Showing posts with label Melodie Campbell. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Melodie Campbell. Show all posts

07 October 2018

Talking Turkey

by Velma

Tomorrow Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving and, in case you wondered, Liberia celebrates Thanksgiving the first Thursday in November. The time or place matters little to bachelors who celebrate the holiday much the same no matter when or where.


A Bachelor Thanksgiving
in honour of the Canadian holiday
arrangement in ironic pentameter
by deservedly anonymous


Thanksgiving cornucopia
I think I shall never sniff
A poem as lovely as a whiff
Of turkey and mashed po—
tatoes and frozen snow–

Peas in vast disproportion
As I gulp another portion.
Cranberry sauce, count me a fan,
Maintains the shape of the can.

Cheap beer and cheaper whiskey
Makes the shallow heart grow frisky.
Three litre jugs of screw-capped wine
First tastes horrible, then tastes fine.

Deli turkey, cellophane wrapped.
Processed ham and all that crap.
Sherbet, ice cream, anything frozen,
Packaged cupcakes by the dozen,

Ruffled chips and onion dip,
Reddi-Wip and Miracle Whip,
Maple frosting found in tins
Hide the worst culinary sins.

Seven-fifty millilitres of
Grain vodka labeled Scruitov,
Cheap brandy and cheaper beer
First smells awful, then tastes queer.

Pumpkin pie and store-bought cake,
Anything I need not bake.
If it’s boxed, if it’s canned,
I’m no gourmet, only gourmand.

Chorus    

Baseball, football on the TV.
One spilt bowl of poutine gravy.
This little poem with each verse,
I give thanks if it grows no worse.
vintage post card wreath turkey

vintage post card children, turkey, pumpkin

We admit nothing except Happy Thanksgiving. Graphics courtesy of Antique Images, The Holiday Spot, and Spruce Crafts.

23 September 2017

The Bad Girl Method to Writing a Novel (a crooked path, of course)

by Melodie Campbell

Okay, I tricked you. You thought this was going to be a humour column. Not so fast. Yes, it’s about writing humorous books, because that’s what I write. But I’m sure this could apply to most books.

Writing a novel, or even a novella, means hours and hours of work at a keyboard. Hundreds of hours. Maybe even a thousand hours for a full-length novel.

Some of those hours are great fun. Others, not so much. Why is it that some scenes are a kick to write, and others just drudgery?

Here’s what Agatha Christie said in the Foreword to Crooked House, one of her “special favourites.”

“I should say that of one’s output, five books are work to one that is real pleasure… Again and again someone says to me: ‘How you must have enjoyed writing so and so!’ This about a book that obstinately refused to come out the way you wished, whose characters are sticky, the plot needlessly involved, and the dialogue stilted – or so you think yourself. “

Christie was referring to books, but I think the same can be said for scenes. Some, you can’t wait to write. Others are purgatory. Here’s my own method for plodding through the fire.

The Bad Girl Method to Writing a Novel

I always start with what I call a “light outline.” Yes, I outline. But I don’t outline every scene, or even list every scene. Instead, I start with ‘Three Acts and a Finale.’ Here’s the minimum I know before I start a book:

Inciting moment, Crisis 1 (in a murder mystery, the first murder,) Crisis 2 (the second murder,) Crisis 3 (includes the black moment, usually danger for the protagonist,) Finale (solving of crime.)

Yes, I write it down. I use Excel for this. When I have more thought out, I add it in. When I get new ideas, I make notes on my schematic so I don’t forget them. (I understand Scrivener is terrific for this. Some people use post it notes on a white board. Different strokes, but the same idea.)

So here’s the question I often get asked by my Crafting a Novel students: Do I write in order, from A to Z?

No, I don’t.

I always write the beginning chapters first. I do that, because I want to see if the characters are compelling enough to carry an entire book. Meaning, do I like the protagonist, do I care about her, and am I really excited to write her story. It may take a whole year to do so. I better freaking well want to live her life for a while.

If that works (meaning, if I like the first few chapters) then I’ll usually skip to the end, and write Crisis 3 and the finale. I’ve just said something big there: Yes, I always know the ending before I start the book.

I like to write the ending before I’m too invested in the project, because I want to know that it rocks. If it doesn’t rock, then I’m probably not going to want to invest another 500 hours writing the middle of the book.

So once I’ve written the beginning and the end, THEN do I write in order?

Not always.

Here’s my trick: I continue to move forward. But sometimes I skip scenes I’m not in a mood to write. I’ll put a note in brackets on the manuscript to fill in later.

I can’t explain it, but some scenes are just hard to write. I put off writing them. This is where many of my students go wrong. When they hit a scene like that, they just stop.

The trick is not to walk away from the keyboard. Instead, go on to another scene that you do want to write.

When your manuscript is 90% finished, you will have the incentive to go back and complete those hard scenes. It will still be work. But the lure of the finish line makes it easier.

Why don’t I write a complete outline, scene by scene? I’m one of those authors who gets bored if I know *exactly* what is coming next. If I have to write a fully scripted story for an entire year, it feels like drudgery. So this is what works for me: know where I am going in each act, but not exactly how I will get there. Be willing to make changes along the way, if I stumble across a brilliant new route to the end. Heck, even change the ending, if a better destination presents itself along the journey.

And that’s what makes it all fun.

Here's a book that was pure pleasure to write: WORST DATE EVER

Now available at bookstores, and online at all the usual suspects.

25 February 2017

Know the Rules You’re Breaking (THE most controversial post you’ll see from me)

by Melodie Campbell (Bad Girl)

The rules, the rules…

Always, in my Crafting a Novel college class, beginning students are alarmed to find out there are rules to writing.

I’m not keen on rules in general. After all, I became a writer so I could thumb my nose at reality, right? Control the world of my fiction in a way I can’t control my real life.

All that said (and I could make a blog post out of just that line above) there ARE rules to writing. A bunch of middle-aged guys behind a baize door didn’t make them up for no reason (double negative – Ha! Rule-breaker, you.)

The rules are there for a reason. They’re all about logic. Here are two that are perhaps least understood. Let me make this clear:  You don’t have to follow them (more on that later.) But you do need to know them first, so that you know when you are breaking them. Here goes:

Present Tense:

This isn’t a rule. It’s more about savvy marketing. Most novels are written in past tense. Did you ever wonder why?

The trouble with present tense is it defies logic. If what I am reading is happening NOW, then how did it get written down on this page?

Approximately 60% of people (stats from a publisher) have trouble with this. Big trouble. I’m one of them. Our brains can’t accept it. Every time I hit a present tense verb, I’m thrown out of the manuscript. My reading is disrupted every paragraph. Ergo, I will not read present tense books.

Some students tell me they like to write in present tense because to them it ‘feels more immediate.’ (The classic way to do that is by increasing tension, I subtly remind.)

Here’s what I tell students: if you are writing your first genre novel, it might be wiser not to write it in present tense. Publishers know that present tense reduces the potential market because of morons like me who can’t read it. Why put another obstacle in the way of getting published?

(Publisher story: one popular YA dystopian fantasy novel was written and published in present tense. The publisher instructed her to write the second book of the trilogy in past tense.)

First Person Viewpoint Switches:

Many, many people don’t know the rules to first person viewpoint. So here goes:

The rules of writing in first person are simple: The protagonist becomes the narrator. As a writer, you make a promise to the reader. The person telling you the story is telling their story to you directly. No third party writing it. You are in her head.

I love first person. I *become* the protagonist, when reading or writing first person. But first person has huge limitations for the writer: the person telling the story must be in every scene. Otherwise, they won’t know what is going on in that scene (unless you employ a second person to run back and forth, telling the protagonist. Note the use of the word ‘tell.’ Telling is ho-hum. You won’t want to do that often.)

If your story is in first person, you can’t be switching to another character’s viewpoint. Ever. Nope, not even another viewpoint in first person. Why? Because your reader thinks this: “What the poop is happening here? The book started in first person. The protagonist is supposed to be telling the story. Now someone else is telling it. What happened to my beloved protagonist? Are the original protagonist and writer number two sitting next to each other at twin desks writing the story at the same time and passing it back and forth?”

In a phrase, you’ve broken your promise to the reader.

The rule is simple. If you need to write the story in more than one viewpoint in order to show every scene, then write the whole novel in third person. That's the advantage of third person, and why we use it. You can use multiple viewpoints.

One additional first person restriction: if your protagonist is telling the story directly, then he can’t die at the end of the story. This should be obvious: if he died, who wrote the darn thing?

Should you break the rules?

If you want to break the rules, have at it. You can write what you want. That’s the delight of being an author.

But in my class, you will hear this: The rules are there for a reason. Of course you can break the rules, but if you do, you will lose something (usually reader continuity and engagement.) It’s up to you to decide if you gain more by breaking the rules than you lose by doing so. BUT: If you break them in your first novel, publishers (and savvy readers) will think you don’t KNOW the rules.

So at least go in knowing the rules. And then do what you damn well please.

Final words: Don’t publish too soon. Take the time to learn your craft. And then…be fearless.

23 July 2016

Comedy and the Older Woman


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

I write comedy.  I wrote stand-up, and had a regular column gig for many years.  My published crime 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 quite old. Not to mention petite.)  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 this is what I've found: 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 (and not just because she is slim and petite.)  I’ll stick to combining comedy and crime on the printed page.  At least that way, I won’t end up murdering my audience.

Postscript:  I paid a tribute to Phyllis Diller, at the launch of my latest book, The Goddaughter Caper.  I wore an outrageous hat and a sign that said, "Return to the Holy Cannoli Retirement Home."  Everyone laughed and loved it.  I made myself look silly.  Which demonstrates that when a woman over 50 engages in self-deprecating humour, it is approved by audiences. 

What do you think?  Yes, an older woman can make fun of herself and delight an audience.  But is there a similar acceptance if she makes fun of others?  Ageism or sexism?  Both?

On Amazon



01 September 2015

Introducing Sleuth Magazine

by Melissa Yi



There’s a new mystery magazine in town. Comes from that country with just two seasons, winter and mosquitoes.  Got some scorching hot writers who already won some awards, like them Derringers, Arthur Ellis Awards, Hugos and Nebulas. Thought I’d go check it out.

First I caught the editor. 

What made you decide to start Sleuth Magazine?

Editor Constantine Kaoukakis: I am a mystery fan, and I realized there isn't a mystery magazine published in Canada.

Publisher Diane Walton (President of the Copper Pig Writer's Society): Canada needed a magazine that could showcase home-grown writing talent.

Constantine:  However, our magazine accepts and publishes stories from any country as long as it is in English.


What kind of stories are you looking for? How did you choose the authors and stories for the first issue?
Constantine: I am looking for interesting stories that are original yet have some sort of mystery element.

Diane:  For the first issue, we invited authors that we knew could deliver a good story, but if and when we open to new submissions, it will be to anyone who wants to send us something.
Basic need is for a compelling tale of mystery or suspense, with engaging characters.

Do you have any funny/challenging stories about putting together the first issue?

Constantine: It was more work than I imagined, but I love it. I am proud of the first issue. I would like to thank our sister magazine On Spec for help.

Diane: We were fortunate to have a great designer to put the final product together in time for our launch.

Subeditor Barb Galler-Smith: I was very impressed with the two stories I helped to edit. Made me think I should try reading and writing some mysteries, which I haven't read since I was a callow youngster! It was a joy!

How will future issues be different?

Constantine: We could be including artwork. Hopefully, we will have a print version of the magazine depending on sales. At this point, I am hoping that there will be future issues. 

Diane: We want Sleuth to be self-supporting--without depending on grant funding. So we'll need revenues from subscribers, advertisers, and generous benefactors to make this happen.

How can we help Sleuth Magazine and other mystery markets thrive?

Constantine: We need to get the word out. We need more exposure. The more people buy and read our magazine, the better chance we have to continue publishing.

Diane: Word of mouth is our best friend, so when you read something you like, simply tell all the like-minded people in your network.

Constantine: Our first issue is in digital form, only $2.99 and filled with mystery short fiction by mystery writers. Please go to sleuthmagazine.ca to buy a copy of the magazine in pdf, mobi or ePub.


I hunted down a few of them writers. Not too hard. They like to talk.

Give me a few words about your story.
Melodie Campbell: I decided this was the perfect opportunity to introduce a concept for a humorous new series. To quote Del, the protagonist: "You've heard of The A Team? Vietnam vets turned vigilantes? They had a television show a while back. We're not them. We're The B Team. Maybe not your first choice, but dammit, we could be your best choice. We're women with a mission. We deal in justice, not the law. Sometimes the law lets you down. We try to rectify that."

Melissa Yi: Whenever I write a mystery, I’m always asking the question, Could I commit murder? And if so, why?
Edgar-nominated author Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith asked me to write a story about janitors as a class assignment. They were trying to shake me up because superficially, maintenance doesn’t have much in common with my day job of emergency medicine. But we’re alike under the skin. The title THE WAR OF THE JANITORS sprang to mind, and I immediately fleshed out a story about janitors trying to sabotage each other in a school seething with jealousy.

SG Wong: My short stories are all set in fictional Crescent City, and they always centre on a character other than Lola Starke (the protagonist of my novel series set in the same world). THE FIX takes place years before the action in DIE ON YOUR FEET (Lola’s debut) and revolves around her father, Butch Starke, and his beginning as a studio fixer.

Axel Howerton: It just so happened that I was looking for an excuse to try something with a new character, mixing true crime and hardboiled/noir elements in a short story set in early 50's L.A.—so I gave it my damnedest and GOODNIGHT IRENE is the result. I wanted to do something dark and nasty, in the noir mold. It's kind of an homage to James Ellroy.
My story’s main character, Moe Rossi, is the oft-mentioned grandfather in my book, HOT SINATRA. Moe is already dead by the events of the book. I really wanted to do something with him to flesh out his legend.

Tony Stark: In my tale, Watson must find his son's Afghani mother when the boy shows up on the doorstep of 221B Baker St. In the course of the story, Watson reveals in more detail the circumstances of his military service in Afghanistan. He and Holmes also crack a ring of antiquities smugglers and human traffickers to boot.

Would you recommend working with Sleuth Magazine?
Melodie: A new, paying market for mystery fiction? And it's Canadian? What's not to like? (grin) I'm delighted and honoured to be in the first issue.

SG: Full disclosure: I’m friends with many of the editors who work on Sleuth, as well as the publisher. Even so, I absolutely recommend working with Sleuth. They are intelligent, seasoned editors who have a real passion for mystery/crime writing, and work respectfully on accepted submissions. Also, they pay decent rates for stories and are unstinting cheerleaders for their authors. What’s not to love?

Melissa: I had a terrific experience with Sleuth Magazine. They paid promptly and worked hard to edit the story. I’m excited to join the inaugural issue with my fellow interviewees, as well as Mike Resnick, EC Bell, and Tyner Gillies. The cover is bang on its genre. I even like the POLICE LINE DO NOT CROSS kind of font for the title and the page footers. I only wish I could’ve joined the launch in Calgary!

Tony: Yes, I would thoroughly recommend Sleuth magazine. The editors are first rate and everyone at the publication is dedicated to the art of mystery writing.

Axel: I loved the experience in working with Sleuth, especially with my amazing editor Barb Galler-Smith. In fact, I'm hoping to be able to help out a little more behind-the-scenes to help keep Sleuth alive and kicking. There are precious few venues left for Canadian crime fiction, or crime fiction in general, so something new like Sleuth needs to be protected and given space to grow and mature into its potential—and with people like Melissa Yi, Melodie Campbell, S.G. Wong, and Mike Resnick gracing the pages, it has tremendous potential indeed!


Huh. I get it.
Dark and nasty women.
Ghosts.
Holmes.
Grandpa.
Killer janitors.
But mostly dark and nasty women.
For just $2.99.
I better go track it down.



09 March 2015

Me and the Derringers. (Maybe.)


by Melissa Yi.

At the end of my emergency room shift, I got a Twitter message that looked like this:

Quoi? Dr_sassy and the Derringers? That's never happened before. Sounds like a good band title, though.

My first thought was, Did someone tag me by accident? As in, they want me to know about the Derringer Award, which honours the best short mystery fiction published in the English language?

But another tag-ee, Britni Patterson, was already celebrating, so my heart kicked into high gear, just wondering if I was a chosen one.

And if so, which story was it? I had two eligible tales. “Because,” a biting tale of 490 words published in Fiction River: Crime, and “Gone Fishing,” a 12,000-word serialized Hope Sze novella commissioned by Kobo and kindly mentioned by Sleuthsayers last year.

I clicked on the link and found this Derringer short list:

For Best Flash (Up to 1,000 words)
  • Joseph D’Agnese, “How Lil Jimmy Beat the Big C” (Shotgun Honey, May 12, 2014)
  • Rob Hart, “Foodies” (Shotgun Honey, May 2, 2014)
  • Jed Power, “Sweet Smells” (Shotgun Honey, July 28, 2014)
  • Eryk Pruitt, “Knockout” (Out of the Gutter Online, August 31, 2014)
  • Travis Richardson, “Because” (Out of the Gutter Online, May 15, 2014)*
  • Melissa Yuan-Innes, “Because” (Fiction River: Crime, March 2014)*
Ah. Because.

I do love that story.

Warning: it’s extremely noir. I don’t find it scary, but then I face blood, guts, vomit and potentially Ebola every day in the emergency room. I’ve already alerted the SleuthSayers powers that be that I’m not especially cozy. I’ve written what I consider cozies, and I love Precious Ramotswe and Agatha Raisin, but I also regularly stare into the darkness and take notes. When I attended the Writers of the Future winners’ workshop in 2000 and turned in a pitiless story about werewolves, the Grand Prize winner, Gary Murphy, stared at me and said, “I can’t believe that such a sweet-looking woman wrote this!"

I laughed. I adore werewolves. And good stories of any stripe.

But Cozy Monday may need a new name. Any suggestions? Cozy or Not; Cozy and Noir; Alternatively Cozy Mondays (because I’ll bet Jan Grape can stick to one genre better than literary sluts like Fran Rizer and Melodie Campbell and me); Cozy and Crazy…hmm.

Back to the Derringer. Until now, I never really understood why awards have a short list. Well, I understood whittling down the list so that celebrity judges don’t need to plow through a mountain of stories.

But now I get the glory of the finalist. I’ve won other prizes in a binary announcement. Either I win the award or I don’t. But right now, the uncertainty makes it all the more treacherous and exciting!

If you're curious, I’ve published “Because” for free on my website for the next week only. You can download it to your friendly neighbourhood KindleKoboiBooks deviceSmashwordsor any format for a whopping 99 cents. That price will triple in a week. Please admire the cover photo by 28-year-old French photographer Olivier Potet. The non-cropped version is even better.

If Because tickled your fancy, you can also download Code Blues, the first Hope Sze novel, for free, as part of a bundle on Vuze, until March 16th.

And please tune in on March 23rd, when I plan to write about how medicine trains your mind for detective work. Watson, anyone?

31 January 2015

Chair Today - Gone Tomorrow

by Melodie Campbell

Funny how things start out so innocently.

“I need a new office chair,” I said to hubby.

“Fine,” he said.

“Because mine is 40 years old and worn out,” I said, determined to convince him.  “It also doesn’t fit me anymore.”  Bottoms can change after many years.  My tush might have been a tad smaller back then.  Now it is a lazy, adult tush that needs more seat padding.

“You don’t have to convince me.  You’re in that chair all day long, writing.  It’s only a steno chair and it was old when we got it,” he said.

Well, that was easy, I thought.  Piece of cake. 

Cake, it appears, can be deceiving.  (This is where the idiom starts to go totally astray.)

Day 1: CHAIR NO. 1

By this subtitle, you might have caught on that project “Find a Chair” did not go as planned.

Like every good Canadian, we went to Staples to look for a chair.  Like every good couple with a Scottish last name, we went right after Christmas.

Chair No. 1 was not on sale.  It was the only chair in the store that I really felt comfortable in. 

“It has arms,” I said, sighing with delight.  “I’ve never had a chair with arms.”

Hubby showed his generous side.  “You can have it, even though it isn’t on sale.”

Of course, it came in a box half its size.  Which meant we were really buying a bunch of chair pieces.

Back home, Hubby started putting the pieces together.  Two hours later, he handed me the assembly instructions. 

“Can you read this?” he said.  “I can’t, even with my reading glasses."

I peered at the wee instructions.  They appeared to be written for Barbie Dolls.

An hour later, we had a chair.  Unfortunately, it was too short for the desk.

“I can’t work the keyboard,” I wailed.

Stoic Hubby said, “I suppose I could cut an inch or two off the desk legs.

We set out to return the chair.

Day 2: CHAIR NO. 2

Because the chair hadn’t been on sale (yay Hubby!) we could exchange it.  I was back in Staples facing 30 chairs.  Now the mission was to get one tall enough.

I became Goldilocks for an entire hour looking for the chair that was ‘just right.’  Finally the sales clerk got off her cell phone and came over.  I explained the First Chair Dilemma.

Clerk:  “You need one of our totally adjustable chairs.  It’s even on sale.”

She pointed me to it and I tried it out. 

Me: “It seems okay.  But it doesn’t have any padding.”

Clerk:  “These new chairs have webbed backs and seats.  They adjust to you.”

Hubby (getting antsy):  “We’ll take it.”

Clerk:  “Oops. We’re out of them.”

Me: “Can we order one?”

Clerk: “I don’t know if we’re getting any more.”

Me:  “Then we’ll take the floor model.”

Clerk:  “Oh no!  You can’t take the floor model.  We need it.”

Hubby:  “How can you need it if you have no chairs to sell?”

A battle ensued.  It involved the clerk, the manager, Hubby, and another frustrated male shopper who popped over to say something like: “You sales people have the brains of a long-dead lake trout. Let them take the blasted floor model.”

We loaded the floor model into the Outback.

Back home, I tried out the new chair.  It was the perfect height.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t the perfect seat.  Within twenty minutes, my butt was asleep.

Me:  “I can’t move!”

Hubby:  “Try falling out of the chair and landing on your hands.”

Day 3: CHAIR NO. 3

Chair Number 2 had been on sale so we couldn’t return it.  Luckily, Hubby has an iron butt and agreed to take possession.

But Chair Number 3 is a happy story.  In an adjacent city, we found a store that deals only in office furniture. They had leather desk chairs with all sorts of padding.  We chose the cheapest (still Scottish here, after all) and brought it home.  Goldilocks had found her cake.

Unfortunately, Goldilocks left her wallet in that store, which is why we’re headed back there today.  Which only goes to show, even having your cake can be a pain in the butt.

Melodie Campbell writes funny books with her butt in a new office chair.  You can find The Goddaughter mob caper series at Chapters, B&N, Amazon and all the usual places.



SleuthSayers Communiqué

The month of February opens with a few surprises. For the next few days, our members bring you:
  1. Feb: Jim Winter announces his new release!
  2. Feb: Jan Grape appears in her usual spot.
  3. Feb: Liz Zelvin drops by with a new article.
  4. Feb: A special surprise guest visits SleuthSayers!
  5. Feb: We return to our regular broadcast schedule…
And later in the month, the 24th of February, you'll meet our new author, Paul D. Marks. See you then!

26 January 2015

Calling All Literary Sluts (and Others)

by Fran Rizer



Several SleuthSayers and I have been discussing the possibility of one or more panels at Bouchercon 2015 consisting solely or primarily of SleuthSayer authors.  Jan Grape suggested previously that many organizers and planners appreciate receiving suggestions of a specific topic and writers for the panel and/or moderator. I have inquired about where suggestions should be sent.

Melodie Campbell and I exchanged emails about making a few proposals.
We need your help.

A visit to the Bouchercon 2014 website schedule reveals many interesting panels last year (including three workshops with our own R. T. Lawton on Surveillance).  Format for the titles is primarily in the form of a catchy title, followed by a colon which introduces a more explicit explanation of what the panel is about.

Examples from 2014:  No More Badges:  Crime Solvers Who Left the Badge Behind

                                    Short but Mighty:  The Power and Freedom of the Short Story

                                    Crime Goes Visual:  Graphic Novels and Comic Books

Check out the website for more examples.

My question for everyone today, both writers and readers:

 What do you suggest as an interesting topic for a panel at Bouchercon 2015? 


Melodie and I are seriously considering a proposal (or maybe I should say proposition in this case) of a panel entitled:

      
Writers as Literary Sluts: Publishing in More Than One Genre



Of course, both Melodie and I are eager to be members of this panel.  Be sure to let us know if you want to be with us or if you want to be suggested as the moderator of this sure-to-be-fun session.

We are also looking for a super cool title and topic about short stories and will suggest SleuthSayer writers for that panel and moderator.

Another thought that's been roaming around in my mind is related to Bouchercon 2015's location in Raleigh, NC, as well as Ron Rash being one of the featured writers.

Would any of you want to be a participant in this one?

Murder Down South, Y'all: Southern Writers, Southern Mysteries

Please share your thoughts on topics for panels. If you're a writer, let us know if you are planning to register for Bouchercon 2015 by May 1, 2015 (deadline to be considered for presentations) and if you'd like to be recommended for a panel or rather handle it yourself.  If you don't want to announce your plans publicly, just email Melodie or me.

Until we meet again, please take care of . . . you.

06 December 2014

Today’s Phones are Ruining Crime Fiction!

by Melodie Campbell

(Yes, this post actually gets around to mentioning crime fiction.  Wait for it…)

I’m getting awfully tired of ads for phone companies, begging me to switch, hounding me to spend more money for their latest plan, month after month after month.

Frankly, I’m longing for the good old days, when all you could get from a phone company was an ugly black rotary phone.  And by gawd, you were grateful for it too, because you had to sweat to get it.

Remember those days?  You would move into a new apartment in November, and you would phone up some snotty service rep at Ma Bell, who would treat you as if you were some sort of macrobiotic slime culture.  <Sniff – sorry!  I’m becoming nostalgic.>

You:  I’d like to get a phone as soon as possible, please.

Rep:  Let me see…how about…say…July 2017?  We can send a man out sometime between the 4th and the 28th.  You’ll have to make sure that someone’s home every second.

You:  Yes!  Oh Yes!  I’m so grateful.  Thank you!

Rep:   The colour will be black.

You:  Great! Black is cool.

Rep:  Okay, now we’ll need your first born as a deposit.

I really liked those old back dial phones.  I mean, those phones had substance; they had weight.  You could do a lot to them and they would bounce back.  I remember once playing kickball in the hallway at university, and our team would have won, but the darn ball (phone) started ringing and some fool on the other team picked it up.

Try playing kickball with a smartphone.  It ain’t so smart after a play or two.

Take my word for it: today’s flimsy phones are simply wuss. Not to mention, they are ruining crime fiction. 

At this point, I know readers are going to say, ‘Of course they are ruining crime fiction!  You can’t isolate your protagonist anymore.”  And yes, this is a problem, unless your protagonist has the intelligence of a demented chipmonk and perpetually forgets to charge their phone just before the climax in every book you write (cliché alert).

But I’m thinking beyond the obvious here.

Think of how those old black phones had significance in old black and white movies.  Remember Jimmy Stewart with the broken leg in Rear Window?  Remember those desperate calls he made over the heavy 1950s telephone…would they really be as fear-inducing if he was using an iPhone with a ring tone of ‘La Bomba?’

I mean, really.  How can you commit a really good murder with a receiver that weighs less than a padded bra?  What are you supposed to do…stuff it down someone’s throat until they choke on it?

What’s more, who can get really excited about an obscene phone call made over a cellphone the size of a playing card?  Come on now…do I really need to spell out the symbolism?

Melodie Campbell writes funny books, like the award-winning mob comedy, The Goddaughter’s Revenge.  You can buy them in stores and online at all the usual sources.

08 November 2014

Comedy Writer Falls Right Over Cliff - Worst Typos EVER

By Melodie Campbell

Ever make a really bad typo?  I mean really bad.

My worst ever professional mistake was in an Annual Report for a one-hundred-million dollar corporation, when I was the director of marketing and communications.  Unfortunately, an innocent little ‘t’ went missing from the word ‘assets.’  The board was not amused by “This year, we experienced an increase in corporate asses.”

Recently, I found out what one little vowel can do to Rowena and the Dark Lord, book 2 in the Land’s End series.

Okay, REALLY uncool when you misspell the name of your own book on a guest blog.

Rowena and the Dark LARD is probably not the best way to get sales for a ‘Game of Thrones Lite’ fantasy series.

However, as I do write comedy, I'm thinking about a parody.
Is it okay to write a parody of your own book?

Draft one: Rowena and the Dark Lard

Synopsis 1: Rowena moves back to Land’s End and opens up a bakery.

Synopsis 2: Cedric’s use of dark magic goes totally out of control, and so does his appetite.

Synopsis 3: Thane and Rowena return to Land’s End and become pig farmers.

Synopsis 4: Rowena messes up another spell that causes all who look at her to turn into donuts.

Synopsis 5: Rowena kills off Nigella Lawson in a battle with pastry rollers, and assumes the role
of Prime Time Network Food Goddess <sic>.

Synopsis 6: Someone takes a totally justified whack at the author. End of series.

Postscript: Recently was quoted by someone as the author of ROWENA AND THE DORK LORD.  Trial for murder is pending.

Post postscript (where is a Latin scholar when you need one?):  Another contract out for the professional book tour company hired by my publisher last month, who, in all their advertising, inadvertently switched book 3 Rowena and the Viking Warlord to…wait for it…Viking Landlord.  Yup.  Obviously there will be hell to pay if you forget the rent. 

Have you some spectacular typos in your past?  Share them here!  I'll feel better.

02 August 2014

Why Book Tours are Expensive (More Comedy on the Road)

by Melodie Campbell 

I’ve recently been on a book tour for my latest crime comedy, The Goddaughter’s Revenge (winner of the 2014 Derringer and Arthur Ellis Awards for Best Novella. There. I got it in.  My publisher can relax now.)

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 bill and the bar tab.

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 about a mob Goddaughter. So I know a bit about mob take-outs.  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 is an infant Sleuthsayer, and this is her third column.  She writes comedies (No shit, Sherlock.)  You can find them at www.melodiecampbell.com and all the usual book places.

19 July 2014

I Am Not a "sexy porn gerl" and other Twitter Mishaps

by Melodie Campbell

Okay, I admit it.  I'm a literary slut.

My mentor, the late novelist Michael Crawley, called me that because I write in several genres (mystery, time travel, fantasy.)  Sometimes all at once in the same book.  This girl gets around.

But these days - like everyone else - my publishers are turning me into a social media whore. (Whoops, did I say that on prime time? <blush>)

"Frolic on Facebook!" they say.  "Tattle on Twitter!" they insist.  "Get out there!"

I'm out there, all right.  I'm so far out there, I may need mouth to mouth and a slug of scotch to crawl my way back.  (Yes, what follows is the absolute truth.)

The Inciting Incident:

It started with the Berlin Brothel.  Lord knows why a brothel in Berlin decided to follow me on Twitter.  I don’t live in Berlin.  I’ve never worked in a brothel.  Don’t think I’ve even typed the word ‘brothel’ before now.  I certainly haven’t said it out loud.

Then some wag from Crime Writers of Canada said: “Maybe they’ve read your first book Rowena Through the Wall.  That’s it!  You have a following in Germany. The girls who work there have to do something in their downtime.”

Let me do a cyberspace blush here.  Okay, my first book is a little hot.  “Hot and hilarious” as one industry reviewer put it.  But it’s not x-rated.  It’s not even R, according to my daughter.  (Husband has yet to read it. We’ve hidden it well.)

Then friend Alison said: “It’s a brothel!  Maybe your latest crime comedy, The Goddaughter’s Revenge, is required reading by the owners.”

But back to Berlin. I didn’t follow them back. Somehow, that didn’t matter. The word was out.

‘Amateurvids’ announced they were following me.  Good, I thought.  I like nature films.  Take it from me, this outfit doesn’t film bunnies in the wild.  Well, maybe a certain type of wild bunny.

I didn’t follow them back.

Then ‘Dick Amateur’ showed up, wanting to connect. Author friend Gloria read a few of his posts and said: “You at least deserve a Pro.”

So I didn’t follow him back.

Next, I got “Swingersconnect” following me.  Swingers?  I get sick on a tire hanging from a tree.

I didn’t follow them back.

‘Thepornfiles’ were next in line.  I didn’t peek.

Then two days ago, an outfit specializing in ‘male penis enhancement’ turned up. Now, I ask you.  Do I look like a male in my profile photo?  Is Melodie a male name?  And not to be pedantic, but isn’t ‘male’ in front of the p-word a bit redundant?  Is there any other kind?

Which brings me to the tweet in my twitter-box today:  “Hey sexy porn gerl!” (Yes, that’s girl with an e.)  Let me state categorically that I am not now and have never been a “sexy porn gerl” (with an ‘e’ or any other vowel.)

You wouldn’t want me to be.  No one would.  For one thing, I can’t see two feet in front of me without glasses.  Things that used to be perky now swing south. And my back hurts if I bend over to pick up a grape. 

So I’m not following them back.

Melodie Campbell is an infant Sleuthsayer and this is her second column.  She writes comedies, including The Goddaughter mob caper series and the notorious Rowena Through the Wall S&S series.  (That was Sword and Sorcery, not S&M.  For the record.)