Do you ‘see’ your story as you write?

“Mikaella Clements interviews various authors about how their visual imagination (or lack thereof) informs their writing. The answers run the gamut: “I rarely visualize what I’m writing because visualization takes effort and can be distracting,” says Talia Hibbert. While Claire Messud says, “When I’m in a world it’s like a 3D five senses movie. I’m there.” (Washington Post)” – From Poets & Writers

On weekdays, I check Poets & Writers overview of literary headlines. When I read the blurb above, my first thought was that I wasn’t going to be able to see the entire story due to the Washington Post’s pay wall. That was frustrating because, after seeing the comment by Talia Hibbert, I wondered how anyone could possibly create a story without seeing it in their mind’s eye.

I guess we all assume that what we experience while writing is similar to what other authors experience. Since I “automatically ‘see'” the characters and locations I’m creating in my fiction, I wondered how visualization could be distracting, much less take an effort to accomplish.

As Messud says, “I’m there.”

In fact, I couldn’t avoid being there even if I wanted to because images appear (unbidden but welcome) while I write. True, they’re often somewhat determined by the research I do, especially when it comes to the look and feel of locations. 

“Seeing’ absolutely nothing would, for me, be a distraction. It would be like writing in a dark room with my eyes closed. Heck, I’d probably ‘see’ the story anyway.

If you write fiction, does your mind create pictures of your location and your characters while you’re writing? (Just wondering.) If you do see those pictures, are they helpful or distracting?

I’m always writing, so to speak, about a mental movie I’m watching. But maybe most writers don’t approach their work this way. When I hear that other writers don’t/won’t/can’t to this, I’m filled with wonder about how the process of creation works.


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


Feds install ‘Fever Canon’ on White House roof

Washington, D. C., February 24, 2022, Star-Gazer News Service–The Federal Government has borrowed a Civil War era canon from the Smithsonian and installed if on the White House roof as part of the new multi-part protocol for ending the pandemic.

Based on theories that circulated during Yellow Fever epidemics that posited that the fever was caused by a miasma in the air, the canon will fire hourly during the nighttime hours (from the twilight’s last gleaming to the dawn’s early light) to disrupt the dangerous miasma and render it inert.

According to informed sources, the Alternate Center for Disease Control ACDC) hadn’t thought about using a fever canon until a janitor read the January 21 edition of the Malcolm’s Round Table blog which mentioned thge use of such canons.

Presidential aide Sue Smith said in this morning’s news conference that the Washington Monument will be closed until further notice due to damages caused by canon balls.

“We just assumed the canon had to be loaded,” she said. “After destroying a section of the monument and taking out several tourist buses, we were informed that the sound of the canon was enough to put a dent in the miasma throughout the city.”

Smith also acknowledged that the President has moved to an undiscloed location, probably the Day’s Inn at 4400 Connecticut Avenue, since the canon made sleep inpossible.

The ACDC is recommending that fever canons be installed in all major cities until the pandemic “cries uncle.” While some experts have suggested burning tar in barrels on major street corners to further disperse the miasma, their ideas have been dimissed as “pretty damn stupid.”

Smith cautioned that fever canons have not been approved for home use though Second Amendment scholars believe every American has a right to a front yard canon.


Story filed by Jock Stewart, Special Investigative Reporter

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:


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

How will people 50 years from now view our approach to COVID?

My favorite Bette Davis movie is “Jezebel” made in 1938. It’s a love story set in New Orleans during one of the city’s horrible yellow fever epidemics.

The movie is set in a time when people thought yellow fever was caused by “miasma” in the air. To disrupt this miasma, people burnt tar in barrels and fired off a fever canon.

Even now there is no cure for yellow fever, though there is a vaccine that helps prevent it but doesn’t seem to impact people who already have it.

I’ve thought of this fever canon approach during the COVID epidemic because the whole miasma idea showed a lack of knowledge about diseases and how they were spread. Yellow fever is spread by mosqitoes.

The movie shows the fear the populace had of yellow fever, of those who got it, of how to combat it, and the need to isolate the victims. While we’re a bit more civilized now, we still have many of the same fears and we’ve been addressing them in multiple ways across the country.

As I think about that fever canon on the movie, I wonder which of our approaches is similar to that: i.e., totally wrong headed and ineffective. Perhaps one day we’ll know the answer to that. Or perhaps, as some say, we’ll never get rid of COVID altogether but will learn how to prevent most of it and treat it more effectively.

I think we’d all feel better about our chances of success if our approach nationally was more cohesive. As it is, mandates and mask ideas and vaccine notions come and go weekly. Those of us who were around during the polio epidemic saw some of the same kinds of fears and confusion until the Salk and Sabin vaccines became available.

I’m a cynic, so I can’t help but wonder which of the things we’re doing is really just a fever canon. I do think I’m more hopeful about a COVID solution than the residents of New Orleans were about yellow fever in 1905. Time will tell–perhaps.


Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of fantasy and magical realism novels and short stories. To learn more, click here

What if we’re just machine code?

Ever since the philosopher Nick Bostrom proposed in the Philosophical Quarterly that the universe and everything in it might be a simulation, there has been intense public speculation and debate about the nature of reality. Such public intellectuals as Tesla leader and prolific Twitter gadfly Elon Musk have opined about the statistical inevitability of our world being little more than cascading green code. Recent papers have built on the original hypothesis to further refine the statistical bounds of the hypothesis, arguing that the chance that we live in a simulation may be 50–50.” – from “Confirmed! We Live in a Simulation” in Scientific American

The Matrix Poster.jpgMy first question is this: “Whose computer is it?”

And then, I want to know if they’re running Windows 1.0, Windows 95, or Windows ME.

I haven’t read whether or not accepting the validity of this sumulation is a red pill/blue bill matter. I’d probably take the red pill if I got to have dinner with Trinity.

Then, too, I like the idea of downloading whatever information I need to do whatever I want to do as–in the movie–suddenly have the skills to fly a helicopter.

Perhaps the red pill will prove that the idea of a computer simulation world is just an illusion or, if it isn’t, that the whole shebang is running on Jerry Seinfeld’s computer. Or, worse yet, on Steven Wright’s computer.

I’ve always believed that seeing isn’t believing, that things are not what they seem to be. So, I have my doubts about the idea that everything is machine code or assembly language running on a Fugaku compter hidden in a nondescript barn in Peoria.

If it is, heaven help us if somebody accidentally hits crtl/alt/del.

I think the best we can do at this point is continue to live our lives as though we’re real and never say anything nasty about Jerry Seinfeld or Steven Wright.


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

Voice and the need to fine tune it

In a recent Funds for Writers post, Hope Clark stresses the need for a writer to be unique. “The more someone else can write your piece, the less valuable it is,” she said.

That’s why writers need to establish and fine-tune their writer’s voice, the cadence and word usage that defines them just as surely as a friend’s voice on a telephone that your recognize before they say who they are.

Not you? Then don’t try to sound like her.

When I write a story, I am very much fact based. That’s my nature and research enhances it. I also hear the “song” of the words on the page, the songs that transforms the facts into magic and/or meanings that transform the facts into something more important than data.

As Clark suggests, anyone can write the piece your considering. But you don’t want to sound like just anyone. Careful research a a unique voice take you out of the “just anyone” category.

Personally, I don’t think voice and or should be faked. Like a bad spy who can’t keep his/her cover story straight, you’ll slip sooner ot later because the your voice isn’t you. It has to come from the way you think and see the world, how you tend to express yourself, and seeing the parts of the story or feature article that stand out as the most meaningful.

Obviously, voice gets out of hand from time too time. That is to say, you pushed the envelope too far. That’s probably why the rejection slip showed up! So, if your voice rides on the edge of insanity, you need to rein it in and not sound totally crazy. “Crazy” is for blogs like this one, not the Atlantic or Publishers Weekly.

So there it is. When you sing, stop trying to sound like Elvis or Emmylou Harris. Find out who you are, and be that person in your writing.


Feds outlaw smart people

Washington, D. C., January 18, 2022, Star-Gazer News Service: In an attempt to keep everyday citizens from knowing more than U.S. Senators and Representatives, the government announced here today that the country will no longer tolerate smart people.

No Longer Needed

Informed sources told reporters that the metrics are yet to be finalized, but the thinking–such as it is–will be that an average IQ is good enough, especially for government work. The White House has defined that average as a score between 85 and 115.

“We think that’s good enough,” said Jimmy Crack Corn, the newly appointed Boss Man of the newly created IQ Monitoring Service.

According to Crack Corn, the government spent the last 20 years analyzing the optimum IQ levels for government service and concluded that anything higher than 115 creates “the kind of mess we’re facing now.”

“Being too smart creates a clusterf_ck in the halls of Congress as well as the executive branch,” Crack Corn said.

According to the government study, smart people are too smart for their own good, much less the good of the country because they see at least fifty shades of grey in every question or idea and, therefore, are unable to create meaningful laws and policies.

The White House said that the government didn’t anticipate, at least not yet, actually killing smart people or placing them in prisons or asylums, but preferred to keep destroying the educational system and watering down the Bill of Rights so that a new “optimum IQ” evolves naturally.

Dr. Gerald Simpson, CEO of the America First Think Tank said, “Twenty years from now, most of us won’t even know what we’re talking about.”

The President signed the legislation creating the new “dumb down America rules” even though he didn’t understand it, the White House said.


Story by Jock Stewart, Special Investigative Reporter

Mostly, we got nothin’

  • As for yesterday’s post about the predicted snow, we got plenty of nothin’, rain, wind, and 90 minutes of light snow that didn’t stick. Roads may be icy in the morning though.
  • On the other hand, the snow-event stew came out well. I think it’s the port wine which makes it tasty. Plus, the eleven secret herbs and spices. Psst, one of them is basil.
  • And then, too, we’re keeping our old car and its feisty battery with both a trickle charger and a jump starter. The price of both was less than the cost of one visit from a tow truck with a generator.
  • And then, also, our indoor/outdoor cat, Robbie, who usually bugs me all day to come in and out multiple times, didn’t like the looks of the weather, even thogh it was plenty of nothin’, and stayed inside. I’m surprised, though I had imagined him racing out the door into a snow drift. <g>
  • The main character in my novel in progress runs a pack train, and the more I look into this, I’m glad that–while I enjoying riding–the gear involved with a pack train is more than I want to deal with: even the standard Decker saddle. Can you imagine putting this on a horse while: (a) you were half asleep, or (b) drunk? I feel like I’m drunk when I write passages in which my character is putting it on or taking it off a horse.
  • The Ten Thousand Doors of January[2].jpgSince I enjoyed Alix E. Harrow’s The Once and Future Witches, I ordered her previous book, The Ten Thousand Doors of January from 2019. Does anyone following this blog read novels about witches? Being both old and old fashioned, I’m more into thre traditional craft than Wicca.
  • I know most of you are wondering by now whether we’ll be having leftover stew tonight since the snow event was pretty much nothingto write home about. The answer is “yes.


Book sale: see the latest post on my other blog.

waiting for snow or maybe nothing

Yes, we do get snow in Georgia, but usually we don’t–even when it’s predicted. Long-time Atlanta residents will remember “snow jam” in 1982 and an honest-to-goodness blizzard in 1993. Yes, I was there.

We understand, though, that if Izzy is as bad as some of the predictions, we can’t top what’s expected in the northeast. If we get several inches, we’ll have a mess mainly because we don’t have the infrastructer to deal with it. We do take offense when northeners poke fun at Georgia drivers trying to drive in snow when, at the same time, the national news is showing hundreds of wrecks up north where “people know how to drive in snow.” Ha.

We get freezing rain and black ice. I think that wintry mix can be worse than snow. As for Sunday’s possible snowfall, we just don’t know. I have beef stew in the Dutch oven. It will get us through the weekend whether Izzy shows up or not. And, our gas stove will heat it up nicely even if the power fails.

Whenn I lived in northern Illinois, we didn’t get the day off when several feet of snow showed up during the night. My Jeep with studded snow tires powered through the worst of as a I commuted from the Illinois-Wisconsin border to my office near O’Hare airport. I don’t have either a Jeep or snow tires now, so I’m less willing to drive in the stuff even though my front-wheel-drive Buick navigated snow jam with zero problems. Mostly, I worry about the other drivers and their lead feet and a tendency to jam on the brakes.

Snow in Georgia is always an adventure, from sold-out grocery stores to slippery roads to people telling stories about how bad that 1/4 inch was in their neighborhoods.

By the way, this would not be the best time to have a flight scheduled at Atlanta’s airport. You probably know that. You do, don’t you?


Mountain Song by [Malcolm R. Campbell]“Mountain Song” is free on Kindle January 18th through January 20th.

This story is set in Glacier National Park.

Endless curiosity kills a lot of time

In general, curiosity seems to be a good thing. It demonstrates an interest in the world, in new things, generates ideas for stories, and keeps the mind sharp. It can also be an excuse for avoiding what you should be doing by looking up something on the Internet. On the other hand, some of the most absurd searches sometimes lead to the best ideas while the most promising searches sometimes lead no where.

One never knows whether to fish or cut bait when it comes to deciding: “Am I goofing off or am I doing something that will turn me into an author who outsells James Patterson?” Perhaps a book called The Four-in-Hand Murders.

Speaking of Patterson, I was re-reading Criss Cross when the detectives went to a tie store while trying to identify a tie found at the scene of a crime. Now I wear flannel shirts in the winter and Tee shirts in the summer, and haven’t tied a tie in ten years. So, a tie store? You’ve got to be kidding.

I can’t imagine paying $500 for a tie or being so addicted to my tie collection that I know eighty-five ways to tie a tie. A character told detective Cross that he usually used a Pratt knot. Since I’d never heard of that, I went on an Internet search and found a site that told me how to tie a tie in ways most people have never heard of–including a Pratt knot.

My eyes glazed over as I looked at the knot-tying diagrams. They reminded me of either SAT or GRE tests where you’re presented with an unfolded cardboard something-or-other and have to pick what it turned into when folded back up. I never could figure those out. So I can safely say that if I ever tie a tie again it will be with a half Windsor knot because I grew up with that and that I will never use a Pratt or an Oriental or a Hanover.

So, was this online time worth it? Hmm, probably not. I really don’t care about ties, but the idea that there were prestigious ways of tying them caught my attention. Some day, somewhere, a character in one of my stories use a Pratt knot and wish he hadn’t.

Or, perhaps I’ll be in a bar and some drunk willshout, “I’ll give a hundred dollars to anyone who can tie a Pratt knot.” Well, there it is: curiostity paying off.