“Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, spammers?”

As many of you know, I take a dim view of spammers because they show up and do their business here without taking part in the conversation or sharing my posts on Twitter or Facebook. Just imagine yourself having a dinner table conversation with your family about the best books you’ve ever read when somebody you don’t know walks into your house, sits down at the table, eats a plate full of mashed potatoes and gravy, and says, “So, y’all want a way to get some cheap condoms?”

That’s a spammer for you.

Spin the wheel of fortune when you leave spam on my posts

Spin the wheel of fortune when you leave spam on my posts – Wikipedia Photo

I appreciate the fact that WordPress weeds out most of the people who try to stop by our blogs to steal all the gravy. But, there’s more work to be done.

With that in mind, I’ve installed my Anti-Spammer Hex App that tracks down those who show up on this blog and on my “Sun Singer’s Travels” blog and try to sell us stuff that has nothing to do with my posts–and worse yet–don’t pay for advertising on my site.

While working on Conjure Woman’s Cat and Eulalie and Washerwoman, I took a lot of notes about spells, magic, candles, plants and especially protection hexes. If you ever hired a hoodoo practitioner, you might have been handed a mojo bag filled with the ingredients of the “law keep away” spell. (It does just what you think it does.)

Well, I’ve modified the “law keep away” spell with extra graveyard dirt obtained from cemeteries that cater to sociopaths and have merged that into the traditional mix while burning a black candle during the new moon as a squinch owl shouted curses from a longleaf pine tree. The resulting formula has undergone rigorous testing at a town near you or maybe even in your neighborhood. If there have been any recent outbreaks of green apple quick step, lice, or mysteriously appearing vulgar tattoos, a spammer or two just wasn’t lucky.

The luck comes into the mix through a random number generator subroutine I added to my assembly language code. This gives spammers a 1 in 100 chance of getting away with leaving a free message here on my blog without being hexed. See, I can be a good sport about this even though the odds favor the house.

So, if you’ve stopped by with a spam message, just ask yourself. . .well, you know what.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell’s two hoodoo novels can be found at Amazon in paperback and e-book editions. The audio edition of “Conjure Woman’s Cat” received an Earphones Award Winner at AudioFile Magazine.

Local author experiments with hoodoo and discovers that’s a bad idea

Rome, Georgia, July 16, 2016, Star-Gazer News Service–Malcolm R. Campbell, author of the hoodoo novel Conjure Woman’s Cat, was doing hex research on a dark and stormy night when he went to a nearby graveyard to try out a haint calling spell to see what would happen.

Campbell being bugged by a haint while he tries to write the next chapter of his book.

Campbell being bugged by a haint while he tries to write the next chapter of his book.

Haints happened, more than he could shake a stick at (like that would do any good), and while they were generally friendly, they wanted haint tasks: people to scare, places where ghost lights would improve the ambiance, bad neighbors who needed to experience a plague of rabid bull frogs, people walking on lonely roads in search of spooky entertainment.

“I didn’t realize the spell worked until I got home,” said Campbell. “My three cats are always chasing invisible things around the house, so everything seemed normal when I got home from the graveyard. When the cats wouldn’t settle down, I turned off all the lights and was surprised to see a living room full of haints, Most of them threatened to turn on Fox “News” 24/7 unless I kept them busy with exciting haint chores.”

Campbell, who has always believed 100% accuracy makes for better fiction, told reporters during a “fluke rain storm” of flying fish, that trying out the haint spell was bad idea because it didn’t come with any directions for sending the haints back to the graveyard.”

Medicine men, shamans, cops, witches and everyday people with shotguns visited Campbell’s house to try their hand at getting rid of the haints. Nothing worked.

“I have to admit it was fun for a while,” said Campbell, “because when they weren’t out causing mischief, they sat in my Naugahyde recliner and offered tips for the haint scenes in my work in progress. For example, the idea that haints mainly haunt people in cemeteries is pretty much of a myth: more hauntings happen in abandoned Walmart stores than anywhere else.”

Campbell has a hotline with local police to assure them that “his haints” aren’t responsible for every “weird” 911 in Rome and Floyd County.

Security paint at Campbell's house.

Security paint at Campbell’s house.

“There’s been so much publicity about the haint infestation,” said Officer Smith (not his real name), “that people just assume Campbell forgot to close the front door and the haints flew out trying to make every night like Halloween. We’ve advised Campbell to keep each haint on a leash so that innocent people won’t get scared and pee in their pants.”

According to one haint who told his story to a local television station, “We haven’t had this much fun since the spiritualism era of the late 1800s and early 1900s when seances were all the rage, Ouija Boards were selling faster than hotcakes, folks wanted to believe they could talk to dead aunts and uncles, and tables all around the country were rocking, rolling and tapping.”

Campbell told the Feds, who came to town to investigate, that the haints were starting to get bored and were planning to leave for Washington, D.C. during the next thunderstorm when energy fields are high and spiritual travel is easier than falling off a tombstone.

“As soon as they leave, I’m buying a fresh can of haint blue paint for the front of my house to make sure they don’t come back,” Campbell told Agents Houdini and Doyle. The agents subsequently confirmed “things are weirder than usual” whenever Congress  is in session.

Story by Jock Stewart, Special Investigative Reporter.

 

Haints, Plate-Eyes and Demons, oh my

Frankly, I don’t like reading specific directions for summoning evil spirits because I’m afraid I’ll accidentally think them or recite them and suddenly a hideous monster will appear.

demonFrom hoodoo to witchcraft to high magic, the lore is filled with cautions about the dangers of summoning bad stuff because unless you know what you’re doing, the bad stuff will come after you. This would be kind of like purchasing a rabid dog to keep traveling salesmen away from your door. The odds seem high that the dog will attack you first.

Another reason I don’t like reading specific directions for summoning evil spirits is the feds. They probably track this stuff and the last thing I need is the NSA telling the FBI that I used the search terms “black arts conjure oil” or “hoodoo demon-calling spell” enough times for it “to be a problem” as opposed to looking for crossword clues.

Writers often talk about stuff like this. We worry about doing research about how to kill people, make bombs, mix deadly and untraceable poisons, and making pacts with the devil. The people who have that kind of history on their computers usually tern out to be serial killers or the kind of nut cases who join ISIS and saying “I’m just writing a book” probably won’t cut it when the cops arrive.

I didn’t worry about this when I was writing Conjure Woman’s Cat because for that book, I was looking up good spells, good charms, and how to reverse jinxes. But in the sequel, my good conjure woman is combating a black arts root doctor and so I have to know more about that side of the business for her to be able to speculate about what he’s doing and how.

Since I try to make the spells and uses of herbs as realistic as possible within the world of conjure, I don’t feel right just making it up. Suffice it to say, the curses I’ve found aren’t going into the sequel verbatim. For one thing, I have to find a spell or recipe in multiple places before I’ll trust that it’s more than the imaginings of one resource. For another, what if the thing works as advertised? I don’t need to see on CNN that people are using my book to summon demons to go after their spouses’ lovers or to disrupt law-abiding governments (if any). So, everything has to be blurred around the edges: exact enough to make a real conjure woman nod in agreement but inexact enough to your child, spouse or neighborhood crook can’t use it.

By the way, plate-eyes aren’t seen very much any more, but generally they’re unpleasant, what with their glowing eyes the size of plates. If one bothers you, you can get rid of it with anything that smells bad. I’m pretty sure I’m not going to use any plate-eyes in the sequel to Conjure Woman’s Cat because nobody seems to know how to contact one of them. Haints, well, they’re okay, but they usually have their own agendas.

Demons, though, they’re looking pretty good, figuratively speaking, because they’re easier to summon that most people think and fewer people are going to question whether the author has used the right technique or the wrong technique to call them.

When the book comes out, I promise it won’t contain the exact technique for calling a demon. It will be close enough to make the book slightly dangerous. But that’s what readers want.

–Malcolm

KIndle cover 200x300(1)Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “Conjure Woman’s Cat” and a batch of paranormal Kindle short stories.

Stop by my website.

 

‘Voodoo & Hoodoo’ by Jim Haskins

“As a child growing up in a small town in Alabama, I shared the experience of most southern-born black children as well as many northern black children whose families migrated from, or maintained close ties with, the South. We were aware at an early age that there were more forces to contend with than met the eye. A person’s very neighbors, thought outwardly friendly, might be plotting against him, ‘laying a trick’ on him. But they didn’t perform the actual trick themselves; they had neither the power nor the knowledge. Instead, they went to the local hoodoo doctor or root worker.”

– Jim Haskins, in the book’s introduction.

VoodooHoodooFirst published in 1978 and available as a used book on Amazon, Jim Haskins’ Voodoo & Hoodoo: The Traditional Craft as Revealed Traditional Practitioners is a worthwhile introduction to southern folk magic. One Amazon reviewer says that the author didn’t want the word “Voodoo” in the title, but that this was added by the publisher to ramp up sales. The term is misleading because the book is about herbs, root doctors and practices that have little to do with the Voodoo religion.

When I was writing my novella Conjure Woman’s Cat, I found this book to be a credible introduction, especially for those of us who grew up in the South around the edges of the practices and point of view Haskins describes. The quotation at the beginning of this post is typical of the kind of thing many of us (white and black) heard when we were young, but often had a hard time finding anyone who would tell us what it was all about.

While the book includes spells and recipes, they aren’t the strong point: the value here is the ambiance and sense of the craft one gets from the practitioners themselves.

You’ll find plenty of spells and recipes and herbal information on the Internet and in books such as Hoodoo Herb and Root Magic and The Black Folder both by cat yronwode. Or, you can look at hoodoo blogs such as Spiritual Information for more details about methods and practices. As an author, I needed a starting point and Haskins’ book was a good one for that. If you’re researching hoodoo, or simply interested in learning more about it as a component of southern culture, the book will also give you a starting point.

Frankly, I do not like authors who look up practices (spiritual, cultural, or ethnic) on, say, Wikipedia, grab a few basics, and then head straight for books with spells. Doing this is dishonest because it paints an inaccurate, Hollywood-style picture of something real and twists it into something made to look like fantasy. J. K. Rowling recently got into trouble with American Indian nations for taking bits and pieces of their beliefs and using them out of context in her new writing on the Pottermore site.  This practice is often called appropriation.

I prefer appreciation when it comes to another culture and its spiritual and folk magic practices. With appreciation, we’re telling something true–even in a novel–because we’re keeping our references to the art and craft of the people as correct and in context as we can make them. In order to do this, one has to immerse himself or herself into the world and world view of your fictional hoodoo (or other magical, cultural or spiritual) practitioners long before looking for, say, specific spells/charms/herbs that fit into the plot of one’s fiction.

The resulting book, whether it’s in the magical realism genre or labeled by Amazon as fantasy, is reality based in the same sense that a book with a protestant minister or Catholic priest is reality based because it starts with characters whose beliefs are part of a real system.

When it comes to hoodoo, Jim Haskins’ overview of the craft and the culture it came from was a good place for me to start.

–Malcolm

KIndle cover 200x300(1)Conjure Woman’s Cat, from Florida publisher Thomas-Jacob, is available in e-book and paperback editions–and coming soon as an audio book. It’s set in the world where I grew up, the places I explored when I sneaked away from the house, and focuses on the racism I didn’t understand then or now.

 

Magical Realism Writing Tips – Importance of Belief

When an author writes a novel or short story in the magical realism genre, magic is always a natural  and unquestioned component of the characters’ lives and the environment in which they live. As an author, you’re more likely to write a believable story if–while you’re writing, at least–you assume the magic is real.

This is my favorite blog because the writer has many years of experience and a great archive of posts for many Hoodoo subjects.

This is my favorite blog because the writer has many years of experience and a great archive of posts for many Hoodoo subjects.

This doesn’t mean you must personally subscribe to the philosophy and practices of the magical system in your story whether that system is a known collection of beliefs such as hoodoo or Voodoo or a fictional system you built from scratch.

I prefer using practices based on actual belief systems because they already have a rich, varied and somewhat known lore that is often much deeper than anything a most of us can make up.

When I wrote Conjure Woman’s Cat about a root doctor (another name for a conjure practitioner), I began by reading books and web sites written by people who practice hoodoo. When I had a question, I asked them, usually making it clear that I was researching a novel rather than following the belief system myself. (You’ll see some of the sites/books I consulted in the folk magic category of my Myth and Magic Resources post.)

At times, I’ve read paranormal and magical realism books by authors who take a known system–say, witchcraft–and have their characters doing things that are completely outside the realm of the practice whether it’s Wicca or the traditional craft. Hollywood has done this a lot, but I feel more anger about it when I find it in a novel by a known writer who can look stuff up and talk to experts and keep the magic within the realm of what a system claims is possible. Witches do not worship the devil nor utilize spells that look like they originated in the Harry Potter series or Lord of the Rings.

This is a more commercial site with products to sell. However, it also has a wealth of information about spells, herbs and candles.

This is a more commercial site with products to sell. However, it also has a wealth of information about spells, herbs and candles.

Yes, we all take liberties when telling a good yarn, and even when we don’t, it’s probable that (in my case) a real conjure woman will find things in my book that are unrealistic. I try to make the material as accurate as possible for a fiction writer–as opposed to a real practitioner who writes a novel based on their own experiences.

One way to make your story accurate is through the use of multiple sources. This helps you understand the magical approach well enough to write about it in your own words.

Of course, if you make up the magic from scratch, it helps if you set limits on it (so that your characters aren’t all-powerful) and keep it consistent. Don’t state a magical rule on page 25 and then have a character successfully ignore that rule on page 250.

For your readers to believe, you have to believe. Most of them will believe while they’re reading the story. That’s how you need to feel. I didn’t become a conjurer after I wrote Conjure Woman’s Cat, and I don’t expect my readers to do so either.

If you don’t believe while you’re writing, the story won’t ring true because your author’s point of view is that it isn’t true.

There’s a lot of anecdotal evidence that a fair number of people believe witchcraft, hoodoo and Voodoo work. Frankly, I don’t have an opinion about that and did everything possible while writing to refrain from judgement.

What we hope for when we write magical realism is that our readers will be carried away by the story as though everything in it is absolutely possible, maybe not in their own lives, but in the lives of our characters.

When magicians like Penn and Teller walk out on the stage in front of you or when you see them on TV, you know that what they’re doing is an illusion. You’re in the audience to be fooled and when the magician carries off a trick perfectly and you can’t figure it out, you laugh and applaud and ask for more.

A magical realism short story or novel is also an illusion. If both the magic and the realism in the story are done well, you’ll be fooled into thinking everything you read did happen or could happen. Neither the stage magician nor the writer dares approach his or her audience with any doubts about the effect s/he is trying to achieve. Doubts kill the performance, on stage or in writing.

And then, too, sometimes that stage magician and that writer include a bit of real magic under the guise of illusion. We always want you to think, “hmm, I wonder.”

–Malcolm

KIndle cover 200x300(1)SarabandeCover2015Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the contemporary fantasy novel “Sarabande” and the magical realism novella “Conjure Woman’s Cat.”

Website

 

 

Dill: it does more than season granny’s pickles

dillseedIf your granny taught you anything, she made sure you knew how to make a proper dill pickle. I’m not going to repeat the recipe here, because I ain’t your granny. Suffice it to say, it includes dill. Surprised?

Most people don’t grow their own dill. If you don’t, your pickles won’t do well at the state fair. Surely, granny told you this. Whether you’re using seeds or leaves (sprigs), pickles just taste better when you grow your own dill because factory fresh ain’t fresh.

If your granny was cagey, she probably didn’t tell you that you can attract a lover by soaking yourself in a “love-drawing bath.” Obviously, there are hundreds of spells you can add to the mix, but since taking a bath is a good idea before going out on a date, the dill seeds you collected and dried yourself are superior to those from the factory. (A fair number of sites tell you how to dry the seeds. Here’s one of them.)

The leaves from your fresh-from-the-garden dill will remove a jinx, possibly the kind of crossed condition a rival might have put on you to keep you from finding the mate of your dreams. Make a coction with the leaves and ginger root, strain it,  and rub it on yourself like sun screen. Think of it as a jinx screen. Do this for at nine days.

Maybe you’re not jinxed. Okay, then soak those dill seeds in water for three days and add them to your next bath. Soak yourself for a while (but not for nine days!).

Good luck.

Now, if you need something more powerful, there are dozens of hoodoo practitioners out there with hundreds of love spells involving candles, incense, oils, letters and even some properly obtained graveyard dirt. (Hint: get that, with a token of payment, from the grave of a good person, leaving out the black sheep in your family and/or a lunatic.)

I’m an author. I look this stuff up when writing stories like “Snakebit” and “Dream of Crows,” and my Conjure Woman’s Cat novella. That means that I “fake it,” I don’t prescribe it. My granny wasn’t a conjure woman (that I know of) so she didn’t hand down any spells. She often said, though, that “things are in a real pickle”–whatever that meant.

But, like suggesting sickly people should have a bowl of chicken soup, I’m in the clear by suggesting you throw some dill seeds in your bath.

If that doesn’t work, maybe you’re forgetting to brush your teeth.

–Malcolm

crowssmallcoverMalcolm R. Campbell is the author of “Dream of Crows,” a dark story about a sexy conjure woman, a swamp, a cemetery and–it goes without saying–some graveyard dirt. It’s free on Kindle for two more days.

 

On Location: The Florida Panhandle, AKA ‘The Other Florida,’ in another era

“The Other Florida’s pines will survive too, I think. Often among them I remember the person I was before I came to them and what I thought was important then, and the landscapes I have since known, and the history I have since learned, and the friends I have since made. Whatever the fates may take me in the years to come, I shall not be the same again.” – Glorida Jahoda in “The Other Florida” (1967)

ConjureLandThe Other Florida, as viewed by anthropologist Gloria Jahoda, was raw and wild and distinctly different than the peninsular part of the state which was being taken over by developers and snow birds and the others who indulged in the kinds of vandalism that destroyed the natural beauty of the state in order to present a man-made, safe and sanitized version of sunshine, flowers and paradise.

In folklore, fantasy and magical realism, other denotes that which is not only different from ourselves and our kin, but is also dangerous, potentially malevolent and probably beyond our comprehension. In the hero’s journey motif made famous by Joseph Campbell, other is the unknown world outside the city gates. Other, in the Harry Potter books and movies, was the forbidden forest next to the school. In psychology, other is the part of ourselves–often called the shadow–that we do not know and do not want to know. Other can also be used to dismiss and/or subjugate peoples, places and ideas that we see as inferior to our comfortable way of thinking.

The Apalachicola River Watershed

I chose Liberty County and the world adjoining the Apalachicola River in Florida for the setting of my novella Conjure Woman’s Cat because historically–and psychologically–it was highly other to everyone, including most of the population of Tallahassee fifty miles away, but more so to those who lived outside the state and/or in the peninsula.

This world felt other to me when I first saw it, the family having moved to north Florida from Oregon when I started the first grade. I was used to mountains and the Pacific coast, all of which formed what I knew of the world. The pine forests, blackwater rivers, basin swamps, savannahs, sheepshead ravines, cypress trees and sweetbay magnolias, Spanish moss and saw palmetto, and white sand beaches seemed fictional. I grew to love them though it’s taken me a lifetime to wrap my consciousness around a place where Southern Gothic was a way of life.

The Other Florida

Apalachicola River at Torreya State Park, one of the most diverse habitats in the world.

Apalachicola River at Torreya State Park, one of the most diverse habitats in the world.

My bible was a book written by family friend Gloria Jahoda, another outsider who described in detail the world between Jacksonville and Pensacola with the detailed and poetic accuracy alien eyes often bring to new experiences. She called this world the “Deep South with a difference, worlds from homogeneous Alabama and Mississippi and even rural Georgia. Though you can never realize it as you speed through the pinewoods to get somewhere else, 20 miles in any direction may bring changes in the country’s life and essence that are dazzling in their variety. Oystermen, cotton planters, millionaire quail hunters, moonshine-makers, vocal conservatives, doctrinaire liberals, scientists, game wardens, fortune tellers and hermits inhabit a land that is above all things deceptive because it looks as if it offered hardly any variety at all.”

En route from Tallahassee to the “forgotten coast” we drove through, economically speaking, the poorest county in the country with miles of pines tapped for turpentine, miles of unpaved sandy roads through scrub oak, sink holes with seemingly no bottom beneath the cold clear water, and that sign that said it all: “Impeach Earl Warren.” I don’t remember who coined the phrase or when, but Southerners were said in those days to like individual Negroes (the terms Blacks and African Americans hadn’t yet been invented) but dislike them as a group while Northerners were said to dislike them as individuals but like them as a group.

Segregation

Wildflowers in the flatwoods section of Tate's Hell Forest.

Wildflowers in the flatwoods section of Tate’s Hell Forest.

Suffice it to say, Sunshine State tourism brochures did not highlight the active and volatile KKK presence nor the fact that Florida had more lynchings, torture, fires and explosions than just about anywhere else.  Proper people knew better than to talk about the Klan even though the group was as integral to the state’s politics and culture as Tupelo honey and grits were to meals cooked and served by Negro maids. The brochures also didn’t say that turpentine camps and orange groves used Negro convict labor, conscripted under false and fanciful charges, to bring us paint thinner and orange juice.

The maids who–as we said–“pert near” raised white children weren’t allowed to eat in our restaurants, attend our churches, use our restrooms or drink out of our water fountains. Negroes were in every possible way, other. Since I wasn’t born in the South and didn’t have a Southern accent, I was called a Yankee and a “N”-lover.

One heard the blues and did a dance or two at the local jook - Florida Memory Photo.

One heard the blues and did a dance or two at the local jook – Florida Memory Photo.

Hell, as a six year old from Oregon, I had never heard of the Civil War and then when my parents told me it happened one hundred before, I didn’t know why folks talked about it as thought it were yesterday. Seeing the war as yesterday was a way of life and the KKK made sure nobody forgot that segregation as by no means gone with the wind. My parents were very liberal and we went to a liberal church, one of the first in town to allow Negroes to attend. The pastor had a cross burnt on his front yard for opening our sacred place to the others and a fair part of our congregation left in a snit and started their own church which was kept Ivory Snow white. My best friend was among those who left. So were my grandparents. I still haven’t forgiven them for that.

I tell you all of this because it’s the impetus behind Conjure Woman’s Cat, a novella set in a Jim Crow era in a violent state that tells the story of a granny and her kitty using folk magic to fight the Klan. Hoodoo was, of course, about as other as you could get and the bond between it and the congregations of Negro churches (praise churches, the were often called) could not be comprehended. The blues told the stories because the blues and Negroes and hoodoo and praise churches and troubles were all wrapped up together. Perhaps I loved the blues because I was an outsider, that is to say, other.

I was other watching other.  My childhood had little innocence in it. Eulalie, my ancient conjure woman in the novella is modeled after the maid who worked for years at my best friend’s house, and I expect I learned more from her than my grade school teachers. Eulalie’s friend Willie Tate is modeled after an elderly Black gentleman who (like many) used a mule-drawn farm wagon for transportation. His family brought their produce to our door every week. Stopped by my best friend’s house around the corner as well. They didn’t come to the front door because that just wasn’t done. Lena, the cat in the novella who travels between words is, of course, me.

Magical realism thrives on people, places and things considered other. Readers believe magic is possible wherever the other is and less likely in the worlds they know. Perhaps so. Perhaps I found magic in the other Florida because I went there as an outsider like the writer of my bible. Like her, I was changed by the pines, landscapes, experiences and friends. Inevitably, writers write about what changes them, what impacts them–what they find, so to speak, on location.

–Malcolm

KIndle cover 200x300(1)Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “Cora’s Crossing,” set in Marianna, Florida, “Moonlight and Ghosts,” set in Tallahassee, the “Garden of Heaven” trilogy set, in part, in Tallahassee, Carrabelle, Tate’s Hell and Florida’s “Garden of Eden” near Bristol, “Emily’s Stories,” set in Tallahassee and St. Marks, and “Conjure Woman’s Cat,” set in Liberty County, Florida.