Authors Urge Customers and Colleagues not to Boycott NC Bookstores


From the ABA: When Sherman Alexie announced that he was cancelling an appearance at Malaprop’s Bookstore/Café in Asheville, many North Carolina booksellers expressed fear that an author boycott would have a chilling effect on free speech as well as inflict economic damage on booksellers who support LGBTQ rights. To address this fear, the American Booksellers Association has joined several groups in issuing a statement supporting free speech and urging authors and illustrators and their publishers not to boycott bookstores.

The following authors may evaluate attending conferences and festivals in North Carolina, but will still participate with libraries and bookstores;


A huggable kidney for my upcoming surgery


kidneySince I don’t know anything about huggable stuff, it never occurred to me there would be a huggable kidney out there “when urine love.” One of these showed up as a surprise package from my daughter, her husband and my granddaughters today to help me prepare for and get through next monday’s kidney surgery.

Much appreciated because it will come in handy whenever the pain meds start wearing off.

However, since I think the hospital might mix this up with one of my real kidneys, I’m saving this for home use only. Not sure that my calico cat will allow this in the bed, but we’ll see.

So far, my research has shown that real kidneys don’t have eyes, feet, and stuff, but we’ll let that slide.

This is going to come in handy.



Brief Review: ‘The Girl on the Train’


The Girl on the TrainThe Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This mystery, narrated by three London-area women, is tightly written with multiple who-dunnit style twists and turns. Rachael takes the train into London every day and has gotten into the habit of fantasizing about the lives of two people she’s never met in a house near the tracks several doors down from the house where she used to live. She builds a perfect life for the unknown couple in the house and almost comes to believe she knows them–until the woman who lives there ends up missing.

The interesting plot is dulled to some extent due to the fact that Rachael, Anna and Megan seem some hopelessly inept in maintaining any order and purpose in their lives other than, perhaps, a focus on their relationships with men.

The author brings a nice touch to Rachael’s chapters because her excessive drinking makes her an unreliable narrator. The police–and the readers, as well–won’t be sure until near the end of the book what she saw and what she did during a black-period on the night “it happened.”

The train imagery is pitch perfect and the ending is satisfying.

View all my reviews



Will Ferrell, you have stepped out of bounds from comedy to cruel


ferrell“The family of Ronald Reagan has slammed Will Ferrell for signing on to star in and produce a comedy about the president’s agonizing battle with Alzheimer’s.” – New York Post

“Penned by Mike Rosolio, the story begins at the start of the then-president’s second term when he falls into dementia and an ambitious intern is tasked with convincing the commander-in-chief that he is an actor playing the president in a movie.” – Variety

“I saw the news bulletin — as did everyone — that you intend to portray my father in the throes of Alzheimer’s for a comedy that you are also producing. Perhaps you have managed to retain some ignorance about Alzheimer’s and other versions of dementia. Perhaps if you knew more, you would not find the subject humorous.” – Patti Davis, in Open Letter to Will Ferrell

Hollywood is famous for taking oafs, clowns and unintelligent people and poking fun at them. Perhaps we laugh our gallows humor laughs, thinking “there by the grace of God go I.” But dementia? That’s out of bounds.

Will Ferrell’s movie may never be made, some say, due to the firestorm of protest the concept has already created. Let’s hope the soothsayers are right: Alzheimer’s is not comedy and to make it so for a movie, especially one about a real person, is without any redeeming value whatsoever. What’s next, Mr. Ferrell? The hi-jinks of a cancer ward or accident victims dying in the E. R. on a Saturday night?

In her open letter, Davis writes, “Alzheimer’s is the ultimate pirate, pillaging a person’s life and leaving an empty landscape behind.” Mr Ferrell, what do you find funny about this?

I hope you’re better than this, Will Ferrell, but I’m beginning to have my doubts.


UPDATE: (April 29, 2016) Will Ferrell Walks Away From Controversial Reagan Project

Writing Grants: Better than that cabin in the woods


cabinretreatWriters often dream about mountain and seaside cabins as places to escape daily life and concentrate on on their writing. Some lease vacation rentals while others create their own hide-ways on their own property. Others take advantage of writing retreats and writers-in residence programs.  For examples of retreats, check here: 25 Incredible Writing Retreats to Attend in 2016.

All of these are ways to get away from it all and concentrate on the writing and research needed to complete, say, a novel or a collection of short stories. In some cases, wishing for that cabin in the woods might simply be an excuse; for others the time away is desperately needed.

In the current issue of Poets & Writers Magazine, “Arts Organizations Offering Prizes More Valuable than Cash'” suggests that grants–for which there will be more competition–offer strong support than a hide-way and and a suitcase full of money.

“As mainstream publishing becomes more fixated on finding the next best-seller and arts funders begin to understand that for many talented poets and literary authors success requires more than simply finding time to write,” says Michael Bourne. “A small number of arts organizations are taking a more hand-on approach–including, in some cases, arranging meetings between their winning writers and publishers who might be interested inn taking on their books.”

Many widely known authors have followed versions of the grant approach, including Karen Russell and Aracelis Girmay. If you can find a copy of the magazine, read the full article for details. Otherwise, here are three grant-awarding organizations you may wish to explore:


Helping everything come out in the wash


When Thomas Wolfe published Look Homeward, Angel in 1929, there was a fair amount of grumbling in his home city of Asheville, NC due to similarities between the book’s characters and people in the community. To use a modern term, I’ve always assumed his writing of the book with such strong autobiographical ties was his way of processing parts of his life he wanted to exorcise or better understand.

Time heals, some say. It’ll all come out in the wash, others say. Perhaps so.

outinthewashI’ve never felt the need to write a torrid tell-all book loosely based on people I know, though every few years or so novels come out that reveal old secrets and/or that live up to that writer’s tee shirt gag, “Don’t piss me off or I’ll kill you in my next book.”

I do tend to help things in my own life come out in the wash by writing about them, often long after the fact, and seldom in any way that links the fictionalized version to me.

For example, the last post on this blog Again and Again Throughout the Long Night is a short story based on events in my own experience that occurred in the 1980s. Yet they always bothered me, so finally my way of helping them come out in the wash is writing a fictionalized version of them using characters and locales vastly different from those in the true story.

A lot of people process their stuff by journaling or writing memoirs. I’m not famous, so I fail to see the need–much less the practicality–of writing a memoir. So I dribble the process stuff out into stories and novels over time and it really seems to help.

My doctor confirmed today that I have kidney cancer, but that it was caught early enough–in a cat scan the hospital did while diagnosing appendicitis last week–that two hours of surgery in a couple of weeks should completely remove it without any likelihood of recurrence or chemo/radiation. Sooner or later, this will show up in a story because what I have not yet processed is the fact that had I not had appendicitis, the kidney cancer wouldn’t have been caught until things were already potentially hopeless. The doctor called my appendicitis “the bellyache that saved your life.”

I have no clue how I’m going to fictionalize that. But like everything else in life that I’ve had to ponder or mull over looking for the inherent meanings, this will have to come out in the wash one way or another.

I always hope that those who don’t consider themselves to be writers will at least put their “out in the wash” kinds of thoughts into diaries, and potentially even experiment with creating fictional versions of them. Writing, for me, as been the best therapy I know. (And I say this as somebody who worked briefly in the mental health field and strongly considered becoming a psychologist.)

Writing just seems to help things settle.


I appreciate those of you who have gone out to Kindle to download a free copy of my short story “Waking Plain.” It will be free for a few more days.


Again and Again Throughout the Long Night


Again and Again Throughout the Long Night
a short story
Copyright © 2016 by Malcolm R. Campbell

He got a call from Mrs. Jones.

“David, I’m so sorry to tell this. Your mother died this morning.”

He thought she was calling about his father. That’s what his mother often predicted.

“What happened?”

“She collapsed in the front room. They think she had a heart attack. They think it happened quickly, David, that she was gone before she fell on the sofa. Can you come here soon? Robert doesn’t know. He’s in bed as always listening to Édith Piaf recordings. He knows Édith’s gone, but he doesn’t know Peggy’s gone.”

“I’ll tell him.”

A former newspaperman for a Missoula newspaper, Robert S. Ward seldom remembered he was a former newspaperman for a Missoula newspaper. Multiple strokes kept him confined to a hospital bed in the room he once shared with his wife. Alzheimer’s kept his mind confined to places long ago and far away. When present moments occurred, they were short, far between, and oddly linked.

piaf2Édith, his Little Sparrow, was already there when David arrived. He heard the words from “Les Trois Cloches” when he opened the front door: “Dieu vous fera signe un jour.” (God will beckon to you one day.) She sang that song on her first U.S. tour in 1945, and Robert S. Ward was there to cover it and interview her, and yes, he remembered that like it was yesterday which in many ways it was.


For once, he knew him. He hugged the ephemeral old man and that seemed to confuse him.

“The Little Sparrow sounds better than ever today,” David said.

“Always,” he said. “What brings you here?”

“Mrs. Jones called me.”


“The home health care worker.”

“Of course.”

“She told me that mother died of a heart attack this morning.”

“Did God beckon my Peggy Belle?”


“Oh David, that’s news unfit to print. She worked too hard. She needed to rest. I told her this. I heard noises in the house earlier this morning. I didn’t know what they were. Have they already taken her away?”

“Yes, Dad.”

“Without goodbyes.” He sighed and stared at the vintage tape recorder (or was it Édith standing there?), lost to old memories, to the old familiar places where he sought refuge, where he was young again and interviewing Édith Piaf in New York, where he was young again and courting Margaret Belle (“Peggy”) Gordon in Butte, where the future was still “La Vie En Rose” and long forevers.

“I’m sorry, Dad.”

piaf“I need to talk to Édith about this. You must be starved. Ask the health care lady to warm up some of Peggy Belle’s last pot of chicken soup. Oddly, she made it for me.”

David sat at the kitchen table with Mrs. Jones and they ate soup.

“Needs salt,” she said.

“Was she seeing a heart specialist?”

“If so, he hid it well.”

“I think she was. That’s why the soup needs salt.”

Mrs. Jones shrugged. “La Vie En Rose” filled the house.

Later that day, Mrs. Jones found him in the den going through his mother’s papers. She had been seeing a specialist, opting to keep quiet about it while she cut back on the salt but not her workload. There were days when Mrs. Jones had nothing to do.

“He’s asking for her, David,” she said.

When David went into the bedroom, his father asked if Peggy Belle had served up several bowls of her famous chicken soup.

“It was very good,” said David.

“Needed salt,” his father said. “I haven’t seen her all day. I want to ask her if we’ve run out of salt. Is that why you came to visit?”

Édith was mercifully silent on the matter.

“No, Mrs. Jones called me.”


“The home health care worker.”

“Of course.”

“She told me that mother died of a heart attack this morning.”

“Did God beckon my Peggy Belle?”

“Yes,” and apparently only by the wind grieved, he thought.

“Oh David, that breaks my heart. Have they already taken her away?”

“I’m afraid so.”

“They should have let me see her.”

“Mrs. Jones says you did see her?”

“It must have been too short and too dear a moment to recall.”

“You’ll see her again soon, Dad, at the memorial service.”

“It won’t be Peggy Belle then, will it? My friends will say ‘doesn’t she look good?’ and I’ll lie to them and say that she does.”

“I’ll help you through the service, Dad.”

“I know, I know. For now, look in the pantry and see if we’re out of salt.”

Later that day, Mrs. Jones found David looking through a file labeled “Memorial Service Wishes.” In her scrunched handwriting, his mother had written a note to the current pastor of the Presbyterian Church requesting that he use as many of their proposed hymns and responsive readings as possible. Based on her tone, she expected Robert to go before she did and even included songs by the Little Sparrow.

“David, your father wants to talk to Peggy about the salt.”

He went into his father’s bedroom for the third time that day to tell he fragile, grey-haired man once again that his wife had died. He suspected he would have to break the news again and again throughout the long night and that each time he did so he’d be wounding his father new and fresh out of the long shadows.