Excerpt from my novel ‘Lena’

Lena, the third novel in my Florida Folk Magic series was released July 27 by Thomas-Jacob Publishing, following Conjure Woman’s Cat and Eulalie and Washerwoman. The novel is available on multiple on-line sites in e-book and paperback and can be ordered by your bookstore via standard bookstore purchasing agreements through its Ingram account.

Here’s a brief excerpt from the novel to tempt you into buying the book:

“So, our Lord of the worlds above—ha!–walked down the springtime path from Eden, all the way down to enjoy the splendor of orchids, lilies, and white-birds-in-a-nest, and He saw that they were exquisite and profoundly good, ha! Yet He found not a bog, nor a marsh, nor a swamp to make a fit home for cypress, tupelo, bulrush, pondweed, leopard frog, alligator, black swamp snake, sandhill crane, and great blue heron. He scooped Earth’s foundation with His hands and filled the scrapes and holes with tears and breath. When the plants and animals came, God Almighty was satisfied, just as we here today are satisfied that this everlasting water provided a fit place for Him to call our sister home.”

“Amen, James,” said Dorothy, using—for the first time as far as I knew—her husband’s name rather than “deacon” in public. Together, leaning upon each other on the roadside with Lane Walker and Eulalie’s daughter Adelaide looked suddenly old. He wore black and she wore blue.

Some people called James and Dorothy “Mutt and Jeff”—though not so as they could hear—because she was short and almost plump and he was tall and almost as fit as a football player. Today, he needed his wife’s shoulder and the starch in his white dress shirt to keep him standing straight enough to address the Lord.

She began singing “Sacred Lord, Take My Hand” and that steadied him though he didn’t sing even when Adelaide joined in, her strong alto voice almost as pure as her mother’s soaring soprano. Lane took off his faded grey poor boy hat and closed his watery eyes.

They arrived in the church’s 1948 Roadmaster, the same black car the coroner borrowed to carry Martin to the morgue and left it on the shoulder a respectful distance away while they stared at the green pickup my conjure woman borrowed from Lane as though it were a closed casket.

“This ain’t right,” snapped Adelaide in the don-t-give-me-no-sass tone of voice she must have learned from her mother.

“God’s plan,” said James.

Adelaide stood as close to the deacon as she could without kissing him which her crossed arms and tapping foot made it obvious was the last thing she planned to do.

“So our almighty God of the worlds above decided Florida would be a better place if Martin Alexander busted into a freight company owned by the chief of police, stole a tanker truck, drove south at top speed while being chased by the cops, and ran Mother and Lena off the road in Lane’s truck, drowning the old lady who served the Him with devotion and burning Martin to a crisp even though he went through hell already this year so that the four of us can stand here today and learn a lesson from it? No offense, Deacon, but was that the plan?”

Dorothy shoved between Adelaide and her husband. “Sorrow’s got your tongue. Let it be.”

Adelaide stood her ground.

“She ain’t here. Can’t you tell?”

“Adelaide, what are you saying?” asked Lane.

“I’m not as psychic as my mother, but I’m sharp enough to know she’s gone and that Lena is still here.”

“Find Lena, then,” said James, “while Lane and I pull his Studebaker out of the swamp.”

“I will.”

She turned away from them while Dorothy backed the Buick up close to the bed of the truck and Lane waded into the water with a long chain. Adelaide was coming up close on the dry end of the fallen Ogeechee Tupelo when Lane shouted “Hot damn—sorry, Deacon” and held up two, quart Mason jars on Eulalie’s moonshine.

“My word,” said Dorothy, “it’s still in good enough condition to pack a punch.”

“I’ll testify about the punch,” shouted James.

“I remember the night she got you drunk,” said Dorothy. They burst out laughing like they needed something to relieve the cares of the day.

“Here, take these, James, there are more down here,” said Lane.

“I’ll just put these in the car, sweet wife of mine,” said James, “to help us resist temptation until we get home.”

Adelaide watched them salvage the shine, muttering under her breath so that only the tupelo and I could hear her, “Finding that jick’s probably part of God’s plan.”

Copyright © 2018 by Malcolm R. Campbell

Malcolm

Memories in the Wine: Scuppernong Grapes

Possibly the oldest cultivated grapevine in the world is the 400-year-old scuppernong “Mother Vine” growing on Roanoke Island, North Carolina. – Wikipedia

Yesterday, I learned in a Facebook conversation that both my publisher and I grew up with a love for Muscadine grapes. In my case, it was Scuppernongs, a distinctive variety of Muscadines. I grew up in the Florida Panhandle where many of my junior high and high school friends’ parents had small farms or large rural backyards. Every fall, we ate Scuppernongs right off the vines, usually on ancient, falling-down trellises.  While Muscadines are generally purplish red, Scuppernongs are greenish bronze.

Scuppernongs – Wikipedia photo

The grapes make great jams and jellies–and wine. (Here is one of the many online recipes for Scuppernong jam.) The old-timers had many regional names for Scuppernongs, including “sculpins” Oddly, I was the only one in my family who liked these grapes; my brothers and parents found them too tart and didn’t like chewing on them and having to spit out the skins after all the juice was gone–sort of like chewing on unpeeled kumquats. (I was also the only one in the family who loved boiled peanuts and chewing on the sugar cane sticks that used to be sold in those days by street vendors.)

I normally drink only non-sweet red wines, but while working on my recently released novel Lena, I chilled several bottles of Scuppernong wine to bring back childhood memories. I actually sipped the wine while working on the book because the characters were drinking, as I called it, homemade sculpin wine. It was nostalgic writing a story about a farm with sculpin grapes while drinking a glass of wine made from those wonderful native grapes

Duplin Winery photo

As for that mother vine, I’d love to taste the wine still being made from this ancient vine in North Carolina. As Duplin Winery describes its MotherVine Wine, “This sweet white wine is made from the Scuppernong grapes of the Mother Vine. The Mother Vine is the oldest Vine in the world, and is still producing World Class Wine!” The label shows a photograph of the vine itself which looks quite a bit different than the vines I saw in Leon County, Florida.

Writing the three novels in the Florida Folk Magic series has brought back a lot of childhood memories. First, the people, many of whom still call me “shug (for sugar), as in “Shug, how’s it going?” Second, the wiregrass and longleaf pine ecosystems and the nearby blackwater rivers and Gulf of Mexico coastline. Third, so many of the foods, from rosin-baked potatoes, mayhaw jelly, hush puppies, fry bread, and catfish.

That Scuppernong wine, though, was pure liquid memory, rather like the now-legal moonshine you can find in most liquor stores. (There’s a Mason jar of shine in my pantry.) Now that the folk magic series is complete, I feel like I’ve just stood up and stretched after reclining on a psychoanalyst’s couch, for the writing was indeed a trip back in time where I found many outrageous things I shouldn’t have kept silent about for so many years, and many joyful childhood moments that made me feel as ancient as that mother vine.

Malcolm

Announcing ‘Lena’ a new Florida Folk Magic Series novel

Lena, was officially released today by Thomas-Jacob Publishing as book three in the Florida Folk Magic trilogy as a follow-up to Conjure Woman’s Cat and Eulalie and Washerwoman. Both the Kindle and the paperback editions were available earlier than expected, so we’ve beat our planned release date of August 1.

Publisher’s Description: 

When Police Chief Alton Gravely and Officer Carothers escalate the feud between “Torreya’s finest” and conjure woman Eulalie Jenkins by running her off the road into a north Florida swamp, the borrowed pickup truck is salvaged but Eulalie is missing and presumed dead. Her cat Lena survives. Lena could provide an accurate account of the crime, but the county sheriff is unlikely to interview a pet.

Lena doesn’t think Eulalie is dead, but the conjure woman’s family and friends don’t believe her. Eulalie’s daughter Adelaide wants to stir things up, and the church deacon wants everyone to stay out of sight. There’s talk of an eyewitness, but either Adelaide made that up to worry the police, or the witness is too scared to come forward.

When the feared Black Robes of the Klan attack the first responder who believes the wreck might have been staged, Lena is the only one who can help him try to fight them off. After that, all hope seems lost, because if Eulalie is alive and finds her way back to Torreya, there are plenty of people waiting to kill her and make sure she stays dead.

Author’s Comments

This novel is a mix of conjure and crime set in the 1950s when the KKK had a very strong presence in Florida. Many policemen and sheriffs were either members or worked with the Klan and Klan businesses. I wondered how many people I knew were Klan members: it wasn’t something I could ask nor something they would admit if I did ask. My hope is that this series will serve as an immersion into the past and help bring increased understanding about why current attitudes are as they are.

Malcolm

If you live in Florida, Tupelo Honey is “the” Honey of Choice

“In practice, because of the difficulties in containing bees, a small proportion of any honey will be from additional nectar from other flower types. Typical examples of North American monofloral honeys are clover, orange blossom, blueberry, sage, tupelo, buckwheat, fireweed, mesquite, and sourwood.” – Wikipedia

In Florida, honey producers are as protective about their Tupelo honey as Georgians are about what can be called a true Vidalia onion. I mention white Ogeechee Tupelo trees in my books because they’re a major tree along the Apalachicola River in the panhandle section of the state. They’re a primary source for Tupelo honey and, less well known, as a source of pecan-sized fruits which taste like limes (sort of) and make a pleasing drink and some great preserves.

Tupelo honey, which I thought was the only kind of honey on earth when I was growing up, is light-colored and has a slightly floral taste and (kind of) smells like cinnamon. When I mention it outside of Florida and southern Georgia, most people have never heard of it.  Being old fashioned–or possibly just old–I remember buying honey in boxes where you got a giant slab of honeycomb which I thought was the best part. Now we get strained honey at most stores. What a loss.

Here’s a great picture from Florida Memory showing Tupelo trees along the Apalachicola River:

1960 photo from Florida Memory

I like the passage in Florida’s Wetlands, Volume 2, about the Tupelo: “Like cypress, Ogeechee tupelos are practically immortal. They can live for hundreds of years and they keep replacing their stems, so they need not reproduce frequently.” Old trees carry the land’s stories if you know how to listen.  You can find these trees most often in floodplain swamps, as shown by this photograph from the Florida Natural Areas Inventory (FNAI):

Tupelo at Torreya State Park in Florida’s Liberty County–FNAI photo.

In Florida, you’ll find these trees primarily in panhandle swamps near the Apalachicola River. This is where a fair amount of Tupelo honey comes from.  For those of us in Tallahassee, that was close enough to have a constant supply of quality honey.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell’s “Lena” will be released on August 1 as the final novel in his Florida Folk Magic trilogy.

 

Review: ‘Parade of Horribles’ by Rhett DeVane

The people in Rhett DeVane’s new novel Parade of Horribles are the kind of folks, foibles and all, that most of us wish we knew, wish we could call kin, and when danger and hatred intrude into our lives, wish we had looking out for us. Chattahoochee is a real town in the Florida Panhandle and, as the book’s back cover description tells us, it really does have a “state mental institution on the main drag.”

Do Elvina Houston, Hattie Lewis and Jake Witherspoon really live there? Probably not. But they are so real in Parade of Horribles that–in telling their story–DeVane has seemingly conjured them out of the cosmos and placed them there, 37 miles west of Tallahassee as the crow flies, alongside the Apalachicola River. A notable feature in the town, the river is a figurative and literal feature in DeVane’s well-told story. It’s both a haunting reminder of old wounds and a restful escape from the 24/7 preparations for the upcoming harvest festivals and a growing number of signs there may be a dangerous serpent in this Garden of Eden.

DeVane hints at the danger early on the way Hitchcock would show a trace of something wrong near the beginning of his feature films. But the townspeople’s attention and the reader’s attention are drawn to the mix of daily life and harvest festival duties. The horribles, as Jake thinks of them, steep like tea half forgotten on a back burner and, as the story moves toward its unexpected ending, grows all the stronger and more foul tasting for the wait.

Parade of Horribles is the seventh book in the “Hooch Series.” As we saw in earlier novels such as Cathead Crazy and Mama’s Comfort Food, this very Southern author deftly captures the way people in her panhandle world think, talk, work, support each other–and, yes–gossip about what’s in plain sight and what’s not yet apparent to everyone else. Residents of the Florida Panhandle know that in many ways it’s a country unto itself, not like south Georgia and even further and farther removed from the snowbirds and tourist destinations of the peninsula.

Reading DeVane’s Hooch Series is an immersion into this country; Parade of Horribles is wonderful mystery/thriller and a highly recommended addition to a body of work that makes “the other Florida” and “Florida’s forgotten coast” altogether real and impossible to forget.

Malcolm

 

 

Spotlight: Can the evil conjure man really turn into an alligator?

Today’s spotlight focuses on my recent novel Eulalie and Washerwoman and announces a Kindle freebie for one of my short stories.

Eulalie and Washerwoman

ewkindlecoverThis 1950s story about dueling conjurers features an antagonist named Washerwoman who brags that his famous mentor, Uncle Monday, knew how to turn into an alligator. But can Washerwoman do it as well?

Eulalie, who first appeared in Conjure Woman’s Cat, knows all there is to know about conjure. She will definitely need her skills to stop blacks from losing their homes and then going missing themselves.

I hope you like the magic and the mystery of the Florida Panhandle piney woods where the activities of a strong KKK seldom got mentioned in the sunshine state’s tourism brochures.

Free Kindle Book

willingspiritskindlecoverMy Kindle short story “Willing Spirits” will be free on Amazon January 18-20. The story features the purported St. Louis spirit named Patience Worth who spoke via medium Pearl Curran between 1883 and 1937. Patience was so prolific that she actually wrote critically acclaimed books.

Now, a young high school student has waited until the last minute to read one of those books and write a book report. She considers contacting its deceased author. What can possibly go wrong?

Amazon Giveaway

Later today (1-14-17) I’ll be running an Amazon giveaway for my contemporary fantasy novel Sarabande. It features a very determined young woman from the Montana mountains who fights against more troubles than anyone can shake a stick at to find the avatar who she hopes will stop the spirit who’s been haunting her for three years.

Watch Twitter for the giveaway. They come and go so fast, there’s never time to post about them here once they go live.

UPDATE: Giveaway went live about 12:10 eastern time and within the next 10-15 minutes, the three books available were snapped up. Thank you to everyone who entered.

–Malcolm

 

 

 

 

Crank down in Florida thinks he can make ice as good as God Almighty

gorriemanumentDr. John Gorrie of Apalachicola Florida was a pioneer in the development of mechanical refrigeration in the 1840s. He saw cool air, whether from ice or from the lowering of the temperature in a room, as a medical means of combating such diseases as yellow fever and malaria. However, as a “Smithsonian” article about him suggests, he received a chilly reception, lost backers, and was never able to pursue the equipment’s development based on his early patent.

I first saw the John Gorrie museum, a Florida State Park, in Apalachicola when it opened in 1958. It is one of the treasures of visiting the “other Florida” or “the forgotten coast” in the panhandle by following U.S. Highway 98. Now, we take the creation of ice for granted and–except for days when we’re waiting for the repairman–we rely our window air conditioners and central HVAC systems.

However, the creation of ice by man was thought by some during Gorrie’s time as an affront to nature as “Smithsonian” noted in its July 2002 article: “Gorrie, who used air as the working gas in his machine, took his idea north to the Cincinnati Iron Works, which created a model for public demonstration. But the notion that humans could create ice bordered on blasphemy. In the New York Globe, one writer complained of a ‘crank’ down in Florida ‘that thinks he can make ice by his machine as good as God Almighty.'”

gorriemuseumAn opposing view appears on the state park’s website: “Not long after the death of Dr. Gorrie in 1855, famed botanist and physician Alvan Wentworth Chapman commented to celebrated botanist Asa Gray, ‘Gray, there is the grave of a man we recognize as superior to all of us.’ The technology needed to discover the cure for yellow fever still does not exist. Gorrie’s valiant attempt inadvertently created a machine and theory that changed the world forever. The John Gorrie Museum State Park reveals this remarkable and compassionate man and shows the amazing machine he created.”

While the original Gorrie ice making machine is in the Smithsonian Institution, you can see a replica of it while visiting the Gorrie Museum on 6th Street in Apalachicola, one block off U.S. Highway 98.

For more information on Dr. Gorrie, see: Explore Southern History

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell grew up in the Florida Panhandle and has written fiction such as “Conjure Woman’s Cat” set in the areas he explored many years ago.

 

 

On location: Carrabelle, Florida

Carrabelle waterfront as it looked in the 1960s. - Photo from the Florida Memory Project.
Carrabelle waterfront as it looked in the 1960s. – Photo from the Florida Memory Project.

Carrabelle sits on the gulf coast in the Florida Panhandle and has three rivers running through it. I lived an hour away in Tallahassee from the first grade through college and loved those rivers,  Carrabelle River, Crooked River and Ochlockonee River. I also liked the unspoiled coast–still called the Forgotten Coast–and the nearby Tate’s Hell State Forest. Except for the unfortunate logging in Tate’s Hell, which is currently in recovery, the beaches, swamps and rivers were more pristine than those in the crowded peninsula section of the state.

Across the bay from Carrabelle is Dog Island. In the 1950s and 1960s, my Scout Troop often went camping there. My best friend and I went there by speed boat and sail boat to explore the dunes along its coast. The island remains sparsely developed while the nearby St. George Island has more traffic since it’s connected to the mainland by a bridge. I was against the bridge when it was being built, but they the state department of transportation didn’t ask me.

Carrabelle as it looks today.
Carrabelle as it looks today.

In addition to the great seafood and the well-publicized “world’s smallest police station,” visitors will enjoy Alligator Point, Carrabelle Beach, St. George Island State Park, Ochlockonee State Park, and the Ft. Gadsden Historic Site. Highway 98 is a scenic coastal road and highway 67 is a scenic route through state and national forests. With 1300 residents, Carrabelle is not crowded except on warm summer days when people drive down from Tallahassee to enjoy the beaches.

I figuratively traveled to Carrabelle last week while working on a new short story set there in the late 1960s. I wish it weren’t seven hours away from my home in northwest Georgia. I would have taken a fresh look at a place out of my childhood for hushpuppies and mullet–along with the ambiance. Called “Visiting Aunt Ruby,” my short story will be released on Kindle by Thomas-Jacob Publishing February 12 as part of our Stories from Tate’s Hell series.

carrabellemapquestIf you live closer to the gulf coast and haven’t been to Carrabelle, go take a look, and while you’re there, climb to the top of the Crooked River Lighthouse and explore the World War II museum at Camp Gordon Johnston.  If you dare to hike into Tate’s Hell and end up getting lost, don’t call me on your cell phone (if it even works there) and ask me how to get the hell out.

“The history of Dog Island and Carrabelle, Florida, includes a wonderful mix of Indians, shipping, bootlegging, logging and battles. This charming town was a fishing village prior to the Civil War, isolated from the rest of Franklin County by the lack of bridges and paved roads. After the war, it became an internationally known lumber town, shipping wood from the hundreds of thousands of acres of surrounding virgin forest. Turpentine, distilled from pine sap, was shipped via schooners from the natural deep water port on the Carrabelle River. ” – Get Hooked on Carrabelle

— Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “Conjure Woman’s Cat,” a 1950s-era novella set in the Florida Panhandle. It features a conjure woman who claims to be older than dirt, but not too old to fight the KKK when her town’s police force refuses to investigate the murder of a Black girl.

Wondering why people click on what they click on

When I blogged about the USS Ranger, the Glacier National Park Centennial and the White House Boys (at Florida’s Dozier School), I wasn’t surprised to see lots of folks stopping by to read those posts while the stories behind them were in the news.

Arthur Rackham's 1909 illustration for "The Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm"
Arthur Rackham’s 1909 illustration for “The Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm”

Then, when there was suddenly an upsurge of interest in those posts, I often found out I’d missed a news event and people were out looking for information again. So then I updated the posts and even more people read them!

Of course, there are always those posts I write, thinking they’ll be popular and nobody reads them. Shows what I know!

It’s kind of fun trying to figure out why people read what they read. If I knew the answer to that question, I’d probably write more follow-up posts and get some real conversations going in the comments section.

  • This summer marks the 100th anniversary of Many Glacier Hotel in Glacier National Park. Along with various centennial events, there will be an employee reunion which–sorry to say–I’m not able to attend. Perhaps this is why I’m suddenly getting more hits on my 2011 post Many Glacier Hotel 1963, where the fantasy began.
  • I figure there must be some Floridians following this blog, or possibly people planning a trip there, because I randomly get slews of hits on some of my “On Location” posts about locations in the panhandle such as Location Settings: The Other Florida, featuring Panacea and St. Teresa. I’ve written a lot about Florida settings and, since most of them are in the panhandle rather than the primary tourist sections of the state, it’s nice to see people stopping by to read them.
  • Reader interest in old book reviews comes and goes, quite often when the author of a book I reviewed has released something new.
  • Long-ago days
    Long-ago days

    The hits on one post, though, really have me puzzled. The highest readership week after week is going to my June 2013 post The Bare-Bones Structure of a Fairy Tale. In fact, that post has taken over from the White House Boys as the most-read post in the history of this blog. But why? I have no idea. I like fairy tales, myths, and legends: that’s why I wrote the post. I figured nobody would notice it because fairy tales are not exactly breaking news or high on the list of things that are trending on Yahoo, Twitter and Facebook. If you’re one of the people who read that post, what were you looking for?

This really isn’t a niche blog, though it generally has to do with books, writing and the things that catch my fancy. If the NSA is tracking me here, it probably knows more about this blog than I do, what with the various algorithms around for weighing how much space has been devoted to one subject or another.

Whatever prompts you to stop and read, I appreciate it. Hang in there as I bounce all over the spectrum. I’m working on another hoodoo related book, so that means you might be finding out more about folk magic than you want to know. (I spent the morning researching possum bones, but I think I’ll spare you the details of that.)

–Malcolm

Free on Kindle Unlimited
Free on Kindle Unlimited

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of The Land Between the Rivers, the three-story set of folk tales about Panther, Bird and Bear, the first animals (according to the Seminole creation myth) to walk upon the earth. It’s set in Tate’s Hell Swamp in the Florida Panhandle.

 

New novella tells the story of a cat, a conjure woman and the KKK

Click here for Kindle edition.
Click here for Kindle edition.

Thomas-Jacob Publishing has released Conjure Woman’s Cat,  a novella by Malcolm R. Campbell (“The Sun Singer”), set in the 1950s Florida Panhandle world of blues, turpentine camps, root doctors, the KKK and a region of the state so far away from everywhere else that it’s often called “the other Florida” and “the forgotten coast.”

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. Black women look after white children in the homes of white families and are respected, even loved as individuals, but distrusted and kept separated and other as a group.

A palpable gloss, sweeter than the state’s prized tupelo honey, holds the spiritual and temporal components of the Blacks’ and Whites’ worlds firmly in the stasis of their separate places. When that gloss fails, the Klan restores the unnatural disorder of ideas and people that have fallen out of favor.

Click her to see the trailer.
Click her to see the trailer.

Lena and Eulalie know the Klan. When the same white boys who once treated Eulalie as a surrogate parent rape and murder a black girl named Mattie near the saw mill, 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.”

Eulalie believes that when you do a thing, you don’t look back to check on it because that shows the good Lord one’s not certain about what she did. It’s hard, though, 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.

All that’s too broke to fix, but beneath the sweet sugar that covers crimes against Blacks, Eulalie’s pragmatic, no-nonsense otherness is the best mojo for righting wrongs against both the world and the heart.

I hope you enjoy the book.

–Malcolm

Conjure Woman’s Cat website

Paperback Edition at Amazon

Nook Edition at Barnes & Noble

Eulalie's world.
Eulalie’s world.