Tag Archives: Conjure Woman’s Cat

Looking back at ‘The Florida Terror’

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Florida KKK in 1952, Florida Memory Photo.

Progressives in Florida registered 100,000 new African American voters in 1951 and branches of the NAACP challenged Jim Crow laws at swimming pools, libraries, golf courses and libraries. The legislature passed an anti-mask ordinance.

As PBS notes, “The Klan responded with a rash of cross burnings and floggings from the Florida Panhandle to Miami; Hendrix [who chartered the latest iteration of the Klan] declared war on ‘hate groups,’ including the NAACP, B’nai B’rith, the Catholic church, and the Federal Council of Churches of Christ; and then declared himself a candidate for governor. By the summer, the Klan began trying to roll back progress with sticks of 60 percent dynamite, with so many bombings, or attempted bombings, that the northern press dubbed it ‘The Florida Terror.'”

In many communities, the sheriffs, police chiefs and city fathers were members of the Klan. Meanwhile, the same people associated with themselves with policy gambling operations aimed at African Americans because–in exchange for protection and looking the other way–they got rich from their cut of the action.

Still a community blemish in the 1970s.

The KKK was a fact of life in the Florida Panhandle as well as the peninsula when I was growing up. I saw burning crosses, knew people who were threatened, and sat in my car in down town Tallahassee waiting for their disgusting parades to get off the streets. And, unfortunately, I knew influential people whom I strongly believed were members of the Klan.

The state advertised itself as a paradise, but that reality didn’t extend to everyone. “The Ku Klux Klan was at least as violent in Florida as anywhere else in the nation, and the sheriffs, juries, judges, politicians, press, and citizens, for the most part, as culpable in its murderous history,” Michael Newton wrote in his 2001 book The Invisible Empire: The Ku Klux Klan in Florida.”

“The bed sheet brigade is bad enough, but the real threat to Americans and human rights today is the plain clothes Klux in the halls of government and certain black-robed Klux on court benches.” ― Stetson Kennedy, author of  “The Klan Unmasked.”

My novels Conjure Woman’s Cat and Eulalie and Washerwoman focus on the dark era of the 1950s. The first novel tells the story of a white-on-black crime that the small town police force refused to investigate. In the second, the police turn a blind eye toward policy gambling and the threats against those who couldn’t pay their gambling debts. In my fiction, I have a powerful conjure woman named Eulalie with a very helpful cat named Lena.

I didn’t have the grit to tell these stories years ago, but I’m hoping that the better-late-than-never axiom is true.

–Malcolm

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Those messy website blues

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Like a new car, a new website looks sleek, clean, and is the envy of everyone who sees it. However, like cars that get older and no longer are washed or given scheduled maintenance and oil changes, websites start showing their age as well.

Last night on MasterChef, chef Ramsay told one of the contestants that his dish was confusing because it wasn’t cohesive and was more like a smorgasbord of flavors that didn’t go together. This is another way of saying that–like the old car–a website that’s messy, confusing and probably difficult for new visitors to figure out isn’t helping you.

When I set up my website (Conjure Woman’s Cat), I had great intentions. I was going to keep it squared away (a navy terms that means “shipshape”) rather than than letting it look like our old Buick or the top of the desk in my office.

I chanced upon a writer’s website article that basically said, if you’re website is screwed up, you won’t be kissing your books goodbye because nobody will be buying them. This caught me attention because sales have been lower this year than last year. Partly, that’s Amazon’s fault for establishing a new ranking system that’s biased in favor of bestselling books from mainstream publishers. Even though the rest of us are in the chopped liver category, it was obvious to me that I needed to clean up and streamline the website.

This has taken the better part of two days. It’s by no means perfect. On the other hand, it no longer has a garage sale kind of ambiance surrounding it. One thing I tossed out was a synopsis of each of my older books. This made the site too wordy and added pages. So, I’m featuring my two latest books and putting everything else in a catalogue of covers. Might be a mistake, but the result is certainly a lot easier to figure out.

In the business world some years ago, the word “agile” was often used to refer to companies that could change quickly with the times whether they needed new products or new ways of talking about their current products. I think authors need to be agile in this way in their presentations and promotions. While the books are the same books we published some years ago, we need to find new ways of capturing people’s attention.

So, I cleaned up my website an hour ago. So far, neither Oprah or Warner Brothers has called, but I can always hope.

–Malcolm

Summer listening for cheap hotels with bad TV service

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In this word from your sponsor (me), I thought I’d mention–just after getting back from a one-week vacation–that when you collapse into your hotel room after a day of sightseeing, you need entertainment. But, sometimes there just isn’t anything to watch on TV except the Weather Channel.

The answer: audiobooks. Here are some for your list:

Editorial Review: Wanda J. Dixon’s warmth and gorgeous singing voice are superb in this story about Conjure Woman Eulalie, which is told through the voice of her cat and spirit companion, Lena. Dixon zestfully portrays Eulalie, who is “older than dirt” and is kept busy casting spells, mixing potions, and advising people–that is, when the “sleeping” sign is removed from her door. Most distinctive is Eulalie’s recurring sigh, which conveys her frustration with Florida in the 1950s, when Jim Crow laws and “Colored Only” signs were routine. Dixon’s Lena is fully believable when she spies around town and reports to Eulalie that rednecks have raped and murdered a young women. They almost escape until Eulalie persuades a witness to come forward. Listeners will marvel at the magical realism in this story and benefit from the helpful glossary of the charming local dialect. S.G.B. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile

 

Editorial Review (Excerpt): “Kelley Hazen performs the narration in a solid voice that is exhilaratingly fresh and young and old sounding as appropriate. Her accent is accurate and captures the essence of each character perfectly. I found her voice mesmerizing and comforting at the same time.” – Audio Book Reviewer

Reader Review: I like it when kids are smarter than adults in stories like this. It gives me hope. The author ‘s writing had a ‘Peter Pan’ feel to it – not that it reads like ‘Peter Pan’ but it’s a kid being powerful and doing something positive. And there is also a magical ‘The Secret Garden’ kind of feel in here.The kid is powerful because she can see & hear the beauty and the magic in Nature. This audiobook has the coldest, scariest ghost voice in the world and also the wonderful open, free and uninhibited voice of ‘Emily’. AND the voices of birds and much more. The widest range of voices I’ve heard from a narrator. And all seemed real, not forced. I believed it – I believed this could happen.

 

Editorial Reviews:

Told through the narrative voice of Lena, Eulalie’s shamanistic cat, the fast-paced story comes alive. The approach is fresh and clever; Malcolm R. Campbell manages Lena’s viewpoint seamlessly, adding interest and a unique perspective. Beyond the obvious abilities of this author to weave an enjoyable and engaging tale, I found the book rich with descriptive elements. So many passages caused me to pause and savor. ‘The air…heavy with wood smoke, turpentine, and melancholy.’ ‘ …the Apalachicola National Forest, world of wiregrass and pine, wildflower prairies, and savannahs of grass and small ponds… a maze of unpaved roads, flowing water drawing thirsty men…’ ‘…of the prayers of silk grass and blazing star and butterfly pea, of a brightly colored bottle tree trapping spirits searching for Washerwoman…of the holy woman who opened up the books of Moses and brought down pillars of fire and cloud so that those who were lost could find their way.'” – Rhett DeVane, Tallahassee Democrat

“A simply riveting read from beginning to end, ‘Eulalie and Washerwoman’ is very highly recommended for both personal reading lists and community library General Fiction collections. – Julie Summers, Midwest Book Review

“Narrator Tracie Christian’s spirited style is ideal to portray the fantasy world of conjure woman Eulalie Jenkins and her shamanistic cat, Lena, who live in Florida in the 1950s. Christian captures Eulalie’s shock when she learns that Jewish merchant Lane Walker, who’s always traded fairly with the local African-Americans, is being forced to give up his store to the Liberty Improvement Club, which forbids serving blacks. Lively descriptions of Eulalie reading possum bones and casting spells; tender scenes with her old beau, Willie Tate; and feline Lena’s communication with Eulalie via secret thought speech add to the local atmosphere. S.G.B. © AudioFile 2017

 

Editorial Review: Narrator R. Scott Adams’s rapid-fire delivery mirrors the speech of fast-talking old-style newshound Jock Stewart. Listeners need all their skills of concentration, or they’ll miss the story’s wit and even the occasional clue. Sea of Fire is a missing racehorse, but the mystery of his whereabouts sometimes seems merely incidental. The story is high on humor but light on plot–a vehicle for sex, cigarettes, steak, and zinfandel. Stewart, a print journalist, is a likable dinosaur in a changing world. Adams’s timing is perfect, but a second listen is recommended to catch what is missed first time around. C.A.T. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine [Published: APRIL 2015]

Happy listening,

–Malcolm

 

 

 

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

Kindle 99-cent sale today on four books

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On Sale January 20th from Thomas-Jacob Publishing

 

historyof
Few of the eccentric inhabitants of her father’s Main Line, Philadelphia estate have much time for Fleur Robins, an awkward child with a devotion to her ailing grandfather, a penchant for flapping and whirling, and a preoccupation with God and the void. While her mother spends much of her time with her hand curled around a wine glass and her abusive father congratulates himself for rescuing babies from “the devil abortionists,” Fleur mourns the fallen petals of a rose and savors the patterns of light rippling across the pool. When she fails to save a baby bird abandoned in her garden, a series of events unfold that change everything.

appalachianjustice

Billy May Platte is a half Irish, half Cherokee Appalachian woman who learned the hard way that 1940s West Virginia was no place to be different. As Billy May explains, “We was sheltered in them hills. We didn’t know much of nothin’ about life outside of them mountains. I did not know the word lesbian; to us, gay meant havin’ fun and queer meant somethin’ strange.”

 

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Lena, a shamanistic cat, and her conjure woman Eulalie live in a small town near the Apalachicola River in Florida’s lightly populated Liberty County, where longleaf pines own the world. In Eulalie’s time, women of color look after white children in the homes of white families and are respected, even loved, but distrusted and kept separated as a group. A palpable gloss, sweeter than the state’s prized tupelo honey, holds their worlds firmly apart. When that gloss fails, the Klan restores its own brand of order.

 

bloodonroses

 

In 1955, at the height of alarm over the Emmett Till murder in Mississippi and after the Supreme Court ruling against school segregation, Associated Press reporter Rachel Feigen travels from Baltimore to Tennessee to report on a missing person case. Guy Saillot’s last contact with his family was a postcard from the Tennessee Bend Motel, a seedy establishment situated on beautiful Cherokee Lake. But they have no record he was ever a guest.

 

 

Amazon Give-Away – ‘Conjure Woman’s Cat’

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CWCcoverI’m giving away 5 free Kindle copies of Conjure Woman’s Cat on Amazon via a give-away. Hurry if you want a chance to win one of them because these things go by really fast. Here’s the link.

Enter for a chance to win.

Source: Amazon Give-Away – ‘Conjure Woman’s Cat’ | The Sun Singer’s Travels

Good luck.

Moonshiners were misunderstood by too many for too long

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“The South is no stranger to small-batch spirits. Moonshiners were microdistilling long before such a word existed. The clear (often questionable) spirit was available only if you knew someone who knew someone. But the landscape of legal moonshine has changed dramatically. Now, this grain distillate sits conspicuously in stores—all taxes paid. And according to the American Distilling Institute, the number of craft distilleries is growing by 30% each year. Here are some of our favorite “moonshines” to come out of the woodwork. And they actually taste good.” – Southern Living

thunderroadI’m glad to see legal moonshine showing up in restaurants and liquor stores. Try a glass. You might be surprised. And now that it’s legal and sort of a fad, you won’t need to worry about lead poisoning because some clown used the radiator of his Ford truck in the still.

When I watch old movies that I’ve seen before, I always pretend I haven’t seen them before. That means pretending, for example, as I watch Kate Winslet running through the ship, that this time Titanic won’t sink and that Jack won’t die in the icy waters. I felt the same way about the moonshiner movie “Thunder Road.” I always wanted the movie to end well with moonshiner  Lucas Doolin (Robert Mitchum) getting away from the Feds forever and retiring in Cuba or Bermuda.

I grew up in a shine-free house (not counting furniture polish and floor wax) 

My parents, who didn’t allow booze in the house in those days, couldn’t figure out why I liked that movie, much less why I was on the moonshiners’ side in real life. Then, as now, I thought people should be able to make all the spirits whey wanted without any interference from the government. And what’s the deal with those taxes–really out of line, I thought then–and still think now.

This is one of the eight brands featured in the Southern Living article.

This is one of the eight brands featured in the Southern Living article.

Moonshining was big in Florida where I grew up and big in the Smoky Mountains where we went on many vacations. I wanted my parents to pay somebody who knew somebody to get us a Kerr jar full of high quality shine. But they never did, stealing from my brothers and I what could have been a wonderful part of the vacation experience. Seemed like it would have helped us in school and kept us from getting summer colds and chigger bites.

Now, for research purposes only, I can taste it so that when I describe Eulalie in Conjure Woman’s Cat as making plenty of her own jick and sipping it regularly, I can make the scenes accurate. There’s nothing better than accuracy.

One challenge for the moonshiner, of course, was buying all that sugar and all that corn for the mash without attracting attention. Fortunately, in Florida one could grow sugar cane and buy the corn from a farmer across the road who loved the shine.

Nothing beats telling stories while passing the jar back and forth on the back porch. As kids, we had all the sugar cane stalks to chew and juice to drink we wanted because it was old on street corners. If we could have dipped those stalks in sweet, syrupy smooth shine, life would have been better for everyone.

Now with it being legal (as long as you take care of all those licenses and fees), the newspapers are no longer filled with those horrifying pictures of a bunch of cops chopping apart beautiful stills or smashing bottles of moonshine so it all went to waste.

Good Lord, it must have taken a special kind of stupid to dump a hundred gallons of Granny Henderson’s best hooch into the Wakulla River. 

Folks would be better off if there was more sipping happening now. At any rate, for those of you who are keeping score, when Eulalie and her friend Willie talk about the taste of apple-flavored shine in the novella, I’m writing what I know.

–Malcolm