Thursday, 29 April 2021

OATLANDER - and you thought Rowena Through the Wall was a parody on Outlander...

Stand back.  People have been asking for zany.  In fact, they asked for a repeat of this particular post (which just shows you how desperate we all are...)

Yes, ROWENA THROUGH THE WALL (as featured on USA Today) has been called "Outlander meets Sex and the City" by professional critics.  But even they wouldn't be prepared for the plot that never quite made it to print...

 Hold on:

 OATLANDER – Why I can never write a book straight

It happened again.  One little letter got switched around, and those little writer demons in my head let loose.

It started with a quote from an industry reviewer, regarding my time travel series starting with Rowena Through the Wall.  I was trying to quote:  “OUTLANDER meets SEX AND THE CITY.”

Nice way to describe Rowena et al.  I’m very grateful to him.  But of course, I messed up the spelling of Outlander.

So here’s a sneak preview of my next book:

OATLANDER

Claire (okay, lets change that to Flaire) falls through time and lands in virtually the same country she did in that other book.  The country that thinks using animal bladders for instruments is a really neat idea.

“What the heck,” says Flaire, looking around at all the sheep.  “This isn’t Kansas.”

“Ach no,” says ruggedly handsome and unmarried oat farmer, who might possibly be named Jamie (okay, let’s change that to –heck, nothing rhymes.  Tamie?  Bamie?  Okay, Balmy.  “And why are you wearing just your slip, lass?”

Flaire (looking down): “Blast. So’s I am.  Well, fuck a duck.”

Balmy:  “Canna no dae that, lass. Only sheep here.”

<We travel further along in the story, to the battle of Culloden, where Balmy and the local rebels exchange words.>

Leader of Rebels:  “Today  will go down in history, lads!  Grab yer spikes and pitch forks!  We go to spill English blood!”

Balmy: “Not on me oat field, ye don’t.”

“SCOTLAND! SCOTLAND! SCOTLAND!”  Rebels charge.

Flaire, watching everyone trip over sheep.  “This isn’t going to end well.”

Balmy:  “Back to Kansas, Lass?”

Flaire:  “Sure.  No oats though. We’d have to call this…Cornlander.

Balmy <scratching chin>:  “But that would be-“

Flaire:  “Corny?” 


 Now in Audio - at all the usual suspects

 

Sunday, 21 March 2021

Sister in Crime Canada West! free podcast

 I had the privilege of appearing in the Sisters in Crime Canada West podcast, as some sort of an expert in crime writing - grin. (Which sort, they never say, which is clever of them.) If you ever wanted to know the industry breakdown of mystery vs thriller genres/subgenres, here's a fun podcast that also includes several terrific SinC crime writers who participated in a newly released anthology.

  Sisters in Crime - Canada West - the Crime Wave anthology by JCVArtStudio from The Dressing Room • A podcast on Anchor

 


 

Saturday, 27 February 2021

WRITING IS HARD

This post appears right now on Sleuthsayers, The Criminal Blog populated by Derringer award winners, among others.  Repeated here for my regular readers.


 A long time ago, back when video stores were kind of a cool new thing, I was whooping it up in the Toronto Press Club with some eminently more famous Toronto columnists and reporters.  One of them, Scottish he was, asked me this:  "Tell me, lass.  You have a syndicated humour column, you've written comedy, you've had over two dozen short stories published...so why aren't you writing a novel?"

After much deliberation, my exceedingly clever answer was:  

"Because they might want me to write
another one?"

That got a round of applause (actually make that a round of scotch) from the somewhat sozzled guys at the bar.

No really.  Even then, I knew that writing a novel would be a rat-poop load of work.  It wasn't that I was allergic to work.  I had honed the art of writing 650-800 words every week, and making them passably funny.  But writing 80,000 words for one project?

That was 1995, I think.  Since then, I've written 17 novels, and 50 more short stories.  And let me tell you.

Writing is WORK.   Holy hell, is it work.  It is a freaking black hole of work and time and bloodletting.  Time suck, soul suck, give your life over to the keyboard for MONTHS.

I've heard other authors say they can't wait to sit down to write the first page of a new novel.  That they get so excited when they start something new.

That isn't me.  After 17 books, I know what's coming.  Months of hunkering over the keyboard, doubting myself, loving, then hating my characters (Jesus Murphy, WHY is she such a whiny nincompoop?)  Finding the Black Moment.  BECOMING the black moment.

So to illustrate, my starts are more like this:

Me:  "Sob!" (hits head against desk)  "I don't want to.  Don't make me.  I can't do it again..."  (reaches for scotch with head still on desk)

Working-class Muse, possibly from Jersey, the wrong side:  "Listen sister.  Sit your fat bippie down and get a move-on.  These things don't write themselves."

Me:  "But it's so HARD."  (slurping puddle of scotch sideways through a straw.)

Muse:  "You think THIS is hard?  Remember before you were published?  Remember all those rejection letters from publishers?  We insulated the walls of the cottage with them."

Me (sniveling):  "Too bad the place caught fire."

Muse:  "Maybe if you hadn't written BURN IN HELL on all of them..."

At about this time in the ritual, W-C Muse says the magic motivation words:  "Sit up sister.  YOU GOT A CONTRACT."

Me:  "Oh right. Move over, and pass the scotch."

And so it goes.

I'm at that stage right now.  staring the page in the face, knowing I have to start book 2 in a new series, thinking I'd rather jump out this picture window into the lake below (even though I'm 4 stories up and about 50 feet from shore.  So it would be quite a leap.)

I started life as a columnist, so I know I should wrap up on positive note.

Writing is hard.  But it's my life, and I suspect it's yours too.


Melodie Campbell has won ten awards, including the Derringer, the Arthur Ellis, the Hamilton Reads Award, and a city of Toronto award for best children’s book in high school, which is probably as far away from The Goddaughter mob caper series as you can get. 

 

Wednesday, 18 November 2020

NEVER MARRY A CRIME WRITER (as presented to the Crime Writers of Canada at the Arthur Ellis Gala, Arts and Letters Club Toronto, May 2019)

 The Crime Writers of Canada went loco, and asked me to emcee the Arthur Ellis Awards this year.  Somehow they learned I might have done standup in the past.  Or maybe not, because they even paid me.  It may be more than my royalties this quarter.

 I dug back into my Sleuthsayer files to decide what might appeal to a hardened (re soused) group of crime writers en mass, with an open bar.  This is what resulted, and I’m happy to say the applause was generous.  You may remember some of this. 

 Arts and Letters Club, Toronto, May 23, 2019, 9PM

 Hello!  Mike said I could do a few minutes of comedy this evening as long as I apologized in advance.

 My name is Melodie Campbell, and it’s my pleasure to welcome here tonight crime writers, friends and family of crime writers, sponsors, agents, and any publishers still left out there.

 Tonight is that special night when the crime writing community in Canada meets to do that one thing we look forward to all year:  which is get together and bitch about the industry.

 Many of you knew my late husband Dave.  He was a great supporter of my writing, and of our crime community in general.  But many times, he could be seen wandering through the house, shaking his head and muttering “Never Marry a crime writer.”

 I’ve decided, here tonight, to list the reasons why.

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

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

 Never mind: I’m here to help.

 I think it pays to understand that crime 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, authors 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 crime writer, but here are 10 reasons why you shouldn’t:

 The basics: 

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

  And here are some worse reasons why you shouldn’t marry a crime writer:

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

 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  And lastly, We know at least twenty ways to kill you and not get caught.

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

Sunday, 18 October 2020

Why Book Tours are Expensive (More Comedy on the Road - with fond memories of being on the road)

 By Melodie Campbell

I’ve recently been on a book tour for my latest crime comedy, The Goddaughter.  Book tours are expensive.  You travel around to independent book stores and you sell some books and sign them.  It’s fun.  You meet a lot of great people.  But it’s expensive.  And I’m not talking about the hotel tab and the bar bill.

I should have just stayed in the bar.  It was leaving the bar that become expensive.

Nice night.  We decided to go for a walk.  It was dark, but I had on my brand new expensive progressive eye-glasses, so not a problem, right?

One second I was walking and talking.  The next, I was flying through the air.

Someone screamed. 

WHOMP.  (That was me, doing a face plant.)

“OHMYGOD! Are you okay?”  said my colleague.

I was clearly not okay.  In fact, I was splat on the sidewalk and could not move. 

“Fine!” I yelled into the flagstone.  “I’m Fine!”

I tried to lift my head.  Ouch.

“That must have hurt,” said someone helpfully.

I write mob comedies.  So I know a bit about mob assassins.  It may come in handy.

A crowd had gathered.  Not the sort of crowd that gently lifts you off the ground.  More the sort of crowd that gawks.

“Couldn’t figure out why you were running ahead of us.” My colleague shook his head.

I wasn’t running.  I was tripping and falling.

“That sidewalk is uneven.  Your foot must have caught on it.”

No shit, Sherlock.

By now I had tested various body parts.  Knees were numb.  Hands, scraped.  Chin, a little sore. 

But here’s the thing.  I hit in this order: knees, tummy, boobs, palms.  My tummy and boobs cushioned the fall and saved my face.  

 Yes, this was going through my mind as I pushed back with my tender palms to balance on my bloody knees.

“Ouch!”  I said.  No, that’s a lie.  I said something else.

I stood up.  Surveyed the damage.  My knees were a bloody mess, but the dress survived without a scratch.  It was made in China, of course.  Of plastic.

The crowd was dispersing.  But the pain wasn’t over.

Next day, I hobbled to the clinic.  The doctor, who probably isn’t old enough to drive a car, shook his head.  “Progressive glasses are the number one reason seniors fall.  They are looking through the reading part of their glasses when they walk, and can’t see the ground properly.”

Seniors?  I’ve still got my baby fat.

“Get some distance-only glasses,” he advised.

So I did.  Another 350 bucks later, I have a third pair of glasses to carry around in my purse.

Which means my purse isn’t big enough.

So I need to buy a new purse.

And that’s why book tours are so expensive.


Melodie Campbell got her start writing comedy (standup and columns.) In 1999, she opened the Canadian Humour Conference.

Saturday, 15 August 2020

When Words Collide - Plot vs Character Grudge match!

Lots of fun yesterday on the panel at the When Words Collide reader-conference!

Normally, we would be in Calgary, having a blast.

Bonus:  I don't even hate the vid - pix



Sunday, 26 July 2020

Back by popular request (thanks Mike!) - BATHING SUIT HELL or My War with the Madonna Suit


(first published in newspaper syndication, Bad Girl column)
By 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.

Now 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. 

“Let me make this clearer,” I say patiently.  “Things have happened to my body in the last few decades.  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 colourful 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.  “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 fight 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.  I look like an escapee from a Wagner 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.