Friday, 15 September 2017

Three Ways to tell you Married a Scotsman

By Melodie Campbell (Bad Girl)

I didn’t start out with the last name of Campbell.  No sir, I had to earn it, like every self-respecting Italian gal who marries into the Highlands. Part of that involved saying Yes at the altar.  Another part entailed rolling one’s eyes and sighing with stoic good nature when faced with the following:

1.  Bagpipes.  I don’t pretend to know who got the original idea to put a sheep’s bladder over a wooden pipe and blow into the thing while squeezing.  Rumour has it that during the retreat, some of my Roman ancestors left one behind as a joke.  The resulting sound of a bagpipe winding up has been likened to unspeakable things being done to a cat.  But I’m thinking this whole sheep bladder thing explains a lot.  I mean, we know the original purpose of those things (bladders, not sheep.)  How exactly did some smart guy think they would sound?  Which brings me to…

2.  Haggis.  I don’t know if you have ever tried haggis.  But I reckon it all started at the bagpipe factory, when they realized they had a few extra bladders hanging around.  Some savvy Scotsman said, “Hey!  We could fill this with oatmeal and suet and serve it to all the people we hate. Like our inlaws.  And relatives. Particularly on special occasions, and before going to war.” From bladders, they moved on to stomachs, which was a great improvement, I'm told.  They keep telling me.  Every Robbie Burns day.

There is simply one word to describe haggis:  DON’T. 

3.  Thrift.  It could be a virtue.  But take it from me.  People who are determined to make music via sheep bladders, and then are equally determined to stuff said bladders (okay, stomachs) with oatmeal and feed them to people, may be taking the ole saving money thing a wee bit too far. 

We have a saying in our family, and that saying is, “Kiltworthy.”  If something is kiltworthy, it means that said purchase was a real steal (as in stealing sheep for bladders. But I digress.)  It could also mean that no purchase was necessary, as said Scotsman was able to recreate a facsimile of a reasonably working item from leftover ceiling spackle and duct tape.  I am married to a man who worships at the altar of the God called Kiltworthy.  He can fix pretty well anything with a tangle of scrap wire and old socks.

Strangely enough, I originally took Kiltworthy to have an entirely different meaning.  Without going into detail, I can attest to the fact that the Scotsman I married is indeed Kiltworthy.  He has great knees.  Oh, so you were expecting me to say something else…

 Said Scotsman, in days of yore, with unsuspecting Italian babe. 

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

"Before you go on your next blind date, read this" - WORST DATE EVER!

 SHORT EXCERPT from Date #3:

Scott stared across the table at me.  His eyes were concentrating fiercely. He must have approved, because then he smiled for the first time.  A thin, satisfied smile.  No teeth showing.
“Let’s get right to it then, shall we?” he said.  I watched as he pulled a sheet of paper from the inside pocket of his jacket.  He carefully unfolded it.  Then he took out a pen.
He read from the sheet in front of him.  “The company may decide to move me to New York.  Would you be willing to move to another city with me?”  His eyes lifted to meet mine.
I gulped.  “Is that a check-list?”
“Yes.” He said apologetically.  “I know.  How embarrassing to use paper.  But Mom doesn’t trust computers.”
Mom?  His mom wrote a checklist?

Great for anyone who enjoys zipping through a lighthearted read in a single, short sitting." BOOKLIST

NOW AVAILABLE!  Chapters/Indigo, Barnes and Noble, Walmart, independent bookstores, Amazon, Kobo, iTunes, and all the usual suspects.

One of the dates in this book really happened to the author.  Can you guess which one?
To find out, (and for buy links) click the Worst Date Ever menu tab above.

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

WHY WRITERS DRINK - book launch Sept. 5. Keeping the Glenlivit handy...

Below are the 8 stages of birthing a novel, and why fiction writers drink.

JOY – You are finished your manuscript.  Damn, it’s good!  The best thing you’ve written, and it’s ALL DONE!  Time to open the Glenlivet.

ANGST -  You submit manuscript to your publisher.  Yes, even though they’ve already published 5 of your novels, you still don’t know if they will publish this one.  Will they like it?  Is it as funny as you think it is?  Is it garbage?  Glenlivet is required to get through the next few days/weeks.

RELIEF - They send you a contract – YAY!  You are not a has-been!  Your baby, which was a year in the making (not merely 9 months) will have a life!
Glenlivet is required to celebrate.

ASTONISHMENT – The first round of edits come back.  What do you mean you have substantive changes to make?  That story was PERFECT, dammit!  This is the 15th draft, not the 1st.  Commiserate with other writers over Glenlivet in the bar at the Drake. 

CRIPPLING SELF-DOUBT – The changes they require are impossible.  You’ll never be able to keep it funny/full of high tension, by taking out or changing that scene.  What about the integrity?  Motivation? And what’s so darn bad about being ‘too slapstick,’ anyway?  This is comedy! 
Can’t sleep.  Look for Glenlivet.

ACCEPTANCE – Okay, you’re rewriting, and somehow it’s working.  Figured out how to work around their concerns.  New scene is not bad.  Not as good as the original, of course (why couldn’t they see that) but still a good scene.  Phew.  You’re still a professional. 
Professionals drink Glenlivet, right?

 JOY – They accept all your changes!  YAY!  All systems go. This baby will have a life. 
Celebrate the pending birth with a wee dram of Glenlivet.

 ANGST -  Are they kidding?  THAT’S the cover? 

Saturday, 19 August 2017

The Bad Girl Method to Writing a Novel (a crooked path, of course)

Okay, I tricked you.  You thought this was going to be a humour column.  Not so fast.  Yes, it’s about writing humorous books,
because that’s what I write.  But I’m sure this could apply to most books.

Writing a novel, or even a novella, means hours and hours of work at a keyboard.  Hundreds of hours.  Maybe even a thousand hours for a full-length novel.

Some of those hours are great fun.  Others, not so much.  Why is it that some scenes are a kick to write, and others just drudgery?

Here’s what Agatha Christie said in the Foreword to Crooked House, one of her “special favourites.” 
“I should say that of one’s output, five books are work to one that is real pleasure…Again and again someone says to me: ‘How you must have enjoyed writing so and so!’ This about a book that obstinately refused to come out the way you wished, whose characters are sticky, the plot needlessly involved, and the dialogue stilted – or so you think yourself. “

Christie was referring to books, but I think the same can be said for scenes.  Some, you can’t wait to write.  Others are purgatory.  Here’s my own method for plodding through the fire.

The Bad Girl Method to Writing a Novel

I always start with what I call a “light outline.”  Yes, I outline.  But I don’t outline every scene, or even list every scene.  Instead, I start with ‘Three Acts and a Finale.’  Here’s the minimum I know before I start a book:

Inciting moment , Crisis 1 (in a murder mystery, the first murder,) Crisis 2 (the second murder,) Crisis 3 (includes the black moment, usually danger for the protagonist,) Finale  (solving of crime.)

Yes, I write it down.  I use Excel for this.  When I have more thought out, I add it in.  When I get new ideas, I make notes on my schematic so I don’t forget them.  (I understand Scrivener is terrific for this.  Some people use post it notes on a white board.  Different strokes, but the same idea.)

So here’s the question I often get asked by my Crafting a Novel students:  Do I write in order, from A to Z?

No, I don’t.

I always write the beginning chapters first.  I do that, because I want to see if the characters are compelling enough to carry an entire book.  Meaning, do I like the protagonist, do I care about her, and am I really excited to write her story.  It may take a whole year to do so.  I better freaking well want to live her life for a while.

If that works (meaning, if I like the first few chapters) then I’ll usually skip to the end, and write Crisis 3 and the finale.  I’ve just said something big there:  Yes, I always know the ending before I start the book. 

I like to write the ending before I’m too invested in the project, because I want to know that it rocks.  If it doesn’t rock, then I’m probably not going to want to invest another 500 hours writing the middle of the book.

So once I’ve written the beginning and the end, THEN do I write in order?

Not always.

Here’s my trick:  I continue to move forward.  But sometimes I skip scenes I’m not in a mood to write.  I’ll put a note in brackets on the manuscript to fill in later.

I can’t explain it, but some scenes are just hard to write.  I put off writing them.  This is where many of my students go wrong.  When they hit a scene like that, they just stop.

The trick is not to walk away from the keyboard.  Instead, go on to another scene that you do want to write. 

When your manuscript is 90% finished, you will have the incentive to go back and complete those hard scenes.  It will still be work.  But the lure of the finish line makes it easier.

Why don’t I write a complete outline, scene by scene?  I’m one of those authors who gets bored if I know *exactly* what is coming next.  If I have to write a fully scripted story for an entire year, it feels like drudgery.  So this is what works for me:  know where I am going in each act, but not exactly how I will get there.  Be willing to make changes along the way, if I stumble across a brilliant new route to the ending.  Heck, even change the ending, if a better destination presents itself along the journey.

And that’s what makes it all fun.

 Coming Sept 5:  WORST DATE EVER!  A book that was great fun to write.  Christie would approve.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Pet Peeve Number 2: Life Jackets (A Bad Girl Mostly-True Story ...yet more proof that tragedy is the root of comedy)

  There are sporty girls. There are petite lassies.  And then there are those gals for whom serious undergarments are a necessity.

We’re the same gals who can’t wear button up blouses.  So why did I ever think it would be possible to buy a life jacket?

Me, in specialty sports store in front of a wall of marina gear:  “Do you have anything for women?”

Clerk (who is just out of diapers. Honestly, he can’t be more than eight.):  “Yes!  All our styles are unisex.”

Me (sighing):  “Yeah, here’s the problem with that.  I am not Unisex.”  

Usually males can tell this.  I’m taking this as a bad sign.

Clerk (handing me a life jacket):  “Try this universal one.  It’s adjustable.”

I look at it.  The only things adjustable are two straps that wrap all the way around.  Which means that if I were a barrel, it would fit me perfectly.

Me (shaking head):  “Nope.  No place for the suspendibles.”

Clerk:  “Huh?” 

(I flummoxed him with my command of language.)

Me, trying it on:  “See?” 

I do up the top strap. The thing balloons out like an isosceles triangle.  No way are those bottom straps coming together.  There’s a mountain range in between.

Me:  “Don’t you have anything that bends in the middle?”

Clerk (scratching nonexistent beard):  “Maybe try only doing up the bottom strap?”

I demonstrate.   Strap rides up to my waist.  Jacket rides up over my face.  I could do up the top strap, but then I couldn’t talk.  It might also be hard driving the boat.

Clerk:  “What about cut-outs?”

Me:  “You mean deface the product by cutting out two custom sinkholes to fit around the twin Rockies?”

Clerk (with far too much enthusiasm): “That’s the idea.”

Me:  “Won’t that affect the buoyancy of the product?”

Clerk:  “I don’t think you have a problem with buoyancy.”

Revising estimate.  Kid may be older than I think.