Monday Musing: Beautiful Landscapes

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“Think of a memory in a beautiful landscape—maybe from a family vacation, or your favorite childhood destination. Now think of a scene from a story, novel, or movie that describes a landscape, and that has stuck with you. What makes these moments special? So many of the memories and stories we share are connected to place—to the landscapes of the Earth and the landscapes of our own imaginations.” – “Carving Stories from Trees” in Poets & Writers

Key West when postcards could be mailed for a penny.

Poets & Writers Magazine has a daily online writing prompt or “Craft Capsule.” I enjoy reading these even if I don’t follow up and write something based on the prompt.

For those who grew up in a wonderful place and enjoyed day trips, or went on yearly summer vacations, or traveled after graduating from high school or college, the landscapes we saw in the past are a gold mine of writing prompts and potential short story or novel location settings.

Our family traveled every summer. This meant many long days in a car, most before air conditioning. We saw sites from Fort Ticonderoga and Niagara Falls to Key West, Mammoth Cave and the Smoky Mountains. Even though I didn’t keep a diary, my memories–incomplete as they may be–make a wonderful starting point when I’m thinking up a new story.

Since I’ve been to these places, it’s less difficult to find a book, magazine or a website to help me fill in the details. I came away from those vacations with a strong sense of each place. And, that’s almost more valuable than a guidebook.

Perhaps you have memories of long-ago trips that might serve as writing prompts and short story locales.

Malcolm

Click on my name to visit my website.

Go to hell and have a nice trip

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Mama always said, “If you’re going to insult somebody, do it with a smile on your face.” (Mama always talked in bold face.)

That admonition has served me well for years.

Daddy always said, “You can take the sting out of profanity by putting it in quotes.”

As I noticed on Facebook, the Internet’s great forum for esoteric and learned debate, there’s a world of difference between saying, Bob, you’re really screwed up AND Bob, you’re really “screwed up.”

People think you love them when you add a smile and quotation marks even if you have to raise your hands and extend two fingers on each. Extending one finger on each doesn’t smooth things over.

I miss this magazine because it taught me everything I needed to know.

People become used to humorous insults. That’s why Don Rickles got so many laughs. When he made fun of people, they thought he loved them. Most of my friends think of me as “Mister Warmth.” They knew I grew up with the commandment, “Mama don’t allow no swearing ’round here.” So, when I tell them to go to hell, they think it’s satire or love, sweet love.

It takes many years of practice to get people to laugh when you’re dead serious about the “sanity” of their families, the “beauty” of their daughters, the “honor” of their sons, and the “stunning” breakfast of burnt grits they prepared for you.

It’s become clear that a well-publicized “wacky” belief system goes a long way in getting away with stuff. The people who know I believe in reincarnation and not hell, think that when I say “Go to hell,” I’m talking about Michigan.

Actress Barbara Stanwyck purportedly told Fred MacMurray that the secret of acting is truthfulness. “Just be truthful – and if you can fake that, you’ve got it made.” Faked sincerity covers almost as many “sins” as a “wacky” belief system. If you sound sincere, people want to go to hell and want to be screwed up.

Sometimes when people learn that I’m a writer (which is just as handy as a “wacky” belief system), they say, “OMG, will you put me in your book?”

My response is usually something like, “You’re already in my book. I just changed your name to keep your spouse from divorcing you.” 

“Aw, shucks,” they say, genuinely proud of themselves.

My friends variously think that I’m joking, being wacky, being satirical, and being a writer even when I’m not. Their kind thoughts in such matters have kept me from having to censor myself very often.

–Malcolm

I’m a lot more like my Jock Stewart character in “Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire” than most people suspect!

 

Briefly Noted: ‘Norse Mythology’ by Neil Gaiman

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Those of us who were taught Roman and Greek mythology in school with a smattering of myths from other cultures know the names of some of the Norse gods while remaining unclear about the big picture. In Norse Mythology, Neil Gaiman has gone back to original sources–primarily the Prose Edda and the Poetic Edda–for his content so that he could re-tell the stories as folk tales without authorial embellishment in today’s language.

In a sense, he has done what Steinbeck did in The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights as opposed to the novelization approaches of T. H. White in The Once and Future King or Mary Stewart in her Merlin books, or Marion Zimmer Bradley in her Avalon series. Those authors all wrote masterful and exciting books based on the Arthurian legends. However, each took “authors license,” including the thoughts and feelings of the characters, imagined descriptions of locales, and story lines that were not 100% in accord with the original texts. Some have criticized Gaiman for not writing about Odin, Thor, Loki and the other primary characters via the stunning saga style of epic fantasy.

Gaiman has done those of us who love mythology a great service by not extrapolating from his source material or otherwise using his own wide-in-scope imagination with a Game of Thrones approach. Like Steinbeck, he has told the stories in the simple language of the true folktale (with a liberal dash of wit), and from that, we come away with a new understanding of Asgard and its gods and goddesses.

From the Publisher’s Description

In Norse Mythology, Gaiman stays true to the myths in envisioning the major Norse pantheon: Odin, the highest of the high, wise, daring, and cunning; Thor, Odin’s son, incredibly strong yet not the wisest of gods; and Loki—son of a giant—blood brother to Odin and a trickster and unsurpassable manipulator.

Gaiman fashions these primeval stories into a novelistic arc that begins with the genesis of the legendary nine worlds and delves into the exploits of deities, dwarfs, and giants. Once, when Thor’s hammer is stolen, Thor must disguise himself as a woman—difficult with his beard and huge appetite—to steal it back. More poignant is the tale in which the blood of Kvasir—the most sagacious of gods—is turned into a mead that infuses drinkers with poetry. The work culminates in Ragnarok, the twilight of the gods and rebirth of a new time and people.

From The Guardian

Gaiman’s characteristically limpid, quick-running prose keeps the dramatic impetus of the medieval texts, if not their rough-hewn quality. His telling of the tales is for children and adults alike, and this is both right and wise, it being the property of genuine myth to be accessible on many levels.

I found the book to be a wonderfully entertaining adventure into a world I had previously seen in unfinished puzzles of torn bits and pieces.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of folk tales, paranormal, and magical realism stories and novels.

‘We need to get rid of copyright’ says new copyright office tsar

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Washington, D. C. April 1, 2018, Star-Gazer Crystal Ball Service–During his confirmation hearings before the Senate, Joseph A. Doaks, CEO of Big Ass Feature Film and Music Productions (BIGASS), said that before the President nominated him to run the copyright office into the ground, he though copyright was a provision in the Bill of Rights that gave rich and power corporations the right to copy whatever they wanted without paying for it.

“I said ‘Yes,’ Mr. President, I’ll put my BIGASS stock into a quasi-blind trust and help people satisfy their copying rights.”

The confirmation hearings are the first tangible result of the so-called Copyright Reform Act of 2017 which proponents said would “rescue the copyright office from the safety of the Library of Congress and give it to the politicians and lobbyists so that the rights of the creators of original works would forever after be blowing in the wind.”

According to a spokesman for Rescue the Copyright Office, LLC, “Think about this. Why should some rich, former welfare mother in England control the entire Harry Potter world? There are millions to be made here. But she says ‘no.’ This is undemocratic. We need a law that lets Congress decide whether it’s okay to start production on our movie HARRY POTTER GETS LAID and on a proposed new SLYTHERIN GANGSTA RAP musical.”

Doaks said that he supports the Copyright Reform Act “hook, line and sink her” when it comes to people like Rowling.

“Sure, the little people sit in their garrets and write this stuff,” said Doaks. “But they are few and far between. The rest of us have less talent. Without the right to copy and create related works, we have no way of making a living. We need to get rid of copyright because it protects the needs to the few over the right to take what we can and make whatever we can from it.”

After consulting with film and music producers and distributors and their lobbyists and tallying up recent campaign contributions, Senators are expected to approve Doak’s appointment.

Story by Jock Stewart, Special Investigative Reporter

 

Some days, writers are flat too tired to write

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Even the words of a decent blog post don’t come to mind.

This list of the day’s events doesn’t sound that arduous:

  1. Up at 7 a.m.. after five hours of sleep (typical)
  2. Emptied the dishwasher
  3. Ate breakfast.
  4. Cleaned frying pan and put plate in empty dishwasher
  5. Picked up garden soil and potting soil at Home Depot (still in the trunk of the car)
  6. Got four new tires put on the car and found out the alignment was messed up (wait time = 90 minutes)
  7. Bought a new coffee pot (took two stores to find one)
  8. Picked up a few groceries
  9. Lunch (not proud, it was a cheap TV dinner)
  10. Made a vat of beef stew (still simmering)
  11. Watered new veggies and flowers outside
  12. Wheeled garbage bin back up next to the house
  13. Cleaned up a hairball
  14. Fed the cats
  15. Publisher reminds me Eulalie and Washerwoman will be on sale on Kindle on Friday (don’t want to get in trouble by neglecting to mention that)
  16. Poured a glass of wine (just before burning myself out on this exciting post)

–Malcolm

For Mother’s Day – One of Mother’s Recipes

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Green Rice

Kathryn Belle Campbell

Mother kept her recipes on 3X5 cards in metal boxes, one of which ended up with me. This is one of my favorites because it works so well as a comfort-food side dish for many things, including fried or baked chicken, pork chops, pork or beef ribs, and even cubed steak or fried fish. As her recipe card said, “this rice dish is unusual and very good.” (Note: the rice itself is not green.)

  1. Cook 1 cup of long grain rice according to the instructions on the package.
  2. To the cooked rice, add 1 cup milk, 1 egg, 1 cup grated sharp or extra sharp cheddar cheese, 1/2 minced green pepper, 1/2 cup of minced parsley, and 1 half clove of garlic.
  3. Mix thoroughly and pour into a greased baking dish.
  4. Pour 1/2 cup of olive oil over the top.
  5. Bake for 1 hour in a moderate (350 degree) oven. Casserole top will be slightly browned.
  6. Serves 6-8.

Notes:

  • Neither of us likes green pepper and since the taste in the casserole is pervasive, we omit it.
  • Fresh parsley tastes a lot better than dried. (No offence to the McCormick Company.)
  • We use a lot less olive oil: you can get the taste of it with 1/4 a cup or even a little less.
  • We cheat with a little garlic powder. (Yes, I know, Chef Ramsey would be ticked off.)

When I was recovering from kidney surgery a year ago, my wife found that this food was gentle on my stomach and hit the spot when served alone. It warms up easily in the microwave.

–Malcolm

Mother’s Day Weekend Sale – three books are free

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Three of my books are on sale on Kindle Sunday and Monday for $0.00. (May 14th and 15th).

At Sea

Even though he wanted to dodge the draft in Canada or Sweden, David Ward joined the navy during the Vietnam War. He ended up on an aircraft carrier. Unlike the pilots, he couldn’t say he went in harm’s way unless he counted the baggage he carried with him. As it turned out, those back home were more dangerous than enemy fire.

This novel was inspired by my services aboard an aircraft carrier in the Gulf of Tonkin in the late 1960s.

Mountain Song

David Ward lives in the Montana mountains where his life was impacted by his medicine woman grandmother and his utilitarian grandfather. Anne Hill suffered through childhood abuse and ultimately moved in with her aunt on the edge of a Florida swamp. Their summer romance at a mountain resort hotel surprises both of them. But can they make it last after the initial passion wears off and they return to their college studies far apart from each other especially after an attack on a college street changes Anne forever?

This novel was inspired by my work as a seasonal employee in Glacier National Park.

Carrying Snakes Into Eden

The title story, “Carrying Snakes Into Eden,” is a whimsical 1960s-era tale about two students who skip church to meet some girls at the beach and end up picking up a hobo with a sack of snakes, and realize there may be long-term consequences.

“Hurricane in the Garden” is a folktale that explains why the snakes were swept out of Eden in the first place. The story features animal characters who made their debut in the three-story set called “Land Between the Rivers.”

These stories are inspired by a love of the Florida Panhandle where I grew up.

Happy Mother’s Day,

Malcolm