Friday, 28 August 2015

IDEAS: Where do they come from? How do you keep them?

I'm very pleased to welcome friend and colleague Kristina Stanley here, a crime writer who has been nominated for prestigious crime awards before even having a book published.  Well, that is definitely a secret to getting a publisher, folks, and now come the books.  Over to you now, Kristina!

Late one night in Unteruhldingen, Germany I was reading MOONLIGHT BECOMES YOU by Mary Higgins Clark. The opening—a woman trapped in a grave. Darkness and silence surround her, and she doesn’t know where she is. I can still see her fingers clawing at the edges of the coffin.

Tucked in my bed, I knew a driver would arrive at 4 a.m. to carry me to the Zurich airport for a flight to London, England. The sensible thing to do was sleep. But I couldn’t. I turned pages until the car arrived. I was exhausted, bleary eyed and excited. At that moment, I knew I wanted to write something that drove a person to read and ignore life for a while.

When I finally began writing my first novel, I’d been living in a ski resort for five years. Skiing is one of my passions and seemed an obvious topic. That was idea number one.

So I decided it was time to begin writing, but where to start?

First, I created the crime. For DESCENT, I was enjoying the sun at my cottage. Water lapped on the rocks. Wind kept the temperature cool. My mind wandered…How to kill a ski racer? I can’t give the answer, or I’d spoil the story, but once I knew the crime, I built my cast of characters and worked with them for a while. What would drive a balanced person to murder? How do the characters know each other? How did a relationship change from love to hate? These questions led me through the plot.

Ideas are slippery friends, ghosting in and out of periphery vision, but once in a while I grab hold of one and take it to the pages.

The trick with these eel-like creatures is not to let them convince you you’ll remember them. When you have a good idea, write it down, especially those that arrive in the middle of the night, sliding into your consciousness, making you believe they’ll stay until morning. They never do.

During the daylight hours, the eels can still be elusive, so keep your phone handy. Audio record any idea. It’s quick and easy and you don’t need a pen.

Ideas are precious gifts, and it’s best not to lose them.

If you’re interested you can buy or download a sample of DESCENT at: Here’s a little teaser…

“When Kalin Thompson is promoted to Director of Security at Stone Mountain Resort, she soon becomes entangled in the high-profile murder investigation of an up-and-coming Olympic-caliber skier. There are more suspects with motives than there are gates on the super-G course, and danger mounts with every turn.

Kalin’s boss orders her to investigate. Her boyfriend wants her to stay safe and let the cops do their job. Torn between loyalty to friends and professional duty, Kalin must look within her isolated community to unearth the killer’s identity.”

I love to connect online with other readers and authors.  You can find me at:


Kristina’s Bio:

Kristina Stanley is the author of the Stone Mountain Mystery Series. Her books have garnered the attention of prestigious crime writing organizations in Canada and England. Crime Writers of Canada nominated her DESCENT for the 2014 Unhanged Arthur award. The Crime Writers’ Association nominated BLAZE for the 2014 Debut Dagger. She is published in the Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.

Before writing her series, Kristina was the director of security, human resources and guest services at a resort in the depths of the British Columbian mountains. The job and lifestyle captured her heart, and she decided to write mysteries about life in an isolated resort. While writing her first four novels, she spent five years living aboard a sailboat in the US and the Bahamas.

Melodie, thanks for having me. I’ll be around all day if your readers have comments or questions.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

LIFE WITH A GEAR-HEAD (reprinted from the places that pay me)

By Melodie Campbell  (Bad Girl)

I live with a gear-head.  I even sleep with him.  This has been going on for three decades. 
You‘d think I would be used to it by now.  And no, I’m not talking about the ‘shifting gears and vroom vroom’ noises during sex.

LOCATION: Campbell residence, late afternoon.  Gear-head is clutching cell phone in a death grip.

“OH MY GOD!!  NO! THAT IS TERRIBLE!” <hyperventilating, pacing, red face, horror struck eyes>

“What?”  I leap from the couch, heart pounding.  “What is it?  Is it one of the kids?  Are they hurt?”

Gear-head turns to me, his face a painful sight.  He can hardly get the words out. “The Mustang has a scratch.”

“Oh,” I say, turning back to my book.

There are advantages to being married to a gear-head.  For instance, you never have to worry about buying a car.  The gear-head will research the choices, preselect the possibilities, do the test drive, make the deal with the seller, and basically handle all parts of the buy-process. You, happily, just need to grab the keys from him.

This may be easier said than done.  Witness the following scene that took place after my (it’s in my name, dammit) recent purchase of a 2006 Corvette Convertible.  Which, incidentally, has been washed to within an inch of its life.

Me:  “Do you have the keys to the Vette?”

Him (suspiciously):  “Why?”

Me:  “I’m going to meet Joan for lunch.  It’s a nice day.  The Vette could use some exercise.” 

Him (aghast):  “You’re going to DRIVE it?  On the ROAD?”

Me:  “I certainly plan to stay on the road.  Anything else would be called ‘an accident’.”

Him (choking):  “You’re going to park it in a PARKING LOT?”

Me (sighing on schedule):  “I generally prefer that to ditches.  The keys please?”

Him (turning away): “Not sure where I put them.”

Me: “I can see them right there on your bureau.”

He grasps them to his chest.  What ensues then is a to-the-death struggle that only breaks up when I change strategy and grab the keys to HIS car off the shelf.

“No fair,” he says gasping for air.

“All’s fair in love and cars,” I reply philosophically.

Melodie Campbell writes funny books, including The Artful Goddaughter, book three in the award-winning mob crime comedy series.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

IWSG Day! My Novel is a Mess (How to survive the chaos point in your novel)

IWSG Badge

Welcome IWSGers!

Is your novel ever a mess?

By Melodie Campbell  (Bad Girl)

Yes, I’m at that point.  Writing to a specific word count, three-quarters written, and my eleventh novel is an unqualified mess. 

If you are a veteran writer like me, you say it’s not going to happen this time.  But it does.

Here’s why:  
The Linear Approach:

This time, you are going to write linear, by gawd.  One chapter after another, in mathematical order, until you reach the end.  Each chapter will have an outline.

But here’s the problem with that.  You signed a contract that specifies a pretty exact word count.  Is your story going to magically end at the precise word count you need?

Damn straight, it’s not.  It’s going to meander along, minding its own business, taking little side trips, refusing to stay on course.

Because, of course, outlines are just that.  They’re a guide.  You don’t know whether the story is really going to pull together with sufficient motivation and all the goodies until you actually write the thing.  And here’s what happens along the way:

You need a new character to make the plot work.  You just thought of a fab new subplot.  Orlando doesn’t work as a side-setting.  You need to move it to Phoenix, and that means a whole lot of changes…

And before you know it, you’re scribbling on the outline, adding this, subtracting that, and it hits you in the face. Your book is a mess.

Scene plus Scene

I write comedy, and comedy is finicky.  Those good lines come when they come, and you have to get them down fast.  Sometimes they’ll present themselves to me when I’m in a restaurant.  Sometimes, when I’m already in bed.  (Yes, I keep a pen and paper on my bedside table. Ditto, by the loo.)

I always have an outline.  But when writing a highly comedic book, you have to write those funny scenes when you are inspired.  This means hopping around the timeline, writing the scene that works for you today, thinking of another great line, hopping back to an old scene to insert it, when you should be moving forward.  

Which brings you to this point: the important scenes are written, and they present themselves like completed sections of a jigsaw puzzle.  Little isolated islands without any bridges to each other.  You need to find the pieces that are missing and write the bits to connect them.

Because Sister, your novel is a mess.

That’s the point I’m at now.  The comedy is there.  The conflicts are in place.  The climax is written.  Now I need to take that kaleidoscope and move those pieces into the pattern that works best.

How to cope?  I think the best thing you can do is accept that this is going to happen.  Unless you are a robotic automaton lacking inspiration, you are going to veer from the plan more than once. 

At some point, every novel you write is going to be a mess. 

My advice: just accept it.  And understand that part of your role as writer is that of clean-up artist. 

That’s where I stand today, staring at a story that looks like a tornado just ran through it.

Time for the cleanup crew.  And a healthy wee dram or two.

Visit more great IWSG day posts through this link:

Melodie Campbell writes funny books, including the multi-award-winning The Goddaughter's Revenge.  She would feel much more secure if you would buy it.  For a sneak peek,  Click here

Saturday, 1 August 2015

"Madcap Romp" That's THE GODDAUGHTER!

Haven't read The Goddaughter? 

 Here's the 49th Shelf take on it, from Caterina Edwards, author of The Sicilian Wife!

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

The One That Got Away (reprinted with permission from the places that pay me)

By Melodie Campbell (Bad Girl)

What is it about men, and the lure of “The One That Got Away?”

All sportsmen seem to have a full repertoire of standard tales about “The Game They Didn’t Win” or “The Fish They Didn’t Catch.”  Men will wiggle and squirm when reminded of their victories in a public setting. <Shrug. ‘It was nothing.’>  But bring up a personal Dunkirk, and watch the enthusiasm (and the story) grow to mythical proportions.

Fishermen are the worst.  I never met a fisherman who didn’t know a bigger fish.  Now I admit that sitting for hours in a tin boat in the hot sun with a bunch of decaying worms for company, waiting for Moby Dick to swim by, is not my idea of a banner way to spend a summer afternoon.  I mean, what are you going to DO with Moby, if you ever catch him?  The poor thing has been swilling acid rain for YEARS.  More likely, he’ll be thrown back into the fetid muck, knowing he has been personally rejected.  What a label to hang on a fish.

There must be a special lure about a prize not won, because I’ve heard men talk this way about women.

Bill (dreaming): I knew this girl in 1986…she was perfect. Beautiful, smart, understanding, good cook, played a great round of golf – everything I dreamed of.”

Ted (drooling): So what happened?”

Bill (sniveling into his beer): Some guy MARRIED her.”

Women don’t talk like this.  You never hear women boast about ‘the dress the got away in 1992’.

Betty (reminiscing):  Remember that terrific sale at the Buffalo outlet mall?  And you almost had that genuine copy of a fake Ralph Lauren for ten bucks, but that fat woman in purple snatched it out of your hands?

Marge (sighing):  It might even have fit me. 

Nobody, however, can come close to the story telling ability and sheer heart-stopping drama of seasoned golfers.  By Seasoned, I don’t mean spiced.  I mean the ability to stand frowning into space on the 14th tee for hours, contemplating a shot, as if it might actually make a difference.  I can only conclude that years of wearing polyester pants in tootie-fruitie colours does something to a person. 

For one thing, they can no longer talk in a normal tone of voice.  Ever hear two of them drone on about how they almost bogeyed their golf cart on the sixteenth?

Bill (in Official Pro Golf Tournament whisper):  Remember that par five in Toledo back in ’81 when I would have birdied with the eight iron on the 4th, but that seventeen mile an hour wind came out of the south-east and I sliced it just a bit to the left?

Ted (equally hushed):  Sure do, Bill.  (frowning into the hot sun, and eventually keeling over from boredom.)

I tell only one story about the one who got away.  He was six feet tall and Irish, and he took me golfing.  Every time I took a swing at the ball and missed, he convulsed into a snickering heap.  Whenever I swung and made contact, he dissolved into a howling mass and writhed about on the grass.

I would have smashed him over the head with my golf club, but he got away.

Melodie Campbell writes funny books, like The Goddaughter’s Revenge, winner of the 2014 Derringer and Arthur Ellis Awards.  Check them out online at Chapters and Amazon.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

The Postman Always Rings for Money

by Melodie Campbell (Bad Girl)

Recently the Canadian Post Office did a stunner, and almost doubled the cost of sending a postcard across the country.  Enraged citizens are now claiming that it will soon be cheaper to FLY to Saskabush, than to send a birthday card there.  (It’s frightening.  Imagine actually having to GO to Saskabush…)

The bottom line is, our mail will soon be too expensive to mail.  Frankly, I’m not too concerned, as I hate receiving any.  Primarily, because my mail consists of bills and that which is generally classified as ‘junk’.  To illustrate, here’s the latest sampling from my mail box (er ‘Super’ box.)

Dear Concerned Citizen:  Every day in countries far away from here, numerous Nigerian Princes need your help.  Unless you are the sort of mindless jerk who drinks imported beer and watches championship polo on television, we know you will want to do something about this.  For a mere FIFTY DOLLARS a minute… 

Dear Fellow Voter:  Here I am, your representative in Ottawa, giving a VERY IMPORTANT FOREIGN DIGNITARY a merry smile.  Notice how he is smiling back.  This is because, as YOUR representative, I have just presented him with a cheque for a billion dollars of YOUR money, for agricultural research and development of the guava bean.  I am indeed proud to be representing YOU on this 45 day world tour, stopping in such major centres as Paris, London, Rome, Sydney, Tokyo, New York, and everywhere else they agree to ply me with premium scotch…

Dear MELODIE CAMPBELL:  Congratulations, MELODIE CAMPBELL!  You have been especially chosen by our computers as the winner of AN ALL EXPENSES PAID TRIP TO HAWAII!  Yes, MELODIE CAMPBELL, you have already qualified to win the above prize, or TEN TRILLION DOLLARS, or your own PERSONAL JET…what the heck, why don’t we just throw in all THREE?  And all you have to do, MELODIE CAMPBELL is simply call this number and sign up for seventy-two membership years in the all-new Fun and Fitness club…

As a concerned citizen, I am aware that outright banning of junk mail has serious implications for the paper industry.  Worse, it could put several million Environmental Activists out of work.  So I suggest the following:

Continue to stuff those envelopes and stick on the subsidy-for-MP’s-pension stamps.  But instead of sending our mail, let’s burn it.  Think of the fuel costs we could save, burning all those bills instead of paying them.  The environmentalists would be kept occupied fighting the increase in air pollution, and we could hire all those newly unemployed mailpersons to tend the bonfires.  And while we’re at it we could throw on a few of those expensive windbag politicians…

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Why did I become a Mystery Writer?

 It’s the Maze.

A horrible crime occurs.  Murder most foul.  The police are stumped, and it looks like the criminal will get away with it.  Then along comes an amateur detective who follows a set of clues, and with supreme logic, solves the mystery.  Justice is served.

I want to say I write mysteries and suspense because of a deep-seeded need to see justice done in the world.  I really want to say that.  But it’s not true.

I love to read and write mysteries because they are clever.  They invite me to use my brain.  Who is the killer?  Can I come to the same conclusion as the detective, at the same time, following the same trail of clues?

Traditional mystery novels are like a chess game.  In writing the novel A Purse to Die For, I discovered that mysteries must be plotted carefully, strategically.  It is a convention of mystery writing that the reader receives the information at the same time as the detective.  Anything else is considered cheating. Clues must lead to the solving of the crime.  The reader must be able to go back and see the trail, once he/she has finished reading the ending.  But the ending can’t be too obvious – that’s no fun.  So it’s the clever mix of laying several trails like those of a maze that intrigues me as both a writer and reader.  The trick: only one leads to the fateful conclusion.

A good mystery with a bang-up ending – logical, but original – gives me a kick like no other book.  I marvel at the cleverness of the author.  In short mystery fiction, I devour that twist at the end.  In my own fiction, you can count on an unexpected ending.  

I love the wonderful delight that comes from stumping the reader…in making them say “Ah! Didn’t see that coming.”  I’ve given them a challenge, and hopefully at the end, a smile.  There is no greater high.

Melodie Campbell is the author of 40 short stories and eight novels, including the classic Agatha Christie-style mystery A Purse to Die For, co-authored with Cynthia St-Pierre.  She has won 9 awards for short fiction, including the 2014 Derringer and the Arthur Ellis Awards.

A PURSE TO DIE FOR  Now on sale for 99c!!

The victim wore haute couture…
When fashionista and television celeb Gina Monroe goes home to attend the funeral of her late grandmother, the last thing she expects to encounter is murder.  Who is the dead woman in the woods behind the family home?  And why is she dressed in Milano designer clothes?

“Fast, funny, furious. A great read and proof once again that Canadian crimewriters are among the best in the world.”  Janet Kellough, author of Sowing Poison
Ebook and paperback available on,, and European Amazon sites.