How did what-his face get back in my novel?

In the movie “True Lies,” Tom Arnold’s character says, “Women. Can’t live with ’em. Can’t kill ’em!”

I feel that way about characters because, what the hell, I’m drinking Scotch and writing the book while they (the characters) do whatever they want.

People think the author is in charge. Yeah, right.

This time out, I threw that dirty cop Vance McNaughton in the slammer in the last chapter, and then, in this chapter, two ladies are talking about this and that over breakfast at the diner when McNaughton shows up. He’s even driving his squad car when, at the very least, he’s supposed to be riding a desk or sitting in a cell until the nefarious stuff he’s charged with goes to trial.

This kind of thing would happen even if I used outlines because characters are in the book and outlines are outside the book in another universe that people like McNaughton don’t know about. If they did, they’d claim it was something the Presbyterian Church would dream up which is why they’re Southern Baptists.

I guess I can make do, however, if McNaughton figures out who one of those ladies is, he’s going to kill her because he didn’t hear the Tim Arnold quote in the movie.

Actually, fiction is all true lies anyway, so whatever happens, doesn’t really happen. Or, if it does, it’s not the author’s fault.

Malcolm

While Malcolm was raised as a Presbyterian, he thought the predestination stuff was a bunch of hooey. Actually, a lot of stuff in this old world of ours is a bunch of hooey. That’s why we have writers who write about that hooey so readers will know which lies are true and which aren’t.

Sunday’s slush pile

  • “I thought the piles of unsolicited manuscripts it was my job to sift through would contain undiscovered gems. Reader, I was very wrong.” – Jean Hannah Edelstein in “The Shocking Truth about the slush pile.”
  • I enjoyed reading Kathy Reich’s first book in her Temperance Brennan series Déjà Dead. I doubt it ever saw a slush pile because it’s filled with enough chopped-up bones, high-quality forensic anthropologist work, unco-operative policework, and real scares at Brennan’s house to satisfy any reader of crime novels. Readers will learn a lot about saws, cutting bones, Montreal, and possibly a little québécois. I started the series with the last book, then the second-to-last book, and now the first book. I might have gotten hooked. something I never thought would happen (and am a little embarrassed to admit) with a police procedural. Perhaps this is better called an autopsy procedural.
  • I’m now reading Inland by Téa Obreht to atone for flirting with a crime book. So far, Obreht’s book moves at a more-lyrical pace, not counting the exploits of “The Mattie Gang.”
  • Cold weather has come to Georgia prompting us to remember at 1:00 a.m last night that we’d forgotten to move the more delicate potted plants inside. So, we went out and froze our asses off while making sure the plants didn’t.
  • Facebook has been filled lately with photographs of weird stuff in cooking pans that people are looking forward to eating (the stuff, not the pans). I think most of the “food” in the photographs looks trashcan ready even though these posts get lots of likes and recipe requests. I’m tempted to say that these culinary catastrophes look like stuff swept off the kitchen floor and dumped into a Dutch oven with a quart of water. But I don’t: (a) because I’m a polite person, and (b) because I don’t want people to come back and say that my books look like something vacuumed (or Hoovered if you’re English) out of a slush pile.
  • PW graphic

    I was happy to see this November 8th Publishers Weekly story: “In Written Opinion, Judge Florence Pan Delivers Knockout Blow to PRH, S&S Merger.” According to the judge, “The government has presented a compelling case that predicts substantial harm to competition as a result of the proposed merger of PRH and S&S,” Many well-known authors have been saying this ever since the proposed merger was announced. I agree with them–and the judge. There’s already too little competition due to earlier mergers. You can read the order here in PDF format.

  • Based on my glowing recommendation, a close friend of mine just began reading Wolf Hall, the 2009 historical novel by the late Hilary Mantel. I worry a little when I recommend novels and hope the friend is still speaking to me when they finish the book (assuming they finish the book). I have high hopes, especially when I see experts’ reactions like this one in Wikipedia: In The Guardian, Christopher Tayler wrote, “Wolf Hall succeeds on its own terms and then some, both as a non-frothy historical novel and as a display of Mantel’s extraordinary talent. Lyrically yet cleanly and tightly written, solidly imagined yet filled with spooky resonances, and very funny at times, it’s not like much else in contemporary British fiction. A sequel is apparently in the works, and it’s not the least of Mantel’s achievements that the reader finishes this 650-page book wanting more.”

–Malcolm

Campbell

Briefly Noted: Before His Time: The Untold Story of Harry T. Moore, America’s First Civil Rights Martyr

Those researching civil rights leaders in Florida will find this book a handy resource. The third edition, released by the Florida Historical Society Press in 2017 is the one available on Amazon. Typical of historical society and university press books, the retail price is higher than what you might expect from a major publisher, however, Amazon has used copies available at a great saving.

From the Publisher

On Christmas night, 1951, a bomb exploded in Mims, Florida, under the home of civil rights activist and educator Harry T. Moore.

Harry and his wife Harriette both died from injuries sustained in the blast, making them the first martyrs of the contemporary civil rights movement. They were killed twelve years before Medgar Evers, fourteen years before Malcolm X, and seventeen years before Martin Luther King, Jr.

The sound of the bomb could be heard three miles away in the neighboring town of Titusville, but what resonates today is the memory of the important civil rights work accomplished by Moore.

This new edition of Ben Green s comprehensive biography of Harry T. Moore includes updated material about the investigations into the bombing, and additional photographs commemorating Moore s legacy.

If you follow civil rights issues, you know that there have been several investigations of the crime, the final one yielding the names of probable perpetrators. Two would die of natural causes and one by suicide before the initial FBI investigation was complete. I doubt we will ever find true closure on this crime. The book fills in a lot of details about what made Moore a marked man and what happened in the aftermath of the bombing.

I wish the publisher’s description included, at least, a few generalities about the focus of Moore’s work since he was active so long ago and hasn’t loomed large in mainstream civil rights histories. I found this book very helpful in my research for the novel in progress and recommend it to scholars and others interested in Florida and the Klan.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell’s Florida Folk Magic Series of four novels set in the Florida Panhandle in the 1950s focuses on battles against the KKK in a small town. Conjure Woman’s Cat is the first novel in the series Fate’s Arrows is the fourth book in the series.

hello to 18 million veterans

Tomorrow is a day for parades that honor the 18 million former servicemen and women who–these days–volunteer to give of their time and perhaps their lives on behalf of the country. Like many people in my generation, I remember when the day was called Armistice Day because that was the name we first heard as kids like Boulder Dam instead of Hoover Dam and tin foil instead of aluminum foil. The name was officially changed to Veterans Day in 1954.

In 2016, President Obama signed the Veterans Day Moment of Silence Act urging Americans to observe a two-minute period of silence at 3:11 p.m. local time. On Memorial Day, the moment of silence occurs at 3:00 p.m. local time. In both cases, the silence honors those who died and those who served.

Many of us are veterans, have family members who are veterans and know others who are veterans. While the day doesn’t lend itself to family gatherings like Thanksgiving, acknowledging veterans in some way seems to be preferable to using the day to attend sales of one kind or another.

In 2019, the Cohen Veterans Network commissioned a poll and learned that 49% of veterans don’t like to be thanked for their service. In general, veterans feel uncomfortable being thanked. Better, perhaps, to ask where the person served and/or what their service branch and job were. One can always donate or provide volunteer support to organizations that support veterans. If you search online, you’ll find many charities focused on veterans, including those trying to help former servicemen and women cope with PTSD.

I think we owe it to ourselves to find out why so many veterans are homeless–possibly 40,000 at this point–and work toward ways of solving this national embarrassment. That number appears to have decreased during the last several years.

Pick what works for you. Being involved serves the greater good, I think.

–Malcolm

I Voted. Now What?

Like most Americans my age. I’ve been brainwashed to believe that if you don’t vote, you’re scum. Maybe that’s true. Or not.

I tend to vote. When you vote in Georgia, you get a sticker like the one shown here. It’s mainly for people who will be out and around and can wear it proudly on their shirt or blouse to remind others that they’re flirting with becoming scum if they don’t get one of these stickers. Legally. That means not buying one from some guy on the street. I think the street value is 50¢. That tells that people don’t mind looking like scum and might even be proud of it.

Since voting is seen as a duty, you don’t a bell or get any wings when you vote. Maybe you stay up late watching the election returns and find yourself getting angry when the scum candidates win.

This year, Democrats voted because they were scared of “the red wave.” Republicans voted because they were supposed to cause “the red wave.” The red wave never came. The Republicans took over the House as expected and the Senate is even, pending several runoff elections including my state which, as Reuters said, “Runoff election in Georgia may decide fate of U.S. Senate, again.” This year, we’ll have a December 6th runoff between incumbent Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker.

I may not vote. I don’t like either candidate.  Since I don’t, I safely voted for the Libertarian candidate to keep from having to vote for either of these guys. Now they’re back again in a runoff. Sorry guys, better scum than voting against one’s conscience.

My wife and I haven’t talked about the runoff yet. If she votes, I’ll drive her to the polls and sit in the car to read more of Kathy Reich’s Déjà Dead. Then my wife will come home and wear her sticker around the house to prove that I’m lower than whale shit. But I won’t care because whale shit nourishes stuff in the oceans while these Senate candidates will if elected, ruin the country in their own devious ways.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of contemporary fantasy, magical realism, and one satire:

Chef Wanted: Low Pay, Few Benefits Other Than Resume Material

Help Wanted: Personal Chef

Please supply references.

Personal chef and grocery shopper.

Prepare regular meals (including late-night snacks) and keep the pantry and fridge full.

Must not cook meals that look like those on Hell’s Kitchen, Master Chef, and Chopped.

No bloody rare steak.

No puree to decorate plate.

May be required to produce two dinners each night, standard Southern cooking for my wife and Seafood and Cajun dishes for me.

May need a pickup truck to haul beverages from the store to the house (sparkling water, bottled water, Coke, Wine, Scotch). The chef will be allowed two drinks per day but must supply his/her own mixers.

No accommodations other than an old chicken house.

Chefs who have worked at the sous chef level or higher at any or all of the following New Orleans restaurants will be given an automatic second interview: Brennans, Antoine’s, and Galatoires. Experience at the Biltmore Estate Restaurant in Asheville, NC is also desirable.

Chef will be terminated immediately if any dinner looks like it came from IHOP  or Golden Corral.

We eat off of TV trays while watching TV. Try to adapt to that.

Training at a top-of-the-line culinary school is a must.

We do not want to see any meals that originated in the home-economics tradition of the 1940s and 1950s.

Note: We measure the levels of alcohol in all bottles nightly.

No girlfriends or boyfriends allowed.

Easy work, we think, in a farm environment in NW Georgia. Your resume may include the fact that you were the personal chef of the author of the Florida Folk Magic series.

–Malcolm

Sunday’s goodness knows what

  • Florida State University in Tallahassee, where I received my BA, hasn’t been the powerhouse football team for some years it once was, so I’m happy with every win, especially against in-state rivals Miami and the University of Florida. Last night, the Seminoles beat the Miami Hurricanes  45-3. Meanwhile, Houston won the World Series. I should mention that the term “Seminole” is not a mascot but the name of the team with the written permission of the never-conquered Seminole Nation. FSU and the Seminole Nation have been working together for decades on cultural and educational programs.
  • Many southerners won’t use fifty-dollar bills because they don’t like Grant’s picture on them. If I could, I would avoid using the twenty-dollar bill because Jackson’s picture is on them. He killed Indians in Florida with a vengeance and is the architect of and the force behind the inexcusable Trail of Tears. Fortunately, his picture is scheduled to be removed by 2030. That’s not soon enough for me. However, time is needed to design the anti-counterfeit system for the currency.
  • The next book on my reading list now that I’ve finished rereading The Tiger’s Wife is Inland, also by Téa Obreht. The novel was released two years ago which shows how far behind I am in my reading. In its review, “Entertainment Weekly” wrote, “What Obreht pulls off here is pure poetry. It doesn’t feel written so much as extracted from the mind in its purest, clearest, truest form.” I hope that turns out to be the way I feel about it. None of you should be surprised when I say that I’m always attracted by good novels written in the magical realism genre.
  • NPR’s interview with author Richard V. Reeves Men are struggling. A new book explores why and what to do about it caught my attention because there’s not much of a focus on men these days because men are (rightfully, I think) considered to be part of the problem. Any problem. I think some people go too far with that point of view, but that’s the current climate. According to NPR, “Titled Of Boys and Men, the book explores the economic, social and cultural shifts that have forced men to the sidelines of the economy, including the loss of jobs in male-dominated fields such as manufacturing and the influx of women into the workforce, diminishing the need for men to serve as providers for their families.” This book should be the basis for some interesting conversations. Reeves believes that “The danger with even raising the specific challenges of boys and men is that it will be seen as a distraction from ongoing efforts to help women and girls. I think that’s a false choice. Partly as a result of the changes of recent decades, we both can and should now pay attention to both sides of gender inequality.”
  • I see Yahoo “news” because one of my e-mail accounts in on their system. Every day, I see headlines like these: “Salma Hayek Took Everyone’s Breath Away in This Daring & Curve-Hugging Ombre Gown at the LACMA Gala” and “Kendall Jenner’s Skirt Slung So Low, It Showed off the Hem of Her Sheer Bodysuit Underneath.” My first response is “Who cares.” My second is, “Why does Yahoo have a daily feature story (or two or ten) about celebrities wearing revealing outfits?” I have no answers for such things.

–Malcolm

If I’d Been a Career 8000-meter Peak Mountain Climber, I’d probably be Dead by Now

I started reading accounts of mountain ascents and attempted ascents when I was in junior high because my father, who climbed mountains in college as I did later, had most of the classic accounts. My target peak was K2, the second-highest mountain in the world, and considered more difficult than Everest. The fatality rate on that peak is about 25%.

In fact, like the successful American climber Ed Viesturs, I wanted to summit all fourteen of the world’s 8,000-meter peaks without supplemental oxygen. There have been many bad years on these mountains in the Himalayas and Karakoram ranges, so why go there?

I have no answer, really, because I never made it to any summits higher than Colorado’s 14,0000-foot peaks, some of which my father climbed years before.

I did have an opportunity to trek in to the Base Camp at Everest, but the money fell thought at the last minute.

You have to push yourself on these climbs and know when to trust your instincts when everything about the mountain is against you, especially above the so-called “Death Zone” at 26,000 feet, above which the atmosphere isn’t conducive to long-term survival.

Perhaps pushing oneself is the rationale behind climbing. It was for me because truth be told, one doesn’t have a lot of time for the view. It amazes me, though, how the dreams of a high school student can be just as vital now as they were then. Do you have dreams like that? Things you wanted to do and mourn not doing?

Malcolm

Today, 35K people are blogging for peace

“When your fight has purpose—to free you from something, to interfere on the behalf of an innocent—it has a hope of finality. When the fight is about unraveling—when it is about your name, the places to which your blood is anchored, the attachment of your name to some landmark or event—there is nothing but hate, and the long, slow progression of people who feed on it and are fed it, meticulously, by the ones who come before them. Then the fight is endless, and comes in waves and waves, but always retains its capacity to surprise those who hope against it.” – ― Téa Obreht, The Tiger’s Wife

(I’m not an official blogger for peace, check Mimi Writes if you want to be a member and use the official logos.)

The quote from Téa Obreht suggests one reason why war is so difficult to stamp out.

My introduction to the realities of war came from reading All Quiet on the Western Front when I was in high school. I found this novel to be so graphic, I could not comprehend how anyone who fought in a war, observed a war or read that book could possibly support any politician calling for war. I won’t read it again.

I felt the same way after reading the equally repellant Johnny Got His Gun. “Hawks,” I wanted to say, “this is what war does to people.” Along with many others, I learned about the unnecessary and immoral firebombing of Dresden when I read Slaughterhouse Five. Cynically, I wondered how many of those who raged at Sherman’s approach to war thought what we did to Dresden was somehow justifiable.

We don’t always hear the anguished stories of those who fight and return because they can’t or won’t talk about what happened over there. I’ve written elsewhere that I think the real casualties are those who survive so that they can go through the hell of the battle every night in their dreams. Perhaps we learn a little from war reporting, and later from historical novels and nonfiction accounts. Perhaps if we spent one day in Ukraine, we would become doves forever; but I doubt it.

Dresden, where 25,000 people were slaughtered.

Kurt Vonnegut, wrote in, Slaughterhouse-Five, “You know — we’ve had to imagine the war here, and we have imagined that it was being fought by aging men like ourselves. We had forgotten that wars were fought by babies. When I saw those freshly shaved faces, it was a shock. ‘My God, my God — ‘ I said to myself, ‘It’s the Children’s Crusade.'”

And so it usually is. We imagine there’s glory in it. There is not. The idea of glory is the sham that sends the babies off to fight and that celebrates their work if they return. They never return, actually, because they will never mentally escape the slaughterhouse of battlefields and the cities like Dresen that got in the way.

Perhaps if we listened to their nightmares and shared their PTSD, we could become doves forever and–as we used to say (and sing)–“give peace a chance.”

When it comes to a prospective war, your thoughts about the wrongness of it matter.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the Vietnam War novel At Sea.

Etc. and &c.

  1. Fabiola Valentín (Miss Puerto Rico 2020) and Mariana Varela (Miss Argentina 2020) – CNN Photo

    According to CNN, “A former Miss Argentina and former Miss Puerto Rico shocked and delighted fans by announcing their surprise marriage on Instagram.” I don’t claim to understand it, but I do like imagining the horror of some who hear the news. In fact, some people will be so ticked off, they’ll probably whine on Facebook that they weren’t consulted. They did check with me and I said it was all right.

  2. Just in case it matters, I’m drinking Scotch while writing this post. I’m usually drinking red wine, but I got so excited about the news from Fabiola and Marianna, I broke out the good stuff.
  3. Our HRV finally starts up now that the dealership sheepishly admitted that they had sent the car out the door without checking the battery–which turned out to be crap.
  4. Yahoo “news” reports that we can “Save on JLo’s Booty Balm and other celeb faves at Sephora’s Beauty Insider sale.” I lived my whole life without knowing there was a product out there called Booty Balm and wish I were still innocent. Seriously, do people need to hydrate their butts? This stuff is supposed to fade imperfections for a “smoother-looking booty.” And, it’s clinically tested, so we know this product is based on science rather than magical thinking. I notice, however, that when I was looking at the Booty Balm ad, I didn’t see any before and after photographs of treated Booty.
  5. Fox News reported that “Biden blasted for new warning about ‘threats to democracy in midterms: ‘Their rhetoric is all a sham'” “During Wednesday night’s address, Biden focused his rhetoric on Republicans, asking Americans to vote for Democrats to protect democracy.” I like the old days when both major parties were trying to protect democracy. My feeling is that both parties have gone over the edge. And so have the news organizations that worship them.
  6. According to the Associated Press, “Musk: People banned from Twitter won’t be restored for weeks.” The story says that “Elon Musk said Wednesday that Twitter will not allow anyone who has been kicked off the site to return until it sets up procedures on how to do that, a process that will take at least a few weeks.” For me, this info is filed under the I don’t care category. I don’t need Twitter to survive.
  7. The New York Times reports that “The New Covid Boosters Are Incredible, and Everyone Should Get One.” I can’t say any more about it because the dreaded paywall showed up before I could read the editorial column. I have no idea whether the author works for Pfizer or Moderna or the CDC. I’m not rushing out for a shot (other than Scotch).
  8. According to a roundtable on The Onion, “As the oldest commander-in-chief in the history of our republic, the current president’s age demands a vigorous discussion to settle the question: Should President Joseph R. Biden run again?” This seems to be the consensus: “So go ahead and spit on me. Strangle me. Strip me naked and dog-walk me across the cement floor on a metal leash. Threaten my wife and children. Hell, murder my entire family. Nothing—nothing—will break my resolve. I will never reveal whether I believe Biden will have the mental and physical ability at 81 years of age to retain the most powerful office in the world.”

Well, there it is, the state of the nation at 4:57 EDT on 11/3/22.

–Malcolm