The Sun Singer's Travels

Malcolm R. Campbell's World

Archive for the category “Florida”

Those wonderful orange crate labels

Oranges used to arrive at wholesalers and grocery stores in wooden crates with eye-catching labels on each end. I wish I’d kept some of them before boxes took over and the oranges were put out on shelves with no need for the fancy advertising.

I like putting this kind of information in novels set during that era, so I mentioned several labels in my conjure and crime novel set in 1954, Eulalie and Washerwoman. By today’s standards, some of the labels aren’t politically correct: scantily-clad women, Indians in costumes, and smiling and stereotypical African Americans.

We had them in the house because the used crates were handy for storing stuff. If I’d known the labels would become collector’s items, I would have saved a stack of them.

The label shown here is one of those I mentioned in the novel. When my wife and I were volunteers at a very old general store museum, this is one of the labels we put under glass on the counter as an example of vintage advertising.

Seald Sweet is a Florida-based marketing company, the sunshine state’s answer to California and Arizona orange growers Sunkist.

I know I sound like a broken record (does anyone know what those are any more?) on this point, but details like this add a lot of depth to a novel in terms of time and place settings.


“Eulalie and Washerwoman” is available in e-book, paperback and audiobook fro Thomas-Jacob Publishing.


Briefly Noted: ‘Florida’s Wetlands’

What does an author do when s/he can’t visit the locations used in a novel? One could hire a team of researchers or use Google Earth to look at the chosen place. Using a guidebook such as Florida’s Wetlands is an easier way. The guidebook won’t tell you everything, but it may tell you enough to accurately sketch in the world where your characters live.

Publisher’s Description

“Taken from the earlier book Priceless Florida (and modified for a stand-alone book), this volume discusses Florida’s Wetlands, including interior wetlands, seepage wetlands, marshes, flowing-water swamps, beaches and marine marshes, and mangrove swamps. Introduces readers to the trees and plants, insects, mammals, reptiles, and other species that live in Florida’s unique wetlands ecosystem, including the Virginia iris, American white waterlily, cypress, treefrogs, warblers, and the Florida black bear.”

This wonderful guide is enhanced through its use of short descriptions, easy-to-navigate sections, photographs, and lists of the flora and fauna in Florida’s variety of swamps and marshes. These lists make it easy for the writer to find additional information on the Internet about a particular tree, fish, flower or bird. Once you know these names and the habitats they call home, it’s easy to do follow-up research online or in other books for more details. In Florida, for example, you can use the information gleaned from this book to explore the online Florida Natural Areas Inventory or the detailed information you can find from a specialized guidebook such as Florida Wildflowers: a Comprehensive Guide by Walter Kingsley Taylor.

Such books, and the sites they’ll lead you to, are windows into a world that’s out of reach due to time constraints, health, jobs, and family responsibilities. And then, too, you’re writing a novel and not a habitat handbook, so you don’t need lengthy and/or definitive descriptions of your locations.

Fortunately, writers can find such popular guidebooks for most states and countries.


Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “Eulalie and Washerwoman,” set partially in the wetlands of the Florida Panhandle.


Why I wrote ‘Conjure Woman’s Cat’

Because the world around me when I was growing up included this kind of warped nonsense:

Florida Memory Photo

Any questions?


Conjure Woman’s Cat and its sequel Eulalie and Washerwoman are available at multiple online sites as well as at your book store via their Ingram Catalogue.

Memory Lane: Lovett’s Grocery

Florida Memory photo

Florida Memory photo

When I mentioned a Winn & Lovett grocery store in my 1950s-era novel Eulalie and Washerwoman, I was walking down memory lane to the name displayed on many grocery stories in the Florida Panhandle when I was in grade school. The stores, which were also branded as Lovett’s, could be found in many southern towns.

The current name, Winn-Dixie, came about when Winn & Lovett acquired Dixie Home Stores out of Greenville, South Carolina, in 1955. The company dominated the Southern grocery scene until Publix and Walmart appeared and began stealing away its customers.

I like shopping at Publix and detest shopping at Walmart, but along with A&P, I still miss the Winn-Dixie chain as it was in its heyday.




This and that about books (while drinking a glass of water)

Usually, a glass of wine is called for while writing my this and that posts. It’s too early in the day for that, and with the Georgia drought and its mandatory water restrictions, water may soon cost more than booze.

Here’s the latest news:

  • atravessiadecoraA Travessia a Cora, the Portuguese edition  of my paranormal short story “Cora’s Crossing” was released today on iTunes, Nook, Kobo, Sribd, and is coming soon on Kindle.  Publisher’s description: Two young men are mysteriously drawn to an old bridge during a rogue thunderstorm, where they discover the dead are waiting to speak and their lives are in jeopardy when they help an injured young woman they find beside the road. “Cora’s Crossing” was inspired by the now-abandoned Bellamy Bridge (which the author last saw 50 years ago) over the Chipola River near the town of Marianna in the Florida Panhandle, and the local folk legend that claims the bridge is haunted by a 175-year-old ghost who died tragically on her wedding night when her dress caught fire.
  • Conjure Woman’s Cat: Thank you to everyone who entered the recent free Amazon give-away in which Kindle copies went to to the five winners. I hope you enjoy this 1950s’-era novel set in the Florida Panhandle about a conjure woman who fights the KKK with folk magic.
  • ewkindlecoverEulalie and Washerwoman: My publisher is currently reviewing the narrator’s sound files for the upcoming audiobook edition. If all goes well, I hope it will be available before Christmas. Publisher’s short description: Torreya, a small 1950s Florida Panhandle town, is losing its men. They disappear on nights with no moon and no witnesses. Foreclosure signs appear in their yards the following day while thugs associated with the Klan take everything of value from inside treasured homes that will soon be torn down. The police won’t investigate, and the church keeps its distance from all social and political discord.
  • Smoky Zeidel Interview:  Here’s an interesting interview from one of my collegues at Thomas-Jacob Publishing. She’s the author of The Cabin (novel) and Sometimes I Think I Am Like Water (poetry), both of which are on sale today on Amazon.
  • claytonmisunderstoodA Woman Misunderstood, the second novel in Melinda Clayton’s Tennessee Delta Series will be released December 1 from Thomas-Jacob Publishing.  The novel follows Blessed Are the Wholly Broken (2013). Clayton is also the author of the Cedar Hollow Series. A Woman Misunderstood is available for pre-order on Amazon. Publisher’s short description: On a sweltering July morning in rural Tennessee, fifty-year-old Rebecca Reynolds visits the family farm, where she literally stumbles across the mutilated bodies of her parents and younger sister, a sister who had spent life in a wheelchair after a birth fraught with complications.

According to Georgia’s mandatory water restrictions, odd people get to water plants outside on Sundays and Thursdays after 4 p.m. and throughout the night. That means that while you’re watching football, taking a nap or getting ready for supper, I’ll be dragging a hose around the yard. Yeah, I know you’re worried about me.



That elusive racial equality

A 2014 USA Today article “Equality still elusive 50 years after Civil Rights Act” notes that “Blacks have made many economic and educational gains, but progress still falls short.”

After so much recent racial unrest, some people might say that article is an understatement. I frankly don’t know, partly because fake news sites are putting out erroneous stories from both sides of the political aisle that skew what we know. And, some major news outlets slant their coverage so that news that might balance out stories about nasty incidents isn’t covered.

President Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act.

President Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act.

I grew up in a segregated state that had a strong KKK. When any progress toward equality was made, or even suggested, the Klan showed up. My church split into two churches when the main downtown church welcomed Blacks. I wondered how many people in the group that split off were members of the Klan. The thing is, one seldom knew. This environment impacted my childhood due to the fear, unrest, discord and unfairness of the status quo.

Frankly, once the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed, I thought we’d begin to see progress. It never dawned on me then that 50 years later that so much racial inequality, distrust and outright hatred would still exist. I guess I was more naive than I knew.

I didn’t write Conjure Woman’s Cat and Eulalie and Washerwoman because I thought they would impact the current national dialogue about race. I wrote them primarily because I needed to speak to the fear and uncertainty I saw as a child in hopes of finding closure, and secondarily to remind people of a discouraging part of our history. It goes without saying, I suppose, that I also wanted to tell interesting and compelling stories.

I also grew up seeing that the Black church and the folk magic components of Black culture were being maligned. So I wanted to present fair and hopefully accurate stories that took those realities seriously–along with the blues music so closely associated with them–instead of as the targets of stereotype slurs I still hear too much of today. I hope readers will enjoy a look at these realities that’s both entertaining and a breath of fresh air.

I’m writing this post because racial issues are so much in the news today that I’m constantly forced back into memories of my childhood where–as I said somewhere in another post–I lost my innocence about our school lessons teaching us that everyone is treated equally socially, economically and legally. Writing these novels helped me sort out a lot of things, but I’m still waiting for closure.


Click on the graphic to see my website:


New Florida Folk Magic Novel Released Today by Thomas-Jacob Publishing

Eulalie and Washerwoman, the sequel to Conjure Woman’s Cat, was released today on Kindle where it will take you back to a small Florida Panhandle town where the men are disappearing, their houses are being torn town, and there whereabouts are concealed by dark magic. The paperback edition will be available soon.


Here’s how the story begins. . .

So Eulalie woke precariously from the blues of her dreams into the jaundiced light of the kerosene lantern when a frightful pre-dawn bedlam was visited upon our back porch by a man named William Ochlockonee Tate, a blue-nosed hinny named Minnie, and a Florida water moccasin named Nagaina.  I’m Lena, the cat. Before my conjure woman was awoken by Minnie’s flailing hooves, I dozed blamelessly behind the pot marigolds until they were kicked into the yard.

Willie was in a hurry; as it turned out, the twelfth and thirteenth missing men gave him cause. Minnie had carried him out of the longleaf pine forest behind the house at a fast gallop. Nagaina, who patrolled the grounds between Coowahchobee Creek and the front gate, perceived the quickly rising heat of hinny and human as a threat, coiled her 5.8 cat-lengths of darkness around a porch post and showed Minnie her wide open white mouth.

Minnie spooked, but Willie held on as Minnie’s rear hooves dragged through the ashes of the cook fire knocking over the cast iron pot. The remaining embers spun outward like the spent wishes of dying stars. Since Willie’s urgent profanity was ineffective, Minnie’s front hooves carried both hinny and rider onto the porch where there were collisions with water bowls, the sofa, an open bottle of shine and the pot marigolds. While the porch and its awning were well made, they weren’t meant for such frantic abuse and shook like the world was ending until Eulalie grabbed the teetering lantern, stepped back into her altar room and shouted, “In Solomon’s name, desist.”

Copyright (c) 2016 by Malcolm R. Campbell

Do they still have hurricane parties in Florida?

Hurricane parties used to be all the rage. Lots of drinking. Drunks surfing in the storm surge. Some hosts actually made hurricane cocktails: rum, fruit juice, and grenadine. The party themes were something like this: (a) we’re not scared of the hurricane because we survived the last big one, (b) Think of the stories we’ll have to tell our kids if we make it through the storm, (c) and, more recently, has Jim Cantore gotten here yet.

When I was a kid growing up in Florida, hurricanes excited me. I knew it was wrong to be excited because people lost their lives and a lot of property was damaged. Maybe it was the raw power of nature.

Looking at the news as Matthew approaches Florida, I wonder the same things wondered a half century ago:

  • Since hurricane information is widely known long before a storm arrives, why do people wait until the last minute to buy extra food?
  • Do people throw away their plywood after the hurricane season ends each year? I wonder, because plywood always sells out, making me wonder why nobody saved the plywood they used last year and the year before.
  • Emergency preparedness experts say that those who don’t evacuate should be prepared to survive alone in their homes for at least 72 hours. Yet, people seem unprepared. Nobody seems to think the BIG ONE is going to hit this year, so they don’t stock up on extra batteries, bottled water, snacks that can be prepared with no power or with a camp stove, and other essentials.
  • Why do families buy 50 loaves of bread when a hurricane approaches. Sure, sandwiches are easy, but how much bread can one possibly eat?
  • There’s usually a run on camp stoves. Since this always happens, one wonders why so few people don’t consider buying them in advance and having them ready.
  • When a hurricane is aiming at the state–something people knew for many days in advance–why are all those cars backed up at gas stations (a day before it arrives) which are selling out of fuel? Why not gas up the car sooner? Nobody knows.

I don’t live in Florida any more, but I still remember all the storm activity that happened every season as people watched the news for imminent threats. So, while I still wonder why more folks don’t get ready sooner than they do, my thoughts are with those in harm’s way, especially those who live along Florida’s east coast, Savannah and Charleston.

Stay safe if you haven’t evacuated.




Stay safe, Tallahassee, Apalachicola, Carrabelle, and St. Marks

hermineMy thoughts are with the folks who live in the Florida Panhandle as Hurricane Hermine ploughs into the lowland region. I grew up in Tallahassee, so I know what it’s like to wait, to see how many trees fall on the house, guess at how long the power will be out, and–if you live down along the coast, to wonder about the tidal surge and the flooding.

Bad weather was exciting when I was a kid watching the weather reports because I thought I would live forever, that our house would be among those spared, and that the flooding would happen far away. Now I see the tragedies and damage more clearly and, while hurricanes probably increase the ratings for the Weather Channel and the local news hour’s weather segment, I hate to see the loss and disruption to so many lives.

welcometofloridaI haven’t been in Tallahassee since the late 1980s when my father died a year after my mother died, and we packed up and sold the house. Hurricane Ivan actually made it through the panhandle up into north Georgia where I live now, but otherwise we see little from most tropical storms and hurricanes here just south of the Tennessee border. We often see rain that turns the tables on our droughts, and we welcome that, and cross our fingers about the hardships along the gulf and Atlantic coasts.

Several years ago when a couple of hurricanes crisscrossed near Orlando, somebody created a fake “Welcome to Florida” postcard showing mostly a giant hurricane swirl of clouds covering the state. My Florida friends posted this on their Facebook pages once the power came back on and they were sure they and their houses had survived. Gallows humor–and yes, we laughed at it even though we shouldn’t have.

Folks outside of the state–with the exception of people in Georgia and Alabama–know little about Florida’s so-called Forgotten Coast. There are nice beaches there, some great seafood places, and a favorite swamp of mine named Tate’s Hell. Most tourists head down into the peninsula which those of is who lived along the Gulf Coast thought had already been over-developed beyond repair. Unfortunately, an occasional hurricane or tropical storm remembers the Forgotten Coast and brings chaos, costs and other havoc to those who live there.

Y’all stay safe and make sure you have plenty of milk, bread, eggs, beer, candles and maybe a boat.


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