Sunday’s Goulash

Gulyas080.jpgIt’s an affront to those of us who like Goulash (photo) to see that Americans are still messing it up by throwing pasta into it and (sometimes) calling it slumgullion. If you know where I live, don’t bring any of that swill to my house when I’m already under the weather. Also, please don’t bring over anything made with the weird ingredients that routinely appear on the “Chopped” television show. If you do, you’ll be chopped. My 2¢.

  • I’m enjoying re-reading The Overstory by Richard Powers. The Pulitzer-prize-winning novel is described as a “sweeping, impassioned work of activism and resistance that is also a stunning evocation of—and paean to—the natural world.” Next on my list (finally) is Cloud Cuckoo Land which is, according to the New York Times, “wildly inventive, a humane and uplifting book for adults that’s infused with the magic of childhood reading experiences” The book came out several years ago and it’s taken me this long to get around to it.
  • What a Sunday morning mess in LaGrange Georgia, struck by a  strong tornado this morning. Unfortunately, there’s a chance for more severe weather tonight and early tomorrow at this community 67 miles southwest of Atlanta. According to CNN, “No fatalities were immediately reported, but at least three people were injured in the storm.” We’ve had heavy rain here in NW Georgia but are out of the danger area.
  • If the rain stays away, I need to go out after supper and see if the In lawn mower will start. Probably not.
  • In my work-in-progress, the characters are arguing about whether places can be haunted. I say “no,” but then I can’t be sure, can I?
  • On the other hand, I’ll mention in a bit of shameless promotion that I do have a book of ghost stories available. Some of them might be true.



‘Hello Beautiful’ by Ann Napolitano

Hello Beautiful, by Ann Napolitano (March 2023) has been chosen as the 100th selection by Oprah’s Book Club. Of the book, Oprah said, “I’m telling you, once you start, you won’t want it to end…and be prepared for tears.”

According to Book Browse News, “Maybe it was fate, maybe it was the meddling of a higher power with a wicked sense of humor. Either way, Ann Napolitano was taking out the garbage when Oprah Winfrey called to tell her that her novel, ‘Hello Beautiful,’ is the 100th selection for what is arguably the most influential book club in the world.

“Napolitano was so afraid of losing the connection that she stood stock-still in the tiny vestibule of her Park Slope apartment building, clutching her bag of trash, for the duration of the 27-minute call.”

From the Publisher

“William Waters grew up in a house silenced by tragedy, where his parents could hardly bear to look at him, much less love him—so when he meets the spirited and ambitious Julia Padavano in his freshman year of college, it’s as if the world has lit up around him. With Julia comes her family, as she and her three sisters are inseparable: Sylvie, the family’s dreamer, is happiest with her nose in a book; Cecelia is a free-spirited artist; and Emeline patiently takes care of them all. With the Padavanos, William experiences a newfound contentment; every moment in their house is filled with loving chaos.

“But then darkness from William’s past surfaces, jeopardizing not only Julia’s carefully orchestrated plans for their future but the sisters’ unshakeable devotion to one another. The result is a catastrophic family rift that changes their lives for generations. Will the loyalty that once rooted them be strong enough to draw them back together when it matters most?

“An exquisite homage to Louisa May Alcott’s timeless classic, Little WomenHello Beautiful is a profoundly moving portrait of what is possible when we choose to love someone not in spite of who they are, but because of it.”

Her 2021 novel Dear Edward is an Apple TV+ series starring Connie Britton.


Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of magical realism and contemporary fantasy stories and novels.

Burning Books The Modern Way

Books are the most vulnerable in school libraries and school courses. All a student has to do, on his/her own or with the urging of parents, is to claim that a book offends him/her and suddenly the book is gone.

So far, I don’t think today’s school children are weaker than they were when I went through K-12 level schooling, though we probably couldn’t have gotten away with the politically motivated, woe-is-me behavior we see today. So, I think they can read most books without dying from them.

These books are banned in Martin County, FloridaAccording to PEN America, “Books are under profound attack in the United States. They are disappearing from library shelves, being challenged in droves, being decreed off limits by school boards, legislators, and prison authorities. And everywhere, it is the books that have long fought for a place on the shelf that are being targeted. Books by authors of color, by LGBTQ+ authors, by women. Books about racism, sexuality, gender, history. PEN America pushes back against the banning of books and the intolerance, exclusion, and censorship that undergird it.” Learn more from this report.

What’s happening is obvious. Politicians who couldn’t defeat legislation that didn’t like are going after the books and, no doubt, each banned book represents a feeling of power over a lot of people.

Politicians–who really have no business using K-12 schools or state universities as political footballs don’t like books like To Kill a Mocking Bird and I know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Allegedly–as the politicians charge–such books make people uncomfortable. My response is so what? I’m sure students feel uncomfortable when their football team loses the big game. Or when the person they want to go to the prom with goes with somebody else. That’s life. And, if feeling bad after reading a book is the worst thing a person experiences, they’re really in good shape.

Along with book banning and editing older fiction to conform to today’s political “standards,” we now have sensitivity readers checking manuscripts for offensive content or bias. Offensive to whose agenda? Sounds like publisher CYA to me.

I told my Facebook followers today that if my conjure books are around fifty years from now, a hex will automatically stop any politician or publisher who tries to alter what I wrote. They’ll come down with boils or syphilis or out-of-control dandruff. All writers need a little conjure to keep the unwashed politicians away from their books.

As I see it, October 1-7 isn’t long enough for banned books week. We need something that keeps our eyes on the problem 24/7/365.


Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the four-part Florida Folk Magic Series. If politicians knew about the books, they’d try to ban them since, God knows, we don’t want to offend anyone whose grandaddy was in the Klan.

Online harassment remains high, but there’s help

“Roughly four-in-ten Americans have experienced online harassment, with half of this group citing politics as the reason they think they were targeted. Growing shares face more severe online abuse such as sexual harassment or stalking.”Pew Research: The State of Online Harassment (Click on the link to read the report.)

Pew Research defines online harassment as:

  • Offensive name-calling
  • Purposeful embarrassment
  • Stalking
  • Physical threats
  • Harassment over a sustained period of time
  • Sexual harassment

Online Harassment Field Manual“Whether you’re experiencing or witnessing online abuse, this Field Manual offers concrete strategies for how to defend yourself and others. We wrote this guidance with and for those disproportionately impacted by online abuse: writers, journalists, artists, and activists who identify as women, BIPOC, and/or LGBTQIA+. Whatever your identity or vocation, anyone active online will find useful tools and resources here for navigating online abuse and tightening digital safety.” – PEN America

Launched in 2018, the field manual offers tips in two general areas, “Safety and Security” and “Community and Counterspeech.”  The manual will teach you how to (a) Prepare for online abuse, (b) Respond to online abuse, (c) Practice Self-Care, (d) Review legal considerations, (e) Request and Provide Support, and (f) Learn about what constitutes online abuse.

PEN provides a list of additional resources here.

PEN considers writers at risk to be a separate focus issue. “PEN America and its Members advocate on behalf of writers at risk globally, rallying to their defense and promoting the freedom to write through direct support, advocacy, and behind-the-scenes assistance. PEN America also tracks detained writers in its annual Freedom to Write Index, and catalogues historic cases in the Writers at Risk Database.” Learn more here.

In an article several years ago on The Conversation “Fighting online abuse shouldn’t be up to the victims,” the author said, “Perhaps the most important element to addressing online harassment is behaving like it is happening in the ‘real world.’ Abuse is abuse. Online spaces are created, shaped and used by real humans, with real bodies and real feelings.”

I agree with that and believe none of us should sit alone at our phones and computers and suffer from online bullying in silence.


Don’t put all your research into the book

For years, people have made fun of The Da Vinci Code for containing so many mini-lectures about subjects having to do with the Holy Grail. I suppose Dan Brown thought readers wouldn’t understand the plots and themes without all the background material. I thought it was distracting.

A laptop computer next to archival materialsI just finished another book by an author I like whose main character kept calling an expert about cults in an attempt to learn which ones are harmless and which ones aren’t. I don’t really think the extended information advanced the story. The information did relate to the plot, but it didn’t need to be in the book.

It’s almost as though the author became fascinated by cults and decided that the reader would also be fascinated by them. Not really. And, if so, we know how to use Google, the library, and the resource books available at Amazon and elsewhere.

When an author does this, critics often say “your research is showing.” Some critics even might suggest that the author wanted an excuse to talk about, say–cults, and wrote a novel to include what s/he had learnt about them. How much is too much. That’s a hard call to make. The detail can add ambiance while making the plot more understandable.  And yet, you don’t want readers to feel like they’re reading a research paper.

Lack ops books are famous for including a ton of information about weapons and weapons systems. Perhaps publishers and readers demand it. I like black ops novels but usually, skim over the weapons’ specifications. They don’t matter to me.

Every genre seems to have reader expectations about this kind of detail. Books about famous battles are, of course, historical novels and are expected to provide that history. Other books are, I think, better suited to using a lighter touch.


Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “At Sea,” a Vietnam war novel set on board an aircraft carrier on which he served during that war. I included research-type information for background but kept it within the confines of what sailors in that situation would actually say in conversation. The cover picture comes from a photograph I took of the aircraft carrier’s flight deck.

Malcolm, buy this and we’ll show you how to predict the future

Years ago, we all said everything is now. Oh, and a few memories about how each of us perceived that “now” at one intersection of time, space, and mind or another.

So, when somebody wants a stack of money from me to show me how to predict the so-called future, I don’t quite know how to respond to that other than “I think not.”

Typically, we assume time works like the drawing shown here. That means that the astrologer, psychic, tarot card reader, or snake oil salesperson wants to give me a peak into that cone at the top of the drawing.

Their deals always leave something out of the magic answer:  me. To put it simply, when a person tells me s/he will give me insight into the future, they’re telling me what I’m going to do tomorrow and next week. Like I don’t know that already. I have a calendar on my desk with stuff written on it for the upcoming days, weeks, and months. If somebody breaks into my house, looks at that calendar, and sends me notes about what they see, they believe they’re providing me with a valuable service. At a premium rate.

The “I’ll Show You The Future” spam plays on people’s fear that the so-called future is already set up by forces unknown and we’re at its mercy. If we’re at anyone’s mercy, it’s ourselves because everything that shows up in that cone at the top of the drawing is what we put there.


Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of magical realism and contemporary fantasy novels and short stories.

One key fob to bind them

If you have a recent car, you know that the most important piece of equipment is the key fob, the remote that unlocks the car as you approach and locks it as you walk away, and allows you to start the car by holding down the brake pedal and pushing the start button. I think it will also cook breakfast and start the car on a cold winter’s day.

Key Fob - 2016-2021 Honda HR-V 4-Button Smart Key Fob Remote (KR5V1X, 72147-T7S-A01)The primary key fob includes a key that will start the car during the apocalypse if need be. That key will also open the remote so you can change the battery inside even though this isn’t mentioned in the car’s operating manual.  On the secondary key fob, there’s a slide switch half the size of a grain of rice.  What it does, I don’t know because it doesn’t open the remote’s battery compartment.

Since this key fob will control the universe, you’d think the car’s manual would mention it, possibly including instructions for changing the battery and mentioning what size that battery is. I hate to drive by the dealership and ask, er, how do you change the battery in this sonofabitch that isn’t mentioned in the car’s operating instructions.

Maybe I’m supposed to ask the key fob how to do that, like Alexa. I’m thinking, though, that changing the battery in the fob is classified information because, you know, if the fob falls into the wrong hands those hands can launch missiles or otherwise mess up life as we know it.


Book Bits: Theodora Goss, Scott Adams, Tár, James Bond

This column about books, authors, publishing, and related films used to appear here frequently. I hope you enjoy the links and find a few things to strike your fancy.

I try to avoid sites with paywalls unless they give people several free reads before the paywall kicks in. I know how irritating it is to find interesting links on Facebook only to discover when I click on the that I’m now allowed to see the stories.

  1. cover image Tell Me Everything: A MemoirReview: Tell Me Everything: A Memoir – “Actor Kelly recalls her far-from-privileged upbringing and reflects on the skills that helped her survive it in this heart-stopping debut. In nonlinear vignettes, Kelly recounts her chaotic childhood as the daughter of an addict.” Publishers Weekly  Additional Info, Wikipedia: Minka Kelly is an American actress and model. Her first starring role was in the NBC drama series Friday Night Lights and she has also appeared on the shows Parenthood, Charlie’s Angels, and Almost Human. From 2018 to 2021, Kelly portrayed Dawn Granger /Dove on the DC Universe / HBO Max series Titans.
  2. FeatureA flood destroyed all of Sarah’s books, but a gift from a librarian changed her life  – “In 2001, Tropical Storm Allison hit Houston. More than 70,000 houses were flooded, including the home of Sarah Feldman and her family. At the time, they were in Connecticut on vacation, so they didn’t know what kind of damage they were going to face when they got home to Texas. But then Feldman’s grandparents called with bad news: all of her books had been destroyed in the flooding. Feldman was 14 at the time and loved reading.” NPR
  3. cover image The Collected EnchantmentsReview: The Collected Enchantments, by Theodora Goss  – “This vibrant collection brings together World Fantasy Award winner Goss’s exquisite interpretations of and variations on familiar folk and fairy tales. The 48 poems and 25 stories span the length of Goss’s career.” Publishers Weekly – Goss is also the author of three fantasy novels in the Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club series.
  4. News ‘SNL’ Takes Aim at ‘Dilbert’ Creator Scott Adams Following Racist Rant – “The centerpiece of “Saturday Night Live’s” March 4 ‘Weekend Update’ segment was a Scott Adams 2017.pngskewering of ‘Dilbert’ comic creator Scott Adams, who went on a racist rant last month that spurred dozens of newspapers to drop his long-running syndicated cartoon strip.” Variety See also ‘Dilbert’ cartoonist Scott Adams will be ‘backpedaling’ from his racist remarks for ’years’: Rich Lowry
  5. ReviewThe Writing Retreat, by Julia Bartz – Five writers, four weeks, and a $1 million book deal for the lucky winner. Unless they disappear first. . .Despite Alex’s somewhat whiny nature, the book’s THE WRITING RETREATpacing—a slow roll of dread and horror, especially in the first half—is exceptional. Bartz hits all the gothic highlights, but, far from feeling stale, they work. A perfect winter night’s haunting.” Kirkus Reviews. See also:  WITHOUT SHAME: FEMALE WRITERS ON FEMALE PSYCHOPATHS by Julia Bartz in “Crime Reads.”
  6. OpinionWhy Tár should win the best picture Oscar – “Cate Blanchett is wonderfully Tár poster.jpgcommanding as the sociopath musical megastar whose life is crumbling around her but it is the steely menace in Todd Field’s film that is simply delicious. The great crack-up of Lydia Tár, the Berlin Philharmonic’s entirely fictitious but docudramatically real-seeming chief conductor, has given the cinema its greatest spectacle, its greatest provocation and its greatest pleasure. If there is any justice, it will be producer-director Todd Field, with fellow producers Alexandra Milchan and Scott Lambert, who will be invited up on stage at the end of the evening to receive the climactic best picture statuette.” Guardian
  7. Ian Fleming.jpgNews:  Fleming’s Bond Novels To Be Edited for Language, by Michael Schaub – “Ian Fleming Publications Ltd., the company that manages the literary estate of the British author who created 007, is republishing the writer’s spy novels this spring, in a celebration of the 70th anniversary of the first Bond book, Casino Royale. The new editions of the books were reviewed by sensitivity readers, who recommended that the n-word be removed from the novels. Other racially insensitive passages have been changed, including one from Live and Let Die, which originally described patrons at a Harlem nightclub as “panting and grunting like pigs at the trough.” The new version reads, “Bond could sense the electric tension in the room.” Kirkus Reviews (Comment: The sensitivity police strike again.)


Writing, my time machine

The road on the cover of Conjure Woman’s Cat is an artist’s conception of an unpaved piney woods road and yet, I have driven down that road hundreds of times.

For most children in my growing-up world, nothing of consequence happened inside a building. Play, and the imagination that fueled it, was our true reality. Authors and other artists tend to hold onto that belief longer than most, often for a lifetime.

So, when I write, I’m sitting in a time machine that takes me back, as all country roads do, to the roads of my coming-of-age reality, a world outside the claustrophobic confines of the house where I lived in a middle-class white neighborhood to the great freedom of the woods, rivers, swamps, and Gulf coast far away outside the front door.

Life actual, the consensus reality inside the buildings, featured me dutifully sitting in a classroom or church pew, doing homework and chores, taking tests, and in every way that mattered to the establishment, acting like a normal kid en route to becoming a drone when it came time to go off to war or go off to the office.

Life in truth,  where imagination is more important than cold, hard facts, is the fabric of my books, coming from a world where I camped and hiked in the piney woods, sailed between Florida’s barrier islands, and drove hundreds of miles a week along unpaved roads in my unreliable 1954 Chevy. In this world, I learned who I was as opposed to life actual where I didn’t want to be.

Writing the books in the Florida Folk Magic Series takes me back to the part of my childhood and young adult years where the “real me” lived and breathed and learned the magic that would sustain me (even inside buildings).

Some say you can’t go home again. What a crock. I go home every time I write. Home is like that picture with the egret in it. I knew every nook and cranny of the Florida Panhandle because I hiked, drove, and variously wandered through it when I escaped from my house and my schoolroom. The events in the stories are “fiction.” Nonetheless, I was there to the extent that even to this day I find the world of piney woods and conjure more real than my life in school, home, and church.

Writers are often hard to get to know because of their split personalities, 10% based within consensual reality and 90% based within the realm of dreams. In general, we prefer the world of dreams, dreams that include our stories and the characters that appear in them.  We’re not easy to know or to live with because we’re always somewhere else and because we think consensual reality is an illusion.


E-mail in basket: what a minefield

Sometimes I see e-mails from people I know, family even. Sometimes there are e-mails from newsletters I subscribe to or vendors from whom I’ve ordered products. Occasionally, I receive e-mails with headers like “Are you the Malcolm R. Campbell who wrote Carl Jung and Alchemy.” I’ve never gotten one of those messages about anything I did write.

The rest is swill.

Download Logo Email Address Free Clipart HQ HQ PNG Image | FreePNGImgLately, there have been several e-mails a day with the word CONFIRMATION in the header. Most of these come from companies I’ve never heard of. Sometimes the title even says what the sender wants me to confirm, like: “CONFIRMATION: Brothels of the World Tour.” I never open any of these.

Then there are the e-mails that try to shame you for not opening previous e-mails, usually newsletters I’ve subscribed to. Often there’s a code of some sort hidden within a photo that tells the newsletter people whether I’ve opened their e-mails of late. When that happens, it means that I’ve subscribed to too many newsletters and have been skipping some of them.

There’s also this sort of thing: “Malcolm, 25 years ago you gave money to our save the whales’ foundation but you haven’t done jack shit since then. . . WTF” I don’t answer these even if the outfit is working for a good cause. One can go broke donating $10 here and $20 there.

Occasionally–and this happens on Facebook, too–I get a message that says, “Hi, I’m Melanie, a single mother with three children who has needs for male companionship. Write me back if you’re interested.” Obviously, I delete these, though I wonder how many of the senders know I’m old enough to be their grandfather.

I’ve been online since the AOL, CompuServe, and MySpace days. I think I’ve seen it all. If I haven’t, don’t tell me about it.


Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the comedy/satire Special Investigative Reporter. Check it out (if you dare).