The Sun Singer's Travels

Malcolm R. Campbell's World

Free – three books for three days

It’s time for a late August giveaway set for August 28 through August 30 on Amazon for the Kindle editions of The Sun Singer, The Lady of the Blue Hour, and Carrying Snakes into Eden.

Here are the links:

The Sun Singer

"The Sun Singer" is gloriously convoluted, with threads that turn on themselves and lyrical prose on which you can float down the mysterious, sun-shaded channels of this charmingly liquid story. - Diana Gabaldon, Outlander Series

Robert Adams is a normal teenager who raises tropical fish, makes money shoveling snow off his neighbors’ sidewalks, gets stuck washing the breakfast dishes, dreads trying to ask girls out on dates and enjoys listening to his grandfather’s tall tales about magic and the western mountains. Yet, Robert is cursed by a raw talent his parents refuse to talk to him about: his dreams show him what others cannot see.

When the family plans a vacation to the Montana high country, Grandfather Elliott tells Robert there’s more to the trip than his parents’ suspect. The mountains hide a hidden world where people the ailing old man no longer remembers need help and dangerous tasks remain unfinished. Thinking that he and his grandfather will visit that world together, Robert promises to help.

On the shore of a mountain lake, Robert steps alone through a doorway into a world at war where magic runs deeper than the glacier-fed rivers. Grandfather Elliott meant to return to this world before his health failed him and now Robert must resurrect a long-suppressed gift to fulfill his promises, uncover old secrets, undo the deeds of his grandfather’s foul betrayer, subdue brutal enemy soldiers in battle, and survive the trip home.

LadyoftheBlueHourcoverThe Lady of the Blue Hour

Short Story. When Kenneth arrives home from a high school band trip with exciting news, he finds the house empty. His parents appear to gone to a hospital in a hurry. At twilight, a strange woman appears on the street, and she might be looking for him. No doubt, there’s magic afoot.

Grandfather Elliott, from “The Sun Singer” is one of the characters in this story which takes place in a quiet neighborhood of old homes in a Midwestern city. That made the story especially fun to write.

Carrying Snakes Into Eden

Always free on Kindle Unlimited

Always free on Kindle Unlimited

In this tongue-in-cheek 1960s-era short story with a dash of magic, two students skip church, pick up a hobo with a sack of snakes, and realize there may be long-term consequences.

This tale is one of a series of short stories set in Florida’s notorious Tate’s Hell Swamp on the Gulf Coast. I loved this swamp when I was growing up in the Florida Panhandle. The Garden of Eden mentioned in the story refers to a one-time tourist attraction that the owners claimed was the site of the original Garden of Eden. All that remains of the attraction, near the town of Bristol, is a “Garden of Eden Trail” maintained by the Nature Conservancy. The rare and endangered Torreya tree can be seen along this trail.

I hope you enjoy the books.



A Book Launch Tale: Planning with Abandon

“When I planned my first book launch, ignorance is bliss worked just fine for me. ”

Source: A Book Launch Tale: Planning with Abandon ‹ Reader —

In this article, author R. B. Frank came up with a novel idea for her book launch partly because she didn’t confine what she did to “rules” off the Internet. And it worked.

I won’t spoil the article by telling you what she did, but I might just borrow the idea the next time I do a launch or a book signing.


YouTube and Amazon: Gain Exposure by Using Both

“It’s becoming evident that newsletters are a valuable tool for authors to have. Shawn Inmon recently discussed the importance of newsletters, and one of the things he said was, ‘The reason why is simple: You control how and when you access a mailing list, as opposed to investing everything into working the Amazon or social media algorithms.’ That really resonated with me, so I decided it was time for me to take his advice seriously.”

Source: YouTube and Amazon: Gain Exposure by Using Both – Indies Unlimited

As with everything else in the business–that of writing and marketing books–there seem to be so many variables about what works and what doesn’t. In this Indies Unlimited article, Melinda Clayton has found a couple of variables that work for those of us trying to get a newsletter started with more than our spouse and uncle Zeke on the mailing list.


Writer’s Mailbox: an e-mail from my protagonist

Technology being what it is, it’s only a matter of time before we hear about an Outlook or Gmail upgrade that taps into our subconscious minds and allows direct communication with our characters before we even finish writing the novel or the short story.

outlooklogo2The app will be touted as the best and the brightest in computer software because it will (purportedly): (a) reduce the number of misunderstandings between writers and characters, (b) allow characters to nag writers into spending more time working, (c) will give characters a chance to co-create their own destinies rather than being stuck doing what authors want them to do.

Imagine e-mails like these:

  • Malcolm, you thoughtless bastard, I just learned that I’m going to die in chapter three. WTF. You’re not giving me a chance, man. I promise I’ll stop using cliches and cornball dialogue if you’ll let me at least make it until chapter six. — Bob
  • Malcolm, I don’t want to make love with Ralph because I don’t like the name Ralph. In fact, in your last story, my dad’s name as Ralph and he not only was a thoughtless bastard, but he smoked. Now having a guy named Ralph as a lover is just simply ewwwwwwwwwwwwwww. –Monique
  • Malcolm, two guys with rifles came into my backyard yesterday afternoon planning to shoot me. I understand that you have to sleep and that you had to go to the grocery stores this morning, but since then, you haven’t done squat to resolve this scene. Unlike Bob, I know I make it to the end of the book, but I don’t want to get there if I get shot and come out of the hospital as a vegetable (especially celery). When are you going to open the doc file and finish this chapter? — Eulalie
  • Malcolm, I signed up to be in a John Grisham book, or at least a Nora Roberts book, so how the hell did I end up in your book? There’s been a hideous error at Central Casting. Please talk to them. — Zeke
  • Malcolm, I’ve figured out how to escape from your story and show up in the fiction you authors believe is your “real life.” You have no idea how the system works. Now, upgrade my role in “Lust in The Attic of Old Dreams” or I’ll have to come out there. Since you made me a tough guy, you gotta ask yourself, “Do I feel lucky.” – Harry

No doubt, this software will arrive on our computers as an automatic upgrade that cannot be removed without making dangerous manual changes to the file allocation table. SPAM from our characters: hell, that might be enough to make me quit the business and become a used car salesman or a hitman.



Publishing Scams & How they Work

“Many self-publishers start their book projects with unrealistic expectations and misunderstandings about how publishing works. A huge industry has arisen to prey on writers who are unsure of the path. This article explains the basics of how publishing scams work and how writers can avoid them.”


Source: Article: Publishing Scams & How they Work

While this post by Dave Bricker is over a year old, I wanted to share it with you because it gives a great overview of the pitfalls and snares of writing a book and getting it published.

In some ways, this is a what NOT to do list with a lot of information about publishing basics.


‘I Racconti di Emily’ now live on Amazon

Following close on the heels of the Spanish edition, the Italian edition of Emily’s Stories is now available on Amazon from Vanilla Heart Publishing.

EmilyItalianEmily Walters è un’acuta e curiosa quattordicenne del nord della Florida che ama le mappe, la sua vecchia bicicletta arrugginita e la foresta dietro casa sua. A volte i suoi sogni le raccontano il futuro, e a volte le ore di veglia portano saggi uccelli e  altri spiriti nella sua vita.

Quando la sua famiglia va in vacanza in “Pittrice campestre”, un saggio lucherino le dice che deve imparare presto a dipingere i sogni nella realtà per impedire che una passeggiata pomeridiana si trasformi in una tragedia.

In “Cartografa” avrà bisogno delle sue abilità, e dell’aiuto di un caprimulgo, per contrastare i piani di un imprenditore edile che intende abbattere la sacra foresta dietro casa sua e sostituirla con una palazzina residenziale.

In “La Magnolia di Sweetbay” imparerà i segreti dell’albero preferito di sua nonna, della decadente casa quasipersempre lungo il fiume e del perché alcuni fantasmi visitano piuttosto che infestare.

The English edition of this three-story collection is available in e-book, audiobook and paperback.

emilycoverEmily Walters is a sharp, inquisitive fourteen-year-old north Florida girl who loves maps, her rusty old bike, and the forest behind her house. Sometimes her dreams tell her the future and sometimes her waking hours bring wise birds and other spirits into her life. In these three short stories, join Emily in her adventures and mysteries.

When her family vacations in the mountains in “High Country Painter,” a wise Pine Siskin tells her she must quickly learn how to paint dreams into reality to prevent an afternoon hike from becoming a tragedy.

In “Map Maker,” she’ll need her skills—and the help of a Chuck-will’s-widow—to a fight a developer’s plans for from bulldozing the sacred forest behind her house and replacing it with a subdivision.

In “Sweetbay Magnolia,” she’ll learn the secrets of her grandmother’s favorite tree, the crumbling almost-forever house down on the river, and why some ghosts would rather visit than haunt.

At Sea: Thanks to all of you who have been downloading copies of my Vietnam War navy novel during its three-day free promotion. The promotion runs through August 17th


‘At Sea’ – Free for three days on Kindle

AtSeaBookCoverMy Vietnam War navy novel At Sea will be free on Kindle August 15th through August 17th. If you’re a Kindle Unlimited subscriber, you can always read the book for free.

Book DescriptionEven 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.

Long-time visitors to this blog will know that this book was inspired by my experiences aboard the USS Ranger, a WESTPAC-based carrier serving on line in the Gulf of Tonkin during the way.

Hope you enjoy the story.


The Olympics is a good excuse for those of us who normally won’t take a break

Many writers work at home. So, when they’re home, it’s often hard to take a break and stop working. The story is right down the hall, always close and on the writer’s mind. So–other than household chores–it’s hard to take time off and relax.

When my wife an I lived in Atlanta, we went to a lot of the Braves games. Those we didn’t attend, we watched on TV. That was our break.

I'm sure our team would rather pose with a writer than a politician. That guy does look familiar, though.

I‘m sure our team would rather pose with a writer than a politician. That guy does look familiar, though. – Wikipedia photo

When we realized we needed more exercise, we started going to a large state park. At the beginning, we could barely do some of the trails once. By the time we moved away from Atlanta, we could easily do most of the trails several times before it was time to leave.

My wife and I have always been fans of the Olympics. No, we don’t have our TV’s tuned to NBC’s multiple networks while our PCs stream coverage from other venues. Other than going over to Bravo for some of the tennis matches, we tend to take our breaks in the evening with NBC’s primary coverage. No, that’s not true dedication, but there’s enough happening there to keep me from sitting at the PC all evening working on the next chapter in the novel in progress.

I probably need more self-starter hobbies. The Olympics come and go and then–what? Yes, the yard still needs mowing and we have several acres of grass (most of which is pasture rather than yard grass). Still, that’s not enough. I guess I could go for more walks, but walking up and down our country roads isn’t as satisfying as a trail. Not for me.

When I find ways to take interesting breaks like the Olympics, I don’t spend my break time wishing I were here at the computer. My work in progress doesn’t cross my mind. Then, when I come back to it later, it’s new and fresh and my ideas for the next scenes are a lot better.

I’ll be sorry to see the Olympics go because, well, I’m not really interested in going back stamp and coin collecting, salt and fresh water aquariums filled with tropical fish, or re-activating my ham radio operator’s license. Those hobbies all ran their courses. So did major league baseball though I do get a once-a-week break during football season during the FSU games.

I’m thinking of becoming a beach volleyball groupie. How does that sound?


Malcolm R. Campbell, who keeps his eyes on the ball rather than the bathing suits, is the author of all kinds of books and short stories that need to be on your shelf to support his travel expenses to beach volleyball venues.


Free speech groups condemn Turkey’s closure of 29 publishers after failed coup

“Organisations including PEN International have spoken out about the ‘grave impact on democracy’ caused by major crackdown on book trade”

Source: Free speech groups condemn Turkey’s closure of 29 publishers after failed coup | Books | The Guardian

As usual, truth is the first casualty. With the 24-hour news media focused on every comment and innuendo coming out of the U.S. Presidential campaign, stories like this one often remain off everyone’s radar.


How do I make my character think, talk and fight at the same time?

Mainstream fiction and every writing genre often present readers with action scenes where many things seem to happen at once. The authors of war, espionage and police novels seem to write such scenes effortlessly. But, it’s not as easy as it looks.

Emerging authors, especially those who focus on the issues of everyday people in everyday life are often stumped when they need one of these everything-happens-at-once scenes. Why? For one thing, authors who are used to conversation, description and interior monologue to tell a story about coming of age issues, love and betrayal, raising families and going to work, and other domestic plots, seldom have to worry about fast-paced fighting scenes, much less the realities of describing weapons and tactics accurately and realistically.

opcenterWhen we were kids, we often joked about whether a person could walk and chew gum at the same time. When authors look at their first action scene, they discover their characters can’t think, talk and fight at the same time. No matter what the authors do, their characters seem clumsy, scenes that should happen fast drag out in long paragraphs, and hanging over the whole process is the sense that maybe real-life bullets, kicks and fists can’t do what they’re doing in the story.

Every once in a while, I run out of books to read and end up picking up a paperback at the grocery store to tide me over until the next shipment arrives from Amazon or I have time to drive to the Barnes & Noble store on the far side of town. Since the grocery store shelves are filled with romances and spy novels, I end up bring home the spy novels. The latest was Into the Fire, a recent addition to the series of counter espionage/counter terrorism stories in the Op-Center series created (but not written by) Tom Clancy.

Reading Action Novels is Good Research

Those who want to write fiction are told to read a lot. The trouble is, many authors read the kinds of books they like to write. If so, they have little or no exposure to action scenes. Clancy has often been accused of having no style or voice; a similar criticism has been leveled at those inspired by him, including the authors of the Op-Center series. When reading an espionage novel for the first time, you’ll notice:

  1. The chapters and other sections are short and jump between multiple good guy and bad guy points of view. This not only gives the reader a large-scale view of the action, adds intrigue by disclosing information the primary good guys don’t yet know, and keeps up the pace by handling slower-paced actions “off camera.”
  2. The characters and authors know a lot about weapons, weapons systems, defense community and military protocols, ships and aircraft, and supposedly the military/espionage/political styles of the counties involved. Of course, readers of these books like weapons and systems and often ask such questions as “Will weapon ABC beat weapon XYZ.” If the good guys are outgunned, that adds tension and intrigue as they figure out how to make do. Chains of command and weapons capabilities, while complex to the first-time reader of an Op-Center-style novel, also confine the kinds of action likely to occur in the book. This reduces ambiguity and indecisive events, both of which are scene killers in an action novel.
  3. Even within a concise scene, the primary characters don’t have to worry about how certain people or hardware arrived on the scene. The real-life drudgery of pulling all that together is glossed over. The protagonist either expects people in his command and other commands to do their duty or notes as the action unfolds that, say, a U.S. drone with hell fire missiles has appeared overhead to help his out-numbered crew defeat the enemy commandos. Meanwhile, the protagonist is also provided with a great deal of information in short snippets that has taken teams of people (“off camera”) a lot of time to figure out.
  4. Worst case, such novels can appear like video games where the stakes and odds are high, where the bad guys fire thousands of rounds and never hit anybody, and where new resources appear as needed due to the dedication of people other than the main character. Best case, the developing story seems believable enough to actually happen. In these novels, the protagonist is not only on the hot seat in the main action scenes, but has used his/her wisdom, knowledge and intelligence to simultaneously orchestrate the non-action-oriented material.

What Can You Take Away From Reading Such a Book?

opcenter2Obviously, we aren’t going to write in our own way, switch to a  Tom Clancy approach for the action scene, and then back to our own style as soon as the action ends. What we take away from an action novel is an appreciation for what is skipped over, left off camera (so to speak) or otherwise would bog down the action scenes themselves.

During a fight scene, the thoughts of the protagonist in that scene or chapter are not shown in detail. There is little or no interior monologue. There’s no time for it. A character who, let’s say, is surprised by the inept or surprising actions of others, is more likely to briskly think “What the hell are those clowns thinking” than to sandwich in a lot of interior chatter about “those clowns” while s/he’s running from room to room firing a AK-47.

If you’ve ever watched an old song-and dance musical with Fred Astaire or Gene Kelley, you’ve seen amazing sequences on the screen. What you don’t see is all the practice it took to make those sequences amazing. That’s all off camera. Your action scenes have to look like that. You can’t show the practice, the characters’ baggage, the irrelevant activities of characters or events that have no direct impact on the moment before the reader, or much (if any) description of the features in the scene which have nothing to do with the action focus. If a character hides behind a couch, he hides behind a couch, not a couch with a particular kind of color, fabric or style. None of that matters.

When bad guys bust in the front door with guns blazing, the primary action-oriented responses will be to fight, run, hide and call for help. At this point, having the characters think about or talk about the motivation of the bad guys will only slow down the action. Motivation may become relevant later.

Since it’s not possible to sum all these ideas up in one blog post, my thoughts are these. If you’re already the author of action-oriented novels, keep doing what you’re doing and work toward making it better with each new book. If you’re the author of non-action-oriented novels and you need an action scene, study a few of those scenes in a popular police or espionage thriller and look at how the characters, talk and move and what you need to say about it and what you don’t.

The main problem with a badly written action scene is usually this: the author has said too much.


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