Years ago, my author's photo showed me wearing a suit and tie as though I still worked in a cubicle for a computer company. I gave all that up.
This photo was taken on a paddle trip on the French Broad River at the Biltmore Estate at Asheville, NC, and better represents "the real me."
In magical realism novels such as Conjure Woman's Cat and the sequel Eulalie and Washerwoman, (October 14, 2016) include folklore gathered from myths, legends and traditional Florida storytelling play an important role. One thing that distinguishes magical realism from straight realism is that the old stories are always regarded as true rather than fanciful. Eulalie and Washerwoman, for example, mentions the mythical Florida conjure man named Uncle Monday who had the ability to turn himself into an alligator. Uncle Monday was one of Zora Neale Hurston's oral history stories collected for the Federal Writers Project in the 1930s.
The old stories are part of our heritage. As a writer, I find them essential in establishing a "sense of place" where the story is set as well as an important way of getting to know the people who live there. If you're interested in old stories, or in writing about them, you can easily find them by doing Google searches with keywords like "Florida Folklore," "Myths and Legends of Illinois," or "Ghost Stories of St. Louis."
Most states have non-profit and/or government-related folklore projects, archives, storytelling events, and publications. For years, I thought folklore would ultimately die out, but I think the recent upsurge of interest in studies, wisdom, and worldviews of indigenous peoples and a re-discovered appreciation for the land and its consciousness might just help us keep the old stories alive and meaningful even though the world is ever changing. If you live in Florida, take a look at the Florida Folklore Society's Facebook page. See also the American Folklore Society.
My seven novels and numerous short stories fit into the genres of contemporary fantasy, magical realism, paranormal, and satire. Other than the satirical Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire and related short stories, my storytelling focuses on magic.
I see the world as a magical place even though--as my characters in The Sun Singer and Sarabande say--we live in a science and technology era. As contemporary fantasies, those two novels focus on the magic of a nearby, alternative universe that is mysteriously linked to our universe.
More recently, I've focused on folk magic. Folk magic is variously linked to traditional witchcraft, conjure, and other practices which one might say are off the grid. Conjure Woman's Cat and Eulalie and Washerwoman are hoodoo novels, and this gives them a very Southern focus that combines African religious beliefs with spiritual practices that began developing in the United States during the days of slavery and continued through the Jim Crow period. Along with my Kindle "Tate's Hell Stories," these two novels are considered magical realism because the magic is a very real part of the characters' lives.
The hoodoo novels are also crime novels because in both stories, a conjure woman (and her cat) are trying to solve crimes that the police are ignoring. I've written short stories from a similar point of view and grouped them in a series named after a notorious Florida swamp called Tate's Hell.
My personal story is that I up in the Florida Panhandle and found secret worlds between the Apalachicola and Ochlockonee Rivers where panthers, limpkins and cottonmouth moccasins called the gods and devils by their names.
"We didn’t have long to wait. Eulalie brought the deacon’s chair out on the porch, aligned it carefully at the top of the steps and sat down in it with her hands in her lap. She was dressed for church, a dark floral pattern dress with a wide-brimmed hat perching at a jaunty tilt on top of her granny knot. She wore a brass pendant, the sixth pentacle of Jupiter, highly polished and drawing down the light that conjured the cross within circle into the sun." - Eulalie and Washerwoman
The verse in Hebrew around the edge comes from the Psalms and the names of the four angels governing the elements (Seraph, Cherub, Tharsis, and Ariel) are inscribed on the arms of the cross. This pentacle was especially used for protection from earthly dangers--which is why Eulalie was wearing it at the time.
Eulalie's pendant is real and it and similar pendants can be purchased on Amazon and other sites today. Hoodoo practitioners were not only devout Christians, but strongly believed in the magic found in the Bible, the power of the Psalms, and in the esoteric Key of Solomon the King and the Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses.
These books, ascribed to but probably not written by Moses and Solomon, were purchased by mail order and merged into the hoodoo folk magic system. The books are available on line today in a fancier format than they were during the days of the curios catalogues that advertised ancient secrets of all kinds.
In previous lives, or so it seems, I worked as a navy journalist (written about in At Sea), a bellman at Many Glacier Hotel in Glacier National Park (written about in Mountain Song), a college journalism instructor, a technical writer for a variety of computer companies, and a grant writer.
All of that was expedient since there's no career track that leads one from college into the workforce as a novelist. In fact, being a novelist is a money-losing career for most people, and that is why gurus tell them to go out and get real jobs at colleges or in corporate America.
My boss at one very corporate job kept a book about witchcraft on his desk until a VP walked by and said such a thing was inappropriate. That is to say, it didn't look good. I had to smile. I was always more devious, hiding my interest in "new age" (as we used to call them) philosophies from almost everyone.
I've always kept my Tarot cards at home!
Nobody in my "neck of the woods" (rural Georgia) has any idea that I like magic. If they suspected, they would laugh, call me crazy, or say I'd had a little too much moonshine.
Moonshine is fairly tasty, by the way.
Amazon Author's Page
Eulalie and Washerwoman Audiobook Review
Narrator Tracie Christian's spirited style is ideal to portray the fantasy world of conjure woman Eulalie Jenkins and her shamanistic cat, Lena, who live in Florida in the 1950s. Christian captures Eulalie's shock when she learns that Jewish merchant Lane Walker, who's always traded fairly with the local African-Americans, is being forced to give up his store to the Liberty Improvement Club, which forbids serving blacks. Lively descriptions of Eulalie reading possum bones and casting spells; tender scenes with her old beau, Willie Tate; and feline Lena's communication with Eulalie via secret thought speech add to the local atmosphere. - S.G.B. © AudioFile Magazine2017