The black horse in my novels


The Black Horse is both death defying and death seeking. In other words it is symbolic of death and rebirth. It signifies the closing of one door and the opening of a new door. It can also signify the need for you to take a leap of faith and trust what you are being guided to do even if you can’t see the reason or the result. Go blindly forth and believe.

Spirit Animal Totems and their messages

A black horse in a dream could represent a part of the shadow self or a part of your personality that you usually prefer to keep hidden; instinctual urges operating in the dark recess of your mind; the unknown, what is mysterious.

Spirit Animals and Animal Totems

Lake Josephine and Mt. Gould where Sarabande first meets Sikimí. - NPS photo

Lake Josephine and Mt. Gould where Sarabande first meets Sikimí. – NPS photo

A huge black horse named Sikimí has appeared in five of my novels, including the upcoming new release of Sarabande. In all of these stories, he has been a totem animal associated with the mountains of Glacier National Park, Montana.

The word Sikimí means black horse in the Blackfeet language. The Blackfeet are the long-time residents of the eastern side of Glacier Park and the adjacent plains. They are the people the land knows and their language is the primary language the animals, trees, mountains and forces of nature respond to.

Appropriately, Sikimí appears in what might be called a “journey novel,” in this case, a “heroine’s journey.” Typically, heroines’ journeys are associated with night, the moon, the underworld, and the subconscious mind.

Journey novels often portray both physical travel and shamanistic or internal travel. Horse symbolism is well known whether we find the information in classic books such as Ted Andrews’ Animal Speak or David Abram’s Becoming Animal, online sites like the two quoted at the beginning of this post, or intuit them in our meditations and dreams.

This Wikpedia photo looks like my vision of Sikimí.

This Wikpedia photo looks like my vision of Sikimí.

I felt immersed into Sarabande’s story as I wrote it because Sikimí, along with Maistó (Raven), is my totem animal. When I meditate–or dream–about travel to places I’m intentionally visualizing, I will be riding Sikimí. Sikimí is, by the way, a huge Friesian horse with the classic (as opposed to “sport”) size and conformation. So it is, that I find it easier and more intuitive using this horse in a novel about a young woman named Sarabande who is going on a journey, not only to another place but another realm.

Sikimí and I are old friends.

Ted Andrews’ associations of the horse with travel, power and freedom work perfectly as symbols throughout the novel. We know these symbols, subconsciously if not consciously. Sikimí is intended to help pull the reader into the story by attuning with the reader’s intuitive knowledge about horses. If the reader likes horses, rides horses, and most especially appreciates the original Gothic (light draft horse) Frieisians, so much the better.

Sarabande quickly bonds with the horse on their first meeting as  you see in this snippet:

SarabandeCover2015Sikimí nodded or seemed to nod, but within his breath she briefly glimpsed the soul of night, a soul as powerful as the broad-chested Friesian of its manifestation, and there were feral love and rage there that far exceeded the scope of her understanding. But within that scope, her heart told her that night in the shape of a horse would carry her to the cornfields of Illinois without trying to chart the destiny of the ride.

What would it be like to ride night in the shape of a horse? I hope readers will wonder about that as they follow Sarabande’s journey from mountains to prairie and back again. I think I know what it’s like, but readers may well have other ideas that will influence how they react to the novel.

Once the novel leaves my computer and a publisher releases on Amazon and other sites, the story is no longer completely mine. Everyone who reads it will, in a sense, be reading their own version of the novel depending, in part, on how the large black horse gets into their thoughts.


Clear here to see the trailer for "Sarabande."

Clear here to see the trailer for “Sarabande.”

The Thomas-Jacob Publishing second edition of Sarabande will be released on November 1, 2015. The Kindle edition is available now on Amazon for pre-order.




Briefly Noted: ‘Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter’


Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter, by Kate Clifford Larson (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (October 6, 2015), 320pp.

If you remember the era when John F. Kennedy was President, you probably don’t remember his sister Rosemary. There’s a reason for this. The first daughter of Rose and Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr, was confined at 23 to a mental institution in Wisconsin where she would remain until she died at 86 in 2005.

Kennedy - Wikipedia photo

Kennedy – Wikipedia photo

At birth, a nurse held her in the birth canal for two hours while waiting for the doctor, fearing the doctor would lose money if the delivery occurred before he arrived. Potentially deprived of oxygen, she was developmentally disabled. Rose and Joe concealed this, even from her siblings. Her IQ was judged to be a 70. A gorgeous child, she even met Queen Elizabeth and other dignitaries. However, as she grew older, she became rebellious, causing Joe to send her to a hospital for the lobotomy that almost succeeded in turning her into a vegetable.

In a review titled The Saddest Story Ever Told, the Wall Street Journal, calling Larson’s book a “heartbreaking biography,” says while lobotomies did modify behavior, there was no evidence that they cured mental deficiencies. “The American Medical Association warned of its dangers. Nevertheless, Joe went ahead.”

rosemarykennedyShe was left crippled, speechless, and quiet with a substantially lower IQ. As The Wall Street Journal puts it, “The operation had been botched.” That seems to be a contradiction in terms, but nonetheless apt.

Larson old NPR, of Rose and Joe, “I have sympathy for their position, but given their wealth, there were other alternatives, and they only had one vision of an alternative, and that was convent schools. And there were alternatives for Rosemary at the time — and he chose this radical, radical choice. At the time, it was still very experimental, so as a father, would he have experimented on his sons? I don’t think so.”

Kirkus calls the book “well researched,” author Will Swift calls it “a poignant story,” and author Marya Hornbacher calls it “an engrossing portrait of Rose and Joe Kennedy’s tragic misunderstanding of their oldest daughter’s capabilities, and of how her fate changed the Kennedy family forever.”

I call it an American tragedy about (as Larson calls her) a “lovely, lovely child, [who] grew to be a lovely adult woman” who was ruined by health care professionals and then hidden by negligent co-conspirators named Rose and Joe.


Thomas-Jacob releases new edition of ‘Sarabande’


SarabandeCover2015Thomas-Jacob Publishing is releasing a new edition of Sarabande just in time for the 2015 holiday season.

The second book in the “Mountain Journeys” series, the novel sweeps a young woman along a dark and ill-fated trek from the high country of Montana to the prairie of Illinois to escape a ghost. While the novel’s official release date is November 1, the Kindle edition is available for pre-order on Amazon now.

Haunted by her powerful sister Dryad from beyond the grave, Sarabande leaves the world of Pyrrha from its hiding place within Montana’s Glacier Park, and travels on horseback to Illinois to seek the help of Sun Singer Robert Adams. Sarabande almost dies trying to reach him and it’s soon obvious that evil has followed her from the western mountains to Robert’s small town in a world of soybeans, corn, brick streets and old homes.

Click here to see the trailer on YouTube

Click here to see the trailer on YouTube

Robert saved Sarabande’s life in the first book of the series, The Sun Singer. Truth be told, he doesn’t think he can do it again. His magic is weak, all but forgotten. Worse yet, he remembers Dryad’s moon magic and hypnotic voice and fears that he can’t resist her seductive charms another time.

Sarabande, a contemporary fantasy, was written so that it can be read as a standalone novel about a woman’s perilous journey. It can also be read as a sequel to The Sun Singer, which was the story of Robert’s journey to Pyrrha. The Sun Singer ended on a positive note, but there were a few loose ends.


Malcolm R. Campbell is also the author of “Conjure Woman’s Cat,” “Emily’s Stories,” and “Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire.”

Mountain Journeys Web Page



Author of ‘Traitor Knight’ loves history when he gets to make it up



Today’s guest is Keith Willis, author of the new fantasy novel “Traitor Knight,” released by Champagne Books on September 7. You can learn more about the novel on its Facebook page.

Malcolm: Welcome to the Round Table, Keith. To keep things reasonably honest, I should confess that I was an English department instructor and you were a student some thirty years ago at Berry College. I wondered then what people did with a degree in English. You said on your website that when you graduated with a double major in English and French, you were best qualified for unemployment benefits. What were your expectations when you first entered college about your career? Somehow, I expected you’d be the editor of a literary magazine.

Keith: Thanks for having me on the Round Table, Malcolm. Where the heck did that 30 years go? Actually, in the interests of full disclosure, it’s closer to 40 years. But I won’t mention that if you won’t.

Malcolm: Keith, at our ages, it’s better to round numbers down rather than up.

This Berry College walkway is suitable for knights, real or imagined. - M. R. Campbell photo

This Berry College walkway is suitable for knights, real or imagined. – M. R. Campbell photo

Keith: I have to admit my career expectations on entering college were, not to put too fine a point on it, pretty non-existent. I would have loved to snag a job as editor of a literary magazine. Unfortunately supply far exceeds demand there, and the fact is the pay scale probably wouldn’t have cut it anyway. I had some vague ideas about becoming a teacher and even started the sequence for that in college—until the bottom dropped out of the teaching market.

I also had dreams of becoming an attorney, courtesy of way too many Perry Mason re-runs in my youth. But in the cold light of dawn, I knew that wasn’t realistic either, since I really hated public speaking. Thus, with a newly minted degree and a new wife I resorted, as do so many English majors, to “any port in a storm,” which in my case ended up being a career telling other people what to do (also known as Management). But at least the skills I learned at Berry allowed me to boss them around with clarity and conciseness.

Malcolm: A lot of new writers think everything that does into a novel involves sitting at a keyboard and typing. Not that we need a management spreadsheet here, but in terms of time and effort, how much of your work on Traitor Knight was writing vs. research, revising, editing, manuscript submission and planning a marketing strategy.

traitorcoverKeith: I actually got the initial concept for Traitor Knight in October 2008, so almost exactly seven years ago. Once I started writing, it took me roughly fifteen months to produce a first draft (I was working full time as well, and didn’t devote a ton of time for writing). While I didn’t necessarily follow the dictum of “Write drunk, edit sober,” I will say that I just wanted to get a first draft down, and worry about fixing it afterwards.

The book actually started off much more in the romance genre, with a pretty high heat level, but I soon realized that really wasn’t what the story was all about. After reading over what I’d managed to write, I spent the next five years revising and re-writing and actually making it into a story that flowed and made sense. I found that I had lots of great scenes, but they didn’t actually all go together to drive the story forward.

Once I’d done some revisions I started feeling that this was pretty good stuff, and began sending queries to literary agents and editors. As most new authors do, I sent the manuscript out much too soon. Initial responses ranged from a polite “no thank you” to a nervous “why did you send me this ticking bomb draped in deadly cobras—please take it back”. It was honestly pretty awful. But each time I took any bit of feedback I could get, sat down and did another revision, and another, ad nauseum, to try and make the story more readable and attention-grabbing. It took six years and over 80 rejections (I kept a spreadsheet of them) before I snagged a publisher. But you just keep re-writing and revising until you catch the interest of that one individual who’s going to knightsay “Yes!” instead of “Go away.” And as I’m sure you’ve noticed in your own work, no matter how many times you revise and edit and tweak, even after it’s published you still see something that you think “oh, I really should have done this differently”.

Malcolm: What led you to write a knight on a quest fantasy, and did you know early on that your protagonist Morgan McRobbie might have been considered a bit of a loose cannon by Arthur, Lancelot, Galahad and the rest of the Round Table bunch?

Keith: The fantasy genre has always been something that resonated with me. One of my first favorite books was TH. White’s The Once and Future King, and I’m sure this had a lasting influence, as did Tolkien, and the SFF humorist Christopher Stasheff, whose The Warlock in Spite of Himself , filled with romance, adventure, and marvelously awful puns, helped me to see that the genre didn’t have to be quite so serious. Also, I think part of the attraction is that you get to make up your own rules, history, etc.

Malcolm: White’s novel was also one of my favorites.

Keith: When I first came up with the idea for Traitor Knight, I knew I wanted to do something a bit out of the ordinary—to turn the old ‘knight vs dragon’ trope on its head. So I ended up with a dragon suffering from hiccups and a damsel-in-distress who’s fiercely suspicious of her rescuer. The story is really more a swashbuckler with a large dash of wit, and is intended as an homage to all those great old Saturday matinee movies. And I came to realize that, even though Traitor Knight is classified as fantasy, the story relies less on the fantastical elements than in the interplay between Morgan and Marissa. Their characters owe a great deal to a couple of classic British writers: PG Wodehouse and Agatha Christie, who both wrote characters thrown into situations beyond their control and who face their challenges with aplomb and a sense of humor. My two leads clash, but they also engage in banter and barbs and their struggle, together and separately to save the kingdom from an insidious traitor, is what really drives the story.

Malcolm: Looking at this passage, I think Marissa expected a different kind of rescuer:


Keith: Morgan might well have been considered a loose cannon—although in the world I’ve created, cannon haven’t yet been invented—but he’s doing what he must, even at the risk of his honor, his happiness, and likely his life, to safeguard what he holds sacred. Morgan’s motto, as emblazoned on the family crest, translates to “As Need Requires”, and this is a major theme of the book, in that Morgan will do whatever is necessary, by whatever means come to hand, to accomplish his mission.

Malcolm: What kinds of reference materials or web sites did you use to nail down all the knights’ weapons/clothing, foods, customs, structures, horses and tack, viewpoints and customs that were all part of the time period in which the novel is set?

Campaign Books

Champagne Books

Keith: The great thing about a story like mine is that you’re essentially starting with a blank slate. I tell people “I love history—especially when I get to make it all up”. I would have to say that most of my “research” was from reading heavily in the fantasy genre. I don’t go into a lot of descriptive details of armor, weaponry, etc. in the story. Instead I try to let the reader imagine what those things look like. I did have to come up with a system of magic, and figure out where the dragons came from—but as I mentioned earlier, I don’t really spend an inordinate amount of time going into the nitty gritty of this stuff. The story is really much more about the characters and their conflicts and desires. They just happen to live in a world where magic and dragons (and Dwarves, but we really don’t get to them until Vol. 2) exist.

Malcolm: So, your characters are campaigning for a sequel to Traitor Knight rather than allowing you to write with a different focus?

Keith: Rats! I guess I gave that answer away just now. There definitely is a sequel in the works., although Traitor Knight does actually stand alone. There’s no real cliffhanger that absolutely requires a second or third volume. My hope is more that readers will be engaged by the characters and want to read the next one just to see what they’re up to.
But I initially wrote books one and two as a single volume, then realized just how unwieldy that would be (somewhere in the neighborhood of 750 or so pages). I found a good stopping point for the first book and chopped ‘em in half. The second was pretty much done, but the editing and revisions I’ve ended up doing over the past couple of years have changed a lot of what happens in the sequel. My editor is urging me go get on with it and complete book two (tentatively titled Desperate Knights, and I am working trying to smooth out the rough edges and get all my dragons in a row.

Malcolm: If Hollywood calls you tomorrow to say they’re ramping up for a $100000000000 production of Traitor Knight, who would you pick to play Morgan McRobbie? Seriously, when you were writing, did you see the scenes in your mind’s eye the way they would look in “real life” or in a film?

A prospective Morgan McRobbie?

A prospective Morgan McRobbie?

Keith: Morgan is actually bi-racial—his mother is from an island nation rather like Jamaica, where his father was dispatched on a diplomatic mission (they met while routing a band of particularly nasty pirates, but that’s another story—which I have, actually written). My choice to play Morgan would be Will Smith. I think he’s got the looks, the panache and the charisma to carry off the character. And yes, I did write the story not so much with a film in mind, but definitely from a cinematic perspective—I felt that if my writing evoked that type of visual sense, it would resonate more with readers.

Malcolm: Will Smith will work just fine. Thank you for stopping by the Round Table, Keith. Readers will find Traitor Knight on Kindle

You may also like: Briefly Noted: ‘Traitor Knight” by Keith Willis


Thanks for the editors


At this very moment, an editor is going over the manuscript for Thomas-Jacobs Publishing’s re-release of my contemporary fantasy Sarabande. I’m glad she is. She sees what I cannot see along with inconsistencies and goofs I wouldn’t recognize if I did see them.

Note: none of my editors look like this.

Note: none of my editors look like this.

I could blame my cataract surgery for making my right eye see so much better than I need new glasses to read the words on the screen. (My old glasses are now too strong.)

However, if my editor sees this post, she can remind me (and all of you) that I was overlooking a lot of typos before the surgery.

Sometimes my wife reads over things I’ve written that I think are error free. Nope. She was a newspaper editor so she catches a lot of stuff.

So does my publisher, but she likes to check and double-check, so an editor reads my stuff after she reads my stuff. It must be a fact of life that a writer can go over his or her work a hundred times and guess what? It’s still waiting for the editor’s red pen.

Unfortunately, the red pen is gone. My wife and I are old school: we grew up editing copy (news copy) on a double spaced printout. I find more errors this way than I do when looking for typos and missing punctuation on the screen. I have to admit that Word’s Revision/Markup makes it easy for publishers and editors and writers to communicate over time about manuscript corrections.

But I still prefer edits on paper. My eyes are attuned to the page rather than the screen. Even so, I miss a lot. You probably do, too, whether you edit on the screen or print out a hard copy and look for your favorite pencil.

That’s why I firmly believe everything should go through an editor even though it’s not always easy to arrange this in today’s Kindle Direct Publishing world. If your spouse didn’t work for a newspaper, at least get your pets to review everything before you hit the “Save and Publish” button.

Thanks Lesa (wife), Smoky (editor) and Melinda (publisher).


TSScoverjourneysMalcolm R. Campbell is the author of “The Sun Singer,” a contemporary fantasy that is currently on sale on Kindle.



Your shimmering, star-spangled crystal-colored world

Large Magellanic Cloud. NASA/ESA image

Large Magellanic Cloud. NASA/ESA image

Johannes Eriunega, an Irish theologian and philosopher who lived in the 800s, said, “All that is, is light.”  Niels Bohr (1885-1962), a Danish theoretical physicist who developed the foundation mathematics for Quantum Mechanics, said,  “Everything we call real is made of things that cannot be regarded as real.”

In between the 800s and today, sages and physicists have said many things about the illusory nature of the reality we perceive with our physical senses. Goodness knows, those of us whose writing is characterized variously as science fiction, fantasy, or magical realism have put our spin on the large gap between consensual reality and the actuality behind the veil.

I used the NASA photo above in the header of my Facebook author’s page because it not only fits the fiction of a writer of fantasy and magical realism, but defines the belief behind my stories. I am not only a star gazer, but am also graced with occasional glimpses of our shimmering, star-spangled crystal-colored world as it actually is.

nightskyYou can be, too, if you haven’t already discovered that the vision of the Large Magellanic Cloud in the NASA photograph–or the night sky when the gods allow you to see it without interference from man-made light–is very much the same as an atomistic view of a rock or a person or a table, play with the exercise below.

Matter is mostly empty space. When I was young and still an adamant believer in a materialistic view of matter and logic, a minister at an alternative church told me that there’s no such thing as matter. What we believed was solid, wasn’t really solid. While he was a good friend, I thought his view was absurd.

Now that I’m the age he was when he told me that, I meet with the same “are you off your rocker” comments when I say he was right.

tableWe need our physical senses to navigate the world as we believe it to be. If your physical eyes showed you a Magellanic Cloud in front of your face, it would be impossible for you to function. However, with a bit of practice, you can see that the structure of the table in your room or the mountain outside your window–at their basic levels–looks like that cloud.

Instead of taking a journey from the Earth to the Moon, you’ll be taking a journey from the illusory world of “physical matter” to the actual star-spangled realm inside the world your physical eyes have convinced you is there.

Unlike the law of attraction and other practices that require you to believe they’ll work before your experience tells you they’ll work, you can see the stars inside your table without having to be certain there are stars inside your table.

  1. Sit in a comfortable chair and stare at your table and consider what it might be like to shrink yourself to a creature much smaller than an electron and fly over, under and through that table. How would it appear?
  2. Relax and then silence the constant chatter in your mind about the chores waiting for you, what you had for dinner yesterday, and everything else your inner dialogue is constantly focused upon.
  3. Close your eyes and imagine you will soon become an a very small firefly sitting on the back of your chair.
  4. meditationgraphicIf you don’t already have a preferred meditation technique, you can use a modified form of self-hypnosis or a biofeedback process to reduce the frequency of your brainwaves and slow down your pulse rate.
  5. Think to yourself, “I am going to a deeper level of consciousness, 10…9…deeper and deeper…8…7…6…with each descending number I am deeper than before. . .5…4…3…deeper. . .2…1…I am now at a deeper, healthier level of consciousness.” You can vary the words you think depending on what makes you the most relaxed.
  6. With your eyes closed, pretend you’re a very tiny firefly. Imagine yourself flying around the room to take a look at the objects in it. What do the chairs, curtains, books, TV set, and pictures on the wall look like from this perspective?
  7. Once you’ve explored the room, consider the table. Fly around it and see what it looks like from all sides. When you are ready, think something like the following, “I’ about to fly inside the table.”
  8. Fly up to it and stare at its “surface,” just covering there. While doing this, imagine that it’s an impressionist painter’s table, composed of flickers of paint and light. See it growing larger the way a JPG grows larger when you increase its size slowly to the point where the pixels get farther and farther apart.
  9. Now, when the table is so large that it’s component “pixels” are so far apart you can easily fit between them. fly inside it. How does it feel? What do the different “colors” of the table appear to be when you examine them closely?
  10. Hover in place and until everything you see appears like the night sky, shimmering and crystal colored and radiant.
  11. Assuming you haven’t fallen asleep, fly outside the table and–in your firefly form–sit or stand on the chair you chose before you did your meditation countdown.
  12. Think to yourself, “At the count of three, I’ll awake into my everyday reality feeling happier and healthier than before…1…2…3.” Open your eyes.

firefliesThe first time I successfully did this journey, I stood up too soon and as I took my first step away from the chair, I fell. Why? The floor wasn’t there. I was still seeing things with my firefly’s eyes. So wait there a moment and make sure everything looks “normal” before you leave your chair.

Does this journey work the first time? I can’t say. Does one “see” more clearly each time they do it? I can’t say, because it’s better if you have no preconceived ideas about whether of not this exercise is easy or difficult or whether or not it takes practice or it doesn’t.

Becoming a sparkling firefly and fluttering around the living room requires a sense of play. Or, if you don’t like flying, become an ant (or whatever you prefer). This is a game of “let’s pretend” that should be relaxing in and of itself. Have fun. Sooner or later, you will realize that your let’s pretend has become real at a deeper level of consciousness.


KIndle cover 200x300(1)Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the magical realism novella “Conjure Woman’s Cat.”



You may live in Wiregrass Country and not know it


By and large, people have forgotten wiregrass. Time was, it occupied the forest floor where longleaf pines grew. Sadly, most of the longleaf pine forest is gone as well.

Wikipedia photo

Wikipedia photo

The deep South is wiregrass country and for those who remember, there’s a lot of folklore in and around those old woods. “Progress” killed the longleaf pines. And, wiregrass, too. (Some people call it “Pineland Three-awn.”)

Like longleaf pines, wiregrass needs fire to prosper. Native Americans in the Florida Panhandle and south Georgia knew this and so did incoming settlers. They burned off the grass yearly. This helped the forest by clearing out all the understory clutter of brush that choked pines and pine seedlings. The grass, which returned soon after the burns, came up fresh and new and was succulent enough for cattle for a while before getting wiry and inedible.

In some ways, Smoky the Bear helped kill off our wiregrass and longleaf pine forests because he kept brainwashing us with the phrase “Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires.”

But here’s the thing: forest fires are a natural part of environmental renewal. Preventing them where they are needed harms the forest. In the 1940s, the forest service banned controlled burning and we have been paying for that mistake ever since even though the practice is now more in favor.

wiregrasscountryIn Wiregrass Country, one of my favorite folklore books about the world where I grew up, Jerrilyn McGregory writes that “Wiregrass (Aristida stricta) depends on fire ecology to germinate. Its fire ecosystem created a unique set of circumstances, tied closely to a way of life…Although it was once the most significant associate in a community of species that formed the piney woods, many human inhabitants of the region have lived and died without knowing the plant.”

I grew up with wiregrass and longleaf pines and miss them. Perhaps that’s why I’m working on another novel set in “Wiregrass Country.” Maybe talking about wiregrass and pines will remind people what we once had and will help garner support for restoration efforts.

Traditions in Wiregrass Country run deep even though they often seem out of place in an increasingly “citified” world. If you grew up there, you probably ate mullet, went to peanut festivals and rattlesnake roundups, knew well the “shape note” old-style hymns of Sacred Harp music, fished or played a rousing game of fireball and loved storytellers.

If you didn’t grow up there, you missed a lot. Same goes if you grew up there in a suburban neighborhood and never ventured out into the piney woods and small towns.

Maybe it’s time to go see what it’s all about.


KIndle cover 200x300(1)Malcolm R. Campbell’s “Conjure Woman’s Cat” is a magical realism novella set in the wiregrass and piney woods country of the Florida Panhandle.