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

The many worlds of fiction are calling you away

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“I know I walk in and out of several worlds each day.” – Joy Harjo

I won’t try to second guess what Harjo, winner of the 2017 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, meant exactly when she mentioned several worlds. If you’ve read her 1983 book She Had Some Horses, you might suspect–as I do–that her “several worlds” are more than figurative. The title poem, which I can never read often enough, says the horses are sand, are maps, contain ocean water, are the sky’s air, fur and teeth, breakable clay, and splintered from a cliff. Throughout the poem, those horses are everything else.

Nothing figurative there. I see it as real because when I’m there, reading, I’m in that world, and she did not say, like sand, like maps, like fur and teeth, etc. When you read and when you are where the words take you, you are no longer in your safe bed or your easy chair or at your desk. You are in a place where “She had horses with eyes of trains.”

NASA Photo

If you write, you are where the words have taken you, perhaps with Joy Harjo, in a place where “She had horses who licked razor blades.” The typewriter, yellow tablet, or PC slip away, and now you see the bright cold day where the clocks were striking thirteen, where the screaming comes across the sky, where there was a dark and stormy night where the rain was falling in torrents, where Mrs. Dalloway bought flowers for herself, or where stars are living and dying.

If you read and/or write, it is hard not to talk in and out of several worlds each day. The words conjure you there. Those words are your quantum entanglement, placing you simultaneously at one place and another place, and the place with the strongest attraction is where you attention is, often more within the book than your safe bed or easy chair. Perhaps the call of sleep, the ringing of a phone, another person entering the room, or a thunderstorm will draw you away from the horses “who whispered in the dark, who were afraid to speak.”

That sudden change of worlds can be like dying or being born. It’s often wrenching like being pulled suddenly out of weep water or stepping into a fire. Sometimes the worlds blur the way dreams and waking moments tangle together at dawn. Sometimes you’re sure you safe bad is made of sand, is a map, contains ocean water, is fur and teeth, breakable clay, and a splintered sliver from a red cliff. Worlds can tangle for readers, writers, dreamers, and anyone else with an free-ranging imagination.

You become a shaman when you read or write. To the logical observer, you appear to be a man or woman reading in bed or a man or woman writing a book at his or her computer. They can’t quite see that you are the sky’s air and the ocean’s water.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the magical realism novels “Conjure Woman’s Cat” and “Eulalie and Washerwoman.”

Writing Prompts from Hell

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Disclaimer: The devil didn’t make me write this post.

  • A man buys a round trip ticket to hell without reading the fine print on the on the ticket. He’s dressed for a warm climate because he’s heard stories. When he arrives in a hand basket, hell looks like the Mauricio García Vega painting shown here. He looks for a lover to share the experience with.
  • A 737 crashes into a farmer’s empty chicken house in a ball of flame that’s so large it scorches the low-hanging clouds. Before he can call 911, the passengers and crew walk out of the chicken house as though nothing unusual has happened.
  • Your protagonist learns on page one that he has one hour to live. Since he was on a quest to find the Fountain of Youth, he goes on Twitter to find a quality person with whom he can share his secrets so that once he’s gone, the journey will continue.
  • A stick falls into a mud puddle during a rain storm.
  • A young woman sincerely believes she’ll bump into her soul mate by running up the down escalator. Her friends have warned that she won’t accomplish her goal if she’s thrown out of the store/airport/theme park, if she’s arrested, if she gets sent to the asylum, or if she gets pulled down into the gears and ends up looking like chopped liver, all of which will discourage Mister Right.
  • A man believes he’s died when, if truth be told, he’s merely roaring drunk and trapped in a house of ill repute. Luckily, he has plenty of money and decides death is really the way to go. “Bless his heart,” says the madam, “what’s going to happen to that poor fool when he wakes up.” They decide to keep him drunk so that he won’t discover the truth of the matter.
  • A minister is discovered having sex with a woman who’s not his wife on the communion table by church goers who arrive for Sunday morning services several hours earlier than expected. After a brief discussion, everyone decides there’s a way to make this event a win-win moment for everybody.
  • Two roads diverge in a wood. Several hikers decide to test Robert Frost’s poem and determine whether the problems (if any) of taking one road or another amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.
  • After a man hypnotizes himself into believing he is totally innocent of any discretions, errors in judgement, jilting of lovers, or ever saying an hurtful things, he keeps meeting people who think otherwise. He must decide whether or not they are lying and, if not, whether the easiest way to remain innocent is by murdering those who claim to have evidence that he’s guilty OR simply to run like hell. As the story unfolds, readers learn this choice wasn’t easy.

Disclaimer: If anything bad happens while you’re using these writing prompts, you’re on your own because I don’t warrant that they are safe or any damn good at all, and further that they’re displayed here merely as curiosities.

Malcolm

If your conjure woman stocks Belladonna, run like hell

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Wikipedia photo.

Belladonna (nightshade) and the potato you eat with your steak are related. Solanaceae, plants that prefer shade or dappled sunlight, is a large family! However, if your conjure practitioner keeps belladonna in stock, its primary use–other than as a curiosity or an ornamental–in folk magic is to poison people. In 1915, plant researcher Henry Walters said nightshade was a plant filled with hatred.

Several berries might do the trick. Touching it will badly inflame your skin. In areas where belladonna grows wild, medical students were (and perhaps still are) taught to recognize the symptoms of belladonna poisoning by memorizing this phrase: “Hot as a hare, blind as a bat, dry as a bone, red as a beat, and mad as a hatter.”

It’s use now in cosmetics is rare, though it once was fairly common. It was once used by women to accentuate their eyes, hence bella donna (beautiful woman). It still has some medical uses, though the dangers it presents are outside the skill set of most herbalists and root doctors.

It can be used in the treatment of whooping cough, Parkinson’s disease, motion sickness, psychiatric conditions, and as a painkiller. (See WebMD for more information.)

How apt that the active agent in belladonna, atropine, is named after Atropos, the Greek fate who snipped an individual’s threat of life. Or, as Milton said, “Comes the blind Fury with the abhorred shears/And skits the thin-spun life.

The plant often appears in myths and fairy lore. Purportedly, it put Snow White to sleep when it was injected into the apple she was given. Like Henbane and Thornapple (aka Devil’s Apple), Belladonna is associated with the goddess of night and death, Hecate.

According to Amy Stewart (in a handy and fun little guidebook called Wicked Plants) says that nightshade “causes rapid heartbeat, confusion, hallucinations, and seizures. The symptoms are so unpleasant that atropine is sometimes added to potentially addictive painkillers to keep patients from getting hooked.”

The plant’s names, nightshade and belladonna sound like magic, mystery and enchantment. Yet, it’s not the kind of mystery I want my friendly neighborhood herbalist or conjure woman playing around with.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of Conjure Woman’s Cat and its sequel Eulalie and Washerwoman.

Cool, an error screen instead of a book piracy listing

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After going through several e-mail addresses, my persistent publisher (Thomas-Jacob) has gotten a pirated copy of my novel Eulalie and Washerwoman removed from one of those sign-up for free downloads sites. We have no idea how they got a PDF file: we’ve never released the book in that format. Did they create it from the Kindle edition, use conjure, break into my house while I was having a late-afternoon glass of wine? We may never know. But, the error screen is a welcome sight when we click on the link.

Florida Folk Magic Stories: Speaking of conjure, your response to Eulalie and Washerwoman and Conjure Woman’s Cat has been wonderful. Thanks for your support. I said I wasn’t going to write another conjure book because it was time to move on. But people kept asking when I was going to have it ready. Er, well, I dunno, maybe later.

Novel in Progress: Okay, I’ve changed my mind and have gotten started on the third book which will be called Lena. I know how it begins: things don’t look good for Eulalie. I have no idea how it ends. Finding out is just as much fun for an author as it is for a reader.

Review: My colleagues and I at Thomas-Jacob Publishing don’t review each other’s books on our blogs, Amazon or GoodReads because, quite frankly, it wouldn’t look good. I think it’s okay for me to include the link of a review of one of those books written by an impartial (and sometimes, hard to please) reviewer: Big Al’s Books & Pals.

Big Al didn’t see the ending coming. I have to admit it: neither did I.

Satire: For those of you who missed the last post, it’s another one of my “Jock Stewart” satires: Feds Bust Sneezeweed Resisistance Movement Scam. The headline alone tells you this is solid news reporting.

For Writers: For actual solid news reporting, check out Melinda Clayton’s How to Set Up an eBook Ad with Amazon Marketing Services at IndiesUnlimited. If you’ve looked into Amazon book ads and found that the setup resembles a Greek tragedy written in Greek, this handy post will help your sort it out.

–Malcolm

Feds Bust Sneezeweed Resisistance Movement Scam

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Junction City, Texas, April 29, 2017, Star-Gazer News Service–Agents from multiple alphabet-soup agencies within the Department of Homeland Insecurity swooped down like a coven of witches on their brooms and arrested Bob and Sarah Smith for allegedly failing to deliver free snuff samples to the “down-trodden widows and orphans” who donated their life’s savings to “get rid of the haints infesting Congress” in the widely publicized RESIST WITH SNEEZEWEED crowdfunding affort.

Sneezeweed

According to the warrant, Bob and Sarah Smith “shamelessly and expediently” solicited $100000000000 from a large crowd to build a snuff factory that would purportedly convert dried sneezeweed leaves into enough snuff to force Congress to sneeze all the “treacherous haints and malevolent spirits” out of its system.

Weed enforcement tsar Mary Warner told reporters that while sneezeweed snuff probably causes cancer, the United States is not currently engaged in a war on snuff.

“Thing is,” she said, “if you take people’s money to build a snuff factory, promise to send them a free sample of your best stuff, and then ship the remainder to Congress, you gotta do it. The Smiths didn’t do squat except spend the money living high on the hog instead of bringing home the bacon.”

Congressman Amos “Grandpappy” McCoy (R-TX), best known for his campaign to change the Texas state flower from “something named after a brand of margarine” to the yellow rose, said that as far as he knew, the only evil spirits in Congress were the “bottom-shelf whiskeys sucked up by Democrats and other vermin.”

Smith, speaking through his lawyer like a ventriloquist with a dummy, reminded reporters that his RESIST WITH SNEEZEWEED plan was still in the planning stages because “you just don’t go into your kitchen and whip of a batch of snuff in a Crock-Pot.”

“Plus, who knew you can’t build a snuff factory on an EPA hazmat site?” he asked, more or less rhetorically.

“The irony is that had Smith bided his time, the EPA and its hazmat sites would have been phased out and the factory could have turned out enough snuff for every man, woman and child in the country with no federal interference,” McCoy said.

Informed sources believe that the feds tracked down the Smiths after a church bible study group member “ratted out” Sarah for saying, “We know resistance is futile, but getting people to spend their time and money on meaningless petitions and marches helps them cope. Like we’re really going to send snuff to Congress–puh-leeze!”

“Truth be told,” said Warner, “I hated arresting these folks because clearing the evil spirits out of Congress really was an admirable goal.”

–Story filed by Jock Stewart, Special Investigative Reporter

 

 

 

Remembering Robert M. Pirsig

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“Robert M. Pirsig, whose “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,” a dense and discursive novel of ideas, became an unlikely publishing phenomenon in the mid-1970s and a touchstone in the waning days of the counterculture, died on Monday at his home in South Berwick, Me. He was 88.” – New York Times

I’m not a philosopher, so I’ll leave it to the philosophers to put Pirsig’s philosophy of Quality into perspective. I never met Pirsig, so I’ll leave it to those who knew him to talk about what they talked about and what it meant to them.

“The place to improve the world is first in one’s own heart and head and hands, and then work outward from there.”

Nonetheless, my memories were personal because–even though I didn’t subscribe to Pirsig’s passion for Quality (as he saw it)–I felt like all of his sentiments surrounding it were things I was then in the process of discovering; or, as the sages who believe we know everything before each earthly incarnation suggest, remembering.

As I looked out the windows at the landscape from my coach seat in the Empire Builder and saw Minnesota, North Dakota and Montana flying past, I had to smile because this was the route Pirsig took on his motorcycle. Except that he said seeing such sites through a car window was pretty much just more TV. The train window views weren’t real because I wasn’t inside those views.

“You look at where you’re going and where you are and it never makes sense, but then you look back at where you’ve been and a pattern seems to emerge.”

He believed the journey was more important than the destination. So did I. I still do. I loved the train, but I also preferred the experience from my motorcycle trip in the Rockies or perhaps from my 6,000 miles in an open-topped Triumph TR3. Mountain climbing and walking were even better. So, I believed that experience trumped books and sages and presumed logic.

“We’re in such a hurry most of the time we never get much chance to talk. The result is a kind of endless day-to-day shallowness, a monotony that leaves a person wondering years later where all the time went and sorry that it’s all gone. ”

Today we’re even in more of a hurry. Perhaps TV dinners and instant coffee were the first omens of the world to come. Hurry up and wait: we said that in the navy. Now we’ve gotten rid of a lot of the waiting thanks to satellite TV and the Internet. By any real definition of the term, quality has suffered.

Pirsig’s work had a profound influence on my thinking. It still does. There was a time when my ideas were called “New Age.” I disliked the term because the ideas it included were very old, presented in today’s terms. One might say the same thing about many of Pirsig’s ideas; though he presented them in such a monumentally different way, they had more impact than the dusty manuscripts in the forgotten section of the library.

“Peace of mind produces right values, right values produce right thoughts. Right thoughts produce right actions and right actions produce work which will be a material reflection for others to see of the serenity at the center of it all.”

That sounds very parental, doesn’t it? So, I expect many of today’s young people would say, “hell that’s the kind of crap my father and grandfather tried to get me to swallow.” Perhaps they did, but you didn’t understand what they were talking about.

I used to work at a place where my sarcastic comment about the general work ethic was that “a half-assed job saves time.” Just get the work out the door. If it doesn’t last, it’s somebody else’s problem down the road.  I think a lot of places consider that work ethic to be the guiding force of business and industry and, hell, maybe even literature. If so, they need to get a copy if Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and repair themselves.

–Malcolm