Where did I get the name for my previous blog?

In 2004, I self-published the first edition of my contemporary fantasy novel The Sun Singer. The second edition, from a small publisher, came out in 2010. When that edition went out of print, I self-published the current edition in 2015.

The story is about a young man named Robert Adams who travels to a look-alike version of Glacier National Park, Montana, where he finds a raging battle in progress between the evil king and a rebel group. While Robert has had some psychic skills for many years, he buried then as deep in his mind as possible because he stopped trusting them. Now, to survive the battles and find his way home to our world, he must rely on them once again.

The Sun Singer is a hero’s journey novel, that is to say, a story about a person who undertakes a journey and comes back from it forever changed. Oddly enough, I began dreaming about this story when I was in junior high school. On a visit to see my grandparents in Illinois, we visited Allerton Park, now owned by the University of Illinois, which serves as a convention center and nature preserve with a collection of outdoor statuary including The Sun Singer. It was almost as thought my seeing that statue created the connection to a story I was destined to write.

In some ways, I am the Sun Singer. Each of us is, when you consider the fact that our life’s journey seems to be intended to transform us into the very best we can be. With that in mind, it seemed fitting to name original blog “The Sun Singer’s Travels.” It was about the hero’s journey, my own journey through my published books, and–through its writing posts–the journeys each of us take when we write a novel or short story. A few months ago, I merged that blog into this one to reduce the amount of time it took to keep two blogs active and up to date.

The sequel to The Sun Singer, Sarabande, is a heroine’s journey novel in which a young woman comes from the look-alike world into our world to search for Robert Adams. She doesn’t have an easy time of it. Even though I’m no longer using the original blog name, I’m still focused on the same kinds of ideas and subject matter.

I’m very definitely a child of the new age, a long time student of magic, and a strong believer that each of us is much more powerful and complex than we appear. The challenge is finding out how and why that is so and then creating a world that mirrors our highest goals.

–Malcolm

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New Year, New Look, New URL

For the new year, I’ve changed the WordPress Theme for this blog’s look and feel as well as the URL:  https://malcolmsroundtable.com/

I used the previous theme for quite a few years and was especially fond of it. Who knows, maybe I’ll return to it some day. But for now, a clean slate for 2018.

The picture is all about magic, though I can’t promise my novels or blog posts will float in the air in a cloud of blue smoke. Being more consistent than usual, I’m using the same picture here as I do on my Conjure Woman’s Cat website.

The magic on this blog comes from my novels, at present the Florida Folk Magic series published by Thomas-Jacob Publishing in Florida. Already released are Conjure Woman’s Cat and Eulalie and Washerwoman. I’ve promised my publisher the third book in the series by Spring.

You’ll also find magic in posts here that relate to life itself, the idea being that we’re all on a hero’s journey or a heroine’s journey in an attempt to become the best that we can be. Life transforms us. There’s a synchronicity to it that tends to put in our path the very things we need whether they’re experiences, people, epiphanies about the cosmos, the environment and our stewardship of it, or even books, music and songs.

As an author, I can’t help but talk about books, writing techniques, and publishing. Sometimes you’ll find a review of a book I enjoyed, or a tip about making stories and novels better, or an occasional feature called “Book Bits” that lists links to reviews, author interviews, and publishing news.

While I’ll often mention other books and authors from Thomas-Jacob Publishing, I don’t review my colleague’s books here or on Amazon or GoodReads because doing so just doesn’t look right. They don’t review my books either. But all of us talk a lot about the books we like for the same reason a NASCAR driver talks about a new engine: we can’t help it.

One thing you won’t find here very often is politics because, as I see on the news and on Facebook, that’s hard to discuss without getting into a shouting match. I don’t think those shouting matches make things better. Nonetheless, my old-school reporter character Jock Stewart (from my novel Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire) will occasionally contribute a satirical news story post about real or imagined events that probably have political overtones. (Authors really don’t have as much control over their characters as readers believe, so I’m innocent here when Jock writes what he writes.)

I really don’t think the New Year gives us a clean slate any more than any other day, but this seemed like a good moment for some shameless self-promotion about this blog and its new look. As always, I appreciate all of you who stop by and read my posts and hope that your journey through 2018 is everything you desire.

–Malcolm

 

 

Briefly Noted: ‘Old Style Conjure’ by Starr Casas

Those who know Mama Starr Casas from her Old Style Conjure website, need no introduction to this practical guidebook published in September. Like her website commentaries, it’s blunt, practical, based on the culture she grew up in, and overviews works (spells) and approaches in an easy to understand manner. The book reminds us that conjure (hoodoo, rootwork) is directly linked to African American ancestors, the Christian Bible, and common sense approaches to magic based on the materials at hand in a typical Southern household.

Conjure workers are usually Christian. I like Casas’ statement, “If you remove the Bible from Old Style Conjure work then what you are doing really isn’t Conjure work! It then becomes something else. If you can hold the greatest Conjure book ever written in your hands and learn the power from it; why in the world would you let anyone stop you?” She also doesn’t agree with people who mix hoodoo with other forms of magic in a roll-your-own approach.

Publisher’s Description:

Conjure, hoodoo, rootwork―these are all names for southern American folk magic. Conjure first emerged in the days of slavery and plantations and is widely considered among the most potent forms of magic. Its popularity continues to increase, both in the United States and worldwide. This book is a guide to using conjure to achieve love, success, safety, prosperity, and spiritual fulfillment. Author Starr Casas, a hereditary master of the art, introduces readers to the history and philosophy of conjure and provides practical information for using it. Featuring Casas’s own rituals, spells, and home recipes, the book provides useful information suitable for novices and seasoned practitioners alike.

In its pages, you’ll learn about:

  • Bone reading
  • Candle burning
  • Conjure bags
  • Building your own conjure altar

Research or Practical Use

This book is readable and should be very helpful to those who are interested in folk magic as an avocation, want to try out spell work themselves, or are fascinated by the history and culture of hoodoo. Students of magic will also enjoy the inspirational forward by Orion Foxwood.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of two hoodoo novels, “Conjure Woman’s Cat” and “Eulalie and Washerwoman.”

Reading separate books together

“Sometimes they would sit in the parlor together, both reading – in entirely separate worlds, to be sure, but joined somehow. When this happened, other people in the family couldn’t bring themselves to disturb them. All that could be heard in the parlor was the sound of pages, turning.” ― Alice HoffmanBlackbird House

People who read together in silence–except for the sound of pages turning–in the same room are usually comfortable together. I’m thinking of families and friends, not passengers on a plane or people in a waiting room at the train station.

Some say that when you use the technique of astral projection, you imagine yourself away to other worlds as a shaman does, leaving your body unattended. To some extent, this happens when we read. Books carry us away upon spells of words just  as surely as dreams carry us away while we’re sleeping.

During a family visit, we all sat in the living room reading our very disparate books. We weren’t there, yet we were there, linked both by our trust in leaving our bodies unattended and by our common, quiet activity. It’s a good feeling, almost as good as lovers who feel secure in silence while they sit on a park bench and day dream, holding hands or leaning against each other.

In the evening, the living room lamps create pools of light where each reader sits. Yet those pools overlap and we are all one within our shared light. I suppose we could each do this with laptop computers or phones for texting, but the books truly have more magic in them making for a deeper experience.

I hope you have also found this to be true.

–Malcolm

Review: Alice Hoffman’s ‘The Rules of Magic’

The Rules of MagicThe Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“The Rules of Magic,” the prequel to Alice Hoffman’s 1995 bestseller “Practical Magic,” sparkles with the same wisdom and magical realism as the witching story of Sally and Gillian Owens did twenty two years ago. The characters, stories and writing style of this stunning prequel fit hand-in-glove with the characters, stories and writing style of “Practical Magic,” not an easy bit of conjuring for an author to face when going back to a story she told before she truly knew the magical rules when she first wrote about them.

This backstory about Sally and Gillian’s aunts Franny and Bridget (AKA “Jet”) focuses on a theme about life’s curses and blessings and what individuals wish to make of the fate and destiny they are given. Early on, Franny and Jet’s mother asks the sisters whether they’re opting for courage or caution in their unfolding lives. Their answers make for a cohesive story. Clearly, Alice Hoffman opted for courage when she traveled back to 1995 to continue the story of the Owens family.

The book contains wonderful surprises, making it much deeper than a family tree tacked on to the front of a famous novel many years later. The book offers its own multiple levels of depth and angst and joy while changing in positive ways the way many of us who read it will view the characters and themes of the original novel. (Emerging writers considering magical realism as a potential genre for their work will find both novels to be a demonstration of how an author can utilize magic and realism seamlessly in novels set in today’s world.”

While the ending of “The Rules of Magic” represents the best of all possible worlds for the two novels and their characters, turning the last page might be depressing for some readers. The reason is simply this: nobody wants the story to end because when it comes down to it, we need these characters, their joys and sorrows, and their magic in our lives.

View all my reviews

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the magical realism novels “Conjure Woman’s Cat” and “Eulalie and Washerwoman.

Free Kindle Contemporary Fantasy – ‘The Sun Singer’

The Sun Singer will be free on Kindle January 28 and 29. (The novel is always free to Kindle Unlimited subscribers.)

Description

TSSJourneysRobert Adams is a normal teenager who raises tropical fish, makes money shoveling snow off his neighbors’ sidewalks, gets stuck washing the breakfast dishes, dreads trying to ask girls out on dates and enjoys listening to his grandfather’s tall tales about magic and the western mountains. Yet, Robert is cursed by a raw talent his parents refuse to talk to him about: his dreams show him what others cannot see.

When the family plans a vacation to the Montana high country, Grandfather Elliott tells Robert there’s more to the trip than his parents’ suspect. The mountains hide a hidden world where people the ailing old man no longer remembers need help and dangerous tasks remain unfinished. Thinking that he and his grandfather will visit that world together, Robert promises to help.

On the shore of a mountain lake, Robert steps alone through a doorway into a world at war where magic runs deeper than the glacier-fed rivers. Grandfather Elliott meant to return to this world before his health failed him and now Robert must resurrect a long-suppressed gift to fulfill his promises, uncover old secrets, undo the deeds of his grandfather’s foul betrayer, subdue brutal enemy soldiers in battle, and survive the trip home.

Praise for “The Sun Singer”

The Sun Singer is gloriously convoluted, with threads that turn on themselves and lyrical prose on which you can float down the mysterious, sun-shaded channels of this charmingly liquid story.” – Author Diana Gabaldon (Outlander)

“This is a wildly spirited and intelligent adventure story where Robert has to learn to believe in the energies around him for them to flow through him. I enjoyed the messages of extended families and the way things came together at the end. All ages of readers who enjoy mystical adventures, alternate universes, or epic tales will love this story.” – Big Al’s Books and Pals

“I have encountered few books that have moved me like this one has. Thomas Covenant. Lord of the Rings. Stranger in a Strange Land. There are a few I could name; but really, how many life-changing moments can you have without feeling a little crazy in the end? Life, in its wisdom, rations them out to us. The Sun Singer is one. Maybe I’ll never have the opportunity to encounter the forces of darkness and light that struggle in the depths of my soul, personified within an exotic and yet strangely familiar otherworld, like Robert Adams was fortunate enough to. But I do know this: after reading this book, my own mundane world didn’t look or feel quite the same. I reckon yours may not either, at that.” – Author Seth Mullins

“This magical coming-of-age tale takes the reader through a labyrinth as a teenage boy/man sets off into the cosmic dimensions of the unknown to redeem his ‘grandfather’s’ kingdom and rightfully claim his position in life as a true leader. What I’d give to have Malcolm Campbell’s imagination, wisdom, wit, and mastery of the written word. Buy it, steal it, borrow it from your local library—one way or another, get hold of The Sun Singer and tell your friends.” – Literary Aficionado

“I highly recommend this book to those who seek to understand their own magical natures. Campbell has a fine eye for describing nature and emotions, something rare in writers these days. I predict that readers will resonate with his wisdom and I am really looking forward to his next book.” – Author Nora Caron

I hope you enjoy the book!

–Malcolm

Tarot cards after all these years

“Tarot reading is an excellent way to learn more about one’s self, have a closer look at your inner self or to examine your very own intentions and ambitions.”

Raven’s Tarot Site

I’ve been tinkering with the I Ching and the Tarot since I was in high school. I don’t do readings for other people. In fact, most people don’t know that I know anything about these divination systems because once they know, they walk on the other side of the street whenever they see you.

knightofswordsI was happy that C. LaVielle contributed a Tarot and storytelling guest post on January 11th because she focused one of the reasons I like both the I Ching and the Tarot: understanding the characters in my stories.

Like Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, both the I Ching and the Tarot present ways of looking at the world. The Tarot, of course, is closely linked to the Tree of Life of the Kabbalists.  The future isn’t fixed. At least I don’t think it is. So I don’t use any of these ways of looking at the world for predicting the future. In fact, they tell me what I know that I don’t know that I know. That is to say, they tell me what the unconscious part of me knows to be true even though the conscious part of me hasn’t figured it out yet.

My sun sign is Leo and the card representing me in the Tarot is the Knight of Swords (called King of Swords in most decks). This is why the URL for this site includes “knight of swords.” When I do Tarot readings for myself, the knight is me. When I do readings about novels I’m writing, the knight is always the logic of the story, cruel at times, to be sure, but nonetheless the fiery part of air as the card is described.

As a character in one of my novels said, he doesn’t want to see the future because that would spoil the surprise. It would also impact what he (or any of us) choose to do right now. Our power is always in the now. I see that, but the characters in my stories don’t always notice it. Plus, seeing the future would give us the false idea the whole shebang out there is engraved in stone when, actually, nothing except epitaphs are engraved in stone.

As a knight of swords, I’m a trickster (among other things), so that means I’m always stirring things up. That’s one reason I write fiction–to stir things up. That’s also why I like my Tarot deck: it shows me that even when I don’t consciously know I’m doing it, I’m stirring things up–and creating ideas that I let other people carry out to completion after I’ve wandered off to something new.

I see this as the author’s first duty–sowing seeds, suggesting things that bother people while making them think, suggesting that things aren’t what they appear to be, telling people that whatever goes bump in the night is real, finding the story inside everything that happens.

It’s one hell of a thing to do, but somebody’s got to do it. Fortunately, my Tarot deck “advises me” when it’s time to step back before the mob shows up on my door step.

–Malcolm