I’m tempting you with excerpts

A note from your sponsor (AKA, me).

Short Story Excerpts

“Shock Treatment” in “Stories that Need to Be Told”

“They drove him westward away from Tallahassee’s safe hills, westward through the panhandle counties where King Cotton once reigned, westward through pine flatwoods where wiregrass and fire sustained the world, through Quincy where Coca Cola money brought prosperity one hundred years ago, through Chattahoochee where a psychiatric hospital of some controversy and the Apalachicola River provided conflicting approaches of respite to the world’s cares, through Marianna where both Florida’s Caverns and the now-shuttered reform school were out of sight and out of mind, and thence straight on to the uninspiring Georgian plantation house where Mistress Harkness died of melancholia waiting for her husband to return from the Civil War.”

“The Lady of the Blue Hour” in “Widely Scattered Ghosts”

“On the band bus ride home, the stunning, first chair flute player Melinda Wallace sat beside him. She had no clue how he felt about her, not that he’d said anything. The empty aisle seat next to a clarinet was, he guessed, preferable to sitting in the back with the band’s borderline criminal element of raucous drums and tarnished brass. Melinda smelled like wildflowers and her unruly light brown hair smelled like the wind. When the band played ‘The Stars and Stripes’ Forever’ in concert and Melinda stood up into the light for her piccolo solo—the sweetest banshee cries the world has ever known—her blue eyes were frozen into ice for thirty-two measures of leaps and trills, while her hair could not be restrained.”

Novel Excerpts

Special Investigative Reporter

Jock poured a fist full of Scotch into an empty coffee mug. That’s when Chief Kruller opened the front door and stepped into the living room without knocking. Fortunately, he wasn’t leading a SWAT team or holding a warrant. He did have a 9 x 12’ mailing envelope in his hand and a smile on his face that was wide enough to display most of his cavities.

“Sorry to bust in on you like this, Jock, but your doorbell isn’t working,” said Kruller, slipping into the best chair in the room. He favored himself with a deep pull on the Scotch bottle.

“The bell usually works when somebody on the porch pushes the button.”

“Good point,” said the chief. “Here, take a look at this morning’s crime scene photograph.”

“Oh, this makes my day,” said Jock. He set down the mug of Scotch to keep from spilling it all over the boss man who, in more detail than anyone really wanted, was handcuffed spread eagle to Bambi’s bed wearing a pink thong. Jock did a quick re-write of his thoughts to clarify that one Marcus Cash was wearing the thong and that, other than the fact Bambi was standing in the foreground wearing a Cat Woman outfit, he had no proof it was actually her bed.

“She lost the key,” said Kruller. “Marcus probably swallowed the damn thing.”

Lena

“Momentarily, but no longer, the swamp was quiet before the voices of the birds returned and spoke of secret things in the cone-laden Bald Cypress and plum laden Ogeechee Tupelo branches beneath clouds carrying late afternoon storms. Spanish moss on the larger limbs fluttered like waking storm flags. Sheltered from the wind, scattered white and maroon dropwort flowers—Willie called it “cowbane”—rocked gently in their cradles of low scrubs and grasses.

“I knew from my dream travels that two swamps existed together, one that stopped short of the Apalachicola River and one that lived and breathed westward past night and death until it touched the boundary of the afterlife that Eulalie called “the Pearly Gates.” I didn’t think my conjured woman had crossed the great river.

“The gasoline-tainted water holding the trucks was foul, and that meant searching it quickly in spite the murky sediments Hoskins stirred up in his frantic thrashing about. I did not find Eulalie there. I followed the current into large mats of duckweed where progress was slower. By the time the rains came and chased me back to the road, I had found no conjure woman or gator bait traces there.

“When the swamp grew dark, a limpkin screamed near the river like a child dying again and again. Tree frogs sang, basses, altos, trebles, and tenors. Eulalie once said nighttime frogs praised the good Lord with voices as pure as sacred harp singers standing in a hollow square. In the center of that square of voices and old trees, I could not sleep, but not for the singing. The events of the day weighed heavily on my heart. Without sleep, I was blind to what a dreamtime journey could show—whether my conjure woman had lived or died.”

Thank you for reading,

Malcolm

 

Favorite Scenes from ‘Eulalie and Washerwoman’

I suppose most authors have favorite scenes from each of their books. We hope our readers like them, too. Here are a few from Eulalie and Washerwoman, from Thomas-Jacob Publishing.

Publisher’s DescriptionTorreya, a small 1950s Florida Panhandle town, is losing its men. They disappear on nights with no moon and no witnesses. Foreclosure signs appear in their yards the following day while thugs associated with the Klan take everything of value from inside treasured homes that will soon be torn down. The police won’t investigate, and the church keeps its distance from all social and political discord. Conjure woman Eulalie Jenkins, her shamanistic cat, Lena, and neighbor Willie Tate discover that the new “whites only” policy at the once friendly mercantile and the creation of a plantation-style subdivision are linked to corrupt city fathers, the disappearing men, rigged numbers gambling, and a powerful hoodoo man named Washerwoman. 

Excerpts

So Eulalie woke precariously from the blues of her dreams into the jaundiced light of the kerosene lantern when a frightful pre-dawn bedlam was visited upon our back porch by a man named William Ochlockonee Tate, a blue-nosed hinny named Minnie, and a Florida water moccasin named Nagaina. I’m Lena, the cat. Before my conjure woman was awoken by Minnie’s flailing hooves, I dozed blamelessly behind the pot marigolds until they were kicked into the yard.

Audio Edition

“Sergeant told me they’d study on it after they get the crime wave under control.”

Eulalie spat a shower of juice against the busted marigold pot. “Crime wave? I hadn’t heard.”

“It’s so scary, you won’t sleep on this lumpy old sofa on the back porch no more. Officer Moe, he claims the Bellamy Bridge haint came to town to hex us up one side and down the other. Officer Larry took a posse and rode south to apprehend a swamp booger pissin’ in front of that new white people’s church on the Estiffanulga Road. “Preacher man was damn well pissed off.” Willie couldn’t help but grin at that. “Sergeant Curly’s been on the trail of Two-Toed Tom for a month of Sundays; says if he don’t close in for the kill soon, he’ll jump Jim Crow.”

“Bless their shiny badges and pea-pickin’ hearts,” said Eulalie as matter-of-factly as one could make such a tongue-in-cheek pronouncement with a good chew in the way.

“So, what do we do first? Gather herbs. Light candles. Boil water?”

“We ain’t midwifin’, old man.”

“Don’t drink nothin’ out of that pan, Lena,” she said. “That’s the leavings of blackberry root, alum and turpentine, not a cure for anything you got. You saw ol’ Bill Carver walkin’home with the cure because he rolled too many hot biscuits at the jook and got a personal disease”—she clapped her hands twice and glared at me like this was a warning—“one that makes it hurt to pee.”

“‘Negroes and Whites have been coming here for years no hint of a problem, Mr. Ivy. Why do I need a sign now?’ Little Poison leaned across the counter close enough for me to smell the cheap bourbon on his breath. ‘Listen good, Lane. When Niggers and Whites are together, somebody’s out of place. If I go inside that praise church, I’m in the wrong place. That’s a Nigger place. If a Nigger walks in my church, he’s out of place. Out of place people have a way of getting hurt, hurt bad sometimes, and then they’re found floating face down in the Apalachicola after falling off Alum Bluff, hurt bad when their necks get caught in nooses or their houses blow up or burn down. Civilized people grieve when people of any race, including you bagel-dogs get hurt. The Liberty Improvement Club wants a happy town where nobody gets hurt. You might say, we’re the Nigger’s best friend because we help him see the places he belongs, places he can have a comfortable life. When he makes a mistake, we punish him because we believe in spare the rod, spoil the child. You can see that, can’t you? That sign keeps people in the right place like saying keep off the grass or no parking. That sign will make you rich. Yeah, I thought your Jew-boy eyes would grow wide when you heard that. Mr. Smith will come by in an hour and explain it to you.’ He tossed another hundred dollar bill on the counter and left the store with a grin wide enough to show every rotten tooth in his mouth.”

“Gives us time for a quickie behind the brush pile, brown sugar,” said Billy “We’ll pop your clutch and see how fast you scream ‘Lordy Lordy’ and beg for more.”

Billy was in the process of massaging her bottom and leaning in close enough to lick the frown off her lips when he froze, froze like time looked away, then screamed, “Holy shit,” and stumbled back holding his neck, and for Hank it was the same even though his greedy fingers hadn’t quite reached Eulalie’s blouse, freezing though as the good Lord covered his eyes, wailing then like a stuck pig before stumbling backward over a keg of nails.

“Yellow jackets don’t believe in paramour rights,” said Eulalie.

She winked at me and walked off down the street. I stood there and watched Billy and Hank shoving their heads into the icy slush in the Coca-Cola cooler until they ran out of fresh profanity.

Reviews

Told through the narrative voice of Lena, Eulalie’s shamanistic cat, the fast-paced story comes alive. The approach is fresh and clever; Malcolm R. Campbell manages Lena’s viewpoint seamlessly, adding interest and a unique perspective. Beyond the obvious abilities of this author to weave an enjoyable and engaging tale, I found the book rich with descriptive elements. So many passages caused me to pause and savor. ‘The air…heavy with wood smoke, turpentine, and melancholy.’ ‘ …the Apalachicola National Forest, world of wiregrass and pine, wildflower prairies, and savannahs of grass and small ponds… a maze of unpaved roads, flowing water drawing thirsty men…’ ‘…of the prayers of silk grass and blazing star and butterfly pea, of a brightly colored bottle tree trapping spirits searching for Washerwoman…of the holy woman who opened up the books of Moses and brought down pillars of fire and cloud so that those who were lost could find their way.'”
– Rhett DeVane, Tallahassee Democrat

“A simply riveting read from beginning to end, ‘Eulalie and Washerwoman’ is very highly recommended for both personal reading lists and community library General Fiction collections. – Julie Summers, Midwest Book Review

“Narrator Tracie Christian’s spirited style is ideal to portray the fantasy world of conjure woman Eulalie Jenkins and her shamanistic cat, Lena, who live in Florida in the 1950s. Christian captures Eulalie’s shock when she learns that Jewish merchant Lane Walker, who’s always traded fairly with the local African-Americans, is being forced to give up his store to the Liberty Improvement Club, which forbids serving blacks. Lively descriptions of Eulalie reading possum bones and casting spells; tender scenes with her old beau, Willie Tate; and feline Lena’s communication with Eulalie via secret thought speech add to the local atmosphere. S.G.B. © Audiofile Magazine 2017

If the novel happens to end up on your bookshelf, I hope you enjoy reading it.

–Malcolm

 

Novel samplers – Examples of a writer’s work

1760 Sampler - Wikipedia

Students learning needlework used to demonstrate their skills in samplers that showed examples of what they could do. Traditional samplers included motifs, borders and alphabets in various kinds of stitches. Those of us who like chocolate see the same approach in the famous Whitman’s Samplers, the boxes of candy with a representative assortment of the company’s many varieties.

Vanilla Heart Publishing is taking the same approach to its novelists’ and short story writers’ work. The publisher is bringing together samples of a writer’s work in free PDF documents that can be easily downloaded and then sampled.

I like the idea. As publishing transitions from bricks and mortar bookstores to online bookstores that provide either paperbacks or e-books, it’s nice having a way to see what we’re buying before we click on the BUY button. In a neighborhood bookstore, you can pick up a book and see what it’s like, browsing, reading a bit here and a bit there. Amazon has addressed the issue of excerpts with its READ INSIDE service. Smashwords gives readers a free look at the first chapter or so of each book.

Malcolm's Sampler

The samplers, though, bring multiple works together in one document. My sampler, for example, includes examples of my Jock Stewart stories, excerpts from my two Glacier Park novels (“The Sun Singer” and “Garden of Heaven: an Odyssey”) and some of the lunacy from my satirical “Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire.”

I can’t demonstrate my skill with the many variations of chain stitches on a decorative square of fabric. But my publisher’s sampler brings a bit of humor, adventure, description, and excitement together in one file. In an e-book world, it’s a good way to get the feel for a book before you decide to put it on your Kindle or your Nook, or order the paperback version for your shelf.

Malcolm

You can find more novel samplers for Vanilla Heart Publishing’s authors here.

Revisiting ‘The Sun Singer’

The most recent edition of my hero’s journey mountain adventure novel The Sun Singer came out in March 2010 in paperback and Kindle formats. I have been revisiting the novel during the last few months to make sure my Sarabande sequel is consistent with the large cast of characters and mysterious plot.

Many of my favorite characters from The Sun Singer are returning in Sarabande. I must be careful not to accidentally change the color of anyone’s hair, mix up who did what, or forget who the traitors and heroes were in the original story.

I Need a Sun Singer Encyclopedia!

I’m using the search feature in Microsoft Word a lot these days. When Gem or Dohver or Robert show up in Sarabande, I search for them in The Sun Singer. I’ve done the same thing for every character because I’m just not organized enough to have a “master notebook” with an alphabetized list of characters, traits, nastiness level, date of birth and eye color.

Searching for such details in The Sun Singer reminds me of bits and pieces of the story that I haven’t thought about for a long time. It’s been fun–as well as distracting. Here’s a scene I came across tonight in which young Robert Adams (aka Sonny Trout) meets Gem and her daughter Cinnabar on a mountain trail:

Gem and Cinnabar

Voices. Voices ahead of him on the trail, as yet indistinct. He crouched down and waited. If it were a search party, he’d just have to hang his head, like Arnold’s puppy when it was caught on the couch, and admit that he was wrong to hike alone and stay out so late. Yet, if he did step through a door into another world, what then? He hid his pack in the underbrush and crawled forward.

He found every dry twig in the forest, and every one of them cracked in two as though he were chopping firewood in front of a microphone. Where was brother owl’s hoooo hoo-oooo, hoo hoo and the wind and the rain when he needed some covering noise? The earth was cold to the touch.

An arm wrapped around his neck, choked him, and pulled him over onto his back. That dream! He knew what was next. The boot slammed into his stomach and the dirty rag shoved in his mouth blocked his weak protest. His hands and feet were bound with a heavy rope.

“Over here. Gem.” A woman’s voice—the word in his dream notebook was a name?—and obviously no one from the hotel out to rescue him.

“Gem, I’ve caught us a lousy spy.”

Sonny saw nothing. His captor had the eyes of a cat. Or, with the ability to operate so efficiently in the darkness, was a cat.

The night moved in front of him and four hands pulled him up on his feet, then hoisted him into a mid-air prone position. They carried him down the trail in the direction he had been heading. After taking a few steps, they were breathing heavily.

A spy? Spies were always stabbed at night or shot at dawn. Robert Adams said he heard a blue dove calling through a doorway. Yeah, for the hapless Sonny Trout.

In ten minutes, the night gave way to a small campfire. They set him down roughly, several feet away from it, and the heat felt good. The light transformed his captors from gasping apparitions into flesh and blood women. One wore a brown, leather dress. Her hair was black and twisted into long braids. The other was shorter, younger, and wore dark green trousers and a flannel shirt. She perspired heavily. Her shoulder-length hair was fiery red, tangled and matted to the sides of her face. She paced in front of the fire, catching her breath. Finally, she stooped down in front of Sonny, turning up her nose in disgust as though she were looking at a helpless bug lying on its back. Then she laughed.

“In the Guardian’s name. Gem, we’ve robbed the cradle with this one. He’s a mere child. Justine must be desperate.”

“Quiet, Cinnabar,” rasped Gem, “the forest can hear. There may be others.”

“If there are others,” said Cinnabar, “they’ll meet the same fate as this one.” She leered at Sonny. “There are numerous ways to die, little boy.”

Okay, I Better Get Back to Work

In the manuscript for my sequel, Robert Adams is talking to Sarabande some 1,600 miles away from the Lake Josephine Valley in Glacier National Park where this scene from The Sun Singer occurred. I found myself reading it to remind myself what Robert’s firrst reaction to a stressful situation was like. He’s in one right this minute in Sarabande, and I better get back to it before I forget the details I just read.


Malcolm R. Campbell is also the author of “Garden of Heaven” and “Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire.”

Two novel teasers in two minutes

Just in time for Vanilla Heart Publishing’s hot holiday e-book sale, here are two short teasers from my hero’s journey novels The Sun Singer and Garden of Heaven.

Garden of Heaven

A sharp report from the crest of the hill split the road in half. Where the road met the sky, a clumsy hulk with pale, yellow headlights stood low to the ground like a stalking cat. If the monster ever had a muffler, it was gone now–that backfire sounded like a shotgun blast. Now it was moving, slowly at first, and then, with the grade, began to pick up speed.

The moment overflowed with energy. He flung himself into his work, pushing, pushing. Lightning struck a tree on the ridge below the road. He looked behind him into a large eye, jumped inside the car, pulled the door shut, and braced himself for mere seconds before the power waggon ploughed into the rear of the Opel. The impact shattered the back window and shoved the car against the row of hickory trees that guarded the dull edge of the ridge. Thunder obscured his words from the world’s ears, and his own.

The Sun Singer

Sonny heard the roar of the river, heard the men shouting, “The sorry devil is trapped,” heard Yarrow’s breathing and the crunch of leaves beneath his boots, and thought of the owl and whistled, “hoooo hoo-oooo, hoo hoo,” and the call pierced the night. The soldiers stopped briefly, and the leader said, “It’s a signal, he’s led us into a trap,” and another said, “No, it’s a mere boy,” and Yarrow looked where they looked and his mouth opened wide, but he had no time to speak, for in that brief moment when the scene was paused in the current moment before Sonny’s eyes, he swung the staff into the scene and whispered, “Save Yarrow with sunfire.”

A lightning bolt of yellow and blue flame leaped from the tip of the staff and bit into the night, sizzling over Yarrow’s head, enveloping the men in a shower of sparks. Sonny cringed at the fear on their faces. Yarrow shook his head as men and horses tumbled into the water. Then he looked behind him again to see the dying embers of the flame floating gently to the ground; they glistened on the wet rocks like diamonds before they disappeared.

Malcolm