29 April 2017

Over-Byters Anonymous

 Family Fortnight +  Leading up to the  International Day of Families on the 15th of May, we bring you the first in a series about mystery writers’ take on families. Settle back and enjoy!
by Melodie Campbell (Bad Girl)
Here's my salute to the wonderful families who put up with us crime-writers! 
I write mystery and suspense fiction.  Lately it's been taking over my life.

I blame this on my new laptop.  Sleek and slim, it accompanies me everywhere: in the car, at the kitchen table, in the loo.

Unfortunately, it has become too convenient.  I have become a victim of the Computer Black Hole of Time.  Take last week, for instance:

"Quick - the laptop! I have an idea and I don't want to lose it."

"Oh no, Mom!  Not the laptop!  Don't do it...don't turn it on...don't"
(Insert theme song from Twilight Zone here.)

Alas, poor Natalie.  She knows what is to come.  Like Jeff Goldblum in that remake of The Fly, I merge with my mini-computer.  We become one.  Conscious only of our own existence.  Oblivious to the sounds of life around us.  Consumed by the story that has to come out of us.

Somewhere, a voice cuts through the fog.

"Mom, I'm hungry."

Normally a staunch advocate of the five food groups, I forget all about artificial flavour, colour dye number 412 and hydrogenated everything.  Lost in the netherworld of word-processing, I utter the dead giveaway:

"There's some Twinkies in the cupboard."

Natalie shakes her head in despair.  "She's gone."

Tap tap tap.  Fingers on the keyboard have a rhythm all their own.  Mesmerizing.  Hours shrink to minutes.  Like a jigsaw puzzle half done, the shreds of my story are piecing themselves together.  If I can only...

"Dad's home, Mom."

"Just a sec."

"It's dinner time, Mom."

"I think there's some Oreo's in the cupboard."

Back to the keyboard.  The laptop is humming our tune.  Words glide across the screen in a seductive dance.  I'm caught in the feverish whirlpool of setting, viewpoint, characterization and climax.

An electric can-opener disturbs my train of thought.

"Earth to Mom.  Want some tuna?"

"Just a sec."

"Honey, are you all right?"

My husband's voice.  What is he doing home so early?

"We're eating now," he says.

"Have a Pop Tart," I blurt.

Natalie shakes her head.  "Give up, Dad."

I'm back to the screen, running with my story character...heart pounding, mind agonizing.  Will he get to the scene before the murderer?  Will he be in time to prevent it?

Somewhere in the house, water is running - pounding on porcelain like thunder.  Hey, that's it!  Add a blinding thunder storm, the hero running through sheets of rain, slipping on wet pavement, unable to read the house numbers....

I PG UP and start revising.

"Night, Mom."

"Night, Mommy"

"Murrmph?"  I don't look up.

Finished.  I save copy and turn off my partner in crime, the laptop.  Draft one, complete.  What a team.  Sitting for hours in one position, I am oddly invigorated.  Ready to run the Boston Marathon, and looking for company.

It's dark outside.  The house is quiet.  I thump upstairs, looking for everyone.

Even my husband is in bed.  I sit on the edge of the mattress, bewildered.

"Why is everyone in bed so early?"

My husband pokes his head up.  "It's 3 a.m."

"It is?"  Astonishing.  Once again, I have been a victim of the Computer Black Hole of Time: entire hours mysteriously devoured by the simple on-switch of a computer.  I contemplate starting a self-help group for chronic users:  Over-Byters Anonymous.  But I don't think I could deal with the separation anxiety.

"Wanna read my story?" I ask eagerly.

There are limits to the devotion of even the most supportive family.

It's 3 a.m.  He declines.

Added note:
Today is Authors for Indies day in Canada.  By Indies, we mean independent bookstores.  All across the True North, authors are appearing at independent bookstores to do signings, and show their appreciation.  I will be at Different Drummer bookstore in Burlington, Ontario, this afternoon.  Many thanks to all our independent bookstore owners!

Melodie Campbell got her start writing standup.  Her books and short stories have won 10 awards, even though they are probably certifiable, poor things.  Read at your own risk. www.melodiecampbell.com


  1. Thanks, Eve! Too close to the truth.

  2. Step...away...from...the...laptop.

    Funny! But not necessarily that exaggerated...

    I used to be one of those people who carried a notepad everywhere so I could jot ideas down. I finally decided it was more show-boating and playing the role of "writer" than anything else. If I forget an idea, it probably wasn't worth writing down anyway. If it was, it'll come back eventually.

    We used to have both a PC and a laptop, but we found we didn't like the slightly smaller keyboard and let it gradually become obsolete. Now we have two desktop PCs, one of which still runs Vista. I took it off line but still do writing on it. I can't go online to fact check, which is a good thing because I can't get distracted, either.

    My daughter is coming on board Monday to discuss how her old man corrupted her deformative youth.

  3. I have two puters in my office. One is for playing games & the other is for everything else. I probably should move my "writing" to the gaming machine because it isn't connected to the internet.

    If my husband had ID to cross over the Peace Bridge from Buffalo to Canada, I'd come to Burlington, Ontario to see you. Unfortunately, I don't drive. I remember one Halloween we went to IKEA in Burlington & all the employees were in costume.

  4. Elizabeth's post hit a nerve with me. I miss the days when wave-through border crossings were a mere formality and weren't manned after hours. Country roads had no guard shacks. It was kind of like good neighbor extended families where members would wander through each others' house all day long.

    Now we need an ƒ-ing passport!

  5. Melodie, your description is so on-the-mark. Authors must have evolved special kidneys over the centuries.

  6. Steve, I can't wait to read that post by your daughter! What fun. Thanks for commenting.

  7. Elizabeth, I'm going to be just across the border from you pretty soon! Doing a gig in Niagara Falls, I think. Do you remember John's Flaming Hearth? We used to love going across the border with a mere swish of our drivers licenses back in the day. Miss it.

  8. Leigh, I miss those days too. We used to know the customs people, and they wouldn't even bother to ask for our ID. Just ask us where we were going to dinner, and if we knew what the specials were.

    And special kidneys, indeed - grin. Which reminds me. It's nearly cocktail hour.

  9. Enjoyed your post, Melanie, and also enjoyed the comments about how easy it used to be to cross the border. I grew up in Buffalo, and we always took out-of-town visitors to see both sides of the Falls--crossing the Peace Bridge into Canada was as easy and natural as could be. Now I'll have to get a passport to go to Toronto for Bouchercon. It's a sad change. (And yes, I remember John's Flaming Hearth, though we couldn't afford to eat there often.)

  10. Oops--make that Melodie, not Melanie. Sorry. (I've been rushing to catch up on posts I missed while I was at Malice Domestic--that's not an adequate excuse, but it's the only one I've got.)


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