Time machines really don’t cost that much

In 1960, one of my favorite movies was “The Time Machine” based on H. G. Wells’ novel. Perhaps it was the slight crush I had on Yvette Mimieux (unrequited love) or perhaps it was my attunement with old legends about time travel, but the film remains a favorite even though it’s very dated by now.

Now we’re learning more and more about how astronomers’ observations are verifying Einstein’s theories of space/time. My focus on time is more mystic and speculative than science, but I have always thought that one day we would figure out how to do it without breaking Star Trek’s Temporal Prime Directive that prohibits interfering with cultures in a time frame earlier than our own.

For now, though, I’m content to use my imagination as a time machine when I write as well as when I read. My work in progress is set in 1955. Whether it’s the writing or the ongoing research of the period, I feel like I’m bouncing back and forth between 2020 and the 1950s. I feel the same way when I read whether it’s Southern Gothic, which I like a lot, or mainstream historical novels.

I believe in past lives, though I do think they’re occurring simultaneously with our current lives and “future” lives. Aside from that, books do have a powerful ability to transport us to other times and places. How easy it is to fall under the spell of a book or film set in another time and (while reading/viewing) take everything we see and hear as a reality we want to experience.

Do you feel this way when you read? Do you suddenly “see” a period in our nation’s past (or some other nation’s past) as more real than you did before you began the novel? I usually do. It’s almost like magic.

Malcolm

 

Writer’s Resource: Army Field Manuals

United States Army Field Manuals are published by the United States Army‘s Army Publishing Directorate. As of 27 July 2007, some 542 field manuals were in use.[1] They contain detailed information and how-tos for procedures important to soldiers serving in the field.  – Wikipedia

These manuals are a wonder for writers researching multiple subjects whether writing about war/battles or not. I’ve used the first aid manuals for years because they show the basic techniques that can be applied in the field by non-medical personnel. If one of your characters breaks a leg, for example, the field manual shows you what first aid to use.

The manuals can be found in a variety of places, some for sale on Amazon, others are various free sites. Click on the word “Wikipedia” after the quote above for an overview. One handy downloading source (various formats) can be found at the US Military Manual Collection website. There’s quite a list here.

There’s good stuff (e.g. Sniper Training) for writers doing novels about battles and black ops.  For general writing, there’s Map Reading and Land Navigation (very good: used this in ROTC and Scouting), Basic Cold Weather Manual, Carpentry, Welding, Diving.

Maybe you’ll find something here that helps your research.

Malcolm

Click on my name and you’ll find my Facebook Author’s Profile. Every day, I fill it with links to book reviews, author interviews, and publishing information.

Ad Hoc Writing Research

If I were writing historical novels, I would probably do a lot of research before I even committed to writing each book. My novels are written without an ourline or any idea how they will end up. This means I do the research for each scene when I get to it. While the novel in progress is set in 1955, the fact that I was an elementary school kid in that year doesn’t mean I know a lot about the time period.

So, it’s time to Google everything.

  • The last scene took place at a grocery store. Okay, when somebody entered the store, what kinds of posters, die-cut signs, and hand-written specials did they see on the window sill or window? I found a great Noxzema suburn cream sign, a nice Planters Peanuts poster, and a list of the meat prices per pound.
  • The current scene takes place in the backyard of some well-to-do people. While we had cheap pre-Weber metal barbecue, the fru fru people often had barbecue grills made of brick, 44 inches wide are larger.
  • What are they having to eat? I knew part of this already, but did a bit of online checking. The menu: porterhouse steak, corn, collards with ham hocks, baked potatoes, corn bread, and macaroni salad. The men are drinking either Jax Beer or Old Overholt Rye whiskey. I would enjoy all of this except for the Rye which I never liked.
  • The family wanted music. So, after verifying that long playing records were, in fact, available in 1955 AND that RCA had a three-in-one (78, 45, and 33 and 1/3 rpm) record player, I needed to make sure they had something to listen to. Since the men in the family are KKK members, they won’t be listening to jazz, blues, or gospel. Glenn Miller seemed like a safe choice.
  • Now, if I can, I’d like to find out how long each of the tracks is so I can time the action with which song would be playing at five minutes into the dinner and ten minutes into the dinner, etc.  (I did this once before when I timed the cuts on a Scott Joplin CD with a ride between Tallahassee and St. Marks, Florida. Probably nobody checks these things, but I wanted to know what song would be playing as Emily and her father (in Widely Scattered Ghosts) reached various landmarks along the way. Heck, I even check the weather reports for the dates and cities where my novels are set to make the weather in the novel the same as it was in “real life.”

Okay, I only have one more thing to check. What happens if somebody gets shot in the arm with a target arrow? There’s so little history taught in med school, that doctors can’t tell me what they would have done in 1955. I was e-mailing back and forth with a medical museum curator who admitted that doctors seem to believe that their speciality “rose like a Phoenix out of the ashes of ignorance” just before they got out of medical school. So, on treatment, I need to skirt around the specifics I don’t know. I’m not happy about that, but as Vonnegut always said, “so it goes.”

Malcolm

 

 

Does “Bestseller” Influence Your Book Buying?

When the Pulitzers and other prizes are announced, news stories inform us that more people start buying those books. I suppose the same is true for books that become bestsellers even though that appears to happen while the book is en route to the bestseller lists rather than as the immediate response after an award is announced.

Traditionally, I stay away from bestsellers because, while pricing has changed, they usually cost more than I want to pay, so I traditionally have waited for the hardcover and trade paperback editions to run their course and hold out for the mass market paperback edition.

Some people are immune to bestseller lists because they only read genre books rather than “general fiction.” Others scan the lists for authors they’ve enjoyed reading in the past. So the fact that the book is a bestseller isn’t their main concern other than that status creates buzz and makes it more likely to be noticed.

I tend to read all of the books by certain authors (Donna Tartt, Mark Helprin, Pat Conroy, Erin Morgenstern), the latest books in series I’ve gotten hooked on (e.g., Dean Knoontz’ Jane Hawke series), and magical realism books such as those by Alice Hoffman. Otherwise, it often takes me many months to decide on a bestseller from an author I know little about (still haven’t bought Where the Crawdads Sing, but am tempted.)

The bestseller list at the beginning of this post is the NYT listing on Amazon today. See anything you like? American Dirt has gotten mired in controversy. I seldom read anything by J.D. Robb. I may ultimately read the Ann Patchett book if I run low on reading material. Friends’ viewpoints about any of these might influence me except when those friends either (a) read nothing but a genre I don’t like, or (b) read only the most politically correct books of the year.)

My approach to buying what I buy ends up being chaotic with plenty of madness in my “method.” Since I’m always reading a book, I mean daily, I don’t understand people who read one book a year or stopped reading books once they finished their last English course in school.

How do you decide to buy the books you buy?

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “Conjure Woman’s Cat.”

 

It probably got your Grandfather LUCKY

It may have even gotten your Father LUCKY
Keep Up the Tradition – Lucky Tiger Company

We all know what it means when somebody says, “I hope I get lucky tonight.”

While researching the brand of hair tonic a sexist pig woud use in my novel in progress, I came across some ads for Lucky Tiger hair tonic that were (apparently) “OK” to run in the 1940s and 1950s but (no doubt) might cause a bit of social media flack today. Here’s one example from 1949:

And another from the 1950s:

So, the man here is just back from Africa after killing numerous animals for sport, and the first thing he does is use this hair tonic to prey on women. Needless to say, all the women in the Lucky Tiger ads I found were just delighted.

I don’t think women in “real life” had much in common with the women in these ads even though it was common in those times for “a man to pursue a woman until she let him catch her” (or so they said). Looking at ads like these, it’s obvious that patriarchy fueled our purchasing decisions as well as our view of ourselves and the opposite sex.

Even though high school and college-age individuals see the 1950s as ancient history, the deeply ingrained attitudes of that “ancient history” continue to impact men’s and women’s roles today. I can’t imagine how women seventy years ago reacted to these ads–along with all those happy housewife commercials that made cleaning the house look like fun.

Today, things are different, but not different enough.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of two contemporary fantasy novels, “The Sun Singer” and “Sarabande.”

 

 

Always waiting for factory fresh books

“They” say that Scots and those of Scots ancestry are cheap. “They” might be right since we’re part of that group who spends both sides of every penny.

Bookwise, this means that unless a book is on my “MUST HAVE IT RIGHT NOW” list, I’m going to wait for the trade paperback, or even the mass market paperback, edition of books I’m waiting for. Oddly, these days the paperback version might be more expensive than the hardcover.

I do the same thing with movies because trying to set up closed captioning at a theater is a who needs it, so I seldom see any film before it reaches TV with closed captioning. I guess this is just part of getting old. By the time I read a book or see a film, the discussion has moved on to something newer. Sigh.

So, while waiting for the cheapest edition of the newer books, I’m constant grabbing books off my shelves and reading them again. (I think that if I read it two or three times, that cuts the cost by 1/2 or 1/3 and gets me into less trouble with my wife for sneaking books into the house.)

Yes, there’s Kindle, but that’s not my thing. I read stuff off the screen all day, so that’s the last thing I want while reading for 30 minutes before going to sleep.

Right now, I’m re-reading another Jeff Shaara novel, Gone for Soldiers, about the U.S. invasion of Mexico in 1846 while we fought over just where the southern border of Texas was going to be. Many of the soldiers who became well known during the Civil War fought in this war.

Sometimes historians call the Korean War the forgotten war. One might say the same thing about the Mexican War. It falls into one of those gaps in our history lessons in school. I’ve always found history interesting, so this is an enjoyable book to read while waiting for the John Hart novel I ordered from B&N.

What about you? Do you hold out for the cheaper editions of new novels or do you say, “what the hell?” and buy them as soon as the hardcover edition is released?

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of Special Investigative Reporter.

 

 

 

What the hell was I thinking?

“Romance novels are big business. According to the Romance Writers of America®, the romance fiction industry is worth $1.08 billion dollars a year,* which makes it about a third larger than the inspirational book industry, and about the size of the mystery novel genre and science fiction/fantasy genre markets combined. Romance novels regularly top the major bestseller lists (New York Times, Publishers Weekly and USA Today), and have a large, dedicated audience of readers.”

– Valerie Peterson in “What You Need to Know About Romance Genre Fiction”

Learning About TaleFlick

The trouble started when a writer friend told me her novel was listed on TaleFlick and perhaps I’d consider voting for it. TaleFlick tries to bring novels to the attention of Hollywood through reader votes, one per person. After voting for my friend’s novel, I entered one of my own, Conjure Woman’s Cat.

What the Hell Was I Thinking?

The answers to this question vary from, (a) I was drunk, (b) I mixed up pot with oregano when I made spaghetti sauce that day, (c) Mindless Vanity, (d) Magical thinking that Hollywood needed this story, (e) An illogical belief that an anti-KKK novel set in the 1950s could possibly compete against–wait for it–Romance.

Getting My Ass Kicked

If I’d known that a romance novel with a title similar to a famous Hollywood movie, one categorized on Amazon as Erotic Thrillers, Romantic Erotica, Erotic Suspense, was in the running, would have waited a few weeks before signing up for another contest.

At this moment (2:33 p. m. ET, 2/13/20202) this week’s contest has 1 day, 4 hours, and 25 minutes left to run. Double Identity has 1,850 votes; Conjure Woman’s Cat has 15 votes. So it’s close, what with the vote counts from outlying precincts being somewhat slow to come in.

In general, though, I should know better than to fight romance with magical realism. So, lesson learned. My next book’s going to begin with an orgy on page one that lasts as long as the readers can stand it. No doubt, it will be banned in Boston.

Malcolm