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Time for a book sale

 

Okay, so I was lazy and didn’t create an updated version of this graphic that says the sale is live now.

Description:

When Police Chief Alton Gravely and Officer Carothers escalate the feud between “Torreya’s finest” and conjure woman Eulalie Jenkins by running her off the road into a north Florida swamp, the borrowed pickup truck is salvaged but Eulalie is missing and presumed dead. Her cat Lena survives. Lena could provide an accurate account of the crime, but the county sheriff is unlikely to interview a pet. 

Lena doesn’t think Eulalie is dead, but the conjure woman’s family and friends don’t believe her. Eulalie’s daughter Adelaide wants to stir things up, and the church deacon wants everyone to stay out of sight. There’s talk of an eyewitness, but either Adelaide made that up to worry the police, or the witness is too scared to come forward.

When the feared Black Robes of the Klan attack the first responder who believes the wreck might have been staged, Lena is the only one who can help him try to fight them off. After that, all hope seems lost, because if Eulalie is alive and finds her way back to Torreya, there are plenty of people waiting to kill her and make sure she stays dead.

Warning: Today’s My Birthday

Yes, I’m a Leo and darned proud of it.

–Malcolm

Mama don’t allow no high-high priced coffee around here

I’m astounded by the cost of a cup of coffee at Starbucks and the price of a box of single-serving 24 Keurig K-Cup pods. I’ve tasted both brands of coffee. Not bad, even if I want what comes the closest to a standard, non-fru-fru, non-ramped-up, non-spoilt copy of coffee.

My parents used the same one of these percolators from the time I was a kid until I was in college.

We’ve been using automatic-drip coffee (AKA Mr. Coffee and similar coffee makers) ever since they came out in the 1970s. I was pleasantly surprised at how much better the coffee tasted than the coffee brewed in percolators. Like many appliances from the 1940s and 1950s which seemed to last forever, old-style percolators didn’t break down every few years.

All this comes to mind because automatic-drip coffee makers–from the $20 variety to the $100 variety seem to last a year to 18 months. So, as I did this morning at the nearest Dollar General store, I buy the $25 coffee maker, wash it our, run hot water through it, and I’m good to go.

We tried the more-expensive appliances but, like expensive tennis shoes, they don’t last much longer than the cheap brands. And the coffee, after all these years, I still use Maxwell House. Yeah, I hear you laughing, but I prefer it to everything else, though the original 8 O’Clock coffee that used to come from A&P grocery stores gave it a run for its money.

And it really is good to the last drop. (When I first started drinking coffee, I thought that slogan should have been “Good to and through the last drop” because as it is, one can infer that the last drop isn’t good.) Moving away from that, my 13-ounce package costs less than $4.00 and lasts about a week to ten days. Price-wise, that beats Starbucks and Kueric by a huge margin.

I’m not a connoisseur. Coffee is coffee and I don’t want anyone messing with it so that added ingredients and fad brand names drive the price up into the stratosphere. I guess I’m more or less semi-poor white trash because I won’t pay for a product that’s primarily made for people who like to brag about the fact they’re driving it or drinking it.

Malcolm

When you find the work you love it’s no longer work

“The one thing you can always count on in life is your work. If you’ve found true, good work to do, it will always be there for you. If you put it aside for a while, it will wait. You may not make money at it, but you will feel that you’ve done something worthwhile.”

– Theodora Goss

Wikipedia graphic

Within the context of her author’s blog, Goss is probably thinking of work as artists and authors view work. Over a half-century, ago, Abraham Maslow in creating his hierarchy of needs said that man’s ultimate motivation is that of fulfilling his/her full potential. He called this level self-actualization. Other psychologists have spoken of this hierarchy using their own terms, but when all is said and done, it defines–for me–why we are here and what our work and other activities are forever drawing us toward.

So, when I think about counting on one’s work, I’m speaking not of jobs/careers that are motivated by power and greed and fame and/or those that turn people into driven workaholics that take them away from family and friends and the wholeness of a balanced life.

Work, it seems, that leads the worker toward self-transformation or possibly toward what Carl Jung called “Individuation,” need not be restricted to artists, authors, composers, dancers. It can be any job or career or hobby that brings joy to the person and that (hopefully) brings love, respect and other similar benefits to his/her family and friends. Some authors separate the kind of work they do with the kind of work a factory worker or a salesman does as though authors are God’s gift to the world and that all other jobs are less important. That kind of vanity bothers me. Sure, some people work jobs they do not like so they can “buy back their time” for activities that lead them toward joy and fulfilment during their off-work hours.

However we define “work,” we are looking for something that makes us better than we were before. Perhaps that work is paying work. Perhaps it’s an avocation or a hobby or a long hike in the high country. Once we have it and know what it is, it’s our personal Nirvana that’s always available.

Malcolm

 

 

 

Speaking of covers again

I’m a long-time fan of film noir and had the genre in mind when I wrote my upcoming novel Special Investigative Reporter. A noir feature film is usually a fairly dark–and an often hopeless–kind of movie. It’s usually in black and white, features a lot of blunt, voice-over narration, and portrays cops and detectives trying to solve cases in foreboding environments.

Special Investigative Reporter isn’t a noir novel. It’s a mix of comedy, satire, and corruption. Yet, once I got my rights to the novel back from the publisher that released the original edition under another title, I thought we needed a stronger cover. I suggested to my publisher, Thomas-Jacob, that a big-city image might work. Melinda Clayton, who manages Thomas-Jacob and who writes darker novels than I do, designed a beautiful cover.

I like the city-scape scene, the word “bar” in the picture, and the stark, noir-film-like rendering of the title. The individual on the cover–who’s my protagonist Jock Stewart–looks like he could be a detective or newspaperman out of the film noir era. Melinda once told me that some of Jock Stewart’s lines reminded her of Humphrey Bogart. She has a good ear. I was thinking of the kind of voice-over narration he would do in such movies as “Dark Passage,” “Dead Reckoning,” and “Key Largo.” (If you like noir films and have Turner Classic Movies on your satellite or cable menu, look for Noir Alley. It features noir films–except in August–and I watch it like a religion.)

My protagonist Jock Stewart, who’s been a reporter since the days of letterpress, is old fashioned. He would despise the kind of “journalism” we see on the 24/7 news sites. This novel’s satire pokes fun at those kinds of sites and reminds us that journalism used to be about reporting the facts and not about displaying the reporter’s (or anchor’s) opinion about those facts.

I’ve been teasing you for a while about this upcoming novel, but we’re rather in a holding pattern waiting for Ingram to send us the proof copy of the hardcover edition. Meanwhile, I’ve been enjoying looking at Melinda’s cover.

Malcolm

 

 

Your story is waiting to be told

All you have to do is write it.

As I search for writing-related articles to post on my Facebook author’s page, I see a fair number about writing memoirs. More and more of these of late have suggested that so-called “everyday people” should be writing memoirs–not just the rich and famous, not just those who have lived through wondrous or horrifying experiences, and not just those whose lives have intertwined with widely known people.

If I may be so bold as to suggest: your story is the life you are living. You’ve had good luck and bad luck, made good decisions and bad decisions and learned a lot of things in the process. What changed you the most: the so-called “good” or the so-called “bad.” In fiction, “bad” is often more compelling than “good” whether it’s bad people doing bad things or good people fighting bad people.

Whatever we discover in this chaotic mix of “bad” and “good” is worth saving, if not for the world at large, but for our families and friends. It need not be a hardcover or a paperback or an e-book available on Amazon. Perhaps it’s a folder of printed out pages or a series of files on a flash drive. (I prefer the printout because twenty or thirty years from now, there might not be any hardware or software around than can read a flash drive.)

I have two granddaughters who are much too young to hear the story of my life. When they’re older, it might be interesting. Or, it might not. Maybe my story will found like ancient history to them and whether it does or doesn’t they might have fun reading it. One of my aunts lived to be over 100 years old. She told me stories about traveling across the country in a covered wagon from Iowa to Washington state. Her stories made history come alive and made my family’s past more vital.

I found my family stories to be interesting, and it never occurred to me that my parents and grandparents were sharing them with me out of a sense of vanity. Yet, many of us feel like we’re being vain when we try to write our stories whether we sound more like heroes or villains. Even when I was young and tried to keep a journal, I realized I couldn’t write it straight and that I was always writing it with a bias that made me look less screwed up than I was. So, I know it’s hard to get past that need to justify ourselves and just tell the story has it happened, warts and all.

Most of us don’t have Wikipedia entries our kids can Google in the future. If we live in a Walton’s-like environment in one big house, we can share a lot of stories over time. When families are scattered, this is harder to do. We used to write snail mail letters to each other, but that’s not part of today’s reality–and even when we did write them, we usually didn’t save them to read again twenty years later. My parents wrote an annual Christmas letter, a process that has become much maligned. Yet my copies of it remind me what I was doing at different ages. One joke about Christmas letters was that they told the good stuff and not the bad stuff. Which is not to say that when and if you write the story of your life, you have to disclose every embarrassing moment. Our memoirs need not be a “Mommie Dearest” kind of thing.

My younger brother has scanned in multiple family letters and documents and figured out our genealogy from my father’s earlier research and from sites like Ancestry.com. Personally, I find it tedious to read letters my mother wrote to her parents in the 1940s. If we write memoirs, perhaps we should summarize this kind of information rather than trying to include a minute-by-minute account of each day’s minutiae. Maybe less is more in some cases. Perhaps sketches of our teenage years are more likely to be read than doctoral dissertations with footnotes. <g>

Here’s a page on a memoir-oriented site that lists books that might be of help if you decide to take the plunge.

Malcolm

 

 

 

Review: ‘Only Charlotte’ by Rosemary Poole-Carter

Only CharlotteOnly Charlotte by Rosemary Poole-Carter
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Rosemary-Poole-Carter, an adept within the Southern Gothic genre, brings us a deliciously tangled post Civil War novel in Only Charlotte in which three intertwined lives–Leonore James, her brother Dr. Gilbert Crew, and Charlotte Eden–rise and fall like storm-tossed lily pads in the brackish waters of the swampy morals of New Orleans.

Thrice-married Lenore (who is now alone again) opens up her house to her younger brother who uses it as a base for establishing a medical practice. In sections narrated by both Lenore and Gilbert, we see that the young doctor has become infatuated with Charlotte while treating her children. At the outset, Lenore sees nothing less than catastrophe coming out of this while Gilbert sees a young wife whose troubles go deeper than is generally known.

Lenore and Gilbert grow in sense and sensibility throughout this novel. Lenore, who sees herself somewhat in the role of Paulina in Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, is especially cautious about the problems Charlotte may or may not face because she is older than her volatile brother and well-schooled in the society’s rules and traditions. In a sense, Gilbert has a “damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead” approach that might be based on his obvious love for Charlotte more than on the actual dangers she faces.

The novel is perfectly paced in a manner befitting a southern gothic novel, brings us multi-dimensional characters who have the capacity for change in an era in which “stagnant” and “corrupt” are watchwords, and a twisted mystery that is like a spiderweb in the dark. The prose is lyrical and exceptional and historically well-grounded in this highly recommended novel.

View all my reviews

Malcolm

Thinking book covers

This is one of the cover pictures I use on my Facebook author’s page. It’s a handy way of showing all the covers in my Florida Folk Magic Series together.

While the book cover is often the last thing an author thinks about, it’s the first thing a prospective reader sees. Some say a reader decides in 15 seconds whether to look inside the book at a physical book store or via the look inside features on book pages at Amazon and B&N. However, as I write I can usually see my characters and their environment quite clearly; it’s almost as though I’m looking at them in a photograph.

So, I’m lucky that my publisher Thomas-Jacob works with authors to come up with the cover art. In this case, we used two artists. The first did Conjure Woman’s Cat and Eulalie and Washerwoman; then, when he wasn’t available to do the cover for Lena, we found another great artist who was willing to work in the style we needed to make all three books look like they belonged together.

Thoughts behind the cover: The book is set in another era, the 1950s. So, we have an unpaved road through the piney woods. Eulalie, the conjure woman, wore a dress and a hat (unlike the jeans and tee shirts people wear today) when she rode her bike into town to sell stuff out of her garden at the mercantile. Her kitty, Lena, would either side in basket or trot alongside. The railroad tracks figure into the story.

The style of the art tells you these stories are magical in that there’s something ethereal the scenes: the radiance in the first book, the spooky nighttime in the second, and the sudden appearance of an alligator in the road in the third one. The mood here would be quite different if we had tried to do this cover with a photograph of a similar scene or with stock drawings.

I like spending time on the look and feel of the covers because they set the stage for the story. When I look at the covers of some self-published books on Amazon, I wish the authors had worked a little harder to come up with unique covers instead of using stock photography and a boxy layout. Spending the money for original art or custom photography is money well spent.

Malcolm

 

Don’t Let Your Publisher Become Your Worst Enemy

I have a wonderful publisher, in Thomas-Jacob, and couldn’t be happier. One of the positives of a small (some say boutique) publisher is that the author and the publisher can actually talk to each other about what the best approach to the book.

Larger publishers often make decisions about books that come from heavenly heights and cannot be questioned.

A long-time online friend of mine is an acclaimed Canadian author. I’ve read most of her books. What bothers me about her publisher’s decision making is the fact that those books have different Canadian and U.S. Titles. Sometimes this is necessary. But in her case, those differing titles cause a lot of reader confusion about what book they’re buying. Frankly, I don’t think the U. S. and Canadian audiences are so different that a book requires separate titles for Amazon and Amazon.ca. I think this kind of thing hurts the author.

I just finished reading a novel by one of my favorite U.S. authors that is set in New Orleans just after the Civil War. I considered posting a review today, but then saw that on Amazon the book was listed as Political Fiction. Those who like southern gothic fiction and historical fiction will never find it there. Pardon my exasperation, but who the hell came up with those genre classifications for this novel?

From what I hear, if one of the major U.S. publishers releases your novel, you may have to put up with some stuff you don’t like. I guess that’s called “paying your dues” or pretending that “the publisher knows best.”

Book genres aren’t perfect. Neither are titles. But they do tend to steer prospective readers toward an author’s book. If you can, I hope you can discuss such things with your publisher before the historical novel you titled “Tough Women” is released as “Porn Babes” in the “How To Repair a Flathead 6 Engine” genre.

I’d say that if you cannot agree on the title and the genre, you have a problem.

Malcolm

Do most writers want to be Rowling, Grisham, Roberts, and Patterson?

No.

It’s fair to say that most writers want to sell more copies of their books than they do, that they wish small press books were noticed by the media and by those handing out awards, and that they had the resources to do on-location research anywhere in the world.

However, I doubt that most of us want to be in the public eye 24/7. Writers don’t attract paparazzi like movie stars do, but those who are famous can’t really hide. Frankly, who wants a tour bus pulling up in their driveway with people wanting to see their houses, their cats, their writing desks, and even their sock drawers? I don’t.

In the FAQ of a blog written by a lady who adopted a coyote, one question is: “When can we see Charlie?” The answer is: “Charlie doesn’t want to see you.” I feel like Charlie. I don’t want people showing up and taking selfies of themselves (with me in them) to post on their Facebook pages.

Suffice it to say, there are consequences to being famous that many of us don’t want to cope with. Perhaps many of us want to be successful and anonymous. A lot of writers are successful without attracting the attention of Rowling, Grisham, Roberts, and Patterson. That sounds good because we’re sort of under the RADAR.

Plus, if you’re a really famous writer, you’re “forced” to blurb people’s books, serve on panels discussing the use of adverbs, appearing at conventions, and doing readings in places you’ve never heard of. Not my thing. When I read the newsletters of so-called mid-list authors, I see that they’re juggling time between writing, personal time, and events. I don’t like events. I don’t want to be there, much less to give a speech. That’s not me. I have a feeling it’s not a lot of people.

Past a point, fame and success both have their prices. I’m not willing to pay them. I would love being the successful enigmatic writer who sells 100000000000 books a year that nobody can find due to an unlisted telephone number and an unpublished address. I’d post a fake picture on my Facebook page and website that looks like one of those criminals that used to be displayed on the most-wanted lists in post offices.

People would say, “Hell, he looks like he’s guilty of something. Let’s not go looking for him.” Good. I can live with that persona.

Malcolm

 

My new home away from home

Okay, I didn’t pick this place out on the House Hunters TV show, so you won’t see me in an upcoming episode looking at ensuite bathrooms, kitchen appliances, or backyard pools. Actually, this is Rome, Georgia’s radiation oncology center:

Since I’ll be going there daily for radiation treatments starting August 15th, I feel like it would be easier if I had a penthouse apartment upstairs. Two days of CT scans have been completed, so now they (the doctors) have a template for where they’re going to beam the radiation for 40 business days. I suggested that walking into a nuclear power plant would be faster, but apparently, that has unpleasant side effects.

The waiting room has large black & white photographs of people who went there and were cured. Each has a positive blurb next to it. There’s also a bell you can ring on the day you’re cancer-free. Since the prognosis is good so, I might right that bell, even though nobody’s promising to but a poster-sized photo of me in the waiting room with links to where people can buy my books.

The whole thing is expensive, but Medicare pays most of it. I’m not especially stressed out about this, just kind of ticked off that I’ll be driving over there every day (except weekends). On Facebook, a lot of people who’ve gone through this before, have spoken of their experiences and the fact that they’re doing fine now. That’s nice to hear!

In other news, we haven’t released Special Investigative Reporter yet because we’re waiting for a proof copy of the hardcover edition. I’m still working on another Florida novel but set it aside temporarily because this prostate cancer stuff was making it difficult to return to the world of Eulalie and Lena.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

Malcolm