Saturday 19 December 2015

Have a Confusing Christmas! (reprinted with permission from the places that pay me)

Time for a Christmas post!  Have a wonderful holiday, everyone.

By Melodie Campbell

The following story is true.  And it may explain the slightly manic sense of humour I have been displaying on these pages over the years.

Most of my life, I have been confused about Christmas.

This is because I am the quintessential Canadian mutt.  Four parts Italian, one part Irish, one part English, one part Chippewa, and the final bit was a surprise.  It overlaps with the English part (wait for it.)

The Italian part is easy to explain.  Every year, my Sicilian grandmother put the plastic lighted crucifixes (made in Japan) in glaring rainbow colours, on the Christmas tree.  I was a bit confused by that, not only because it was gawd-awful tacky and fought with my budding interior designer.  But the part in the 10 Commandments about ‘no graven images’ seemed to be at risk here.

Nevertheless, we all looked forward to the blazing orange, green and red crucifixes, unaware that it was a sort of macabre thing to do to a Christmas tree.  Did I mention Halloween is my favorite holiday?

The Chippewa part was a tad more elusive.  I first got a hint that there might have been First Nations blood in our family when someone asked why we put ground venison in our traditional Christmas Eve spaghetti sauce.  True, we had a freezer full of deer, moose, salmon, and not much else.  Later, it occurred to me that I actually hadn’t tasted beef until I was ten, when for my birthday, Dad took us to the A&W for a real treat.

“This tastes weird,” I said, wrinkling my nose.
“That's because it’s made from cow,” Dad said.

Of course, if I had been more on the ball, there were other clues.  But at the age of six, you don’t necessarily see things as out of the norm.  That summer in Toronto, I loved day camp.  They split us kids into groups named for First Nations tribes.  By happy coincidence, I got placed in the Chippewa tribe.  When I got home and announced this, the reaction was: “Thank God it wasn’t Mohawk.” 

The camp leaders were really impressed with my almost-authentic costume.  (Everyone else was wearing painted pillow cases.)

But the real confusion about Christmas and my provenance came many years later.

I spent most of my life not knowing we were part Jewish.  I was about forty, when the designer shoe (a bargain on sale at David’s) finally dropped.  Dad and I were eating pastrami on rye at Shopsy’s Deli one day (which we did on a regular basis, once a month – a reasonably intelligent person might have considered this the first clue) when Dad wiped a drip of mustard off his face and said:

Dad: “I haven’t heard from my cousin Moishe Goldman in a long while.”

Me:  “We have a cousin named MOISHE GOLDMAN??”

Of course, if I had been thinking, all this made sense.  We had lived in a Jewish neighbourhood.  Our last name is Hebrew for antelope.  And I was only kid in school who got Halvah in their Christmas stocking every year.  (Damn straight.  I really did.  I still do.)

So I’m hoping this may explain why we have a five foot lighted Christmas peacock on our front porch this year, and a lighted Christmas palm tree in our back yard.  “A Peacock in a Palm Tree” may be confusing to you folk who know the song and are expecting a partridge with pears, but to those of us who have been confused about Christmas all our lives, it is merely icing on the proverbial matzo.

Melodie Campbell writes funny books. You can buy them at Chapters/Indigo, Barnes&Noble, Amazon, etc.  Sometimes even at the discount table at Zehrs and Walmart.)

The Peacock.  You thought I was kidding.

Tuesday 15 December 2015

Unchained Arthur presented to Melodie Campbell

Truly original - Absolutely brilliant!
Many thanks to the board of CWC for presenting me with the Unchained Melodie/Arthur for my years of leading Crime Writers of Canada.

This Arthur is different from the Arthur I won for Crime Writing in 2014.
Note the broken noose...  Melodie is free starting January 31!

Thanks to everyone who attended the event, and contributed to such a fantastic party. And special thanks to Jason Stuckless for taking this photo.  (Such a great shot of me.  I may use it for my passport photo.)

Wednesday 9 December 2015

TV TRAVESTY! (reprinted with permission from the places that pay me)

My most popular humour column of all time, repeated here.  It was rather manic, when I played all parts during a standup gig.

People often ask me why I write comedy.  I say it’s because I am seriously fed up with reality.  I mean, really - what’s so special about it?  Everybody does it.  
So for those of you who are sick of reality (TV or otherwise,) this is for you.  In the lofty traditions of Dallas, Dynasty and Desperate Housewives, make way for…TRAVESTY!
Note the originality of the plot.  (Hey, it’s rerun season!)

INTERIOR.  A pink frilly bedroom.  Daytime.  An attractive young woman in full makeup and Victoria’s Secret underwear reclines on the bed, moaning fatuously.  An older man kneels by her side, wringing his well-manicured hands.

Lance:  “Tell me April, I gotta know.  Is the baby mine?”
April (in bed):  “Oh Lance!  Oh Lance! <sob!> …what baby?”
Michael enters the room.
Michael:  “April honey, I’ve got something to tell you.”
April:  “No - <sob> - not-“
Michael nods.
April:  “You?  And Lance?”
Lance:  “OH-MY-GOD”
Michael:  “And your mother’s been hit by a beer truck, and the boutique has burnt down.”
April (standing up in bed): “THE BOUTIQUE?”
Michael:  “We saved the clothes, but the jewelry was a meltdown. Sorry.”
April (clutching throat):  “I can’t take it anymore! This is too much for one day.”
Michael:  “And it’s only 8 a.m.”
Lance (clearing throat):  “About your mother…”
April (collapsing on bed):  “OH-MY-GOD, MOTHER!  She hated beer.”
Lance:  “I have something to tell you…”
April (to director):  “Do I faint now?”
Lance:  “…she’s actually not your mother…”
Michael:  “WHAT?”
April:  “You mean-“
Lance:  “Yes.  I am”
<gasps all around>
Michael:  “That trip to Sweden…?”
Lance:  “Yes.”
Michael:  “LANA?”
Lance:  “Yes.”
Michael:  “But didn’t we…?”
Lance:  “Yes.”
Director (to April):  “You can faint now.”
Everyone faints.

Stay tuned next week for more riveting drama, when April asks the question, “How do you tell if blue cheese is bad?”

Wednesday 2 December 2015

IWSG Day: Worst Typos EVER! Take 2

Today, I am delighted to be a co-host for IWSG day, along with     
Sandra Hoover, Mark Koopmans, Doreen McGettigan, and Megan Morgan!
My insecurity?  Typos!  Gaaaaahhhh!  <pounds head on desk>

It happened again, and this time it was all my fault.

You know how it happens.  Spellchecker has an evil twin that changes your word by one letter, and you don’t notice it until it goes to print.  

Public becomes Pubic.  Corporate Assets becomes Corporate Asses.  The Provincial Health Minister becomes Provincial Health Monster.  We’ve all been there.

Readers may recall that last year, I wasn’t too happy when the virtual blog tour company paid by my publisher changed the title Rowena and the Dark Lord to Rowena and the Dark Lard.  Sales were NOT stellar.  However, the hilarity that ensued was probably worth the typo.  Seems there were all sorts of people willing to suggest alternative plot lines for a book about a Dark Lard.  Many were a mite more entertaining than the original concept (she said ruefully.)

Here’s a small sample:
Protagonist moves back to Land’s End and opens up a bakery.

Protagonist and love interest return to Land’s End and become pig farmers.

Protagonist messes up another spell that causes all who look at her to turn into donuts.

It’s enough to make a grown writer cry.

Well, this time I did it to myself.

REALLY not cool to request a formal industry review for a book and misspell the title.

No matter how it reads, "Cod Name: Gypsy Moth" is not a tale <sic> about an undercover fish running a bar off the coast of Newfoundland...

That wasn’t enough.  People were quick to respond with suggested plot lines on Facebook.  Other authors (22 in fact) had to wade in <sic>.

he'd have to scale back his expectations - a bar like that would be underwater in no time.

and here's me waiting with 'baited' breath

Readers will dive right into that

That's a whale of a tale

that book will really "hook" a reader

Smells pretty fishy to me

definitely the wrong plaice at the wrong time.

We're really floundering here; no trout about it.

Okay!  In the interest of sane people everywhere, I’ll stop on that last one. 

The real name of the book? 

What's your most spectacular typo?  Tell us in the comments below.

Check out other great IWSG posts today:  Click here

Monday 30 November 2015

Introducing...Morticia's Massage Parlour and Free Advice Academy (again...reprinted from the places that pay me)

Back in the bad ole days, in addition to my Bad Girl column, I had a gig writing a wacky advice column for a resto/bar trade mag.  On the urging of a few friends who have absolutely no taste, I am bringing Morticia back to life <sic> on these pages.  Reprinted with permission...

Dear Morticia:
This guy I really like has finally asked me out.  Thing is, I met him at a beach and he doesn't know I wear glasses.  Should I wear them on our first date?
Signed:  Short sighted

Dear Short:
That depends.  What does he look like?

Dear Morticia:
I've been sleeping with a piece of wedding cake under my pillow since last April and it isn't doing a thing.  What do you suggest?
Signed:  Always a Bridesmaid

Dear Always:
Personally, I've never seen the point of sharing your pillow with wedding cake.  Why don't your try a man instead?  Lots more fun and not near as messy.

Dear Morticia:
All I want is a man who doesn't play golf all weekend long.  Is that too much to ask?
Signed Weekend Widow

Dear Weak:
Really?  That's ALL you want from a man?  Must get pretty boring at night....

Dear Morticia:
I like your style.  How about a date, Sugar?
Signed: Swinger

Dear Swing:
Sure!  January 27th?  August 18th?  11/04/21?  MCXXII?

To be continued....

Wednesday 25 November 2015

Comedy and the Older Woman - How far can you go?

by Bad Girl (Melodie)

Today, I’m writing a serious blog.  (‘NO!  Don’t do it!  Don’t’ <sounds of heels screeching on floor as body is dragged offstage>)

I write comedy.  I wrote stand-up, and had a regular column gig for many years.  My books and most of my short stories are (hopefully) humorous.  My blog…well, that sometimes goes off the wall.

But I’m noticing that as I get older, the comedy seems to become more shocking.  Or rather, I am shocking people more.  They don’t know how to take it.  I see them gasp and act confused.  Did I really mean what I said just then?  Was it meant to be funny?

I don’t believe it’s because I’m writing a different level of material.  Nope. 

So why?  Why does my comedy seem to shock readers more than it did twenty years ago?

It’s not the readers.  It’s my age.

Writing comedy when you are thirty is ‘cute’.  I can’t tell you how many people told me that I ‘looked cute on stage’ as I innocently said some outrageous things that made people laugh. 

Saying outrageous things on stage when you are over 50 is not ‘cute’.  Women over 50 are never described as ‘cute’ (unless they are silly and feeble and very old.)  Women over 50 cannot carry off ‘innocent’ (unless portraying someone very dumb.)  Women over 50 are expected to be dignified.

Phyllis Diller was a wonderful comic.  She did outrageous things on stage, and we laughed with her.  But she dressed like a crazy-woman and had us laughing AT her as well as with her.  Some women I know dislike the fact that Diller made herself ridiculous in front of an audience.  I don’t, because I know why she did it.

Forgive me while I pull a Pagliacci.  Yes, I still write comedy.  But I don’t do ‘stand-up’ anymore.  I’ve found that women my age are not well received by crowds (especially liquored-up crowds). 

Women who are young and pretty can get away with murder.  Even better, they can get away with comedy.

BUT: A woman over 50 who makes fun of younger women is (often) seen as jealous.  A woman over 50 who makes fun of men is (often) viewed as bitter. A woman over 50 who makes fun of other women over 50 can get away with it, but the big audience isn’t there.

So my hat goes off to women like Rita Rudner, who do it still. I admire her so.  It’s a hard and unfair gender divide, believe me.

 Catch me at the Turner Park Branch of the Hamilton Public Library Thursday night at 7, on The Humour Panel!

Sunday 22 November 2015

New Release from Alison Bruce! Deadly Season is a perfect Holiday read

And Now for Something a Little Different

 By Alison Bruce

Melodie asked me a very good question the other day. Why is Deadly Season lighter in tone than Deadly Legacy? Both are Carmedy and Garrett mysteries. Both are set in a somewhat dystopian near future…or, as it will soon be, a parallel present.

It’s all about timing.

My mother had died shortly before I wrote Deadly Legacy. In fact, my mother inspired the motive for murder. Things I learned about my mother after her death suggested that she suffered from depression. So did I, but I had to learn more about my own before recognizing the signs.

Here’s the thumbnail history I gave my postpartum depression group. My mother, sister, and father were all diagnosed with various forms of cancer in January. All they had to do was remove the tumour on his kidney for my dad. Joanne had a lumpectomy and radiation therapy for her breast cancer, but it metastasized and attacked her bones. My mother had small cell aggressive lung cancer and died within the year. I found out she was dying just before I found out I was pregnant. At the time I started the support group, I was taking care of a toddler, infant, my sister and father. Frankly, it’s a wonder I didn’t write something even darker…like The Mayor of Casterbridge or Les Miserables.

One of the reasons it wasn’t darker is that I have more of a sense of humour than Thomas Hardy and a more optimistic outlook than Victor Hugo. (Or maybe it’s the other way around.)

Dark isn’t my usual tone. I’m no Pollyanna, especially when it comes to social commentary, but I try to stay away from depressing fatalism.

One of the other reasons Deadly Season is lighter is that it’s written in first person. Kate Garrett, despite losing her father at the start of Deadly Legacy, has a sense of humour that leavens her dark times. As long as she is the voice of the series, there won’t be room for gloom and doom.

Last month Kate Garrett was a Police Detective. Now she’s a Pet P.I.?

Kate recently inherited half her father’s private investigation company and a partner who is as irritating as he is attractive. Kate has been avoiding Jake Carmedy for years, but now her life might depend on him.

Kate and Jake are on the hunt for a serial cat killer who has mysterious connections to her father’s last police case. Kate’s father had been forced to retire when he was shot investigating a domestic disturbance. Is the shooter back for revenge? And is Kate or Jake next?

Available at:


 “Deck the halls with boughs of holly…”

“I thought we agreed no holiday songs in the office.”

“We agreed no holiday music in the office,” I said, hanging fresh holly over the last window. “I didn’t think that included me singing.”

“Well it does,” said Carmedy, scowling.

I gave him my best look of wounded sorrow.

He sighed.

I added my brave waif smile for effect. I took as many drama electives as I could fit in when doing my undergraduate degree in psychology and criminology. It’s amazing how useful they proved to be in my professional life.

The cherry on top was a trembling lower lip a la Little Orphan Annie.

“Oh give it up,” he said, laughing. “I don’t believe that quiver for an instant.”

But I got you to laugh, I thought. These days, that’s victory enough.

By the terms of my father’s will, Carmedy and I became equal partners in his investigation agency. I took a leave of absence from the City Police Services to figure out what to do about that.

Carmedy thought I was crazy. Give up a secure job with benefits in this economy? But when had the economy not been an issue? I knew Dad didn’t expect me to inherit so soon. Well, I didn’t expect to lose my father so soon. Life happens.

He thought I was even crazier to take the cat-killer case. And he was pissed off I didn’t consult him. 

Fair enough, but how did he expect me to say no to the Chief?

But that was yesterday’s news. I was determined to reduce the tension between us. For ten years we had been avoiding each other because of a misunderstanding my darling father created. I had miles to go in the grieving department, but was tired of being sad all the time, and walking on eggshells around Carmedy was getting old.

Alison Bruce has had many careers and writing has always been one of them. Copywriter, editor and graphic designer since 1992, Alison has also been a comic store manager, small press publisher, webmaster and arithmetically challenged bookkeeper. She is the author of mystery, romantic suspense and historical western romance novels. Three of her novels have been finalists for genre awards.