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What the heck’s on my website?

Chaos, usually. I tinker with the place until it becomes a mess and then I clean it up and start fresh again:

My home page tells people the kinds of books I write and has space, as needed, for the announcement of new books, book sales, and other promotions.

About: This is the obligatory about me schock that tells you who I am. It’s all fantastic lies, of course, but I try to make it sound humble.

Excerpts: Do I really need to tell you what’s on this page?

Books: This is a listing of my books and indicates how many editions (e-book, hardcover, paperback, audiobook) each one has. The links are generally to the books’ Amazon pages, yet I’m happy when people get them from Indie Bound or from their neighborhood bookstores.

Spotlight: Currently, this page talks about my latest release, Special Investigative Reporter.

Etc.: This page presents weird stuff I’ve done or subjects related to one of my books. Right now, there’s an article there about belladonna, something one’s favorite conjure woman doesn’t need on her shelf since it’s rather dangerous. It’s hard to believe women used to enhance their beauty with this member of the nightshade family.

I used to have my website on Homestead which has one of the best editors I’ve found for absolutely controlling the page. I switched over to GoDaddy which isn’t as costly but is missing some of the functionality I got used to having on Homestead.

GoDaddy has e-mail as an added feature, but since I’m not really in the market for doing speeches, appearing on panels, or teaching in MFA programs, I’m not using the feature. However, if you really need to contact me, you can send me an e-mail at grinnellglacier@yahoo.com. People who know me well, know that I’m hard of hearing, so that’s why I don’t do events.

The rumor that my conjure research allows me to put a hex on everyone who stops by the website without buying a book probably isn’t true. I’m really not sure.

Malcolm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2019 National Book Awards Finalists 

To invoke this year’s most persistent platitude: We need good books now more than ever. From speculative fiction by Marlon James, to Carolyn Forché’s memoir 15 years in the making, this year’s National Book Award finalists reflect today’s ever-innovative literary landscape: Diverse perspectives are celebrated and old genre mores are thrown out the window. Literary luminaries like James, Susan Choi, László Krasznahorkai, and Laila Lalami are joined by rising talent including Akwaeke Emezi and Julia Phillips, and nearly all the finalists are first-time nominees.

Source: EXCLUSIVE: The 2019 National Book Awards Finalists | Vanity Fair

Every year when the Nobel, Pulitzer, Booker, and National Book Awards finalists and winners are announced, scores of people say they haven’t read any of them even though book sales usually increase after books receive awards.

I haven’t read any of the finalists on this list. The primary reason is that I very seldom buy hardback books. I tend to wait for the paperback editions. Sadly, by then I’ve often forgotten the books I was waiting for and so I don’t think of them until they show up on an awards listing.

I often wonder why so few people have read the awards’ finalists and winners prior to the award announcements. Are the awards out of touch with what most people want to read or ar most readers being lazy and sticking with the latest in the Tom Clancy, James Patterson, and Nora Roberts releases?

Some readers–including me–often shy away from titles where it looks like the authors attempted to write important books on purpose. It’s as though they look at the issues, pick something that’s cutting edge and current, and then craft a novel that’s intended to be gospel on the subject more than readable. The thin turns into a tidal wave, I think, where those voting on awards vote the “gospel” because they’re afraid they’ll be criticized if they don’t.

The same thing seems to happen with the Oscars, I think. And maybe beauty pageants as well.

Or, perhaps I’m just a bumpkin who likes easy books with lots of pictures.

Malcolm

 

Review: ‘ Very Cold For May’ by William P. McGivern

Very Cold for MayVery Cold for May by William P. McGivern
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This 1950 police procedural is told in a very straight-forward manner like books that ended up in noir movies. The protagonist is former newspaper reporter Jake Harrison who works for a PR firm that’s representing a man currently being investigated by the government. Add to this, the fact that former WWII-era socialite May Laval is planning to write a tell-all memoir that might include the details of her potentially sordid relationship with the man Jake represents. In fact, it might contain details about a lot of past relationships. She kept everything about her day-to-day intrigues in a diary.

Nobody can, including Jake, can talk her out of writing the memoir, much less divulging who (if anyone) might suffer the slings and arrows of earlier escapades.

When she is murdered, there are plenty of suspects. The diary seems to be missing from the bedroom murder scene. Who has it? Everyone wants it and everyone seems to have an alibi.

This slim volume is well-done until we get to the ending. The ending might have worked in 1950, but most readers have–by now–seen movies or read detective stories where all the suspects are called together in a room while the main character tells them what happened to May, what happened to the diary, and why people did what they did.

On the plus side, who killed who is a surprise. On the minus side, the ending–by 2019 standards–is a bit hackneyed. Detective story aficionados may nonetheless enjoy this old novel.

I found this old novel on my bookshelf last week and have no idea where it came from. My wife has no recollection of it either. One of us must have been assigned to read it in a college course and–assuming we did read it–forgot all about it.

Malcolm

View all my reviews

Recent Spam (brought to you as a public service)

Gentle readers, you are spared most of the spammers’ attempts to plant insidious advertisements in the comments section of this blog by WordPress’ crack spam-busting software called Akismet. It collects spam in a toilet-styled file where I can look at it to make sure it’s really sh_t. It always is. Here are a few recent examples.

  • Dear Blogger: Writing a blog with fresh new material is a lonely job. Let our professional writers help you with factory fresh posts that will keep your readers excited and happy. (I got so tired of seeing this that I sent them a note saying I am a professional writer and don’t need any help.)
  • This is the best blog since sliced bread. I bookmarked it today and told all my friends about it. In return, we hope you’ll contact us whenever you’re ready to buy your own cemetery plot, burial urn, or headstone. We’re having a sale on pre-used epitaphs this week. (I emailed them and said I was using Dorothy Parker’s quote ““Time doth flit; oh shit” for my epitaph.)
  • You’re so honest about your troubles in the bedroom, we would like to introduce you to the Viagra Of The Month Club. Money back if you can’t meet the needs or your trophy wife. (I never mention the bedroom.)
  • There are many “Google-yourself-sites” out there that promise to tell you things about yourself that you were too drunk or too stoned to remember. For a mere $25 per week, we’ll keep your online profile sparkling clean so that you’ll never wake up one morning and see this headline: MALCOLM CAMPBELL CAUGHT IN BROTHEL STING. (I told them my wife doesn’t allow me to go to brothels.)
  • You’re obviously a down-and-out guy who needs financial help to make ends meet. Sign up for our Ponzi Scheme Newsletter for exciting money-making opportunities that won’t bite you in the ass like those reported on the evening news. (I gave them the names of Facebook friends who hadn’t commented on any of my posts in months.)
  • We think your protagonist Jock Stewart is really you. Send us five grand today and we won’t tell anybody. (I told them to tell everyone they want because that will help sales of “Special Investigative Reporter.”)
  • Our plastic surgery program will make you look young again. Dr. Smith, who’s helped thousands of criminals change their looks, will do the same for you. Completely confidential as long as you keep up with your payments. (I told them that looking old meant that I had lived life rather than turning into a spammer.) 
  • We know who you are and we saw what you did. (I asked them if they want to work as my publicist, but got no response.)

I’ve left out the URLs for this spam to keep those who read this blog from trying out some of the offers and ending up another day older and deeper in debt.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the comedy/satire “Special Investigative Reporter,” available from Thomas-Jacob Publishing in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

 

Graveyard dirt: be careful how you use it

Now, one should always, always, always be hesitant on working with graveyard dirt. Whether you’re petitioning Grandmaw or the sheriff who passed two years ago, you gotta be on your toes about this work. When you go to buy the dirt you need to feel the place. Cause you ain’t never alone in the graveyard. Never. – Graveyard Dirt in Appalachian Hoodoo

In conjure, graveyard dirt is used for causing enemies to get sick, luck in gambling, protection, and making goofer dust. It’s harder to get graveyard dirt these days because there are fewer and fewer family graveyards. Needless to say, you can’t (or shouldn’t) wander into a city or a private cemetery with a trowel and throw a few scoops of dirt of a bucket. And, during the sad time when you’re attending a burial ceremony, people will look askance if you put a handful of the turned soil into your pocket rather than throwing it on your beloved’s coffin.

You can buy graveyard dirt, but it might be fake. It might be herbs masquerading as dirt or it might be a scoop of dirt out of somebody’s backyard. Even if the stuff you can buy online is real, you don’t know where it came from. What you don’t want, is dirt collected from the grave of a criminal, a crazy person, or dirt that wasn’t paid for by leaving behind whiskey or coins. If you collect the graveyard dirt from the grave of an ancestor you know, the point is: you know them, what they’re like, and how they might help with a charm or spell.

According to Conjure Work (whose product is shown in the photo), “It’s important to note that the grave was not disrespected or in any way desecrated. The gravesite didn’t actually look any different after removing the dirt than it did before. The desecration of a grave is completely unacceptable and would have the opposite effect of the work that is intended by a respectful “barter” with the Spirit of the person.”

  • If somebody died in a bad way, the dirt from their grave can be mixed with sulphur, pins, needles, and nails in a bottle and buried in a place where your enemy walks.
  • If you have a powerful ancestor, dirt from their grave can be mixed with red pepper and salt and sprinkled around your front door to protect the household.
  • If you can get ahold of dirt from the grave of somebody who loved you, mix it with vandal root (powdered) and sprinkle or toss if (without getting caught) on the person you love and ask the spirits to help them see you as a potential lover.

I found countless uses while doing the research for the three novels in my Florida Folk Magic series. I don’t provide specific recipes because I don’t want people using my novels, which are fiction (of course) as a source for spells.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “Conjure Woman’s Cat,” “Eulalie and Washerwoman,” and “Lena.” You can save on the Kindle editions by buying the three-in-one set shown here.

Savoring where you are

“When my students finished a draft, all I wanted them to do was sit inside of it for longer than was comfortable. To acknowledge and celebrate what they’d accomplished. To not let their brains yet look toward what it must become for it to have worth.” – Lynn Steger Strong in “So, You’ve Finished Your Book”

There’s so much to think about when the first draft of a story or novel is finished.

Unfortunately, we often dive right into thinking about the next draft, our writer’s platform, our submission list, potential reviewers, and the whole publishing thing before we allow ourselves to enjoy what we’ve done already. We’ve taken a ream of paper or an empty DOC file and created the seed of a story. To think about where that seed might go at this moment would be like a husband and wife hearing the news that the wife was pregnant and immediate thinking about what graduate school the child should go to instead of living in the moment of that news and what its like to hear it and know it and feel it.

The reader savors your work if your work is true.

Publishing, if not the world, has made us this way. We have short attention spans with little time for savoring where we are right now. To get ahead (of what or whom, I don’t know) we have to intuit or logically plan the future before the lessons of the current experience can be sorted out and enjoyed and–as Stong says–“celebrated.”

I can’t prove it, but I think our lack of savoring this moment not only spoils where we hope we’re heading but–if we’re writers–also tends to dumb down the material we’re working on so that it fits prospective sales demographics rather than becoming more true and whole within itself when we begin subsequent drafts of the story.

In fact, some marketing gurus boldly tell us to figure out our niche, its demographics, and its movers and shakers before we even begin writing a new story. They want us to write for a specific group/fad/genre before we even pick up a pen. I have little use for those people because I believe the art is more important than the selling of the art.

You may remember an old expression, “you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.” I don’t believe that, actually. But the gurus who want to sell to an audience think it’s easier to simply sell the sow’s ear because, well, people will be brainwashed into buying it and, worse yet, won’t know the difference between it and the silk purse.

I’m discouraged when I think of such things and fear they’re truer than I know.

If you celebrate your beginnings and your first drafts and your hopes, I believe that sooner or later you’ll not only have art that’s true to itself but a genuine “silk purse” that people will be drawn to without marketing trickery. And, you’ll be happy with what you’ve accomplished.

Malcolm

 

Hey, Montana, send us some of your cooler weather but not your snow

In the morning before the heat of the day wakes up, I do out to water the small trees. This morning, I happened to notice the cows were bathing in fog. The sun was hardly awake and the day wasn’t hot yet, so I’m sure the fog was a nice respite for soon the temperature would climb to 98˚ or 99˚ and again, and again there was no rain on the horizon or the radar.

Meanwhile, Montana has colder weather than it needs for early October, so I’m proposing whoever’s in charge out there should FedEx some of that weather 1,761 miles east-southeast to Rome, Georgia. Giant boxes filled with snow will not be accepted. In return, when y’all (or you guys or whatever you say you there) are in the middle of a blizzard and need some relief, whoever’s in charge in Georgia will send out some pleasant breezes on a course heading of 313.5 degrees to help you make it through the night.

At my age, I’m not allowed (by law) to use one of our riding mowers when the temperature is 98˚. Yet. in spite of the heatwave and the drought, the grass keeps on growing. Like good corn, it’s knee-high by the 4th of July and (apparently) the 4th day of every month thereafter. So, Montana people, we need some of that cooler weather so we can cut the grass and find the house.

Thank you for your support.

Malcolm 

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of a collection of gentle ghost stories called “Widely Scattered Ghosts.” It doesn’t cost too much on Kindle, though you can also get the book in hardcover or paperback. Personally, he doesn’t advise reading the book on October 31, but it’s reasonably safe the rest of the year.

Thanks for the downloads

Recently, I did free Kindle promotions for my novels Mountain Song and At Sea. Once these run their course, it’s nice to check my Kindle dashboard and see that people downloaded multiple copies.

Thank you.

Even when copies are free or reduced in price, an author is also asking you for your time. And you have a lot to choose from when mainstream author/big publisher books are in the mix of choices. There’s so much talk about mainstream authors, it’s hard not to be tempted, Goodness knows, I read a lot of those books like everyone else!

I found out today that my dark short story “Shock Treatmen” is a semifinalist in Tulip Tree Publishing’s Stories That Need to Be Told contest. That’s unexpected good news.

Malcolm

 

Book Bits: ‘Ninth House,’ Mordicai Gerstein, Leslie Jamison, Quentin Tarantino, Margaret Atwood

Many of my sources for books and authors links for this occasional feature have become politicized and/or issues-oriented. By that I mean, the links support authors and books speaking out about U.S. politics and/or the primary issues of the day. They’re not “bad,” they’re simply more commentary than literature.

In general, I try to avoid those links because I don’t want to appear to have an agenda, nor do I want to get away from the purpose of this blog: in part, providing books and authors readers might find interesting.

  1. Review: Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo – “Yale’s secret societies hide a supernatural secret in this fantasy/murder mystery/school story…With an aura of both enchantment and authenticity, Bardugo’s compulsively readable novel leaves a portal ajar for equally dazzling sequels.” Kirkus Reviews.
  2. Obituary: “Mordicai Gerstein, author and illustrator of dozens of works for young readers, among them The Night World, Sleeping Gypsy, and I Am Pan, died September 24. Gerstein provided the artwork for numerous works by other writers, and was awarded the 2004 Caldecott Medal for his picture book The Man Who Walked Between the Towers.” Shelf Awareness
  3. Jamison

    Interview: A Conversation Between Leslie Jamison and Kaveh Akbar – “Leslie Jamison makes her life more difficult than it needs to be. In her most recent essay collection, Make it Scream, Make it Burn, the subjects she chooses—the world’s loneliest whale, Second Life devotees, the Museum of Broken Relationships in Croatia—could carry the pieces with their propulsive novelty alone. Certainly, Jamison is brilliant enough as a sculptor of language that we’d happily oblige her. But what makes Jamison one of the essential essayists of our generation is her rigor. She renders her subjects, the world that made them, and her own gaze all within the same frame.” Paris Review

  4. Quotation: “What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn’t happen much, though.” ― J.D. Salinger
  5. Books to Film: Tarantino’s Next Big Project Is… a Book About a Guy Who Loves Movies – “Quentin Tarantino may follow through with his plan to stop making movies after his Star Trek one or his horror movie one or Kill Bill 3, but that doesn’t mean he’ll stop making other things. The filmmaker will probably shift over to directing plays or extremely long movies that Netflix will awkwardly chop up and pretend are miniseries, or maybe, he’ll just reinvent himself as a novelist—since the guy has already started on a book, apparently.” Vice
  6. Lists: The 10 Best Debut Novels of the Decade – “Friends, it’s true: the end of the decade approaches. It’s been a difficult, anxiety-provoking, morally compromised decade, but at least it’s been populated by some fine literature. We’ll take our silver linings where we can.” Literary Hub
  7. Feature: Book Gallery: Margaret Atwood and Octavia E. Butler – “Few authors get our pulses racing like Margaret Atwood and Octavia E. Butler, and luckily enough, our friends at The Folio Society have just released gorgeous new editions of important works by both.” Flavorwire
  8. Lists: Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Winterson, Lerner, Díaz, Walbert, and More – “Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from the likes of Jeanette WintersonBen LernerJaquira Díaz, Kate Walbert, and more—that are publishing this week.” The Millions.

Book Bits is compiled randomly by Malcolm R. Campbell, author of the comedy/satire Special Invetigative Reporter.

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell author to return after 16-year gap  

Sixteen years after readers were introduced to the magical world of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, Susanna Clarke is to publish her second novel.

Out in September next year, Clarke’s Piranesi will follow the story of its eponymous hero, who lives in the House, a building with “hundreds if not thousands of rooms and corridors, imprisoning an ocean. A watery labyrinth.” Occasionally, he sees his friend, The Other, who is doing scientific research into “A Great and Secret Knowledge”.

Source: Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell author to return after 16-year gap | Books | The Guardian

I liked  Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell along with a related ser of short stories. Now, finally, Clarke is releasing a new novel. But it’s a year away. How cruel. Get everyone excited and then make them wait.

She writes slower than Donna Tartt who’s released three novels since 1992. Both of them seem to be following the old-style approach to writing, taking a while to write each book rather than churning out Two or three novels a year like many novelists do these days.

I’ll be looking forward to this one.

Malcolm

My Glacier National Park novel “Mountain Song” is free on Kindle through October 1.