The place where I grew up is toast

“Hurricane Michael was the third-most intense Atlantic hurricane to make landfall in the United States in terms of pressure, behind the 1935 Labor Day hurricane and Hurricane Camille of 1969. It was also the strongest in terms of maximum sustained wind speed to strike the contiguous United States since Andrew in 1992. In addition, it was the strongest on record in the Florida Panhandle, and was the fourth-strongest landfalling hurricane in the contiguous United States, in terms of wind speed”. – Wikipedia

I cannot help but follow the weather maps and news about Hurricane Michael. When referring to Mexico Beach and Panama City, Florida, the word “catastrophe” is often used. I grew up in Tallahassee which is about 20 miles from the coast. We spent many hours along the coast from St. Marks to Alligator Point to Carrabelle to Apalachicola. We seldom went to Panama City because–even then–it routinely filled up with tourists. I’d never been to Mexico Beach.

The photographs, as editors keep saying, look like a war zone. I’ve seen this before, but not on this scale in Florida. It’s a miniature Katrina. We saw most of the affected coastline as kids from speedboats and sailboats. We spent many hours at a St. Theresa beach cottage owned by good friends. I hope it’s still there. It’s hard to look at all this in news pictures just as it’s hard to look at Glacier National Park wildfire stories in news pictures.

Not that I could do anything if I were there, but I feel like I should be there even though I’ve been away from the Florida Panhandle for so many years, I know very few people there anymore. Yet, there’s something special about the places where we grew up and/or spent a lot of time that draws us to them when the people there are in trouble.

The area where Michael hit has often been called “the forgotten coast” because most of the tourism and development were elsewhere. In that sense, I have always been happy it was forgotten because I didn’t want it to attract the commercialized mess of places like Daytona Beach. But now, I hope that FEMA programs and agencies that help with rebuilding places after so-called acts of God don’t forget the forgotten coast.

–Malcolm

 

 

Keep a special journal for your kids

When I was in college, my father sent me a series of letters about many of the experiences in his life from years before I was born. In addition to that, I grew up in the era of the Christmas letter which was a summary of the family’s travels and other activities during the calendar year. So, I ended up with a family history of sorts.

While the letters covered many things that I would never have known from the years when my dad was in high school and college and looking for his first job, those Christmas letters served as an easy reference when I was trying to remember what year I played the clarinet in the high school band or when my folks took my brothers an I on a vacation trip to Fort Ticonderoga and Niagara Falls.

Christmas letters have become kind of a joke, especially since far-flung family and friends can keep up by e-mail and Facebook. Our kids won’t have a file of those letters when they grow up and can’t remember what year they broke their ankles while ice skating or when the family house got larger with a two-room addition.

I liked my father’s idea of the “history” letters. They seemed to work better than an actual journal because–like those mocked Christmas letters of old–they could summarize each year in several typed pages. Plus, journaling is a bit too personal for sending off to one’s kids when they grow up.

The younger generation seems preoccupied with “right now.” I guess my generation was, too. I suspect many of them won’t remember the slings and arrows of their family’s daily life several decades down the road.  Unfortunately, many of them will never care–when they’re young adults–what their families were doing when they were five or ten years old. But some will care, and I’m guessing those who do will treasure a written record about their family life when they grow up.

Married couples can make this a joint project they work on together or each of them can include their personal views of the year. While your children might be interested (briefly) in what their parents thought about the politics and other issues of the day, I believe they’ll appreciate information about themselves: clubs, school projects, where they lived, moving to a new town and school, vacation trips, honors and awards, names of their best friends, hobbies and projects. Each year’s history can probably be typed up in several pages. (No need to deluge the kids with a thousand pages of records!)

I suppose parents might start writing these letters when the first child is born and continue writing them until the youngest child moves out of the house. As I get older, I appreciate this information more and more: while I remember (usually) what happened, it becomes more and more difficult to put it into perspective.

What’s the worst that can happen? Your kids will throw the whole thing away when you send it to them while they’re in college or at their first adult job. If so, you’ll have a copy of the journal to supplement your memories. At best, your kids will appreciate the family history.

Malcolm

 

 

 

Happy Birthday to Indies Unlimited

“Seven years ago, the Evil Mastermind launched Indies Unlimited. Since then, we’ve had over 2.5 MILLION page views, been named as one of Six Great Blogs for Indie Authors in Publishers Weekly, and ranked as one of the top writing-related sites by Alexa.”

Source: Indies Unlimited – Celebrating Independent Authors

Indies Unlimited is the go-to blog for writers learning their craft and then learning how to market their work in competition with the one million self-published books released each year. Since the blog is run by volunteers, it’s obviously a labor of love, though I hate using that hackneyed old phrase to describe their work.

Even if you don’t have time to check the blog every week, a scan through their archive of posts will usually materialize what you’re looking for whenever you have a question or the need for a little inspiration.

I hope Indies Unlimited is going strong seven years from now.

Malcolm

 

Playing fast and loose with the supernatural

A few days ago I saw a discussion among readers of so-called cozy, witchy romances in which most of the fans preferred fantasy versions of witchcraft over novels that made even a lightweight attempt at reality. What we’re talking about here is contemporary fantasy, stories that take place within our own world as opposed to those set on another planet.

This is what I find when I search for witchcraft on a clip art service. While it’s what we think, it isn’t reality.

Wisely, I think, I said nothing. I’ve read a few of those cozy witchcraft novels and, even though the storylines were interesting, my primary thought was that the authors were playing fast and loose with the supernatural. That is, the stories had little or nothing to do with either real Wicca or real traditional witchcraft. The witches in the stories were given powers and rituals that real witches don’t have OR they continued to follow the long-time portrayals (by Hollywood and the Christian Church) of witches as satan worshippers.

While that’s a convenient approach, it’s about as irresponsible as telling a story about–say, the Presbyterian Church or General Motors or Walmart that doesn’t stick to established facts about these organizations. Yes, I know, if makes novels more exciting if a Presbyterian a minister has a wand and can use spells out of the Harry Potter books. But it’s false.

The practices of real witches are very tame when compared to the cozy romances and horror novels written about them. Maybe that’s why authors and a lot of readers like the phony fantasy versions. During the 1950s and 1960s, at a time when the triple feature horror-rama presentations at drive-in theaters were doing big business, the silver screen was awash in symbols from multiple religions and belief systems that–for the sake of a scary story–were turned into a cesspool of evil to earn a buck.

In addition to witches, mystics, shamen, psychics, healers, herbalists, visionaries, and others have been slandered by the mainstream as people associated with evil and/or scams of one kind or another. This has given authors and filmmakers an “anything goes” license to make up whatever nastiness they want about the supernatural and those who believe in it. You may think the Salem witchcraft trials are far away, but the attitude behind them is still with us.

Humans seem predisposed to distrust anyone they can label as “other.” Most often, this ignorant habit focuses on other races, foreigners in general, and people from another part of the country. But it also includes witches, shamen, and healers. Why does this happen? Brainwashing from mainstream religions that routinely accuse people who don’t even believe in the devil as being worshippers of the devil. And, the fact that mixing long-time fears about the supernatural into a riveting movie or novel will bring in a lot of dollars.

The majority of our population seems to fall into two camps of people: (1) Those who believe the supernatural is bunk, and (2) Those who believe the supernatural is evil. If one ever pointed out that many church-going people believed in Christian (and other) mystics of the past, we were told that such people don’t exist now. Sure they do. They’ve been frightened into keeping quiet.

All of us have mental capabilities we can develop: hunches and premonitions, intuition about our ailments, feelings about our connections to the Earth as a living organism, and the ability to strongly influence the course of our lives. It’s sad that we overlook all of this because we’re told it’s evil or mindless superstition. So no, I don’t like those cozy witchy novels and Hollywood movies that play fast and loose with the supernatural because those things are holding us back.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the three novels in the Florida Folk Magic series that portray hoodoo as it really is.

 

 

 

Environment: ship of fools or delusional idiots

Hurricane Michael is aimed at the place where I grew up. Almost everyone from Florida has seen storms before, but the odd thing is, each time a new storm arrives I see lists of things people should do to get ready and be safe. People should know these things already as surely as they know to look both ways before crossing the street and not taking a bath with a plugged-in toaster.

If my family lived in Tallahassee now, we probably wouldn’t leave. However, we would leave if we lived in Carrabelle, St. Marks, and other coastal communities in the storm’s path. Every year, there are hurricane deniers who say they’re ready to ride out the storm as though they are bigger than the storm. We saw what happened to those people when hurricane Florence struck: they needed to be rescued and that put first-responders’ lives at risk.

I have no idea whether the timing, routes, and ferocity of Florence and Matthew have anything to do with global warming. But, inasmuch as those storms are arriving at the same time as we’re hearing another set of global warming warnings, they remind me of the fact that many people have denied the importance of the environment for years and they seem to be treating warnings about rising seas, droughts, fires, and other effects the same way they treat hurricane warnings.

Years ago, we began hearing the term “spaceship earth.” We were told that in spite of Earth’s apparent resilience to poisons, plastics, rainforest clearing, fracking, and other forms of pollution and environmental damage, that our planet was–in many ways–a spaceship traveling through space with limited resources and a failing infrastructure. Multiple environmental groups have been complaining about the damage ever since I was in grade school, and probably before that.

I was naïve in the 1960s when I joined the Sierra Club because I actually thought people were smart enough to take those warnings seriously. Now I think that spaceship earth is either a ship of fools or is carrying passengers who are delusional idiots. Apparently, restricting one’s actions to help the environment is so inconvenient that allowing Earth to fail is worth it. Most people think it will happen years after they’re gone. So they don’t worry about it. That foolish idiocy keeps them from seeing it’s happening now.

For those who love dystopian fiction, watch the news. We are living it. There’s no need to make it up. And to ramp up our feelings of danger, the current Presidential administration has appointed kamikaze pilots to every single post that can impact spaceship earth for better or worse. So far, they are choosing “worse.” We can shake our fists at the storm and say we’re going to ride it out.

Good luck with that.

Malcolm

 

 

 

What are authors doing when they’re not writing?

Here’s your multiple guess response:

  1. Drinking
  2. Researching something that may or may not help with the next book
  3. Considering a job in the real estate business–or, basically anything other than writing
  4. Reading another author’s books as an excuse for not writing
  5. Studying potential marketing plans in hopes of competing with James Patterson and Catherine Coulter (haha)
  6. Spending more money on a new website that costs more than his or her books are likely to earn
  7. We’re always writing even if we’re not actually writing

I guess all of the above are true. Yesterday afternnoon, my wife and I went down to Duluth, Georgia to the Southeastern Railway Museum’s celebration of its move to a new site some twenty years ago. We had fun seeing a museum we hadn’t been do in a very long time. We moved away (twice) and volunteering there was no longer possible.

Funny thing is, we wandered into the museum because I was doing research on railways for a book. We got trapped. We became volunteers. We worked our butts off for about ten years there. It’s easy to become derailed when you’re doing research.

Yes, I did write the book.

But for quite a few years, the museum was a passion because both my wife and I loved history.

As you may have heard, everything a writer experiences might end up in the next book. (I usually change the names to protect the guilty.)  If you think one of the characters in one of my books, you’re right, it might be you. But here’s the thing: everything we see when we’re not sitting at a keyboard might become part of the next story. Figuratively speaking, we’re always writing.

We see our lives as a series of stories, Sometimes I write them down and they become novels. Like most authors, I don’t make any money doing that because very few authors in the U.S. actually make any money. But, we’re addicted to writing when we aren’t drinking.

–Malcolm

My latest novel is called “Lena” and takes place in north Florida when the KKK was still a real problem. 

 

 

 

What Will You Serve?

“Because, here’s the thing: If you’re the sort of person who reads articles on how to find your life’s purpose, what you’re ultimately looking for is meaning. And you don’t find meaning by defining what you want and then getting it. You find meaning by serving something higher than yourself. So the central question I would suggest asking yourself is: What will you serve? To what will you dedicate yourself?”

Source: What Will You Serve? | Theodora Goss

I saw this quote on Sophia’s Children:  “I know it is possible to create islands of sanity in the midst of disruptive seas. … And I have studied enough history to know that such leaders always arise when they are most needed. Now it’s our turn.” ~ Margaret Wheatley, Who Do We Choose to Be?

And then I found myself re-reading some of Theodora Goss’ older posts, including the one quoted above from a year ago, called “What Will You Serve?”

Like Goss, I planned to be a writer when I was very young. So, I always knew the answer to the question: What Will You Serve? Incorrectly, I thought that finding that answer was half the battle. For some people, it may be. But the road has been a rocky one. I’ve been fairly determined, though, so stay the course in spite of poor barriers writers face these days.

I can’t say that answer that question early in life is any better than answering it later in life. When we answer it later, perhaps we’ll discover we’re serving the destiny or the journey of our lives without pinning a name to it. Many of us have more optimism when we’re young, so I guess if we answer the question then, our hopes and dreams will have enough energy behind them to help us over the rough spots.

Perhaps you’ll enjoy Goss’ post and get a few ideas.

–Malcolm

P.S. My novel “Lena” is on sale on Amazon this weekend for 99¢. I’ll let you be adventurous and find the Kindle edition there without my shamelessly providing a link.

 

Today’s Tarot Reading: Everything’s going to hell in a handbasket

Wikipedia photo

I’ll confess, I didn’t do this reading myself. I went out to tarot.com which is kind of a fun site and checked to see what my three-card free reading would be. I learned that the world’s leadership has collapsed and that I should stay alert.

Okay, I can stay alert.

I’ve had decks of tarot cards in my desk since I was in high school. I enjoy the symbolism a lot. The 78 cards cover almost all of life’s situations. When the cards appear to fail, the problem is usually the person reading the cards.

Readers must always recognize that the future isn’t engraved in stone. The cards indicate what will happen based on current conditions. You’ll find the same thing to be true if you use the I Ching, the book of changes, to ask questions about current conditions or the so-called future.

I’ve gotten rusty using either oracle because I discovered a long time ago that I can see the situation better through meditation than on relying on either the Tarot cards or on the I Ching’s hexagrams. In either case, the probable future related to your question always comes from you. The cards and hexagrams are crutches, so to speak. Perhaps “guides” is a better world.

When I was in high school, the country was gripped by one of those recurring new age fads in which folks were reading cards and the I Ching and trying to become one with the universe. As I’ve gotten older, oracles have become less important to me because I realize that I am creating the future events that I will soon experience in everyday life.

While I think oracles can provide a lot of guidance, it’s been helpful to me to leave them behind for the most part. I feel confident that I am on the right path. So I don’t need to keep checking my Tarot deck or my copy of the I Ching to see if I’m right. At some point, constant checking translates into uncertainty and doubt, and once we’re preoccupied with those feelings, we are going to hell in a handbasket.

I find that I’m usually aware of signs, the cries of birds and the appearance of clouds and winds and blowing leaves. I see this as no different than an inner-city dweller being streetwise to possible dangers around the corner or a farmer being aware of changes that might affect the sowing of seeds or the harvesting of crops. Some would say I’m superstitious. Possibly so.

When we become attuned to our environment, whether it’s a mountain town or a big-city suburb, we certainly know better where it’s safe to walk and where it’s not safe to walk. Yes, the Tarot cards can tell me that. But my thoughts are faster.

The whole shebang–whether you call it “the future” or “the big picture” comes down to trusting oneself. Conjure women used to say that if you have to keep checking on how your latest spell is proceeding, you’re signifying doubt

In Frank Hebert’s novel Dune, we were told that fear is the mind killer. That resonated with me when I read it back in 1965. It still does. I also think doubt is a mind killer because it counteracts the positive thoughts we have about a specific project or the future in general.

Symbols tend to resonate with us. Some say that’s like hitting one tuning fork with a mallet and having a nearby tuning fork make the same sound. Art impacts us. Stories impact us. So do “chance” meetings with others or odd changes in the weather or the pictures we find on a Tarot card deck. All that is like computer input. Consciously or subconsciously those symbols alert us to probabilities and help us find our way through the ever-shifting maze of life.

–Malcolm

My novel “Lena” continues on sale for 99 cents through October 5th.

 

 

 

 

New Cover for ‘The Sun Singer’

I have updated the cover of The Sun Singer to make the style similar to the covers of Mountain Song and At Sea. The text is the same inside with the exception of the photo credit for the new cover and an update to my list of other novels.

The hero’s journey adventure story is contemporary fantasy.

Description:

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 of Glacier National Park, 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.

The heroine’s journey story sequel is Sarabande,

–Malcolm