My Facebook author’s page is not all about me

I promise it isn’t. It’s filled with links to book reviews, writing how-to, author interviews, obituaries, books being made into films, and other books and authors’ subjects. There are usually five or six links there per day, so it’s not overpowering. This blog usually has a link there as well

Today I included a link to the rather scandalous film “Deep Throat,” one of those anniversaries, looking back in time kinds of articles. So far, Facebook hasn’t told me the link doesn’t meet community standards. There’s also a review of Two Nights in Lisbon and an article about the disturbing biographies of children’s book authors.

At any rate, if you follow authors and books, I hope you’ll stop by and take a look. If you find something you really like once or twice a week, count yourself lucky!

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of a bunch of stuff. Click on his name to find out what.

Enjoying another Robert Galbraith Novel

Troubled Blood (2020), at over 900 pages, will take me a while to finish. But that’s good. I enjoy the series about an old-style private detective who doesn’t solve cases by hacking into traffic cams, bank accounts, or FBI databases. Instead, we have stakeouts, interviews, following suspects, and a lot of experience on the resume of British Detective Cormoran Strike. If you know the novels by Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle, and P. D. James, you’ll have an idea of how Strike works.

This is the fifth book in the series that began with The Cuckoo’s Calling in 2013 and that will continue this August with The Ink Black Heart. The books are long, well-written, and credible within the genre. By now, everyone who reads these books knows that Galbraith is J. K. Rowling’s pseudonym. She got panned for The Casual Vacancy in 2013, mainly because readers expected something magical like the Harry Potter series. I liked the novel a lot.

But after that experience, I can understand why she would want to start fresh–as she said with no expectations–with the Galbraith pen name for her detective series. Unfortunately, she didn’t get to do it because her lawyer’s office spilled the beans, although in what was supposed to be a private conversation. She sued and the lawyer was fined.

I’ve read all the books in the series but one. I plan to keep reading when the next installment comes out in August. Several of the books have become movies, though I haven’t seen them.

Publisher’s Description for Troubled Blood

Private Detective Cormoran Strike is visiting his family in Cornwall when he is approached by a woman asking for help finding her mother, Margot Bamborough—who went missing in mysterious circumstances in 1974.
 
Strike has never tackled a cold case before, let alone one forty years old. But despite the slim chance of success, he is intrigued and takes it on; adding to the long list of cases that he and his partner in the agency, Robin Ellacott, are currently working on. And Robin herself is also juggling a messy divorce and unwanted male attention, as well as battling her own feelings about Strike.
 
As Strike and Robin investigate Margot’s disappearance, they come up against a fiendishly complex case with leads that include tarot cards, a psychopathic serial killer and witnesses who cannot all be trusted. And they learn that even cases decades old can prove to be deadly . . .

Typical of Rowling, the Robert Galbraith website will tell you everything you want to know (and then some) about the series.

Malcolm

Leave witches alone

The persecution of people, mainly women, isn’t something that just happened centuries ago in Europe or in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692 and 1693. It’s still happening today In Saudi Arabia, Nepal, Tanzania, Gambia, India, Uganda, New Guinea, and probably elsewhere.

This is one of my hot-button issues and it makes me see red especially when Christians are doing it, often outside the law, and today it came to mind because it’s part of the plot of the novel The Witches of New York (Ami McKay) that I just finished re-reading.

Over the years, the organized Christian church has characterized witches as Satan worshippers. The flaw behind this slander is that Satan is a Christian belief, not a concern of witches who (generally) don’t believe in him. In modern times in the U.S., hate groups still think witches believe in Satan. But then, if they wanted to, they could since we have freedom of religion, not freedom to practice what Christianity says is okay.

I generally like witches because they practice folk magic, know how to use plants for healing, and–like conjure women–often have strong Christian beliefs as well. They also use various methods for looking into the future and protecting themselves from negative people.

I’m not a witch (traditional) of a Wiccan (man-made alternative to true witchcraft) or a conjure doctor. I know enough about them to know neither set of beliefs is “mere superstition.” But, I suppose if one had a choice, it’s better to be disliked for practicing superstitions than purportedly worshipping the Christian devil.

I am very intuitive, use tarot cards, and believe in reincarnation (something witches don’t accept). So, I am used to being “on the outside” in terms of my spiritual beliefs and suspect strongly that is one reason I get upset when others are persecuted for beliefs that are different than the mainstream faith in the countries where they live.

Plus, as a young man, I was strongly impacted by Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” and while it’s not a true factual account of Salem, it was horrifying to me then. Still is.

In Salem and elsewhere, most–if not all–of the people persecuted as witches weren’t witches and wouldn’t have a clue how to become a witch if they were tempted. They are suspected, imprisoned, and killed due to what always appears to be mass hysteria and hatred of people who are (or might be) somehow different and, therefore, probably communicate with Satan. I don’t know why this mythical entity is so greatly feared by some denominations. I grew up in a mainstream Christian church, where we seldom mentioned him.

We knew enough to know that “he” wasn’t the god of the witches. In fact, our preacher spoke out strongly against modern-day witchhunts by hate groups. He said we should leave the witches alone and all these years later, I still agree with him as much as I fear the kinds of people “The Crucible” was about.

Malcolm

Sunday’s Mélange

  • Fumiko Hayashi (1903-1951) was a prolific, successful, and influential Japanese novelist (Diary of a Vagabond, Floating Clouds) who unfortunately is little known today. I mention her work in my novel in progress, especially The Town of Accordions and Fish (aka Accordion in a Fish Town), so I’m learning more about her in hopes of avoiding one faux pas or another.
  • Last night, we spent a fair amount of time working in the yard after supper. The mosquitos took note and were staying close at hand to help out.
  • Do you lose track of the authors you like? I enjoyed The Witches of New York (2017) by Ami McKay. I just now discovered she wrote a sequel to it a year later called Half Spent Was The Night. Okay, so now it’s on order, the perfect time to get it since I’m re-reading The Witches of New York.
  • I’m really getting pissed off seeing a daily news story about a shooting. We shouldn’t have let Clinton’s assault rifle ban expire since it reduced the number of shootings for weapons of war that are hardly needed for hunting or home defense.
  • Today’s Facebook memory is a photo of my two brothers and me pretending to use a water fountain at Fairview Park in Decatur, Illinois where our grandparents lived. We spent more hours in that park than at their apartment. My memories of Decatur have worked their way into some of my stories.
  • My twice-a-year doctor’s visit is scheduled for Tuesday. We’ll see how he likes hearing that when he doubled the strength of my BP prescription, my feet got swollen. I’m cutting the pills in half and supplementing them with Tumeric. BP is fine. Feet aren’t swollen.
  • If you like old movies, Poet of the Camera about cinematographer James Wong Howe is a great story. I like old movies and always notice the perfection of his camera shots. “He pioneered the use of techniques like deep focus and high-contrast lighting; his dexterity at sculpting scenes of rich chiaroscuro garnered him the nickname ‘Low-Key Howe.’ Weathering changes in Hollywood from the advent of sound to color to widescreen, Wong Howe won two Oscars (for 1955’s The Rose Tattoo and 1963’s Hud) and was nominated for eight others.”
  • Short Story

    My twisted fairytale, “Waking Plain,” will be free on Kindle from June 6th through June 10th. It’s the reverse of “Sleeping Beauty” in which nobody wants to wake up the dull-as-dishwater sleeper.

Malcolm

Like Hungry Dogs Staring In The Meat Market Window

We were eating supper with relatives at a mid-range restaurant in Memphis when a solitary man sitting across the aisle from us had a cupcake with a lighted birthday candle delivered to his table. He looked at it for a while, paid his tab, and left. We thought the who thing seemed rather sad and discussed what it might mean. The wait staff passed the table several times, ignoring the cupcake but not the tip.

Finally, the aunt in our family group leaned over, snagged the cupcake, blew out the candle, and polished off the cake. What else could one do? Is there any finishing school etiquette about this?

I tend to notice when nearby restaurant patrons leave with their meals largely untouched. That’s like going into a place like Antoine’s in New Orleans, ordering the best meal on the menu, and then deciding you need to go see a man about a dog–without bothering with a carryout box.

The worst incidence of this happened at a fancy restaurant on I-85 south of the Jefferson exit. Okay, it was at the Chateau Elan Winery & Resort, a nice place that we only went to a couple of times while living in Jefferson since the cost of a meal there was outside our comfort zone.

A nearby table of ten people had a decent meal, then paid their tab and left with about twelve bottles of pricey wine sitting there hardly even touched. Looking at it, we discussed whether we could talk over and take the wine or if a waiter might do it for us. We felt like hungry dogs looking through the window of a butcher shop. We were too stunned to move because there was about $500 worth of wine on the table.

The wait staff didn’t touch it. Seeing it there while we ate just about ruined our meal. It’s been a while since this happened. The fact that I remember it so clearly tells you that it was one of those defining moments in my life–as Dr. Phil might say. I don’t know what it taught me other than don’t gunger after what you can’t have.

–Malcolm

Putin thinks he’ll win in Ukraine because the world will become bored with the war

In the United States, school shootings, gun control, and the potential of Roe v. Wade being overturned are occupying more and more space on news pages. So, I wonder if today’s CNN story After 100 days of war, Putin is counting on the world’s indifference by Nathan Hodge represents a plausible analysis of the future.  Meanwhile, Biden is sending more missiles. That will help, but will it be enough?

Some analysts say that Ukraine will ultimately cede the eastern regions of Luhansk and Donetsk to avoid a protracted war, more lost lives, and continued destruction throughout the rest of the country.  While I can understand why this result could happen, I hope it doesn’t. It would not only be a loss for Ukraine but a black mark for the rest of the world that could have done more.

The world did little when Putin stole Crimea. So it’s possible the world will slowly forget about the rest of Ukraine, or at least Luhansk and Donetsk because–short of risking a nuclear exchange with Russia, people will see there’s nothing more they can do short of adding Sweden and Finland to NATO. That won’t help Ukraine, though, will it?

If Russia is allowed to keep the Donbas region, will it be forced by a treaty agreement to pay reparations to Ukraine for the lives lost, infrastructure destroyed, homes and businesses lost, and people displaced? I suspect not–or perhaps a token amount that adds insult to injury.

I am by no means an expert on international policy, much less Ukraine. Yet I feel the need to say something here, fragile as it may be, to remind people that the war is still going on and that now is not the time for our indifference.

Malcolm

Reminder: “Winterkill,” a novel by Ukrainian Canadian author Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch, will be released on September 6 and is available now for pre-order. The novel tells a gripping story of how the Soviet Union starved the Ukrainian people in the 1930s — and of their determination to overcome. This genocide is known as the Holodomor.

Creating Characters for Your Stories

Creating minor characters in short stories and novels is often a mix of intuition and expedient puzzle construction. The plot tells you what you need the person to do whether s/he’s a maid or a butler or a car salesman, your intuition tells you about the character’s demeanor, and applying our jigsaw puzzle skills leads you to the traits (and backup research) to make the character real within the scope of his/her role.

Obviously, a character with a recurring presence throughout the novel needs more substance than a bartender who doesn’t even have a line of dialogue. It’s important, though, not to box yourself in because you may need that character later–that is s/he may slowly get a larger role in a novel or its sequels and/or may need to become more than s/he appeared to be when the reader first met them.

For example, my character Pollyanna appeared more or less as a walk-on character in book 3 (Lena) of the Florida Folk Magic Series, was enjoyable to work with as a writer, and also was a hit with readers. So, she became the main character in book 4 (Fate’s Arrows). Each time she appeared, I added depth to the character making sure the new information about her didn’t conflict with what I’d said before.

Wikipedia photo

We learned over time that she was a marine nurse at MASH units in Korea and Okinawa. We learned that when marines took karate courses in Okinawa (where Shotokan karate was developed) Pollyanna tagged along and–to the surprise of the men–became quite good at it. I used legitimate Shotokan strikes in Fate’s Arrows and that meant watching a lot of video instruction about doing them correctly.

This is one example of taking a character and adding skills or traits that weren’t necessary when s/he first appeared. In Pollyanna’s case, she was always an enigma to those who knew her, an approach to life that would later fit with her CIA association. Had she been a conservationist, woodcraft skills that weren’t required in her first scene could have been added in subsequent stories because the stage would have been set for her to develop in that way. You could say the same for many avocations or careers, as long as you didn’t box yourself in when the character first walked into the story.

Or, if you plan everything, then you might have created that walk-on character one way or another, knowing that you were going to use him or her in multiple sequels. That’s too tedious for me, but a lot of writers like getting everything nailed down before they begin writing.

Learn more here.

Now, in my novel-in-progress, Pollyanna is again the main character and I am building her style and way of life by introducing the reader to the concepts behind Karate that would have been overkill in her first or second appearance. She has a Zen approach to life. That fits with Karate. So now I can add the concept of Bushido (a moral code) as well as the general precepts of Shotokan developed by Gichin Funakoshi that stress a unity of mind and body. That Pollyanna adheres to these approaches to life, not only explains why she does what she does, but makes her come across as a character of a lot of depth.

Had she been a conservationist, I might now be adding in such concepts as a forest as a unit rather than isolated trees and how that impacts the environment, forest management, and the careful use of fire. I probably would have followed the concepts and researchers behind Richard Powers’ novel The Overstory and made them (like Bushido in Karate) an important philosophy of the character.

Needless to say, every “walk-on character won’t end up becoming the protagonist in subsequent novels.  But it’s fun when this happens because, for the author, they are rather like a child who likes playing with blocks who ends up becoming an architect with, say, the viewpoint of (possibly) Frank Lloyd Wright and his Prairie Style and its influences from the natural world. Such influences might even become a part of the character’s developing persona.

When characters are involved, it’s easy for an author to feel like a parent.

Malcolm

My Vietnam War novel “At Sea” is free on Kindle through June 5. It is loosely based on my experiences aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ranger. 

Tonight’s Meal: Mac & Cheese out of a Box

I have no idea whether MasterChef and MasterChef Junior are what they seem or whether the contestants (especially the kids) are shown recipes when faced with cooking something they’ve never seen before. I suspect so, though that’s not talked about on the show. Whatever happens, I feel pretty inept in making meals like mac & cheese by dumping the ingredients out of a box with the word “Kraft on it.

My mother made it from scratch. My wife and I started out making a lot of stuff from scratch but slowly stopped doing that when it became apparent that buying all the ingredients for the scratch version costs more than the stuff in a box–like pre-made pie crusts, for example.

Somewhere around here, I probably still have a copy of my mother’s cookbook The Joy of Cooking. We do have cookbooks but seldom look at them because it’s easier to look up recipes on the Internet. Not that they’re certified by Gordon Ramsay and the other judges on MasterChef or Chopped.

Seems to me that as we get older, we get addicted to easy comfort food rather than spending the afternoon in the kitchen cooking something that would look good on an expensive restaurant’s menu.

I don’t think my wife and I are unique. I don’t know very many people who eat anything fancy unless it’s, say–their anniversary and they’ve gone out to eat. And usually, that means a place like Outback or Applebees rather than a place with any Michelin stars.

Perhaps the easy-to-find recipes on the Internet will keep all of us from becoming totally inept in the kitchen. Meanwhile, all I need are servants, We would eat a lot better. How about you?

–Malcolm

My Vietnam War novel “At Sea” will be free on Kindle from June 1 through June 5.

Yes, I deleted yesterday’s post

Why?

An overabundance of caution.

The post mentioned my 35th wedding anniversary and talked about where my wife (called Lady X) and I met. Many of the details were previously published in a now-out-of-print novel where the location and people involved were disguised–and, I wasn’t one of the characters.

Lady X and me.

After the post was up for maybe ten hours, I started worrying about it since the organization where we met still exists and might somehow connect today’s high-quality operation with the old place that was filled with internal politics. Uh oh, could they sue me for a veiled description of things that happened 40 years ago?

The moment from the past that still delights my wife and me is the fact that when I was interviewed for the position, I was told to stay away from Lady X, an individual whom the top brass thought was on the “wrong side” of the political controversy. Ultimately, Lady X and I became “an item” and that shocked those on the top brass’ side of the war.

“What the hell’s happened to Malcolm,” they must have been saying. They had already figured out that I thought the “wrong side” was the “right side.” After they fired me for thinking such things, they must have taken to drink when they found out Lady X and I got married.

So there it is, missing all the unbelievable stuff the stop brass was doing. I’d mention a few examples, such as they tapped my phone, but if I say too much I’ll have to delete this post for the same reason I deleted the first version.

Life is like that. Many of our best secrets have to be classified and not open to the public of, say, a hundred years or so.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “Special Investigative Reporter,” a satire with true stuff in it that hasn’t gotten me sued yet.

Memorial Day – Remembering the Loved Ones of the Dead

Some people say the loved ones at home suffer more than their husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, parents, and other family members who die in a war. Who suffers the most after a death is not a contest; no bragging rights here. The dead are gone: what they feel, or if they feel, is unknown to us. The soldiers who return with their memories of the horrors they saw and the family and friends of those who died will mourn the dead for years–perhaps a lifetime.

To my knowledge, I knew one person (Mike) who died in Vietnam. Others who served on the USS Ranger (CVA61) with me were also casualties of war. I think of them on Memorial Day. As I’ve written on this blog before (with nasty sarcasm) remembering the dead seems more important to me than making the rounds of bricks-and-mortar and online Memorial Day sales. (“Dad died, so now’s a good time to get 25% off a new riding mower.)

I found Mike’s name on the Vietnam War Memorial. I hadn’t expected the power and sadness of seeing his name there or, in fact, seeing the 58,318 names on the wall at that time. I visited the Tomb of the Unknowns when I was a child and as an adult, I’ve been to battlefields and cemeteries where the dead rest (presumably) in peace. Visiting these sites strengthened my respect for Memorial Day.

The intent of Memorial Day, which began as Declaration Day in 1869 to honor the dead from the Civil War, doesn’t officially extend to the widows, widowers, and other family left at home. Perhaps it should. Dying in war is often called “the ultimate sacrifice.” I’m not so sure. I think those who come home with mental and physical wounds, memories they cannot undo, PTSD, and a future that includes living as one invisible in a cardboard home under a bridge might be making the ultimate sacrifice by surviving. So, too, the family left at home.

We can think of them on this day for the losses they suffered but are seldom acknowledged for suffering.

Malcolm