- 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.”
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.
At my age, a vigorous, bone-crushing, muscle twisting workout comes from spending several hours on the riding mower. While recuperating, I found a few links you might enjoy. Or you might not. Long-time readers of this blog know that ever since high school, I’ve been fascinated by writings about Carl Jung, alchemy, and quantum mechanics (the many worlds interpretation), so I’m happy to see a review of a very readable book that has uncovered multiple levels and/or universes of meaning (Item 2) since we’re all entangled one way or another.
Have fun exploring the books and authors links this week.
- Essay: On Being a Woman Who Loves Math, by Catherine Chung – “All my life I’ve been aware of the disheartening fact that as a society, we generally find intellect off-putting in women, and do our best to squash it.” (Lit Hub)
- Review: Tizita (2017) By Sharon Heath, Deltona, FL: Thomas-Jacob Publishing, by Frances Hatfield
“Tizita, like the first novel before it in The Fleur Trilogy, The History of My Body, is as utterly original as its chief protagonist, and in some of the same, brilliant, moving, and laugh-out-loud hilarious ways.” (Psychological Perspectives)
- Excerpt: ‘Cygnet’: Featured Fiction from Season Butler – “Publishers Weekly called the book poignant, adding that ‘Butler has created an appealingly rich world with quirky, flawed characters and a dramatic landscape determined by the constant action of wind and water. Butler delivers a potent and finely calibrated novel.’” (The Millions)
- Opinion: Amazon Says It is Not a ‘Lawless’ Retail Platform As Charged by ‘NYT’ – “The New York Times’ recent feature on Amazon, which focuses on how much control the tech giant exerts over the book business and how detrimental that control might be for the sector’s health, has provoked a response from the company. Specifically, Amazon responded to claims in the article that it takes a lax approach to policing the sale of counterfeit books on its website, saying, in a blog post, that it ‘strictly prohibits the sale of counterfeit products’ and ‘takes proactive steps to drive counterfeits in our stores to zero.” (Publishers Weekly)
- Interview: Linda Holmes with Stephenie Harrison – “I have wanted to write a novel . . . always. I can’t remember when I didn’t think that would be the absolute greatest thing I could do. But I would start things, write a few pages and just get intimidated that I couldn’t keep going. I played around with writing fiction for many years and got a little more serious in 2012 when I decided to devote some time to this story. But again, I worked on it for a while, then left it alone. I didn’t pick it up again until sometime in the fall of 2016.” (Book Page)
- Quotation: “I spent half my money on gambling, alcohol and wild women. The other half I wasted.” ― WC Fields
Feature: How Jenna Bush Hager became the new book club queen, by David Canfield – “Around 10 minutes into my interview with Jenna Bush Hager, I make a careless mistake: I assume her new Today show book club isn’t merely a one-woman band. ‘You say ‘You guys,’ but you really are just talking about one person — me!’ she responds, laughing. ‘Reese Witherspoon was on the show the other day, and we were talking about it. She’s like, ‘I have a whole team, Jenna!’ The problem is, I definitely need to read the whole book before I recommend it — and I’m a pretty picky reader.’ (Entertainment)
New Title: A Mueller Report graphic novel will be released by San Diego publisher, by Michael Schaub – “Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election has become something of a publishing phenomenon, with several book versions of the report flying off bookstore shelves. Now a San Diego publisher is planning to release a version of the report for those who might find the original a little too dry. IDW will publish a graphic-novel adaptation of the report next year, the press said in a news release.” (Los Angeles Times)
Book Bits is compiled randomly by malcolm R. Campbell, author of the “Florida Folk Magic Stories.”
When a small-press or self-published author announces a new book on Facebook, s/he has a reason for posting information about it. When early reviews come in, there’s an opportunity for more posts. So, too, later on if the book is a finalist or a winner in a competition. Giveaways and book sales also help get the word out.
But once a book is several novels or poetry collections into the past, it becomes more difficult to think of relevant things to say that don’t sound like SPAM.
My publisher, Thomas-Jacob Publishing, has helped fix that problem by creating Facebook cover pictures that display all of an author’s titles. Sometimes the book covers are arranged with an interesting background; sometimes they appear on shelves. These covers can sit at the top of an author’s profile or page for weeks or months, keeping previous titles in the public eye during times when there’s no legitimate news to post about the older titles. Or, as in Melinda Clayton’s cover photo, you can use a quotation from an earlier book.
Here’s the batch for the holidays for Malcolm R. Campbell, Smoky Zeidel, Robert Hays, Sharon Heath, and Melinda Clayton:
- I’m slowly working on a new novel called Lena as a sequel to Conjure Woman’s Cat and Eulalie and Washerwoman. For reasons that might become apparent once it’s published, you’ll see why I’m moving so slowly on it. It begins like this: “So, Eulalie sang ‘Lady Luck Blues’ as she drove the 1949 clover green Studebaker pickup truck down that southbound road while creeks, wiregrass, longleaf pines, and sunny autumn afternoon savannahs slow-drag danced past the open windows and South Wind’s children teased her hair into sweet disorder. She was happy and heading for Willie Tate down in Carrabelle.” Unfortunately for Eulalie, the happiness isn’t going to last.
- I rely on a lot of books and websites for source material about conjure. Unfortunately, Spiritual Information–featuring Voodoo Queen–will no longer have new posts. The author, who is older than I am, has become too ill to continue, and wants to retire after she finishes healing. The good news is that her blog will remain online as a reference. There’s a handy index of topics on the left side of the screen. A quick glance at this list will show you how wonderful this blog has been for those who want to learn more about the oldest hoodoo traditions from days gone by.
- My publisher Thomas-Jacob will be featuring Eulalie and Washerwoman, Redeeming Grace (Smoky Zeidel), A Shallow River of Mercy (Robert Hays) and The History of my Body (Sharon Heath) in Amazon promotions during December. Keep an eye on Amazon for some wonderful books and opportunities. While Robert Hays’new book will be released on December first, it’s already available for pre-order.
- I appreciate the support of those of you who also followed my other blog “The Sun Singer’s Travels.” In trying to simplify (whatever that means), I’ve closed that blog. It was my oldest, having started on Blogger many years ago, subsequently moving here to WordPress. I’ll try to keep you up to date on this blog as well as my website.
- This has nothing to do with writing, but my friend and Thomas-Jacob colleague Smoky Zeidel, who lives in a southern California desert community, has been posting glorious pictures of her vegetable garden on Facebook. I’m jealous. My tomatoes, banana peppers and jalapenos finally bit the dust with our cooler temperatures. I still have some hardy oregano and parsley. If you’re taking notes, the oregano and parsley won’t be on the test.
Even though July 30th was yesterday, this selection of posts about magical realism is still available. If you love the genre, you’ll find some fascinating ideas.
New from Thomas-Jacob Publishing, Transformed, a Kindle short story by Smoky Zeidel. “The way I see it,” said Daniel, “the fence lizard eats the fly, so the fly becomes part of the fence lizard. The fly is the fence lizard. The fence lizard gets eaten by the snake, and thus becomes the snake. What’s to say that snake won’t get snatched up by a Golden Eagle, and thus become the eagle?” Does the same principle apply to humans? Marina is about to find out.
Thank you to all the readers who participated in the recent sweepstakes for Emily’s Stories on Audio Book Reviewer. Kelley Hazen and I are glad you stopped by and signed up. Congratulations to the winners and thanks to those of you who have already posted reviews.
Here’s a copy of my Amazon review for Don Westenhaver’s mystery thriller Missing Star:
This post WWI thriller mixes historical and fictional characters in a fast-paced search for a missing actress (Joyce) in the very different Los Angeles of another era. The ambiance and history anchor the story which pits ex-marine aviator (Danny) and against the seedy unknowns of the big city where overlapping police jurisdictions and the corrupt politics of prohibition make it easy for many crimes to fall through the cracks.
Danny is determined to find Joyce in spite of impossible odds, and this makes him a believable and determined main character. Inasmuch as missing persons cases typically includes gaps of time when no new information is found, the story takes a few side trips that, while relevant, slow down the pacing a bit. It also doesn’t seem likely that Danny, as a civilian, would be included in police actions. Otherwise, the story moves well with a high degree of credibility toward a satisfying conclusion. Readers will feel anger over Joyce’s circumstances and respect for Danny’s perseverance, and cannot help but hope that they find each other again and make the bad guys pay for what they’ve done.
Recently released from Thomas-Jacob Publishing, Tizita, a new novel by Sharon Heath: “Physics wunderkind Fleur Robins, just a little odd and more familiar with multiple universes than complicated affairs of the heart, is cast adrift when her project to address the climate crisis is stalled. Worse still, her Ethiopian-born fiancé Assefa takes off right after her 21st birthday party to track down his father, who’s gone missing investigating Ethiopian claims to the Ark of the Covenant. Fleur is left to contend with the puzzle of parallel worlds, an awkward admirer, and her best friend Sammie’s entanglement with an abusive boyfriend. Assefa’s reconnection with a childhood sweetheart leads Fleur to seek consolation at Jane Goodall’s Gombe Stream Chimpanzee Reserve, but it’s through a bumbling encounter with her rival that the many worlds of Fleur’s life begin to come together. In the experience of tizita—the interplay of memory, loss, and longing—Fleur is flung into conflicts between science and religion, race and privilege, climate danger and denial, sex and love. With humor, whimsy, and the clumsiness and grace of innocence, Fleur feels her way through the narrow alleyway between hope and despair to her heart’s sweetest home.”
New, from Theodora Goss, my favorite review book for 2017, The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter. See my review here. From the publisher: “Based on some of literature’s horror and science fiction classics, this is the story of a remarkable group of women who come together to solve the mystery of a series of gruesome murders and the bigger mystery of their own origins. Mary Jekyll, alone and penniless following her parents’ death, is curious about the secrets of her father’s mysterious past. One clue in particular hints that Edward Hyde, her father’s former friend and a murderer, may be nearby and there is a reward for information leading to his capture…a reward that would solve all of her immediate financial woes. But her hunt leads her to Hyde’s daughter, Diana, a feral child left to be raised by nuns. With the assistance of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, Mary continues her search for the elusive Hyde and soon befriends more women, all of whom have been created through terrifying experimentation: Beatrice Rappaccini, Catherin Moreau, and Justine Frankenstein. When their investigations lead them to the discovery of a secret society of immoral and power-crazed scientists, the horrors of their past return. Now it is up to the monsters to finally triumph over the monstrous.”
Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of magical realism books set in Florida.
On Sale January 20th from Thomas-Jacob Publishing
Few of the eccentric inhabitants of her father’s Main Line, Philadelphia estate have much time for Fleur Robins, an awkward child with a devotion to her ailing grandfather, a penchant for flapping and whirling, and a preoccupation with God and the void. While her mother spends much of her time with her hand curled around a wine glass and her abusive father congratulates himself for rescuing babies from “the devil abortionists,” Fleur mourns the fallen petals of a rose and savors the patterns of light rippling across the pool. When she fails to save a baby bird abandoned in her garden, a series of events unfold that change everything.
Billy May Platte is a half Irish, half Cherokee Appalachian woman who learned the hard way that 1940s West Virginia was no place to be different. As Billy May explains, “We was sheltered in them hills. We didn’t know much of nothin’ about life outside of them mountains. I did not know the word lesbian; to us, gay meant havin’ fun and queer meant somethin’ strange.”
Lena, a shamanistic cat, and her conjure woman Eulalie live in a small town near the Apalachicola River in Florida’s lightly populated Liberty County, where longleaf pines own the world. In Eulalie’s time, women of color look after white children in the homes of white families and are respected, even loved, but distrusted and kept separated as a group. A palpable gloss, sweeter than the state’s prized tupelo honey, holds their worlds firmly apart. When that gloss fails, the Klan restores its own brand of order.
In 1955, at the height of alarm over the Emmett Till murder in Mississippi and after the Supreme Court ruling against school segregation, Associated Press reporter Rachel Feigen travels from Baltimore to Tennessee to report on a missing person case. Guy Saillot’s last contact with his family was a postcard from the Tennessee Bend Motel, a seedy establishment situated on beautiful Cherokee Lake. But they have no record he was ever a guest.
“The Bible says that in the beginning was the void, and it hasn’t escaped me how fast the Lord moved to take care of His own particular vacuum—dividing day from night, spitting out vast oceans, carving out competing continents that would one day have the power to blow each other up. What an inspired series of creations to keep the devil of boredom at bay. No wonder God kept seeing that it was good.”
So begins the story of Fleur Robins.
Fleur Robins is called creepy child, poor child, little monster, odd duck, space cadet and assorted other synonyms for “weird” by almost everyone who notices her existence and tries to figure out whether she is gifted, autistic, simply hopeless or hopelessly simple. Fleur’s imagination contains many worlds because—as she explains life as the fifteen-year-old narrator of The History of My Body—positioning her body and mind “just this side of the lurking pit of nothingness” requires constant vigilance and ingenuity.
Whenever the void looms too large for her to handle, Fleur flaps her arms, bangs her head, pinches herself, emits strange noises and makes oddly literal pronouncements that simultaneously appear to miss the point and contain cosmic truths. No school will take her. An alcoholic mother loves her, but spends her days drunk or asleep. A mean-spirited father dislikes her, but fills his days with a pro-life crusade while filling an entire nursery wing of the family’s large house with children rescued from the “devil abortionists.” An odd-duck household/nursery staff cares for her, but is too busy to overtly save her from the void.
Fleur is her own teacher. She makes lists, keeps diaries, consults the dictionary frequently, and assembles the often-confusing puzzle pieces of information from others to make sense of the external world. She listens to the voices of her heart and her infinite imagination to define her internal world and to explore far-flung probabilities beyond the ken of “normal people.”
When she’s told that a woman who walks down the street every day in a bathrobe has lost her mind, Fleur falls into a figurative pit considering the ramifications:
“What kind of God would let people lose their minds? And was there some kind of cosmic Lost and Found where He kept them? I tell you, it gave me a serious case of the heebie-jeebs, thinking of God feeling so empty and alone that He needed to steal people’s minds to stuff into His own unfillably huge one.”
In her wise, superbly crafted debut novel, author Sharon Heath connects a series of highly improbable events into a tightly knit story about a self-taught young girl who believes her coming of age is a wonderful example of the butterfly effect: or, as Fleur came to understand nonlinear systems, a personal development with a sensitive dependence on initial conditions. Potential events spin off in all directions when Fleur finds a dying baby bird in the garden; while those that ultimately manifest as her body’s history could never have been predicted, they represent a meaningful synchronicity if not harmony.
Fleur’s phases of growth (incarnations, to her way of thinking) unfold as a metamorphosis out of the chaos of her childhood. Her progress isn’t ugly duckling to swan. It’s more like a butterfly transitioning from egg to larva to pupa to adult, or like the unfolding of the beloved David Austen roses she tended on the grounds of the childhood home of her first incarnation.
In The History of My Body, Sharon Heath masterfully combines darkness and light, tragedy and comedy, and the sublime and the ridiculous into a dazzling and beautifully ironic dance of opposites that create an unusual and endearing protagonist with an unforgettable tale to tell.
Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of four novels, including the recent contemporary fantasy “Sarabande.”