published photographer and photojournalist, an aspiring painter, and studying for a degree in photography, with an additional degree in anthropology—hopefully to someday work in underwater archaeology. I have wanted to be a writer since I was 15 years old. My first short story was published in 1992, after which it wasn’t until 2001 that another short story was published. My writings have appeared as stand-alone stories, and in anthologies from Dark Opus Press, Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy, Melange Books, Musa Publishing, MuseItUp Publishing, Ravenous Romance, and as stand-alone stories in Horror Bound Magazine, Ruthie’s Club, Lucrezia Magazine, The Harrow, and River Walk Journal, among others. As of December 2011, I became the latest homeless Iraq war veteran in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The photograph was taken at the Great Ziggurat of Ur, in Sumeria (Tallil AFB, Iraq). I was at the Great Ziggurat because we were about 30 days away from going back home, I wanted a little extra time to decide whether to stay in the Guard, so for a writer, what better place to do a 1-year extension than in Sumeria, where writing was invented?
N&R: Wow, you sound like you have had quite the busy life. We will come back to a couple of things later. How did you get into writing? Was there a specific catalyst?
SH: This is a difficult question. I am not sure I can remember that far back. I have always enjoyed reading, whether non-fiction or fiction books, or magazines. My first creative urge (and life-long interest) came about when I saw a news clip of a photographer photographing a swimsuit model dancing on a beach. My second creative urge was photojournalism, before I became interested in fiction writing. That is probably because I grew up during the Vietnam War, and I remember the many covers and photojournalism articles in Time, Newsweek, and Life magazines. The old saying that “a picture is worth a thousand words” really is true. Somehow all of that led to my interest in, and love of, telling stories.
N&R: I am a child of that time period as well, I remember the pictures you are talking about and certainly the television coverage of the Vietnam War.
Can you tell us a bit about some of your stories and maybe give us some excerpts?
SH: I have always had a strong military aspect to most of my stories, and that became more pronounced after my deployment to northern Kuwait, a mile south of the Iraqi border, in 2006-2007. “Better Than a Rabbit’s Foot” (MuseItUp Publishing), was one of my earlier efforts after our return home. Experience is far more informative than theory—I learned first-hand how important loved ones back home, mail call, and lucky charms are to Soldiers deployed in a war zone. Unfortunately, I also learned how sobering the death of a fellow Soldier is, and the sense of loss that impacts everyone.
Better Than a Rabbit’s Foot (MuseItUp Publishing)
Sergeant Jerry Stanton is a young soldier serving in the War in Iraq. He is a gunner on a gun truck nicknamed “Lucky Bear,” one of those tireless workhorses that escort supply convoys from camps in Kuwait to destinations scattered throughout the war-torn country. In the early morning hours before a scheduled mission, a dust storm howls across his camp and threatens to bring convoy operations to a halt. Worse, the camp receives word that a gunner from his company was killed by an IED while on a convoy mission. Unlike most soldiers, Jerry doesn’t carry a lucky charm, but upon receiving news of the death of the gunner, he begins to mull over/ponder the merit/virtue of a good luck charm—only, what would work for him? Perhaps mail call will provide the answer.
EXCERPT: “People like a happy ending.”
Sergeant Jerry Stanton, an M4 Carbine slung across his chest, glanced at the dark form that trudged alongside him in the hot, early morning darkness. It was all the darker for the dust storm howling across the small camp, a dusty and sandy convoy support center, CSC, a mile south of the Iraqi border. He placed his hand over the tall styrofoam coffee cup from the mess hall that was open at all hours to serve those about to head out on a mission. He felt the itchy dust filtering down his back, along his arms, and coating his fingers.
In spite of his short time deployed to Kuwait, he had learned that dust storms were worse than sand storms; they were hot and itchy while the sand storms stung exposed skin and chilled the air. Breakfast was good but tasted flat, more due to the question of whether their mission would be a go or no-go because of the storm that roared out of the midnight darkness hours before.
“People like a happy ending,” the soldier repeated. He was a gunner from another gun truck as the squat, venerable M1114 HMMWVs, which were never meant to be combat vehicles, were called. He held up a rabbit foot that spun frantically in the wind and added, “I like a happy ending. Especially now.” They rounded the corner of a small building, actually a renovated mobile home trailer with a covered wooden porch lit by a bare electric bulb. The gunner pointed to a small black flag, suspended from a log overhang, flapping furiously in the wind.
“Oh shit.” Jerry sighed as a cold chill raced through him.
“It’s been there for an hour or so,” the soldier said as he enclosed the rabbit’s foot within both hands and brought it up to his lips as if to kiss it. He glanced at Jerry. “I’m not superstitious, but still, I mean, there’s nothing wrong with having a lucky charm. You know?”
“Yeah.” Jerry nodded as he watched the twisting flag. “I know.”
The soldier looked once more at the black flag and then walked toward the shower and restroom trailers beyond which were the air-conditioned sleeping tents they called home…
Here’s a link to that story. http://tinyurl.com/a8q4zc5
“The Gates of Moses” (Melange Books) came about in part because I have always wanted to visit Venice, Italy. I almost made it there during the two week Rest & Recreation leave that most deployed Soldiers receive. I had to return home due to family issues, though. But the legend of Atlantis, the rising of the Adriatic Sea, and the subsidence of the northern coast of the Adriatic where Venice is located, gave me the idea for this story. Of course, I threw in a succubus, too—that seemed like a given for a story located in such a timeless, dream-like city as Venice.
The Gates of Moses (Melange Books)
An engineer dedicated to saving Venice from the rising seas, fails in his task. As a severe storm and high tides threaten to burst through the flood walls, he resolves to remain in Venice with a ghostly lover who claimed his heart years before. A woman from his staff who loves him, does not evacuate, but remains to battle his ghostly lover before he dies in a sinking Venice…
EXCERPT: The dull booms, like the measured beats of a primeval heart, echoed through the gray drizzling afternoon. Each boom was a countdown to a finely predicted cataclysm that man, through his mistaken notion that he could control nature, had finally admitted that he was powerless to hold back.
Dr. Gregorio Romano, tall, with dark brown hair and watchful hazel eyes, stood before the open tall narrow window of his corner office in the ornate, gilded Ducal Palace of the once La Serenissima Repubblica di Venezia, the Most Serene Republic of Venice, and peered into the gray drizzle toward the unseen barrier islands. The almost submerged islands of Lido and Pellestrina, with their channels opening onto the Adriatic Sea, formed the southeastern perimeter of the timeless Venetian lagoon. He listened to the echoing booms of the rising, stormy Adriatic, and thought of a mythical, prehistoric mother who gave birth to an imaginative species that dreamed of the impossible and often made it happen. And now the mother was ready to take back one of the greatest dreams of her children, ready to clasp it deep within her bosom.
“Yes,” he replied as he gazed at the gray choppy waters of the lagoon.
“Have you reconsidered? Are you ready to evacuate?”
“Not yet.” Gregorio tilted his head slightly as a sleek dark gondola glided effortlessly across frothy, white-capped waters and halted before the flooded wharf, the Riva degli Schiavoni, in front of the Palace.
Patrizia Celentano, the first and last female gondolier of Venice, looked up at him and gave a friendly wave. He raised a hand in return. Her gondola was a traditionally built and shaped boat, but rather than the traditional black as required by law, she painted it a dark wine color. Though she offered to erect a shelter to protect Gregorio from the elements, he always preferred to ride in the open.
“We can evacuate you by force if necessary.”
“You won’t,” Gregorio smiled as he turned to face his computer on the polished wooden desk. The broad, bearded face of his boss, Dr. Niccolo Ricci, nodded in agreement. “There’s no need, and a helicopter is scheduled to pick me up from the roof of my home tomorrow morning at 0600 hours.”
“The calculations might be incorrect. The gates could break tonight…”
Here’s a link to the story. http://tinyurl.com/bhoysld
“The Ferryman” (Melange Books) came about due to my interest in Greek mythology; as to how I developed the idea and events that tempt Charon the Ferryman to abandon his appointed post, I can’t remember. But the research and writing was fun.
The Ferryman (Melange Books)
Sometimes even a servant of the gods may become curious and intrigued by other possibilities beyond their assigned role, which threatens to upset everything. Charon the Ferryman witnessed an act of love when a little girl offered him a song bird to pay for her grandfather’s shade to be ferried across the Styx. And the shade of a barbarian woman taught him that there was more than the underworld…
EXCERPT: Strong sunlight faded to a pale shadow of itself as if drained of life to create deep shadows along the sloping floor and the uneven walls of the long cavern entrance. Long, narrow stalactites hung from the cavern roof and stalagmites of various heights and thicknesses angled upward from the floor, resembling the scattered, uneven teeth of a monstrous dragon’s mouth. Flowstone along the widening cavern walls had once oozed onto the cavern floor to form rolling stone waves that became a wide, sandy beach to disappear into the shadows.
The cavern roof arched upward, lost to sight save for the pale tips of hanging stalactites. The scattered stalagmites marched into the rippling surface of dark waters. A thick gray mist coated the water that splashed onto the beach. The mist swirled into strange formations caused by a moaning, chilly wind that swept out of the darkness and up the long tunnel.
From deep within the darkness of the gigantic cavern came the ghostly notes of pipes and the echoing steady rhythmic beat of a drum. Torches along the beach burst into flickering life as their flames danced to the ghostly rhythm of the pipes.
The torchlight revealed pale shades, the spirits, of weeping men, women, and children, who shuffled through the sand along the edge of the waters of the River Styx. The river was one of the dark rivers of Hades, the underworld of the dead. The sunlight filtering into the cavern rippled with the shadows of weeping shades descending the length of the cavern entrance. A gilded figure with torch held high lit the way before them.
The music grew louder. A dark shape, lighter than the darkness, appeared in the distance. The gathering shades milled at the water’s edge and waited as the bow of a boat fitted with a bronze beak sliced through the misty waters. A large red eye rimmed in black decorated each side of the polished wood bow. On both sides of the bow square wooden boxes dangled bronze anchors. Behind that lay a narrow platform from a tall, narrow, wooden walkway rose into the chill air. An angled black bow sail and a large black square sail behind it strained with the moaning wind…
Here’s the link. http://tinyurl.com/a2ac953
N&R: Those sound like some very interesting stories. I have a feeling my husband would really like some of them, as well.
Can you tell us a little about what you enjoy about writing and what you are working on now?
SH: Well, let’s see, I have wanted to be a writer most of my life. I do enjoy the research and the writing that goes into story telling. I enjoy telling stories. Editing—well, that’s another matter. I guess it is just as much the journey as the destination. As for what I am working on now? Well, I had “writer’s block” for six months, but I think that is over now. So, I am editing a story about a vampire on the loose in the old American West, and the American Indian who must battle the vampire. And then, there’s the story of a haunted German Tiger tank in North Africa during World War II. Finally, there’s a story of a scientific expedition stranded on a dying the Earth.
N&R: Sounds good. Let me know when they are published and available for the rest of us to read. Okay, Stan, I’d like to go back to something you said at the very beginning. You mentioned being homeless. Can you elaborate on that please and tell us what happened to bring this about? I would certainly like to know how you are making out, where you live and what is happening in your life right now. As a Canadian, I am always interested to know how other countries treat their veterans. Most governments don’t have the greatest records and we, as citizens, need to step up to the plate in more cases than we do.
SH: Well, I’m unemployed and have been for some time, and I finally ran out of money. I choose not to live with my kids and their families. Courtesy of a friend, I went to the Veterans Administration for assistance, and learned of a program administered by a non-profit organization on behalf of the VA. I am now in a 2-year program for homeless veterans, and I reside in a 1-man efficiency in a small barracks-style apartment complex. For me it’s a way to get back on my feet financially. Courtesy of the VA, again, I’m also taking part in a new education program where I have an opportunity to obtain a degree in Photography—combined with my lengthy experience in photography and writing, this may be a chance to develop an income as a freelance photographer and photojournalist. (I’ve also studied anthropology, and if I’m very lucky, I might obtain a degree in Anthropology in the next year.) At least a degree in photography is an opportunity, especially since here in Vegas where I can’t even find a job sweeping and mopping floors, and picking up cigarette butts.
N&R: So basically you’ve spent your whole life being there in the service of your country and this is what all that has gotten you. I hate to say it, but that seems to be the way it is around the world. Here too. I am so sorry you are going through all of this, but I am very glad that you were able to get some help and the VA had a program to assist you. I am really looking forward to reading your work and I ask that you keep in touch with me and let me know how things are doing.
Stan, thank you so much for dropping by, and giving us an opportunity to learn more about you and your work. We will be thinking about you and praying for your success in the very near future.
SH: Thank you for having me visit today.
To my readers, if ever a guy needed support, this is the one. Please buy his books from the publishers who put them out. That is always the best way for the authors to get their royalties.
You can contact Stan through this blog. Please leave a note in the comment section and your message will be forwarded to him.