‘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.

Escapist Reading – a page-turner for your consideration

Since I follow literary news for the links I post on my Facebook Author’s Page,  I have been seeing multiple reviews and book lists being circulated as good reading while we’re quarantined. Some of the books are suggested to help us cope and understand. Others are suggested to help us escape.

The Last Second by Catherine Coulter and J. T. Ellison is a sharply plotted adventure pitting the good guys against the bad guys in a scenario in which the world might end. This book is the sixth in the authors’ “A Brit in the FBI” series which began in 2013 with The Final Cut.

Coulter, of course, is widely known for her FBI series of thrillers that began with The Cove in 1996 and recently features The Labyrinth (2019). I’ve read most, if not all of both series, and have enjoyed the new ideas and new plots we’ve seen with a British character.

Both series feature re-curring characters, so as you read you learn more and more about them; this provides more depth than most stand-alone FBI, police, and black ops thrillers.

I haven’t finished The Last Second, so I don’t know yet if the world as we know it will end with a nuclear-triggered electromagnetic pulse (EMP) or not. Whatever happens, it’s taking my thoughts away from the pandemic for a while.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of Special Investigative Reporter, Sarabande, The Sun Singer, At Sea, Conjure Woman’s Cat, Eulalie and Washerwoman, and Lena. Click on my name above to find these books on my Amazon page.

 

‘Whisper of the River’: stumbling across an old friend

Sometimes it happens in a bar or on a city street or maybe in a country far away, but there’s little that’s as simultaneously dangerously new and horrifyingly déjà vu as suddenly stumbling across an old friend. They’re the same as they were and yet they’re not, and during all the capsulized updates about everything the two of you have done “since then,” the mind struggles to understand just who this old friend is at this moment.

Now, suppose this old friend is a book, in my case, one that’s sat on my shelf almost unobserved for 36 years.

Ferrol Sams, the Georgia doctor who suddenly appeared in bookstores and the press in the 1980s when he published his first novel at 60, writes in richly detailed prose that accurately captures a depression-era age far away. He’s best known for his somewhat autobiographical Porter Osborn trilogy Run with the Horsemen, The Whisper of the River, and When All The World Was Young.

Looking for something to read last night, I pulled The Whisper of the River off the shelf last night and thought about the positive impact his trilogy had on me when I first read the books. I wondered if I’d be disappointed and decide after a few chapters that the book hadn’t aged well.

But I’m enjoying the book. That’s a relief almost even though I’ve changed and the book has not.

Publisher’s Description: Young for his class and small for his age, Porter Osborne, Jr., leaves his rural Georgia home in 1938 to meet the world at Willingham University, armed with the knowledge that he has been “Raised Right” in the best Baptist tradition. What happens over the next four years will challenge the things he holds infallible: his faith, his heritage, and his parents’ omniscience. As we follow Porter’s college career, full of outrageous pranks and ribald humor, we sense a quiet, constant flow toward maturity. Peppered with memorable characters and resonant with details of place and time, The Whisper of the River is filled with the richness of spirit that makes great fiction.

Quotation: “If she hears anything, it’s tambourines, and nobody can march to them. You can’t do anything but dance to tambourines, and the likes of us will never catch the rhythm.”

Even though I’ve inadvertently started in the middle of the trilogy, I think I’ll stick with the book and then read the two others soon afterwards. I expect they’ll also be as good as I remember them.

Malcolm

Now folks can write but they aren’t (hmm)

But are you writing? I noted several remarks online where people are saying they are too worried and frantic to sit and write. They’re anchored to 24-hour news, waiting for the latest body count and what’s happening next.

So. . . let me get this straight. . . when things are busy and normal, you don’t have time to write. Then things are abnormal and locking you at home, you can’t make yourself write.  – Hope Clark

Wikipedia Graphic

It’s really an understatement to say that COVD-19 has disrupted a lot of things. We’re all curious about potential lockdowns and potential vaccines. But sitting in front of a 24-hour news channel watching for updates not only seems like a waste of time, but is the kind of behavior that probably creates more hysteria than what the nation is already coping with.

Frankly, I’m a little tired of people asking why we didn’t have 100000000 testing kits (much less a cure) in stock for a disease nobody knew anything about prior to December. I guess people are watching too many medical dramas on TV and are used to health issues that are solved within an hour.

I agree with Hope Clark, assuming that lockdowns aren’t making us broke or sticking us in long lines to buy toilet paper, we can use our self-quarantines and social distancing to get some other stuff done: tidy up the garden, clean out the garage, finish that novel.

–Malcolm

Many of Thomas-Jacob Publishing’s Kindle editions are on sale throughout March for 99₵. The sale includes two of my novels, “Conjure Woman’s Cat” and “Special Investigative Reporter.”

 

Special Investigative Reporter: it will make you happier during these blue times

A message from your sponsor (AKA, me)

On sale for 99 cents:

This novel is just what you need to get through these difficult times. Why? It’s about an old-style reporter who’s not afraid to say what he thinks even though a lot of what he thinks isn’t politically correct.

From the publisher: In this satirical and somewhat insane lament about the fall of traditional journalism into an abyss of news without facts, Special Investigative Reporter Jock Stewart specializes in tracking down Junction City’s inept and corrupt movers and shakers for his newspaper The Star-Gazer. Since Stewart is not a team player, he doesn’t trust anyone, especially colleagues and news sources. Stewart, who became a reporter back in the days when real newsmen were supposed to smoke and drink themselves to death while fighting to get the scoop before their competition sobered up, isn’t about to change. Stewart’s girlfriend leaves him, the mayor’s racehorse is stolen, people are having sex in all the wrong places (whatever that means), and townspeople have fallen into the habit of sneaking around and lying to reporters and cops. Sure, everyone lies to the cops, but reporters expect gospel truths or else. Stewart may get himself killed doing what he was taught to do in journalism school, but that’s all in a day’s work.

I like this novel because the main character, Jock Steward, says what I would say if I could get away with it. Let’s just say its a comedy with a bite.

Malcolm

Conjure Woman’s Cat is also on sale on Kindle for 99 cents.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some novels impact me so strongly it’s hard to function

Years ago when I read Erich Maria Remarque’s 1929 novel All Quiet on the Western Front about World War I, I couldn’t function for days because the book plunged its readers into the worst the world can offer. Dalton Trumbo’s 1939 anti-war novel Johnny Got His Gun also had a strong impact on me. Such novels fit into my personal fiction category of too much to bear.

Recently, I’ve been catching up on John Hart’s novels. They are invariably dark, a label that certainly describes The Hush which I finished reading last week. The Hush is a sequel to The Last Child.

The hush is an old hush arbor, a place where slaves worshipped in secret away from the prying eyes of their owners. The slaves’ focus was Christian in orientation with many of the trappings of the religious beliefs they had in Africa.

The Hush impacted me because of the novel’s descriptions of a landscape that’s filled with magic and menace to everyone but its current owner of the 6,000-acred tract. He walks at ease through his property while everyone else becomes lost, confused, or dead.

The lives of slaves and owners are intertwined on this property and the impacts of old terrors are still active in the present day. Since Johnny Merrimon is more or less an outcast, he is blamed for everything that happens on his land. Law enforcement and others want to bring him down even though nobody can prove anything.

I am in awe of Hart’s use of landscape, myths, and stories because he has the grit to do what I cannot bring myself to do. That is, I cannot bring myself to write the kind of horror that appears in All Quiet on the Western Front, Johnny Got His Gun or the novels for which John Hart keeps winning awards. I think it takes great strength for an author to write such books without ending up in an asylum.

I agree with the Washington Post’s review: “Ambitious and surprising… an engrossing, cumulatively disturbing narrative that encompasses murder, magic, madness, betrayal and obsessive, undying love. The result is unlike anything Hart has done before.”

I just wish they’d included a warning that reading the book might kill you.

–Malcolm

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