Floridians: Stop the Northern Turnpike Extension

I grew up in Florida, so I can say this. Florida is famous (infamous) for its toll road boondoggles. If you live in Citrus, Levy, Marion, or Sumter countries, you’re at ground zero for a proposed turnpike extension that’s bad for you, the land, the panthers, and your pocketbook.

There’s been a continuing disconnect between what the people in your part of the state say you don’t want and what the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) seems bound and determined to shove down your throats.

As the No Roads to Ruin coalition says, “FDOT’s current approach to SB 100 completely ignores (1) the overwhelming public opposition, (2) the M-CORES Northern Turnpike Corridor Task Force’s failure to find any need for a northern extension of the turnpike, (3) the M-CORES Northern Turnpike Corridor Task Force’s findings on the fragility of the region’s environmental and agricultural resources, and (4) the reality that this folly is wasting, once again, precious Florida taxpayer dollars.”

This graphic from the coalition’s website sums up the situation nicely:

The evidence shows that the FDOT proposal is bad for water, wildlife, health, taxpayers, agriculture, rural communities, and the climate. It’s not just the roads themselves, it’s the sprawl and pollution that follow.

There’s also a disconnect between FDOT and the damage it does. My primary concern is the endangered Florida Panther. Estimates vary, but there are less than 200 left.

Wildlife ecologist Randy Kautz, writing at the request of the Nature Conservancy, said, “The construction of a new toll road expressway from Central into Southwest Florida is likely to have two primary effects on Florida panthers. First, there will be a direct loss of panther habitat within the footprint of the new road. Second, the toll road will accelerate the predicted loss of panther habitats, increase roadkill mortality, result in increasing fragmentation of remaining panther habitats, and likely jeopardize panther population survival by facilitating the movement of new residents and developments into regions of Southwest Florida that are now rural.”

FDOT doesn’t care about the panther or the water or the agriculture, much less the quality of life. Its job is to bring money into the state with toll roads and the tax money generated by sprawl. Your protests will never change FDOT’s thinking. The only thing to do is lean on the public, the legislature, the governor–and if need be–the courts to stop its absurd fixation on paving over the state.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell’s novels are set in the Florida Panhandle where FDOT devastation isn’t as extreme as it is in the peninsular part of the state.

On Location: Tallahassee’s John G. Riley Center & Museum

The John Gilmore Riley Center & Museum for African American History & Culture, Inc. is a historical and cultural gem that sits at the bottom of a hill in downtown Tallahassee, at the corner of Meridian and Jefferson Streets. The Riley House was constructed circa 1890 on the fringe of a community called Smokey Hollow. Its owner was a former enslaved man, John Gilmore Riley, rose to prominence as an educator and civic leader. – Museum Website

This beautifully restored Queen Anne house with its wrap-around porches serves as the perfect headquarters for this museum of African American History and Culture. One night say that the home once anchored the east-side community of Smokey Hollow which was lost due to so-called urban renewal in the 1950s and 1960s.

Currently on exhibit, Legacy and Learning, an “intergenerational exhibit exploring the history and cultural traditions of everyday life.” Artifacts and art show how everyday appliances and other objects hve changed over time. The museum also features Heritage Education, tours, and history trails. Among the tours is the Smokey Hollow Commemorative Site and its “spirit home” models of the shotgun style houses that made up most of the community.

You might also enjoy the jogging and biking and trails at nearby Cascade Park.

If you live in and/or are visiting Tallahassee, all of this belongs on your things to do list. I was initially surprised when an individual in a Facebook group focusing on Tallahassee said he was born and raised there and had never heard of Smokey Hollow. I realized that the once-vibrant African-American neighborhood has been gone for about sixty years. Those of us who lived there sixty years ago knew about the community as well as the debates in government and the press about getting rid of it. But younger people very easily could be unaware of it. The park and the museum fix that problem.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of short stories and novels, many of which are set in the Florida Panhandle where he grew up.

Some books are a joy to write

(A word from your sponsor (AKA, me).

If you hike, jog, kayak, or so anything else that requires effort and stamina, you know that when everything within you (mind and body) is functioning optimally, you reach what’s called a flow state–in the zone, some say. Writers feel that flow state as well when the words are coming off the keyboard and onto the screen without struggle. There are multiple sensations here, but they can be summed up as joy.

I felt this way while working on the four novels in my Florida Folk Magic Series set in the panhandle near the Apalachicola River (shown above). While writing in a flow state, I saw in my mind’s eye a movie of the stories unfolding and typed up what I saw. I loved the characters, the locations, and the themes, so I felt that I was working on a view of the 1950s’ racial tensions in the sunshine state that needed to be told.

I began with Conjure Woman’s Cat and quickly discovered I was writing about my childhood and all the days I lived in Florida starting in the first grade came flowing back to mind. I was writing this book for myself but happily found out that others liked it, too, and that AudioFile Magazine loved the audiobook edition with a great review and an earphones award. 

Melinda, my publisher, asked if I’d thought about a sequel. No, not really. Funny thing. Once she asked the question I began seeing a movie of the book that would become Eulalie and Washerwoman. When Facebook friends found out I was working on a second book, they said, “nothing better happen to that kitty (Lena).” I promised that the conjure woman’s cat would be okay. Having people check in and ask about their favorite characters was a new experience for me and added to my flow state.

So now I’ve written four books, including Lena and Fate’s Arrows. It’s time to stop. I remember my creative writing instructors warning us not to write past the ending. Fate’s Arrows, the only book in the series that isn’t told from Lena’s point of view, seems to be a natural place to stop inasmuch as the conjure woman is feeling her age–older than dirt–and the protagonist (Pollyanna) is moving from west Florida to Tallahassee (where I grew up).

I’ll always be tempted to search for that flow state again with these characters. Never say never, right? 

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell

Publisher: Thomas-Jacob Publishing

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Save money on Kindle with the four-book set.

Liberty County Florida Scenes

Longleaf Pine Forest

Florida has many habitats. One of my favorites–one featured in my Florida Folk Magic Series–is the Longleaf Pine forest. This “Florida Memory” photo was taken in the Apalachicola National Forest near Bristol in West Florida:

Apalachicola River

Wikipedia Description: The river is formed on the state line between Florida and Georgia, near the town of Chattahoochee, Florida, approximately 60 miles (97 km) northeast of Panama City, by the confluence of the Flint and Chattahoochee rivers. The actual confluence is contained within the Lake Seminole reservoir formed by the Jim Woodruff Dam. It flows generally south through the forests of the Florida Panhandle, past Bristol. In northern Gulf County, it receives the Chipola River from the west. It flows into Apalachicola Bay, an inlet of the Gulf of Mexico, at Apalachicola. The lower 30 mi (48 km) of the river is surrounded by extensive swamps and wetlands, except at the coast.

This “Florida Memory” photo shows the kind scene visible from the bluffs near Torreya State Park”

Torreya State Park

This park, on the Apalachicola River, is named for the rare and endangered Torreya Tree, found only in Florida.  This “Florida Memory” photo shows hikers on a trail near Rock Bluff:

Here’s a stone bridge at Torreya State Park built by the CCC in the 193os:

I was drawn to Liberty County as a setting for my four folk magic novels because I saw it often while growing up on family day trips and Scouting expeditions. As of the most recent census, it was the least populous county in Florida.

It was a wonderful setting for my fictional town of Torreya and my folk magic series.

Malcolm

If you read Kindle books, you can save money on my Florida Folk Magic Series by purchasing all four novels together in one book.

New edition of Florida Folk Magic ‘boxed set.’

The cover looks different at online sellers that don’t use the 3-D approach of the Kindle cover.

With the release of Fate’s Arrows, my publisher Thomas-Jacob has updated the so-called boxed set that features all four novels in the Florida Folk Magic Series in one large e-book. If you’re interested in the entire series, buying the novels this way will save money.

I’m also happy to announce that the hardcover edition of Fate’s Arrows is now available. Moving the hardcover into print was one of the things the pandemic slowed down.

We’ve started initial work on the audiobook, but down hold your breath. Audiobooks that are complete and ready to go are waiting a long time for Audible’s approval. (Another pandemic slowdown.)

Enjoy the books.

–Malcolm

My books take me by surprise

Writing books is fun because once I get into the story, I want to know how it’s going to end. I promise I have no idea until I get there.

I thought of writing Fate’s Arrows because a new character named Pollyanna showed up out of nowhere in Lena, my previous novel. She had a lot of sparkle and energy, so I thought, “Hmm, maybe she has enough spunk to carry a new novel on her own–rather like an actress with a small role in one movie who ends up staring in the studio’s next movie.”

While I planned for Fate’s Arrows to be a standalone novel, I set it in the same fictional town (Torreya) where the Florida Folk Magic Series was set. It’s not surprising, then, that the characters from the series began showing up and found important things to do.

Fate’s Arrows relies less on conjure and more on Pollyanna’s skills, skills that readers learn about as the story moves along. I can’t mention them here because they would be spoilers. Suffice it to say, she is a lot more than she appears while sitting behind the counter in the Mercantile balancing Lane Walker’s books. If you’re a bad person, don’t mess with her.

The Big Al’s Books and Pals nailed it in her review when she said, “Malcolm R Campbell is an author who has lived in the Florida panhandle (where this novel is set) and is old enough to remember the final days of the KKK. His anger about that organisation continues to burn, and this is an angry book.” 

I needed a protagonist who had the same hatred for the KKK I’ve always had and who had the guile and the grit to do something about it. If I’d tried to take the action she takes in the novel when I lived in the Florida Panhandle in the 1950s and 1960s, I probably would have gotten killed–or worse.

Of course, Pollyanna has a strong supporting cast from the earlier books: Eulalie the conjure woman and her cat Lena, Willie Tate who knows how to get people out of trouble, Police chief Rudy Flowers, and others.

I admire Pollyanna and I think you will, too. She kept surprising me every with every risk she took.

Malcolm

Florida’s Pork Choppers

Native Floridians who were around during the 1950s probably remember the powerful Pork Chop Gang, a group of 20 movers and shakers who controlled Florida politics via backroom deals and strategic positions in the legislature. I thought of them today because the most powerful member was Ed Ball who ran the St. Joe Paper Company (mentioned in yesterday’s post).

The group fought against desegregation, communists, and homosexuals. Above is a group photograph of the wheelers and dealers taken turning a 1956 special session of the state senate. (Florida Memory Photo). You can read an article on Florida Memory about the gang here.

According to Wikipedia, “The spokesperson was Senator Charley Johns. They ‘had become unusually powerful in the 1950s because the legislative districts of the state had not been redrawn to account for the massive growth of urban areas in earlier years.’ The key figure in the group, coordinating their activities, although not a legislator, was industrialist Ed Ball. Their favorite haunt was the fish camp of legislator Raeburn C. Horne, at Nutall Rise, in Taylor County on the Aucilla River.”

Fish Camp on the Aucilla River where deals were made. Florida Memory Photo

The group finally lost its power after 1962 when the U.S. Supreme Court decreed that the state (or if needed, the Federal Government) had to go through some serious reapportionment to ensure that representation was based on the current population’s distribution.

I don’t miss them.

Malcolm

Hate in the Sunshine State

My novels are set in the 1950s when the traditional KKK in Florida was strong and active. Years later, hatred is still alive and just as sick as ever, though it’s been dispersed into a variety of groups.  According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Florida has 67 hate groups currently tracked by the Center. 

The Center notes that sixteen statewide groups are not shown on the map. Otherwise, you can place your cursor on the white circles on the map on the website to see the names of the groups.

We should be aware of these groups: otherwise, it’s hard to combat them. A word of caution, though. While some have websites, those sites are composed of the sickening kind of tripe (and pictures) one would expect of thugs, psychopaths, and other degenerates. Don’t go to these sites unless you have a strong stomach.

Florida has more hate groups than any other state except California with 88 groups. So, hate is not just a product of the South in spite of how our part of the country is often portrayed by others.

In A “superhighway of hate:” Extremism is flourishing in Florida from “Florida Phoenix,” Diane Rado writes, “From hate speech to hate groups to hate crimes, Florida faces a broad atmosphere of hatred that has been escalating for years, though residents and tourists may not have realized how much the extremist landscape has changed.”

Just why Florida has so many groups is unclear, but some suggest the Intenet has helped thread the hate around, allowing groups to become interlinked–among other things, groups that once operated out of a basement are easier to find via search engines today and those whom they attract help them do their work.

Groups of various stripes have been more vocal of late. The media gives them exposure. Peaceful and legitimate protests often give hate groups a foot in the door to gather on the same streets and give the protesters a black eye when the news shows buildings on fire and police cars turned over.

The times have become ripe for the radicalization of people who are easily led by news accounts of violence and social media information. Hatred is one virus no vaccine is able to defeat; no doubt it will still be around when COVID is long gone.

We have a lot of work to do to clean the scum out of this country.

Malcolm

 

‘Fate’s Arrows’ – Update

  • The Kindle edition of Fate’s Arrows will be 99₵ on October 4th from Amazon.
  • The novel is available on these sites: Amazon, Amazon UK, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Bookshop, Scribd, IndieBound, Powell’s, Google Books, Apple, and as a B&N Nook book.
  • We are still waiting on the printer for the hardcover edition.
  • Bookstores can order the paperback via their Ingram Catalog.
  • Listed on the NewPages website’s new releases.
  • You can watch the trailer on the home page of my website.

Malcolm

For the love of Florida pine trees

Readers of the three books in my Florida Folk Magic Series heard a lot about the piney woods because pines (Sand, Slash, Spruce, Longleaf, Eastern White, Loblolly, and Japanese Black) own the Florida Panhandle. We had forty pines in our yard. I grew up with them, came to love them, so that’s what my characters see.

Wikipedia photo

When the fourth book in the series, Fate’s Arrows, is released in the near future, you’ll find more pines, beginning with a quotation from Gloria Jahoda (The Other Florida) that sets the stage for the book:

“Everywhere. . . there were pines, their long needles shimmering in a faint wind under the hot subtropical sun. In the country there were empty dirt roads, rutted by mule carts. In the towns sprawled rows of unpainted shacks without windows. Ancient Negro women sat fanning themselves with palm leaves as they stared drowsily from rickety porches at their zinnias and coral vines and heavy-scented honeysuckle bushes. Moss-draped oaks and lacy chinaberry trees shaded sandy dooryards. Scrawny dogs, the flies buzzing at their noses, slept among ragged-feathered chickens pecking for scratch feed. Locusts whined from tall magnolias with the steady pitch of power saws. But mostly there were those pines and the tang of their resiny branches and the dark straightness of their trunks. All of it looked like the south of the novelists and the poets, heavy with antiquity, romance, and misery.”

Jahoda wrote this in 1967. Living in Florida between 1950 and 1968, I saw the evolution of the world she describes. The panhandle world seemed, even then, to be the complete opposite of what snowbirds found in the peninsula and what people outside the state expected to see anywhere. The appalling Jim Crow racism was hidden away by the exuberant beauty of the land.

Malcolm