Florida’s Oyster Reef Restoration Program

“Along Florida’s coasts, oysters play a vitally-important role in supporting healthy estuaries. Oyster reefs provide multiple benefits, from providing habitat and food for wildlife, to filtering water, removing nitrogen, and stabilizing eroding coastlines. Oysters are also a favorite cuisine for people and Florida once had robust oyster fisheries in many areas throughout the state.

“’Oysters are the quiet, unsung heroes of our estuaries, working hard every day to protect our coasts, clean our waters, feed and shelter fish, birds, crabs, shrimp and other wildlife,’” said Anne Birch, marine program manager for The Nature Conservancy in Florida. “When we help to restore and conserve oyster habitat and support the fishery we’re also helping our estuaries and our coastal communities flourish.”

Source: Florida’s Oyster Reef Restoration Program

Storms, reduced river water flows, and pollution are taking their toll on oysters, including those along the Florida Panhandle’s gulf coast where I grew up and where I’ve set many of my books. I’m happy to see that the Nature Conservancy chose to study and solve this problem–one that’s worldwide, actually.


Malcolm R. Campbell’s Florida Panhandle books include “Widely Scattered Ghosts” and “Conjure Woman’s Cat.”

Briefly Noted: ‘Walking away from the King’

walkingawayAs I read this book on Kindle, I cannot ignore the fact that we need more page-turners like this that speak to the values in the current debate about ecology and our changing world. Mike Penney’s novel, released in March, is both entertainment and education. And, at present, the price is right if you’re of a mind to sample the story: it’s currently free on Kindle.

From the Publisher

The time has arrived to “walk away from the king.” The change necessary to save the human species and salvage the planet from impending ecological disaster cannot come from the powers that be, who only perpetuate their own ill-fated system.

A swell of diverse grassroots movements has arisen to create a very different culture than our contemporary world controlled by corporations and plutocrats. Rather than the status quo with its patriarchal, domineering, and exploitative culture of Empire, these groups favor a truly democratic Global Community, centered on bottom-up ecological revival, gender equality, cooperative action and individual responsibility. Collectively, they have determined they must “walk away from the king,” in preparation for a Grand Transition from contemporary self-destruction to a world of resilience and sustainability.

A prominent co-partner in the struggle is an organization calling itself Gaia/Universe. Many have galvanized behind its spokesperson, Bruno Panoka. A charismatic third generation televangelist that has turned from the “Heavenly Father” to “Mother Earth,” Panoka steps over the line and enrages the powers that be when he espouses the use of psychedelic mushrooms to expand consciousness, so as to jumpstart massive cultural change, and in turn economic and political change.

The book has some great reviews on Amazon with a 4.7 overall rating.


Creating Magical Animals in Fiction

I grew up seeing Anhingas in Florida swamps. A bit of Internet research told me why they dry their wings before flying.

Animals in fantasy, folktales, faerie, and magical realism often have the ability to perform magic, change shapes, influence human events, know the future, or serve as guides between realms or worlds. While the needs of these genres are not the same, it helps to start off with as much knowledge as you can about real animals in their natural habitats. Once you know what an animal eats, how and where it sleeps, what its habits are, and what it looks like, you can branch off from there.

While most readers cannot recite the same specifics as a wildlife biologist, they do have a sense about how animals move around in their environments, and what kinds of animal habits in a work of fiction come across as true or apparently true, and what is blatantly impossible. If you’re writing faerie tales or folktales or creating animals “from scratch” like those we saw in the Harry Potter books, you have more latitude than you do in contemporary fantasy or magical realism.

My feelings about this are somewhat based on my own manner of writing, insisting on accuracy to a fault. For example, in a recent story my two main characters were driving between two real-life towns while listening to a real-life CD. My accuracy thing while writing this is to see how many miles the people will travel at normal speed and then look at the playing times of the cuts on the CD. It doesn’t have to be exact: but personally, I don’t want my characters to purportedly listen to 30 minutes of music during a ten-minute drive.

Likewise, even in fantasy and folktale, I don’t want my animals eating or sleeping in places they never eat or sleep in real life. Sure, magical powers can account for a lot of differences between real animals and fantasy or folktale animals. But the wider the gap you have between the animal in your story and the animal in real life, the less viable your story is and the greater the odds the readers won’t go along with it.

If I had the time and money, I would go into the field with a wildlife biologist and listen while s/he describes the animal behaviors and habitats we’re looking at. Like most writers, I can’t invest in $100 worth of highly specific books from Amazon just for a short story. This means relying on dozens of websites to find the foundation facts for my story.

I was trained as a journalist, yet as a novelist I believe in magic. That means I dislike and have trouble following stories or novels where everything is totally fabricated. If nothing in the story is real, it will probably not attract an audience.

I anchor my stories with verifiable facts about the animals and the settings. Perhaps you will anchor your stories in some other way. But when it comes to creating magical animals in fiction, it won’t hurt to know what your animals do and don’t do, eat and don’t eat, and are capable of and not capable of in “real life” before you start adding the fantasy elements, animal totem qualities, traditional myths and legends involving the animal, superstitions and the stuff you imagine as you put yourself in the animal’s self and walk around a bit.

If you place magical powers on top of a totally unrealistic animal, your story is going to be very difficult to write, much less keep a reader’s attention. A little careful research into your animal in nature will improve the magical animal in your story.

See Also: Part 2, for more information about the magic