Oops, I’ve already read this one

I read two kinds of fiction, dime-a-dozen thriller and police/black ops books from the grocery store and literary fiction by established authors. The major books I remember, the grocery store novels I occasionally buy a second time without realizing I’ve already read them.

Some people keep yearly reading lists. If I did that, I would never again sit down with a “new” novel and 15-20 pages and realize I’ve been here before. I’m not organized enough to log in every novel I read into a spreadsheet.

Years ago, my wife and others who read romance novels used to complain about authors/publishers re-issuing old novels under new names. The authors I read don’t do that; it’s just that in spite of the over-the-top James-Bond kind of action, the plots and action don’t vary that much. So, the descriptions on the backs of the books don’t provide me with enough information for me to make sure I haven’t already read the book.

In general, I write better when I’m reading. So I go through dozens of books a year. Some I enjoy re-reading, but not the grocery store black ops stuff. Unlike Amazon, Publix and Food Lion don’t display a message with each book on the shelf that tells me when and if I purchased it in the past.

My reading is always in a state of chaos and it’s too late now to get it under control. Does anyone else find themselves buying the same books more than once, though not intentionally? As William Bendix often said on the old TV series “The Life of Riley,” “What a revoltin’ development this is!”

Malcolm

A shortlist of stuff

  • Today’s bad weather in Georgia came and went between dawn and noon. No tornados. Blowing rain and river flooding.
  • Just wondering why I didn’t write Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. A comment from the character Miss Harty about Billy Sunday sets the tone for the novel: “There was great excitement. Mr. Sunday got up and declared at the top of his voice that Savannah was ‘the wickedest city in the world!’ Well, of course, we all thought that was perfectly marvelous.”
  • Regardless of which side of the political divide we live on, I think all of us are tired of the crap at the Mexican border. We don’t need to mistreat people, nor do we need to be emotionally brainwashed into letting everyone in. This isn’t rocket science.
  • I guess I’ve led a sheltered life. I’ve been vaccinated against mostly everything and haven’t given it a second thought. Now with COVID, I’m learning there are people whose distrust of vaccines is (for them) like holy writ. I don’t understand that. But it does raise the question about whether or not forced vaccinations and vaccination cards are too much government. I see this as rather like the Brits mandating blackout curtains during the blitz: it makes us all safer as long as the cops don’t hassle us on the street asking to see “our papers.”
  • The ninth book in Diana Gabaldon’s “Outlander” series Go Tell The Bees That I’m Gone will be published this year (I think). I’ve read all the primary novels in the series, but few of those based on secondary characters. Who knew when this storyline began that reading it would be a lifetime pursuit? But I’ll probably get a copy after we get out of the expensive hardcover phase of book releases. I’m a Scot. I’m cheap even though I met Diana years ago in Atlanta.
  • A friend of mine will probably have to drive several states away from her home to look after her aging parents again. Her last visit was more dear than she expected and yet she wonders why none of her siblings will lend a hand. She’s just as busy as her siblings, but they have unending excuses for not helping. Elderly parents often make decisions that make life harder for their children, and usually, the difficulties are left to the oldest daughter to solve.
  • The Glacier Park employees’ reunion will take place this summer at Many Glacier Hotel. They happen from time to time but are too far away for me to attend. Everyone was worried about access to the east side of the park, but the Blackfeet Reservation has announced it will be open for travelers going to the park (unlike last summer). I will miss it more than I can say.

–Malcolm

I’ve written several novels set in the park.

We don’t need no more tornados

“Parts of the South that endured severe weather outbreaks in consecutive weeks won’t be able to catch a break in the near future. AccuWeather forecasters say more volatile weather will arrive as soon as this weekend, and stormy weather could be unrelenting even into next week.” – Yahoo  

Look, if we wanted to play tag with dozens of nasty tornados, we’d move to Tornado Alley.

Thursday was a noisy weather day here in north Georgia: continuous rain, severe thunderstorms. The tornados occurred primarily in Alabama except for the one that devastated the Atlanta suburb of Newnan. We were on the edge of the tornado watch and will be again before the weekend is over.

We’re still under a flood warning from the last batch of rain. Now this, according to weather.com:

So, if you know Mother Nature, please let her know we don’t need no more tornados.

Malcolm

Potpourri, lightly scented

Some folks prefer their potpourri to carry a factory-fresh scent out of a lab rather than the actual smell of dried weeds. This post is for you.

  • Last night, all hell broke loose in Georgia as we got hit for the second time in the last week or so by a night of noisy thunderstorms, flash floods, and random tornados. So far, the Atlanta suburb of Newnan appears to have been the hardest-hit populated area outside of Alabama. We had enough lightning and thunder to tick off the cats, but nothing worse other than flooding in low-lying areas. Our house is on a hill.
  • After fighting some writer’s block, I am finally back at work on my Montana novel Weeping Wall. So, today I can feel somewhat virtuous at making some progress.
  • A good friend of mine watched the promo trailer for the upcoming audiobook edition of Fate’s Arrows and was so hypnotized by the narrator that she’s thinking of buying her first audiobook. And she’s already read the novel in paperback. You can see the promo here: https://youtu.be/QsD2Pt93AiY (It might take a few weeks for Audible to publish it.)
  • Today’s quote: “We’re not at all like the rest of Georgia. We have a saying: If you go to Atlanta, the first question people ask you is, ‘What’s your business?’ In Macon, they ask, ‘Where do you go to church?’ In Augusta, they ask your grandmother’s maiden name. But in Savannah, the first question people ask you is ‘What would you like to drink?” – John Berendt, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
  • In my in-basket: “We’re happy to announce that we’re back for another year of the Cow Creek Chapbook Prize. The contest is sponsored by Emerald City and Pittsburg State University. ” Looks like an interesting competition for fiction and non-fiction. I’m tempted.

I hope last night’s bad weather missed your neighborhood.

Malcolm

We’re all at risk

There are so many shootings we can hardly keep track of them. They seem random, and perhaps they are. If they are, any one of us could have been a victim. Or might still become one.

Wikipedia photo

On the morning of March 22 in Boulder, Colorado, the following people got up and began attending to the chores of the day that included a trip to the grocery store on Table Mesa Drive: Boulder police Officer Eric Talley, 51; King Soopers store manager Rikki Olds, 25; store employee Denny Stong, 20; store employee Teri Leiker, 51; Neven Stanisic, 23; Tralona “Lonna” Bartkowiak, 49; Suzanne Fountain, 59; Kevin Mahoney, 61; Lynn Murray, 62; and Jody Waters, 65.

They died at 2:30 p.m. because Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa killed them. His defense attorney says he might be crazy.

Where will some crazy guy strike next? We don’t know. Since we don’t know, any one of us might be “there” buying a pack of hotdogs, dancing, eating our first meal out in months, attending a concert. . .

Most of us assume the next shooting will happen somewhere else. I’m sure the victims at the King Soopers store on Table Mesa Drive thought that–until they were gone.

We continue to debate whether these shootings are caused by rampant hate, rampant insanity, or bored people with a lot of guns. As long as we do nothing but debate the “why” of all this, the answers will continue blowing in the wind.

–Malcolm

USPS to cut mail delivery times to be more competitive

Washington, D. C., Star-Gazer News Service, March 23, 2021–The postmaster general announced here today that the post office plans to become more competitive with alternative services by cutting office hours and taking longer to deliver the mail.

Informed spokesmen said that the proposed new slogan for the U.S. Postal Service will be: “When it absolutely doesn’t have to get there at all.”

According to Program Manager Bob Smith, “The expensive new processing equipment and other advanced technology aren’t expected to improve first-class mail or package delivery times as much as they will impress school children and others taking tours of postal facilities.

In a white paper released via PRNEWSWIRE, the watchdog group Just Waiting for the Mail said that the planned new uniforms will improve the “cuteness factor” for those thinking about making the USPS a number one career choice. The uniforms’ specifications include upgraded spud guns for controlling dogs, and possibly Democrats, that hassle delivery personnel.

Smith smiled when he said, “We are proud to embrace the term ‘snail mail,’ and promise to do our best to live up to that expectation of our services.”

A new mail slot in re-designed post offices will be named “Feeling Lucky.” Most mail inserted through that slot will fall into a trashcan while a “modest number” will be sent via priority mail even though such mail is no longer a priority.

Story by Jock Stewart, Special Investigative Reporter

Beware of Chapter-by-Chapter Book Critiques | Jane Friedman

As an editor and coach, I’m frequently asked by writers when they should level up from free and low-cost feedback (critique groups, webinars, and classes) to more expensive forms of feedback (workshops, private editors, even MFA programs). Some are newbies who don’t understand the feedback landscape. Other writers have been burned by overly critical MFA programs, bad editing experiences, or critique group dramas—and they’ve learned that while some mistakes hit your pocketbook, the costliest ones can damage your manuscript.

Often these problems have one common cause: You’ve asked the right question of the wrong person.

Source: Beware of Chapter-by-Chapter Book Critiques | Jane Friedman

I tend to distrust critique groups, beta readers, and the more formal and often expensive bevy of “experts” who read and often influence the work of novelists. I want to ask: “Who’s writing this book anyway?” Or “Why do you need a staff to get this book completed?” Or, “Do you really need the pacifier of writing by committee.”

Having said that, if you think critiques are a positive thing, this article does a good job of separating the wheat from the chaff and exploring your best options.

–Malcolm

‘Firefly Lane’ by Kristin Hannah

Best I can tell, we really escaped 2020 and are now slogging our way through 2021. If this true, then I’m 12 years behind the times reading Firefly Lane.

It’s a well-written story about two schoolgirls who, though opposites in many ways, become close friends and make a pact to remain best friends forever. One  (Tully) becomes a rich and famous news anchor. The other (Kate), who showed a lot of promise as a writer, ended up having a busy family life as a stay-at-home mom.

There’s a lot of realistic push-me/pull-you between Tully and Kate because their lives unfold quite differently, leading to differences of style and opinion, including the question of whether or not Kate is overprotective when it comes to her daughter. Tully and the daughter think so.

If you read Hannah’s afterword, you probably understood why she ended the book as she did. She handled it well. Nonetheless, I didn’t like it. I saw it as adding insult to injury insofar as Kate’s role in the story was concerned. Kate’s life was rather that of the Biblical Job and the ending made her a tragic character rather than a gracefully aging mother contentedly watching her children grow into adults partly in spite of Tully and because of Tully.

Worth reading,  but it needed something different and less predictable in the final chapters. I haven’t watched any episodes of the Netflix series.

Malcolm

Some readers wanted a bombastic ending to “Sarabande.” I chose a minimalist approach that reflected, in my view, who the character was and how she had changed.

‘Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil’

In the hoodoo tradition, good magic is best performed between 11:30 p.m. and midnight, and evil magic is best performed between midnight and 12:30 a.m. Hence we have the rationale behind the title of John Berendt’s 1994 bestseller, Pulitzer Prize finalist, and the inspiration behind the 1997 feature film.

When the book came out, I refused to read it. The odd thing now is that I no longer remember why. Perhaps it was the hype. Perhaps it was the mix of fiction and nonfiction. Or perhaps it was because I was always more of a Charleston person than a Savannah person. The film didn’t do well, a surprise since Eastwood generally does fine work. Had it been a success, I might have seen it. But it wasn’t so I didn’t.

Here’s what seems to have happened. Somebody or something has put a hex on me forcing me to read the book. Okay, that’s enough of an incentive. Makes no sense, though, but who am I to question the origins of hexes or even to ask my Tarot cards about which side of midnight the hex was cast. So, the book is now on order.

If lightning strikes one of the two ancient trees in the front yard on the day the book arrives, I’ll destroy the book.

The same if crows or raven gather in nearby pine trees and raise one hell of a ruckus.

If you read the book and suddenly went over to the dark side, please warn me.

Since this may be a bumpy ride, I’ll need a volunteer to hold my beer.

Malcolm

Maybe after writing four hoodoo novels, I can safely read the book I have a notebook filled with spells including protection spells.

Afghanistan – why?

I keep hoping that after all of the promises we hear from candidates claiming they will bring troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan, and close the prison at Guantanamo, somebody will actually do it.

Today’s CNN headline Biden administration considering 6-month extension for US troops in Afghanistan is discouraging. I understand why we’re there: it was a knee-jerk reaction to the 9/11 attacks. Now it’s simply another needless morass like Iraq where U. S. soldiers and civilian contractors continue to be killed and wounded with no discernible or viable policy benefits.

The casualty figures–the new name for the body counts of the Vietnam War era–are said to be low, to be within plan, to be acceptable. These counts do not include the casualties who survive and come home with PTSD and worse and never get their lives back together.

In his 1970 introduction for the new edition of Johnny Got His Gun, author Dalton Trumbo spoke to the “many hundreds or thousands of the dead-while-living,” saying, “So long, losers. God bless. Take Care. We’ll be seeing you.”

The book, for me, is one of the most potent and troubling anti-war novels ever written. Trumbo, of course, knows that we typically look away from those who come home in tatters. Very few campaign rallies are held beneath the viaducts and along the city streets where our homeless vets are scratching out a living. We cheer when the men march away and hide inside our comfortable homes when they return–worse than dead.

So, when I ask why we are still in Iraq and Afghanistan even those who keep sending our soldiers there have yet to come up with a sensible answer.

Malcolm 

As a pacifist and conscientious objector, Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the anti-war novel “At Sea.”