Archive for the ‘Florida’ Category

New edition of Florida Folk Magic ‘boxed set.’   Leave a comment

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

 

Posted October 5, 2020 by Malcolm R. Campbell in Florida

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‘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

 

Florida Plants: Black Titi

Black titi (pronounced tie-tie), Cliftonia monophylla, sometimes called the Buckwheat Tree, is a perennial evergreen shrub/tree found in Florida’s wet flatwoods and bogs. Deer and bees like it a lot. Sometimes native plant nurseries can find it for your garden. The flowers are generally white and bloom in the spring.

I refer to it often in my Florida Folk Magic Series because it’s ubiquitous in the Florida Panhandle along with slash pines, longleaf pines, scrub oak, and saw palmetto. The word drives proofreaders crazy because they think it’s scandalously pronounced as titty.

Plant Distribution

In spite of this map, I see titi has more of a western Florida Panhandle plant with fewer occurrences in Peninsular part of the state.

I like the plant’s description in the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center’s database: “Native from southeastern North America south through Central America and the West Indies to northeastern South America, this deciduous tree stays under 30 ft., and, though it looks shrubby for several years, eventually makes a slender tree with smooth, cinnamon-colored trunks; abundant, showy, whorled clusters of airy, white blooms; and dark-green leaves. In the northern part of its range, the leaves turn rust-red in fall, dropping in spring just as the new leaves unfurl. Farther south, plants are nearly evergreen. Summer fruits are yellow-brown.”

Malcolm

 

 

 

Awash in dangerous nostalgia

When an author’s novels are set in the world of his childhood, the nostalgia of those old days might come out of the woodwork and turn his writing into melodrama. That’s the last thing I want.

St.-John Perse

One of my favorite poets, St.-John Perse, wrote in “To Celebrate a Childhood,” (which most of today’s critics would consider overly dramatic), “Other than childhood, what is there in those days that is not here today?”

Wikipedia Graphic

Depending on how you see the question, the answer can be either “everything” or “very little.” I have this paradoxical view of my own childhood in the Florida Panhandle. Every once in a while, somebody posts a photograph of an old appliance on Facebook and asks “who knows what this is?” My generation knows; younger people seldom know.

Pork Chop Gang

The same is true with the news that was common during my childhood years: themes and practices, and people that I often reference in my books such as “Wop Salad” and Florida’s notorious “Pork Chop Gang.” (I feel no nostalgia for these two things, by the way.)

My nostalgia arises when I think of Boy Scout camping trips, all the hours spent sailing, scuba diving, and water skiing down at the coast, delivering telegrams and newspapers, and exploring the panhandle’s backroads–many not paved–in my old car. And, too, I recall old friends, many of whom taught me how to love the panhandle–something I thought I would never do. (As a California native, I was always considered an outsider.)

KKK

If I learned anything scary in those days (except during the Cuban missile crisis), it was to fear the KKK because they were everywhere, and I wonder now–as I did then–how many family friends and acquaintances were members.  I’m surprised we never had a cross burnt in our front yard because my folks were liberal, we went to a liberal church, and people we knew well had experienced the wrath of the Klan. (No nostalgia here, by the way.)

My novel Mountain Song and my trilogy of novels in the Florida Folk Magic series have scenes set in the Florida Panhandle. Since these novels overlap the world of my childhood, I worked hard to keep the melodrama out of them. It’s often a fight because memories ofter bring back times when one was hurt or frightened or disrespected.

Keeping melodramatic personal memories out of the stories is part of an author’s work. That’s not always easy to do because, as I think of them, I’m as pissed off now as I was then. (The Campbell motto is “Forget Not.”) But I think we have to draw a line between our personal histories and our stories when we write novels. If we don’t, the novels can easily turn into rants rather than compelling fiction.

If you write, and if you set your stories and novels into the past you experienced, do you have trouble keeping your personal feelings out of it?

Malcolm 

I should have been there

In the early 1960s, Tallahassee, Florida where I grew up was the site of multiple lunch counter sit-ins and movie theater protests. Many of these were organized by CORE and drew a fair amount of participation from students at the primarily black Florida A&M University. I was attending high school and college (FSU) in Tallahassee during these protests, but I wasn’t there.

Florida Memory Photo

Woolworth’s Lunch Counter – Florida Memory Photo

My excuses for not being there are many, including:

  • Tallahassee Police, who sided with the angry white on-lookers, we physically and verbally abusive.
  • Protesters’ eyes were damaged by the use of tear gas.
  • Protesters were fined and/or put in jail for violating a restraining order.
  • The KKK threatened not only the Blacks but the scattering of whites who joined the picketing and lunch counter sit-ins. Burning crosses appeared in people’s front yards.
  • Picketers were assaulted around town and once a person was identified, picketers were likely to have their yards filled with angry people.
  • I wasn’t ready to take on the backlash that I’d be subjected to from high school and college students who had been my friends.
  • I was sure I’d be fired from my jobs and that my participation would cause trouble for my father who was an FSU professor.

As FAMU student and CORE organizer Patricia Stephens Due–who was tear-gassed and ended up with permanent eye damage–said in her book Freedom in the Family–most Blacks weren’t there either even though the common perception is that they were a united front. Not so.

When I was working for Western Union across the street from the Florida Theater, it would have been easy to walk over there and join the pickets or sit at that lunch Woolworth’s lunch counter while on break. There’s an empty seat in the foreground of that lunch counter photo. Logically, it would have been easy to sit there, but when fear of the consequences takes over, it becomes emotionally impossible to sit there.

Looking back today, I’m embarrassed by my excuses and lack of courage.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell’s novel The Sun Singer is currently free on Kindle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Florida’s Carnivorous Plants

In some parts of the county, searching for autumn-leaves color is not only a regional pastime but a tourist experience. Spring wildflowers are another large attraction, though I don’t hear as much about timing and destinations as I do for fall color.

In the Florida Panhandle, we have a scenic byway (State Route 65) that runs north and south through Liberty County (where I’ve set my conjure and crime Florida Folk Magic Series) that’s a beautiful road that becomes a bit congested in the spring as the cameras come out to “capture” wildflowers. Florida’s carnivorous pitchers, when found en masse, are referred to as “pitcher plant prairies.”

White-topped Pitcher Plant – photo by chapstickaddict on Flickr

According to Missouri Botanical Garden, “Sarracenia leucophylla, commonly called white-topped pitcher plant or white trumpet, is native to mucky soils of sandy bogs and pine savannas in coastal plain areas from south western Georgia, southern Alabama and the Florida panhandle. This is a stemless herbaceous perennial that grows in full sun.”

It’s also a carnivorous plant. When I lived in Florida, I used to tell out-of-state visitors that these flowers were worse than alligators and could strike like a snake and consume a 200-pound man in a nanosecond. They normally eat insects, considering people off limits most of the time. Goodness knows how many of my exaggerations got ferried back to the rest of the country!

Blazing Star – Route 65 Tour Guide photo.

You can see pitchers during April and May, and to a lesser extent in the fall. Don’t pick any of them: you might end up in jail. In addition to pitchers, you’ll find a spectacular display of color from the False foxglove, Rayless goldenrod, Hairy chaffhead, Bristleleaf chaffhead, Flattop goldenrod, Narrowleaf Sunflower, Blazing star, and White rosegentian.

If you live in Florida or are traveling to West Florida during the blooming season, you’ll find this tour guide to be a handy reference.

Malcolm