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Posts from the ‘blog’ Category

Where are y’all coming from?

When I look at my Word Press dashboard, I often see that old posts are suddenly getting a lot of visitors. Today it was Review: ‘Plain Truth’ by Jodi Picoult from last September. I have no complaints about this. I simply wonder how and why a bunch of y’all find a post six months after it was written. I don’t think the post saw that many visitors last fall.

So, do Word Press readers get together in “secret” Facebook groups and say, “Hey, let’s all read Malcolm’s old review this week. That’ll freak him out.” Or, is there a mother ship in high earth orbit that beams down subliminal messages about the blogs everyone’s supposed to visit?

Posts I’ve forgotten about suddenly appear in my blog’s stats with dozens of visits, and that sends me out to them to see what I might have said. You know, did I insult a celebrity, inadvertently announce a cure for ten horrid diseases, or post nude pictures I didn’t know were available? Of course, I keep waiting for the post that goes viral, the one that attracts the attention of major movie studios who get into a bidding war for my books. So far, that hasn’t happened.

When people find old posts, I sometimes search Google to see if anything earthshaking has happened that relates to their subject matter.  Usually not. And then, further adding to the mystery is the fact that a lot of those readers come from the far-flung corners (figuratively speaking) of the world. How do you find me? And why that particular post?

I’m not particularly astute when it comes to the issues of the day or the philosophical questions of our era. CNN doesn’t call me for quotes and the New York Times doesn’t review my books. Humbly, I must say that in both cases, it’s their loss. Of course, if I were invited anywhere special other than the nearest Cracker Barrell, I would decline the invitation because I have nothing to wear. I wear jeans an tee shirts; haven’t put on a suit and tie for years, and those I used to wear no longer fit.

Seriously, I grew up in a swamp–or near a swamp–and today’s social media (including Word Press and Facebook) are beyond me. As for Twitter, my blogs post there, but I seldom go there because I can’t figure out what’s happening. So, I wonder, how do y’all track down these old posts?

I’m usually too buried in writing and weekly chores to notice the stuff that many sites refer to as “trending.” So, if I’m ever trending, it’s news to me. Actually, I don’t want to be trending. That means the phone would ring and people would ask stuff like “Which of the Democrat’s 2020 candidates do you support?” and “Do you buy good wine or swill?” Frankly, I don’t need the hassle.

On the other hand, I appreciate everyone who stops by my blog. As we said in the old days, “What a hoot.”

Malcolm

My new novel, “Special Invesigative Reporter,” will be released soon. Meanwhile, enjoy “Widely Scattered Ghosts.”

 

 

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Wow, new followers

WordPress keeps sending me notices that more and more people are following this blog. That’s a little scary because it means I can’t slack off and write these posts drunk and blindfolded. Thank you!

While many of my posts do sound drunk and blindfolded, I also have fun reviewing a few books, talking about authors, and occasionally saying a few things about writing. Yet, I have madness in my method and that is something that I believe needs to be said. I say it in fiction. This Facebook cover picture pretty well sums it up:

 

My publisher is working on a new edition. She just sent me photographs of it this morning. Wow, for a grey and rainy day, they really make me happy. You’re going to like it. More on that later, of course.

Malcolm

 

Blogging, what’s it all about?

Writers are usually advised to have websites and blogs. There are lots of reasons even though blogs aren’t as popular as they were, say, back in the 1990s when the concept began. Blogs become, so say the experts, part of your platform or presence on the Internet.

Nonfiction

No, I don’t look anything like this clip art.

Not counting widely known writers, blogs seem almost mandatory for those writing nonfiction because they help establish subject-matter credibility. Such blogs have a built-in niche and tend to draw readers who are interested in beekeeping, home repair, investing, or whatever the author’s subject matter is. If the author is busy, s/he may have announcements of upcoming events related to that niche along with links to his/her articles along with resources links to sites and articles written by others. So the blog becomes another clearinghouse of information and (so the author hopes) will be a way of publicizing the books.

Fiction

Widely known fiction writers have a built-in audience of readers who are looking for them; they want to know the latest news about new books, presentations, panels, signings, etc. Unknown writers don’t have people looking for them. So, they are often told to blog about the subject-matter and locations of their books more than their books. If they write several posts a week about their books, that’s often considered SPAM. On the other hand, after maintaining this blog for a number of years filled with posts about Montana, Florida, mountains, swamps, hero’s journey, hoodoo, the environment and related subjects that relate to my novels, I can say that after a while, the writer runs out of book-related subject matter to talk about.

And, as far as I can see, there’s little correlation between those who read my posts about hoodoo, for example, and the sales of my books in which the main character is a conjure woman. Of course, most of the people who read this blog aren’t fans of hoodoo and related subjects, so I can’t establish a “hoodoo niche” and write about that all the time. But even if I did, I suspect that readers searching on hoodoo and conjure are looking for how-to more than fiction.

This brings me to the point that some writers make: blogging takes time away from writing the novels one is supposed to be writing. Yes, it does, and while I appreciate all of you who follow this blog greatly, I’m wondering if the blog is “earning its keep.”

Politics

J. K. Rowling, Stephen King, and other well-known and wealthy writers can make political comments on Twitter all the time without harming their authors’ reputations. They may lose a few readers, but I’m sure they don’t care. I wrote a political post on this blog yesterday and deleted it today. Why? I guess I wish I hadn’t written it even though writers–among others–are being urged to speak out more and more about political matters. The thing is, politics has become so polarized these days, one can hardly say anything that doesn’t bring down the wrath of the multitudes. Suffice it to say, I’m a political moderate, yet the polarization in venues such as Facebook is so extreme that moderates get beat up by both conservatives and liberals. I don’t see a lot of real dialogue on Facebook. Just a lot of nastiness from people who wouldn’t dare say the things they say at a backyard barbecue or a bar or a party. I don’t think I want to bring that nastiness into this blog even though my political views are just as real as everyone else’s views.

So, What’s Left to Say?

My first thought is “not a lot.” I’ve been blogging for a long time on many platforms over the years. I’ve met a lot of cool people, found interesting discussions, been lured into exciting blogs of others, and had fun shooting off my mouth. But after 25 years of that, I’m not sure I know what I’m doing here on WordPress. As people reach my age (I’m not telling you what it is) they often find they’re out of sync with the world. That is to say, it becomes more and more obvious with each passing year that they are part of the older generation which is variously considered to be: (a) responsible for what’s wrong with the world, (b) out of touch with the major thrusts of culture and popular culture, (c) trapped in the past.

The days are long gone when old people were venerated for their wisdom.  (Hell, my generation grew up with the admonition not to trust anyone over 30.) Not that I have any wisdom. When I was a kid, I thought I would know lots of stuff by the time I was a grandfather. Boy, was I fooled!

This is almost goodbye, I think.

Malcolm

 

Is the blog on your website empty or out of date?

If the answer is “yes,” then why is “blog” a menu selection? I see out of date blogs a lot on writers’ sites, social service organization sites, and environmental group sites every week. Sure, they’re a lot of work even if they’re only updated once a month. Perhaps they were started when writers were less famous and had more time or when volunteer groups happened to have somebody on hand to write a blog who has since left the organization.

When I visit a social service or environmental group and see that the latest post is two or three years old, my first thought is, “Have you people done nothing since that post worth talking about?”

I realize that social service and environmental groups have to be more careful than other bloggers because they don’t have to luxury of posting rants or even reasonable debates because such things are construed as the voice of the organization rather than how the blogger happened to be feeling one day. So, most likely, blog posts have to be approved by upper management–or by the publicity department–and that can be time-consuming. However, I think an out-of-date blog creates about as much damage as any inadvertent post that headquarters may not like.

Much better to remove the “blog” menu selection than to leave it there and have people think you’re lazy and/or have nothing to say.

Writers get busy, especially those who are on the faculty of a college, on the board of one or more writers’ groups, or are charged with organizing writing workshops and conventions. The amusing thing is, many writers proclaim on their web sites that they write daily. That said, how long could it possibly take to add a hundred words to a blog? When a writer’s blog is empty, I feel cheated, especially if they haven’t come out with a new book in a while or been interviewed in a writer’s magazine. “What are you thinking about these days?” I want to ask. An out of date blog makes me think the answer to that question is “nothing.”

It may seem like a little thing, but that empty or abandoned blog on the writer’s or organization’s website is causing a lot more damage than most people realize.

–Malcolm

 

 

Why do old posts suddenly catch a lot of people’s attention?

When I log on to my WordPress dashboard, I see how things are going. Quite often, posts I think will have traction aren’t noticed while silly throw-away posts attract hundreds of readers.

Sometimes, I do a Google search to see if the subject of an old post that suddenly has hundreds of hits has been in the news. This time, it’s my 2011 post Many Glacier Hotel 1963, where the fantasy began. Why are people suddenly reading this old post?

  • I check the news to see if the hotel burnt down, had a string of murders in the basement, or got sued for not having an elevator in the annex.
  • As far as I can see from scanning Amazon, no new books have come out about the hotel that might cause people to put it into their search engines for more information.
  • President Trump isn’t staying there, nor has he unleashed a Tweet Storm about the place.
  • My publisher hasn’t made a surprise announcement to the press that I’m going to be there to talk about my two novels set in the historic structure.

So, I’ve got nothing. If any of you who went there see this post, I would like to know why you went there.

This is very a perplexing thing for a blogger. Why people read what they read. Lately, I saw that a lot of people arrived on my blog after a search for subject XYZ. So, I wrote a post about XYZ. Nobody read it even though my search terms index kept showing me that people were looking for more information about it.

Sometimes I think the Feds are doing this to make me go crazy to they can put me in a home, a One Flew Over the Cukoo’s Nest kind of home. Why would they do that, you wonder. My guess is that it’s because my alter ego Jock Stewart has contributed a lot of guest posts on this blog that made fun of the Feds. (Lately, the real news has become so crazy that Stewart couldn’t think of any way to satirize it.)

Okay, let’s pretend the Feds aren’t going it. Maybe some of you are doing it. You probably have a ringleader, some tough guy or badass chick from Chicago who calls the shots. Why would s/he do this? Kicks? Too much free time? A dislike of bloggers? Nurse Ratched withholds their meds unless they click on old blogs of mine to make me wonder why they’re clicking on old blogs of mine.

I’m sure there are other possibilities. The Russians hacked into my blog or maybe the Mafia did it. Or, possibly aliens from a place where no one has gone before.

Like those cop shows where a crime is committed in the middle of a crowded mall where nobody saw nothin’, I strongly suspect nobody knows why everyone’s headed out to that old Many Glacier Hotel post.

Okay, I can play that game, too, because my hacker software knows who you are and what you did. <g>

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of fantasy and magical realism novels which, after youve read this post, shouldn’t surprise you.

If you don’t know where you’re going. . .

“You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you are going because you might not get there.” – Yogi Berra

This blog came into being after I tinkered with earlier blogs on Blogger, MySpace, Typepad, and Xanga. Since this blog doesn’t have a real niche, you might say that in all its incarnations I never knew where I was going. Except in wholly practical matters like getting on a plane and ending up where my ticket says I’m supposed to end up, I much prefer not to be going to any particular place. I dislike planning.

I took a look at the first post on this blog in 2008 to see if I began with a plan, forgot about it, and then decided there was no need for a plan:

As of 2008

Photo by João Barbosa on Unsplash

A friend asked in a recent post on her MySpace blog “How Do You Define Success?”

Essentially, her answer was finding the freedom to be herself and to follow her dreams. The challenge for her–for many of us–was that while following our dreams requires a measure of security and financial well-being, if we spend too much time or stress establishing that, we may not ever get to our dreams.

My answer to her question was similar to hers. Success to me is doing what I’m here to do: making an inner journey and writing about it. This blog represents my random thoughts, and a lot of yours, about the challenges we face and about the things we see along the trail.

I’m influenced, as many of you can tell, by the work of such writers as Edward Abbey and Colin Fletcher and by the dedication of volunteers in such organizations as the Sierra Club and the Nature Conservancy. I’m also influenced by Jane Roberts’ “Seth Books,” by the writings of Carlos Castaneda and Caroline Myss.

As we walk the trail, we learn–as Carlos was taught–that our outer journey is a reflexion of our inner journey and, conversely, that if we are impeccable in what we do in the physical world, we will be more centered within.

For me, success is being on the path and experiencing what I find there and then putting those feelings into words on the page.

What about you?

As of Right Now

My novels and blog posts still reflect my inner journey–more or less. The journey has been satisfying, if not profitable. This doesn’t mean I couldn’t have done better, though I’m not sure better would have yielded the same lessons.

What about you? Have you changed your basic philosophy and/or how you view success since 2008?

I envy people who keep diaries, real diaries rather than those they write in such a way that people years down the road will read them with great admiration. I could never do that. I either couldn’t stay with it or I couldn’t stay with it without fictionalizing what was happening while it was happening. Maybe the embellishments were the real me. I don’t have a clue, and that’s probably just as well. But those can do keep honest diaries can go back and see what the hell they were thinking long, long ago.

I think this blog is just as chaotic now as it was when it began. I like it that way because it makes every day a blank slate where everything is possible. Plans seem to limit what is possible because they’re based on preconceived notions about what I ought to be doing tomorrow or next week.

My wife will tell you that–like most men–I don’t like to stop and ask directions. Frankly, I don’t know why that lack of practicality is a “male thing.” If we’re on the way to the hospital ER or maybe to pick up the Pulitzer Prize, I’d ask somebody where we were and where we needed to go.

Otherwise, I don’t want to know. I want the road to surprise me.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the Florida Folk Magic Stories, three novels in one e-book.

 

 

If you’re naughty. Santa leaves SPAM in your stocking

Not the SPAM in a can, but the crap that shows up uninvited in your e-mail inbox and in the comments section of your blog. Fortunately, WordPress weeds out a lot of the junk. Google’s Gmail separates a fair amount of the annoying stuff, but I still get a lot of e-mails asking for money, asking for me to sign urgent petitions in which a million signatures are (for reasons never specified) “needed by midnight,” and offers far more Viagra than anyone would consider using in a hundred lifetimes.

Most of the SPAM weeded out by WordPress starts with something lame: “Hi, I want you to know that I read your blog every day and intend to tell my friends about it.” And then there’s a link to an online store or service that I don’t want.

My assumption is that as Christmas approaches, Santa reads the news and discovers that coal is really bad or really good depending on your politics. So, after a discussion with Mrs. Claus, he decided not to touch the stuff. Plus, many of today’s young people don’t equate coal in the stocking as evidence that their wrongdoings have been noted on the naughty list.

But SPAM, how nasty is that? It’s just another advertisement at best. At worst, it’s a way of opening a doorway to endless malware, viruses, and perhaps death. Of course, most of the medications we take indicate that death is a potential side effect, so how bad can death be? From Santa’s viewpoint, your friendly pharmacist in the white coat pushes more death than the anonymous spammer who promises riches in the Bitcoin market.

Most spammers who try to sneak their comments into this blog are trying to sell software that will write this blog for me and/or monetize it in some way that will be better for me–and any reader who believes the pitch–than winning the lottery. The pitches often begin with: “I notice you don’t have much new material on this blog.” Gosh, they probably sweet talk everybody like that. And then they continue with: “Most bloggers aren’t writers, so we’ll supply a slew of curated crap that will fill up your week’s post with the kind of stuff people want to read. You won’t have to write another word.”

My only question is this: “will the people who read that curated crap be so happy and inspired they’ll buy my novels?”

The spammers say, “Malcolm, of course, they will. You’ll be the new James Patterson.”

Wow, really? Where do I sign?

“Right here where you promise to hand over your next child, your house, your Jaguar, and the access codes to all of your bank accounts.”

Does that sound good to you? No, I didn’t think so. The thing is, the SPAM industry keeps trying to sell it to me. Apparently, it’s illegal to harm those people or even to create a virus that goes back to their computers and fries the hell out of them (the computers). Maybe I should call a conjure lady and ask her to put a hex on them, some kind of plague maybe like frogs in the kitchen and wasps in the bedroom.

Christmas SPAM seems to be the worst SPAM. Supposedly, if I sign up, I’ll experience joy and love and a guarantee that my stocking will never be filled with coal or more SPAM. Gosh, if that doesn’t represent the true magic and spirit of Christmas, I don’t know what does.

I almost feel like wishing the spammers Merry Christmas. Hmm, maybe next year. Between now and then, I’ll try to stay off the “naughty list.”

This has been a wonderful Christmas, one that didn’t require SPAM or smoke and mirrors to make it happen. I hope your Christmas Day is unfolding the same way.

Malcolm

 

 

 

 

Midweek Musings, (AKA random stuff)

  • My latest book Florida Folk Magic Stories is now part of an Amazon giveaway. Go here for a chance to win.
  • Sometimes I think the so-called, all-important “writer’s platform” looks more like a gallows.
  • Right now, I can’t tell whether my discomfort from an inflammation is coming from the disease or the antibiotic.
  • I’m discouraged when long-time online friends leave Facebook because, as they see it, the site has become toxic. I admit that I try to avoid most political discussions there because I’m more of a moderate than a hardcore Democrat or Republican and feel like I’m getting beaten up by both sides. One can avoid that by not talking politics.
  • Dang, I accidentally bought a new copy of a James Patterson book that I’d already read. Unfortunately, it’s one of his weaker novels. It has a trick ending and there is no excuse for it. It’s called The Store. Forget about it.
  • I keep wondering if the female contestants chosen to be on “Survivor” are those with the most cleavage and the skimpiest bathing suits. So much for women being considered equal when they dress like that.
  • When I look at a lot of news sources, I see many things going on that aren’t covered by either CNN or FOX. Those two networks seem obsessed with running talking heads show of “experts” who are really liberal or really conservative. Unfortunately, a lot of people believe the opinion shows on both networks are gospel.
  • Minnesota is suing “big pharma” for an exorbitant increase in the cost of insulin. It’s sort of like buying a pair of pliers one year for $12.00 and then a few years down the road seeing the price jump to $120.00. There’s no excuse for that kind of price gouging.
  • Writers aren’t immune to the debates going on in the country. Some writers have found a way to speak out in those debates through their poetry, novels, and essays. Not all of us can do that. It doesn’t mean we don’t care. It means that the kind of writing we do doesn’t lend itself to work focused on the latest issues. We always hope what we write will make a difference, even if that difference is indirect.

Malcolm

Suddenly the blog is like chopped liver.

There are weeks when a hundred or so people show up. And there are weeks when almost nobody shows up. One is tempted to ask, “What am I, chopped liver?”

If you love chopped liver, no offense is intended even though I might wonder if you were brainwashed.

Mother tried to sneak liver into our menu about once a month. Nobody liked it. Maybe she learned about it in Home Ec. Maybe her parents forced her to eat it and she was carrying on the tradition. Even ketchup couldn’t save it.

Chopped Liver with Egg – Wikipedia photo

If you know how search engines work, I have a question for you. When the subject of a post, often one written several years ago, isn’t part of the national debate, what causes people to suddenly click on it, seemingly in groups? It would make more sense if they left comments or posted links to those posts on Twitter or Facebook. But, they aren’t doing that (I don’t think).

This week it’s my Seminole Pumpkin Fry Bread post from March 2015. I grew up in Florida and often made fry bread. So, when I included fry bread in one of my novels, I wrote a post about it. Now, the post is getting more hits. What’s that about? Do clubs have meetings, pick a post, and then go out and look at it in droves to confuse the blogger? If so, those people are eating too much chopped liver. (By the way, if your mother is serving you liver, a half teaspoon of Tabasco sauce will kill the taste.)

Every week, my post The Bare-Bones Structure of a Fairy Tale gets hundreds of hits. I wrote that post in 2013. The number of hits surprises me. Perhaps more people are reading, writing, and studying fairy tales than I suspected. So many people have stopped by that post, that I’ve updated it with more information and links. Maybe I should add a subliminal spell to that post that draws fairies into every reader’s house. All in good fun, of course. What could possibly go wrong?

The answer, of course, is that those fairies bring you steaming plates of chopped liver.  (By the way, Sriracha sauce makes liver even worse. It makes everything worse. I know, I know, I’m in the minority of people who didn’t jump on the big Sriracha sauce bandwagon, opting to stay with Tabasco.)

Okay, let’s agree to disagree if you like chopped liver or Sriracha sauce, don’t send me any recipes, pamphlets, white papers, or how-to books featuring those things. In fact, if you’re a fan of chopped liver or Sriracha sauce, my advice is to become a contestant on the cooking show called Chopped. That show features mystery baskets of hideous ingredients that regular people have never heard of, much less would even eat.

According to The Weirdest Ingredients Ever Used on ‘Chopped’, here are a few of the show’s strange offerings: Dried fermented scallops, Eyeballs, Scrapple, and Caul fat. If you want to know what any of these things are, click on the link. I’ll warn you now that the article includes pictures. The chef contestants on each show must include all of the mandatory ingredients in each appetizer, entree, and dessert. And, as the show’s host Ted Allen tells them something like, “If your food doesn’t cut it, you’ll be chopped.” (Eliminated in that round of the show.)

In general, Mother made good meals. So, I probably would not have voted to chop her from the family kitchen for serving liver. I came close to saying I was going to start having meals on campus (you have to be crazy to do that) when mother–and apparently everyone else in the neighborhood–went on a weird food fad: baby bees, chocolate-covered ants. My brothers and I were told we had to taste everything on our plates. We forced down the liver with Hunt’s Ketchup (we never ate that swill called “catsup”), but we drew the line at the bees and the ants.

So, now I’m curious: Will people who tend to follow this blog see this post as just more chopped liver?

Malcolm

I do most of the cooking in our house. I have never served liver, chopped or otherwise. It goes without saying that I wouldn’t try to “elevate” the meal, as chef contestants would say, with something hideous like dried tarantula powder.

 

 

What this blog is still all about

I wrote this post back in 2008. It’s still true today:

A friend asked in a recent post on her MySpace blog “How Do You Define Success?”

Clipart.com graphic

Essentially, her answer was finding the freedom to be herself and to follow her dreams. The challenge for her–for many of us–was that while following our dreams requires a measure of security and financial well-being, if we spend too much time or stress establishing that, we may not ever get to our dreams.

My answer to her question was similar to hers. Success to me is doing what I’m here to do: making an inner journey and writing about it. This blog represents my random thoughts, and a lot of yours, about the challenges we face and about the things we see along the trail.

I’m influenced, as many of you can tell, by the work of such writers as Edward Abbey and Colin Fletcher and by the dedication of volunteers in such organisations as the Sierra Club and the Nature Conservancy. I’m also influenced by Jane Roberts’ “Seth Books,” by the writings of Carlos Castaneda and Caroline Myss.

As we walk the trail, we learn–as Carlos was taught–that our outer journey is a reflexion of our inner journey and, conversely, that if we are impeccable in what we do in the physical world, we will be more centered within.

For me, success is being on the path and experiencing what I find there and then putting those feelings into words on the page.

What about you?

–Malcolm