The Sun Singer's Travels

Malcolm R. Campbell's World

Archive for the tag “advice”

Nightbeat: How to live long, if not prosper

Rome, Georgia, August 12, 2017, Star-Gazer News Service–At my age, several things are happening, especially on my birthday. First, my newspaper is trying to force me into retirement because I refuse to write opinionated news like to many of today’s modern “journalists.” Second, people keep saying, “Jock, you look so young.” And finally, folks want to know how to live a long life.

It’s tempting to just toss off my dear old daddy’s prescription and then get the hell away from everyone asking that silly question. He always said, “Drink a pint of moonshine everyday while smoking three packs of Marlboro cigarettes. “ He said this before Marlboro started marketing pot cigarettes in green boxes.

Actually, when my wife isn’t listening, I say the true solution is booze, books and blondes. If she hears me, she ruins the ambiance of the moment by saying, “Didn’t I tell you to lay off those blondes?” She’s a brunette whom I met at work when we both really looked good enough to meet people at work. She also tells me to cut back on “the sauce,” which leads to further trouble when I say a half a bottle of single malt Scotch either makes brunettes look like blondes or makes it not matter.

So, that leaves me with the books. Studies have shown (I’m not making this up) that books lead to a longer life. Of course, you gotta start early. It’s not like asking God for forgiveness on your death bed after a life of sin.

Books won’t save you if you wait until your at death’s door before you pick up, say, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and expect it to work like the fountain of youth. Books save you slowly over the long haul and–except for Finnegans Wake–are less dangerous than blondes for men or women with a brunette spouse.

A psychologist–and we know how “sane” they are–suggested on Facebook that it takes 65 days to create a habit. Let’s say she’s right. If you had read your English teacher’s book report assignments in middle school and high school, you’d be all set by now no matter hold old you are unless you’re in the 5th grade. Booze and blondes don’t take 65 days to become a habit, but in most school systems, they’re not assigned as middle school or high school homework–and if they were, woe be unto the kid whose dear old mama finds either one in his/her room after the lights are out.

One thing to avoid when you reach AARP age is trying to play one-upmanship with other AARP friends about your illnesses. After 65 days of that, you’re en route to an early grave. Plus, young people hate sitting on a front porch while granny says something like, “You think alcoholism is bad, I’ve got hemorrhoids.” If granny had just read a book, that wouldn’t have happened. Too late now, though.

Mark Twain once told a joke about an old lady who went to the doctor with some illness or other. The doc told her to give up smoking, and she said she didn’t smoke. When he suggested giving up chewing tobacco, she said she didn’t partake. He listed a long string of other real of imagined vices to which she said she didn’t do any of that stuff. Twain’s comment to the audience was, “So there it was. She was like a sinking ship with no extra freight to throw overboard.”

I heard this joke when I was a kid and it made a strong impression on me. I picked up as many vices as I could and as I got older, I’ve have plenty of dead weight to jettison in order to stay healthy. True, my wife might force me to throw the blondes overboard along with most of the booze. But, like Paris, I’ll always have my books.

Editorial Column by Jock Stewart, Special Investigative Reporter 


Are your beta readers holding you back?

Writers often seek well-read friends to serve as beta readers and experienced critique groups to serve as “fresh eyes” for their work in progress. Since most writers-in-training probably never took a creative writing class, readers and group members often provide their first real discovery of the ways others review their writing.

Readers, especially those who know the genre in which you’re writing, can help pinpoint problems, provide support during the revision process, and cheer you on when your words are spot on perfect. Members of critique groups who are already published, can provide tips about how the business works and guide you toward markets and marketing techniques you may not have thought of.

As I read Paula Marantz Cohen’s short post Painful Separation: When students outgrow their mentors, I was pleased to see that–as a teacher–she considers herself successful when her students no longer need her help.

“My best students, some of whom credit me with teaching them how to write, or even to think, will at a certain point quarrel with me about my suggestions for revision. They begin to have a clear sense of what they want to relay and are scrupulous about not letting me misinterpret or get in the way.”

As writers, the buck stops with us, so I think that while we are using the help of beta readers and the professional guidance of experienced critique group members, we need to continually assess whether or not we should take their advice in every instance.

Most beta readers and professional writers are not teachers. So, unlike Cohen, they may not see when the time has come to let you go, so to speak. Some beta readers will always compare you to their favorite author in the genre and will begin to resent your work when it becomes just as polished as the books on their nightstand. Some writers are used to being the queen bee in their critique groups, and may try to hold onto their power and influence within the group as you begin to gain publishing credits.

I’m not sure either the readers or the writers are conscious of this. Yes, some can be mean spirited and overtly jealous. But most, I think, are still trying to do their best for you without realizing that you’ve outgrown them. So, it’s up to you to notice when this starts to happen and find a way to cut the apron strings. And, cut them you must. If you don’t, arguments will start when you don’t take their advice and you’ll risk being held back.

Until that moment happens, their advice can be priceless and well worth hearing.


Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of six novels, including “The Sailor.”

How to Put Spells in Your Books So People Send You Bags of Money

  1. bagsofmoneyBegin with a blank page or screen.
  2. Place spells into a large measuring cup, stir in a tsp of wolfbane and set aside.
  3. Write a story with a happy ending, preferably one that includes lust, murder and fast cars.
  4. When you are happy with the story, print it out and sprinkle the pages with the spell mixture.
  5. Send to an agent.
  6. Wait for money to arrive.
  7. Spend freely.

One thing for certain: if you sign up on Facebook as a writer and include a fair number of writers on your friends list, you will see an unending and untidy deluge of posts, links, ads, graphics, jokes, videos and status updates that purport to tell you how to earn bags of money in the writing biz.

I find this both amusing and insulting because–quite possibly–some of us working as writers already know how to write and no longer need to read white papers with titles like “How To Use Transitive Verbs to Create Bestselling Novels People Will Kill For.”

Other than the fact my English teacher told me not to use a word like “for” at the end of a sentence, killing is wrong in most states except lunacy. If every single (or married) person who bought (or otherwise obtained) an author’s books killed somebody, wouldn’t people notice? And wouldn’t they feel bad about it?

One cannot use a book cover blurb that says, “Author reaches bestseller list as thousands die for various unexplained reasons not counting lunacy.”

But, I digress.

If I had the time (which I don’t), I would sign up on Facebook under several fake names. One person would be a butcher, another would be a baker, another would be a candlestick maker. Then I would add millions of people to their friends’ lists with similar jobs.

How long would it take for my news feed to become deluged with posts, ads and other annoying facts about becoming a better whatever? “How to create candlesticks that don’t fall over and blow up the fireworks store.”

Certainly there must be other professions out there in which everyone and their grandmother has a suggestion for getting richer, becoming famous, or creating stuff that saves the world. You’ve heard the old story, I think, that the people selling shovels to folks heading out on a gold rush made the most money.

Thousands of people on Facebook are selling writing shovels. I don’t know what we’d all do without them.


SOFaudioMalcolm R.  Campbell is the author of “Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire,” a comedy satire in which nonsense happens that’s now available in an audio edition. No shovels were broken while creating the book.

Post Navigation