Sunday’s gumbo, &c

  • I’m picky when it comes to gumbo. I prefer cajun to creole and okra to filé powder. Yet, for today’s post, it’s a great symbol for a tasty mix. You might need some antacids if you’re not used to it.
  • Today at 1:52 p. m. the temperature here in Georgia is 91°. The weather forecasters keep saying we have a chance of rain. They’re talking about imaginary rain. Or, possibly, in-your-dreams kinds of rain.
  • I’ve just finished re-reading The Zoo Keeper’s Wife. I’m impressed by the willingness of people to fight, hide Jews who are escaping from the Ghetto, and risk their lives sabotaging the Nazis. I hope that if Americans face similar circumstances, they will be as strong as the people in Warsaw. (And Ukraine, of course.)
  • When it comes to the Supreme Court’s action in overturning Roe v Wade, I dissent. And if the justices were bound and determined to tinker with precedent, I agree with the Chief Justice that the court went too far. To counteract the most meanspirited states, the court should have declared it’s a violation of equality and liberty rights to force a woman to give birth to a child created out of rape or incest. Women will also need protection from arrest for having a miscarriage.
  • This Facebook meme is especially apt this week. Speaking of Facebook, and I’d rather not, it still hasn’t addressed the software fault on my author’s page. I have unpublished it, and it will go away forever if the fault isn’t fixed before the count-down-to-deletion ends. (13 days from the day I unpublished it.) Some people say that Facebook doesn’t need support because everyday users aren’t their customers. I beg to differ inasmuch as the company wants me to see my page as a business, one where I spend money to advertise my books and “boost” posts for wider audiences.
  • Filed under cute animal news in the Literary Hub, is this turned out to be an interesting article: “Do Birds Dream About Their Own Birdsong?” As I read it, I found myself wondering, “Why have I never thought about this before?”
  • And, under “frightening news” we find this story in the Desert Sun: “Leave it to the Westerners to come up with solutions to their problems by causing problems for others. Las Vegas resident Bill Nichols’ June 22 suggestion of diverting Mississippi River water to the Southwest to help solve the Southwest’s drought problem is nothing more than a plan to steal, under federal-government oversight at taxpayers’ expense, water that belongs to the Midwest.” Nichols probably got this idea from the mayor of Los Angeles.

Enjoy your bowl of gumbo,

Malcolm

One thing and another

I usually save these catch-all posts for Sundays, but then I realized I have nothing earthshaking to talk about (not that that’s stopped me from posting in the past).

  • No, Facebook has not fixed the software fault on my author’s page. The page is fairly worthless if I cannot post links. If they continue to do nothing, I’ll delete the page.
  • I’ve been updating my website. There’s more I want to do, but for now, I think the books are easier to find now that I’ve moved the books in the folk magic series to a separate page. Now there’s room to display more information about each book.
  • Our heat wave in north Georgia continues with 100° temps. What’s odd is that the daily weather report keeps forecasting an afternoon thunderstorm that never shows up. Well, nothing is promised for today, but tomorrow there’s supposed to be a cooling shower. Yeah, no, like I believe that.  The only consolation here is that we’re not the only ones who can fry eggs on the sidewalks.
  • We watched “Bull Durham” on TV last night and think it’s held up well during the last three decades. Of course, Susan Sarandon’s character made a big splash in that, though what I liked best was how well the film portrayed baseball in the minor leagues. The team reminded me of the team in the movie “The Natural” that was also inept until somebody came along with the competence and charisma to change everyone’s attitude.
  • On a personal note, I’m getting fed up with news stories and Facebook posts that say “legacy media” is spreading hate and lies. I think newspapers and local TV outlets have a long way to go to “catch up” with the slanted news on CNN and Fox.
  • I still haven’t finished Troubled Blood by Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling) and, on balance think it includes a lot of digressions about the detective agency’s cases that get left out of most novels. To enjoy the book, you have to be willing to tackle a long haul in the novels (four, at present) in the Cormoran Strike series.
  • If you ever watched the “Star Trek – Deep Space Nine” series, you may remember that when Dax and Worf had sex, they ended up so badly injured that they needed to check in to the infirmary the following morning. I have a scene like that in my novel in progress and have started wondering how my publisher is going to react when she sees the manuscript.

Malcolm

My Facebook author’s page is not all about me

I promise it isn’t. It’s filled with links to book reviews, writing how-to, author interviews, obituaries, books being made into films, and other books and authors’ subjects. There are usually five or six links there per day, so it’s not overpowering. This blog usually has a link there as well

Today I included a link to the rather scandalous film “Deep Throat,” one of those anniversaries, looking back in time kinds of articles. So far, Facebook hasn’t told me the link doesn’t meet community standards. There’s also a review of Two Nights in Lisbon and an article about the disturbing biographies of children’s book authors.

At any rate, if you follow authors and books, I hope you’ll stop by and take a look. If you find something you really like once or twice a week, count yourself lucky!

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of a bunch of stuff. Click on his name to find out what.

You’d think a writer would be good at Scrabble

We grew up playing the standard Scrabble board game. I usually lost. If my Aunt Vera was there, she usually beat everyone because she was either a droid or had the ability to see every potential move on the board like a grandmaster chess player.

Now I play Words with Friends on Facebook. I’m not sure why; I normally lose. See, look at this (one of my better games):

Being a writer doesn’t help. Maybe it hurts since I see words as whole structures rather than as groups of letters. Looking at a Words With Friends board, I have little idea what letters to add to the board to get high-scoring results. It’s been a lifetime trauma.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell’s short story collection, Widely Scattered Ghosts, is free on Smashwords during the company’s “give back” sale.

 

The Toxic Internet

A long-time online friend of mine is leaving Facebook because she’s tired of the toxicity there, among other things. I know what she’s talking about because those there who don’t like your point of view often respond with abusive comments and nasty threats.

My parents used to tell me that if a comment wasn’t inappropriate for the family dinner table, I shouldn’t say it.

Since I still believe that, I notice the toxic comments and slanders that are commonplace on Facebook, the comments sections following news stories on some media sites, and (of course) Twitter. I keep hoping that the people who are talking trash are in a minority, that–as some people say–“the crazies are the only ones who bother to comment” on news stories, posts, and tweets.

What do you think? Are polite, normal, well-spoken people leaving Facebook like my friend, possibly staying but staying out of the crazy threads, or are people in general turning into rude approximations of themselves via online anonymity?

Even though I’ve been online since the CompuServe days, I’m still surprised at the number of people who are willing to say, “Malcolm, you’re a naive piece of shit” in response to my low key comment. What’s that about? People who don’t know me have accused me online of all sorts of things, and I wonder what kind of gall it takes to say such things.

I see the toxicity my friend sees, but I guess I’m being expedient when I say that since I’m a writer, I need to have an online presence. So I stay. I hope that most people online are good people and fight against the toxic comments or find ways to stay out of trouble. Perhaps I am naive because I think that when good people are quiet the bad people end up owning the place.

Malcolm

 

I know Facebook and website gurus are just trying to help, but. . .

Facebook constantly leans on me to add more information to my author’s page. Among other things, they want a street address, a map, office hours, and a phone number. I can’t convince them that authors write from their houses and apartments and sure as hell don’t want anyone calling or stopping by.

I hear similar exhortations from website gurus: “If you don’t have a map showing directions to your place of business, prospective customers won’t take your company seriously.”

For one thing, an author is not a company. For another, do these gurus every look at authors’ websites and see them as no different than hardware stores? Or, are the guru’s really clueless, thinking (I guess) that authors should display addresses, maps, and sets of directions to help readers find their houses?

I just checked Madonna’s website. Her store is on line. My “stores” are bookstores since, like most authors, I don’t have a fulfilment center in the basement (partly because I don’t have a basement), much less a storefront. A lot of people around here sell produce from stands out in front of their houses, but I’m not sure that a “Boiled peanuts, okra, and books” approach would be worth the time.

Noticeably, Madonna doesn’t have a map on her website showing me how to get to her house.

My suggestion–though nobody sought it–is that Facebook and all those website gurus figure out how authors’ pages and sites work instead of advising us to do what is, frankly, stupid. An old joke comes to mind: “Question: What’s an expert.” “Answer: a (has been) drip under pressure.”

Meanwhile, I’m getting urgent messages from my website provider: “Crikey, Malcolm, haven’t you noticed that your whole website’s going down the toilet on February 20th?” I guess the powers that be haven’t noticed that I’ve deleted everything except for a boilerplate home page with alternative URLs for information about my books.

There’s plenty of room for a map to the nearest B&N store. Maybe that will get people off my back.

Malcolm

Be careful where you say you’re from on Facebook

I no longer list Berkeley, California as the place where I’m from on Facebook because in “debates,” people say, “well, of course, Malcolm would say that, look where he’s from. We don’t need him telling people in Georgia what to think.”

I was born at Alta Bates Hospital, but don’t tell anyone.

My family is basically from California, with my late relatives living in Berkeley, Los Gatos, Santa Cruz, and Palo Alto. I think I was in high school (in Florida) when my father told me he could never go back because the farms and orchards had all been ploughed up and turned into developments, the places Pete Seeger said were houses like little boxes all made of ticky tacky and just the same.

I can’t go back either. For one thing, I can’t afford it. For another, I think the state has lost its connection to reality, a connection that always was fairly tenous on a good day.  Sorry, folks, but I really can’t support a state that says illegal immigrants should have a right to vote.

So, in these Facebook “debates,” I suppose people thought I support all the lunacy associated with California these days. During the Vietnam War protest era, I was part of that lunacy because (a) I hated the war, and (b) had an apartment in San Francisco’s Mission District while my ship was in port across the Bay and had trouble anywhere I went in a Navy uniform.

When I was told on Facebook that “they” (the people in the thread) didn’t need a person from a crazy state telling people in the South that he (meaning me) thought the state and federal governments had no right to legislate or otherwise mess up women’s health care, including the right to an abortion, I said, “ladies, I’ve lived in the South longer than anyone else commenting on this thread.”

Huh? I said that I grew up in Florida from the first grade to college and now live in Georgia where my wife was born. We live on a farm that’s been in her family for five generations. They were surprised. They were happy to see that I had changed the town where I’m from to Tallahassee, Florida, and appreciated the fact that I like boiled peanuts, collard greens, mullet, grits, and cathead biscuits.

However, according to their assessment, a California birth certificate meant that even if you left the state at an early age, you were more or less the devil’s spawn and couldn’t possibly go to enough church services to get even with the Lord. If not that, then I was probably dropped on my head in the hospital.

So there it was. Clearly, my identification with California was an albatross around my neck. In the old days (whatever that means) people said Florida really wasn’t truly Southern. My response was that North Florida was/is about as Southern as you can get and that unlike other states in the Confederacy, “we” weren’t conquered by the North during the Civil War. Okay, so we’re overrun by snowbirds every year and from Live Oak to Miami, the state’s been pretty much ruined by developers who’ve paved over everything there that used to be good and created endless sprawl.

But, I digress.

On the minus side, now that I’ve changed my Facebook hometown to Tallahassee, everyone thinks I’m a racist. When they push that view too hard, I mention that the biggest race riots in the country all happened outside the South.

Is there a safe place out there I can claim as my hometown?

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell has written a bunch of novels set in the South, or partly in the South, including the Florida Folk Magic Trilogy.

 

 

Endlessly Scrolling Through Twitter and Facebook

Writers often use Twitter and Facebook as part of their so-called media platforms, perhaps a necessary evil and/or a worthwhile publicity/networking part of the business that’s apparently indispensable to everyone who isn’t James Patterson or Alice Hoffman or Dean Koontz. Yet, as I read Damyanti Biswas’ recent post How much Time Do You Spend on #SociaMedia? How is It Affecting You?, I wondered how much social media time as necessary and how much was an addiction.

True, I have unblocked myself from my novels in progress by endlessly scrolling through Twitter and Facebook. Likewise, I’ve done the same thing to break cycles of clinical depression. Yet, I can also say that there are days I got little or nothing none due to some mindless need to keep up with the latest social media stuff more than necessary. Part of being a writer is keeping up with the business, supporting other writers, and learning more about one’s craft by “talking” to other writers and following blogs like Damyanti’s.

Obviously, at some point, too much social media time is too much and it’s getting in the way of the stuff we’re supposed to be doing whether it’s writing or anything else. The easiest thing to do, I think, is to set time limits. We can decide, can’t we, just how long we’ll read bloggers’ posts and Facebook status updates before leaving the Internet for the day and turning to our real work. I’ve known people who kept their TVs on 24/7, tuned into one network news feed or another to make sure they didn’t miss anything. Some folks seem to look at social media the same way. But seriously, what are you going to miss that’s more important than your own career and your family’s needs?

One mistake here, I believe, is assuming that whatever’s happening on Twitter and Facebook is more important than whatever else we might do with our day. It’s almost a phobia, this feeling that our lives will be ruined if an important tweet or post goes by without our knowing about it instantly. Meanwhile, to satisfy the infinite demands of that phobia, our own work is sitting there undone, and at the end of a day of “too much” social media, we feel really down about ourselves pretty much the same way a drunk feels after wasting another day being drunk.

When I worked as a technical writer for large corporations, management would occasionally subject us to time-management courses that showed that a large number of us spent too much time focusing on what wasn’t important. Among other things, we tended to clear low-importance stuff out of our in baskets before working on our primary projects. Now, I see many of us who write doing the same thing with social media. We handle it first and then we finally get around to our major priorities.

As important as social media can be for promoting our work and networking with others, they are not our primary mission. Social media tweets and updates and posts represent what others are doing, not what I’m (supposed to be) doing. I need to remind myself of that from time to time.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “Conjure Woman’s Cat.”

 

 

 

 

Another ‘this-and-that’ post

  • This week’s thriller (my escapist reading) was The Terminal List by Jack Carr. It’s one of the most high-pitched novels I’ve read in a while. It’s hard to say anything about it without spoiling the story. Suffice it to say, when a SEAL team walks into an ambush, the bad guys turn out to be Americans out to make a buck rather than ISIS or the Taliban. The LCDR in charge of the team is more than ticked off about the loss of life and who’s responsible for it. Written by a SEAL, a few parts of the story are blacked out because the powers that be thought he gave away too much.
  • My editing changes for an upcoming book of short stories called Widely Scattered Ghosts have been sent to the publisher. Now we’re waiting for a proof copy to see if any fixes need to be made before the book is released. You can see what it’s about on my website’s Spotlight Page.
  • I’ve also been working on a rather dark story about a man who was put in a rest home because his kids thought he was spending all the money they “deserved” to inherit. This story has been sent off to a magazine that’s very hard to get into, but I always remain hopeful about these kinds of things.
  • I seldom unfriend people on Facebook. I did today because, in a thread about rape, she said it’s not up to women to fix the rape problem. I didn’t disagree but suggested that while we’re looking for ways to change the rape culture, more women could at least take advantage of defense courses. She said women shouldn’t have to. After more back and forth about that, she said I wasn’t a real man and needed to respect women. I finally lost my patience when she got into slamming me as a person rather than debating the issue.
  • Speaking of websites, I’ve spent some time lately trying to make my website more interesting. I see the visitor counts going up, so perhaps some of the new pictures and copy are luring people back for multiple visits. Now, we’ll see whether any of those people buy my books which, of course, is the point of having an author’s website.
  • For reasons unknown, my old post about fairy tale structure still gets more visits every week than most of my other posts combined. Those of you who like fairy tales might enjoy this new collection of re-imagined fairy tales by Dora Goss. I’m enjoying it. I’m a long-time fan of her writing, including The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter and its sequel European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman.
  • I tend to post quotes on my Facebook profile at the end of the day. My current favorite comes from musician and poet Joy Harjo: “The creative act amazes me. Whether it’s poetry, whether it’s music, it’s an amazing process, and it has something to do with bringing forth the old out into the world to create and to bring forth that which will rejuvenate.” Frankly, I don’t know how the creative act works. That’s why I said in my last post that I get bored reading or talking about it with other authors. We all do what we do without the need for theories.
  • Now, I’m looking for a new story to tell. When an author finishes a story, s/he suddenly feels empty because all the characters have left. It’s like the end of a summer romance. You know it’s going to happen, but you’re never ready for it.

–Malcolm

This and that–because I don’t have a wonderful post for today

Not our real yard. Stole some clipart

I planned to take a car full of stuff to the recycling center this morning but the fog is so thick I can’t see the car.

 

Yes, I’ve used this graphic before!

A lot of my friends are taking Facebook vacations. Primarily, they’re getting tired of all the people posting duelingpolitical memes. Some people must not have jobs because their blogs are filled with links to news stories and essays for one party or the other. This stuff probably isn’t changing anyone’s opinion.

None of the ghosts in my book live in the outhouse.

I finished a book of short stories yesterday and sent the manuscript off to my publisher. They’re all ghost stories, some old, some new. We already have the cover ready. It was done last fall before my wife and I decided to take off for a week at Thanksgiving and see my daughter and her family in Maryland. We took side trips to Alexandria and Mt. Vernon. So, the book had to wait.

Most of the original cast members have moved on.

According to the news, the medical drama “Grey’s Anatomy” has not been on longer than the medical program “E.R.” which had the record for longevity up to now. As we watch “Grey’s Anatomy,” my wife and I wonder if real doctors and nurses: (a) race into linen closets and empty exam rooms and urgently rip each other’s clothes off several times a day for sex, and (b) talk about daycare, shopping, and their dating problems while performing difficult surgical procedures.

 

Their Corpse Reviver cocktail was tasty.

We enjoyed finding fun places to eat including the Columbia Firehouse Restaurant in Alexandria. It used to be a real firehouse. I was a bit distracted by the blonde who sat at the next table, not because she was a blonde but because she ordered a salad and tore into it with a knife, chopping the while thing up into little pieces in a frenzy. We were taught that you’re not supposed cut a whole plate of food up like that unless you’re serving a child or an old person. I wish I had a video of it because she really looked angry while she was doing it. The video would have gone viral on Facebook.

Malcolm