Showing posts with label humor. Show all posts
Showing posts with label humor. Show all posts

05 July 2024

Don't Ask a Writer


Inspired by Melodie Campbell's excellent SleuthSayer's article of 25 May 2024 – Three Things You Should Never Ask an Author, I'd like to add some stuff.

The questions Melodie listed were:

  1. How much money do you make?
  2. Do you used a pen name?
  3. I'll give you my unpublished manuscript to read for free, if you'll recommend me to your publisher.

I'll add the follow things you should not ask a writer. I have been asked these questions, many more than once.

1. I have this idea. I'll give you the information. Why don't you write it up and we'll split the money?

Used to get this a lot when I first started writing, especially from my old buddies in law enforcement. My answer – I'm writing another book right now and have enough ideas for the next ten years.

2. Who's your ghostwriter?

I've never had a ghostwriter. I make up my own stuff.

3. You still writing?

Get this one a lot. Just got this one from a relative I haven't spoken with in a while. I told him my 49th book was published in June, I just finished two short stories this month and I'm half way through another novel.

4 . Where do you get your ideas? (A question asked of nearly every published writer)

Life. I get my ideas from life. What I see, hear, touch, taste, smell, and imagine. I also subscribe to an idea service in ... wait, I'm sorry, it's secret.

5. Where to you live?

I can't tell you. It will upset Cthulhu and we don't want to upset the big guy.

Cthulhu
Cthulhu widescreen wallpaper © free4kwallpapers.com

The Big Guy in profile

6. How do you write from a woman's point of view, when you're not a woman?

I use a computer. I used to use a typewriter but the balls quit working (I used an IBM selectric typewriter with the revolving typeball ... never mind). Before that I had a Smith Corona portable electric, and before that a big, bad Underwood manual typewriter.

7. Why do your characters have sex in your books?

I've asked my characters this and they tell me to shut up and write what they do. I'll echo Ray Bradbury here, "All my characters write the book. I don't write the book."

AND William Faulkner who said, "It begins with a character, usually, and once he stands up on his feet and begins to move, all I can do is trot along behind him with a paper and pencil trying to keep up long enough to put down what he says and does." (Also, there isn't sex in all of my books and stories).

8. Why don't you write a best seller?

Oh, Lord. If I wrote a best seller I'd be a best selling author, when, in fact, I'm a barely selling writer, which is more ME.

9. Why hasn't anyone made a movie out of one of your books?

Two answers. 1. Hollywood is too busy filming big movies with big explosions and lots of CGI stuff. 2. Hollywood is also too busy remaking movies that don't need to be remade because they are too lazy to try new stuff. OK, they do try new stuff but not enough.

10. What was that book you wrote? The one with the good ending.

No response.

11. Do you know any big writers?

Yeah. Most writers are bigger than me. I'm only 5'6". (168cm)

That's all for now,

www.oneildenoux.com

04 July 2024

Happy 4th! (Now with Jokes!)


Another turn in the rotation, another Summer holiday! Happy July 4th to SleuthSayers near and far!

And of course, me being me, I have some thoughts about this most American of holidays, and I fully intend to let 'er rip.

You know, some current events. Laced with a fair bit of (hopefully) relevant historical analysis. Some snark. Some "getting real."

So, the usual.

But first, some writer-adjacent humor!

A writer and his agent were stranded in the Sahara Desert, the only two survivors of a plane crash. After wandering for several days without food or water, they climbed the top of yet another sand dune, only to see an oasis, with a lagoon and a bubbling spring of fresh water beckoning them.

The two of them stumble/tumble/run down the dune to the oasis, and just as the writer is kneeling down to take a drink from the lagoon, out of the corner of his eye, he sees a stream of yellow liquid arcing from behind him into the lagoon.

The writer looks over his shoulder, and to his horror, sees that the agent is PEEING in the pool!

”What the HELL are you doing?” the writer yells.

The agent beams back at him. “I’m improving it.”

Q: What has twenty-seven actors, three settings, two writers, and one plot?

A: Six hundred and seventy-one Hallmark movies!

Q: How many mystery writers does it take to change a light bulb?

A: Two. One to change the bulb, and the other to give it an unexpected twist at the end!


He is not wrong.

Q: What do you call an immaterial fantasy writer?

A: A non-fungible Tolkien.

Q: What's the difference between a 19th-century shipwright and a 21st-century writer of fan fiction?

A: One tries to fit as many cannons as they can onto a ship. The other tries to fit as many ships as they can into canon.

Q: Why don't escaped convicts make good writers?

A: Because they never finish their sentences!



And on that note, let me come clean.

This year I have no moral to impart. No examples from history to share. No pithy remarks about the state of our Republic, other than to express my continuing pride in it and abiding faith in its foundation: the People.

Nothing I say here is going to change who anyone reading it plans to vote for. So let's take the day and grill, and watch fireworks, and listen to that one uncle tell that same story about the time he met Ed Begley, Jr. in an airport one July 4th many, many years ago, and hold our loved ones close and make the best sorts of memories.

Happy Birthday America. I love ya!

See you in two weeks!

31 March 2024

Nursery Crimes and Grim Fairie Tales


Jack Spratt fleeing from his wife bearing a bottle of poison

Last week, we brought you the surprise discovery of Zelphpubb Blish’s L’Histoire Romantique et les Aventures Malheureuses de Jacques Horner Hubbard Ripper Beanstalker Candlesticken Spratt, also titled Grim Faerie Tayles, a crime story believed lost to the ages.

Thanks to an arrangement with the British Museum non-Egyptian archives at the University of Brisbane in Glasgow, we are pleased to bring you this legendary poem, a work considered to rival William McGonagall’s Scottish translation of Poetic Edda.


The Curiously Murderously Nursery Mysteriosity Atrocity

A Grim Faerie Tale by Zelphpubb Blish (1419-1456)

woodcut scene: Jack and bad wife Jill Jack Spratt of nursery rhyme fact:
    With merry men his wife was seen.
He had no clue Jill wasn’t true,
    How could she be so mean?
“Render him dead,” her lover said.
    Why did they act so cruel?
With nightshade fruit and mandrake root,
    She played Jack for a fool.
woodcut scene: Jill and her lover plot
woodcut scene: Jill stews and brews Under low heat she sautéed meat,
    Badger brains and ferret feet.
She hated waste and tried a taste,
    And found it savory sweet.
She stirred in newt and poisoned fruit.
    The odor made her faint.
She added mouse found round the house,
    And now the mouse– it ain’t.
woodcut scene: Jill stews and brews
woodcut scene: Jill and lover plotting She shirred a dish of poison fish,
    She dosed it sight unseen.
She sniffed it twice, she added spice,
    But still Jack stayed the scene.
She stirred the vat. She sprinkled gnat,
    Sliced in a long dead rat.
That killed a bat, it killed her cat,
    Yet Jack remained intact.
woodcut scene: Jill brews poisoned stew
woodcut scene: Jack comprehends the peril Soon Jack fell ill, he sensed ill will,
    Finally dawned a notion.
How à propos, he had to know
    About her deadly potion.
Jack felt quite old, flushed hot and cold,
    Consumed by prickly fever.
With some alarm, he grasped the harm,
    When she snatched up a cleaver.
woodcut scene: Jack comprehends the peril
woodcut scene: Jack flees. Fearing his wife, he ran for life.
    Jill appeared ready to kill.
Rather than dead, poor Jackie fled
    And tottered up the hill.
Heart a’flicker, he felt sicker.
    He'd drunk a dram of liquor.
He glanced aghast. She ran so fast.
    She hastened much, much quicker.
woodcut scene: Jill overtakes an ailing Jack
woodcut scene: Jill kills Jack Cresting the hill. Jack took a spill.
    Cobblestones made him stumble.
The resulting wreck fractured his neck,
    Jill’s push caused him to tumble.
Twas no avail, Jack kicked the pail,
    Shuffled off this mortal coil,
Gave up the ghost, demised utmost
    Because she’d been disloyal.
woodcut scene: Jack dies
woodcut scene: authorities investigate Jill Though she’d contrived, coppers arrived.
    They inspected how Jack died.
The sergeant said, “We’ve got one dead.”
    He wrote murder, homicide.
Plods sniffed the vat. They smelled a rat.
    They seized Jill’s deadly bucket.
They eyed the stew, the deadly brew.
    Twas then Jill muttered, “chuck it.”
woodcut scene: authorities investigate Jill
Grim Fairie Tales book cover • This was thought to be the end of the epic poem until the team's archivist, Rob Lopresti, discovered their Teutonic landlady making shelf liners and patching broken plaster with 600-year-old folios. Much of Zelphpubb Blish’s work has been lost behind mouse-run laths of the German inn, but the team found a scrap deemed to be the true ending of the poem:
With pen in hand, Sergeant LeGrand
    Jotted her infamous last words.
“I lost my nerve and forgot to serve
    Four and twenty sickly blackbirds.”
woodcut scene: Jack and bad wife Jill.
woodcut scene: A defiant Jill pretends to pray before the noose. Under arrest, Jack’s wife confessed
    In the church’s saintly hallows.
Disdaining hood, froward she stood,
    Defiantly faced the gallows.
She lost her head, poor Jill lay dead
    Over a man, the village said.
Committing vice, she paid the price
    When she took a lover to bed.
woodcut scene: Jill is laid to rest in her coffin.

— end —

Happy Easter and April Fool’s Eve.




Spratt was known to ingest no polyunsaturated fat substitutes rendering poisoning difficult.

Last year, we shared a nursery rhyme about a greedy sister by Australian poet David Lewis Paget.

authorities investigating death of Jack Spratt

24 March 2024

Bonfires of the Vanity Press


Gutenberg/Vanity Press Strasbourg
Three convenient locations • Strasbourg

Last October prior to publication of Murder, Neat, a SleuthSayers research team investigated a gasthaus tavern in Mainz, Deutschland. In the beautifully appointed lounge of their ancient hotel, they uncovered a remarkable revelation.

Like many discoveries, theirs was a happy accident. The team’s philologist, having imbibed 2.75ℓ of Köstritzer-WeihenstePaulaner-Bräu Hefe Edelweißbier double bock (7.9% on the Richter scale), slid under the table out of sight, where he spent the night, his snores disturbing remaining patrons.

When he awoke, he cracked his aching head on an antique étagère, popping loose a secret panel. The proprietress scolded him for potentially damaging a six-hundred-year-old antique, but quieted as academics explored contents of the hidden cache.

Scholars found a folio, a quire of fragile paper with crisp lettering and woodcuts. They gasped at the name and date– the legendary Baron Zelphpubb Blish and a notation believed to predate Gutenberg’s Bible. Literary academics were surprised to discover pages contained forerunners of nursery rhymes and fairy tales.

Gutenberg/Vanity Press Heidelberg
Three convenient locations • Heidelberg

Revised History of the Press

Thanks to this historically significant discovery in Germany, we now know on Thursday, 31st March 1440, Johannes Gutenberg invented the movable-type printing press, which started the printing revolution. The following Friday, 1st of April 1440, Baron Zelphpubb Blish invented the vanity press, which started a printing counterrevolution.

Blish, a close friend of famed Scottish poet William McGonagall, breached the fortress of the professional publishing cabal and berated the fledgling printing industry. He cited a scribe conspiracy by the ‘trad press’ to prevent the best ‘Indy authors’ – especially him – filling bookstore shelves.

He set numerous precedents such as decrying Georgia selection fraud by Tbilisi monks, deriding competition committees for not recognizing excellent writing, and deeming ‘legacy’ editors an unnecessary affliction upon up-and-coming literary talent.

Three convenient locations • Mainz

Blish is noted for many contributions to the art and craft of self-publishing. History credits him for innovative spelling in Tayles of Derring-Doo, random punctuation and the Oxnard comma, still in use today. He is thought to be the first to embed emoticons in essays and biographies.

Blish is revered for outstanding modernizations such as combining 1st, 2nd, and 3rd person in simultaneous past and future perfect present tense. His rich, trend-setting covers included all six primary colours [ CMYRGBK ] and his famous semi-autobiographical volume Picaresque Çelfpubbè still holds the record for an astonishing fifty-four fonts on its crowded vellum jacket.

Upcoming

Next week, we bring you Blish’s epic poem, L’Histoire Romantique et les Aventures Malheureuses de Jacques Horner Hubbard Ripper Beanstalker Candlesticken Spratt, otherwise known as Grim Fairie Tales. See you then.

23 December 2023

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


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 person put it, 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.


 


 


 

 



17 September 2023

Toby or not Toby...


If you thought we were finished with weird English, I'm back with an even more… erm… entertaining take. You can blame the usual suspects, ABA and Sharon, who pass on interesting articles.

Aaron Alon is a musicologist, composer, song writer, script writer, director, filmmaker, professor, and humorist. Shortly before the coronavirus pandemic, he assembled a video about making English consistent, a huge task. This is the result.

 
   
  © respective copyright holder

 

I particularly like the Hamlet reading, don't you? But wait, there's more.  Alon wasn't done.

Following comments and critiques, he came up with a supplemental video in which he, well, sings a classic. Here you go.

 
   
  © respective copyright holder

 

What did you think? Aaron said he might consider a video about making constants consistent. I'm still figure out, "I tot I taw a puddy-tat."

Okay, I promise no more weird English slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. For at least a week.

07 May 2023

My husband died.


I can’t write flash fiction without thinking of Fran Rizer. She ‘complained’ those ultra-short stories upset her Sunday routine of preparing coffee and then breakfast, whereupon she’d spend a few minutes enjoying SleuthSayers.

On flash fiction days, that’s when (a) she’d find those few minutes were reduced to a few seconds, and (b) it caused her to snort coffee up her nose. Damn, I miss Fran.

Here’s a flash fiction with her in mind.


 

 

 

My Husband Died
by Leigh Lundin

After he died, I couldn’t even look at another man for almost twenty years.

But now that I’m out of prison, I can honestly say it was worth it.

24 December 2022

Not Even a Mouse!
If Santa doesn't bring smiles, this might...


 Merry Night Before Christmas Everyone!

Several readers (thank you!) have asked about my previous life as a writer of comedy.  My humour is goodnatured rather than biting (I was called the Carol Burnett of Crime Writing not so long ago.)  I don't draw from those files often for Sleuthsayers, although maybe - in light of how serious our world has become - I should. 

To that end:  Thinking about The Night Before Christmas reminded me of mice, which reminded me of this monologue I used to do back in the day, which I have re-titled, 

Not Even a Mouse  (Merry Christmas, Everyone!)


I wanted to buy a new front door the other day.  This has become necessary because the old front door is no longer functioning as a door in the usual sense.  "Wind Tunnel" or "Interstate highway for neighbourhood field mice" might be a better description.

But as always, things have changed in the world of destruction and aggravation (aka construction and renovation.)  Apparently, you can't buy a door anymore. They don't make them, according to the sales clerk (excuse me..."Customer Service Associate.")  Apparently, you now buy an "Entry System."

"But I already have an entry system," I explained.  "The mice are entering all the time.  What I want is something to keep them out.  Like a door."

"Let me show you how this works," he offered.  He then demonstrated how to insert a key in the lock and turn the doorknob to activate the Entry System.  Not unlike my old door, in fact.  I pointed this out.

"But this is a great improvement," he argued.  "See?  It's Pre-hung."

'Pre-hung' - for construction illiterates - means you don't have to undo three hinges to slip the old door off and install the new door.  Instead, the new door already comes with a frame (and sometimes side windows) attached.  To install, you simply demolish the old door frame and rebuild the entire entranceway to fit the new pre-hung frame.  It requires three men and a boy, and at least two weeks of labour.  But you don't have to touch those pesky hinges, which makes this a big improvement.

Not surprisingly, Entry Systems cost a lot more than mere doors.  This, I pointed out, was not an improvement.

One more thing bothers me about all this fancy renaming business.  If they insist on calling doors 'Entry Systems,' just what will they end up calling toilets?  Exit Systems?

Melodie Campbell will be sitting by the tree waiting for Santa tonight.  The door will be open.

www.melodiecampbell.com

20 March 2022

Fun with Fugitives and Pharmaceuticals


I’m keeping it short today because I’m including links you’ll want to follow. They’re too funny for words.

bus before

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

Next year marks the 30th anniversary of Tommy Lee Jones and Harrison Ford in The Fugitive. (No, I can’t believe 30 years either.)

Much of the story centered around Chicago but North Carolina made out damn well in the filming. The most iconic scenes took place there– the train/bus wreck and the leap from the damn spillway.

The bus and train are still there outside of Sylva / Dillsboro / Bryson City. The director’s mother didn’t tell him to clean up after himself, so they’re rusting in an accidental one-man’s-trash-is-another’s-roadside attraction. And yes, they crashed a real train into a real bus on the Great Smoky Railroad rather than in Illinois.

bus and engine after

The scene turned out slightly more spectacular than they’d planned. Tests and calculations showed an ideal speed of 36mph (60kmph), but Tammy the Train, excited by her film debut, dashed off at 45mph (72kmph).

But it was worth it, wasn’t it? Compare the real thing with the improbable train versus helicopter CGI physics of Tom Cruise in the Mission Impossible 3 flick.

The dam scene took place at Cheoah Dam. One of the hospital scenes was shot in Jackson County as well.

Me, I’m not going to visit. Bad things happen every time I step foot in North Carolina. (No, don’t write. You have no idea.)

It’s the Drugs, Man.

I didn’t come there to discuss dams and damages. Remember, the plot set out to learn why a one-armed man murdered Richard Kimble’s wife. Gradually we learn it has something to do with marketing a drug, Provasic, developed and manufactured by Devlin-Macgregor Pharmaceuticals.

As I was researching a project, I stumbled upon Devlin-Macgregor’s web site. To my surprise, they offer a very different conspiracy scenario from the film, possibly on the advice of Elizabeth Holmes. Be sure to check out their other fine products, Narcogesic and Solarresti, the only prescription mRNA inhibitor that provides fortified protection against all single and two-shot COVID-19 “vaccines” (1/3 the way down their home page) and their employment page.

Just don’t die laughing.

14 September 2021

The Challenge of Writing Humor


In yesterday's column, Steve Liskow talked about the challenge of writing exposition. With another of my columns due today--the calendar says it's been three weeks since my last post here, but I swear it's been three hours--I decided to follow up on Steve's approach and talk about the challenge of writing humor.

As a former newspaper reporter, I know that a professional shows up when it's time to write and gets the job done. On some days, writing may flow more easily than others, but as long as you have an idea of what to write (whether a detailed outline, a high-level outline, or a jumping off point for you pantsers out there), a professional writer should be able to make progress each day with the story at hand. (Ideas can be harder to come by, at least for me. That's why I email ideas to myself whenever I get them so when I have writing time, I have lots of ideas to choose from. And of course finding that writing time can be another big problem, at least for me. But I digress ...) 

If you're sitting there cursing me out for telling you should always be able to make progress, when you know it's not that easy, you're about to feel much better. Because I have days when I can't make progress either, at least not when I'm trying to write humor.

Writing dark stories, dramatic stories, really, most any kind of crime story, I can do that on most any given day if I have an idea to work from. But if I am trying to write a funny story, all bets are off. If I'm trying to write humor and I'm not in the right mood, that sucker's not going to be funny, no matter how hard I try. You gotta feel the funny. At least I do. 

That said, sometimes when I'm trying to write a story that is supposed to be funny and it's not working, it turns out it's because my idea isn't developed enough. Take my story "A Tale of Two Sisters." (Please! Just take it! ... I know, I know, I'm no Henny Youngman.) Anyway, the story came out in May in the anthology Murder on the Beach. Writing that story was a slog. I knew I wanted to write about a wedding at which the bride's tiara is stolen, then retrieved, then stolen again, then retrieved etc. It sounded like a good idea until I tried to write it. The humor wasn't working. What I ultimately realized was my idea was too simple. A tiara being stolen repeatedly may be vaguely amusing, but to make the story funny, I had to add in more humorous situations and--most important--I needed to add in more humorous characters. 

I gave my main character, Robin the maid of honor, an overbearing mother, whom Robin reacts to in a sarcastic manner. I made Robin feel responsible for making sure her nervous sister, the bride, has a good night, then I had a dog crash the wedding. I made Robin starving but unable to get a bite of food. Basically, I kept upping the ante and setting up funny situations and amusing people for Robin to react to. Once I did that, the writing started to flow.

I faced a similar problem when I started writing "Humor Risk," my story in the anthology Monkey Business: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Films of the Marx Brothers. This book is coming out this Sunday, the 19th, and--as you can imagine with an anthology inspired by the Marx Brothers--I had to write something funny. No pressure. 

When editor Josh Pachter approached me about writing a story for this book, I told him (don't hate me) that I don't like the Marx Brothers and wouldn't be right for the anthology. Then he had an idea. The Marx Brothers' first film, Humor Risk, was never released. The history of the movie indicates that the one print of it might have been burned or stolen. There's very little detail about it. What if I wrote about that, Josh said, about the film being stolen. Maybe I could create a PI who hates the Marx Brothers but needs to find the movie. Okay, I said, I could work with that. 

Easier said than done. I came up with the idea of a PI tracking down the only print of the film to a hoarder house. The guts of the story would be this guy versus the house, with him getting hurt over and over. It sounded funny until I tried to write it. After one scene, the story became tedious. I realized I needed more characters, people my main character could react to. Once I figured that out (and changed him from a PI to a thief), the writing began to flow. I still have my main character, Dominic, searching in a hoarder house, but the humor comes not just from pratfalls but from voice--Dominic's thoughts and the dialogue of the other colorful characters. Changing the story's setup made all the difference. 

So, my takeaway from these experiences: If you're trying to write something funny, don't rely only on funny things happening in the story. You also need people reacting to the events. That's where the real humor will come in. 

One more thing: don't forget that sometimes the funniest parts of a story come from surprises. Like this one: It wasn't until after I finished writing "Humor Risk" and it was accepted that I realized I'd made a mistake. It's not the Marx Brothers I can't stand. (I don't love them, but I don't hate them.) When I told Josh I couldn't stand the Marx Brothers, the old comics I actually was thinking of were ... The Three Stooges.

Oops.

If you'd like to pick up Murder on the Beach, it's available in trade paperback and ebook. The book's in Kindle Unlimited, so if you want an ebook, you'll only find it on Amazon. Click here to go there.

If you'd like to order Monkey Business: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Films of the Marx Brothers, it's coming out in trade paperback and ebook. You'll be able to buy it in all the usual places, but your best price will be from the publisher, Untreed Reads Publishing. And if you order the trade paperback before the publication date (i.e., before this Sunday, September 19th) directly from Untreed Reads, you'll not only get a 25 percent discount but you'll also get a free ebook of the anthology in the format of your choice (Kindle, EPUB, or PDF). To get this deal, click here.

01 June 2021

Ever been to a Jewish wedding? Here's your chance!


Barb Goffman

I've heard fiction readers say many times over the years that they love learning new things. They don't want lessons like in school, but getting an inside look at a profession or learning what it's like to live in a different part of the world, these are experiences readers seek out.

I had this idea in mind when I was planning to write my newest short story, "A Tale of Two Sisters." It's published in Murder on the Beach, an anthology with eight short stories, most of them novelette length (as mine is), which was published last week. All the stories are set, as you can imagine, on a beach. All different ones. The stories take readers to the shores of Connecticut, Maryland, Florida, Louisiana, Texas, Mexico, California, and Wisconsin. The Wisconsin story is mine, set at a beach resort on Lake Michigan.

Because my story takes place during a wedding, I wouldn't have the opportunity to take readers on a tour of the Wisconsin town. And because my story is written from the perspective of the maid of honor, I couldn't give an inside look at a wedding-related profession, such as a wedding planner or a caterer or a photographer. What kind of inside experience could I give people that they might not know much about?

What if, I thought, I set the story during a Jewish wedding? That's not that exotic to me, since I'm Jewish. My family and a lot of my friends would probably feel the same way. But a lot of people have probably never been to a Jewish wedding. The customs and traditions would be interesting. Readers could experience going to a Jewish wedding without having to get dressed up or buy a gift. And thanks to the power of exposition, it would be like having a Jewish friend sitting with them throughout the event, providing short explanations of the things going on. Jewish readers would probably enjoy the story too, I figured, because they may never have read a story that showcases these traditions. 

Once I decided to write the story, I realized I've only been to three Jewish weddings in the past decade, and I wished I'd taken notes. My memory isn't what it used to be. Thankfully, I have several friends who offered their recollections, and I used some of their last names in the story as a thank you. 

So, if you've ever wondered what the hora is, I've got you covered. The ketubah, that's in there. Ever wondered why you'll see some brides--and sometimes some brides and grooms–circling each other? You'll want to read my story because all will be revealed. 

Lest you think the story is all about culture and tradition, don't worry if that doesn't interest you very much, because while a Jewish wedding is the setting of my story, and while I hope readers will find it interesting, my main goal in writing "A Tale of Two Sisters" was to entertain the reader. More specifically, I wanted to make people laugh. The editors of the anthology said they wanted light funny crime stories, so that is what I set out to write, and I believe I succeeded. Multiple readers have told me in the past week that they found my story "hilarious." That made my heart sing. It wasn't enough to make me break into a hora (since you need multiple people for that), but I did do a Snoopy dance in my chair.

tiara
a tiara might play a role in my story

If you want to learn more about the anthology, especially the stories by my co-authors, you're in luck. We're having a launch party on Facebook on Friday, June 4th. Each of us will talk about our stories for a half hour, and there will be videos and giveaways. The fun will run from 5-9 p.m. ET. Feel free to pop in and out as time allows. I'll be speaking (typing) from 7-7:30 p.m. ET. For the full schedule, and for the event itself, please go to the Destination Murders page on Facebook by clicking here.

Murder on the Beach has stories by Ritter Ames, Karen Cantwell, Lucy Carol, Eleanor Cawood Jones, Shari Randall, Shawn Reilly Simmons, Cathy Wiley, and me. It's out in ebook form from all the usual suspects (at a discounted rate until Friday, I believe), and in another week or so the trade paperback version should be out too. I hope you'll check it out. This is one book that will make you smile while showing you that sharks aren't the only danger near the water.

24 April 2021

Arrest that Cow! Warning: Canadian Humour


 It's a crime about Covid.  (Ha! I knew I could make this a crime column.)  But truly, The News is so completely obsessed with Covid, that other world events are hardly getting a glance.


For instance, I bet you didn't know that during the Trump reign, a near rebellion took place mere hours north of Toronto.  Sure, this didn't have the scope of the January 6 attack on the White House.  But we do things a little smaller in Canada.  And perhaps with a certain style.  And then, there's our high-school-good-looks Prime Minister, who may or may not have a stream of PR bungles behind him.

So in the interests of fair play (because we always feel a little second fiddle to you Yanks) here's my take on how this might have gone down in the True North.  (Yes, this event actually happened.  Mine is simply a creative nonfiction play by play.  Apologies in advance for any in-jokes.  Heck, for the whole thing.)

 The Independent State of Penetang

09:36, Parliament Building East Wing, Ottawa

"This is weird," says Mark, flipping through screens.

"Hmmmm?"

"It says here that Penetang has declared independence."

The other civil servant head looks up.  "Where is that?  In Africa?"

"Northern Ontario.  Somewhere north of Orillia, I think.  Or maybe Parry Sound.  I'm looking it up."

The older man frowns.  "You mean the county of Penetang?"

"Seems like it.  They've blocked the roads, it says here.  Just a sec."  He scrolls further.  "They're using tractors and farm equipment.  And cows."

A gasp.  "They're sacrificing cows?"

"Nope.  Herding live ones.  The cars can't get by."

"Merde.  We need to inform the Prime Minister."


11:00, Live from Penetang

"This is Mandy Flambeau, reporting from rebellion headquarters, at the Puckyew community hockey rink in downtown Penetang.  It's sort of quiet here, Len.  Maybe they're all out on the protest lines?  Oh wait -- I see somebody!  Sir, sir...over here.  Can you tell us what this rebellion is really about?"

"Taxes. Sick an' tired of those federal freeloaders takin' our taxes and spending them in the city.  Want our tax money spent here.  Not on subways and free daycare for city folk."

Gasp.  "Daycare? You're against daycare?"

"You see any kids around here?  No young people in Penetang anymore.  No jobs for them.  Only seniors now."

"So you want free daycare for seniors?"


13:43,  The Prime Minister's office

"Mr. Prime Minister, we have a situation."

(groan)  "Not another Tweet from the Twit."

"This is local, sir.  I need to brief you on the rebellion in Penetang.  PETA have moved in.  Because of the cows."

"Say what?"

"The rebels in Penetang have blocked the roads with cows.  And now PETA has established protest lines to protect the animals."

"Hmmm... Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"

"Sir, I think we have an opportunity here."

"A photo op?  Oh goodie!  What do they wear in Penetang?"

"Uh...overalls and flannel shirts?"

"Awesome.  Get Holt Renfrew and Nordstrom on the line.  We want these Canadian made."

"Yes sir.  Will you be leaving immediately?"

"I'm texting Sophie and the kids.  Maybe we can make a vacation out of it.  Does the Aga Khan have a place up there?"


14:00, Back at the East Wing

Mark puts down the phone.  "Is it even possible to charge cows with sedition?"

The other civil servant head looks up.  "Mark, are you from farm country?"

"Nope.  Born and bred in Ottawa."

"There may be a fault in their plan.  The cows."

"What about them?"

"They're Jerseys.  They'll simply go home at five to be milked."


Melodie Campbell knows a thing or two about sedition-er-cows.  She also gets paid to write very silly comedy for unsuspecting publishers.  You can find The Goddaughter series at all the usual suspects.


 

 

 

23 January 2021

How to Write a True Italian Character (and not get taken out by the Family...)


Apparently, I have been too serious on here lately. There have been complaints.  So in an effort to lighten things up, I'm settling into a literary pet peeve.

Too often in popular fiction, I find Italian characters who don't make the grade. They seem a little cartoonish, as their creators probably aren't Italian, and don't have a true insight into the Italian nature.  So I'm here as a public service, to rectify that.  (Okay, because my Uncle Vince told me to.)

Yes, I'm Italian.  Yes, I've been a Goddaughter, like the heroine of THE GODDAUGHTER.  Okay, maybe not exactly like.  But close enough that I can easily imagine what it would be like to be a mob goddaughter.  The Christmas presents would be pretty decent, for one thing. Not to mention, I can get my salami and mortadella wholesale in any deli in the Hammer (Hamilton.)

So as I turn in my 17th novel which may or may not feature the Italian mob, I offer this help to all authors everywhere.

Melodia's rules on how to write an Italian Character:

  1. She absolutely cannot talk with her hands held down.  Okay, not entirely true.  She can scream if they try to hold down her hands.  And kick.
  2. He has at least 2 cousins named Tony.  And one uncle.
  3. She considers Pasta a vegetable.  (It's good for you!  Really.  Ask any Italian grandmother.)
  4. He can listen to five conversations at once, in at least two languages, and answer back.
  5. She has four first names (Melodie Lynn Theresa Anne…)
  6. For the Pros. Your Italian character should:

  7. Cry when Pavorotti sings the FIFA soccer anthem.
  8. Ask for Brio and Orangina in restaurants. Gasp loudly if they don't have it.
  9. Kiss everybody all the time.  Left cheek, right cheek (THEIR left cheek, right cheek.)
  10. Always wear designer shoes.  Especially when shopping for shoes.  If you don't have a special wardrobe just for shopping, you are not Italian.
  11. And finally:

  12. Long hair only, ladies.  At least until sixty.
  13. Wine is a major food group.  Like cannoli.
  14. Okay, it gets a little tougher now, but weaving in background is important.  So to really give your character some punch, add the following:

  15. She regularly faked a long penance after confession just so the boys would think she was way hot.  (I hardly ever did this.)
  16. His family does not consider a 'heater' something you turn on in winter.

I hate to end a list at 13.  We Sicilians are suspicious.  So here's one last way you can tell if a character is really Italian:

Bling.  Lots of it.  Last trip back from Rome, the plane nearly came down with the weight of newly purchased gold my aunts were wearing.  Heard in all lines at Customs:  "What, this old thing?"

Melodie Campbell writes mob comedies and other loopy books while avoiding family somewhere south of Toronto.  THE GODDAUGHTER DOES VEGAS, finalist for the Canadian Crime Writing Awards of Excellence, is the latest in the series.  Standard warning:  Pee before you read it.

https://www.amazon.com/Goddaughter-Does-Vegas-Melodie-Campbell-ebook/dp/B07N8FBLJ4/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=the+goddaughter+does+vegas&qid=1610989262&sr=8-1