Charlie died of kidney failure. I can’t know this for sure, of course, but based on the speed of this whole thing, his eventual refusal to eat, and the anemia that was apparent from his tongue (it got progressively pale and was nearly white by the end), my vet said all signs pointed to kidney failure, too advanced by the time he showed symptoms to have done anything about. Charlie seemed to be improving for a couple of weeks which is why I thought it was arthritis and which, frankly, was the only reason I was capable of sharing that first update – and I’m so glad I did. Having you all looped in has helped me more than I ever could have imagined. We buried Charlie under his favorite tree.” – Shreve Stockton, weblog, 10/27/2020
I’ve been following Charlie’s exploits in Stockton’s blog “The Daily Coyote” from the beginning when she adopted the orphaned coyote pup in Wyoming in 2007, knowing that his life depended on her. They became companions (co-pilots, as she says, rather than master and pet) for the rest of Charlie’s life. Raising a wild thing: others said it couldn’t be done, but she did it well. You can find the story of her first year with Charlie in her 2008 book, also called The Daily Coyote.
Charlie came to Stockton’s ranch about the time I was researching my novel Sarabande. A coyote has an important role in the book. I soon found that the up-close-and-personal research I needed didn’t exist–until Shreve was gracious and answered my e-mail questions. I included her name in the book’s acknowledgments, but that never seemed to be enough.
Inasmuch as I was reading about Charlie every day, I continued to learn about coyotes and should say that, though it wasn’t my intention, Charlie was the role model for Apí’si in my novel. So I will miss my “online friend” named Charlie though he doesn’t know me.
Early on in her blog, Shreve said that many people were asking how they could see Charlie. Her answer was simply this: “Charlie doesn’t want to see you.” That’s as it should be, and I understand.
Several years ago, I was surprised to hear that Herman Wouk (The Caine Mutiny, Marjorie Morningstar, The Winds of War) was still around. According to the news, he died in his sleep today. I think most of us hope to go that way when we’re about 103. I could do without that hat or the beard, but ar 103, I would no longer be runaway material.
I grew up reading this man’s books. I remember seeing The Winds of War minseries in 1983 with Robert Mitchum. My wife and I thought it was an interesting series, but laughingly commented how convenient it was that the Robert Mitchum character seemed to show up whenever anything historic was happening.
I suppose his novels are no longer studied in school. If not, that’s a shame.
My publisher Melinda Clayton (Thomas-Jacob Publishing) writes dark novels. So I had to tell her about Redemption Road (2017) by John Hart. I’m reading it now and have to say that this is one well-written, twisted, dark thriller, and one of the best books in this genre that I’ve read in a long time. It’s called a thriller even though it feels more like Southern gothic. I’ve read 75% of it and wonder if anyone will be left alive or even sane by the end of the novel.
I told Melinda that I thought there’s enough darkness to cause an eclipse of the sun.
Thomas-Jacob has redone the cover of my novel Sarabande to make it consistent with the updated cover of The Sun Singer. Sarabande is the sequel to The Sun Singer and was, I think, the most difficult of all my novels to write. Writing from the point of view of the main character, Sarabande, is difficult for a male author, considering the fact that she goes through two assaults in this book.
I’m not sure it’s really possible for men and women to properly and totally understand their opposite genders in the “real world,” much less in fiction where they are compelled to talk about a character’s thoughts as well as his/her actions. Telling the story was an interesting experience, and I hope I learned from it.
Meanwhile, Amazon is still not displaying the cover pictures for the hardback editions of Eulalie and Washerwoman and Lena. I complained to Amazon about it today, noting that Barnes & Noble is displaying the covers.
Thanks to those of you who checked on me here, via e-mail, and on Facebook about yesterday’s biopsy. As I told Montucky, the pre-op visit to the hospital and the paperwork before and after the biopsy took more time than the biopsy. I have some pain killers but really haven’t needed them. The hospital staff was great. Now we’re in a waiting mode for the results which the doctor said would take a week. Reminds me of the Navy’s “hurry up and wait.”
Now, for those of you addicted to “Survivor: Edge of Extinction,” this year’s series has now run its course and you can go back to your normal lives without having to worry about who will be voted off the show during tribal council.
As my alterego Jock Stewart has suggested on more than one occasion, Congress needs to operate with a “tribal council system” in which each month the House or Senate gets together and votes somebody out of office. That would help clean house, so to speak. We need to get rid of the deadwood, the inept, and the insane. That certainly includes the lawmakers of Alabama after they voted in a heartbeat abortion law that shows the men there still consider the woman there as property.
I’ve written a lot of words on this blog during the past two years about my three magical realism, conjure and crime novels set in north Florida: Conjure Woman’s Cat, Eulalie and Washerwoman, and Lena. But what’s the book on the end of the shelf?
That book, Sarabande, was the most difficult novel for me to write. Previously, I’d written The Sun Singer, a hero’s journey contemporary fantasy told from a young man’s point of view. But the hero’s journey is only half of the world’s mythic cosmic story. I needed the heroine’s journey, a novel told from a young woman’s point of view.
The hero’s journey is a series of events out of comparative mythology developed by Joseph Campbell in The Hero With a Thousand Faces. While some authors have tried, the heroine’s journey cannot be shoe-horned into the hero’s journey scheme. It’s too different, more moon and seeds and underworld secrets than derring-do and sky-god stories and changing oneself while risking one’s life in the service of others.
As an author, it’s difficult for a man to put himself into a woman’s shoes and tell a woman’s story. While he may have worn such shoes in previous lifetimes, he doesn’t belong in those shoes in this lifetime. Fortunately, my main character, Sarabande also appeared in The Sun Singer and that meant I had known her for a long time, so there was a history there that was stronger than it would have been if I had used a new character.
I liked Sarabande in The Sun Singer and avoided writing a novel about her for many months because I didn’t want to see her go through the heroine’s journey, a journey that included a physical assault by a man and a vicious and life threatening sexual overture by a female denizen of the underworld. The book was a learning experience for me, though one that was most likely limited to the confines of the book rather than my coming anywhere close to truly knowing the trials and joys of women.
My happiest moment after the book was released was the comment by a female reviewer who said that the story was so real she had to keep reminding herself that it had been written by a male author.
Sarabande is a dark women’s story written primarily for women. The man’s hero’s journey, when it unfolds naturally, ends in transformation. Likewise, the woman’s heroine’s journey. Two paths, each undertaken out of the necessities of the real world, yet each ending in profound, spiritual changes on opposides of the male/female coin.
Sarabande is available in paperback, e-book, and audiobook.
With over 70% of my hearing gone, I live my life in a fair amount of silence. Those of you who’ve been reading this blog since 2011, know that I used to select an album I liked and play it on a continuous loop while I worked on the manuscript for a novel.
For The Sun Singer, the album was Georg Deuter’s “Nirvana Road.” For Sarabande, it was Mary Youngblood’s “Beneath the Raven Moon.” Deuter plays multiple instruments and his blending of them seemed to me very transcendent, a strong image I had for The Sun Singer. Mary Youngblood plays the Native American flute, and it speaks to me like a voice in the wilderness, at once a cry of pain and a hymn of praise, perfect for Sarabande. (I was listening while writing the first editions of both novels.)
I don’t recall how Youngblood found out about my use of “Beneath the Raven Moon” as a muse. Maybe “Google Alerts.” She contacted me, thanking me for enjoying and mentioning the recording. She said that since I already had that album, she would send me a copy of another album in exchange of a copy of Sarabande. So, we exchanged mailing addresses along with our latest work. I hope she had time to read it.
I have no words for describing what it meant to me to hear from her, for nobody plays the Native American flute better and every one of her albums spoke volumes to me. I was in a Blackfeet shop in Browning, Montana several years ago and one of the salespeople saw me looking at the flutes. When she asked if I wanted to buy one, I said, “Only if I start playing like Mary Youngblood.” She smiled and said, “Nobody plays like her.”
I knew she had listened to Youngblood’s music because she not only knew the names of the songs but also held the opinion that Youngblood created voices with the flute that technically should be impossible to create. Sadly, I left the flute behind because I knew it would sound worse than a kazoo if I dishonored it by trying to play it.
Some years ago, I stopped playing albums while writing because I could no longer hear them. It was a loss because when I was listening to them, I never had writer’s block: the albums jumped started the writing every single time. I played Deuter’s and Youngblood’s albums so many times, that if I see (or recall) the name of a song, I can hear it within the silence of my imagination. Their albums are primarily instrumental, so there were no words to interrupt my chain of thought.
While writing the three novels in my Florida Folk Magic Trilogy, my imagination played the blues and gospel, primarily the same songs I mentioned in the novels. I grew up with the blues and gospel, in part from my parents’ 75 rpm records and partly from the appearances of many of the singers on early television variety shows. The one good thing about the music I hear into the silence in this way is that I can turn it up as loud as I want it without bothering either my wife or our two cats. It also hasn’t been ruined by today’s digital recording methods.
The blues in my imagination and memory were a very effective muse. When I was in high school and learned that Beethoven didn’t stop writing music when he lost his hearing. I didn’t understand how that was possible. Now I can.
Okay, before I get a lot of comments, I’ll admit that the dog days are already over, but I was on vacation in North Carolina with seven other members of my family watching this:
Books on Sale
The Sun Singer, contemporary fantasy, free on Kindle August 28-31 – Robert 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.
Sarabande, contemporary fantasy, 10 free Kindle copies during Amazon giveaway, August 27 – September 10 – When Sarabande’s sister Dryad haunts her for three years beyond the grave, Sarabande begins a dangerous journey into the past to either raise her cruel sister from the dead, ending the torment, or to take her place in the safe darkness of the earth. In spite of unsettling predictions about her trip, Sarabande leaves the mountains of Pyrrha and Montana on a black horse named Sikimí and heads for the cornfields of Illinois in search of Robert Adams, the once powerful Sun Singer, hoping he can help with her quest.
One man tries to kill her alongside a deserted prairie road, another tries to save her with ancient wisdom, and Robert tries to send her away. Even if she persuades him to bring the remnants of his magic to Dryad’s shallow grave, the desperate man who follows them desires the rowan staff for ill intent, and the malicious sister who awaits their arrival wants much more than a mere return to life.
Mountain Song, general fiction, free on Kindle August 28-31 – David Ward lives in the Montana mountains where his life was impacted by his medicine woman grandmother and his utilitarian grandfather. Anne Hill suffered through childhood abuse and ultimately moved in with her aunt on the edge of a Florida swamp. Their summer romance at a mountain resort hotel surprises both of them. But can they make it last after the initial passion wears off and they return to their college studies far apart from each other especially after an attack on a college street changes Anne forever?
This novel is loosely based on the author’s experiences as a seasonal employee in Glacier National Park even though he did not grow up on a Montana sheep ranch.
“The world’s first love story, two thousand years older than the Bible—tender, erotic, shocking, and compassionate—is more than a momentary entertainment. It is a sacred story that has the intention of bringing its audience to a new spiritual place. With Inanna, we enter the place of exploration: the place where not all energies have been tamed or ordered.” – Diane Volkstein in “Inanna, the Queen of Heaven and Earth: her Stories and Hymns from Sumer”
As an author, I view my characters through a high-powered microscope and present the results of what I see as part of my stories. I will put you into the characters’ shoes if I can because—as Diana Volkstein writes—this is where the energies haven’t been tamed or ordered.
In an older novel, I described that place like this: “He knew him at the binary level where the line between matter and energy is barely discernible and often non-existent: Where urges pull at their chains, where drives push dumbly and drip sweat, where instincts race unchecked, where a horrifying sadness lies buried, where a raw pulse drums a cadence for the primitive rites of changing seasons, where white-hot impulses leap synapses in a shower of elemental fire.”
I wanted a similar, up-close focus in my heroine’s journey novel Sarabande. So, for the story of a woman seeking wisdom and wholeness, I could think of no better model than the myth of Inanna, a graphic dramatization of a woman’s inner journey to find herself outside the traps and trappings of a masculine world that has–as Sylvia Brinton Perera (“Descent to the Goddess”) wrote–forced the binary level of feminine power into dormancy for 5,000 years.
Or, as the late Adrienne Rich said, “The woman I needed to call my mother was silenced before I was born.”
Sarabande’s Heroine’s Journey
In today’s terms, Sarabande was a tomboy. She was an expert with a knife, bow and arrow, a fishing pole, and everything she needed to know to survive in the wilderness. She learned all this from her father because her mother believed women should only learn to keep a good home and not question society’s norms for women. However, Sarabande will never truly become herself as long as she is a disciple of either her late warrior father or her misguided, preachy mother. She is being taunted by a ghost that she must approach face to face in the ghost’s world.
Early on in her quest to rid herself of the ghost of her dead sister Dryad, Sarabande learns to see the world at a binary level: The lake, surrounding mountains and the cloud-draped sky broke apart into millions of colored specks. Sarabande leaned against Sikimí, even though he was no longer solid, and saw that her own light-pink hand was not solid either. In spite of her sudden dizziness, she did not fall. In fact, when her fingertips touched Sikimí’s side, a swarm of pink specks flew, like bees, into the permeable yellow gold of the horse, and when they did, their color changed to match the specks in their new environment.
But she doesn’t know what it means. So it is, that her quest to find and confront her sister follows the pattern of Inanna’s Heroine’s journey to confront her sister Eriskigal, Goddess of the Underworld. The underworld, in this case, is not the world of mobs and crime or “hell” in the Christian view, but the more dangerous world of the unconscious. Like Inanna, Sarabande will be broken, shamed, and close to death before she learns who she is.
This is the heroine’s journey, to be buried in mother earth like a seed where she will be reborn with the spring into a new creation that finally has the freedom to follow the original injunctions of her destiny and her gender.
“The moon, with its repeating cycles of waxing and waning, became a symbol to the ancients for the birth, growth, death, and renewal of all life forms. The lunar rhythm presented a creation (the new moon), followed by growth (to full moon) and a diminution and death (the three moonless nights, that is, the dark moon).” — Demetra George in Mysteries of the Dark Moon
Whenever we see a beautiful moon, we stand in awe of it. Newspapers and the social media love pictures of harvest moons and blue moons along with suitable scientific descriptions of how and why such moons look the way they look.
Other than sky shows, we notice the moon less often these days unless we live along the coast and see the changing tides or maintain our farms and gardens by planting by lunar phases. Science and technology have taken us away from the lumation cycle, the interplay of light resulting from the monthly dance of the sun and the moon, so most of us are unaware of the moon’s affect on us throughout each lunar month.
In a patriarchal world, the lunar cycles are generally ignored, distrusted or feared because–in a mythic sense–they represent feminine cycles, the unconscious, emotions, and purported instability. In fact, our word “lunacy” stems from an old belief that insanity came with moon phases, and our word “moonstruck” implies that when in love and affected by the moon, we cannot act normally.
Moonless nights suggest mysteries in many ancient traditions. Jonah was in the belly of the whale for three days; Christ rose from the dead on the third day. In his “hero’s journey” sequence, Joseph Campbell refers to the belly of the whale step as a period of rebirth. We have, however, come to fear those three nights that Demetra George sees as “a time of retreat, of healing, and of dreaming of the future. The darkness is lit with the translucent quality of transformation; and during this essential and necessary period, life is prepared to be born.”
The lunation cycle
Since my novel Sarabande is a story of a heroine’s journey, the chapter titles follow the sun/moon lunation cycle in support of the action throughout the book. When the person who formatted the book asked about the significance of these headings, I realized that moon symbolism is not front and center in our daily lives in a world of texting and Facebook posts, jobs and hobbies, relationships with others, or even in our thoughts of day and night.
One post cannot do justice to the work of Dane Rudhyar, Demetra George and others who have written extensively about the meaning and impact of moon phases. Briefly, though, here are the over-simplified basics:
Dark Dawning: New moon (and up to three and a half days afterwards). Life, or any other event, is a potentiality that is felt rather than seen. Think of a seed germinating in the dark earth.
Light Quickening: Crescent moon (appearing three and a half to seven days later). A challenging time for moving forward after a first look at the reality of the new moon’s vision. Think of the seed’s first shoots appearing above the ground.
Light Ascending: First quarter moon (seven to ten days after the moon was new). A time of conscious steps toward a goal. Think of a plant’s stems and roots forming to support the process of growth.
Light Dominant: Waxing gibbous moon (ten and a half to fourteen days into the journey). The vision, development and knowledge to date are fine-tuned to meet conditions. Think of buds appearing on the rose.
Summit of Light: Full moon (fifteen to eighteen days into the journey). The promise of the initial vision is realized as a reality in the temporal world and has a transformative condition within. Think of blooming flowers.
Stirrings of the Dark: Waning gibbous moon (three and a half to seven days after the full moon). The purpose of the vision comes to fruition, an apt word that means bearing fruit.
Withering of the Light: Last quarter moon (seven to ten and a half days after the full moon). With the potential realized, one begins turning away from the task. Think of flowers and stems withering away.
Depth of Dark: Waning crescent moon (ten and a half days after the full moon). As the person prepares to fully look within, this phase–also referred to as the balsalmic moon–links life and death, past and future in a way that’s often viewed as destiny before darkness returns and germination begins again with the new moon.
The lunation cycle is often described as the result of an interplay between the active sun and the passive or receptive moon. This is somewhat misleading, I think, because it gives the impression that the moon (or the psyche) is accepting and then transmitting light from elsewhere (from without) as though no creative growth is taking place.
Darkness and light are often equated logically and symbolically with evil and good rather than as components of an interactive process in which yin and yang are equally necessary. As Dane Rudhyar has pointed out, it’s incorrect to refer to the lunation cycle as a lunar cycle. Instead, it is soli-lunar, that is to say, a cycle of sun and moon in relation to each other like the warp and weft strands of well-woven cloth.
Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the magical realism novella “Conjure Woman’s Cat” and the contemporary fantasy “Sarabande.” (See GoodReads for the current “Sarbanade” giveaway.)
The new second edition of my contemporary fantasy Sarabande will be released by Thomas-Jacob Publishing on November 1. This is the perfect day to begin the life of a book with a ghost.
Traditionally, the fire festival of Samhain (pronounced SAH-win)–now commercialized into Hallowe’en)–sits within a period of the year of “no time or space” because it’s a boundary. Ancient traditions view boundaries and other threshholds as liminal in a magical sense because they take on some of the characteristics of both sides of the figurative doorway.
Samhain is a boundary between the summer and winter, days of sun god and the moon goddess, and saying goodbye to the last harvest and hello to the dark days of winter. Perhaps you’ve heard it said that the veil between the world of the living and world of the dead is thin on Hallowe’en. It’s more an altered state of mind, really, at a time directly between the autumnal equinox and the winter solstice, half a year of way from the May celebration of Beltane.
In my novel, the protagonist Sarabande decides that the only way to stop her dead sister Dryad from haunting her is to travel to the place where Dryad resides. So it is that Sarabande’s journey is tied to the cycles of the moon and very much on perceiving and confronting a denizen of the underworld.
When my publisher and I started talking about bringing Sarabande back into print, we didn’t have a November 1st release date in mind. That’s just how all the updating, editing, and formatting came out. That’s one way of looking at a story with a ghostly antagonist.
There’s also another way of looking at it. The threshold spirits have their own schedule, and they know that November 1st stands dead center in a magical time period. Night and the Goddess of Night are giving this edition a bit of a supernatural nudge and I appreciate it.
The Black Horse is both death defying and death seeking. In other words it is symbolic of death and rebirth. It signifies the closing ofone door and the opening of a new door. It can also signify the need for you to take a leap of faith and trust what you are being guided to do even if you can’t see the reason or the result. Go blindly forth and believe.
A black horse in a dream could represent a part of the shadow self or a part of your personality that you usually prefer to keep hidden; instinctual urges operating in the dark recess of your mind; the unknown, what is mysterious.
A huge black horse named Sikimí has appeared in five of my novels, including the upcoming new release of Sarabande. In all of these stories, he has been a totem animal associated with the mountains of Glacier National Park, Montana.
The word Sikimí means black horse in the Blackfeet language. The Blackfeet are the long-time residents of the eastern side of Glacier Park and the adjacent plains. They are the people the land knows and their language is the primary language the animals, trees, mountains and forces of nature respond to.
Appropriately, Sikimí appears in what might be called a “journey novel,” in this case, a “heroine’s journey.” Typically, heroines’ journeys are associated with night, the moon, the underworld, and the subconscious mind.
Journey novels often portray both physical travel and shamanistic or internal travel. Horse symbolism is well known whether we find the information in classic books such as Ted Andrews’ Animal Speak or David Abram’s Becoming Animal, online sites like the two quoted at the beginning of this post, or intuit them in our meditations and dreams.
I felt immersed into Sarabande’s story as I wrote it because Sikimí, along with Maistó (Raven), is my totem animal. When I meditate–or dream–about travel to places I’m intentionally visualizing, I will be riding Sikimí. Sikimí is, by the way, a huge Friesian horse with the classic (as opposed to “sport”) size and conformation. So it is, that I find it easier and more intuitive using this horse in a novel about a young woman named Sarabande who is going on a journey, not only to another place but another realm.
Sikimí and I are old friends.
Ted Andrews’ associations of the horse with travel, power and freedom work perfectly as symbols throughout the novel. We know these symbols, subconsciously if not consciously. Sikimí is intended to help pull the reader into the story by attuning with the reader’s intuitive knowledge about horses. If the reader likes horses, rides horses, and most especially appreciates the original Gothic (light draft horse) Frieisians, so much the better.
Sarabande quickly bonds with the horse on their first meeting as you see in this snippet:
Sikimí nodded or seemed to nod, but within his breath she briefly glimpsed the soul of night, a soul as powerful as the broad-chested Friesian of its manifestation, and there were feral love and rage there that far exceeded the scope of her understanding. But within that scope, her heart told her that night in the shape of a horse would carry her to the cornfields of Illinois without trying to chart the destiny of the ride.
What would it be like to ride night in the shape of a horse? I hope readers will wonder about that as they follow Sarabande’s journey from mountains to prairie and back again. I think I know what it’s like, but readers may well have other ideas that will influence how they react to the novel.
Once the novel leaves my computer and a publisher releases on Amazon and other sites, the story is no longer completely mine. Everyone who reads it will, in a sense, be reading their own version of the novel depending, in part, on how the large black horse gets into their thoughts.
The Thomas-Jacob Publishing second edition of Sarabande will be released on November 1, 2015. The Kindle edition is available now on Amazon for pre-order.
The second book in the “Mountain Journeys” series, the novel sweeps a young woman along a dark and ill-fated trek from the high country of Montana to the prairie of Illinois to escape a ghost. While the novel’s official release date is November 1, the Kindle edition is available for pre-order on Amazon now.
Haunted by her powerful sister Dryad from beyond the grave, Sarabande leaves the world of Pyrrha from its hiding place within Montana’s Glacier Park, and travels on horseback to Illinois to seek the help of Sun Singer Robert Adams. Sarabande almost dies trying to reach him and it’s soon obvious that evil has followed her from the western mountains to Robert’s small town in a world of soybeans, corn, brick streets and old homes.
Robert saved Sarabande’s life in the first book of the series, The Sun Singer. Truth be told, he doesn’t think he can do it again. His magic is weak, all but forgotten. Worse yet, he remembers Dryad’s moon magic and hypnotic voice and fears that he can’t resist her seductive charms another time.
Sarabande, a contemporary fantasy, was written so that it can be read as a standalone novel about a woman’s perilous journey. It can also be read as a sequel to The Sun Singer, which was the story of Robert’s journey to Pyrrha. The Sun Singer ended on a positive note, but there were a few loose ends.
Malcolm R. Campbell is also the author of “Conjure Woman’s Cat,” “Emily’s Stories,” and “Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire.”