Sunday’s mixed bag.

  • This peacock is one of our frequent visitors from the farm across the road. He looks for bugs while we’re mowing the yard or soon after. Often has several peahens with him. The focus is a bit off because he was so close I had to take the photo through the dirty windows on the front door.
  • Since I like going grocery shopping on Mondays, Mother Nature likes scheduling the heaviest rains of the month on Monday. Looks like that’s going to be the case tomorrow. Drat.
  • Our unopened backup jar of Jiff peanut butter is included in the batch being recalled. I’m happy we hadn’t opened it yet. I’m unhappy that the solution is to throw it in the trash.
  • Every time I read about the Korean war, I’m stunned by how badly General MacArthur managed the war from Tokyo. He kept saying that the Chinese troops south of the Yalu rive were simply the remains of a regiment that came across the border into North Korea–nothing to worry about. So he sent army and marine divisions up to the Chosin reservoir where they were outnumbered five to one by a massive number of Chinese who were there in strength just waiting for the Americans to walk into their trap–which they did. They were lucky to get out of there to a port city where naval and merchant ships evacuated them.
  • While waiting for Alice Hoffman’s The Book of Magic to arrive, I pulled my copy of the 1992 Richard Powers’ novel The Goldbug Variations off the shelf thinking I’d re-read some of it. Hmm, perhaps not. I thought it was weird in 1992 and I still do, so I doubt I can stay with it even though I have no trouble staying with Pirsig and Joyce. In its review, the New York Times said, “In his third novel, Richard Powers is up to something very unusual. “The Gold Bug Variations” is a little bit like Robert Pirsig’s “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,” in that it carries us on a cerebral quest for a philosophical heffalump; it’s a little bit Borgesian in its love of the complex and cryptic; it’s a little bit Joycean in its size and difficulty. It’s a “science” novel, but closer to science fiction in its inventiveness, its hardware vocabulary and software characterization, and in the uncritical pleasure it takes in the purely clever, the nifty.” Maybe I’ll just read cereal boxes for a few days.
  • I’m tempted to buy How the World Really Works, and since Kirkus says it’s “An exceptionally lucid, evenhanded study of the scientific basis of our current and future lives,” that means I might understand it without a little bit Borgesian complexity muddying the waters. My novels are usually magical realism in style, but I never cared for the work of Jorge Luis Borges. (I do like the music of Muddy Waters. I grew up listening to the blues, not that that has anything to do with Vaclav Smil’s book.)
  • The grocery store nearest my house has a decent selection of wine in the low-price (swill) category, plus a few other red wines that I actually like. However, the store is discontinuing Yellowtail shiraz. This is almost as bad as Outback Steakhouse taking Black Opal Cabernet off the menu.  I contacted customer service to suggest that they keep the wine in stock. Yeah no, like that’s going to happen. The wine goes well with steak and typing blog posts.

Malcolm

Sunday pastiche

  • We’re having pork barbecue tonight made in the crockpot. What surprises me is the fact that the recipes came in a booklet supplied by Rival when we bought our first crockpot years ago. They took some care putting the recipe book together. That surprised us! Naturally, when we make this barbecue for somebody else, we don’t tell them we got the recipe from a crockpot company handout.
  • I found the autobiography by Dita Kraus, A Delayed Life to be a nice supplement to the novel version of her story in The Librarian of Auschwitz. She led a very interesting life, though I think this book probably works better for those who’ve read The Librarian of Auschwitz. Interestingly enough, she says very little about the books in her account of concentration camp life.
  • I need a drink. I bought a copy of L. T. Ryan’s Noble Beginnings to pad out my last Amazon order to get free shipping. And I’m exhausted because there’s more action per square inch than most books I’ve read lately. If this kind of stuff happens in the real CIA, our country’s in a lot of trouble.
  • I posted a link to this New York Post article on Facebook to see if FB would raise a stink about it or ban me. Nothing happened. Hmm. Might be a trick. It was my inspiration for my recent satirical Star Chamber Bureau post. I was shocked because this kind of bureau is the last thing I would expect from a liberal administration.
  •  I feel happy when I’m writing. But sometimes I finish a chapter and think “Yikes, what’s supposed to happen now?” Well, it’s always like that, but sometimes I’m sort of, er, stuck. Good news. I’m finally unstuck and moving ahead at flank speed.  Makes my day. If you’re a writer, you’ve been there.
  • What doesn’t make my day is the hourly influx of articles (many on Yahoo “news”) about the Kardashians. I don’t think I really know who they are or why they’re anybody. For weeks, I thought they were part of that gang of bad guys from Star Trek’s Alpha Quadrant, the Cardassians. As you can see from this photograph, it’s really hard to tell them apart. I guess some people are famous for being famous while others are more or less fictional.

Malcolm

Sunday’s Goulash

  • Yard Mowing: One thing is certain. When we mow the yard on Saturday, we’re going to be stiff and sore on Sunday. Much of what we’re mowing is old fields rather than a yard. That means when we sit on our riding mowers for a couple of hours, we’re subjecting ourselves to a bone-jarring ride. The picture shows the fields on one side of the house, stretching eastward past the original smokehouse.
  • Call the Midwife:  We’ve been watching this 1950s/60s PBS drama since it first aired in 2012. The writing and acting are compelling, and it’s interesting seeing how medicine and midwives existed somewhat differently than they did during the same time period in the States. At the outset, the program was based on former midwife Jennifer Worth’s memoir of working in East London.
  • Ukraine. I posted a few words about this brutal genocide on my Depot Cafe blog because it’s difficult watching the daily tragedy without feeling angry, sad, and helpless. If I were a poet, I might turn to literature as one way of trying to understand the pointless death and destruction. There’s precedent for Putin’s madness. Stalin orchestrated the terror-famine in 1932 and 1933 that killed millions of Ukrainians. Most of the world views this famine as intentional genocide–just as we view what’s happening now.
  • Thomas-Jacob Publishing Anthology. I hope those of you who would like to read this free book in a PDF, MOBI, or EPUB file have been able to download it from the publisher’s site here. Since the stories, poems, and excerpts are arranged alphabetically by author, my short story “The Smokey Hollow Blues” leads off the collection. Smokey Hollow was a real neighborhood in Tallahassee, Florida, a place I knew about when I was growing up. The city wanted to destroy it via so-called urban renewal, and they did.
  • Cats! Our cats sleep in the bedroom at night. When we turn off the TV late in the evening, they hover around the bedroom door waiting to be let in. Katy sleeps on the bed. Robbie curls up in a box with a towel. They’re kicked out in the morning as soon as one or both of them starts committing infractions. As you can see, I’ve used clip art here rather than any real pictures of the crimes. We’re too sleepy to take pictures at 4:30 a.m.

Malcolm

Sunday’s trail mix

  • Where’s the header picture? I removed it because this blog posts to my author’s page on Facebook and the software that made that happen kept selecting the header picture to display with the post rather than the picture I had inserted into the post. That ended up looking like nonsense. Sometimes I could fix it, and sometimes not, but the hassle was getting to be just too much.
  • Figuring Out Readership in Advance. I can’t do it. My post about the latest Florida tollway boondoggle is getting more attention than posts about Run, Rose, Run (Patterson and Parton) and the real librarian of Auschwitz. I would have bet money that the tollway post wouldn’t attract much attention when up against bestselling books. Hey, it’s okay with me. I’m happy to see a bunch of readers every week.
  • Darn it, Husqvarna. Thanks (sarcasm) for mounting the sparkplug in such a way that I have to add a socket to my socket and ratchet set just to change the sparkplug. I have accumulated several of these sets and, while each of them is capable of disarming a submarine’s torpedo (after it’s fired), none of them has a sparkplug socket–which costs about the same as the new sparkplug.
  • Selling a chapbook for a good cause? If so, why make it hard to buy? First, there’s no apparent website displaying the chapbook. Second, you have to send an e-mail to the professor in charge of the project to find out the cost and how to order it. And then, you have to use a Paypal competitor (that’s owned by PayPal) to make your purchase. Maybe you love Venmo. It seems to be intended for those with mobile devices. Whether or not I can install it on my desktop PC is described in convoluted instructions around the web. The thing is, I don’t need it or want it. So, finally, after a lot of back and forth, I got the chapbook people to accept a check sent via snail mail. Making the chapbook hard to buy won’t help the cause. I hope the publisher didn’t mandate that poems to the chapbook had to be submitted in a WordStar file or rolled up inside a sparkplug socket.
  • Thanks for the Janis Joplin pix. I don’t know who’s doing it or why, but Facebook has been displaying archival Janis pictures. She was a favorite of mine gone too darned soon. I hope some of the smiles on her face in these photographs came from joy rather than too much Southern Comfort. I still have her vinyl records but due to bad karma, I’m too hard of hearing to listen to them. I liked the way she thought: “Life is too damn short and [screwed] up to go through it silently loving someone and never telling them how you feel. [Screw] the consequences, [screw] the implications of the actions, to hell with it all… whatever happens as a result is better than the nothingness that is inevitable with silence.”

Malcolm

Sunday potpourri on Saturday

  • My contemporary fantasy The Sun Singer will be free on Kindle from March 27 through March 31. This is a hero’s journey novel set in Glacier National Park.
  • I’m happy to say that after having hormone shots every six months to supplement the radiation treatments I had for prostate cancer several years ago, I’m now done with the shots. The last one was Wednesday. They’re worse than tetanus shots when you get them and provide you with a few days of weird after-effects.
  • When I wrote yesterday’s post about sex scenes, I didn’t have space to mention that some authors have plenty of sex in their novels without writing the scenes. They include a lot of innuendoes but never include the actual encounters. One author I’m thinking of here is Stuart Woods whose output includes his series of Stone Barrington novels. Stone jumps into bed with almost every woman he meets, but we never see it happen. The books are basically crime thrillers.
  • While our drip coffee makers last about 12-18 months, our microwave has lasted at least ten years. Now it’s shutting itself off whenever we cook something on high for 10-15 minutes. So, we ordered a new Hamilton Beach and have it ready to go as soon as our trusty Sharp bites the dust. The appliances my parents bought during, or just after, WWII lasted longer than my parents.  I wish today’s products were just as durable.
  • While working on a short story set in Tallahassee, Florida’s former Smokey Hollow neighborhood, I was surprised to hear from people who said they were born and raised in Tallahassee and had never heard of it. Then it occurred to me that the neighborhood was destroyed by “urban renewal” in the 1960s, possibly before the people commenting online were born. If you live in Tallahassee and want to learn more, I found More Than Just a Place to be a handy reference.
  • I like the idea of authors getting together to support Ukraine, offering their signed work for an online auction that will run from March 19 through April 12. Unfortunately, I heard about it too late to get involved  But what a great idea. I hope the auction raises a lot of money to combat the madness coming out of Russia.

Malcolm

Sunday’s gallimaufry

Educational note: The funny word in the header means “a confused jumble or medley of things.” Or, possibly hash.

  • Tonight’s dinner is Kraft Mac & Cheese. Any questions?
  • Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, and he’s delivered a festive batch of cold air, dangerous chill factors, and a dusting of snow to the Southern states. This goes to show that he likes us a lot more than those poor clowns in Boston and points north. A Facebook meme advised those of us in Georgia who aren’t used to snowy roads to drive as though granny’s in the back seat wearing a new dress and holding a crock pot of gravy on her lap.
  • Dining by Rail. This is my favorite book of railroad dining car recipes and history. The book was written by a chef who compiled these culinary delights for home use. See my review on the Depot Cafe blog. The recipes are very good and worthy of trying out on granny.
  • Santa brought me a jar of Burt’s Bees ointment. Little did I know that I was doing to get clawed up by one of our cats ending up with an arm that’s black and blue and bleeding. The bee stuff seems to be helping.  (I was not paid anything by Burt to include this endorsement.)
  • Finally, Kumquats. Every year during kumquat season, I ask the produce manager at Publix where they’ve hidden in kumquats. The what? So, I’ve gone to the Publix website and asked the same question, and for years I’ve heard stuff like “our grower switched to another product” and “the kumquats got carried off by seagulls and manatees.” This year, for a brief shining moment, the store had kumquats. I think I bought most of them.
  • Re-reading great books: I re-read books that I like multiple times. This week, it’s Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale. This book is beautifully written even thought the Nazi actions and characters make me angry enough to spit nails–or worse. As an author, I’m impressed with the research Hannah had to do get her facts right while creating an authentic ambiance for the times and people. I feel the same way about The Dove Keepers and a few other books that my reading addicition draws me back to again and again.

Have a great weekend,

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell writes books that–well, at least some of them–are worth keeping on your nightstand to re again and again.

Sunday’s medley

  • Coming Soon: Poetry collection from Scott Zeidel to be released by Thomas-Jacob Publishing. “These poems are peaceful celebrations of the Southern California desert, Scott Zeidel’s home. He writes about the desert’s profound beauty found in simple, unassuming plants and critters like desert dandelions, blue agaves, monarch butterflies, mockingbirds, kestrels, verdins, and doves.”
  • Finding the Mother Tree: As I read and re-read this book about Suzanne Simard’s ground-breaking forest research about the communication and nutrient sharing between trees, I continue to be amazed at the arduous field work involved in the experiments. Imagine planting dozens of acres of seedlings in various combinations in mountain forest settings. The hiking in to the sites and the digging alone would discourage most of us from this kind of work.
  • Kiss Me Stupid: While writing about double entendres in my Depot Cafe blog, I mentioned this 1964 Billy Wilder comedy because I liked a line in it by Ray Walston; I wondered how many movie-goers in today’s generation have heard of the film–or Ray Walston. The movie made a splash when it came out. I would have enjoyed it even if I hadn’t had a crush on Kim Novak. I suppose most people remembering Ray Walson will think of the TV series “My Favorite Martian.” Not bad, but the film was much better even though I think that among Wilder’s films, it’s more or less forgotten.
  • "Run, Rose, Run" Dolly Parton's First Novel with Coauthor James PattersonRun, Rose, Run: Call me surprised when James Patterson wrote two books with Bill Clinton. Now it’s Dolly Parton’s turn. The novel is scheduled for release in March with an accompanying album of twelve original songs.  According to the advance PR, “Set in Nashville, “Run, Rose, Run” is a novel about a young woman who comes to country music’s capital city to pursue her music-making dreams. The source of her heart-wrenching songs is a brutal secret she has tried desperately to hide, but the past she has fled is reaching out to control her future—even if it means destroying everything she has worked for. Pairing James Patterson’s brilliant character-building and dramatic skills with Dolly’s unparalleled insight into the music world’s star-making machinery, ‘Run, Rose, Run’ will be the blockbuster novel of 2022.” Yeah, I’ll probably read it once the mass market paperback version comes out.

Stay warm, and don’t come south; Here’s why:

–Malcolm

If you know James Patterson, tell him that my conjure woman needs to team up with Alex Cross in a riveting crime caper.

Rainy day mix

  • Bergman

    Obituary Blues: My Facebook authors page contains a mix of arts and writing news and reviews. Today there are three obits on it and that’s enough to make one feel the blues strong and steady. Michael Lang, 77, Woodstock co-creator; Director Peter Bogdanovich, 82, “The Last Picture show” and other films; Marilyn Bergman, 93, Oscar-winning lyricist of “The Way We were”; and then, too, on my main news feed, Sidney Portier (“They call me Mr. Tibbs.”)

  • Book cover for WildKristin Hannah:  While the subject of Wild was compelling for anyone interested in psychology, I was disappointed in this early novel, believing that Hannah hadn’t really come into her own in nailing down her style and voice. The feel-good ending falls into the characters’ laps without insufficient foundation and the author discounted her own childhood disabilties specialist by having her look up autism on the Internet. As I said in my Depot Cafe Blog, I think Hannah did this as a means of telling her readers about autism without thinking about the fact that a specialist wouldn’t be looking for onfo online that she would already know.
  • Our 2006 Buick: Ever since the glovebox latch broke off, our challenge has been finding ways to keep the door closed tightly enough to keep the small light inside from draining the battery.  Apparently, one must take the glovebox door off to get the lightbulb out. Had the car on the trickle charger most of yesterday and last night to re-charge the battery. This is becoming a hassle.
  • 711 Ocean Drive Poster.jpg711 Ocean Drive: My wife and I watch a lot of noir movies on TV and this one fit the bill last night. I liked the big shoot-out ending at Hoover Dam (still called Boulder Dam in the film) because I visited the dam when I was young and the scenes in the movie matched my memories of the tour. Apparently, when the film came out, Columbia Pictures said that gangsters were so angry about the film giving away their secrets that the production company had to take out special insurance politices on the primary stars (Edmond O’Brien and Joanne Dru) to keep them safe. The Turner Classic Movies (TCM) host said that notion was probably a PR stunt.
  • 2022: I’m not yet convinced this is going to be a good year. The COVID arguments continue and more and more people are saying the U.S. is on the verge of another civil war. That’s rather unsettling. I feel sorry for today’s kids growing up with that idea hanging over their heads along with worrying about whether the schools are going to be open this week.

-Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbel is the author of the mystery/thriller “Conjure Woman’s Cat,” in which a conjure woman fights the KKK in a small Florida town.

Sunday’s Gallimaufry

  • Homeowner captures an alligator to bring home and show his kids, Texas officials sayIn yesterday’s news, we heard that a Texan captured an alligator to bring home and show his kids. Those on Facebook who saw my post about this story weren’t amused. Needless to say, he wasn’t allowed to keep it. No word on the kids’ reactions. Frankly, I think this looks too large to be a pet.
  • I’m happy to see that Smoky Zeidel, my colleague at Thomas-Jacob Publishing, has come out with a new edition of Who’s Munching My Milkweed. This edition features her husband Scott’s cool artwork. The book is currently available as an e-book and a paperback, with the hard cover to appears shortly. From the publisher: When Ms. Gardener discovers something has been munching on her milkweed plants, she embarks on a fun and educational monarch butterfly journey that enchants both children and adults. From egg to larvae (caterpillar), to pupa (chrysalis) to adult (butterfly), Ms. Gardener watches over her friends to ensure they make the journey safely.”
  • According to Publishers Weekly, attempts to ban books have been rising. “New headlines virtually every day tell the story: across the country, there is an unprecedented spike in attempts to ban books from schools and libraries. And while efforts to remove books from schools and library collections are not uncommon, librarians and freedom to read advocates warn that this current spike in challenges is different, as it appears to be part of a broader political strategy.” We must remain viligant.
  • No photo description available.My wife and I are planning a long-awaited trip to Maryland to see the granddaughters. COVID kept us away last year. One year, our rental car was so snowed in, we couldn’t use it. Everyone took turns shoveling away the towering drift. We definitely don’t want to come home with another photograph like this one.

Best wishes for a happy Thanksgiving.

Malcolm

Sunday miscellany

  • FloridaCurrently Reading: I’ve finally gotten around to reading Lauren Groff’s Florida (2018), a collection eleven well-crafted stories set in the state where I grew up. I like the stories’ strange characters. The New York Times called the stories “haunting,” and they certainly are that. 
  • Are We Learning Anything in School? Jesse Watters, a conservative commentator, interviewed a bunch of people on the street for Veterans Day in a manner similar to what Jay Leno used to do on the Tonight Show. He asked such questions as “Who did we fight in World War II,” “Who bombed Pearl Harbor?” “Who did we fight in the revolutionary war?” and othe facts that seem basic to understanding the country from a history and civics point of view. There were a lot of wrong answers. Too many. Watters and I don’t agree on many things, but my take on this poor showing of knowledge is that it demonstrates one of the reasons everything is so polarized: we don’t seem to have a common base of information.
  • May be an image of 5 people, people standing and outdoorsLiving Jackson Magazine. This short-lived Georgia magazine brought great articles with high production values and crisp writing to the readers of Jefferson, Georgia in the northeast section of the state. I wrote most of the magazine’s book reviews, focusing on local and regional authors. I felt a bit of nostalgia when I came across this old photograph that appeared with an article on Georgia writers, “A Truck Load of Authors” published in 2006. When I posted this picture on Facebook this past week, that 1961 Studebaker pickup truck got more attention than the people.
  • Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone: A Novel (Outlander Book 9)Diana Gabadon: When Diana published the first of the nine novels (counting the one about to be released) in 1991, we were both members of the CompuServe Literary Forum. She posted snippets of Outlander (the first novel) on the forum and these created a lot of discussions about writing. The books are long, detailed, and require a great deal of research. However, I don’t think any of us thought then that the series would still be in progress thirty years later. Go Tell The Bees That I’m Gone comes out on November 23. I appreciate her work as well as the fact that as long as the forum was active, the help that she offered the aspiring writers there was a godsend. I was lucky to meet her once at a book signing in Atlanta. Plus, she wrote a blurb for one of my novels!

Have a great week.

Malcolm