The Sun Singer's Travels

Malcolm R. Campbell's World

Archive for the tag “fantasy”

If you loved ‘Eulalie and Washerwoman,’ I’ll appreciate your vote

A note from your sponsor: that would be me.

My 2016 novel Eulalie and Washerwoman has been nominated in the fantasy category of the 2017 Reader’s Choice Awards. The awards focus on small press and self-published books.

All you have to do to vote is click on the graphic in this post, use the arrow buttons to go to the fantasy genre (category #8) listing, and then select your favorite book.

While you’re there, you’ll find a lot of other wonderful books in the 16 categories. Fortunately, the site will only allow one vote per book.

I’ll admit that my novel isn’t really a fantasy. But a lot of people think it is, and besides, there wasn’t a better genre available. If you read it and liked it, I’ll appreciate your vote.



Review: ‘Serafina and the Black Cloak’

Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty (Disney-Hyperion; Reprint edition – June 14, 2016), 320 pages, Age Range: 9 – 12 years

Twelve-year-old Serafina lives secretly in her father’s basement workshop at Asheville, North Carolina’s Biltmore Estate in 1899, taking care to stay hidden from the Vanderbilts, the guests, and the servants. While he is an employee tasked with keeping the electrical and mechanical systems working, nobody knows her father lives in his workshop, much less that he has a daughter who spends her nights catching rats in the dark hallways of the vast estate.

serafina“Pa” said her mother died in childbirth, but that doesn’t explain why Serafina must hide. For years, she’s believed her father was ashamed of her because she was born with four toes on each foot and a spinal abnormality that make her different from other children. While he’s content to allow her to wander the house at night, her father has told her many times to keep out of the dangerous forest.

One night, she sees a hooded man in a black cloak murder or kidnap a young girl in a dark hallway, but she has no way to prove it happened. Her father thinks she’s imagining things, and even if she comes out of hiding and talks to the Vanderbilts, she doubts they would believe a strange young girl’s story about a mysterious man she cannot identify. But then another child disappears the following night, and another on the night after that. The missing ones are the children of the Vanderbilts’ guests. Search parties are organized, but nothing is found.

This well-told tale centers around Serafina’s need to act, her fear that the man in the cloak may also be stalking her, to discover why she’s drawn to the dangerous forest, and her continuing need to learn why she is different and must hide in the basement. When she befriends young Braeden, a nephew of Biltmore’s owners after a chance meeting, she realizes the man in the cloak is also stalking him. Braeden keeps Serafina’s secrets, but is hesitant to believe her when she puzzles out the probable identity of the man in the black cloak.

Nonetheless, her determination to stop the man and how she goes about it, make this fantasy mystery a compelling story for young adult readers. The conclusion is stunning, and (for many readers) quite likely to be unexpected, yet the hints, clues and mysteries will fall perfectly into place.

The novel is the well-deserved recipient of the 2016 Pat Conroy Southern Book Prize and other awards. Adults who have toured the Biltmore House and its beautiful grounds, might also find themselves lured into reading the book once their children finish Serafina and the Black Cloak because the story fits so well into the setting.


ewbookcoverMalcolm R. Campbell is the author of “Conjure Woman’s Cat,” “Eulalie and Washerwoman,” and other magical stories and novels.



‘Eulalie and Washerwoman’ GoodReads Give-Away

One paperback copy of my new novel Eulalie and Washerwoman will be given away on GoodReads between November 6 and November 14, 2016 to a resident of the United States.

Here’s the link:

ewkindlecoverWhile the novel from Thomas-Jacob Publishing is a sequel to Conjure Woman’s Cat, it can also be read as a standalone story.

One Facebook reader who enjoyed the book said she hopes that I’m already at work on a third book in  the series. Er, no, but maybe next year. I need a break.

Yet, I’ve had so much fun writing these novels, I’m very much tempted to come up with more stories for Eulalie, Lena, Adelaide, Willie, Lane, Joe Moore and, of course, that nasty cottonmouth moccasin.

Good luck in the give-away.


Thanks for all the downloads

TSSJourneysMy contemporary fantasy novel The Sun Singer was in a free promotion on Kindle between June 6 and 8. During that time, 817 copies were downloaded. Wow. I’m a bit stunned.

But thank you.


Review: ‘Spider’s Lifeline’ by Lynne Cantwell

spidersSpider’s Lifeline is the third volume in the Pipe Woman’s Legacy series and begins several years after the ending of Firebird’s Snare. At first I was a little disappointed to learn that Webb was now thirty-five years old. I suppose I wanted to watch him grow up. This book, however, has moved beyond a coming of age tale, instead dealing mainly with Norse mythology, concerning Ragnarok “Fate of the Gods,” and Native American legends.”

Source: BigAl’s Books and Pals: Review: Spider’s Lifeline by @LynneCantwell

As a lover of fantasy, I enjoy passing along links to reviews of the kinds of books I like to read. Big Al’s is a wonderful site with a great staff of reviewers.


Hero’s Journey Give-Away April 6-8, 2016

TSSJourneysThe Sun Singer will be free on Kindle April 6 through April 8. The first edition of this novel was a finalist in the Foreword Magazine Book of the Year Awards.

Featuring the mountains of Montana (and a look-alike universe next door), this contemporary fantasy brings you the story of young Robert Adams who goes on a family vacation and suddenly faces more dangers than he knew existed.

He could blame his avatar grandfather, but he doesn’t–well, not for long. He’s too busy learning how to tell the good guys and bad guys apart, reclaim his psychic gifts, and discover whether a magical staff is strong enough to bend time itself. See why the book has a 4.9-star reader review average while you sit back and enjoy the story.

If you’ve ever visited the Swiftcurrent Valley region of Montana’s Glacier National Park, perhaps you will recognize some of the settings, including the historic Many Glacier Hotel, the Garden Wall, and the Ptarmigan Tunnel.



Heroine’s Journey novel now available as audio book

SarabandeAudioThanks to the efforts of producer/narrator Katie Otten and my publisher Thomas-Jacob, my dark heroine’s journey novel Sarabande is now available as an audio book.

The narration brings the story alive the way we used to hear tall tales told around campfires and books read to us by our parents when we were kids. It’s eight hours and fifteen minutes in length, more than enough to prop up with on the screen porch and listen a little bit each night before you head off to bed.

Book Description

When Sarabande’s sister Dryad haunts her for three years beyond the grave, Sarabande begins a dangerous journey into the past to either raise her cruel sister from the dead, ending the torment, or to take her place in the safe darkness of the earth. In spite of unsettling predictions about her trip, Sarabande leaves the mountains of Pyrrha and Montana on a black horse named Sikimí and heads for the cornfields of Illinois in search of Robert Adams, the once powerful Sun Singer, hoping he can help with her quest.



One man tries to kill her alongside a deserted prairie road, another tries to save her with ancient wisdom, and Robert tries to send her away. Even if she persuades him to bring the remnants of his magic to Dryad’s shallow grave, the desperate man who follows them desires the rowan staff for ill intent, and the malicious sister who awaits their arrival wants much more than a mere return to life.

Sarabande is also available as an e-book and a paperback from Amazon and other on-line booksellers.

Katie Otten is an actor, educator, director, and audio book narrator/producer. She currently teaches acting at the Omaha Theater Company.


As ever, wondering why magical realism is a subset of fantasy

“In ‘The Hummingbird’s Daughter,’ [Urrea’s] epic third novel, he marries this journalistic tenacity (the book took 20 years of research) to a highly coloured poetic lyricism to tell the story of his ancestor, Teresa Urrea, a popular ‘saint’ whose name became a rallying cry of the Mexican Revolution in the late 19th century.” 

Stephany Merritt’s review in The Guardian

“‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ [is] an enchanted place that does everything but cloy. Macondo oozes, reeks and burns even when it is most tantalizing and entertaining. It is a place flooded with lies and liars and yet it spills over with reality.”

Robert Kiely’s New York Times feature, Memory and Prophecy, Illusion and Reality Are Mixed and Made to Look the Same


Considering the genres in simple terms, magical realism takes place in the real world; fantasy takes place in a world that is not real. Magical realism stories include magic in an otherwise very realistic setting in which the characters believe the magic is as actual as tables, chairs and mountains; in fantasy, the magic is often viewed as something out of the ordinary or as part of an out-of-the-ordinary realm or world.

I won’t solve the magical-realism-as-a-subset-of-fantasy debate here. Instead, I thought I’d post two excerpts as illustrations of magical realism, the first from The Hummingbird’s Daughter (2005) by Luis Alberto Urrea, and the second, from One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967) by Gabriel García Márquez. Those who have read both will remember that the land and its magic has a very strong focus in these novels as do the indigenous cultures that reside in those places.

Here’s the Urrea excerpt:

hummingbirdsdaughter“Cayetana greeted that dawn with a concoction made with coffee beans and burned corn kernels. As the light poured out of the eastern sea and splashed into windows from coast to coast, Mexicans rose and went to their million kitchens and cooking fires to pour their first rations of coffee. A tidal wave of coffee rushed west across the land, rising and falling from kitchen to fire ring to cave to ramada. Some drank coffee from thick glasses. Some sipped it from colorful gourds, rough clay pots that dissolved as they drank, cones of banana leaf. Café negro. Café with canela. Café with goat’s milk. Café with a golden-brown cone of piloncillo melting in it like a pyramid engulfed by a black flood. Tropical café with a dollop of sugarcane rum coiling in it like a hot snake. Bitter mountaintop café that thickened the blood. In Sinaloa, café with boiled milk, its burned milk skin floating on top in a pale membrane that looked like the flesh of a peeled blister. The heavy-eyed stared into the round mirrors of their cups and regarded their own dark reflections. And Cayetana Chávez, too, lifted a cup, her coffee reboiled from yesterday’s grounds and grits, sweet with spoons of sugarcane syrup, and lightened by thin blue milk stolen with a few quick squeezes from one of the patrón’s cows.

“On that long westward morning, all Mexicans still dreamed the same dream. They dreamed of being Mexican. There was no greater mystery.”

One of the hallmarks of magical realism is the inclusion of magical and/or metaphorical images and events as real in a real setting (as opposed to a fantasy world where reality itself is different). In this case, the sunlight is splashing into windows and coffee is rushing across the landscape. In a realistic book, such passages would be preceded by words such as “as though,” as in, “it was as though a tidal wave of coffee rushed west…” We’re also introduced to the idea, again presented as actual, that a single dream resides in everyone’s heart. The author doesn’t qualify this or otherwise reduce it to opinion or possibility.

Here’s the Márquez excerpt:

solitude“A trickle of blood came out under the door, crossed the living room, went out into the street, continued on in a straight line across the uneven terraces, went down steps and climbed over curbs, passed along the Street of the Turks, turned a corner to the right and another to the left, made a right angle at the Buendía house, went in under the closed door, crossed through the parlor, hugging the walls so as not to stain the rugs, went on to the other living room, made a wide curve to avoid the dining-room table, went along the porch with the begonias, and passed without being seen under Amaranta’s chair as she gave an arithmetic lesson to Aureliano José, and went through the pantry and came out in the kitchen, where Úrsula was getting ready to crack thirty-six eggs to make bread.

“Holy Mother of God!” Úrsula shouted.”

It is difficult to read the tidal wave if coffee passage without thinking of the trickle of blood passage even if you haven’t read One Years of Solitude since it first came out. Here again, the river of blood isn’t metaphor, it’s actual. In fact, its reality is, so to speak, anchored into the text by the very specific description of the route it took from the living room to Úrsula’s kitchen. And then, had it been a metaphor, Úrsula wouldn’t have reacted to it.  This passage is, of course, a well-known example of what makes magical realism different from realism. What makes it different from fantasy is the fact that in fantasy, some sorcerer or wizard would be creating the event and even within a fantasy world where magical beings existed, the characters wouldn’t accept a sudden trail of blood as actual unless there were a cause behind its occurrence.

In a single and relative brief post, no one can do justice to the plots, characters, places and wonders of these two powerful books. My idea here is to offer a little food for thought for anyone who finds it difficult to see magical realism as a distinct gene.


KIndle cover 200x300Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the magical realism novella “Conjure Woman’s Cat”





Science Fiction and Fantasy Need a Divorce

As an author of contemporary fantasy and magical realism, I shudder in my boots every year when I see the best books in these separate genres mixed together in “top books” feature stories.

A mixed bag of books that don't belong together.

A mixed bag of books that don’t belong together.

The genres can overlap, but at their basic levels, fantasy is about magic in our world or other worlds, science fiction is about science often in the distant future, and magical realism is a blend of realistic settings with an overlay of fully accepted magical events.

The reason I shudder in my books (not that I’m really wearing boots) when I see these year-end lists, is that it’s confusing to readers seeing apples and oranges listed together. Sometimes, the comments don’t make it clear which genre each book is in. But even when they do, one has to weed through the genre s/he doesn’t read to find the best of the genre s/he does read.

As I commented on one list, putting science fiction and fantasy together is like putting the year’s best tractors and the year’s best salad dressings on the same list. Doing that is unfair to both genres. Authors and readers are cheated because the lists have to make room for opposing genres instead of, say, giving us the top 25 fantasy and the top 25 science fiction.  We get best 12.5 of each.

I don’t expect this to change any time soon. But I can hope.


SarabandeCover2015Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “Sarabande,” a contemporary fantasy that has nothing to do with spaceships, droids, or other “Star Trek” and “Star Wars” technology. By the way, check out the “Sarabande” giveaway on GoodReads up until November 26.

Talking to my cedar tree

Okay, I haven’t talked to the cedar tree next to our house yet. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t plan to go outside and say, “Hey, Cedar, how about this blustery weather or who do you like in the college football playoffs?”

CedarFor one thing, this tree is a hell of a lot older than I am and knows a lot more than I do. Science keeps proving what ancient religions and Earth mystics have known for years: trees and other plants are a lot more conscious and intelligent than we suspect.

This cedar tree was here when my wife’s grandmother lived on this same piece of property. The old homestead was torn down in the 1960s and we’ve built our house on the same spot. Just think of the comings and goings of family and friends this tree has seen and–quite possibly–filed away in its cellular memory.

At some level, I hope it notices that we’re planting bulbs, more trees and trying to be good stewards of the land that’s been in the family for five generations. On another level, my nature mystic friends tell me that there are elemental spirits associated with each tree and they will talk to us if we approach them in the right frame of mind. Well, I’m willing to try that and see what happens.

As an author of fantasy, magical realism and paranormal short stories and novels, nothing beats original experiences for uncovering new material. I’m always looking for real magic to sneak into my fiction. If you see “Cedar Tree” included in the acknowledgements of my next novel, you’ll know I found it right next to the house.


SarabandeCover2015Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “Sarabande,” a contemporary fantasy novel released in a new second edition November 1 by Thomas-Jacob Publishing.

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