Saturday, 17 June 2017

Why Being a Writer is the Best Excuse Ever (more silly stuff from Bad Girl)



There are all sorts of reasons for being a writer.  (Money isn’t one of them, in case you were wondering.  Unless, of course, you are a masochist.  Then again, many writers are.  We’d have to be, to put up with this biz.  But I digress.)


Many of us write because we can’t help it.  All sorts of demented characters have taken over our loopy minds.  If we don’t let them out to live their own lives on paper, all sorts of bad things will happen.  For instance, they may induce us writers to perform their fantasies in reality, on behalf of their little selves.  This might be fun if you are writing erotica.  Not so great, if you’re a crime writer, like me.

That aside, there are many reasons that being a writer can be great fun.  You get to kill people on paper.  (Okay, I’m just now realizing how twisted that sounds.) 

Moving on, being a writer gives you all sorts of excuses for bizarre and socially-inept behavior.  In social situations, friends can look over at you, shake their heads, and say confidentially to others, “It’s okay, really.  She’s a writer.”  Sort of how being an Australian explains things.

Here are some things that can really work to your advantage (reword: you can work to your advantage.)

The Research:  writing a book gives one all sorts of excuses to do research.  This can be as innocent as merely looking up things on the internet (exactly what is the distinction between hot romance and porn? Checking Yutube…hey, every writer knows Show Not Tell is best.)

The Bar:  all writers meet in bars, right?  Certainly all agents and editors do.  Especially those from out of town who don’t have offices in the vicinity.  “I have to meet my editor at The Drake,” you call out to all concerned.  And then you gather up your laptop, notebooks and cell phone.  The hard part is, you must remember to bring all those things back from the bar after your ‘meeting’. 

The Deadline:  your major excuse for getting out of any dull social obligations, including ant-infested picnics and relative-infested gatherings.  “I’m on deadline!” you cry frantically, even if your deadline is nine months from now.  (Nine months…nice metaphor.  Probably, I came up with it while in The Zone.  See below.)

In case you are still not convinced that being a writer is the best excuse ever, let me introduce you to The Zone.  This is the place your writer-mind travels to when it really doesn’t want to be where your body is. You can zone out at any time, in any social situation. 

Enjoy this.  Milk this.  Smile and look distracted .  Your boss, inlaws or editor will nod knowingly, as if they are a party to a big secret.  They will look upon you sympathetically and say to each other, “Oh.  He’s planning his next book.” 

Which can be really useful if what you are really planning is how to do away with your boss, inlaws, or editor.


Sunday, 11 June 2017

The BEST thing about being an Author



By Melodie Campbell (bad girl)

(This was the second half of my MC - Mattress of Ceremonies - address at the Bloody Words Mystery Conference Gala in Toronto.  Which was a blast and a half.  I even have a photo of me giving this address.  It actually looks like me, which will be explained below.)


We all know the highs.  Those delirious times when you win awards and/or get a royalty cheque that takes you and your family to Europe rather than McDonalds.

I’ve had a few highs, winning the Derringer and the Arthur.  And I’m exceedingly grateful for them.

Because - thing is - authors get a lot of lows.  For some reason, most of my lows seem to cluster around that scariest of all activities:  the book signing.

Some people think the worst thing that can happen is nobody shows up.  Or when you’re on a panel of 4 authors, and only three people show up.

But that’s not the worst.

1.   Worse is when five people show up for your reading.  And they’re all pushing walkers.

And half way through, when you’re right in the middle of reading a compelling scene, one of them pipes up, “When does the movie start?”

2.  Sometimes, even large crowds don’t help.
  
I did an event this year with two hundred people in the audience.  I was doing some of my standup schtick, and it went over really well.  Lots of applause, and I was really pumped.  I mean, two hundred people were applauding me and my books!  A bunch of hands shot up for questions.  I picked the first one and a sweet young thing popped up from her seat and asked in a voice filled with awe, “Do you actually know Linwood Barclay?”

3.  Another ego-crusher:  I was reading in front of another large crowd last year.  Same great attention, lots of applause.  I was revved.  Only one hand up this time, and she said, in a clearly disappointed voice:

“You don’t look anything like your protagonist.”

So I said, “Sweetheart, not only that, I don’t look anything like my author photo.”

4.  The Best thing about being a writer?  Near the top, has to be getting together with other writers to whine about the industry.  I was at The Drake in Toronto with a bunch of other Canadian author friends, Howard Shrier, Robbie Rotenberg, Dorothy McIntosh, Rob Brunet, Pam Blance…who am I missing?

We were whooping it up in the bar, moaning about the book trade.  Someone bought a round.  And another.  And then I bought a round.  And soon, it became necessary to offload some of the product, so I went looking for a place to piddle.  You have to go upstairs in the Drake to find washrooms, so I gamely toddled up the stairs, realizing that I couldn’t actually see the steps.  I was probably not at my best. 

I made it to the landing at the top and scanned a door in front of me.  It had a big “W” on it. That seemed sort of familiar, but fuzzy, you know?  Then I saw the door to my left.  It had an “M” on it.  So I thought, ‘M for Melodie!’ and walked right in.

Howard, I think you had probably gone by then, but the guy at the urinal asked for my number.



Monday, 29 May 2017

MURDER AT THE CRIME WRITING AWARDS



In honour of the Arthur Ellis Awards for Excellence in Crime Writing, held last Thursday:  This post, from a few years ago.

By Melodie Campbell


Okay, I haven’t done it yet.  But I may soon.

I’m the Executive Director of a well-known crime writing association.  This means I am also responsible for the Arthur Ellis Awards, Canada’s annual crime writing awards night, and the resulting banquet.

I’ve planned hundreds of special events in my career as a marketing professional.  I’ve managed conferences with 1000 people attending, scarfing down three meals a day.  Usually, we offer a few choices, and people choose what they want.  They’re pretty good about that.  People sit where they want.  Simple.
Granted, most of my events have been with lab techs, doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals. 

It is not the same with authors.  Nothing is simple with authors. 

THE SEATING ARRANGEMENT

A can’t sit with B, because A is in competition with B for Best Novel.  C can’t sit with D because C is currently outselling D.  E can’t sit with F because they had an affair (which nobody knows about.  Except they do.  At least, the seven people who contacted me to warn me about this knew.) G can’t sit with H because G’s former agent is at that table and they might kill each other.  And everyone wants to sit with J.
THE MENU

The damned meal is chicken.  This is because we are allowed two choices and we have to provide for the vegetarians.  We can’t have the specialty of the house, lamb, because not everyone eats lamb.  We can’t have salmon as the vegetarian choice, because some vegetarians won’t eat fish.

So we’re stuck with bloody chicken again.

P writes that her daughter is lactose intolerant.  Can she have a different dessert?

K writes that she is vegetarian, but can’t eat peppers.  Every damned vegetarian choice has green or red pepper in it.

L writes that she wants the chicken, but is allergic to onion and garlic.  Can we make hers without?

M writes that her daughter is a vegan, so no egg or cheese, thanks.  Not a single vegetarian choice comes that way.

I am quickly moving to the “you’re getting chicken if I have to shove it down your freaking throat” phase.

Chef is currently threatening the catering manager with a butcher’s knife.  I am already slugging back the cooking wine.  And by the time people get here, this may be a Murder Mystery dinner.

Postscript:
Nobody got murdered, but a few got hammered. 


Monday, 22 May 2017

How I became an Overnight Success in 26 years (with nods to Anne R. Allen)

By Melodie Campbell (Bad Girl)



Three years ago, I wrote a crazy little book that won two crime writing awards.  (Okay, not three years ago.  It won the Derringer and Arthur Ellis three years ago, which means I wrote it two years before that.  Trad publishing takes time…but I digress.)


That year, I also won a national short story contest, with prize money of $3000.  The year after, I was shortlisted along with Margaret Atwood, for another fiction award.


The Toronto Sun called to interview me.  They titled the article, “Queen of Comedy.”


“You’re famous!” said an interviewer.  “How does it feel to become an overnight success?”


“That was one long night,” I said.  “It lasted 26 years.”


This blog post was inspired by Anne R. Allen


Yesterday, Anne had a post on her Top 100 blog:  10 Reason Why You Shouldn’t Publish that 1st Novel


(It’s terrific.  Click on the link, to see why.)


But that got me thinking about my own “overnight success.”


Here’s the thing.  I started writing fiction for money in 1987. (Nineteen Eighty-Seven!!  Big shoulders and big hair.  Wasn’t that two years before the Berlin Wall came down?)


I won my first award (Canadian Living Magazine) in 1989.  By the time my first novel hit bookshelves, I already had 24 short stories published, and had won six awards.


Plus The Goddaughter’s Revenge – the book that won the Derringer and Arthur – wasn’t my first novel published.  It was my fifth.


My Point:


I’ll drill down even more.  It wasn’t even my fifth novel written.  It was my seventh.  The first two will never see the light of day.  One has gone on to floppy disk heaven.  Although if God reads it up there, he may send it to hell.


I would never want ANYONE to read my first two novels.  Writing them taught me how to write.  I got rid of bad habits with those books.  I learned about the necessity of motivation.  The annoyance of head-hopping.  And the importance of having a protagonist that people can like and care about.


Yes, my first novel had a TSTL heroine who was naive, demanding, and constantly had to be rescued.  (For those who don’t know, TSTL stands for Too Stupid To Live.  There.  You learned something from this blog post.)  Even I got sick of writing about her.  Why would anyone else want to make her acquaintance?


In my first two novels, I learned about plot bunnies.  Plot bunnies are those baffling side trips your book takes away from the main plot.  Each book should have an overall plot goal, and ALL subplots should meander back to support that one plot goal in the end.  My first book had everything but aliens in it.  All sorts of bunnies that needed to be corralled and removed.


Speaking of bunnies, I’m wandering.  So back to the point:


IN 2015, many people saw me as an overnight success.  I was getting international recognition and bestseller status.  One of my books hit the Amazon Top 100 chart at number 47, between Tom Clancy and Nora Roberts.*


But that overnight success took 26 years.  I had one long apprenticeship.


Keep in mind that being an author is a journey.  No one is born knowing how to write a great novel.  You get better as you write more.  You get better as you read more.  You get better as you learn from others.


Being an author is a commitment.  You aren’t just writing ‘one book.’  You are going to be a writer for the rest of your life. Commit to it.  Find the genre you love.  Write lots.


And you too can be an overnight success in 26 years. Right, Anne?


(*Rowena Through the Wall.  She’s a much more likeable protagonist.)

Saturday, 13 May 2017

YOU KNOW YOU'RE A WRITER WHEN...



By Melodie Campbell (Bad Girl)

Recently, I read something  that got me thinking.  (Okay, have your little laugh.  I can wait.)

The quote was:
“A writer who isn’t writing is a monster.”

At first, I wasn’t sure if that meant a writer who wasn’t writing right now and every minute was a monster.  Or whether it meant a writer who was prevented from writing was a monster.

For the sake of all concerned (at least in this house,) I’m goin’ for the latter.

Which brings me to this little list.  If you are a writer, tick off the ones that apply to you and leave a comment before.  Or better still, add your own.  If you are not a writer, stand back.

You know you’re an author when:
1.  You’d rather spend time with your characters than your friends.

2.  You’ve been at the computer all day and Nachos seem like a major food group.

3.  Your spouse yells “Are you all right in there,” and you’re pretty sure you’ve heard that voice before.  Somewhere.

4.  Your idea of a vacation means hours and hours of time to write.  And nobody bugging you to “do something.”

5.  You reach for Glenlivit when the internet goes down.

6.  You could be arrested if the Feds look at your search history.

7. You actually know the difference between less and fewer.  And consider it a hanging offense when people misuse them.

8.  You have been known to ignore phone calls from your mom, kids, husband, boss, and possibly God.

9.  Your idea of supreme hell is being trapped at a cocktail party for three hours with people who aren’t writers.

10.  You have seriously considered murdering people who say, “I have this great idea for a book, and if you’ll write it, I’ll share the profits with you.”   And the ones who say, “I think I’ll write a book someday when I get more time.”  And the ones who say, “Of course, it’s just a mystery/fantasy/romance genre book you’ve written.  When are you going to write something important?”

Excuse me now.  I have a lot of people to murder, and I’m behind.