Author Archive

We yearn for old times that really weren’t that good   Leave a comment

We often say we wish we could go back to the old days when the times and the people were more innocent and everyone lived off the grid of strife and disease and daily hardships. That nostalgic myth is difficult to resist even though anyone reading a good history book will be hard-pressed to find a long-lost utopian era when everything was wonderful.

My weakness is the Victorian Christmas card because it portrays kids and adults as though they lived in a halcyon era when Heaven existed on earth.

Surely joy and love and innocence existed in those days. It’s tempting to say that was the norm and dream of going back to such a wondrous time. We’re in love with the myth and the artwork, though, rather than the reality of days named after Queen Victoria (1837 – 1901). My parents tried very hard to re-create this myth during the Christmas holidays. They did achieve magic for my brothers and me, something I think parents can still do in spite of darker issues of the day.

Today’s young may not believe in that magic for as many years as we believed in it. Too bad: they lose their innocence so young. But those who are open to magic, family gatherings, songs, spiritual themes, and the beauty of decorated homes: whatever magic we can create for them nourishes them forever and is worth the effort.

There’s still time within the lives of our children to show them the beauty of giving rather than receiving. There’s still time to show them that special days are important for family and friends. And that even if we all know more about the evils of the world than we did at their age a century ago, we can put all that on hold for a day or a week or a month and focus on the better times within the scope of the holidays we celebrate.

In other words, we need to give our kids the gift of childhood. Yes, the time will be all-too-brief. Yet no matter how brief it is, it will be carried within their thoughts for a lifetime, not so much as a reality but as a possibility, one that they can convey to their own children years from now. I’ve always had an appreciation for families that manage to pass down the good things of their lives generation after generation in spite of hard times. They don’t have to allow hatred to win, much less prosper. 

That’s what we attempt to teach our kids via the magic of the holidays. It’s not a goody-two-shoes view of the world, but a wonderment we can find if we look hard enough. Our kids must be streetwise, but with wisdom that transcends the streets.

That’s a gift we strive to give our children.

Perhaps the greatest gift we can give our children, in addition to unconditional love and acceptance of their life’s choices is an optimistic outlook that no matter how much bad stuff they know, the spirit of the world is pure. Then, perhaps, they will live off the grid of the cynicisms of our era and see that re-creating the innocence of old holiday cards is a goal worthy of their hopes and dreams.

Malcolm 

 

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of paranormal, magical realism, and contemporary fantasy novels and short stories. Click on his name to see more.

 

Paying for a new intersection based on the needs of a business in a residential area   2 comments

We live on a narrow rural road in an area zoned for farms and residences. We have complained numerous times about the grading/hauling business across the road because it lowers the value of our home to prospective buyers. The county isn’t listening.

Adding insult to injury is the fact the business brings heavy equipment into its compound via tractor-trailers that can’t make the turn onto our narrow road without dragging the trailer section through the right-of-way on three sides of the intersection. This creates a constant mudhole, one that certainly doesn’t help property values.

So for the past several weeks, the county has been “improving” the intersection by: (1) Putting in new drainage culverts, (2) Creating a wider section of the pavement so the tractor-trailers can turn without cutting across the grass, (3) And today, apparently widening the road several feet up the road from the T intersection.

We want to complain. But when we do, we get nasty e-mails from the illegal business that basically ask us why we’re causing trouble. We keep pointing out that the neighborhood isn’t zoned for business, much less industrial. They seem deaf to that concept and believe they have the right to do whatever they want on their own property.  And once the nasty e-mails have come and gone, the county lets the business keep operating.

So, everyone out here is paying higher taxes for road repair so an illegal business can keep operating. Yes, I know there’s a good-old-boy attitude out here that says it’s okay to sneak past the regulations whenever you can. But I draw the line when it harms a property owner’s neighbors.

We feel rather stuck because we need to get out of here but we’re not sure anyone will buy our property. When we had this house built, we played by the rules. It’s too bad the county doesn’t feel the same way about the nearby property owners.

Malcolm

P. S. If 10,000 of you will each buy all of my books, we might be able to escape this neighborhood. Just a thought.

Pushing the Envelope   Leave a comment

Wikipedia Photo

The oldest person to reach the summit of Mt. Everest was 80. The oldest person to reach the summit of K2, a more difficult climb than Everest, was 65. The oldest woman to reach the summit of K2, Vanessa O’Brien in 2017, was 52. Since I wish I’d climbed these mountains, these accomplishments convince me that we will accomplish the so-called impossible by refusing to believe it’s impossible.

There’s always a risk. A lot of people have died on Everest and K2. A lot of people have lost their life’s savings trying to accomplish other tasks. As a writer, I’m inspired when I read about writers a lot older than me who are still sitting at their computers writing new novels and news stories.

Most of the time, I don’t think of what we want to do as pushing the envelope. I think we’re still doing what we always wanted to do. Maybe a bestselling novel will come out of it and maybe it won’t. Yet, as Yoda said, there is no “try.” We simply do, one step after another to the summit of the mountain and one word after another to the conclusion of another book.

Later, if we succeed, people can say “s/he pushed the envelope.”

But while we’re doing it, we’re simply doing it: writing another novel. pushing our limits on another hike, building another house like Jimmy Carter, or one way or another, still singing and still living rather than sitting in an easy chair watching TV.

When I read AARP Magazine, I salute the people who are keeping active and following their dreams. Young people tend to discount the elderly, and I’m here to say that “A lot of elderly people are doing more than young people.”

Why stop doing what you love?

Malcolm

Thank you to those of you who picked up a free copy of one of my novels during this year’s Black Friday giveaway.

Gosh, is so and so still alive?   2 comments

Do you ever see news stories about authors and actors you thought long gone and think, “Gosh, is s/he still alive?” Or, if the story is an obituary notice, one’s response might be, “Gee, I thought they were already dead.”

On Facebook, it’s not always easy to tell. Occasionally somebody posts a link to an obituary and people think, “Oh no,” and then somebody says, “Hey guys, this happened last year.”

The bottom line is this: the general population thinks the elderly are already dead–or should be. People assume Clint Eastwood will be directing and starring in movies with Oscar buzz when he’s 120. But, if you’re not old and not Clint Eastwood, folks assume your dead.

I assumed Don DeLillo was dead until he released a new book this year. Good for you, I thought. My mood went downhill quickly when one critic said the novel looked like a rough draft of one of the author’s earlier novels. Hell, he’s 84, give him a break.

Some of the confusion comes from the romance novel biz in which the books of dead authors keep getting released under new titles. Years ago, a lot of people thought Victoria Holt was still alive when she wasn’t while others thought she was dead before she was.

I wonder how many people think Tom Clancy is still alive and still writing “Op Center” novels.

Every year about this time, we start seeing such headlines as “People We Lost This Year.” I think we also need, “People We Lost Who We Presumed were Already Long Gone” and “People We Presumed Were Long Gone Who Are Still With Us.” In the political arena, we need “People Who Are Still Alive Who Shouldn’t Be.”

Sure, this sounds rather cynical, but the public needs somebody out there “keeping score” to keep us from stumbling into so many faux pas.

I think now of the Lee Marvin character in “Cat Ballou” in which he and his horse were always drunk. He stumbled into a funeral thinking it was a birthday celebration and acted accordingly. I hate it when that happens.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell’s novel “Special Investigative Reporter” is filled with one faux pas after another.

Starting the next novel   Leave a comment

When I read about Hollywood film productions, I’m amazed at the number of years it takes for a production company to go from the purchase of the initial story to the completion of production. Some novelists are like that, moving at a snail’s pace–like Susanna Clarke and Donna Tartt. Others juggle multiple ideas at a time and are hard at work on the next novel before the last completed novel is even in print.

Fate’s Arrows hasn’t met its stride yet in terms of readers, editions (we’re working on the audiobook), or critical and reader reviews. So, I almost feel like I’m cheating on it to be starting a new novel already. Seriously, though, I need to start working on Aeon before I lose my nerved.

Aeon will be the third in my “Mountain Journeys Series” that includes The Sun Singer and Sarabande.  The Sun Singer had an avatar who is presumed dead. For years, I didn’t think I knew enough magic to write the third novel from his point of view. I still don’t, so I’ll have to fake it and proceed at a Donna Tartt rather than a James Paterson pace.

The name of the novel comes from the 20th major arcana card in the Thoth Tarot deck. According to Raven’s tarot site, a nice reference for those who use the Thoth deck,  “The Aeon is the symbol for the Rise of Phoenix, it stands for a time of insight, the true understanding of the circle of life, of growing and fading. The card tells us that we should leave our ‘frog perspective’ and watch the things from a higher level, that the time has come to face the new, that we need a good overview to build our ‘Utopia’.”

Fortunately, readers won’t need to know anything about the Tarot to understand the novel. Like the earlier novels in the series, Aeon will be contemporary fantasy, focussing primarily on a civil war in an alternate universe. Even though the avatar has grown too old for this sort of thing, he has to return to that universe because that’s where his daughter and his grandson live.

I’ve been reading through The Sun Singer and Sarabande to make sure I don’t get the continuity or the characters messed up. And, I’ve been updating my research notes about Glacier National Park where the novels are set. Okay, I guess I can’t delay writing the first chapter any longer.

I wonder if other writers who group their books into series go through all this hassle making sure they have everything right before they start the next book. I’m sure James Patterson has a team who keeps up with the continuity. Well, he can afford them. Here in my den, it’s just me, two cats, and a mess on my desk.

–Malcolm

I’ve got the sun in the morning and the moon at night   Leave a comment

The lyrics of Irving Berlin’s 1946 song written for “Annie Get Your Gun” tell us what the singer doesn’t have but then say, nonetheless, that s/he has the sun in the morning and the moon at night. The story, as Wikipedia says, “is a fictionalized version of the life of Annie Oakley (1860–1926), a sharpshooter who starred in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West, and her romance with sharpshooter Frank E. Butler (1847–1926).”

MGM’s feature film by the same name appeared in 1950 with Betty Hutton as Annie Oakley and Howard Keel as Frank Butler. While Merman, Hutton, Keel, Oakley, and Butler have almost faded into the mists of obscurity, the song maintains its traction through recordings by Reba McEntire and others.

But, on this Thanksgiving Day, I wonder how the sentiment survives, that the daily comings and goings of the sun and the moon are enough. Is there beauty enough to sustain us, or the fact that as long as we’re seeing them we’re still alive, or perhaps the symbolism behind the images. To be blunt–along with the often-quoted line, “You can’t eat the scenery”–seeing the sun and moon in the sky doesn’t put food on the table.

Perhaps the song is a bit idealistic, then.

And yet, maybe the beauty of the sun and the moon in the sky has an impact on us, feeding our hungry souls. We can be thankful for that even if the food is metaphysical. Such food gives us the power to persevere and perhaps triumph, as Ollivander, the seller of wands in the Harry Potter series told the originally down-and-out wizard, “I think it is clear that we can expect great things from you, Mr. Potter.”

Seeing the sun in the morning and the moon and night gives us hope, and there’s little nourishment or incentive more powerful. We can be thankful for that on this day.

Malcolm

One Last Time: Joseph Campbell wasn’t my father   Leave a comment

When the first edition of my novel The Sun Singer was released, I began blogging from time to time about the hero’s journey. After a while, people started asking if the originator of the hero’s journey approach to comparative mythology, Joseph Campbell, was my father. The short answer is “no.”

Laurence

In his day (1903-1987), my father Laurence R. Campbell was a prominent college journalism educator, focusing on the needs of high school journalism. He taught at many universities including Florida State in Tallahassee. I was born in California because that’s where my father grew up and was teaching at the time (UC-Berkeley) I showed up.

Joseph

Joseph Campbell (1904-1987), taught at Sarah Lawrence College and was widely known for writing The Hero With a Thousand Faces that introduced the general public to the hero’s journey monomyth. He later came to even wider renown when PBS aired a series of interviews between Campbell and Bill Moyers in 1988. 

Both men had a huge influence on me though–in spite of the fact they were here on the earth plane about the same time–their areas of expertise and the circles they worked within were so disparate that they never met or had any reason to know of each other.

Dad’s influence was greater because I saw him daily and knew him as a whole person rather than a faraway writer I saw on TV or found on the title pages of books. I became a writer because of my father and became interested in mythology because of Joseph Campbell.

My father was a Scout leader, an elder in the church, had liberal views, had a mischievous sense of humor, and was a strong defender of the need for a free and responsible press. He wrote hundreds of articles, journalism textbooks, and worked with high school students at scholastic press institutes. He also climbed the mountains in Colorado that I would climb later during a University of Colorado summer session in Boulder.

My father married a highschool newspaper advisor. I married a journalist and taught college-level journalism. 

By the time I learned that Joseph Campbell was influenced by Carl Jung, I had already discovered Jung and his writing. Likewise, by the time I learned that Campbell was a fan of James Joyce, I was already a fan of James Joyce and became an even more intelligent fan by reading Campbell’s analysis of such books as Finnegans Wake

When one looks back on his/her life, it becomes obvious that what seemed to be a puzzlement at various defining moments was, in fact, part of a synchronistic unfoldment into the journey one was already taking. Both Laurence and Joseph would have agreed with that. 

My dad frequently said (usually when I’d done something wrong), “What I am to be, I’m now becoming.” Joseph often said, “We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” 

To sum up: I’m a bit of a rebel: I don’t know which man to blame for that. However, Laurence was my father. 

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “Fate’s Arrows,” available in hardcover, paperback, and e-book editions.

One last time: I did not write ‘Speed on Wheels’   Leave a comment

When I was a little kid, men who were the age that I am now, asked me if I was (or was named after) Sir Malcolm Campbell. I shrugged, indicating, maybe. Then I went and ask my dad, “Who the hell is this guy?” (Note, when I was in grade school I wasn’t actually allowed to use the word “hell.”)

I learned that he was a famous racecar driver who at various times during the 1930s and 1940s held the land and water speed records. And, he wrote the book Speed on Wheels about his exploits in his car named “Bluebird.”

The Campbell-Railton Blue Bird with a supercharged Rolls-Royce R V12 engine took the speed record at 301.137 mph in 1935. It’s probably not street legal though if it is, I don’t even want to know how much Allstate or State Farm would charge to insure it. If I’d persuaded my parents to let me buy that Jaguar I wanted, I would have found an Audubon-style license plate of a bluebird to put on the front.

However, this was not my car. Since it wasn’t (and still isn’t), I did not write this book:

Yes, this is an earlier car than the one shown above. When I told people I was a writer, some said “Congrats on Speed on Wheels.” I didn’t know whether to be flattered or to shout, “What the hell’s wrong with you?”

I wanted to get a picture of Campbell and say, “Does this look like me?”

“No, it doesn’t, does it?” Sure, maybe it’s all smoke and mirrors and this is me; the trouble is if it is me, I’m dead. Somebody somewhere looked at Campbell’s dare-devil life and said it’s amazing he died of natural causes. Unfortunately, his son Donald–who held both water and land speed records–was killed during a record attempt in 1967. I’m superstitious enough that I decided when I read the news that if I ever had a son, I wouldn’t name him Donald.

Summing up: I drive a 14-year-old Buick and it’s not blue. Its top speed is somewhere around 90 mph.

Malcolm

My books “College Avenue,” “At Sea,” and “The Sun Singer” will be free on Kindle for Black Friday, November 26th through November 30th.

Lusitania and other doomed ships   Leave a comment

Last night, my wife and I watched another documentary about the Titanic (1,490–1,635 deaths), this one about a private notebook kept by the judge in the British hearing that–for reasons unknown–hadn’t been read by anyone. The documentary yielded a few interesting ideas, but little that was new.

Other than the discovery of Titanic by Robert Ballard in 1985, most documentaries have yielded very little that is new, though Ballard’s discovery confirmed what many survivors claimed and many experts denied, was the fact that the ship broke in half before it sank.

We speculated as we watched this documentary why there is so much more out there in documentary land about Titanic than other ships that sank, some with more casualties. White Star Line’s publicity about the ship? The famous people aboard? The fact that the accident was so preventable?

Hard to say.

Wikipedia photo

The first edition of The Last Voyage of the Lusitania (1,198 deaths) came out in 1957 a year before the Titanic movie A Night to Remember. I read the book before I saw the movie and found it more haunting.

Years later, I learned that 9,400 people died when the Wilhelm Gustloff was torpedoed in 1945 and that 4,386 people died when the Doña Paz sank in 1987.

We never hear anything about those disasters, or even about the Lusitania, much less the 1917 collision and subsequent explosion on board the SS Mont-Blanc of Halifax, Nova Scotia in which 1,782 confirmed deaths and a hard-to-believe amount of on-short devastation.

When the Night to Remember feature film came out in 1958, everyone saw it and talked about it and sang the 1952 original version of the song “When the Great Ship Went Down.” The 1997 film Titanic certainly got plenty of attention; it was a splashy production, that included the fact the ship broke in half and had that mesmerizing Jack and Rose story.

And yet, I continue to be drawn back to the Lusitania story and the swirl of anti-German propaganda that came after it. Much is made about the fact that the ship carried munitions, as though that means the “sinking doesn’t count” because it was a warship more than a passenger ship. I doubt the passengers knew they were sailing on a warship.

I have never feared the sea. I traveled to Europe by ship (though slower than Titanic!) and while in the Navy made three trips to the Western Pacific in an aircraft carrier. I always found the sea calming rather than boring and never worried about sinking. Yet the horror and chaos of major passenger ship disasters seem to tug at our heartstrings whether we’re reading about Lusitania or the 1914 Empress of Ireland disaster in the St. Lawrence River in which 1,012 died.

We seem to analyze and re-analyze these disasters as though when we get to the end of the documentary, book, or feature film, this time the ship won’t sink.

Maybe the fact that I grew up next to the sea and was a navy sailor has influenced me as I ponder these disasters and wonder what it would have taken to avoid them.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “At Sea,” a Vietnam War novel inspired by his experiences on board an aircraft carrier in the Western Pacific. It will be free on Kindle this weekend.

Black Friday Book Giveaway   Leave a comment

Free Kindle Books

Three of my Kindle books will be free on my extended Black Friday giveaway from November 26th through November 30th.

College Avenue: Stories and PoemsIn “College Avenue,” a young woman describes an assault on a dark street to her boyfriend. In “Mr. Déjà vu Upsets the Apple Cart” a girl selling applies thinks she’s seen all this before. “Storybook” features a young man awaiting the tribe’s naming ceremony with seemingly nothing worthy in his growing up years to provide him with his adult name and in “Again and Again Throughout the Long Night” a son must tell his Alzheimer’s-stricken father that their wife and mother has died. In “Shock Treatment,” an elderly man’s children have him declared mentally incompetent and placed in a grim nursing home after he spends some of their anticipated inheritance money on a new car. A selection of poems rounds out the collection.

At SeaEven though he wanted to dodge the draft in Canada or Sweden, David Ward joined the navy during the Vietnam War. He ended up on an aircraft carrier. Unlike the pilots, he couldn’t say he went in harm’s way unless he counted the baggage he carried with him. As it turned out, those back home were more dangerous than enemy fire. This novel was inspired by the author’s Vietnam-era experiences onboard an aircraft carrier, the USS Ranger (CVA-61) shown on the book cover.

The Sun SingerRobert 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 hope you enjoy your free book(s) and have a happy Thanksgiving.

Malcolm