Every day, more and more people realize that they fall in the category of people with empathy (compassion), highly sensitive to energy and emotions of the environment.
Empathetic person is a person who has the ability to grasp the mental and emotional states of others. These people have a high social intelligence and are very good at helping others to solve their problems.
This post is a nice, quick-read overview for those who (variously) are empaths, psychics, or generally highly intuitive. This blog, in general, does a good job of staying away from the questionable “new age” claims and posts material that I find helpful–or at least very interesting.
Yesterday, I mentioned those Facebook memes in which an old appliance is displayed and people are asked if they know what it is. Dial telephones, can openers, cassette tapes, paper cutters, all kinds of office, kitchen, and workshop stuff. I’m amazed at the number of people who don’t know what it is.
Most of the stuff shown was common as “recently” as 20 years ago. Some things are actually still around. If people aren’t using those things now, they would have seen them in their parents’ houses while growing up. Or in old movies and clips from old TV shows. Maybe I show my age when I say this, but anyone who’s watched a western movie or TV show will even know what a lot of objects are that were common in homesteads and ranches a hundred years ago. (Shows like “Little House on the Prairie” and “Medicine Woman” are, for example still running in syndication, showing us the tools and appliances from a hundred years ago.)
Perhaps those Facebook memes are phony and everyone and their brother knows what the stuff is. Perhaps so much new stuff is coming on the market, it’s harder to remember what was around 20 years ago. Perhaps fewer people watch old movies and old TV shows these days and don’t see the objects in those memes in use. Maybe the people who watch documentaries on the History channel (where there’s a lot of old stuff) aren’t on Facebook and never see the memes.
Or, do fewer and fewer people care about the past–and all the stuff in it–because today’s issues are occupying all of our attention? The impression I’m getting is that fewer people these days are aware of recent history, much less old office, and kitchen appliances. What do you think?
Have we lost our love affair with times gone by and all the stuff people used in those days?
When an author’s novels are set in the world of his childhood, the nostalgia of those old days might come out of the woodwork and turn his writing into melodrama. That’s the last thing I want.
One of my favorite poets, St.-John Perse, wrote in “To Celebrate a Childhood,” (which most of today’s critics would consider overly dramatic), “Other than childhood, what is there in those days that is not here today?”
Depending on how you see the question, the answer can be either “everything” or “very little.” I have this paradoxical view of my own childhood in the Florida Panhandle. Every once in a while, somebody posts a photograph of an old appliance on Facebook and asks “who knows what this is?” My generation knows; younger people seldom know.
Pork Chop Gang
The same is true with the news that was common during my childhood years: themes and practices, and people that I often reference in my books such as “Wop Salad” and Florida’s notorious “Pork Chop Gang.” (I feel no nostalgia for these two things, by the way.)
My nostalgia arises when I think of Boy Scout camping trips, all the hours spent sailing, scuba diving, and water skiing down at the coast, delivering telegrams and newspapers, and exploring the panhandle’s backroads–many not paved–in my old car. And, too, I recall old friends, many of whom taught me how to love the panhandle–something I thought I would never do. (As a California native, I was always considered an outsider.)
If I learned anything scary in those days (except during the Cuban missile crisis), it was to fear the KKK because they were everywhere, and I wonder now–as I did then–how many family friends and acquaintances were members. I’m surprised we never had a cross burnt in our front yard because my folks were liberal, we went to a liberal church, and people we knew well had experienced the wrath of the Klan. (No nostalgia here, by the way.)
My novel Mountain Song and my trilogy of novels in the Florida Folk Magic series have scenes set in the Florida Panhandle. Since these novels overlap the world of my childhood, I worked hard to keep the melodrama out of them. It’s often a fight because memories ofter bring back times when one was hurt or frightened or disrespected.
Keeping melodramatic personal memories out of the stories is part of an author’s work. That’s not always easy to do because, as I think of them, I’m as pissed off now as I was then. (The Campbell motto is “Forget Not.”) But I think we have to draw a line between our personal histories and our stories when we write novels. If we don’t, the novels can easily turn into rants rather than compelling fiction.
If you write, and if you set your stories and novels into the past you experienced, do you have trouble keeping your personal feelings out of it?
Several times a year, I end up with eye strain. This time it happened because I’ve been staring at the doc file for Dark Arrows, my novel in progress, for days as I work my way through it again and again.
When this happens, my eyes feel the way they would if I were riding a motorcycle with no helmet or goggles and had wind blowing into them for days; in other ways, it’s a bit like being on the verge of snowblindness. I find that some eye drops named Soothe really help with this.
Like all of my novels, Dark Arrows (set in early 1955) didn’t turn out like I thought it would. For one thing, I never know how my novels will turn out because I don’t outline or plan ahead. The first surprise was that Eulalie, Willie, Lena, and others from my Florida Folk Magic Series of three novels showed up in the story. (Saying “shoo, shoo”) didn’t work. And, the story turned out to be more of a mystery because there are not only bad guys and good guys, but the major characters all have secrets.
For months, I had problems getting the plot, style, and point of view to work properly. But now that I think I have all that ironed out, I’m excited about finishing the novel and sending it to Thomas-Jacob Publishing–as soon as the eye strain clears up and I can see it on the screen.
Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the Florida Folk Magic trilogy that includes Conjure Woman’s Cat, Eulalie and Washerwoman, and Lena. You can save money on the Kindle version with the three-in-one set shown here.
“A literary trope is the use of figurative language, via word, phrase or an image, for artistic effect such as using a figure of speech. The word trope has also come to be used for describing commonly recurring literary and rhetorical devices, motifs or clichés in creative works.” – Wikipedia
Siskel and Ebert
On Siskel and Ebert’s long-ago TV show of movie reviews, whenever they showed a clip of a movie with a car chase along narrow streets in an Asian city, they would often shout “FRUIT CART” when (inevitably) one or both cars would plough into a vendor’s cart or tent, sending chickens, fruits and vegetables and everything else sky high. This is a trope, often used (variations of it probably show up in the Bond films) and always a lame groaner.
Dark and Stormy Night
“It was a dark and stormy night” is a cliche, one used so often that it’s often pointed at with laugher and derision whenever it shows up. Stormy nights are often included in a series of tropes that used to appear in old movies:
A young woman is alone in a rambling mansion on a dark and stormy night, sitting at a dressing table with an open window behind her.
The musical program on the radio is interrupted with the breaking news that two dangerous men have just escaped from a nearby prison or asylum.
The power goes out. She finds a candle (which will blow out numerous times) and uses it to go through the house shutting windows where curtains are flying up toward the ceiling creating eerie shadows.
She hears a crash somewhere off in the house and wonders whether an old tree has fallen through the glass doors that lead to the garden or the escapees have broken into the house.
There’s a gun in the house and, while searching for it, she will open a closet door out of which an ironing board will fall (scaring her and the audience), make her way down into the seldom-used basement where we know a gruesome murder once occurred, or up into the attic where mannikins and other objects that look like ghosts or deranged people are stored.
Each of these tropes increases the audience’s fear, not only because they’ve seen them before, but because something in our human conditioning or nature makes us fearful of such moments.
Don’t Use The Damn Tropes
Stay away from such tropes unless you’re writing a comedy or satire that pokes fun at hackneyed set pieces. You can play on the readers’ knowledge of such tropes by coming close to using them, but then veering away, or by constructing a scene that’s the exact opposite, e.g., rather than a dark and stormy night, use a bright, sunny afternoon. Instead of sitting at a vanity, the woman alone can be cooking, vacuuming the floor, or using the Internet to do office work at home.
If you go to websites that list novel and film tropes, you’ll probably be surprised at how many there are. Gosh, there’s a lot of stuff out there a good writer has to avoid.
We’re celebrating July 4, 2020, like a family squabbling at Granny’s birthday party where 50% of the inlaws got a virus, 50% are ripping family heirlooms off the walls, and 50% are trying to burn down the house. That’s 150%, but it’s a large family.
The argument has been more heated than usual this year. Otherwise, Granny’s seen it all. She knows that when everyone sobers up and gets their emotions and anger under control–to the extent that’s possible–the family will clean up the mess. She hopes folks will forgive each other and remember the love they feel for each other during easy times, though that’s a stretch.
As she looks at her trampled birthday cake, Granny’s amazed that the same people who made this mess have come together in years past to do amazing things even though none of them is perfect. The same cousins who fought Granddad about over the value of the Grange and badmouthed him for not being perfect have all cheated on their spouses, their taxes, and Lord only knows what else. It would be a hoot if it weren’t so sad.
She recalls the times when they’ve laughed about their inconsistencies and reckons they’ll laugh again, though probably not soon. Granny doesn’t remember who first said it, but she likes the saying that “The family is one of nature’s masterpieces.” Maybe that’s why it survives in spite of the squabbling.
That’s how I see our country. Ultimately, I think its greatest weaknesses will evolve into its greatest strengths and pure love for each other will be unconditional.
In the old days before the Internet, local stories seldom got splashed around the country adding fuel to the fire like they do today. . .a white woman sees a black man walking his dog in the park and calls 911 (what the hell is that!) or a bank can’t verify the paycheck of a black man and calls 911 (that can hardly be bank policy).
I’m fed up with these kinds of incidents just as I’m fed up with sincere protesters getting a bad rap when outside agitators come in and start torching police cars and burning buildings.
I’m writing another anti-KKK novel set in Florida in the 1950s. Florida was a very active KKK world in those days. In my novel, the protagonist starts hassling families who are the local KKK’s movers and shakers with the hope that those people will leave town, weakening the local organization.
But after seeing the daily headlines, I think I’m sitting down at my PC more ticked off than normal. The resulting novel seems edgier and more noir than usual. I don’t know if that’s good or not. I am thankful that I can funnel some of my anger into the story rather than taking it out on family, friends, and co-workers.
How about you? How do you unwind after yet another day of bad news and keep it from turning you into a person you don’t want to be?
When I read old novels, I enjoy the engravers’ work. Sometimes the illustrations begin new chapters or appear in line with the text to add weight to a description. Whether or not one believes an illustration is worth a thousand words, the graphics, in my opinion, helped convey the novel’s places and characters and events to the readers.
I’m always happy when the publishers of modern-day novels take the trouble to add a reoccurring graphic at the book’s chapter beginnings, or better yet, graphics that fit the text here and there throughout the book.
Unless an author is an artist, the first roadblock today comes from having to hire an illustrator, and that might just be an expense that’s higher than what the book is projected to earn. Yes, there are stock agencies where one can find illustrations, but their use is typically limited to cover artwork.
The second issue is copyright. Sorting that out might be a nightmare to just determine who owns it; and then, if anyone does own it, getting permission and paying a fee to use it (sometimes waved for educational books).
In my case, I mention real products in my novels, partly to set the scene, partly to give the reader a sense of the times, and partly just to show what I’m talking about. For example, if I were writing a novel set in Montana in the 1800s, I would probably mention (or have the characters attend) one of the presentations of the traveling Shakespeare companies. Showing a handbill would be wonderful. Or, I would have one of my characters who likes chewing tobacco get swept up in the craze of related products. I love the artwork from the Juliet tobacco pouch.
If I could draw (ha ha), I might create a black-and-white illustration of the downtown of one of my made-up towns, showing what such a place might have looked like during the time when the novel is set. No, I don’t want a graphic novel. Just a few drawings to convey the ambiance of the stories.
My contemporary fantasy novel The Sun Singer will be free on Kindle from June 30 through July 4.
A “Foreword Magazine” Book of the Year Finalist when it first came out, this remains my favorite novel (though I won’t say that to the characters in my other novels.) If you’ve already read The Sun Singer, you may enjoy the sequel Sarabande.
Both books are set in the mountain high country of Montana’s Glacier National Park where I worked as a seasonal hotel employee and hiked all the trails used in the novels.
Robert Adams is a normal teenager who raises tropical fish, makes money shoveling snow off his neighbors’ sidewalks, gets stuck washing the breakfast dishes, dreads trying to ask girls out on dates and enjoys listening to his grandfather’s tall tales about magic and the western mountains. Yet, Robert is cursed by a raw talent his parents refuse to talk to him about: his dreams show him what others cannot see.
When the family plans a vacation to the Montana high country, Grandfather Elliott tells Robert there’s more to the trip than his parents’ suspect. The mountains hide a hidden world where people the ailing old man no longer remembers need help and dangerous tasks remain unfinished. Thinking that he and his grandfather will visit that world together, Robert promises to help.
On the shore of a mountain lake, Robert steps alone through a doorway into a world at war where magic runs deeper than the glacier-fed rivers. Grandfather Elliott meant to return to this world before his health failed him and now Robert must resurrect a long-suppressed gift to fulfill his promises, uncover old secrets, undo the deeds of his grandfather’s foul betrayer, subdue brutal enemy soldiers in battle, and survive the trip home.
I’m very pleased to announce that we’re dipping our toes into the water of publishing with the establishment of Bumblehill Press. To begin with, the press will be focused on bringing some of my backlist of short stories and mythic essays out in ebook editions…but once we get the hang of this, who knows where it might lead?
The first publication is “The Color of Angels,” a short story about a London artist who flees to the myth-haunted hills of Dartmoor as her life and her health start to crumble around her. The tale is loosely connected to my desert novel The Wood Wife (the protagonists of each, Tat Ludvik and Maggie Black, have been close friends since their university days), but can be easily read on its own.
I’m a long-time fan of the art and writing of Terri Windling, so the formation of a new publisher is great news. I saw this announcement several days ago on her blog and thought it was worth sharing, especially for those of us who like folklore and fairy tales.