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Posts from the ‘books’ Category

I’ve seen ghosts from both sides now

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:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The audiobook edition of ‘Lena’ is now available

 

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.

Description

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

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

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

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.”

 

Paperbacks make great stocking stuffers

My wife an I are giving up on stocking stuffers this year because we seem to have an over-supply of stocking stuffers left over from past years. So, we said to hell with buying more Chapstick, Pears Soap, and Tic Tacs.

We do give each other books as Christmas gifts, but usually from a Christmas list rather than intuition. I read 10000000 books a year and that makes it hard for my wife to give me something I haven’t read. She reads fewer books and sticks to a group of authors she likes. Neither of us feels confident enough to buy each other a book unless we know (from a Christmas list) what we both really want.

Since some of my novels are available in paperback, I’m biased when I suggest that paperbacks make great gifts. Better yet, when you give them as stocking stuffers, you don’t have to wrap them. That’s a plus for me. While my wife can wrap gifts better than the gift-wrapping lady at the mall, the gifts I wrap guarantee that people will think I was sipping moonshine while I wrapped them.

When either of us splurged on a stocking stuffer, we’d put a gift card on it saying it was from Santa. No harm, no foul. Or, when we gave candy, we made sure there was enough of it to share. But as the years went by, all the old, utilitarian stocking stuffers didn’t work anymore because we each tended to buy them whenever we ran out. And, over time, we both realized that those gifty books sold in the front of the Barnes & Noble stores didn’t really work because nobody ever read them anyway.

As it turns out, each one of us has a storage locker in the garage with one thousand tubes of Chapstick, several hundred Snickers bars, enough Scotch tape for all of Google’s offices, rolls of Kodak film that we wouldn’t know where to get developed even if we were still using our old Honeywell cameras, shoelaces for an army, enough Q-tips to scare all those ear doctors who say, “don’t stick these things in your ears,” and fruitcake that’s been passed from one family to another since Herbert Hoover was President.

So, we agreed on the “no more stocking stuffers” plan. We don’t have a fireplace in this house, so we don’t hang stockings anyhow. They sort of degenerated over time into grocery sacks of stuff.

However, those of you who are steadfastly maintaining the old ways–that is, stocking stuffers–can switch over from office supply store nicknacks (extra pens and boxes of staples) and drugstore nicknacks (toothbrushes and Hall’s cough drops) to paperback books. Forget Kindles and Nooks and get the real thing! Avoid Amazon if you can and go to your local bookstore where real people are trying to earn a living by curating books that your loved ones will really appreciate.

Before you go to the bookstore, you need to break into your loved ones’ rooms and see what’s already there. Steal their Kindles and Nooks for an hour or so and make sure you don’t duplicate what they are reading on their screens, poor bastards. Years ago, we used the word “grok” to imply that we understood somebody or something. If you grok your loved ones, you can pick out books they’re most likely to enjoy.

If they don’t enjoy them, they’ll love you for trying your best even if you have to remind them that it’s the thought that counts.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of stocking stuffers named “Conjure Woman’s Cat,” “Eulalie and Washerwoman,” “Lena,” and “Sarabande.”

 

 

 

 

Making Free Book Trailers with Lumen5

“When was the last time you had fun doing book promotion? I know; not my favorite thing, either. However, that was before I discovered Lumen5.com.”

Source: Make Free Book Trailers with Lumen5 – Indies Unlimited

Author Melissa Bowersock provides a handy introduction to Lumen5 that you can use to get started making book trailers for your books. Fortunately, my publisher does this for me. But some of my books are self-published and somehow, I hadn’t heard of this app.

I think book trailers, along with author websites and updated Amazon author’s pages are among the promotional techniques that help indie (the word now means self-published) authors sell books. It’s part of your platform.

–Malcolm

P.S. Bad news for Georgia’s independent authors. The Georgia Writers Association has announced that it is no longer accepting self-published books in its annual author of the year competition.

FREE: ‘Mountain Song’ by Malcolm R. Campbell

This Kindle e-book, regularly priced at $7.99, will be free on Amazon November 15-17, 2018.

As I hear it, summer romances are usually bittersweet. Mine was. They begin with a surprise, evolve into passion, turn sad and desperate at summer’s end, and then in spite of promises and best intentions, they often fade away. Perhaps the two lovers in Mountain Song will beat the odds.

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?

The settings in this book are real. The mountains are those of Glacier National Park in northwestern Montana. The swamp is the notorious Tate’s Hell Swamp along the gulf coast in the Florida Panhandle.

 

Amazon Giveaway Ends in Three Days

I’m running a giveaway on Amazon for my three-novels-in-one Kindle book called Florida Folk Magic Stories. The e-book edition includes Conjure Woman’s Cat, Eulalie and Washerwoman, and Lena.

Click on the graphic to enter.

The giveaway, which has three Kindle copies available, ends on October 30th.

For reasons I don’t understand, Amazon has made their giveaways less user-friendly. First, they got rid of the sweepstakes option which awarded all the prizes at the end of the giveaway (which the author controlled). Next, they hard-coded the lucky number to something way too high for small-press authors. The author used to be able to control this, e.g., saying that every 10th entrant or every 20th entrant won a copy. Now, Amazon has set that lucky number at 400. That’s sad because the giveaway will probably expire before I can award all the available copies.

But, as they say, if you don’t enter, you can’t win. And, it costs nothing to enter.

Oh, and if you’re a GoodReads member, I’m hosting a giveaway there for one paperback copy of Lena. It will start at 12:00am PT on Monday, October 29 and finish at 11:59pm PT on Saturday, November 10.

–Malcolm

Briefly Noted: ‘Children’s Fantasy Literature: An Introduction’

Children’s Fantasy Literature: An Introduction by Farah Mendlesohn and Michael Levy won the 2018 Mythopoeic Award for Myth and Fantasy Studies. When Sandra Lindow, Levy’s widow, accepted the award for her late husband (who died last year), she said, “He would be particularly pleased to receive this recognition because historically children’s fantasy has been undervalued. A good part of his career was dedicated to reading and researching those books that provide both high-quality entertainment and emotional education for children and young adults.”

With the exception of R. J. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, which also captured the attention of adult readers, children’s fantasy is often written off as “just kids’ stuff” while fairy tales have received a great deal of scholarly analysis. I hope this award will help draw attention to this book as well as its subject.

Publisher’s Description

“Fantasy has been an important and much-loved part of children’s literature for hundreds of years, yet relatively little has been written about it. Children’s Fantasy Literature traces the development of the tradition of the children’s fantastic – fictions specifically written for children and fictions appropriated by them – from the sixteenth to the twenty-first century, examining the work of Lewis Carroll, L. Frank Baum, C. S. Lewis, Roald Dahl, J. K. Rowling and others from across the English-speaking world. The volume considers changing views on both the nature of the child and on the appropriateness of fantasy for the child reader, the role of children’s fantasy literature in helping to develop the imagination, and its complex interactions with issues of class, politics, and gender. The text analyses hundreds of works of fiction, placing each in its appropriate context within the tradition of fantasy literature.”

Children’s Literature Association Quarterly Review

“Children’s Fantasy Literature: An Introduction is an immense work in scope and scholarship. As befits its authors, Michael Levy and Farah Mendlesohn – two prominent figures in the world of children’s literature criticism – this latest work is a far-reaching feat that grasps the tenuous strings of the inception of both fantasy and children’s literature and weaves them from the sixteenth through the twenty-first centuries into a tremendous narrative tapestry.” – Joli Barham McClelland

From the Introduction

“The aim of this book is to bring together two traditions of criticism, that of the literature of the fantasic, and that of children’s literature. In addition, the book aims ti situate children’s fantasy in the context of changing ideas of childhood across three centuries; and perhaps most crucially, to consider the effect which the extension of childhood has had upon the writing and publishing of children’s fiction.”

The research and writing of this book comprise an ambitious project that will lead to greater understanding of the genre and–with luck–more respect.

Malcolm