Sunday, 13 May 2018

Why I could never be a Modern Fiction Novel Heroine

Let’s call her Tiffany.  Nah, too twee.  How about Jen.  Meet our
fiction heroine, Jen.  She’s a modern girl. Has her own condo. Drives a car. Lives in the city. Has a meaningful job.  All in all, a typical modern heroine of a fiction novel.    

Sounds reasonable, but I couldn’t be her.  I’m all for ‘suspension of disbelief’ in fantasy, but my world requires more human elements.  To wit:


1.  They look great all the time.

By this I mean: she gets up in the morning, perfect quaffed.  She dons clothes for her work day.  Maybe goes for a jog.  And spends absolutely no time in front of the mirror swabbing on makeup or doing her hair.  Did you ever notice fiction novel heroines look great in the morning without doing anything?  They may have a shit-load of angst about their personal lives, but apparently, they have Barbie doll hair.

As of immediately, name of heroine is changed to Barbie.

2.  They never eat.

Oh, they got out to dinner a lot.  You may even hear them order food.  But when it comes, do they ever eat it?  No! Barbie is far too busy arguing with her dinner companion, and then getting upset.

So many books, so many meals where our intrepid plucky heroine says, “oh my, I’m so upset, I couldn’t eat a thing.”

What is it with these feeble women who can’t eat?  Who the hell are they?  What do they exist on? 

When I’m upset, I eat, dammit.  Gotta fuel up for the famine that’s going to come sometime in the next 400 years.

If I hear another TSTL heroine say she’s too upset to eat, I’m going to shove the virtual dinner in her vapid virtual face and watch her choke to death.  Oh.  But then someone would have to rescue her.


3.  They never go to the bathroom.

Twenty-four hours a day, we’re with this dame.  Does she ever go to the loo?  I mean, for other than a quick swipe of lipstick and a gabfest with friends?

Do none of these women have periods?

Do they not have to offload some by-products?  EVER?

Oh right.  Barbie is always too upset to eat a thing.  Therefore, nothing to offload. What was I thinking?

Cranky author disclosure:  Just so you know, Gina Gallo of The Goddaughter series loves her food.  You’ll see her eat it.  She sneaks off to the bathroom (offstage, so don’t freak.)  She looks like shit in the morning. Just like me.  Even Rowena of my fantasy books goes to the outhouse and enjoys her meals.  (Not at the same time.)

Monday, 30 April 2018

A Million Tiny Steps

I'm paraphrasing Jane Friedman here, when I say:
"Success takes a million tiny steps."

People always ask me what's the hardest part of being a college fiction writing teacher.  Is it all the tedious marking?  Having to read beginner attempts at writing in genres you don't want to read?  The long hours teaching at night, at the podium?

I don't teach that way (at the podium.)  I'm a desk-sitter.  But it's none of that.

By far, the hardest part of being a writing instructor is telling my students about the industry.  And in particular, that they aren't going to knock it out of the park with their first book - the one they are writing in my class.

It's hard, because they don't want to believe me.  Always, they point to one or two authors who make it to the bestsellers list on their first book.  "So and so did it - why won't I?"

What they don't know is that the book on the best-seller list - that author's "debut novel" - is most likely NOT the first book the author wrote.  Industry stats tell us it will likely be their 4th book written.  (3.6 is the average, for a traditionally published author.)

My own story works as an example.  My first novel published, Rowena Through the Wall, was a bestseller (yay!)  But it wasn't my first novel *written*.  It was my third.  And before that, I had 24 short stories published, which won me six awards.  (Six awards, students. Before I even tried to get a novel published.) 

Each one of those short stories, each of those awards, was a tiny step.

About that first novel: it was horrible.  So horrible that if anyone finds it on an abandoned floppy disk and tries to read it, I will have to kill either them or me.  It was a Canadian historical/western/romance/thriller with a spoiled, whiny heroine who was in danger of being killed. No shit. Even I wanted to kill her.  The second book was also horrible, but less horrible.  It was a romantic comedy with a "plucky heroine" (gag) and several implausible coincidences that made it into an unintentional farce. 

By the time I was writing my third and fourth novels, I got smarter.  Apparently, I could do farces.  Why not deliberately set about to write a humorous book?  And while you're at it, how about getting some professional feedback?  Take a few steps to become a better writer?

I entered the Daphne DuMaurier Kiss of Death contest.  Sent the required partial manuscript.  Two out of four judges gave me near perfect scores, and one of them said:
"If this is finished, send it out immediately. If this isn't finished, stop everything you're doing right now and finish it. I can't imagine this wouldn't get published."

One more tiny step.

That book was The Goddaughter.  It was published by Orca Books, and the series is now up to six books.  (Six steps.) The series has won two awards. (Two more steps.)

I'm currently writing my 18th book.  It comes out Fall 2019.  Last summer, for the first time, I was asked to be a Guest of Honour at a crime fiction festival.  It may, just may, be my definition of success.

If you include my comedy credits, I have over 150 fiction publications now, and ten awards.

160 tiny steps to success. 

Conclusion:  Don't give up if your first work isn't published.  Take those tiny steps to become a better writer.  Take a million.

Monday, 16 April 2018

The Event Was a Success – Nobody Died (although some might die laughing)

Perils of a professional Event Planner

By Melodie Campbell (Bad Girl)

How do marketing and public relations professionals rate their events?
"It was a success.  Nobody died."
You think I’m kidding.  Hah!

I’ve been a professional event and conference planner since 1980, when I was part of the Bell Canada Golf Tournament committee.  That’s a lot of years.  In that time, I’ve arranged corporate promotional gigs, entire conferences, and classy fundraising dos.   

The key to event planning is the second word:  PLANNING.  We try to anticipate everything that could possibly go wrong, and plan for it.  Probably, we are the most anal, list-making people you would ever come across.  Even so, and even with a ton of experience, I’ve found you can’t plan for everything.  What can go wrong, you say?

Just wait.

1.  You can have water…and well, water.

Note to self: never trust your new staff with critical functions, like – for instance – the bar at a reception for 500.  She took care of the liquor license.  The cocktail food.  The entertainment.  The security.  The insurance.  Everything, in fact, except actually hiring the bars plus bartenders plus spirits.  One hour before the event-start, we were frantically on the phone with a nearby hotel, working a deal to borrow all the staff and spirits they could muster.  They came through, bless their extremely expensive hearts.  As conference-goers waited in the two interminable bar lineups, senior management sashayed up and down the line with lavish finger food to stall the riots.  “It’s so nice to see all the executives get involved like this,” said happy munchers, blissfully unaware of their near-dry event.

Said senior managers took turns on the bottle behind the stage.

Lesson learned: ALWAYS put booze and the serving of which at the top of your checklist.  People will forgive most everything.  But not that.

2.  But I thought Moose Factory was in the Prairies…

In Newfoundland, they have a nifty way to make a little extra money.  Moose insurance.  No, really.  I used to work for a really big health care association that had conferences across Canada.  The national conference was in St. John’s one year.  It took a lot of organizing to get the main sponsor’s huge demonstration truck across to the island of Newfoundland.  This was a million dollar vehicle filled with the latest scientific and medical equipment, for demonstrating to the lab manager attendees.  Not a shabby enterprise, and the highlight of our nerdy conference, seeing all those state of the art goodies.  That truck rocked.

Until it was totalled by a Moose on the highway. 

Lesson learned:  ALWAYS get moose insurance.  Yes, this is a thing.

3.  Bus 54, where ARE you?

Wine tour.  Yes, those words should never be allowed together.  People who go on wine tours invariably like to drink.  As you might expect, so do their bus drivers. 

It takes 45 minutes to get from Hamilton to Niagara Falls.  A convoy of six buses started out.  Three hours later, five buses made it for the dinner theatre.  The sixth made a slight detour to a winery and never got out of the tasting room.  Nobody there minded.  They had a kick-ass time in the attached resto.  I’m told everyone forgot about the dinner theatre in Niagara Falls.  We tried to reach them.  But ribald singing made it hard for people to hear their phones. 

Lesson learned:  Never *start* your event at a winery.

4.  Dogs and dragons…it will never work.

Twenty years ago, I joined the PR staff of a major urban teaching hospital.  Anxious to show our commitment to multiculturalism, we scheduled several ethnic lunch days in the cafeteria, complete with food and entertainment.  You can imagine our excitement when the local Chinese community agreed to bring costumed dancers with elaborate twelve foot dragon into our facility.

So it was with great pride and a certain amount of smugness that we had news media standing by.  Not only that, the local television station agreed to film the event.  All good.  Hundreds of people crowded in.  The music started up.  The dancers came on stage. The twelve foot long colourful paper undulating dragon was magnificent.  Cameras rolled.

Cut scene to our blind physiotherapist on staff, who came into the cafeteria with his seeing eye dog Mack.  Mack took one look at the huge dragon and took off, knocking over his master and a table full of authentic multicultural food.  Dog went crashing into dragon:  Rips, screams, people running, tables falling, and all this thoughtfully caught on camera for the six o’clock news.  “Hamilton Hospital celebrates Multiculturalism”

We called in every favour banked from every media person in town, to keep this off the news.

Lesson learned:  Okay, maybe not a success.  But only the dragon died.

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

A whole bunch of events...

First:  Until April 15!  ROWENA THROUGH THE WALL on sale for .99!, and all Imajin books ON SALE!  
click here


Friday, 16 March 2018

I am not an Alien aka Why I will Never be Slim

Recently, I was talking to an annoying perky slim person.  It was four in the afternoon.  Here’s what she said:

“I’m really hungry because I forgot to have lunch today.”

Eh, what?  Are you kidding me?  Is this person human? Who forgets to have lunch?

No, really.  Have you ever worked in an office?  It goes something like this:

Any sane person I know who works for a living starts clock-watching at 11:30, at the latest.  Only half an hour…only twenty minutes…I’ll go to the bathroom.  Talk to Rachel in accounting.  Is it noon yet?  WILL THAT CLOCK EVER MOVE?

Things aren’t much different if you are an author writing from home.  It is currently 11:06 am.  I have decided to write this humour column to distract myself from the lure of the last-night leftovers.  Because I know from experience that if I eat lunch at 11, then dinner somehow gets downed by 3:30.  And even the Hobbits don’t indulge in second dinner.

To set the record straight, I have never missed a meal in my life.  Okay, I’ve been toilet-bowl-sick and passed on solid food, but only because I knew it wouldn’t stay down in its current form.  I didn’t *forget* to eat.

The 3 o-clock meeting has some of the same attributes.  I’m willing to bet that the annoyingly slim person above hasn’t even thought about the fact that the main virtue of morning or afternoon meetings is the plate of muffins in the table center.  Lose your muffins, lose your allies. And wait for the grumbling.  Not just stomachs.

Speaking of stomachs, more annoyingly slim person dialogue I have been witness to:

 “Ooh.  I ate a whole egg.  I bet you can see the bulge in my stomach now.”

“I’m starving.  Do you feel like soup?  I could really down a whole cup of fat-free chicken broth with nothing in it.  Yum.”

“Salad.  Let’s have a salad.  We can use lemon juice instead of salad dressing, if you’re worried about the calories.”  <eyes drop to my waist>

Okay, the clock is getting closer to 12:00, so I'll wrap this up quickly by circling back to the post title:

What kind of planet are these people from, who forget to eat?

My take on people who forget to eat is that they are probably from some place like Mars or Jupiter where they don’t have carbs growing conveniently out of the ground.  Which makes them aliens. 

I always knew slim people were aliens.

Final joke I sold to a standup comedian back in the day:

“I had the flu once.  It was awful.  I couldn’t eat a thing for three hours.”

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

4/4 stars - Industry review of The B-Team! CM magazine, University of Manitoba

CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 26. . . . March 9, 2018
The B-Team: The Case of the Angry First Wife. (Rapid Reads).
Melodie Campbell.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2018.
130 pp., pbk., pdf & epub., $9.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-4598-1807-1 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4598-1808-8 (pdf), ISBN 978-1-4598-1809-5 (epub).
Grades 11 and up / Ages 16 and up.

Review by Thomas F. Chambers.

**** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.
Of course, those infamous burglaries were all long before. Kitty retired a few years ago after breaking an ankle in a bad fall while leaving a second story window. Now she divides her time between her little house in the forest and the Holy Cannoli Retirement Home, visiting my elderly relatives who reside there. Many of them are dotty. Not Kitty. Her brain cells are in for the long haul.

The B-Team is about scamming, but not the usual type so common in today’s society where people are scammed for their money on the Internet. It is about outright theft where the victim loses a diamond necklace worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Those trying to find the jewellery are the ones who are scammed.
     The B-Team, a modern version of the A Team so popular on 1980’s TV, try to solve the crime. The team members are young Canadian Italian adults, well-versed in crime, who should have no trouble doing so. Instead, they are completely fooled.
     The necklace belongs to a recently divorced woman who believes that it was stolen by her former husband and is now being worn by his new wife. In a surprise twist, it turns out that the woman is not the divorced wife. The B-Team has no reason to doubt her and plan to get the necklace back. Instead, they are totally fooled by the woman, but, with the help of other members of the Italian community, they retrieve the necklace and return it to its rightful owner. The B-Team is well written, attention grabbing and fun. Once started, most readers will be hooked and have a hard time putting the book down.
Thomas F. Chambers, a retired college teacher and author, lives in North Bay, ON.

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