A bunch of stuff for Sunday

  • We’re all looking for ways to cope with pandemic anxiety. You may find this free workbook from the Jung Center to be of help.
  • Several things have helped me cope. First, I don’t have to leave the house often. Also, I have chores (like mowing the yard) and enjoyable work (a new novel in progress). As you get older, you’ll discover that even with a riding mower, cutting the grass is a multi-day project. One day to cut it and several days to recover from all the aches and pains that arise from riding over a fairly rough yard that was part of a farm several years ago.
  • I’m re-reading Jeff Shaara’s historical novel A Chain of Thunder about Grant and Sherman’s siege of Vicksburg. Vicksburg is often overlooked by those who study the Civil War because the battle ended one day (July 4, 1863) after the Battle of Gettysburg (July 3, 1863). Both were important Union victories, but Vicksburg was far away in what was in those days called “The West” and Gettysburg was close at hand.
  • I know all of you have been waiting with bated breath for news about the pot roast I mentioned recently in my slow cooker post. It came out great. We’ll finish it at supper tonight: that means I’m not spending the afternoon in a hot kitchen. My wife grilled some asparagus for a tasty side dish.
  • With most of our regular TV shows done for the season, we have been turning once again to old movies. In addition to Netflix, we find many of them on Turner Classic Movies which is part of our basic package on DISH. The Noir Alley films air at midnight on Saturday. (We archive them to view later.) Many of TCM’s movies are introduced by hosts who provide a little background. I especially like Noir Alley’s Eddie Muller because he provides interesting facts about the movies, directors, stars, and trends before and after the films.
  • A favorite author of mine said she has a new book coming out soon. I can’t tell you who she is or the name of the book because it’s not yet in release and if I mention it here before the publisher announces it, there will be hell to pay. Fresh hell, probably.

–Malcolm

My novel Mountain Song is free on Kindle through the end of the day today.

Cormac McCarthy: Maybe not the best author to read during a pandemic

When I run out of factory fresh books, I turn to my bookshelves and re-read older books. I stumbled into the Cormac Mcarthy section recently (I have most of his books) and read Cities of the Plain. Most things go wrong in this book, but I read it all the way through because l like McCarthy’s dialogue, descriptions, and the tone of his books. I think he writes with grit and stars rather than ink. This book has a few good people in it.

I thought, what the hell, I’ll read another. I chose Outer Dark. This novel has a lot more grit in it and even the stars aren’t clean. It doesn’t have any good people in it, though some try hard to be good in narrow ways.

Guy Davenport, in The New York Times, said, “Nor does Mr,. McCarthy waste a single word on his character’s thoughts. With total objectivity, he describes what they do and records their speech. Such discipline comes not only from mastery over words but from an understanding wise enough and compassionate enough to dare to tell o abysmally dark a story.”

The fact that it’s so well written commits one to keep reading even though reading McCarthy is often like drinking poison for recreation. If it were badly written, it wouldn’t bother readers so much, especially when the world around us during this pandemic seems to have come out of something McCarthy might have orchestrated for his next novel or screenplay.

Time to move on to another section of my bookshelf.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell’s Mountain Song is free on Kindle.

 

Free Kindle Book: ‘Mountain Song’

My novel about a young Montana resident with a dysfunctional family who falls I love with a young Florida woman while they’re working as seasonal employees in Glacier National Park will be free on Kindle May 13 through May 17 (Pacific Time).

Mountain Sing Description: David Ward lives in the Montana mountains where his life was impacted by his medicine woman grandmother and his utilitarian grandfather. Anne Hill suffered through childhood abuse and ultimately moved in with her aunt on the edge of a Florida swamp. Their summer romance at a mountain resort hotel surprises both of them. But can they make it last after the initial passion wears off and they return to their college studies far apart from each other especially after an attack on a college street changes Anne forever?

Author’s Confession: I’ve never figured out quite how to properly list this book on Amazon or even promote it properly. (You can tell by the lack of reviews.) I should be able to do better because it’s based in part on my own experiences as a seasonal employee at Many Glacier Hotel in Glacier National Park. Perhaps I know the story too well. However, if you download a copy and enjoy the book, an Amazon review would be great.

I also used this hotel as the primary setting in my contemporary fantasy The Sun Singer.  Mountain Song, however, is primarily realism with some touches of magic.

–Malcolm

 

 

 

 

 

‘The Sun Singer’ – Free on Kindle

My contemporary fantasy set in the mountains of Glacier National Park Montana is free on Kindle May 2 through May 6, 2020.

 

Description

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.

From My Favorite Reader Review

Mr. Campbell used his astute and unfettered imagination to weave this labyrinthine tale full of many different elements seamlessly. The landscape descriptions are dynamic and beautifully written. The matter of where Robert goes and the full-blown characters that he meets along the way are all realistically believable. Well, except for perhaps Garth, the wood elf. But he was pure magic and I enjoyed his character immensely. Robert finds himself on his own, learning to navigate this coinciding world, which is exactly like our own, a few hundred years earlier in time. To do that he has to learn to trust his dreams and to listen to his intuition on who to trust. This is a wildly spirited and intelligent adventure story where Robert has to learn to believe in the energies around him for them to flow through him. I enjoyed the messages of extended families and the way things came together at the end. All ages of readers who enjoy mystical adventures, alternate universes, or epic tales will love this story.

–Review by ?wazithinkin

I hope you enjoy the story.

–Malcolm

You may also like Sarabande, the sequel to The Sun Singer.

 

 

‘Tom Clancy Enemy Contact’ by Mike Maden

I read the Tom Clancy franchise books to escape whatever I need to escape. Now it’s probably the pandemic and everything related to it.

Enemy Contact is another instalment in the series featuring Jack Ryan, Jr. and the “Campus” organization. The Campus handles black ops interventions that the government can’t or won’t handle. The stories are action-oriented and involve a cast of operatives that has evolved throughout the series.

This book is missing about everything that has made the series worth reading, though the stories have become less interesting after Mark Greaney’s True Faith and Allegiance came out in 2016.

What is this book is missing:

  • Most of the primary Campus characters from the best of the previous books.
  • The black-ops action which has been the series’ true focus. Jack Ryan, Jr.’s cover story with the organization is that he’s a financial analyst, though those duties don’t usually play heavily into the plots. In this story, he spends most of the novel traveling in Poland looking for potential financial irregularities and/or treasonous associations in the investments of a U.S. Senator who ticked on the President of the U.S. President (Ryan’s dad).
  • Ryan travels from one contact/company to another with Lilianna, a Polish agent who serves as a chauffeur/driver. He’s attracted to her but keeps the relationship professional. Since he’s working/posing only as a financial analyst, she has no idea he has black-ops skills. The meetings are rather routine, so the agent’s police skills are wasted, and we end up with more pages of Polish history and food information than anything else. Meanwhile, a more pressing IT security mess is developing that could impact U. S. security agencies, but we only hear snippets about it–and Ryan isn’t focused on that.
  • With about ten percent of the book left, we finally get some black-ops action. Ryan is blind sided by it probably because he has been rather cavalier about the potential dangers of going around asking questions of bad people. He escapes one another group of bad guys only to get pulled into another group of bad guys while he’s off work. The action here is handled well.
  • Then, suddenly all the other minor plot lines get resolved, most in a long epilogue, and the book ends. Formally, there is closure (though minimal) for the national security issues, but none for Ryan’s personal losses.

What a mess.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell’s short story collection Widely Scattered Ghosts is currently free on Smashwords. (epub or mobi format).

The 10 most inspiring, enjoyable books about how to write 

Most people know what a story is until they sit down to write one,” the great short story writer Flannery O’Connor once wrote. When it comes to good writing, we can tend towards a romantic vision of it being an unexplainable, inimitable act of divine intervention. It can be inspiring – and often unpalatable – to be reminded that the best writing is more often the result of hard and constant work.

Even if the last thing you are planning on doing in lockdown is writing a novel, here are some of the best guides on writing: how to do it, how it works and how to be inspired to start.

Source: From Stephen King to Anne Lamott: the 10 most inspiring, enjoyable books about how to write | Books | The Guardian

At my age, I seldom read how-to-write books any more because I tend to improve my output by just doing it.

Those who are younger than me–and that’s mostly everyone–might find both practical help and inspiration from the books on this list. Consider starting your quest with On Writing by Stephen King. It has a lot of fans–and for good reason.

One book I’d add to this list is Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass. As an agent, Maass knows what sells as well as what writers are doing to submit manuscripts he and other agents will spend time reading.

Enjoy the books.

–Malcolm

Are you going to read pandemic novels when all this is over

Looking for something to do this afternoon, my wife and I watched an old virus-out-of-control movie on Netflix this afternoon called “Outbreak.” While I suppose a movie about a pandemic in the making was apt for the interesting times we find ourselves in, we picked it because it was better than the other selections.

I read an article this morning about probable post-pandemic novels. One point of view was that we’re all sick of this and don’t want to relive it on the screen or in print after it’s over.

Another point of view was that a lot of people have a lot of free time right now and the daily news is certainly supplying a surge of writing prompts, so, yes, we’ll probably have a lot of fiction, real-life-stories, and political analyses to suffer through.

I think it’s going to be difficult for a fiction writer to put the pandemic in perspective if s/he writes about it “too soon,” unless (of course) the output is a political red state or blue state look at what people did wrong, could have done, etc.

Rushing into print might not be the best choice

–Malcolm

“Lena” is free on Smashwords through April 20.