Tuesday, 16 January 2018

The Bad Girl Book Club (also known as the Lazy Book Club) – It may just be the book club you want to join!

by Melodie Campbell (Bad Girl)

Yes, there really is a Bad Girl Book Club (although it might also be known as the Lazy Bookclub.) 

Right here, in Southern Ontario, a group of gals meet twice a year (hence the ‘lazy’) to lay out a set of criteria for a year of reading. 

Okay, yes, there might be booze involved.  And possibly a pig-out of gargantuan portions.  But reading’s supposed to be fun, eh? 

Here’s the thing:  Our ranks include two association CEOs and senior execs.  We aren’t the sort of people who like to be told what to do.  So we don’t all read the same book every month.   Instead, we draw up a set of criteria that we agree to meet. 

Want to try it yourself?  Get together a bunch of reading mates (buds if you’re American) and try this list:

2017 Reading Challenge (We'll be devising the 2018 list this week)

Readers must read at least 12 out of 14
1.      A book publisher this year
2.      A book you can finish in a day
3.      A book recommended by your local librarian or bookseller
4.      A book chosen by your spouse, partner, child or BFF
5.      A book you preciously abandoned
6.      A book that has won a major award within the last five years
7.      A book that is based on or is a true story
8.      A book that was made into a movie
9.      A book that was translated from another language (forcing us all to leave North America)
10.   A book in a genre you never read
11.   A book about travel adventures
12.   A book written from a non-human narrative perspective
13.   A Giller Prize Winner
14.   A book that starts with the same letter of your first name

Alternative criteria from the 2016 list:
A book published before you were born.
A book you should have read in school but didn’t.

At each meeting we compare books read, and make recommendations.  This year, I added a new dimension to my list:
Increase the number of books that feature female protagonists written by female writers, to 75%.  That is, 75% of the books I read this year should be written by women and should feature female protagonists.

How am I doing on that issue?  I tried hard.  I really did.  I’m sitting at 68 books out of 101 read.  Not quite 75%.  Very simply, I’m having a hard time finding books that meet this criteria outside of cozies and romance, both of which I’m not keen on.

Female crime writers often write male protagonists.  Even our bestselling author at Crime Writers of Canada – Louise Penny – writes a male inspector.  We have secretly discussed among ourselves whether she would have been as successful if Gamache had been a woman.  That’s a heated discussion for another day.

What is notable is that there seems to be a trend for male writers to write female protagonists.  These may be good books, but they aren’t women’s stories, in my opinion.  They are written with a different lens.

So I’m struggling to find 75 books in year that I want to read, that are by women telling women’s stories.

How did I do on the rest of the list?  14 out of 14, of course!  And the wonderful thing – I forced myself out of the usual crime ghetto, to read an assortment of books that I never would have read otherwise.  Some – like The Nightingale and The Alice Network – were terrific.

If you’re interested in the list of books I read to meet the above criteria, let me know and I’ll post it here.

Have a wonderful year of books in 2018!

p.s.  The first 2018 meeting of the BGBC meets this Saturday.  There will be Scotch.

Friday, 5 January 2018

Murder is SO Italian (The BEST shows on MHZ!)

It’s true.  Murder is so Italian.  POWER! REVENGE! BETRAYAL! It goes right back to those steps of the Senate, when Brutus asks his good friend Caesar for a light, and then fills him full of bronze. 

So it’s not surprising that the Italian tradition of writing about murder is first rate.  I’ll be you’ve already heard of Donna Leon.  She writes very good stuff about Venice for the English market.  But do you know who is a superstar in his own country?

My favourite writer:  Andrea Camilleri. 

Set in Sicily, the Montalbano series is about the best thing out there, on paper or on television.  Inspector Montalbano is a fictional hero in Italy, and a wonderful character on the screen.  His supporting cast is delightful.  This is not grim and gritty fare like Scandi-noir.  (Okay, I crossed out the word dismal. You caught me.)  Nope – Montalbano is truly fun, clever, witty and brilliant.  And oh, the Sicilian scenery.  And the food! The television adaptation is now playing on MHZ, the European Mystery channel, now available in the US and Canada for the same price as Netflix.  If you are a mystery fan, you’re crazy not to subscribe to this.

Other series on MHZ:

Nero Wolfe:  Yes, you heard that right.  The story is: Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin leave New York to go live in Italy for their own safety in the 1950s.  So…an Italian production where Wolfe and Archie are known as Americans, and believe it or not, it rocks.  You’ll be believing Goodwin is the real thing from the book – he’s perfect.  So far, there are 6 episodes, and I’m really, really hoping they do every book.  The production values and attention to detail are amazing.

Inspector Manara:  Regarded as a ‘poor man’s Montalbano’ (not my words) Inspector Manara is gorgeous, but not quite as charming.  They made him a ‘player’ which lessens his appeal in my books.  Still, it fills the gap when you’ve gone through all seasons of Montalbano.

Don Matteo:  This delightful series is very different from most crime shows.  Imagine Father Brown with a wonderful smile, heart full of gold, and ride-um cowboy physique.  Yes, the star of this show is a former blond and handsome Spaghetti-western cowboy you may recognize from earlier films.  He makes a terrific priest, and the cast of quirky characters around him are, to a word, lovable.  The Carabinieri Capitano and Marshall are my personal favourites.  Heaps of fun, and the series is in its 10th season, so lots to watch.  The perfect show for before bed, when you want to go to sleep with a smile.

Inspector Nardone:  Hold your hat for a unique series that takes one back to the late 1940s.  WW11 is still haunting the inhabitants of this northern Italian city.  Nardone is a man with integrity and grit, in a world where the bad guys often win and run things.  This is a more serious show, done with an interesting voice-over by a journalist following the actions of Nardone.  Great period piece.

Murder at BarLume:  Hilarious. Truly an original show, with Massimo as the attractive bar owner trying to keep control of four geriatric pensioners who would try anyone’s sanity (honestly, you have to see it to believe it.)  Murder, of course, is on the bar menu, and Massimo solves each crime ahead of the beautiful but somewhat Germanic female detective.  Great fun.

Obviously, if you watch this list, you will get a good peek into my personality.  But take it from me:  NO one does humour like the Italians.

Says she, flying back to Palermo, as soon as possible.

Saturday, 30 December 2017

GHOSTWRITER! What if you were a writer who could see ghosts?

Ghostwriter has its own meaning in the book-writing lexicon.  But what if you were a ghostwriter who also saw ghosts?  Alison Bruce's new book takes that clever title and spins a compelling tale that takes us to the chilling waters of the Arctic Ocean.   I couldn't resist asking her three questions that have nothing to do with the Arctic, and everything to do with how Alison sees the world.

1.     This is a comedy blog, so of course I’m going to ask about humour.  I hark from the “Comedy has its roots in tragedy” school.  So tell us about your thoughts on humour in fiction.

I'm an adherent to the Shakespearean school of writing. All tragedy must have comic relief. All comedy must have tragic relief. And stealing from history and classical sources doesn't count as plagiarism.

2.   I’ve been called a “literary slut” in my time, due to my tendency to wander from genre to genre.  I think you might be a kindred spirit.  Why can’t you settle down, girl?

 Can I count you as a classical source? Because I've stolen your term "literary slut" when describing my work too. I am faithful to three things, strong women, mystery, and romantic adventure... four things if you count coffee. With genres I tend to play the field. I suppose you could also say I have a thing for men in uniform, or at least those toting badges. In that way we are not at all kindred spirits since you tend to gravitate toward the criminal element.

3.  What character in fiction would you like to be?  (Ha! You thought I was going to say, which do you wish you’d written?  But nope.  Let’s hear about your secret imaginary life.)

The first character that popped into my head is Wolverine of the X-men. No, I don't generally identify as male, but I can get into his head. Back when I was writing fan fiction, I switched the genders of all the X-men and got into the female Wolverine's head too. (I could never identify with Professor Xavier, however, whether it was Charles or Charlotte.) My next thought was Jen Kirby. I know it's kinda cheesy picking one of my own characters, but if I had her career as a ghostwriter, imagine the material I'd have to write novels when I retired.


She has to deal with two kinds of spooks: spies and ghosts.

But which one is trying to kill her?

Jen Kirby has seen ghosts since she was a teen, but she can’t talk to them or help them cross over. And, after a violent death in the family, she doesn’t want to see them anymore.

In her role as ghostwriter, Jen joins a Canadian Arctic expedition to document and help solve a forty-year-old mystery involving an American submarine station lost during the Cold War. The trouble is, there are people—living and dead—who don't want the story told, and they’ll do anything to stop her.

Now Jen is haunted by ghosts she can’t avoid or handle alone. That means confiding in the one man she doesn’t want to dismiss her as “crazy.” But can he help? Or is he part of the problem?

A compelling mystery with a unique setting and skillfully handled supernatural twist.
Kelley Armstrong, #1 New York Times Bestselling  Author

A maritime mystery full of twists and turns, heart-pounding suspense, and ghosts!
Ghost Writer plunges you into the icy depths of the Arctic Ocean with breath-stealing twists and turns, maritime adventures, page-turning suspense … and ghosts. A great read!
Ann Charles, USA Today Bestselling Author of the Deadwood Mystery Series

EXCERPT from Chapter 1

My name is Jen Kirby. I have several things going for me including great hair, nice eyes and an ability to turn experts' research into readable prose.

I have a few weaknesses. I enjoy chocolate too much. I hate enclosed spaces. And I prefer to experience open bodies of water from a distance. One sailing trip with my cousins made me swear off boats for life. So, you'll understand how much I wanted the job when I said I'd go to the Arctic Ocean to look for a sunken underwater base.

The offer came from Dr. Dora Leland, a forensic psychiatrist and my good friend. Dora is a professor at the University of Toronto, a consultant to various law enforcement agencies and author of seven books which I have ghostwritten with her. Her idea of a vacation is volunteering her skills to researchers who would never have thought they needed a forensic psychiatrist on their team, let alone afford one.

Her latest project was helping out a team who were bent on raising US Navy's Arctic Station Alpha and finding out what happened to its crew. AFFA, which stood for “Answers For Families of Alpha” not the Hell’s Angels motto “Angels Forever, Forever Angels,” included now grown children of the crew. Other family members contributed funds or in kind services. But it was Dora and her agents that made the expedition possible.

As the only team member who wasn't paired off, Dora anticipated needing a buddy to play cards with of an evening. She sold the deal by offering me co-author credit on the book we were going to write.
It was an offer I couldn’t refuse.

Short bio
Alison Bruce writes history, mystery and suspense.  Her books combine “clever mysteries”, well-researched backgrounds and a touch of romance. Her protagonists are marked by their strength of character, sense of humor and the ability to adapt to new situations. Four of her novels have been finalists for genre awards.

Links & Stuff

Twitter: @alisonebruce

Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/author/show/4860245.Alison_Bruce

Amazon Author Page: amazon.com/author/alisonbruce

Monday, 18 December 2017

SALE! Rowena Through the Wall and other bestselling books 99 cents!

Imajin Books is having a HOLIDAY SALE!

The first book in every series is 99 cents, INCLUDING

CLICK HERE for these books on Amazon

Get more in each series for 1.99!!  Including:
 Fill your Kindle for the price of a latte!
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you and yours from 
Bad Girl and Frankenpoodle


Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Why Writing a Cozy Murder May Kill Me

For most of my author life, I have written mob capers.  (Okay, there was that trilogy of ribald sexy fantasy that started my career, but surely that’s in my past. At least, that’s what I tell the priest.)

There have been seven of them. (Not priests.  Mob capers.)  An eighth will be coming, but in the meantime, my publisher wants me to write a cozy.  “You’re already writing comedy,” she said.  “This is merely a different sub-genre.  And cozies have a HUGE audience in the States.”

More than capers, she not so subtly pointed out. 

Thing is, if I was going to write cozies, I was going to have to clean up my language.  It may come as a surprise, but mob caper characters don’t actually say, “Golly” and “Goodness me” when they get hit with a chunk of lead.

So as I embarked upon project clean-up, I pulled from my past, aka my dad’s side, which is firmly British.  Most cursing in our house was Brit.  I grew up on a steady diet of colourful West Country language.

However, this was a cozy, so I played it light.  Even that didn’t work with my publisher.

The first word to go was Pits.  “Pits!” Penelope yelled. 

Publisher:  “What is Pits?  Nobody in the States will know what you mean.  Use Rats.”

“Rats,” Penelope yelled, while closing the car bonnet.

That didn’t work.  I tried again.  It got worst.

Soon, 'bloody' and ‘bugger’ were off the table.

Me: “Really?”

Publisher:  “You need to kill all the Britishisms.”

Me:  “I’m Canadian.”

“But they don’t know that,” she said, as if that were some sort of naughty secret we had to keep.

I retreated to Rats and Holy Cannoli.

But problems resurfaced quickly. “You’re a cow!” said Peter.

Publisher:  “You can’t use cow.  It sounds…”

Me: “Too trashy?” 

Publisher:  “Bestial.  And with respect to the current scandals in Hollywood and DC…“

Me:  “Gotcha.  Not suitable for a cozy.”

It didn’t end there.  Other phrases came under the knife.  My whole vocabulary was at stake. Thing is, every non-naughty British expression seems to be…well…so much more expressive than the American equivalent.

“You filthy swine!” is much cooler than “You dirty pig!”
“Damn and blast!”  Rocks it. “Darn and boom!” eh...not so much.

It’s taken a long time and a lot of soul searching, but I may have come up with a solution to this whole cozy language problem.  Something my publisher should be happy with, that isn’t a four letter word, and that shouldn’t offend the clergy.  Not only that, it pretty well tells the tale.

“Curses!” said Penelope.

Melodie Campbell does her cursing south of Toronto.  She wasn’t really ever a mob goddaughter, but close enough.  You can buy The Goddaughter and the rest of the series on Amazon.com and all the usual suspects.