Tuesday, March 29, 2011
You have a wish list, right? Or, possibly, a large TBR pile of books next to your computer? If you don't have a Kindle, perhaps you have another list of books now in hardback that you're trying not to buy until they come out in paperback.
As for me, I can say yes to all of the above. Sure, I'm supposed to be moving ahead on my novel in progress Sarabande. For goodness sakes, my publisher is already tinkering with the cover art work. Sorry Kimberlee, but I'm not going to stop reading for anyone. (heh heh)
I have two books on my ASAP reading list, one old, and another I finally got around to buying.
The new one is the widely discussed The Tiger's Wife from the highly touted Tea Obreht. I generally avoid books from people who are highly touted because I think all that touting is simply BIG PUBLISHER publicity and/or because I'm jealous that I'm not being highly touted.
The Publisher's Weekly review begins with the words: "The sometimes crushing power of myth, story, and memory is explored in the brilliant debut of Obreht, the youngest of the New Yorker's 20-under-40."
We'd all like a review like that, right? The book is here on my desk, and after peeking inside, I think all the touting might be right. One negative review on Amazon gave me pause, that from a reviewer who's apparently familiar with the locale Obreht used for her book. The reviewer says she should have stuck to the real legends rather than making up new ones and misinterpreting old ones. Fair point, but I intend to see for myself.
You can find the LA Times review of the book here. And here you'll find the story about Obreht's Orange Prize nomination.
THE OLDER BOOK
Also here on my desk is a paperback copy of Samantha Hunt's The Seas. More recently, she released The Invention of Everything Else.
The very thing that makes this book NOT some people's cup of tea, makes it mine. Here's a woman in a "bleak northern fishing town" (as Publisher's Weekly sees it) who's fallen for a shell-shocked sailor. She thinks she's a mermaid. Reality and truth are mixed up here with a whole lot of ocean.
In addition to the Amazon link above, you can learn more about the book here.
ANOTHER FOR YOUR LIST
Okay, I'm cheating here to include a book I've already read. If you're a writer, take a look at The Sister from Below by Naomi Ruth Lowinsky.
That sister is your muse. As the publisher says, she speaks "to all those who want to cultivate an unlived promise, those on a spiritual path, those who are filled with the urgency of poems that have to be written, paintings that must be painted, journeys that yearn to be taken." I mentioned the book in The Spookiness of Written Truth.
Here's Lowinsky's blog with more information about the author and the book.
THAT ARE YOU READING?
What's on your ASAP reading list. Let me know in a comment. I hate running out of fresh reading material, so I really would like to know what your eager to get a copy of and start reading.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE THIS POST: Heroines' Voices in Literature
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
I have started a new blog called Sarabande's Journey to focus on the heroine's journey as I discover it while working on my sequel to The Sun Singer called Sarabande.
For years, pscyhotherapists, mythologists, authors and others have said that the hero's journey structure doesn't directly apply to the inner work done by women throughout their lives, much less to transformational literature about their paths to wholeness. As an author, I approach the subject as a generalist, researcher, reporter and--I hope--a sensitive interpretor.
I am relying, therefore, on two worlds of information as I write Sarabande. The story my muse and my imagination bring to me. And, the work done by such authors as Jules Cashford, Anne Baring and Laurens Van Der Post; Maureen Murdock; Sylvia Brinton Perera; Demetra George.
Writing a book is a journey in itself. It widens my horizons, it expands my consciousness, and it adds depth to my understanding of the world and of myself. This was very much the case insofar as the hero's journey was concerned as I wrote The Sun Singer and Garden of Heaven: an Odyssey. After the fact, as others began to ask where the themes and ideas originated from, I wished I'd kept a bibliography as the works progressed.
This time, I am. I make no claim to expert knowledge about the heroine's journey. I can sidestep that issue somewhat by saying I am, after all, writing fiction and not a definitive work on the journey itself. The books I discover are not the end of the journey for others who may be interested in this subject. They are a beginning.
I invite you to stop by Sarabande's Journey as the blog gets underway, evolves, twists and turns, gets stuck in labyrinths and, from time to time, finds ideas of interest to other seekers on the path.
Monday, March 21, 2011
You will know an author's passions, favorite topics and locales of choice by looking at the reference books on his shelf. Birds play important roles in my novels, especially ospreys, eagles, hawks, crows and ravens. Like many authors of my generation, I grew up with the Peterson Field Guides.
Whether you're a bird watcher with a "life list" or simply like to look up what you see while hiking or camping, the Peterson Guides are compact, encyclopedic, and small enough to fit in a knapsack. I refer to them often for quick reference about descriptions, size, range and bird calls.
However, if your characters are observing birds--or simply noting them in greater detail than comes from a casual glance or mention--then I recommend my favorite: The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior. The picture shown here is of the cover of my hardback edition from 2001. However, if you prefer the Internet for your research or want information about later editions, you can learn more about the Sibley guides to birds and trees on this website.
This book is large, lavishly illustrated by David Allen Sibley and, for the author or novice bird watcher, quite definitive. If you don't use a Peterson Guide for quick facts, this bird life and behavior book is a fine companion to the Sibley Guide to Birds.
From the publisher: I envisioned it as a book that would function the way a good field trip leader does – pointing out the things that make the birds more interesting and that relate the birds to other species and to their environment, enriching the whole birding experience. I drew on my 11 years experience as a professional bird tour leader to set the style and to choose the types of information that would be presented in the guide.
Example of my use of the book: I have seen Ospreys in Glacier National Park, but until I looked them up in The Sibley Guide, I did not know that once they caught a fish in a lake, they turned it facing forward as they flew. This excerpt comes from The Sun Singer, a novel that mentions ospreys quite frequently:
Fractured world, tangle of sunlight and water, burst of air bubbles, golden pebbles beneath the surface, white flowers above the surface, and he explodes into the sweet air, anarchy of water and wing. He pauses, is pausing and shaking out his plumage, adjusts the fish he’s taken with its eyes forward, and rises on great wings onto the soft back of brother Wind and scans the wide blue for Eagle, thief of fish. Fish-hawk, he owns the sky and gives bent wings into the air, then glides, is gliding over rock toward the tall pine and the safe nest with two young soon to fledge.
If you are fascinated by birds in general and/or use them as characters, totems, symbols or as simply part of the scenery, I believe you'll enjoy The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior.
PS: I also use The Peterson Guides, referring often to my shelf of blue-covered paperbacks. Yet, for reasons of nostalgia, I'm drawn most often to the autographed Roger Tory Peterson 1941 edition of A Field Guide to Western Birds that once belonged to my mother. Note how tattered the dust jacket has become.
Saturday, March 19, 2011
Writers need coffee more than they need a muse.
Drip coffee makers make that coffee fairly quickly with a minimum* of hands-on labor. The trouble is, they don't last.
I discovered several years ago that $70 to $90 coffee makers don't last any longer than the inexpensive brands. This discovery occurred about the same time I wised up and noticed that $70 - $90 sneakers fall apart just as fast as $20 sneakers.
Our Proctor Silex PS Auto Pause Coffee Maker came into the house on January 20th. The day was sunny and cool and there were no ominous omens, portents or other warnings present near the Family Dollar store on Washington Street or in our neighborhood.
According to the appliance maker's web site, Proctor Silex (a Hamilton Beach Brand) products are tested and proven. I would think so, because one expects a company that's been around since 1920 to know how to make great products.
Truth be told, my fictional characters and I swore by that inexpensive ($12.00) PS Auto Pause Coffee Maker day after day since January 20th. Two pots a day, every day, except during the week we were in Florida when (I think) we used a Mr. Coffee.
Tonight at 9:15 (eastern) while the BIG MOON was somewhere out there behind clouds, Sarabande--the protagonist in my novel in progress--and I swore at our Proctor Silex PS Auto Pause Coffee Maker because it just sat the like a bump on a log, like a dog that won't hunt, like one of the huddled masses of other plastic appliances taken to the county dump after a few months of faithful service.
I feel so used. After two, long months of merrily dripping away, my Proctor Silex crapped out. I know what to do when a coffee maker craps out. Boil water in a pan (which is made of metal and has been in the family for 20 years), and pour it through the basket of Maxwell House ground coffee.
Yes, Mr. Proctor and/or Mr. Silex and/or Mr. Hamilton and/or Mr. Beach, I kept the sales slip and the coffee maker instructions, and I read about the warranty. It's good for a year. All I have to do is box up my PS Auto Pause Coffee Maker in a manner that will keep it as safe from harm as an infant in a new car seat and mail it (prepaid and insured) to you for inspection and replacement.
Who are you kidding? The postage will be more than the pot is worth. That, plus the cold turkey withdrawal of NO COFFEE for the for the two to three weeks it takes you to send back a replacement. I don't need tarot cards or the I Ching to tell me I'll be shopping for a coffee maker tomorrow.
Whatever I buy won't last. Today's world is plastic and throw-away as the growing size of our dumps and landfills proves. But coffee is a drug. I've been hooked on it since May 25, 1963, a cold Montana day when I spent the morning shoveling a snowbank the size of a house out of a hotel driveway. The transitory warmth of a steaming white mug of Chase & Sandborn coffee led to a lifetime addiction.
I should have known better, but I was young and immortal then. I thought I knew everything, but I didn't know about all the nights in all the cheap motel rooms with nothing but lousy coffee or all the mornings at truck stops and diners paying for one cup after another; I didn't know that 48 years later, I'd be ready for a dime bag of anything before I'd try to sit here at my desk and write without my drug of choice.
Writers aren't allowed to crap out. We do what it takes to keep our readers supplied with the humor, horror, sex and thrills of books filled with drug-induced words.
Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of three coffee-induced novels, "The Sun Singer," "Garden of Heaven: an Odyssey," and "Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire."
*Don't even try to convince me that my habit will be well-satisfied by making coffee with one of those contraptions that brews one cup of fru-fru coffee at a time.
Thursday, March 17, 2011
The Polka Dot Banner advertises itself as "an author's gathering place." While I wonder if the word authors' might be more appropriate here, I think sites like this should be great for authors. I like the name of this gathering place, so I'm spending a little time finding out what's available.
There are interesting articles, blogs, a place to load your latest book, and a forum for questions. Personally, I think the least important aspect of this (and similar sites such as Author's Den) is uploading information about my book. Doing that tends to give people the impression the sites are great for selling.
Frankly, I don't think they are. When it comes down to it, most of the people uploading books want to sell and few of them want to buy. Why don't they buy? Because they make purchases based on buzz, including word of mouth, reviews, an author's commanding Internet presence and possibly what they stumble across on Amazon or in a bricks and mortar store.
It's hard to sell books on sites that are filled with would-be sellers and very few readers. To me, then, the value of a site like the Polka Dot Banner is finding information, tips, links and other information of value to writers. Now that's something a lot of us can use.
What has been your experience with Red Room, Gather, Author's Den and other authors sites and book selling?
Recent Posts on Malcolm's Round Table
The Father of Florida Folk - Remembering singer and songwriter Will McLean
Crown of the Continent Resources - Listing of some of the agencies working on behalf of the environment in Montana, Alberta and British Columbia
A powerful story of motherhood, seasons and snakes - A review of Patricia Damery's wonderful new novel
And, a St. Paddy's Day satire called Broccoli and Beer on the "Morning Satirical News."
Happy St. Patrick's Day!
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
There's no need to be scared of the Ides of March. As Infoplease reminds us, there's an Ides every month (if you use the old Roman Calendar).
But, since the words "Ides of March" tend to get people's attention, Vanilla Heart Publishing is having a 99 cent Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire e-book sale on Smashwords. The e-book is available on Smashwords in multiple formats. The Kindle edition is included in the sale.
OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB:
Mainstream humor with a dash of mystery... A throwback to Hollywood’s film noir reporters, Jock Stewart is out of touch with the looming world of digital journalism.
While he goes out of his way to mock those in authority by pretending to kowtow to them, he admits he does his best work by “being an asshole.” A mix of Don Rickles and Don Quixote, Stewart is the man for the job when the skirts are up and the chips are down.
Hard-boiled reporter Jock Stewart wakes up on the morning after the Star-Gazer office party with a hangover and an old flame in his bed and he cuddles up with the mayor’s wife in the back seat of a 1953 Desoto. Between these defining moments, he investigates the theft of the mayor’s race horse Sea of Fire and the murder of his publisher’s girl friend, Bambi Hill.
Stewart discovers the truth for his news stories via an interview style based on lies, pretense and audacious behavior.
Sunday, March 13, 2011
My work on Sarabande, a heroine's journey, novel-in-progress, is unfolding much like my work on three previous novels: it sends me to Amazon, my bookshelf and numerous Internet sites for facts and inspiration.
However, sometimes raw synchronicity steps into the picture and brings me well-timed nourishment I didn't count on for on-going research.
During a recent trip to Florida to visit my brother and his family, I finished reading the novel I took with me sooner than expected. So, I stole a copy of Zora Neale Hurston's poetic, heroine's journey novel off his bookshelf. Set in early 20th century Florida, Their Eyes Were Watching God is a strong, beautiful novel. It brought new perspectives about women seeking validation and authenticity into my consciousness.
Before an after the trip, I was busy reading an advance reader copy of Patricia Damery's novel Snakes, due out from il Piccolo editions March 21st. The novel focuses on the story of a woman who leaves the family farm in the Midwest to go to college in California, and then wonders about the choices she's made.
In my review of this book in Literary Afiionado, I write that "Snakes is a poetic meditation about the intertwined cycles of life and farming. It is also an evolving letter of love from Angela to her recently deceased father about life as it was, mundane and unexpected daily events, and, of course, the snakes. Snakes and the cycles of life are constant images throughout the book; snakes in the corn crib, snakes in the garden, snakes in the kitchen. We fear snakes, yet we also see them as protectors of the land and as symbols of the natural stages of everlasting life."
There couldn't have been a better time for me to read and review Snakes because it is very much on point to my needs as an author struggling to tell a story from a woman's point of view. Janie, a black woman living in a long-ago culture of central Florida in Hurston's novel and Angela, a Midwestern-born white farmer's daughter transplanted to California in Damery's novel, are very different people in settings that could hardly be more disparate. Yet, there I found that my work on Sarabande made me a wonderful melting pot for the universal sentiments in two novels that inadvertently merged with my writing.
You May Also Like
The Shadow Knows – Books for the Journey - resources for understanding the concept of the shadow as it applies to the hero's journey.
Portrait of a Writer as a Young Man - I don't like being asked when I decided to become a writer, but that doesn't mean I can't answer the question.
Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of "Garden of Heaven: an Odyssey"
Tuesday, March 08, 2011
I think that I shall never see
a billboard lovely as a tree.
Perhaps, unless the billboards fall,
I'll never see a tree at all.
- Ogden Nash
I think that I shall never see
a paperback tall as a free.
Perhaps unless more e-books fly,
Fewer trees will each the sky
--Malcolm R. Campbell
Welcome to the 2011 "Read an E-book" Celebration at Vanilla Heart Publishing and Smashwords. Get 25% off on our VHP featured books, including "The Sun Singer."
The Sun Singer
Young Robert Adams is going on a family vacation unlike any other family vacation in the history of the universe. His parents worry about the family's secrets, but they refuse to share. His grandfather has been injured, so he no longer remembers, though he does know he left a mission incompleted and that those dear to him are in danger. Follow Robert into a world where magic runs deeper than the mountain rivers, and where he will have to use a rare talent he has up to now tried to forget.