Explaining research to a non-writer

Every time a feature film set in the past is released, it doesn’t take long for the press to start finding research gaffes from minor stuff like cars on the street before they were made, songs being sung before they were released, and then major problems such as battles being fought in the wrong country and world leaders showing up after they were dead.

It’s hard to explain how such things happen to our readers and viewers. Hollywood, of course, is more of a problem because so many people are involved with each production. Major authors have multiple editors and fact checkers. Small press authors usually have to roll their own research and hope for the best.

When authors write novels, they are primarily concerned with the storyline and the characters. Yet, as one writes, there are dozens of things to check:

  • The characters, such as my protagonist in Fate’s Arrows drive cars. Okay, what makes were they and when were they available?
  • My protagonist is an archer. What kind of bow did she use  and what kind of damage would an arrow inflict when it hit a person?
  • My protagonist, Pollyanna, was a Marine who learned Karate in Okinawa like a lot of other soldiers at the end of WWII. So, what techniques will she use when attacked back in the states?
  • Most people know little or nothing about the Korean War. Fortunately, I had a good source book and that allowed my character to mention things that happened, along with the exploits of the forerunner of the CIA.
  • In the novel, she’s auditing the books of a small grocery. Fine. What products are in the store?
  • And since the KKK is involved–this is Florida in 1954–that means reading more about that group than anyone would want to.

Basically, if somebody coughs in your novel and grabs for a bottle of cough medicine, you have to find out whether that cough medicine even existed when the novel was set.

If you were around at the time and place your novel is set, you can’t even rely on your memory.  Most people don’t remember nitty gritty specifics. They know they grew up listening to a song on the radio, but do they know what date it was released? Probably not.

When we write our novels, everything is open to question even though we’re writing fiction.

Malcolm

New edition of Florida Folk Magic ‘boxed set.’

The cover looks different at online sellers that don’t use the 3-D approach of the Kindle cover.

With the release of Fate’s Arrows, my publisher Thomas-Jacob has updated the so-called boxed set that features all four novels in the Florida Folk Magic Series in one large e-book. If you’re interested in the entire series, buying the novels this way will save money.

I’m also happy to announce that the hardcover edition of Fate’s Arrows is now available. Moving the hardcover into print was one of the things the pandemic slowed down.

We’ve started initial work on the audiobook, but down hold your breath. Audiobooks that are complete and ready to go are waiting a long time for Audible’s approval. (Another pandemic slowdown.)

Enjoy the books.

–Malcolm

My books take me by surprise

Writing books is fun because once I get into the story, I want to know how it’s going to end. I promise I have no idea until I get there.

I thought of writing Fate’s Arrows because a new character named Pollyanna showed up out of nowhere in Lena, my previous novel. She had a lot of sparkle and energy, so I thought, “Hmm, maybe she has enough spunk to carry a new novel on her own–rather like an actress with a small role in one movie who ends up staring in the studio’s next movie.”

While I planned for Fate’s Arrows to be a standalone novel, I set it in the same fictional town (Torreya) where the Florida Folk Magic Series was set. It’s not surprising, then, that the characters from the series began showing up and found important things to do.

Fate’s Arrows relies less on conjure and more on Pollyanna’s skills, skills that readers learn about as the story moves along. I can’t mention them here because they would be spoilers. Suffice it to say, she is a lot more than she appears while sitting behind the counter in the Mercantile balancing Lane Walker’s books. If you’re a bad person, don’t mess with her.

The Big Al’s Books and Pals nailed it in her review when she said, “Malcolm R Campbell is an author who has lived in the Florida panhandle (where this novel is set) and is old enough to remember the final days of the KKK. His anger about that organisation continues to burn, and this is an angry book.” 

I needed a protagonist who had the same hatred for the KKK I’ve always had and who had the guile and the grit to do something about it. If I’d tried to take the action she takes in the novel when I lived in the Florida Panhandle in the 1950s and 1960s, I probably would have gotten killed–or worse.

Of course, Pollyanna has a strong supporting cast from the earlier books: Eulalie the conjure woman and her cat Lena, Willie Tate who knows how to get people out of trouble, Police chief Rudy Flowers, and others.

I admire Pollyanna and I think you will, too. She kept surprising me every with every risk she took.

Malcolm

Pat’s Publisher Needs a Maserati

Well, isn’t that special?

She wrote in her blog that she needs to sell a ton of copies of her new book Bob, The Right Hand of God, maybe 3000 copies, so her publisher can buy a new Maserati. The convertible is only $150,000 and change.

My publisher doesn’t need a new car. On the other hand, my Buick is a 2006, so I think I’ll deserve something if I sell 3000 copies of Fate’s Arrows.

But I don’t need a Maserati. Think of the insurance costs and, even for minor hail storms and shopping cart collisions, the repair costs.

Here’s what I need (but not this color):

Years ago, a lot of people road in Checker’s larger model which was used by a lot of Taxi companies. This family model was available between 1961 and 1982. My feeling is that if it collided with a Maserati, the Maserati would be toast.

I can get a used/restored model for less than $13,400. I don’t think that’s asking too much.

Malcolm

This and That

  • Before I lived in the country, I always wondered why so many roadside mailboxes were messed up. Everyone said the cause was mailbox baseball, you know, driving down the road in a pickup and smashing mailboxes with a bat. Our mailbox has been busted twice, first by a semi-truck that was too big for the road pulling out and knocking it off with a side mirror. The second was the right-of-way mowers who ran into it with their tractor. Now I understand why some folks build brick structures that enclose their mailboxes. This time the thing is skewed and no amount of bending will twist it back into shape so the door will close. I guess I’m going to the hardware store tomorrow.
  • Another nice review from BigAl’s Books and Pals from another reviewer. Writers love this! Both reviewers liked the novel, but their approaches to the review were very different. And one of them is from the UK, and that means there are a big culture and dialect barriers she had to wade through–about like me trying to review J. J. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy which was filled with British slang that we don’t hear in the States.
  • Wow, both of our cars are working at the same time. One is a GM product and one is a Ford product. My wife and I grew up on opposite sides of the great divide between GM families and Ford families. We inherited the Ford at about the same time our 1997 Saturn finally stopped working a few years ago. We’re old school: that means we don’t buy foreign cars.
  • We watched an interesting Walter Winchell documentary on TV last night, wondering how many people today have a clue who that is. He was a real presence on radio, TV, and the newspapers when I was growing up. Hung out at the Stork Club (well!). Personally, I think he would fit in with today’s agenda-driven reporting.
  • My publisher and I are still waiting for the printer to get the colors right for the dust jacket for the hardcover edition of Fate’s Arrows. (The paperback is currently available in bookstores via their Ingram Catalogue.)
  • My wife made a quiche for supper and you can’t have any.

Malcolm

BigAl’s Books and Pals: Review

Malcolm R Campbell is an author who has lived in the Florida panhandle (where this novel is set) and is old enough to remember the final days of the KKK. His anger about that organisation continues to burn, and this is an angry book. Coincidentally, it has been released when we must, once again, reiterate that Black Lives Matter and that racism is a foul thing which must be resisted wherever it is encountered.

I enjoyed this book a lot. It’s set in Torreya, a fictional town in the Florida panhandle, in the mid-nineteen fifties. Domination by the KKK ran deep at that time in those southern places. All the same, although it put their lives in danger, there were those who resisted.

Source: BigAl’s Books and Pals: Review: Fate’s Arrows: 4 (Florida Folk Magic Stories) by Malcolm R Campbell

If you’ve ever seen any old movies about the cast of a play sitting around in a restaurant on opening night waiting for the reviews to come in, then you know how an author feels waiting for a reviewer to find a new book.

Whew, she liked it. And she’s from the UK where customs and language (including Southern dialect) are much different.  Click on the link above to read the complete review. Now I can get some sleep.

–Malcolm

‘Fate’s Arrows’ – Update

  • The Kindle edition of Fate’s Arrows will be 99₵ on October 4th from Amazon.
  • The novel is available on these sites: Amazon, Amazon UK, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Bookshop, Scribd, IndieBound, Powell’s, Google Books, Apple, and as a B&N Nook book.
  • We are still waiting on the printer for the hardcover edition.
  • Bookstores can order the paperback via their Ingram Catalog.
  • Listed on the NewPages website’s new releases.
  • You can watch the trailer on the home page of my website.

Malcolm

It’s fun having a website again

I cancelled my old website because it was becoming expensive, truth be told, it cost more than my books were making. Now I have a new one. I’m using Homestead again, and have found an inexpensive plan. It doesn’t include a domain name like my old sites, but at least I can afford it.

You can find the website here: https://malcolmcampbell.homesteadcloud.com/

I know, I know, that URL isn’t memorable. But it’s cheap.

This time out, I’ve resolved not to allow the web site to become as cluttered as my desk. So far, it has a home page, and about me page, books, contact, and audiobooks

I’ve made that resolution before, but then as time went by, I kept tinkering with my websites, adding a little here and a little there, until the whole shebang was quite a mess. “More” turned out to be “less,” a confusing site where visitors didn’t know what the hell they were supposed to do.

Will the new website sell thousands of books? Probably not. But for better or worse, it’s an online presence, something all writers are supposed to have. We’re not sure why we’re supposed to have it, but if we don’t have it, we’re considered wannabees, and good lord, that’s a fate worse than death.

–Malcolm

Okay, Malcolm, what are you going to write next?

Yesterday, I announced the publication of Fate’s Arrows, the fourth novel in the Florida Folk Magic Series. Today, people are asking, “So, what are you going to write next?”

Actually, we have more to do with Fate’s Arrows. We’re still working on the hardcover edition, we’re contacting review sites, and we’re waiting for the printer to finish the edition that will be sold in bookstores.

Asking me what I’m going to do next is like asking a new mom what she’s going to do next 24 hours after she delivered a baby.

Or, it’s like those commercials where a major sport’s figure has just finished a big game. The announcer says, “Hey Bob, you just won the super bowl. What are you going to do now.” The answer was, “I’m going to Disneyland.”

My answer to that question right now, is “I don’t have a clue.” Even if I wanted to go to Disney World, I couldn’t because travel and venues are still restricted. My feet still hurt from our last trip several years ago.

I keep threatening my publisher with another sequel to The Sun Singer. I wrote the first version of that novel in 1980. It’s gone through multiple editions as has its sequel Sarabande. So much time has gone by, I’m not sure I can face returning to that hero’s journey and heroine’s journey world in Glacier National Park and pick up the story again. I’m not the same person I was when I wrote those books, or even the same person I was when I limped back to the car after our last trip to Disney World.

So maybe I’ll just sit here and wait for Viola Davis to call and say that JuVee Productions wants an option on Fate’s Arrows. Davis can play the conjure woman, Cynthia Erivo can play Julia, and Jennifer Lawrence can play Pollyanna. If you know Viola, send her a copy of all four books in the Florida Florida Folk Magic Series.

Meanwhile, I’m watching the grass grow, mowing the grass, and then watching it grow again.

Malcolm

“Fate’s Arrows” is published by Thomas-Jacob Publishing of Deltona, Florida.

 

 

 

New novel released today, ‘Fate’s Arrows’

Click here for Amazon editions.

Thomas-Jacob Publishing and Malcolm R. Campbell announce the 9/3/20 release of Fate’s Arrows in paperback and e-book. The hardcover edition will be available soon, The novel is the fourth in the Florida Folk Magic Series.

The novel is also available at Barnes and Noble (web site),  Apple, and Kobo, and will be available soon to bookstores via their Ingram Catalog.

Fate’s Arrows Description

In 1954, the small Florida Panhandle town of Torreya had more Klansmen per acre than fire ants. Sparrow, a bag lady; Pollyanna, an auditor; and Jack, the owner of Slade’s Diner, step on fire ants and Klansmen whenever they can while an unknown archer fires fate-changing arrows at the Klan’s leadership. They are not who they appear to be, and while they take risks, they must be discrete lest they end up in the Klan’s gunsights.

When Julia and Eldon, a married couple from Harlem, New York, run afoul of the Klan because of Eldon’s pro-union stance at the sawmill, they find themselves down at the ancient hanging tree where two policemen, hiding their identity beneath white robes and hoods, are the ones holding the noose.

Meanwhile, Sparrow seems to have disappeared. When the ne’er-do-well Shelton brothers beat up the Klavern’s exalted cyclops because they think he harmed Sparrow, they, too, find themselves the focus of a KKK manhunt.

Bolstered by support from a black cat and an older-than-dirt conjure woman, Pollyanna persists in her fight against the Klan, determined to restore law and order to a town overwhelmed by corruption.

Malcolm