Hex Free (mostly) Halloween Book Sale


Yes, you can go door to door begging for free candy and still take advantage of my 99% Hex Free Halloween Book Sale.

hexfreeSale dates: 10/28/16 through 10/31/16

Free Books: Waking Plain, Dream of Crows, At Sea, Willing Spirits

The Stories:

  • Waking Plain is a story about a sleeping prince who is so plain nobody wants to kiss him and wake him up. Bummer.
  • Dream of Crows is a story about a poor slob who’s being led into an early grave. Warning: it just might be you.
  • At Sea is a novel about a conscientious objector serving on an aircraft carrier during the Vietnam War. As it turns out, friends and family are more dangerous than the Viet Cong.
  • Willing Spirits is a story about a girl who waited to the last minute to do her book report and asks the dead author for help. You know before you start reading that this can’t be good.

Warranty: In spite of modern technology no reputable author can guarantee that his or her books are 100% hex free. We do our best to keep hidden hexes and subliminal messages out of our books. But a small percentage of you might fall under a spell that will cause you to buy more of our books and/or steal your children’s Halloween candy.



Those beautiful, sometimes risque and sometimes racist orange crate labels

A long-time favorite of mine.

A long-time favorite of mine. Seald Sweet was Florida’s answer to California’s “Sunkist.”

If you visited a farmer’s market or walked into a grocery story stockroom in Florida up through the 1950s, you’d find oranges, grapefruits, and kumquats stacked in wood crates with colorful labels on each end. As kids, we used leftover orange crates for storing all kinds of things until they suddenly disappeared in favor of boring cardboard boxes. While the use of orange crate label art began in California in the 1880s, the practice soon moved to Florida which still has a near-monopoly on U. S. citrus production.

If you Google “orange crate labels” or “vintage orange crate labels,” you’ll quickly find many of the major labels. If you stop by Florida Southern College in Lakeland, you can look at the digitized collection of labels at the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame. (Many of these can be viewed on line.) Labels, and related post card advertising, are almost always for sale on eBay

While the artists were popular names at the time, their work on the ends of those utilitarian crates was seldom signed. For one thing, its purpose was identifying a grower or a shipper to grocery store chains and distributors, not the general public.

banjobrandIn his 2015 review of Florida’s First Billboards: Florida Citrus Crate Labels, Kevin Bouffard wrote, “A new book stands for the proposition that Florida citrus crate labels played as much a role in the development of the state and its signature agricultural industry as Anita Bryant, beaches and Walt Disney.” No doubt, the book’s limited printing meant that most copies ended up with those who collect and/or sell orange crate labels. Two earlier books are long out of print and hard to find.

When my wife and I set up a general store shelf exhibit for a Georgia museum, we enjoyed purchasing old orange crate labels as well as the labels used on canned goods to add to the ambiance and realism of our displays. The “Belle of Crescent City” was one of the labels we chose.

buxomI mention a few of the racially pejorative labels in Eulalie and Washerwoman when my conjure woman protagonist borrows some crates from the local general store. She was quick to notice the “Southern charm” of labels featuring happy African Americans–many of whom were forced to pick the oranges just as others were forced to work in turpentine camps–as though they were in change of the orange groves and personally selected the oranges in the crates. Labels from Indian River featured Indians, some in skimpy dress. Others featured women in bathing suits or were purposefully racy.


When we used orange crates for hauling and storing things, we noticed the labels, but never made an attempt to salvage them. Now I wish we had. We might make a few dollars on eBay or donate them to the Citrus Hall of Fame for its collection. Even the sexist and racist labels are part of our history, something we hope never to repeat, but generally speaking, most of the labels are advertising works of art. I’m sorry to see them gone.


ewkindlecoverMalcolm R. Campbell is the author of the 1950s-era novel Eulalie and Washerwoman, a story of kidnapped men, stolen houses, and a conjure woman’s magic.

Visit his website here.



Getting comfortable in your writing shoes


Comfortable doesn’t mean complacent. If you hike or climb mountains, you know that new shoes often hurt and need to be broken in before a major trek. The wrong kind of shoes and the wrong size shoes are often worse because the shoes have to match what you’re doing. The same thing is true of writers, figuratively speaking, because while genres and styles have a lot of things in common, each requires an approach you need to be comfortable with.

oldshoesDepending on which survey you look at, romance, action/adventure, science fiction and fantasy usually sell the most books. Unfortunately, some of the sub-genres in those groupings aren’t carried on the coattails of the most popular books.

For me, that means magical realism–which is what I write–is down at the 2% or 3% range of sales. Obviously, the the size of a writer’s audience will skew the figures for individual books, though J. K. Rowling discovered that as Snape said to Harry Potter, “fame isn’t everything” affects authors asd well as wizards. (Her fans hated “A Casual Vacancy.)

For me, “comfortable writing shoes” work best with magical realism. They work as poorly for other genres as wearing flip flops or high heels in the world series. To some extent, finding comfortable shoes is part of the journey to being comfortable with oneself. I’ve always wished I could be fluent in multiple language, play a Bach toccata and fugue on a massive pipe organ, water ski all the way across the bay and back without falling off, and knowing how to repair my own cars. After many years of discord about these things, I had to accept that they weren’t me.

I love writing and reading magical realism, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t wished I could turn out a great romance or spy novel from time to time to support my magical realism habit. But I can’t do it even though I have enjoyed many spy and FBI-related novels over the years just as I’ve enjoyed a lot of recordings of Bach over the years. But liking something doesn’t always translate into being good at it–though, it’s a nice start.

The hints and signs about our authentic selves are available for us to see early on, but we either don’t recognize them or actively deny them. Growing up, I spent most of my time out doors or reading about magic. These interests are closely linked in most magical realism. I learned more from nature than I did from school, especially my literature and other English classes. I was a fish out of water in those classes because the approach to writing and the great classics of the written word seemed counterproductive and false to me. I was the worst student in English classes and the most likely to openly defy the teachers.

I had one wonderful writing teacher. He didn’t give us theories, he asked us to write, and then we talked about what worked. This is how most of us learn most of what we know. We try things out. We experiment. Some things fail either because we don’t really like them or aren’t skillful in those areas or are just incompatible with them. Other things work. Finding out why they work is a Nirvana-like experience. You want to shout YES!!!!!!!!!!!!. Learning in this teacher’s class was about the only worthwhile course I had in my English minor in college. In that class, we focused on pure storytelling rather than on an approach better suited to a doctoral dissertation in literary or communications theory.

Like many others, I spent time trying to fit in because when you’re the only one in the class who disagrees with the teacher’s approach, it’s hard not to cave in to the pressure of the rest of the students and the system itself.

Now that I’m not in school–or teaching in one–I don’t have to answer to those who support the system. I can write what I want to write and wear the kinds of shoes and attitudes that fit my chosen genre. I’m comfortable with this now, though I certainly wasn’t comfortable with it in high school and college because I was a rebel when it came to the course syllabus and (as they call them) the expected “learning outcomes.”

I guess it comes down to the fact that I’d rather be happy than rich and I’d rather be comfortable as myself and as a writer than being part of the crowd making the scene at popular parties, bars like the fictional “Cheers,” or being the guy all the girls want to dance with. Life would have been so much easier if I’d figured all this out 40 years ago. So would my writing.

If you’re a writer, you probably know what you love to write even if nobody wants to buy it or Oprah doesn’t call or MGM doesn’t option your novels for movies. If you love writing fiction that catches on with huge numbers of readers, then that’s a mixed blessing. Financially, you’ll be secure, but as Snape said, “fame isn’t everything.” Fame tends to get in a person’s way and keep them from wearing their most comfortable shoes.


ewkindlecoverMalcolm R. Campbell is the author of the recently released novel “Eulalie and Washerwoman,” a folk magic story set in the Florida Panhandle in the 1950s. 

Speaking of shoes, Campbell still wears the climbing boots he bought in the 1960s even though his knees really complain if he tries to climb anything higher than an ant hill.


Florida Legends: The man who could turn into an alligator


One of my favorite stories out of the Federal Writers Florida Folklore project, is the one about Uncle Monday collected by the author Zora Neale Hurston in the 1930s. Among other places, it appears in “Uncle Monday and Other Florida Tales” by Kristin G. Congdon.

Uncle Monday was a powerful conjure man who brought his magic from Africa. He was sold into slavery. When he escaped, he joined up with the Seminole Indians to fight against federal troops. He vowed that he would never be taken captive and enslaved again.

ewgatorDuring a ceremony at Blue Sink Lake in central Florida held by Africans and Indians, Uncle Monday danced and transformed into an alligator and plunged into the lake with all the other alligators. He is said to live there even now and to change into a man again when it suits his fancy. At the end of the day, though, he returns to the lake and, as Congdon writes in her rendition, folks “feel more comfortable with Uncle Monday home in the waters with his reptile family.”

If you search on line, you’ll probably find a number of tales about the alligator man, one of which relates the story of one Judy Bronson of Maitland who claimed she was a more powerful conjure doctor than anyone else. One night when she was fishing at Blue Sink, she saw Uncle Monday walking across the water in a beam of light with an army of gators.

She tried to escape, but her legs wouldn’t function. Uncle Monday told her she would stay right there until she admitted that her magic wasn’t as powerful as his. This was the last thing she wanted to do, but she had no choice. When she confessed she could not do such magic, she was carried back to her house. Soon, she threw away her conjure bottles, candles and herbs and claimed that she fell ill on the shore of Blue Sink and that Uncle Monday cured her.

As Congdon writes, “Folks will try to tell Judy that she only suffered a stroke and fell in the lake, but she knows better.”

Since I’ve read more than one story about this man, I couldn’t resist mentioning him in my Florida folk magic novel Eulalie and Washerwoman, along with other legends such as the giant gator named Two-Toed Tom, the Swamp Booger, and the ghost from Bellamy Bridge near Marianna.



Briefly noted: The Sacred Harp Tradition of Pure, Old Songs


“On any Sunday afternoon a traveler through the Deep South might chance upon the rich, full sound of Sacred Harp singing. Aided with nothing but their own voices and the traditional shape-note songbook, Sacred Harp singers produce a sound that is unmistakable―clear and full-voiced. Passed down from early settlers in the backwoods of the Southern Uplands, this religious folk tradition hearkens back to a simpler age when Sundays were a time for the Lord and the ‘singings.’”

“The Sacred Harp: a Tradition and Its Music” by Buell E. Cobb, Jr.

“Aside from the Holy Bible, the book found oftenest in the homes of rural southern people is without a doubt the oblong book of song called ‘he Sacred Harp.’ It is not a church hymnal, though its contents are religious songs.”

“The Story of the Sacred Harp, 1844-1944” by George Pullen Jackson

Wikipedia graphic

Wikipedia graphic

The Sacred Harp, an a cappella, Protestant-based singing style associated with the Southern United States, has a deep ancestry going back to England’s psalter hymnals and the influence of New England’s “Bay Psalm Book,” but the name, selection of songs, and the method are said to have begun with Benjamin Franklin White and Elisha J. King’s The Sacred Harp, published in 1844.

Tunebooks, as they were called, were also published W. M. Cooper in 1902 and by Seaborn and Thomas Denson in 1936. Singing groups had their favorites as did areas of the country.

Books and Styles

Those who are used to the church hymnals in most protestant churches quickly notice several distinctive differences between the books supplied on the backs of their pews and the Sacred Harp books used at sings: The Sacred Harp books were oblong (landscape format) and feature easily identifiable shape notes to allow people to easily participate without any knowledge of standard musical notation.

While audiences can and do appear at Sacred Harp sings, the singers sing for their own needs and those of their group, all facing inward toward the leader who sets the tempo by raising his arms up and down rather like the conductor of a symphony. Many of the singers, especially those in the honored down-front sections of each section, often duplicate the leader’s arm motions help the group stay synchronized. Many people refer to this as fasola singing.


Sacred Harp is based on old hymns sung the old way. Changes in the music world–gospel and other modern styles, organ or piano accompaniment, stylistic variations of the melody and words–are said to dilute the music. As Buell writes, “The Sacred Harp is–in tone, in musical effect, in the themes the songs focus on–an emotive and yet a disciplined music, austere and uncompromised.”

A Natural End in Itself

In her Beginner’s Guide to Shape-Note Singing, Lisa Grayson points out that the singing is an end itself and that should there be an audience, they are welcome to listen or join in but never applaud any more than they would applaud during a traditional church service, and that the gloomy nature of many of the hymns reflects old church and camp meeting beliefs before some churches turned to “all sweetness and froth.”

While there are never any soloists in Sacred Harp singing, the music emphasizes the human voice which is considered the greatest of all instruments in a natural setting. Many of the hymns contain references to fields, rivers, sky and mountains all of which are considered both natural and sacred.

There are wonderful indexes of Sacred Harp songs available at fasola.org and texasfasola.org which allow you to find tunes by title, first line, composer and meter. To illustrate the so-called gloomy nature, here is “The Weary Souls” written in 1804 as it appears in the Cooper tunebook:

Ye weary, heavy-laden souls,
Who are opprest and sore,
Ye trav’lers thro’ the wilderness
To Canaan’s peaceful shore.
Thro’ chilling winds and beating rains,
And waters deep and cold,
And enemies surrounding us
Take courage and be bold.

Farewell, my brethren in the Lord,
Who are for Canaan bound,
And should we never meet again
’Till Gabriel’s trump shall sound.
I hope that I shall meet you there
On that delightful shore,
In mansions of eternal bliss,
Where parting is no more.

Time and Space

sacredharpcobbIn her thesis “Journey Into the Square: A Geographical Perspective of Sacred Harp,” Michele Abee writes that “Sacred Harp is a community identified around a common religious practice of a specific type of music. It is a practice that has continually adapted to its space through time and found a unique cultural identity in the American South. The opportunity geography provides Sacred Harp is its ability to define its religious practice according to its time and space. The music itself provides a unique perspective to religious geography as the physical environment represented in the lyrics of the hymns demonstrates that the nature surrounding man is divinely created.”

That’s an apt summary of an approach to worship through music that focuses intentionally on, as Sacred Harp singers see it, “the old road,” while modern churches and modern music have gone far afield through experimentation and creativity onto new roads. Both roads have their attractions. When listened to with an open mind, a Sacred Harp sing can be a powerful experience no matter how modern the listener believes himself or herself to be.


ewkindlecoverMalcolm R. Campbell’s new novel, “Eulalie and Washerwoman,” features a bit of the culture of of the Sacred Harp, necessitating many enjoyable hours of research into a form of religious singing that is quite different from the Presbyterian tradition the author grew up in.










There are days when I wish I hadn’t logged on to Facebook


We call Facebook social media, but it’s often anti-social media.

It offers us a chance to keep up with people–often old friends we haven’t seen since childhood or college–and to hear about new ideas, general news, books, blog links of interest, and a lot of other things that according to communications theories are supposed to bring various cultural groups and nationalities closer together through enhanced knowledge and understanding of each other.

assbookI’m not surprised when people use Facebook and Twitter to disseminate facts, ideas and opinions about causes such as the environment, the treatment of women in Muslim countries, military vs. diplomatic methods of resolving conflicts, and the current Presidential race.

In this country, we’re supposed to be champions of free speech. Among other things, that means defending the right of those who express opposing views to express those views. But somehow, that’s all gotten so polarized that people ignore the facts–or don’t spend time looking for them.

What’s changed?

Perhaps nothing, depending on how old you are and what you’ve experienced growing up through many decades of changing priorities and value systems. My feeling is that people aren’t doing their homework. So, when they feel moved to say something on Facebook, they often opt for a graphic or a video prepared by a biased source. Many of the things quoted during the Presidential race either were never said by the candidate or were taken out of context so they appear to mean something quite different than the candidate intended. Yet this stuff is posted as the gospel truth.

As a former journalist and journalism instructor, I not only think many news outlets have gotten warped, but that they are using their agendas to create public opinions that would be much different if those courses were making every effort to be objective. This skewed, highly managed sound bite “journalism” makes its way onto Facebook in all kinds of ways. Truth is the first casualty here. Oddly enough, if you point out to the person who posts a political graphic that the graphic is incorrect, their solution is to believe it anyway. It’s simply easier!

While I almost never post political statements on my Facebook profile, I often “see red” when I see a graphic or a poster’s opinion that twists a real event into something it wasn’t. Even if I say that I heard the speech the person is quoting and that they’re not reporting what s/he said, they don’t care. What they’re posting coincides with their opinions and the facts don’t matter.

Sometimes people ask me what my sources are. When I answer, some people say, “Oh, well I only listen to news sources I agree with.” Ultimate stupidity. You’re not supposed to agree with a source because that source is supposed to be neutral. If they’re not neutral, they’re not a real journalist. I despair when I see the Fox news aficionados and the CNN aficionados screaming at each other about objectivity when both of those news outlets are very biased. Yes, I know, it’s just easier to be led around by a figurative leash by sources who tell you what to think, but that approach hurts all of us.

I know I shouldn’t comment on those kinds of posts, but it’s hard to resist. The result: a lot of time is wasted and nobody’s opinion is changed. What a waste of time.


Malcolm R. Campbell’s new novel “Eulalie and Washerwoman” will be released Friday, October 14th.

This and that on a blustery October weekend


Sunshine and gusty weather here in northwest Georgia. Here’s a little this and that:

  1. matthew2My brother, sister in law, and publisher who live in two counties in central Florida came through the hurricane okay even though they’re still without power.
  2. As you see from the map, I live 275 miles from the Georgia coast. Sure, we have a wind advisory, but not a drop of rain. Meanwhile, my daughter and her family in Maryland will be getting rain soon if it isn’t already there. So, our drought continues while a lot of places have seen way too much water.
  3. The cover art work is done for my upcoming novel Eulalie and Washerwoman. I can’t show it to you yet because my publisher won’t be able to see it until her power comes back on. It looks good. It was done by the same artist who did the artwork for Conjure Woman’s Cat.
  4. While the hurricane was deluging Florida, I was writing a short story about a hurricane. I want you to know what I didn’t use any spells to attract Matthew even though Eulalie loves to whistle up the wind.
  5. I’ve added another poem to the selection in my Kindle stories and poems book College Avenue. When I originally uploaded the book, I couldn’t find a copy of my poem “Sock Puppet.” It first appeared in the former “Smoking Poet” Magazine, but was missing from their archives. Finally, my brother found a copy of it. Thanks, Barry.
  6. Okay, maybe I can show you a little piece of the cover art work, enough to tip you off there’s an alligator in the story: