Friday, 22 May 2015

Damn Right, there’s Me in my Characters!

By Melodie Campbell (Bad Girl)

Several times a year we do these reading and signing events.  And people ask you a pile of questions about your books.  Most are repeat queries that you’ve heard a dozen times before.  So you get pretty good at answering them.

Lately, I was asked a question that I didn’t have a pat answer to.  In fact, it really made me think.

“Do you make up all your characters, or do you put some of yourself in them?”

I’d like to say that every character I write comes completely from my imagination.  For the most part, they do.  I can honestly say that I have never seen a real person who matches the physical description of any of my characters.  (Not that I would mind meeting Pete.  But I digress…)

Back to the question:  are there bits of myself in my protagonists? 

THE PROOF:

“I am SO not a salad girl.”

Some people say this is one of the funniest lines in my screwball mob comedy, THE GODDAUGHTER.  It is spoken by Gino Galla, goddaughter to the mob boss in Hamilton, the industrial city also known as The Hammer.  Gina is a curvy girl.  She says this line to her new guy Pete, as a kind of warning.   And then she proceeds to tell him she wants a steak, medium rare, with a baked potato and a side of mushrooms.

Apparently, that’s me.  So say my kids, brother, and everyone else in the family.

Eat a meal of salad?  Are you kidding me?  When there is pasta, fresh panno and cannoli about?  (I’ve come to the conclusion that women who remain slim past the age of fifty must actually like salad.  Yes, it’s an astonishing fact.  For some people, eating raw green weeds is not a punishment. )

Not me.  I’m Italian, just like my protagonist.  We know our food.  Ever been to an Italian wedding?  First, you load up with appetizers and wine, or Campari with Orange Juice if you’re lucky.  When you are too stuffed to stand  up anymore (why did you wear three inch heals?  Honestly you do this every time…) you sit down, kerplunk.  Bring on the antipasto.  Meat, olives, marinated veggies, breadsticks, yum.  Melon with prosciutto.  Bread with olive oil/balsamic vinegar dip.  White wine.   

Then comes the pasta al olio.  Sublime.  Carbs are important fuel, right?  And I’m gonna need that fuel to get through the main course, because it’s going to be roast chicken, veal parmesan, osso buco, risotto, polenta, stuffed artichokes (yum), more bread, red wine.

Ever notice that salad is served after the main course in an Italian meal?  Good reason for that.  We aren’t stupid.  Hopefully, you will have no room left for it.

So yes, my protagonist Gina shares an important trait with me.  She likes meat, dammit.

So you can be a bunny and eat salad all you like.  Bunnies are cute and harmless.

But Gina and I are more like frontier wolves.   Try making us live on salad, and see how harmless we are.

Which is what you might expect from a mob goddaughter from The Hammer.

Do you find bits of yourself sneaking into your fiction?  Tell us here, in the comments.

Melodie Campbell writers the award-winning Goddaughter mob comedy series, starting with The Goddaughter.  Buy it.  It's an offer you can't refuse.


Sunday, 17 May 2015

It’s Bad for You (they let me off my leash again…)


By Melodie Campbell  (Bad Girl)

Lately I’ve been reading a lot about things that are harmful to our health.  Now by this, I don’t mean activities like bungee-jumping or selling nuclear bombs to third world countries.  No, I mean the new wave hazards that threaten life as we know it; the really dangerous stuff, like hair dyes and sunshine.

Recent studies have shown that laboratory rats are unable to withstand constant exposure to extreme amounts of hair dye and artificial sweeteners.  (I harbour a secret suspicion that some of them also suffer from irregularity, but we’re not being told about that.)

Almost any day now, I expect to read the following story in the newspaper: “Laboratory scientists have conclusively proven that absolutely everything is hazardous to your health.  In fact, the healthier you are, the more hazardous everything really is.  And if you happen to be a laboratory rat, things are TERRIBLY hazardous indeed.”

No doubt about it, our laboratory rats are failing a lot of tests these days, and I think we’re looking at the problem from the wrong point of view.  Maybe things really aren’t so hazardous after all.  Maybe the problem is we have a bunch of weakling rats.

What can you expect though?  We’ve created a bunch of lazy bums.  They get free food and lodging, and never have to work for a living.  No alley cats to trim their fat little rat-tails.  I can see them now, in their plush air-conditioned cages, sipping tea, nibbling on Camembert (warm, mind you) and watching Lives of the Rich and Disgusting…”Ho hum…think I might take a little spin on the wheel today.  Or maybe not.  TOO exhausting. How about you, Rodney?”

No matter how you slice it, this is not the typical lifestyle of your average homo sapiens.  And I’m not prepared to throw in the towel because a few wimpy lab rats can’t handle the rough and tumble of everyday life.  These rodents need a little toughening up.  Get them out of their posh surroundings and into the real world.  Turn them loose in downtown Toronto without a credit card.  Establish a fitness program based on dodging Airport Taxis.  Make them drive the 401 in rush hour.  Breathe that Hamilton smog!

Three months of living on fast food and caffeine like the rest of us will get them into shape.  Clairol Light Ash Brown and ultraviolet rays will simply slide off their hardy little bodies.

It’ll never happen though.  We pamper them with booze, cigarettes, luxurious surroundings, free meals, and all kinds of perks.  But then again, we do it for our politicians, so why not our rats?

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

MY CHARACTERS HATE GOING TO BED aka Why We Write (reprinted from the places that pay me)


By Melodie Campbell (Bad Girl)

(As usual, this post will sit on the wacky side. But there is a serious message behind it all.  Why?  Why do we spend hours and hours alone in our garrets, piecing together stories that may never earn us a living wage, or even see the light of day?  Are we insane?  Or, as I pose, does writing keep us sane?)

But back to our regularly scheduled blog post:


Rowena is arguing with Thane.  Cedric meets Soren the demon for the first time.   Kendra can’t choose between Richard and Logan…or is it that young cousin of the Viking Warlord, what’s his name?

Gina and Nico are planning an art gallery heist.  Uncle Seb is about to kick the bucket, and he didn’t die ‘cleaning his gun.’  Pete is caught with counterfeit moolah, and slips through the portal to Land’s End…

No, wait a minute.  Wrong book.  Wrong series.  Even wrong genre!  Plots, you’re getting yourselves mixed up.

It’s 3:15 AM, and all is not well in my head.

I’ve come to the conclusion that my characters hate going to bed.

Like little children, they race around in my head, determined to have yet another adventure.  Problem is, they stumble over each other in their bid for freedom.  Series start mixing in decidedly zany ways.
(Okay, back to the point of this blog.)

WHY AUTHORS WRITE:
We authors control what our characters do during the day.  It’s one of the things I love about writing: the ability to control the world in a way we can’t do in real life. 

I can’t control the real world.  Sometimes the script being directed from above is pretty painful.  In my case, it contains an autistic brother and heartbreaking care-giver burdens I can do nothing about.

But I can control the world I create in words.

In my fiction, I control my characters, put them where I want them, alter their lives, change the time, the year, the setting, give them astonishing adventures and dramatic endings– it’s glorious, unfettered control.

But at night, even they go wild. 

In the wee hours of the morning, my head is a playground for creative creatures, both human and fantastical.  They have adventures even I haven’t thought of yet. 

So here’s a job for you scientists out there.  Figure out a way to capture the nocturnal plotlines that create havoc for us authors as we struggle to give our brains some needed snooze-time.

And in the meantime, can you guys please keep it down in there?  I’m trying to sleep.

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. 

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

IWSG day! I Am Not a “sexy porn gerl” and other Twitter Mishaps



Welcome, IWSGers!  I got my start writing standup and now write comedies, so the posts here might be somewhat silly. Fair warning.

By Melodie Campbell
 (Bad Girl)

Okay, I admit it.  I’m a literary slut.

My mentor, the late novelist Michael Crawley, labeled me that years ago, because I write in several genres (crime, time travel, sci-fi, fantasy.)  Sometimes all at once in the same book. This girl gets around.

But these days, my publishers are turning me into a social media party girl.  “Frolic on Facebook!” they say.  “Talk on Twitter!” they insist. “Get out there!”

I’m out there, all right.  Apparently, I’m so far out there, I may need mouth to mouth and a good slug of scotch to crawl my way back.

The Inciting Incident:

It started with the Berlin Brothel.  Lord knows why a brothel in Berlin decided to follow me on Twitter.  I don’t live in Berlin.  I’ve never worked in a brothel.  Don’t think I’ve even typed the word ‘brothel’ before now.  I certainly haven’t said it out loud.

Then some guy from Crime Writers of Canada said: “Maybe they’ve read your first book Rowena Through the Wall.  That book has a following in Germany. The girls who work there have to do something in their downtime.”

Let me do a cyberspace blush here.  Okay, my first book is a little hot.  “Hot and hilarious” as one industry reviewer put it.  But it’s not x-rated.  It’s not even R, according to my daughter.  (Husband has yet to read it.  We’ve hidden it well.)

Then friend Alison said: “It’s a brothel!  Maybe your crime comedy, The Goddaughter, is required reading by the owners.”

But back to Berlin.  I didn’t follow them back.
Somehow, that didn’t matter.  The word was out.

‘Amateurvids’ announced they were following me.  Good, I thought.  I like nature films.  Take it from me, this outfit doesn’t film bunnies in the wild.  Well, maybe a certain type of wild bunny.

I didn’t follow them back.

Then ‘Dick Amateur’ showed up, wanting to connect. Author friend Gloria read a few of his posts and said: “You at least deserve a Pro.”

So I didn’t follow him back.

Next, I got “Swingersconnect” following me.  Swingers?  I get sick on a tire hanging from a tree.

I didn’t follow them back.

‘Thepornfiles’ were next in line.  I didn’t peek.

Then two days ago, an outfit specializing in ‘male penis enhancement’ turned up.  Now, I ask you.  Do I look like a male in my profile photo?  Is Melodie a male name?  And not to be pedantic, but isn’t ‘male’ in front of the p-word a bit redundant?  Is there any other kind?

Which brings me to the tweet in my twitter-box today:  “Hey sexy porn gerl!” (yes, that’s girl with an e).  Let me state categorically that I am not now and have never been a “sexy porn gerl” (with an ‘e’ or any other vowel).

You wouldn’t want me to be.  No one would.  For one thing, I can’t see two feet in front of me without glasses.  Things that used to be perky now swing south.  No camera man could make that film without shaking and contorting and rolling on the floor in hysterical laughter.  (Cue the scotch.)

So I’m not following them back.

Do you have a twitter story to tell?  Leave it here in the comments.

Melodie Campbell got her start writing standup, and now writes comedies.  You can find her books at all the usual book places.

Here's the link to go back to other great IWSG posts:
 http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/iwsg-sign-up.html



Wednesday, 29 April 2015

BATHING SUIT HELL or My War with the Madonna Suit (reprinted from the places that pay me...)


By Bad Girl (Melodie Campbell)

Last week I had to do something that engenders the kind of enthusiasm that might be associated with a mass accident on the Gardiner Expressway.

I went shopping for a bathing suit.

Let me make this absolutely clear.  I have been a bank manager in a low rent district where the con artists are trained at birth.  I’ve taught rowdy all-male classes of engineers.  I’ve taken two kids to Wonderland and positively laughed at the lineups.  So I’m pretty hard to intimidate.

Except in a swimsuit shop.

“Do you have anything with winches?”  I say to sweet little Clerkette.

“Is that a brand name?”  She squeaks back.

It is obvious from the start this isn’t going to work.  Clerkette looks all of sixteen.  She comes back with a two piece that might possibly fit a Barbie Doll.  A real one, not life-size.

“Let me make this clearer,” I say patiently.  “Things have happened to my body in the last twenty years.  I may be a little hard to fit.”

“No problem,” she says cheerfully.  “We have just the thing.”

I look around the store.  Walls of colorful bathing suits on racks, all looking about size 2.  The price tags, however, are size 20.  Why is it that the smaller the article, the greater the cost?

Clerkette comes back with a couple of fuchsia ribbons hanging from her fingers.  “Try this,” she says.  “It’s a Tanga.  They fit everyone.”

I squint at the ribbons.  “Where is it?” I say.

Men don’t have to deal with this.  No, indeed. Here’s what happens when a man goes into a store:

Man:  “I need a bathing suit.”

Clerk: “Do you want blue or red?”

Man:  “Blue is good.  How much?”

But back to Clerkette.  I try again. 

“Do you have something that is a little more structured, if you know what I mean.  Something that ‘lifts and redistributes’.”

“Ah!” says Clerkette, finally coming to life.  “You want our ‘Madonna’ model.”

She hands me a steely black suit with hard cups that looks something like a medieval torture device.

“Perfect!” I say.  I go into the wee change room to try it on.

What ensues is a monumental battle between me and the suit that lasts about fifteen minutes.  (Shoppers: 0, Fiendish Designers: 1)  Finally, various bits of me have been forced into the chambers allotted to them.  Breathing is possible, barely.  I look in the mirror. 

The result is not bad, if I want to be taken as an escapee from a Wagnerian opera, or an extra from an 80s music video, (minus the hair.) Take your pick.

 Like I said, not bad.

Which is a good thing, because there’s not a chance in hell I’ll ever get out of it.
I hope I don't rust.