Sunday 28 September 2014


(as seen on Sleuthsayers)

By Melodie Campbell

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 offence 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.

Melodie Campbell murders people regularly in her zany mob crime series, The Goddaughter. 

Wednesday 24 September 2014

CYANIDE is my favourite

I'm usually so respectable, right?  Nah, not even my kids believe that.  In the 1990s, when I was writing stand-up and other comedy, I was also a regular in the underground poetry world of Toronto and Hamilton.  Ironically, most of my publications were in England and the US. 

Here is a sample of published poetry.  Some is subversive.  Some is sweet. 

In another post, I'll talk about the deconstruction a U of Toronto class did of SAILAWAY.  I was...admittedly...astounded at how profound they thought I had been (when I actually hadn't.  Irony alert here.)

Schools are free to copy these, with appropriate credit given.

by Melodie Campbell

(Published in Parnasus Literary Journal)

She has
Eight-hundred dollar business suits
A nifty Japanese sports car
Trips to Europe
And twenty-seven different outfits for just the
Right Occasion.

I have
A closet full of Fleece
A beat-up station wagon
Trips to the Pediatrician
And twenty-seven different cleaners for getting
grass stains out of corduroy.

She has
A charge account at Sak's
A heavy date for Saturday night
An off-white living room you could go blind in
And several friends of the 'Beautiful' variety
you can take anywhere and maintain your credibility.

I have
A charge account at Walmart
A laundry date for Saturday night
A kid-approved family room you could go deaf in
And several off-spring of the 'exhuberant' variety
you can't take anywhere and maintain your sanity.

She says she'd give anything for my life.
I say she's nuts.


by Melodie Campbell

(Published in The Lyric. Studied in the University of Toronto post-graduate English program.)

Come with me on a sail at sea
Across the tide and away
Where foreign shores and yachting chores
Shall mark the close of day.

Come with me on a sail at sea
To the dawn of time and back
Through calm of night and morning light
Our sails will take the slack

Come with me on a sail at sea
The Main is a briny bower
We'll climb to heights of seafull flight
And soar on waves for hours.

Come with me on a sail at sea
We'll ride out the roughest weather
Then you'll be mine till the end of time
And I'll be yours forever.


by Melodie Campbell

(Winner of the Poetry division of the Murder, Mayhem and Macabre Literary Award)

You say my cooking's ghastly
I'm useless on my back
I never read a paper
And besides, I'm getting fat.

You call this match unequal
On that, I must agree
For now you're dead upon the floor
And I am finally free.


by Melodie Campbell

(Published in Candelabrum Poetry Magazine, under a different title)

Coliseum cat
Streak of silver in sun
Walks the ruins, with
Caesar's ghost.


by Melodie Campbell

(Published in The Lyric)

Leaves, leaves!
Dance in the breeze
Whispering secrets to neighbouring trees
(Scandalous bits on the birds and the bees.)


Wednesday 17 September 2014

TAGGED AND BAGGED! This Writer of Mob Comedies Dishes the Dirt...

(as seen on Sleuthsayers)
I should have known there would be a price. 
Back in 2012, when Steve Steinbock reviewed The Goddaughter in Ellery Queen’s Jury Box, I was ecstatic.  <So was my publisher.  Ellery Queen ROCKS!>
Steve called my book hilarious. I called Steve my hero. Little did I know, two years and three books later, that he would be tagging me on Sleuthsayers.
Oh Steve, thy devilish one.
Many of you remember Steve from the days of ‘Criminal Brief, the blog.’  <There are a hundred ways in which I want to play with the word ‘brief’ right now, but I will refrain.>  Steve and I met years ago at a Bloody Words Mystery conference in Toronto. As teens, we had a mutual pash <lovely Brit expression there> for Dark Shadows, the original series. I like and respect Steve.  I also fear him slightly <EQ and all> so hastily accept the tag.
What Am I Working On?
The Goddaughter Caper.  Or A Coffin for the Goddaughter.  Or A Body for the Goddaughter.  Or The Goddaughter’s Coffin Caper.
Somebody help here!  Book 4 of the Goddaughter series is nearing completion, and I need a title.  I started with the 3rd in the list above.  I’m leaning toward the first.  Of course, Orca Books may throw all those out and come up with their own, but I’d still like to hear from readers in the comments below.
Gina Gallo and her inept mob family are back in biz.  The second book in the series, The Goddaughter’s Revenge, won both the 2014 Derringer and Arthur Ellis awards for best crime novella. <author is over the moon>  The third in the series, The Artful Goddaughter, came out last week.
For those new to the series: Gina is a mob goddaughter in the industrial city of Hamilton (The Hammer.) Try as she might, she can’t seem to leave the family business.
How Does My Work Differ From Others In The Same Genre?
Library Journal said it well:  “Campbell’s comic caper is just right for Janet Evanovich fans.  Wacky family connections and snappy dialog make it impossible not to laugh.” 
When people ask what I write, I say ‘comedies.’  Then I give the genres (crime capers and time travel fantasy.)  My books are comedies first and foremost.  I look for plots that will lend themselves to laughs.    
Why Do I Write What I Do?

A Greek Mask

Some people are born beautiful.  But most of us aren’t, and we look for ways to survive the slings and arrows of life.  Sometimes we choose to hide behind a mask.  That Greek Comedy mask was the one I picked way back.
Comedy is Tragedy Barely Averted
My younger brother is autistic.  Our home life was stressful and at times, sorrowful.  When I was a teen, as a means of self-preservation, I looked for the ‘funny.’  More often than not, I made fun of myself.  This was easy to do.  I knew the target well and there was a wealth of material.  And it didn’t hurt anyone else, so people liked it.
When I left school and had a ‘real’ job, I started writing stand-up on the side.  I rarely delivered it – usually I wrote for others. That led to a regular newspaper humour column, and more.
So when it came to writing novels, I fell back into ‘safe mode.’  Write it funny. 

How Does My Writing Process Work?

I teach Crafting a Novel at Sheridan College in Toronto, so I’m pretty immersed in craft.  Not surprisingly, I’m a plotter. I don’t start writing until I know the ending.  But I’m a forgiving plotter.  I don’t plan out every scene.

Sometimes a plot idea will trickle around in my mind for a year.  When the ending clicks in, I sit down to do a basic three-act plot diagram.  I teach this method, and I use my own books as examples.

So…once I have my inciting moment, first, second and third crisis, and finale firmly in my head, I sit down to write.  I start with the opening/inciting moment.  Then I usually skip to the ending, and write the climax and finale.  Then I go back to the beginning and write forward.

For me, it’s important to know that I like the characters and plot enough to stay with that story for the months to come.  That’s why I write the beginning before I spend much time doing outlines.  I need to know that I can live in that world, and enjoy it.

And that’s what I suggest students do.  If you are going to be a writer, you have to love the actual act of writing: by this I mean, hands on keyboard, butt in chair, all by yourself, pounding out stories that the characters in your head are demanding you tell.

Of course, coffee and a wee dram o’ whiskey help.

Melodie Campbell drinks coffee and single malt somewhere south of Toronto.  The Artful Goddaughter is now available in stores and online.

Friday 12 September 2014

DEADLY DOZEN: 12 Mystery/Thriller Novels by Bestselling Imajin Books Authors - $3.99!

$3.99! PRE-ORDER NOW & GET 50% OFF UNTIL SEPT. 14, 2014!

The DEADLY DOZEN Book Bundle contains 12 complete mystery/thriller novels by award-winning and international bestselling authors: Cheryl Kaye Tardif, Catherine Astolfo, Alison Bruce, Melodie Campbell/Cynthia St-Pierre, Gloria Ferris, Donna Galanti, Kat Flannery, Jesse Giles Christiansen, Rosemary McCracken, Susan J. McLeod, C. S. Lakin and Linda Merlino.

  1. THE BRIDGEMAN by Catherine Astolfo
  2. DEADLY LEGACY by Alison Bruce
  3. A PURSE TO DIE FOR by Melodie Campbell & Cynthia St-Pierre
  4. CHEAT THE HANGMAN by Gloria Ferris
  5. A HUMAN ELEMENT by Donna Galanti
  6. LAKOTA HONOR by Kat Flannery
  7. PELICAN BAY by Jesse Giles Christiansen
  8. SAFE HARBOR by Rosemary McCracken
  9. SOUL AND SHADOW by Susan J. McLeod
  11. ROOM OF TEARS by Linda Merlino
  12. DIVINE INTERVENTION by Cheryl Kaye Tardif
With an individual list price total of more than $45.00 and over 640+ reviews collectively on, the DEADLY DOZEN Book Bundle is a value-packed, rollercoaster thrill ride that takes you from amateur sleuth to detective to paranormal to ancient mysteries set in intriguing worlds and so much more.
Book Details:
ISBN: 978-1-77223-000-0 (Kindle ebook); $7.99 US; September 14, 2014
Language: English

Editorial Reviews:
"You won't catch your breath until the last page [of The Bridgeman] turns."—Lou Allin, author of She Felt No Pain

"Deadly Legacy grips your attention from the first page...a treat for the senses." —Garry Ryan, award-winning author of Malabarista

"[A Purse to Die For has a] page-turning pace, fascinating characters, sly wit, and a plot that will keep you guessing." —Janet Bolin, Agatha-nominated author of Dire Threads

"Cheat the Hangman is a refreshing and chilling paranormal mystery you won't want to miss." ―Jeff Bennington, author of Reunion

"A Human Element is an elegant and haunting first novel. Unrelenting, devious but full of heart.  Highly recommended." —Jonathan Maberry, New York Times bestselling author of Code Zero

"Transport back to the old west with this paranormal historical [Lakota Honor], and its alpha hero, and a heroine hiding her secret talents." —Shannon Donnelly, author of the Mackenzie Solomon Urban Fantasy series

"Christiansen offers a tale sure to entrance readers—a story of love and wisdom and the mystery of a forgotten graveyard under the waters of Pelican Bay." —Man Martin, author of Paradise Dogs

"[Safe Harbor] offers a coherent structure, an exact feel for the Toronto locales, and, in Pat, a hugely attractive sleuth figure." —Toronto Star 

"Soul and Shadow is a deep and complex tale of deceit, danger and love. Well plotted and extremely engrossing that I couldn't put it down." —Romance Junkies

"Revenge is indeed a dish best served cold in this fast-paced, thrilling story...[Innocent Little Crimes is] a page-turning thrill-ride that will have readers holding their breath the whole way through." —Publishers Weekly

"[Room of Tears is] a beautiful and gut wrenching story...Miss Merlino weaves a flawless tale that will have you sobbing by the end of the book." —#1 New York Times Bestselling Author Rachel Van Dyken, author of The Bet 

"Great imagination, fabulous imagery...This chilling page-turner [Divine Intervention] is a genuine Canadian crime novel...Tardif gives her readers plenty of twists and turns before reaching a satisfying ending." —Midwest Book Review

Available at:

Sunday 7 September 2014

WRITING COMEDY – A Starter Kit from Bad Girl (Melodie Campbell)

“Is that a broadsword on your belt, or are you just glad to see me?”
<from Rowena Through the Wall>

I hope you smiled at that line.  I think it’s one of my best. My name is Melodie Campbell, and I write comedies.  (This is a self-help group, right?)  Sure I’d like to kick the habit and write a ‘real’ book with literary merit. <author grimaces here>

Okay, so that’s a lie.  Leave The Goddaughter’s Revenge behind?  Not write a sequel?  I’m starting to hyperventilate.  Actually, I love writing comedies.  It’s in my blood.

Some people are born beautiful.  But most of us aren’t, and we look for ways to survive the slings and arrows of life.  Sometimes we choose to hide behind a mask.  That Greek Comedy mask was the one I picked way back.

Always remember this: Comedy has its root in tragedy. Making fun of our foibles is one way we cope.
As a means of self-preservation in the cruel world of teenagers, I looked for the ‘funny.’  More often than not, I made fun of myself.  This was easy to do.  I knew the target well and there was a wealth of material.  And it didn’t hurt anyone else, so people liked it.

When I left school and had a ‘real’ job, I started writing stand-up on the side.  I rarely delivered it – usually I wrote for others. That led to a regular newspaper humour column, and more.

So when it came to writing novels, I fell back into ‘safe mode.’  Write it funny. 

You can too.  Here’s a starter kit:

The rule of ‘WORST THING’
(aka: Never go easy on your protagonist.)

Comedy writers take a situation, and ask themselves ‘what’s the worst thing that could happen now?’  <that’s the tragedy angle> And then, ‘what’s the funniest?’

What’s the worst thing that could happen to The Goddaughter when she is reluctantly recruited to carry hot gemstones over the border in the heel of her shoe?  Predictable would be: she gets caught at customs.  But I don’t want predictable.  I want funny.

Instead, the shoes get stolen. By a complete amateur! It’s embarrassing, that’s what it is. How is she going to keep this from her new boyfriend Pete, who thinks she’s gone clean? And what the heck is she going to tell her uncle, the crime boss?

Nothing, of course.  She’s going to steal them back.  Or die trying.

And hopefully the audience will die laughing.

TIP 1 – Adding Comedy via your Plot

Now take your novel:  Create a confrontation for your protagonist.  What’s the worst thing that could happen to her?  Then ratchet it up: what’s the most embarrassing thing, from her point of view?

Alternate between worst and embarrassing.  This keeps your reader intrigued, and raises the stakes.  They don’t know whether her next encounter will be deadly or hilarious.

TIP 2 – Adding Comedy via the way you put together Words

Now let’s step it up.  Add wordplay. Have a member of the cast says funny or clever things.  It doesn’t have to be your protagonist.  Sometimes it is best to make this character a side-kick. Examples: surprise, unexpected, sarcasm, exaggeration, words with double meaning

                                                         i.     Surprise or unexpected:
“I had the flu once.  It was terrible.  I couldn’t eat a thing for three hours.”
<from Rowena and the Viking Warlord>
This works because we expect to hear something else at the end: “I couldn’t eat a thing for three days.”  Instead, we hear “three hours.”  This is an example of the surprise or unexpected, plus exaggeration, giving us a chuckle.  But wait a minute: this is also self-deprecating.  Three in one.

                                                        ii.     Example 2: Remember how this post started?
“Is that a broadsword on your belt, or are you just glad to see me?”
This is an example of wordplay that requires the reader to have some prior knowledge or education. We know the original May West line, where the gun substitutes for something else.  This exaggerates the gun into something bigger.  The reader feels clever for getting the joke.
So…do you really want to join me in this reckless trade? Read below.

When people ask what I write, I say ‘comedies.’  Then I give the genres (crime capers and time travel fantasy.)  My books are comedies first and foremost.  I look for plots that will lend themselves to laughs. 

This is different from authors who say they write humorous mysteries, for instance.  In this case, they would peg their books mysteries first.  The humour is secondary.

It’s tough writing comedy.  Here’s why:
1.      Everyone expects your next book to be just as funny or funnier than your last.
Example: Janet Evanovich.  Readers are complaining that her 20th Stephanie Plum book isn’t as funny as her earlier books.  They are giving it 2 and 3 stars.  Twenty books, people!  Think about that. I’m on my fourth book in two different comedy series, and I’m finding it tough to sustain the humour in book four.  Believe me, this woman is a master.

2.     When you write something that isn’t meant to be funny (or is mildly humorous but not comedy) people are disappointed.  But it’s not funny, is what I hear most.  Talk about type-casting.

3.     You will never be taken seriously for most awards.
Again, comedy – particularly in crime writing - is rarely taken seriously for awards.  This drives some writers nuts.  It seems to be endemic that books on the short lists are usually ones written with gravitas, on subjects that are ‘important’ or grim. To quote a colleague, “It seems to me, the more grim a book, the more merit is ascribed to it.”  Blame the Scandinavians.

4.     It’s hard to get published.
This is lamentable.  It’s hard to get a publisher for comedic novels. Many seem to be afraid of funny books.  Again, it may be the part about not being a ‘serious’ book, and thus not seen as an ‘important’ book.

Film suffers from a similar stigma.  How often these days do comedies win Oscars?

5.     The expectations are HUGE.
Not only will you be expected to produce a book with great plot, characterization, viewpoint, motivation and dialogue like all the other writers, but along with that you also have to make people laugh consistently throughout it.  It’s like there is a sixth requirement for you, an additional test that others don’t need to pass.  And you don’t get any more money for it.

Sucks, right? So why do it?
1.     Because good comedy is magic to some readers.  They love you for making them smile. 
2.     Because not everyone can do it. There is talent as well as craft.
3.     Because making people laugh is what you do.  You’ve done it since you were in high school.  Most of us who write comedy were the class clowns.
4.     Because you’re mad, like I am. Well at least, madcap.

We do it for readers. Hopefully, we’ve lightened their day with laughter, and in some cases given them a story they can escape into, over and over again.

Postscript:  THE GODDAUGHTER’S REVENGE broke the rule and won both the 2014 Derringer and the 2014 Arthur Ellis award for best crime novella this year!  Author is still in shock.

Monday 1 September 2014

THE ARTFUL GODDAUGHTER - Now Available in Paperback!

THE ARTFUL GODDAUGHTER  - Now Available in Paperback!


The third novel in a hilarious series featuring Gina Gallo, who is having a hard time leaving the family business.

                on CHAPTERS/INDIGO
And in all major bookstores, including Chapters and Barnes & Noble!
(ebook to follow)

First Industry Review: 

The Artful Goddaughter is a novella with legs and laughter. International award winning author, Melodie Campbell’s  third Goddaughter mystery is the best of a winning trio of stories. The second one, The Goddaughter’s Revenge recently took home Canada’s Arthur Elllis award for best novella and America’s Derringer award. 

Strong plot, great zingers and imagery that draws you in and just doesn’t let go. Gina Gallo, the leggy beauty, about to wed inherits a stash of cash from her deceased uncle that comes with a condition…reverse an old crime with a new one and get him to his final reward. And she’s off with her crew of relatives anyone would love to hide. The scam is delightful, the plot, setting and dialogue move with page turning intensity which makes the Artful Author’s third crime ride a blast and a laugh. 

Reviewed by: Don Graves. Canadian Mystery Reviews.