Wednesday, 17 September 2014

TAGGED AND BAGGED! This Writer of Mob Comedies Dishes the Dirt...

(as seen on Sleuthsayers)
I should have known there would be a price. 
Back in 2012, when Steve Steinbock reviewed The Goddaughter in Ellery Queen’s Jury Box, I was ecstatic.  <So was my publisher.  Ellery Queen ROCKS!>
Steve called my book hilarious. I called Steve my hero. Little did I know, two years and three books later, that he would be tagging me on Sleuthsayers.
Oh Steve, thy devilish one.
Many of you remember Steve from the days of ‘Criminal Brief, the blog.’  <There are a hundred ways in which I want to play with the word ‘brief’ right now, but I will refrain.>  Steve and I met years ago at a Bloody Words Mystery conference in Toronto. As teens, we had a mutual pash <lovely Brit expression there> for Dark Shadows, the original series. I like and respect Steve.  I also fear him slightly <EQ and all> so hastily accept the tag.
What Am I Working On?
The Goddaughter Caper.  Or A Coffin for the Goddaughter.  Or A Body for the Goddaughter.  Or The Goddaughter’s Coffin Caper.
Somebody help here!  Book 4 of the Goddaughter series is nearing completion, and I need a title.  I started with the 3rd in the list above.  I’m leaning toward the first.  Of course, Orca Books may throw all those out and come up with their own, but I’d still like to hear from readers in the comments below.
Gina Gallo and her inept mob family are back in biz.  The second book in the series, The Goddaughter’s Revenge, won both the 2014 Derringer and Arthur Ellis awards for best crime novella. <author is over the moon>  The third in the series, The Artful Goddaughter, came out last week.
For those new to the series: Gina is a mob goddaughter in the industrial city of Hamilton (The Hammer.) Try as she might, she can’t seem to leave the family business.
How Does My Work Differ From Others In The Same Genre?
Library Journal said it well:  “Campbell’s comic caper is just right for Janet Evanovich fans.  Wacky family connections and snappy dialog make it impossible not to laugh.” 
When people ask what I write, I say ‘comedies.’  Then I give the genres (crime capers and time travel fantasy.)  My books are comedies first and foremost.  I look for plots that will lend themselves to laughs.    
Why Do I Write What I Do?

A Greek Mask

Some people are born beautiful.  But most of us aren’t, and we look for ways to survive the slings and arrows of life.  Sometimes we choose to hide behind a mask.  That Greek Comedy mask was the one I picked way back.
Comedy is Tragedy Barely Averted
My younger brother is autistic.  Our home life was stressful and at times, sorrowful.  When I was a teen, as a means of self-preservation, I looked for the ‘funny.’  More often than not, I made fun of myself.  This was easy to do.  I knew the target well and there was a wealth of material.  And it didn’t hurt anyone else, so people liked it.
When I left school and had a ‘real’ job, I started writing stand-up on the side.  I rarely delivered it – usually I wrote for others. That led to a regular newspaper humour column, and more.
So when it came to writing novels, I fell back into ‘safe mode.’  Write it funny. 

How Does My Writing Process Work?

I teach Crafting a Novel at Sheridan College in Toronto, so I’m pretty immersed in craft.  Not surprisingly, I’m a plotter. I don’t start writing until I know the ending.  But I’m a forgiving plotter.  I don’t plan out every scene.

Sometimes a plot idea will trickle around in my mind for a year.  When the ending clicks in, I sit down to do a basic three-act plot diagram.  I teach this method, and I use my own books as examples.

So…once I have my inciting moment, first, second and third crisis, and finale firmly in my head, I sit down to write.  I start with the opening/inciting moment.  Then I usually skip to the ending, and write the climax and finale.  Then I go back to the beginning and write forward.

For me, it’s important to know that I like the characters and plot enough to stay with that story for the months to come.  That’s why I write the beginning before I spend much time doing outlines.  I need to know that I can live in that world, and enjoy it.

And that’s what I suggest students do.  If you are going to be a writer, you have to love the actual act of writing: by this I mean, hands on keyboard, butt in chair, all by yourself, pounding out stories that the characters in your head are demanding you tell.

Of course, coffee and a wee dram o’ whiskey help.

Melodie Campbell drinks coffee and single malt somewhere south of Toronto.  The Artful Goddaughter is now available in stores and online.

Friday, 12 September 2014

DEADLY DOZEN: 12 Mystery/Thriller Novels by Bestselling Imajin Books Authors - $3.99!

$3.99! PRE-ORDER NOW & GET 50% OFF UNTIL SEPT. 14, 2014!

The DEADLY DOZEN Book Bundle contains 12 complete mystery/thriller novels by award-winning and international bestselling authors: Cheryl Kaye Tardif, Catherine Astolfo, Alison Bruce, Melodie Campbell/Cynthia St-Pierre, Gloria Ferris, Donna Galanti, Kat Flannery, Jesse Giles Christiansen, Rosemary McCracken, Susan J. McLeod, C. S. Lakin and Linda Merlino.

  1. THE BRIDGEMAN by Catherine Astolfo
  2. DEADLY LEGACY by Alison Bruce
  3. A PURSE TO DIE FOR by Melodie Campbell & Cynthia St-Pierre
  4. CHEAT THE HANGMAN by Gloria Ferris
  5. A HUMAN ELEMENT by Donna Galanti
  6. LAKOTA HONOR by Kat Flannery
  7. PELICAN BAY by Jesse Giles Christiansen
  8. SAFE HARBOR by Rosemary McCracken
  9. SOUL AND SHADOW by Susan J. McLeod
  11. ROOM OF TEARS by Linda Merlino
  12. DIVINE INTERVENTION by Cheryl Kaye Tardif
With an individual list price total of more than $45.00 and over 640+ reviews collectively on, the DEADLY DOZEN Book Bundle is a value-packed, rollercoaster thrill ride that takes you from amateur sleuth to detective to paranormal to ancient mysteries set in intriguing worlds and so much more.
Book Details:
ISBN: 978-1-77223-000-0 (Kindle ebook); $7.99 US; September 14, 2014
Language: English

Editorial Reviews:
"You won't catch your breath until the last page [of The Bridgeman] turns."—Lou Allin, author of She Felt No Pain

"Deadly Legacy grips your attention from the first page...a treat for the senses." —Garry Ryan, award-winning author of Malabarista

"[A Purse to Die For has a] page-turning pace, fascinating characters, sly wit, and a plot that will keep you guessing." —Janet Bolin, Agatha-nominated author of Dire Threads

"Cheat the Hangman is a refreshing and chilling paranormal mystery you won't want to miss." ―Jeff Bennington, author of Reunion

"A Human Element is an elegant and haunting first novel. Unrelenting, devious but full of heart.  Highly recommended." —Jonathan Maberry, New York Times bestselling author of Code Zero

"Transport back to the old west with this paranormal historical [Lakota Honor], and its alpha hero, and a heroine hiding her secret talents." —Shannon Donnelly, author of the Mackenzie Solomon Urban Fantasy series

"Christiansen offers a tale sure to entrance readers—a story of love and wisdom and the mystery of a forgotten graveyard under the waters of Pelican Bay." —Man Martin, author of Paradise Dogs

"[Safe Harbor] offers a coherent structure, an exact feel for the Toronto locales, and, in Pat, a hugely attractive sleuth figure." —Toronto Star 

"Soul and Shadow is a deep and complex tale of deceit, danger and love. Well plotted and extremely engrossing that I couldn't put it down." —Romance Junkies

"Revenge is indeed a dish best served cold in this fast-paced, thrilling story...[Innocent Little Crimes is] a page-turning thrill-ride that will have readers holding their breath the whole way through." —Publishers Weekly

"[Room of Tears is] a beautiful and gut wrenching story...Miss Merlino weaves a flawless tale that will have you sobbing by the end of the book." —#1 New York Times Bestselling Author Rachel Van Dyken, author of The Bet 

"Great imagination, fabulous imagery...This chilling page-turner [Divine Intervention] is a genuine Canadian crime novel...Tardif gives her readers plenty of twists and turns before reaching a satisfying ending." —Midwest Book Review

Available at:

Sunday, 7 September 2014

WRITING COMEDY – A Starter Kit from Bad Girl (Melodie Campbell)

“Is that a broadsword on your belt, or are you just glad to see me?”
<from Rowena Through the Wall>

I hope you smiled at that line.  I think it’s one of my best. My name is Melodie Campbell, and I write comedies.  (This is a self-help group, right?)  Sure I’d like to kick the habit and write a ‘real’ book with literary merit. <author grimaces here>

Okay, so that’s a lie.  Leave The Goddaughter’s Revenge behind?  Not write a sequel?  I’m starting to hyperventilate.  Actually, I love writing comedies.  It’s in my blood.

Some people are born beautiful.  But most of us aren’t, and we look for ways to survive the slings and arrows of life.  Sometimes we choose to hide behind a mask.  That Greek Comedy mask was the one I picked way back.

Always remember this: Comedy has its root in tragedy. Making fun of our foibles is one way we cope.
As a means of self-preservation in the cruel world of teenagers, I looked for the ‘funny.’  More often than not, I made fun of myself.  This was easy to do.  I knew the target well and there was a wealth of material.  And it didn’t hurt anyone else, so people liked it.

When I left school and had a ‘real’ job, I started writing stand-up on the side.  I rarely delivered it – usually I wrote for others. That led to a regular newspaper humour column, and more.

So when it came to writing novels, I fell back into ‘safe mode.’  Write it funny. 

You can too.  Here’s a starter kit:

The rule of ‘WORST THING’
(aka: Never go easy on your protagonist.)

Comedy writers take a situation, and ask themselves ‘what’s the worst thing that could happen now?’  <that’s the tragedy angle> And then, ‘what’s the funniest?’

What’s the worst thing that could happen to The Goddaughter when she is reluctantly recruited to carry hot gemstones over the border in the heel of her shoe?  Predictable would be: she gets caught at customs.  But I don’t want predictable.  I want funny.

Instead, the shoes get stolen. By a complete amateur! It’s embarrassing, that’s what it is. How is she going to keep this from her new boyfriend Pete, who thinks she’s gone clean? And what the heck is she going to tell her uncle, the crime boss?

Nothing, of course.  She’s going to steal them back.  Or die trying.

And hopefully the audience will die laughing.

TIP 1 – Adding Comedy via your Plot

Now take your novel:  Create a confrontation for your protagonist.  What’s the worst thing that could happen to her?  Then ratchet it up: what’s the most embarrassing thing, from her point of view?

Alternate between worst and embarrassing.  This keeps your reader intrigued, and raises the stakes.  They don’t know whether her next encounter will be deadly or hilarious.

TIP 2 – Adding Comedy via the way you put together Words

Now let’s step it up.  Add wordplay. Have a member of the cast says funny or clever things.  It doesn’t have to be your protagonist.  Sometimes it is best to make this character a side-kick. Examples: surprise, unexpected, sarcasm, exaggeration, words with double meaning

                                                         i.     Surprise or unexpected:
“I had the flu once.  It was terrible.  I couldn’t eat a thing for three hours.”
<from Rowena and the Viking Warlord>
This works because we expect to hear something else at the end: “I couldn’t eat a thing for three days.”  Instead, we hear “three hours.”  This is an example of the surprise or unexpected, plus exaggeration, giving us a chuckle.  But wait a minute: this is also self-deprecating.  Three in one.

                                                        ii.     Example 2: Remember how this post started?
“Is that a broadsword on your belt, or are you just glad to see me?”
This is an example of wordplay that requires the reader to have some prior knowledge or education. We know the original May West line, where the gun substitutes for something else.  This exaggerates the gun into something bigger.  The reader feels clever for getting the joke.
So…do you really want to join me in this reckless trade? Read below.

When people ask what I write, I say ‘comedies.’  Then I give the genres (crime capers and time travel fantasy.)  My books are comedies first and foremost.  I look for plots that will lend themselves to laughs. 

This is different from authors who say they write humorous mysteries, for instance.  In this case, they would peg their books mysteries first.  The humour is secondary.

It’s tough writing comedy.  Here’s why:
1.      Everyone expects your next book to be just as funny or funnier than your last.
Example: Janet Evanovich.  Readers are complaining that her 20th Stephanie Plum book isn’t as funny as her earlier books.  They are giving it 2 and 3 stars.  Twenty books, people!  Think about that. I’m on my fourth book in two different comedy series, and I’m finding it tough to sustain the humour in book four.  Believe me, this woman is a master.

2.     When you write something that isn’t meant to be funny (or is mildly humorous but not comedy) people are disappointed.  But it’s not funny, is what I hear most.  Talk about type-casting.

3.     You will never be taken seriously for most awards.
Again, comedy – particularly in crime writing - is rarely taken seriously for awards.  This drives some writers nuts.  It seems to be endemic that books on the short lists are usually ones written with gravitas, on subjects that are ‘important’ or grim. To quote a colleague, “It seems to me, the more grim a book, the more merit is ascribed to it.”  Blame the Scandinavians.

4.     It’s hard to get published.
This is lamentable.  It’s hard to get a publisher for comedic novels. Many seem to be afraid of funny books.  Again, it may be the part about not being a ‘serious’ book, and thus not seen as an ‘important’ book.

Film suffers from a similar stigma.  How often these days do comedies win Oscars?

5.     The expectations are HUGE.
Not only will you be expected to produce a book with great plot, characterization, viewpoint, motivation and dialogue like all the other writers, but along with that you also have to make people laugh consistently throughout it.  It’s like there is a sixth requirement for you, an additional test that others don’t need to pass.  And you don’t get any more money for it.

Sucks, right? So why do it?
1.     Because good comedy is magic to some readers.  They love you for making them smile. 
2.     Because not everyone can do it. There is talent as well as craft.
3.     Because making people laugh is what you do.  You’ve done it since you were in high school.  Most of us who write comedy were the class clowns.
4.     Because you’re mad, like I am. Well at least, madcap.

We do it for readers. Hopefully, we’ve lightened their day with laughter, and in some cases given them a story they can escape into, over and over again.

Postscript:  THE GODDAUGHTER’S REVENGE broke the rule and won both the 2014 Derringer and the 2014 Arthur Ellis award for best crime novella this year!  Author is still in shock.

Monday, 1 September 2014

THE ARTFUL GODDAUGHTER - Now Available in Paperback!

THE ARTFUL GODDAUGHTER  - Now Available in Paperback!


The third novel in a hilarious series featuring Gina Gallo, who is having a hard time leaving the family business.

                on CHAPTERS/INDIGO
And in all major bookstores, including Chapters and Barnes & Noble!
(ebook to follow)

First Industry Review: 

The Artful Goddaughter is a novella with legs and laughter. International award winning author, Melodie Campbell’s  third Goddaughter mystery is the best of a winning trio of stories. The second one, The Goddaughter’s Revenge recently took home Canada’s Arthur Elllis award for best novella and America’s Derringer award. 

Strong plot, great zingers and imagery that draws you in and just doesn’t let go. Gina Gallo, the leggy beauty, about to wed inherits a stash of cash from her deceased uncle that comes with a condition…reverse an old crime with a new one and get him to his final reward. And she’s off with her crew of relatives anyone would love to hide. The scam is delightful, the plot, setting and dialogue move with page turning intensity which makes the Artful Author’s third crime ride a blast and a laugh. 

Reviewed by: Don Graves. Canadian Mystery Reviews.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

My Characters Hate Going to Bed aka Why Writers Write

by Melodie Campbell

(As usual, this post will sit on the wacky side. But there is a serious message behind it all.  Why?  Why do we spend hours and hours alone in our garrets, piecing together stories that may never earn us a living wage, or even see the light of day?  Are we insane?  Or, as I posit, does writing keep us sane?)

But back to our regularly scheduled blog post:

Rowena is arguing with Thane.  Cedric meets Soren the demon for the first time.   Kendra can’t choose between Richard and Logan…or is it that young cousin of the Viking Warlord, what’s his name?

Gina and Nico are planning an art gallery heist.  Uncle Seb is about to kick the bucket, and he didn’t die ‘cleaning his gun.’  Pete is caught with counterfeit moolah, and slips through the portal to Land’s End…

No, wait a minute.  Wrong book.  Wrong series.  Even wrong genre!  Plots, you’re getting yourselves mixed up.

It’s 3:15 AM, and all is not well in my head.

I’ve come to the conclusion that my characters hate going to bed.

Like little children, they race around in my head, determined to have yet another adventure.  Problem is, they stumble over each other in their bid for freedom.  Series start mixing in decidedly zany ways.

(Okay, back to the point of this blog.)

We authors control what our characters do during the day.  It’s one of the things I love about writing: the ability to control the world in a way we can’t do in real life. 

I can’t control the real world.  Sometimes the script being directed from above is pretty painful.  In my case, it contains an autistic brother and life-long care-giver burdens I can do nothing about.

But I can control the world I create in words.

In my fiction, I control my characters, put them where I want them, alter their lives, change the time, the year, the setting, give them astonishing adventures and  dramatic endings– it’s glorious, unfettered control.

But at night, even they go wild. 

In the wee hours of the morning, my head is a playground for creative creatures, both human and fantastical.  They have adventures even I haven’t thought of yet. 

So here’s a job for you scientists out there.  Figure out a way to capture the nocturnal plotlines that create havoc for us authors as we struggle to give our brains some needed snooze-time.

And in the meantime, can you guys please keep it down in there?  I’m trying to sleep.

Monday, 25 August 2014

THE ARTFUL GODDAUGHTER - Pre-order now, receive it next week!

THE ARTFUL GODDAUGHTER goes on sale in bookstores a week from today! Now available for pre-order on Amazon and Indigo (and this author really appreciates pre-orders.) Official in-person launch will be in Oct. in Hamilton. News on that soon.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Review: Rowena and the Viking Warlord by Melodie Campbell August 20, 2014 Miriam Smith

Review: Rowena and the Viking Warlord by Melodie Campbell

What an incredible story! Battles, strategy, weapons, and a dragon. Yes, a little dragon named Cinders! Cute and awesome! Incantations with hilarious results, demons bent on destruction, and a claiming. (Don’t know what that is? Read this story and find out!)

Two things really stuck with me as I read this story. The first was the depth of Lars’ feelings for Rowena. His love for her came through with amazing clarity, and not just when they were in bed. I could feel it in the way he looked at her, how he talked to her, how he acted toward her, how he considered her when she spoke. He was always attentive when it came to Rowena, in a time when women were seldom valued so highly.

The second is the detail. Ms. Campbell’s attention to minute detail is spot on. There was never a moment where I felt like I was a spectator watching this story happen, because I always felt like I was actually there. Sounds, smells, environments. Wonderful job, Ms. Campbell. You pulled me right in and kept me there until the end.