No, I don’t need Khaki trousers

If you’re online a lot–including social networking–you’re probably used to the fact that if you ever mention (or think about) a product, you’ll suddenly see dozens of ads for that product. At present, Facebook is deluged with ads for toilet paper. Gosh, I wonder why? Those who checked out these ads, unfortunately, found that the projected ship dates were in June.

Writers see ads others don’t see because we’re always researching something. For the novel in progress, I checked on the kind of Khaki a middle-aged person might wear in the early 1950s. Now, Khaki ads are showing up on Facebook, on news sites, and everywhere else I’m going on the Internet. At least, on Facebook, you can make the ad go away if you say you’ve already bought the stuff.

(We go through a lot to bring you the most accurate books on the planet.)

When I was researching hitmen, I started seeing ads for contract killers until finally the FBI called up and asked if I wanted to kill anybody. I said “no” and they said, “fine,” but I wonder if they’ve really gone away. No doubt the NSA scoops up my telephone calls and searches for words like “rub out,” “concrete shoes,” and “kick the bucket.”

Some writers share Facebook accounts with their spouses and get in trouble when these kinds of ads appear: “Honey, why are we suddenly getting ads for brothels?” The proper response to that is “Somebody hacked into our account.”

When writers talk on forums about their research, they wonder how many watch lists they’re on for researching nefarious stuff for their novels. While the famous writers can visit the police department and learn everything they want to know, little-known writers are stuck with Internet searches.

“Honey, I got a letter from the FBI and they told me you want to know how to kill your spouse by putting a pinch of something in his/her coffee.”

“Don’t worry, sugar, I saw that in a movie called ‘Arsenic and Old Lace’ when I was a kid. The FBI has me mixed up with somebody else.”



Malcolm R. Campbell’s short story collection, Widely Scattered Ghosts, is free on Smashwords during the company’s “give back” sale.



StayHomeWriMo Rallies Writers 

Writers around the globe are gathering—virtually—to raise their spirits and keep creating through an initiative called StayHomeWriMo. Sponsored by National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), the organizers of the annual November write-a-thon in which authors pen a novel draft in a month, StayHomeWriMo invites writers to find comfort in their creativity and stay inside while the battle with COVID-19 continues.

Source: StayHomeWriMo Rallies Writers | Poets & Writers

What a great idea. One component of a writer’s well being is to write.


Malcolm R. Campbell’s short story collection, Widely Scattered Ghosts, is free on Smashwords during the company’s “give back” sale.

Former Many Glacier Hotel Manager, Ian B. Tippet Dies at 88

Ian B. Tippet, former Many Glacier Hotel manager and a 63-year employee of Glacier Park, Inc. (now named Pursuit) died of natural causes March 9 at his home in Phoenix, Arizona. He was 88. In addition to serving as the innovative and popular manager of Many Glacier Hotel, Tippet was also the concessioner’s head of personnel. His funeral home obituary can be found here.

I apologize for the delay in posting this information. I have been waiting for a news story about Tippet’s passing to appear in a Montana newspaper such as the Hungry Horse News, The Daily Interlake, or the Flathead Beacon. Apparently, none of them seems to know that he died. I presume his former employer doesn’t know it either for they probably would have issued a news release and caught the media’s attention.

My frustration comes from the fact that people in Northwestern Montana who knew Mr. Tippet and/or who knew of his work on behalf of Many Glacier Hotel’s long-time music programs for guests, should be told that a major participant and leader in the Glacier National Park community has died. Yet, I have no official status as a spokesperson so cannot officially contact the press.

Ian B. Tippet hired me as a Many Glacier Hotel bellman in 1963 and 1964. His expertise got Many Glacier Hotel open on schedule in spite of the devastating Montana flood of 1964. I was part of a skeleton staff that arrived early that summer and got swept up in the clean-up effort while the hotel was cut off from the rest of the world due to a washed-out road. I last saw him in Glacier Park in 2013, the 50th anniversary of my arrival as a seasonal employee. We talked for quite a while in spite of his busy schedule at Glacier Park Lodge that year.

We didn’t agree on everything, but I believe he was Many Glacier Hotel’s best manager, both old school service and new-ideas innovative; I doubt we will ever see anyone with his vision and competence again at any of the park’s concessioners–perhaps forever.


Finally, some news coverage:






Now folks can write but they aren’t (hmm)

But are you writing? I noted several remarks online where people are saying they are too worried and frantic to sit and write. They’re anchored to 24-hour news, waiting for the latest body count and what’s happening next.

So. . . let me get this straight. . . when things are busy and normal, you don’t have time to write. Then things are abnormal and locking you at home, you can’t make yourself write.  – Hope Clark

Wikipedia Graphic

It’s really an understatement to say that COVD-19 has disrupted a lot of things. We’re all curious about potential lockdowns and potential vaccines. But sitting in front of a 24-hour news channel watching for updates not only seems like a waste of time, but is the kind of behavior that probably creates more hysteria than what the nation is already coping with.

Frankly, I’m a little tired of people asking why we didn’t have 100000000 testing kits (much less a cure) in stock for a disease nobody knew anything about prior to December. I guess people are watching too many medical dramas on TV and are used to health issues that are solved within an hour.

I agree with Hope Clark, assuming that lockdowns aren’t making us broke or sticking us in long lines to buy toilet paper, we can use our self-quarantines and social distancing to get some other stuff done: tidy up the garden, clean out the garage, finish that novel.


Many of Thomas-Jacob Publishing’s Kindle editions are on sale throughout March for 99₵. The sale includes two of my novels, “Conjure Woman’s Cat” and “Special Investigative Reporter.”


Those old continuity blues

Readers and professional critics get a real kick out of bashing films with continuity lapses. There’s a rose in a vase at the beginning of a scene that turns into a carnation at the end of a scene. A man is wearing a red tie when he starts kissing the girl and a blue tie when the kiss ends.

Those are continuity issues. A script supervisor is supposed to maintain documentation about what’s in the scene and what’s said to ensure that in the flurry of camera takes and other changes, ties don’t change color and flowers don’t change their species.

Do those earrings change color in the middle of the kiss?

Likewise in publishing, it was traditionally the job of a line editor to catch continuity lapses. Sue had green eyes in chapter one and blue eyes in chapter eight. Joe lives in a brick house in chapter three and a house with Vinyl siding in chapter fifteen.

Publishers are reducing the sizes of their staffs and may no longer have professional line editors, smaller publishers may rely on copyeditors and proofreaders and hope the author catches his/her continuity issues, and if you’re self-publishing, the buck stops at your desk.

Some authors create a dossier on each character before they begin writing: name, hair color, eye color, physical traits, habits, place of birth, typical expressions used, etc. Every time they refer to a character, they check the file. If you don’t do this–that is, you tend to make it up as you go–you can search your MS on the character’s name to see what you said about him/her earlier in the draft.

However, this becomes harder to do when you’re writing a novel that’s part of a series and have to laboriously search (if you can find them) the final manuscripts for prior books and/or search the Kindle editions for descriptions.

When I write, characters, houses, and other locations show up as needed. I’m not bothered about continuity at that point because the scenes are transient, meaning I don’t intend to use them again. But then, what if I do? I’ve spent the morning going through the Kindle editions of my Florida Folk Magic Series looking for the description of a so-called dogtrot house. At the time, I had no idea I’d write a subsequent novel that needed to have that house in it. Hell, I couldn’t remember what it looked like, so I had to find out what I said before.

I don’t have an answer for this problem. If you stop writing to record a bunch of info about a character/location/house, you can find it later. If you don’t stop, you’ll probably end up with a better scene because you won’t have interrupted it for “record-keeping.” While I’m writing a novel, I keep all kinds of notes on scraps of paper: but these get lost. I guess I need a better filing system.


The Kindle editions of “Special Investigative Reporter” and “Conjure Woman’s Cat” are on sale at Amazon for 99₵ until the end of March.

Protect your writing time

Protect the time and space in which you write. Keep everybody away from it, even the people who are most important to you. ~Zadie Smith

Perhaps this will seem like a surprising time to talk about protecting one’s writing time. We’re all facing the possibility of empty store shelves, prospective quarantines, disruptions of travel plans–not to mention getting COVID-19.

Many of those who write say it’s as important as breathing and that they can’t live without it. I’ve written before about the challenges the stay-at-home writing spouse has with protecting his/her time. If that time is not bringing income into the household, then the 8-5 spouse/partner who is supporting the family might assume the writing is a hobby and can be disrupted as need be with calls to pick up something at the store, prepare dinner for the boss with little notice, keep the house clean, and do all the shopping.

Now, as the U.S. has raised the threat level of the virus from “What, me worry?” to “Find out who’s to blame,” conserving time to write will probably become more difficult; if you were around during the 1970s gasoline shortage, then you know that thousands of people spent a good portion of each week trying to find a service station with any gasoline and, once they did, there might have been a wait of an hour or more in a long line.

If this happens again with such essentials as toilet paper and food, then trips to the grocery store might take many hours per week. Obviously, the family comes first, whether it’s food or safety. The 8-5 working spouse might get furloughed if they work for a company whose product or service takes a huge hit from the emergency.

Yet, I encourage you to write and/or do the online research or library research your stories need because this is what defines you as a person whether it’s bringing in money or not. Yes, I know it’s difficult seeing multiple hours of daily writing time collapse down to an hour or 30 minutes. Perhaps your approach shifts gears from poetry or a period novel to something like “Pandemic, a Diary.”

Even stolen moments of time can be enough to keep you breathing and give you a reason to hope that when the pandemic’s over, you’ll be a fulltime storyteller again.



Riding the Whirlwind of Story

Poet and teacher Natalie Diaz says that stories are energy and I believe her.

While I’m hard-pressed to find anything that is not energy, energy takes many forms, manifesting at varying rates of vibration. You must be receptive to it, though, as a writer or a reader or as some random person minding his/her business who suddenly gets swept away by the chance meeting with a tsunami of story.

When I’m thinking about writing a story, I delay and delay and delay because I know that once I commit to that story, the whirlwind begins, has no mercy, is ubiquitous, steals sleep and sanity and every unguarded thought. But all that is one of the joys of writing, it’s like surfing, skiing, skydiving and the best sex you’ve every had.

Those of you who’ve been reading this blog for a while know that when story energy appears, I ride it with little (if any) knowledge about where the whirlwind is going. Today, while I was more or less innocently minding my own business, a new character appeared in my novel in progress. “Who are you and where the hell did you come from?”

“I’m Julia Hughes Adams from uptown Manhattan and apparently got pulled away from the comforts of Harlem into the Florida Panhandle through an unkind wormhole in space.”

“I feel your pain,” I said.

“I doubt it, white boy,” she said.

Long ago, I stopped trying to answer the question of how the hell do these things happen? There’s no point in asking though I suspect the answer has to do with quantum entanglement.

I’ve learned the hard way that writers have to open themselves up to these story whirlwinds if they want to write stuff that’s any good, that resonates with people, that has the guts to injure readers where they need to be injured and restored anew.

The whole shebang is similar to getting really stoned and/or really drunk and letting whatever happens happen. Sure, you might end up in jail; if you do, that adds depth to your story. Whatever happens, you’ll probably embarrass yourself, but–to put it bluntly–you need to stop giving a rat’s ass about such things even though it might tick off your parents or spouse.

Let the story be what it wants to be. Or else.