Friday 22 December 2023

Bad Santa! (More Humour, and pass the scotch)

(Appearing on Sleuthsayers today - Repeated here for my regular readers.)

Santa, I have a complaint. 

Put bluntly, you are simply not up to the task anymore.  

In fact, I am going to suggest that if there IS a Santa, he is doing a terrible job and needs to be replaced.

Let me explain.

After the events of today, I'm about to propose a new category of writing award, one that has been previously overlooked.  One that, at the very least,  I feel would add great amusement to our field:

Unluckiest Author of the Year


                                                 (this is me)  

Ideally, this would be a money-winning category, but no doubt if I won it, the cheque would be lost in the mail.

To wit:

Friends will remember that - exactly two years ago - the entire 2nd printing of my YA book Crime Club fell off a container ship into the Pacific ocean (along with 17 other containers).  Just in time for Christmas sales.

(Pass the scotch. )

Santa, we had a long talk about that.



This year, I've had a thrilling thing happen.  I had a column in The Globe and Mail (Toronto and National editions) that was picked up by Reader's Digest for Canadian and World Rights.  In addition, they asked me to write more for them. As one industry professional said, Reader's Digest is the "pinnacle archive of our times."  So it was kind of a big deal, for me.

Headline in The Globe and Mail today:

READER'S DIGEST TO CLOSE ITS DOORS

(Pass the scotch.)

The column was to appear in the Feb. 2024 issue.  I sent my invoice yesterday.  

To be fair, the door that is closing is the Canadian issue.  The column might still appear in Lichtenstein and Bolivia - who knows?

But I'm willing to bet all my royalties from the 2nd printing of Crime Club (ha-ha), that this invoice will go unpaid.

Really, Santa, can't you do something about all this bad stuff happening right before Christmas?  I mean, one understands that there's no good time for bad things to happen.

BUT REALLY???

Have a heart, Big Guy!  I'm starting to lose faith in you.  Oh, what's that you say?   Your goal is to give me 'spectacularly zany' material with which to continue my comedy career?

All I can say is, there better be a lot of scotch under the tree this year.

MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO EVERYONE!

The real me, before scotch.


 


Friday 3 November 2023

Burlington LItfest! Join me on Wed. Nov. 8 and Wed. Nov. 15

I was asked to do a promotional video for Burlington Litfest - here's a still from it! Link to come.

 Check out details on the Upcoming Appearances page here.


 

Friday 27 October 2023

The Guts that it takes to be a Writer

"I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand."  Harper Lee

As I sit at my desk looking out the window at the black October lake, it occurs to me that I've been contemplating how to write this post for a long time.  Perhaps I was waiting for a suitable trigger [sic].  Ironically (just can't resist these puns) I sold the last of my gun collection after Sandy Hook, and no longer engage in sport shooting. For that reason, and perhaps the fact that I also no longer fly small craft and gliders, a person close to me hinted that I had become rather conventional.  

For some reason, that bothered me. Dagnabbit, was he equating conventional with boring?  That got me thinking about being a writer.  And frankly, I don't think any of us are conventional.  We are the very opposite of that.

The point of this post:

I've always told my classes that you need three things to be an author:



Talent -  the ability to come up with new story ideas again and again

Craft -  the dedication to learn the craft of writing, which takes time, instruction, and what I like to call an 'apprenticeship'

Passion - the determination to spend hours alone at your keyboard, creating those stories

I've known a lot of adult writing students who have talent.  I've been able to teach them the craft.  But if they don't have the passion that being an author requires, then the first two don't mean much.  It takes me nearly 1000 hours to write an entire novel, in final form.  That's a lot of butt-in-chair passion. 

In addition, I have taught people who show talent and passion, but won't take the time to learn the craft.

But lately, I've come to recognize something I've overlooked, something absolutely critical for a writer to stay in the game.  I'm adding a fourth essential to the list:

Courage.

I didn't fully understand how much courage it took to be a writer, until after I'd been published a dozen or so times.  Now, with more than 60 short stories and 18 novels, perhaps 200 humor columns and comedy credits, I've found my courage faltering at times.  But what exactly do I mean?

Voices stronger than mine have said that writing is easy - you just open a vein and bleed.  I can attest that my protagonists, while different from each other, often have my moral beliefs and views on life.  They put forth and discuss issues of ethics and politics that support a Canadian woman's viewpoint.  Mine.

So that when I am writing fiction or humour, I am not only demonstrating (for better or worse) my talent as an entertaining writer.  I am also exposing the things that are important to me and that I believe in.  What it boils down to is this:  not only is my writing open to being criticized, but my personal beliefs and morality are also up for grabs.

For this, I have - like many female writers - been hounded by trolls on social media.  Usually men (but not exclusively) who wish to make me uncomfortable, to diminish me in some way.  To erode my confidence, and hopefully make me fearful.  In all cases, they wish to silence me.  They hide behind the screen of anonymity.

In the old days (by this I mean pre-Amazon) we took criticism from professional critics, plus our editors.  In a way, it was a jury of our peers, and we accepted that.  Now, to use a military analogy, we can't see the enemy.

It takes real courage to put your work out there, and take the slings and arrows of  criticism from unknown players, many of whom have sinister intent.

It takes guts.  

Harper Lee said it best.

Melodie Campbell writes from the northern shore of Lake Ontario.  Mainly mob capers, but also classic whodunits like The Merry Widow Murders, online and at most bookstores.


Saturday 16 September 2023

Meet Award-winning Author Melissa Yi!

It's my pleasure to welcome a fellow Mesdames of Mayhem and award-winning writer, Melissa Yi, to this page!

 Melissa and I have done an 'interview turnabout' - meaning, she set some questions for me, and I did the same for her.  I've started with her interview, and have dropped mine at the bottom.

First, love the pix.  Are we Canadian or what?  Red heels in the snow!  (great title for a short story, don't you think?) 

Here we go!

I absolutely love the first chapter of Sugar and Vice.  Your first line is brilliant.  That last sentence is a textbook way to end a first chapter; perfect foreshadowing.  It also provides a terrific example of my comment above:  one needs a balance between bathos and pathos.  The dialogue between Hope and friends is full of fun, but…here’s the ‘awe’ moment.  We know there is going to be something serious at stake, and Hope will be in the thick of it.  Her own self could be at risk!

1. Melissa, like you, most of my career has been in health care.  Ive seen a lot of things I wish I could forget.  Do you find writing humorous fiction a welcome escape from your day job? 

Yes! Sometimes I like to write about medicine straight up, like in the essays in The Most Unfeeling Doctor in the World collection, which I started after a patient called me the most unfeeling doctor hed ever met. I do change patient details, but sometimes I want to write, This happened,” with or without humour.

Other times, I escape hard stories outright by writing comedy, fantasy, science fiction, or romance with a happy ending and/or a new world. It makes life a lot more cheerful and bearable!

2. Why crime?  I know you also write Sci-fi (as I have) but most of your fiction is steeped with crime.  What drives you to this genre?

Ooh, Ill have to read your SF too!

Crime means that no matter what happens, you end with a sense of justice. Sometimes other writers blow my mind with the cleverness of the villain and therefore the sleuth.

Although my residency in Montreal was tough at the time, like my family medicine clinic had no running water (I literally had to run down the hall to heat up a metal speculum), I can look back at laugh and write about it now. I love a doctor who saves lives and fight killers.

Readers do ask for more Hope, even if they cant pronounce her last name. Psst, its Sze, which you can pronounce like the letter C.

And who says you have to choose? In Hopes Seven Deadly Sins series, paranormal elements infiltrate Hopes world, starting with ghosts in The Shapes of Wrath (https://windtreepress.com/portfolio/the-shapes-of-wrath/) and dragons in Sugar and Vice (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/melissayi/sugar-and-vice-a-novel-of-death-dumplings-and-dragons)

3. Sugar and Vice is the best title Ive seen in years, and spot on for our genre. Im miffed I didnt think of it first!  What was your inspiration for this particular story?

Thank you! I knew Id write about gluttony as Hopes second deadly sin, but how and why would people would die over food? I wrestled over that for a long time.

I started researching mukbangs, videos where people livestream their meals, sometimes in unusual ways, like discussing true crime over cheesy lasagna. Strange but true.

I also took a look at dragon boat racing.

Somehow, my brain invented the Dragon Eats festival, which combines dragon boat racing with food competitions. I knew Hope would run into murder there!

As for title envy, nothing quite fit, and I wished Id come up with another great title, Sugar and Spite. While walking my dog, I realized that Sugar and Vice fit my book even better!

I have to thank cozies for the inspiration, since I named The Shapes of Wrath after reading The Crêpes of Wrath.

I steal, I mean, get inspired, by everything!


 
Melissa Yi is an emergency physician and award-winning writer. In her latest crime novel, WHITE LIGHTNING, Dr. Hope Sze’s romantic getaway at a Windsor Prohibition hotel morphs into a ghost-ridden historical crime scene with potential links to Al Capone. Previous Hope Sze thrillers were recommended by The Globe and Mail, CBC Books, and The Next Chapter as one of the best Canadian suspense novels. Yi was shortlisted for the Derringer Award for the world’s best short mystery fiction. Under the name Melissa Yuan-Innes, she also writes medical humour and has won speculative fiction awards. http://www.melissayuaninnes.com/

 

MELISSA AND MELODIE SWITCH PLACES!

Here I am, in the hot seat now; love these unique questions!

 1.     Sugar or vice? Meaning, do you prefer sweet and cozy or edgy? You can interpret this how you like.

 You could have knocked me over with a cannoli when I saw people were calling “The Merry Widow Murders” a cozy!  It’s neither sweet nor cozy, with many references to the aftermath of WW1, and the deep grief felt from Lucy, my young widowed protagonist.  It is, however, the type of book I like to read myself.  A traditional mystery where the reader is challenged to race along with the protagonist to discover the murderer.  In my case, I can’t help adding a lot of comic relief, mainly in the form of Lucy’s pickpocket-turned-maid Elf, and the banter that takes place between the two of them. 

 So I like a bit of an edge with my crime; a balance, so to speak.  You can’t be laughing all the time, or humour becomes banal.

 2. As "Canada's Queen of Comedy," do you find it effortless to incorporate humour into your writing, or is it like a muscle you have to work?

 I am reminded of the old performers’ adage: “Dying is easy. Comedy is hard.”  So I have to smile and say, no, it’s not easy, but writing serious suspense is even harder for me!  It takes me a year to write a novel.  I can’t stay in a dark head-space for that length of time.

 Perhaps it’s habit.  I got my start writing comedy in the 90s; I wrote standup for comedians, and had a regular humour column in two papers.  I had 24 short stories published before I even tried to write a novel.  Surprisingly, many of them were dark, with twist endings.  But when I came to write a novel, I fell back on what I do naturally: make it funny.  To be honest, I’ve tried to write straight, but every time I do, a natural quip comes to me that I just can’t resist, and the tension breaks when it shouldn’t!  So I’ve given up, and admitted that I will never be the Margaret Atwood of Mystery.  Instead, one reviewer for Ellery Queen called me “the Carole Burnett of Crime."  If only I could find Tim Conway...

 

Wednesday 13 September 2023

NEWS! READERS DIGEST TO PUBLISH COLUMN by Melodie Campbell

Just signed contract with READERS DIGEST, for WORLD RIGHTS (22 COUNTRIES) for:

"WHO ELOPES AT 65?  WELL, WE DID!"

pub date to come...

Thursday 7 September 2023

THE GLOBE AND MAIL - by Melodie Campbell, WHO ELOPES AT 65? (Published today, Sept 7, 2023)

 

FIRST PERSON

Who elopes at 65? We did – because, well, why not?

MELODIE CAMPBELL

CONTRIBUTED TO THE GLOBE AND MAIL

PUBLISHED YESTERDAYUPDATED 3 HOURS AGO

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