Sunday’s Mixed Stuff

  • I like everything John Hart has written except this debut novel. It has everything in it but the kitchen sink and the main character is an unsympathetic sad sack. I’m glad he got this approach out of his system before he started writing novels where the nasty stuff is within limits and the protagonists are the kind of people readers can get behind.
  • We’ve had a lot of rain in North Georgia lately including a nasty thunderstorm after midnight two days ago that killed the power and scared the cats into piling into our bed.
  • I liked The Seekers a lot for their pure, sweet voices. So I felt sad seeing this news: “Judith Durham, singer of the Australian pop band The Seekers, has died at age 79. According to Universal Music Australia, Durham’s cause of death was chronic lung disease.” Wikipedia notes that the group had Top 10 hits in the 1960s with “I’ll Never Find Another You”, “A World of Our Own”, “Morningtown Ride”, “Someday, One Day” (written by Paul Simon), “Georgy Girl” (the title song of the film of the same name) and “The Carnival Is Over” by Tom Springfield, the last being an adaptation of the Russian folk song “Stenka Razin”.
  • As a writer and a reader, I wonder why so many authors speak of train whistles in their novels when whistles on trains have been gone for years. Other than tourist steam engines, American diesel-electric locomotives all have horns.
  • This book of short stories has been more interesting than I expected. I bought it for the English translation of Hayashi Fumiko’s (1903-1951″ autobiographical story “The Accordion and the Fish Town” which I mention in my novel in progress. But, I’ve found more to like in this selection of works that show how the Japanese short story has developed over time. The book was released in 1997. While the novel has been king in the West, the Japanese focused on shorter works.
  • Two days ago, Lesa was trying to catch up on the yard mowing, ploughing through grass that was almost too high for the mower due to daily rain showers. She stopped mowing at dusk when she ran over a hidden yellow jacket nest and got stung twice. Ouch. We seem to have more of our share of yellow jackets and wasps in this neighborhood, and that includes white Anglo-Saxon Protestants.
  • Long-time friend Keith Willis has released the latest novel (#4) in his Knights of Kilbourne Series, Stolen Knight. If you love snappy writing, hijinks, and dragons, this fantasy/romance should be on your nightstand.  Or, as Willis says on his website when he introduces the series, “If you like swashbuckling adventure served up with a helping of romance and a dollop of humor (and topped with a dragon) then these books are for you.”

Malcolm

New ‘Freedom to Learn’ op-ed series to appear in Washington Post’s ‘Made in History’ Section

Pen America – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Amid an unparalleled wave of attacks on academic freedom and public education nationwide – including the introduction of nearly 200 educational gag orders and the adoption of gag order policies in 19 states – PEN America, in partnership with the Washington Post’s Made by History section, is launching a new Freedom to Learn op-ed series.

Made by History is an independent editorial section of the Post featuring content from academic historians on current events. Edited and published by the Made by History editorial team and sponsored by PEN America, the Freedom to Learn series will provide historical context for the current assault on public education in the United States and elsewhere.

The Freedom to Learn series will consist of ten articles to be published in the summer and fall of 2022, beginning on August 15. The series will culminate with a public virtual event, sponsored by Lumina Foundation, featuring several contributors to the series.

“We’re excited to partner with the Washington Post’s Made by History to support high-quality, well-researched analysis by professional historians on the unprecedented threats to our education system,” said Jeremy C. Young, senior manager of free expression and education at PEN America. “Over the past five years, the Made By History team has developed a consistent track record of excellence in publishing insightful historical analysis of current trends. PEN America is thrilled to support their work and to help educate readers about the extraordinary challenges teachers are confronting today.”

“Made By History is dedicated to publishing rigorous historical analysis of U.S. current events and public debates to help the public understand the current events,” said Diana D’Amico Pawlewicz, a historian of education and an editor at Made By History. “Recent attacks on the classroom curriculum have historical roots, and we are excited to work with PEN America to bring rigorous scholarship by professional historians to shed light on the origins, implications, and consequences of the hyper-politicization of education.”

I support this action and hope it helps end attacks on learning my misguided citizens and groups. Perhaps the series should become a permanent part of the newspaper.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell’s contemporary fantasy e-book is free on Amazon between 8/4 and 8/8.

If the U.S. were overrun, how many of us would join a resistance movement?–

When I read books about the resistance movements in Europe during World War II, I am impressed by the bravery of those who sheltered Jews, led downed allied pilots to safety, and fought in a guerilla warfare style against the Nazi occupation.

I hope that if the U.S. were conquered by an invading army that chose to occupy the country while expanding its reach toward Canada and Mexico, that Americans would be just as brave and just as persistent. Those who are the strongest supporters of the Second Amendment and lax gun control laws often say that one reason citizens should be armed is the possibility of an invasion.

While armed civilians probably could not stop a non-nuclear conventional attack, it’s probable that they could make things very uncomfortable for an occupying force. While I don’t agree with the laws that permit mass ownership of guns, especially those designed for combat troops, I think the suggestion that armed civilians could fight against an occupying force is bogus when it comes to the country’s failure to clamp down on gun crimes. And yet, I still wonder if our proposed bravery would equal that of, say, the French resistance.

I have my doubts. Even so, I don’t want to be around to see these doubts tested under real conditions. Many in the resistance were willing to carry out missions that–even if they succeeded–might mean the loss of everyone in the resistance cell.

I wonder about this because I sense that a fair number of people are unwilling to give up anything–time, money, benefits–in order to support issues that are clearly in the national interest. That is, what would an individual give up to help end racism, mass shootings, climate change, etc? Since progress on these issues is slim to nonexistent, I can only conclude that the answer to such questions is “not much.” I fear the same might be true if a neighbor asked for help in blowing up a bridge used by an occupying army.

Do you ever speculate about such things when you read a nonfiction book or a novel about World War II resistance movements? Perhaps I speculate because, as a writer, I’m used to asking “what if?” about all kinds of things.

–Malcolm

Celebrating Leo

Leo (♌︎) (Greek: Λέων, Leōn), Latin for Lion, is the fifth sign of the zodiac. It corresponds to the constellation Leo and comes after Cancer and before Virgo. The traditional Western zodiac associates Leo with the period between July 23 and August 22, and the sign spans the 120th to 150th degree of celestial longitude.

Leo is associated with fire, accompanied by Aries and Sagittarius, and its modality is fixed. Under the tropical zodiac, the Sun transits this area on average between July 23 and August 22 each year, and under the sidereal zodiac, the Sun currently transits this area from approximately August 16 to September 16. The constellation Leo is associated with the mythological Nemean lion. The lion is a very important and prominent symbol in Greek mythology. Its opposite sign is Aquarius. – Wikipedia

As a Leo, I am required by law to remind everyone during my month that saying bad things about a Leo is a criminal offense.

As King of the Jungle, Leos are practically perfect in every way (like Mary Poppins) but less smarmy.

If you’ve heard the legend of the “nine old men” who actually run the universe, I’m here to say that it’s all true and that every man (or woman) in the group is a Leo. Please don’t mix us up with Disney’s Nine Old Men. In short, the real nine old men and women run the whole shebang and couldn’t possibly be one of the lesser sun signs. (I’m not old enough to be one of them, so don’t blame me if stuff does wrong.)

We’re usually described like this: “Roll out the red carpet because Leo has arrived. Passionate, loyal, and infamously dramatic, Leo is represented by the lion and these spirited fire signs are the kings and queens of the celestial jungle. They’re delighted to embrace their royal status: Vivacious, theatrical, and fiery, Leos love to bask in the spotlight and celebrate… well, themselves.” – Allure

The trouble with descriptions like this one is they make us sound like we’re so vain we think every song is about us. We’re not vain, we’re honest. If you’ve got it, flaunt it. Or at least admit it.

I hope you enjoy your dog days of August.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “Special Investigative Reporter.” Purchase it during Leo’s month and the nine old men and women will give you a LIKE next to your name in the Akashic records.

‘Trailed: One Woman’s Quest to Solve the Shenandoah Murders’ by Kathryn Miles

In an interview in “National Parks Magazine” (Summer 2022) Miles was asked what drew her to research and write about the 1996 unsolved murder case of Julie Williams, 24, and Lollie Winans, 26, near the Shenandoah National Park’s Bridle Trail.

Miles said that she was a contemporary of the victims and a sexual assault survivor who relied upon and felt safe in the backcountry. That two experienced outdoor guides were attacked in an environment that was supposedly safe, “shattered my sense of wilderness and who I was there.”

Jurisdictional and experience issues between the Park Police and the FBI bogged down the investigation, Miles thought. “There was a cultural divide, and there was a procedural divide, between how those rangers did their work, how the FBI did their work, and who was in charge. The FBI didn’t have experience investigating backcountry and wilderness crimes.” You can find the interview and an excerpt here.

From the Publisher

“They must have been followed. That’s the thought I return to after all these years . . .

“In May 1996, two skilled backcountry leaders, Lollie Winans and Julie Williams, entered Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park for a week-long backcountry camping trip. The free-spirited and remarkable young couple had met and fallen in love the previous summer while working at a world-renowned outdoor program for women. During their final days in the park, they descended the narrow remnants of a trail and pitched their tent in a hidden spot. After the pair didn’t return home as planned, park rangers found a scene of horror at their campsite, their tent slashed open, their beloved dog missing, and both women dead in their sleeping bags. The unsolved murders of Winans and Williams continue to haunt all who had encountered them or knew their story.

“When award-winning journalist and outdoors expert Kathryn Miles begins looking into the case, she discovers conflicting evidence, mismatched timelines, and details that just don’t add up. With unprecedented access to crucial crime-scene forensics and key witnesses—and with a growing sense of both mission and obsession—she begins to uncover the truth. An innocent man, Miles is convinced, has been under suspicion for decades, while the true culprit is a known serial killer, if only authorities would take a closer look.

“Intimate, page-turning, and brilliantly reported, Trailed is a love story and a call to justice—and a searching and urgent plea to make wilderness a safe space for women—destined to become a true crime classic.”

From Kirkus Reviews

What makes this story so chilling is not just that the author had to “police law enforcement” in order to determine their investigative errors. She also shows how “every year there is demonstrable evidence that women, African Americans, and nonbinary and LGBT people have good reason to wonder if they are safe in the wilderness, which in many ways is still considered a white male domain.” Gripping and thoughtful, this book will appeal to those with an interest in true-crime stories and unsettling truths about places deemed safe for all.

Disturbing and provocative.

Malcolm

Small press and self-published authors often ask, ‘What’s the point?’

The tales of woe are the same.

A writer works for a year or two on a novel, a small press that’s published his/her earlier work praises and publishes it, Midwest Book Review has kind words for it, his/her followers on Facebook and blog say positive things and click “like” whenever the book is mentioned.

Unlike mainstream authors’ books, the Kindle version of the novel is for sale at 99¢ rather than at a price that’s often higher (initially) than the hardcover edition. The author calls attention to the book’s release by paying Facebook to “boost” posts about it and displays the cover and the plot on his/her blog and website along with notices of any editorial reviews.

After a month or so, the initial hullabaloo of praise from his online friends tapers off. The author is happy none of them asked about sales because they’re in the slim-to-none column of the spreadsheet.

So the author begins to ask “What’s the point?”

His/her disillusionment begins when the hoard of online friends to reacted positively to the book’s cover and the plot never buy a copy. The reader reviews they might have written on Amazon never appear,  so the book sits there with only 2-3 reviews months after the release date.

This guy looks crazy. That’s why he writes.

These online friends aren’t broke. They talk about buying mainstream books at ten times the price, going out to dinner at expensive restaurants, drinking wine at $25-per 750 ml bottle, and taking trips to high-cost venues. The writer wonders what to expect from strangers when his friends won’t even spend 99¢ for a copy. S/he begins to get angry because s/he has purchased their books and written reviews about them on Amazon and his/her blog.

It’s not surprising that s/he asks those of us who’ve been doing this for a while, “What’s the point?”

They complain that in addition to the absolute apathy from prospective readers, they’re losing money. Boosting Facebook posts, maintaining a website, and posting on a blog cost money. So do research materials purchased while writing the book. Some point at this irony: If a person opens a bicycle shop and runs at a loss for months, most people support a decision to close the shop since it’s not a charity. And yet, under the same conditions, the author is expected to keep on writing and losing money.

“Why is that?” I’m asked. I don’t know. I do know that many of those who say an author has some kind of sacred duty to keep writing at a spiritual and financial loss aren’t depending on writing novels for their incomes. Some have a vested interest because they teach creative writing, edit manuscripts, or work for magazines like “Writer’s Digest” that need prospective authors to stay addicted to hope and words and online courses and subscriptions to the magazine.

Years ago, I wrote a letter to “Writer’s Digest,” asking why every single success story it published in the last several years did not result from the prospective writer learning how to write a better synopsis, an awesome query letter, or from a dedicated approach to markets and their submission criteria. Instead, the successes occurred when an agent moved into the house next door or when a creative writing teacher became a bestselling author. That is, the novice got unexpected help that had more impact than everything the magazine had to offer.

The magazine did not reply, much less publish my letter.

So when I’m asked, “What’s the point?” all I can say is that the gurus say you gotta love it while it bankrupts you and steals your soul. 

Most people don’t like that answer. I don’t like it either. If you have a better answer, please send me a telegramme because I want a meaningful response for those asking, “What’s the point?”

As for me, I’m retired and keep writing to avoid being bored.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the dark and sarcastic novel “Special Investigative Reporter.”

‘Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?’

When I was in grade school, everyone knew the answer to this question: “the shadow knows.”

“The Shadow” was a radio drama that aired between 1937 and 1954 with tie-ins to comic books and novels. The show featured crime fighter Lamont Cranston who was a great detective with a few unusual powers. A few films followed the end of radio programs including Alec Baldwin’s in the 1994 version that lost money and wasn’t well received. I no longer remember whether I listened to any radio episodes when I was a kid; it’s possible because when I was home sick from school there was plenty of stuff on the radio to keep my attention.

Now James Patterson has bought the rights to the material, kicking off the story with The Shadow (2021) co-written with Brian Sitts. The novel is lightweight fiction compared to Patterson’s Alex Cross series so, while it was fun to read, it was a bit more of a spoof than a hard-boiled detective novel.

From the snippets of the radio show I’ve heard, Patterson and Sitts will have to ramp up the action if any sequels are produced for this first one, which has been said to be setting the stage and doesn’t have the ambiance of the original radio series.

So far, the storyline just isn’t edgy enough to hold up as a series. This is the look and the tone I want to see.

Patterson and Sitts have their work cut out for themselves. “As you sow evil, so shall you reap evil! Crime does not pay…The Shadow knows!”

–Malcolm

Everyone wants to know the ‘future’ unless it’s ‘bad’

When I used to read Tarot cards and the I Ching, people were simultaneously curious about the future and nervous about hearing what it might be. A person’s feelings about the results of fortune telling were based to a great extent on what exactly they thought the future was/is.

Some people believe in fate, a concrete future stemming from the workings of the cosmos while others believe in destiny stemming from an individual’s probable decisions leading toward a specific or general situation or set of circumstances. I don’t believe in either or that the future is engraved in stone in any way.

The best point of view I heard about a psychic reading is an old one, one that proposes that a reader is standing on the roof of a tall building viewing multiple city streets that are, of course, not totally visible to people or cars on those streets. S/he sees two cars approaching an intersection without traffic signals. They’re moving a the same speed. One prediction might be that there will be a collision. Yet that prediction is not fixed because either car may change its speed, pull into a parking garage, or stop at a store. The prediction, then, is merely a possibility based on current conditions.

Some say that the future is part of (or all of) God’s plan and that He/She moves in mysterious ways. The Presbyterians used to believe in predestination about not only the future in this world but whether or not we’d end up in heaven or hell in the world to come. The outcome was considered fixed. I was a Presbyterian in my K-12 years and thought that belief was silly. Later, Kabalistic studies convinced me there was nothing mysterious about the workings of the Creator.

Some say all time is now. Everything thing that will happen is happening at this moment in one venue or another. We just can’t observe all the venues with our physical senses. Lena, the cat in my Florida Folk Magic Series, has this view.

Some quantum physicists say that everything that can happen, will happen in one universe or another. This tends to be my view because I believe we create our own reality. That is to say, the future is what we are creating unconsciously (usually). A lot of people subscribe to this idea in a speculative sense but deny it when it’s applied to real conditions. They don’t want to believe that if they’re in one of the two cars the psychic sees from the roof of the tall building, they have chosen to be in the collision if there is one.

That notion is counter-intuitive and/or horrifying when you get down to specifics and so people think it’s easier to say that God, fate, destiny, luck, or randomness determines the future rather than to say one has any responsibility for it. Personally, I want the responsibility and find that much more palatable than disagreeing with Einstein and believing that God does play dice with the universe. You won’t be surprised to hear that I never express this belief in public after a tragedy because that would shake up the belief system of another person who is suffering a loss.

In fact, most of the time, it’s just better for me to keep my mouth shut except in “what-if?” posts like this one where many readers will just assume I got into the locoweed again.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the Florida Folk Magic Series, including the novel “Lena.”

New: ‘The Mysterious Composition of Tears,’ a novel by Sharon Heath

Thomas-Jacob Publishing has released the latest addition to Sharon Heath’s The Fleur Trilogy, The Mysterious Composition of Tears (July 18). Currently available in Kindle and paperback, The novel book follows History of My Body, Tizita, and Return of the Butterfly.

From the Publisher:

After a series of climate calamities, physicist Fleur Robins takes off for deep space in a desperate attempt to save the species from extinction. During her mysteriously prolonged absence, the internet has crashed, fire and flood have devastated whole countries, and End of Times cults have proliferated. There have been some intriguingly hopeful changes, too—nanoparticle holograms have replaced electronic devices, young people are witnessing exquisitely colorful “Shimmers,” and the most gifted of them converse regularly with animals and trees.

While Fleur’s distraught husband Adam leads their Caltech physics team in frantic efforts to pinpoint her whereabouts, and Fleur herself plots her return home, their teenaged children Callay and Wolf fall in love with surprising partners. But when the charming son of an End of Times pastor crosses Wolf’s path during a particularly vibrant Shimmer, events are set in motion that will upend everyone’s life and transform planet Earth itself.

This latest installment of Sharon Heath’s saga of the quirky Nobelist Fleur is simultaneously a vision of what awaits us in a post-Covid world, a wild romp through quantum reality, and a deep sea dive into the dark and light vagaries of the human heart.

From the C. G. Jung Institute of Los Angeles

Come and join us at the Institute Clubhouse or via Zoom on September 10th at 10:30 a. m. for a book reading and signing by Jungian Analyst Sharon Heath of her sequel to The Fleur Trilogy. Admission is free, but registration is required

Heath is also the author of Chasing Eve.

I love spicey soups but need an Alka Seltzer chaser

When I came inside from yard mowing around lunchtime today, I poured a glass of Celtic Ale. Robbie, our indoor/outdoor cat who thinks anything on my TV tray belongs to him, tried to get the glass away from me. So Lesa poured a little in a saucer and he turned his nose up at it like that wasn’t the same stuff I had the glass.

What he does like is the really hot (spicey) Jazzy Jambalaya soup from Campbell’s. I have it with late-night movies but often need an Alka Seltzer as soon as I finish it. If I leave any in the bowl, Robbie jumps up on my TV tray and licks it all up. No chaser. No hairballs. No crazy behavior. What’s wrong with this kitty?

According to Campbell’s website, “This ready-to-eat soup is loaded with antibiotic-free chicken meat, Andouille sausage, rice, and cooked ham, plus veggies and a mixture of flavor-packed spices. Let’s not forget: our fill-you-up soup is also blended with a tasty cayenne pepper sauce that makes it a must-try for any Cajun food fanatic!”

I love Cajun food, so the soup works for me even though you probably won’t find it on the menu at the Atchafalaya Restaurant in New Orleans. They also serve Creole food, but I won’t hold that against them!

At one time, our family had a share or two of stock in Campbells. So, whenever somebody asked if we had anything to do with the soup company, we could shrug and say, “But of course, we do own stock.” But that’s long gone, so I can mention the soup without it being a conflict of interest.

Malcolm