The Sun Singer's Travels

Malcolm R. Campbell's World

Archive for the tag “Hero’s Journey”

Tarot and Writing

Everything old is new again, if you wait long enough. Every now and then, I run across an author on the internet who says, “I just had an amazing idea! I’m going to use Tarot cards in my next story! I bet nobody’s ever done that before!”

via Writing and the Tarot – Indies Unlimited

I enjoyed reading Lynne Cantwell’s post because (a) I’ve used Tarot cards ever since I was in high school, (b) They appear in some of my novels, and (c) They have definitely been used for hundreds of years in stories and novels

She’s right when she says that the so-called “Fool’s Journey” (Major Arcana 0) has similarities to the Hero’s Journey popularized first by Joseph Campbell in the 1940s and that there are nice associations between Jung’s archetypes and the cards. The Kabbalistic Tree of Life is also linked to the cards.


I use a different deck than Lynne, the Thoth Deck. You can learn more about it and the Tarot in general at Raven Tarot.


Darkness on the Hero’s Journey

In the “Hero’s Journey,” Joseph Campbell provides a roadmap of the stages we go through to carry accomplish missions not just for ourselves but for the greater good: Separation, Initiation, and Return, all necessary stops on the healing path.

via Honoring The Darkness On The Healer’s Journey – Dreamcatcher Reality

The hero’s journey is not only a wonderful road map for understanding epic myths and creating larger-than-life fiction, but a path for ourselves whether we’re seekers on the path or spiritual healers.

We have to experience the darkness as a seed experiences the the earth during the gathering of forces time of winter.

Very nice article by Lisa Shaw.


Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the hero’s journey novel “The Sun Singer” and the heroine’s journey novel “Sarabande.”

What can you find on this blog?

See Any Content You Like?

Promotional gurus have mixed ideas about the purpose of an author’s blog. Most of them say it should showcase the author’s work one way or another. After that, opinions begin to diverge.

  • One track supports the notion that an author’s blog is primarily intended to attract authors, editors, publishers and others in the publishing industry.
  • Another track suggests authors should focus on the kind of content, themes and ideas that are important to their work in hopes of attracting readers.

Even though you”ll find a few reviews here and some writing ideas as well, I prefer the second approach. I already have a publisher. I’m not looking for freelance writing opportunities from magazines and websites who see content here and want to pay me to write more about it for them. I’m not looking for co-authors or the editors of anthologies who might want to morph the material here into something else.

Apparently, this blog doesn’t fit a traditional niche, the evidence being that the posts are all over the playing field and that the two most popular posts are The Bare-Bones Structure of a Fairy Tale and Heave out and Trice Up. Off hand, a post about fairy tale structure and a post about Navy slang aren’t even in the same universe.

Aha, but there is a connection. I served in the navy and wrote a novel (At Sea) inspired by my experiences. And, I have written fairy tale/folk tale material into my magical realism (Eulalie and Washerwoman) and my fantasy (Sarabande) novels.

Hero’s Journey

herothousandfacesIf this blog has a niche–other than my books–it’s the fact that it promotes the strengths of the individual against the system as well as the power of the individual to find his/her true mission and authentic self. Most of my books focus on that idea in varying ways. So, if you have read this blog–and my Malcolm’s Round Table Blog–for a while, you will have found references to Joseph Campbell (The Hero With a Thousand Faces), to books about the somewhat different heroine’s journey, and to related myths, books and writing techniques focused on this structure.


treeoflifeYou’re also going to see content in this blog about magic, and by that, I generally mean almost anything that has yet to be defined by modern science. This includes a wide group of subjects, in addition to the hero’s journey, that focus on personal transcendence. How to you find yourself? How do you unlock your hidden gifts?

It also includes folk magic, which many people dismiss as mere superstition, because I see those beliefs as a part of my philosophy that each of us creates our own reality using the tools we are the most comfortable with. For one person, that might mean the mystery school structure of, say, The Rosicrucian Order (of which I’ve been a member for 50 years). For another, that might mean meditation and relaxation techniques such as those taught via The Silva Method, shamanistic journeys, spells, affirmations, the law of attraction, various methods of positive thinking, or one of the organized churches. Needless to say, my paranormal books, fantasies, and magical realism develop magical themes.


Marianne Williamson quote

Marianne Williamson quote

People tell me that I have a dark sense of humor. I think they’re right. So, you will have found evidence of that on both of my blogs through the fake news stories written by Jock Stewart (my alter ego) and promotional  blurbs about my satirical novel Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire. This satire stems from my 1960s anti-war protesting days’s belief that the foibles of the establishment need to be made clear, and that humor is sometimes a good way of doing that.

So, when it comes down to the question of “What Can You Find on This Blog?”, the answer is how to be a hero or heroine using satire and/or magic to triumph over the the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. In that very general statement, I hope you find something you like and even a few things you were looking for.


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.



New Hero’s Journey Pinterest Board

A lot of people who find this blog have searched on the hero’s journey. I’ve posted a fair number of times about it, but after a while those posts get scattered and hard to find.

This isn’t a total fix, but I’ve started a hero’s journey board on Pinterest to make it easier to group posts (mine and others) in one place.

You can find the board here.

If you find a great hero’s journey site–or a heroine’s journey site–please let me know.



Limiting your hero’s powers

Without fail, even literature’s greatest warriors, heroes, superheroes, armies, magical rings/wands/stones, and even gods and goddesses have had weaknesses. Some limitations ramp up the story when good heroes go astray; most keep the hero from solving the story’s plot lines and challenges on the first page.

Superman in 1986 storylines

Superman in 1986 storylines

Everyone who reads Superman comics knows he can be weakened by red or green kryptonite and that since his powers are natural, he has trouble fighting villains who use magic. Batman, of course, is human and while he has more strength than most men–not to mention high-tech equipment–he will tire sooner or later and may be injured.

You’ll find a handy list of ways to limit your hero’s power in a 2011 post on Superhero Nation called How to Limit Your Superpowers for Dramatic Effect. B. McKenzie writes that your hero’s powers may variously be unavailable, lacking precision or skill levels, socially questionable, require materials not at hand, limited in power and scope or susceptible (like Superman) to certain conditions or “evil” powers.

The most recent Dresden Files novel.

The most recent Dresden Files novel.

If you’re a fan of Jim Butcher’s contemporary fantasy series called The Dresden Files about a wizard/private eye working with police when “odd” and other supernatural crimes occur, you know that Harry Dresden doesn’t have the powers, say, of Voldemort and Dumbledore. In fact, the Harry Potter series always kept the most powerful teacher/wizards off stage to allow Harry and the other students to meet the primary challenges.

As Gandalf is not all powerful in Tolkien’s stories, Harry Dresden is not all powerful in Jim Butcher’s 15-book series. If he were, there would be no story, much less any danger or page-turner drama. One thing that weakens Dresden’s powers is that his magic spells only work when backed up with a certain amount of mental agility, passion and willpower. So, if he is tired or injured or distracted, he’s going to get into trouble.

Wikipedia photo and article

Wikipedia photo and article

Growing up, I read a lot of Hardy Boys type books where young people solved crimes and met challenges that the adults in the story could have solved a lot faster had they been in the right place at the right time. I also read a lot of superhero comics, so I was always very conscious of the kinds of limitations that kept superheroes from winning battles too quickly.

By the time the Harry Potter books came, I was–as a writer–especially interested in the devices J. K. Rowling would use to ensure that the Hogwarts School teachers–almost all of whom had very advanced powers as we saw near the end of the series–were never available to take on monsters and other challenges early on in each book. Had they been, Harry would have had nothing to do inasmuch as his skills were a fraction of his teacher’s skills.

New writers of fantasy–as well as writers in many other genres–can be helped by taking a look at the best novels, comics, and films of the past with an eye toward one question: how did the author limit his/her hero’s powers or availability?

However you do this, that limitation needs to be shown to the reader fairly early on in the story. You can’t wait until your 3/4 of the way through the story to suddenly “announce” that the hero can’t fight in the rain or some other lame rationale that hasn’t been foreshadowed and isn’t believable because (as a lawyer often states in court) there’s no foundation for it prior to the climax of the story.

Of course, heroic characters often begin with little or no awareness of their powers. That’s how Harry Potter started out in Rowling’s series. So, his powers are limited from the beginning by lack of knowledge, lack of skill and lack of confidence in himself. That hero’s journey pattern has worked for a lot of authors.

Jim Butcher’s wizard Harry Dresden knows at the beginning of the first book that he’s a wizard. One of his challenges is not the ability to do spells, but proving to those who doubt the existence of the supernatural that he isn’t a fraud.

In my latest work in progress about a conjure woman in a town with a lot of bad people in it, I wanted my character’s abilities to generally coincide with what real conjure women can do–or, depending on your view point–are said to be able to do. So, she isn’t Dumbledore or Harry Dresden.

I remember becoming exasperated with a trilogy written highly popular author who usually writes books without paranormal characters when she suddenly gave witches powers that far exceed (in scope, tone and style) the powers of those who practice either Witchcraft or Wicca. Yes, a bit of artistic license is fine to add the the drama.

Wikipedia photo and article

Wikipedia photo and article

But, if a book is using witches as they are typically seen, those witches can’t suddenly have the powers of the wizards out of Lord of the Rings. Why not? It’s not believable if they have been portrayed in the way that real witches portray themselves. If you want Hollywood-style witches, then they need to start out the book as Hollywood-style witches.

Heroes without limits don’t work in fiction. If Dumbledore and Harry Dresden–each in their own environments–said a magic spell on the first page of the first book that got rid of evil, there wouldn’t be any more pages, much less any more books. Likewise, if they say a spell on the last page of the book that hasn’t been foreshadowed as possible for them to do–or to learn to do–there will be a lot of angry readers.

Figuring out how to limit your hero is just as vital as figuring out your story’s theme, location setting, villains and supporting characters and plot. Doing this can feel counter-intuitive because as human authors we like to give out super-human characters all the skills and powers they need to right the world’s wrongs.

Limiting our characters doesn’t mean limiting our imagination because a flawed, unskilled or non-all-powerful hero requires a lot more skill to write about than a hero who has more powers than the story can handle. And, when the last word has been written, such a protagonist makes for a wonderful story.




Friday Morning Nostalgia and Storytelling

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?” – Marianne Williamson

The Sun Singer's Setting

The Sun Singer’s Setting

It’s rainy and gloomy in northeast Georgia as it has been for days. (My lawn mower can’t cope with the fast-growing yard and neither can I.) Rainy days work well for me as a writer. My imagination is sharper and my intuition fills my notebook with ideas.

Rain also brings memories. Even though I’m working on another paranormal short story today while talking on Facebook and Twitter about my fifth novel, The Sailor, today’s memories are about my first novel, The Sun Singer.  It came out in 2004 with a second edition in in 2010.

In this book, I stirred my passions for Glacier National Park, magic, and the hero’s journey tradition of storytelling into a contemporary fantasy about a young man who is suddenly thrust into a parallel universe where a small resistance group is battling an evil king. He learns a lot about himself and his psychic abilities while trying to figure out where he is and what’s going on.

Only $4.99 on Kindle.

Only $4.99 on Kindle.

I will always maintain that hero’s journeys and magic are real even though my publisher and the bookselling world are always going to place such novels on the fantasy shelves. (That’s okay: I read a lot of fantasy.) Yet, when I wrote The Sun Singer, I saw all the magic performed in the book has possible. I still do.

At the end of a hero’s journey, one expects the hero to be transformed. One way or another, s/he is smarter, wiser, and potentially more spiritual and compassionate than s/he was when the journey begin. I have this hope for each of us on our individual journeys no matter what our occupations and avocations may be. When I wrote The Sun Singer, I didn’t intentionally put a message in it. Today when I read it, I see that it has one: If young Robert Adams can discover and develop his talents under trying circumstances and become an avatar, so can each of us.

Joseph Campbell, who popularized the hero’s journey in his 1940s book The Hero With a Thousand Faces, saw myths and journeys as inspiration for every man and every woman, not just the larger-than-life personages found in mythology books. Robert Adams learns, as I have been learning, “who am I not to be?”

Storytelling (with or without the rain) often helps us find our answers.


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