Parents aren’t supposed to like one of their children more than the others

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Southwest Airlines used to raise eyebrows during the flight attendant’s monologue about the plane’s safety features when s/he said, “If the masks are lowered during a flight put yours on first and then put the next mask on the child most likely to support you in old age.” Or, “The child you like best.”

I thought of this when a friend asked several days ago which of my novels I liked best while acknowledging that that might be impossible to do. I can pick one even though that doesn’t mean I’m discounting all the others. I told her it’s Conjure Woman’s Cat.

Here’s why.

  • It represented a change of focus for me in that I finally decided to address a hot-button issue for me: racism, Jim Crow, and the KKK as it was in Florida during my childhood.
  • After focussing on contemporary fantasy and one satire, I embraced magical realism with a story that would give rise to two sequels (soon to be three) while exploring the folk magic that was all around me in the Florida Panhandle.
  • While two earlier novels, The Sun Singer and Sarabande, focused on the somewhat esoteric themes behind the hero’s journey and the heroine’s journey, Conjure Woman’s Cat focused on backyard magic with a lot of folklore and a lot of ingredients close at hand.
  • I had a chance to do something unique and that was using a cat as the narrator. Why did I do this? Because, after having one or more cats in our household at all times for thirty-five years, I thought it more likely I could accurately write from a cat’s perspective than that of an African American woman who was (as she puts it) “older than dirt.”
  • My publisher, Thomas-Jacob, and I were lucky in that we found a wonderful and highly talented narrator in Wanda J. Dixon for the audio edition. She’s gotten rave reader reviews on Audible and a coveted Earphones Award Winner review from AudioFile Magazine. (“Most distinctive is Eulalie’s recurring sigh, which conveys her frustration with Florida in the 1950s, when Jim Crow laws and ‘Colored Only’ signs were routine.”)

Long-time readers of this blog know that I’m partial to Virginia Woolf’s statement in her novel Orlando: “In short, every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind is written large in his works.” I think that’s a given if an author is true to himself/herself. Yes, parts of me–my experiences and approach to life–live on in all my novels. But they loom the largest in Conjure Woman’s Cat.

The novel takes on more significance in my thoughts as riots and racism are looming large in the national consciousness–and major cities’ streets.

Malcolm

You better not hurt that kitty

When I began writing Conjure Woman’s Cat, I didn’t know how it would end, much less that it would lead to the sequel Eulalie and Washerwoman. When I started writing the sequel, I didn’t know how it would end, much less that it would lead to a third book named Lena which–of course–I had no clue what the ending was.

I did know one thing for sure: Eulalie, the conjure woman, and Lena, her cat, weren’t going to get killed no matter what else happened.

So, each time I told people I had started a new book in the series, I began getting comments like, “You better not hurt that kitty,” “Promise me I don’t need to look at the ending first to make sure nobody (you know who I mean) is dead,” and “If anything happens to that kitty, don’t think you can fix it with a bunch of that rainbow bridge stuff and that will make everything okay.”

It was fun hearing that a lot of people had connected with the main characters and were concerned about their welfare. After all, things were always touch-and-go in these books, what with bad cops and noxious KKK thugs. One person said she really liked the Pollyanna character who appeared in Lena and was happy to see she made it to the end of the book without dying.

Then she added, I want to see a Pollyanna book and she better be alive when I get to the last page. Okay, okay, I’m writing the Pollyanna book right now and she doesn’t get killed.  (I hope you’re happy, Linda, knowing you can read the book without worrying about the main character.)

Previously, while I was writing my contemporary fantasy Sarabande, the sequel to The Sun Singer, people started saying “You better not kill off that black horse.” (I didn’t.) You see the pattern here, right? People don’t trust me, assume I’m hard-hearted and cold enough to kill off magical critters. My mama didn’t raise me that way.

I’m tempted to write a novel where all the main characters die on the first page of the book. That will prove I’m not some wimpy author who’s controlled by his readers and doesn’t have any artistic integrity. Perhaps it will begin, “Everybody is dead.” Then, the next chapter will be called SIX MONTHS EARLIER and we’ll see how it happened.

Naah, I don’t think I’ll do that. But I might. I might drink some bad whisky and go over to the dark side at any moment.

Malcolm

 

 

What the hell was I thinking?

“Romance novels are big business. According to the Romance Writers of America®, the romance fiction industry is worth $1.08 billion dollars a year,* which makes it about a third larger than the inspirational book industry, and about the size of the mystery novel genre and science fiction/fantasy genre markets combined. Romance novels regularly top the major bestseller lists (New York Times, Publishers Weekly and USA Today), and have a large, dedicated audience of readers.”

– Valerie Peterson in “What You Need to Know About Romance Genre Fiction”

Learning About TaleFlick

The trouble started when a writer friend told me her novel was listed on TaleFlick and perhaps I’d consider voting for it. TaleFlick tries to bring novels to the attention of Hollywood through reader votes, one per person. After voting for my friend’s novel, I entered one of my own, Conjure Woman’s Cat.

What the Hell Was I Thinking?

The answers to this question vary from, (a) I was drunk, (b) I mixed up pot with oregano when I made spaghetti sauce that day, (c) Mindless Vanity, (d) Magical thinking that Hollywood needed this story, (e) An illogical belief that an anti-KKK novel set in the 1950s could possibly compete against–wait for it–Romance.

Getting My Ass Kicked

If I’d known that a romance novel with a title similar to a famous Hollywood movie, one categorized on Amazon as Erotic Thrillers, Romantic Erotica, Erotic Suspense, was in the running, would have waited a few weeks before signing up for another contest.

At this moment (2:33 p. m. ET, 2/13/20202) this week’s contest has 1 day, 4 hours, and 25 minutes left to run. Double Identity has 1,850 votes; Conjure Woman’s Cat has 15 votes. So it’s close, what with the vote counts from outlying precincts being somewhat slow to come in.

In general, though, I should know better than to fight romance with magical realism. So, lesson learned. My next book’s going to begin with an orgy on page one that lasts as long as the readers can stand it. No doubt, it will be banned in Boston.

Malcolm

 

 

 

How about a movie version of ‘Conjure Woman’s Cat’?

TaleFlick holds contests in which site visitors can vote for the novel they think a producer/director ought to consider for a feature film.

One vote per person. Nothing to buy. Just find my book on the list and click on the vote button.

The audio edition of this book was well-received in an AudioFile Magazine review. Maybe movie reviewers will like it to. (Of course, I’m a bit biased.)

There’s supposed to be a chevron at the bottom of the entry to display more info. Since it’s randomly missing, here’s the publisher’s description from Amazon:

Lena, a shamanistic cat, and her conjure woman Eulalie live in a small town near the Apalachicola River in Florida’s lightly populated Liberty County, where longleaf pines own the world. In Eulalie’s time, women of color look after white children in the homes of white families and are respected, even loved, but distrusted and kept separated as a group. A palpable gloss, sweeter than the state’s prized tupelo honey, holds their worlds firmly apart. When that gloss fails, the Klan restores its own brand of order.

When some white boys rape and murder a black girl named Mattie near the sawmill, the police have no suspects and don’t intend to find any. Eulalie, who sees conjure as a way of helping the good Lord work His will, intends to set things right by “laying tricks.”

But Eulalie has secrets of her own, and it’s hard not to look back on her own life and ponder how the decisions she made while drinking and singing at the local juke were, perhaps, the beginning of Mattie’s ending.

Voting is open through Friday, February 14th. Tell your friends. Tell people you don’t know on the streets and juke joints. Scribble thhe URL on the bottom of all the Valentine’s Day cards you’re sending.

Thank you,

Malcolm

‘Eulalie and Washerwoman’ and ‘Lena’ now available in hardcover

Thomas-Jacob Publishing has just released the hardcover editions of Eulalie and Washerwoman and Lena. The first book in the Florida Folk Magic Series, Conjure Woman’s Cat, was released in hardcover last month. The books are also available in e-book, paperback, and audiobook editions.  All e-book editions are also available together in one e-book volume.

Bookstand and hoodoo supplies not included!

Enjoy the stories.

Malcolm

Our writing takes us back to our childhood

“Other than childhood, what was there in those days that is not here today?” – St-John Perse from “To Celebrate a Childhood”

Perse is not well known today. I know his work because my mother bought a copy of one of his books in 1944, and I found his memories of childhood to be similar to mine in tone as I left home, grew older, and thought back to those formative years before I grew up and started losing my innocence.

Photo by Kal Visuals on Unsplash

If my parents were still here today, they would tell you that I was dragged kicking and screaming out of the Pacific Northwest into the Florida Panhandle just before entering the first grade. If the acronym had been around in those days, I would have been shouting WTF–and probably incurred the wrath of everyone!

Oddly enough, Florida won me over. I “blame” the Boy Scouts and their camping trips for this as well as friends who had beach cottages, and my mother, too, who organized family day trips to all kinds of tempting places.

Florida has been showing up in my work of late. I set my first novels in Montana and then placed a satire in Texas. But I finally came home, and I guess I think of Florida that way now, and concentrated on the world where I grew up. My childhood in Florida was actually quite good once I started looking around at the neighborhood and finding an environment I liked. Basically, I grew up on the beach and in the piney woods.

Now, as those days draw me back now in my fiction, I wonder how many other authors discover that not only can they go home again, but that that is where their most powerful inspiration can be found. Childhood is such an impressionable time that it variously haunts us or inspires us for the rest of our lives. So many people are writing memoirs these days as though the writing itself helps them understand where they came from and what happened there. We do that in our stories as well.

Then, as now, I was struck by the conflict between the land and its beauty and the politics of Jim Crow. That disconnect still makes no sense to me. So, I write stories about it and try to figure it out. I have a feeling a lot of other writers are doing the same thing in fiction and nonfiction. We want to understand what turned us into the people we are today. Nature? Nurture? Probably both. For all I know, fate dragged me to Florida so that I would one day write Conjure Woman’s Cat.

That’s probably not the case. For one thing, I don’t believe in fate. But I do see that childhood wields a lot of power over us and that try as we might, we can never really escape it–supposing that we want to. I don’t want to, though I once did. Stories from a writer’s childhood are always there waiting to be told, to influence what s/he writes many years into the future. Those stories hold a lot of power over us and, frankly, life is much easier if we listen to them and share them with others.

Malcolm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New ‘Conjure Woman’s Cat’ Hardcover Edition

Thomas-Jacob Publishing has released a hardcover edition of Conjure Woman’s Cat by Malcolm R. Campbell. Also available in paperback, e-book, and audiobook, the story set in the Florida Panhandle in 1954 follows the efforts of a conjure woman to find justice after her granddaughter is assaulted in a small town. The novel’s sequels, Eulalie and Washerwoman and Lena will also be released in hardcover in the coming months.

Copies are already available at Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com and can be obtained by your nearest indie bookstore via their Ingram catalogue.

“I dearly loved Eulalie and Willie, I could easily have been friends with them both. The more I read the name Eulalie the more I adored it. It has a beautiful rhythm and made me smile every time I read it. Eulalie was a wise woman and deserved the respect she was given. Kudos to Malcolm R. Campbell for a story well told.” from Big Al’s Books and Pals

“Listeners will marvel at the magical realism in this story and benefit from the helpful glossary of the charming local dialect.” S.G.B. © AudioFile 2016

“For me to truly love a book, it needs the following: great plot with something to get fired up about, intelligent, engaging storytelling, well-defined characters, at least one of whom makes me wish I could conjure them into my life and my living room, and a deeply satisfying conclusion. Campbell’s work delivers beautifully on all of the above.

“The book is narrated by Lena, cat and spirit companion to Eulalie, Conjure Woman and human being extraordinaire. Eulalie (don’t you just love that name?) has an innate goodness that can’t be denied, but she’s no saint. She’s devout and dedicated to doing God’s work, and has a willingness to confront what others refuse to acknowledge. Her determination to set straight the injustices in her world, combined with her resilience and wisdom, made this reader fall in love with her.” – WordNerd on Amazon

“This was a delightful read, mostly because of the unique narrator … Eulalie’s cat Lena. I was taken into the heart of a world so foreign to my own, and ended up grateful for the glimpse. Poetic justice for inexcusable cruelties abounds but only because of Eulalie’s faith and intervention.

“More than simply characters in a fictional piece, I soon believed in their culture and social conventions. Most of us don’t believe in hoodoo and conjuring, but there was a time when those beliefs were much stronger. The novella took me back to that period. This book is magic.” L. Record on Amazon

Enjoy the book!

–Malcolm

Thomas-Jacob is a traditional publisher in Florida.

 

 

 

Wow, new followers

WordPress keeps sending me notices that more and more people are following this blog. That’s a little scary because it means I can’t slack off and write these posts drunk and blindfolded. Thank you!

While many of my posts do sound drunk and blindfolded, I also have fun reviewing a few books, talking about authors, and occasionally saying a few things about writing. Yet, I have madness in my method and that is something that I believe needs to be said. I say it in fiction. This Facebook cover picture pretty well sums it up:

 

My publisher is working on a new edition. She just sent me photographs of it this morning. Wow, for a grey and rainy day, they really make me happy. You’re going to like it. More on that later, of course.

Malcolm

 

We’ve been lucky with our audiobook narrators

Actually, it’s not all luck. Since my hearing is terrible, the publishers’ skills in selecting prospective readers, listening to reading samples taken from the text of the books, and negotiating costs and schedules are more important than the luck. My audiobooks are available on Audible and Amazon. Those are good places to check out if you’re looking for your first audiobook. Or, you can go to the primary publication covering the market, AudioFile. In addition to industry information and profiles of narrators, they also publish reviews. What you want to look for there are reviews in the books have been designated as Earphones Award Winners. Those not only have a great story but a great narrator (also called a reader).

The audio edition of my novel Conjure Woman’s Cat has a wonderful narrator with lots of presence in her voice and style, that I wasn’t surprised when “AudioFile” liked her work and awarded her with a pair of red earphones in the review. Wanda J. Dixon turned in what, in the movies, would have been an Oscar-winning performance.

She went past the call of duty. . .

“AudioFile” Review

Wanda J. Dixon’s warmth and gorgeous singing voice are superb in this story about Conjure Woman Eulalie, which is told through the voice of her cat and spirit companion, Lena. Dixon zestfully portrays Eulalie, who is “older than dirt” and is kept busy casting spells, mixing potions, and advising people–that is, when the “sleeping” sign is removed from her door. Most distinctive is Eulalie’s recurring sigh, which conveys her frustration with Florida in the 1950s, when Jim Crow laws and “Colored Only” signs were routine. Dixon’s Lena is fully believable when she spies around town and reports to Eulalie that rednecks have raped and murdered a young woman. They almost escape until Eulalie persuades a witness to come forward. Listeners will marvel at the magical realism in this story and benefit from the helpful glossary of the charming local dialect. S.G.B. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine [Published: SEPTEMBER 2016]

And then, there’s Emily. . .

The first book of mine to come out in an audio edition was Emily’s Stories. (The e-book and paperback editions are out of print, but I’m happy to say that the audio edition narrated by actress Kelley Hazen is still available). It was strangely wonderful to hear (to the extent that I can) the voice of an actress I’d seen in movies and television reading my lines. “AudioFile” liked the book but didn’t award it with a pair of red earphones. That surprised me because the narration is spot on with multiple tones of voice for the different characters, including a bird and a ghost.

 

“AudioFile” Review

Kelley Hazen’s spirited delivery enhances Campbell’s descriptive writing in these three stories about 14-year-old Emily Walters. “High Country Painter” present a talkative Emily and a realistic-sounding bird that directs Emily to magically draw obstacles to divert a grizzly bear. In “Map Maker,” Emily meets an eerie-sounding ghost who helps her save a sacred forest from developers. In “Sweetbay Magnolia,” Hazen captures Grandma Walters’s elderly voice as well as her persistence and wit to perfection. Young listeners will enjoy hearing Emily explain about TMI–too much information. Hazen’s skill at creating believable bird and ghost voices adds to the listening pleasure. S.G.B. © AudioFile 2017, Portland, Maine [Published: DECEMBER 2017]

And that’s not all. . .

The second book in my Florida Folk Magic Trilogy, Eulalie and Washerwoman, was wonderfully narrated Tracie T Elice Christian. We’re currently in audiobook production for Lena, the final novel in the trilogy. An early satire of mine, Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire is, sad to say, out of print. However, the audiobook, with R. Scott Adams providing the realistic narration is alive and well on Amazon.

If you’re heading out on a long trip, maybe you should grab up several of these to relieve you of the boredom of hours and hours of clouds outside your aircraft or the trash trees and sagebrush outside your car window. Of course, it’s still legal to listen to audiobooks in your hot tub or recliner.

Malcolm