The Sun Singer's Travels

Malcolm R. Campbell's World

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What’s blooming right now?

Known by many names such as Camphorweed, Stinkweed, Salt marsh fleabane, Sourbush and Cattle-tongue, Sweetscent is a short-lived perennial wildflower that occurs naturally in freshwater and salt marshes, swamps and coastal hammocks throughout Florida. It typically blooms summer through fall. Its sweet-smelling leaves and flowers are very attractive to butterflies. Bees love this plant, too.

via Florida Wildflower Foundation

SweetscentIf you live in Florida, you’ll find a wealth of wild flower information on this site, including news about what’s blooming right now to growing your own wildflowers.

If you’re a writer, this site keeps you from saying your characters walked in the woods at a certain time of year and enjoyed the wildflowers–and then finding out after your novel is published that those flowers don’t bloom for another month.

If you’re lucky, you’ll find similar resources in your state.


Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of Conjure Woman’s Cat, a magical novel set in the Florida Panhandle. The Kindle Edition is on sale for 99 cents 7/21-7/23/17



Eleven Great Bike Riding Roads

From leisurely rides to challenging climbs, national parks offer riding opportunities for cyclists of all abilities. Check out top recommendations and advice from NPCA enthusiasts on where to go and what to see.

via Staff Picks: 11 Spectacular Roads for Riding Your Bike · National Parks Conservation Association

Truth be told, I no longer own a bike. I wish I did, assuming I remember how they work. More and more people seem to be discovering bike riding as an alternative to car commuting, and better yet, to enjoying scenery.

These roads are temping me to go down to the bike store and say, “So y’all still Schwinns?”

If I had the money, I’d buy a great bike and head for Glacier National Park’s Going-to-the-Sun Road–and that’s number two on the NPCA’s list. I’m not surprised.


What about Amazon’s Third-Party Sellers?

via Help! Someone else is selling my book! – Indies Unlimited

While taking a short break from obsessively Googling your name and checking your KDP dashboard, you wander over to search for your book on Amazon. Imagine your surprise when – gasp – you see two listings. Or three listings. Or even more! Someone named IHeartBooks is selling your paperback on Amazon! Not only that, but – horror of horrors – they’re charging more than you are. Or maybe less than you are. Or maybe you’re one of those authors who’s stumbled across a copy of your paperback selling on Amazon for $6,789 or some such outrageous price.

No, this is not piracy. It’s business. Stores and others buy your book at wholesale and sell it at retail. Others buy your book, read it, and then sell the copy to somebody else. It’s legit. Publisher Melinda Clayton explains why.

I buy too many books. So, I’m happy that Amazon allows me to resell the copy after I’ve read it. I usually don’t make very much because some sellers try to make their profit on volume by keeping the extra (if any) charged for shipping while selling the copy for a penny. Occasionally, I make a few dollars.

You can, too. And so can a lot of other people.


Buy It or Review It (Or Preferably Both)

If you are a writer, ask to be paid for your work. If you are asking a writer to appear, pay them. If you read a book, pay for it. If you accept a free book, post a review. Anything else is eroding the careers of writers everywhere.

via Buy It or Review It (Or Preferably Both) | FundsforWriters

This post, from several days ago, is in many ways about writers helping each other and notes that many people–including those on writers’ Facebook friends lists or who follow their blogs–sign on to accept a free copy of a book but then never read it, much less review it.

As Hope Clark mentions, it’s bad enough when a reader requests an ARC (advance readers copy) and then never posts a review; it’s worse when another author does it.  An Amazon-style review can be posted in a few minutes and it can make a big difference between the success or failure of a mid-list or an emerging author’s work.

We need to help each other and keep our promises.



Amazon UK Kindle Storyteller Award

The Amazon UK Kindle Storyteller Award is open for entries. The Kindle Storyteller Award is a new literary prize recognising newly published work in the English language across any genre and includes a £20,000 prize.

via Amazon UK Kindle Storyteller Award – Indies Unlimited

This looks like a great opportunity if you have a potential Kindle Direct Publishing manuscript ready or almost ready. The big plus, in addition to the award, is the publicity. That can be a nice boost for your writing career.

Thanks to Indies Unlimited for posting this.


Is language a prostitute queen?

“Nothing is so easy as to deceive one’s self when one does not lack wit and is familiar with all the niceties of language. Language is a prostitute queen who descends and rises to all roles. Disguises herself, arrays herself in fine apparel, hides her head and effaces herself; an advocate who has an answer for everything, who has always foreseen everything, and who assumes a thousand forms in order to be right. The most honorable of men is he who thinks best and acts best, but the most powerful is he who is best able to talk and write” – George Sand, in “Indiana”

A character in a TV show who was talking about abuse said that scars and bruises heal, but abusive words said to another person last forever. As soon as she said it, I thought of this passage in George Sand’s 1832 novel Indiana. It was written when sentiments in France were in a state of flux between being ruled by a hereditary monarch or a constitutional monarch. The debate was endless, but veiled somewhat behind the eloquence of well-practiced aristocratic conversations that were an art form well-outside the scope of today’s conversations at dinner and formal affairs.

Yet, as a writer, I am disturbed by the passage. Many people say that actions speak louder than words. There is truth in that, I think. But many people also believe that the pen is mightier than the sword. Over time, perhaps, though not on a battlefield.

Today, as we hear a lot of words from both sides of the political spectrum, we’re hearing a lot about biased news and fake news, so it becomes harder and harder to tell what the truth of any matter is. If language is, or can be used as a prostitute queen, people are being quite often swayed these days by more words than actions. Yet, I take issue with the suggestion that those of us who write are somehow in league with Voldemort–or the devil of your choice–and cannot be trusted.

I don’t think words are forever as the TV actress said on the show, but in the context of the scene, that idea made sense. Most words are, I think, forgotten. Or, their importance dims with time as people hear fresh words that make more sense, that seem more true to them, that they can prove by doing a little soul searching or fact checking.

Yet, I think that with times as they are now, a lot of people would agree with George Sand’s author’s comment in her novel. Personally, I don’t think the words–or language itself–are at fault. The people who use words badly, who have thinly veiled agendas, who seldom bother with the truth, who replace facts with opinions and/or slick writing–they are the ones making us distrust words while giving those words more power over us than they actually have.



Hope in a Texas prison

“This [creative writing] class has helped me in so many ways. I’ve found healing, a way to live with my situation, and hope. The class has allowed me to be heard, to leave behind proof of my existence, and has given me a way to preserve my name. I no longer feel like I’m just a number—I now have a voice.” – Kevin Murphy in Heartbreaking True Stories from Inside Texas Prisons

Out of right, out of mind. That’s probably our view of prisoners except when they break out or are released and immediately commit a new crime. We don’t hear about the others because they don’t show up on the evening news.

The bastards deserve to be in there. We probably think that, too, and the notion that prisoners are scum is reinforced for us on most cop shows where a leading character (cop or lawyer) goes to a prison to talk to a con who is usually portrayed as somebody who doesn’t deserve to be in the world.

There’s a world inside those bars, though. It made my day to read about Deb Olin Unferth’s (Wait Till You See Me Dance) writing workshops presented at a maximum security prison in Texas. And then, my day became a bit sad when I read what three prisoners had to say in the article cited above.

As an author, I have no special qualifications or resume material to make judgements about why the U.S., with 5% of the world’s population, has 25% (2.4 million) of the world’s prison population, how much it costs to house all these people, and why the conditions in these prisons–as bad as they seem to be–lure to many prisoners back with the commission of new crimes after serving their time and being released.

Perhaps if they had chance to learn something that really helps them, as opposed to making license plates, fewer of them would end up going back. Whatever we’re doing isn’t working. Deb Olin Unferth’s workshops sounds like a step in the right direction.


Book Marketing tips for trad published authors

“Over the course of my ongoing tour, a lot of people have asked me what it’s like working with a major publisher and how much book marketing is expected of a traditionally published author. The answer is, it’s great, but it’s also a lot of work. In fact, based on my conversations with self-published authors, I can tell you that the book marketing effort required by a traditionally published author is about 99% the same as what’s expected of a self-published writer.”

Source: Book Marketing tips for trad published authors via Mark Noce

Mark Noce’s comments may surprise some self-published and small-press-published authors who assume larger publishers do more of the promotion work. As you’ll see, that’s not possible, due to the volume of new books coming out every month.

But Mark offers some nice tips here, well worth reading.


Changes at Books-a-Million Publishing

It’s a common dream among first-time authors: you walk into your favorite local bookstore and there’s Your Book, sitting on the shelf for everyone to see – and buy. Alas, it’s unlikely to happen if you’re an indie author. If it happens at all, it will require a lot of hard work and persuasive energy…

via BAM! Publish: A Vanity Press? — Indies Unlimited

The changes look kind of pricey. Why would anyone go this route when there are more economical ways to get into print?

Perhaps there’s an “up side” to the program. Look closely before signing anything to make sure there’s anything here you can use.



Strange Fruit: What the Sunshine State Didn’t Advertise

Click on graphic for more information

Click on graphic for more information

Southern trees bear a strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

by Abel Meeropol, set to music and sung by Billie Holiday and others

I cannot hear this song or read this poem without feeling an overwhelming amount of rage. This doesn’t mean I hate the South or dislike Florida where I grew up. I love the land, the folklore, and most of the people there past and present.

As an outsider who came to Florida just in time to start the first grade there, I knew nothing about the Civil War or racism, much less the fact that the Sunshine State had a very active and violent KKK and was near the top of the list for African American lynchings. Discovering this was, I think, my childhood loss of innocence.

Perhaps that’s why I felt so betrayed. Even in the first grade, I heard about the wonders of Florida. I saw them, too. We lived near a national forest, the Gulf Coast, multiple sinks and lakes and blackwater rivers, and–other than the cockroaches, palmetto bugs, mosquitoes and sandspurs–it was a paradise in many ways. I think I first heard about Blacks when the kids in my segregated school called me “a nigger lover” because I didn’t have a Southern accent and was obviously an outsider. They called me a Yankee even though I tried to point out that Oregon (where we moved from) wasn’t part of the “North” in Civil War terms.

The South is still paying for the worst frruit it had to offer: it’s mocked by everybody for its accents and customs and presumed to be the bastion of racial discord. I resent all this because mocking the South has become what many “good liberals do” because it’s just so easy even though some of the worst that racism has brought us did not happen in the South, and other parts of the country have distinctive accents as well.

The title “Strange Fruit,” of course, is especially apt and paradoxical in Florida as the leader in U.S. citrus production (sorry, California, your output is a fraction of the Sunshine State’s) where good fruit is what we advertise. This song and everything it’s about haunts me more than usual now because racial issues have once again become so divisive and have spawned a lot of hatred, misdirected and otherwise. I had hoped we were done with the hatred, unfairness and violence, but it appears that we’re not and so everything we thought we had fixed (or at least were making better) is still bearing strange fruit.

I have written two novels about Florida’s racism as I saw it as a grade school child in the 1950s. Yes, they are magical realism and some people call them folktales. But they’re not fairy tales. So, let’s not mince words: I’m writing about the strange fruit that poisoned even the best of people and further solidified the deplorable evil of those long-since gone bad.

As I grew older, of course I was more aware of the news coverage (when things got too bad for the media to ignore) about racial incidents. That was part of my continuing loss of innocence. But most of what I know came from the stories of an African American lady down to road who treated me like family, from delivering telegrams and hearing people’s stories in African American neighborhoods most white people avoided, and from the good people, Whites and Blacks, who had the courage to speak the truth and risk waking up to find burning crosses in their front yards.

Nightmares about the KKK were a fact of my young life, another cultivar of hatred’s strange fruit.  We all hear about more strange fruit in the daily news. I wish more people saw it for what it was rather than planting the seeds and cultivating it, for it’s making all of us sick and still killing a lot of people. There’s no excuse for it.



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