Archive for the ‘Malcolm R. Campbell’ Tag

Starting the next novel   Leave a comment

When I read about Hollywood film productions, I’m amazed at the number of years it takes for a production company to go from the purchase of the initial story to the completion of production. Some novelists are like that, moving at a snail’s pace–like Susanna Clarke and Donna Tartt. Others juggle multiple ideas at a time and are hard at work on the next novel before the last completed novel is even in print.

Fate’s Arrows hasn’t met its stride yet in terms of readers, editions (we’re working on the audiobook), or critical and reader reviews. So, I almost feel like I’m cheating on it to be starting a new novel already. Seriously, though, I need to start working on Aeon before I lose my nerved.

Aeon will be the third in my “Mountain Journeys Series” that includes The Sun Singer and Sarabande.  The Sun Singer had an avatar who is presumed dead. For years, I didn’t think I knew enough magic to write the third novel from his point of view. I still don’t, so I’ll have to fake it and proceed at a Donna Tartt rather than a James Paterson pace.

The name of the novel comes from the 20th major arcana card in the Thoth Tarot deck. According to Raven’s tarot site, a nice reference for those who use the Thoth deck,  “The Aeon is the symbol for the Rise of Phoenix, it stands for a time of insight, the true understanding of the circle of life, of growing and fading. The card tells us that we should leave our ‘frog perspective’ and watch the things from a higher level, that the time has come to face the new, that we need a good overview to build our ‘Utopia’.”

Fortunately, readers won’t need to know anything about the Tarot to understand the novel. Like the earlier novels in the series, Aeon will be contemporary fantasy, focussing primarily on a civil war in an alternate universe. Even though the avatar has grown too old for this sort of thing, he has to return to that universe because that’s where his daughter and his grandson live.

I’ve been reading through The Sun Singer and Sarabande to make sure I don’t get the continuity or the characters messed up. And, I’ve been updating my research notes about Glacier National Park where the novels are set. Okay, I guess I can’t delay writing the first chapter any longer.

I wonder if other writers who group their books into series go through all this hassle making sure they have everything right before they start the next book. I’m sure James Patterson has a team who keeps up with the continuity. Well, he can afford them. Here in my den, it’s just me, two cats, and a mess on my desk.

–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

The magic in my books

One way or the other, most of my novels include magic. Over time, this blog has often sought a comfortable niche. Apparently, that niche is magic even though I do a few book reviews, some posts about writing, conservation and wilderness, and some opinion posts.

The existence of this niche has become apparent of late when I see that most of my readers are stopping by to read posts about magic (many of those posts are old) and fewer readers are stopping by to look at everything else. My views of consensual reality and magic are more blurred than most people’s, meaning that I often think I’m writing realism and others think I’m writing something else. So, here’s how the books sort themselves out:

  1. Florida Folk Magic Series (Conjure Woman’s Cat, Eulalie and Washerwoman, Lena, and Fate’s Arrows – Magical realism based on hoodoo (conjure) as it’s generally viewed in the South. These are set in Florida.
  2. Mountain Song and At Sea – Both of these books are realism, but with fantasy elements and (in Mountain Song) spirituality in the form of a vision quest. These are set in Montana, Florida, and the South China Sea.
  3. The Sun Singer and Sarabande – Contemporary fantasy set primarily in Glacier National Park. The Sun Singer follows a hero’s journey theme and Sarabande (the sequel) follows a heroine’s journey theme.
  4. Widely Scattered Ghosts – paranormal short stories in a variety of settings.
  5. En Route to the Diddy-Wah-Diddy Landfill While the Dogwoods Were in Bloom – Short story within the Florida folklore and magical realism genres.
  6. Emily’s Stories (audiobook) – Three contemporary fantasy short stories. One of the stories is set in Montana and two are set in north Florida.

So, apparently, I’m writing about magic when I’m not even aware I’m writing about magic.

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

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

Parents aren’t supposed to like one of their children more than the others

Shameless promotion from your sponsor (me)

Southwest Airlines used to raise eyebrows during the flight attendant’s monologue about the plane’s safety features when s/he said, “If the masks are lowered during a flight put yours on first and then put the next mask on the child most likely to support you in old age.” Or, “The child you like best.”

I thought of this when a friend asked several days ago which of my novels I liked best while acknowledging that that might be impossible to do. I can pick one even though that doesn’t mean I’m discounting all the others. I told her it’s Conjure Woman’s Cat.

Here’s why.

  • It represented a change of focus for me in that I finally decided to address a hot-button issue for me: racism, Jim Crow, and the KKK as it was in Florida during my childhood.
  • After focussing on contemporary fantasy and one satire, I embraced magical realism with a story that would give rise to two sequels (soon to be three) while exploring the folk magic that was all around me in the Florida Panhandle.
  • While two earlier novels, The Sun Singer and Sarabande, focused on the somewhat esoteric themes behind the hero’s journey and the heroine’s journey, Conjure Woman’s Cat focused on backyard magic with a lot of folklore and a lot of ingredients close at hand.
  • I had a chance to do something unique and that was using a cat as the narrator. Why did I do this? Because, after having one or more cats in our household at all times for thirty-five years, I thought it more likely I could accurately write from a cat’s perspective than that of an African American woman who was (as she puts it) “older than dirt.”
  • My publisher, Thomas-Jacob, and I were lucky in that we found a wonderful and highly talented narrator in Wanda J. Dixon for the audio edition. She’s gotten rave reader reviews on Audible and a coveted Earphones Award Winner review from AudioFile Magazine. (“Most distinctive is Eulalie’s recurring sigh, which conveys her frustration with Florida in the 1950s, when Jim Crow laws and ‘Colored Only’ signs were routine.”)

Long-time readers of this blog know that I’m partial to Virginia Woolf’s statement in her novel Orlando: “In short, every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind is written large in his works.” I think that’s a given if an author is true to himself/herself. Yes, parts of me–my experiences and approach to life–live on in all my novels. But they loom the largest in Conjure Woman’s Cat.

The novel takes on more significance in my thoughts as riots and racism are looming large in the national consciousness–and major cities’ streets.

Malcolm

Hardcover edition woes

The pandemic has screwed a lot of supply chains as various manufacturing and retail operations shut down.

The shutdown problem is impacting my hardcover books, all of which are listed on Amazon (and possibly elsewhere) as out of stock. These come from a different printer than the paperback editions which are still available. The Kindle editions are also available.

I apologize for the inconvenience to those of you who have been perplexed about the missing hardcover editions of Conjure Woman’s Cat, Eulalie and Washerwoman, Lena, Sarabande, and Special Investigative Reporter. Let’s hope they return soon.

Malcolm

This and that on a cold, rainy day

  • Blood test this morning. The tech couldn’t find a vein. Ended up sticking both arms looking for blood. Might have been less painful if she’d bit my neck.
  • Congratulations to my Thomas-Jacob Publishing colleague Sharon Heath (The Fleur Trilogy) on the release of her new novel Chasing Eve, “a funny, sad, hair-raising adventure into the underbelly of the City of Angels, where society’s invisible people make a difference to themselves and to others, and where love sometimes actually saves the day.”
  • Bodkin Point Arrow – Wikipedia photo

    I usually write fiction in third person restricted. Among other things, that means that basically the entire novel is shown via the point of view of the protagonist. If you use that POV, you know there are dozens of ways of showing the protagonist’s attitude without saying “he thought” or “she thought.” Now that I’ve chosen to write the work in progress with an omniscient narrator POV without showing what anyone (mostly) is thinking, I keep having to delete things I’d normally write. Even something so mundane as Luckily the barking dog finally shut up is out of bounds because somebody has to be thinking that; I’m not going to be an old-fashioned author who intrudes into his stories by commenting on things as they happen. Tentatively, the book is called Dark Arrows.

  • Yes, we will be watching Star Trek: Picard starting tonight on CBS All Access. The next-generation series with Patrick Stewart was, I think, the best of the Star Trek programs, so it will be nice to see him again in this ten-episode series. I read that CBS has already ordered more episodes, so perhaps we’ll have at least two seasons to look forward to.
  • My blood test results show that the forty days of radiation therapy probably got rid of the prostate cancer. Even though the radiation oncology department thinks “that’s that,” the urology department thinks it’s safe for me to continue the hormone therapy for two years as long as I can dolerate the shots. I said, “Tolerate the shots? Does that mean they don’t kill me.” The answer was, “If you get bad hot flashes, we’ll stop them.” Oh.

Malcolm

I’m tempting you with excerpts

A note from your sponsor (AKA, me).

Short Story Excerpts

“Shock Treatment” in “Stories that Need to Be Told”

“They drove him westward away from Tallahassee’s safe hills, westward through the panhandle counties where King Cotton once reigned, westward through pine flatwoods where wiregrass and fire sustained the world, through Quincy where Coca Cola money brought prosperity one hundred years ago, through Chattahoochee where a psychiatric hospital of some controversy and the Apalachicola River provided conflicting approaches of respite to the world’s cares, through Marianna where both Florida’s Caverns and the now-shuttered reform school were out of sight and out of mind, and thence straight on to the uninspiring Georgian plantation house where Mistress Harkness died of melancholia waiting for her husband to return from the Civil War.”

“The Lady of the Blue Hour” in “Widely Scattered Ghosts”

“On the band bus ride home, the stunning, first chair flute player Melinda Wallace sat beside him. She had no clue how he felt about her, not that he’d said anything. The empty aisle seat next to a clarinet was, he guessed, preferable to sitting in the back with the band’s borderline criminal element of raucous drums and tarnished brass. Melinda smelled like wildflowers and her unruly light brown hair smelled like the wind. When the band played ‘The Stars and Stripes’ Forever’ in concert and Melinda stood up into the light for her piccolo solo—the sweetest banshee cries the world has ever known—her blue eyes were frozen into ice for thirty-two measures of leaps and trills, while her hair could not be restrained.”

Novel Excerpts

Special Investigative Reporter

Jock poured a fist full of Scotch into an empty coffee mug. That’s when Chief Kruller opened the front door and stepped into the living room without knocking. Fortunately, he wasn’t leading a SWAT team or holding a warrant. He did have a 9 x 12’ mailing envelope in his hand and a smile on his face that was wide enough to display most of his cavities.

“Sorry to bust in on you like this, Jock, but your doorbell isn’t working,” said Kruller, slipping into the best chair in the room. He favored himself with a deep pull on the Scotch bottle.

“The bell usually works when somebody on the porch pushes the button.”

“Good point,” said the chief. “Here, take a look at this morning’s crime scene photograph.”

“Oh, this makes my day,” said Jock. He set down the mug of Scotch to keep from spilling it all over the boss man who, in more detail than anyone really wanted, was handcuffed spread eagle to Bambi’s bed wearing a pink thong. Jock did a quick re-write of his thoughts to clarify that one Marcus Cash was wearing the thong and that, other than the fact Bambi was standing in the foreground wearing a Cat Woman outfit, he had no proof it was actually her bed.

“She lost the key,” said Kruller. “Marcus probably swallowed the damn thing.”

Lena

“Momentarily, but no longer, the swamp was quiet before the voices of the birds returned and spoke of secret things in the cone-laden Bald Cypress and plum laden Ogeechee Tupelo branches beneath clouds carrying late afternoon storms. Spanish moss on the larger limbs fluttered like waking storm flags. Sheltered from the wind, scattered white and maroon dropwort flowers—Willie called it “cowbane”—rocked gently in their cradles of low scrubs and grasses.

“I knew from my dream travels that two swamps existed together, one that stopped short of the Apalachicola River and one that lived and breathed westward past night and death until it touched the boundary of the afterlife that Eulalie called “the Pearly Gates.” I didn’t think my conjured woman had crossed the great river.

“The gasoline-tainted water holding the trucks was foul, and that meant searching it quickly in spite the murky sediments Hoskins stirred up in his frantic thrashing about. I did not find Eulalie there. I followed the current into large mats of duckweed where progress was slower. By the time the rains came and chased me back to the road, I had found no conjure woman or gator bait traces there.

“When the swamp grew dark, a limpkin screamed near the river like a child dying again and again. Tree frogs sang, basses, altos, trebles, and tenors. Eulalie once said nighttime frogs praised the good Lord with voices as pure as sacred harp singers standing in a hollow square. In the center of that square of voices and old trees, I could not sleep, but not for the singing. The events of the day weighed heavily on my heart. Without sleep, I was blind to what a dreamtime journey could show—whether my conjure woman had lived or died.”

Thank you for reading,

Malcolm