A bestselling author’s book piracy story

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A bestselling author’s book piracy story

“A pirated copy isn’t ‘good advertising’ or ‘great word of mouth’ or ‘not really a lost sale.’”

via Contents of Maggie Stiefvater’s Brain

A lot of authors dismiss book piracy with blasé misconceptions like those Maggie Stiefvater quoted above. They’re wrong. Maggie Stefvater almost lost traction her Raven King series (a series I like, btw) because pirated copies were diluting sales to the extent that her publisher thought the public was losing interest.

As she says, authors generally expect the first book in a series to sell the best and for sales to go down in the follow-up books. But she tried a nifty way of proving that there was more to it than expected reader attrition.

This is a cautionary tale for authors, especially those who think piracy either doesn’t hurt you or that it might actually help you. Click on the link to see how she saved her series.

–Malcolm

 

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

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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.

Danged ol’ hairball blues

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The night is dark ’cause there ain’t no moon,
Mama comes home, says we’ll be steppin’ in it soon,
‘Cause our three black cats are hackin’ up their doom,
Yes, just hackin’ up their doom
With the danged ol’ hairball blues.

Wikipedia Photo

Mama’s getting drunk while Daddy’s puttin’ on the dog,
Cause the whole family will the steppin’ in it soon,
Hairballs on the fireplace log, down in our shoes,
‘Cause they’re just hackin’ up their doom
With the danged ol’ hairball blues.

Cats don’t care where they throw them up
When  they’re hacking up their doom
‘Cause they’re hidin’ somewhere in the dark of the room
Even though Mama says we’ll be stepping in it soon
And the whole danged family will catch the hairball blues.

Ain’t no vaccine against hairballs or the blues
‘Cause we’re all gonna step in life in the dark of the moon.
Mama remembers even though Daddy forgets
That the cats bring joys and sorrows to life
In spite of the strife of the hairball blues.

A smattering of writing news

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  • 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.

–Malcolm

Mixed feelings about Veterans Day sales

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Can we best honor our veterans by getting a price cut on a bottle of Viagra or a quart of fresh whitewash?

I have mixed feelings about this.

According to Newsweek, “Black Friday may be the most well-known day to find great sales, but Veterans Day also brings major discounts and promotions.”   The magazine’s feature article lists major stores and sales in case you can’t find them yourself.

While Memorial Day sales and hi-jinks are more out of line with the sacred quiet of the day that those who died deserve, I have often thought that veterans and their memories of moments nobody else dares imagine are the true casualties of war. As such, they deserve more respect than a trip to the store to get a sweet deal.

I’m a veteran and a conscientious objector, so I’ve seen the clouds of the war issue from both sides. Since my pacifism is based on my religious beliefs, it would be presumptuous of me to advocate pacifism for men and women with different religious beliefs.

I believe as mystic Ralph M. Lewis believes: “Peace manifests externally but begins internally–that is, in the thinking, idealism, and mental discipline of each individual. Peace must begin with the individual and work outward.”

Yet, I support our troops because they sacrifice their sanity and their lives to do what they believe is right on behalf of our country. I don’t support the politicians who lead the country into meaningless wars. But those who fight in those wars, have my admiration and gratitude.

I don’t propose that we spend Veterans Day in a church or with many hours of mediation in front of a candle in the sacred center of our homes. If that helps you, then it is good. It doesn’t help me. But looking for sales doesn’t help me either. In fact, I think it’s an insult to veterans. Nonetheless, I can’t fault anyone who loves a sale any more than I can fault a veteran for fighting a war that I think is a stain on the world’s psyche. Perhaps there are more gods out there than we can shake a stick at, so truth be told, there are numerous ways of seeing the issues that bring me mixed feelings on this day.

What I want to do on Veterans Day is this: the same thing I would do on any other day. That is to say, I appreciate the freedom and safety veterans have helped us achieve and maintain. So, I will fix dinner, read a book, work on my novels, watch some television, play with my cats, and remain in awe of a wife who loves me in spite of my faults. I don’t have any mixed feelings about that kind of holiday “celebration.”

–Malcolm

 

 

 

The Heart Shield Bible

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Hoodoo practitioners not only consider the Bible to be filled with stories of magic and powerful verses that can be used for spells, but note that from the Civil War through the Vietnam War (and possibly later) Heart Shield Bibles were popular amongst soldiers. These New Testament editions were small enough to fit in the breast pocket of a jacket or shirt and featured gold or gold-colored metal over steel that was said to be able to stop a .45 caliber bullet.

Among the manufacturers was the Protecto Bible Company of St. Louis. The covers of these bibles were often engraved with slogans such as “May this Keep You Safe from Harm” and “God’s Weapon.” They came in a 3-inch by 4.5-inch size and were 3/4-inch thick and sometimes included Psalms. Another edition contained prayers for Catholics.

Many people sent these to their loved ones easily since they often came in a ready to ship box.

During World War II, Bibles carried the inscription: “As Commander-in-Chief I take pleasure in commending the reading of the Bible to all who serve in the armed forces of the United States. Throughout the centuries men of many faiths and diverse origins have found in the Sacred Book words of wisdom, counsel and inspiration. It is a foundation of strength and now, as always, an aid in attaining the highest aspirations of the human soul.” –Franklin D. Roosevelt

protectobible2Interestingly enough, a fair number of these Bibles are currently being sold via eBay, sometimes called Shields of Faith. Did they really work? Stories from the front include statements from slightly injured men who claimed the Bibles stopped enemy rounds. Perhaps the distance traveled and angle of the incoming round made a difference.

However, there’s video on YouTube showing a man simulating a Heart Shield Bible with other materials and testing it with rounds of several calibers. All of them went through. On the other hand, since he used a phone book, those who are sold in the Heart Shield Bible will no doubt remind us that the books in the test were not Holy Writ. Here’s the video link.

The words alone, in Protestant and Catholic editions–like a pocket-sized edition a portion of the ancient Jewish mystical book The Zohar–might be enough, for they are often carried by believers who know little or nothing about the Heart Shield Bible or the hoodoo practice of carrying Bibles and selected Bible verses for general good luck and protection.

–Malcolm

This post originally appeared on “The Sun Singer’s Travels.”

A few old Florida expressions

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While writing my two Florida folk magic novels, I suddenly became immersed in some of the dialect and slang that was popular when I was a child in the panhandle part of the state. If you lived somewhere else, you probably thought we talked funny. Truth is, we thought you talked funny.

floridapostcardA few examples. . .

  • Able Grable – 1940s’ slang for an attractive and available woman, based on the name of the actress Betty Grable, 1916-1973. Okay, this one isn’t Southern, more of of World War II expression.
  • Aunt Hagar – According to myth, Blacks are descendants of Abraham and Hagar and Whites are descendants of Abraham and Sarah, making Hagar the first ancestor of all African American slaves. This myth is behind the 1920s W. C. Handy/J. Tim Brymn blues song “Aunt Hagar’s Blues” (also called “Aunt Hagar’s Children”). You still hear Aunt Hagar mentioned sometimes.
  • Beelutherhatchee – An imaginary place.  Seldom heard these days unless one’s referring to the home of the late Florida folklore collector Stetson Kennedy.
  • Big moose comes down from the mountain – Something important is happening, perhaps personal, perhaps judgement day. I haven’t hear this for ages.
  • Bogot people – Descendants of the Lower Creek Apalachicolas who sought refuge near present-day Blountstown, Florida when Indians were sent westward in the years following President Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal act of 1830. You’re more likely to come across this term in historical and cultural articles than everyday conversation.
  • Boiled Peanuts – Raw peanuts boiled for a while in salt water in their shells until they have a soft, Lima bean consistency. Used to be sold everywhere along highways in penny nail sacks. In the old days, these were called goober peas.
  • Chamber Lye – Urine used as a detergent. In folk magic, female urine brings luck in gambling, especially when it’s used to “feed” (adding various liquids to keep ingredients active and powerful) a mojo bag.
  • Chewing John – One of three roots named after the mythic John the Conqueror who was purported to be a Black slave who knew how to outwit and/or cast spells upon his master without getting caught. To say his name would protect a person from being hexed. Chewing John, Alpina galanga, is chewed like tobacco for luck in court cases. A hoodoo term.
  • seaoatsCoast – Floridian’s word for “the beach” or “the shore.” The cops and rangers will arrest you if they catch you picking sea oats (see photo).
  • Cooper Book – A Sacred Harp tunebook first published by W. M. Cooper in 1902, and popular in the Florida Panhandle, Georgia, Texas, Alabama and Mississippi. A 2012 revised edition is available.
  • Diddy-Wah-Diddy – A mythical town dreamt about by slaves and those conscripted into turpentine camps, chain gangs and orange grove labor in which ready-to-eat food presented itself to those who were hungry and sat on the curb waiting to be fed for free. Seldom used except in folk tales these days.
  • Dominicker – While the word generally refers to a breed of chicken, it’s an old pejorative term indicating a person of mixed blood, often used for an individual of African American and American Indian parentage.
  • Fat ’round de heart – Slang for “scared” or “worried.” A bit out of date.
  • floridawaterFlorida Water – A floral scented toilet water used by hoodoo practitioners for spiritual cleansing, the protection of a place or person, and for luck in gambling.
  • Floy Floy – Slang term for venereal disease that can also refer to trash talk. Slim Gaillard, Slam Stewart, and Bud Green popularized the term in their 1938 jazz song “Flat Foor Floogie (with a floy floy)”
  • Four Thieves Vinegar – Purportedly originating in 15th century Italy as a preventive medicine, the varied recipes for this preparation were later adopted in magic for personal protection. Root doctors’ clients would drink it or put it in their bath water.
  • Goofer Dust – A mixture of ingredients, including graveyard dirt, snake skin and sulfur, used to harm or kill another person who walks through it or is hexed via a sachet. Places where goofer dust has been spread are said to have been goofered. The term is sometimes used to refer to hexes or hexed places in general. A hoodoo term.
  • Hoodoo – A varied system of folk magic primarily of African origin. Practitioners, also called conjurers or root doctors, often included Kabalistic and Christian influences, Native American and European herbal knowledge and a variety of other occult beliefs in work on behalf of their clients. Hoodoo is not a synonym for the Voodoo religion.
  • Advertising Ephemera Collection - Database #A0160 Emergence of Advertising On-Line Project John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History Duke University Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library Hoyt’s Cologne – An inexpensive perfume that, in folk magic, was used as bring good luck in gambling. You can still buy it today, though dedicated conjurers prefer to make it from scratch.
  • Hush Arbor – A secret, out-of-the-way place where slaves would congregate to practice their religion, one that tended to combine Christian teachings with traditional African practices and beliefs. Many songs grew out of these meetings and were passed down as spirituals.
  • Jick – Whiskey, often moonshine.
  • Jick Head – A drunk.
  • Joe Moore – Pronounced, Joe Mow (JOMO), the term is used by some conjurers to refer to objects used as charms, often related to gambling or personal protection. The term has also been used as a synonym for MOJO and for conjure work in general.
  • Jook – Also known as a juke joint or a barrelhouse, a bar offering food, drink, dancing, gambling and socializing. The word rhymes with “took.”
  • Judas eye – A belief that a conjurer can harm a person by looking at him.
  • Mister Charlie – An out-of-use pejorative term used by African Americans. Originally, it meant any white man. Later it came to refer to whites in power.
  • mulletMullet – A Floridian’s view of this fish showed where he or she was coming from, class-wise. Upper class people considered it a bait fish to be cut up for deep sea fishing trips. The rest of us thought it was very tasty and ordered it at restaurants down on the coast with slaw and a plate full of hush puppies.
  • Rosin Baked Potatoes – Potatoes cooked in a large pot of rosin, usually outdoors over a cook fire. When they rise to the top, they’re done. We’d wrap them up in twists of brown paper cut from old grocery store sacks when we took them out of the pot.
  • Scrub Chicken – An old wiregrass region name for the gopher tortoise which was once hunted for food. During the Depression, the tortoise was also called a “Hoover Chicken.” The tortoise lives primarily in pine woods habitats and is considered endangered. According to Florida folklore, the gopher tortoise resulted when the Devil tried to make a turtle to impress God, the result being a land-based reptile without the turtle’s love of water.
  • scuppernongSculpin – One name of the Scuppernong grape, a variety of Muscadine found in the Southern Unite States. The light, greenish bronze grapes work well in baked goods, jelly and wine. As they say, all Scuppernongs are Muscadines, but all Muscadines are NOT Scuppernongs.
  • Shine – Moonshine.
  • Shoo-shooing – Whispering.
  • Shug – An endearment meaning “sugar.” Rhymes with “hood.”
  • Steppin’ back on my abstract – Collected in Zora Neale Hurston’s Mules and Men as “Standing in my tracks/stepping back on my abstract,” meaning standing one’s ground. Haven’t heard this for years.
  • Squinch Owl – Screech Owl.
  • Sugar Cane – Used to be easy to get at street corner vendors. Kids would buy short stalks and chew on them for hours; or, you can get the juice in small Dixie cups. Harder to find these days than boiled peanuts.
  • Titi – A flowering plant, Cyrilla racemiflora, also called Swamp Titi, Black Titi and Myrtle, that grows in dense thickets in pine woods, swamps, wet prairies and bogs. Pronounced tie-tie.
  • torreyaTorreya – A rare and highly endangered conifer found along the Apalachicola River near Bristol, Florida. Also called “Stinking Cedar,” the tree was said to be the same gopher wood from which Noah’s ark was built. For years, Bristol resident E. E. Callaway promoted the area as the actual Garden of Eden. The Garden of Eden trail is in the Apalachicola Bluffs and Ravines Preserve.
  • Trick – A form of natural magic, often consisting of a spell with a powder or symbol, that’s placed (laid down) where the intended victim is expected to walk. A tricked place is a spot that has been hexed in some way. A hoodoo term,
  • Tush hawg – Used in various ways, the word often refers to a rough and tumble man. Haven’t heard this for years.
  • Two-Toed Tom – A huge, legendary alligator feared by residents along the Alabama-Florida border in the early 1900s, and said to be still on the prowl many years later. It was reportedly fourteen feet long, suspected of eating cattle and mules, and assaulting women. His left front foot was missing all but two of its toes, the result of being caught in a steel trap.
  • Swamp Booger – North Florida’s version of big foot.

If you grew up in the South, but outside of Florida, you probably heard some of these words and expressions as well. But, I’ll always associate them with my childhood.

–Malcolm

This post first appeared on “The Sun Singer’s Travels”