Jock Stewart’s Thanksgiving Memories

  • thanksgiving2015clipart2002 – Turkey and smoker blow up taking out 27 windows of the Smith family’s house next door. Fire department called. Grandpa reminded by battalion chief that this has happened before. Grandpa punches chief and spends holiday in jail much to the family’s relief.
  • 2003 – Mother and Aunt Irene wake up at 4 a.m. to prepare turkey, discover it’s not quite thawed out, decide to drink Irish coffee until they can stuff turkey with Mother’s traditional radishes and spam stuffing, get soused and use too much sage. Most of family gets sick and spends holiday in emergency room.
  • 2004 – Nothing happens. Family decides this is the most boring Thanksgiving ever and resolves to do better in 2005.
  • 2005 – Two distant cousins get pregnant while mostly everyone is asleep on the couch pretending to watch football game. After a family vote, we decide that “stuff happens” and that we can all be thankful this year wasn’t a repeat of 2004.
  • 2006 – Two distant cousins bring their brand new babies and they (the babies) look like everyone else in the family. Nobody steps up to the figurative plat to take responsibility for 2005’s “stuff happens” because they’re all too busy getting the green apple quick step from Mother’s radish and apple pie. DFACS is called and confiscates the babies pending a full review.
  • 2007 – Everyone arrives drunk and nobody gets anything to eat until Dad fries up grits and jalapenos on Black Friday. Smith family gets disgusted and moves out of town until holiday is over.
  • 2008 – An argument begins during a missed call in the big football game. Grandpa settles argument by unloading his new 12-guage shotgun into the TV set. Everyone laughs and agrees this is the best Thanksgiving ever.
  • 2009 – Family agrees to go their separate ways this year to promote family harmony. We eat at a fast foot restaurant where the French fries are soggy and cold but not as bad as Mother’s French fries. We’re more thankful for that than you can imagine.
  • 2010 – Every gets their calendars mixed up and arrives a week early for Thanksgiving. By the time the holiday arrives we’re all sick of each other and go home.
  • 2011 – A political argument breaks out right after the turkey is carved. The blue state family members sit on one side of the table and the red state family members sit on the other. Grandpa throws stuffing at Uncle Walter whom we realize isn’t even part of our family and just dropped in to check the sump pump. We agree to hire TSA reps to maintain front door security in 2012.
  • 2012 – TSA reps confiscate Mother’s carving knife so we end up having to use a hedge trimmer at the table. The noise makes it hard to talk about anything. We’re grateful for that after last Thanksgiving’s blue state/red state argument.
  • 2013 – Things go smoothly without TSA goons at the front door until Grandpa boots up his new smoker in the guns and ammo closet. Nobody is harmed, but the smoker, the closet and multiple firearms are a total loss. We end up getting an injunction to ensure that Grandpa and a turkey smoker won’t be allowed in the house at the same time.
  • 2014 – Dad buys Stouffer’s TV dinners and we all agree our dinner has never tasted this good in the past. Mother’s feelings are hurt and she files for a divorce. Dad admits that some or all of the family’s extra children might be his. I hide in my room with enough crack to last until Christmas.
  • 2015 – Too soon to tell. Dad and Mom are back together again and are happily working in the kitchen preparing our surprise dinner. The place smells like sauerkraut and this doesn’t bode well. Fortunately, we ordered a 55-gallon drum of mimosas and will be well fortified against whatever happens.

–Jock Stewart

Do Million Dollar Debuts Give Writers Hope?



Sure, if we were the ones getting a million dollar advance from a major publisher, we would feel hopeful about our future.

Otherwise, the feeling is one of despair.

bestsellerSure (sorry to use the word again), there may be some sour grapes behind our feelings when we read articles like Betting Big on Literary Newcomers.

After all, with the promotion, glitz, buzz and hoopla behind a book with a million bucks behind it, we could skip all the years of being anonymous, of writing novels many people like but that still don’t have the clout to get editorial reviews, of being asked what we’ve written and then getting a blank stare when we list a few of our novels.

As Jennifer Maloney writes in the Wall Street Journal article about betting big, “Social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads have contributed to a culture in which everyone reads—and tells their friends about—the same handful of books a year. It’s increasingly a winner-take-all economy, publishing executives say. ”

That’s the why behind our despair when we read about such huge advances. If your book is not one of these books, or if you’re not already a big name author, you book basically doesn’t exist in spite of all the blog tours, Amazon sales days, and GoodRead giveaways.

Our argument–as the writers down in the steerage section of the publishing ocean liner–has always been that literature would be better served if that million bucks were dedicated to the promotion of, say, ten books for one hundred grand each, or maybe twenty books at fifty grand each rather than being lavished in an advance to one person. That million doesn’t include the advertising budget.

Sometimes BIG BOOKS turn out to be really good, even wonderful. But they’re bad for literature because–like black holes–they suck all of publishing’s efforts into a small minority of what’s out there. We understand, of course, that publishers claim that the profits from big books help fund little books. Maybe, but I never see any evidence of it.

The authors who write the books that jump into the stratosphere like this worked just as hard as the authors who didn’t. But their work is being turned into a fabricated event. Big advance = lots of buzz = justified large promotional and advertising budget = high sales and many articles and book reviews. The publisher has paid to put the book on top from the starting gate.

Yes, I read these books when the critics have good things to say about them. I’m tempted like everyone else to the books I hear about. Unfortunately, like everyone else, I miss the books I don’t hear about because no advertising or promotional budget brought them to my attention.

What a shame.



Isis Bookstore vandals must be stupid


Here’s the news story that caught my attention: Bookstore named ‘Isis’ becomes target of vandalism

IsisbooksEven though this Denver bookstore has been around for thirty-five years, some bumpkins think it’s associated with the recent terrorist group ISIS.

The store has been hit four times recently: does this mean one stupid vandal hitting the store over and over or multiple stupid vandals hitting the store one time each?

The terrorist group is giving the Egyptian goddess Isis a bad name, not to mention spoiling the 1975 Bob Dylan song by the same name.

This Dáesh (ISIS) logo seems hard to mix up with the bookstore's logo.

This Dáesh (ISIS) logo seems hard to mix up with the bookstore’s logo.

The the bookstore’s owner said that “the goddess represents women, healing and magic, and she says it’s a fitting name for a store that features books and gifts from all types of world traditions and spiritual sources. The shelves include Christian, Hindu, Native American and Pagan texts, to name a few.”

Obviously the vandals have never heard of the goddess, much less noticed that nothing about the store (inside or out) looks like it has jihad sponsorship. The logos don’t look the same either, even if one is color blind as well as stupid.

At times I wonder how it is that the facts and myths that were once basic common knowledge are shrinking. On the other hand, maybe the criminals who targeted the store wouldn’t know squat in any era.


Moon mysteries and the lunation cycle


“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.

Click on this lunar calendar to find the calendar for any month.

Click on this lunar calendar to find the calendar for any month.

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

This pioneering 1967 book examines the sun and moon's relationship in the context of our lives

This pioneering 1967 book examines the sun and moon’s relationship in the context of our lives

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.

georgemysteriesThe 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.


SarabandeCover2015Malcolm 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.)


Creator and Founder of Worlds of Comfort Seeks Donations



Today’s guest post is provided by Worlds of Comfort on behalf of its founder. The site features spiritually oriented intuitive messages, poetry and advice by Sara Isabelle Marie. The organization’s blog can be found here.

Please help and assist Sara Isabelle Marie with a donation, to be able to journey back home to Sweden and keep a roof over her head! Your support is deeply appreciated!

We have all been faced with personal and extreme difficulty at one point in our life, being forced to reach out, beyond our comfort zone. I ask that this situation is being met with understanding and compassion.

Sara Isabelle Marie is currently in Faliraki, Greece, and is such a wonderful and compassionate being, fully and completely here in service to humanity and the planet through her work of Worlds of Comfort, where she is sharing powerful and Healing Poetry and Words of Wisdom (healing messages) She is currently in Faliraki, Greece and because of the unfoldment of a recent event, her financial situation is at a breaking point, not knowing if there will be food on the table or a roof over the head, in a week, let alone, be able to journey back home to Sweden. She has not been in communication with her earthly family for several years, because of her spiritual awakening, and when she is able to journey back home to Sweden, life will begin at point zero, with no available assistance from the social structure or government in Sweden. She is completely dependent on every single donation, that is being received with a tremendous amount of gratitude, to be certain that she is able to keep a roof over the head and food on the table.

PLEASE donate if you are able to, through her website at: (She will be responding with a personal thank you, and when donating 50$, a powerfully healing poem will be sent, intuitively received from your Higher God Self.)

Take the time to read the powerful and Healing Poetry and Words of Wisdom on the website. She is a brave young woman and is determined, focused and willing, but in URGENT need of your and our help, assistance and support during this difficult transition.

I do not know the story behind the financial reversals referred to in this message. But I am happy to turn today’s post over to Worlds of Comfort in the hope Sara will be able to take the next step in her journey.


When free and cheap transcend plots and themes


The header of an e-mail message this morning proclaimed: “Download Two Free Audio Books.”

I get e-mails like this all the time, variously titled Get Free Books, This Week’s Deals, and 99¢ Books in Your Favorite Genres.

ebooksodaThese deals don’t tempt me at all. I can’t imagine basing my reading choices on books that happen to be free or cheap this week. For one thing, the list of books on my To Be Read List is already long enough. Reading the books I select based on plots and themes (and, yes, on authors’ names) will represent an investment in time. Seeing a deal for a cheap or free book doesn’t grant me a cosmic gift of 30-hour days of extra reading time.

booksendsMy books have benefited from their listings in newsletters like ebooksoda and booksends. When I reduce the price and advertise the book in a newsletter for 99¢, there’s a lot of movement on the book’s Amazon page. My hope here is that people who are already tempted by a book from an author they don’t yet know (me) will try out the book while it’s on sale. Some of those who enjoy the book come back and write reviews.

Newsletters, tweets and e-mail messages offering low-cost books definitely offer a service too readers. I’ve found and enjoyed books by known and unknown authors this way. I image lots of people do.

99centsNonetheless, I’m bothered about the process because after seeing the seemingly infinite number of pitches and promotions for cheap and near-cheap books, I start worrying that everything I say about the plots and themes of my own books–or recent books I’ve enjoyed–doesn’t matter to anyone without the presence of a deal.

Seriously, are large numbers of people reading books based on free and cheap rather than anything else? Or, with the advent of e-books (after all, it’s just a file), is there no room in the economy for books that sell at a high enough price to actually pay the authors’ for the time it took to write them?

Most little-known authors won’t sell 11787.8787879 books to earn $11,787 during the year. ($11,787 is the federal poverty level threshold for one person.) In fact, if they’re paying to get their books included in the deals newsletters, they’ll be running at a loss if they sell 11787.8787879 copies at 99¢.

noAmazonThe economics from the author’s perspective are rather grim when the marketplace–with Amazon’s constant pushing–looks at the default book price for anyone who isn’t on the New York Times bestseller list as 99¢. Amazon, of course, can make a profit when selling by volume because Amazon isn’t using up a year or two worth of writing hours to create the books on its site.

For authors and others who love great books and well-told stories, the main concern here really isn’t personal income because earning enough to live on is assumed for the most part to be impossible. The biggest concern is that more and more book-buying choices aren’t based on great books and well-told stories, but on free or cheap. When that happens, quality becomes the lowest common denominator in ones book-buying choices.

Wikipedia photo

Wikipedia photo

I used joke with my mother about the “savings” of spending a several extra hours’ worth of shopping time each week (and a lot of extra gallons of gasoline in the car) for going to multiple grocery stores to “benefit” from a few pennies off here and a few pennies off there. My view was that she was running in the red looking for deals. Now, the Internet makes the deals easier to find with little time and energy devoted to the search.

So where do we end up? Are books’ plots and themes losing out to free and cheap because the Internet helps us find the deals without having to spend much time looking for them? Or, are readers who care about plots and themes still finding the books they’ve always loved at a reduced price?

I don’t know if quality is suffering or not. But I worry about it.




The Twisty Word from WrenchCon 5201


Orlando, Star-Gazer News Service, November 9, 2015–The 5,201st annual WrenchCon concluded here today with a rousing speech by Susan Spanner called “I’m Gonna Wrench Those Blues out of My Life.”

wrenchconWrench inventors from across the country found that every major speaker and small group leader was putting a positive twist on wrenches after a year when big media trounced indie wrenchers with charges of patent infringement and shoddy work just to get their creations before the public eye.

“In today’s global economy, we need a diversity of independents entering the arena rather than the same old, same old BIG TOOL getting all the action,” said Spanner. “This market needs the innovation of the indie grip.”

The 5,201st meeting of WrenchCon got off to a chaotic start when a flurry of typographical errors in posters, direct mail and the convention web site inadvertently–one supposes–advertised the event as WenchCon, proclaiming that “Wenching with pros will improve your technique.”

wrench2Once the wenchers and wrenchers were sent to separate sections of the newly-remodeled Roadkill Convention Center on Lake Alligator, a full schedule of seminars, discussion groups, and pitch-your-wrench meetings made the week well worth the money in spite of the usual injuries, according to exit surveys.

Subjects included:

  • Do wrenchers owe end-users 24/7 access on the social media?
  • Can inventors be more creative with the open-end wrench or the box-end wrench?
  • Getting your crescent-style wrench in to Home Depot and Lowes.
  • Minimalism and the all-but-forgotten Allen wrench.
  • Power tools and socket wrenches did not ruin the business.
  • Don’t base your promotion on lame sentiments such as “the first day I knew I wanted to be a wrencher.”

The highlight of the convention for most attendees was a personal meeting with a professional wrench agent who listened to their best “elevator pitches” and then offered suggestions for improvement. The winner of the Best Damned Pitch Award, Harvey Torx, was offered a long-term contract with the Twist Your Nuts Tool Company.

“My stardust driver will out screw a Phillips or slot head every day of the week and twice on Sunday,” Torx said.

The general public had a chance to twist and grip samples of the latest in wrench design at Saturday’s wrench fair where inventors autographed their tools and gave out plenty of swag and/or swagger.

According to informed sources, even those who thought they were in Florida for a wench convention enjoyed the Southern Comfort and the product demonstrations.

Ben Walker, who drove to Orlando from Rome, Georgia, said, “More than once, I found myself exclaiming, ‘I didn’t know you could do that.'”

A family business representative from New York City, Salvador Lucchese, said “I could kill for some of these wrenches–not to mention, with them.”

“I was planning to go into the gigolo business,” said Marty Smith, “until WrenchCom 5201 showed me that the twist didn’t come and go with Chubby Checker.

Story by Jock Stewart, Special Investigative Reporter