Happy Birthday, USA

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.

–Malcolm

 

 

 

The news is bad and it’s impacting my novel

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?

–Malcolm

My contemporary fantasy “The Sun Singer” is free on Kindle through July 4th.

 

I wish it were easy to add illustrations to my books

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.

Malcolm

My contemporary fantasy novel “The Sun Singer” is currently free on Kindle.

Free Book Promotion: ‘The Sun Singer’

Free on Kindle

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.

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, 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 the story.

Malcolm

 

 

Announcing Bumblehill Press

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.

Source: Myth & Moor: Myth & Moor news: announcing Bumblehill Press

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.

–Malcolm

This and that on a rainy afternoon

  • The picture of our weather RADAR shows why–once again–we had to postpone mowing our yard. Supposedly, Fescue grows .5 inch per month. Ours seems to be growing faster. At our previous house, we had Centipede grass. It’s growing season starts later and it grows slower. I wish we had that here.
  • I just finished reading the sequel to Michael Crichton’s 1969 novel The Andromeda Strain which I read when it first came out. Written by Daniel H. Wilson, The Andromeda Evolution, fits nicely into the style and plot of the original, though potentially with a more unlikely ending. Still, I had fun reading it. If you haven’t read the original, you may be a little lost.
  • Earlier this year, I held a sale for my Vietnam War novel At Sea. Somebody left a comment, saying they would be happy to write a review. I was looking at my Amazon author’s page yesterday and noticed the review was there. What a great review. The reviewer’s name was listed as Robin. If you’re the person who left the comment here several months ago, I wanted you to know that I appreciate the review.
  • For those of you keeping score <g>, I did finish reading Madame Bovary.
    Currently available Steegmuller translation published in 2013.

    The book was well written, though I have to say, it was strange reading a novel that was hit with obscenity charges when it came out that didn’t have an overt sex scene in it. For today’s readers, other than those who enjoy experiencing the classics, the book will read very slowly.

  • Yes, I know, I’m supposed to be cleaning out the garage today–that is, editing my novel in progress. Some gurus say a novel should sit for a bit before an author starts editing. Since I didn’t really feel like editing today anyhow, I’ve decided to follow that advice. I wonder how long I can use that excuse.
  • During our quarantine days, my wife has been making cherry pies and blackberry pies. Unfortunately, the standard Oregon Brand of pie cherries/berries has disappeared from the stores around here in favor of some goofy brand of pie filling. However, we just went online last year and started ordering our Oregon favorites in bulk.

Besh wishes for the month of July which we all hope goes more smoothly than the previous months of the year.

Malcolm

Editing is like having your spouse say, ‘Let’s clean out the garage.’

We all know what Let’s clean out the garage means.

In case you don’t, it means that the person making the suggestion wants to get rid of a lot of stuff the person hearing the suggestion wants to keep.

I edit while I write. I know that’s wrong, but I don’t care. For one, it keeps stuff out of the garage that somebody else will one day tell me to throw away.

Otherwise, editing begins when your manuscript is on the home stretch. At this point, you’re the one telling your characters it’s time to clean out the garage.

Basically, they don’t want to do this unless it means giving them more lines. Usually, it means giving them fewer lines or (worse yet) fewer scenes.  They (the characters) like the garage as it is because that’s all they know about each other and themselves unless you’ve used them in previous books.

Characters become restive, even combative when you bring out an editor’s broom and a toll of trash bags (the novelist’s “cutting room floor”). They want to story to stay the way it is, go to a publisher, show up on the bestseller list, and make them as famous as Madame Bovary and Captain Queeg even if readers think they’re crazy.

The madame and the captain had some great lines, they’re in a box somewhere, but they probably don’t belong in my book. If I find anything remotely resembling either character’s habits or lines, they need to go.

Gandalf had some great scenes, such as when he fought the Balrog in The Fellowship of the Ring. If anything like that’s in this garage, it’s got to go.

One of the mysteries of editing is that you’re not simply throwing away trash, you’re throwing away some darned good stuff. Goodness knows, your characters want to keep that good stuff. So do you, probably, but if you ponder it long enough, you’ll know its not a good fit for your story.

(What you don’t want is reviews that say “Snoopy’s Sopwith Camel vs Fokker dogfights with the Red Baron sure were exciting, but why were they happening in a small town in the Florida Panhandle in 1955?”)

So, this is where I am with my novel in progress. The characters are saying, “Let’s blow this joint!” (and we’re not talking about marijuana here) while I’m offering them a bigger share of the $10000000000 adance if they stay around and play nice while we get this manuscript ready for the publisher.

Plus, I keep telling them that my publisher goes flat nuts if I send in something that belongs in the garage sale bin, and “trust me, you don’t want to be around when that happens.”

Basically, I think cleaning how the garage is the worst part of homeownership and editing is the worst part of writing a novel. Others’ opinions may vary

Malcolm

 

 

 

 

New title: ‘Child of Sorrow’ by Melinda Clayton

Thomas-Jacob Publishing has released the third title in Melinda Clayton’s “Tennessee Delta Series,” Child of Sorrow. Currently available as an e-book, the novel will appear in additional formats as soon as printer supply chains return to normal.

Prior books in the series are: Blessed are the Wholly Broken (2013) and A Woman Misunderstood (2016).

From the Publisher

When fourteen-year-old foster child Johnathan Thomas Woods is suspected of murder, an old letter and a tacky billboard advertisement lead him to the office of attorney Brian Stone. Recognizing the sense of hopelessness lurking under John’s angry façade, Stone is soon convinced of his innocence. When John offers up his lawn-mowing money as payment, Stone realizes this is a case he can’t refuse.

In the face of overwhelming evidence assembled by the prosecution, Stone and his team find themselves in a race against time to save an angry boy who’s experienced more than his fair share of betrayal, a boy who more often than not doesn’t seem interested in saving himself.

I was a beta reader for this novel and enjoyed the experience and the story.

–Malcolm

Hardcover edition woes

The pandemic has screwed a lot of supply chains as various manufacturing and retail operations shut down.

The shutdown problem is impacting my hardcover books, all of which are listed on Amazon (and possibly elsewhere) as out of stock. These come from a different printer than the paperback editions which are still available. The Kindle editions are also available.

I apologize for the inconvenience to those of you who have been perplexed about the missing hardcover editions of Conjure Woman’s Cat, Eulalie and Washerwoman, Lena, Sarabande, and Special Investigative Reporter. Let’s hope they return soon.

Malcolm

A daughter’s questions

My daughter was born in 1976, is married, and lives with her husband and two children in Maryland. My wife and I planned to visit them this spring, but the pandemic nixed our travel plans.

On Father’s Day, she sent me a Facebook message with a series of “Questions for Dads” that read as follows:

  1. Can you tell me about your best friend when you were a kid and one of your adventures?
  2. What is the oldest story you know about our ancestors?
  3. Can you describe a favorite memory of a family member? Do you have a favorite snack, song, television show, recipe, comedy?
  4. What is your first memory?
  5. Did you ever get in trouble as a kid? What happened?
  6. If there were a biography of you, how would you want to be described?
  7. What is the best advice you remember from your father?
  8. Is there anything you wish you had said to someone but didn’t have a chance?
  9. What do you wish you had spent less time worrying about?
  10. What is the best part of your day?
  11. What is the last thing you changed your mind about?
  12. What things helped you get through a difficult time in your life?
  13. What trip or place is most special to you and why?
  14. What would you like to re-experience again because you did not appreciate it the first time?
  15. Can you tell me something about yourself that I don’t know that you think would surprise me?
  16. What habits served you the most through life?
  17. What is the best mistake you made and why?

Typically, when asked questions like these, I respond with flippant answers. But, as I told my wife, I didn’t want to do that because these questions were a gift that–if I answered truthfully–would bring us closer together. So, I poured a glass of red wine and started typing.

I did the best I could. I suspect most of my answers were things she didn’t know. When I printed them out, they became four single-spaced pages that I mailed to her via the USPS this morning.

When I was in college, my father sent me a series of letters about his life during high school and college. It was the kind of stuff that didn’t come up in conversations around the dinner table. I was happy to get it because it shed new light on just who my father was. I hope my daughter will feel the same way.

Most of my life is a mystery to my daughter because it happened before she was born, and even before I met her mother. I don’t know where she found the questions, but it made my day to see them. Will my answers surprise her? Yes, I think they will.

Malcolm