Friday, 27 March 2015

Worst Typos EVER - Take 2! by Bad Girl

by Melodie Campbell

It happened again, and this time it was my fault.

You know how it happens.  Spellchecker has an evil twin that changes your word by one letter, and you don’t notice it until it goes to print.  

Public becomes Pubic.  Corporate Assets becomes Corporate Asses.  The Provincial Health Minister becomes Provincial Health Monster.  We’ve all been there.

Readers may recall that last year, I wasn’t too happy when the virtual blog tour company paid by my publisher changed the title Rowena and the Dark Lord to Rowena and the Dark Lard.  Sales were NOT stellar.  However, the hilarity that ensued was probably worth the typo.  Seems there were all sorts of people willing to suggest alternative plot lines for a book about Dark Lard.  Many were a mite more entertaining than the original concept (she said ruefully.)

Here’s a small sample:
Protagonist moves back to Land’s End and opens up a bakery.

Protagonist and love interest return to Land’s End and become pig farmers.

Protagonist messes up another spell that causes all who look at her to turn into donuts.

It’s enough to make a grown writer cry.

Well, this time I did it to myself.

REALLY not cool to request a formal industry review for a book and misspell the title.

No matter how it reads, "Cod Name: Gypsy Moth" is not a tale <sic> about an undercover fish running a bar off the coast of Newfoundland...

That wasn’t enough.  People were quick to respond with suggested plot lines on Facebook.  Other authors (22 in fact) had to wade in <sic>.

he'd have to scale back his expectations - a bar like that would be underwater in no time.

and here's me waiting with 'baited' breath

Readers will dive right into that

That's a whale of a tale

that book will really "hook" a reader

Smells pretty fishy to me

definitely the wrong plaice at the wrong time.

We're really floundering here; no trout about it.

Okay!  In the interest of sane people everywhere, I’ll stop on that last one. 

The real name of the book? 
“Comedy and Space Opera – a blast to read” (former editor Distant Suns magazine)
“a worthy tribute to Douglas Adams”  (prepub review)

It isn't easy being a female barkeep in the final frontier...especially when you’re also a spy!
Nell Romana loves two things: the Blue Angel Bar, and Dalamar, a notorious modern-day knight for hire.  Too bad he doesn't know she is actually an undercover agent. 

The bar is a magnet for all sorts of thirsty frontier types, and some of them don’t have civilized manners. That’s no problem for Dalamar, who is built like a warlord and keeps everyone in line. But when Dal is called away on a routine job, Nell uncovers a rebel plot to overthrow the Federation.  She has to act fast and alone.

Then the worst happens.  Her cover is blown …

Buy link AMAZON
Buy link KOBO

Bio: Melodie Campbell
The Toronto Sun called her Canada’s “Queen of Comedy.”  Library Journal compared her to Janet Evanovich.  Melodie Campbell got her start writing standup.  She has over 200 publications and nine awards for fiction.  Code Name: Gypsy Moth (Imajin Books) is her eighth book.

Pre-order Code Name: Gypsy Moth and get Rowena and the Dark Lord or The Artful Goddaughter free!  (I love to introduce readers to my other series.  Email me at with proof of purchase and I will gift you your choice.)

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Never Marry a Crime Writer

by Melodie Campbell  (they let me off my leash again...)

Everybody knows they shouldn’t marry a writer.  Mothers the world over have made that obvious: “For Gawd Sake, never marry a marauding barbarian, a sex pervert, or a writer.” (Or a politician, but that is my own personal bias.  Ignore me.)

But for some reason, lots of innocent, unsuspecting people marry writers every year.  Obviously, they don’t know about the (gasp!) “Zone.”  (More obviously, they didn’t have the right mothers.)

Never mind: I’m here to help.

I think it pays to understand that writers aren’t normal humans: they write about people who don’t exist and things that never happened.  Their brains work differently.  They have different needs.  And in some cases, they live on different planets (at least, my characters do, which is kind of the same thing.)

Thing is, writers are sensitive creatures.  This can be attractive to some humans who think that they can ‘help’ poor writer-beings (in the way that one might rescue a stray dog.)  True, we are easy to feed and grateful for attention.  We respond well to praise.  And we can be adorable.  So there are many reasons you might wish to marry a writer, but here are 10 reasons why you shouldn’t:

The basics: 

1.  Writers are hoarders.  Your house will be filled with books.  And more books.  It will be a shrine to books.  The lost library of Alexandria will pale in comparison.

2.  Writers are addicts.  We mainline coffee.  We’ve also been known to drink other beverages in copious quantities, especially when together with other writers in places called ‘bars.’ 

3.  Writers are weird.  Crime Writers are particularly weird (as weird as horror writers.) You will hear all sorts of gruesome research details at the dinner table.  When your parents are there.  Maybe even with your parents in mind.

4.  Writers are deaf.  We can’t hear you when we are in our offices, pounding away at keyboards. Even if you come in the room.  Even if you yell in our ears.

5.  Writers are single-minded.  We think that spending perfectly good vacation money to go to crime writing conferences like Bouchercon is a really good idea.  Especially if there are other writers there with whom to drink beverages.

The bad reasons:

6.  It may occasionally seem that we’d rather spend time with our characters than our family or friends.  (See 9 below.)

7.  We rarely sleep through the night.  (It’s hard to sleep when you’re typing.  Also, all that coffee...)

8.  Our Google Search history is a thing of nightmares.  (Don’t look.  No really – don’t.  And I’m not just talking about ways to avoid taxes… although if anyone knows a really fool-proof scheme, please email me.)

And the really bad reasons:

9.  If we could have affairs with our beloved protagonists, we probably would. (No!  Did I say that out loud?)

10.  We know at least twenty ways to kill you and not get caught.

RE that last one:  If you are married to a writer, don’t worry over-much.  Usually writers do not kill the hand that feeds them.  Mostly, we are way too focused on figuring out ways to kill our agents, editors, and particularly, reviewers.

Code Name: Gypsy Moth now available for pre-order!  "a worthy tribute to Douglas Adams"
Pre-order on AMAZON
Pre-order on KOBO
Pre-order on SMASHWORDS 

Thursday, 19 March 2015

CODE NAME: GYPSY MOTH - "A worthy tribute to Douglas Adams" - Available for preorder!

Coming April 1 from Imajin books!  Preorder now

"Comedy and Space Opera - a blast to read!" (prepub reviews)
"A worthy tribute to Douglas Adams"

Pre-order on AMAZON
Pre-order on KOBO
Pre-order on SMASHWORDS 

It isn't easy being a female barkeep in the final frontier...especially when you're also a spy!

Nell Romano loves two things: the Blue Angel Bar, and Dalamar, a notorious modern-day knight for hire.  Too bad he doesn't know she is actually an undercover agent.

The bar is a magnet for all sorts of thirsty frontier types, and some of them don’t have civilized manners. That’s no problem for Dalamar, who is built like a warlord and keeps everyone in line. But when Dal leaves on a routine job, Nell uncovers a rebel plot to overthrow the Federation.  She has to act fast and alone.

Then her cover is blown, and more than their love is put to the test....

Friday, 13 March 2015

In Praise of IT Gurus - Highly Amusing post by Peter Fritze

It is my great pleasure to welcome friend and fellow author Peter Fritze to these pages.  Peter writes riveting crime novels featuring the high stakes world of lawyers.  This post made me smile and it and you'll see.  Haven't we all been there, in some way?

Back From the Void

by Peter Fritze

I’m recently out with my second book, False Guilt. Like my first, The Case for Killing, it uses a fictional Toronto law firm, Collins, Shaw LLP, as a loose backdrop.

The protagonists in both books are lawyers with, well, issues. I hope it goes without saying that the lawyers are fictional like the law firm. Being sued is not my idea of a good time.

Both protagonists are professionally very competent. Their issues are personal. And doozies. Without flawed characters, what would there be to write about?

In my first years as a lawyer, I didn’t always feel graced with competence. Like any profession, it took a while to get the requisite experience under my belt. And occasionally technology wasn’t my friend.

My most acute experience in this regard was when I joined a downtown Toronto firm from a government agency as a fifth year associate. It was a long time ago; here’s my recollection of events.

The firm was handling a lot of deals. After only a few weeks, at 4:00 p.m. on a Friday, I was brought in to junior on a large merger.

My first task was to draft a merger agreement for circulation to all the parties Monday morning at 10:00. Government work hadn’t taught me how to draft huge corporate documents and the partner-in-charge knew that. He pointed me to the precedent system and said I could call for help any time over the weekend.

After three cognacs at home that evening, I was ready for the challenge. I worked all weekend. By Sunday evening, I had a presentable documentof about 130 pagesfor the partner to review early Monday morning. If memory serves, I only called him once. Anything more, I figured, was a career-limiting move.

And then, about 8:00 Sunday evening, as I made finishing touches on my computer, the latest draft of the document disappeared from the IT system. I never learned why but I’m pretty sure it was my fault. Yup. Gone without a trace. Vanished. Lost in the void.

A little technological context here. The firm’s system was first rate, but this was the late 1980s. By today’s standards, everything was rudimentary. And locating a backup? That definitely was for the IT department.

Except, horror upon horror upon horror, it was Sunday evening. Who would be around? And the changes from earlier drafts of the document had been mammoth. There was no way I had the time or energy to start the revisions over. But there also was no way I was greeting the partner Monday morning with a stubbly face, dark rings under my eyes and a half-assed document. That would be a real career-limiting move.

For an hour, I searched and searched some more. Throughout, I groaned with panic. Eventually, a kind evenings-and-weekends assistant heard me. “Oh, call this pager number,” she said. “It’s for IT. If it’s important enough, they’ll come in.”

Come in? On a Sunday evening? Now that definitely wasn’t something I’d seen at the government. By 9:30, the document was back on my computer screen. And Monday morning, the partner had a hard copy on his desk. I acted as if drafting it had been a walk in the park. More like a walk into quicksand. For days after, I offered profuse thanks to the IT person for saving me. Eventually he told me to shut up.

My protagonists worry about murder, not lost documents. But for those sixty minutes on that Sunday, to me, the horror seemed just as real.  

What's your worst IT catastrophe, Readers?  Share with us here in the comments!

False Guilt

 Paul Tews, a rising Toronto mergers and acquisitions lawyer, is on a leave of absence for anxiety. An invitation to Rome from a woman with whom he’d once had a close encounter seems like a perfect remedy. Instead he finds that all things captivating have an ugly side. Friends confess baffling secrets. An art collector leads a double life. Passion deceives.

Paul must save himself from it all—and his past involvement with murder. 

Visit me at
And find my books at , and Sleuth of Baker Street in Toronto.


Peter Fritze practiced law as a solicitor in an Ontario government agency, partner in a major Toronto law firm and general counsel of a Canadian multinational. He’s now following his lifetime interest in storytelling by writing thrillers.

In April 2014, Peter self-published The Case for Killing. It’s the tale of two plans for murder colliding against the backdrop of a fictitious Toronto law firm, Collins, Shaw LLP.

False Guilt was self-published in February 2015. Taking place in Toronto and Rome, a Collins, Shaw lawyer battles his past involvement with murder.

Peter was born in Hamilton, Canada and raised in nearby Dundas. He now lives in Toronto.


Saturday, 7 March 2015

Wanted: One Fairy Godmother (reprinted from the places that pay me)

by Bad Girl (Melodie Campbell)

One thing the Catholic Church really has going for it is a vast army of Guardian Angels.  These are wonderful beings whose sole purpose is to guide you through life, and prevent you from making really embarrassing mistakes…those everyday kind of mistakes such as hopping a last minute flight to Argentina with Raoul instead of baking more cookies for the school fundraiser, like you promised.

But for those of us who weren’t born Catholic, what we need is a Fairy Godmother.  Not the old fashioned kind who dresses in 1950s prom dresses and goes around changing vegetables into vehicles.  Nope – I want someone on my side: a modern, down-to-earth Fairy Godmother, who will answer all those pesky questions that everyone else always sidelines.

In fact, I can visualize my personal Fairy Godmother.  She would be about 65 years old (but would only admit to 49) with a petrified blond hairdo and a Brooklyn accent.  Her orange lipstick would be a little too thick, and she’d carry one of those bombproof organizer handbags.  Of course, she’d be full of wonderfully useful advice, like exactly how far up are you supposed to shave your legs?

“The problem with you girls today is you don’t wear proper foundation garments.  Go without a bra?  You’re going to be KICKING them in a few years…”

Instead of going for tea at the Arcadian Room, she’d drag me off for salad and Singapore Slings at the Four Seasons.

“Nothing wrong with a little nip now and then, dearie.  Puts colour in your cheeks.  Don’t you read Cosmo?”  And while we’re munching and slurping (“Drinking girl’s diet – gotta watch those hips”) she’d give me nonstop advice about how to get along in life.

“Forget Good Housekeeping – the way to a man’s heart is not tuna casseroles.  But here’s how to make a really good martini...”

“Face it, dearie.  After the age of 40, what every girl really needs is a good esthetician…”

“You’ve never been to Paris?  That’s it – we’re going in April.  I know this little place on the Rue la Fontaine that serves the best coquille…”

So I’d like to be here writing my column next month, but chances are I’ll be in Paris with my Fairy Godmother.

Of course, I recognize a Fairy Godmother isn’t for everyone.  Perhaps the guys would prefer to have a Fairy Godfather…or then again, perhaps they wouldn’t…

Friday, 27 February 2015

Bring Back Trash! (reprinted from the places that pay me)

by Bad Girl (Melodie Campbell)

A recent report concluded that people don’t read anymore.  (Personally, I think they were taking a bit of a risk printing an article with no one around to read it, but who can understand academics…)

The big culprit, not surprisingly, is T.V.  Apparently, most of us would rather stare at a two dimensional colour screen for hours on end, watching endless reruns of The Simpsons and Big Bang Theory, than pick up a paperback.  Frankly, I would rather eat a live goat than spend my time with Bart Simpson, but that’s beside the point.  The point is, our school system has killed reading.

As I see it, the whole problem started in first grade with Dick and Jane.  Remember those books?

“See Dick run.”
“See Jane run.”
“See Dick and Jane run.”
“See Spot.”

Not much of a plot.  This stuff was hard to get excited about.  Dick had the personality of a soap dish, and Jane wasn’t exactly her own person.  If this was reading, I’d rather watch commercials.

Things got a little better at The Hardy Boys stage: (“Aunt Gertrude” gasped Frank.  “Oh! Oh!” breathed Joe) but then took a massive nosedive when we hit high school.

The trouble with high school is we were made to read ‘literature.’  This invariably meant deadly dull morose books in which it seemed the author’s main goal was to figure out how many words he could fit into one sentence.  One day in English class, I remember counting the words in a sentence that took up an entire page.  It was infinitely more interesting counting the words than reading them.

Why did they make us read this stuff?  Why not the good stuff – the really fun trashy reads that people actually buy?  The nasty mysteries!  The heart-stopping thrillers!  The bodice-ripping romances!  I figure it’s a master plot.  School boards must be on the payroll of big advertising firms hired by devious television networks to kill reading.  That way, we all remain slaves to the advertising piranhas.

What to do?  It’s simple.  We have to take reading out of the high schools and put it back where it belongs….in the bathroom.  I propose a campaign to include trashy paperback novels in every 8-roll package of toilet paper.  Romance with the Cottonelle!  Chicklit glitz with the Royale (is that why they call it the throne?)  Westerns with the unbranded (ouch). 

And flush the notion that all reading is torture.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Building Atmosphere! (A sample of what you get when you take my writing classes)

Building Atmosphere!

By Melodie Campbell

I was tickled when the big city library sought me out to do a workshop for aspiring writers on Building Atmosphere.

“Sure!”  I said.  “Are you paying me?”  I said.  (Although not necessarily in that order.)

They were, thankfully.  And then the anxiety set in.  (Cue the strident violins.)

Was I the best person to talk about this topic?  My novels are primarily comedies.  I usually aim for the funny bone, not the jugular.  But then I recalled: most of my published short fiction is dark noir.  And in short fiction, regardless of genres, you have to set the mood quickly.

Like many writers, I go from Comedy to Romance to Thriller to darkest Noir, happily skipping from genre to genre.  In fact, because of this ‘writing around,’ I have been called a Literary Slut. 

Literary Sluts like me (and there are many – you may be one yourself) set the mood cues quickly and dig in for the writing.  Let’s look at how we do it.

Let’s start at the Beginning: What is Fiction?

The type of mood you wish to create begins with the type (or subgenre) of story you want to tell.  So bear with me as we revisit the basics here:

In FICTION, we are telling a STORY.
A story has a beginning, a middle and an end.
Short stories, novellas and novels all have this in common:
A Protagonist <your main character>
A problem or goal
Obstacles (this forms your conflict)
A resolution to the problem or goal (meaning an ending that will satisfy the reader)

Put another way:

First comes character…
Your character WANTS something.  Real bad.
There are OBSTACLES to her getting what she wants.
Just as PLOT determines genre, genre will point you to the atmosphere you want to create in your stories.

But just what is that pesky thing called atmosphere, and why do we want it?

Atmosphere is about Emotion
In all the fiction we write, we are trying to create an emotion in the reader.  Over and over, writers mess with the emotions of readers!  That’s what we do.

Creating atmosphere is about setting the stage for your reader to feel something.
In fact, we want…
…your reader to imagine they can SEE the story happening
                        …maybe even that they are IN the story.

We want readers to feel they are right there, alongside your protagonist, experiencing the action themselves.
And wallowing in the emotion that you, as the writer, have planted.

Okay, get on with the details….

We create atmosphere through:
The Opening
Time of day
Description (using all five senses)

In each of these mini-sections, I’ll pick on a genre to illustrate the point.

1.    Your Opening sets the Mood
Never fool the reader!  The way your book opens is the sort of book they will expect to read.
If your book is a comedy, your opening should have some fun in it.
If your book is a mystery, show us that right from the start. 

Let’s look at some brilliant examples from the Masters:

Rebecca, by Daphne DuMaurier  (psychological suspense)

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again. It seemed to me I stood by the iron gate leading to the drive, and for a while I could not enter, for the way was barred to me. There was a padlock and chain upon the gate.

From the opening paragraph, we feel the mood.  Locked out!  No Entry!  You are not welcome here…

Now let’s look at Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams (my fave)

Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun.

Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-two million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.

No question here that we’re looking at something light and irreverent, maybe even satirical and silly.  (I personally think, brilliant.)  In any case, the mood is clear from the opening.

2.     Setting
For this example, let’s go to the opposite end of Douglas Adams:  Horror

In a horror story, I would want the atmosphere to be spine-tingling.  I want you, the reader, to feel apprehension, as you wait, wait, wait for something terrifying to happen.

This may run the risk of sounding cliché.  But probably, I wouldn’t set this in a crowded cocktail party.  Instead, I would look for a setting that makes one feel ‘alone’.
An abandoned building
A house at the end of a road, isolated
A dark forest
An empty parking lot

However, it could be that your character wasn’t alone to begin with.  You can do something even more powerful by having your protagonist start out with lots of people around them.  And then, they become alone.  Everything changes.  The contrast intensifies the atmosphere.

So let’s look at that other part of setting: weather.

3.     Weather

In real life, weather affects my emotion, as it does for several people.  Make that sun bright, and it’s easy for me to be cheerful.  Cloud me over in grey, and the world changes.

Sun or no sun
A bright sunny day…this signals hope.
Maybe your story starts out that way.  And then maybe the weather changes…thunderclouds start to build.
Does rain falls lightly or does Thor show his wrath by increasing the wind and releasing torrents of rain?
This effectively changes the mood of your story.
It increases the tension.
In the timetravel fantasy book Rowena and the Viking Warlord, I used thunderclouds to signal the pending battle.

Time of Day
We can see well in daylight.
At night, our vision is compromised.
This is an excellent way to create an atmosphere of unease…of fear or threat.  Just the sort of emotion you want in a suspense story.
Humans are naturally daylight creatures.  We hide in caves or houses when it is dark because predators roam at night.

One easy trick:  when you move to the scary part of your story, move it to night.  Make it moonless.  Bring in the fog.

Mix it up
Sometimes, you might want to be an evil writer person, and fool the reader.  Make something absolutely horrendous happen in bright daylight.  Sucker the reader’s natural inclination to think they and their beloved protagonist are safe, and then pull the rug out from under both.

Make them feel shock.  Because remember, that’s what we fiction writers do.  We mess with the emotions of readers.

4.     Description

Using ALL your senses is important for creating atmosphere.  We do pretty well with sight.  Don’t forget the others.

Smell – ever walk into a seedy motel room?  Give me that smell (musty, mildew, stuffy, smelling of sweat and stale liquor) and I’ll be there again in my mind.

Touch – A sticky menu tells us so much about the establishment.  Ditto a spot on the floor that acts like glue to the sole of your heroine’s shoe.  She continues to walk, and with every step, the shoe sticks to the floor…

Who hasn’t had that happen.  What did you feel?  Annoyance?  Anger?  Helplessness?  Embarrassment?  Maybe even the feeling of being trapped?

Yes, we can use ALL the senses to create atmosphere:

I am always surprised by how often writers forget to use sound to their advantage.  Humans are predators, so it is natural for us to describe a setting with photographic detail, in that we are hard-wired to notice movement against it.  But we are also instinctively alert to sounds. 
Don’t forget this valuable tool.

The irritating sound of an unbalanced fan. 
Unrelenting traffic or a commuter train roaring by an apartment window. 
These are stressful.  They also signal class strata.  Think of the brilliant movie Twelve Angry Men, and how they use the thundering sound of the El-Train (or is it L-Train) to quickly place the murder in a tenement.

The ticking of a clock.
Absolute quiet.  Then the sound of footsteps.
Classical music playing innocuously in the background.  Or is it country music? Pounding heavy metal?
Grab these cues to build mood.

Taste –
The bitter taste of cheap, over-brewed coffee. 
The sweet aroma of freshly brewed Kenyan AA.  Sweet, sour…

Example: you could signal a wonderful date going sour by your protagonist’s reaction to the food she tastes. 
          The place looks wonderful.  The food tastes unappetizing.
                 The man looks perfect…you get the picture.

Okay, they’re telling me to wrap it up.

One final example:  Writing Noir and thrillers

Many of my short stories are noir.
Emotions wanted:  uneasiness, fear, heart-in-throat

How to set atmosphere quickly, in Noir and thrillers:
 I’d stage the opening at night.
It won’t be a clear night, unless it is very, very cold.
            Probably, there will be some fog. 
            Or sweltering humidity.
Something to make your characters uncomfortable, and your reader feeling it along with them.

Example: The opening from the flash fiction story, “July is Hell”  (from Thirteen, An Anthology of Crime Stories)

I came back to the squad car with two coffees, both black.

Bill was fanning himself with yesterday’s newspaper.  “It’s frigging middle of the night, for Crissake. How can it still be so hot?”

I shrugged.  “July is hell.  Always will be.”  I passed him the cup of java.

“This job is hell,” Bill muttered, leaning back in the seat.

Everything in these opening sentences leads the reader to an atmosphere that is uncomfortable.  The characters don’t just tell you that.  The author SHOWS you.  Bill is fanning himself.  It’s night.  Even the coffee is black.  July is hell, and so is the job.  This is not going to be a happy story, and you know it, after just a few lines.

Okay, not the final example.  I also write comedy. Can’t help but end on a light note:

Example: The opening from the short story, “Cover Girl” (from World Enough and Crime Anthology)

The door opened, and a big man who was all chest and no hair strode in, barking orders.

“I’m looking for Mel Ramone.”

“You found her,” I said. I find missing persons for a living.  But I didn’t think he’d pay me for this one.

Totally different atmosphere created this time.  Hopefully, by the end of this very short opening, the reader is smiling.

And hopefully, I've left you smiling, too.

Billed as Canada’s “Queen of Comedy" by the Toronto Sun (Jan. 5, 2014), Melodie Campbell achieved a personal best when Library Digest compared her to Janet Evanovich. 
Winner of 9 awards, including the 2014 Derringer and the 2014 Arthur Ellis (Canada) for The Goddaughter’s Revenge (Orca Books), Melodie has over 200 publications, including 100 comedy credits, 40 short stories, and seven novels. She teaches Crafting a Novel at Sheridan College, and is the Executive Director of Crime Writers of Canada.