Category Archives: books

Short Story Collection Released Today (careful, it’s about ghosts)

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Publisher’s Description

A readers’ advisory for this collection of nine stories forecasts widely scattered ghosts with a chance of rain. Caution is urged at the following uncertain places: an abandoned mental hospital, the woods behind a pleasant subdivision, a small fishing village, a mountain lake, a long-closed theater undergoing restoration, a feared bridge over a swampy river, a historic district street at dusk, the bedroom of a girl who waited until the last minute to write her book report from an allegedly dead author, and the woods near a conjure woman’s house.

In effect from the words “light of the harvest moon was brilliant” until the last phrase “forever rest in peace,” this advisory includes—but may not be limited to—the Florida Panhandle, northwest Montana, central Illinois, and eastern Missouri.

Widely Scattered Ghosts is available in paperback and e-book at online booksellers and leading bookstores. (If your favorite store doesn’t have it, tell them they can order it from their Ingram catalogue.)

You can learn more about the stories’ location settings on the spotlight page of my website.

Before it was torn down some years ago, this old Florida building was a favorite of ghost hunters. I was in the building when it was a clean and functioning facility.

Buy the Book Here

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Two Free Books on Presidents Day

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Two Free Books – 2/18 and 2/19

The Sun Singer

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.

Malcolm’s Comment: As a Florida boy, I was in awe of the mountains of Montana’s Glacier National Park when I worked there as a hotel bellman two summers. I’ve been back many times. I couldn’t think of a better place for my derring-do, hero’s journey novel. If you’ve been to Many Glacier Valley, you’ll recognize the settings.

Waking Plain

The exact opposite of “Sleeping Beauty,” this tale involves a dull-as-dishwater prince, a century-long sleeping enchantment, and beautiful queens who have the power to wake the rich sleeper with a kiss–if only he weren’t so plain.

He sleeps because the king and queen inadvertently slighted the eldest faerie on the prince’s naming day. She curses him with foul words that are mitigated from a quick death to a long sleep. Will any of the eligible queens wake a man so plain as he?

Malcolm’s Comment: One of my favorite parts of the old Rocky and Bullwinkle TV show was a segment called “Fractured Fairy Tales”. Let’s just say, they were twisted up and funny.  In the same vein, I was also drawn to Richard Armour’s “Twisted Tales from Shakespeare” and the equally hilarious “It all Started With Columbus.” So, it was just a matter of time before I turned my sarcastic author’s eyes on “Sleeping Beauty” and thought, this story really needs to be twisted into the very opposite of what it is. I’m sure it was wrong to do this, but I couldn’t help it.

 

 

 

I’ve seen ghosts from both sides now

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When I was a kid, I read every psychic book I could get my hands on. Some were secular, some were based on religions where mystics were still honored, and others were spiritual in a much different sense than what I saw at church. Somewhere I read that if a person read what I was reading, they’d open themselves up to ghosts and other spirits, precognitive dreams, and waking visions. Well, all that was true enough.

Early on, I noticed a big difference between real shamans, witches, psychics, and mystics and the way all of these folks were portrayed by the organized church all the way back to the inquisition and such purges as the Cathar Crusade (1209-1229). The church saw these folks as heretics and, strangely, as devil worshippers, even though Satan was, more or less, a Jewish/Christian concept and had nothing to do with the spiritual people in the church’s gunsights. Yet, it served the church’s needs to paint everyone who was different as evil incarnate, a point of view that got picked up by Hollywood’s occult movie producers and writers. I’m always on the warpath when it comes to books and movies that turn ghosts, mystics, shamans, and witches into whatever untrue nastiness the writer or producer can imagine and then proceed to kill them in order to save humanity.

In “real life,” it’s still somewhat dangerous to speak out against these lies. Yes, every once in a while, somebody will say so and so is a witch and then look at me awaiting a wink and a nod of agreement. My response is, “So what?” This throws people for a loop, but they usually will tell me that so and so and so worships the devil. “She doesn’t believe in the devil,” I say. “Well, maybe not,” they respond. Okay, that conversation never goes anywhere good and it tends to get me shunned by a lot of people who think maybe I need to be watched carefully.

Fortunately, most people who read ghost stories–or even that phony occult crap–don’t think the authors are practitioners. And, we’re not. I’m not a conjurer, witch, or shaman. I don’t have an altar in my house covered with herbs, candles, pictures, and other arcane supplies. That’s all in my imagination. What I believe an author should do is tell the stories truly. That is, we can tell stories that fit what actual conjurers, witches, and shamans say and do rather than giving them the powers of, say, Voldemort out of the Harry Potter series along a boatload of evil motives.

Magical realism has given me a genre that works because it shows readers the everyday reality they’re used to seeing and then adds conjurers, witches, and shamans in their “natural habitats” rather than in some highly charged occult setting. My “Florida Folk Magic” series of novels is an example of this. On Monday, my publisher Thomas-Jacob will release Widely Scattered Ghosts,” my new collection of ghost stories. Most of these have something in common with my personal experiences, though my imagination may have strayed a bit.

When compared to the ghosts of horror/occult authors, these stories are very gentle even though you will find sadness and confusion in them along with a bit of humor. They’re not for kids. No, it’s not because of devil worship and gore, but from the psychological themes. Above all, I wanted the stories to be as true as fiction allows, and those of you who’ve tolerated this blog for years will know that I believe fiction is allowed to portray realities that facts cannot touch.

–Malcolm

Coming February 18th:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The audiobook edition of ‘Lena’ is now available

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Holly Palance has done a wonderful job narrating this final novel in the Florida Folk Magic series. For those of you who like listening to a story, Holly will draw you into this one and you just might find yourself listening to the book in one sitting.

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When Police Chief Alton Gravely and Officer Carothers escalate the feud between “Torreya’s finest” and conjure woman Eulalie Jenkins by running her off the road into a North Florida swamp, the borrowed pickup truck is salvaged, but Eulalie is missing and presumed dead. Her cat, Lena, survives. Lena could provide an accurate account of the crime, but the county sheriff is unlikely to interview a pet. Lena doesn’t think Eulalie is dead, but the conjure woman’s family and friends don’t believe her.

Eulalie’s daughter, Adelaide, wants to stir things up, and the church deacon wants everyone to stay out of sight. There’s talk of an eyewitness, but either Adelaide made that up to worry the police or the witness is too scared to come forward.

When the feared black robes of the Klan attack the first-responder who believes the wreck might have been staged, Lena is the only one who can help him try to fight them off. After that, all hope seems lost, because if Eulalie is alive and finds her way back to Torreya, there are plenty of people waiting to kill her and make sure she stays dead.

Click on the cover to buy the book on Amazon. Click here to buy it directly from Audible.

–Malcolm

 

 

 

 

 

 

Briefly Noted: ‘The Hart Brand’ by Johnny D. Boggs

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Many men in my generation grew up watching westerns at the theater and on TV. The first movie I remember seeing was “The Big Sky” based on the A.B. Gutherie’s 1947 novel set in Montana. Name a western movie made between 1940 and 1970, and I probably saw it. Yes, I liked “Shane” and “High Noon,” and some years later, “Lonesome Dove.” Yet, I haven’t read a western in years, much less gone to a western genre film.

You can tell just how long I’ve been away from westerns when I confess that when a friend who was downsizing his book collection gave me a copy of The Hart Brand, I’d never heard of author Johnny D. Boggs even though he’s prolific, viewed by many as the best westerns genre author in the business, and the winner of multiple Spur Awards.

I enjoyed the yarn.

We’re talking about a western for readers who are serious about westerns set in the days of Pat Garrett and the 1890s New Mexico Territory. Greenhorn Caleb Hart, whose father runs a mercantile in Missouri, heads west at 14 to work on his uncle’s ranch and send his paychecks back home to help support the family.

The book’s style and tone remind me of western novels of an earlier era and, for a story about a huge ranch, a hard-as-nails uncle Frank, cattle rustlers, strained family relationships, and frontier justice, the writing is perfect.

The “Booklist” review said, “Boggs writes with a drawling assurance, maintaining a keen eye for the details of life on the range. This is a fine western story about family ties and loyalty, set among cowboys rather than gunslingers, but with plenty enough action to satisfy.”

I don’t plan to go back to reading westerns, but this novel was an interesting change of pace. In a review, I would probably give it four stars. The writing is good enough for five stars but the story, in one form or another, has been told a thousand times. Nonetheless, a fun book. If you’re a fan of the genre, you’ll probably enjoy it.

Malcolm

 

Professors, you’re killing your students with books

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I taught in a small college and among my duties was serving as the advisor to a group of students. I wanted to say, “Get out while you’re still alive.”

Why?

Class, you have to read all this shit by the end of the week. Yeah, right.

Because each professor assigned books, in addition to the course textbook, for each student to read during the quarter or semester. First, nobody could read that many books. Second, each professor acted as though s/he was the only professor in the college assigning books to be read during the term.

There was no communication between departments. This meant that each professor assigned books without thinking about the number of books his or her students’ other professors were assigning. Between the time I went to college and the time I taught in college, this problem had gotten worse. Nobody can read 3-4 novels a week when they have other classes to attend.

Putting up with the nonsense of (a) studying the assigned chapters in the textbooks for 3-4 courses per semester and (b) fitting in a hundred pages worth of additional reading from a stack of fiction and nonfiction for each course killed my respect for the educational system. I felt the same way when I was caught up in it as a teacher. I taught journalism. All we had was the textbook. But my colleagues were assigning stacks of books to be read each week and nothing I said about it mattered.

They wanted me to get with the program and, for example, force my students to read a thick book containing all of Hemingway’s war reporting one week and all of some other journalist’s dispatches another week. I wouldn’t do it.

So, we argued about it, the other departmental teachers and I, and the students were lost in the shuffle. No wonder everyone survived on Cliff’s Notes and Monarch Notes and whatever the modern versions of those are today. Frankly, I think that–based on the credit hours of a course–there should be a maximum number of pages/books that can be assigned (including the textbook). We need to increase the credit hours awarded by the course if we add more reading material.

I’m a writer and I disliked high school and college English departments. That’s kind of sad, I think. Those departments did their best to kill my love of reading and writing and, I have a feeling, they’re still doing it today. When will they ever learn?

Malcolm

Comfort Food

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Comfort food is food that provides a nostalgic or sentimental value to someone and may be characterized by its high caloric nature, high carbohydrate level, or simple preparation. The nostalgia may be specific to an individual, or it may apply to a specific culture. Wikipedia

Mac & Cheese – Wikipedia photo.

Wikipedia lists about thirty popular comfort foods for the United States. I like many of them, including mac & cheese. I don’t like the green bean casserole because I got tired of it soon after it first showed up in everybody’s houses. Mashed potatoes are fine, but I prefer them baked, preferably in an oven rather than a microwave. I love grits, always with a lot of butter on top. Cornbread is great, but cornbread dressing is wonderful.

We all have our favorites, the kinds of meals we could eat multiple times per week without getting tired of them.

Books as Comfort Food for the Mind

Every year, magazines, newspapers, and websites choose the best books of the year. Some of these may, in time, become “comfort food,” the books we read over and over.

I’ve read The Prince of Tides and A Scots Quair multiple times. One is set in the southern U.S., the other in Scotland. I never tire of these two books, as some people never tire of mac & cheese.  We find something new in the books we like best every time we read them. They inspire us in some way. They might even impact our life’s journey.

Whatever they do, we keep them on our nightstands as old friends, wise teachers, or worthy competitors.

Escape or Smart Choice?

Some people call fast food an easy way out, one that’s not very nutritious and probably has too much salt and fat in it.  That’s probably true. I don’t see our comfort foods and comfort books that way. They give us what we need for body and soul without allowing us to escape into stuff that really isn’t good for us. Comfort stuff gives us what we need, whether it’s a food, book, movie, song, game, or often-taken hike in the woods.

Some say that when you crave certain things, it’s because your body or your mind need them. I think that’s true–not counting addiction, of course. When I run out of factory fresh new books to read, I usually grab an old book off the shelf and read it again. It’s almost always the very best thing I could possibly read at that moment. There’s usually synchronicity in the book grabbed off the shelf with whatever the gods think I need to know, remember, or act upon. Perhaps the same thing can be said for mac & cheese and grits.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the three-novel collection, “Florida Folk Magic Stories.”