Inanna’s mythic heroine’s journey

from the archives

“The world’s first love story, two thousand years older than the Bible—tender, erotic, shocking, and compassionate—is more than a momentary entertainment. It is a sacred story that has the intention of bringing its audience to a new spiritual place. With Inanna, we enter the place of exploration: the place where not all energies have been tamed or ordered.” – Diane Volkstein in “Inanna, the Queen of Heaven and Earth: her Stories and Hymns from Sumer”

Inanna, as envisioned by nikkirtw123 on Photobucket is strikingly close to my vision of Sarabande as I wrote the novel.

As an author, I view my characters through a high-powered microscope and present the results of what I see as part of my stories. I will put you into the characters’ shoes if I can because—as Diana Volkstein writes—this is where the energies haven’t been tamed or ordered.

In an older novel, I described that place like this: “He knew him at the binary level where the line between matter and energy is barely discernible and often non-existent: Where urges pull at their chains, where drives push dumbly and drip sweat, where instincts race unchecked, where a horrifying sadness lies buried, where a raw pulse drums a cadence for the primitive rites of changing seasons, where white-hot impulses leap synapses in a shower of elemental fire.”

I wanted a similar, up-close focus in my heroine’s journey novel Sarabande. So, for the story of a woman seeking wisdom and wholeness, I could think of no better model than the myth of Inanna, a graphic dramatization of a woman’s inner journey to find herself outside the traps and trappings of a masculine world that has–as Sylvia Brinton Perera (“Descent to the Goddess”) wrote–forced the binary level of feminine power into dormancy for 5,000 years.

Or, as the late Adrienne Rich said, “The woman I needed to call my mother was silenced before I was born.”

Sarabande’s Heroine’s Journey

The journey in “real life”

In today’s terms, Sarabande was a tomboy. She was an expert with a knife, bow and arrow, a fishing pole, and everything she needed to know to survive in the wilderness. She learned all this from her father because her mother believed women should only learn to keep a good home and not question society’s norms for women. However, Sarabande will never truly become herself as long as she is a disciple of either her late warrior father or her misguided, preachy mother. She is being taunted by a ghost that she must approach face to face in the ghost’s world.

Early on in her quest to rid herself of the ghost of her dead sister Dryad, Sarabande learns to see the world at a binary level: The lake, surrounding mountains and the cloud-draped sky broke apart into millions of colored specks. Sarabande leaned against Sikimí, even though he was no longer solid, and saw that her own light-pink hand was not solid either. In spite of her sudden dizziness, she did not fall. In fact, when her fingertips touched Sikimí’s side, a swarm of pink specks flew, like bees, into the permeable yellow gold of the horse, and when they did, their color changed to match the specks in their new environment.

 

But she doesn’t know what it means. So it is, that her quest to find and confront her sister follows the pattern of Inanna’s Heroine’s journey to confront her sister Eriskigal, Goddess of the Underworld. The underworld, in this case, is not the world of mobs and crime or “hell” in the Christian view, but the more dangerous world of the unconscious. Like Inanna, Sarabande will be broken, shamed, and close to death before she learns who she is.

This is the heroine’s journey, to be buried in mother earth like a seed where she will be reborn with the spring into a new creation that finally has the freedom to follow the original injunctions of her destiny and her gender.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell’s heroine’s journey novel, “Sarabande,” is the sequel to his hero’s journey novel “The Sun Singer.”

 

Briefly noted: ‘Welcome to Night Vale’

Welcome to Night Vale, by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, (Harper Perennial, October 2015), 416pp.

Look at how this book begins:

Pawnshops in Night Vale work like this.

First you need an item to pawn.

To get this, you need a lot of time behind you, years spent living and existing, until you’ve reached a point where you believe that you exist, and that a physical item exists, and that the concept of ownership exists, and that, improbable as all those are, these absurd beliefs line up in a way that results in you owning an item.

Good job. Nicely done.

I’m hooked already because this is something different, a unique way of getting this humorous contemporary fantasy underway, and–one hopes–as s/he reads further that the authors will be able to maintain the style and tone of their opening. They do.

From the Publisher

nightvale“Located in a nameless desert somewhere in the great American Southwest, Night Vale is a small town where ghosts, angels, aliens, and government conspiracies are all commonplace parts of everyday life. It is here that the lives of two women, with two mysteries, will converge.

“Nineteen-year-old Night Vale pawn shop owner Jackie Fierro is given a paper marked “KING CITY” by a mysterious man in a tan jacket holding a deer skin suitcase. Everything about him and his paper unsettles her, especially the fact that she can’t seem to get the paper to leave her hand, and that no one who meets this man can remember anything about him. Jackie is determined to uncover the mystery of King City and the man in the tan jacket before she herself unravels.”

We’re a not visiting the History Channel’s “Pawn Stars,” aren’t we? There’s no handy expert standing by a few minutes away who can drop by to analyze the item. Fink and Cranor have a jump start with this book, drawing from the popular “Welcome to Night Vale” podcast that The Guardian says is like a local news Twin Peaks.

From the Reviewers

Welcome to Night Vale has an average Amazon reviewer rating of 4.6 with 75% or the reviewers awarding it 5 stars.

Kirkus Reviews starred review sums up, I believe, the general view of professional reviewers: “All hail the glow cloud as the weird and wonderful town of Night Vale brings itself to fine literature…A delightfully bonkers media crossover that will make an incredible audiobook.” I think of Jim Butcher’s “Dresden Files” series as somewhat bonkers and Douglas Adams’ A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as totally bonkers. I don’t think it’s heresy to say Welcome to Night Vale will remind readers of the best of each–in addition to the “Twin Peaks” thing. Oh, and a dash of “Twilight Zone.”

We’re a long way from Harry Potter. In fact, I’m not quite sure where we are. Cory Doctorow seems to know: “They’ve done the unthinkable: merged the high weirdness and intense drama of Night Vale to the pages of a novel that is even weirder, even more intense than the podcast.”

For my money, both “Twin Peaks” and “Lost” ultimately fell apart because the writers added so much weirdness that they had no place left to go. Fink and Cranor don’t let things get that far out of hand, and that’s good, because it would have been a real shame to let the promise of the opening lines become lost in, say, a dark Marx brothers/Three Stooges comedy.

If you enjoy a drink, pour yourself several fingers of something good, for Welcome to Night Vale is a delightfully bumpy ride.

–Malcolm

TSSJourneysMalcolm R. Campbell is the author of the contemporary fantasy novel “The Sun Singer” which is free on Kindle December 17-20, 2015.

 

 

99¢ Sale: ‘Conjure Woman’s Cat’ and ‘Sarabande’

The Kindle editions of my dark contemporary fantasy Sarabande and my magical realism novella Conjure Woman’s Cat are both available for 99¢ each on December 3rd. (In fact, the price has already been marked down.)

From the reviewers:

SarabandeCover2015Sarabande: “Campbell describes a rape scene that is difficult to read, yet at the same time, earns my respect with his skill in describing this scene, and its aftermath on the woman. Indeed, I had to keep reminding myself I was reading the writing of a male author. It is rare to find this ability in an author to cross genders even in everyday basics such as conversation, mannerisms. To do so in describing the effect of rape on a woman’s body and psyche is nothing short of amazing. Campbell nails it: her anger, her pain, her humiliation, her ferocity that eventually takes her from victim to survivor to avenger.” – Zinta Aistars, Smoking Poet Magazine

While Sarabande follows-up on the story told in The Sun Singer, it can also be read as a standalone novel.

KIndle cover 200x300(1)Conjure Woman’s Cat: “The story is set in the Florida panhandle in the 1950’s in a society dominated by racism, and tackles the serious issues of white violence, rape, day-to-day prejudice and mother/daughter relationships. This is a book that packs a lot into its 166 pages. Despite this bleak subject matter the book is beautifully written, allowing this Brit a vision of a place which the author knows well and clearly loves. The contrast of the natural beauty highlights the ugliness of human behaviour.” Zoe Brooks, Magical Realism Review Site

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is also the author of “Emily’s Stories” and “The Sun Singer.”

Website

 

 

Moon mysteries and the lunation cycle

“The moon, with its repeating cycles of waxing and waning, became a symbol to the ancients for the birth, growth, death, and renewal of all life forms. The lunar rhythm presented a creation (the new moon), followed by growth (to full moon) and a diminution and death (the three moonless nights, that is, the dark moon).” — Demetra George in Mysteries of the Dark Moon

Whenever we see a beautiful moon, we stand in awe of it. Newspapers and the social media love pictures of harvest moons and blue moons along with suitable scientific descriptions of how and why such moons look the way they look.

Click on this lunar calendar to find the calendar for any month.
Click on this lunar calendar to find the calendar for any month.

Other than sky shows, we notice the moon less often these days unless we live along the coast and see the changing tides or maintain our farms and gardens by planting by lunar phases. Science and technology have taken us away from the lumation cycle, the interplay of light resulting from the monthly dance of the sun and the moon, so most of us are unaware of the moon’s affect on us throughout each lunar month.

In a patriarchal world, the lunar cycles are generally ignored, distrusted or feared because–in a mythic sense–they represent feminine cycles, the unconscious, emotions, and purported instability. In fact, our word “lunacy” stems from an old belief that insanity came with moon phases, and our word “moonstruck” implies that when in love and affected by the moon, we cannot act normally.

Moonless nights suggest mysteries in many ancient traditions. Jonah was in the belly of the whale for three days; Christ rose from the dead on the third day. In his “hero’s journey” sequence, Joseph Campbell refers to the belly of the whale step as a period of rebirth. We have, however, come to fear those three nights that Demetra George sees as “a time of retreat, of healing, and of dreaming of the future. The darkness is lit with the translucent quality of transformation; and during this essential and necessary period, life is prepared to be born.”

The lunation cycle

This pioneering 1967 book examines the sun and moon's relationship in the context of our lives
This pioneering 1967 book examines the sun and moon’s relationship in the context of our lives

Since my novel Sarabande is a story of a heroine’s journey, the chapter titles follow the sun/moon lunation cycle in support of the action throughout the book. When the person who formatted the book asked about the significance of these headings, I realized that moon symbolism is not front and center in our daily lives in a world of texting and Facebook posts, jobs and hobbies, relationships with others, or even in our thoughts of day and night.

One post cannot do justice to the work of Dane Rudhyar, Demetra George and others who have written extensively about the meaning and impact of moon phases.  Briefly, though, here are the over-simplified basics:

  1. Dark Dawning: New moon (and up to three and a half days afterwards). Life, or any other event, is a potentiality that is felt rather than seen. Think of a seed germinating in the dark earth.
  2. Light Quickening: Crescent moon (appearing three and a half to seven days later). A challenging time for moving forward after a first look at the reality of the new moon’s vision. Think of the seed’s first shoots appearing above the ground.
  3. Light Ascending: First quarter moon (seven to ten days after the moon was new). A time of conscious steps toward a goal. Think of a plant’s stems and roots forming to support the process of growth.
  4. Light Dominant: Waxing gibbous moon (ten and a half to fourteen days into the journey). The vision, development and knowledge to date are fine-tuned to meet conditions. Think of buds appearing on the rose.
  5. Summit of Light: Full moon (fifteen to eighteen days into the journey). The promise of the initial vision is realized as a reality in the temporal world and has a transformative condition within. Think of blooming flowers.
  6. Stirrings of the Dark: Waning gibbous moon (three and a half to seven days after the full moon). The purpose of the vision comes to fruition, an apt word that means bearing fruit.
  7. Withering of the Light: Last quarter moon (seven to ten and a half days after the full moon). With the potential realized, one begins turning away from the task. Think of flowers and stems withering away.
  8. Depth of Dark: Waning crescent moon (ten and a half days after the full moon). As the person prepares to fully look within, this phase–also referred to as the balsalmic moon–links life and death, past and future in a way that’s often viewed as destiny before darkness returns and germination begins again with the new moon.

georgemysteriesThe lunation cycle is often described as the result of an interplay between the active sun and the passive or receptive moon. This is somewhat misleading, I think, because it gives the impression that the moon (or the psyche) is accepting and then transmitting light from elsewhere (from without) as though no creative growth is taking place.

Darkness and light are often equated logically and symbolically with evil and good rather than as components of an interactive process in which yin and yang are equally necessary. As Dane Rudhyar has pointed out, it’s incorrect to refer to the lunation cycle as a lunar cycle. Instead, it is soli-lunar, that is to say, a cycle of sun and moon in relation to each other like the warp and weft strands of well-woven cloth.

–Malcolm

SarabandeCover2015Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the magical realism novella “Conjure Woman’s Cat” and the contemporary fantasy “Sarabande.” (See GoodReads for the current “Sarbanade” giveaway.)

 

Myth and Magic Resources and Links

While working on Conjure Woman’s Cat, Sarabande and other novels, I compiled a list of resources for others interested in writing about magic or learning more about spiritual/new age resource materials.

mythclipartThe following resources, collected from this blog’s posts, may be helpful to others studying or following the heroine’s journey, folk tales and magical pursuits. These are books and sites I found helpful as I researched my novels and short stories.

Dark Moon

Black Moon and the Black Madonna on Sophia’s Children

Goddess Meditations by Barbara Ardinger

Dragontime Magic and Mystery of Menstruation by Luisa Francia

Moon Phases Calendar

Planting by the Moon

The Moon Watcher’s Companion by Donna Henes.

Moon Watching by Dana Gerhardt

Moon Tides, Soul Passages by Maria Kay Simms

Moon Mother, Moon Daughter by Janet Lucy

Witchcraft vs. Wicca – See one view here on Hecate’s Cauldron

Death and Rebirth

Descent to the Goddess by Sylvia Brinton Perea

The Myth of the Goddess: Evolution of an Image by Anne Baring and Jules Cashford

The Pattern of Initiation in the Evolution of Human Consciousness by Peter Dawkins & Sir George Trevelyan

Inanna, queen of heaven and earth: Her stories and hymns from Sumer by Diane Wolkstein and Samuel Noah Kramer – This book, first published in 1983, presented a long-awaited translation of the original Inanna material from the 2000 BCE cuneiform clay tablets.

Folk Magic

HOODOO IN THEORY AND PRACTICE –  An Introduction to African-American Rootwork by Catherine Yronwode – An introduction to hoodoo, including basics, spells, herbs, and related blues songs.

The Black Folder, edited by Catherine Yronwode, 2013.

Drums and Shadows, folk magic practices in the state of Georgia assembled by the WPA in the 1930s. The online overview describes the book this way: This collection of oral folklore from coastal Georgia was assembled during the 1930s as part of a WPA writers’ program, under the supervision of Mary Granger. The accounts in this book, framed by colorful descriptions of the rural locales where they were collected, were principally from elderly African-Americans, some of them centarians. Most had been slaves. In some cases they had known first generation slaves who had been born in Africa.

Hoodoo Herb and Root Magic, by Catherine Yronwode, 2002.

“Remembering Hoyt’s Cologne,” Malcolm’s Round Table

The Sanctified Church, by Zora Neale Hurston, 1981.

SOUTHERN SPIRITS: Ghostly Voices from Dixie Land – Web site features reference materials from the South during the slavery years about conjure and hoodoo.

Mojo Workin’: The Old African American Hoodoo System by Katrina Hazzard-Donald, University of Illinois Press; 1st Edition edition (December 17, 2012)

Conjured Cardea: Full-Service Botanica and Rootwork Services – supplies, services, blog

Heroine’s Journey

The Heroine’s Journey by Maureen Murdock

From Girl to Goddess: The Heroine’s Journey through Myth and Legend by Valerie Estelle Frankel (See the July 2011 “Mythprint” review of this book here.) Frankel’s website includes a lengthy heroine’s journey reading list.

Sarabande contemporary fantasy by Malcolm R. Campbell released by Thomas-Jacob Publishing in a new second edition November 20151.

“The Way of Woman: Awakening the Perennial Feminine” by Helen M. Luke

Apple Farm Community – The Writings of Helen M. Luke

Real Women, Real Wisdom: A Journey into the Feminine Soul by Maureen Hovenkotter  (See a review here.)

The Heroine’s Coach, the website for Susanna Liller’s journey-oriented coaching services. The site includes an e-mail newsletter for women following their own paths called “Journey News.”

The Heroine’s Journey appears on author Leslie Zehr’s Universal Dancer website and includes a discussion of Sylvia Brinton Perera’s Descent to the Goddess, a book I found essential for my understanding of the journey. Zehr is the author of The Alchemy of Dance: Sacred Dance as a Path to the Universal Dancer.

Light of Nature

Light of Nature Website, exploring the science and the philosophy of the concept.

“The Female Brain” by Louann Brizendine

“The Spell of the Sensuous” by David Abram

Messages from Mother – Author Mare Cromwell’s website.

Heroine Literature

The Heroine’s Bookshelf: Life Lessons, from Jane Austen to Laura Ingalls Wilder by Erin Blakemore

Fearless Girls, Wise Women & Beloved Sisters: Heroines in Folktales from Around the World by Kathleen Ragan

The Heroine in Western Literature: The Archetype and Her Reemergence in Modern Prose by Meredith A. Powers

The Art of Fiction: Illustrated from Classic and Modern Texts by David Lodge

Mythic Archetypes

Goddesses in Everywoman: Powerful Archetypes for Women by Jean Shinoda Bolen

Patriarchy

The Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd

Unplugging the Patriarchy – A Mystical Journey into the Heart of a New Age by Lucia René

Reviving Ophelia by Mary Pipher

Ophelia Speaks: Adolescent Girls Write about Their Search for Self by Sara Shandler

Surviving Ophelia: Mothers Share Their Wisdom in Navigating the Tumultuous Teenage Years by Cheryl Dellasega

Story Within

And Now The Story Lives Inside You, poems by Elizabeth Reninger

The Spell of the Sensuous by David Abram

Alchemical Studies by C. G. Jung

Harry Potter – A New World Mythology? By Lynne Milum

“Dark Wood to White Rose: Journey and Transformation in Dante’s ‘Divine Comedy’” by Helen M. Luke

“The Soul’s Code: In Search of Character and Calling” by James Hillman

Tarot

LaVielle’s Book Jacket Blog

Raven’s Tarot Site

Writer’s Muse

The Sister from Below: When the Muse Gets Her Way by Naomi Ruth Lowinsky

Marry Your Muse: Making a Lasting Commitment to Your Creativity by Jan Phillips

The Voice of the Muse: Answering the Call to Write by Mark David Gerson.

20 Master Plots: an How to Build Them, by Ronald Tobias

The Hero’s Journey: A Guide to Literature and Life by Reg Harris and Susan Thompson (This is a series of lesson plans for teaching the hero’s journey in a classroom setting.)

Fairy Tales, Folk Tales, and Related Stories

Myth & Moor – Terri Windling’s blog

Marina Warner Website – Writer of fiction, criticism and history with a strong focus on fairy tales.

The Endicott Studio – “The Endicott Studio, founded in 1987, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to literary, visual, and performance arts inspired by myth, folklore, fairy tales, and the oral storytelling tradition.”

“The Irresistible Fairy Tale: The Cultural and Social History of a Genre,” by Jack Zipes. A wonderful study of the genre available in paperback and Kindle.

Fairy tales and Literature – An online bibliography from author and professor Theodora Goss. Great introduction of resource material.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of magical realism, contemporary fantasy, and paranormal stories and novels.

November 1 is an auspicious release date for ‘Sarabande’

Click on graphic to watch trailer
Click on graphic to watch trailer

The new second edition of my contemporary fantasy Sarabande will be released by Thomas-Jacob Publishing on November 1. This is the perfect day to begin the life of a book with a ghost.

Traditionally, the fire festival of Samhain (pronounced SAH-win)–now commercialized into Hallowe’en)–sits within a period of the year of “no time or space” because it’s a boundary. Ancient traditions view boundaries and other threshholds as liminal in a magical sense because they take on some of the characteristics of both sides of the figurative doorway.

SarabandeCover2015Samhain is a boundary between the summer and winter, days of sun god and the moon goddess, and saying goodbye to the last harvest and hello to the dark days of winter. Perhaps you’ve heard it said that the veil between the world of the living and world of the dead is thin on Hallowe’en. It’s more an altered state of mind, really, at a time directly between the autumnal equinox and the winter solstice, half a year of way from the May celebration of Beltane.

In my novel, the protagonist Sarabande decides that the only way to stop her dead sister Dryad from haunting her is to travel to the place where Dryad resides. So it is that Sarabande’s  journey is tied to the cycles of the moon and very much on perceiving and confronting a denizen of the underworld.

When my publisher and I started talking about bringing Sarabande back into print, we didn’t have a November 1st release date in mind. That’s just how all the updating, editing, and formatting came out. That’s one way of looking at a story with a ghostly antagonist.

There’s also another way of looking at it. The threshold spirits have their own schedule, and they know that November 1st stands dead center in a magical time period. Night and the Goddess of Night are giving this edition a bit of a supernatural nudge and I appreciate it.

I hope you do, too.

–Malcolm

Sarabandetrailerlastframe

 

 

 

The black horse in my novels

The Black Horse is both death defying and death seeking. In other words it is symbolic of death and rebirth. It signifies the closing of one door and the opening of a new door. It can also signify the need for you to take a leap of faith and trust what you are being guided to do even if you can’t see the reason or the result. Go blindly forth and believe.

Spirit Animal Totems and their messages

A black horse in a dream could represent a part of the shadow self or a part of your personality that you usually prefer to keep hidden; instinctual urges operating in the dark recess of your mind; the unknown, what is mysterious.

Spirit Animals and Animal Totems

Lake Josephine and Mt. Gould where Sarabande first meets Sikimí. - NPS photo
Lake Josephine and Mt. Gould where Sarabande first meets Sikimí. – NPS photo

A huge black horse named Sikimí has appeared in five of my novels, including the upcoming new release of Sarabande. In all of these stories, he has been a totem animal associated with the mountains of Glacier National Park, Montana.

The word Sikimí means black horse in the Blackfeet language. The Blackfeet are the long-time residents of the eastern side of Glacier Park and the adjacent plains. They are the people the land knows and their language is the primary language the animals, trees, mountains and forces of nature respond to.

Appropriately, Sikimí appears in what might be called a “journey novel,” in this case, a “heroine’s journey.” Typically, heroines’ journeys are associated with night, the moon, the underworld, and the subconscious mind.

Journey novels often portray both physical travel and shamanistic or internal travel. Horse symbolism is well known whether we find the information in classic books such as Ted Andrews’ Animal Speak or David Abram’s Becoming Animal, online sites like the two quoted at the beginning of this post, or intuit them in our meditations and dreams.

This Wikpedia photo looks like my vision of Sikimí.
This Wikpedia photo looks like my vision of Sikimí.

I felt immersed into Sarabande’s story as I wrote it because Sikimí, along with Maistó (Raven), is my totem animal. When I meditate–or dream–about travel to places I’m intentionally visualizing, I will be riding Sikimí. Sikimí is, by the way, a huge Friesian horse with the classic (as opposed to “sport”) size and conformation. So it is, that I find it easier and more intuitive using this horse in a novel about a young woman named Sarabande who is going on a journey, not only to another place but another realm.

Sikimí and I are old friends.

Ted Andrews’ associations of the horse with travel, power and freedom work perfectly as symbols throughout the novel. We know these symbols, subconsciously if not consciously. Sikimí is intended to help pull the reader into the story by attuning with the reader’s intuitive knowledge about horses. If the reader likes horses, rides horses, and most especially appreciates the original Gothic (light draft horse) Frieisians, so much the better.

Sarabande quickly bonds with the horse on their first meeting as  you see in this snippet:

SarabandeCover2015Sikimí nodded or seemed to nod, but within his breath she briefly glimpsed the soul of night, a soul as powerful as the broad-chested Friesian of its manifestation, and there were feral love and rage there that far exceeded the scope of her understanding. But within that scope, her heart told her that night in the shape of a horse would carry her to the cornfields of Illinois without trying to chart the destiny of the ride.

What would it be like to ride night in the shape of a horse? I hope readers will wonder about that as they follow Sarabande’s journey from mountains to prairie and back again. I think I know what it’s like, but readers may well have other ideas that will influence how they react to the novel.

Once the novel leaves my computer and a publisher releases on Amazon and other sites, the story is no longer completely mine. Everyone who reads it will, in a sense, be reading their own version of the novel depending, in part, on how the large black horse gets into their thoughts.

–Malcolm

Clear here to see the trailer for "Sarabande."
Clear here to see the trailer for “Sarabande.”

The Thomas-Jacob Publishing second edition of Sarabande will be released on November 1, 2015. The Kindle edition is available now on Amazon for pre-order.

 

 

 

Thomas-Jacob releases new edition of ‘Sarabande’

SarabandeCover2015Thomas-Jacob Publishing is releasing a new edition of Sarabande just in time for the 2015 holiday season.

The second book in the “Mountain Journeys” series, the novel sweeps a young woman along a dark and ill-fated trek from the high country of Montana to the prairie of Illinois to escape a ghost. While the novel’s official release date is November 1, the Kindle edition is available for pre-order on Amazon now.

Haunted by her powerful sister Dryad from beyond the grave, Sarabande leaves the world of Pyrrha from its hiding place within Montana’s Glacier Park, and travels on horseback to Illinois to seek the help of Sun Singer Robert Adams. Sarabande almost dies trying to reach him and it’s soon obvious that evil has followed her from the western mountains to Robert’s small town in a world of soybeans, corn, brick streets and old homes.

Click here to see the trailer on YouTube
Click here to see the trailer on YouTube

Robert saved Sarabande’s life in the first book of the series, The Sun Singer. Truth be told, he doesn’t think he can do it again. His magic is weak, all but forgotten. Worse yet, he remembers Dryad’s moon magic and hypnotic voice and fears that he can’t resist her seductive charms another time.

Sarabande, a contemporary fantasy, was written so that it can be read as a standalone novel about a woman’s perilous journey. It can also be read as a sequel to The Sun Singer, which was the story of Robert’s journey to Pyrrha. The Sun Singer ended on a positive note, but there were a few loose ends.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is also the author of “Conjure Woman’s Cat,” “Emily’s Stories,” and “Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire.”

Mountain Journeys Web Page

 

 

Author of ‘Traitor Knight’ loves history when he gets to make it up

Willis
Willis

Today’s guest is Keith Willis, author of the new fantasy novel “Traitor Knight,” released by Champagne Books on September 7. You can learn more about the novel on its Facebook page.

Malcolm: Welcome to the Round Table, Keith. To keep things reasonably honest, I should confess that I was an English department instructor and you were a student some thirty years ago at Berry College. I wondered then what people did with a degree in English. You said on your website that when you graduated with a double major in English and French, you were best qualified for unemployment benefits. What were your expectations when you first entered college about your career? Somehow, I expected you’d be the editor of a literary magazine.

Keith: Thanks for having me on the Round Table, Malcolm. Where the heck did that 30 years go? Actually, in the interests of full disclosure, it’s closer to 40 years. But I won’t mention that if you won’t.

Malcolm: Keith, at our ages, it’s better to round numbers down rather than up.

This Berry College walkway is suitable for knights, real or imagined. - M. R. Campbell photo
This Berry College walkway is suitable for knights, real or imagined. – M. R. Campbell photo

Keith: I have to admit my career expectations on entering college were, not to put too fine a point on it, pretty non-existent. I would have loved to snag a job as editor of a literary magazine. Unfortunately supply far exceeds demand there, and the fact is the pay scale probably wouldn’t have cut it anyway. I had some vague ideas about becoming a teacher and even started the sequence for that in college—until the bottom dropped out of the teaching market.

I also had dreams of becoming an attorney, courtesy of way too many Perry Mason re-runs in my youth. But in the cold light of dawn, I knew that wasn’t realistic either, since I really hated public speaking. Thus, with a newly minted degree and a new wife I resorted, as do so many English majors, to “any port in a storm,” which in my case ended up being a career telling other people what to do (also known as Management). But at least the skills I learned at Berry allowed me to boss them around with clarity and conciseness.

Malcolm: A lot of new writers think everything that does into a novel involves sitting at a keyboard and typing. Not that we need a management spreadsheet here, but in terms of time and effort, how much of your work on Traitor Knight was writing vs. research, revising, editing, manuscript submission and planning a marketing strategy.

traitorcoverKeith: I actually got the initial concept for Traitor Knight in October 2008, so almost exactly seven years ago. Once I started writing, it took me roughly fifteen months to produce a first draft (I was working full time as well, and didn’t devote a ton of time for writing). While I didn’t necessarily follow the dictum of “Write drunk, edit sober,” I will say that I just wanted to get a first draft down, and worry about fixing it afterwards.

The book actually started off much more in the romance genre, with a pretty high heat level, but I soon realized that really wasn’t what the story was all about. After reading over what I’d managed to write, I spent the next five years revising and re-writing and actually making it into a story that flowed and made sense. I found that I had lots of great scenes, but they didn’t actually all go together to drive the story forward.

Once I’d done some revisions I started feeling that this was pretty good stuff, and began sending queries to literary agents and editors. As most new authors do, I sent the manuscript out much too soon. Initial responses ranged from a polite “no thank you” to a nervous “why did you send me this ticking bomb draped in deadly cobras—please take it back”. It was honestly pretty awful. But each time I took any bit of feedback I could get, sat down and did another revision, and another, ad nauseum, to try and make the story more readable and attention-grabbing. It took six years and over 80 rejections (I kept a spreadsheet of them) before I snagged a publisher. But you just keep re-writing and revising until you catch the interest of that one individual who’s going to knightsay “Yes!” instead of “Go away.” And as I’m sure you’ve noticed in your own work, no matter how many times you revise and edit and tweak, even after it’s published you still see something that you think “oh, I really should have done this differently”.

Malcolm: What led you to write a knight on a quest fantasy, and did you know early on that your protagonist Morgan McRobbie might have been considered a bit of a loose cannon by Arthur, Lancelot, Galahad and the rest of the Round Table bunch?

Keith: The fantasy genre has always been something that resonated with me. One of my first favorite books was TH. White’s The Once and Future King, and I’m sure this had a lasting influence, as did Tolkien, and the SFF humorist Christopher Stasheff, whose The Warlock in Spite of Himself , filled with romance, adventure, and marvelously awful puns, helped me to see that the genre didn’t have to be quite so serious. Also, I think part of the attraction is that you get to make up your own rules, history, etc.

Malcolm: White’s novel was also one of my favorites.

Keith: When I first came up with the idea for Traitor Knight, I knew I wanted to do something a bit out of the ordinary—to turn the old ‘knight vs dragon’ trope on its head. So I ended up with a dragon suffering from hiccups and a damsel-in-distress who’s fiercely suspicious of her rescuer. The story is really more a swashbuckler with a large dash of wit, and is intended as an homage to all those great old Saturday matinee movies. And I came to realize that, even though Traitor Knight is classified as fantasy, the story relies less on the fantastical elements than in the interplay between Morgan and Marissa. Their characters owe a great deal to a couple of classic British writers: PG Wodehouse and Agatha Christie, who both wrote characters thrown into situations beyond their control and who face their challenges with aplomb and a sense of humor. My two leads clash, but they also engage in banter and barbs and their struggle, together and separately to save the kingdom from an insidious traitor, is what really drives the story.

Malcolm: Looking at this passage, I think Marissa expected a different kind of rescuer:

knightexcerpt

Keith: Morgan might well have been considered a loose cannon—although in the world I’ve created, cannon haven’t yet been invented—but he’s doing what he must, even at the risk of his honor, his happiness, and likely his life, to safeguard what he holds sacred. Morgan’s motto, as emblazoned on the family crest, translates to “As Need Requires”, and this is a major theme of the book, in that Morgan will do whatever is necessary, by whatever means come to hand, to accomplish his mission.

Malcolm: What kinds of reference materials or web sites did you use to nail down all the knights’ weapons/clothing, foods, customs, structures, horses and tack, viewpoints and customs that were all part of the time period in which the novel is set?

Campaign Books
Champagne Books

Keith: The great thing about a story like mine is that you’re essentially starting with a blank slate. I tell people “I love history—especially when I get to make it all up”. I would have to say that most of my “research” was from reading heavily in the fantasy genre. I don’t go into a lot of descriptive details of armor, weaponry, etc. in the story. Instead I try to let the reader imagine what those things look like. I did have to come up with a system of magic, and figure out where the dragons came from—but as I mentioned earlier, I don’t really spend an inordinate amount of time going into the nitty gritty of this stuff. The story is really much more about the characters and their conflicts and desires. They just happen to live in a world where magic and dragons (and Dwarves, but we really don’t get to them until Vol. 2) exist.

Malcolm: So, your characters are campaigning for a sequel to Traitor Knight rather than allowing you to write with a different focus?

Keith: Rats! I guess I gave that answer away just now. There definitely is a sequel in the works., although Traitor Knight does actually stand alone. There’s no real cliffhanger that absolutely requires a second or third volume. My hope is more that readers will be engaged by the characters and want to read the next one just to see what they’re up to.
But I initially wrote books one and two as a single volume, then realized just how unwieldy that would be (somewhere in the neighborhood of 750 or so pages). I found a good stopping point for the first book and chopped ‘em in half. The second was pretty much done, but the editing and revisions I’ve ended up doing over the past couple of years have changed a lot of what happens in the sequel. My editor is urging me go get on with it and complete book two (tentatively titled Desperate Knights, and I am working trying to smooth out the rough edges and get all my dragons in a row.

Malcolm: If Hollywood calls you tomorrow to say they’re ramping up for a $100000000000 production of Traitor Knight, who would you pick to play Morgan McRobbie? Seriously, when you were writing, did you see the scenes in your mind’s eye the way they would look in “real life” or in a film?

A prospective Morgan McRobbie?
A prospective Morgan McRobbie?

Keith: Morgan is actually bi-racial—his mother is from an island nation rather like Jamaica, where his father was dispatched on a diplomatic mission (they met while routing a band of particularly nasty pirates, but that’s another story—which I have, actually written). My choice to play Morgan would be Will Smith. I think he’s got the looks, the panache and the charisma to carry off the character. And yes, I did write the story not so much with a film in mind, but definitely from a cinematic perspective—I felt that if my writing evoked that type of visual sense, it would resonate more with readers.

Malcolm: Will Smith will work just fine. Thank you for stopping by the Round Table, Keith. Readers will find Traitor Knight on Kindle

You may also like: Briefly Noted: ‘Traitor Knight” by Keith Willis

 

Perhaps we’ve lost too much of the magic

“‘The ancient world was full of magic,’ writes novelist C.J. Cherryh.  ‘Most everyone north and northwest of the Mediterranean believed that standing barefoot on the earth gave you special knowledge, that the prickling feeling at the back of your neck meant watchers in the wood, and that running water cleansed supernatural flaws.'”

–On Myth and Magic in Terri Windling’s post

Since we, as a world, have grown up, most people no longer believe this; or, if they do, they don’t admit it.

Ignorant superstition or pagan religion: that’s how such ideas are often categorized.

fantasyartIn one of my novels, I said that we’d exchanged magic and wonder for science and technology. Goodness knows, there have been benefits to some of that. But it seems a little skewed to me.

Too little magic. Too much technology. Some say, that our technology will one day rule us (literally, not figuratively as it does now) and will become so self-aware that it (the computers and machines) will decide that humans are no longer needed.  Kind of like the Terminator movies.

I’m subversive when it comes to magic. I put it in my fantasy novels where it seems almost natural enough to be real. I hope some readers think it’s real by the time they finish the books. If not that, I hope they are willing top ponder the question of its reality with open minds.

Perhaps we’ve most too much of the magic because we never believed enough in ourselves as individuals. Did we assume scientists, inventors, governments and corporations knew more about everything than we did? Did we see ourselves as too small to trust what our hearts suggested to us?

Hard to say. The magic discussion can get very circular because it’s often said, you won’t find magic if you don’t believe in it. That may be true, but it’s also convenient because it’s a false method of trying to prove a point.

Maybe we don’t have to believe in magic to find it. Maybe all we have to do is entertain the possibility that it’s there. It’s not too difficult to walk barefoot across a field or a beach and see what happens. Naturally, doing that with our arms crossed and our minds cynical isn’t going to help. Better to play. To dance there or enjoy the scenery with all of our logic on hold.

In my stories, I suggest magic is there waiting for characters to see it. Some do, some don’t. Maybe those who see it are crazy fools, but what if they’re not? If we dismiss things out of hand, we’ll never know.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the upcoming folk magic novella “Conjure Woman’s Cat.”