From one magic to another

When I wrote my contemporary fantasies, The Sun Singer and Sarabande, I was following the tropes of the hero’s journey and the heroine’s journey. The magic infused in these books was hermetic, that is to say, it followed old western magic traditions that were (and still can be) found in mystery schools, Tarot, the Tree of Life, and–in general–the western esoteric traditions.

Aeon Trump Card. Thoth Deck

There was supposed to be a third book named Aeon, yet I was unable to write it when I finished Sarabande because the protagonist was an avatar and I didn’t know enough to write a book from his point of view. I still don’t. But it’s time, now, to give it a try.

Meanwhile, I’ve written four novels–the folk magic series–that focus on conjure, also known as hoodoo. This magic follows some traditions that came out of Africa and, in this country, became blended with Christianity and Witchcraft. There are too many practices and beliefs here so summarize them, but suffice it to say, they are not part of western mysticism and traditions that go back to the Greco-Roman mysteries.

Apples and oranges, in some respects. Different ways of approaching the same truths, in other respects. I have a great appreciation for all the paths leading to transformation into being at one with the universe and understanding the powers we all have if we take time to find them.

I’ve been taking some time researching western esoteric traditions again as well as what I wrote in the two earlier novels so that events and intentions are consistent. I view the Aeon Tarot card (XX) as a step past the Sun card (XIX) where the seeker on the path has stepped into the arena of the actual universe “behind” the illusory universe we see with our physical senses.

Needless to say, I’m not an avatar, so I’m going to be relying on my imagination and intuition and a lifetime of experience with the Thoth Tarot deck to get this new novel into shape. Don’t hold your breath.  At any rate, I’m enjoying getting back the magic I started out with.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell’s latest folk magic novel is “Fate’s Arrows.

 

Twelve years of hooey

A writer friend of mine posted on her blog that this year marked the blog’s 13th anniversary. I said 13 years + 2020 = play the Twilight Zone theme song.

I have no idea when this blog began because it started out on blogger–with a few posts on several other sites–before it began here in 2008. That sure is a lot of hooey.

I no longer have this old Jeep, but I wish I did.

Perhaps there have been a few interesting reviews, writers tips, and other ideas mixed in with the hooey. Occasionally, I go through old posts, updating links, and as I do that, I’m not sure which blogs are hooey and which posts make valuable contributions to “real life” as we know it.

Maybe that doesn’t matter since the word on the street is “nobody reads blogs anymore.” That means you’re not reading this post. That’s reassuring, isn’t it?

The good news is this: this post is not “real life.” I always put “real life” in quotes because I don’t know where dreams begin and end. So, chances are, you’re asleep now and when you wake up you might have thoughts of “hooey” on your mind but you won’t know why. (Don’t blame your spouse.)

Hooey or not, this blog has been fun, mainly because it gives me a place to talk about my books, other people’s books, and my crazy view of “real life.” I also enjoy the comments, other than the SPAM, that people make. You’ve probably noticed that I don’t write many political posts. Mainly that’s because those kinds of posts usually start fights and a bunch of comments filled with profanity. Not my idea of a good time.

Most of my books deal with magic because that’s the way I see the world. You’ve probably noticed that if you’ve been reading this blog for a while. But then, I think magic is a more viable way of viewing the world than subscribing to most of the political beliefs floating around lately.

The bottom line here, I suppose, is hooey. How much can you accept? And how much is the truth presented in outlandish terms? I may never know. But perhaps the hooey here will lead you to come of my contemporary fantasy and magical realism novels. Or perhaps it will lead you to drink moonshine. Either way, it’s got to be better than watching CNN and FOX news every day while eating Moonpies.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell’s latest book is “Fate’s Arrows,” a novel in which a young woman in the Florida Panhandle of 1955, fights the KKK.

Review: ‘Piranesi’ by Susanna Clarke

PiranesiPiranesi by Susanna Clarke
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Imagine this: You live in a huge, seemingly infinite house filled with statuary and ocean tides; you have never been outside the house because the house is all you know and all you can know; your life’s mission, as you see it, is exploring this house to length and breadth of possibility and, as you walk and climb and stay away from the highest of those tides, you catalogue everything you see in a series of journals that may potentially become infinite in number and detail.

The protagonist is called Piranesi–perhaps in deference to the great printmaker of the 1700s, though Piranesi doesn’t know this–by the other living human being in the house. Piranesi doesn’t believe “Piranesi” is his real name, nor does he know the real name of the other man in the house, so he calls him “The Other.” Their researches into the ways and means of the house are, at first, beneficial. However, their co-operation begins to wear thing when Piranesi discovers that The Other is seeking advanced and secret knowledge he believes to be hidden inside the house. Piranesi thinks nothing can be more important that the beauties and scope of the house itself.

There are some dead in the house, not many, and where and when they died is unclear. Piranesi has taken care to arrange them in an orderly fashion and to keep them out of reach of the tides. The Other says there’s somebody else in the house, a person who hides, perhaps, in unknown rooms, and he suggests that that person wishes to harm Piranesi. They refer to him or her as “16,” since–when you include the dead–that’s the number of people in the house.

There’s deep and quiet magic in this masterpiece, and it becomes more evident as Clarke’s novel unfolds. There are hints that there may be a past Piranesi has forgotten or misconstrued. He becomes unsure of some of the entries in meticulously kept journals. There’s a growing worry about The Other’s truthfulness in some manners. Is anything what it seems? Piranesi can only wonder and proceed from room to room and tide to tide with due care.

For those who don’t require fire-breathing dragons or the snap of lethal energies flung from the hands of protagonists and antagonists in epic battles, this book is a treasure to be savoured like fine wine.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of magical realism, including the novels “Conjure Woman’s Cat,” “Eulalie and Washerwoman,” “Lena,” and (NEW) “Fate’s Arrows.”

View all my reviews

Police Bulletin Excerpts from ‘Special Investigative Reporter’

Jock Stewart, a reporter in the small town of Junction City, logs on to the police department website daily to keep up with the bulletins, any one of which might lead him to an exciting front-page story.

Excerpt 1

  • 07:30 – Marcus Cash reports his Black 2008 GMC Sierra Denali pickup truck was stolen or borrowed from the loading dock behind Elroy’s Wide Screen shop while Cash was joking with police across the street at the Krispy Kreme.
  • 08:45 – Officer Parker House is resting as comfortably as possible at Lord Have Mercy Hospital after shooting off his left nut while polishing his weapon while watching a gun safety video in the squad room.
  • 09:50 – Councilman Calvin Knox was injured in a purported two-car accident on County Road 3724 when a “sports car of some kind” ran his vintage Packard off the road into a pasture on the Staunton farm. Knox
    reported he was injured when he slipped on a fresh meadow muffin and wrenched his knee.
  • 10:30 – Clarification of 08:45 item. House’s “left nut” is to be interpreted as his remaining nut prior to the incident as opposed to the nut on the left side of his body. After the incident, no nuts were present other than House.
  • 11:15 – Police responded to the home of author Cane Molasses and took an enraged and yet to be identified woman wearing a Kroger sack over her head into custody when she wouldn’t stop hitting the author with her purse. Molasses states that he answered the door, she started screaming at him for making Judy, the beloved but naughty slut in his recent novel just like me.
  • 11:16 – Clarification of 11:15 item. The word “me” is to be interpreted as the enraged woman and not as Officer Betty Powers who types these bulletins.

Excerpt 2

The 11:15 item led to the following news story:

After the press conference, he went home and slapped together a news story while waiting for a goat cheese and anchovy pizza to arrive:

LOCAL AUTHOR APOLOGIZES FOR MAKING VIXEN IN NOVEL TOO MUCH LIKE NEIGHBORHOOD VIXEN

Cane Molasses apologized at a hastily called press conference here this afternoon to “any and all women” who believe they are or might be the Judy Miracle character in his prizewinning 2008 novel “Miracle on 35thStreet.”

Molasses called held the press conference and book signing at the Main Street Book Emporium after an unidentified woman accosted him at his home this morning and accused him of basing the Miracle character on secrets she told him when they stopped for drinks on the way home from an AA meeting.

“I’m involved with dozens of women a year for research purposes,” said Molasses, “and all of them are well compensated. Miracle is a composite character based on Carl Jung’s reformed hooker archetype which is extensively described in his collected works.”

Molasses told the crowd of some 500 adoring fans and one heckler that Miracle is a beautiful fictional character who sees the light just in time to be buried in a high-brow cemetery on 35thStreet.

While many of his fans purportedly model their lives on Miracle’s story, it was not his intent to suggest Miracle is either every woman or any specific woman.

According to Police Sergeant Wayne Bismarck, nobody was seen leaving the Kroger Store on Edwards Street wearing a sack over their head “any time in recent memory.” their head “any time in recent memory.”

-30-

As he finished the story, the pizzeria called and apologized for not sending out the pizza he wanted. Apparently, everyone who tried to make such a thing got sick. He thanked them for their trouble, canceled the order, and ate two diet TV dinners with a glass or two (he lost count after two) of Cabernet.

Copyright © 2019 by Malcolm R. Campbell

 

Too Many Cows in the Yard

When we first built a house on a portion of the farm where my wife grew up, we frequently had cows in the yard because the old fence around the pasture had seen better days. Now, our neighbor has a new fence and we seldom see cows out on the road or our garden or the driveway.

The worst thing is when they get out at night. Black cows are hard to see in the dark, and they don’t mind running into people who are out in the roads and yards with flashlights trying to get them all moving back toward the break in the fence.

Cows are heavy. When the ground is wet, it doesn’t take them long to create a mud hole or put a lot of foot-sized holes in the yard for the riding mowers to get stuck in.

Since it’s 2020, I keep expecting to see cows in the yard again. Knock on wood. So far, nobody’s rung the doorbell and said those fateful words “Your cows are out” even though they’re not our cows.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “Fate’s Arrows,” in which a young woman fights the KKK in the Florida Panhandle of the 1950s.

Glacier Begins Vehicle Idling Awareness Campaign

from NPS Glacier National Park

West Glacier, MT – Glacier National Park and the Glacier National Park Conservancy are instituting an Idling Awareness Campaign aimed at educating visitors and employees about how they can reduce vehicle emissions in order to decrease pollutants which contribute to health problems and climate change. *

Idling pollution has been linked to respiratory problems such as asthma that increase vulnerability to COVID-19.

Transportation emissions play a significant role in fueling climate change, the effects of which are seen in the reduction of the park’s namesake glaciers. Vehicle idling occurs in Glacier in parking lots, at scenic viewpoints and trailheads, and while stopped in traffic and road construction. Glacier has received around 3 million annual visitors in recent years, most traveling by car. Limiting idling times to no more than two minutes will save money on gas and benefit the health of both the public and the park resources.

Glacier National Park is committed to reducing vehicle idling among employees and the public. Strategies for employees include enactment of a management directive limiting idling time for park vehicles, training visitor-facing staff on idling reduction messaging, and all-employee communications about idling. For park visitors, the campaign will focus on education and outreach.

The Glacier National Park Conservancy funded the design and printing of stickers depicting cartoon mountain goats traveling in a red vehicle with the slogan, “Be idle free – Turn the key.” The stickers will be free to visitors and will be available from rangers outside the Apgar and Logan Pass Visitor Centers and in the Rising Sun area. The logo will also be used in park messaging to remind employees and visitors to shut off their vehicles while waiting.

“This is such an easy way for each of us to do something small that can cumulatively have a big, positive impact”, said Doug Mitchell, Executive Director of the Glacier National Park Conservancy.  “There’s just no downside to this innovative program.  Not only will turning our cars off save fuel and make parking lots and pullouts quieter and more enjoyable for all of us, but one simple twist of the wrist by each of us will improve the air quality for all of us, human and animal alike.”

* Note: This program began in August. — Malcolm

Review: ‘Good Girls Lie’ by J. T. Ellison

Good Girls LieGood Girls Lie by J.T. Ellison
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Good Girls Lie is deftly written with a plot to die for: yes, there are a few casualties. And, there’s more lying than the prestigious Goode Boarding School’s honor code allows. The dean’s mother, who previously ran the family-owned school in Virginia was fired when a student died on her watch. Now her daughter Ford Westhaven is in charge and the intrigues are spinning out of control, almost enough to damage the prep school’s reputation, heaven forbid.

This school is for the daughters of the rich and famous. Most of them do well and are subsequently accepted into the best universities. The protagonist, Ash Carlisle expects to follow the same route into the world of the elite after escaping an abusive father in the U. K. A stipulation in his will (yes, he and his wife seem to have died recently in a murder/suicide incident) says that Ash will inherit the money when she’s 25 if she has a college degree by then.

The author, who attended Randolph-Macon Woman’s College knows how boarding schools for women work; she uses her first-hand experience to bring reality into the sheltered world of the Goode School–how the students interact, the secret societies, the honor code, and daily life on the campus. She points out, however, that Goode is pure fiction and that the novel is not a dissertation about Randolph-Macon.

The plot is a delightful tangle of lies, strange relationships, bullying and hazing, student-teacher interaction, and everything else that makes a fantastic thriller and–for the characters–a rather dangerous education. By the end of the novel, readers might wonder if they can trust anybody; and they have cause worry. After all, things at Goode School can’t be all that good when the story begins with a dead girl hanging from the front gate.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the recently released mystery, “Fate’s Arrows.”

View all my reviews

How do writers think of stuff like that?

Writers are often asked where they get their story ideas. We’ve talked about that here before. We’re observant and we like using our imaginations.

In day-to-day conversations, I’m likely to say one thing or another that results in somebody asking, “How can you think of something like that?”

What I want to say is “How can you not think of it?” The “it” always seems so obvious whether it’s humorous, ironic, sarcastic, or a lyrical or unique play on words. I don’t want to downplay one’s imagination, but when it comes to words, thinking of stuff is part of the biz.

Police, firemen, doctors, mechanics, lawyers, and others think of a lot of things the rest of us don’t because they know their business and are rather expected to see and understand things about it that would never occur to the rest of us. If a doctor tells us we have a peanut allergy, for example, we don’t blurt out, “How in the hell did you think of that?” When s/he thinks of that, we’re getting what we hoped to get when we went to the clinic: answers we didn’t know or only suspected.

A writer’s daily conversations, however, are usually not held in his/her office where, perhaps, somebody might come, asking for help writing a business letter, a speech, or a college admissions essay. If they had done that, they would have expected some writing help and probably wouldn’t have acted surprised to get it.

But out in public is where people are surprised when we say what we say because they’re not used to seeing a writer out in the wild. I find such reactions amusing because I’m just talking like I talk. It’s not as though I’m doing something overt like speaking in Limericks or Faulkner-length sentences.

Many of the writers I know also say they get a lot of surprised reactions from others during normal conversations. At least, they seem normal to the writer until the other person bursts out laughing and says, “How do you think of stuff like that?”

Yes, it’s often amusing, but it’s also tiring because their reactions to what we say really can derail a great conversation.  Perhaps playing nicely with others means we should stop being ourselves.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the recently released “Fate’s Arrows” in which a young woman fights the Klan in her small north Florida town of the 1950s.

New Anthology Of Native Nations Poetry

“There are many of us and we’re not just poets. We’re teachers. We’re dancers. Essentially, we’re human beings. And you would think that at this time we would not have to say that. But we still are in the position, strangely enough, that we still have to remind people and the public that: We’re still here, we’re still active. We have active, living cultures and we are human beings and we write poetry.”

Joy Harjo, NPR Interview

When the Light of the World Was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through: A Norton Anthology of Native Nations Poetry is a remarkable book because of the power of its words, because of its scope (160 poets from 100 indigenous nations), and because it exists at all.

Publisher’s Description

“This landmark anthology celebrates the indigenous peoples of North America, the first poets of this country, whose literary traditions stretch back centuries. Opening with a blessing from Pulitzer Prize–winner N. Scott Momaday, the book contains powerful introductions from contributing editors who represent the five geographically organized sections. Each section begins with a poem from traditional oral literatures and closes with emerging poets, ranging from Eleazar, a seventeenth-century Native student at Harvard, to Jake Skeets, a young Diné poet born in 1991, and including renowned writers such as Luci Tapahanso, Natalie Diaz, Layli Long Soldier, and Ray Young Bear. When the Light of the World Was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through offers the extraordinary sweep of Native literature, without which no study of American poetry is complete.”

Anthology’s Introduction

Executive editor Joy Harjo’s (Mvskoke/Creek) introduction grounds us and prepares us for the great circle of words of power we will take through the book’s five sections: Northwest and Midwest; Plains and Mountains; Pacific Northwest, Alaska, and Pacific Islands; Southwest and West; and Southeast. Each of these regions begins with a descriptive preface, and the work of each poet includes a mini-biography.

The focus, intent, and power of this work are aptly summarized by Harjo’s opening lines: “We begin with the land. We emerge from the earth of our mother, and our bodies will be returned to earth. We are the land. We cannot own it, no matter any proclamation by paper state. We are literally the land, a planet. Our spirits inhabit this place. We are not the only ones. We are creatures of this place with each other. It is poetry that holds the songs of becoming, of change, of dreaming, and it is poetry we turn to when we travel those places of transformation, like birth, coming of age, marriage, accomplishments, and death. We sing our children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren: our human experience in time, into and through existence.”

Harjo notes that while the United States has been here only a few hundred years, “Indigenous peoples have been here for thousands upon thousands of years and we are still here.” Yet unknown to most people, an afterthought to others, and long presumed to be illiterate by most; there never was a level playing field once the outsiders arrived, and so because of all of this, it’s remarkable that this anthology has been lovingly compiled out of the subdued light into our national consciousness. Let’s hope the powerful work it represents remains there.

The Poems

The wonders of four centuries of poetry cannot be adequately summarized or displayed here, much less explicated. So here are a few brief excerpts that caught my attention:

From the Northeast and Midwest

  • EMILY PAULINE JOHNSON (TEKAHIONWAKE) (1861–1913), Mohawk, “Marshlands”

Hushed lie the sedges, and the vapours creep,
Thick, grey and humid, while the marshes sleep.

  • OLIVIA WARD BUSH-BANKS (1869–1944), Montaukett, “On the Long Island Indian

But there came a paler nation
Noted for their skill and might,
They aroused the Red Man’s hatred,
Robbed him of his native right.

Now remains a scattered remnant
On these shores they find no home,
Here and there in weary exile,
They are forced through their life to roam.

From the Plains and Mountains

  • ZITKÁLA-ŠÁ (GERTRUDE SIMMONS BONNIN) (1876–1938), Dakota, “The Red Man’s America”

My country! ’tis to thee,
Sweet land of Liberty,
My pleas I bring.
Land where OUR fathers died,
Whose offspring are denied
The Franchise given wide,
Hark, while I sing.

  • N. SCOTT MOMADAY (1934–), Kiowa, “The Gourd Dancer”

A vagrant heat hangs on the dark river,
And shadows turn like smoke. An owl ascends
Among the branches, clattering, remote
Within its motion, intricate with age.

From the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, and Pacific Islands

  • MARY TALLMOUNTAIN (1918–1994), Koyukon, “There Is No Word For Goodbye”

Sokoya, I said, looking through
the net of wrinkles into
wise black pools
of her eyes.

What do you say in Athabascan
when you leave each other?
What is the word
for goodbye?

A shade of feeling rippled
the wind-tanned skin.
Ah, nothing, she said,
watching the river flash.

She looked at me close.
We just say, Tłaa. That means,
See you.
We never leave each other.
When does your mouth
say goodbye to your heart?

She touched me light
as a bluebell.
You forget when you leave us;
you’re so small then.
We don’t use that word.

We always think you’re coming back,
but if you don’t,
we’ll see you some place else.
You understand.
There is no word for goodbye.

  • FRED BIGJIM (1941–), Iñupiaq, “Spirit Moves”

Sometimes I feel you around me,
Primal creeping, misty stillness.
Watching, waiting, dancing.
You scare me.

From the Southwest and West

  • PAULA GUNN ALLEN (1939–2008), Laguna, “Laguna Ladies Luncheon”

     on my fortieth birthday
Gramma says it’s so depressing—
all those Indian women,
their children never to be born
and they didn’t know they’d been sterilized.
See, the docs didn’t want them
bothered, them being so poor and all,
at least that’s what is said.
Sorrow fills the curve of our breasts,
the hollows behind the bone.

  • EMERSON BLACKHORSE MITCHELL (1945–), Diné, “Miracle Hill”

I stand upon my miracle hill,
Wondering of the yonder distance,
Thinking, When will I reach there?

I stand upon my miracle hill.
The wind whispers in my ear.
I hear the songs of old ones.

From the Southeast

  • JOHN GUNTER LIPE (1844–1862), Cherokee, “To Miss Vic”

My spirit is lonely and weary,
I long for the beautiful streets.
The world is so chilly and dreary,
And bleeding and torn are my feet.

  • RUTH MARGARET MUSKRAT BRONSON (1897–1982), Cherokee, “Sentenced”

They have come, they have come,
Out of the unknown they have come;
Out of the great sea they have come;
Dazzling and conquering the white man has come
To make this land his home.

We must die, we must die,
The white man has sentenced we must die,
Without great forests we must die,
Broken and conquered the red man must die,
He cannot claim his own.

The editors of this anthology read each poem aloud, better to understand, hear them, savor them, and drink them into themselves like a rare elixir. Should time permit–and why would it not?–you will do the same.

Malcolm